It’s been an year…

According to Hindu religion, a soul takes an year to depart the world. It is said that it is not an easy journey, so we perform a lot of rituals to help the soul transition to another world,  to say “good bye” and to bid “farewell”. But I think such rituals are more for the living than for the dead. Because it slowly prepares you for the rest of your life. 

This day,  an year back,  changed my life for ever. 

When a storm hits,  boat take a couple of bruises, but if the sailor is willing he can steer through the storm and make it to the shore. And the sailor would’ve learnt the lessons worth a thousand sail in just a few hours and the boat would’ve known its true strengths. 

My story is quite similar.

It came at a time when I was finishing my studies. With job secured and grades taken care of,  I was celebrating graduation 3 months in advance. I was having a blast – playing,  reading,  travelling, cycling and celebrating. Nothing could’ve shaken the grin off my face except a call from my mother when she said “your brother is no more.” I didn’t believe her. Asked her 3/4 times. I wanted to be sure. So I called my dad. Until my dad told me to book tickets,  I didn’t truly believe that Vishnu was dead. Even while I was travelling I wished it wasn’t true while mentally preparing for what waited at my house. 

What came after this dreadful call was as series of conflicts in my mind and disapproval of the world. I didn’t care about graduating any more. I couldn’t care about how my parents felt. I hated the world. But thanks to friends I got to travel,  play and dine and eventually get back to my own senses. 

Fast-forward 12 months, I am sad and yet I am at peace. 

You cannot control what happens in your life but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

It took me a long time to understand death. Death has always been a mystery to me and I have done quite a bit of reading to understand it. But this one year, has been a revelation. My understanding of death  has changed my way of looking at my life. Just like the first step I took by looking at my brother  (I don’t remember, but mum says I always looked up to my brother for everything),  my brother seem to guide me even in his death. Here are some of the things I learnt. 

1. To recognise and appreciate love. I have always looked at a persons’s interests and intelligence more than the person him/herself. Last to judge, but never understood their emotions. I never new that waking me up everyday with a cup of tea is an expression of love or for that matter, ignoring the new year party, or even sending messages that read “how are you, how are your parents” every now and then. Recognising love in my daily life has made me appreciate the meaning of life even more. Suddenly a lot of things (even the annoying things) I took for granted was in fact an expression of love..a gift we must treasure. 

2. To empathise with others. Till now, I often mistook empathy for pity. I used to feel bad for the beggars and the kids who stand all day at signals selling something. Now, I just give them money so that they can at least enjoy their next meal. Being able to understand others pain is impossible because pain isn’t transferable. We can only superimpose their pain on one of our experiences to even begin to understand them. And dealing with the loss of a dear one could just open up a bank of experiences. You just don’t deal with loss, you deal with frustration, love,  pain, despair, guilt,  disapproval, aversion and more. So, the emotional radar gets a little better. And when you recognise someone is mourning you just shut up and be with them and not to try to make sense of it. In the beginning, I tried too hard to get my parents to stop grieving and then one day I just shut up. And I found this had helped them (I can never be sure, but seems like it). 

3. There is always some trace. Ancient Egyptian left their name on their grave so that when someone calls their name, they are believed to “wake up”. That way even after they die they could live. In a way all of us leave a trace in this world. Sometimes it’s E=mC2 or sometimes it’s simply the way you lived life. We pick up a lot from the ones we love such that a bit of them still live with us. This is probably the biggest lesson I have learned in the last one year. At the lowest points, I usually tend to scrutinise every inch of my room searching for something express my feelings (read: to throw at). As the time mature you run out of things to throw at, but have face the “feeling” on its face. That’s when I noticed the guitar, then my laptop, then my wardrobe,  then my books. And I saw a pattern. Vishnu had encouraged me to buy guitar (basically to do what I want). Vishnu had showed me to keep desktop clean and wardrobe organised. Vishnu had planted the seed that grew in to my love for finance. In a way, I felt my brother can never not be a part of my life, then how can I ever miss him. So, when I have the biggest dilemmas I simply have to tune in to my life and dig a little deeper. All of us leave traces of ourselves especially on our dear ones and if we are keen enough to look, we can never be “apart”. 

4. Celebrate the ordinary. The home you go to every day, friends you chat with, the extra rice dad served you, the dhal mom makes, the Monday morning blues,  the weekend movies. Celebrate the ordinary cause however ordinary they might be as individual elements,  the make one helluva extraordinary life and experience. My brother was an ordinary guy with an ordinary family but until he died I never knew that he made my life (and a few others) extraordinary. Sometimes it’s best to stop looking at the extravagant glory and simply look at the simplest things. 

These are my humble experiences. I am just starting to discover the meaning of my experiences and I am sure there is a lot of exciting things to uncover. But right now, I am thankful for the support of my family and friends who helped me get through the toughest year of my life. 

Thank you da for guiding me. 

Love, 

Apu

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The Seeker

This poem is inspired by Richard Feynman – greatest Physicist of all time, the one who opened my eyes to the marvels of the world through deliberate questioning and creative understanding.

The Seeker – Ode to the greatest thinker and teacher of all time.

Through the murals of time
I seek the truth
From the bested verses
of the Geniuses of the world
I ask for solace
of this unjustifiable thirst 
to understand
the world around us
While it is too easy
to pretend
But the name is not knowing
as the headline is not the story
When the unknowns clamour
the curiosity restores serenity
as the seeker surrenders
to the magic of nature 
Thank you Richard Feynman for opening the doors of wisdom and teaching me the most important lesson in my life!

Chasing the dream but forgetting the gift

I have been chasing a dream for what it seems ever.I am nowhere close enough to achieving it. Nevertheless I do not have any doubts about it and therefore I hustle every single day.

The thing about chasing the dream is you tend to live in the future most of the time. It is almost like you are trying to catch something that doesn’t exist.

You tend get lost in the time continuum and forget your way back.

The way to a familiar path (past)  and what made you dream (gift).

The past here is your experience.

The gift here is everything that you took for granted.

For a moment set your dream aside, get to the ground and look around.

  • A place to live.
  • A bed to relax.
  • Water to drink.
  • Cloth to wear.
  • Food to eat.
  • People to love.
  • Internet to connect.
  • Mobile phone to entertain.

Do you know people who do not have all/most of these?

I do.

My parents didn’t have many of these when they were growing up.

I come from a typical middle class Indian family. My brother and I were fed at the expense of my parents.(I didn’t know until recently when my mother shared her stories) We were brought up with all of the above because my parents dreamed to raise their children who were well provided and didn’t want their children to suffer from hunger, thirst or cold.

The irony here is:

I am chasing a dream forgetting that I am a part of someone else’s (my parents).

And the only reason I have my dream is because I never ever had to dream about making both the ends meet. Or putting a roof over my head. I am well provided.

My point here being:

It is very easy to get lost in your dream world and forget the sources that provide a friendly atmosphere to enable such dreams to become a reality. 

Spend a few moments today to be grateful for people and situation that let you dream. 

 

 

Next post is on the about Flipkart, amazon and Snapdeal. I have been working on it for the past few days and I cannot wait for your thoughts. But it will have to wait till Thursday.

 

I write on every Monday and Thursday on topics such as life hacks, startups, strategies and books. Subscribe if these topics interests you. 🙂 

It is never easy is it?

Featured Image Courtesy: Crosswalk

Before you go ahead, here is a warning, this is not a happy post, it’s not sad either. It is simply an out pour of emotions. If you are still reading, may be you are interested in what I have to say. Rather, what I feel.

Thank you. I respect that.

Raw and unabridged emotion, expressing itself.

It is never easy is it? I mean, you can pretend it never happened. You can pretend everything is back to normal. You can pretend you have “moved on”. You can pretend you are strong enough. You can pretend that you still can put a fight.

And yet, you know every time you look in to the mirror, deep in your eyes, the sadness is lurking in the corner of your eyes, waiting for attention. Waiting for someone to recognize its presence. Sometimes, you ignore. Many times you ignore. For the present needs your attention. The past is past. Everyone knows that! You don’t have the slightest inclination to stop pretending that past matters.

You don’t have. Damn you don’t have.

Yet, it creeps into your existence, like a shadow you never knew existed. Like a tiny sand particle in your eye, at first you think, it’s nothing. Before you know it, you have scratched half the eyelid trying to get rid of it. When, all you needed to do was to surrender and cry. Let the tear take out that sand particle naturally. The body knows it, the brain knows it (that’s why it starts secreting tears), but your hand reaches out and squeezes your eye balls anyway.

Just like grief. You don’t want to grieve. But you pretending not to grieve is probably making it worse.

But how do you know you are grieving? Some say there are 7 stages. But who really cares? Not the person who is grieving. Does that mean, I am grieving? If I am so what?

Honestly, I have been thinking, moving on is the best solution. Quite frankly. There is no escape to grief. There are none. People tell you it will get better. It will not. Time will heal. Liars. Things will change. Bullsh*t.

The truth you ask? If life threw sh*t at you, you f*cking take it. You try and protect yourself from the incoming sh*t, you will only end up getting sh*t all over you. Life ain’t going to get better. Nah. Nah. Those liars will tell you otherwise, dare not believe it for one second.

So, do not pretend that you are an exception, a God sent golden baby. You f*cking take it. And stop pretending that it daisy and not sh*t. It is sh*t. Deal with it.

Hey, before you know it, you are already on your way to grieving heaven. Calling sh*t a sh*t. Calling grief a grief. Calling tear a tear. Calling sadness a sadness.

Calling yourself yourself.

Not someone who is brave, but someone who is vulnerable to the love that was lost.

Not someone who would think that if you pretend long enough you will get over it, but someone who accepts that it is damn f*cking hard.

Not someone who bloody hell is “dealing with it” but someone who is as helpless as his or her dear ones.

Not someone who is trying really hard not to grieve, but someone who is afraid to grieve.

But it is ok.

Know why?

Grief is not the end.

Somehow calling sh*t a sh*t. Helps.

It cures.

Even the lousiest wounds gets tended.

Not with time.

Not with people.

Not with love.

 

But with you.

With you, you begin.

Look at yourself.

Let that sadness envelope you.

Let that sadness overwhelm you.

Let the sadness be.

Let the grief “get” you.

Dive in to the grief.

Dive deeper.

Do not ask for solace.

Do not ask for happiness.

Do not stop those tears.

 

You will get to a place.

It has no beginning or end.

Like the darkness has engulfed you. Completely.

And you can’t tell the difference between you and “not you”.

Everything is. Just is.

Like there is no hope left.

That tiny ray of light people talk about.

No. Doesn’t exist.

 

But, you do.

You know you do.

You feel you do.

 

Merged completely in to whatever that “is”

Then you breathe.

Not just in to you. But in to “You”

The experience breaths with you.

Suddenly, grief is alive.

The sadness is alive.

The hopelessness is alive.

And the one that was lost is alive.

Along with you.

Being with you.

In you.

As you.

Just you.

 

 

 

When you decide to read a 100 books…

A lot of things change…

Just a quick background. I have been reading for about 10 years now. It’s been on and off for the first couple of years. But for the last couple of years I have tried to read consistently. My reading habit started with Harry Potter. And Harry Potter started because my brother couldn’t shut up about that book and kept throwing it on my face to read it.  In my mid-teens reading became a hobby. Then it transformed in to a habit. When it did, I wanted to consume more. So found out ways to consume more (read faster). I learnt about speed reading touched about 450wpm (after practising for a week then because of some circumstances, couldn’t read for about 3-4 months and lost my speed (hovering around 300wpm). Tried photo-reading, failed miserably.

And now..

I read a lot of books without knowing how to read. Of course, from time to time, I come across an article about how to read. But it never was “that” important to me. But, things changed this year.

A friend of mine took up this audacious challenge.

And he invited me.

Well, that’s it. I couldn’t say no.

I initially planned to read just 20. Having failed my previous year’s goal. But, I forced myself to accept it.

But 100 books is a lot. A lot.

What do I do with reading so many books. I know, books aren’t bad. But what do you get out of reading 100 books. Is 100 just a number? Or is it a journey? What is the purpose? What do I get from this? Definitely it is a great opportunity to learn about a lot of things including time management, planning, a topic, self-awareness etc.

But reading 100 books is not usual (to my standards at least) or easy and so it requires a different level of preparation and execution. For that, I needed to get to basics – about myself and about reading.

In order to plan the books, I needed to know more about myself – in terms of my goals, the topics I would like to master, my interests, my moods, etc. This will help me to choose book I need to read. But most importantly, it will save me a lot of time by making sure I don’t pick the wrong books.

I need to know more about reading it self. So, I spent a couple of hours browsing through thought leaders I follow and the kind of books they read and how they read. I found that reading essentially has two parts – reading and comprehending.

Reading

There are four types of reading.

  1. Elementary – The basic type. The way we have been taught to read in our school. Usually answers the question – What does this sentence say.
  2. Inspectional – Superficial or skimming. You consume a lot, but you retain very less. You can read about the two styles here. [This is my style till now].
  3. Analytical – Very similar to say your college texts. You have to read the book, understand the point it is trying to make. Outline the major topics, make notes, connect the chapters and identify the significance of the book. This takes a lot of time.
  4. Synoptical  – This the ultimate. Take a topic, read a lot of books under it, connect or contrast the ideas shared in the books and understand the unwritten.

Comprehending.

There is where your reading starts being useful. You start to assimilate information, ideas and principles. There is a famous pen and paper method  called Feynman Technique, named after the Physicst, Richard Feynman.

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Write it in such a way that you are teaching it to a 5 year old (use your own words, not the one in the book that you just read)
  3. If you get stuck, go back to the book
  4. Use a simple language.

The video explains this concept the best:

It’s also a good idea to have a commonplace note book to collect all the passages that you find relevant, make note of ideas and arguments that come up and get back to it after a week just to push the information to the permanent memory.

I just recently discovered another aspect of reading  which I feel is probably the most important aspect of reading. I call it creating.

Creating.

Many of us think that reading is not a creative process like drawing, painting or writing. But, I beg to disagree.  I am sure you will agree that, no two book readings are the same. Even though you read Harry Potter for the 10th time, it is not the same experience. We are constantly creating new neural connections every time we come across new information or old information in a different context. We create new connections and one day it solidifies in to a new idea. And David Quammen rightly puts in in his book about Darwin, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin,

One of Darwin’s great strengths as a scientist was also, in some ways, a disadvantage: his extraordinary breadth of curiosity. From his study at Down House he ranged widely and greedily, in his constant search for data, across distances (by letter) and scientific fields. He read eclectically and kept notes like a pack rat. Over the years he collected an enormous quantity of interconnected facts. He looked for patterns but was intrigued equally by exceptions to the patterns, and exceptions to the exceptions. He tested his ideas against complicated groups of organisms with complicated stories, such as the barnacles, the orchids, the social insects, the primroses, and the hominids.

Found sited in Farnam Street

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Artist: Daniel Lei (Source: All Things Paper)

I think, this will probably the ultimate goal to become an effective thinker, as Shane (Farnamstreet blog) puts it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Now that we have covered the foundation. Let us lay it up with books of course.

I usually pick a couple of books at a time and keep switching between them unless they are of same topic (which usually, isn’t the case). Otherwise, I pick a book and finish in a couple of days. On an average I take about 5-7 days to finish a book.

But, this time, you know it’s quite different, I want to use my reading to

  1. Improve a skill (or knowledge)
  2. Make Idea babies
  3. Simply have fun

In order to achieve these goals, I have segregated books in to four categories.

  1. Fillers – Novels – specifically pulp fiction which I enjoy the most.
  2. Topic – To improve one skill related to my full time job
  3. People – I love reading biographies. They are my constant motivation and something I always get back to.
  4. Business – My love for business is the only reason the reading habit has sustained for so long. It will cover wide range of topics from behaviour to finance to habits
  5. Misc – My passion for science, running, philosophy and cycling explored.
  6. Do – Finally, those motivational books that get me going through not-so-good times.

So, What’s your reading goal this year?  What’s been your experience so far?

Featured Image Source: whytoread

2014 A Year In Review

This Post was supposed to be written on Dec 31,2014. As the deadline approached, my need for celebrating the “moment” took over the need to look back at some of the great things that happened to me! So, I thought I will write it on Jan 1st. But, as you might have guessed already, I was too tired of the “madness” on the 31st to even think about writing a blog post. And I chose to write it yesterday despite having too many deadlines today!

The reason I just blurted out so very much is that, I have finally come in terms with my priorities (for now) and blogging is not the last! 🙂 Without any delay.. here are some of the best things that happened to me in 2014:

1. Cycle (Duh!)

2. Books – I wouldn’t have thought I would read 56 books in a year. Though it is not a magnificent number, I am proud to have become the person who picks up books every single week. In fact, just in first couple of months I started allocating time to read books! My love for non-fiction esp. business books just increased by this much (this is where you visualize me stretching my arms right out trying to hug the two poles).

3. Business School – Joining one has been great experience so far. Though I am yet to transform in to a butterfly, but I can crawl. That is, I am making a progress – moving forward. For that I am grateful!

4. Death – Still the best reminder of life. A couple of my friends lost their dear ones. Just a blink of an eye, the one who was once yours to love is no more. I could never come in terms with death. But, it just reminds me that every single moment I breath, I must do something to make a difference – a small smile, a thank you, a please..! It’s that small things that change the (your) world!

5. It’s Ok – Just means, It’s ok. For me, a lesson larger than life!

There are so many new people who came in to my life and influenced the way I think, the way I behave (in a good way). I would like to take a moment to thank every one for being there!

Said that, Past is not always about good things, but what you learn from the not-so-good things

1. Quality > Quantity – Reading one book per week wasn’t tough. Tough thing was remembering them. I read so many good books, but thanks to my visual memory, I barely remember a few lines or sentences about them. This year, I am planning to focus on quality. So, reduced my goals to just 40 and a wider variety – not just fiction and business books but travel books and poetry as well.

2. Systems – Building systems not just goals. Like exercising every day (or 3 days a week) to have better health. Fast once in 15 days. etc etc. Which I have slowly incorporated last year itself. 🙂 But looking forward to more and better ones this year.

3. Focus on energy (breath)

2015…. My only resolution.. 🙂

To publish a post every week (that means, a lot of crap coming your way)!

Have a wonnnnnderfullll New Year! 😀

Leaving you with a dialogue from my favorite book and movie – The Hobbit.

I Am Going on a Adventure!
I am going on a Adventureeee! –  Bilbo Baggins

Dimensions of femininity

… The title was meant to scare the narcissists and nothing more!

Most of the times in B-schools the lessons are learnt outside the class. But for a change, not often, professors surprise us with a different experience.

The other day in a session on “Organizational Behavior” we were asked to list down the names of leaders we admired. We were 60 in the class and we could hear a lot of names – “Tata” “Murthy” “Premji” “Mandela”, “Steve Jobs”, “Bill Gates”… And it went on for 5 minutes before the prof asked us to stop. Sadly, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make it to the list. While we were calling out the names, he wrote them on the board. But the surprising part was – when we were done – he point out an observation. That startled me more than anybody else.

There was not a single woman’s name.

Sure, now that he pointed out. I could name a few. But that it still wasn’t an instinctive response! Being slight tilted towards “Feminism”, I started to question my belief. But being a human, I liked to blame others. So, I questioned the society itself.

In one other occasion, we were asked to list down swear words. This time our class was pretty vocal. Given that, nobody will get a chance to show their prowess, people stretched their imagination and came up with “quite a lot” of swear words and phrases. Again after 5 minutes of so called “brain-storming” our professor stopped and asked us to take a look at the list. And asked the question.

How many of these were intended towards women?

More than 75% were. Again. I was stumped.

I questioned the society. Again. It’s they who imposed these words on us. It’s the society who didn’t do enough “branding” on feminism. In fact, they did the reverse and made the word “feminist” a taboo. “I am not to be blamed. I am not.” said the voice in my head.

As I retracted my defense shields, I realized the mistake was mine as much as it was the society’s.

I recently read a book called “Lean in” by Shreyl Sandberg. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my female friends. Yet, I haven’t told a single male friend about it.

I don’t send my female friends in an auto without the company of a male friend.

I tell my male friends that I can’t come to the party because I am sick but in reality I have menstrual cramps.

I still use the phrase “man up”.

I still wait for the guy to take me out. When I could call the shots myself!

I still would like to call “Steve Jobs” my idol even though I secretly worship Sara Blakely!

I watch ATP world tour more than WTA world tour.

….

….

The list goes on.

So, here I ask myself the question. Am I a feminist? Or is it just a label?

There are so many things that goes unnoticed that forms our behavior in the most subtlest forms. Though I am knowledgeable enough to tell the difference between right and wrong, the behavior is so instinctive that I didn’t have to tell the difference.

Yet this makes all the difference.

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men
She couldn’t be more right.

What am I calling out for? I don’t know. But I know, whatever that is right now is not right.