22 March 2020

Book Review: Make Time

This was a very quick read and as very quick read books tend to be, not particularly helpful to me. Now, I have to admit that I am fairly disciplined (some would suggest even OCD) in how I go around planning my day, weeks and years. Most of the things suggested here are things I found I already do (e.g. minimize TV – for me it is zero time, avoid news – I catch up weekly thru Economist – exactly what one of the author does, block calendar times, reflect etc etc). It is possible that others might find some nuggets of wisdom here and there.

One suggestion did catch my eye – I am going to try that. It talks about how while discussing or debating, we get caught up on facts. e.g. we would be talking about Coronavirus and somebody would be mentioning how Italy now has more deaths than China. Somebody else would doubt it and then immediately we would go to our phone and Google to get to the facts.

The book suggests that it is too distracting and that we should try keeping a “Random question list” and check later. That is an intriguing thought. Of course, now I am worrying – do I have to carry a piece of paper all the time? Or do I have to fish out my phone to write down the question anyways? Also, without the fact at that point, can the discussion continue at all? Not very sure, but I will see how this works.

One thing though, the authors have written the book in a very funny way.

Still, it will not get in my recommended read list.

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15 March 2020

Book Review: “Why We Sleep”

I am going to try to tamp down on the hyperbole but I am not sure how. This book is three thumbs up. Yes, I am aware I have two thumbs,

If I were to name three books that have had the deepest influence on me, they would be (*) The Top Five Regrets of a Dying Man (*) The Power of Now and this book (*) Why We Sleep.

I received this from my younger daughter as a Christmas gift. I finally picked it up for reading sometime in January. This was such a great book that I had to read cover to cover – TWICE !! Unfortunately, in the last two months, I have talked about this book in way too many group gatherings – undoubtedly putting them to sleep. Which, ironically, is what this book is all about.

Fantastic book to understand sleep. And dispel some myths about sleep….

Did you know that…

(*) Sleep is not about lack of wakefulness. There is a boat load of stuff your brain is doing when you are sleeping.
(*) Our brain shuts off the portion of itself that controls motor movements when we dream. Do you know why? Else we will act out our dream!! (try to get off from bed and run away when we dream we are being chased)
(*) Adolescents sleeping late and waking up late? That is not a choice. They need that. It is an evolution thing.
(*) Most sleeping pills do not control your sleep. They just act as sedatives (blunt out your brain)
(*) We have no concept of time when we dream. In fact the concept of time when we dream dilates 3X to 4X!
(*) NREM sleep helps you move your memories from the day from short term (hippocampus) to your long term (frontal cortex) but it is your REM sleep that helps you stick those memories to past memories (making you learn)
(*) Dolphins and whales sleep with one side brain shut off at a time!
(*) Evolution wise, we are biphasic sleepers (once after lunch and then the long sleep at night)
(*) Older adults need less sleep? Yeah, that is a myth
(*) We wash our face before we go to sleep because feelings clean causes better sleep? Another myth! But there is a biological reason why we should wash down our feet, hand and face/whole head to induce sleep.
(*) 65 degrees room temperature is ideal for deep sleep (that is too cold for me!!!)
(*) You are on high fat/low carb diet? You are messing up your REM sleep (leading to learning) but getting deep NREM sleep (short term memory cleaning is good)

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6 March 2020

Friday evening…

Tera pyar hai meri zindagi
Teri yaad hai meri bandagi
Jo teri khushi woh meri khushi
Ye mere junoon ka hai mojza
Jahan apne sar ko jhuka diya
Wahan mein ne kaaba bana diya

“Your love is my life
Your remembrance is my prayer
Whatever is your wish is my wish
Such is the miracle of my craze for you
That wherever I put my head down for you
They built a mosque there”

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5 March 2020

Two scores and fourteen years ago…

Two scores and fourteen years ago, I was born. Naked, cold and hungry.
Then it got worse.

Somewhere in this journey that we fashionably call “life”, I learnt how to crawl and then walk all over. It was a great feeling of freedom learning what this world feels like.
Then was told to sit down at a desk and not move. As I “learn”.

I learnt how to utter unintelligible sounds. Sometimes even put them in a way that meant something. I was delighted that I could tell others how I felt.
Then I was told to shut up and listen to teachers, elders, boss, wife (I think I just repeated myself).

Somewhere, I was taught that it was all about money. Financial freedom, social status is how I will be judged. Not just me – my family, my kids.
Then somebody told me I will die. Worse, I cannot take my bank balance and my family with me.

I asked – “when will I die”. They laughed and said “Any time”.
“Meaning it can be right now?”
“Sure”

Never wanted to see a doctor after that.

But apparently, I am supposed to put a notch on an imaginary tree – again fashionably called age – every time the earth heaves me around the sun one full time in an incredible speed of thousands of miles per second.

I asked if the earth came with clutch or brakes.
They said No.

So, every year, the world connives to remind me that one more notch has been marked on this day. Over 350 at current count have wished me to say (in computing language) n=n+1

Always the one to interpret it as n=n-1 (I am that much closer to death) and therefore realizing how many well wishers I have, I have tried to return their wishes in the way they reached out to me – phone call for a phone call, WhatsApp message for a WhatsApp message, text for a text….)

I know not how long I am here.

But it was so worthwhile being here.

To understand the worthwhileness, I cite one of the messages I got. See picture attached.

This is my “masi”. In Bengali, that means “sister of your mother”. Truth be told, she is not the real sister of my mother. But in Bengal, when we were young, we addressed any elderly lady as “sister of my mother”.

I have known her for nearly five decades. In the ensuing confusion, I understand that I even married her daughter. But she has remained the “sister of my mother”.

When it comes to technology, while she lives in India, she will identify with the Amish in Pennsylvania more than Bangalore. The last time she visited us in US, she was scared of holding the IPad wrong because it went all topsy turvy on her when she tilted it.

And then when it comes to typing out something, English being a (distant) second language to her, spellcheck squiggles and autocorrects are her veritable nightmares. You can literally see the struggle she had of not knowing how to undo once she pressed an “Enter” after Dear and before my name mistakenly. Or the spaces she had to put to comply to old habits of putting your name down in pen right justified in a letter.

And then for me to realize she WhatsApped this message from my father in law’s number – the one person out of four parents and parents in law that I had that I got along with most and yet was the first one to go…. that is a painful reminder that n=n+1 is as true as n=n-1.

You know, to realize that the same sister of my mother has figured how not to tilt a phone and right justify a birthday message to me from a place literally half a world away… I say “To hell with subtraction and addition… Let’s celebrate “n” “

In its integral and fractional forms. Every day.

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21 February 2020

In the words of Allama Muhammad Iqbal

“Faraib-e-Nazar Hai Sakoon-o-Sabaat
Tarapta Hai Har Zarra-e-Kainat
Theherta Nahin Karwaan-e-Wujood
Ke Har Lehza Hai Taza Shaan-e-Wujood
Samajhta Hai Tu Raaz Hai Zindagi
Faqat Zauq-e-Parwaaz Hai Zindagi”

Roughly translated…

Perpetual stability is a deception of our eyes
For every particle in this world restlessly vibrates with change
The caravan of life does not stop to catch a breath
For in every moment, the journey of existence rejuvenates itself
You may think of this life as a mystery
Whereas life is merely your desires taking flight

13 February 2020

Friday came early…

“Aankh uthi mohabbat ne angrai li
Dil ka sauda hua chaandni raat mein
Unki nazron ne kuch aisa jadoo kiya
Loot gaye hum to pehli mulaqat mein”

Roughly translated…

“She lifted her eyes, and deep inside me
Love was aroused from its slumber
Our hearts were fatefully exchanged
In that beautiful moonlight bathed night

Her long gaze had some magical aura
That I did not quite understand; but this much I know
I was completely and truly robbed
In that very first meeting we ever had”

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