Resolutions for 2016

This will be the year I turn 30!

I am happy to share that I am not as worried or stressed as I thought I would be. I am more confident than ever.

Since 2015 was the year of contentment, I proclaim 2016 as the year of preparation. Preparation for the enigmatic 30s!

So, here’s the list :

1. Pursue a sport.
2. Start coding again.
3. Write without the fear of your inner editor.
4. Learn baking.
5. Prepare a virtual travelogue.
6. Read 100 books.
7. Draw the fashion designs in your head. Learn to draw, if need be.
8. Start video blogging/podcasting.
9. Love your blog(s). Let it show.
10. Be your own mentor in all walks of life.

Have you documented your resolutions? Leave a link here.

What do you think of resolutions in general? Necessary or not necessary?

Day 24 : Write about a lesson you have learned the hard way.

There are 2 parts of the lesson I learned the hard way : 1) Never put yourself on the back-burner. Learn to do things alone. 2) Never take bullying in any form.

I was self-centered till my school days. I was sure of everything I wanted to do throughout the day and never had the FOMO syndrome (Fear-of-missing-out). My life was perfect. No exaggeration in that statement.

When I went to college, I was exposed to so many different things and people that I spent most of my time observing others. I was not sure of myself anymore. I was not sure of my routine – what I wanted to do in the evenings, what I wanted to do on weekends…

I saw people coming and going to swimming classes, dance classes, music classes; I saw people getting passports made. I saw people preparing for GATE, CAT. All I did was observe. I did have plans for myself, but I kept waiting for a perfect time to start and a buddy to start with me. I always needed a buddy to go with me somewhere – be it shopping or sightseeing. If the buddy said no, I’d sit in my hostel room. That’s why I suffered from a major FOMO – where all the others had defined lives, varied activities, travelling opportunities and I felt I did nothing, had nothing.

In 2nd year, on my birthday, I sat alone in my hostel room till 9 PM in the night ‘cos none of my buddies (college and other) were free! Then we went out for the customary dinner. I was free since noon, and I had not a single soul who I could go out with. This may not seem like a big deal now, but it was a big deal that day. I found out how dependent I had let myself become…I could have gone out by myself! Why was I cribbing at all!

In the 3rd year, we had a bully of a professor who forced us into choosing lab partners as project partners and the subjects he gave, as our projects. We (3 of us, in serial roll numbers) were given an oft made robot to make again – none of us liked the project. It happened because he was ticked off by one person from our batch and declared ‘I won’t let any of you make any project’. Ultimately some people convinced him to ‘let us do the projects’ and he laid those conditions. All I did was observe! I thought somebody would raise a voice (and then I’d join in. I had completely changed from my school days, when I’d promptly speak up for myself.) – our batch had almost all the top 5 students in the class. Nobody spoke up. Maybe they were okay with the project groups and the projects they had got. However, his decision affected our project group the most. He illegally made projects for students from other colleges. The project he gave us was much in demand. He made our group of 3 get material for 6 additional replicas of our project instead of the 1 we would have made for ourselves! To quote fairly, he gave us the money for his share of the materials. But it was enough to make me (and us) feel bullied. My Dad told me to report to the Principal or go talk to the professor. But I felt that I should better remain invisible, as I am not that good at engineering studies that I’d pass if he’d try to fail me out of anger. The semester ended with me passing with 47/50 in the project and failing 3 theory subjects! All because I waited for others to speak up and also did not concentrate on other things – ignoring this single thing which I supposedly could not fix. The next semester, the same project was up on display and I passed every subject and failed the project. Why? Because the examiner thought we’d got the project made from outside. Talk about irony. Had I had the guts to speak up against the professor at the onset, I would have failed (if I did) with integrity.

Well, these were the 2 incidences (one minor, one major) when I learned my lesson! But learning a lesson and bringing it into practice are two different things. It takes a lot of time, even years, to implement something that overrides your inner tendency.

I never took bullying after that. I tried to break the other tendency by joining a tennis class by myself, after college was over in 2008. I went for 2 whole months and then stopped because the family noticed it was too physically taxing for me.

Something inside me had snapped after 2004 (when I left home) and I always waited for others to make the plans; dropped my plans at a single point of resistance from parents/buddies. I often made my schedule according to others’. This continued to a lesser extent in my office days too.

The struggle of doing things for self and to avoid being overwhelmed by others’ activities/schedules continues even now. This year I have stepped up and learned shooting in my free time. Alone.

I have now begun to step out by myself, without having to have a buddy accompany me. I have learned to calm the FOMO syndrome and focus only on what seems important to me.

Face it!

F

Life is a blessing.

When I see people cribbing about that blessing, it puts me off. I am not talking about random ranting or statements like ‘my life is a mess‘. That condition can be overcome with an hour with friends and a bucket of ice-cream.

I am not talking of crying at a setback or a genuine mental/physical internal/external conflict one is going through. Heck, I cry my heart out when I think I cannot put up a strong face any longer.

Cry, express yourself and then get on in life with a renewed vigour.

I am not even talking of depression. An acute despair can be replaced by positive vibes with a little inner struggle with the mind. One’s own mind at that.

It is the thought of suicide that I am talking of. When I hear about suicides, I think to myself how can one’s own mind make one take the final step? I know of so many cases, where the people who did it could have been very happy now had they had the courage to face life. No condition in the world can justify suicide except the exceptional cases like when a soldier/on-field spy has to take the cyanide pill to protect national interests. Some might say euthanasia. Even that is a different subject altogether. I would not venture into that discussion in this post.

I am talking about perfectly capable human beings – mentally and physically. One day they are fine. The next day, there is a breaking news. I know it must be a lot to deal with, but death is not the cure for suffering. It just ends everything beautiful about you. There are people in this world who live in extreme conflict zones but live each day in the hope of a better tomorrow, enjoy each moment as there in no chaos around them.

Whenever you feel life is dragging you down in the dumps, ask yourself – Is this the lowest point in your life?

If not, then you’ve already seen the lowest and have come out of it. Cheer up! 

If yes, then you can go no further, the only way for the graph of your life is up. Face it!

My father had a saying put up in his library :

ज़िन्दगी ज़िंदा-दिली का नाम है,
मुर्दा दिल क्या खाक़ जिया करते हैं ।

Life is defined by liveliness. The weak hearted have never truly lived.

This post is a part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge.

Book Review : The Winner’s Curse by Dee Walker

The Winner's Curse by Dee Walker
The Winner’s Curse by Dee Walker
Paperback 288 pages
Publisher Srishti Publishers; 1 edition (24 December 2014)
Language English
ISBN-10 9382665242
ISBN-13 978-9382665243

WHY I READ THE BOOK

One fine day last month, I was going over my notes taken at the #WIN conference by Blogadda in Feb 2014. In his opening address, Mr.Ravi Subramanian had mentioned that Mr.Yatin Gupta helped him setup an author blog and got him initiated into blogging.

Life seems to have an almost impossible line-up of coincidences in store for me. The very same morning, a mail from Mr.Yatin Gupta himself was waiting for me in my inbox when I opened my Gmail on reaching office. It was about a review copy upon expressing interest.

As apparent from my writing this review, I signed up. 🙂

What sparked my interest was
1) Mr. Gupta himself backed the book.
2) It was written using a pen name. I like pen names!
3) The blurb was interesting – it reminded me of Adhar Cards and UIDs somehow.
4) It is the author’s first book. (I have this thing for first novels 😛 )

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

It is a fast paced story for one. The techies and business folks amongst us will identify with the jargon used to explain technology and Government tenders. Parallel tracks are at a minimum, which makes the reader sit on the edge wondering what comes next. Also, if you’re an IITian, want to be one or have anyone close to you in IIT; you might wanna pick this one up. (No, it has nothing to do with campus stories or isn’t a CB kinda IIT story.)

THE PLOT

The story is about a big budget Government Telecom scheme being brought in to facilitate transparency in the Bureaucratic functioning. There are big parties involved in bidding for the tenders. The race to win the bid with hurdles like political interests of the stakeholders, corruption in importing the infrastructure and parallel deals being made to secure the contract somehow has IITians from the same batch involved. When the contract is allotted, the winner is faced with a moral dilemma – whether to go through, or not – as the not-written-in-RFP requirements if implemented, will bring an end to individual privacy, as we know today.

Although the book has a taut and almost flawless plot, rather than being story driven; it is primarily character driven.

THE CHARACTERS

I think the USP of this book will be it’s unique characters.

The focus is on IITians whose traits are reminiscent of one or more of the 10 commandments that are drilled into the genius brains of the IIT graduates.(You didn’t know IITians had a code or commandments?! Well, neither did I. 😛 ) There are other supporting characters from the non-IIT world. With about more than 10 key characters, The Winner’s Curse is a densely populated book.

I don’t know how Dee Walker has managed ZERO redundancy in the characterization. Every single character introduction takes the story forward and there is NO character which could have been dropped.

Harsh is the protagonist of the story. From the blurb, it appeared that he is a fresh pass-out (yeah yeah I know it’s wrong English but I’ll still use the term). Turns out, he is in his late 30s. He has a strong political backer in the form of the Master,whom he considers his Guru. You’ll find it difficult to categorize Harsh as plain black or white. Let’s say his heart is white, but his actions are black. (Picture Ajay Devgan’s character in Once upon a time)

ARMANI is a bio-tech genius and the possible protagonist of the sequel Dee Walker has in mind, as it appears from the Epilogue. He couldn’t get into IIT in 2 attempts!

Rocky is an IIT alumnus bureaucrat with a nagging guilt about being corrupt, but still not ready to rebel against the system. Also, he has a bad equation with Harsh since his IIT days and cannot see eye to eye with him on anything.

There are more, this was just an idea.

WHAT I LIKED

1) The narration is crisp, laced with specific details, showing that the author knows what he is talking about.
2) The scene setups come alive.(For example Harsh’s meeting with Dubai investors at the Burj.)
3) The fact that FIITJEET and UNIVQuest are perhaps real institutes. Also the author stresses in the end that IIT is not the ONLY thing which signifies one’s intelligence. Even IIT grads have to live up to their formative years at the Uni, when they come into the real world.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

1) There are one or two technical, plot related loopholes I am still pondering on.
2) The Editor has done a bad job. By bad, I do mean bad. For instance, I found an entire sentence printed twice in adjacent paras. Don’t even talk about small typos.
3) I think mentions of illicit relationships and steamy affairs are added just because of the common perception that it makes the book spicier.There is a gay relationship for business benefits – which is more of a ploy to draw readers.
4) Lot of cursing. It should not be a problem with most of the readers, as Tarantino and closer home Anurag Kashyap, have made it a necessary ingredient in gritty realistic stories.

IN A NUTSHELL

Since I started with the mention of Mr.Ravi Subramanian’s address at #WIN, let me end with it too. He said, one of the reviews of his debut book said ‘It was a steaming pile of manure.’ Although the audience doubled over with laughter, I wonder how he’d have felt when he was not a household name yet.

Now I, as a reviewer (and a wannabe author 😛 ), have a natural tendency to try and tear apart a book from the first page. I tried to curb the instinct and started with the book, only to find that after the initial 2-3 pages, I was transformed into an unbiased ordinary reader just wanting to know ‘what happens next’!

If a book can do that, it is surely worth a read. I’d sum up by saying :

“The Winner’s Curse is brilliant in parts, with a strong message of staying true to your ideals; which is brought about quite effectively in the end.”

I would rate The Winner’s Curse a decent 3.5 on a scale of 5.

Project 365 – 2 – Wo kehte hain mera watan

Disclaimer : This post was written before I came to know that Iqbal’s ideology transitioned from having India as a united nation to a pro-partition stand. However, this nazm still holds true, for the Iqbal that saw a free India.

A Republic Day Special this –

Waving with pride

Wo kehte hain mera watan,
ab nahi raha Iqbal ka chaman,
mere zehen me jhank ke dekho zara,
aaj bhi hai wo jazba, wo nazaara,
jab har dil me ek hi baat hoti thi,
mohabbat sirf ek tarah ki hoti thi,
jasbat wahi naye andaaz me jhalakte hain,
jab kadam Dhvajvandan ki or badhte hain.
kehta hai Tiranga dekhkar apni azaad avaam,
bas jung-e-azaadi me nahi the muhib-e-watan,
uss anjaan shaheed ki ilamat hai har wo insaan,
asar-o-rasokh na kare jisko apna rutba-e-hum-watan,
mahej insaan se salook kare jaise insaan………..
zinda hain, kuch galiyon me aise chand bashinde,
jo lautayenge is gulistaan ko uske nayaab parindey,
aur wo kehte hain mera watan,
ab nahi raha Iqbal ka chaman!

Glossary
zehen – conscious, jazba- emotion, jung-e-azaadi – freedom struggle, muhib-e-watan – patriots, mahej – only, bashinde – inhabitants (here – citizens), gulistaan – garden, parindey – birds (here, the peace pigeons signifying good citizens), nayaab – rare, asar-o-rasokh – influence

The general idea of the poem is

Some claim that India is no longer the land the great poet Iqbal described as Saare Jahaan Se Achha. I would urge them to look inside my conscious and they will see the same inspired emotion reflecting in my thoughts, which was in the minds of people fighting for India’s struggle; as I walk towards the flag hoisting ground. The emotion is love, there was only one kind of love which existed then and it was for their country. The Tricolour looks proudly at the assembled Avaam, it’s free citizens and addresses them saying,”It is not only in the freedom struggle that patriotism manifested itself. They were not the only patriots, the people who laid down their lives in the freedom struggle. The season of patriotism is not over. Each one of my citizens, who treats his fellow citizens with equality – without being influenced by his status, symbolizes the unknown freedom fighters of that era.” There are  exist (even though few) citizens like this, who live in the bylanes of this country. They have vowed to bring back the rare species of such patriots. And they still say, my country is not Iqbal’s Hindustan anymore?!