Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How I know I am a good person?

They say that you must visit your dentist at least once a year. So I do. Less for getting them cleaned and scaled in the places I wasn't able to reach; but more for the compliments that I get from the pretty doc about how nice my teeth are and how well I have kept them.

And so I continue my annual visits to my dentist. Even if I don't have a problem. Its just plain old Preventive Maintenance.
 On the same lines, docs at the Radiology department of Kokilaben are beginning to get accustomed to see me every 2-3 years - for a renalscan. I was born with a single kidney which is in perfect health - and I would like it to stay that way. SO I visit the docs even when I have no complaints - a fact that amuses many of them here in India - A doc I visited regarding advice for running long distances actually asked me "Agar koi problem nahin hai toh kyun aaye ho?"

No I am not a hypocondriac. I have a doc friend (who also has a webcomic) to whom I transfer my worries over phone whenever I have them, and even tho she asks me to stop worrying, most of the time they have been legitimate and I have had to them treated - the latest one was the jock itch resulting from excessive sweating during running. A whole course of anti-fungals was taken. I realized that runners give and take a lot of advice on the technique, shoes to wear, training programs etc.. But we miss out on the vital, the more intimate aspects of running - "the chaddi". If you are going to be running for hours at a stretch, you better wear an underwear which doesn't irritate your skin by rubbing tightly against it. Here is some advice regarding that. As for me - and Indian men in general - I am just glad that Jockey has become our succour and has came out with the awesome new seamfree Style #1460 - best. chaddi. ever.

That got me thinking, that most of the time we become aware of problem in our own lives much after they have begun to manifest themselves very noticeably by which time we have already must request external help to solve them. So, being an engineer, shouldn't I be able to do stuff before hand to prevent them even before they occur? Professor Nair (taught us Engineering Drawing at VESIT) used to tell me that "... being an engineer is all about taking decisions - when you have to take a decision, you have to take a decision  - there are no two ways about it, you can't delay taking a decision!". 7 years later, I realize that , that is just half of the attitude that an engineer is required to have - the reactive part. The other half - the proactive attitude - is what I am talking about at the moment.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I have been to see a psychotherapist twice thus far. And I am beginning too think that she deserves a regular annual visit too, like the dentists, even if you don't have any problems. Even though you might be a ninja at maintaining your sanity and work-life balance, you WILL falter every now and then and it is COMMON SENSE to be prepared and ready to disarm an undesirable situation at the whiff of the fart and not just after the shit hits the roof. Nevertheless, I visited her after my ceiling was already dripping with shit - the first time to seek advice for a dear one and the other for myself. The second time, she wasn't much of a help, turned out it was vitamin B deficiency which was making me irritable and lethargic for the preceding few weeks.

On those two visits, I learned a few essential things - yes the story so far has just been a build up to the actual core of the matter that I want to get at.

She advised me to read M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled. Now I detest self-help books. Spirituality even more so. And, if I ever set my eyes on him, I would absolutely fucking disembowel Deepak Chopra and lay his guts along the red line of paan spits running parallel to the mumbai local railway tracks. But, 2 years after reading it, I still wax hysterical about this particular book. It should be made mandatory reading when you turn 25. In developed countries, many  professions  (not just  the air traffic controllers) are required to undergo regular psychological evaluation to see if they are fit for their jobs. That is when they should be advised to read that book.

But the point here is that realized that we lack definition and direction - What is love? And am I a good person?
I found answers for myself in that book and awesome article: How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

Let me answer the two questions one by one.

What is love?
Different people have different definition of this. And I had given up trying to define it specially after the "love is forever" delusion of the teenage years wore off. It turns out, like for everything else, you have to work hard to make love last. But saala pehle - in the "3 idiots (movie)" wala professor's tone - "machine love ka definition kya hai?"

And so after much delebrations and reading M Scott Peck, I came to the following three definitions that work for me:
  1. Growth - It is the quintessential quality of being alive in a worthwhile manner. We are said to be "growing" when we keep learning new things and acquiring new skills everyday. Consider this through examples:
    1. The toddler used to crawl yesterday, today he can walk - he has grown.
    2. I couldn't swim yesterday, but today I am able to keep afloat, tomorrow, I would have learnt the breast stroke - I am growing.
    3. The thief's son did not know how to pick locks yesterday. Today he knows how to pick an enormous variety of locks. He can pick one in a lesser about of time than his dad - the thief's son has grown.
    4. Yesterday I did not know how to troll people on twitter. Today @ZeniaIrani acknowledges that I am "Trollbag cha raja" - I have grown. The most worthwhile growing that I have done :P
  2. Nurture - refers to your "facilitation" of someone else's growth. Example:
    1. Son struggling with math. Dad helps him using practical examples from real life. Kid gets a good score in math, now he knows his shit. Dad has nurtured his son.
    2. A friend (same age as me) who missed out on learning how to ride a bicycle when she was young. At 28 she wants to ride one to work daily. I help her buy a bicycle. Then I spent 1-2 hours trying to figure out how to teach her (an all grown lady) to ride one. I acquire a new skill - how to teach adults to ride a bike. I have grown. She nurtured me. And of course I too nurtured her. She can now ride a bike.
    3. When I was young, I took the school bus to school and back home everyday. I did not know how to travel by BEST bus. My dad took me a couple of times. I learned how to figure out which bus would take me home, where the bus stops were and how to by a ticket. I missed my school bus from school one day. I was scared but I took a BEST bus home that day all alone for the first time. My dad nurtured me.
    4. I did not know how to dance. I still don't. I am still waiting for some one to nurture me in that regard.
  3. Love - refers to you nurturing someone "willingly" even when (and this is important) IT COMES AT A GREAT COST TO YOU. It essential that you recognize that love has a pre-requisites - discipline, bravery and determination. They say that once you have decided to love someone, you have to give it "your all" - "your all" all being discipline, bravery and determination that you must sustain till the end of your stamina. You can love a person, you can love an object, you can love a hobby and you can love your profession. Whatever it is that you love, you will know you love it because by the end of the day of loving it, you will be completely exhausted and tired and yet happy (yes @ZeniaIrani TWHS). Examples:
    1. New mother. Infant still on mother's milk. Its been crying all day. Mother is completely exhausted like crazy and extremely hungry and yet she feeds her baby first, puts it to sleep and then with the last few morsels of energy, goes to the kitchen, cooks for herself and eats. Mother puts her baby's nurturing ahead of her own convenience. Mother did all those things for her baby even though it was DIFFICULT (time and energy consuming) for her. Mother loves baby.
    2. Teenager girl. Drug addict. Throwing tantrums. Family and friends stage an intervention. Help her through de-addiction by spending long periods of time with her playing sports - using up their own work leaves for her. Those people nurture her at the cost of the time they would have spent on nurturing their own hobby/profession etc. Even though it was DIFFICULT (time and attention consuming) for them, they still did it for her. They love her.
    3. Child wants to play with dad. Dad busy working from home. Dad pauses work and plays with kid all day, having adventures and all. Dad then stays up all night to finish work even though - he forgoes sleep to ensure that he spends time with his son creating memories and helping him towards being a better person in the future. It was DIFFICULT for dad to complete his work by staying up late. Dad loves his son.
    4. It was my first marathon. I hadn't practiced. But I was going to attempt 42 kms anyway. A friend was taking part in the marathon too under the 21 kms category. We both started together. It took her 2 hrs 50 mins to finish it. I would take 4 more hours beyond that much to complete my 42. She stayed at the finish line all those hours waiting for me, talked to me a couple of times over phone during that time and made sure that I kept going. I visualized her waiting at the finish and that kept me going. And when I reached there, she was there. I had grown up with this girl. Love. Must have been!
So, the best examples of love are the ones between parents and their children. And love is DIFFICULT. If you are in love with someone, and if it makes your life hellish - that's when you have to stick with them the most. It is supposed to be that way! Fight it through, keep the nourishment privileges that you provide for the other person on even if that person is making life difficult for you. Of course there has to be some time when you will have to give up and let them go. But many people give up quite early. You must usually give up early when you realize that it isn't healthy love but something else: you have to learn to distinguish between healthy love and unhealthy addiction (emotional dependence, infatuation, jealousy, lust, possessiveness). You have to be aware that even though love must be unconditional, for a successful relationship, the other person must also "love" you in the same healthy way that you do. It seems very important to recognize this. Both parties should be realized persons and aware of what it means to love and be loved.

Hence what does not not seem to be love:

  1. Giving lift to your girlfriend everyday to college to the point that she become so dependent/spoilt that she blames you for her missing out on the lecture just because you were not there to take her to college - you are not nurturing her, just making her dependent and spoilt. She is doing the opposite of growing. She can no longer go to college herself.
  2. Warming food for your teenage son every time. Again you are stifling his growth towards independence. He should learn to do shit on his own. Opposite of nurturing happening here.
  3. Calling your check on your spouse at work every now and then. Stifling. Not nurturing. Irritating.
  4. Poking your nose in your girlfriends business - hows that going to nurture her? She wasn't stuck with a problem and did not ask for your help.
  5. Anything that does the opposite of nurturing and creates negative feelings simultaneously is not love.
  6. Caring is just a very small part of love. Nurturing is the major part. And of course if you are going to be caring, you must not do it at the cost of anti-nurturing. 

So this definition of love suits me. I have defined it for me. So that I know if I really love someone/something and realize how far I am willing to go for them/it.

How I know I am a good person?
Life has been compared to a journey. But what are the milestones? is it your first steps, riding a bike without falling, falling in love, the first kiss, marrying, having kids, parents passing away? 
These are but milestones with regards to passage of time. 

But how do you know if you are going in the "right" direction? The "right direction" being something you define yourself, of how you want to see yourself to be in a few years from now. You need a yardstick to make sure you are on the right path (How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen)

I found mine.

Throughout your life you meet people. People elder to you (other than your parents). Who guide you for some distance. Give you a bit of a nudge (or many few nudges). Nurture you even. The mentors. The father figures and the mother figures.

I have had my share of these people on whose shoulders I have jumped skipped and hopped further. These are the "wonderful people" besides your own parents who acted as your milestones. How do you recognize these people? Simple. They are elder to you and you have come to respect them for what they are and the choices they have made. And then they give you free advice. Good advice. They see a younger version of themselves in you and don't want you to make the same mistakes that they made when they were your age. They want you to do better than themselves. They want you to excel. They want to nurture you and your dreams. And yet expect nothing back from you. Love you even - even at the cost of you feeling "ow that advice that he gave me, felt like a bromantic moment! queasily intimate!!". Gaygiri even. But good advice.

So, let me take this time to thank my parents, my school teachers from Rajhans, college professors from VESIT and my managers at my ex-workplaces. More specifically:

Prof. Nair (VESIT), Prof. Atul Mody (VESIT), Prof. Dhananjay Gadre, Mr Shailesh Gala (LARE), Prof. Manish Patil (LARE) & Mr Raja Kanna (TCS) - Thanks baap log.

PS: SO I spent the whole day thinking, that really the only way to figure out if you are really good - after you are willing to set aside your delusions about yourselves; which should be easier for any scientific minded person - is to conduct a mental survey of all the people you are impacting and are being impacted by. If most of them want to nurture you (as against stifling you) AND ALSO if all your action when taken as a sum total cause more nurturing than suffering then I you can call yourself good. Seems like a "good" first draft of the definition. The definition - by definition - itself is "good". :P
... of courses, I might just be rationalizing...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Misappropriation of scientific words by spiritualists

I have spoken about this before, and am speaking about it yet again.

Next person who starts ranting about spirituality and uses the word "energy" - which has a very precise scientific definition - to explain some "spiritual" concept is so gonna get it from me. All you spiritualists, please invent your own words and stop misappropriating scientific words in your discourses on spirituality. Its seriously irritating.

I am going to start taking revenge and at the same time expose how this misuse of scientific words seem to scientists/engineers. I will start using "spirit" as an alias for "faeces".

And our day to day communications would be like: "I have diarrhoea flowing all over my legs, let me go cleanse my spirits" or "I haven't had a good spiritual movement today" or "My baby's spirits are smelly and mottled, she must be sick" or "I have constipation, my spirits refuse to come out"

I am so tired of "this place has the whole universe's negative energy flowing into it"
"that dude has lots of bad energy around him"
"let me use reiki to transfer my energy to you"
... the least they should do is use the word "vibe" instead of "energy"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Driving and Religion

Remember the time when you got yourself enrolled at a driving school. You had already ridden in a car many many times before but never drove it. You had observed how to grown ups had been drivings, what issues they faced - traffic jams, breakdowns, accidents and most importantly scuffles (verbal/non-verbal) with other drivers - some of which went almost out of control. Different groups - different syles of driving, different outlooks towards fellow drivers and different ways of dealing with on road issues.

But now you yourself are at the wheel. You are apprehensive of the instructor at first - you wonder if he is any good? Do you really need him in the first place? Maybe your elder brother could teach me better!

You set aside your apprehensions and begin focussing on what he has begun saying "Adjust your seat, you rear view mirror etc etc... ". You follow like a robot, like a wannabe star student.

A day or 2 into the course and you have already learned how to operate the 1000 kilos of machine under and around you. What then is the purpose of the remaining weeks of instruction involve? What then is the role of the instructor besides acting as a safety net incase of any impending accident?
The instructor tries to help you become aware of the changing environment as you drive on the road. It seems humanly impossible to be aware of everything all the time - there are lots of parameters to be monitored constantly all the time. He makes you aware of all of them and nurtures you as you develop your own style / own algorithm for time slicing your attention for monitoring these various parameters. Under a good instructor, you learn - among other things:
  • To gauge how the other players on the road around you are going to react & how to compensate for their mistakes
  • Avoid potholes and other things on the roads that may harm your car and hurt you
  • Avoid unnecessary acceleration/braking to avoid discomfort to passengers inside the cabin of your car
  • Save fuel
  • Be aware of how attentive you are and bring your focus back on the road in case it diverts.
You may realise that achieving all of the above all of the time is too much hard work. It demands a lot from you. You have to be aware of so many things .You constantly need to schedule and prioritize on the fly the monitoring of so many things. Things to be aware of and keeping lookout for all the time. Things like:
  • Keeping lookout via all three rear view mirrors
  • Gauging the Acceleration/Deceleration of the vehicles in front of you
  • Keeping a check on your speed
  • Keeping check on your RPM
  • Staying aware of what gear ratio you are at
  • Keeping a check on the engine temperature
  • Remembering if the parking brake is completely disengaged when driving
  • Gauging how tired you are
  • Looking out for the potholes
  • Looking out for children and animals
  • Feeling the vibrations from the engine to sense an impending service requirement
  • Sensing the minute variations on the force felt back from the steering wheel to judge if the tyres are low on air pressure
  • Counting the clicks coming from any or some of the four wheels so as to form an image of the number of pebbles stuck in the groves of some of them
  • And you have to do all this besides the blaring music and banter of loud parents/in laws (sometimes not even yours) in the cabin
For some people this may seem too much. They want a simpler driving experience. Who has so much time and attention to spend on something like driving.
Maybe they can figure out a shortcut. A lot of "what ifs" come to their mind. They present these questions to their instructors, who instead of discouraging them to avoid such thoughts, obliges them with improvised answers:
  • What if I accumulates dents and nicks on my car?
    Instructor answers: Get driving insurance and manipulate the accident report forms annually to remove the dents. Also you aren't going to be driving the same car forever
  • What if I don't wanna repeatedly keep shifting between the gears?
    Instructor answers: Wear and tear on your car increases, and you will waste fuel too. (World is already polluted anyway)
  • What if a traffic cop catches me for jumping a signal?
    Instructor answers: Don't ever let him have your license, talk him into letting you go, 100-200 bucks in his pocket should do it
  • What if I run over a dog?
    Instructor answers: Keep driving. Just a dog. No need to look back.
  • What If I hit another car?
    Instructor answers: If its a politician, just pay up, if not, its in your interest to assume an aggressive stance before he does.
  • What if I am drunk? How much drinking is unsafe?
    Instructor answers: Don't worry, you can still drive with a few pegs in
  • What If I hurt or kill someone while driving?
    Instructor answers: If its some one poor, just keep driving, don't look back 
They think: "Balls to hard work. Good instructors give nice and quick answers! Now I know how to handle any situation on the road.."

Sigh.. if only religion were any different from driving..

Life is the road, your body is the car, the way you drive is your religion - and you choose your own instructor a.k.a. guruji
Logic and reason and awareness are hard work. Who needs all that, when I can just ask my "guruji" what to do and when.

Whatever he says must work, that's why he is the guru..
all the other gurus (of other religion) must not be that good or must be fake, lets ignore (or worse - hate) what the others say.

Result: Chaos on the road and in life.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Being really good at what you do

Its summer and the sun can really be bright and when it reflects on and off the uneven surface of the road in the mornings and evenings, it overstimulates the photo receptors intermittently. This causes discomfort to your eyes as they have to repeatedly adjust to the changing brightness resulting in increased response time which can be fatal at high speed especially on expressways.

So the other day I bought a pair of sunglasses. The shopkeeper seemed helpful but in retrospect I think he was only being convincing to make a sale. I already wear spectacles of around -1.5 D in each eye. Both cylindrical. So I asked him to use powered lens for the sunglasses.

And so I started using the glasses and acquired a smug look on my face.
Two days ago, a gang of six rowdy guys all in their 20s in a speeding auto-rickshaw tried to overtake me from the wrong side as I was slowly making a left turn at a signal. Their auto hit the front of my car and the left side of the front bumper came off. The damage wasn't significant and I was able to snap on the bumper back into its place.

That got me thinking, I know my reflexes were good enough and I was attentive enough, why then could I
not compensate for the other drivers mistake - or in this case, blatant breaking of traffic law?

The answer was simple.
The spectacles I usually wear are frame less and allow me to look sideways through the corner of my eyes. The sunglasses on the other hand have a thick frame (do I really wanna look macho at the possible cost of damage to my car or life?) which block my peripheral vision. And so I didn't notice the auto-rickshaw approaching at high speed from my left side until it was too late.

I only blame the gang of rowdy dunderheads for whatever little damage my car sustained. But I couldn't help but think about the sunglasses vendor. He has been selling glasses for years. Didn't all those years of experience teach him that glasses with frames block peripheral vision and can increase the time until you notice someone overtaking you from the wrong side?
All he had to do was to suggest frameless sunglasses when I specifically told him that I needed them for driving in bright sunlight.

Maybe he doesn't use his own glasses on himself.
Maybe he is too dumb to notice the difference between glasses with and without frames while driving or riding his bike.
Maybe he never cared for customer feedback.
Maybe he lack the desire to become better at his job.

And so I wonder, can you really prosper if you and the people around you lack the desire to become better and better at what we do?

My normal pair of spectacles with unhindered peripheral vision.

Sunglasses with thick frames blocking peripheral vision.
Got them made for INR3500 (powered lens)

UPDATE 2013-05-27:
Got new half framed sunglasses made from the same outlet for INR 2000 (powered lens). The guy there offered to replace the lenses of my previous thick frame sunglasses for free so that I could pass them on to any of my family or friends. Also he gave me the spare original unpowered lenses for this new sunglasses - if in case in the future, I decided to get contact lenses or lasik, I could swap the powered lenses with these unpowered ones.

New sunglasses with semiframes. Peripheral vision no longer blocked.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It begins with the first step

To exorcise the fat person in you

And be done with the lethargy in you

And retch the rigidity in you

To giddy-up towards the new you

To lose the hunch in you

As the fat lump leave you

And run an extra mile for you

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Miss Sunshine

Best memory of last sunday's half marathon:

There was this uphill road with tall and nice apartment buildings on either side. 6 pairs of parallel overhead power lines going across. Lots of crows sitting on them. Their pattern was random and chaotic but against the backdrop of the rising sun, it was a breathtaking site. Few meters before we saw that scene, when we had just turned on to this road, there were no wires to block the sun as it rays fell on her face. As she ran besides me, I looked at the sun and then sideways at her face and for a moment I wondered if it was the sun that shone on her or was it the other way round. As I held my breath for that moment, I knew a precious lifelong memory had taken birth.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I am an obssessive compulsive collector.
A collector of firsts.
A collector of emotions.
A collector of moments.
A collector of moments of first encounters of each emotion.

My brain has limited memory.
But emotions left to experience are still infinitely many.
Living the stories to tell my grandchildren,
When I become old and zany.