Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
This is a post I want to write for a long time. The events of last year have taught us the importance of health and how vulnerable we are against the forces of nature. Who would have thought that a micro-organism would disrupt our lives in such a way.
But frankly, the motivation goes beyond the last year of COVID. It's about a constant realization of how tricky and unpredictable death is, and how life has it's own plans and how helpless you can be ! It is also a rather deeper realization of how tiny and powerless we are in the Universe, and that we should be grateful to nature for giving us what we have (most of all - a human life) and that we should strive to give back (by making sure we are being conscious about environmental issues)
We all know that death will come one day . Yet, we have different philosophies around it. At 19, I was Hrithik Roshan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (of course sans his body and looks). I wanted to earn all the money and retire as early as possible and then "live life to the fullest" . His number was 40, mine was 35 . The fallacy of that approach hit me pretty soon (fortunately) , but not before I said no to a number of fun events and trips with friends. I once had an opportunity to drive to Vegas on a hunch, but decided that 8 hours of time could be utilized in doing the one school project which could propel my grade from A- to A (which it did not :D ) . I missed some fun games because I was doing that "extra project to get a reco from a professor" . I took up a saturday job and missed a bunch of fun trips because I could make "21 dollars more every week" . But fortunately, the moment came early enough and I realised that I had to make every moment count. While I do believe balance is necessary ( you can't live paycheck to paycheck your entire life), enjoying every moment is certainly something to live for.I do believe that most of the people whom I know either believe in the prior point , or have had some point in their life which led them to believe it.
The second philosophy is to have a "bucket-list". All of us have it in some form or the other. Some day, I want to become CEO of a company. Some day, I want to see my daughter graduate from a great place. Some day, I want to tour the world. Some day, I want to start an orphanage. Some day, I want to be as great as my Dad. A combination of adventure, love, noble and sometimes funny yet heartwarming wishes. As with most people, I believe that it helps in life if you have a list and work towards it. Some people also have an extension of it like "Places to visit " or " things to do before you are 30,40,50 and so on...." . In my opinion, it is one of the healthy things to do. Planning helps you align your actions, keep your focus and gain satisfaction when you check it off. After all, Farhan Qureshi did not want to be 70, dying in a hospital and thinking "Only if I had convinced Dad to allow me to pursue wildlife photography".
The third philosophy is - to have something in your heart, good or bad - that you'll tell people one day. One day I'll show my boss that inspite of what he thought, I worked really hard for his success and wshes him well. One day, I'll thank my parents for what I am in life. One day, I'll tell the friend that inspite of not talking for many years over a small issue, I remember his SRK imitation everytime SRK says "kkkk". One day, I'll meet the old uncle who used to help me jump puddles and watch over me as I went home int he dark. We all have a secret list of mostly good, some maybe brutally honest things, we want to tell people. Or do - for example, I'll donate a bunch of money to charity . I'll sponsor a kids' education. At the very least , we all have a speech prepared to say when we are successful, rich or old - like "I would like to thank ...."
Except that most likely you won't ever say it . Which brings me to the fourth and rather most important realization - something that hit me int he last year or so. Someone close to me passed away, his last words being "my heart hurts". I heard of someone who went scuba diving and never returned back. Someone who was sitting on a beach and was eaten away by a wave, to be never found. Someone who could only manage to say "I can't breathe". And which is the truth of life - that unlike SRK and Rajesh Khanna movies, when it happens, you won't have the time or the opportunity to say what you wanted to . Achieving everything in life is not in our control - and living each day as if it is your last will probably make it the last one day - but telling people you love them in advance, mending relationships and getting together does not take too much effort. If you haven't heard this, please listen to this very interesting perspective from Steve Jobs
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Mind you, this was a time when internet was limited to email via a pine client and chat via irc, all done through a command line interface, and the cost of internet was about Rs.25 per hour which was pretty expensive given the standards of living then.
The professor explained to us the structure of the internet, a bit about internet protocols , but then he went into the various applications that existed then , the ability to send emails instantaneously across the globe, being able to read news from around the world, and a cheaper , faster way of two-way communication (then chat) to any part of the world (some of it mentioned in this old post ). Of course, in the light of the iphone, the social networks, the broadband speed and the decreasing costs of 3g/4g internet, this might seemed small, but in the late 90s, being able to send a message to the USA free of cost seemed like a dream.
But at the end of the technical discussion, the professor said something philosophical which resonates with me a number of times, and especially relevant now. He said , next time your old uncle speaks of the "good old days", explain to him the struggle of not having a search engine, not able to get news and updates regularly, and the pain of one way communication using letters.
Which brings me to the main point. Imagine if the same pandemic had hit us in 1990. How different would life be?
" You take the train home , as you reach your house, you wait patiently for the 8:40 news in Hindi. There is some mention of the pandemic , the entire family listens attentively and wonders what is in store for us. You call up your doctor on his landline but it is continually engaged as he is receiving calls from his various patients. The news at 10 in English confirms what has happened in Italy could happen to you.
You step out for work the next day, newspapers are carrying reports of the pandemic. The reports are bringing in only little information that the editor was able to procure over the bad quality, super expensive ISD call with his US friend. The information still does not speak of the extent of the crisis and how it is going to affect you. You go to the STD booth and speak to your brother in another city in India . There's a line of people and you get to your turn after half an hour.
You leave from work and head back home, rumors of a shutdown are already doing the rounds. You pick up grocery for a few days and go back home. The prime minister announces the shutdown that night. For the next 30 days ,you are at home. No going out. No playing. No gathering.
Money aside, imagine spending 30 days without communication, the phone being the only source of communication which is expensive , and will probably be unreliable given the load. Doordarshan will put some movies , which you probably won't like. Kids will play inside the house, getting bored to the hilt . You have a limited supply of books you can read .
There's a lot of confusion about how to use masks. The kirana store guy sells masks at 20 times the original price. He becomes the "I-know-it-all" guy about masks, forcing you to buy multiple when you might need one. He also starts off with the "Drink the cow urine" and "KEM ke hospital ne bola hai" With no way to verify information, confusion hits an all time high .
Five days on, the world is hell. The books are done. Newspapers are not coming. Your curry still does not taste good even after trying 5 times from the partly torn recipe book with masala stains all over it. Doordarshan is showing it's true colors all day long.
Businesses have come to a standstill. Factories have stopped production since they need manual intervention in everything. Food, medicines, everything is in shortage. Lack of awareness is leading to more deaths. Rumors are doing the rounds. Cash has dried up completly."
The Coronavirus pandemic is one of the most extraordinary global situations I have seen in my lifetime. I do imagine the world wars to be worse , and maybe even the great depression, but still a global pandemic has shown us that while we have made strides in science, nature reminds us that we are it's creation and we should respect it (or 'aukaat mein rehne ka')
But, there is no better time to thank technology strides made in the last 30 years, thank Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and all the technical visionaries who have got us to a state where our life is not impacted.
The old days were certainly good, but thank you technology for making these days better. Hope this will pass soon.
Saturday, September 07, 2019
The first and the best thing about those times was the 'It's OK to be middle class'. My schooldays were a lot of fun. And while there were kids around me who were richer and had access to some really cool stuff (some examples I can think of are Action shoes with lights, funky school bags, pagers on which you could see cricket scores) and also not as rich , it did not seem to make a lot of difference.
It was assumed that some things were unaffordable, even impossible, and we never felt sad about it.
In the pre-information age, even information was considered to be an asset. Like the guy in our class who saw that one cricket match we had all missed. Or that girl who had Madhuri Dixit's phone number and she would flaunt "mere paas uska number hai, pata hai?". Without any validation or attempt to see how easy it was to get it, such things were basis of one-upmanship
I think my parents were indeed pioneers in getting us exposed to computers and technology and it's a gift that was always amazing.
But I guess somethings that are fairly unusual today might have been so usual then:
1. It was rather usual to walk around without a single penny in your pocket as schoolchildren
2. Time seemed to be always abundant. In fact in 1993/4, I remember an ad about the "Hero Cup" and it was 100 days away . I was counting each day as it came.
3. Things were valued more. Pencils, Erasers, Toys, cricket balls. I recently saw someone go to Tennis practice with about 40 balls and I felt a little lump in my throat
4. Simple picnics were fun. No out-of-India trips. Going to Matheran every year seemed to be a top luxury.
5. Getting lost was the scariest thing ever. In my childhood, I always feared that if I let go my parents' hand, I would end up searching for them the rest of my life. There were no announcement booths to announce "lost children". Every outing was associated with mom's instruction to meet at one pre-decided place if you get lost
6. Trust was more. Everywhere. Banks, shops, friends, relatives.
7. Asking for help was considered totally fine. Relatives would babysit for you, dropping onto people's home for dinner or even staying over was very very normal . Asking people on the street to help you with a chore was also considered normal
8. Valuing money was not considered bad. It was OK to not go for a picnic or a movie citing costs.
9. Entertainment was less, not all was good quality but all entertainment was well respected.
10. Access to information was limited. It was never possible to google and check something. The limitation of books in this regard was almost frustrating at times.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
It's a really hot day. Sitting inside the house is very muggy, warm, and sweaty.
What did I do?
1. Keep complaining and thinking how hot it is and how bad I am feeling
2. Thought twice about complex ways like turning on the air conditioner or picking up a fan from another room
3. Thinking about having a cold (sugary) drink.
What I eventually realised?
There's a sliding door right next to where I am sitting. Slid it open and the cool breeze came in and solved all my problems
The solution to the biggest problems in life might be right next to you, but you don't see it :) .