Grateful

Time travels fast. Two years ago, I was writing my name on the society register everyday before going out. Those were unknown, unseen times.

We were in the middle of government imposed lockdown due to rapid spread of COVID-19. Apart from essential services, everybody had to stay home. As I had to go out for my job, I had to inform the society so that they can inform the authorities in case something unwanted happens.

I was lucky that no one in my immediate family got contracted with the virus. Couple of relatives did get it and things were very ugly for few days but eventually, it all turned out good. Same for my friends who were by and large unaffected. And now that enough time has passed to sit back and reflect; it hits me hard that God was kind to me and I should be so grateful to him.

Sometimes we are too close to the things that we do not see the entire picture. COVID showed me that picture. It told that there is nothing to be taken for granted.

An account I follow posted on Twitter on Dec 31 2021. This was the most relevant thing I read in 2021.

It was a hint that nothing is to be taken for granted. Of course, you should strive to do better and keep hustling; but that should not mean that you disregard what you already got.

There is no age to learn. In my mid 30s; I am still trying to learn so many things. But this lesson of being grateful is something I will never forget.

Two Kinds of Happiness

In today’s world, we will hardly find a guy/girl who has everything. Most of us need more money, some need respect and status; a few need the latest LCD and a Ray-ban aviator. You got the drift.

Well, I would like some me time. Some free time to do things. Things I know I will do when I will have lots and lots of time. When would that happen is an entirely different thing, isn’t it?

So, a few days back; I had a full day to myself, as wife and son were outstation. I suddenly made too many plans. 24 hours. So many things I can do. Where is my list of to-do things? Oh, there it is, in a diary. You might remember it.

So, the big day came. And apart from the first 2 hours of the day; I did nothing right.

Yep. You read it right. Almost nothing.

I say first 2 hours because I woke up on time and had my breakfast on time. Post that, the day kept getting south and south and south.

As it stands, I am waiting for the next day of myself with me to do those things hidden in a diary. And I know it is not going to come anytime soon. If it was 2012; I know what I would have done. But it isn’t 2012. I am 10 years wiser and wasted a complete day.

How did this happen? Let’s back up a bit.

What went wrong? I have asked this question a hundred times since then. And I guess I have the answer. It isn’t pleasing or pretty. But the truth has never been easy. It is supposed to hurt and in my case; it has hurt big, big time.

I will try to make it as much less mundane as I can do.

The short answer is- Mobile Phones/ social media. Although I have uninstalled Facebook and Instagram; Twitter has become, what they say nowadays, a new smoking habit. It is addictive and easy to scroll and before you can put it down; viola. There is a new tweet. Let’s read it and see among morons who are fighting.

The long answer is slightly complicated, twisted.

I have started this blog in 2011. This blog does not have many readerships today. The same was the case 10 years back. Yes, the goal somewhere was to create a blog that thousands will read and will become a brand and blah, blah, blah. That never happened and it never affected me. I kept writing because I wanted to write. I wrote because it made me happy. It made me feel content.

Fast forward today.

“No-one, and nothing, could make me very happy. I was tough, which is probably the saddest thing you can say about a man.”

Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

Writing had made me stop feeling happy. And you can’t do something if you are not happy; unless you are getting paid monthly for that.

I am not that sad or a pessimist. People who know me say that I do Ok socially. But apart from my family, my son; things hardly make me happy. And as quoted above; this is probably the saddest thing you can say about a man.

What you read above probably sounded bad. What makes it worse for me is the truth that I am turning into a kind of being who doesn’t feel happy happened with full realization. Every day I knew that something is not right and I need to arrest the fall. This fall has no floor. You think you hit the bottom. No Sir, there are deeper levels of sh*t coming your way. But yes, at every level; you may get some time to think about things and the sh*t you are getting into. You may also see a ladder that will take you out of the gutter. All you need is the energy to reach it. You grab that and you have found your bottom. Otherwise, this pit is bottomless.

As I write today, I am still latching on to the ladder to be out of it. I am sure I am pretty far from the bottom but still in the pit. The struggle will end the day I am out completely. It has been a slow grind for some time now. But I would like to believe that I will be happy again, very soon. And happy in my way of being happy. Happy with myself and about what I do.

Small Silly Reminders

Growing old each day, lately, I have realized that my already overburdened brain should not be used for storing unimportant things like tasks and contacts but for more important things like people and happy memories. Hence, I started keeping a small notepad with me to note down certain things- a kind of to-do list (without a deadline as such) that is not related to my profession. (Just in case you are wondering, there is a bigger diary for professional things pending).

It has been 2 weeks since this exercise. My notepad has 5 items as of date- things that I am supposed to do within a reasonable time frame. There have been 2 weekends since I started. My progress is NIL. And I am sad to admit that I don’t see that list being struck down any soon.

As I see the notepad, I can see items being added to it. How many of those I can finish in a month is an altogether different agenda.

—-

If the lines above sound like a rant to you, I don’t blame you. And you might not relate to me. You may be one of those who can schedule things and do them.

But it hits me to the core that if I am not able to do things which I have been reminding myself through this notepad, what about the numerous thoughts I have had over the years which I thought were preserved in my memory but are nowhere now. Things I wanted to do but I don’t even remember them today.

But it’s too late for that. It can’t be undone. What can be done is to make sure that going ahead, this doesn’t get repeated. No thoughts/ideas should be lost in responsibilities of every day.

This small notepad is here to serve that purpose. More than just a medium of noting down things, it will tell me that maybe I am not able to finish certain things on time but it is to be done. Let me help you with an example.

10 days ago, I read a tweet on Twitter that I wanted to write about on this blog. I noted the same in my diary and I duly forgot that. 3 days ago, when I opened the diary, I remembered that I need to write a price on Katia Kouyate, the story from Twitter. Without this notepad, there was a zilch chance of this happening. I would have never again read that tweet on Twitter. One more thought was lost in the wilderness.

Maybe it is not making sense to you. Don’t worry. Take your time. Read it again. It will.

And if it does make sense, get a diary of your own and start noting down things.

On the long enough timeline of survival until death, it should serve you well.

So Near, Yet So Far

Back in 2009, I was applying for various entrance examinations. When asked for a preference for a place of posting, I remember selecting metros like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. My father always asked- why not our city? And although I don’t remember giving him any reply, deep inside I knew the answer was- I want to live a fast life Dad. This city is slow.

I left Dehradun in 2005 for my college in Meerut. In 2011, as luck would have it, my employer gave me Delhi Circle as a posting. That means I will hardly get to see my hometown but I will be near enough to regret the stupid decision taken while filling the form. And the posting was not exactly in Delhi but in small cities. The Dehradun kind of slow, small Tier-III cities which I wanted to run away from.

——

In 2021, as I completed 10 years in the bank; there is a burning desire to go back to the roots. To live a slow life in a slow city.

In 10 years, I have lived 5 years in Mumbai and almost 5 years in Delhi NCR in three instalments. And at the cost of sounding like the proverbial frog in a well, I am sure I have seen enough of the fast life.

Every time I go back, I feel there is lot of time on my hands. Something which I have found myself short of living in great Indian metro cities. Agreed that when I go there, I am on leave and do not have any work-related commitments but there is this feeling of doing so much more.

In my last 15-20 visits, I have always ensured to drive through the old Mussoorie road around sunset time to see the roads I have been seeing since when I was 5. I have parked myself at Maggi Point to have a bird’s eye view of the city. There is a new restaurant on every visit at breath taking spots. Roads and air look better and cleaner. Traffic, no doubt, is increasing but who am I to complain?

I was in Dehradun a week ago and I don’t remember missing it as it happened this time. On every nook and corner, you can take out your smartphone and click photos and selfies that will make you look a complete pro and amplify your Instagram profile. Did I say that I am slightly jealous of my friends who chose to stay back while I was “metro” hopping?

I don’t know if that day will come when I will be back there for ever. But I have this hope I will go back. I am still hopeful about spending weekends with friends and family in an old shack which is serving piping hot Maggi overlooking the cedar and pine tree covered hills. Or maybe some cold beer on a chilly December afternoon. Or maybe just another drive on some new road winding down the hills.

I choose to believe that there is still time left to do all this. And not when I will turn 60 and beyond. Maybe, while I am good enough to live on my own rather than being a burden on others.

Very near but little far from where I want to be.

The Zomato-esque Leap

Kunal Shah on Zomato

“Iss Desh Ke Graduates Jab Apne 9 to 5 Job Se Bore Hone Lagte Hain Toh Bahar Nikalne Ke Bas 3 Raaste Hote Hain
1.IAS  2. MBA  3. Aur Start-Up”
—— Rajat to Naveen (TVF Pitchers)

Zomato was a startup when startups weren’t cool. They didn’t care. They kept working and on Friday, they went public with markets accepting them with open arms.

I didn’t apply for the IPO and didn’t make any money. But it gives me immense satisfaction to see them listed. If Zomato shares would have traded in loss, the IPO investors would have accepted it, cursed the promoters and moved on. But the negative ripple effect it would have had on the Indian startup ecosystem would have had repurcussions.

India need creators/founders as much as it needs skilled workers. We all have heard stories Indian moving abroad and doing great things there. I believe now is the time to do those things in India. Zomato IPO has shown that if you are good, you will be rewarded. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”- it almost fits perfect for Zomato.

And to the Goyal of Zomato and Bansal of Flipkart, an Agarwal of ‘something’ aspires to be part of your legacy. The idea is there since 7 years. I hope I can find a way out soon to make it a reality.

May the force be with me.

Opinions

What you think doesn’t matter everywhere

4 years ago, I posted 2nd of the 2 questions I have ever posted on Quora-

“What to do to have an opinion on everything?”

The good folks there poured their unabated wisdom for me. Read newspaper, blogs, feeds, newsletters and what not. I read a few of those, got bored and never opened Quora again.

Slowly, my quest for having an opinion on every news started dimming. To detach myself more, I quit active Facebook scrolling, Now I login once in 6 months and have never missed anyone who matters to me- family and close friends.

I use Twitter very actively and there I realize how people feel the need to have an opinion on everything. Zomato IPO, Ram Mandir, Vaccination pace, WB elections- pretty varied interests there.

Especially big handles- it is almost an obligation for them to write on everything and keep their followers humoured. It is like you can hire them for your newspaper and one editor will be enough to cover all the sections. All of them are experts!!

I do have opinions but I stick to things that resonates most with me-  sports, trading, writing. Other than that, I really don’t care about seculars, liberals, political alliances, religious movements etc etc.

Too much information overdose is making lots of Jack asses out there. I am not a jack of all trades and certainly not a master of any but you sit with me and I can talk to you almost on everything (yes bitcoin too). But do I have an opinion on it- I think I will pass that.

For what it’s worth, here is a one liner for those with opinion on everything-

Nobody really give a rat’s ass.

Process and Routine

In trading, there is a commonly used line- Follow the process (trading rules) and result (money) will follow.

And then I heard it in sports where top coaches and players say- it is about following the process.

If you think of it, you can apply this line to almost everything. Have a process- sounds cool too.

There is a football club in England- Crystal Palace. Every season they start, the first target is to avoid relegation and then they think about finishing in mid table. And I don’t think I have heard their manager talk about process ever. Having a process is for bigger teams. For them, it has always been about fight and survival. Fight on the pitch, survive this season and come back again. They have accepted it and so have their fans.

Process is, no doubt, important. But it doesn’t work for everyone.

Everyday I wake up and go to office, there is a routine. This routine isn’t a process. Just a set of activities which I am hardwired to do.

But is this routine leading me towards my end goal- I doubt that. A process isn’t a short term thing. It spans longer periods- years and decades.

An owner can have a process to take his company forward but his employees, unless in decision making role, aren’t interested in it. They are following a routine. However mundane and boring it is, they will do it.

I write everyday. It is a routine.

I write everyday because I want to see my blog getting more visits. It becomes a process.

Petty differences.

Comedy Warriors

I have huge respect for standup comedians.

If you think of it, it is a very tough job. People attend their shows with very high expectations because they have spent a lot of money on the tickets and they are stressed out and they need loads of laughter. They want their money worth. And without being disrespectful, some of them are not worth the money. At least my money.

This is because it is not easy to make me laugh. And there are a couple of guys out there who does make me laugh like Abhishek Upmanyu, Zakir Khan. Their comedy is simply amazing and a proper exercise for facial muscles.

In my bucket list; doing a standup act once is right up there.

I have not thought too much about this. But there is an innate desire to perform somewhere. Maybe for my family, for my extended clan. Maybe in some office event. Someplace where people will not judge.

God has been grateful to me and given me a decent sense of humor and timing. But more than the actual act, it is the script of the act which has to be right. I don’t know if Abhishek Upmanyu has a team or all his acts are his scripts- he is doing one hell of a job.

There have been days when I have sat with a pen and paper and with the expectation that in a couple of hours; I will be ready with my first-ever standup comedy act script. In reality, I couldn’t clear a couple of paras. And that makes me respect these guys more.

A standup comic script isn’t just a few lines. It is basically how you observe the world; its small flaws and big loopholes. It involves observing people, system, manners, reactions, and of course, the situation should strike a chord with the audience. An act on school days or first job will be popular. Write a script of the organizational behavior of NASA and the act will most probably go down the drain.

Here is an act by Zakir Khan on the middle-class person buying a high-class item from Levi’s and buying an iPhone. This act is a class apart. It is relatable. Any 20s something guy who, after his first salary, enters Levi’s showroom for the first time will probably agree with Zakir. And that is what makes them interesting. Of course, Zakir’s way of saying is his USP. I can give the same script to Arjun Rampal and the show will be a dud.

Having tried writing scripts a couple of times myself and realizing how tough it is; I again reiterate my respect for these guys. In today’s world with a high level of stress and constant worry about things; these comedians are doing a great job. In my humble opinion; making people laugh is one of the noble jobs you can do. It can be an act on the stage or in a group of friends or with your wife at home. As long as you are making people laugh or they are smiling with you (or smiling at you), it doesn’t matter. Everything counts.

But for me, I do want to perform once. It will take a lot of imagination to write something and bigger courage to perform as I have a stage phobia. But we will see. The bucket list is meant for that. To keep things separately somewhere where it is not important but yet not forgotten.

The World May Want You to Fail

For an Indian cricket fan, the 2018 Nidahas Trophy is a sweet memory.

The tournament was not exceptional. India sent a team without a couple of stars and gave Rohit Sharma the leadership role. He took India to the final where his team was on the verge of losing. But then, Dinesh Kartik happened.

When he came on to bat, India needed 34 off 12 deliveries. Kartik scored 29 of them, including a last-ball 6 to win the final against Bangladesh. One of India’s best victories.

But this is not about him or the final. This is about a young talent who wasn’t having a great time. This is about Rishabh Pant.

Rishabh Pant was 18 years old when he represented India in U-19 WC 2016 held in Bangladesh. While others were just trying to score runs, this kid was scoring them fast. He struck 24-ball-78 against Nepal and 96-ball-111 against Namibia. Long story short- India had found a successor to Mahender Singh Dhoni.

With a country so passionate about the game, it is easy to falter against expectations. Every time Rishabh played, people expected fast runs. A 19-year-old boy understood nothing but to oblige his new fans. He tried and kept failing, spectacularly.

By the time Nidahas Trophy happened, Pant was 20 and on the fringes of the Indian cricket team. He was the next big thing and it was supposed to be a matter of time when the innings will come when he will announce himself. Nidahas trophy looked like a perfect tournament.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Rishabh played the first 2 matches, did nothing of note, and was not selected for the rest of the tournament. In the second match, he scored 7 off 8. The criticism earlier in hush-hush and murmurs was getting louder. The kid was heartbroken and I think it was Akash Chopra on air when he said- “Imagine, being a 19-year-old and the world wants you to fail.”

This has stuck with me since then. Rishabh Pant was 20. He was a part of the Indian national cricket team and the world has already written him off. Do they know what they were doing when they were 19 or 20? Did they stop expecting from their kid who had failed in his teens? I sure was not doing anything important at that time. I was slogging my ass off for marks in my engineering. And that is what the majority of the world does.

Recently, another Indian cricket prodigy, Prithvi Shaw that he cried after he was dropped after a poor show in the first test when India recently toured Australia in late 2020. Again, Prithvi Shaw is just 21.

It is a common opinion these days that having IPL riches so early in their life; the young kids aren’t serious about their national careers. Moreover, test cricket is lost because of the fast, swagger-filled T20. Although there is truth in that but labeling these players of next-generation greedy and not dedicated enough is an insult.

Thanks to the covid induced lifestyle, few people have a lot of time with them. The easiest thing to do when you have lots of time is to become an armchair expert. And when it comes to cricket; this country has one on every corner.

People wanted Rishabh to fail, to make mistakes. It would not have done Indian cricket any good but it would have given them a lot of satisfaction and a common statement- “See, I told you so.” They wanted Prithvi to fail to give them false conviction about their theories.

The lesson from all this- people know nothing. And when it comes to you, let those decide who actually care for you. Some random uncle in the nearby grocery shop should not make you change your plans.

“Son, there is nothing in a startup. Find a job and get settled.”

“Son, why are you study mass communication? You should have done engineering.”

“Son, why are not you doing MBA? Graduation means nothing these days.”

I am sure you got the gist. This is not a very fair world. More often than not, you will meet people who care nothing about you. They will walk with you but given the first opportunity; they will run over you.

And I don’t want to make this sound pessimistic. But as somebody has said- “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Hope to meet the best guy always but be ready if you get the worst guy always. It will go a long way for you.

Zen Mode

I am sure my blog is wondering today- how come the man who didn’t blog for a year is writing twice in 2 days? The answer is the Zen Mode.

This Zen Mode is in my OnePlus 5T. When you switch on this mode, basically you cannot use your mobile for anything but receiving calls or making emergency calls. No Facebook, Twitter nothing at all.

Right now, my Zen Mode has just started and I have set it for maximum time i.e., 60 minutes. And it pains slightly that I will not be able to use my mobile for anything for next 1 hour. But at the same time, it is kind of liberating.

I talked about the feeling of urgency these days. The impatient desire to know everything immediately. That creates lot of restlessness. Now, with my mobile on this mode; I know there is no point looking at it. I can do anything but browse or scroll.

Our lives have become very fast these days. I remember being in my hometown Dehradun a decade back. I was filling forms for various exams and usually, my choice for place of posting would be Delhi/Mumbai/Bangalore. My reasoning to my parents was- Dehradun is too slow dad. I need to live a fast life.

11 years later, having lived in Delhi/Gurgaon for 5 years and Mumbai for 5 years; I think I am ready to go back to Dehradun. Of course, my being ready doesn’t matter as there are many other factors that need to be taken into account for before I decide something. But I think my Zen Mode for life will come when I move back to Dehradun, ever.

I have seen fast life. I have seen people running; myself running to catch train/metro/bus. I think I am done with it.

If your phone has this Zen Mode, do give it a try once.