18 September 2019

Book Review: “Atomic Habits”

[This just in… found out that the author was a student of my senior from high school days – Prabasaj-da – who incidentally is absolutely one of the smartest persons I ever had a chance to spend some time with]

About a month back, I was talking to Roger and he mentioned this book. Downloaded it and read it. It is a fairly easy and quick read. There are some good nuggets of wisdom from James Clear.

The underlying thesis of the book is to not focus on outcomes (“want to run a marathon”) and instead focus on the “identity” (“I want to be a runner”). It takes you thru the author’s framework of Cues-Craving-Response-Reward with respect to how to build new habits or break down old ones.

Some interesting observations that caught my eye:
(*) We want to first fit in a group and then we are accepted, we try to stand out
(*) Agriculture spread much faster in Europe and Asia than the Americas and Africa because Europe and Asia is spread left to right rather than top to bottom (think of the homogeneity of climate)
(*) The reason we stick to bad habits? Human brains have not evolved from the immediate-return environment (foraging leads to hunger satisfied now) to delayed-return environment (we invest now so we will be wealthy twenty years from now). Thus we smoke for immediate pleasure but we underestimate the danger in the future.
(*) We can be rational and logical only AFTER we have been emotional

You can read the book to pick up other nuggets yourself.

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14 September 2019

The case of the “battered” wife

Last night, I had heavy snacks after coming back from work. And when I say “heavy”, I mean the helpings were generous enough to be counted as dinner. After that I had gone to greet a friend for his 50th birthday and then came back home for some tabla and qawaalis.

At around 11 PM, I was done and was ready to go to bed but was somewhat hungry again. First thing I noticed in the kitchen is that Sharmila had left some fresh potato curry and a couple of fritters for me. She knew she would be late from the party she had gone to and all I needed to do is open the refrigerator and grab some bread or rice or something. She is very nice that way.

As you might have expected, I opened the refrigerator – and was immediately accosted by a whole array of cooked food neatly arranged in the shelves. Now, for me, food is more a function of my hunger and less of my taste buds. I grabbed whatever was in front and pulled it out. Not entirely sure why, I also grabbed a half cut lime that was within an easy reach for me.

After opening up the container, I realized I had grabbed the bowl of noodles that Sharmila had cooked for Nikita. Also, anybody knows noodles and potato curry are not exactly the pairings for the sophisticated. Nevertheless, I marshaled on. Took a small portion of the noodles, a more-than-required portion of the curry, those two fritters and threw them into the microwave. After much head scratching, I realized that I had no conceivable way of doing justice to the lime. So, I put it back.

Don’t remember much of the dinner except that the potato curry tasted yummy. For a split second, I wondered whether I should have finished the whole curry.

All things done, went up to bed. And that is when I heard the garage door open – rather unexpectedly. I did not think she would be back before 1am. And it was only 11:30PM. Figured I would just lay there and wait till she came up.

Predictably, I heard next the house door open… a few footsteps to the kitchen followed and that is when I knew everything was not in place.

“Jegey aachho?”, I heard her yelling (“Are you awake?”). And before even I could say anything, I heard the next question – “Dosa-r masala ta kheye diyechho?”

In about half a second, I realized what had happened. That potato curry was not for me. She had cooked it and kept it for cooling down in the kitchen. That was meant to go with the masala dosa she was planning to make for breakfast the next day. And now she was staring at the dosa batter in one container and the near-empty masala pot in the other with nary an idea what is going to be for breakfast!!

The soporific effect of an irritated wife kicked in instantaneously. I was deep in sleep before you could cry “Uncle”!

13 September 2019

Friday evening relaxation with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan songs

“Tu mileya te mil gayi khudayi ve
Hath jod akhaan payee na judaayi ve
Mar javangi je akh mein tho pheri
Dua na koi hor mangdi”

Somebody with a better grip on Punjabi needs to help me with the translation but I believe what the words mean are

I found my God when I found you
I now pray with folded hands that we be never separated
I will die if you ever take your eyes off me
I have no other prayer (than you)

13 September 2019

Book Review: “The Algebra of Happiness”

That was a quick read. Did not land up being a great fan of it. If you are a young person in twenties or thirties, you might like this – kind of a Ready Reckoner for Happiness. But, if you are somebody in my age group or at least have any reasonable level of reflections on life, you are probably going to find this book not having much depth. Perhaps, my disappointment is because I could not learn anything new.

Scott – who is a professor at NYU – where I have a daughter – starts by tying to be funny and some of the doodles will make you crack a smile. But the narration goes all over the place and I, at least, could not find a coherent path. Plus, it came across as more of a “mea culpa” on his life.

That said, there are a couple of things that caught my attention. First is his reference to the app 1 Second Everyday. Seems like an interesting idea (you take a second of video everyday and then look at the collection – often mashed up – much later to go thru reflections and recollections). I have downloaded it but not tried it yet!

Couple of the more memorable statements include:

“When times are bad, people look for gray hair for leadership. When times are good, people look for youth”. and

“Entrepreneurship is a sales job with negative commissions until you raise capital; they are profitable or go out of business – whichever comes first.”

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