The train called life…

crowded-train

sitting comfortably in a train

enjoying nice book and starbucks coffee

i mostly don’t notice

the people

standing or passing by

don’t even care

how crowded is the train

it’s when i’ve to stand

holding the railing

rubbing shoulders

i take notice

feel the struggle

the effort

to balance the feet

in that fast moving train

and

to reach the destination

without falling…

…is life any different?

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A trigger is required to form a new habit

habits

I want to get rid of my double chin. Yeah, sadly I have it. And I read somewhere that chewing gum for an hour everyday helps reduce that bad ugly fat hanging down the chin hiding the neck (okay, that’s exaggerated…)

So I bought a big pack of sugar free gum and started chewing. In excitement to get a chiseled jawline asap, I chewed continuously for several hours to an extent that after 3 days I found my jaw hurting and I had to stop it completely. After around 2 weeks I realized I forgot to had even a single gum. I resumed but again fell short after a few.

Then I decided that as soon as I would get in the car I would unpack one in my mouth and spit it as soon as I would leave the car (of course in the bin). I drive almost an hour everyday and the problem was solved by itself.

Now I am chewing gum everyday for an hour for last one month without even thinking about it and without getting my jaw hurt. Getting in my car was a “trigger” that worked for me to eventually form this “new habit”.

And about my double chin, that’s a separate thing.

My money (focus) is on 7

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I am a Jack Canfield fan. Following him for quite some time now and recently completed his Success Principles 10-Day Transformation program. It’s an amazing program that helps you practice few of Jack Canfield’s success principles through 10 days.

One of the exercises was to list down the life goals: short-term, long-term, dream goals, etc. And so I did. But this post is not about the goals (I may write another post on goals).

This is to emphasize on the power of goals  – which help us see through the key things in life and remove clutter (such as watching any random Netflix series or scrolling Facebook wall zillion times a day).

Here is list of 7 key things my money is on (caveat: few of below wouldn’t apply when I am on vacation exploring new places, which in fact is also one of the core things for me):

  1. Improve knowledge on asset & wealth management, digital and product management
  2. Write daily – fiction story or blog post or private journal
  3. Read book or listen podcast daily (alternate: watch meaningful movie)
  4. Exercise 4 times a week – yoga, crossfit, running
  5. Practice gratitude and visualization daily
  6. Spent more quality time with Kiaan, Isha, family and friends
  7. Simplify life (I may write post on this later)

Everything else is a clutter. And which means I was all in clutter for so long… duh!!

By the way through entire last week, I successfully managed to do all of them expect #4 (which I started from today).

Now, if I would continue this or fall back into my clutter pit… that depends on my determination and commitment.

But did you see, the clarity of goals.

Lack of exercise takes its toll

Back in 2012  I used to do 100 push-ups (50+25+25) with a minute gap in between. Unfortunately, I didn’t exercise at all since then. Today after 4 years, my friend challenged me for 25 push-ups. I was like what… just 25… you don’t know me dude!!

To my shock, my hands started trembling just after 10 and my entire body was shivering at 15… I wasn’t able to believe myself. What the hell is happening… How is this possible? Though I somehow managed to win the challenge half dead, it drew upon me a serious thought.

We all understand the importance of regular exercise… but we don’t actually realize how lack of exercise silently takes its toll on our body with every passing year esp. when you cross the 30 mark.

So, I am taking a challenge today to exercise at least 4 days a weeks for next 3 months. It could be Yoga, Cross-Fit or Running. No more excuses. No more toll.

The books I read in 2015

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I am not an avid reader by any measure. I am more like a sporadic one. I have my phases with books. At some point, I am always reading a book and other times the book keeps lying on my side table and I don’t even look at it; 70% it’s latter.

Despite of that I always love being around books. I can spend hours in a book library or a book store – flipping through different books and taking their pictures to buy kindle edition later. Even while waiting for my flights at airports, I mostly find myself drifted towards the book store. It’s like a therapy that leaves me in a blissful mental state. May be some genes from my grandparents who have a great collection of books at our home and are avid readers – they both read everyday.

In the beginning of 2015, I decided to read one book every month for the entire year. And I am glad to have ‘almost’ completed my resolution, falling short by two books. I know it’s not a lot of reading, but something is better than nothing. It’s far from an avid reader category but it’s regular at least. And I’ve learned that good habits develop not by measure but by consistency. So let me be proud of this little accomplishment and check out the books I read in 2015:

  1. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
  2. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
  3. The 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss
  4. The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
  5. Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur
  6. Focus by Daniel Goleman
  7. Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin
  8. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  9. In The Plex by Steven Levy
  10. Autobiography Of A Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
  11. Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan (read 25%)

I am working on my list of books to read in 2016; target is 15 books. And Isha is planning to buy me a Kindle Voyage. So, that would be more fun!

And do let me know the books you read in 2015.

Cheers!

Why we stick more to public commitments?

I failed every time when I planned to change my routine to get up early and to start eating low carbs. And I tried several times. Then I shared my plan with my family and friends. It’s been two months now. I am regularly getting up early and consistently eating low carbs. I didn’t fail this time. Why?

We are social animals. We do things that people would accept and avoid things that people would reject. We seek social approvals. We care what others think of us and our actions. We crave for appreciations and run away from embarrassments.

Also, we love consistency. Once we make commitment, we want to stay consistent. And the more our commitment is public, the more likely we would stay consistent.

Social animals stick to their public commitments to avoid embarrassments, you see.

So, try public commitment – make it, share it and get stick to it!

The blessed memories of Diwali

Hands folded in Nameste and head innocently bowed in front of Goddess Lakshmi’s in our small temple in the living room, I am sitting next to my Grandma. Now, dressed up smartly in black achkan (indo-western jacket) and white churidar pajama with a white pearl necklace around my neck, I am putting tikka on my grandpa’s forehead. And here at our terrace with my beautiful mom smiling in her yellow chiffon, holding a phuljhadi (sparkler) in my hand from behind and asking me to look towards my dad taking our picture, but looks like I am more into that phuljhadi than the picture. Thank you dad for capturing these memorable moments and many more, for these are the ones through which I still, after so many years, cherished my childhood Diwali celebrations.

As a child, I was madly fascinated by Diwali – the festival of light, though for me it was more a festival of crackers. I don’t remember my age then, just old enough when kids are allowed to step down alone to the nearby market. That street near our house is very narrow, and during the festival, with the crackers and sweets shops stretched almost to the middle from both ends, it used to become crowded, noisy and “lively”.

DiwaliMy crackers shopping used to begin a week before Diwali with pencil bombs and taabeez (triangle shape bombs). They were 100 for five and 2 packets a day were decently budgeted in my pocket-money. All that week, morning to evening, mostly alone at my terrace, except a few times with my friend Varun, I used to blast those bombs. Crazy isn’t? Divyang, my younger brother, was least interested in joining me. I am still not sure why he never enjoyed crackers. In this case, he is very much like grandpa who always refrain us from bursting crackers. His reason is pollution of course which I am sure is not Divyang’s. But grandma always use to give me money for crackers (the expensive and fancy ones). She is simply the best.

A few times I got light burns but no one knows about them yet. After that “bomby” (to avoid writing “bombing”) week, the terrace used to look like a dirty pit with busted bombs, ashes, burnt papers and match sticks all over. On the Diwali afternoon, I used to sweep clean the terrace by myself with the same enthusiasm and excitement. Then after putting a folding bed for everyone to comfortably sit and enjoy the show of fancy crackers, I used to light hundred of candles on all around the terrace boundary to brighten up our Diwali house some more. The very next morning, I would be the first one to go upstairs to gather the melted wax of those candles for making the hand-made different-shapes candles. Recycling, you see.

I had a similar passion for greeting cards then. I used to handmade Diwali cards for all my close relatives and friends – trying to make all different and as beautiful as I could. Then with my Grandma’s help, I also used to prepare envelopes for them, matching the color with the card (those were the days when we didn’t have loose envelopes in the nearby stationary shop).

I loved to watch my mom making rangolis and painting on our doorway the little footsteps, white and beautiful, welcoming the Goddess Lakshmi to walk through our house on that auspicious evening to pour her blessings on us. We also used to hang a kandil, with an electric bulb inside it, high on the television antenna, so that at Diwali night, it lit colorful inside the kandil. At every house, there used to be at least one Kandil of some weird shape and bright color. In this cable and internet era remain no more television antennas and no more kandils on them, but still we buy a kandil and hang it somewhere inside the house.

Dad used to take me along with him to greet relatives and friends with Diwali sweets and gifts, and eventually, as I grew up, dad handed over this responsibility to me. I never enjoyed doing it alone except for visiting some close relatives. And so I handed it over to Divyang as soon as he grew up a little more. I think he, being an extrovert, loved it, except when not lazy.

Amidst all these beautiful blessed memories, I have a memory which is not pleasant but equally blessed for no one was hurt. I was very small then. My mom-dad, uncle-aunt, Divyang, all were there on terrace celebrating the Diwali evening. Someone gave me a sparkler and after a few seconds, scared of getting my hand burned, I just dropped it completely ignorant of the fact that I am standing next to the box full of crackers. The only scene I remember is that the rocket bombs going all over the terrace, my mom running towards the staircase holding Divyang and dad rushing towards me to drag me inside our terrace store-room. Thanks Almighty, no one was hurt. BE VERY CAREFUL and SAFE THIS DIWALI!

For the Diwali pooja, everyone in their best outfit sit next to each other, bow and pray. A few times, we used to celebrate the festival together with our close relatives and the joy was manifold. I pray to feel that joy again. After the pooja, we used to dance on the loud music and run towards the terrace for the fireworks. One time along with Nishtha and Suketu, I had this crazy fun of having a bonfire with piles of old newspaper and throwing bullet bombs in it causing the ashes and pieces of burnt newspaper to blew up creating beautiful images and we used to dance around that. After getting tired with all the dance and fireworks, we used to play cards together till the wee hours of the morning.

And this is how I celebrated my Diwali as a child, as a teenager, and a few times as an adult. The best of times and celebrations! I miss that. I miss my family. I miss that fun. Well, I am going to attend Diwali pooja this year with my lovely family…over FaceTime.

WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY, SAFE AND PROSPEROUS DIWALI!

Lady Luck

Change is the only thing that is certain in life, long time back I heard or read it I don’t remember. But, I do remember that I didn’t believe it then, for my life was a constant. Like a line with an HB pencil: straight, plain and without shades. Just a simple boring line.

I was getting up at 10:30 in the morning, working in office from 11:30 to 8, having lunch at 1:15, coffee at 4, popcorn at 6 and dinner back home at 8:30 while watching tv, talking long distance to Isha (my girl friend then, now fiancée) while walking in the balcony, convincing her that we would be together and getting tensed myself that how would we be, coming back to my messy room and studying for my examination till 4 in the morning, having cold drink and namkeen in between and finally, crashing to get up again at 10:30.

No change. No variable. Only constant.

And a few months earlier, I heard my mom saying something about Lady Luck which means a woman brings luck and changes your life but I didn’t believe that as well. Indian moms generally say this to get their 28 years old sons to get them married ;-)

Then one fine day I got engaged to Isha.

The very next morning, an email was waiting for me in my official mailbox to inform me that my very long-awaited US Visa has been processed successfully. My manager gave me an exciting news that I am hand-picked by the US manager to work with them in US for a few months. After a few weeks I flew to meet Isha and we had the best of the times. First time we met in zero-tension air with no discussion on our future, for we both knew it will be wonderful now. There was just happiness. Some weeks later, I got a mail from my US manager appreciating my work and in the same week I got a more-than-expected raise in my salary.

I bought a car and was enjoying driving. Every weekend I was out for shopping, both for my US trip and marriage. The same time which was running so slow had started flying. Isha came down to Bangalore over a weekend and we shopped for 25K in just two days and that only for me. And in my last week in India, I flew to Chennai for a night for Visa stamping, then flew to my home for two days for wedding dress shopping, and then flew back in a morning to catch the US flight the very same night. And, did all my packing in the middle of all this. The halted life earlier was on a rollercoaster then, and I was living the every bit of it.

Oh yes, now I believe Lady Luck is true and changes life without knocking – positively for me :-)

Does forgiveness help?

I have heard and read many wise people preaching forgiveness. They say forgiveness is not something we do for other people but we do it for ourselves – to get well and move on. They say forgiveness will shed the unwanted burden of hatred and unpleasant memories and make us feel light and free. Is it possible to forgive someone who had hurt you deep inside?

After being my close friend for four years and then my girl friend for two, she just left me one day by giving a vague reason. I tried convincing her a lot but she treated me like everything between us had never existed. All my efforts went in vain. Finally, I decided to let her go respectfully. She joined MBA school and later I would know that she got involved with a guy and later broke up with him as well.

Its been more than two years now and we haven’t spoken even once since then. She tried several times to contact me through emails and messages, seeking my forgiveness, stating that she is living in a guilt and wants to get free from it. I never replied. I never forgave. I drafted a forgiveness mail but something always stopped me from pressing the send button. I was enjoying her plea for forgiveness. It was giving me some weird happiness and a sense of importance. I used to plea exactly like that to convince her to come back. I was also enjoying my silence, which I realised was much more powerful than any of the words I would have spoken in response.

Today is her birthday. Just a few weeks back, through a common friend, I heard her engagement news – an arranged setting. Coincidently, I also got engaged around same time. But somehow today I am feeling to forgive her and let her go off her burden, if she is really carrying it. But would this forgiveness help me? Or would this forgiveness help her more than me?

I am in love with an amazing girl and going to get married to her soon. I am all well and have moved on completely. The pain was gone long back. Her absence is no more a void in my life. I don’t miss our pleasant times nor I got disturbed by the unpleasant ones. I am not living with any burden except some hatred for her, though I never even think about her. In fact, I feel that if I had forgiven her earlier, I might not have felt that weird happiness and that sense of importance which had somehow helped me move on. So, I don’t know how this forgiveness would help today. May be it would free me from that left hatred.

Well, I just pressed the send button!

Real beauty lies in the heart of the beholden…

Almost always, women come to mind, when you think about beauty. And because this ‘real beauty’ contest is organized by a beauty product company, Dove, which uses the most gorgeous women in the world for their advertisements, thinking about beauty apart from women is tough. And is this wrong? No! From the times in history, women have a responsibility or a burden to look beautiful, and the emphasis remains mostly on the physical beauty.

So let me also start explaining beauty in the context of a woman. I have heard many people saying real beauty is not about physical appearance, it is skin deep. I do agree but partially. I see a very gorgeous girl in a lounge, sitting alone taking a sip of her drink. She has big eyes, sharp features, cute smile, silky skin, milky complexion, perfect curves… I am just seeing her physical appearance but is she not a real beauty to me? Of course she is! She is real and she is beautiful. I may never talk to her, so I may never get to know what lies beneath her skin. She is a real beauty for me at least in that very moment. Maybe I go close to her and hear her saying over phone “My current boy friend is a bastard but filthy rich, so who cares!” Is she real beauty now? That’s the question!

Real beauty is what soothes you. A cold winter night might be a real beauty for a newly married couple in a cozy thick blanket in solitude but the same night is a nightmare for a poor watchman, wearing a worn jacket, guarding the same couple’s flat. So, is this beautiful night not a real beauty? It is!

So, this defines real beauty as something that appeals to self only. And this makes real beauty very personal. For, a mother will find her child a real beauty; a miner will find real beauty in exploring the caves. But this concept of real beauty is transient and will change as preferences or perception changes. Just as in my case, as my perception changed, the beauty of that girl changed. May be someone sitting in a corner still finding her real beautiful. But is she real beautiful? She is…may be for someone!

For me real beauty would be a helping hand, a genuine smile, self-contentment, an innocent glance, it’s something that can’t be seen from eyes but felt with the heart. Real beauty is living true to oneself… pure and free.

Real beauty can also be a real moment of joy, be it the sound and smell of first rain drops before it touches your clothes, be it a small kid smiling at you with no reason, be it a lonely girl sitting by the sea-shore and watching the sand with her big expressive eyes, be it a morning dew drops on grass…It is something that appeals to you and gives you a sweet spot of inner joy. For someone, waking up early in the morning and watching the sun rise is real beauty, for someone it is a tear dropping off your beloved’s eyes…

She loves someone unconditionally no matter how many times he has made her cry; no matter he doesn’t even care about her at all, no matter he is in relation with someone else, but she still wants to be around so that she could know that he is happy. She cares about him with her true self and will continue to do so. This is real beauty.

She dislikes her friend because that friend bitched about her on her back. Out of her momentarily anger she shouted on her friend. But then forgave her quickly and genuinely felt sorry inside her heart about that momentarily anger. This is real beauty.

She sacrificed her fully developed career and her mouth-watering salary to develop the careers of few unfortunate children. This is real beauty.

He lost all his loved ones one by one in accidents but whenever you meet him, he has a genuine smile on his face. He smiles genuinely. This is real beauty.

He lost all his life’s savings in his unfortunate abduction. His family was scared that he might lose his mental balance upon his return. He might change his morals and start taking commissions on referring his patients to other doctors to earn more money. But he didn’t alter his values a bit. He still treats many of his poor patients for free. This is real beauty.

I know all these people personally and closely. They see this world with a different perspective – happiness. They all live with a feeling of gratitude and try to spread happiness and in turn soothe most of the people around. They are real beautiful people. They know their true self and remain humble. They feel beautiful without even looking into the mirror. That’s real beauty. It is not to look beautiful but live this life beautifully.

A trite thing to say would be that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder but “real beauty lies in the heart of the beholden.”

I have written this post for Yahoo! India and Dove under the topic “What does real beauty mean to me?