11 August 2023

Finally, some unwinding time

The week has been a bit hectic. Did manage to put in a walk to the bar with Sharmila and the dog every night though. But that was about it. Finally, today got some motorcycle time and then unwinding with an Asterix!

This is the 14th book – Asterix in Spain !

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1 June 2023

Somebody is laughing at my blog from eSwatini?

This morning I woke up to realize that a reader from the 168th country has visited by blog. That country being eSwatini. Many of you may know it as Swaziland. About 5 years back, the king (the only monarchy left in Africa, I believe) got tired of people confusing his country with another landlocked country – Switzerland – and changed the name to eSwatini.

What caught my eye was the region of the country that the reader came from – the notification said “Hho Hho” !! And I was like what did you find so funny?

A little research later, I learnt that the capital Mbabane (good luck pronouncing it) is in the region called Hho Hho. That made a little more sense that the first reader to my blog from that country would come from the capital.

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17 May 2023

What is “success”?

To switch up from rusting postal vehicles and dizzying runs, here is a question I have for you…

Three wise men and I had gathered a couple of days back at Mazzy’s to discuss a particular topic. Before I go any further, I have to tell you about Bengalis and “addas”. I do not know how it is in Bengal these days, but growing up, I was aware that we had a couple of reputations as a tribe.

First, we loved our “addas” (আড্ডা). These are basically a few Bengalis (say two to six – usually no more) hanging out. Constant drinking of tea was a paramount feature of such gatherings. The location could be outside – like the turn of the street, the benches outside the street side tea stalls or inside the coffee houses.

Second, we were known to be “আঁতেল” . Meaning intellectual. We would dive into poetry, philosophy, history, science … basically anything that did not require us to do some work. We would solve global hunger problems over a teacup but nary a step would we take to actually do something about it. For example, you could spot us going threadbare on what is giving rise to Kolkata’s street pollution problems and then watch us absentmindedly throw the earthen tea cup onto the street narrowly missing the scooter that just went by.

Deserved or not, in a bit of a revival of that reputation, Mrinal-da, Amitesh, Samaresh and I hung out at Mazzy’s. Since Mazzy’s does not know what “দুধ-চা” (the way tea is consumed in Bengal) is, we settled for a bottle of cabernet. (Nobody complained about it, I should add 🙂 )

Anyways, the topic de jure in this “adda” was “What is success?”

Fairly animated discussion, I should say.

To make this a virtual “adda“, I am curious about how you think about success. One of the things we were tripping up on was what is the difference between success and happiness? Is success a single variate or is it measured on multiple variables and stand together at the same time?

Think about the things you would say you have been successful in and the ones you have not been successful in. What was the definition of “success” did you just use when you made those self judgments?

Curious to hear your points of views. And feel free to join our “addas” if you are nearby.

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19 March 2023

Mathematics and Sex

That word is something that immediately attracts my attention – Mathematics!! As I was explaining to Dipanjan the other day, I can spend the better part of an evening arguing both sides of the question – “Was mathematics invented or discovered?”

If you have even any remote interest in what happens when we apply the only subject that is invariant (unlike science or religion) to extremely emotive subjects like romance and love, this Ted talk show by author and mathematician Clio Cresswell is bound to delight you.

Some of the reasons I loved her talk:

1. You know the common myth that men have more sexual partners than women? If not, just humor me and Google “who has more sex partners – men or women”. The mathematician in me always thought that is just impossible. Assuming near equal population of sexually active men and women and a very low disparity between the numbers of same sex partners between men and women, that answer should be “almost same”. Mathematically, anything else is impossible. She did a great job of enumerating that answer on the board.

2. I have always been suspicious of the old adage “girls are weak in math; boys are better in math”. I have seen that in India (my birth country) and I have seen that in the USA (my adopted country). I have always wondered if this was an inborn thing or simply a social/cultural bias. I thought Clio did an outstanding job of cutting thru that conundrum. Simply put, evolution is millions of years old. Math is merely 2000 years old. No way genes could have evolved to say – “Hmmmm, there is a stimulus coming about a million years from now. I better start evolving from now on to prepare for that”.

3. You are going to get a kick out of this. You know how psychologists talk about empathy and how longer, successful marriages are derived from empathy? Which requires compromise? Well, at least math will show you that couples who do not compromise land up with far longer marriages. Her thesis is that when you hold each other to higher standards and achieve it, you become better as a person leading to stronger bonding.

Now, the mathematician in me wants to know if her study focused only on longer marriages as the outcome variable or did it take “happily” married as the real outcome variable? (Of course, defining “happy” becomes yet another challenge)

There is an old story that this reminds me. There was a study done in the 1970s which purportedly showed that married men live longer than single men. I have always wondered whether the married men really live longer or it just seems so to them 🙂

18 March 2023

Music is but nostalgia, personified

“Gaye dinon ka suraag lekar
Kidhar se aaya kidhar gaaya woh
Ajeeb maanus ajnabi tha
Mujhe to hairan kar gaya woh”

Poet: Nasir Kazmi

Roughly translated…

“With that sudden hint of long lost past
She came from nowhere; and then vanished – I know not where
It be so strange that a complete stranger like her
Could leave me so utterly listless”

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2 February 2023

Does one really have more time or is that merely an illusion?

Now that I have given a long winded excuse in my previous post – and a fair warning at that – I can now start by telling you the question I get asked often: “How do you get so much time?”

It came up recently again around my posting of the annual dashboard. Which got me to think – in as much an unbiased way I possibly could – why is it that it seems to others that I get more time to do things?

My first conclusion is it is not about what I do – rather what I do not do. With the safe assumption that I have 24 hours like everybody else and that I sleep 7-8 hours a day (average about 7:30 most days), part of the answer has to lie in what is it that I do not do that others do.

Problem is when I ask people – how did you spend your time last week (in large categories), most people shoo me away. So, I tried to deduce from secondary data – like conversations that I cannot follow or the regular berating from my wife when she has to explain why I have not showed up at a party yet again.

I think not watching any movies, sports and in general having TV time to near zero (unless I am with my wife at a bar) plus not going to any large social gathering (more than 4 is large for me) is probably one reason I get more amount of discretionary time than others.

The second conclusion – and I am fairly ashamed to admit it – I am extremely particular about how I plan and track my time. By any fair measurement system, “OCD” does not even come close to the planning, tracking, habit growing system I have developed over the years (based on Level 10 Life).

To give you an idea, every morning, I grab my cup of “karak” chai and note down how I spent the previous day on 70 different variables. In full red, green, yellow colors. My wife calls them “crop circles”. Then there is the weekend aggregation of the week, the weekly planning, the monthly aggregation, the monthly planning… quarterly… annually. In fact the annual dashboard is a good example of the extent of lunacy I will go to – to plan and track my time.

To give you an idea how off kilt I am on this – once my friend Avi had asked me “What do you do for spontaneity?”. Without realizing the irony, I had answered “Why, I schedule that in.”

If the first two reasons were that I simply do not do other things that people do and I am inanely particular about how I spend time, the third one is outright unflattering.

And that is I post too much. While I was thinking thru why people wonder how I get so much time, I inevitably came to the conclusion that at least part of the answer lies in that I advertise a lot. Since I write down my daily life story with pictures and description – which then gets syndicated to Facebook (and for some posts, Linkedin), it must create an impression on the audience that I am doing a lot more things than others.

I do think the variety of activities adds to that impression but I suspect many people do similarly or even more interesting things. But since they do not post their life journal, most of us do not realize that they are doing a lot of stuff too.

If you know me or even if you do not, how do you relate to my conclusions?

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31 January 2023

“People often ask me…”

Have you ever read any Facebook or Linkedin post that starts “I am often asked…”? I do not know about you but my first reaction is “No, you are not!”

You are just trying to act as if you are reluctantly trying to explain something. Truth is you want to make a point. I am good with that. This is social media. You can say anything you want on this platform without having to explain why.

And I am interested in hearing your point of view – that is why I follow you – no need to show any modicum of made up humility.

I have never seen anybody write – “People often ask me why I am such an idiot or so belligerent…”. It is always “People often ask me what are my secrets to being a great leader … “ or some made up stuff like that.

Okay, what is my point?

First, I realize there are exceptions to the above.

Second, during my birthday calls – and my postings of my annual dashboards – a recurring theme in the questions I am asked has gotten me to think hard about the answer. There are parts to the answer that are unflattering to me…

But I wanted to make sure that my temerity in trying to answer the theme of the questions I am asked “How come you get so much time to do things” is well understood. I am aware that posting that question itself is crossing the lines of humility that I was talking about.

I wanted this background to explain in the next post what are the conclusions I have come to about myself (like I said, not all of it is flattering to me) about that question I get asked.

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2 January 2023

Maybe I do overdo it a bit!!

I was trying to put together the report card for last year yesterday and I realized that I might be approaching borderline OCD. And by that I mean approaching the border from the other side 🙂

Now, what I call meticulous planning and tracking of habits, goals and in general how I spend time, Sharmila and a few friends (notably Avi 🙂 ) refer to it commonly as “crop circles”. I track about 64 things everyday in those crop circle looking things – which is then aggregated weekly and then monthly and then annually with all sorts of Red, Green and Yellow colors.

I distinctly remember Avi asking me at Mazzy’s once – “So, how about spontaneity?”

I do not think my answer – “I schedule it in :-)” impressed him!!

Regardless of the good natured ribbing, I have drawn up my new tracking sheets for the new year – there are over 70 items to track this year!!

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