Meditation

The next renaissance

The movie fight club has a few thought provoking quotes – “We are the middle children of history, no purpose or place, no great wars, no great depression”. I don’t second the thought completely, our generation might also have a purpose may be a latent one, may be the purpose is hidden in layers like a pomegranate hides the berries in layers. Taking the middle path is the norm, the path that is safe, one that might bear the fruits of success – a success that is moderate but not the one that will make you immortal. Fight club comes to rescue one more time by stating “It’s only after we have lost everything that we are free to do anything”.

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The cities that have marked themselves in golden letters in pages of history were unforgiving to the people who called them home. There wasn’t a plan B, if you succeed then you will share the glory and your place in pages of history with the greats from all walks of life but if you fail then you might starve to death and you subject your upcoming generations, if any, to similar fate. But that didn’t deter them to take risks. They always shot for something that can be considered the ultimate manifestation of human spirit.

What is it that we will risk everything for? Pope Julius II gave the commission to Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo wasn’t a painter, he was a sculptor. But the philosophy to take risk on the unlikely heroes was not uncommon. Identify a talented person and bestow responsibility of a herculean task; sit back and look at the results.

But what we do nowadays is quite tangential to that approach. We enlist the people for jobs once we determine that they are the perfect fit and then we assign the tasks to those who demonstrated the ability to execute those tasks in the past. Entirely risk averse. No risk or reduced risk is what the aim is. The space and time required for the ideas to flourish are not provided and then we wonder why aren’t we living in another renaissance?

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Bike On

I am not here to preach you about biking and its benefits to health, environment, and the society. The advantages are conspicuous enough and if one can’t see them then what’s even the point. Critically cynical stance from me but I still gape and don’t believe my eyes when people take their cars out to go to a store within 2 mile radius. I have nothing against cars, they are great mode of transport if we are talking about longer distances but if used within the city limits can cause the slow death of the city life, deteriorate the environment, and unnecessarily encroach the urban space. But oh well, what do the status hungry society care? Higher the BHP better it is, flashy the car higher would the status be in the ‘society’. But there is hope, it lies in the diamond frame. H G Wells said ” Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of human race.”

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My Parisian Friend

One of my favorite question in the interviews revolve around the framework used by the candidate, and I prefer the lucid and simple ones. A good framework is easy to understand and works well; It is akin to a bicycle – a simple machine that can have solution to few most complicated problems that infest the modern world.

For most of us, bicycles were the first source of freedom, taking us from point A to B but over a period of time we have shunned the bikes and have taken refuge in the cars. Whenever I go to a new city, I prefer to walk or take a bike no matter whether it rains, snows, heats up. Even if I end up walking 33 km in Paris in a day, bike for 40 km in Northern Amsterdam along the dikes, or find myself accidentally in Skagen(sleeping in train isn’t a good idea) and spend the entire day on bike there. There is a different feeling to it, it’s ineffable. You see the world differently, you hear it differently, you smell it differently than from behind a car’s windows. The speed is slow and you can appreciate more around you.

One of the best places to bike, in my opinion, are Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and having the entire road or bike highway to yourself without having to worry about getting hit by a motorized vehicle is a bliss. One can cruise on the bike thanks to the flat terrain of these cities and the cool breeze makes the experience enjoyable. It is interesting to note that studies have been conducted in England that showed that bikes helped in expanding the gene pool of counties( people had more mobility, so they procreated with people from other counties) and at one time was a symbol of female empowerment. Enrique Penasola, the mayor of Bogota exclaimed that absence of bike lanes is undemocratic way of life; If bike paths are present then the city can become a lot safer as there will be people on the road or outside more often.

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My Dutch Way Out

The most talked about advantages of biking are economic, political, social, and ecological but the personal ones cannot be discounted. Advantage of biking for the Parkinson’s patients has been talked about in many papers; one of the doctors took his patient on a tandem bike ride and saw the symptom level for Parkinson has gone down, he kept on repeating this tandem ride for few weeks and found his eureka moment for finding a correlation between biking and slowing down of disease.

Here goes a high five to German born Baron Karl von Drais – creator of this simple machine for “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” — John F. Kennedy

 

The Shakespeare of Vienna

It is humanly impossible to have all the experiences of the world (at least that’s my belief at this point of time) but the paper friends come in handy there. Books are the portals to  unknown adventures, we can live a thousand lives and experience myriad emotions at the same time. In the era of kindles and nooks there is something about the independent bookstores that allures a tumbleweed. The unkempt bookshelves with piles of books packed tightly in close quarters such that various characters and the plots can talk to each other from various stories.  Akin to vast empty space where you can drift forever or stumble upon something which will be your moment of truth, they epitomize the brain of a someone who wants to know it all but is busy scouring the pieces that are yet to be uncovered.

A week ago during a cold and wet winter evening in Vienna, I stumbled upon this bookstore – Shakespeare and Company booksellers, and was I delighted. I was roaming around the old part of the city and it started raining heavily, I took refuge under a window sill to open my bag and get umbrella out and that’s when I saw this bookstore from a distance and I knew immediately that I have to go in.

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The charm of old bookstores is never fading, there is a sense of comfort in the ramshackle appearance and the disorganization. They are like human beings growing old over a period of time and accepting one’s flaws and being humble about it but not apologetic.

The bookstore is located on Stergasse and near Rupert’s church and Stephansplatz. The readers and writers have to go in for a time travel while walking in the labyrinth of this place on creaking wooden floors to get their dose of stimulant.

A walk past the historic lanes

Last month I visited Chicago – my old home. The gold coast neighborhood, the barnes and noble on State street, oak street beach, treasure island on Clark, the big bowl (now closed) – where I always ended up whenever I wanted to eat out, Ra sushi ( whose veg tempura tasted like sea food), the yogurt land and myriad number of spots invoked many memories. I enjoyed a coffee in the Starbucks lounge, where I spent countless evenings, listened to multi ethnic music, and made acquaintance with the baristas who knew what two drinks I order. The $7 movies in AMC on Michigan st. were something to look forward to. The limonata of eatley, miller’s pub on wabash, the two lions in front of Art Institute of Chicago, the numerous rides in L, my meditation classes with Andrew in Montrose, origami meeting in Garfield park, and the biting wind of Chicago in winters stir up many pictures in my brain. It was my last week in Chicago and I was strolling around downtown and my neighborhood in the rainy night and was taking photos; It started pouring down so I decided to go into this McCormick and Schmick on Rush St. Only one old woman was in the bar and I sat couple of high chair next to her, after a while we started talking and she learned my plans to move out of the city to NYC. She scolded me for roaming around in Chicago at night alone as it’s not the safest city. I told her that I do it all the time, it’s no big deal. We spoke for couple of hours before parting our ways. I wonder how and where she is now.

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I, for sure, miss the view and the enormous red and orange sunsets from my window facing west.

 

Hygge

Hygge was among the finalist words in words of the year year 2016. Oxford dictionary defines Hygge as – A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. I think the definition of the word is subjective and being able to enjoy the passing moments of life, howsoever transient or ephemeral they might be, should come under the larger set.  To start with I had been pronouncing the word incorrectly for a long time. It is not Hy -gee but Hue-gaeh, but my laziness made me adapt to the former pronunciation than the correct one. I have always wondered what exactly would I say as hygee in my life. My Swedish friends have Fika for hygge but I? I might have myriad answers to it. Sitting at Fisherman’s wharf  feeling the wind from the pacific and the heat of the sun is definitely hygge and so is letting the cool breeze dry the sweat from your back. Enjoying every sip of hot coffee might be hygge for many but I have burned my tongue and entire pallet on this account multiple times and have been rendered incapable to taste for few days on multiple occasions. The Portuguese word cafune seems like hygge but I am not sure. Cafune is running your fingers through someone’s hair. It would make me sleepy before I decide whether it is hygge and moreover I am ambivalent on number of people that can participate in one person’s hygge ceremony. Washing the dishes doesn’t seem very hygge-istic to me either, it can be therapeutic but mundane and trust me when you have to clean a pressure cooker after cooking Sambhar ( an Indian curry) in it then all hygge will vanish from your life.

I have assumed that reading a book and curling up is hygge-ing but on the other hand it can be a result of my anti-social, tight upper lipped behavior that quashes me to spend time with people. Sleeping on my yoga mat in Central park is definitely fun but there are many who would disturb my inner peace there. Smokers and birds are two culprits to begin with. Apart from that there are multiple hygge related events – binge netflixing, slurp sounding while having soup (many would call it plebeian style but who cares), able to generate perfect crease on trousers, stretching your body and hearing the clicking sound from various joints, smelling the soaked urad lentil ( split and dehusked black grams), leafing through a glossy magazine, listening to a song of your liking on radio and may be many more.

BTW…here is the the Hygge Oath

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The 4 stages of life

Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud are said to be fathers of modern psychology. Each of them have different perspective on multitude of things. Freud gives us civilizations and its discontents, interpretation of dreams, a rehash of oedipus complex while Adler proposed 14 day cure plan for anyone who is depressed and emphasized on the importance of social factors in one’s well being. Carl Jung carved out archetypes for human life. Jung broadly classified the stages into 4 which might not be music to the ears of William Shakespeare who wrote seven stages of life. The 4 stages are the mirror for us and let us answer the rhetoric of self identity and motivation.

Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.’   – Carl Gustav Jung

The Athlete – The stage of self obsession. Mirror is a constant companion here. Aesthetic points are valued in this stage and narcissism can be the pivot. We might know few people in our lives who haven’t been able to come out of this phase or wind their lives around it. Few keep abreast with other stages while keeping the athlete alive.

The Warrior – Let’s go out and conquer the world. The world is our Troy and we are the Achilles, hopefully without arrows through our ankles 🙂 . We become more responsible and the vanity of the athleticism starts to fade. Achievement and tip of the pyramid are the alluring and driving factors. Some of us would die within the warrior stage due to multitudinous gratification.

The Statement – Ok, we have achieved few things in life but they aren’t making us happy to a large extent. We need more gratification and self fulfillment. There should be something that should be passed on as a legacy. Giving becomes important in this stage. What material possessions and money used to do for you might not be true in this case but you won’t shun them either. Egotistical self starts taking a back seat and leaving the world in a better place than when you arrived can be a mantra here. Few of us would associate the statement phase with parenting and being a provider rather than sucking the marrow out of life alone.

The Spirit – We eventually realize that the former 4 stages don’t define us but they are crucial to reach the spiritual phase. We realize that we are more than the money, friends, body, country. We are spiritual beings and something else is also there in the pandora box of the unknown world to which our physical bodies might not transport us. We start observing ourselves from an entirely different angle and acquire a wholistic perspective towards life and death, spirit and body. As an exercise in meditation, one has to step out of his thoughts and observe what is happening in the mind, we do the same in this stage of life. We step out and observe our mind and our body. We are the observer of the events as opposed to the beings of what we observe.

Laozi, the writer of Tao Te Ching – written over 2500 years ago, said “can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”

 

 

 

A quote

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

–  William Martin

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/101826.The_Parent_s_Tao_Te_Ching

Mathematical Motivation

This small image says it all.

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If 1 is the value of our comfort zone, we can either go to 1.01 or 0.99. There isn’t much difference between the two values but if we do the same thing over a period of time then the difference is conspicuous and it MATTERS!!

 

 

PS: Image is not created by me and not my property; I found it somewhere on the internet.

Single during holidays?

I sometimes think being with friends and family all the time is overrated. A person can enjoy his time alone but holiday season is a vicious time that can mark a dent is this staggering confidence of all the singles in the world. Apart from the holidays there are other ways carved out by the ruthless committed and married people in the world to make the singles in the world feel miserable, left out, ostracized. Though I am not sure about the ulterior motives here. May be they are really happy or they are doing that in spite of the independence of singles. Whatever may be the case, this tug of war is never ending. Facebook causes depression. Period. Too many people in my friends list are getting married and are posting photographs of the wedding ceremony on the social media. Such people should be arrested and should be sentenced for life. They are major cause of social depression in the society. I mean, they will post anything and everything that exist or doesn’t exist on the planet. Those who are married for some time relive the moments by posting 2 minute long slide shows of their photos with background music from “Sound of music or Casablanca”. All the movie making and Photoshop software should come with an extra “Terms and conditions” point that the software cannot be used for such unethical and anti social purposes. Facebook adds a cherry on the top by providing “How are you feeling now” option. Yada Yada Yada eating dinner at some arbitrary place and “feeling blessed” with “xyz”. My brain is impotent to understand this concept. Valentine’s day is another one dark recurring day in lives of singles.This lol cat is adding insult to injury here.

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True that !

Have you ever seen the look given by the waiters at some high class diners when you ask “a table for one”. I am just asking a table for single person not asking you to donate your kidney. Apart from such frosty nose stares by the different people from the society there is the empathetic  creed. I am telling you they are the worse. “Keep faith my dear ! May be this is your year. You never know what life brings to you” . Thanks for these words; I feel reincarnated and “blessed”. Its like you are giving hope and life to US Soccer team that they will win the Fifa would cup or telling 1899 Cleveland Spiders that they have best home runs.

All the travel websites should be sued for they offer discounts when you travel with more than one person. All those traveling alone for vacations should be given special status for they are confident and brave enough to leave the comfort of their bed and are willing to see something new.

At the finishing note of my rant I would say no I am not single, I have been sharing my bed with 2 towels, an iPad, a t shirt, a bag of potato chips, earphones 3 pillows and a pair of socks for a long time now and have been calculating length of diagonal of my rectangular bed in my sleep 

 

Scandinavia Trip – How it Started

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I was absent from the blogging world for quite a while but this brief trip of mine to Europe has given me a good reason to return and punch the keys of my keyboard.

I was literally frustrated; The big apple is great but if your mind ain’t in the right zone then nothing is. Things were seeming static and the monotony of mundane life was eating me like rust on a boat. Few days ago a friend of mine gave me a visa invitation to Schengen area. I applied for the visa but I wasn’t very sure whether I would be taking the trip. I gathered all the required documents ,bought a travel insurance for some arbitrary period that costed me only $6,went to website of KLM to get a trip itinerary and then went to embassy of Denmark to get my visa. I think I received an email from the VFS office that my passport is ready for collection in 3 day period only. Next day, I went to collect my passport and saw that I was issued a 2 month’s visa. Till then I had no plan to go there and my focus was on few other aspects of life.

8th July’2015 Monday, 7:45 pm I am sitting in my office and trying to work on some problem. After few unsuccessful attempts I got up to take a stroll in the office itself. I looked down from high rise office building in midtown Manhattan, it was the usual sight. People running for one reason or the other. Man ! I need a break otherwise I will go mad, I thought. I packed my bag and left the office. One train ride away from home I stationed myself at Budapest cafe on 2nd avenue that has free wi fi. Why do I need wi fi ? Because few days ago I changed my phone plan and took the most simple one which is akin to pay as you go. It was a step towards detoxification and also the result of the thought that why to remain connected all the time when no one even calls/text. I surfed the web till it was closing time which is 10 pm with the thought of getting away for few days. I dragged myself to my apartment and changed to world’s most comfortable outfit aka shorts and t shirts.

The friend of mine had been calling me for a visit for a long time now but I always chickened out for Copenhagen never appealed me. But today I was in rebellious mood and frantically searching for airline tickets. Kayak, expedia, priceline and even makemytrip.com were searched for. Most of them were expensive for me; I can have a return trip to India in that amount. Slowly my concentration started giving way to other distractions and I closed the flap of my computer and cooked fried rice and ate it with potbelly peppers, drank a lot of water and went to bed. Next morning 7 am I had an office call(those who work with teams in multiple geography will understand it) I woke myself up with great difficulty and attended the call in which I was a mute listener. I would digress a little bit here, waking up in the morning is a pain and I have never understood what supernatural powers are responsible for waking people up from their beds. I am a light sleeper and didn’t have much problem in the past but now its like a ‘task’ to me. I have tried many alarms but nothing works. Someone suggested to try the Math alarm but the questions are too easy and I was able to solve them with eyes half open. Even the bar code scanner for the toothpaste didn’t work. It shows that where there is a will there is a way 😀

Anyway, the feeling of helplessness returned when the call finished. After morning ablutions, I ate my cereal and started for office.On my way to subway, I stopped at Budapest cafe ,looked at it for few seconds and resumed my journey to 86th street and Lexington avenue to catch 4 or 5 to midtown. After walking 100 meter I turned around and went to the cafe, looked at the menu and ordered an authentic Strudel. I placed myself on one of the table, removed my coat and opened up my laptop. 3 clicks later I was at Kayak.com which redirected me to eDreams.com; I found that Norwegian has the cheapest flight to western Europe at a cost that it won’t provide any food, any blanket or pillow but it was a direct flight of only 8.5 hours. I took out my credit card and after few clicks I received a mail stating ” Booking confirmation Norwegian Air Shuttle: 7*****”  and that’s how it all started. I was going to explore Scandinavia although brief visit it would be but I was happy that I took a decision.