Not watched Netflix in last 6 months


It was a snap decision. One day I decided to stop watching Netflix or any other streaming platform. I thought I will try this for few days and see how it goes. Weeks turned to months and now it is almost six months since I sat in front of my TV to watch anything.

Suddenly, I had too much time after work. I learnt cooking and now I am a full-stack cook. I listened to tons of podcast and audio books while cooking. Somehow listening to podcast and cooking go very well together for me. I am about to earn the Master badge on Audible.

My eyes hurt less. Somedays, I would feel a burning sensation in my eyes after a binge session. Now, I could avoid this. I was also standing and walking more leading to better health.

My thoughts are in much more control. For lack of better word, they feel sanitized. It is like my mind is off the junk food. I feel calmer.

Sometimes, I do think about watching Netflix on a cheat day. But, now I feel no real urge to do so and so I let the feeling pass.

I miss the road


It is almost eighty days since I last went to my workplace. As I sit before my laptop on my dining table, logged on to Google Meet, I start feeling nostalgic.

Last 5 years, I had been commuting every weekday from Delhi to Gurgaon for work. This commute easily consumed 3-5 hours of my day. I would crib about this to all and sundry.

Initially, I tried using the Metro for my commute. But, standing in a queue at the station before boarding and then in the crowded train and finally haggling with auto-rickshaw-wallahs every day would suck the juice out of me. So, I switched to my car despite the pollution concerns in Delhi. Some days it would take me 2 hours one side, and my calf muscles would hurt after having driven in first gear for most of the journey.

Almost an year ago, I moved to Shuttl. I could book a seat on an AC bus for my ride. My travel time did not reduce but everyday exertion did. The best thing about using Shuttl was that it allowed me to slip into my own private zone.

I would reach my pickup point everyday at a fixed time. The bus driver Bhagwan, had started recognizing me. He would stop the bus and open the automatic bus doors and welcome me aboard with a smile. I would press the chirp button on my app and walk towards my more or less fixed window seat.

Once seated, I would put on my headset and listen to podcast related to daily news, business or spirituality. In the evenings, on my way back, I would prefer listening to audio books. I managed to listen to more than 10 audio books in last one year. One was The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, which was almost 70 hours long and took me more than 2 months to complete.

On many days, I would doze off listening to these stories. At the start of my journey when I would be awake, a murder would occur and all suspects would be introduced one by one. And then I would be sleeping during the entire investigation by Holmes and Watson. I would wake up 10 minutes before my drop point and manage to listen the final revelation – the name of the murderer. That was enough for me, mystery solved, time to move to another story.

I would see regular faces on the bus everyday. Some would acknowledge my presence with a smile. It was a nice small community of fellow travelers. I got to know some through the journeys and became good friends. Sometimes, I would overhear people talking loudly on their phone and get a peak into their lives outside the bus. I was even witness to love blossoming between two fellow commuters. Like many such stories, it reached a crescendo and then withered away.

But today, I am missing my bus seat and the hustle-bustle of the traffic. The one and a half hour I had to myself in the morning helped me recharge for the full day’s work. And the two hours in the evening, helped me forget about the day, slipping into my dreams. What I miss most is the human connection, I felt with fellow travelers and strangers on the road.

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That wonderful pen


I have always been very fond of pens. But, my taste and sensibilities have changed over the years. I have been in love with ball point pens, gel pens, roller ball pens, pilot pens and use & throw pens at various stages of my life. When any of my relatives asked my choice for a gift, I would invariably ask for a pen.

When I prepared for my engineering entrance exam, I would use cheap use & throw pens and would practice solving problems on the blank side of used papers. My father would bring loads of these waste papers from office. I would judge my preparation for the exam by looking at the number of used pens and the stacks of paper I had filled.

Using fountain pen was mandatory in our school. At that time, I would crave for ball point pens as they would help me write faster in exams. Fountain pens leaked a lot creating blue spots on my fingers and sometimes on my clothes.

But, ever since I became a salaried professional, I have started writing with fountain pens. I yearn for that old world charm of writing mindfully on a piece of paper in this age of touchscreen.

About 25 years ago, my father had taken me to the best stationery shop of the small town that we lived in. My heart had gone out to a fountain pen priced at Rupees 120. But, my father bought me a much cheaper pen as the pen was not affordable and I might have ruined it quickly.

The image of that pen is still imprinted on my mind. I have tried to look for it but have been unable to find it.

Today, I bought a nice German pen priced at Rupees 2,700 for myself. As I write this piece in my notebook with the ultra smooth German pen, my heart pines for that wonderful pen from my childhood.

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Invisible


Trying to reach home

As I step out of my flat, I see no one roaming on the society street. The cars are parked and most flats have their lights on. People like me burrowed up, have become invisible.

On barren highways, there is a procession of people waking. It is not a celebration, but tired families trying to reach their village on foot. I never could fathom that such large number of immigrants toil hard in the underbelly of large cities enabling them to operate every day.

The city under lock-down for months has started spewing out these invisible people. Their suffering has etched out a scar on the nation’s psyche. And scars serve as sad reminders.

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The Wallowing Monkey


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I was reading a Ruskin Bond story which was about his father. Suddenly, I recalled somewhere reading that he has a brother. But, there is rarely any mention of his brother in his stories. So, I got curious about his brother.

I quickly checked on Google. Google showed that he has a brother called William who is settled in Canada, but there was no other information available about him. Then, I searched for William Bond Canada. It showed a LinkedIn search result. So, I went to William Bond’s LinkedIn page but the profile did not look like that of Ruskin Bond’s brother. For one, the person was much younger.

Then, I saw button notifications on my LinkedIn page. After quickly browsing through my notifications, I thought of giving a cursory glance to the home page. On my homepage was an article by a fairly popular young VC. Popularity judged by number of likes, shares and comments off course.

I browsed through the VC’s article about his learnings from chatting up with a startup founder. These founders are the most learned these days espousing pearls of wisdom as they speak. In the article, the founder had shared that how being a founder is uncomfortable because one has to try new ideas each and every day.

Then, I got curious about the founder. So, I clicked on the VC’s podcast link which was at the bottom of his article. I did not listen to the podcast but read the summary. I learned that the founder was a young lady and her name was Payal Sharma. My curiosity still not satisfied, I searched for Payal Sharma on Google. The search took me to her LinkedIn profile. I found on her profile that prior to founding her startup, she had worked in another small company. Now, this company was founded by my ex-colleague Ankur. I had worked with Ankur around 10 years ago. As the surnames of both my ex-colleague and the female founder was same, I had a hunch that they were related to one another.

I further searched for both of them on Google. In one of the article, I found that they were husband and wife. I further read that they were settled in Mumbai and had a kid. Then, I did some further Googling on my ex-colleague to find out that he had turned serial entrepreneur and manages some 3-4 startups.

I remembered the time when we worked together. I wondered how he had managed to achieve so much professionally.

Finally, my thoughts came down to how I had not been able to achieve anything in life and had wasted all those youthful years.

This was another of the usual series of thoughts that I have been having lately. From Ruskin Bond’s calming stories to another bout of self-pity in 20 minutes.

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Lock-down Baby


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A pigeon laid two eggs in one of our flower pots, in the balcony. This was around the time when lock-down was announced.

The flower pot was placed on an iron stand. The iron stand served the dual purpose of holding an AC outdoor unit on top and giving cover to a washing machine placed just below it. Because of the washing machine, we needed to make frequent trips to the balcony. We tried our best not to disturb the pigeon.

In the initial days, the mother pigeon got fidgety seeing us. But, over many days she learnt to tolerate our presence.

And one day, the two eggs hatched. They were two tiny chicks, yellow and delicate. The mother started leaving them alone for some time in the morning to fetch food for her babies. The chicks made lot of noise when they were being fed by their mother.

As days passed, they grew bigger. One of the chicks was a silent one while the other was very active. Seeing any of us in the balcony, the active chick would stand up and puff himself to look bigger. He would then snap sharply towards us. The silent would just sit quietly behind him.

Slowly, they shed their yellow hair and their feathers grew bigger. Both of them looked like small pigeons. They also started flapping their wings. Now, we expected them to fly away any day.

The plant in the flower pot where they had grown up, had died as we had stopped watering it. The entire area around the pot was now covered in bird shit. Hence, we did want them to fly away so that we could reclaim our space.

One day, I walked to the balcony after waking up in the morning. I could see only one chick in the flower pot. My first thought was that the active one had flown away. But, as I looked down, I saw the bird lying lifeless on the floor.

We don’t know what happened. Probably, he tried to fly away and fell and hurt his neck. We did not have an answer but just the fact that one of them was dead.

A week passed. The silent chick did flap its wings but not to fly away. Mother Pigeon came to feed him every day.

Yesterday morning, I found the pot empty. Instinctively, I looked down at the floor. The baby pigeon was sitting by the base of the washing machine. He was alive.

The entire day, it would fly up and down the pot. His mother would come by frequently probably to encourage him. The baby pigeon even walked inside our house confusing his way. This time I felt a little sad knowing that the baby was ready to leave home. But even by night, he had not left.

Today morning, he had flown away. None of us could see him flying away.

Original story

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In love with the process of writing


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A needull original.

It is one of those days when you are in a strangely good mood in the morning. And you feel the itch to write.

I have recently started listening to “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles on Audible during my office commutes. Amor worked in the investment profession for 20 years before taking to full time writing. This is his second novel. As you keep getting older, you start re-calibrating your dreams. You try to find examples of people who have done it who were in a similar or worse situation than you. It gives you hope. And Amor gives me hope that someday I will be able to write.

I love the entire experience of writing. I like everything about it. The solitude, the rigid chair and desk, the smell of fresh ink on paper and the ink flowing from your fountain pen.

It is pure magic. You are able to communicate your most abstruse thoughts to others by etching out symbols on paper. And your thoughts might survive and be read and understood by someone thousands of years later.

Such a feeling of wonder!