Life Personal Thoughts Viewpoint

8 Things 2013 Taught Me

By all means, 2013 was a roller-coaster of a year; so much to the extent that I’d like to borrow an oft-abused cliche to describe the year – ‘life changing’.

Yes, 2013 changed the course of my life.

And what a year it was! From exhilarating highs to excruciating lows, from dizzying successes to debilitating failures – my life kept zig-zagging through a trajectory of the most unpredictable occurrences. Today, as I look back at the year that has sped by, I realize that I have changed. I’m not sure whether it’s for the better or worse, but the life-lessons I’ve learned over this year have been amazing. Things suddenly make more sense than they used to, and I’m sure these vital life lessons would go a long way in helping me live my life in a better way. I’d like to share some of them with my dear readers. 🙂

Life – As you know it

Here’s a list of 8 things that 2013 taught me:

  1. Stay Detached – I know, detachment is easier said than done. But, trust me, staying detached will solve a lion’s share of your problems. And by detachment – I certainly do not endorse living life in your own little shell (we’re all social animals for God’s sake!) Complete detachment practically impossible too  for lesser mortals like us. That said, we can definitely curb our desires. Give that overpriced, fancy new phone you’ve always craved for a miss. You’ll slowly notice your life changing for the better. Speaking from experience.
  2. Find time to do what you love – Thanks to economic pressures, we all end up doing day jobs we hate. We don’t have other options, many among us need to code our way to glory to earn our daily bread! It’s necessary evil. Yet, we all get our share of spare time – which, sadly, we end up whiling away doing the most unproductive of tasks. I hope I don’t sound like a management guru when I say this – but, try finding time to do what you love. Even if it’s for thirty minutes a day. If you’re a bibliophile, grab that John Greene book, if you’re into arts and crafts, start making seasons-greetings cards for your loved ones, in your spare time. These little joys of life have helped me survive the most traumatic of experiences all through this year. I’m sure it’ll work out well for you too 🙂
  3.  BE Selfish! – Okay, I know some of you guys are gonna beat me up for saying this – but trust me, you HAVE to be selfish to survive in these cut-throat times! For a person who virtually ruined his life trying to do good for his loved ones, this nugget came as quite a revelation! No, I’m not asking you to step on others shoulders and put them down so that you could climb up. Just realize this fact – at the end of the day your life is YOURS ALONE  – so is your happiness and your problems. So the next time you make that sacrifice for that friend, just think twice: Is what you’re about to do worth it?
  4. NEVER Stay Idle – How often have you been in debilitating situations, all your life? Situations which pull you down to your worst… As they say, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade from it!”. Never ever let your depression leave you paranoid. The idle mind is, and will forever be the devil’s workshop! So whenever you’re down, or whenever you’re idle with nothing to do – find something to engage yourself. Preferably indulge in tasks that excite you. 🙂
  5. Never Take Anyone for Granted –  Oh, so you have that super-awesome buddy who has been with you through thick and thin. You consult him/her for your life decisions and you pretty much tell everyone that he/she will be with you till you dying day, right? Well, brace yourself – it’s easier said than done. This, my friend, is the age of unpredictability. People change, and before you know it, your ‘best friend’ will leave you for reasons that could be downright silly! Of course, all your love and care, all the sacrifices you’ve done for them will vaporize instantly. Be prepared for that loss – it might come any day. Practicing detachment will help ease your pain too.
  6. Brace yourself… The Sky is about to fall! – Yes, you read it right, my friend. With the randomness of life destroying all existing rules of probability, you’ll have no idea what’s about to happen to you in the days to come. Life has a habit of surprising you ever day. The surprise may be for good or bad – if it’s good, you rejoice. But what if it is bad? What if it destroys your life, as you know it? Always be prepared for the worse – you never know when your world comes crashing down. Quoting my dad: “Expect the best and prepare for the worst.” 🙂
  7. “Love your job… But NEVER fall in love with your company!”  Thus spake one of the front runners of the Indian IT Revolution.  Even whenone of the most-renowned CEO’s vouched for this axiom – I always rebutted this… only until I realized the bitter truth. If you’re employed, you are just a RESOURCE for your company. (In fact 99% of the IT companies publicly refer to their employees as resources). And like all resources, once you’re depleted, you must be set aside (read: kicked out!). Just make sure you do your job without fail and also ensure that you actually have a life outside work. And there’s absolutely no harm in changing jobs for a better package. When you’re nothing but a ‘resource’ for you company, what’s the point in being loyal to it?
  8. There is a better life outside the social network – This was one of my biggest lessons from 2013. Those of you who know me personally know how addicted I was to the whole concept of social networking. True, it did add a lot of brownie points to my resume – from introducing me to the career of freelance journalism to making me a professional social media manager. But at the end of the day, my life began and ended in the internet. I did learn the hard way about the dark side of social networks. That said I haven’t abandoned them; that would be sheer escapism – but I decided to ‘disconnect to connect’. And I must admit – I am happy. 🙂

The Last Ink Drop:

Just a disclaimer for some of my ‘intellectual’ readers – these realizations that I’ve had, these ideas… they’ve been around for a while now. They are not strictly speaking, ‘original’. But they have been discoveries for me personally. I can’t speak for you, but they have changed my life for the better. 🙂 If you feel like implementing any of them in your own life, be my guest. 🙂 I’ll only be too happy that I brought a smile to your life – if it makes you feel better.

And, I know an update here was long due. My apologies to those who still come back here searching for new posts and were left disappointed.  I’m going to be regular from now on. 🙂 Have a few surprises ahead for you guys too. Do keep checking back.

Season’s greetings, folks! Here’s wishing you a great year ahead! 🙂

General Life

Silence is Golden!

Silence – It’s one of the world’s best virtues.

Being silent is an art in itself, and I happen to be a master of that art. 🙂 I’m basically a silent person. I’ve never mastered the art of being loquacious.  I just can’t go on to talk for hours on end. Whenever I talk, I convey my points as briefly as possible and end with a majestic full-stop. That doesn’t mean that I’m proud of being silent. I would ideally love to talk for hours on end. In fact, there was a point in  time, when I used to talk more than what I do now. But then, something happened… something snapped within me, and I lost the ability to talk.

It happened one fine morning. One day, I wake up and I realize that I’ve lost the ability to talk! It’s not like, I went mute or anything. I could technically talk. Voice would come out of my mouth, I could utter syllables, alright. But my communication was just essential. I suddenly became brief in my conversations. My conversations were short (and not necessarily sweet).  That was when I noticed that silence was a part and parcel of me. I’m inherently a listener. NOT a talker. I could listen to people talk for hours on end, but if you ask me to talk for a couple of hours, I’d go mute. I just can’t do it!

I’m not exactly proud of being silent. In fact, I detest it. I envy everyone who talks a lot. Which means, I envy most girls. 🙂 They just manage to dig out topics out of the blue and go on to talk, talk and talk. Whew. I would LOVE to do the same. Sigh!

Next comes the issue of what to talk. That’s where I’m stumped again. I’m not exactly full-of-beans. If you thought I was a walking-talking Encyclopedia Britannica, you couldn’t be more wrong! 😐 They say, “Known’s a drop. Unknown’s an ocean”. For me, ‘unknown’ makes up Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean combined. 😐 I often feel a bit deprived because of my lack of knowledge. Can’t say that I’m not doing anything about it. I’m reading my way to glory. 🙂 Hoping that content will solve my quagmire of not being able to speak up when I want to.

Despite not being able to talk volumes about what I like, a part of me loves being silent. 🙂 I prefer listening to people talk, rather than the act of talking. Listening is good. Everyone talks, few listen. I’m quite a good listener; I listen to friends’ problems for a living. 😉 When you listen to people, it makes them feel happy. They feel important, because there’s someone to listen to what they  have to say. In fact, there’s a friend of mine who’s exactly the same.

I guess I’ll find it a tad too hard to break my mould of being silent. But in a way, it’s made me a good listener.

Let’s see where silent listening takes me to… 🙂

Life Narration

Good Samaritan

They say good samaritans are a dying breed. At least, you don’t see them on the road every other day. Maybe, it’s a necessary-evil, courtesy: Kalyug. Or, the society has become so selfish that we don’t really give a damn about the world around us. Even as millions die of hunger, we live luxurious lives, unmindful of the harsh realities around us.

We are all hypocrites. Even good comes with a shade of grey. ‘Purity’ is euphemism. Or rather, thus spake pessimists.

I beg to differ.

Dude, Good Samaritans are alive. And kicking.

Be a good samaritan

Now, if you’ll allow me to elaborate…

About twenty hours ago, we were driving through the State Highway one, after one of our periodic native place trips. I was behind the wheel. Since dad was on a nap (read: no more backseat driving!) I let the speedometer hover around the 100’s. On a smooth road, high speed driving is bliss.

Until a nasty pothole wakes you up from the reverie.

Dad woke up too.

A shower of unparliamentary words followed. I promptly remembered to filter my ‘infant ears’ from all the verbal filth that was hurled at me. In the process, I missed out on the ‘advice’ he offered. But what the hell, I never pay heed to advice either. Rules are meant to be broken and advice has a permanent seat in my mind’s trashcan.

Anyway, the backseat driving resumed and I drove on, grumbling.

Fifteen minutes later, I felt something amiss. A knocking sound emanated from the rear of our Indigo. There was a periodic jolt too. Even my mom, who was sleeping to ward herself off all the abuse, woke up with a start.

Something was wrong with our car.

I didn’t need dad’s (unparliamentary) instructions to pull over. I alighted and checked the rear. The right-rear tire of our car lay deflated, like a wilted flower – or a shot-down balloon.

Dad glowered at me. It was the pothole, which was a bit too steep with sharp edges. It did hurt that I was driving at an average speed of 100 kmph, while the mishap occurred. Apparently, the sharp edges of the pothole wedged into tire, causing a deep gash.

Despite being an atheist, my dad believes in karma. “What you reap, is what you sow,” he said. And that was a hat-tip in management lingo. I had to undo the damage I did.

I had to replace the flat tire myself.

Now, I have a serious problem. Whenever someone mentions a task to be handled, I volunteer with gusto, without realizing what it takes to get the job done. I realize my folly only half-way through the task. By then, the damage would’ve been done. Precisely what happened in this case.

I’ve seen enough flat tires and I’ve even helped one of my uncles out to repair a flat.

I took the job with open arms.

I opened the rear-boot to fish out the ‘stepney’ (oh btw, this word is an Indian English gem – don’t use it outta the country, mind you). To my chagrin, the rear boot was stuffed with an array of bananas and other agricultural produce. (Now you know why make frequent trips to our native) I shot a pleading glance at dad who was calmly puffing away his second cigarette, and talking on the phone. Mom stood a neat distance away, glancing through the ‘vanitha’.

Cursing my luck, I started off, lifting bananas bunch-by-bunch.

“Enthengilum sahaayam veno?” (Do you want any help)

I was taken aback by the sudden query in a voice unfamiliar. I made an about-turn to see a dark old man, clad in a white shirt and dhothi glancing partly at me and partly at the flat tire. I was reminded of an old poem – ‘Two tramps in mud time‘. This guy reminded me of the tramp. Trying to act like the narrator of the poem, I politely nodded,

“Kuzhappamilla. Njaan cheytholaam.” (Na, it’s okay. Thank you.)

“Nannaayittu keeriyittundallo.” (It looks like a bad one)

Is he deaf? I thought I made myself clear – I didn’t need help. Ego took the better of me.

“Athe. Chettan mechanic aano?” (Yes. Are you a mechanic?)

“Alla. Aa stepney edukkumbo sookshichu edukkane…” (Nope, but do handle the stepney carefully)

Before I knew it, he volunteered himself, lifting bananas from the boot and placing them towards the side, so as to get the stepney. My ego died, and I was certainly not complaining. 🙂

Dad noticed the guy, and came over to see what’s happenning.

Meanwhile, both of us lifted the stepney tire and placed it sideways. Dad fished the ‘jacky’ and screwdriver from a recess hidden in the boot. I removed my watch, un-tucked my shirt and switched myself to ‘Mechanic mode’ (with due apologies to ‘Enthiran‘).

Our visiting ‘mechanic’ knew his ‘mechanics’. He helped me place the ‘jacky’ underneath the car,

“Jacky alpam side ilottu matti vaykku – illengil silencer il mutti balance thetti veezhum.” (Place the jacky carefully lest it slip and hit the silencer. The car may fall down, losing balance.)

With his instructions, I lifted the jacky. Meanwhile, our man fetched a piece of rope from somewhere and removed the wheelcap of the flat tire. The tire screws were super-tight. With some effort from our part, the screws came off and we gingerly removed the tire. The gash was deep. Dad glowered at me again.

“Ithu nannaakkaan ichiri paadu pedum.” (Repairing this is gonna cost me a lot)

Ignoring dad’s dig, I continued work, fixing the stepney in place. The visitor was prompt in helping me out:

“Athra cash onnum aavilla saare… Koodi poyaal oru noottambathu roopa.” (It won’t cost a lot, sir. 150 rupees, max).

Finally, after 20 minutes of arduous labor, the tire was back in place. I unscrewed the jacky and placed the flat tire onto the rear-boot. We reloaded the luggage later on. Noticing that my hands were all dirty, the man took me to a nearby construction site where we found some water and washed our hands.

We returned to the car. I couldn’t help but smile – I would have had a tough time, had it not been for this man. He was just a passer-by and had no obligation to help us out. Heck, he didn’t even know who we were – we were strangers to him! Yet, he found time for us, and did his best to help us out – and he did a good job too! Especially with a novice like me ‘at the helm’. I turned around, to thank the man with all my heart.

He was not there.

We looked all around, but he went missing. It was as if he had vanished into thin air – he left without a good bye.

The three of us were let-down.

“Sho. Ayalkku enthengilum kodukkanamaayirunnu,” (We should have given him something) said Dad.

“Ayaalude peru polum chodichilla. Enthu nalla manushyana,” (We didn’t even ask his name. What a nice person), Mom too was disappointed.

Overcome with gratitude and disappointment, I just could not speak.

The nameless man did a thankless job. He got nothing – he did not ask for it. He soiled his squeaky-white shirt and dhothi for three random strangers who were stranded by a flat tire. He was certainly not the healthiest of men; yet he strained himself to help us out.

Would you do the same, if you were in the old man’s shoes (He was barefoot, btw)?

We all live in our little cocoons, enjoying the little pleasures of life. Maybe we should learn something from the nameless man – a true-blue ‘Good Samaritan’. Reaching out to someone in need could be a thankless job. God almighty might not bless you with the luxuries of life, by doing so. Sometimes, you might not even get a ‘thank you’ in return. But a small step goes a long way.

And the satisfaction it brings in, quoting the MasterCard ad, “is priceless.”

Photo Credits:  Fr. Stephen MSC


Power up!

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

–      Uncle Ben, Spiderman

27th July, 2007 was an idle Saturday – just another random weekend. That night, I was peacefully having dinner, watching T.V. The two ‘events’ are quite synonymous in my lingo. That is, if I’m having food, I’d also be watching TV; a routine that has never wavered. An action movie was being aired on Star Movies. Being a hardcore action-movie addict, I staged a mini-revolt to gain control over the remote control, and firmly established my supremacy by switching channels. The movie was about a commando operation. Eyes transfixed on the television, I finished my rice, and had proceeded into the final (but most-preferred) item, the FISH – incidentally my favourite dish. Like any artful epicure, I salvage the best for the last, and I was waiting expectantly for this last bit. Exactly when I was done munching the last piece of ‘choora’, it happened.

The world around me blacked out.

It was instantaneous and spry. One moment, the room was well-lit, the very next microsecond, darkness prevailed. Well, I was the least shocked at first; I leaned back on my chair unperturbed. The delicacy of the choora still lingered in my taste buds; the laws of optics take some time to sink in…. My taste buds relished the taste of the choora I licked the last pieces from the plate. Power cuts are quite frequent in any part of Kerala. Even with the government canceling ‘load shedding’ as a part of its populist measures (forcing the State Electricity board to the brink of bankruptcy by ‘buying’ electricity at exorbitant rates!), such occasional power failures are common. They could be as short as a couple of seconds.

I wasn’t aware of the term ‘worst case scenario’, was I?

One second, two seconds, ten seconds… One minute… Ten minutes… the blanket of darkness reminded me of the deep dark black holes in outer space. Silently remembering that verse in Malayalam about the virtues of darkness: “Velicham dukhamaanunni… Tamassallo sukhapradam!”(Light symbolizes sorrow, darkness is bliss!), I walked to the sink and reluctantly washed my plate. I’d missed a crucial part of the movie, and I had to see it once more. In torrent we trust!

The power seemed to have no intention of coming back even after an hour. I decided to call a spade a spade and started another exciting (duh!) game of ‘Nature Park’ in my Nokia. ‘Nature-Park’ing was getting on my nerves when a lovable friend of mine seemingly guessed my situation and called me. After some 15 minutes my Nokia threatened to switch itself off, relentlessly showing a ‘Low Battery’ sign in 4096 jarring colours. Harried, I explained my situation. Bidding a quick good-bye to my friend, I gave the Nokia its peace, switching it off.

Another half-hour found me ‘plugged on’ to my new ‘UNIS’ mp3 player (Gifted by a globe-trotter cousin who’d bargained it for a measly $20 from a vendor at Changi Airport, Singapore). But even my music-addicted self was chivvied hearing ‘Californication – Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ for the hundredth time. Psychic spies from China did try to steal my mind’s elation. My heavy eyes drooped down and I couldn’t stand the call of slumber any longer.

The sun-rays seeping in through the open window curtains stung my eyes as I opened them to greet the Sunday. My Rivoli watch mutely announced that the time was 7.20 AM, too early, by my standards. Sleepily I woke up, expectantly looking up at the fan, which contrary to my expectations, stood motionless. I toggled the bed-switch for good measure, but the fan was idle as ever. Enraged, I trudged to the toilet and brushed my teeth. The power should be back any moment, or it would have returned at night, and they’d have switched it off momentarily for maintenance.

When your dad’s a top honcho in the state electricity board, power cuts should not commonplace, ideally. Now, ‘ideal’, like the Carnot’s engine, is a paradox of unthinkable proportions. Dad couldn’t care less. My query met with rude-rebuttal – wasn’t I aware of the hundreds of employees who burned the midnight oil just to ensure that I got my weekly dose of ‘FRIENDS’ without fail? Dad’s rhetoric questions stump me without fail. Reasons behind the sudden blackout were still in the dark, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Dad’s reluctance to inform the local authorities (“they already know and they’re working on it!”), forced me to fish up the number from the directory and call the electricity office. That occupied me for an hour. The

‘Engaged’ tone was music to the ears. After a while I even assumed that the announcer female’s voice was sexy. (I wasn’t aware of speech processing algorithms back then, but some treble in the crackly voice did reveal ‘feminine tenderness’).

‘They’ must’ve come up with the “perseverance pays” proverb in the late eighteenth century (I couldn’t google, to confirm). But Edward A. Murphy prevailed over the over ‘them’ with his eponymous law. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, that day. Needless to say, I couldn’t connect to the electricity office and I’d finally realized that the announcer was actually a male on ‘voice-drag’. My mobile phone died of low battery. I didn’t have any books to read, the one’s I’d borrowed from the library were returned only the day before. Dad’s laptop had run out of charge too. My camera didn’t entirely disappoint, but the low battery sign flashed on the LCD after a couple of macro shots with flash. It didn’t help that my room’s design-defect exacerbated the temperatures; I was melting from head to toe! Rivulets of sweat oozed steadily through every inch of my skin, and my temper was about to flare!

Worst day ever?

Looking back, the 28th of July, 2007 was a day I’d never forget in my entire life. Not because of the lack of power and the numerous inconveniences it hence effected; it was one of the best days of my life. : )

Well, at least, not until that very moment – when things were utterly wrong. It was noon and the temperatures soared. I couldn’t bear it any longer and I scampered to the terrace. I had to get some fresh air. I rested myself on the parapet, under the shade of a coconut tree which loomed large above. A gentle breeze soothed my scorched body.  I closed my eyes.

As I made myself comfortable atop the parapet, I didn’t bat an eyelid. For the occasional onlooker, I was either a lunatic sleeping atop a dangerously-risky parapet-wall (one minor turn, and collapse – sudden death) or an actual corpse. Neither was I asleep, I couldn’t be more agile and active! Despite the apparent inactivity of my body, I was in deep thought. It was a while since I took some time off for myself, and those moments with myself was much-procrastinated bliss. I let my train of thought derail and my mind wander. It was such a wonderful experience, letting go of strings of inhibition, observing kites of thoughts fly high in the cloudy vast expanse of my mind. The kites magically dispersed the clouds away. As I woke up, an intellect of the sun shone high and bright in the clear blue sky of my mind.

It was 5:00 PM. Four hours had passed since I climbed onto the terrace. I observed an enriching sense of calmness within myself, as I walked down with a wide grin on my face. I sensed joy, exhilaration and peace.

More importantly, that was the day I realized my true calling lay – in literature.

I marched down the terrace, back to the living room – my tummy rumbled after all the contemplation. I hadn’t had a morsel since breakfast. Dad and mom were watching TV.

The power had returned.  🙂