What kind of India do we want to live in?

What kind of India do we want to live in?

If India were to be a person, who is he? Or is it a she?

Is it a Hindu? Or a Muslim? Or a Sikh? Or a Christian?

Is it black? Or is white?

To my mind, none of these questions have an emphatic YES answer. I am happy that it doesn’t. There are many Indians like me who would not answer any of these questions with a YES. Unfortunately, I think there are many who would want to answer YES to one of these questions.

I live in Gurgaon, which is one of the metropolitan cities of India. I have friends who belong to different religions, castes, cultures. I have never cared if my friends are Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or whatever their religious beliefs may be. I am not a Congress or a BJP or an AAP supporter. I will support a political party which feeds into my idea of the kind of country I want to live in.

I am not a compulsive nationalist. Let me explain what that means. A compulsive nationalist is someone who pushes nationalism into everything-work, cinema, society-everything. I am proud of being an Indian.

Who is an Indian?

An Indian is a man or a woman who belongs to India, the nation.

What is India-the nation?

A pluralistic, multi-cultural society where people are free to be who they are. A society which doesn’t discriminate people on the basis of their religious or cultural beliefs. A society which doesn’t impose nationalism down people’s throats. A society where people are free to choose their own definitions and their own ways of respecting the country.

Unfortunately, that’s not the direction we are going toward. We have become, in the last few months, a nation of compulsive nationalists who are forcing their brand of nationalism down the throat of other people who may have divergent views. Yesterday, the honorable Supreme Court passed a ruling which makes playing the national anthem mandatory before movie screenings. It is mandatory.

Now, how does this amount to personal freedom? I go to a movie hall to watch a movie and to entertain myself. My mood is relaxed and I am about to get entertained, if the movie is good. If the movie is bad, I may get disappointed. How does nationalism come into the picture? By standing for the national anthem, who am I proving my nationalism to?

Frankly, I am not sure. When I was a child, in the school assembly, we would stand-up and sing the national anthem. I love our national anthem. It gives me Goosebumps when I sing it with my heart and I sing it when I want to sing it. I may sing it in solitude. I may sing it at an occasion to commemorate the greatness of our country. But, why do I need to sing the national anthem in a cinema hall? I am not sure.

Whose will is being imposed on me? That’s not the point. The point is somebody’s definition of nationalism is being imposed on me. I am sorry, I don’t agree. Now, I do not want to get arrested. So, if the law stipulates that, I will stand up when I go to watch a movie. But, I disagree.

There is no reason why the will of the majority, no matter what the majority believes in, should be forced upon EVERYONE in the country. We are all different people and we express ourselves differently. Allow us our ways of self-expression. We are proud of living here because we are free. It is a free country. Let’s not choke a section of society just because the majority wants something imposed. People want things imposed are called authoritative. This is a democracy.

I am sorry. I don’t agree.

Life lessons from long distance running

Life lessons from long distance running

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So, I have been running for about 10 years. Started slow and never planned to run long distance. I have never been to a gym in my life. Currently, I am 100% fit and healthy despite not being able to give disciplined attention to my food intake. However, never saying never. I may have to hit the gym soon to remove the persistent bulge in my lower belly, which isn’t going, in spite of much effort. Yeah, I have been having beer consistently, which doesn’t help the cause either.

Running is one of the best things to happen to my life. Yeah, it doesn’t pay and I don’t expect it to pay in any way. If it does, well, who doesn’t like money flowing inward? I recently ran my recent half marathon 2 days back. I ran it right after a holiday. My flight landed at 3:45 and the run started at 7:10. I barely had any time to rest or sleep. This clearly affected the quality of my run and my running time. I managed 1:59 for 21.097 kilometres. I have made peace with myself.

This purpose of this post is to share the lessons I have learnt about life from long distance running. Perhaps some of you will find these useful.

  1. Life is not a race. It’s a marathon

So for beginners, here is the difference between a race and a marathon. Race is a competitive run. The participants in the race are trying to outrace the other. On the other hand, a marathon runner is trying to outrace himself or herself. A marathon runner doesn’t race with others. He races against himself.

So is life. It’s a sad take on life when it is called a rat race. We are not rats and it’s not a race. We are not supposed to race against each other.

We got to try to better ourselves every day. That’s what life is about. If it wasn’t, we would all be same. We are not.

  1. Pain is a given

Pain is a given constant. It’s not important. There will be pain. Running isn’t easy. So is life. But that’s not the point. The point is that we have to keep moving forward in spite of the pain because we are doing something that we believe in. The last Sunday, when I was running, I was in consistent physical pain through the run. It generally doesn’t happen, but this time it did.

I told myself so many times that I may not be able to complete the run, forget making it in respectable time. But, I hate stopping in the middle of a run. I did, during the only full marathon I have run because I wasn’t prepared for it. This time, in spite of the pain, I didn’t stop. I slowed down, but I didn’t stop.

We cannot stop. However, to not stop, it’s important that we do work that we believe we are born to do, that we do anything that’s meaningful for us.

  1. Life is in the journey, not the destination

You know, when you complete the run, it feels great. It’s a moment of exhilaration about a logical end to the journey. However, this Sunday at the half marathon, in the 2 hours and 5 minutes of time from the beginning to the end of the marathon, the destination time was all of 5 mins.

Life is lived on the journey. Make sure you choose your journeys wisely. Most of the life will be spent in the journeys you choose for yourself.

  1. Breathe normally, no matter what

Any seasoned long distance runner will tell you, how important running is to the entire process of a run. While I was running, I heard an old man shout out to his gang….

Normal breathing guys….normal breathing

I can’t tell you how important I think this lesson is to life now. I am an impatient guy and so are some people I am close to. This is the lesson that I need to apply to my life-immediately. I will make an effort.

Normal breathing-no matter what happens-means to stay calm and steady, regardless of what is happening.

Running is a meditative exercise. I have never used music so far while I run, because I like to let my thoughts run about. That is meditative, to allow our thoughts to wander and observe them. Running makes the runners fit but that’s just part of the equation and hardly the most important part.

Long distance running is far, far bigger than just about fitness. It is a metaphor for life.

Thank you for reading.

 

Indians- Please slow down. Stop the rush

Indians- Please slow down. Stop the rush

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This is a re-post from my #linkedinpulse article.

I didn’t do much work today. I generally get a decent amount of work done in a day to be able to look at myself with respect at the day of the day. However, I have deliberately tried to slow down over the years.

It wasn’t always so. During my undergraduate life, I tried to be a chartered accountant, a journalist, an MBA and many other things. I was desperate to learn something which will get me a job-ANY JOB. I didn’t care why I needed that job, besides that jobs pay. But I wanted a job. That’s what I was told to do. My father once famously said, to me, that he would have been happy if I got 10000 bucks a month.

I rushed through my college life. I rushed through my 20’s. I finally got an MBA. I took the CAT exam 5 times. I hated it. But I was in a rush. So, I didn’t ask myself the why’s.

I rushed through most of my life. At some point, when I had a decent job, I realized that I wasn’t quite happy. Happiness somewhere got sacrificed in the rush. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing and I had just rushed through 3 decades of my life.

At some point, I decided not to rush anymore, when the speed is within my control. Sometimes, I still do it unconsciously, but again, I remind myself not to rush. I want to smell the flowers. I want to leave a legacy. I want to know why I am doing what I am doing. And I want to do work that matters, with people who matter.

Think about Rudyard Kipling for a minute. What is he famous for? He is famous for a poem called “If”. How many people left something after they died which the world values? Only a few. Even if we don’t care what Rudyard Kipling did for most of his life, but he left a poem which has inspired millions. That’s leaving a legacy.

We cannot leave a legacy if we don’t know where we are headed. Most of us, at least in India, don’t know what we are passionate about. We don’t know why we do what we do, besides mercenary reasons. It is a sad way to live life. A mercenary life is not a worthy life.

The society looks down on prostitutes because they sell their bodies for money. Many of us are selling our souls for money and we want to be respected for that.

We need to slow down. We need to take a break and think who we are. We need to understand what we are passionate about. I am no authority on the subject but I have had my own journey and struggles to understand who I am. Since I am writing this piece, I would love to propose a few questions that probably could help us in connecting us with our true selves:

  1. What is the key reason that drives me to do what I do?
  2. If nobody paid me anything, what would I be willing to do for free?
  3. If I had all the money, how would I spend my time?
  4. What do I love?
  5. Who do I love? Why do I love this person?
  6. Who do I admire? Why do I admire this person?
  7. What am I passionate about?
  8. If I could live an idealistic life, what might it look like?
  9. What is one thing about me that’s unique?
  10. Who am I at the core?

Well, I could go on. These are just some of the questions that could perhaps begin to unravel for us the mystery of who we are. As Indians, there is tremendous pressure on our lives to move from one milestone to another:

Birth->Education->Job->Marriage->Kids->Grand kids->Death

I am not saying there is anything wrong with the sequence. However, it is important that there is meaning at every step. After all, life without meaning is a worthless life. We can only create meaning when know who we are and why we do what we do.

So, may be, take it slow.

Take a year off.

Take a few months off.

Take a week off.

Take a day off.

Thank you for reading.

If I were Airtel, I would be ashamed of this.

If I were Airtel, I would be ashamed of this.

Alright, I don’t generally invest so much of my time in trying to shame a company. I know it may not amount to much, but since I feel I am being cheated and my money (data) is being siphoned off in a non-transparent, opaque manner, I owe this to myself to name and shame the company.

I bought the Airtel wi-fi device on 20th of October. Today is the 31st of October. I bought the device under the ‘Advance Rental plan” under which you get the device and 5 GB data per month at a cumulative cost of 4000 exclusive of service tax. Since as per my internet history, my monthly usage is about 5-6 GB on a portable data device per month. I use data separately for my phone. I tried using the phone hotspot on laptop but my data burned very fast and Airtel told me if you use hotspot on your laptop, data burns much faster and that’s the reason I got the device. I am still not sure of the hotspot theory but that’s for later to figure.

Now, on 31st October, I am sitting on 1.4 GB data. I have no idea how the 3.6 GB data that’s been consumed according to Airtel has been consumed. It has been evaporated to my mind. The moment you turn the device on, it starts consuming the data at 100 MB per minute at least to my mind. It EATS AWAY YOUR DATA.

I am attaching screenshots to prove my point. Please see the timings which I have highlighted in the screenshots and in the images. At one point on 27th October, I used the device for 10 minutes to send ONE TEXT EMAIL. WHEN I CLOSED IT, 1.6 GB HAD GONE AWAY-EXPLAINED IN THE IMAGE AGAIN.

**SCREENSHOTS**proof

My advice- don’t use Airtel. I will also not be using Airtel till I have phone balance and I use the data which I have already paid for. I will get rid of Airtel.

And to prove that I am not the only person being looted here, I am attaching screenshots of what my friends on facebook had to say about this.

**SCREENSHOTS**

I have nothing personally against Airtel but I hate seeing my money getting wasted and being duped as a customer and this is what I feel happened here.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers.

In search of light-Inside

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Yesterday was Diwali-the festival of lights. Wherever one looked, there were lights emanating from the myriad designs of decorative lighting that people had adorned their houses with; there were lights from the firecrackers supported elaborately with the noise they created.

There was light. And there was noise. There was light and there was noise. Some people need a lot of light and noise to enjoy themselves. On the other hand, some people don’t need the lights outside or the noise. I hope all of you had a pleasant festival and you bonded with people you love.

The lights outside are pretty. They make us feel good. They make us feel bright. However, they don’t last beyond Diwali. They don’t last because these lights are not permanent. They are ephemeral, short-lived.

That’s why our lives need a different kind of a light, a light which lights inside of us. This is the light of love and beauty. I like the word beauty. There is something spiritual about beauty. Beauty is unlike sexy, unlike hot, unlike something we can touch. Beauty cannot be touched; it can only be experienced. Beauty comes from inside. We don’t need external approvals for the light that comes from inside and makes us feel who we are. The light inside is the light of a connection with who we are and that we feel it.

The light inside is the light of a purpose. A purpose, which makes us do whatever we do. Love is a worthy purpose. It is a purpose without which our lives have no meaning. The light inside is the light of love. When we love, we give our best because love deserves no less. To the people we love and to the work we love. Love is spiritual and does not need externalities to approve it. Love is its own purpose.

What am I trying to say here?

I am trying to say that the light outside is only worthy if there is light inside. Otherwise, it is shallow, blank, vacuous and meaningless. Let’s try to find that light that glows inside us which makes us feel connected with ourselves and with the people we spend time with, with the work we do, with every minute that we are awake.

Have you felt disconnected in a party sometimes? Have you sometimes met someone and felt the urgent need to leave? At other times, with people and work, does the time fly away?

The light inside, which is the light of our true selves, talks to us. It talks to us all the time. If we pay attention and listen to it, it shines bright like the light of a candle. If we don’t listen to it for a long time, it dies. The light dies. When it dies, we feel lost. We don’t know why we are doing what we are doing and where does it all lead. Material comforts stop giving us any pleasure. We are confused and lost, in spite of the world telling us that we are doing well. The world doesn’t know us. It has no clue.

We need to listen to the light inside. It is talking to us every waking moment of our lives. If we wish to lead a meaningful life, we need to ensure that the light inside of us burns bright and beautiful, like the flame of a candle, which won’t give up, no matter what.

Thank you for reading.

The struggles of a stand-up comedian

The struggles of a stand-up comedian

Being a stand-up comedian was never easy. It is still not easy. It takes a lot of self deprecation to stand-up in front of an audience, which is expecting you to make them laugh.

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You stand right there with many eyes looking at you, expecting you to be funny. You go up there trying to be funny. Everybody is judging you, every second of your stage time. They want to see if you have the right confidence, the right material, the right presence and the right delivery, to be able to make an audience laugh.

If the audience likes you, they laugh and you feel on top of the world. Your content falls at the right place at the right time. It works. People connect with you. They laugh at almost everything you say. The intensity of the laughter is high and you love yourself for making so many people happy.

If the audience doesn’t laugh, you feel on the bottom of the world and you want to hide yourself in a rat hole where no one can see you. The tragic happened to you. You went in front of an audience and you said things which you thought were funny, but nobody laughed. They stared at you and felt sorry for you.

What went wrong?

You think about the possible answers to that question, all night.

Was it the content that wasn’t funny?

Was it the delivery that wasn’t interesting?

Was the timing wrong?

Did I take longer pauses?

Did I take shorter pauses?

Should I have been a little slow?

Did I lack confidence?

Did I not connect with the audience?

You don’t know. So, you rework your content. You talk to other comics and seek their advice about what happened. You ask your friends, if you have any left, and they happened to be in the audience getting embarrassed about being your friend-the works.

Those were the matters of the craft. Besides the craft, there are many other challenges a comedian, especially, a new comedian has to face. Stage time is precious and it is not easily available. There are a few open mics run by individual comedians and slots run out within a few minutes of the event being posted. A new comedian has to be online and keep on the lookout for events listings. For people with jobs, it gets extremely difficult to stay in touch with such listings.

The timings of the shows are late and families get affected. If you do stand-up comedy regularly, you will end your days by midnight or post midnight. Your parents reject you, for whatever you are doing. The author of the post is living separately from his parents so that they can sleep while he attends open mics. Parents wonder where they went wrong.

Keeping up with health becomes an issue while you stay up late. You miss your dinner. You gate up late in the morning and miss breakfast many times. You start losing weight pointlessly or gaining weight, pointlessly. Pointlessness rules your schedule and your eating regimen.

There are many other challenges like marketing yourself, getting shows, doing unpaid gigs and keeping at it, while nothing seems to be happening.

Oh, does this all sound depressing? It’s not. It takes work, the ability to drink failure and patience. Comedians do comedy because they love it. They love making people laugh and when they succeed, they feel amazing. They feel great about themselves and people love them for it. Oh, and I have heard, they make money too. I don’t, no.

If you plan to take up stand-up comedy, do it for the love for it. Any other reason and you will quit, soon. It is not easy, but it is worth, every minute of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should you quit your job to pursue your passion? -Yes, and No.

Should you quit your job to pursue your passion? -Yes, and No.

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I read a post this morning which said ‘Don’t quit your job to pursue your passion’. The reasons cited in the post, among others were that some bloggers who did that are scrubbing toilets now, it is a privilege for the rich kids etc. etc.

I didn’t find that post interesting or entertaining or useful. It was downright malicious. Now, as someone who did quit his job to pursue his passion (writing and comedy), I owe an explanation to the person who wrote that post and to people who think likewise.

To start with, I will start with the YES part of the answer.

Why should you quit your job to pursue your passion? Why do people do it? Are they fools? Are they fools to leave the comfort and security (assumed) of their jobs to start walking on an unknown terrain which they have not seen before and they will have to walk alone?

No, they are not fools. Most of them are intelligent, smart thinking people. They are forced to leave their jobs, even if these are jobs they like, because in any job, one is not able to give himself or herself wholeheartedly to what one loves to do.

Let’s say, writing. Even if you work as a journalist in your job, you will not be able to write the content that you long to write. You will not be able to edit it the way you want and you will not be able to decide the timeframes.

Let’s say, a graphic designer. Even if you work in an agency as a graphic designer, you will not have the freedom to make the designs that you want to make and have the liberty to push them out. Every job is a role in a company and that role has to adhere to the requirements of that company and that system.

Take anything-a photographer or a painter or a filmmaker or a speaker.

Therefore, from the company’s perspective, there is nothing wrong with it. A company has responsibilities to its customers and its systems, which it will have to adhere to. Companies are not formed to cater to the passions of its employees.

Therefore, people quit their jobs and go out on their own to try and see if they can make it by themselves-as freelancers or as companies of their own.

Do they scrub toilets? Well, it is stupid to say that they scrub toilets or in the other case, if they are scrubbing toilets, they took the decision without any meaningful calculation of how they will go about making a life out of their passion and how would they meet their expenses.

When I quit my job, I did it after saving some money for 2-3 years (which I could have used for a down payment for a house), so that I can have a 2-3 year shot at what I am trying to do, that is even if I make no money in that time. Right after I quit, I started working freelance with research agencies by using the contacts I had and by building new ones. I have been able to make my expenses, while I continue to write books and perform comedy.

Let me elaborate a bit on the NO part of the answer.

You should not quit the job if you have no clue what your passion is. A passion is work that you will do even if you have to pay people to do it. You cannot NOT do it.  

You should not quit the job if you have no savings or you have no visible source of making your expenses. That’s the bare minimum. You should be able to make your expenses, while you work on your passion and try to make money off it.

You should have an idea about what will happen if you fail. I don’t know what that means myself for I my definition, one is a failure when one gives up.

You should not quit the job if you don’t understand what living a passionate life means.

You should not quit your job if you can satisfy yourself with living a mercenary life where money is your only source of satisfaction or happiness. I am sorry for you.

You should not quit your job if you deride people who quit their jobs to pursue their passions.

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It is not easy to leave the comfort of an air conditioned office to try and stick things out in thin air. That’s what passionate people are trying to do. They are trying to create things, keeping their faith as their best friend.

They are trying to make the world a beautiful and lovable place where they can do their best work and hopefully, inspire other people to do their best work, somewhere on the way.

If it doesn’t work, they will know in their heart that they tried.

Should you quit your job to pursue your passion?

The answer lies somewhere between YES and NO.

Thanks for reading.

Amar