The race called LIFE

He stood by the window, with the hot cup of water in his hand, occupied by his thoughts. His eyes were looking at a distance, where a green hill kept the blue of sky at bay. As his eyes moved down, he could see the apartment opposite to his, with a swimming pool, running the length of the apartment, the blue color of its water giving it a calm and serene feel but for the ripples caused by its one inhabitant. The man had a unique way of swimming the freestyle, both mesmerizing and amusing at the same time, as every occasion that he moved his arms for a stroke, his legs stopped beating.

“Why would anyone want to swim midday in such hot conditions?” He questioned, taking a sip of the hot water and feeling the heat down his throat. “See, that is the problem. Who gave you the freedom to judge another person so easily? So what if he takes a dip in the middle of the day? It is his choice!”. That was his inner voice.

He took another sip and his eyes moved further down to the ground outside. It was almost a square, running about a hundred meters each side. The middle of the ground had a pathway that connected the roads on either side of the park. Though the pathway was wide enough for 5 people to walk next to each other, the overhead cover was built in a corner and could only accommodate 2 at a time. There was one man walking underneath, grateful for the shade that the cover provided.

He was deep in thoughts as a result of the movie he had just watched. There was some truth in what was told. The movie had ended with a story of a robot, that did not know what its purpose was, except to run. Though the robot ran, he had no clue what his race was for. He also did not aspire to be first, or anywhere near the top. All the robot wanted to do was keep running the race and be somewhere in the middle. To be socially accepted as normal. A few years later, the robot broke down and died.

The analogy was so similar to a story he had written about eight years back. It spoke about the futility of this generation and of life itself. A man was dropped from space, in the middle of nowhere and the only command in his head was to race. Where or why, he wasn’t supposed to ask or know. On the way he meets fellow runners, some of who are in sync with him for a while, becoming his friends whereas others running slower or faster were either looked down upon or looked up to. As time flew, he realized he could not run as fast as he before and instead of slowing down, he tries harder to impress, eventually losing his life!

Maybe his life at present wasn’t so far from his story. He was here, while his heart yearned to be with his wife and child, a thousand miles away.

He got distracted by the push message he received on his mobile. It was from Urban Ladder. He had installed the app this morning, getting tempted to look at bunk beds for kids and parents to be in the same room, a fantasy that he wanted to make real in a few years. “Who gave Urban Ladder the permission to send him the marketing message just few hours since installation? What kind of maniac marketing has the world moved on to, where one is forced, tempted and sometimes bullied to buy more?” He uninstalled the app, though he liked the beds. Let some crazy analyst figure map out this user’s intent!

Looking at the man that took a swim and the other that was walking alone in the park, he was tempted to venture out. But where? There was no one in the country that he wanted to meet. It was hot outside and he already had a sour throat which he did not want to mess with further by taking a swim. With these excuses in mind, he decided to take a shower instead.

“Here’s how things panned out. About two generations back, my grandfather decided to shift bases from his village to a city. Responsible man that he is, he started his company to make sure that he was providing for his family. Since he did not have one, his life’s purpose was to build a house so his kids did not have to undergo the fear of uncertainties that he had to endure during his life. He succeeded.

However, during the next generation, society moved on and the city grew bigger. Independent houses were rare to find and in their place, multitudes of apartments sprung up. Joint families were no longer the norm and my grandfather’s house had to be split among his many sons. So my father now could not have a whole house but a part of it. And hence earning to secure a house made sense for him. What made further sense was to earn a lot more to ensure that the future generations do not have to find life as difficult as it was for him or his father.

So my father did not just stop at buying one house. He went on to make further investments. He bought a lot of jewelry and stacked up a lot of money. He ran the race and accumulated a lot of wealth. Now, when he is at the end of his working career, he would like to pass on the wisdom to me. The wisdom of doing a job that pays well, to build more houses, buy more jewels, finances and insurances to secure the future.

The infatuation with owning your own house has now sent real estate prices so high that one needs to work 20 years to own his house. But by 10 years, the house is old and so one has to buy a newer and in most cases, bigger house.

The trouble with our mentality is that we all love to add wealth. More houses, more money, more things. But we never take a step back to say enough. We also never look to reduce. Even when we were kids, we were taught addition before subtraction. We struggled with the concept of subtraction so much that we would reverse engineer the question to be an addition problem – if I had 100 rupees and someone charged me 28 rupees for a tennis ball and gave me 62 rupees, did I get the right change? Eight out of ten of us would add 28 and 62 rather than subtract 28 from 100.

But does it not make sense to just rent a place rather than tie yourself in a long term loan? Am I better off trying to do the job that I love rather than the one that pays? What if owning the house does not seem like a worthy enough goal for me? What if the goals that were right for my father and grandfather did not make sense for me? Maybe Buddha would understand me, he had a lot which he ultimately gave up. My ten minutes of shower time is over. I need to go out”

My inner voice countered. “Why should I go out? The shower is stimulating my thoughts, I am in the middle of questioning my beliefs and values and trying to figure out what is important in my life. Why am I feeling this urge to leave the shower just because it has been ten minutes? Is it the social responsibility of conserving water? Is it the social conditioning of just having ten minutes to take bath? Is it the mind playing games and ordering me to think of anything but such deep thoughts about what matters in life?”

He gave himself two more minutes in the shower just to stroke the feelings of the rebel in himself. He felt the deep urge to voice his thoughts out to the world to get their opinion on what matters in life. And so he sat himself in the couch and started to type.

__________________________________________

“He stood by the window, with the hot cup of water in his hand, occupied by his thoughts. His eyes were looking at a distance, where a green hill kept the blue of sky at bay. As his eyes moved down, he could see the apartment opposite to his, with a swimming pool, running the length of the apartment, the blue color of its water giving it a calm and serene feel but for the ripples caused by its one inhabitant. The man had a unique way of swimming the freestyle, both mesmerizing and amusing at the same time, as every occasion that he moved his arms for a stroke, his legs stopped beating.”……………………..

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How taking up minimalism helped me get better at pool

I have been consciously practicing minimalism for over six months now. However I still have difficulties defining to others what minimalism is. Perhaps the most commonly used explanation for minimalism is getting rid of things that do not add value to one’s life.

My pursuit of minimalism did not just stop with getting rid of things. As soon as I was done downsizing my things, I began to wonder what the next step of minimalism could be – Can I minimalise my online activity? Can I minimalise at work?  Can I minimalise my habits? Can I minimalise my food intake and lead a healthier life? Can I minimalise the thoughts in my head? I can positively say minimalising is addictive. Here’s why.

It is addictive as the benefits are rewarding and almost immediate. As I began minimizing my clothes, I spent lesser time getting ready, meaning I slept more. My shelves magically became larger as I now could keep my clothes on hangers and not need to fold and stack them up. I stacked up all of my houseowner’s kitchenware in one corner and removed some of the ‘utilities’ that were not living up to their names. Voila, I had less items to clean & arrange!

Perhaps the one benefit I did not imagine in my wildest dreams was how minimalism helped me become a better player at pool. While I was thinking on more avenues where I could apply this change in my frame of mind, I thought to myself,

“What if, I halved the speed of my shots?”

Within a game or two, I realized I was able to strike the ball with higher accuracy compared to before. With higher accuracy, I was more efficient in disposing off the balls.

Another advantage was that with lesser power on the shot, I was able to predict where the cue ball would end up post each shot and hence plan ahead to my next shot.

Minimalism has proved once again that more can be achieved with less!

 

Disclaimer: For all purposes, I am only a novice at pool. Until very recently, the closest I got to being professional was when playing pool was “a state of mind” 🙂 So take my advice with a pinch, actually, a lot of salt!

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The security code

At work:

Me: “Oops, my key dropped in the lift lobby.”

Security: “Sir, I cannot let you tailgate back in.”

Me: “Ok, no problem. So can you get that for me?”

Security: “No sir, I am not authorized to go in”

Me: “So how can I go get the key?”

Security: “Sir, you go around the building and enter through the IN gate.”

Me: “Aaaargh”

___________________________________________

At my gated community:

My car is stopped at 10:30 PM by security

Security: “Sir, I need to see the renewal papers of your apartment rental”

Me: “Why?”

Security: “I can only allow you after I confirm you still have the house”

Me: “Why should you know about whether I extend my rent or not?”

Security: “Sir, its my job to know who belongs to this flat”

Me: “Ok, can I show it to you tomorrow?”

Security: “No sir.”

Me: “Can I email it to you?”

Security: “No sir.”

Me: “But I don’t have a physical copy with me. It is at home. Please let me in and I can show you.”

Security: “Not allowed sir”

Me: “So how the hell can I show it to you if you wont let me get it?”

Security: “Sir, your house-owner can confirm to us. Please call him”

Me: “But its 10:30 in the night!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh”

 

_________________________________________________________________________________-

Incident 3:

“There is a car parked right before mine. I need you to contact the owner and get that taken back so I can remove my car.”

“Sir, other security is on rounds sir. There is no one at the gate.”

“Can you come after his rounds are over?”

“No sir, its my turn of rounds after!”

Aaaargh!!!

____________________________________________

Please feel free to share personal incidents where you have suffered from the security code!

 

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Dear Miss Maths , ‘m sorry but we need to break up!

I loved you, I truly did. In only the sense that you understand, in black and white. I loved you and that was the end.

But you failed me…. Twice…. Now I can take it nomore.

True it was fun for a while… oh the hours I spent proving that your LHS was the same as your RHS ,though vastly different from a platonic plane!

The various hypothesis, theorems and rules… I still don’t get why some are hypothesis, some theorems and the unfortunate left overs, rules….Of course, you know… please don’t get started on that…!

Only you know the difference between the graphical positions of (10,4) and (4,10). But I used them interchangeably and my life changed as a result…. I ended up in a SSEC instead of SSN!

That was strike one.

Flash forward….. and I missed you, full stop. I yearned to get back to you, to experience your purity once again. To deduce the probability of landing a 6 figure salary in one out of the 195 countries of the world. But you came back with a big fat 0 as the answer, as again you failed me.

Here’s how strike two happened.

“What is the angle between the arms of a clock when the time is 12:20 noon?” the interviewer said?

“A little above 90”, I replied…… “Not exactly”, he said… “although you got your reasoning alright”

It is “108”, you said, while you laid your arms around that guy, smirking at my lack of intelligence and dismissing me as a failure!

 

To hell with you!

I am done. Plain and simple. There is no strike 3. End of note, for all practical purposes.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

I have found a girl more suitable to my tastes. Her name is Masters and she is quite accommodating. She thrives, not in black and white, but in the grey. There is no right or wrong with her. She understands that our actions are a result of circumstance.

What’s more, she has the mental balance to know that I cannot ever love her as I loved you. That there would be moments where I would hate her indecisiveness. But she doesn’t judge me for that. Or call me a failure as you did.

I know you understood nothing of what I said. Your bipolar mind cannot handle middle ground.

But I ain’t done yet…… ah Ah! You should have quit reading when I asked you to.

 

For that smirk that you most recently sent my way, I have this final word. Masters is a lot richer than you…. by how much, you go figure!

Booyah……… And goodbye!

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Claire – Poornima Baskar

No, this is not a book review. I have read the book and I am going to write a review soon. This is about Claire, the book and the impact it has had on me.

____________________________________________

Seven years ago, I was a prolific blogger. I had just completed my 200th post on Cognizant’s internal blogging network; won “The most popular blogger award for 2010”; Won an internal story writing competition; Live blogged at an Innovation Summit; met up with one of the top speakers of the world; even had lunch with the Chief Innovation Officer. I was on a high and dreamt about writing a book one day.

The dream never materialized. I moved on to study my masters and in a year, my thought process changed. As a result, my writing style changed and I could no longer write as frequently or as well as before. All my efforts to recapture that flair have so far ended up in vain. Although I do not regret the way my life has moved on from the one centered around my blog, I do have those moments where I miss the exhilarating feeling of a story forming in my head & the words just flowing out as if the keyboard was an extension of my fingers. I also miss the audiences, their adulation, constructive criticisms and the opportunities to meet awesome people that blogging gave me.

____________________________________________

Back to Claire. I guess Poornima was the closest that I could get to having a pen-pal. Although we have lived only 5 km apart, in Chennai and in Singapore, we never met. Our passion for writing was what helped us stay in touch and eventually become friends. Despite having stopped blogging myself, hers was one of the blogs that I enjoyed reading and commenting on.

Her choice of topics is quite often one that I don’t have an opinion about. I read her posts anyways, as I am tempted to experience her unique writing style once again. Her blogs cover various social issues and she has the ability to take the reader through the events that unfold and before they realize, catch him/her by the collar and admonishes him/her for being a silent witness to those atrocities that we take for granted to be part of our culture or society. Now that’s a way to connect with your audience and leave an impact! Although five years younger to me, she has my respect and I am a fan of her writing.

____________________________________________

And she wrote a book!

____________________________________________

Claire – To me, is a result of a writer taking advantage of her present wave of good fortune. It is a remainder to me of what I could have done, in an alternate life.

Jealousy aside, Claire is also the trigger that I needed to get back to writing. At a juncture in life where I am looking at focusing more on doing things that matter to me, Claire has come into my hands to possibly reignite the passion I had for blogging. I don’t have a story, so that book of mine is still a dream. But I can write a blog or two.

If you felt a touch of melancholy here – that’s my writing style returning to me.

____________________________________________

Although we have lived only 5 km apart, in Chennai and in Singapore, we never met. Until yesterday. Again, thanks to Claire. I got myself a signed copy, in the hope that one day, if she gets famous, I can make some good bucks out of her autograph.

Until then, the book is mine. But it won’t gather dust at home. I would rather circulate it to all those I can, in the hope that my efforts help me to make my friend famous.

Good luck Poorni – and well done releasing Claire.

 

 

PS: You can buy Claire via Goodreads or Amazon

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Retirement

When I think of the word retirement, I am imagining myself in a beach, with pristine white sands, lying on a relaxing chair and looking out at the deep blue ocean. I have my arms over my head, in a very relaxing position, with a smile on my face.

How very cliched?

The sand is brown in Chennai. The beach isn’t deep blue but rather green and gray. There are no relaxing chairs either in marina or besant nagar beach. And to top everything off, I am pretty sure I will get bored in fifteen minutes, gazing at the sea!

So why does the thought of retirement trigger this imagination?

 

The answer is quite obvious – Because we are sold this picture through crappy advertisements. The sheer repetition of the ad imprints this picture in our minds and even tricks us to believe that is the reality we seek.

 

Think a bit deeper. What other cliched bullshit like these have advertisements sold to us?

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Book Review – Everything that remains

 

Author – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

There are some books that you read where you would not want them to end. ‘Everything that remains’ is one that made me feel so. The book is more a memoir by the author, Joshua, on how he chanced about the concept of minimalism and the impact that it had on his life. We are given the opportunity to be an invisible bug on Joshua’s shoulder and live through various moments in his life.

 

Although Joshua would like to become a writer, he is stuck in his full-time job as director of operations at a retail chain in the US. With daily stand-up meetings and aggressive goals to achieve, he is forever busy and under constant stress. He has no friends outside of work & no time to build his social network. His last exercise was sometime during college and he is quite a few pounds overweight. However, the hefty paycheck during the end of month makes all his sacrifices seem worthwhile.

 

Or does it?

 

He does not love his job but stays on as he is good at it. Being the youngest director in the history of the company, he is constantly pushing himself to over-deliver. He is on the fast track in life and there are higher positions to achieve.

 

And of course, there are bills to pay. He is a firm favorite for all credit card companies, a collector of books, home decors, suits, party wear shirts, summer shirts, winter clothes, x-mas sales, Easter sales, valentines day sales, home loans, car loans etc etc. In fact, his bills total more than his earnings.

 

But alas, the hike in salary that he will get during his next title change will offset the difference!

 

_______________________________________________________________

 

Joshua is in a meeting when he gets a call from his mother. As expected, he puts his mobile on silent. It is only in the evening that he hears her voicemail and gets to know that she is dying of cancer.

 

A few months and few visits later, Joshua’s mom dies. In the same month, his marriage of five years ends. This double tragedy completely rocks his life. He realizes that he has messed up life’s priorities. Is working hard and rising up the corporate ladder the most important priority in life? Is it your life’s purpose to amass a ton of stuff and possessions to display to the world to gain their appreciations and acceptance into their society?

 

The quest for answers leads Joshua to something life changing – Minimalism.

 

Read the book to learn about how he went about becoming a minimalist and how he managed to sustain a life without a five-figure income,with only a tenth of his possessions, meet great and interesting people , write and publish books & fall in love. As you read on, you might even question some of your choices in life, work and beyond.

 

 

 

PS: If you want the ebook for free, below is how you get it.

Everything That Remains and Minimalism—available as a free PDF for our audience. If you want to read either (or both), simply go to our Gumroad page, enter $0 in the price box, and download the book(s) of your choice. 

If you’d prefer to purchase a book, both titles are available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats here.

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Break-even

Break-even point is something that a lot of us have used in lives. It is the revenue required in order to outweigh the costs during a particular period of time.

Considering our own lives, I have always considered the break-even point to be when I have zero debts. Hence my net value would be zero and it is all positive from there on.

  1. During the initial years of my working life, I still had to undertake additional investments – a life policy, a house and some essential liabilities such as a car.

Essentially, my break-even point was pushed by several years as a result of these actions.

  1. The last few years have been kind to me and I have been able to make serious inroads in my repayment schedules. I have now moved much closer to achieving zero debts. However, being a more mature person, and a family man, I now do not think my break-even point to be when I am at zero debt. It has got to factor in savings for my child’s education, my wife’s well-being as well as all our sustenance.

Although I have reached the break-even point of my twenties self, I am nowhere close to that figure for thirties self.

Hence my question. Is break-even a number or rather a state of mind? Are we just looking for new goals to stay the course with our lives rather than have the heart and mind to stop accumulating wealth and live with what we have?

 

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My ‘other’ pair of shoes

“Hey man, can you believe it has been five years already since this?” It was a message from Chirag. Yeah, we had kept in touch.

The picture was one of us five friends standing on a wall with Edinburgh beach at the background. Besides being a sweet pic, one realization struck me the most. The absence of colors in our dresses.

That got me thinking.

Kiran: My best friend for life. He was wearing a pink(ish) jacket, yet not looking gay. Always the giver & ringmaster. He isn’t in the pic because he was the one organizing us for the pose & taking the picture.

 

The rest of us, in order.

Kathir: He wore black. He always wore black. Super fun to be with. He is one of those that can make you cry, or cry out of laughter if he decides to make fun of anyone.

Chirag: Powerful eyes, he gave you the impression of a serious guy. But wasn’t. Don’t remember what color jacket he wore.

Sanket: Laddoo. A funny, plump guy. We did not keep in touch, no apparent reason why.

Me: I think I wore a grey jacket. Bought for 8 pounds. A wise purchase that lasted 4 years.

Mayuri: A sweet girl. Fun to be with, unassuming. I don’t remember what she wore as well.

 

The more I think back, I remember a lot of events and people that have been memorable. However, what they wore has never really stood out to me. They were all different. Sure, they had their own style which was unique. But then, they were all the same – I liked them for the person that they were, not what they wore that day.

 

Hence the question, “What do I do with this other pair of shoes that I have had for years but seldom wore?” Have I given it too much importance? Does it deserve the space in my rack? If not, does the shoe rack deserve as much space as it currently occupies?

Keen to know your thoughts!

 

 

PS: The reference to pair of shoes is a metaphysical one. It could be replaced by any item that you consider to be a ‘spare’ or ‘back up’

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