Friday, August 19, 2016

Musings and Ramblings

Disclaimer: Being an armchair critic and criticizing other armchair critics.. Does it make sense?

I met a nice Indian gentleman today during my regular commute. He was twice my age and just very friendly.  He moved to the US back in the 80's. We started talking and invariably the topic of Olympics came up.

He asked my views and I just showed my nonchalance. He was very upset with our "Indian" team for not being able to bag any medals. Frankly, I have accepted the fact that India is a nation of cricket lovers. People aspire to be cricketers and not athletes and this bit does not hurt me. I may not like the game but that's really my problem to deal with. There is a lot that needs to change. Athletics has never been mainstream in India and year round people seem to be okay with that fact. When the olympics buzz start once in four years suddenly everybody is eager to see our athletes win. There are Facebook posts expressing disappointments. Anger and outrage expressed in less than 140 characters. All for what really? Four years of practice/ training/ dedication/ effort to be the best for a day.  Isn't that a bit too much?

Anyway, moving on, the gentleman surely looked pissed and more so with my nonchalance. He was one step away from singing - "Maa, Tujhe Salam". Ironical, isn't it? Sitting far away and judging India's performance? Frankly, I am done debating with these armchair patriots. I don't care anymore. I realized at the end of the day a reaction is all that they need. I had to be somewhere and I was running out of patience.

We talked more and he suddenly remarked how India needed more agricultural/ rural colleges/ sports colleges than Art schools.  I rolled my eyes and gave him my piece of mind. A lot of people think that they are an unnecessary expense. A country which is struggling to provide basic education to everyone shouldn't spend on art schools. I don't agree with this school of thought. Firstly, art is a part of education in my opinion. It should be taught and celebrated just the way we teach and celebrate mathematics, medicine etc. We need dreamers, believers, rebels and that craziness. We need people who understand art. We need people to look at things differently and show others to see things differently.

Before you argue with your point that becoming an artist doesn't require a degree just talent I would like to remind you that this post is not about why should you attend an art school. I just think that closing down art schools won't solve our problem.

I am not an artist and well I can barely get anything right but I have an utmost respect for the artists.
Putting yourself out there is not easy.

I started writing this post two days back and today my twitter timeline was flooded with PV Sindhu tweets. All of a sudden my fellow Indians are proud of her. Everybody has been posting messages with hashtag #Respect. What do they know about respect?
Where are #Respect posts for Lalita Babar, Manish Rawat and Dutee Chand who performed exceptionally?
Two weeks back they were dissing every one. You ask any of these guys to donate money for any sports event linked to a charity and they avoid you like a plague. I bet most of them didn't know anything about the game apart from Saina Nehwal before this. The only point that I am trying to make here is stop being so obsessed with medals. Nobody bothers to check their performances. Performance is not equal to medals. We as a nation don't bag too many medals at the olympics and its on all of us and not just on our government/ officials/ politicians. We need to encourage our young ones to take up athletics. We need to stop being armchair critics. We need to do more.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

..Life Uncommon..

I am currently reading Unbroken. It is Louis Zamperini's biography and his progression from a troublesome child, to a youth learning to run, to an Olympian, and to finally a soldier. He was an Army Air Corps lieutenant (B-24 Bombardier) and was an Olympian (5000 mts Track, Year - 1936). He was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash during the attack on Pearl Harbor. For 47 days, He and Russell Allen Phillips, the pilot of his B-24, lived by staying aboard a tiny raft. Due to lack of provisions they had to kill birds to survive. They were later sighted by a Japanese aircraft and were taken as POW. It is Louis's story and how he cheated death on multiple occasions. It is about survival, grit and resilience. It is a powerful and riveting book and is my constant companion these days. It is an extraordinary story about bravery, endurance and forgiveness. There's one part where he says - "Show them, not tell them" and that bit has hit home at so many levels.  I have read a lot of books recently and most of them were really good but this one has me in its clutches. To think of that time, to imagine what it would have been like and to read the detailed account of what happened has left me in a daze.  I haven't finished it as yet and I already know that I am going to do another post on this book.

I get drawn towards war stories. I like to read about them, visit places and talk about them. There is no cheap thrill but just a simple fact that we are shaped by various wars. The countries we live in have boundaries which more often than not are a product of various wars of the past and their aftermaths. 

Coming back to my world, there's a group of four men well in to their late sixties who sit in the piazza, outside a coffee shop and chit chat. I have always seen them sitting outside at the same spot regardless of the weather. It is always the Starbucks opposite to the train station. They are not acquainted with the term "bad weather". It is their ritual.

There's something about them that makes one stop and observe them. Perhaps that's the reason why so many people stop by on their way to say hi to them. It's a small town and everybody-knows-everyone. Sometimes I wave a quick Hii while waiting for my train. I have overheard their conversations and between Trump and NBA they discuss it all.

Every Monday after an intense 2 hr session I run to Starbucks for a cold brew to get through the day. This AM I got my coffee and sat outside next to them with my book. I was busy setting up my table when one of them said Hii to me. He asked me about the book and I promptly showed it to him. "Did you know that he served with my old man" - Phil said very rhetorically. I was wide eyed and then they told me that they were all veterans. Tall and proud of having served their nation. They all grew up together in the neighborhood. Joined the Army and two of them were shipped off to Vietnam War immediately, one was in Afghanistan in the nineties. Yes, call them seasoned!

I asked about Louis Zamparini's connection and Phil's face lit up. Phil's father was stationed with him at the same post before Louis was asked to go to Hawaii shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
They asked me more about the book and I shared my thoughts. We were discussing wars when Frank (The chatty one) said "We've all dodged bullets at one point or other. We toughened up with time and survived." That toughness clearly shows on their faces. The faces tell a lot of stories.

It was such a nice morning. The company was fantastic. We shared our experiences. Ten minutes before my train's arrival I quietly excused myself. I promised to join them again sometime for coffee and chit chat.

As I was about to reach the station I turned around and glanced in their direction. I saw four men with weathered faces, enjoying their morning kaffe and daily meetings of the minds in the arcade  and wondered what world problem were they solving today.

PS: The title is a song by Jewel. Lovely lyrics about living with bravery

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Music and Reps..

I attend Body pump classes twice/ thrice a week at my local gym. The only reason I signed up was because I really wanted to do something different. The day I could resume my intense workouts was the day when I decided to sign up for a few classes - Body Pump, GRIT, CX Works etc. It was the best decision ever. Now that I am getting back to running (slowly and steadily) my fitness has improved.
The classes are usually early in the morning and is a very good way to kick start the day.
For the uninitiated, Body pump is a choreographed routine done using a barbell with moderate to heavy weights.

Some of the the regular exercises included in Body Pump routine are:

Chest Press
Dead rows
Clean and Press
Press Pullover Combo
Reverse Curl

There are lots of repetitions and pulses (approximately 800/ class of these exercises) and there are multiple releases every 2-3 months (The entire routine changes). 

I look forward to these classes and wake up happy on those days. There is nothing like working out together with a room full of people from different walks of life and yet working towards a common goal. The competition is with your own self. The idea is to be better than yesterday.  Every class is a chance to take your body to a higher level. To give your best. It also connects you with like minded folks and helps you to be a part of community. 

The music is just kickass. There is this one particular triceps track which I really enjoy. Today  I made it a point to set a reminder on my phone to check it out later. 
I was feeling a little blue and played this particular song because music really has all answers. Isn't it?

I was watching the video and was really shocked. I expected fit dancers with awesome moves. 
It follows an old man chasing the vision of a woman that he loves a long way across a country. Using a picture and her memories at his bedside before he got very sick and almost died, the man wakes up and goes on this epic journey in an electronically powered wheelchair across rolling countryside, mountainous terrain and long stretches of road. He turns down bar dancers for lap dances and clicks a few selfies along the way and finds his woman. 

For some reason it really lifted my spirits high and I promptly added it to my running playlist too. 

What would we do without music? A good half an hour playlist feels so rewarding. The emotions that music invokes and the amount of dopamine that it releases is amazing. Life would be just so dull without it. There would be no songs to share. There would be no memories on rainy days. There would be no associations. The past would look so dull and boring without it. I associate a lot with songs and I might be a very bad singer but I can spot good lyrics. I am quite tuned that way. 

I hope you enjoy this song as much as I did.  It is stuck in my head and is it weird that every time I hear this song I feel my sore triceps?

Before you dismiss these classes as some fad - I am down to 21% body fat and I think that counts for something?

P.S: I am looking for a particular Shiva song (Indie rock band - Have already Checked Rudra). Very fast paced with some awesome drumming.  I used to have it on my iPod and lost it. I need to add it to my running playlist and if you know of this song please drop an email/ comment with the youTube link. 

P.S1: Hastily written post.  I will come back and correct the mistakes later..

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Voices In The Sky..

I am usually late to pick on trends. Make no mistake, I love trying and experimenting with technology both personally and professionally but getting hooked on to something takes a while.

A recent example is Podcasting. I somehow never thought of listening to podcasts before. I was neither curious nor fascinated. A month ago, I was discussing  The Bill Maher Show  with someone and he shared the link of an old podcast episode. I confessed being a podcast virgin and he promptly suggested me to download this app called STITCHER. I started browsing through the list of shows and found a few interesting ones. Interesting enough to make me stay. It was like wonderland for me. I save shows to my favorites and then listen to them whilst commuting, working, walking, exercising, chilling at home, painting, zentangling, reading and while wasting time on social media. Every once in a while I just stop whatever I am doing and pay my full attention to whats playing there.

Out of a thousand million things that I listen to, I really look forward to New Yorkers Fiction episodes. It is monthly reading and conversation with the New Yorker editor. Two months back, I read this book and since then I have been digging around for older editions of New Yorker at the library (for short stories).  I love the quality that it has to offer. What really surprised me was how much I enjoyed the audio version.

A while back my BT (birthday twin) told me about Audible and immediately I decided that it wasn't for me.  As expected, I dismissed it completely. I couldn't have been more wrong. Listening to stories is a different ball game altogether. Story telling is an art. When I was 2-3 years old, my mother used to drop me to my grandparents house on her way to work. It was a good 2-3 kilometer walk and she would tell me stories to keep me entertained. Later on, my grandpas used to leave no chance to tell us stories. My maternal grandpa mostly told me stories from english Literature while my paternal grandpa was more in to mythology.
I still remember those stories vividly. One thing that was common between them was that they were good story tellers. They told interesting stories. Those long and well drawn out stories felt like snippets from yellowed, stained and old books with dog eared pages.  I came to know almost all of their stories.  Some of them I could repeat verbatim. Listening to stories after so many years have brought back those memories.  I have really started enjoying my time listening to those stories.  Story telling is not new to us. Different cultures have their own style. Even if a story is the same, each culture will express it differently, because each one has its own genres, traditions and cultural rules.
Calypso, Bharatnatyam, Hula, Griot, Sagas are nothing but different forms of storytelling.

I am not sure if I can ever stop reading but I am now open to audio novels. Audio stories feel like everyday conversations.  The characters feel more real with voice. All I need to do is plug in my earphones and listen to them. It has also cut my TV time significantly. I normally listen to stories when I am cooking, baking or painting because thats when my mind is completely free.
The other times I simply put on news, comedy, running or technology channels.

It's amazing how you start associating with voices and how you're able to distinguish between them.
I observe how different hosts pronounce simple words differently (Example: Maybe, Mayonnaise, Y'all,  Adults etc). The way podcasters take controlled breaks between sentences. The way they cover up incorrectly pronounced words. I hear it all..!

I really think that I should share some of my favorites here. All in good time.

Any recommendations from y'all?
P.S: Post title is this beautiful song

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sky Above, Earth Below and Fire Within..

Last year I got an opportunity to work with two friends who bit the bullet and started their own ventures. Frankly, I wasn't doing any great work of significance for them. Just odds and ends. My regular work wasn't very demanding and I could easily spare 1-2 hrs in a day to work for them.
The interesting thing is that both these friends were in regular day jobs and used their weekends and every waking minute apart from work and regular things to pursue their dreams.

We talked for hours about their ventures, plans, plan-B's, rationales and I was in awe of these friends. They didn't compromise on the quality of their day jobs, fitness was non-negotiable for them and they still had time for family and close ones. After working closely with them for a few months I realized that these guys had their priorities set. They didn't waste their time on social media. They didn't spend hours on coffee/drinks talking/ gossiping about mundane things every other day. They didn't binge watch on TV shows. They didn't spend hours shopping online/offline. They were living a very "scheduled" life. It was inspiring. They had a purpose in life and that kept them going. I have to admit that I had never felt so inspired in my life.

It is not just about people who are working on startups. It is about people living a regular life (in a regular job) and are working towards their next professional goal - A startup/ A college degree/ A Career change. I am not judging or trying to prove anyone better here. I am just trying to convey how this category inspires me to achieve more professionally.

Apart from those two friends there is someone I know who is currently working on his "big" idea along with his regular job.  We've discussed his idea a thousand times already. His motivation feels all too familiar.  Fitness is non-negotiable for him as well. I wanted to know what he really sacrificed because I see it as a trade off. He has given up on his passion for writing, social media, movies.
All this fascinates me. This idea to dream big, nurture that dream and to make that dream come true when that comfort zone is all too comfortable. I understand that we're not all the same and most of us don't have it in us. I do wonder about their tenacity. Is it something that they are born with? I really hope that I develop this someday (Or my mind finds it hidden within me) Some day I want to bite that bullet too and now I know that my idea is just not in my head. I want it more than ever.  After moving here I am more than sure of it.

Det-res is pursuing her next degree and this other friend Maria who is a single mom is pursuing her MBA at the age of 40. Oh, did I ever tell you about my friend who is now planning to switch his career path and is studying photography?  How could I not be inspired?
Their thought process is totally different. They don't let trivial things to get to them. Yes, they have made sacrifices too and are just more productive than most of us.

Last week I was at the train station waiting for my train and standing in line for a fat cup of cappuccino when I spotted a fellow gym goer. I walked up to him to say hii and saw him lost in paperwork.
He was busy sorting out paperwork for his next venture. He is in a regular job, working on his dream and works as a fitness instructor over the weekends.

Every time I think about these people I feel driven. I have no words to describe how they inspire me. The way they push their boundaries is simply fascinating. They have 24 hrs like most of us and they spend those hrs dreaming big,  aspiring big and achieving big.  Now that I know a few of them personally I can safely that they have their down-time too. They are unreachable, clueless and depressed at times. The only difference is that their goals matter to them. They don't cry over every thing. They don't seek validation at all times. They are compassionate and yet attentive to their own needs. They have humility. They desire to be successful. They are doers. I want to be like them. I am not there as yet but someday I will be.  I am working on it.

Look around. See people. Learn from them. Get inspired. Be motivated. Achieve something..
This is all that we have. It's now or never.