Life Ordinary

Acts on Purpose

A day last week began very badly. My cab driver, despite instructions to stick to his own half of the road, didn’t do so, and bumped into a two wheeler. To be precise, our car hit the ankle of the lady who was riding pillion. It obviously hurt her, she was sobbing. The driver was absolutely unapologetic and when I got down to check on her and apologise, he asked me to get back in! The traffic was piling up and the clock was ticking for a meeting I had at 11. I got in, and have felt miserable since then.

It also has to do with the fact that a decade back, we (or D, rather) were at the receiving end of exactly this. That night, it was the kindness of a family in Koramangala that helped us get some semblance of control over the situation. Their connection with the event was just that it happened in front of their house. The driver of the car which hit us (his family was with him) gave us the slip on the way to the hospital. Meanwhile, with D’s leg in a cast, it was a harrowing month for both of us. All of this was playing in my head, and I felt feel very guilty for not cancelling the ride and doing what I could to help. More

Give & Take

Amitav Ghosh is a favourite author, and I find it difficult to answer in my own head which of his works is my favourite. I hadn’t expected The Glass Palace to be equalled, but The Shadow Lines, which I read recently, is quite the competition.

One of the characters in the book is the narrator’s grandmother, a strong-willed person with her own sets of ideals and ideas. A description of hers that has stuck with me long after the book had been finished is “her fear of accepting anything from anyone that she could not return in exact measure.” I can completely relate to that! Sadly so, I’d add. The corollary to that is expectations from others when one is the giver.  It wouldn’t be right to label it as a transactional approach, because the expectation is not in terms of quantity, but more in terms of thought, consideration, acknowledgement and so on. Yet, the expectation exists. And thus a vicious cycle is born. In many ways, it is a subset of the ‘judgment’ themeMore

The case against cosmic justice

Evolution, as I have already stated sometime back on this blog, is a fascination these days. Fundamentally, I see it as a gigantic A/B testing mechanism operating over large swathes of time, with only one seeming agenda – moving on. A lot of things make immense sense when I accept that as the only framework. Including the idea of God, which has several key roles. e.g. to provide the impetus to move on even when things are not going well (faith), explain the things that science cannot (yet) and so on. If it helps someone, it is a great idea, though as a species we have been consistently been stupid enough to let the practitioners of organised faith take advantage of us for their own needs.


But that’s not what this post is about. One of the offshoots of faith (God/Cosmos/insert whatever works for you) is the related idea of cosmic/divine justice. I used to believe in that until very recently, and it was one of the attributes of being what I called myself – a spiritual person. But at this point, I don’t think it exists. There are at least two perspectives that brought me to it. More

Adaptability & Actualisation

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change“, Darwin had said, in a more long-winded form. I have been in awe of evolution as a concept for a while now, and have rather prided myself on being adaptive, specially in my work context. In terms of hard skills, I still believe that’s the way to go. However, when dealing with people, both in personal and professional settings, I have realised that it is possible to go overboard on being adaptive.

A meta prequel before I get to that. On hindsight, I am seeing an evolution in my thinking on this subject. Back in April of last year, I figured out that I am happier when I don’t judge myself.  Later, in October, I realised that there is a correlation, and probably even a causation, between my happiness and the way I treat others. I decided to fix my happiness as my compass. But when I read this post from a couple of months ago, it seems as though I had wandered off the track I had decided on.  More

Wills and ways

It seems I never tire of writing about choices! Mad Men, and its reviews, is the reason for the latest bout of thinking on the subject. Very specifically, S7E6 and the review at AV Club. As the show nears its end, it is easy to see how each character’s choices have led them to a particular point. Much like our own lives. This, from the review, pretty much sums it up

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Dignity Gritty

Amongst stories of soaring e-commerce valuations, this Mint story on Indiaplaza, and how it ran out of cash, was quite a sobering read. But it wasn’t the business angle that stuck with me long after I finished reading it. I somehow felt that all Mr.Vaitheeswaran was seeking, was a little dignity. I have no idea of what really happened, so I cannot comment on whether that is deserved or not.

A few weekends ago, we were visited by someone who is a consultant for some work we needed done at home. She charged us Rs.2000 for a couple of hours, and after business was concluded, she spoke about how, a few years ago,  she had been a VP at a well known consultancy firm. Her current business, born out of her passion, was not doing well. She wanted to get back to work but was finding it extremely difficult to land a job. After she left, I wondered aloud to D, how she must feel, having to go to strangers’ houses on Sundays, and working for a compensation far below what she might have been earning. What would this experience be doing to her sense of dignity? More

An age when age doesn’t matter

While discussing a ’40 under 40′ list, I joked the other day to a colleague that my only chance of getting into one now was to reduce my weight by about 15 kg in a few years! It made me think of a strange yardstick I have employed in valuing others’ achievements – their age. To elaborate, if I came across a person who had attained a measure of success, I would be mollified if I figured that the person was at least as old as I was. If they were younger, mollified would be replaced by mortified. How dare they achieve something earlier in life?! Very strange, I know. I have quite a few theories on it – upbringing, a ‘paying your dues’ perspective, the way I have progressed in my career and what I’ve had to do, or perhaps just the result of being brought up in an age when folks worked hard all their life to attain things that we might consider a basic need now.

I gained freedom from it (or so I think) quite recently. The irony was that this realisation dawned  just after a meeting with someone whom I would say has been quite successful in his profession. As I made my way back home in a cab, I passed quite a few bus stops. It was late evening, and people were waiting for a bus to take them home.  Young people, middle aged people, and even a few old people, their faces echoing their toils. Perhaps they had a long bus ride ahead of them, perhaps they would have to stand all the way, perhaps they would have to get down midway and catch another bus. This was their life everyday, the cards they were dealt. Some might be unhappy, some would have made their peace, and some might even be happy. Their lot in life, or a bus they missed at some point in their life. Even as I had many, many things to be thankful for. So, what business did I have grudging someone because they worked hard and/or were lucky enough to make a mark early in life? More

Happy Tradeoffs

It’s in the nature of thought that it never ceases to exist. In Happiness: The End, it would seem as though I’d found the track I wanted to follow. But it isn’t ever so simple, is it? The books I read somehow seem to have words that phrase my thoughts just right


The first roadblock I have found in the ‘happiness plan’ is sensitivity. It works in at least a couple of ways. On one hand, when I act with my own happiness as the key filter, I find it difficult to ignore the effect it has on other people. Do my actions make them unhappy? On the other hand, I am also in situations when others’ behaviour makes me unhappy but one or more constraints prevent me from doing anything about it. In both cases, I have to compromise.


Memories & Consciousness

I was looking at the bookshelf a few days ago, and realised that though their relative position indicates they are among my favourites, I couldn’t recall some specific plot points and in some cases, even the ending, of some of the books! I was more than a little dismayed, but thankfully, found some solace in this post “How You Know“, specifically “Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists.” It immediately set me thinking on the idea of consciousness and what technology can do to it, and it was a wonderful coincidence that the author too touched upon it towards the end of that post. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Two nieces have ‘happened’ to me in the recent past, :) and I have clocked a few hours with them. The older one is just over a year old and is in general, a happy child. In my erm, ‘conversations’ with her during her stay with us, I have wondered what she perceives of the world around her. This was probably influenced by the fact that I had just finished reading Michio Kaku’s “The Future of the Mind” (must read!) and the four levels (starts at zero – plants) of consciousness. The final level, where humans are, are distinguished because of self awareness, and our understanding of time – specifically the enormous amount of feedback loops. This allows us to simulate, in our mind, possible future situations, and go beyond instinct and even emotions.


Happiness: The End

A while ago, in Happiness and Compassion, I had written about what Fahadh Fasil described as the biggest lesson he learnt from failure – he said it made him decide that he would only do things that made him happy. The more I read, the more I think, and the more I live, the more I start relating to what Fahadh is doing, and what Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Everything else – fame, power, money, compassion, detachment etc – is probably just the means we create.

The thing though is, even if happiness were indeed the purpose, I can see at least a couple of challenges. In this excellent read “10 truths you will learn before you find happiness“, the first point is “It is impossible for anyone else to define YOU”. This echoed my first challenge – a difficulty in defining what happiness is to me. At the next level, I felt that the paths to happiness are confusing and have many things going against them. For instance, fame – “..other people’s heads are a wretched place to be the home of a man’s true happiness.” (Schopenhauer) Or compassion/pity (not kindness, which I regard as a more active expression, though the following might apply to it as well) – “There is a certain indelicacy and intrusiveness in pity; ‘visiting the sick’ is an orgasm of superiority in the contemplation of our neighbour’s helplessness” (Nietzsche) As you can see, it isn’t difficult to bring each down.


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