Book Review – The Firm by John Grisham

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“𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦.”

John Grisham

What if the company you worked for was a front for the mafia?

What if your dream organization was shady and incriminated you after certain years working there?

That is exactly what this amazing book is all about!

One of the most intriguing stories ever written by the brilliant writer Grisham!

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A Harvard Law Graduate with a poor background, looking for climbing the ladder of the corporate world is recruited by THE FIRM. A house, a BMW, over 70K+ salary a year (in the 90s) and so many perks that it was baffling and too good to be true.

Soon, the story follows the protagonist and his family getting stuck between the safety of their lives and the constant pressure from the FBI to stand as a witness. The Firm is shady and a front for the Italian Mafia. The Firm has everything, every ounce of information about you to incriminate you in case of contingency.

What do you do when your life is thrown apart, just like that?

You will experience the journey from the protagonist’s eyes. The surge of emotions, the high stakes, and a life and death situation. You can actually feel it as you continue reading this masterpiece of a book.

The plot keeps you on the edge of your seat as it keeps getting better with each chapter. Every time a new twist, a new turn to keep you wanting for more and more. The ending is bitter-sweet and very realistic compared to what is expected by the readers.

Read this thriller novel for an exciting adventure in the world of Law Firms through the life of a man who has everything one could ask for in this world and yet nothing at the same time!

10/10 will recommend this book!

Note : If you want to reach out to the author of this post, click here.

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How To Make a Flax Egg

A step-by-step tutorial of how to make a flax egg, egg substitute for baking!

PREP TIME
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
Ingredients

1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (ground raw flaxseed)

2 1/2 Tbsp water
Instructions

Add flaxseed meal and water to a dish and stir. Let rest for 5 minutes to thicken. Add to recipes in place of 1 egg (as original recipe is written).

It’s not an exact 1:1 substitution in every recipe because it doesn’t bind and stiffen during baking quite like an egg does. But I’ve found it to work incredibly well in pancakes, quick breads, brownies, muffins, cookies and many other recipes.

Notes

*This is not my original recipe, but one I discovered on many vegan baking blogs and have since adapted for my own use.

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Mocha Flavoured Ice Cream

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Everyone loves ice cream, if you don’t this recipe will make you change your mind…

PREP TIME – 2 Hours

COOK TIME – 2-5 mins

SERVES – 3-4

INGREDIENTS: –

  • 3 Large Ripe Bananas
  • 1 Tsp Instant Coffee
  • 1 Tsp Cocoa Powder (Unsweetened)
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Milk


METHOD: –

1. Peel and chop the bananas (similar size).

2. Store in an airtight container or a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for at least 3 hours (until the bananas are solid). Ideally overnight would be best, if you can’t wait that long then until the bananas are solid.

3. Put the frozen bananas into a blender and blend until you get a thick ice cream like consistency. Add Coffee and Cocoa Powder and Blend again.

4. Add Coconut Milk and blend one last time again.

5. Have immediately from the blender or freeze again for a few hours and enjoy a scoop or two or the entire tub.

Notes: Technically you would not need extra sugar but you could add 2 Tablespoon of Honey if you like. You can add Chocolate Chips or Sliced Almonds or dried fruits or fresh fruits too.

Ta-da Enjoy this Ice-cream! 😀

Below are a few photographs showing you how the process looks in bits and pieces

Bananas out of the freezer after they settle in the grinder for about 5-10mins.

A little crumbly banana mix, add the Instant coffee (whichever flavour you have, we went ahead with Double Chocolate Coffee)

And there you go, a jar full of Ice cream, a tub full of Healthy Joy 😀

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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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The Day’s Just Starting.

The alarms went off, not the physical ones which are ever so kind and ring only when they’re supposed to and stop at your command, the alarms in context here have no sense of respect, they will come at you with a vendetta solely meant to disturb you and your balance and ironically get stronger the more you try to stop them. Apparently labelling them as anxiety, intrusive thoughts or ‘stress’ makes you more aware of them, only acting as a paradox to pull you in more towards them. I was up, immediately, unlike the days where you feel like a cocoon just not ready to open itself up, this was one where the moment you open your eyes you know it is going to be an exhausting one from the minute you are awoken, not awake. 

I didn’t shower, the thought of water trickling down my face, my body while I just sat there stirring in my own thoughts, losing the grip on my reality, almost morphing into an immovable object didn’t seem so appealing to me. I put on what I wore last night, the clothes still smelled of hope, something I needed. To make this an entirely dismal morning, I topped it off with some espresso, and it was good to go through my day feeling like shit.

I did have something to drown myself in, a social gathering at my aunt’s place and the drive was over 30kms, though I cannot say I don’t love it. It is something that puts me at ease, it is dynamic, the experience is never the same, every time it is different. You can drive through the same route for over 30 years of your life, wearing the same attire as you step into your office every day, but the people you see on the road will always be different. It’s change, the one thing associated with fear, but the one thing true to life. The realisation of the moving nature of life is a respite, it is a safe haven because the passing nature of my feelings is now in front of my eyes, all i need to do is to be (and not move my eyes away), let them displace themselves while i observe the little guy knocking on my window. He probably doesn’t even know what anxiety is, for him his fears are only limited to his tongue tasting his own saliva throughout the day, or water if he can get lucky. 

I could hear his muffled voices through the window, their sounds drowning out the voices in my head which were overflowing with anger. I pulled down my window. The trembles in his speech now clear, ‘Sir, 20 rupees only, high quality tissue paper, please sir.  Kuch nahi khaya hai subah se. Please sir.’

He had the face of every beggar I’ve come across, they tilt their heads, frown, engaging more face muscles in that activity as opposed to smiling, which really does not help their cause. But his honest attempt at the pre-trained English has led me to giving him a crisp 20 rupee note. He smiles at me, the windows in his mouth give me a clearer look at his plaque ridden gums. I move away. He is now waiting for the next set of cars to arrive while I look at him through the mirror. 

Looking at him, that desolate child who was brought into this world by his parents only to suffer everyday made me think about last night and as I was moving through space and time here in front of the wheel, while I let my body steer, I permitted my mind to wander. The couch sinking in from the weight of my body, and a paperback leading me to a world of its own, the night seemed flawless. We keep the gate of our home open, laziness being the reason here. A family of three walked in, I put down my book, the couch returning back to its original shape as I greeted them. I didn’t know we were expecting guests. 

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The man was a distant relative, and had the marks of struggle all over his body, his beard probably around the third day of him not shaving, the eyes expressing nothing but exhaustion and drowsiness, and his smile gave a peek into his teeth being red, probably from him chewing paan, his anchor to his painful reality. He smelled of despair and his aura was contagious. You could see the same colours on his wife, her distinct forced smile as she greeted my mother hinting at the frayed relationship they had. What stood out amongst this humble family was their 4 year old child, who was supposed to tie them together but now was probably another reminder of their unhappiness, the intentional knot was now an obligation. 

He has the average height of a 4 year old, skinny, but had a mouth full of teeth and a black dot at the corner of his forehead, ironically to ward off evil energies. The father sat besides me and started making small talk while my mother and his wife went in the kitchen to let their woes out. I don’t enjoy involuntary conversations, but i felt pity for that man. Whenever reality gets too painful you shift towards imagined ones because they seem hopeful. I knew he would be excited about movies as I am no stranger to the pleasures of an escape to a fictional world. I ask him, ‘Did you see that new show on Bombay Mafia which was released recently?’ I could sense my speech imitating his.

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His eyes lit up and I knew what I needed to do next. 

Smiling through his decayed gums, he went on, ‘solid show hai yaar, jhakaas. I love the man’s acting. I finished the whole thing in one night. You need to download it right now. I love watching these series. It’s my favourite timepass. Bhaari hai ye sab. Ekdum best’

I wanted him to go on even though I had seen it, so I pose my next question, ‘Recommend me some? Tell me about your recent favourites.’

As he continued with his boring description of supposed cinematic masterpieces, I noticed the child. Since the time he entered the home, he hasn’t sat in one place, or had engaged in a particular activity completely. He was running from one room to the next, falling, curiously checking out the trophies which mother had displayed in the living room, running again, outside the home, coming back in, waving to his father whom i suppose he loves, taking a bite out of the chocolate i had offered him, then moving again. He was hyperactive. I paid attention for a few minutes and realised he probably had ADHD. 

I cut his father off while he is now absent from the living room, ‘Is he like this at home too?’

Seriousness now being the dominant emotion, he says, ‘All the time, he can never stay in one place man. It’s like there is a spring in him which makes him jump all the time. He tires me out yaar.’ I wanted to say something in that moment, but I knew my words wouldn’t have been received well. I continued to listen to him, I got the sense that’s something he needed, and didn’t have the privilege of, his day only permitting him tiny slivers of pleasure through his phone screen. I wondered whether the child will go through his whole life without being noticed, by the people that brought him here? The question is heavier than what I can take that night. I let go.

Conclusions regarding this memory allowed me to reach my aunt’s with a raging headache. I attribute it to the stress of forced conversations that were to follow. The ignition stops, but my mind’s still running. I stay there for a while and let myself breathe. The day’s just starting.

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A Cursed Desire

You want it so badly, you chase it. 

You pray for it. You think about it 24×7. 

You decide on what you’d do if you got it. 

But in your head you know you won’t get it,

and you’ve already made your peace with it. 

And yet, deep down a voice inside tells you to not lose hope.


And then you get it. 

Impossible. Unfuckingbelievable. 

That did not just happen. But it did.

It takes you a few minutes, maybe hours,

to realise you actually got it. 

Maybe it was good karma showing up or you just got lucky. 

Maybe it was fate, maybe it was meant to be.


You love it. You cherish it.

You hold it as close to you as you possibly can.

It’s your possession, your desire personified. 

You don’t want to share it with the world.

But fate has something else planned for you.

It is taken from you, your prized possession.

You’re in denial. Crying. Hoping for it to come back.

But it won’t. It wasn’t meant to be.


You slowly let go. Learn to live without it.

You move on. The sun is shining again.

But you see a pretty butterfly fly by.

As beautiful as your prized possession.

You slip. You’re hurt. But you get up.

Dust yourself. Start moving on again.

Maybe this is how it was supposed to be.

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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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France And Euro 2016 – Nice, Eze Village & Monaco

Nice

From Paris, we took a 6 am flight to one of my favourite cities, Nice (pronounced as “Neece”). Unfortunately, our flight was delayed due to an air traffic personnel strike (which I was told was neither a big deal nor very rare in this part of the world). Arriving in Nice at 10, we checked-in our luggage in the hostel and headed out towards the beach.

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Nice from atop the hill.

The Villa Saint Exupery Beach Hostel, Nice. It was a pretty good place, considering its location which was just 5 minutes from the beach. Although most places in Nice are not more than 5-10 mins from the beach. In terms of its interiors and amenities, it had a full fledged bar inside and a cool place to hangout and chill, or gather up before going for a bar crawl. A lot of us just hung out here with our fellow travelers from across the world, with loads of stories to share. That is one of my favourite aspects about living in a hostel, the people generally tend to have travelled a lot, or aspire to. The vibe is pretty good and the interaction is genuine, something which doesn’t always happen if you check into a hotel. The hostel also had a fancy kitchen with all kinds of equipments to make life easy.

I personally prefer a hostel over a hotel for multiple reasons:

  1. It is cheaper, because you pay per-bed and not per-room. Although, you don’t get any value added services either.
  2. The people are usually cut out of a similar cloth, backpackers or travellers with an agenda to just explore the street and cities, explore local cuisines or just wander. People who believe in low-cost travel.
  3. Its just overall more informal and comfortable; and in a way, more interactive!
  4. These people also tend to be reliable sources of information to help you plan your local itinerary.

One point to note is that hostels, just like hotels usually have a late check-in around 2-3pm and check out is always early at 10am, so one must plan accordingly! Although most of these places do allow you to store your luggage without any questions or hassles, and its pretty safe in general.

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While walking across to the beach, we came across this wonderful waterpark. It is just a joy to watch little kids play in the fountains, more so adults, who behave like little kids and just live in the moment. Those few beautiful minutes of just joy and peace! From there, we headed towards the street markets. It was like a small organised farmers market with lots of stuff ranging from handmade soaps and candles to fresh fruits and jellies.

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The beach in Nice is beautiful and the water is different shades of blue. There is a small hill in Nice, which is right opposite the port and is a couple hundred steps to the top. It is called The Castle Hill. Up there is a big garden and a nice picnic place. One can see the whole beach as well the entire city from up there. It is too good to miss and doesn’t consume a lot of time either. One can walk towards the port from there and look around and enjoy!

One thing to keep in mind is that Nice has a fantastic nightlife! Big casinos and clubs. The whole strip across the beach is full of casinos.

Keeping that in mind, we napped in the afternoon and hit the casinos in the evening, to try our luck. Turned out to be like my lucky day, since I was able to earn enough to sustain my expenses for the next 2 days 😇

FYI : Hostels provide nothing other a bed to sleep and a kitchen to cook. So it is important to carry your own bath products and personal toiletries, towels and food (if you plan to cook).

I woke up the next morning and headed for a run on the promenade along the beach. It was a joyous experience, with the blue sea on the right and a fresh cold breeze hitting my face. A good run and then on to the beach I went, into the cool turquoise blue water for a swim. You’d want to carry a pair of slippers or swim shoes since it is a pebble beach, so that’s going to hurt if you plan to walk bare feet.

Coming back to the hostel after the swim, we freshened up and left for Eze Village. Nice is a small city and can be explored on feet within a day or one could rent a bicycle and ride around. It’s beautiful!

Eze Village

The thing to remember in Nice, is that the bus frequency is very low so when you want to go outside the city, keep a track of the bus timings! The trams can get you to other places inside the city. Ubers aren’t so easy to get or the best option is to rent a car and go around!

We took the bus and headed to Eze village. It is located on the top of a mountain and one has to explore it on foot. It would take barely a couple of hours to see the whole village, which is very quaint and cute. It is similar to the narrow streets with small gelato shops in Rome or Greece, a visual treat for anyone who’s into art.

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View from atop the Eze Village Garden.

It has narrow roads and is an uphill task. Some good cafes to eat at and a few ice cream stores with authentic gelatos that literally melt in your mouth. There’s also a garden at the very top which is quite unique.

Monaco

Taking yet another bus from Eze Village, we touched down into Monaco. The biggest attraction here is the Monaco Casino (the one you see in the Bond movie Casino Royale), the World renowned F1 race track (as seen in the beginning of Iron Man 2) and AS Monaco FC (the football club).

The Monaco casino is huge with fancy exotic cars parked outside. A city so rich, one can spot between 15-17 Rolls Royce’s and twice the number of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the likes within a span of 30-40 minutes. It is safe to say, a trip to Monaco and you won’t feel so special about exotic supercars anymore.

The race tunnel and a part of the track.

After the casino we strolled around the racetrack that goes around the port. Lots of luxury yachts and small boats here. A sight very rare to the naked eye.

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View from the train back to Nice

Coming back to Nice from Monaco via train, we finished supper and headed to the clubs. Of the 4 clubs I came across and after asking around, we headed to the one, which is now a personal favourite, Wayne’s. That’s the best bar and club in the city for me. With an awesome space to dance and drink. Live music followed by a dance floor made of tables and chairs. Nobody dances on the ground.

Next Stop : Marseille, Poland Vs. Portugal.

Until Next Time,

The Travellothoner.

France And Euro 2016 – Paris

This one has been long overdue. I went to France back in July 2016 for the Euros. A classic example of sports tourism. Given the economics and numbers behind such events, it is not surprising the amount of bids a country is willing to make and the lengths they’re ready to go to, to host them. The numbers will simply blow your minds off!

In general, we began our trip with Paris and also covered Nice, Marseille, Chamonix and then came a full circle back to Paris. We also saw two matches :

  1. Spain Vs. Italy
  2. Poland Vs. Portugal (The Eventual Champions)

Paris

We landed at the Paris De Gaul airport. The airport in itself seems like a huge building with a lot of debris. Barely painted and in a way unfinished or a work in progress. I wasn’t able to conclude if it was under renovation or the idea was to keep it raw. The city itself being known for its beauty, would people really judge it based on its airport? Connected by a network of long escalators, and through immigration, we were in Paris. With the country to explore, some matches to be watched, some adventures to look forward to and the beginning of a memory which would last a lifetime.

Paris was the only city where we lived in a hotel. Although the best and the most cost efficient accommodation is always going to be a hostel (if you’re not travelling with family or want a certain level of privacy or luxury). Ours was a simple 10 minute walk away from The Eiffel.

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Standing in its supremacy, The Eiffel. The tallest structure in the city.

It is very difficult to spot large buildings in this city except certain areas where there are abundant high-rises. Most of the buildings are limited to 5-6 floors, which if noticed is quite evident throughout the city. The colour for each structure is also almost even, without any major contrasts. One will also find cute cafes on every corner of the street and all of them prefer to have more outdoor seating with a view of the city, than indoors.

After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we set out for what was the closest and the most obvious choice :

The Eiffel Tower

There isn’t much to portray in words if I were to give an extensive description of The Eiffel. It is beautiful, it is majestic and it is huge. However personally, I did not find it as extraordinary as I had heard from the people who’ve already seen it. I mean, movies always made it look like The Eiffel was capable of making you feel a certain way, but it didn’t actually. In some ways, it is as impressive to me as say The Macau Tower, which gives you an overall view of a beautiful city.

I don’t mean that as an insult or a knock on this wonder, it has it’s own charm. But you just expect more out of it, after all that you’ve heard and seen in the movies.

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But I have to admit, it is a symbol of love and at the end of the day, you want to visit this place with your partner because you just don’t want to be left out (and also, HOLLYWOOD!!!);

And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to kiss their partner under what Hollywood describes as the biggest, most significant and probably the most beautiful building in the city of love!!

Every romantic on this planet has wanted to live a scene out of those countless movies that capture this structure.

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View from The Eiffel, The Euro ’16 Fan Park.

At The Eiffel, there are 3 viewing galleries at 3 different levels, the third and the topmost level having limited tickets. I’d recommend one take a quick ticket and hurry up to the second level. From there, rush and grab a ticket and get to the third. That usually has a long queue and if you’re one of the unlucky few, the elevators might be under maintenance , which would lead to them shutting down the third level altogether (We were amongst the unlucky ones to have missed it).

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Place du Trocadero, view of the other side from the second level.

Irrespective of that, the view from the second level is breathtaking and it gets quite windy, so you might want to carry a cap or any other precautionary measures if you’re very particular about your photos.

A time lapse from atop The Eiffel

Sacre-Coeur

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From the Eiffel, we headed towards Sacre coeur. It is a church on the hill on almost the other side of Paris. Thanks to being on top of the hill, one can also see a great part of the city from here. There are also various live street musicians playing in the area and the place is always crowded. The place is surrounded with small gardens and lawns and it is also a place for the locals to go and relax after work.

View of Paris from Sacre Coeur

In every city, there’s always two ways to explore. The tourist way or the traveller way. It is very easy to list down some places and sights, see them in a hurry and get it over with. The other way is to actually try to walk around everywhere. Paris and the whole of Europe actually, their beauty lies in its intricate buildings and the streets and the people.

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The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world, with more than 10 million visitors in 2018. The former royal palace is now the magnificent home of some of the world’s most iconic artworks (ever hear of the Mona Lisa?). Walking through the halls where Louis XIV once strolled (he lived here before moving to Versailles), surrounded by the most famous art on earth, is an overwhelming experience.

A museum since 1793, the Louvre exhibits over 35,000 artworks spread across 75,000 square feet, with a collection that sweeps from antiquity through the mid 19th century. The Louvre complex also includes the Tuileries gardens, which are dotted with sculptures and a lovely spot to take a stroll. A visit to the Louvre could easily fill an entire day (or week!), so preplanning what you’d like to see in advance with the help of the museum’s website is a good idea.

The Louvre is easily one of the top tourist attractions in Paris, and you’ll encounter crowds of all types coming through. Either start your day early in the morning with a timed ticket or go in the evening, when the crowds are typically lighter. The museum offers themed guided tours that can be reserved in advance, if you’d like some help navigating the vast collection.

800px-Paris_July_2011-27aAll the information below these forms of art is in French, so it’s better to know the language or take a machine translator. There are batches for entry to The Louvre every hour, so it’s better if you book tickets online and manage time accordingly.

It has 3 separate sections. After spending a good 5 hours in The Louvre, and hurrying through it, we left for The Arc De Triumph.

Notre-Dame de Paris

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Notre-Dame de Paris also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in France, and in the world.

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Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. A buttress is a structure of stone or brick built against a wall to strengthen or support it. And a flying is a buttress slanting from a separate column, typically forming an arch with the wall it supports. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

Champs-Élysées

If you are one of those that thinks too highly of the 5th Avenue in New York, or Orchard Road in Singapore, this one is for you. Its easily one of the most crowded and touristic places in the city. It easily has the best, most branded stores to shop from. Its also the one where Tour De France ends. And connects The Louvre to Arc De Triomphe.

Arc De Triomphe

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The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l’Étoile — the étoile or “star” of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues.

The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle—Étoile station. Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée. A lift will take visitors almost to the top – to the attic, where there is a small museum which contains large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. Another 46 steps remain to climb in order to reach the top, the terrasse, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.

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Photo Courtesy : paris-paris-paris.com

Italy Vs. Spain at Stade de France

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More than the match, it is the buildup to the match which was the most exciting. Personally, this was the first time I was going to see a professional football match live in a stadium, and had been waiting for it since months. The atmosphere was simply electric. We saw fans already picking sides and cheering right inside our hostel. The respective nationals out on the streets with their load of banter and cheers and jeers too. Some of them were all hearts and fun, and sometimes you could sense the rising hostility amidst the fans, like a cracker waiting for a spark.

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There weren’t any, or barely a few small ones which were managed by the police anyway. As far as picking the compartment in the trains went, one would have to pick carefully or they could end up with the wrong set of fans. Scary! After getting inside, the match was pretty one sided. The Spanish fans weren’t as vocal so Italy won that battle too! The organisers were courteous enough to provide for the match ticket as a pass for public transport.

Coming back to the hotel, we packed up; looking forward to our 6am flight the following day, to take us to the beautiful and amongst my personal favourites, the city of Nice.

Until next time,

The Travellothoner

The Wish

This year for my new year wish I ask,

A little more luck and a little something from the past.

I want that girl who sat at my side when I drove,

I want the girl whose laugh made my day whole.

 

Every one of those exchanged smiles from across the room,

I want those moments back that got our friendship to bloom.

Its still just as effortless to remember those days,

Brings the widest smile to my face your peculiar ways.

 

I’m always going to be here cheering you on,

I promise to be by your side from dusk till dawn.

I’m always going to be in your corner for every fight,

Remind you of your Herculean might.

 

So here I am asking you to grant me this wish,

Turn this friendship into a uniquely assembled dish.

For I loved those fifteen days and I hope to live them again,

For you’re the one I miss each time it starts to rain.

On Joy and Sorrow By Kahlil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
     And he answered:
     Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
     And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
     And how else can it be?
     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.
     When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
    
     Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
     But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
     Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

     Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
     Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
     When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Source : https://poets.org/poem/joy-and-sorrow
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