Posted in Life Gyan

Each Day is Special !

Let me tell you a short story. 

A friend of mine opened his wife’s wardrobe and picked up a silk-paper-wrapped package:

“This, he said, “isn’t any ordinary package.”

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box.

“She got this the first time we went to New York, 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on, she was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it.”

He placed the gift box on the bed next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral home; his wife had just died.

He turned to me and said: “Never save something for a special occasion. Treat every day of your life as special”.

This story had a huge impact on me when I read it for the first time.  And since then I might have read it scores of times. What I find interesting about this simple yet impactful story is that it connects us with our mortality. Often, we save the best for the last. But we do not know how far into the future “the last” is. And those little joys that we could have experienced right now never get fulfilled waiting for those “special moments”. This story emphasises – Treat each day as “special”. Let us live our life to the fullest with what we have right now. Surprisingly, it also brings the focus back to the things that matter. It is a reminder to live your life in the present.

Obviously, I am not advocating to throw everything to the wind and just indulge yourself with a blatant disregard for prudence. We must make long term plans for the future and in the process we even consciously defer short-term gratification for those long term goals. However, we must remember that reaching the milestone or long term goal should not become a pre-condition for us to be happy. Life is lived in the present moment. It should be looked upon like a series of experiences to be lived and cherished, not to be survived through.

All I want to tell is that don’t postpone the simple joys of life. The quality of life that you are living today matters. Don’t confuse life with lifestyle. For example If you have the opportunity to spend a few hours with your friends, don’t defer it. Those moments are priceless. Another way to look at it is, if you feel like using your crystal glasses every day, do it. Don’t wait for a special occasion to take them out. Don’t save your special perfume for special occasions – use it whenever you want to. Dress well. Don’t always keep the best dresses in the wardrobe for the special days. If it gives you joy, wear them whenever you feel like it.

Enjoy the little things in life for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things. Try not to delay, postpone, or keep anything that could bring laughter and joy into our lives. As someone has aptly said, Life Is Not Measured By The Breaths You Take, But By The Moments That Take Your Breath Away.

Each day, each hour, each minute, is special. Celebrate everyday.
Celebrate Life.

Posted in Art & Craft

Creativity & Passion – A Recipe for Success

I came across Parth Kothekar when I clicked on the Republic Day doodle (see above) which was crafted from hand-cut paper and had elements of the annual Republic Day parade. You can see the fingers in the center holding the paper.

Intrigued by the creativity I visited the website link provided and look what I found.

“Parth is known for his intricate papercuttings. His journey began in 2010 when he decided to drop out of conventional studies and take on making art as a full time occupation. In 2013 he held his first exhibition showcasing his first 100 artworks in Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad. This exhibition was a pivotal point in his career as a papercut artist as the response he received confirmed his path forward.”

I am reproducing some of his finest works. They are really inspiring. Please do take time to visit his site and see for yourself the amazing variety of paper cuttings he has made.

Posted in Books

Who is Savarkar?

“Who is Savarkar? And why is he so important?”

I asked this question to myself a few months ago when I heard this name repeatedly in various news articles regarding some controversy where the BJP and Congress had locked horns and were fighting. Incidentally, I came across the this article which aroused my interest even further and I deduced that he might have been an important person who like many others had been left out of the entire narrative regarding the Indian freedom movement.

When I look back at my school days and the history we were taught I don’t remember the name of Veer Savarkar very prominently and neither have I seen his frequent mention elsewhere. We do remember the names of Mangal Pandey, Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad but not much of Savarkar.

My interest was further aroused when i came across this book and decided to read it to learn more about Savarkar.

After completing the book here are some notes –

  • First of all it is a gripping narrative. There was never a dull moment in the whole book. So you can go for it.
  • Kudos to the author Vikram Sampath for the painstaking research he carried out of the vast range of original archival documents across India and abroad. He has also provided ample amount of references that the reader can cross-verify if he so desires
  • Another commendable aspect is that the author has not tried to thrust his opinion of Savarkar on the reader. He neither tried to glorify Vinayak Savarkar nor condemn his actions. He has presented the facts and historical events of that period in an objective manner
  • The book is an eye opener. We get to know so much about the Indian struggle for Independence. This part of the history has been completely kept hidden from the Indian population and we were made to believe that India got the freedom only due to the non-violence movement of Gandhi ji.
  • When you read this book you will realize that the armed struggle was not some random historical events that we read in school books. You will understand that the armed struggle was a very well coordinated movement and had spread to large parts of India and many countries abroad.
  • The amount of surveillance British had to put on Savarkar is also an indication of how important he was at that point of time.

Read this book if you want to enhance your understanding of the Indian Struggle for Freedom. Highly recommended.

Posted in Life Gyan

Keeping Your Mind Active !

The mind is very comfortable when you follow your old habits, you eat the same food, you wear the same colours, you take the same familiar route to work. For most of these things in our daily lives, the body is on auto pilot, you do not have to apply a lot of thought. For instance if your drive to work then you do not have to navigate the route consciously, your sub-conscious takes care of it. You might notice that if you happen to get a phone call on the way, your sub-conscious takes over the driving while your complete attention is on the conversation with the person on the phone. You do not even realize what you saw on the way but you reached your destination. 

The moment you introduce anything that is different from what you usually do, the brain becomes alert and starts to takes notice of all the new inputs.  The new inputs could be being aware of the neighbourhood through which you are driving or  making note of the landmarks on the way if you took a different route from the usual to reach your destination.

The point I want to drive home by the above example is that for the mind, routine is boring and anything new makes it excited. So if you want to keep your mind active and develop the ability to think on your feet, you need to provide new inputs to the brain on a regular basis.

The idea is to keep your brain sufficiently challenged and active. Step out of your comfort zone – just a little bit once in a while for example you can use the below for starters and then develop your own –

  • At every opportunity do some mental math. Resist the urge to use the calculator for simple calculations. For example, If your milkman has sent you the bill for the month, see if you can do the math mentally or at least on paper before reaching out to the calculator.
  • Every once in a while take a new route to the mall you frequent or to work. See how your brain suddenly becomes alert
  • Try your hand at a new activity or skill for example try solving the Rubik’s Cube or a Sudoku or Crossword
  • Pick a different author or genre of book from what you usually prefer
  • Watch a movie from a foreign language

It is by continuously giving new inputs to your brain you not only enhance your knowledge but also become a more confident person in the process. It helps tame your fears and makes you more adaptable and open to changes.

Also by trying different things you develop empathy and humbleness. Empathy because we get a chance to look at things from the other person’s point of view – understand a different perspective. We become more accommodating as our world view widens. Humbleness because when we understand that the world has so much more that our limited view of things, it is a truly humbling feeling. We realise the vastness of knowledge and what we know in comparison – it is akin to standing at the sea beach and realizing the endlessness of the ocean in front of us.

What are the interesting things you do that excites your brain? Please do share your inputs.

Posted in Books

Reading Challenge 2022

Three facts about me –

  • I love reading
  • I buy more books than I can read in a year
  • Finding time to read books is increasingly becoming difficult

Every year I set a reading goal for myself – that keeps reminding me to find time to read and keep progressing on my goal. I started this practice in 2020 where I set a goal to read 4 books in a year. Yes I know what some of you may be thinking. Nevertheless, I set a humble goal for myself as in the previous few years my reading had taken a big hit. As it is with any other goal, it is better to set a goal which is little bit of a stretch but not something which is unachievable.

Outcome : I could only finish 3 of the 4 as I had picked up the fourth book as Steve Jobs which though interesting, was a rather huge book and took longer to complete. Also it was bulky so not convenient to carry everywhere.

Next year – 2021 – I set a goal of 6 books and was able to complete it. I did not want to go overboard with my success so even for 2022 I set a goal to read 6 books which I was able to complete last week with 5 weeks to spare.

Sharing the list of 6 books I read this year with you all.

Book List 2022

Which books did you read this year?

What books will you recommend that i can pick up next ?

Posted in Life Gyan

The Professor and the Golf Balls

“The most important things in life are not things” – sometimes we get so obsessed with our material possessions that we forget to give importance to the people in our lives. At other times we are busy chasing other shiny objects and completely lose focus of the important things of life. The below story is a simple way to understand this and remember to prioritise the important things in life.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.  The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes’.  The professor then produced two large cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.  The sand is everything else—the small stuff.  ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.  Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’  The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.

Posted in Life Gyan

30 Short but Impactful Habits

1. Write things down – our brains are for having ideas, not holding them.

2. Take a second to pause before you respond. Become less reactive.

3. Read something every day. Even just one page.

4. Write something every day. Even just one paragraph.

5. Automate and batch as much as you can. Our brains have more room to be creative when they’re not constantly making decisions.

6. Get some sun on your skin as early as you can in the day.

7. When your brain hurts. Stop working. Take a quick break to disconnect and recharge.

8. Limit your to-do list to the top 3 most important tasks of the day.

9. Write down anything that resonates with you.

10. Break down goals into the smallest steps possible

11. Value your time above all else.

12. Find hobbies that engage your mind and soul – do them as often as you can.

13. Place your phone outside the room while you’re working.

14. Track everything you do for one day to the minute. Find where the time-sinks are.

15. Stop comparing you behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.

16. Be bored more often. Our minds get the best ideas when they are allowed to wander.

17. Listen more than you speak.

18. Create more than you consume.

19. Compliment more than you complain.

20. Delete apps you don’t use.

21. Donate clothes you don’t wear.

22. Serve others as much as you can. This is a powerful source of happiness

23. Make a habit of reaching out to old friends.

24. Never say “yes” simply because you feel obligated.

25. Take care of your information diet – Junk info hurts our brains like junk food hurts our bodies.

26. Look at your phone less, look at people’s eyes more.

27. Revisit things that have brought you joy in the past. They will probably do it again.

28. Set time limits on tasks. Use “Parkinson’s Law” in your favor.

29. Remember people’s names and use them often.

30. Remember you’re going to die one day.

Posted in Life Gyan

An Alternate Perspective – Part 1

In this post I am going to share a different way of looking at the transition of world power and influence in the World with the passage of time. We all know that –

Goddess Durga is a symbol of Power
Goddess Lakshmi symbolises Wealth
Goddess Saraswati represents Knowledge

If we look back on the last few centuries, you will notice the following –
From approximately 16th Century to some part of the 19th Century the European countries like Britain and France had sent their armies across the length and breadth of the world and had colonized a large number of countries. You can see the spread of the British and French empire from the visual below. These European countries would approach the other countries on the pretext of trade and later overpower them and make the host country their colony. That was the era of power : Durga. Focus was on : Land | Agriculture | Materials

Spread of empire of Britain & France

After the World War 1 and until recently the world witnessed the dominance of USA as country and the influence of its dollar across the globe. Both in the World War 1 and World War 2 the US entered late into the war. Also the US was the main supplier of weapons and other goods to the Allies during both the wars. Most countries paid in gold making the U.S. the owner of the majority of the world’s gold by the end of the war. And depleted reserves of the other countries forced them to abandon the Gold standard for their currencies and instead adopt US Dollar as the new benchmark for regulating their currencies. this was known as The Bretton Woods Agreement. Thus, the U.S dollar was officially crowned as the world’s reserve currency. This was the era of wealth : Lakshmi. Focus was on : Money | Manufacturing | Industrialisation

USA wielded its power across the world on the strength of its currency

After the era of dominance of power and wealth we are now transitioning to the era of the Knowledge Economy. The knowledge economy is based on the four pillars: education, innovation, information and communication technologies. It asserts that sustained investments on these pillars, will lead to sustained economic growth. With intellectual property fuelling the knowledge economy, the Asian countries have made huge strides in pharmaceuticals, health biotech, new materials, telecommunications, information technology, software, medical equipment and avionics. China has been the most prominent of the countries who are trying to capitalize on the knowledge economy in the last three decades and in the recent years India too is making good progress.

Starting from the last few decades, we are witnessing the Global power center shifting to the Asian countries which are high on creativity and innovation. And this is expected to continue for many more decades to come. This is the era of Knowledge : Saraswati. Focus is on : Creativity | Knowledge | Innovation.

The present and future belongs to Asia due to their focus on Knowledge & Innovation
Posted in Life Gyan

Six Ways to Expand Your Horizon

Here are six ways to expand your horizon and to have a broader world view.  Each of the below listed items will help you push the boundaries associated with a different aspect of your life. As a result you will become a more fearless and confident person. Over a period of time, it will enhance your wisdom and give you a broader perspective of the world.

(1) Travel to new places – Travelling is one of the best way to expand your horizons in many aspects simultaneously.  By travelling I mean visiting a new place preferably outside your own state/country – a new region which has different culture, different staple food and different clothing. There is no dearth of options in India as we are known for unity in diversity. You can go to any state and experience the diversity. Once you travel be sure to observe how the people and customs are same or different from your home state. Relish the local food, interact with local people. This will help you get a very different perspective not only of life in general but even of the assumptions and beliefs you have held mentally so far.

(2) Learn a new skill – Learning a new skill like swimming, accounting or coding can be a great experience. It adds a new dimension to your personality. It provides another channel to express your creativity. Learning a new skill will help you come up with new ideas which you were not capable of thinking because you lacked this knowledge. It also opens up new possibilities for you to explore.

(3) Read books – First of all reading itself is a rewarding experience. Even though you may think – who reads books these days and lot of people adopting kindle and other digital means of reading but the data suggests that more books are sold each year. According to the website Books of Brilliance The country that reads the most books is India! They led every country on the map with an average of 10 hours and 42 minutes. That is enough to finish a book and start a new one in the same week! So incase you are not already in to reading, go pick a book if you do not want to be left behind. And if you already love reading try reading books from a different genre that would certainly open your mind to a whole new domain.

(4) Try different cuisines – Don’t be afraid to try a different cuisine once in a while. Next time when planning to go out, choose a cuisine or food item which you have never tried earlier like Sushi or Gelato or anything else that catches your fancy. The idea is to subject your senses to experience something different from what they are used to.

(5) Pick up a new hobby – Trying out a new hobby can be really fun and refreshing at the same time. Pick up something you have never done earlier. There are so many new hobbies that you can explore like starting a Bullet Journal or drawing Zentangles if you are the creative kind. You can try hydroponic farming or Origami. or even blogging. There is no dearth of new and novelty hobbies these days. Also the availability of so much information online and even online/offline classes makes it easy to pick and explore new things.

(6) Live in different geographical region/country – If possible relocate to a different geographical region or country and stay there for at least an year to experience the whole cycle of seasons, customs and festivals of that area. It will change your assumptions and boost your empathy to a different level. It will help you be sensitive to the thoughts and feeling of others especially when you are dealing with a diverse group of people.

This is just the start. You can apply this to any area of your life for example if you usually practice yoga you could try zumba, if you do kick boxing you can try pranayama or meditation. It is all about moving out of your comfort zone and embracing change. Whenever you do any new activity which is outside of the usual or routine, in some way or the other it will expand your current limits.

Be curious. That is the key. Never stop learning. To learn anything new, your cup needs to be half empty. And to be able to learn continuously, you should be able to expand the size of your cup so that there is always space to accommodate more and absorb new knowledge.

Posted in Life Gyan

Don’t Confuse Lifestyle with Life !

I came across this story a few years ago and the lesson has stayed with me over the years. A few days ago something reminded me of this story and I decided to share this with everyone for the sheer simplicity and the powerful message it carries.

A group of alumni, who were very successful in their careers, decided to get together to visit their old university professor. After they all reunited, the conversation of the alumni soon turned into complaints about work, relationships and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all of his old students had a cup of coffee in hand, they sat down together and the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is, of course normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that can also be the source of much of your dissatisfaction, problems and stress.

It’s important to know that the cup itself adds no real quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just chosen because its perceived to be more special or expensive. What all of you really wanted was experience of the coffee, not the cup, but you unconsciously went for the best cups. Some of you tried to get the best cup first or began eyeing each other’s cups to see if yours was nice enough.

Now consider this: Life is a bit like the cup of coffee; the jobs, money possessions and position in society are the cups. They are just tools and structures that contain or hold together the current story of your life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

Here is my advice to you – Savour the coffee, not the cups! What you really want is to be happy. The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.