November ain’t cold anymore

I sometimes wonder why we are so different as individuals, with the human population running into billions, you’d expect stumbling upon people similar to you at every step, but it rarely is the case. Why can’t we appreciate the differences and just acknowledge that others are bound to be different and are just as important or equally inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. We are after all a small cog in the wheel of this massive unexplored universe, where we are mere nothings but specks of dust. We all turn into dust at some point anyway when life ceases to run through our veins and even our memories turn to dust, eventually. Forgotten and erased. What we think we feel so deeply and greatly at this present moment becomes a distant memory and no matter how hard you try, the passion you feel refuses to ignite when time has already closed all the spaces that were once filled with an urgency impossible to fathom. You grow older and perhaps wiser, if you are the kind that actively engages in the act of thinking. Having lived 29 years on Planet Earth already, and experienced a miraculous shift in fortune in the last 10 years, I feel grateful for many things that came my way. I never expected these good things but they happened. As an onlooker and a pessimist, I always felt good things happened to other people and never to someone who had the misfortune of being born in the wrong place and certainly the wrong time. I was surrounded by the worst of people and had to hide under beds to protect myself from hands that were ready to grope and abuse. The hiding spots changed daily and life seemed bleak. Moving to Delhi was the first good thing I did in my life.

My life changes after I turned 20 eased the lives of those closest to me to a certain extent and for that I am grateful. I feel to this day, except for my dad, others never acknowledged the sacrifices I made or the things that I found myself constantly engaged with for the happiness of others. He was the only human who saw what I was all about and acknowledged that I meant something. With him gone, life seemed pointless. There are times when the pointlessness of human life hits me and takes me by surprise when I’m least prepared for such thoughts. Again, I think about dad and run the conversations we had over and over in my head and regain balance. The thoughts leave me alone and I’m left with a route map of all the things I’m supposed to be doing in the next couple of years.

2016 has been the worst year in the recent past because I lost my dad, and I had to kiss his dead body goodbye as that was all that was left of him when I reached home around noon, on June 17th. I had thought of that moment as something that would make me lose my mind or have other devastating mental consequences. But I was surprised by my own strength. My family was shattered and my mom was losing her mind and someone had to take control of the situation. I always was good at being the strong one, so throughout the funeral I played my part to perfection and despite wanting to kill myself, I endured. My mom’s health and happiness mattered more than ever. My family found strength and comfort in my strength and confidence. Being responsible can make you feel drained but as humans we adapt. We get used to whatever shit life throws our way.

 

 

 

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Should You Keep Having Sex During a 9.0 Earthquake, and Other Pressing Questions

Longreads

If you’ve been too scared to read this week’s New Yorker story on the apocalyptic earthquake that’s threatening to destroy the Pacific Northwest, here’s a lighter take from Dan Savage, who had a short conversation with Seattle author Sandi Doughton about her 2014 book Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest and how worried we should really be:

The New Yorker quotes a FEMA official who says that “everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” So all of us up here on Capitol Hill—we can see I–5 from here but we’re to the east of it—are going to fine, right? We don’t have anything to worry about, right?

You’ll be bruschetta—more refined, but equally toasted.

It’s true that the shaking weakens with distance from the fault, but I wouldn’t count on that tiny margin to save you. What I think the FEMA official meant is…

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A Conversation With Dan Ariely About What Shapes our Motivations

Longreads

Jessica Gross | Longreads | November 2016 | 14 minutes (3,711 words)

“It’s astonishing to me how some ideas endure even when it’s obvious that they are no longer relevant,”Dan Ariely writes in his latest book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations. A professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, Ariely relentlessly examines our assumptions about ourselves—and finds they’re often totally misconstrued. We think, for example, that money is our main motivator in the workplace. But not only are “a sense of connection, meaning, ownership, and long-term thinking” often more effective, it also turns out that monetary bonuses can work against us, undermining our commitment to the work itself. In one study, workers at a semiconductor factory were offered rewards of a pizza voucher, a compliment, money, or nothing on the first day of a workweek. That first day, the voucher and the compliment…

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All Consuming Phobias

I sleep with my light switched on, as darkness makes it impossible for me to not sense the presence of someone in the room. I get restless and there have been times when my imagination has played weird games with me that would scare the living daylights out of anyone. Sleeplessness is now a habit and not really an option. Chasing ghosts or footsteps at midnight when I was a child was a thing I frequently did. I was curious and wanted to find the source of all the shadows, footsteps and wood chopping noises at the dark of the night when the whole world seemed to be sleeping and I was left to struggle with my inherent nature. I was never possessed by any spirits and no signs of madness to indicate any possession ever.

Something dawned upon me recently. I struggle with phasmophobia and this is one of the biggest reasons why I can’t live alone in a house all by myself. At night, the thought of being in an empty house is enough to kill me. I admire people who have no fear of living alone and fighting ghosts, if need be. As long as someone is sleeping in the next room, I am comfortable, but the moment I am left all alone, I start feeling uneasy and there’s a nagging feeling of someone invisible monitoring my every move.

Last year in October, I had gone back to my hometown for a visit and this was the only time in my life when I had an encounter with an entity. It was 8 am in the morning and I was ready to jump out of bed and explore my garden. My room was empty and I was the only person sleeping in my bed, but that soon changed when someone started moving behind my back. There was another occupant and I wanted to turn back and have a look. My feet had gone cold and numb already but I was dying to see. I found myself paralyzed for the first time. No voice came out of my mouth and in my mind I kept yelling my brother’s name. The thing in the shape of a heavily-built man had started moving now and was touching my back. It became worse when he started breathing down my neck and spine. I was paralyzed for what seemed like ages. I was fighting hard to survive this and I kept forcing my mind to think and think fast. “Sleep Paralysis” suddenly popped into my head. My obsession with psychology came to my rescue. I recalled that the writer had recommended forcing one’s toes to move and that’s all I focused on. The man was pressing really hard and had his grasp firmly on my arm and I was one heartbeat away from dying. Suddenly I managed to move my toes and soon my body and the ordeal of the invisible man came to an end. I rushed out of my room and thanked psychology for the good it had done. I am not a big fan of dancing with the devil.

I’m away from the spooky elements now, but the fear of ghosts strikes me every time I am left alone. My dream of living in a nice, fancy, white apartment all by myself has to wait till I conquer phasmophobia. I can run from one location to another but there’s no hiding from this. I wait for the light of day to sleep comfortably. Somehow, sunshine is comforting and it seems like no ghost can survive it.

Nature or Nurture

I wonder what’s more to blame in what one ends up to be: the circumstances one is born in, the choices one makes, early conditioning, inherent nature with quirks that cannot be done away with or disillusioned movement towards an unseen future that is likely to remain hazy always. Choices one makes either turn out to be good or poor, but it’s only time that has the power to reveal what the outcome of our choices will be. With these morose thoughts I wish to drift off into a nice sleep, if the night will let me.

Snoozy Sundays With A Senior Citizen

Every Sunday I make it a point to wake up by 10 am and pay a visit to an old man, who hates it when I remind him of his old age. Our time is spent talking endlessly and walking through memory lanes, and our age gap of over 44 years has never gotten in the way. This has been our ritual for almost 3 years now. Memorable among these stories of his past was the one about the rise of a coward.

Before being sent off to Bishop Cotton, my old friend was being poochie pooed and raised in a convent in Mussourie, where the nuns took real good care of him. He loved the security the nuns provided. One of his eye was weak, so they paid special attention and made him practice eye exercises. When he turned 12, he was dumped in the cold, love ridden confines of BCS in Shimla. Sports was compulsory and the kids were not allowed to skip a single sport back then. He hadn’t even gotten used to the early morning physical exercises, when it was time to step into the boxing ring. When he saw his opponent standing in front of him in all his glory, he was petrified. Instead of putting up a brave front, he ran. Ran as far away as his feet could carry him. He kept hiding and running but he was caught and brought back. The headmaster’s office was where the ruffians were caned. The teacher felt his bums to check if he hadn’t stuffed it with newspapers – something which many of these kids did. When he was declared clear, the teacher said to him, know this that it hurts me more when I do this. He was caned nevertheless.

The story of the kid who ran away from the boxing ring became popular and during the assembly, the head of the school declared him the biggest coward that has walked through these corridors. He was beaten up in all the hidden corners by the big guys. All the goodies his loving mom had given him were snatched away by the bullies. He felt homesick and wanted his ordeal to end. When the bullying didn’t stop and he became known as the coward, he decided to do something about the situation. His primary interest was science and he was the best in science in his class. But now, he made up his mind to overcome his fear of the boxing ring. He punched the opponent without thinking about what’s going to become of him. It was a good performance. He soon got the hang of it and eventually won the medal for boxing.

He still was in no mood to tire himself by running too well. But when a big guy told him, “if you don’t run and reach before I do, I’ll get you,” he was on his feet. The boy gave him a head start as well. He ran. Ran for his life. He was a coward inside, afraid of bruises and blows. The threats pushed him into not only running, but winning marathons and cross country races.

During his school days, when the vacations came, he had to spend time with his uncle, a Senior official in the armed forces. He was fond of his uncle despite the man leaving no stone unturned to toughen up his nephew. He was forced to excel at horse riding, golf, badminton, and various other sports. He only took the name of the lord before getting up on a horse and kept waiting for the rough ride to get over. He was even taken on drug trails when there was an emergency and he couldn’t dispense of his nephew on the road. He disappointed his uncle a little by making him stop the car. He was feeling sick and had to relieve himself.

Eventually, he managed to join the club of big boys by winning at sports and the bullying stopped. He built his health to stay in good shape and ward off blows.

The same old man during his time in IIT Madras met with an accident and was admitted to hospital. There he fell in love with a nurse who was looking after him – or that’s what he thought under the influence of heavy medication. When he came to his senses and realized that he had already proposed and the woman making lovey, dovey eyes at him was keen on taking up the offer, he quickly came up with a plan to undo what he had done. He started proposing to every woman on sight in the hospital. No woman was spared and stories about his serial proposals reached the fair nurse who was the first victim of his amorous advances. He was labeled an insane guy, and that’s how he managed to get out of getting stuck in a sticky situation.

There’s something about stories of the past. I never get tired of listening.

Kindness Trumps All

Not many are familiar with the concept of kindness, and it is a lot harder in practice then one tends to believe it is. Human beings, nature, animals – one needs to stop and think how their actions are being unkind to each, and refrain whenever possible from causing any uncalled for misery. Life is difficult as it is for all living beings on Earth and the last thing that I’d ever do is inflict misery upon another for gratifying my selfish needs or base emotions. I am working upon the kind of person that I want to be. A work in progress is what I am and will always be.

By constantly evaluating one’s actions and reactions, it is possible to arrive at a solution for weaknesses we are inherently born with as humans. These are failings that go unnoticed until you start training your mind to question and to be insatiably curious to explore deep into your own psyche before you can question the actions of others. There’s freedom for those who choose to embrace only the best of emotions and actions that separate us from being nice when there’s something to be gained to actually being kind.