I need to stop treating the weekends as special. I stay up late on the night before, ergo I get up late. I am getting more lone time, I convince myself. I have now realized that’s not the case. The late nights can give me some hours when all are asleep. But I enjoy the early mornings much more.
I am fresh, I can sit and relax with calmness surrounding me. No one’s awake. Not in my house or on the outside. The only “noise” is the crickets in the dark, busy with their routine; that calms me.
I get to hear the nature wake itself up to the rising dawn. I need not plug my ears to shut out any distracting sounds. Every sound is stimulating; I read better, I write better. As someone who gets distracted by the slightest of the noises, that’s also the best time to get into a meditative state, something I am trying to do daily now.
My habit of treating weekends as different from the regular work days has been ruining the routine that keeps me freshest throughout the day.
Seriously, I am tired of proving to Google that I’m human by selecting grids with zebra crossings in them. This task has to be a lot easier for bots than it is for me because I suck at it every time.
I think, maybe, just maybe we need some other ways to test if users online are humans. Just test us for what we suck at.
- Keep showing us optical illusions and check how we freak out. Our eyes keep making a fool of our minds and we let them. Of course, we are already being crazies by training computers to fall for optical illusions. Why, why?
- Show us a street full of people coughing and sneezing around openly and ask a single question “what’s the risk that you will get coronavirus if you walk out on this street without a mask?” Apparently, no human will say 100%.
- Show the departure time of the flight. Show us the distance to the airport, the traffic en route. Ask us then when should we leave the house. Bots will always make us reach in time. Humans, on the other hand, will be either too early or too late, even when provided with all the data.
- Show us a video of people playing basketball and make us count the passes. Then just make us randomly predict when will the pandemic end. If a user selects “before August starts”, has to be Human. Yeah, and also show us next the walking, chest-thumping gorilla that we missed in the video.
- Just put a simple multiple-choice question, “What will you name some random street?” with one of the options as “I don’t know… name it whatever the fuck man”. Majority humans apparently will select that.
You get the idea. Don’t judge us by our smartness. If there’s anything that the last few months have proven, it is that we ain’t an intelligent species. It is our dumbness, our frailties that make us humans now.
One of my dad’s closest friend passed away today. Understandably, my dad was very sombre for the whole day. He told me he had spoken to his friend just yesterday when he was all fine.
Just last week, my aunt too had lost her father. She also told me she had spoken to her dad just a day before and even he was all fine.
They both died due to heart failure. They both shared one more truth, though. They both already had a weak heart and both said that all the news around COVID and the resultant lockdown were making them lonelier. They felt burdened — even though they had their close family and friends always around them for support.
Will we also add these deaths to the this pandemic’s toll? Because, of course, these aren’t isolated cases. The psychological fallout is far-reaching than immediately noticeable symptoms.
We should. It has curtailed many more lives than those that get reported.
I am making sure I stay sane, healthy. I am spending time on, for and with myself. I am taking care of myself to the extent that I never did before.
What else could I do?
I am making sure my family stays safe. I am sharing stories, laughing a lot with them. I am playing with my daughter. All her games, without judging them. I go on an unplanned date with my wife right at home every now and then, spend a cosy morning with her in the balcony with a cup of hot tea. I am spending time with my family to the extent that I never did before.
What else could I do?
As I go outside, I always wear a mask. I do not have or present any justification to not wear one. There can’t be one. I try to enlighten others, closed ones and those that aren’t so, the importance of being responsible once outside of homes.
What else could I do?
Well, there is so much more that I could do. I do not openly express my anguish looking at the adverse situation the impoverished lots are going through. I do not stand for the rights of minorities world around as much as I should. Or contribute towards changing the clearly imbalanced societal status quo.
Or speak up openly when I see a gender bias in play. I haven’t yet told that one guy to not keep saying “guys” in a meeting with many of my female colleagues. It is wrong. I cringe every time. But I could also speak up.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa
Change doesn’t always need radical corrections. I could bring the minor shifts in my behaviour and make my surrounding a fair place for all.
So, what else could I do?
Well, I could not ask that question because I know there’s so much that I do not do. Let me make an effort to be a better version of myself because there’s no doubt that I can never be perfect.
It was exactly a year ago that I had posted an update on my then-recently undertaken no-news experiment. It primarily involved –
- consuming news only through the morning newspaper
- no news related apps on my phone
- no notifications from social apps (including messages, WhatsApp)
I am pleasantly surprised that the things begun then have more or less stayed the same. I still consume my news primarily from the morning newspaper. I still avoid visiting the news website. I still have the notifications from social apps disabled. For that matter, I have become more aggressive in disabling notification access to any app.
The only deviation has been that I have installed a few news apps on my phone. I always had that urge to open some editorial on the browser when my mind was momentarily free. This minor change has quenched that.
Of course, I am still extremely picky about which apps get installed. I have installed only a couple of news curating apps (also known for doing their job well). And The New York Times app.
Digital Detox – No YouTube
I have also recently undertaken a digital detox experiment. I want to check which additional service I can get off my routine. It should be something that I carelessly spend a lot of time on.
I had recently been consuming a lot of stupid content on YouTube. I used to open the app every time I had some free time at hand. Or for that matter even when I was busy doing something else. It garnered a subconscious tap. Such absent-minded behaviour is never healthy.
So I have planned to be off YouTube for at least a month to reset the terms of my relationship with this service. It has been 15 days now and I already feel better. I no longer have that urge to tap into YouTube any more. I have observed am following my routine a lot better.
However, YouTube has become too important a destination for all kinds of videos. That includes videos relevant to my work too. So it is difficult to completely get rid of the access to the service.
Of course, then, I plan to allow access to the app in a controlled manner. This time, however, I will set the terms again consciously. I am also planning to clear the YouTube view history before I do that. I believe this will help me reset the recommendations. I am, however, yet to decide the exact terms under which the service will be allowed back.
During this month of digital detox, I also plan to indulge myself with some analogue activities that I had never done before. I have started doodling more. Sure, am not good at it. But I hit the web for inspiration and try to simply emulate.
I am also spending dedicated time with my daughter without any digital devices around. It can be as less as 15 minutes. Involving simple talks. Or some silly games. But it has to be focused time.
It is too early to see the effects of all this. One thing is for sure, though. I feel a tad less burdened on the inside.
I recently had my wisdom teeth extracted. Boy oh boy, if I had known earlier that the road to the recovery from this procedure is not straight forward, I would have never undergone this without much thought.
There are so many precautions to be taken — from keeping the mount clean to monitoring what you eat. This is in addition to easing the swelling and the pain. I would have liked to time this better. With just a day to go to start going to the office again, it would be some difficult times ahead.
Sure, my dentist did explain all the intricacies involved before the procedure. He also mentioned what all I would have to be careful about. But it was only once the teeth were pulled and the gums stitched back that I became cognizant of the complications.
And all this for a set of teeth whose only purpose is to jam up the number 32. Sigh!
I recently went through an experience that put my rational mind under a scanner. After a tiring session of shopping for clothes, I stood in the queue to pay for the stuff that my family had finally decided to buy. I always hate the process of selecting clothes in the shopping malls – more so when my family’s doing it than me. I just can’t fathom the sheer number of parameters my wife, my daughter and my sister together can cobble up while deciding a piece of cloth to be selected (to be frank, rejected seems to be more apt). Anyway, it is a battle that I have lost many occasions over years – so moving on.
The billing process that follows isn’t painless either. I am always bombarded with so many questions.
“Do you have membership? Why not? There are no many benefits like blah.. blah.. Why won’t you become a member?” “Which card do you have? Why don’t you pay this way rather than that?” “Would you need a shopping bag? 1 Large? Or 2 medium?”
It’s an unending sequence of dreadful moments till I leave the shopping mall. But this time it ended in slightly different manner. I was offered an offer which am convinced now must have been part of some psychological study. The lady behind the billing counter explained it to me somewhat like this (emphasis her and mine).
“Sir, you made a purchase worth a specific, nontrivial amount, so you stand a chance to win an assured gift. This is not a lucky draw, you will win some gift1 for sure. All you have to do is pay a significant amount. That will make you eligible (wasn’t I already?) for this assured gift. And the cost of the cheapest assured gift is twice as higher than the price you pay (how can I verify). So, of course, I should include that, right?”
So, in short, it is pay (over and above what you have already paid for the shopping) to win assuredly? Like what you would do in a casino – but with some surety angle? Why not just have an aisle full of assured gift cards? Why link it to billing? I couldn’t help but think it had to do with the fact that my abilities to think rationally are depleted due to the exhaustion from the decisions made earlier during shopping. And my mind is at my most vulnerable state.
With the pressure from the people queued behind me growing, I nervously said yes. But within seconds, pushed by the pressure from my rational mind, I said no. I wasn’t ready to undergo the scrutiny of my thoughts.
The gifts included bedrolls, luggages, some OLED television set, bikes and even car.↩
I had no idea that there exists something called Nation Play-Doh Day. It does, and it is today.
This “toy” always fascinates me. After all, it is just clay, plain simple clay. I remember a time, as a child, when we regularly played in and with clay. At that time, it was frowned upon – playing with clay was synonymous with getting dirty. “Good boys do not do that”, we were told. I was always the obedient one, but even I deferred at times.
I remember one such rainy evening — we friends neglected not one, but many such restrictions. It had been raining cats and dogs throughout the day, our playground was muddy wet. And the only game that we knew of that we could play in such conditions was football1. We only played this English game on those rare occasions when playing cricket wasn’t feasible. And today was one such day.
Ground was slippery and it continued to rain. So of course, playing wasn’t going to be easier. Running around with the ball by our legs was a big task. Especially for us occasional footballers. So it was only natural that there would be one tenderfoot who would slip and fall down. And he won’t like running around alone with the dirty clothes. So he would pull someone else around. And those two would a few others. It didn’t take long for all of us to resemble the ugly prisoners of The Longest Yard.
It was only after getting crazy laden with mud that we realized, boy oh boy, we were in big trouble. It wasn’t just our clothes that were dirty. The whole of us was. And it had already gotten dark and we had to cross a section of woods to get back home.
To add to our troubles, it had also stopped raining. So the only way for us to clean ourselves up was with the water dripping from the trees in the woods. We did try that, we shook the trees violently at times. But all the attempts were in vain. Now we were not just wet and dirty, but also itchy. That day, I quietly entered the home through the door at the back, went straight to the shower under cold water and even washed off the clothes with my hands.
The walk through the woods that day followed by that cold shower were one of the most tense moments of my childhood.
I still convince myself that my mom did not see me ugly that day.
I know the cutesy games that my daughter plays with her Play-Doh can never be compared to our ugly rolling all over in the mud. But I still haven’t succeeded in explaining my mom how someone managed to bottle some clay and make it one of the hottest selling toy in the world.
English football, Soccer for the US readers.↩
It was a different day today. It was a different birthday today.
There was no late night, or early morning, cake cutting celebrations. Because I have come to prefer a time when my daughter is completely awake and can thoroughly enjoy the celebrations.
There was no partying in the night with food that my family doesn’t enjoy. Because what matters more is everyone around me has a great time.
There were no loud and over-the-top plans — just a day of togetherness with people that matter the most to me. Of course, that also meant things couldn’t just be perfect.
There was a crazy rush to get ready and cut traffic to reach theaters so that we can watch a show of movie with the whole family together. There were discussions, to the point of exasperation, over the inevitable traffic jams and the needless security checks. There were squabbles over meaningless stuff that ended with guffaws and family portraits. Even awkward at times.
But all said, it was a day well spent. Everyone decided to stay home. And everyone tried their best to make my day special.
I do not have great pictures captured of the day. But I have some wonderful memories made. It was a different, a special day today.