Ode to the “idli”

So then while the rest of you were losing sleep following the presidential debates, I on the other hand was following a more interesting debate thats been trending on twitter. A british historian, tasted an “idli” – the flat, round, rice cake, which is the “go to” comfort food for any true blue south indian worth his checked lungi, and tweeted his personal opinion, that the idli was “the most boring dish in the world”

Uh-oh… Three things seem to have gone wrong on this one and lined it up square on the path of a perfect storm – 1. Nobody says anything bad about an idli, a south Indian filter coffee or the “Chennai super kings”. (2) It was a britisher who was stirring things up AGAIN, and (3) We Indians practically live on twitter, and have made it a national past time during this pandemic to argue about any and every opinion posted, on any and every social media platform.

As expected the backlash came pouring in fast and furious- Politicians, Bollywood-types, South Indians, and north Indians alike, and things literallywent south faster than you could say “Kancheepuram idli”.

I sat down on my couch and gave the whole situation a good thought and tried answering the obvious question everyone wants to hear – Why do we south indians love our “idlis” so much?

Before I go further let me just give you a few snippets on my credentials which hopefully would convince you folks that Im an authority on the subject of idlis.

I’m a chennai-ite, who’s been eating idlis from as far back as I can remember. My personal record is eating 16 idlis for breakfast at one go as a teenager. As things go, I’ve eaten idlis of every kind in my time- hard ones and soft melt-in-your mouth idlis with a variety of sides – sugar, ghee and sugar, a variety of chutneys, sambar, and a mutton kurma, and sometimes even without sides. Ive also eaten them in just about every setting, including off street carts, and in one instance also out of a police Jeep. ( more on that in another post)

So then back to the topic- why we south indians wouldnt blink twice before bartering off our Mother-in-laws for a plate of fresh Idli Vada ?

The idli embodies core south indian values- versatility. simplicity and tradition. It has a very neutral taste, but enhances the experience of the one it’s paired with. An idli is made of a fresh “rice batter”, which however after 2-3 days in the refrigerator, gets converted into a base for its slim, dusky, glamorous cousin, the “Dosa” who’s been around the block more times than you would want to agree. Lets however stick to the idli piece here though. An idli is your girl next door – quiet, low-profile, “paattu” class going-type, who makes all other side items she associates with come out looking better. She is a life-long companion, and appeals to kids and toothless geriatric, old folk alike, and has graduated from being just a breakfast item to coming out on her own at any point during the day .. or night.

Next time you pass by a South Indian Restaurant and the whiff of a fresh sambar makes you lose all control of your faculties and walk in trance-like, take my word and order a set of Idlis, make small talk with her, and order an extra serving of coconut chutney too.

Shashi Tharoor said it best though… “there are some who are truly challenged in this world. Civilisation is hard to acquire: the taste & refinement to appreciate idlis, enjoy cricket, or watch ottamthullal is not given to every mortal. Take pity on this poor man, for he may never know what Life can be.”

Well there you have it…. Long live the idli!

THIS… or this.

I watched a recording of the US Presidential debate on youtube- and let me tell you, if you thought the pandemic was the worst 2020 could bring, think again. Come november and the seat for the most powerful human being in the world would go to one of these two.

Yes, you should be worried.

Today was a public holiday and so kavitha and I ordered a full, non-vegetarian meal for lunch and took a postprandial, siesta that extended well into the evening. We got up and panicked- “Oh gawd. that meal was so good , and we over did it, now we won’t be able to sleep tonight. lets go for a long walk” she said. “hmmm. why not just order another big south indian thali (meal) for dinner and address the sleep issue” i quipped in humour.

The stress the world faces today is (1) a lack of choices when it comes to stuff that matter, and (2) our ability to make critical decisions seem to have been compromised by the influence of social media. ( I recommend watching “the social dilemma” on Netflix)

We have a ton of choices when it comes to the super market, but not so at the polling booth. Its like we’re sitting, mouth wide open and mildly sedated on a dentists chair and hearing the dentist go- “Root canal …. or extraction?”, and you shrug your shoulders trying to communicate a “wtf?”, but he takes it as “its fine, either way” and the last thing you remember is him flashing you a “thumbs up”.

So there you have it, we may as yet find a cure to the pandemic in the next few weeks and finally be able to remove our masks- but trust me its not going to be a pretty picture watching a billion people forcing a smile with two front teeth missing- jobs, close family members and probably more.

Till then. paint a smiley face on your mask and pretend its not happening.

“Back in the day” stuff.

You know you’re getting older when you can’t stop thinking about “back in the day” stuff.

We’ve all aged prematurely during the pandemic, and constantly ponder over, how things were before shit hit the fan six months ago.

Lets talk “Underwear”, for instance. It seems like a whole generation has woken up from a long sleep, rummaged through their lockers, got confused by a strange, small piece of clothing with a “victorias secret” label and come to a conclusion that it was something we put around our nose and mouth. Yes, everyone and his pet dog seems to have caught on with the style statement, and we’ve come to define the “new normal” as the practice of wearing underwear on our face.

Talking of Underwear – have you noticed that they have somehow become “optional” these days, and the “new normal”, morning rush around the living room, seems to be around watching obese “back in the day” corporate types, chomping down on a “pav-bhaaji” breakfast meal just delivered by a shy, orange clad, overworked “swiggy” delivery boy- “Oh gawd, how many more morons do i need to see walking around in formal shirts, boxer shorts and barefeet?”

“arre shweety, i cant find my silky, red boxers you got me last week?… you know the one with the hulk picture in front? Also where is my wallet yaar, I need to pay this swiggy guy”

You walk into a mall and the “Jockey” stores seem strangely to be closing down or running short of XXL briefs. Everyone seems to be focussed on dressing from the waist up only for Video Conference calls, and consequently queues at the makeup counters are getting longer and more impatient.

“maybelline Blush hai? 10 deh doh madam. jhaldee”

Job losses are a sad reality of the pandemic, and one unlikely hit is the “iron-wallah”- poor chap, he used to strut along into the apartment building like he owned the penthouse- bribing the watchman and sometimes even didnt pick up your call down the weekend, and you almost hugged him when he agreed to do a set of formals for monday morning as a “special case”. Now? The guy is walking aimlessly outside the apartment gate watching teary-eyed at the “maamies” who seem to have deleted him from their “speed-dial” list and now just wriggle their noses at him and go “huh?” while continuing to dry endless lines of boxers, banian, “kerchief” and an occasional “no wrinkle” shirt.

“Back in the day” we queued up at the petrol pumps, to fill up our vehicles. Now? With everyone working from home, most folks seem to be going there to buy bubble gum and weasel in some free air, and if we decide to actually fill up gas, the attendants treat you like a mini celebrity and almost want to give you a shoulder massage as you both wait endlessly to hear the last drop of your 500 rupee worth of petrol, hit the bottom of your tank”

On the flip side, the pandemic is an opportunity for “fathers of the bride”. No more having extra long walks down the weekend to avoid your “little girl” broach the subject of marriage, and the prospect of watching your lifetime savings go bust, feeding 500 “near-strangers”, warm rasogollas and 12 varieties of “chaat”.

Now we have the “doting father no.1” sitting slyly on the sofa with newspaper in hand every morning, jumping up when his almost “ready-to-be-wed” girl walks in…. “betti. the astrologer says its a good time for weddings … and this good phase would only last for the next 90 days” he adds with a wicked smile. hmmm. yes its a “good time” especially when theres a restriction on the number of people that can gather together, and the “agile thinking parents” are falling over each other to get their daughters married off during the pandemic and saving lakhs on wedding expenses.

if you’re a dad, blessed with a fat, ugly daughter of marriageable age on the other hand- fret not, this is a double whammy, and you could save money, while also peddling off your ugly daughters while insisting she wears a mask and pointing fingers at the pandemic as a cause for her obesity.

Successful people are those who see opportunity in the face of adversity- your time is now.

Go for it I say!

Zen and the art of Refrigeration.

You can learn a lot about the people in a home by looking at the size and contents of their refrigerators- their priorities, their beliefs, their lifestyle … and sadly in these strange times, their political leanings too.

hmmm. small family-BIG refrigerator? BIG Family- small refrigerator, or No refrigerator at all.

Last week i went to the supermarket and got some eggs and frozen parathas … it was only when i got home, that i realized that i didn’t have a frying pan or skillet (“tawa”) at the place i’m currently staying.

What does your refrigerator tell the world about you? What relationships do you have stocked up in the easily assessable top shelves of your lives? What do you keep at the coldest part of your refrigerator- the back row of the lowest shelves? When was the last time you checked in on the expiry dates of those little jars you bought on on impulse and is now just taking up space? Do you find yourself getting up in the middle of the night, staring endlessly into the dark, dank, crevices of your mind? Have you considered having a smaller refrigerator to improve your eating habits and consume fresh? Will you be embarrassed if someone opened your refrigerator by mistake? when was the last time you sat up in bed on a quiet night and heard the strange, ambient sound of the purring of your refrigerator- spooky! right?

An organized fridge saves time and money. If you know exactly what’s inside, grocery shopping and mealtimes become way more efficient, with less food waste and unpleasant smells.

If you have young children, stick their healthy, go-to snacks at eye level so they can easily grab them without making a mess.

And finally categorize and store items in clear containers. The world is full of people that come in opaque containers and print too small to read. Carry your bifocals and read the fine print at the supermarket shelf before you throw them in your shopping cart.

There you have it.

Life lessons from a dog named Max- Part 2.

My dog max was trained by a police dog trainer, so… don’t be judgemental.

Infact he was so well trained, he had 3 gears when he wanted to poop- “Green”- when he had the thought locked in, but the reflex muscles were still sitting on the couch, teary-eyed and watching the “Lion King” scene where simbas dad is trampled to death. We lived in a community of row houses those days and he would bring his leash in his mouth at 5:30am, wait for you to carry the plastic bag and take him for a walk.

“Amber”, was when sphincter muscles had raised their “kanban” card like a “just-in-time”, manufacturing plant of Toyota. At such times he would give you a ” I dont think you can walk this emergency- just open the door”. He would run 50 meters in the early morning darkness to the community front gate, go to the main road, waking up the street dogs in the process, who’s startled barking would be just enough to relax his sphincter muscles and do his job smoothly.

He would reach a state of nirvana post that, and walk himself back home using the longest, slowest walk possible- stopping at our neighbours front door and drinking the small plate of milk kept their for the cat.

Once in a while though he would be having his afternoon “siesta”, all stretched out on the living room, and he would suddenly jump up with a crazy look on his face- like he’s seen a ghost, look down to make sure he didn’t soil himself, then goes skating through the living room and shoots into the neighbours garden shouting, “RED, RED, RED”, crap there and run back home in slow-motion- like he’s in a Bollywood dream sequence.

We all do that dont we?

Its been a while since I’ve given up on organized religion- but not long enough to forget that of the 10 commandments, two were focussed around maintaining good neighbourly relationships. My take though is if you dont get distracted by the mentions of ox, and man servant, etc, in the script, all it says is “Don’t be a jerk of a neighbour. Make it easy for him to love you”

Many of us though, take a dump in our neighbours garden every morning (okay not literally, that would be gross), but figuratively. In this totally connected world, the definition of “neighbour”, extends beyond the one who shares a physical wall with you. Everytime we make a stupid post on FB, or put up a hurtful comment, we are literally taking a dump in our neighbours garden.

And don’t blame the dog.

Comfortably numb.

It’s going to be 25 years since kavitha and I got married, and it’s like someone dropped off a pile of wood at our front door along with 2 small allenkeys and a 1 page instructions manual from ikea to get on a study table and chair project.

We spent the first few years of our marriage sitting on the floor, just flipping the instruction sheet, staring a hundred times at the picture on the box and rummaging through the carton wondering if ikea forgot to include a few important parts and contemplating a trip back for a refund. Family members and friends would walk past shaking their heads and whispering at each other.

The next few years we seem to have gotten into a rhythm, and things moved at a brisk pace, and people walking past stopped by, complimented us on the progress, my handyman skills and for some strange reason, kavithas brains. 🤨 not mine?

I was sure i mixed up a few of the little nuts and bolts, but everything looked good, and I even shored up courage to sit on the chair, staring confused at 3 nuts and a washer still not fimdimg a place in the project, while shifting my weight uncomfortably from this end to that… hmmm. a little squeak here- nothing a can of WD40 would not fix.

Kavitha and I have been sitting on these chairs for what seems like a whole afternoon now, dreaming of swedish meatballs and raspberry sauce. aah! The chairs are very functional though, needs an extra cushion sometimes, no fuss” and literally zero maintenance. The only thing you need to do is make sure you keep that custom allen key set and those 2 extra nuts and washer in a safe spot.

We’ve had bigger and more expensive furniture over the years, and that ikea set seems to have move further into the background, but we smile and shake our head every time we walk past this simple, unpretentious, comfortable and warm ikea set thats seen it all and continues to hold its own.

Life is shorter than you think it is- smile and get some comfortable and warm furniture that makes living better.

Now wheres that can of WD40.

Miracles

Okay so here’s my take on the most famous miracle of all time, we’ve all wanted to do since we were teenagers on a tight weekly allowance – changing water into wine.

Let me first set the context here. The good book refers to this “water to wine” miracle happening at a marriage hall in the Middle East some 2000 years ago. Somebody seems to have miscalculated the drinking abilities of the new “in-laws”, and ordered wine that only got through to round 1 in what was turning out to be a long night.

“Hello? I told you not to invite Mustapha. I’ve seen him drink at the local pub … gawd! See what you’ve done?” doesn’t actually qualify as a good problem statement, but let’s go with that for now.

The first step in any transformation journey is to identify and articulate clearly a need for change or a problem you want to solve. In this case, a unique one, “If I don’t have some wine here in the next 30 minutes – I’m dead”

The next step is to evaluate all available options on the table and confirm that the only “Plan B” available, is not a viable option- this is to ensure that you are fully invested in the change process.

In this particular case, “Plan B” would have involved having the father of the bride, slip on his nike sneakers, walk into a dining hall packed with a tipsy bunch of guests getting ready to line dance to the “cha cha slide”. Then having to bang spoon to plate to grab the attention of the crowd and go – “okay everybody, listen up, we have a small problem here- We’ve run out of wine”.

See what I mean? That’s not a viable Plan B. Is it?

There would have been pin-drop silence and confused looks, and then the father of the bride would have had to outrun a group of half-drunk, new relatives through narrow cobbled streets, side-stepping donkey with high ambitions of serving the messiah, and having three generations on your family tree being cursed in ancient Aramaic. Not good!

Moving on.

Here’s some advise for event planners, business owners and individuals ready for a transformation though – always expect the unexpected and plan for worst case scenarios in life – insurance, miracle men, bouncers, super heroes and a “designated driver” who can get you out of a sticky situation and save the day.

If you on the other hand happen to be that problem-solving, transformational leader, that’s been designated to do a little miracle and save the day- DON’T PANIC. Heres how you do it.

First, close your eyes and ask your sponsor, what flavour of wine he would want to turn this water into.

You can use the most trusted pickup line of a magician and go-
“Pick a fruit. Any fruit.”.
“GRAPE.”
“Grape? Hmmm. How boring and predictable”

Next, crush audience requested fruit into bowl containing a frothing yeast mix, add water and go “Abracadabra!”. That’s it!

Okay, if you’ve read the Harry Potter series, you would have got an insight into the mechanics of crafting a good spell- spells you see serve just one purpose- divert attention and buy time, and hence they’re usually long and confusing … just right to divert your attention long enough for the magic to happen. In this case, approximately 12-15 days for the water to magically turn to wine which I hear is how long ancient wedding parties in the Middle East usually lasted.

Every parable ends with a lesson right – Bringing about a magical transformation in your life uses the same building blocks of wine making. You must ENDURE being crushed by the hard times and come to a point where you WANT to change your present state, you must have mustard seed sized SELF BELIEF and you must have a lot of PATIENCE. It’s that simple. Try it!

As for me, I need to go check if that wine I’ve been brewing has matured as yet. It’s about time.

YES, I think it has.

“Wingardium Leviosa”.

Nostalgia in a tea cup!

I grew up during a time when we didn’t have internet, and we actually had to wait for 7- 10 years to get a phone connection at home.

The “landline”/ phone and thick directory were usually delivered months in advance of the connection actually being activated, and we continued to clean that dead phone every day with pride, anticipation and a feeling that we’ve finally made it in life.

I still remember my mom sitting at the dining table, spending hours, flipping through the phone directory looking for “contacts”, which she would mark with a ball-point pen- a reminder of calls that needed to be made once the phone was actually activated. My dad too spent many a weekend afternoon, looking at the yellow pages for automobile parts shops, etc. We kids didn’t have too much browsing to do because our friends circle lived within 100 meters of our home.

Closer to the activation date, the “line man” came with a tester peeping out of his pocket, parked his cycle in front of our house, pulled out a connection confirmation list and sadistically just fixed the junction box and left, without actually activating anything.

We spent the next few days randomly picking up the receiver over 10 times a day, in hopes that we would hear the freaking, “ring tone”, and arguing between us over the placement of the phone in the living room.

It had to be at a prominent place in the living room that required a lot of furniture shifting and brought into play my dads interior decoration skills, ensuring all the visitors could admire it, and we could run without tripping over the wire, to make sure we picked it up “before the 3rd ring”.

For a long period before that phone entered our living room, the only option we had to communicate in an emergency situation, required us to take a 20 minute bus ride to the general post office, 10 kilometres away, wait in line at midnight, when the charges were the lowest and send a telegram.

You paid by the word, so you had to communicate like you were “tweeting” bad news. “Thatha passed away” (hmmm. Cant we just use “died” and save some money?). “Funeral tomorrow.”.

Receiving telegrams was a totally different ball game too. Not sure why but most telegrams were delivered at night (probably because someone else was also saving cash).

You were most probably in deep sleep, when you hear your dog growl, and then the sound of someone clicking the stand of a cycle in your garden.. then you heard someone stub his toe on the flower pot near the entrance, and curse in Tamil, before dragging a snapped “chappal” onto the front door steps and start groping the wall in the dark, trying to find your doorbell. Finally a voice in the darkness goes- “Saar. telegram”.

That’s it- the dog jumps into “beast” mode, all the lights in the house would turn on at the same time, my dad would spring out of bed, like an athlete on steroids, and catch the postman with a brown checked shawl around his head, making an entry in the register with a torchlight.

The rest of the night was all about dunking endless cups of strong chai and talking about the departed.

The “STD booths”, (no. It’s not what you’re thinking) came in a bit later, and around the same time we saw, “xerox/ fax” shops popping up in the neighbourhood. It was usually manned by a person with special needs, who had bribed his way into a government job. The booth was a place you went to, when we had to deliver well-curated, intercity or overseas calls at the top of our voices and at a high speed. Given the high cost of ISD calls, these were reserved for extraordinary circumstances only- like wanting to reconfirm the flight details of a relative landing a month from now.

If it was bad news that had to be passed on to family members within the city limits, we had designated family members who were given the task- usually the most sad-faced, non-controversial, religious and boring relative, who owned a bike, was assigned the task.

As soon as you saw this “angel of death”… this “harbinger of bad news” as it were, outside your house, you went “ohOH”, and the faces of all the old people in your family tree started flashing in your mind, like a slot machine- “oh gawd. who’s it going to be THIS time?”

Anyway this guy usually came across as too shy to even ring the bell, or he was too drunk. Either ways he was invariable in a confused state of mind, and standing outside our next door neighbours door, trying to explain the physical descriptions of all the members in our family – providing them with all our “pet names” (dippy? Anil? Sunil?) we were assigned within the family. Once we “uncle” him in, he walks slowly into the house, asks for “dad or mom” and a glass of water. He was usually upgraded to a mandatory cup of lukewarm, over-sweet tea and glucose biscuits, which he nibbles at, while patting our head with sadness.

The “elders” (usually my dad in front , with my mom nervously hiding behind him) walk in, and before my dad could make a humorous, inappropriate remark, to start off proceedings, my mom would jump out, with outstretched arms, “yaaru? Yaaru?”

And then all hell usually broke loose, with a lot of crying. Coffee gets neglected along with the half-eaten Glucose biscuit, which our dogs would start showing interest in. If there were any of our friends playing caroms in our room- they started hugging the walls like a swat team on an episode of “Cops”, and start slowly slipping out of the house in stealth-mode. Funeral details are shared and all our evening plans went for a toss.

Sigh!

These days the “drama” in communication seems to have been lost for ever. I miss the emotional “slow burn”, when emoticons and smiley faces were actual people. Not for me the real-time, updates by over enthusiastic “maamis” in the family whatsapp group, that elbow “Thathas” spirit trying to get past the rooftop on the ether highway.

Like Powder to the back of your head.

I remember growing up and going to the local “barber shop” for a haircut. When the guy is done with your head, he’ll dab some powder on your neck, like he’s trying to cover up some errors and blood stains, brings out a mirror and stands behind you like a magicians assistant, letting you have a look at his handiwork, and areas of your anatomy you haven’t seen in months, through a reflection on the mirror in front of you.

You give your head a good look like goldilocks would have (“my. What big ears you have grandmother”) and before you could Identify any flaws, the rascal quickly shifts to the other side, and you nod hesitatingly, letting him know it’s “a okay” – like we had any choice at that point.

Sadly “barber shops” like many small business owners, are taking a big hit in this lockdown, and the mirrors seem sadly to have turned, and it sight doesn’t look good.

I hope small business owners hang in there though and make a come back post the lockdown. I for one have pledged to use their services as far as possible once we’re back to normal mode- you should too.

Take precautions, and go back to that “chai walla”… go back to that 2 seater “hair saloons”… drop by at that family run restaurants …encourage the home bakers…. shop at your local “Kirana” store for basic essentials … encourage local artists…

If you’re afraid these small “barber shops” are going to screw up your hair style- trust me, I’ve seen all your selfies- that ship has passed. 😂 just do it!

Stay safe! 🙏

Pillow talk!

There’s a pillow somewhere that has your name on it. The right height. Softness, and a “memory” that’s non judgemental and guaranteed to wake you up energized. Everytime.

You’ll know it when you find her. Sometimes staring seductively from the edge of the king size bed as you enter your hotel room. You drop your head and immediately everything you were doing stops, and the world seems to move in slow motion, and you dig in deeper, turn to the left, the right and it feels perfect, and you enjoy parts of her that could sue Disneyland for claiming to be the happiest place on earth. Aah!

Some hotels have a whole bunch for you to choose from too, and even ask you about your preference at booking or checkin, and you blurt out your preference embarrassingly, only to realize how important that call was, because I’ve sometimes felt like checking out of a hotel staring lovingly at the pillow from last night in arm and wondering if I broke any biblical laws.

Come to think of it, a pillow is not a complex contraption at all – no fancy electronics, simple utility value, no false promises and that’s what makes her endearing. You can dress her up in fancy colours and throw her on the couch, fold, tuck, works well in groups of 2 or 3, especially helpful when you want to lighten up a party (pillow fights).

So there you have it. Wipe that grin off your face and go get yourself one. 🤦‍♂️

The daily crossword

Not sure about the virus, but my wife, Kavitha and I have been bitten by the crossword puzzle bug during the pandemic, and it’s got me thinking.

I realized there’s a lot of similarities between solving crosswords and life situations.

Sometimes you go around the puzzle and feel like giving up in 20 seconds- but then all you need is one small break and the words just fall into place. One trick I use is to move on if the word does not immediately strike me …. just move on…. once you solve the other ones, these problem words get solved themselves.

Looking for context is sometimes key – most puzzles have a theme for each puzzle, once you get that, your brain processes words differently. What’s your purpose? What’s your calling?

A quirky add-on these days is using expressions like “aha” or “huh”- whats life without these expressions of wonder to fill up the small 3 letter spaces in our life. Not everything in life should make sense and have meaning … sometimes our situation is just an expression. Learn to smile at your situation.

Getting good at crossword is about being agile and having a curious mind. Learn to have a genuine interest in things beyond your comfort zone or “speciality”. Look around. Experience. Learn.

Contrary to popular belief- Life is not a race you compete with other people. Though most puzzle apps have a clock to track your progress- don’t get too caught up with that. You’ll know it when you’re on a roll and looking at the clock only stresses you out.

Learn to ask for help. I’ve spent sleepless nights thinking of that one word to solve a puzzle. Sometimes in the New York times daily puzzle, many of the associations are with very local stuff- like baseball, or local politicians or geography. When I hit a roadblock and get frustrated- I just finally google it, and I learn something new in the bargain. Sometimes some situations in life are there for your learning- not solving. Don’t stress out- Accept it and learn from every situation.

So… there you have it, these are difficult times and everything looks so complex at first, and anxiety-inducing, don’t give up, try some of the learnings I’ve had and believe me, nothing sets you up in a positive frame of mind than a solving a puzzle. 👍🏽

The second cup

Coffee lovers like me swear by it. The first one is to wake you up… but it’s the “second one”, that gets those bowels moving.

You may argue that the need for a laxative in these strange and challenging times is non existent. What with having to deal with a virus picking us off one by one, pink- coloured currency notes, and saffron-coloured, right- wingers trolling you in your dreams. Enough to get those wheels hyper sensitive and threaten to soil your bedsheets in your sleep.

Strangely though, over time your Central nervous system gets used to the train of bad news, and your vagus nerve waits for its daily shot of caffeine to pass the memo from nervous system to digestive tract, like a tenured government employee, rubbing thumb to index finger and going, “Saar. Something? something?”

These are strange times though and we’re all acting like we’re in a pandemic of flatulence- staying 6 feet away, wearing masks and staring with mistrust at folks in the elevator, while mnc pharma companies, try to side step a nimble, bare chested “Baba” with a squint. who’s threatening to shout “Pathanjali” as he crosses the finish line holding high the antidote.

Our role now is to just stay home, and what better way to keep a billion people home and flatten the curve, than inducing a pandemic of irritable bowels. Bring that second cup my friend – make it dark. Make it thick. Make it mysterious.

Go ahead. Close your eyes. Drink Deep. Aaah!

Now run …..

The magic of “noise” cancellation

There’s a lot of “ambient” noise around us in these challenging times- some required to give us perspective- most however just stress-inducing and an intrusion to our private spaces

Close your eyes for a few seconds and observe the “ambient sounds” around you – the mind-numbing hum of the fan. the slow-cycle of the washing machine, the drone of the aircraft engine as you try to grab some sleep maybe? the nuanced “click” of the power stabilizer at 2am, the soft purr of the apartment waste disposal plant…. and more.

Have you realized that unlike our eyes, our ears are “differently-abled”- for we just cannot close or shut it as it were and over time we’ve learnt to accept, without choice this background score to our lives as necessary.

“Cancelling” distractions and Staying focused at work is not easy, especially when working from home, but it is doable. These five practical techniques I hope will help you stay on task, accomplish what matters, and stay focussed throughout the day.

(1) Practice Mindfulness: Having a personal morning routine that works best for you and preferably involves some “reflection” is a sure way to train your nervous system to calm despite the stress of our daily lives. When you are calmer, you are more emotionally intelligent and make better decisions.

(2) Don’t multi-task. Okay I’m going to have a few eyebrows being raised here- while there’s no arguing that multitasking is probably a good way to get a lot out of your limited time at your disposal, the truth is most of us suck at it.

Managing your calendar is key in these times where having a fully blocked day seems to be fashionable. Having 30 minutes to reflect post a meeting is critical and trying to structure the brainstorming sessions in the morning and the large group, general information sharing ones, back-to-back in the afternoon could help you get the most.

(3) Make your bed. Tidying up and keeping your work space in order helps your mind stay focussed. I have this crazy practice of saving important files I’m working on my desktop (laptop), and over time, its a big mess and I spend a lot of time just searching for files.

Cleaning up your desktop and “noise cancelling” unnecessary notifications helps immensely. Run through you app settings and go to notification and mute the ones that are not critical. Nothing hampers your line of thought like an ill-timed notification ping in the middle of a meeting.

Bonus tip: You know that pesky fellow with no sense of humour on your friends list that takes all your posts personally, out of context and is a bit too vocal about displaying his “more patriotic than thou” views- quietly mute the guy or better still unfollow/ unfriend him. Sure we don’t all have the same line of thought and I’m sure a couple … or maybe more, 🤨 have unfollowed me too, and it’s perfectly fine. 😂

(4) Manage your meetings: Have you noticed that the amount of time we spend on virtual meetings has dramatically increased since the pandemic as everyone wants to be “seen”.

While it’s important to stay connected during these challenging times- don’t overdo it. Stick to having 8-10 staff at a maximum on a meeting if possible, don’t invite everyone and their pet dog to meetings. Have an agenda, make sure action items are logged in with responsibilities and timelines communicated at the end of each meeting.

If there’s someone who is not going to take a decision or assigned an action item, consider if you want to pull in the poor chap onto the meeting, probably having him on the distribution list for the minutes may be a better idea.

(5) Chat is under-rated: I’ve worked at firms where more decisions were discussed and taken during a routine “smoke” break than in meetings. I’ve also traditionally fostered having “chai breaks” with my direct reports.

However working virtually has eaten up that very productive time, so I just schedule 1 short “team huddle” with no specific agenda in the morning and one in the evening, dismissing the need for me to keep disturbing my direct reports through the day for updates.

That’s it. I’m no management guru by any stretch of imagination, however I hope these practical tips would help you “cancel the noise” in your personal and professional spaces, reduce the stress inducing signals that threaten your peace of mind and make the best use of your time at work, so you have more time to do the things you love.

Stay Safe!

Hollywood Squares

This pandemic has exposed our soft under bellies like no other. A bunch of sissies cowering in the confines of our homes, while sending each other selfies of our last meal.

Last evening one of my enthusiastic cousins, messages the “cousins” whatsapp group a picture of a very gentle- looking old lady and mentions, she’s no more. I put on my reading glasses, zoom in on the photo trying to recognize a feature- unfortunately I’m not able to make any connections in my memory. I try zooming in on the 2 others on the photos… Nope.

Anyways too polite to ask who it was, I put in a sad face and craft a condolence message and send it back. A flurry of “sincere condolences” messages start shuttling across the ether – each trying to outdo the other in speed and emotion for a gentle “paatimaa” we fail to recognize.

I go to bed in a melancholic mood, even consider having a round of “black label” to mourn the passing away of our late “paatimaa”. Anyways late in the night, cousin number 2, wakes up on the other side of the globe and contradicts the relationship of our sweet old, “paatimaa”, and puts her squarely on the opposite side of the family tree. “Paatimaa” seems to be a little more familiar with this side, and nods a friendly hello to other occupants like a participant on “Hollywood squares”.

Hello? 🤷‍♂️

That’s when I lose it – who are these people to play with my emotions when I’m at my most vulnerable? Who is this “paatimaa” that I’ve been drinking to? The debate goes on – but then these are challenging times, and there’s a lockdown and I have only a limited supply of “black label” and the least you can do is plot my family tree properly, and clarify the source of my sadness.

Till then- RIP “Paatimaa” and may the softness of your smile forever inspire us to reach deep within our souls and find happy places in these challenging times. 🙏

Dive Deep.

I just heard that you have a higher chance of being attacked by a shark when you are swimming at the surface. Hmm. Remember the poster to “JAWS”, ?

Yes, we live in strange time- short fuses, everyone in masks, trying to be politically right and staying away from one other to ensure we don’t connect with a virus. It’s probably therefore a good time to take a deep breath, say a prayer and dive deeper …. into speaking out and not caring about how other people would react. Dive deeper – when you are unsure if that chocolate cake has too many colories baked in. Dive deeper.

Yet, many of us just think it’s safest when you can see the shoreline and are embracing the familiar.

When we are left with no option but to go “skinny-dipping” in the dark, would you want to be lit up against the afterglow of the harbour lights or slip smoothly into the darkness? For the very beliefs that we sought refuge in under normal conditions are probably the ones that could compromise us during a crisis.

Let go…. leave sight of the shoreline…. and face your deepest fears.

STAY SAFE. DIVE DEEP.

#unsermon

Why men keep losing arguments at home?

It’s not funny – every time I’ve picked a movie on Netflix during the lockdown, my wife says she’s watched it, and I keep scratching my head trying to think of a time when she could have watched all these movies when I wasn’t around. 🤨

I think the women in our lives, keep doing a lot of stuff when we’re not looking- just storing up info and knowledge on so many things to use for or against us at that opportune moment. Have you ever wondered what we would do without these amazing, organically-growing bodies of knowledge helping us along this complex life of ours since the time they got us kicked out of the garden of Eden, by providing us with Specific, scientifically-proven facts on everyday stuff?

I still remember washing thoroughly a non stick cooking pan sometime ago, and the automatic alert mode switches on in the ether around our home and I hear a voice from the next room – “… that’s Teflon coated, you’re not supposed to scrub it like that …”, I look up to the sky and thank god, for I didn’t know that nugget of invaluable information. Where is she getting all this knowledge from? I quietly drop the scrubber and caress the Teflon coating…. aah!

The other day we had the New washing machine installed, and I stood beside the service engineer while he explained the usage, I called my wife to check if she wanted to watch the demo and she said “it’s okay.“, which I have come to realize is actually a “hell NO”. Fast forward to yesterday, and I was setting up the machine for a spin and without even so much as a glance she goes- “ dont keep the water pressure at high… or the hose will leak“. Gawd, 30 minutes of zen like focus as the service engineer installed it while providing me with tips- All of it in vain? I think I’ve married “Wonder Woman” in disguise, seriously.

I could have just got back from shopping and would be bending half way trying to reach the vegetable tray in the refrigerator and she gives me exact details on how to store each vegetable type… dry. Pouched. Stalk out. Cut. Hmmm. Before I got married, I just went to the store and got “milk”, now after 20 years, I got to remember terms like pasteurized, skimmed, toned, fat %, check expiry date, packaging. Not sure how I even survived all those decades drinking just “milk”.

Labels. Labels.labels. Before I got married I just looked at the labels on items to check if I could afford it financially. Now? I just have gotten used to putting on my bifocals and reading the fine print like a student unprepared for his math test …. GST? ST? It’s going to expire in 2 week? Carbohydrates? Do I check “Manufacturing date” or “expiry date”? What the hell is “halal cut?”

I’ve been benefitted by other life saving info too over the years-like, what is the right tip to leave a waiter or the food delivery guy… Or I could be lying down with my head propped up with 3 pillows, and boom, there’s a medically proven fact on blood flow and strokes throw in my general direction … so I just remove 1 pillow and save my chances of survival by 33%. Alternatively I could bring a bowl of fruit salad with some nice flavoured yogurt toppings at 5pm and she goes- “what? You will wake up with a sore throat tomorrow morning.”.

On the flip side all the facts and tips I read seem to be just crap, and doesn’t seem to be helping me win any arguments whatsoever, however much I try and steer discussions into topics that make up my treasure trove of knowledge. I read somewhere that we need to close all the doors and windows at sunset so the mosquitoes don’t fly in and try and find a comfortable place to stay the night, and since that day I’ve been going around the house closing doors and windows at sunset, while looking at my wife trying to see if she’s going to ask me what I’m doing, so I have a fact to throw at her now – it’s been 6 years now and she’s never enquired on it.

Like a student from the back benches, trying to cram up for an exam at the last moment, I too try and read up online on stuff I could flaunt, however I don’t seem to be getting an opportunity to unleash all this amazing stuff I’ve now got crammed up in my head for a counter argument all these years- The reason why black holes exist…. “new dance form found within an isolated tribal society deep in the amazon jungles”… “sleep cycles of the rich and famous?”. “How to build a panic room in the event of a zombie apocalypse”, etc.

I just realized what the problem is. It’s that google is now run by a fellow chennai-ite. Sundar pitchai. Yes, with google now AI- ML enabled, it’s become as suggestive as a saree sales guy posing at your wife with a saree on each shoulder at a “Rasi” outlet in West Mambalam. Seriously. You could be browsing work-related stuff, but google thinks it knows what you’re looking for, so takes you on a totally different tangent. I could be typing some work-related stuff like “ competency fra….” and before I could finish the sentence, I’m Bombarded with suggestions on some vague plant based diet plans, etc… and THATS the problem. We guys have this crazy factory-fitted curiosity app for crappy stuff built in, and we get sidetracked, and before you know it, we would have spent 2 hours reading up on terms like “legumes”, taken 2 surveys to check “which plant-based diet is best for you?”, and ordered a 5 kg pack of “pea protein isolate” on amazon…🤦‍♂️

I’ve got a plan though. I think I’ll hack my wife’s google account and start afresh, who knows, maybe I’ll win an argument in 20 years time -if I’m lucky and alive.

You should try it too.

Stay safe! Stay home!

“Stop-loss” and the art of investing in relationships

Life is short and we are all “day traders” looking for bargains on the market- Walking around. Offering our limited time here in exchange for a shot at earning a livelihood, making meaningful relationships and soaking up experiences.

Not surprising then that everyone is out to get the best “return-on-investment”, and the folk who come out winners are the ones who care about “fundamental analysis” of their relationships and don’t look at the market as a big casino where luck and karma play a part.

Okay at the outset, let me put down a disclaimer that I have minimal to no experience dabbling in the stock market, and cannot be termed a “thought leader” in the field by any stretch of imagination, however I’m proud of the strong personal and professional friendships I’ve built over the years and feel I’ve unconsciously used the same principles – and it’s helped.

So without further ado, let’s get familiar with a few trading terms that should get us all on the road to profit booking in our relationships.

Followers of “value investing” believe that a share price should equal the intrinsic value of the target company’s share. This approach can be used to evaluate our investment strategy in relationships too. Many of us (usually the young, who have a long life ahead of them) have a “trader” mindset going into relationships – “Go in. Make a quick “kill”, and exit” ….. others approach relationships with an “investor” mindset and have a longer horizon, spend a lot of time doing “fundamental analysis” to ensure they carry minimum risk and usually are ready to amortize their gains if required over a period of time.

The key to happiness is to have a portfolio of relationships with both a “growth” and “value” horizon balanced out based on your risk appetite.

“Stop-loss”: This refers to an ”Exit” strategy when things don’t seem to be going as planned. All of us have experienced people who follow you when things are going up, but have a low tolerance for tough times and vanish into thin air when they see a faint grey cloud coming around.

Having said that, it’s important to have an “Exit Strategy” for all our investments and not having one will put you in a situation where you jump into a relationship as a “trader”, crank up losses quickly, pump in more good money behind the bad money to bail out (aka:”fallacy of sunken costs”), get stuck, and decide to become an “investor” and hold on to the stock. Look around you- are you stuck with these types of relationship investments?

“Resistance-Support” levels: Look at the data stupid. Its important to evaluate the universal “high-low” bands that is at the core of any investment. What is an acceptable price to pay for getting into that relationship. Are you paying more than you bargained for? It’s okay if you do, just be sure your risk-to-reward ratio makes sense and you are are cautious when there a high probability that you’re going to lose BIG? Step back, take a good look at the data, but trust your instinct. Also be ready to walk away.

Portfolio: Looking at out relationships like stocks and evaluating them periodically is critical to ensure you are successful as a trader and/ or investor. Remember though that investing in relationships should only be part of your “happiness strategy” and make sure you focus equally on your Career, Health, Wealth. Spirituality.

Happy investing!

“Distance Socializing” and the Art of War.

It’s been over 4 months since the virus changed forever the world we live in. It’s got us isolated, it’s killed economies and people with scant disregard, millions have lost their jobs, and the pharma industry is left scrambling to find a vaccine in a hurry – which seems a minimum 12 months away.

So while we wait for that proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”, we will need to continue to learn to settle into this “new normal” and survive one of the most powerful of psychological risk factors for poor health – “social isolation”.

Looks like this virus is sitting cross legged on an easy chair outside and reading an unabridged version of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of war”, while successfully dividing this captive population into 2 piles …. the “haves” and the “have nots”- and I’m not talking economics here. The ones who have patience, a high “happiness quotient“ and a purpose to wait it out – and the ones who don’t. And the media in its pursuit of TRPs is slowly smoking out the weakest from amongst us by feeding us minute-by-minute updates on the fatalities and bad decisions, like a reality TV show gone viral.

Science has proven two truths on stress (a) A majority of us lose our ability to make rational decisions when stressed and (b) Our immune system is compromised when we are stressed.

Studies have also proven beyond doubt that If someone is driven purely by hollow consumption, and all of their happiness depends on their current personal circumstances, they could become stressed when they are not in control of their circumstance- like in a lockdown situation. So then, if we care about things beyond ourselves — community, politics(okay, probably not… 🤨) and art — then everyday stresses will perhaps be of less concern.

Last evening I just went ahead and did the obvious – comparing the top 10 list of countries with the highest “Happiness Quotient” with the top 10 countries with the highest COVID fatalities – nope, not a single common country between the 2 lists- not one.

While this may not be a very real representation of fact given the multiple disparate moving parts between the two lists, it’s probably enough for us to consider that staying happy and with a strong purpose during this crisis could be critical.

While we continue to practice physically social distancing, It’s as important for us to pursue happiness through “distance socializing”- Staying socially connected with friends, colleagues, and family, and finding happiness during this public health crisis while continuing to focus inward and finding our source of purpose, generosity, compassion and the components of happiness and specifically trust in one another and within institutions especially in a time of need like we are in just now.

So, lets learn to Smile from behind those masks, let’s learn to stay connected, let’s try making a difference to the less fortunate- Let’s strive to become better versions of ourselves. Let’s not forget that the world is healing too and when this is done, we’ll agree it was all well worth it and who knows – we might just leave a better world for our kids. 🙏

Stay home. Stay Safe!

Do you make a good cell mate?

We’ve all watched reruns of old English movies or Netflix series where our hero is this well mannered guy with impeccable prison habits- reading, painting, shaving, bathing, etc… and his cellmate was literally a grimy goon who finally gets influenced, becomes a best friend and accomplice in planning and executing an escape plan to perfection

Do you…. ?

We’re all officially in a “lockdown”- a prison term, typically referring to a situation within a prison (say a riot) that requires control measures to be imposed with force, and here we are – holed up with a couple of family members 24X7 for over 3 weeks now, and the obvious question pops in my mind…. Is there some “prison etiquette” that exists for cell mates that we could learn from during the lockdown to ensure we don’t make the experience more painful than it already is for our near and dear? 🤷‍♂️🤨

Well here are a few that come to my mind.

Make “social distancing” a way of life: okay I’m not just talking staring 6 feet away physically, I’m wanting us all to do the same me mentally. It’s easy to get under the skin of a loved one in these challenging times when everyone is in a very vulnerable mental framework. Irrespective of the size of our living spaces, a good way to socially distance is to just understand your “cell mates” rhythm and respect personal spaces ….

Hygiene and decorum. Chances are there’s more than one member working from home and taking zoom or skype calls through the day at different times …. trust me watching you cell mate walk to the refrigerator in his undies and peer into the lower shelves doesn’t actually make for a good background when you’re on a client call. If you’re stuck with a cell mate like that – try some creative background wall papers available on most apps.

Fun fact: Cell mates use a technique called “courtesy flushing” when they have to do their business when sharing a small cell. It’s a simple technique where you just flush the toilet continuously during the entire performance to camouflage the smell and the noises.

Turn the other way. Over the years there’s a lot of irritable habits we gather like moss on a rolling stone, and I’ve realized the best way to deal with that and generally any awkward, unpleasant situation in life is to just turn the other way and face the wall. It’s a time-tested technique used by cell mates and believe me it works like a charm, both personally and professionally.

Be a good listener. Most people when stuck in a confined space find solace in venting out their frustrations. Part of being a good cell mate is to be a good listener, chances are you’re stuck with a whole bunch of “I’m not guilty” type rantings by your cell mate – you don’t actually need to agree with all their arguments – just nod understandingly and feign empathy.

Focus on non verbal Communication. In prisons where the dining area is mostly a “no talking” zone- prisoners just tap on the table as etiquette before leaving. Chances are you’re already at the receiving end of a cold shoulder by now and your very shadow brings out some base emotions in your cell mate, either way use non verbal communication- helpful when you our cell mate is on a call, listening to music on a ear pods, etc- don’t just go stand like a moron in front, expecting them to drop whatever they’re doing and listen to frivolous observations.

Respect. Being respectful will get you a long way in prison… okay not literally! Like I mentioned earlier we’re all in a vulnerable space mentally and walking around doing chores while operating with a very short fuse- the last thing you want in this situation is for someone to feel disrespected – take out your well preserved, rarely used collection of “thank you’s” and “please” and make sure you use it generously in your conversations. Lockdowns are probably not the time for your sarcasm and wise cracks- hold them back. Believe me, I try to …. 😂

That’s it, hopefully the few tips above will help you come out of this lockdown a better person …. and alive.

Stay home. Stay safe!

The ride.

Quarantine learning #14

I’m riding back from the supermarket, decide to take off my helmet, put it on my tank and ride past my home for no particular reason. It turns out to be a 10 kilometre detour straddling the lake close by.

I ride along ….. smiling. nervously. Would I get my knees hurt? Would I be forced to do exercises I haven’t done since school? Would I need to carry a placard showcasing a sentence that hasn’t been spell-checked and created in “Times New Roman”(Bold)- gawd how I hate that font.

The delivery guy rides past- a cloud of mask, orange and broken dreams …. stick figures with kind faces walk past too.

The wind is cool and warm at once…. stray dogs peep out of a dumpster – a pair of human eyes too. “Levelling the curve” means different things to different people.

The smell of fresh sambar from a quarantined home as I ride past makes me nostalgic for chennai – the borders are closed I remember.

Kids on tricycles – make little dust circles on their verandahs like it were vacation. Old folk peep nervously through half closed windows, only to bang it shut when the sound of a distant cough catches their ear through the din of the TV playing inside.

A distant drum beat…. the flickering hope of Diyaas lit on balconies… a chant dispelling the virus …. a bunch of migrant construction workers sitting cross-legged on the steps of their “company-provided” container shed they now call home- staring into the vacant abyss.

I reluctantly take a turn and head back.

The setting sun makes polite conversation with the moon and an evening star, like factory workers changing shifts.

The water in the lake seems blue- but isn’t…. the trees seem green- but are they ?

The eagle is out, doing an extra lap too …. two crows chase a “kuil”, a forked tail tickles their overgrown eye lashes. Damn, these beauty parlours better be classified as “essential services “ and open fast. A sparrow darts past too (hello friend. it’s been a while! ) while a 1000 fireflies pepper my face as I ride past ….

I realize the padding on the seat of my bike could be a tad more forgiving. My pants do a small “wiggle” and all’s fine. Life’s all about making those little adjustments.

If there’s one thing that I could take away for this period of quarantine – it’s to be more “aware” and conscious of the little, simple things around me that makes life what it is… things till now I’ve probably taken for granted… things we are too busy to notice ….

I hum an old tune – “ Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” …. the eagle sits majestically – pool side on the terrace of our apartment.

I am home!

Quarantine learnings #11

You finally become the stories you tell yourself.

It’s a lockdown and we’re trying to make sense of a situation we have no control over unfolding around us, and we have a lot of “alone time” to do it.

What do we do ?

We tell ourselves stories with us as key protagonist through the day and unconsciously through the night.

Better make them good ones.

letitBE

Stranger things!

Having lived in cities my whole life, let’s just say – I’m comfortable walking up to and making small talk with total “strangers”.

It could be that we win this battle against the virus in a couple of months, however the schisms its going to bring between the “haves” and the “have nots” is only going to get accentuated in an already fractured society and the war could be lost if a well thought out, post disaster management plan incorporating people to people/ community-wide initiatives are not addressed.

Secondly at the personal level, I’m afraid that we’re all going to come out of this “social distancing” period with a lot more phobias, introversions and general mistrust of strangers…. that knowing nod we gave to a parent trying to pacify a wailing kid at the super market… that “bhai Saab” we used to break the ice with at the chai shop…. probably won’t work anymore.

In a world where society as we know it is already being reimagined by vested interests, my worry is having on one side these nervous, stressed out young parents transferring their fears and half baked knowledge into the next generation while at home for the next 21 days, while another section of the next generation join their parents on a 200 kms trek “home”, carrying their meagre belongings and no money- hungry, beaten and tired. In one quick stroke of the brush, we’ve divided the “essential” and the “non essential”- and I’m not talking commodities.

Sure we would all be back to BAU (“business as usual”) mode in a couple of months at most…. the economic meltdown? … probably a couple of years- but the impact of this virus on making general small talk with total strangers is going to be across a whole generation.

For the moment though I’d prefer you stay 6 feet away.

Quarantine lesson #10

It’s simple. The corona virus doesn’t actually kill us, it’s how our body reacts to it- that finally does. That’s the reason why the same virus has an effect no more than that of the common flu in some people, while turning fatal for the elderly with an under-active, weak immune system that suddenly goes to overdrive and damages healthy cells too. We all go through almost similar challenges in life (financial, relationships, etc), it’s finally how WE decide to “respond” to these situations (our immune system) that defines us finally. Don’t let your “over response” to situations do more damage to yourself, than the situation itself? Breathe. Stay balanced. Stay healthy. This too shall pass… #letitBE #covid19

Magic bullets and such …

I realized that the best way to irritate your doctor is to start a conversation with – “Doc, I was reading on the internet that …” or “Doc what do you think of … “ and just randomly start telling him about how you self diagnose and discuss “over-the-counter” solutions with your local pharmacist. 🤨🤷‍♂️🤦‍♂️😂

Growing up we had a “medicine shelf” at home since my mom was a nurse for over 30 years and the shelf was always stocked- junction violet?, spirit, burnol, betadine, zinc cream, cotton rolls, etc and a tablet box. So “self medication “ when we got scrapes or bruises playing soccer, etc was a daily affair.

My dad on the other hand would walk up to “salamath pharmacy”, and the owner who was a thin chap, who looked like a “apu” on the Simpson’s serial would walk up to him…. my dad would start by giving him a few symptoms, and before he went 2 sentences, “apu” would already be walking up to a shelf, scratch his head, reach out for a cardboard box with all kinds of alphabet markings on it. He would walk back, hand my dad a small brown paper packet, with the dosage and cost written on it with a ball point pen that he always had stuck behind his ear. My dad would be giving him the looks we reserve for the pastor at church, make the payment and walk out.

As for me, there was a time when I loved to shop for electronics when travelling abroad- now, I just love to walk into a large pharmacy outlet like “shoppers drug mart” or “guardian” and get all excited looking at the lineup of flavoured antacids, cough medications, ear drops, small hand lotions, etc and usually come out with the biggest spend for the trip.

I still remember the time I was travelling to Seattle from singapore and transiting through Tokyo airport. This was probably 2001 or so. Anyways as usual I got excited seeing a small battery operated head massager on display, which I thought was god answering my prayers for a solution to my migraine problems. The packaging was all in japanese- but I considered myself a “techie” who was comfortable with mechanical devises, so that didn’t make a difference. I took my seat next to a white lady on the long haul flight, gave the customary introduction and no sooner had the flight taken off that I inserted fresh batteries into the head massager with a smile and started moving it across my temples and forehead. The feeling was so good… gawd these japanese guys were sheer geniuses I thought. The lady next to me was first curious because the devise was making a small buzzing noise in the darkness of the aircraft, but then she started avoiding making any eye contact with me and I thought “gawd, these racist folks” are really very standoffish.

I was narrating the story to my other colleagues down that weekend in Seattle and only when someone wanted to see the devise I was referring to did I realize that it was actually a women’s Sex toy called a “magic bullet”. 🤦‍♂️

So there you have it- learn japanese! 👍🏽

Hair today. Gone tomorrow…..

So I have this theory that the devil was present when god was making man. I can imagine them both sitting down under the apple tree and having a general TGIF moment on a Friday evening and as usual god is rattling away at how good his little “universe project” is coming around. The devil is chugging on a glass of wine with his legs resting on a garden chair.

And god goes, “hey luci (yes that’s what I would call a guy named lucifer too.) , want a sneak peak at the new product I’m releasing tomorrow?” And the devil strokes the head of the serpent on his lap lovingly and yawns – “whatever!! Make it fast though- got some work to do on my “universe project” too… “.

So god mumbles something, puts on his specs, hobbles into his workshop adjoining the garden and comes back in a few minutes, “Ta. da. Behold my best ever creation yet” and out walks man. And the devil nearly chokes the little snake on his lap in astonishment, drops his wine glass and goes “OMG. He looks a lot like your evil twin”. god blushes a light shade of pink, “ha!ha! I know, that’s because I made him In my own image.” The devil blows a raspberry, “phurp”. “Damn. Don’t you think that would come across as extreme ego pandering?”.

God looks a bit irritated by now, realizing that his masterpiece is not actually drawing a positive reaction “ You know what – the rest of creation can take a hike, ’cause I care a damn what they think. infact I’m calling him just that – “A damn”…. and you know what ….. (pause for effect) … I’m going to create another one just like this one just to keep him occupied”.

By now lucifer is very amused and the wine seems to be also kicking in nicely, he gets up, the serpent now curls up nicely around Lucy’s neck, flicks a forked tongue and knows there’s something important about to happen. Lucy walks up to Adam, looks him In the eye and goes “boo!!”. Adam jumps up in utter fear and darts out into the garden naked. God tries to control his laughter and admonishes the devil “Luci. Don’t scare the poor boy!”.

Lucifer waits a few moments, for effect and to make sure Adam has well and truly left and walks up to god, and whispers “ you know what? This bald guy is great, but I have a quick fix to keep this dumb chap occupied when the woman you’re planning, isn’t around…”. god dismisses him with a wave of the hand and goes- “don’t worry I’ve taken care of that your pervert? Anyways go ahead it’s Friday evening and I can do with some party talk.”

The devil scratches his bald head and smiles -“ you got to just put some thin grass like stuff on his head that would grow, blow in the wind, get easily disturbed, change colour and fall off. Believe me that’s enough to keep this nitwik occupied”. God shakes his head, slaps the devil on his back and goes “ like hair? finally, that’s sheer genius. Why didn’t I think of that myself. something I could definitely do”. He snaps his fingers and sure enough Adam who’s by now grinning at his own reflection in the stream that runs through the garden of eden, jumps up with joy on suddenly seeing hair pop up on his head and starts running his fingers through it.

God looks at lucifer, shakes his head, smiles and goes – “you little devil! See you tomorrow. Careful it’s getting dark outside….”

And THAT my friend is where it all started…

Fast forward 2000 years …

Growing up we all develop a love-hate relationship with our hair. I didn’t have such privileges though. i grew up with both parents from the forces and was also part of a cult-like religious group- without the pointy hats though. So while the 70s and 80s were marked by long hair and bell bottoms- for us 3 brothers we used to sport what is called a “summer cut”, so lets just agree that much of my relationship with my hair has been – hate.

For the uninitiated, a “summer cut” is essentially where a “barber” would mimic a farmer ploughing his field using a “machine”. Yes when we were growing up – everything was simple and we just called things as it is without fear of being called out as “inappropriate”.

We stayed in a middle class neighbourhood of town, and the “neighbourhood” essentially meant we had an oil shop (to buy kerosene) for cooking …. next was a “Nayyar baker”,… “barber shop”…… “paper shop”… “Brahmin hotel”…. “Potti Kadai….. “Bhai hotel” …. “watch shop”…. next Muslim doc…. then “next street” which essentially was that – the next street, where many of our friends and pandian, our PT master and Alwar our science master from School lives. It was a time before GPS, internet, handphone and 6 lane roads, and so our world essentially extended around a 10 kilometres radius. Go east to marina beach….. west to Nungambakkam …. north to mount road or parry’s corner at best and south to Mylapore ….. or adyar.

So then , sorry I digressed there, the barber used to do “house calls” when we were real small and then, when we could cross the road, we did the “walk of shame” to and back from the hair dresser like a “before”- “after” tictok video. The next week post the dreaded haircut was all about being teased in school, wearing a cap and generally having a good look in the mirror every morning hoping for some growth. We finally landed at church on Sunday morning and everyone gave me an appreciative nod and smile and I literally saw a white dove take off from the back of my head while a voice from heaven went “nitwik”.

Anyways my relationship with my hair has taken a lot of avatars since – “summer-cut” … “step-cut” … “just trimming” … “number 2 blade full-ah podu pah” … “long”, to where I’m now “headed” (sorry for the pun) – “bald!”

… and you’re afraid a virus named after a beer is going to take me down?

Hair stories

I’m all for encouraging small business owners and I believe anyone charging me more than 100 bucks for my hair-“style” is ripping me off. So I go to the local “barber”, so my son, Nischinth can spend 1000 bucks at Freaking “Toni & Guy”. 😦 I give only one instruction- “Number 2 podu Paa”…I mean the number on the electric trimmer. Not what you think. 🙂 . Check out the “Gellette” Foam and the “Jordan” Color-ah. The funny thing is I went in at 8:55.a.m and the guy tries out his electric trimmer on one “girdha” (sideburns) and then goes “Saar 9:00.a.m current cut-uh”. Hello? and then rushes through like an MTC bus on my head. Its a small hole-in the wall shop and I don;t need to walk to the sink (check it out behind the fan) ; if I ever get the courage to have a “shampoo wash”. Anyways the last time my wife Kavitha visited the Tirupathi temple in southern india, I accompanied here as usual ( I’ve been in a couple of times – but can’t manage the claustrophobic queues… ) and as usual I sauntered around the back lanes trying to pass time… had 2 cups of tea… walk,walk.. still an hour to go- so I enter where-else- a “barber shop”. “Number 2 podu pah”. still 45 minutes to go… “Oru Head massage”… still 15 minutes… “Oru facial podu paa”… I’m not kidding he started with a foundation of talcum powder ( pervert!) , then some white wax type of thing… then some pink lotion with golden sparkles. Gawd. Kavitha could’nt stop laughing when she came back and saw me all bleach-faced and sparkling. LOL! “GO. Encourage your local business owner.”

A walk through the Sistine chapel.

One of the most searched questions on quora and google is probably, “what is your purpose?”

However the answer is not a simple one and has 2 sides to it based on how you look at it.

On the one side we have to just look at the evil perpetuated by ordinary folks who are given to believe that they are fulfilling a faith-based, “god given purpose”, when they go to war in pointy white hats, blow up airplanes, bring down places of worship, and take another life brazenly on the streets.

There’s got to be something wrong here …. so let’s try and deconstruct this myth – firstly we need to understand that this universe doesn’t owe you anything, yes – like nothing… zilch…. and if you think you’re part of gods great messianic plan to save or change the world- it’s best you fold that thought thrice into a nice small compact pill sized ball, slather it with a generous dose of moisturizer and do the right thing. (Ouch!) The universe doesn’t need saving…. it never has… it never will. Long past humans annihilating themselves, the universe will survive, heal itself and prosper.

So what’s the deal here??

Side 1

You’ll agree that one of the greatest works of art ever was Michelangelo’s work at the Sistine chapel in the Vatican City. 5000 square feet of divine magic painted on the ceiling (yes!) Inspired by stories in the bible on the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, the great flood, etc, and taking over 4 years to complete. The Sistine chapel is not just about the ceiling though. The walls are in 3 levels and covered in artwork by some of the greatest renaissance painters and creative minds that ever walked this planet. As if this wasn’t enough, the pavement of the Chapel is a combination of marble and a colored stone that marks the processional way from the main door that the Pope follows on Palm Sunday.

Hold that thought.

I believe the problem in today’s world is that a large majority of the population are ego-centric, nincompoops, looking desperately for that elusive holy grail of purposes by figuratively walking in the dark through the Sistine chapel with a candle in hand and being exposed to temporary revelations, which they mistakenly label as “their calling”, illuminated by the small circles of light or a breaking rain cloud in the distance. The ego in us makes us stop mid- stride, ecstatic, feeling “enlightened” (sorry for the pun!), or confused and fearful all at once, or sometimes even propels us to dance in a mad, psychedelic stupor with flashes of light and long shadows giving us the illusion of dancing an immersive, cosmic dance with gods, angels, and demons around us.

The truth is – it’s not true!

Let their be light…

Its is only when we give context to this illusionary truth, when the first rays of the morning sun slowly shines through the stain glass windows and reveals the magnificence that we go speechless as our whole being absorbs the divinity of this sacred place …. and we step back in embarrassment at the realization that what we had all along considered our purpose has nothing to do with us at all.

What if the singular purpose of life is the realization that there isn’t one, and It’s only your ego that makes you believe that you deserve one.

Side 2.

Now there are others who don’t have such egoistic delusions of being part of “gods grand plan”, believing simply that we’re all just here on “day passes” to the Sistine chapel, and every visitor passing through the chapel has a personal experience based on his talents and mental makeup- if you are a religious person, the experience through the chapel inspires a fountain of reverence and you come out with a satisfaction or reaffirmation of faith… if you are an artist – your purpose is fulfilled through unfathomable inspiration …. if you are an architect- it’s a different outcome and if you just want to spend you day experiencing the quietness in meditation – well it’s all up to you.

And that’s probably what we could define as our “personal purpose” – an individual choice we make on what we want to accomplish on this day pass at life – for “Kobe” it was to become the best basketball player in history. For Martin Luther king or a Gandhi or even a hitler- they had a personal purpose that defined the impact they made to change the world.

For many of us though our best option to finding and fulfilling our purpose would be in striving to be the best we can, to use the special talents we have and excel in a field of our choice or better still find a problem or cause that’s worth fixing in this world and go about fixing it with all our body, mind and soul.

“Naxal” has left the building.

Life crosses our paths with a couple of “special” ones over a lifetime, for which we just need to look upward, smile, and say “Thank You!”- and my namesake and good friend Suresh who passed away 2 days back was definitely one of them.

He came into many of our lives out of nowhere- riding a bullet to college on Day 1 some 30 years ago. While we ordinary ones who accept our fate were being ragged by our seniors outside the college premises in full view of some amused passerby’s- suresh had other plans, and the seniors didn’t exactly know what to make of this “fresher”, who was sitting on a bullet with the engine on and negotiating a Plan B for the “ragging” session. His first job done, suresh only then parked his bike in the parking lot and walked in leaving many of the seniors fuming and going ballistic, but scratching their heads because they knew this guy was no ordinary “fresher”, and many of us freshers just going – “thalaivaa!”

Suresh came from one of the more interesting sides of town you don’t mess with and the next 2 years were just a sheer delight. He was the quiet, tough-guy type, with a heart of gold and got the moniker “Naxal” because of his fearlessness. He was not all brawn though- he won a gold medal for academics and went on to do law degrees in india and another one in international patents law from the university of buckingham in the UK and finally started a law practice in Singapore along with his wife, who is also a lawyer.

Naxal always had an answer for every problem and if he didn’t have one- which many a time was mine 🤨 … he would just smile, say “podlammah?” and pull out a bottle of “old monk”.

Suresh and I lived about 100 meters away from each other in Singapore for a few years and we shared more than a few “tiger” beers at “little india” from time to time. Family life turned suresh into a doting dad and husband- and I always smiled when I saw him walking his kid to the same neighbourhood primary school I used to walk my son nischinth to.

“Naxal” was as clean and as kind as they come. He didn’t harbour a bad thought or grudge and he went out his way everytime for his friends and sometimes strangers too. The last time I spoke to him was a couple of months ago, when some common friends who were having a meetup in singapore decided to randomly put me on video mode and said “ Illa machaan, we were talking about the old times and your name came up and we wanted to speak to you.”

As much as we are reeling in shock at the news of his death 2 days ago in chennai- suresh “left the building” like Elvis would have loved to, leaving us shaking our heads like the day he had entered our lives some 30 years ago. He flew in from singapore on a one way ticket to attend the wedding of his friends son, partied till late into the night and danced like only he would have – smooth, elegant and a joy to behold. I heard he danced till the early hours of the morning at a 7 star hotel In chennai, sat down to take a breather on a chair by the side of the dance floor, had a cardiac arrest and died a death we ordinary mortals can only can dream of.

Naxal I’m sure would not have just walked through those pearly gates of heaven on the merit of a life well lived- he would have rode in on a gleaming Bullet, after having a “talk” with St. Peter and agreeing to have the angels with little harps play an “illayaraja” tune.

Rest In Peace “machaan”!

How to Interview with “Mindfulness”

So this week some of the supervisors at work, went through a workshop on behavioural interviewing techniques, where a couple of us were requested to share a few learnings we’ve had over the years in interviewing candidates.

I thought I should probably try and put together what I tried to articulate during the session.

Humility is under-rated. New hiring managers and old ones too, sometimes get a “high” out of being in a position where you literally are able to change the direction of a Candidates career. Remember the saying, “with great power, comes great responsibility”? Well, I personally feel being conscious of your own interview experiences as a candidate as you started off your career is helpful to put your current role at hand in perspective. Being mindful that you’re treating your candidates with dignity and respect is always a good starting point. Small stuff like an apology if you’ve had a candidate waiting for a while is always in line. It’s sad that doctors and interviewers don’t feel the need to apologize when they’ve had people/ patients waiting for hours on end.

“Multi-tasking” is over-rated. Not sure if multi-tasking actually improves productivity – but I’m a “single- tasker” and when in an interview, a good practice to follow would be to give your undivided attention to your candidate- keep your phones on “silent mode” and preferably off. It may be just another interview for many of you as part of your role- but for a candidate, it’s a milestone, so, make sure your respect the time and effort he/ she has made to be at the interview by keeping distractions to a minimum- if you have a secretary, ask him/ her to not transfer calls and if you have a smart phone- do the smart thing and put it on voice mail / DND mode.

Interviewing with Mindfulness is all about getting yourself and your candidate into a mind-space of clarity and awareness.

Listen to understand- not to respond. It’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of an interviewers role is to listen. Ask the questions and listen. Try the 80/20 rule. You should be talking less than 20% of the time and listening the rest of the interview. Also practice “active listening”- don’t start framing your next question while the candidate is responding- maintain eye contact and listen to understand. Paraphrase to ensure your understanding of his/ her response is complete and true. I’ve seen a lot of interviewers sometimes use the interview to massage their own egos, and literally “high-5” themselves in their own minds with a smirk on their face, when they ask a good counter question that puts the candidate in an uneasy position. Grow up for gods sake.

Have a growth-mindset and be open to new possibilities. A candidate is like a stock, which a company invests in, if you have a candidate with great attitude and an appetite to learn- believe me, you have a winner, even if he/she probably does not have all of the requirements of the role. Hire for attitude- train for skill.

And finally…

Have conversations. Yes, put the candidate in a comfortable, non-threatening environment and chances are you will get a lot more insights into the person and make the right hiring decision.

Remember you are not taking a decision to get a robot to do the job, and a human comes with a lot of feelings, and emotional baggage which will have an influence on your team.

A resume lists “experiences”, so while it is important to verify that the information provided is right and a true representation of skill – your role as an interviewer is to also decode the person who is the product of all those experiences.

So there you have it, of all the strategies and tactics you may try and craft to drive “Candidate Experience” and “Quality of hire”, “Mindfulness” of all stakeholders in the hiring process is probably going to have the biggest influence in driving these metrics.

Happy Interviewing!

Life-hacks from a dog named max.

It’s been 3 years to the day since we lost Max, a special member of our family for 10 years. When the little guy first entered our lives as a gift for our son Nischinths 10th birthday, little did we know that he would transform our lives so much. While we taught him small things like sit, stay, fetch, etc…. he taught us virtues like patience, authenticity, contentment, enthusiasm, joyfullness, etc. MAX GAVE EVERYONE A CHANCE unlike many of us he didn’t differentiate between the milk man, maid or our friends circle. Everyone got his attention and was made to feel special. MAX GAVE EVERYTHING A TRY ONCE – If he liked it; yes he’d go with it, else he’ll just move on. MAX LIVED IN THE MOMENT – He enjoyed a ride in the autorickshaws. We mostly took him in one when we went for his checkups to the best vet I’ve know #theark. He knew there could be some stress at the end of the ride, which sometime ended with an injection or having a thermometer shoved up his ass- but that didn’t deter him from enjoying the ride to the vet. He was a guy who if you told him there was a pot if gold at the end of the rainbow, would have said “f#€# the pot of gold, I’m going to sit here and enjoy watching the rainbow.”. MAX MOVED ON HAPPILY from people who didn’t warm up to him. He gave people time, and space and had no hard feelings if they weren’t “dog people”. He also enthusiastically accepted people back when they felt comfortable and came back. Max may have left us, but we’re happy that he came into out lives and changed us forever. Travel well my friend. Travel far. RIP. … and Shine on you crazy diamond.

Dark. Matter.

Probably the best album from my favourite band- “Pink Floyd” is the one called (you guessed it right) – “The Dark side of the moon”. Hmmm, not just a catchy album name alluding to death, time, greed, and mental illness- maybe we all missed the point that was being made on “awareness of your personal now”.

Surprisingly everybody and their pet dog has a copy of “The power of positive thinking” by this guy called Norman Vincent Peale on their book shelf…. hmmm, I think the book is over-rated, irrelevant and probably the reason we have so many flaky, charlatans in society today.

I’ve infact seen a lot of fresh graduates at walk into day 0 at work, with a copy of the book and brandish it proudly on their desks through year 1. Guess what? Want to impress the boss? Bring a Pink Floyd album to work. I’m serious.

For too long we’ve been doling our advise like “stay positive”, “always look on the bright side of life” and other such corny stuff. But have you noticed that when you try and ignore something, you actually give it more control over you. Think about it. Try holding a tight fist for a while and not focus on the discomfort.

I think its almost impossible to focus on the white dot on the dark page, by not bringing into context the “blackness”- the negativity, if you will. True awareness of your personal “now” is impossible to attain by just going into a lotus position, holding a “Mona-Lisa, half-smile” while you close your eyes and not acknowledge the darkness within you- take my word- we all have it! Some like me – more than others. ☹️ I think we’ll all do well to go into an “inverted lotus position”, (don’t feel shy!) open the dark corners of our ….. closet, (…you pervert 🤷‍♂️) a bit everyday, and do some house keeping.

So there you have it – don’t hide your flaws, acknowledge your pain, embrace your dark side, wear it with pride like a tattoo, ‘cause it’s true- “Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind.”

Okay I got to go continue my search for that white dot within me that I (…. and many others I’m guessing too…) have been trying to find without success for many years now.🤨

What’s the “matter”? Do it!

Cats, “Karma” and sailboats

This week, I celebrated successfully spinning round the sun another time. Yes just sitting on a rock hurtling through space at 460 meters per second…. or roughly 1000 miles an hour for over 50 years now- enough time to unravel such stuff as Cat motivations and Karma.

Okay now that we’ve got that one out of the way, let’s look at debugging the purpose of life. Surprise! Surprise- life has as much meaning to it as a cat chasing after laser dots. We seem to catch it on some luck day- only to stare blankly at our palms, shake our heads and go – “nope, no meaning here!”

And so along with the realization that none of us are going to leave this rock alive, why get worked up, frustrated, depressed … at people … at the innumerable “what if’s” and “if only’s” from the past that cloud our thoughts in an endless loop.

Lets agree in the new decade that’s rolled in that “happiness” is just a consequence of accepting the choices we made and not feeling nostalgic for the life that never unfolded … and while we’re at it- let’s agree also that “karma” is just as real as a gentle wind that moves our sail boats. We could acknowledge it’s presence, but don’t need to accept the course of its machinations anymore- ‘Cause who goes on sail boats these days anyways? A word of caution though- karma will get you if you sit on your ass and don’t take ownership for your own destiny.

Mankind has proved time and again that we could, by the magic of our imagination and resourcefulness build ships that can drive our lives against these winds of karmas and help us gain full control of our own destiny …. and while we’re at it, may I suggest we stop mocking cats for their stubbornness!

“The Solomon Paradox”

My son just hauled a nice Taylor guitar 13k kilometres on a flight for me and I’ve made a vow to play everyday this year.

I’ve realized a simple hack to ensure you or your kids play more everyday, is to keep the instrument open in the living area of your homes, so you’re passing it a 100 times everyday and since it’s out of its case, tuned and easily accessible – you’ll instinctively pick it up and play a bit. I’ve also realized that if you have the instrument in a case under your bed – chances are you’ll not play it as often.

With the year still new and shining, I think it would be worthwhile to assess the toxic people and negative emotions we’ve allowed to slowly garner prime real estate in the space just around us – our “inner circle” as it were – Because the things we keep most accessible are the things that finally influences and defines who we truly become.

I’ve realized also that Facebook is a great tool to get social, but with artificial intelligence now inbuilt- it’s a “Trojan horse” that has the capability to creep into our little personal spaces and rearrange the furniture – bring into focus or take to the background ideas, thoughts, people and emotions seamlessly, which influences our emotions and values system dramatically. The trick to beat Facebook AI though is “karma”- yes, as we start posting positive stuff, Facebook machine learning gets tricked to sending us the good stuff …. and we continue to use whatsapp to wash the dirty linen. 👋😂

As for me I’m going to address the “Solomon paradox” within me- talk to myself in the third person and Try and use the advise I give others myself. 🤔🤨🙄

The “Koi” Pond of the mind.

I was spending some time this morning watching the Koi Pond at the home I’m staying in at Goa.

“Koi” – You see these beautiful ornamental fish often these days. Want to give your home a nice central focal point- think of having a Koi Pond. Very calming and you can spend hours on end admiring these colourful creature swim lazily through their ponds. Sometimes coming up to the surface and opening their large mouth in a perfect circle and taking in some air…. other times just following each other on endless loops in the water. Red. Silver. Black.

A little googling and I found out that these fish grow relative to the size of the water bodies (environment) they inhabit. Put them in a small tank and they grow to be 3-4 inches. However the same fish has the capacity to grow up to 3-4 feet long when in a lake.

Our minds are like a Koi Pond and our thoughts- like the “Koi”. Sometimes colourful, self-absorbing and growing relative to the attention you give them.

I’ve realized that spending sometime in meditation each morning to be aware of the thoughts running through our minds- never reacting, but letting them do their little circles in our mind for a while without trying to get interactive and poking our toes could be truly therapeutic and sets us up for a productive day.

Interestingly however I noticed however that there was a stork (or heron?) that seems to have also made the Koi Pond a point of interest- not necessarily out of a will to be a better bird, I’m sure. So while you’re controlling the size of the thoughts by awareness… you got to protect the good positive vibes from predators – negative people, social media, etc. that could destroy your peace of mind. There’s always a big white bird with long legs and a longer beak just blending in the environment – and misjudging its intentions could be fatal.

So then I now got to go stare at the pool. WHAT?

Butter Dosa

Road trips are only as good as the company you drag along and the food that’s dished out. Was driving with family between bangalore and Goa and wanted to try an offbeat eating place for breakfast and so I did what every self respecting guy would do- call a biker. In this case – Bipin Das. Long story short, we stopped at this nondescript “hole-In-the-wall” restaurant at the historical town of devanagiri in Karnataka. No menu card cause they only have one offering – “butter dosa”. It was VERY delicious though and probably very unhealthy too, as each dosa, came with a fortnights worth of calories in one sitting well worth a triple bypass. A pair of Soft, hot, buttery delights ( … not sure if that reads right…🤨) served with coconut chutney and what else? – More butter. Ditch that new years resolution to lose weight and make the trip. Once done – curl yourself up in the fetal position and make gurgling noises, until someone drags you by your feet and shouts- “it’s a boy”. #Triplebypass. #indtravel #foodie #travel

The forgotten art of having conversations.

It’s been painful watching the goings on in our country today. Strong opinions , stronger egos and an inflated sense of identity that’s threatening the very fabric of our society.

I think opinions are like wearing spectacles. You see the world through the lenses of your opinions, and like wearing glasses, you have to keep the lenses clean and evaluate their effectiveness periodically, not because they’re wrong- but because they become irrelevant as you transition through life and absorb new experiences and ideas.

I’ve seen my share of stubborn older people in our family circles, who’s ego gets in the way and they do not accept that their eyesight is probably failing them as they’re getting older. Blindly following traditions made centuries ago in a different context to me is a consequence of having an “inflated ego” and “false identity”.

The humility to listen to opinions different to ours, being open to new experiences and ideas that go contrary to our own and being open to recalibrate our own opinions (if required) in a rapidly changing society to me is a life skill worth developing and rewarding within organizations and the political arena.

Have a great weekend and have those conversations. I think we just need to have more bars and reduce taxes on liquor- which in my opinion is the elixir to relaxing the guard to our opinions and having great conversations. 🤦‍♂️

And finally, remember that the medal for humility is not meant to be worn.

Cheers!

Breaking Wind

So then, when you decide to do the 12 hour drive from Trivandrum on the west coast of India to chennai on the southern coast Like I did yesterday – the most common route is to drive further south around the western ghats, touch the coastal town of nagerkoil at the southern tip of india, take a sharp U turn and go up the southern coast of india.

It’s difficult not to get totally immersed in the beauty of this little patch, however this point is probably what some may call the right place for a dangerous “perfect storm” – seas on 3 sides and a mountain range (western ghats) cutting through. But then you pass the town of “Muppandal”, in Tamilnadu, which was till recently just another impoverished, but beautiful, little southern coastal town, and you pass giant wind turbines now and realize someone had a brilliant brainwave and flipped the context – These are the perfect conditions to harness the seasonal monsoon winds blowing from the Arabian Sea and gushing through the mountain passes, and set up what is today the second largest onshore wind farm In the world. This stroke of genius has brought in jobs and turned the fortunes of all the people in “muppandal”.

In life we sometimes find ourselves in a “Muppandal-like” situation- when

everything seems to be going down and the winds seem perennial, so

much so that some even call it “being cornered between the devil and the deep blue sea”. But we have an option- either accept our “fate”, wallow in self-pity and go down the path of personal ruin…. or with a little rejigging of the context of our situation, we can build ourselves a wind turbine and harness the innate advantages of the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in- that nervous energy, that freedom to take risks because you have nothing else to lose, that anger, that realization that theres nowhere else to go- but up, and turn your life around.

Remember what they taught you about the “eye of the storm”… well let me tell

you- they got it wrong – it’s the “i” in the storm. Infact most storms start with the “i”- Address the ego (I) that probably started it all in the first place, and is now also stopping you from turning your situation around and living a better life and get to work.

Your choice!

What is your “PQ”?

Okay, let me start with context setting – In life I’ve learned that the “positives” are mostly a by-product of managing the “negatives”.

We see the toned body- but never the hours slaving at the gym, the strict diet, the 5am runs. We see the corner office- but never the years of heartache managing the politics, the 12-15 hour workdays, the marriage that went down the drain, etc. We see the “Clapton-level”, guitar skills- but not the 10000 hours of practice behind it.

There’s some bad advise floating around though on achievement- “if you want it bad enough- you’ll have it” Nope. Just wanting something bad enough, never gets you anything – but a bad headache

So then, the 2nd all important question to ask yourself after the 1st one-“what is your purpose in life?” should be “what are you willing to suffer to achieve your purpose?”.

While your “intelligence quotient” (IQ) and your “emotional quotient” (EQ) are key indicators and should get you places- the key differentiator to attain your purpose would be what’s your “pain quotient” (PQ), because what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire, but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feeling.

So now that you’ve actually read through to the end of this post – its a good indicator that you probably have a high “Pain quotient” (PQ) to get to that corner office.

Wish you well!

Vegetable soup for the biker soul.

“So what’s your purpose?”

It was the end of a long offsite and the boss asked this of each of the leadership staff round the table a couple of months back.

Hmmm, It’s a tough one actually and most folk at the first instance mix up “passion” with “purpose”, however knowing the subtle difference between the two is key to making critical life and career decisions, and so I’ll try and deconstruct it here.

Let’s start with a confession- most of us parents at some point encouraged our kids to “follow your passion beta”, so they wouldn’t have to “work” a single day. Great advise right? Hmmm. Not actually…. Infact it’s probably a shitty career advise to give a pimply teenager- unless you’re setting your kids up for short- term happiness, and not for long-term success exactly.

Firstly, not everyone is an enlightened being who knows his/ her “true” passion- which unfortunately ebbs and flows for us mere mortals at different points in life, and so probably not a valid parameter to make a career decision on … also it doesn’t always guarantee a vocation or decent livelihood. I’ve seen a lot of brilliant musicians, artists who pursued a passion they loved doing and deeply enjoyed, only to end up leading a life of compromise, and heartache trying to make a decent living.

Okay let me explain with some biking analogies.

There are two key elements in creating energy in a bike or any motor vehicle for that matter – “ignition” and “combustion”. When the spark that ignites you comes from within you and motivates you to drop everything and pursue this dream selfishly- it’s “passion”. If however that spark comes from an external source, like a persona, or a life changing event, etc, it’s called “inspiration”

One thing we all can agree on- Life is dull without passions and it is an emotion that lights you up like a Christmas tree, gives you goosebumps, and makes you feel alive when you find it. It could be anything – music, sport, art, etc. Passion however is focussed inward on the individual, and like a spark – is temporary, directionless, selfish, full of emotion and if left unattended can actually be ‘effing dangerous.

If you are a biker – you’ll get the subtle difference – “Passion” is ignited at the spark plug, and “Purpose” happens at the carburetor.

Hold that thought for a moment …

So then, when your “little munchkin” says “I loooooove playing cricket” while stuffing his face with another slice of cheese pizza- it doesn’t actually qualify as “passion”.

Remember that the little spark that ignited at the spark plug on the engine side needs to be powerful enough to take that “leap of faith” across the firing ends and make contact with the air and fuel mixture, to really matter. If it doesn’t- it’s just “infatuation”., and the role of parents and teachers is to provide the kid enough space to explore his interests and gauge which one of those is powerful enough to do that “leap of faith”….

Don’t get me wrong- Passion is important and ignites big things in life…. but to make things happen continuously over a prolonged period, a “controlled combustion” is critical, and THATs where “Purpose” comes in.

(TA-DA) ….. The carburetor …The role of a carburetor on a vehicle is simple- control the air and the fuel mixture to ensure a “controlled combustion” and this is all done within the confines of what’s called a carburetor and in this context – Purpose.

When you ensure you have the right motivations, talent and skill and put in the effort required- with a little patience, the magic happens and the engine purrs to life.

Exactly how much fuel and air an engine needs varies from moment to moment, depending on how long it’s been running, how fast you’re going, and a variety of other factors.

So what is “Purpose” and how do we know what our purpose in life is?

A layman’s guide to understanding his/ her “purpose” in life is finding a convincing answer to the simple question – what would I rather be doing to change the world in a small way and bring meaning to my life, if I had no need to earn a living? Mere Mortals often chase after “passions”, super heroes however are motivated by a larger than life “purpose”.

So then, understanding the underlying “why” we want to do the things we want to do is probably a great starting point to analyze the inner motivations, unconscious needs and purpose we aim to fulfil in pursuit of happiness.

Sure your kid is passionate about cricket and wants to drop out of school (atta-boy) and join a cricket academy after watching the latest edition of the cricket league. However before you sell off your home and pull “beta” out of school, try asking the important questions. Does this cheetos-eating, coke-drinking, CSK- tee-shirt-wearing, chubby guy REALLY have the skills and staying power to compete at the highest level – Or are his motivations only driven by the desire to sport “bling” and be entertained by fan girls ? I’d suggest you seriously consider a plan B if you’re blinking at this point ….

… and finally, life is all about balance – and following your passion within the context of your purpose is probably the right direction to take to ensure fulfilment of your true potential, becoming a success in any career you choose to pursue and living a fulfilled life.

Now …. don’t quote me in on any of the above, Its not like I’ve attained nirvana- I’m just another traveller on the open road

Ride hard. Ride safe!