Lock, Stock and Barrel Down

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We’ve just completed seven weeks in lockdown in Mumbai and while the first couple of weeks seemed surreal, I can’t quite remember what the original normal was anymore. I am trying to recollect what incessant honking sounds like or what it feels like to get pushed around against my will on a railway platform. How does a Margherita pizza taste? What was the name of my office building again? Is it my imagination or can I actually hear the wall clock ticking? Seeing sparrows and listening to Magpie Robins outside my window is no more a novelty. Neither is seeing myself transform from a well-groomed chap to Shaggy from Scooby-Doo (I miss my barber the most). I’m quite certain I heard that pigeon say “Look, son, the exhibit in this next window is a human being, or at least was. Now it looks like some sort of relic”.

I intend to make good use of my time while I’m away from the world, and while I do spend a fair portion of my week doing household chores and work related to my profession, I also want to engage in activities that are actually productive and meaningful. Here is a list of things I do and am considering doing. Maybe you want to try a thing or ten yourself.

  • Perform household chores blindfolded just to ensure that I know the exact location of all the furniture and artifacts in all the rooms since I have rarely looked away from my phone and television screens when at home. And of course, since I don’t drive in traffic anymore on uneven roads, this provides the thrill of a bumpy ride.
  • Jump out at people at home from behind the sofa or from top of the cupboard just to make sure they get their daily dose of exercise that drives their heart rate up.
  • Hangout with my action figures. At least they don’t try to keep talking to me about the morbid situation that engulfs us. I might even do a photoshoot with them and send the results to Fashion TV.
  • Play dumb charades on the balcony with the distant neighbor or the occasional pedestrian on the street below. The patrolling cops may get competitive and show me around their workplace.
  • Create an orchestra with the stainless steel vessels in the kitchen and make the dog the lead singer. The cops might invite me again. Hey, at least I’m getting out of the apartment often.
  • Try a new hairstyle where the first step would be to hope for some hair growth on my head. I know it’s a long process but we have time.
  • Have a water gun fight where all the guns are filled with hand sanitizer.
  • Compose and sing a song. Then send it to Simon Cowell. The reaction might keep me entertained for weeks until it starts affecting my confidence.
  • Play dead or practice social distancing when called on for additional household chores.
  • Put my daughter’s toy sea animals in the tub and go snorkeling.
  • Put beer bottles in different rooms in the apartment, dress up, and go bar hopping.
  • Direct a ‘home’ production.
  • Turn off the lights, get onto my daughter’s tricycle, and inch towards the television. I’ve always wanted to experience a drive-in theatre.
  • Break my piggy bank, have someone hide the contents, and go treasure hunting.
  • Play monopoly in the building society with our actual apartments and use underhanded tactics to win every piece of real estate available. The lack of a regular flow of income has to be compensated somewhere.

I wish I could illustrate the numerous other ideas I have in my head but I don’t suppose the lockdown will go on for that long.

It’s easy to get frustrated and perturbed about how things are and how they might turn out going forward. It’s also easy to get swayed by all the negativity that has hit our senses these past few months because we won’t stop reading, thinking, seeing news reports and studies, and speaking about the current pandemic.

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Why subject ourselves to this endless misery? It’s best to engage in some positive productivity and while I strongly recommend the actionable items in the list above, it won’t hurt to participate in some lesser but useful activities. Play with your kid, you won’t do it as much again (or hopefully you’ll create a life habit to do so). Learn a new skill through self-practice or online courses. Exercise, you already live in your gymnasium (where else will you go?). Pursue that hobby you have always given yourself excuses not to. Begin to eat healthy home-cooked food (are you really going to risk regular food delivery?). Read, let me say that again, READ!! (No, not the news. Please go read the previous paragraph again). Start a side hustle (or hustle your sibling). Look outside your window and actually observe. Slow down and breathe, you have time.

The current circumstances may last for a week, a month, or even a year. We can’t predict the future but we can certainly put our present to good use. If coronavirus can kill us, so can Tik Tok videos. If we have survived the latter, we can survive the former too.

Que Sera Sera. Just co-vid the flow.Lockdown1

 

The Escape Artist

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With our bodies getting bigger and our apartments getting smaller, space constraints have to be one of the primary first world problems. We literally have to shove clothes into our closet and seal them with tape so that they don’t invade each other’s space or the space on the floor in front of the closet. When we open our refrigerators, it tends to attack us with anything in the frontline: eggs, soda cans, half-eaten apples, 3-month old milk, phone chargers (so that’s where I left mine), the annoying neighbor’s severed arm, and if we’re lucky, perhaps even an assortment of pastries. Washing machines occupy the tile right next to the one under the shower spout so that we may get a bit of a massage while we shower as it tumble-dries. We don’t even have to hit the floor as we can tiptoe over furniture right from one end of our apartment to the main door. The bicycle now shares our bed. The television is attached facedown to the ceiling and we have to keep glancing upward to follow the plot. The writing desk serves as the dining table. And the children live with the neighbor (the other neighbor who’s hand we didn’t sever).

This does not even begin to define all the other clutter that exists in our homes. We won’t stop buying more but will tear our hair out at the lack of space and whine about how unfair life is because the new 12-seater sofa set we bought does not fit in our 400 square foot apartment. And while we fret over these ‘diabolical’ issues, the real threat lurks under our feet. Under our rugs and carpets.

Isn’t that where we shove all our actual problems? In fact, we go a step further. We store our materialistic objects for current use or use at a future time but we dismiss our problems and pretend that they have gone away for good, or never existed in the first place. That’s like a passenger in a crowded Mumbai train pretending that the foot of another man does not exist on the floorboard and places his own over it. This single move alone can worsen the plight of all 130 people in that compartment. As a toddler I played hide and seek by hiding in plain sight with my eyes shut, thinking that if I can’t see the world, the world can’t see me. My family was kind enough to humor me. Life isn’t.

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Sure there are plenty of reasons for us to avoid problems.

  • We have to deal with unpleasant situations (especially if we upset our cable TV operator or internet service provider)
  • We have to admit a mistake (or two dozen)
  • We have to take responsibility (I never signed up for this)
  • We have to cease being in denial (oh it’s such a cozy place to be in)
  • We need a reason to continue drinking and smoking regularly (avoiding problems is a full-time job and requires plenty of hard work)
  • We also need excuses to call and text our friends about frivolous topics that allow us to live in fantasyland (with billion-dollar startups popping up like daisies, unicorns are now a reality)
  • And we get to become close friends with tomorrow (a mutually convenient long-distance relationship)

While we bide our time, these problems start flowing out from under the carpet and into our lives like a behemoth with the tantrums of a spoilsport. We may feel safer in delaying our intervention in a situation, but either way, at whatever point in time, that situation is eventually inevitable (Thanos anyone?). The term ‘nip it in the bud’ is something I urge everyone to take very seriously when dealing with problems and adversities. Whether it is a strained relationship, a toxic work environment, stressed finances, unhealthy lifestyle habits, fixing your vehicle’s tail light, or even kicking that stalking creep in the nuts, these problems are here to stay until addressed. And in my humble experience, these problems are like rotting teeth, they just go from bad to worse if ignored (and from my perspective dentists are easily amongst the scariest people on earth).

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We may try and keep ourselves busy being busy in the hope that when we look up, our problems will either have gone away or be resolved. But are we really fooling ourselves? Is our subconscious not aware of the strain with our coworker as we chug our fourth beer at the bar? Is our subconscious not aware of the bad blood that is beginning to creep into our relationship with the spouse as we distract ourselves binge-watching series after series? Is our mind not worried about the ballooning debt that has to be paid, while we continue to rack up credit card bills to keep us materialistically happy? Are we unaware of our rising cholesterol as we submerge ourselves in food delivery applications? Our mind is aware of all our issues every second of our lives whether we acknowledge it or not. And this will consume us from within, slowly but surely. There is no point jumping from one roller coaster ride to another to keep our spirits high because the park will close at a certain hour and we will be left with silence and darkness.

By focusing on accepting our problems and being solution-oriented, we will realize that problems don’t necessarily get the better of us. This, in turn, will provide the experience to deal with future problems with greater confidence and a sense of control. Sure we all need to let out some steam, but that is to help us deal with our problems better, not run away from them.

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The Essence of Sportsmanship

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At the time of writing this piece, I was still reeling from the cricket world cup finals that took place in July 2019. At the time of posting this article, a few may remember the roller coaster ride that the two teams took during that eventful night, which may very well be the definitive game that decided a champion (two champions in fact) in cricket, if not all sport. So for those who witnessed it, here I am to remind you, lest you forget. The calm and collected faces on the field hid the emotional mayhem that must have played out in the minds of all men involved in that contest. And when the game finally ended on one delivery after over 600 deliveries were unable to decide a clear winner, a winner was decided by the smallest of margins, there was no margin at all. And unlike in trading, in cricket, there is no provision for a margin call.

Agony, elation, nightmare, relief, disbelief, joy, pain, living a dream, a dream being shattered, euphoria, heartache, a contrast of emotions ran amongst the English players and the Kiwis. Yet, nothing separated the two and while some were whooping in ecstasy and others held their heads in despair, they were all champions. The Kiwis could take pride in their verdict, while there seemed to be a sense of embarrassment on the part of the English in theirs. England had won without New Zealand losing and every participant in this game was aware of this fact. New Zealand was gracious in ‘defeat’ while the English were empathetic and respectful towards their opponents in celebration. The English fans I’m certain were stunned because sporting history is testament to the fact that they have been at the receiving end of such outcomes more often than not.

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The New Zealand cricket captain, Kane Williamson embodies the spirit that his team wears on their sleeves and in their hearts. They are the perennial nice guys of the cricketing world, which should not be misconstrued as soft. They are as fierce as they are talented, as competitive as they are good-spirited, and they play as much to win as they do to uphold the standards and grace of the game. As much as this is an English product, in my mind, the term ‘gentleman’s game’ reflects the characteristics displayed by the New Zealand cricket team.

It was very difficult to not let emotions run beyond their control at the end of that final. It was hard not to be distraught and lash out at the unfairness of the outcome. There was every reason to be inconsolable, for a lifelong dream that almost came true was taken away in a whiff by the cruelty of life. A dream that life may not offer another opportunity to fulfill. The English players, on the other hand, did everything they could to console their opponents and remind them that they were as good on the day. And this is the essence of sport.

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This cricket match is just one instance that personifies the true spirit of sportsmanship. During the 1992 Olympics, pre-race favorite Derek Redmond tore his hamstring during the race but helped by his father decided to continue to the finish line limping. Finishing the race was as important as finishing first. During the single hand around the world yacht race, Pete Goss abandoned his lead to rescue another competitor whose yacht was destroyed in an ensuing storm. One may have many opportunities at sporting victories but just one at life. During the Winter Olympics in Italy, Norwegian ski coach Hakensmoen offered Canada’s Sara Renner a ski pole after another competitor accidentally stepped on and broke the one she was using. Canada won silver while Norway could only finish fourth. Generosity over victory. The Indian captain, M S Dhoni withdrew his appeal on a dubious run out decision of English Batsmen Ian Bell (yup, these English are everywhere) despite being in a losing position. Fair play took precedence over the desperation to win. During the 2012 Olympics, Usain Bolt decided to stop his interview in respect as the US national anthem began to play, and continued only after it was over. Respect over stardom. From Shawn Crawford returning his silver medal to Churandy Martina after the latter was disqualified at the Beijing Olympics to Canadian skater Junio’s selflessness in giving up his spot to teammate Morrison who failed qualification during the national trials owing to faulty equipment, there are innumerous acts of heartwarming sportsmanship that will reverberate through the sands of time.

Yes, sport is meant to be competitive. Yes, sport is about coming out on top over opponents. Yes, sport is about being relentless in one’s pursuits. Yes, sport is about skill, discipline, consistency, and hard work. Yes, sport is about beers, fan fights, and stadium ejections. But in the end, sport extends beyond winning. Its symbolism transcends beyond that trophy or medal. It is not just about getting to that tape at the finishing line but how we conduct ourselves before and beyond it. Only if we all conducted our lives with this equanimity.

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‘Toony’ Boons

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There may only be a few things in life that anyone with any background, including race, creed, color, religion, beliefs, nationality, upbringing, procrastination levels, binging habits, and the number of acquired traffic violations, can understand, appreciate and enjoy. No, I’m not referring to cannabis or alcohol. I’m not even referring to ridiculous Facebook status updates like ‘cough’. Go see a doctor in that case. The overtly sympathizing messages from your online connections aren’t going to drive the flu away. On the contrary, this exercise will provide you with a false sense of friendship and belonging until a situation arises when you really need someone. What was that? No, it’s not free Wi-Fi either. Come on people, it’s cartoons. Since we live in an age where we love screens of all sizes ranging from a square inch on our wrist to something large enough to cover a wall in our bedroom (I’m not counting cinema screens, which are as large as small ships, since most of us don’t own one), it makes us all the more willing to watch cartoons.

I have never met a single person who has not enjoyed at least one cartoon series or is a fan of at least one cartoon character. If you happen to claim that you’re the first to not like cartoons, I say you need to open up a little and be honest with yourself. Cartoons are not a childish fascination so feel free to admit your love for them. I know we keep getting told that there is a time and age for everything, but certain things are ageless. Cartoons are certainly among that group. And what’s so special about the things we do as adults anyway? As children, we may resort to childishness but as adults, we resort to adultery. Try both out and see which one has more disastrous consequences.

I have always found cartoons to be a great connector between people. Growing up I had cousins that were brought up in different towns in India. Now, in a country, as vast and varied in India, everything from your customs and food habits to your entertainment and language change every couple of hundred kilometers. While we didn’t always understand or agree with each other’s habits and lifestyles, cartoon time was when we were all in sync, and watched every little scene with awe, giggles, heightened attentiveness, and a sense of complete joy. After every session, we felt happy and inspired, and discussions that ensued during and after, betrayed no sign of disagreement or lack of understanding in each other.

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Tom & Jerry, and the battles between Donald Duck and Chip & Dale were among my early favorites (I always cheered for Tom and Donald. Too bad the modern-day Donald in his big white house does not inspire enough cheer). To begin with, they are hilarious and even as adults a few minutes of viewership can melt away a fair bit of the day’s tension. They contain very little spoken language (which does not have to be understood), and apart from the tunes of certain classics produced by great musical minds of the past that play in the background, the only other sounds are the uproarious screeches, yelps, groans, grunts, gurgles, hoots, and cheers. Anyone can appreciate the quality and genius of the artwork, the animation, the storyline, and wit. The personality of every character is brilliantly designed and depicted, and any one of them could serve as our steadfast imaginary friend we never had. He-man and the Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe were other cartoons I began to follow. While the previously mentioned cartoons inspired creativity, fun, and humor, these other ones illustrated the feats of heroes and superheroes, good over evil, me over examinations and school projects (And now with the ubiquitous nature of YouTube, stealing a few minutes of cartoon time at work even helps before client negotiations and deliverables).

Cartoons made me believe that I could get out of a tough spot even if it was only fourth-grade math. They showed me the importance of being positive, which has stayed with me till date. I was convinced that no matter what the odds (Cobra always outnumbered the Joes), I could be victorious, in elocution class then, and in life now. They instilled the confidence in me to wield my plastic sword (just like He-Man did) to make myself feel invincible and ready for any challenge ranging from potato sack races and handwriting competitions to hot dog eating contests and Pictionary. And of course, the less fascinating battles of life pertaining to education, careers, relationships, health, finances (or fiancés: the two cannot coexist), and overall development. I realized that I could keep aside differences with anyone over an hour-long cartoon episode, whether it was my sporting rival, the office jerk, my stockbroker (who believed that a broker is someone that is meant to make his clients broke), and the airport security (It’s only a penknife. Since I cannot decide which is mightier, the pen or the sword, this little tool settled it for me.). They make me see that it’s the simple pleasures in life that make us laugh loudest. It’s the childish exuberance within us all that helps us maintain our sanctum.

Cartoons were something I watched with my parents and grandparents, as I do with my 4-year old daughter today. They are almost like a family legacy, as much as the wealth and wisdom that is passed down from generation to generation. And they are so easily passable from culture to culture, and nation to nation, breaking down barriers with true value for entertainment, joy, and oneness.

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Dream On

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If I were to tell you that dreaming could likely be the single most productive task you’ve done in your life, would you believe me? And I don’t mean having a life long dream that we care to achieve, but dreams that occur on most nights while we sleep and try to restore our energy to ensure that we are ready and fit for all the activities we don’t intend to do the following day. I wouldn’t believe me. I mean imagine yawning, sleeping, dreaming, checking social media messages, snatching the blanket back, dreaming, sleepwalking, dreaming, and finally waking (or not) becoming the logistical mantra for a successful life. It sounds too good to be true.

The first science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, the concept of the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein, the structure of the Atom by Niels Bohr, the composition of the famous hit ‘Yesterday’ by Paul McCartney and The Beatles, the structure of the periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleev, Dr. Frederick Banting’s discovery of the use of insulin for diabetic patients, a few of Srinivas Ramanujan’s mathematical theories, as well as my theory of procrastination, all find their roots in vivid dreams. An argument can be made that a majority of these discoveries are scientific and educational in nature, and if these people decided to not doze off while working, we would have a lot less to study in our schools and colleges. Nevertheless, these discoveries are groundbreaking, to say the least. Take my theory of procrastination for instance. If I had not decided to sleep and dream aimlessly and endlessly, how would this theory ever have come into existence? In fact, I am willing to wager that the impact of the theory of procrastination has been on many more people than the impacts by Google, the Avengers movie franchise, and even sliced bread.

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It’s fair to assume that we all spend a third of our day sleeping, and therefore a third of our life asleep too (except the few spots when we endure ‘all-nighters’ to read comic books on exam nights, to watch our sports team take a beating in a different time zone, to transfer items from the refrigerator into our tummy, which we apparently term as a midnight snack as opposed to a midnight banquet, and even getting thrown out of bars). This is a significant portion of our lives, and studies show that the average person spends about a quarter of their sleep time dreaming. Two hours of dreaming a night? We must have hit that ten thousand hour mark many times over. Now I’m not sure how the eminent people sans one mentioned in the previous paragraph managed to discipline their minds enough to engage in meaningful, structured, and creative dreams. I, for some reason experience dreams that I cannot even begin to explain. They range from ‘shame shame puppy shame’, and falling from the sky (gravity has already been discovered so it’s pointless), to storylines changing faster than the speed of light, ‘pee-pee’ dreams and being on a sports team with pizza slices and muffins (I don’t know what this is even meant to signify, except that I need to stop gorging on them). Or maybe I just haven’t bothered to remember a dream that may have actually offered some guidance and enlightenment.

My point here is that we all have issues and challenges that we are in a constant tussle with. While these challenges exhaust us and put us to sleep, our unconscious mind continues to try and solve them well into the night. Based on several studies by experts, there are numerous areas that our dreams help us in. Here are some.

  1. We have emotional trials that we constantly deal with. While we may not be able to understand or relate our emotional duress to their causes during our conscious hours, our brains are highly capable of joining the dots and forming connections, without our annoying waking interference while we sleep. This allows us to find some answers and obtain emotional balance to a degree. We potentially have a chance of healing over time. We have a free therapist in our head and we don’t even need to be awake as she speaks.
  2. Dreaming helps us reflect on our actual lives on a daily basis. Our unconscious mind helps replay situations, our actions in those situations, and alternate courses of action that may have been apter under the circumstances. This offers perspective and learning for future situations. This is our automatic problem-solving kit.
  3. Often dreams can lead to premonitions of threats and other occurrences in our lives. It gets us battle-ready (or ready to flee).
  4. Creativity can be at its highest in our dreams. Pioneering discoveries and creations born in people’s dreams are a testimony that the deliberations by our mind as our body rests lead to revolutions. It’s probably happened to every single one of us as well. A business idea, an idea for a new advertising campaign, a movie theme, a poem, or even the idea to write about dreams may have occurred in a dream, without our conscious knowledge. So pay attention boys and girls, for your dreams may lead to solutions for first world problems like finding enough storage for the consequences of our compulsive shopping habits, fat burning desserts, self making beds, getting every single one of our connections to like our social media posts, phone charging trouser pockets, and even a spouse proof television remote.
  5. Dreams also act as a sorting mechanism for all the information we absorb during our waking hours. It would be highly improbable for us to retain all the information we encounter in our lives and our dreams help decide what to keep and what to discard.

Research continues to find more benefits of dreaming and if we care to pay attention to them and remember them, we may become mentally and emotionally healthier, and experience boundless creativity. There are several ways to remember our dreams and brain coach Jim Kwik recommends simple steps like making a conscious choice to remember our dreams, writing them down immediately when we wake up, keeping our eyes closed as we wake up and reflect on our dreams, tell ourselves daily that we will remember our dreams, and manage our sleep well to ensure a dreamy nightcap.

The benefits of paying attention to the small little stories in our head as we do what we love most are astounding. It truly is ‘lights out’.

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The Quizzical Life

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When we’re not sleeping, eating, working hard on our social media accounts at the workplace, gossiping, jerking off, or just plain old playing the fool, we have several unanswered questions about the world around us that we ponder over. These questions may have puzzled us for a lifetime, impacted us on a deep level that may have been bothersome, or maybe rhetorical questions that we may seem to know the answer to, but don’t.

I, for one constantly have questions going around in my mind like a nonstop merry-go-round. And once a question is answered, it is replaced by at least two new ones if not more. That’s getting to be a pretty crowded merry-go-round. Since I cannot spend the rest of my life writing this article, neither can you spend yours cursing it, let’s explore only a few of these mysteries.

  • Why do we chase people that barely know about our existence or do not care to? We have enough genuine people in our lives that love us and have professed it openly. Yet, we pine for the attention of the uninterested and potentially unworthy. Are relationships purely based on our egos and to honor our ancestors we feel we must conquer one and all? We neglect the believers and spend our efforts on converting the non-believers until of course, they become believers. Then we move on to the next lot. On our death beds, we may realize that our original circle was the only one that truly existed.
  • How is social acceptance equivalent to a like or comment on our social media posts? A friend or family member may give us profound insights that aid significantly in our development and overall happiness. But no. A mother’s advice or a friend’s concern is no match for a positive comment we may get from Mr. Cool (who we may have last met in our previous lifetime) on our Instagram picture, despite looking like a bashed up bucket in it.
  • Where is time going? How come my last decade has gone by a lot quicker than the previous ones? Is there some global conspiracy I am unaware of? Has Tesla come up with a method to make the earth rotate and revolve faster? Is this why my watch is always showing the wrong time because it’s on a 24-hour/day pattern, whereas now we have just 18 in a day? Or am I taking too long to look up from my handheld devices to realize that people have grown older, opportunities have gone by, and Pierce Brosnan is no longer James Bond (Thank God)?
  • Where are the aliens hiding? Oh come on, I sense they’ve been around for a while but no one seems to want to admit it. I mean if we do believe in a higher power, am I supposed to believe that we, the humans (and our wild and tame pets of course) are the chosen ones to represent and preserve the entire universe? We can’t even take care of our personal hygiene for crying out loud. I suppose while we wait with our hands on our hips, tapping our toes, we have each other for comfort. When is the last time we got or gave eye contact, smile, or had a conversation with someone? I won’t be disappointed if there are indeed no aliens. We have each other.
  • Alice? Who the f**k is Alice?
  • How long do we plan to pretend to not see and not know? I mean the world around us is burning and our fellow men are struggling. We may not be doing so well ourselves if we gauge ourselves on the parameters that matter. How long do we plan to deceive ourselves?
  • What exactly is the opposite term of goody-two-shoes? I mean is it baddy two-shoes? Or does the bad person have just one shoe or no shoes at all? How about beach sandals?
  • How do procrastination and cigarette smoking sell? Both are going to be the end of us, and yet we knowingly do both proudly and copiously. Are we saying that we are not scared of death if we plan it ourselves on a daily basis?
  • Did that top at the end of ‘Inception’ topple over? Now I’ve gotten into spinning tops just to make sure that the stuff that is happening is real like promotions, vacationing in Europe, weight loss (despite the binging), and even when I see an alien walk by (Oops I wasn’t supposed to reveal that. The world isn’t ready yet).
  • What does a cat have in mind as it stares at us without blinking? As I stare back I’m thinking ‘furry purry’. Is the cat thinking ‘hairy scary’?

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  • What makes us truly laugh? No, not funny movies, or jokes, or comical stories. Sure they make us laugh, but not ‘truly’ laugh. What makes us laugh in a manner that the laughter does not die with the moment, but resonates for a lifetime?
  • What does one have to do to be understood? Sure, we are not here to please everyone and everyone is going to have some complaint about us. We tell ourselves (and coaches around the world tell us too) that we should continue being ourselves, that we don’t need validation, and we have to ignore the naysayers. But it’s not always as simple as that is it? Sometimes these people are close to us and genuinely care for us. I mean we can’t disassociate with everyone that fails to understand us. We may be left with no one. So what’s the strategy here? Inception?
  • How’s it going? Are you with it? How you handling it? And so on. I have been guilty of asking similar questions too. I suppose we are all referring to the challenges of life and the word ‘it’ really undermines the gravity of that beast. I mean ‘it’ technically refers to a minuscule item you would find on your kitchen counter or work desk. Life just happens to weigh about 23 trillion times more than these objects. Show some respect.
  • Following from the previous query, what is with people using slangs and acronyms in spoken communication? I mean it takes as long to say ‘oh my god’ as it does to say ‘omg’. I’ve heard people say ‘lol’. We can’t even laugh anymore? ‘My bad’? No it is not. It’s Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ which happened to sell over 30 million copies.
  • What’s with everyone’s ‘me first’ approach? I mean if we all honor ability, deservingness, hard work, consistency and humanity overall, we’ll all get there in due time. If we all try to get there first it is going to result in a global brawl and we may never even get there, let alone get there first. Where is the logic here?
  • What were the choreographers of the 1980s Bollywood flicks smoking?
  • Is our life panning out based on fate or our will? If everything is written, do we even have free will? Are we choosing what is written or is the script developing as we choose?
  • Did the Baha Men ever find out who let the dogs out?
  • Happiness in a bottle? Isn’t Coca Cola and any other soda just two bottles of sugar in a bottle? (Note: This doesn’t stop me from consuming a few bottles every now and again).
  • How is Poker a sport? By that standard even snapping one’s fingers or hailing a cab should be a sport? Now ‘poke her’ on the other hand…
  • Do people refuel their vehicles when they want chips and soda or do they buy chips and soda when they stop to refuel their vehicles? Also, when people order a diet coke with their double cheeseburger and large fries, is that just guilt doing its job or is there a formula I’m not privy to?
  • Are we being watched every second of our lives? Is Google reading what I’m writing this very minute and saying ‘what an idiot’?
  • Who’s watching commercials on television? Everyone I meet seems to hate commercials and claims to flip channels when they come on. And yet the time allotted to commercials during any television program seems to be increasing by the minute. I’m sure advertisers have done their research and are not spending money for charitable purposes. Someone’s watching these commercials secretly. If it’s not me, or you, or her, or them, then who? I think we all need to have a serious word with our dogs, cats, parrots, and goldfish. Someone brave enough better speak to King Kong, Godzilla, and Drogon as well.
  • Why has no one made 1/6 scale action figures from the Brendan Fraser starring ‘The Mummy’?
  • Where can I buy a thinking cap?
  • I see #Nofilter posts all the time on Instagram. Is there one for our character?
  • In a movie theatre which cup holder is mine? If all seats in a row are full and we all have drinks and the person on the outer end decides to use his inside cup holder, are we supposed to communicate down the row using Chinese whispers? Also, how does one stake claim over the armrests?
  • How come most of us use our talent for unlawful, immoral or unethical practices? Do we want to piss people off? I remember never feeling as happy growing up when people called me a ‘bad boy’ compared to how happy I felt when people said ‘good boy’.

I think we are getting to a point where life is calling us back and the reading and pondering needs to stop for now. However, I’d love to hear what preposterous obscurities bother you.

Aasman hai neela kyon? Paani geela geela kyon? Gol kyon hai zameen?…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3O3akbY8UU

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Shadow Cat

The title may have you believe that I refer to the popular member of X-Men (who by the way is Shadowcat, one word), a new, sinister, back alley, comic villain set to disrupt life in New York City (or the monk life in Tibet if you prefer), or just a kitten roaming the ledges outside your bedroom window at night, at a distance from the street lamp that casts a feline shadow large enough to scare the bejesus out of you. If we let our imagination run wild, shadow cat could also mean an eclipse involving the sun, the moon, and Halle Berry. I have written a few blogs now and none of them have featured my customary ‘pj’ (poor jokes) so I had to put this in here. Anyway, let’s move on.

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The term ‘shadow’ to me apart from the mute scary black thing that follows us around, has meant to learn a trade, task, or skill by observing someone else do it. It’s something that can be practiced in any conceivable profession or aspect of our personal lives. Usually, when a fresh recruit arrives at a company, she is asked to ‘shadow’ a more seasoned pro to learn the practical ropes of the trade. We learn not just physical skills like construction, engineering techniques, healthcare delivery, farming, cooking, stealing, tying one’s shoelaces, and stapling a bunch of papers, but also soft skills like negotiating, selling, coaching, manipulating, throwing tantrums, and snoring, by shadowing people that excel at these skills. I believe in learning by doing and observing. In fact, being a big advocate of sport and someone that has played a fair amount in my younger days, I believe shadow practice plays an important part in many sports, especially ones that involve a ball, like cricket, table tennis, and tennis. The idea is to practice one’s technique by observing one’s shadow, without the use of an actual ball. I wish they had this option available during school examinations as well, where we would imagine writing our answers and not have to actually pen them on paper.

Shadowing people through the course of my life has added tremendous impetus and growth to my being. Not only did I draw value by observing leaders at work, veterans on my sports team, seniors at the university, family members, and George W Bush, but also the unsuspecting mentors in my daily life that genuinely made me feel positive and empowered. And that for me has been the key to forming more holistic and sound attributes. A majority of us only look as far as the physical or verbal nature of an art form. We feel that as long as we learn how to build, or program, or repair, or present well by shadowing people, we will become perfect specimens in our professional and personal lives. We feel that mastering skills that appear on a typical job advertisement is what it takes to excel. Providing a big home, fast cars, regular exotic vacations, and material goods, makes us feel like irrefutable success stories in our personal and family lives. Sure, these skills are important but shouldn’t we learn more about the people we shadow, which is every one of essence around us? No matter what our profession is, where in the world we live, what our principles and cultural outlook are, there is one common tie to us all: relationships with other humans.

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We pay attention to what our mentors do and how they do it but rarely dwell deep into why they do it. We spend little time understanding the man or woman behind the machine. We see everything our eyes show us but very little of the unseen that our mind is capable of perceiving. We want to learn a skill quickly and be one of the top dogs as soon as possible but we fail to grasp the essence of being a leader. We misconstrue a designation for the position of a leader. A leader is made not only on her superlative abilities to deliver results, fluent communication, great decision-making skills, commitment to the cause, brilliant creativity, or the ability to create irresistible strategies. A leader is also made on her abilities to gain the trust of others by being inspirational and not by power or authority. She flourishes by her facility to understand people and empathize with them. She is respected by being accountable for problems and sharing the credit for success. And she is an indomitable leader when she can stimulate those around her to act beyond their own needs. To be able to do this, it’s not only important to know what people can do, but also who they are.

When we observe to learn and grow it seems almost selfish in nature. As long as we derive whatever value we can to help ourselves, we don’t feel the need to look beyond. Almost every candidate I have interviewed for a job has spoken about how they would want to learn and grow, but rarely has one spoken about the contribution they would like to make. We learn as much from giving as we do from taking. By giving, we understand the true extent of our intent and abilities that take us beyond the threshold for success we create in our minds. So even if it’s for purely self-oriented reasons, understanding people and contributing to their growth will, in turn, promote ours to new heights. When we observe (and I don’t mean going around being the peeping tom in your locality) with empathy and the intent to understand people it becomes innate over time and we become better leaders and humans.

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Shadowing fills us with knowledge but eventually stepping out of the shadows to make contributions beyond the self rewards us with wisdom, courage, and inspiration.