Finding Comfort In Chaos

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I never thought I would write about this, but here I am trying to make some sense of it. This is going to be slightly long so stay with me.

Being in the medical field, I come across anxious and worried families of the patient all the time. A part of my job is to answer their questions, make them comfortable, ease them out to the best of my capacity. I didn’t give it much thought rather enough thought to the things they must be going through. Of course, I knew it wasn’t easy, but I naturally thought more about the patient and from a treatment point of view. And then one day, I received a phone call back in March,2018. A call that gave me the chills, gave me a different perspective and showed me what’s it like to be on the other side.

My mother had suffered a massive heart attack with multiple blockages and my fellow medical colleagues and Grey’s Anatomy fanatics will relate to this when I say we were way past the golden hour. I was away from home which made it more difficult but like my mother says by god’s grace everything went well. The first few weeks were critical, but as strong as our mothers are she fought right through it. And I told myself, the tough part is over, it was a bad phase, we will sail through it. 

Fast forward to the end of the year, both my grannies started showing similar symptoms as my mom, we rushed them for all the tests. Within a couple of days, they were both diagnosed with massive blockages and needed immediate intervention. They both got operated on the same day. One of them was badly affected and was bed ridden for a long time. It was a tough time for my family as we were juggling between them, sharing the day and night shifts and just seeing them in so much pain was very heartbreaking and overwhelming. It breaks my heart till date whenever I talk or even think about it.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a few months later my grandfather suffered from a stroke, this was his third one and got the best of him. This was followed by my brother’s massive neurosurgery, a very near and dear one’s death to covid, my father’s severe pneumonia, mom’s second big surgery and my grandfather’s untimely demise a couple of months back. Last 3-4 years have been maddening and things are still settling down accompanied with personal and professional work life balance which has been very challenging. I have been fortunate and privileged to have family and friends who supported me throughout. I wouldn’t be able to get through it without them.

Caregiver’s Stress

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It was during this period that I experienced what we call ‘Caregivers stress’. Caregiver’s stress/burnout isn’t spoken about a lot, mostly because it is difficult to recognise,  but there are a lot of studies that discuss it at length. It’s defined as physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It often leads to development of compassion fatigue which is the stress, strain and the wariness that arises while caring for a person. Being a primary caregiver for most of my family members was not an easy task. My mom and I went through an emotional turmoil.

As majority of the medical decisions were made by me, thinking about the repercussions and bad outcomes made me anxious all the time. I was constantly overthinking and had panic attacks I would have a nervous breakdown and cry out loud sometimes. Feeling irritable, helpless, hopeless and getting angry so easily. It felt like I was slowly losing my mind and sanity. I am not writing this to impart knowledge or tell you how to deal with it. I am still figuring it out myself. But what I can tell you is that it’s okay to feel like that. Seeing your loved ones suffer is not easy. It’s okay to not be okay.

What I have learnt or rather still learning from my experience is that you need to identify it and put your needs first too. It is important to get out and indulge, be in a social environment. It is very difficult at first because the worrying never stops but it is one of the most important things and needs to be done.

Talking about it or writing it down helps too. It wasn’t easy for me to write this all down but the more I thought about it the more I realized how important it is to speak about it. Maybe it will help someone going through something similar, maybe it will just create an awareness. Acknowledging it is step one. Therapy sure did help too. On my tough days, I looked up to my younger brother who gives me so much strength and inspires me to do better each day. He encouraged me to take some time off for myself and always pushed me to move ahead.  My mom has been my anchor all this while and I am forever grateful for that.

Things have been slightly better than before; we are being hopeful and keeping the faith. This story is unfinished, there is so much still happening, and I am not waiting for a happy ending or for all my problems to disappear. At this moment, I am looking for anything good, big or small, that life has to offer.

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Fake It Till You Make It (OR DON’T)!

You’ve probably heard of the saying, ‘fake it till you make it’ and maybe tried it too. But let me tell you, this is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever experienced. I mean, yes, it works. 

And OH, IT WORKS WONDERS!!

It makes you feel everything you’re not and everything that you want to be and that’s great. It kinda even fills a void within you. It makes you feel more powerful, more loved, more attractive and more confident and people really notice that! t changes your ‘vibe’ and people around you definitely feed on it, kinda like how it is said ‘energy is contagious’.

And that is good to hear, OBVIOUSLY! 

I mean, that’s validation right?

The entire basis of why social media even exists and works so effortlessly, in my opinion. 

V-A-L-I-D-A-T-I-O-N.

A simple 10 letter word that describe almost 70% of our actions and existence; of why we do some of the things we do and why do we do them even when they might not necessarily be right. 

I mean, yeah, you can tell me you’re doing a certain activity for yourself and I’d believe you 100% without a percent of doubt. But you’re telling me you’re not gonna enjoy it a little extra when someone notices your Rolex or asks for a ride in your new Mercedes or compliments the smoothness of the expensive whiskey you share?

Isn’t that validation too?

I don’t mean to question your intentions or motivation for working as hard as you do. I mean, if it works for you, it’s good only, right?

But isn’t this also the equivalent of lying? Isn’t anything you fake, a fact or an action or emotion, a tiny part of lying?

Let’s take an example. Imagine that your entire personality is like a sandcastle. Imagine your many inherent traits are small grains of sand and your tiny ‘fake it till you make’ actions as tiny grains of powdered sugar. With time, this sandcastle is only going to get better and bigger, filled with sand and sugar. But as soon as there’s a big wave (problems/truths), it’s going to disperse the sand (which is still fixable) but it’ll dissolve all the sugar which will only lead to more gaps in the reconstruction.

Here’s another way to look at it. This whole practice may be good for you, but you’re probably hurting someone you love or you’re gaining something under false pretences or worse yet, you end up living the lie so flawlessly that it becomes your new/alternate reality and the worst of them all, it’s all of the above.

What’s funny though, is we see this happen all around us all the time. I mean, we’re all well-versed with ‘Window Dressing’ as a concept. Study it professionally and you’ll find a course called ‘Marketing’. 

But let’s get back to what I’m really trying to say, because I’m trying to talk about this at a more human and personal level. Because over the years, I have been guilty of doing this again and again and again with it’s adverse effects coming in the form go all the problems I mentioned earlier and quite frankly, IT SUCKS!!

Nothing hurts more than hurting the people you really truly love and care about. Things like that really mess with your mind and daily well being. It’s kind of a vicious circle in itself. You fake it till you make it or until the truth catches up to you, you hurt people and yourself and then pick up the broken pieces and start all over again. 

So maybe don’t do it. Or maybe do. I’m curious to know about what y’all think about it!

Anxiety Emails

I finish 2 weeks tomorrow on my new work chair. Things for me changed overnight due to some unforeseen circumstances. From being the guy who handled back-end/internal communication and was used to resolving issues behind the scenes to being pushed into the front office to deal with clients and suppliers. 

It’s been 2 weeks, since I spent 8 hours at work stress free to spending 10 hours in front of the computer wishing the day was for 25 hours so that I had an additional hour to finish my work. It’s been 2 weeks, since I looked forward to hearing more and more from my colleagues because they used to be busy telling me about how illogical or unreasonable clients were to now feeling a couple of seconds of anxiety when I see their names flash on my phone.

It’s been 2 weeks now, since I last fired a stress – free email. From sending them to my colleagues and sellers within the system to now firing them to outsiders. I call them ‘Anxiety Emails’.

‘Anxiety Emails’

Those emails that you defer a couple of times in a day, ponder on for 60 seconds before sending and for 180 seconds after. Maybe you even go to your sent emails to verify if you’ve sent it to the right person. Or maybe you don’t relate to anything I’m telling you, in which case this may seem like a futile attempt.

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The first time ever, that I shot out one of these, I ended up almost getting kicked to the curb. I mean, how idiotic does an educated dude have to be, to not be able to differentiate between 2 names and almost throw away his entire business plan to an outsider. BUT, that wasn’t me (IT WAS!). I am by no means an idiot (I WAS!). But it was handled and I’ve only learned from the experience.

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But yeah, 2 weeks and 1000 emails later, it still feels like it’s my first day on the job. I still do every little thing I mentioned above. I mean, my risk appetite which earlier used to be the size of a pea is now having to deal with watermelon sized doubts that just keep on piling up. My worst case scenario, which once used to be a few abuses from my boss and a few overnight-work days to redo the entire work to potentially risking losing business and getting fired. 

Well, all I can really hope for is it gets better after the next 2 weeks or the weeks after. Because Anxiety Emails, they’re not for me; maybe they will be in the future, but they definitely aren’t right now. I mean yes, they’re enabling me to grow and handle stressful situations and learn new things; and I love the challenge too. But I still think 2 weeks ago … Those were happier times!

Did you ever think you’d find someone rant about losing sleep over emails? Oh no, I mean ‘ANXIETY EMAILS’!

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Is Less Really More?

‘Less is more. 

We’ve read this a million times, and although this mostly applies in an artistic or design context, it is widely misinterpreted. This phrase was first used in 1855 by Andrea del Sarto, an architect who used it when referring to the desirability of less visual clutter in the building of homes. 

This saying goes with design too. The idea is to design something that’s not so overly complicated that it robs the fun for the perceiver, who’s trying to make more sense of it than being able to enjoy it. Various studies also show how working excessively hard, putting in extra effort at work is something to brag about for many people, is not always the most healthy thing.

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But is less really more?

For design and art? Probably. For your career and work-life balance? Maybe. But for life too?

I mean, what does ‘Less is more’ even mean when it comes to life?

That you sit back and laze around and relax, maybe watch Netflix or go out on during the weekends and non-work hours? I mean, I don’t know. I am no expert to critique someone’s way and neither is there one perfect answer for everybody. So you do you!

Me personally though, I don’t believe that. Having been brought up in a Gujarati family, I’ve seen my father work 14 hours a day and build himself up from nothing. How things have been over the last 20 years, from living in a small 1BHK house to now living in a big enough home to have adequate space for all our luxuries. And while there were a lot of times, annual days or sports days, when I wanted him to be there for me and he wasn’t, it was disappointing but I also understood why it was the way it was. 

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But it was not like he wasn’t there for the important times, because he was. And having said all of that, I have seen my mother work equally hard, maybe even harder with having to raise 2 sons, take care of their education and extra curriculars, take care of the home, etc. 

So yeah, working hard or ‘Hustle’ as the call it, is all I’ve ever known and something I try to duplicate for myself from my parent’s lives. If there’s anything else that motivates me to Hustle, it is Sports & Athletes and Steve Job’s speech at Stanford University. If you’ve heard the speech you know that no lesson as small as it may be, ever goes to waste.

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But I want to do it in my own way. I want to learn things I like and that interest me; And I know it’s not going to go waste. It is quite possible that it won’t help me in my career, but it’ll help me in some way and if not anything, it brings me a lot of joy. What price would you put on that?

I am doing a ton of things today – Learning mandarin, taking up dance lessons, working on writing my own book, maintaining this blog, studying for my GMAT exams and taking some boxing lessons and practicing yoga too. I barely have any time to breathe all through the day, but I am also the happiest I have ever been. These activities although physically draining, just bring nothing but peace to me mentally. 

I always knew academics weren’t my strongest suit and I am living my truth today. I have an amazing mentor at work who invests time and energy in me to ensure I’m growing and pushing myself. My workouts help me channel all my excess energy (and sometimes rage) in a productive way, my reading helps me gain more perspective and knowledge, my writing helps me express my feelings and emotions and learning Mandarin (and already knowing English and Hindi) means I can speak to roughly every other person on this planet.

But here’s the funny part : I never did any of these things for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. I just did these activities to plug holes in my daily routine where I was simply wasting time watching TV or idling around; and because I had very easy access to them. But it kept on adding joy to my daily routine and overall value to my life and I love it. Because,

I am not here to live, I am here to leave a legacy.

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‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

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If you can spare 7-10 minutes of your time, read this Commencement speech by Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005. It changed my life, maybe it inspires yours too!

Source : Stanford News | Disclaimer : I do not own this article. I am simply publishing it here.|

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

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And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down — that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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Moving On

I have thought this and said it out loud atleast a thousand times,

“My lack of ability to move on is going to be my doom”.

I don’t mean ‘moving on’ only in the context of a breakup or a heartbreak. I mean it in a much broader sense. Like my inability to move on from an incomplete task when something more important shows up at my table; or my inability to forget a pending task because I had to do something else.

Somehow, that incomplete task keeps living in my brain, hounding me until I deal with it. 

Let’s get to the romantic side first :

There’s this girl that I really like and care about, in a romantic way and otherwise. I am almost 100% certain that nobody understands her the way I do and there’s nobody who’s going to mesh with her better personality better or who’s going to be as good for her as me. But somehow things didn’t work out on the romantic side and it was soon very clear that we weren’t going to end up together.

But this is the kind of person I wanted in my life, since she added a lot of value and brought along a lot of laughs with her and more than anything, her presence made me really happy. My heart always tells me to be supportive and not let my petty feelings of insecurity get in the way of a nice relationship. 

Here’s the thing though :

I wish well for this person and want nothing but the best for her and if someone else makes her happy, then so be it. But how do you move on/detach yourself from this situation? I have always been that guy who’s either 100% all in or not in it at all, there’s no in-between. I LOVE the banter we share and how we’re there for each other but I also cannot stop spiralling when she’s going out with someone else (platonically even). And that’s just one thing. 

Now The Professional Side

I have been somewhat unfortunate with my academics so far. I have an exam left to clear before I get my degree and I’ve taken a lot more time than necessary in doing it. Simultaneously, having focused all my energy on studying and clearing these exams, meant delaying my career for the longest time. Somewhere in between, it even dawned on me that this is not what I really want to do in life. 

This degree is nothing but a big value addition to my resume, which adds more credibility to my name irrespective of what I do in the future. It is a certification that involuntarily states that I am a smart guy and allows me to do things without raising a lot of questions. But, it also been my biggest shield to hide behind. 

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In a world with a million job and career opportunities, simply knowing things that I don’t want to do is not good enough. Apart from the fact that I’d never be able to live it down if I quit the degree, there’s the fact that I have no idea what I want to do ahead.

So yeah, I stand here doing a simple job that’s not doing justice to my capabilities, while simultaneously focusing on completing my degree and not doing a good job with either of those things. If only, I had the guts to quit and move on without remorse. Things would’ve been easier and life a lot better!

Here’s the funny part though; The Professional side doesn’t really matter. I am not worried about my job and making money because I know I’ll do something decent with my life eventually (and this is also my privilege talking). It’s always the emotional part that pulls me down. What good is anything if you don’t have someone to share it with?

So yeah, if only I learn to move on and avoid a certain doom for myself!

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Joy And Sorrow – Two Sides of The Same Coin

I was just trying to connect the dots between Joy And Sorrow the other day, after I realised that the person who brought me the most happiness was also the source of some of my misery. To summarise, their presence brought me a world of joy and their immediate absence led to me missing them immensely and their absence over an extended period troubled me and sparked my insecurity.

Upon researching while trying to find a link between the two, I came across a beautiful poem by Kahlil Gibran that talked about how Joy and Sorrow are inseparable and connected at it’s source. If you haven’t read his words yet, check them out here! They’re just beautiful words that everyone should read once.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
     Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
     And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
     When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

Here’s all that I’ve understood, of why joy and sorrow go hand in hand.

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Just the way a dark night is followed by a bright sunny morning, in life happiness is followed by sorrow. Once you feel happiness at any point in your life, you wish to be in that situation forever but that is not how things work. Every positive is followed by a negative and every negative is followed by a positive and that is how you know the worth of happiness and the reason to grab it more often. When you know the feeling of happiness and suddenly get into a situation of a slight sorrow, you question fate about why it is happening to you inspite of the situation being as normal as any other situation.

Nothing in this world is constant. What might seem like happiness to you today might seem to be the source of your sorrow at some other point in your life. Nothing is constant and everything is relative. Hence, it is all in your perspective. That is precisely why it is important to practice gratitude, so as to make these moments count. Here’s a few metaphors to explain my point :

Life is a Blend of Thorns and Roses

Our life is a mix of opposites and contrasts. It is a combination of such opposing entities as happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain and enjoyment and stress. No human being can always be happy and nobody can be sad all the time. We as human beings feel dejected whenever something wrong happens with us and we do feel happy when something good happens to us.

Rose is an embodiment of love, passion and beauty. Its fragrance touches our heart and its soft petals soothe our emotions. But whenever we try to hold it, it hurts us with its prickling thorns. It signifies that whenever we want to achieve something big in life, something which gives us happiness and comfort, we have to go through lots of hardships or we have to face bad experiences of life.

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Disappointments Lead to Accomplishment

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Those who get all the pleasures and luxuries of life without struggling remain weak emotionally and naturally, weakness leads to failure. What happens when you get everything in life just by putting a finger on it? You won’t realise the importance of struggle and hard work as if life is all cakes and ale. The crux of the matter is that it is the fusion of pleasure and pain which makes one’s life successful.

A kid who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth gets all the amenities and delicacies in life. He gets expensive toys and breaks them within a couple of days. He doesn’t even feel guilty because he knows that he will get a replacement soon. Gradually he becomes impatient and throws tantrums when things don’t go his way.

On the other hand, a poor boy whose family can’t even make ends meet tends to show a totally different behaviour. Because life is nothing but an endless strugglefor him, he enjoys the little bit of food that can fill his belly. Moreover, if by chance he gets some broken toy lying on the street or in a pile of garbage, he picks it and keeps it with a great care.

This just shows us how we value things and think about things differently.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

It is an apt saying that fortune favours the brave. Brave people are not affected by the misfortune striking them adversely. They regard disappointments and frustrations of life as stepping stones to success. Nobody is born great. Those who defeat their adversities are bound to be successful. If you have everything going wrong in your life, take your time and strike back with even more enthusiasm and vigour. Stay calm! Be focused! Ups and downs of life make life worth-living and meaningful.

Life and Death

Life and death work together. There is no second that belongs entirely to life or entirely to death. The first second of life is also the first second of death. Death can take place even in the first second. Creation and destruction go hand in hand. One cannot find even one man who has been only praised, never condemned, or always condemned and never praised. Both go together.

Thus, the balance of the universe is always maintained.

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20 Positives Of 2020 (Part 2)

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The other day I spoke about why it is important to practice gratitude for your happiness and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. I did not want to end this year on a bad note, because I have been grateful for a lot of things. So here’s an elaborate list of all the things that have come out of 2020 that have added value to my life and have a positive impact.

Ps. If you haven’t read the first part yet, click here.

11. Professional/Blog Growth and Writing

For Bombay Ficus and for me personally as a writer, the lockdown was a big win. Not only did I get more time to write and publish more content, it also allowed me to brainstorm and put forward more projects and expand the blog. 

For all our readers that aren’t aware, Bombay Ficus was birthed amidst the lockdown on 19th June, 2020. (To read about our history, click here). The lockdowns across the globe also led to increased internet activity that gave this page a boost in terms of it’s viewership and visitors, which is only encouraging for me as a blogger to write and publish more often.

I have also embarked on a journey to become an author and wrote down the first chapter to what I hope will eventually be a published book someday. (You can find my experience of the beginning as an author here)

12. Nurturing Relationships, Recalibrating Priorities and Recognising Important People

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As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was communicating with a handful of people that I really called my own, during the lockdown. People, who made men happy and who really cared about my wellbeing. But I have to thank social media (Instagram mainly), because it also told me about what other people were upto, reminded me of people I hand’t been in contact with and it is no secret, that Instagram stories act as great conversation starter countless times.

So I did reconnect with some old friends from school and some people I’d only met recently. Over time, I started nurturing those relationships back to good health and now my inner circle consisted of more than 8-9 people. It is no secret, that conversing with the same people everyday in an uneventful period becomes tardy, so expanding the circle did help.

Here’s a half of the best part : I ended up reconnecting with my ‘on again – off again’ bestfriend from school and I think this time, we’re going to stick around for a long long time.

Here’s another half of the best part : My relationship with a not-so-old friend grew to an extent where they’ve become my favourite person and one of the best things to happen to me in 2020.

13. Getting Over Excuses

ResolutionsExcuses
“I’m going to learn the guitar this year”“Work has been crazy and I don’t get the time”
“I’m going to take up dance classes over the weekend”, etc etc “Work is so hectic, I need the weekends to relax”, etc etc

Starting April, I did have a lot of time on my hands to jumpstart on my New Year Resolutions or do something I’d always wanted to do. Which I did, initially. But as the lockdowns became the new normal, I eased into my old lifestyle and spent time lazying around watching TV or doing something unproductive. It took me a while to realise that I ended up using ‘Work’ as a convenient excuse for all the things I was too lazy to do. It was pretty convenient since no-one could question it or hold me accountable because I prioritised over what helped me earn my living.

So yeah, I stopped making excuses and started holding myself more accountable for my boring monotonous life and took necessary actions against it.

14. Digital Evolution – Webinars/Zoom Calls and Digital Development at The Workplace

As a continuation to the previous point, I started taking up classes online. I took up a 3 month dance course, trained with my trainer over online sessions and brushed up on my guitar lessons with Youtube. These were things that I would’ve always preferred doing in person, until I couldn’t.

Work-from-home was also a concept that was not too common in my line of work. Mostly because we functioned in a more traditional sense. While we had been wanting to update ourselves and be at pace with the technological developments, we always ended up procrastinating for one reason or the other, until we were forced to do it.

But COVID19 and lockdowns forced our hand and now we have a fully functioning system where working remotely is smoother than ever.

15. My Parents and My Privilege

A roof over your head, running water and working electricity. As much as you use them, you might be taking these amenities for granted. Imagine your life without these conveniences, and you’ll find every reason to be thankful for them. I never had to worry about surviving in these circumstances and was mostly protected under my folk’s roof and had a convenient time.

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16. My Health

A lockdown meant I was not allowed to hit the gym nor go out and party or eat at restaurants. It also meant staying at home, choosing my own working hours and investing the time saved in commute to catch up on my sleep.

I researched and changed my way of working out, doing only body weight exercises (which were really nice for my joints), I focused on my mobility and saved myself from tiny niggles and injuries. Resorting to only eating home cooked food meant I was using healthier ingredients, watching what I was eating and improving my gut health. The added sleep also helped me deal with my everlasting fatigue and helped me be more calm and made me less cranky.

17. To Realise You’re Going To Be Able To Handle Adversity

@vaishnaviarote writes : This one is kind of a personal experience. Most of my family members tested positive to COVID, I even lost my beloved family member to covid.

Just when things could not get any worse, my younger sibling got diagnosed with something unusual that needed urgent surgery and left him to be dependent on people for daily activities. It felt like my whole world had collapsed. I felt like I couldn’t deal with it, but just like that I did and things have started to get better. Even when you feel like nothing is working in your favour, there will be this one thing that’ll make you have faith again and uplift you and make you believe. Remember,this too shall pass.

18. Taking care of your mental health

As the lockdown kept extending and a lot of things kept delaying along with it, my anxiety took a toll on me. I was not able to cope well with it but I was pretending like I’m okay which made it worse. A few of my friends encouraged me to seek help and that’s when I contacted a foundation that provided me with a counsellor. It’s still going on and I’m not completely alright but I’m doing a lot better. This year taught me that it’s okay to PAUSE and look out for yourself and your mental health.

19. Mental health awareness

A lot of taboo goes around mental health and how it’s merely an excuse or just in the head. This year has been very difficult for a lot of us and our mental health has gone for a toss in the bargain. I read a lot of articles about how people have been clinically diagnosed with depression and suicidal tendencies due to the anxiety, fear and loneliness that came along with this pandemic. But then along with this I also saw people making an effort to cope up. There were 24*7 helpline numbers for those who minds were going through a turmoil. People have been talking a lot more about mental health and taking it positively while supporting their loved ones.

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20. Getting rid of toxicity

I’m going to try to explain this with a small metaphor. 

Imagine you have an allergic reaction to something but you’re not sure what it is. So you stop engaging in certain activities (like petting a dog/cat) or eating some specific foods and then slowly resume each activity one at a time. Then, you just use the elimination process to rule out an activity after another.

Similarly, things were going well for me initially during the lockdown days when I was cut off from the world. Then slowly as the lockdowns were lifted and I started interacting with people again, I was able to realise what kind of people were toxic to me or not good for my mental health and I subsequently maintained a distance from them.

Ps. We have a lot of exciting projects coming for you in 2021. So do hit the subscribe button if you’d like to keep hearing from us and thank you for being supportive and leaving encouraging comments for us. It only motivates to keep going.

Here’s wishing you a very happy and safe New Year!

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20 Positives Of 2020 (Part 1)

Yesterday I spoke about why it is important to practice gratitude for your happiness and peace. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. I did not want to end this year on a bad note, because I have been grateful for a lot of things. So here’s an elaborate list of all the things that have come out of 2020 that have added value to my life and have a positive impact.

1. I Learnt New Skills

This is the easiest positive to begin with. Once things settled down and it was clear that lockdown and work-from-home culture was here to stay, a lot of changes took place. The primary change was that I’d end up saving time on commute and the relatively slow economy ensured lesser work assignments and ample free time at home (atleast initially, until people came to terms with it being the new normal). In order to use this free time efficiently, I ended up polishing on some of my old skills and learnt some new ones. 

I took my baking skills to another level to now be able to bake my own fresh bread, brownies and pie. I learnt to cook newer dishes from different cuisines too. I also ended up refreshing on my guitar skills, which I hadn’t played in almost 6 months. Webinars to brush up on some work related knowledge, more reading and educating myself on better ways to maintain hygiene and safety also took place.

2. I Learnt To Be More Patient

I also learnt to be more patient this year. Every person has been affected by 2020 and is dealing with it differently and it is important to respect that as well as give the other person their space and time. Things may not be available on demand as they once used to be. It was also necessary, since I was spending so much time at home with my family, which I hadn’t done in months.

Similarly, personal communication at work was replaced by zoom calls, making it more time consuming and slowing down the overall work cycle. Reports took longer and help did not come immediately. Thus, it became very important to exercise patience in these circumstances.

3. Importance of relationships

During the lockdown, the only people I got to see personally were my folks and siblings. Work carried on via zoom calls and a lot of time was spent doing house chores. At the end of the day, I ended up talking to barely a couple of close people outside my family that I actually missed or my work colleagues who I was in constant communication with.

This lockdown though, also somewhat forced me into spending more time and bonding with my family. It personified the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ for me. We took care of each other. We lifted each other up during our lows and I realised their importance especially when I heard about how lonely my friends got (the one’s who were living alone).

I had so little to worry and so many people to share my day and pass my time with.

4. Relationship priorities

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When it was announced that the entire country was going into a lockdown, survival seemed improbable for a social butterfly like me who went drinking or partying every weekend and had a big social circle. But, I mostly spent the entire lockdown only talking to members of my family and 4 of my friends. It was only these people that I spoke about my day-to-day with. 

I realised, the people outside my inner circle were irrelevant to my happiness and in some ways, not worth the effort I was putting in to stay relevant in those social circles. I was better off saving that energy and investing in myself and people within my inner circle.

5. Work-life balance and the ability to say ‘NO’

One of the biggest cons of a work-from-home office culture is the lack of fixed office hours. While in a normal world, I’d barely work once I was out of the office or after office hours, those rules didn’t apply anymore. Thus, it became all the more important for me to set up boundaries and be able to say ‘no’ when an unnecessarily high amount of work was being sent my way or being dumped on me.

With a more relaxed and balanced lifestyle, I was able to work more efficiently and not hate my job or my bosses while feeling fatigued or close to a burnout. A proper work-life balance helped me bring my personal life back on track, brought about a good change in my lifestyle and health and also made me more efficient and happy.

6. I learnt to plan things

It was not all fun and games during the lockdown. I was supposed to do my part in the house chores, help my mother in the kitchen and work was a pain, thanks to the endless zoom calls. Simultaneously, I had also taken up a couple of online classes, had to spare an hour a day for my workouts and was pursuing my passion of writing. This required for me to plan my day properly, in order to be able to make the best use of my time. 

Another example of planning was preparing a weekly list of things. Keeping safety in mind, we would try to buy all our groceries for the entire week in one trip. That meant, preparing elaborate list of meals and buying perishables accordingly. It was way more difficult than it seemed, because supermarkets were running short of supplies and we had to make do with what we could get.

7. Finding happiness in small joys

This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. While I was stripped away from all of my indulgences and it seemed like hell had broken loose, I started to find joy and get excited about the smaller things in life.

Like when I could see my Soufflé rise in the oven, or on completion of a book or finishing a post in time to publish on the blog, playing cards with my folks after dinner, etc.

It just made me realize how important it is to celebrate the more regular occurring smaller joys of life and not wait for decades until I bought my own house or a luxury car or wait for a promotion, etc.

8. Being more independent

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Here’s something from @vaishnaviarote :

There was a point where I was living by myself for a few months and I had never entered the kitchen before. I didn’t know anything about cooking, instant noodles being an exception of course. I somehow got interested and started cooking these delicious meals all by myself while taking care of my rent, bills, laundry and work.

It was hectic but it also made me realise the pain our parents go through to provide us with all of these essential basic things and also how privileged some of us are. 

It made me a lot more confident about living by myself. I knew I could survive.

9. Needs vs Wants

COVID19 ensured that there were no appraisals or bonuses for the year. In fact, I was amongst the luckier bunch of people who got to keep their jobs and not take a pay cut. Here’s an account of what it was like to lose your job during the pandemic from our very own Esha J.

With the shutdown, my expenditures were reduced to almost a third of my usual monthly expenditures. I was not spending money on new clothes or going to malls or the movies, wasn’t eating or drinking in restaurants or pubs nor ordering-in came. I also ended up saving a ton of money which I usually spent on commute.

All I really ended up spending money on was groceries, my Netflix subscription and some utility bills. Since I lived under my parent’s roof, these expenses were also seldom often taken care of. All I needed was 20% of my actual salary to meet my needs and  an additional 10% to spoil myself. It opened my eye on a lot of wasteful expenditures I did, simply because I could.

10. The forbidden fruit is sweeter

Although I have never been someone who lives on alcohol or parties or just has to go out to the mall or movies, it was pretty easy to not engage in those activities initially.

But as time went by, I was craving to go to the movies or go to a restaurant or pub for the food and dancing. For the first time, I was actually starting to miss my workplace and my small (but well decorated) cubicle. I was just missing getting into my car and driving around the city. Atleast in the first few weeks when there was a strict lockdown.

It is only when something is taken away from you, that you realise how much it meant to you.

Note : You can check out Part 2 of our post here.

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13 Things I Learnt During COVID19 Lockdown

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1. Being a homemaker is tough and under appreciated

I’ve seen it everywhere around me, that homemakers don’t get close to as much appreciation as he/she should. That we as fellow family members should be more thankful and vocal about our gratitude towards them, but we simply fail to do so.

During the last 6 weeks, while the entire country was in lockdown and all sorts of services were put on a halt, one service that affected every other household in India was the unavailability of househelp, maids, etc.

These are the people who did all of the most basic chores of our household like cleaning, washing, etc. While everyone in my house shared these chores amongst ourselves, I realised how much work my mother put in despite all the help she got. It was only when I started helping her in her chores that I realised how exhausting it was.

I always knew a homemaker’s job was thankless, but I had no idea it was that difficult as well. We’ve got to do better than just be appreciative.

2. Cooking is the easy part

Let’s face it. Dicing vegetables and cooking with precise ingredients and recipes isn’t easy. However, if there is anything more taxing than cooking good food and enjoying it, it is to go back to your sink and clean your mess on a full stomach when you’re feeling the laziest you could ever feel during the day.

3. Thank god for modern technology and appliances

We simply don’t talk about these enough cause they’ve become such an organic part of our daily livelihood. The washing machines, steam irons, every kitchen appliance that exists, a hoover and even something as basic as a spinning mop. Imagine spending an hour to wash clothes by hand, requiring all the upper body strength that it does and then moving on to do all the other chores in the house.

Now I am privileged to the point where my family owns a dishwasher too, amongst all these appliances and I have to admit it, I am so thankful. Doing the dishes was a part of my chores and 4 days in, I already had my skin peeling off and other cuts.

A little ironic isn’t it?

These hands can lift a 100 kilos easily, but 4 days of doing dishes and its blister season!

4. Privileges of a big home

I as a member of this family, am extremely privileged to live in a home that is big enough to have a separate room for all the people living under it. We can easily walk into our rooms when we need our own space and enjoy each other’s company during other hours.

It was only after listening to a few other people and discussing this at length with my folks did it dawn on me that the average size of a house in India is 494 sq-ft. while it is close to 125 sq-ft in a slum area and these homes house an equivalent number or more members than living in my home. These people have nowhere to go except out of their houses which is impossible during this period.

5. You don’t need a gym to workout

I have always been a strong advocate of bodyweight exercises. They are more than sufficient for a person to get fitter and healthier and help avoid a great deal of risk and injury. You can find a list of benefits of a body weight workout on this page : Benefits of a body-weight workout .

More so, they don’t require you to spend any money on buying any sort of equipment or later finding space to store those equipments. They may not be enough if you want to beef up or become a professional body builder, but otherwise they’re as good as it gets. Calisthenics is a serious form of fitness that focuses simply on body weight workouts and is followed by thousands of individuals.

A simple and very effective body weight routine can be found here : Full Body Workout At Home – No Equipment .

6. Chores are a workout in itself

In its traditional form, sweeping and traditional forms of mopping or swabbing require a lot of physical effort and work almost every major muscle in your body. Take modern machines away and washing clothes by hand is also a great test of your shoulders and arm strength and overall a good test of your cardiovascular health.

Take something like a lift away and carrying your groceries to your home over a flight of stairs could be more taxing than you could’ve ever imagined.

7. Efficiency

With the unavailability of maids and other househelp, as well as the onus of working from home, it became increasingly important for us to plan our day. With the few hours I’d need for work, I also needed a few hours to carry out my share of chores and additionally, I’d decided to atleast spend an hour for my health. This made it very important for me to plan my day and be efficient, so as to not defer my tasks or be unproductive.

I could not have imagined I’d get lessons on efficiency within the 4 walls of my own home.

8. Decision making and planning

With the lockdown procedures in place as well as some other additional lockdown procedures in our apartment building, we only had 2 out of 7 days (Monday and Tuesday) to step out and get groceries or get done with other tasks. We couldn’t step out otherwise and neither did we wish to unless there were some extraordinary circumstances. Social distancing and safety will always be a bigger priority.

Hence it became imperative for us to list all the groceries and essentials that we’d need and plan our grocery runs accordingly and make a list of all of our tasks, so as to not get stuck or seek special permissions to get our tasks done.

9. What’s your excuse now?

I have always wanted to learn new skills, read more books, rehearse my guitar lessons, etc etc. For the longest time, I told myself it’s very difficult and I am not able to do it because I have a very busy schedule and work kept me occupied; that I was too tired after work to workout and too mentally exhausted to read something new.

What I’ve realized now is that work was just an excuse for me to get out of these things. I haven’t read for more than an hour a day during a time when I am sitting on a chair 12 hours a day, when I have nothing better to do than watch some television and do some chores. I could’ve also taken up online lessons, but I never got around to doing it either.

The lesson I learnt is, if I really wanted to do those things, I would’ve found a way to do them anyway. Maybe not dedicate a lot of time to it, but begin somewhere. This lockdown has given me a big reality check and has been a real eye opener.

10. Learning is Ageless

To be fair, it’s not just little children who pick up new hobbies and stumble onto previously undiscovered skills. Single, married, kids, no kids, whatever your age … learning is for all. Now, more than ever, we have time to watch webinars and pursue online classes, and take up fitness challenges or journaling.

My father has been the closest example of this. He’s now taking cooking lessons from my mother while also going through recipes online to mix things up and add some spice to a boring day.

11. Money matters and Financial Literacy

In these torrid times when there’s a global economic slowdown, huge conglomerates are filing for bankruptcy leading to job cuts going all around, it is very important that each person understands the importance of financial literacy, which means personal finance as well as family finances.

Calculating inflows and making subsequent budgets are the need of the hour. The importance of financial discipline can be highlighted now more than ever.

12. Relationships take more than love and communication is very important

COVID19 has forced almost the entire planet to be in quarantine for extended periods at some point or the other. Countries like Italy, Spain, India, etc. announced a mandatory complete lockdown for 6 weeks or longer to ensure safety of it’s citizens. In these circumstances, every relationship is practically thrown into being long-distance because you simply cannot see your partner for atleast this period if not more.

It is during this period that you begin to realize the little holes in your relationships. Things that got mitigated and overlooked during those coffee meets and movie dates and intimate moments.

13. Community sharing is the need of the hour

Be it sharing of knowledge, financial help or other intangibles; it is our duty as humans and participants of a community to help others who are not as fortunate and struggling in their fight for survival. Humanity right now demands nothing more than selflessness and empathy from us. Every person amongst us should find a way to contribute in whatever little way we can. That is the only way forward.

-The Travellothoner

The Joshua Bell Experiment (Video)

Over ten years ago, a short, unassuming article was published in one of America’s leading newspapers, the Washington Post. It was about a social experiment that highlighted some harsh truths about the society we live in. Most of the mid-level bureaucrats disembark at L’Enfant Plaza station, located in the heart of federal Washington. On Friday, 12 January 2007, as people slurped coffee and scarfed down doughnuts, as they scurried off to work, an inconspicuous man, in jeans and a T-shirt, stood next to a dustbin inside the station playing a violin.

In a city like Mumbai, it would not be considered highly dignified for someone to play music on the street. The perception in the States is different. They are not part of the aristocracy, but not considered impoverished either. They are just seen as street performers, who can at times attract quite a crowd and media attention.

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If you see someone playing music in a public area, do you stop and listen? Do you ever give any change to show your kindness? Or do you hurry past in guilt fearful of your lack of time? That winter morning, the Washington Post conducted an experiment to see if people would stop for one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing the most elegant music ever written, on one of the most expensive violins ever crafted. Would they accept their free front-row ticket to witness the musical genius or squander their opportunity, as they rushed to Capitol Hill?

The artist was the internationally renowned violinist, Joshua Bell. Thirty-nine at the time of the experiment, Bell had swapped the concert hall for the Metro hall, and an adoring audience to one who may just ignore him. Days before the experiment, Bell had filled Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, where run-of-the-mill seats sell for $100.

This was a test of context, perception and priorities: Would people pause to appreciate beauty when it’s right in front of them?

Bell was a child prodigy. His parents, both psychologists, decided to get him formal training when they noticed that their four-year-old was making music with rubber bands—he would stretch them, opening and closing them across side-cabinets, to vary the pitch. His fame was amplified as a teenager. ‘Does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live,’ one magazine interview commented. But would the humans at the train station tell him that? Would the masses recognize this disguised genius playing perfect masterpieces on a violin worth $3.5 million? So what do you think? A free concert by one of the world’s most famous musicians! You would expect a swarm of commuters around him. The opposite happened.

It was at three minutes that a middle-aged man glanced at Joshua for a split second, but kept walking. Thirty seconds later, a woman threw in a dollar and dashed away. It was six minutes later that someone leaned against the wall, and listened. The stats were dismal. In the forty-five minutes that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped and hung around for at least a minute, twenty-seven gave money amassing a grand total of $32. This left 1070 people who were oblivious to the miracle happening only a few feet away from them.

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The Washington Post recorded Bell’s whole performance secretly, creating a time-lapse video of any incidents, or in this case, lack of them. ‘Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler’s movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience—unseen, unheard, otherworldly—that you find yourself thinking that he’s not really there. A ghost. Only then do you see it: he is the one who is real. They are the ghosts,’ the article said. Can we label the thousand people who ignored Bell as unsophisticated? Not necessarily.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant said that the context of a situation matters.

‘One’s ability to appreciate beauty is related to one’s ability to make moral judgements,’ he said. But to do this, the ‘viewing conditions must be optimal’. Art in a gallery and art in a coffee shop are going to be treated differently. In the coffee shop, the art may be more expensive and of a higher value, but there is no reason to pay attention as people sip a variety of mochaccinos. In most galleries, the ‘optimal’ conditions have been created to appreciate beauty. Light in the right place, enough room between the art and the viewer, a description of the piece, etc. Funnily enough, many have lost ordinary objects in art galleries later to find that people are gathered around them taking pictures thinking that they are exhibits! Context manipulates our perspective.

Therefore, we cannot make judgements about people’s ability to appreciate appreciate beauty because Bell did just look like a humdrum violinist.

However, what does this say about our ability to appreciate life?

I have found that we as a people have got busier over time. We tend to exclude parts of our lives which are not directly related to hard work and accumulating wealth. The construct of the modern world is such that we have less time to press pause, and appreciate beauty. Minding their own business, stressed, with their eyes forward, people on the escalator ignoring Joshua Bell have the capacity to understand beauty, but it seems irrelevant to their lives so they choose not to. If we cannot take a moment to listen to the beautiful music, played by one of the best musicians on the planet; if the drive of modern life suppresses us, so that we are deaf and blind to that spectacle, what else are we missing?

Ps. If you really like the concept of this experiment, you should check out ‘Roomies by Christina Lauren’. It is a romance novel based on a similar idea and a nice read.

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My First Day as an ‘AUTHOR’

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I am not an author. 

I don’t know if what I do qualifies as writing either. All my work you’ve seen on this blog is quite often nothing but me rambling or just adding my thoughts on paper (or a screen) or writing poetry after having my heart broken. I don’t even know the first thing about writing. I am a commerce student from a business and finance background who has not even participated in an elocution competition in school.

For me, writing began with maintaining a personal diary over the internet (that page doesn’t exist anymore) to penning down my travel stories and slowly moving on to more organised and thoughtful content. In my mind, I always see myself as a retired entrepreneur who’s replacing his day job with teaching and using the additional free time to write (It doesn’t hurt to dream!).

But you can’t really control all these ideas and thoughts in your head that you’d like to have penned down, can you?

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So, without further procrastination, I started writing the first chapter to my ‘new book’. Quite the irony, given how I have nothing but ideas and a very inadequate and shabby first chapter. 

Before I began, I did google some basics. An Indie writer doing about a hundred thousand words (100,000; I like how a hundred thousand sounds, as opposed to ‘A Lakh’) is a good start, with each chapter being 4000-5500 words (Or upto 10k-12k words if it is a classic). 

Sounds reasonable right? I thought so too!! So here’s my math :

1 book = 100,000 words = 20 chapter of 5000 words. 

If I plan to finish it within a year, that’s less than 300 words a day or more than 2 weeks for a chapter. 

So I did start. I knew exactly where I was going to begin and exactly what I was going to write, and I did. 60 minutes later, having written my entire first chapter, I ended at 1064 words. As far as my math was concerned, I did way better than my daily target. BUT, I was out of ideas with nothing to add. My imagination although, still flowing, knew nowhere to take a pause or how to go ahead. 

I HIT MY WRITER’S BLOCK WITHIN 60 MINUTES OF WRITING!!!

So shitty, I know. Well, I let it go. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to talk to more people, research on some new characters and backgrounds and then slowly and steadily bring it all together. Not as easy as it sounds though, since this would take up atleast a few weeks/months and totally screw up my timeline. 

But, a good night’s sleep and after rereading my first chapter a few times (it hardly took any time), some ideas popped. Then some more. It’s not even been 12 hours since my day began, but I am flowing with ideas and this time, I am writing it all down as a maniac. It is distracting though. 

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Taking a pause every few minutes to ponder on a new idea, critiquing it in my head and writing the outcome in that tiny notes app on my phone. Although as cumbersome as it sounds, I AM ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT!!

There’s just something really satisfying and joyful about being inspired and motivated and have your creative juices flowing. Boy oh boy, do I love this feeling!

So yeah, it was a very deflating and uninspiring first day, but it was a start; AND…. I am loving the second day of it so far!

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