Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 45: Effects of social media: My list of 10 books

So, there's another one of those challenges going around like a wildfire on social networks. However, this one was something that I was hoping I would get tagged in: to name ten books that have affected you and stayed with you somehow. When I did start making my list, I just chose the first ten books that popped in my head and tried not to overthink and overanalyze.

Here is the list:

  1. The wise man's fear -Patrick Rothfuss: Rich in detail, engaging, and tantalizing. The second book from the Kingkiller Chronicles. I was amazed by how much he covered in one book, and also by the enormity of subject matter he needs to address in the final book.
  2. The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials trilogy) -Philip Pullman: A brilliant series meant for young adults. A beautiful blend of science and fantasy and the multi-world theory. Also, I'm a sucker for romance.
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -J. K. Rowling: I love this and I hate this. Snape and Dumbledore. I liked how Harry got one last amazing year at Hogwarts and actually behave his age before he had to grow up.
  4. The murder of Roger Ackroyd -Agatha Christie: The ultimate narrator's quandary. Enough said.
  5. The Faraway Tree -Enid Blyton: My love for fantasy probably started here.
  6. Computer Networks -Andrew Tannenbaum: I never knew a textbook could be this friendly and readable and witty.
  7. The Zoya Factor -Anuja Chauhan: Wicked, witty and a contemporary commentary on India's youth. Some of the most unforgettable lines and references. Also, I'm a sucker for romance.
  8. The most human Human -Brian Christian: The latest book I've read. A very interesting subject about the human participants of the Turing Test. Makes you question the purpose of human beings in a very different context.
  9. The Princess -Jean Sasson: The horrific accounts in this book have given me too many sleepless nights to count. 
  10. Jaya -Devdutt Pattanaik: A quirky retelling of the Mahabharata. I loved the way it has been laid out, how the illustrations are tying the story in completely and how various versions and rational explanations have been provided. 

Day 44: Ganapati Bappa Moraya!

I miss India.
I miss the colors and the food and the pace and the people.
Most of all, I miss the festivals.

It was Ganesh Chaturthi yesterday.
I woke up to find my social network feeds full of pictures of everybody dressed to the nines, preparing for the festival, lighting up their homes, decorating their homes in anticipation of the Lord's arrival.
And then there were the pictures of Ganesha himself, in all his glory, amassing such love and such respect from everybody, being cherished and adored.

I'm not particularly religious for me to miss the festival so much.
What I miss is the color, is the air of festivity, the love, the celebration in the air, the insane roadblocks, the crazy excitement, the palpable energy, the sense of community.
What I miss is the food, the delectable modaks prepared by my aunt, the pooris made by everybody in the household sitting together, the banana leaves used instead of the plates, the ice-golas and pav bhaji on Juhu beach.
What I miss are the people, the entire family coming and having lunch together, the aartis being sung with gusto and the little kids chiming in, the cousins pulling each other's legs and the annual visits to everyone we know in Mumbai.

Lord Ganesha does indeed get people together!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 43: Frantic

And it is that time of the year again, the time for another Career Fair on campus.

You would expect us to be prepared now, since we're accustomed to this biannual exercise. But, no. It has to be the last minute frantic scrambling around to update your resume and recreate your portfolio and curate your projects and then undergo multiple iterations on the same.

However, there is a slight departure in our attitudes now, no doubt because we're a year older and wiser. There is no panic or fear. We all seem to have accepted this biannual ritual. There is a certain assurance about the way we speak about how much we still have to complete. There is a certain confidence in the knowledge that no matter what, we've got this. We'll make it through and we'll have fun along the way!

Day 42: Paper

I love text editors. I use multiple text editors on a daily basis, be it Pages to write papers, Evernote to take notes in class or Sublime Text 2 to write code.But when I have to think and write and brainstorm and plan and study, I can't help but use plain old paper and pen.

There is something so familiar about the form factor of a pen, something comfortable about taking a pen in your hand and filling the sheet before you, a certain freedom of thought and expression, a sense of doing whatever you want on that sheet of paper. There is no need to organize your thoughts immediately. You don't need to decided whether you want to write or sketch or doodle; you can do all of that.

There is sense of discovery when you find hidden treasures in your old doodles, a different perspective on the things you're reading. There is something comforting about the written word touched by someone's hand, traced carefully into letters that form words which may make sense.

There is a fluidity to your thought process when you use paper.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 41: Unexpected

You never know how your day will unexpectedly brighten up because of your friends.

It could be your best friends demanding you to call them immediately irregardless of the nine and a half hour time difference to tell you that they love you and they miss you every time they have to meet without you being present.

It could be a friend you recently made telling you to go check your mailbox, and then finding the loveliest, quirkiest, geekiest gift possible and being overwhelmed by the love.

It could be a simple message by a friend asking you if you're okay because you're not writing about happy things and that they'll be there to talk to you no matter what.

Day 40: Enthusiasm

I came home after a long hard day of work to find my apartment full of new people. People with brand new hopes and brand new dreams and looking at the world with wide-eyed enthusiasm and excitement.

I'm really trying hard not to be cynical.
I'm really trying to inject the same level of enthusiasm and the same wonder and the same lust for life and the same love for adventure in me.

I hope I survive.

Day 39: Swamped in stuff

Packing and moving your life is sometimes just not fun. Specially if you have exactly one day to gather all the belongings you've left all over town and move into a new apartment.

I have been swamped in stuff, not knowing how to deal with all this unpacking in a limited amount of town. It feels like I deal with a wave of stuff, arrange everything and as soon as this wave ebbs, another wave comes at me in the form of another unopened bag.

I'm not particularly happy about the amount of useless stuff I seem to have collected over the past year. I'm not sure how  have managed to accumulate so much in such a short span of time.

Well, it looks like the long long process of unpacking is finally over. The only way I got through this was to keep my bed clean and devoid of crap so I could crash whenever I wanted.

Day 38: What do people wear?

For one of my design classes, we were discussing wearable technology and how it is slowly becoming an all pervasive field. We were discussing there are so many things we wear without going as extreme as the Google Glass. To make us think about the extent of things which we consider that humans wear, our professor told us to think of all these things in three minutes.

The first few suggestions were expected. Shirts, trousers, underwear and all the things we consider as everyday clothing. Then people started thinking about things like the Fitbit, Google Glass and other such devices which we know are pedantically known as 'wearable devices'.

Once we'd gotten past these two categories, the class gravitated towards accessories such as hair ties, watches, glasses, sunglasses, socks and shoes. We then moved towards the realm of jewelry and spoke about earrings, nose rings, necklaces, lockets. Then somebody said eyeliner. And of course the next few entries were all related to make up such as mascara, lipstick, chapstick and even body spray.

After this, things got a little interesting. We ran out of the most obvious objects and started thinking more. We came up headbands and earphones and contact lenses and nail color. However, we were still meandering around accessories.

And finally, when we had almost run out things did we become more creative with our thinking. This is when we thought of the most interesting things such as tool belts, spacesuits, parachutes, crowns, strap on sex toys and capes. We got more creative and thought how scars and tattoos and henna are also things you're wearing.

This exercise resonated with me because something that I have been battling with: lack of ideas. I feel like I've been hitting a wall and reached an all time low. I thought I had exhausted everything I could write about and I wasn't sure if I could carry on any further without getting repetitive. I now realize how I have just not been thinking enough. And then think some more!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 37: Lights

The city looks beautiful at night. The lights and the dazzle make it look fascinating.
It feels quiet, much too quiet.
Like your mind is playing tricks on you.
I wouldn't mind spending the entire night looking out the window at the skyline and admiring the lights.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 36: Maximizing affordances in Lyft

Lyft is a mobile phone application which enables passengers to request rides from available drivers using a peer-to-peer format. It provides an alternative to booking cabs through lengthy telephone calls.

Lyft, which facilitates transportation, provides spatial affordability by providing the passenger’s location on the map. It improves the readability of the map by providing an estimate on the time required for the nearest driver to arrive at the passenger’s location. This helps the interactor (the passenger) make a decision about requesting the ride. 

Lyft provides a single button to request a ride, helping the interactor in this participatory action. This transparent interaction can be equated to the convention of hailing a cab by simply waving your hand.

Once a ride is requested, the interactor is given information about the assigned driver, car and location. The passenger can add the destination for the ride. The passenger may also access previous reviews about the driver. This encyclopedic information helps build and sustain trust in both the application and in the concept of community ride-sharing.

The interactor may choose to cancel the ride at any point of the interaction. Thus, the interactor has control during the entire procedure. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Day 35: Now

I'm in control now.
I choose where to go, what to do, when to act and when not to do anything at all now.
I place my priorities higher than those of others around me.
I go along with the flow whenever possible, and deviate whenever I feel like.
I am a free agent now.
I no longer let the availability of a mode of transport govern my life.
I have very few regrets.
I choose not to feel left out.
I appreciate my friends more.

I wasn't like this last year. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 34: Two way street

When is it time to let go of certain things, of certain people, of certain relationships?

I have a friend. Maybe I should be saying I had a friend. I was very very close to this friend. We shared every moment of our lives with each other, every secret, every insecurity, every bit of happiness. We fought, we had misunderstandings, we made up and we cleared the air. And all was well.

And then something happened.

This friend stopped talking to me, started pretending that I don't exist. All my phone calls went unanswered, my messages unread. If we were in the same room, this friend never even looked at me. 

I tried to find out what happened. I asked mutual friends if they knew what happened. I spent days and days trying to comprehend this sudden fallout. I looked back at the entire time we'd spent and tried to spot what I had done wrong. I started questioning myself about everything, every little thing I'd said or done to see if that was what was wrong. I kept blaming myself and assumed it was all my fault. Of course it had to be my fault, I must have done something so wrong that I actually stopped existing for somebody.

Then I realized that I can't be that bad a person. I had tried to find out what went wrong, I had tried to make amends. Friendship is a two way street and I couldn't continue carrying the burden of this apparent friendship alone. If my 'friend' had a problem with me, then I should have been made aware of this problem. Isn't that what friendship is? You learn from each other, you're honest with each other, you make things work out, and you forgive each other.

I have finally stopped worrying about this friend every moment of my life. I will no longer blame myself for whatever it is that transpired. If my friend chooses to ignore me, I don't care. However, I do know that if my friend needs somebody to talk to, needs any help any time of the day, I will try my best to help out.

Finally, I'm at peace with myself.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 33: Odd

I feel so relaxed today.

I have finally moved into my new apartment and I have finally unpacked. The past three months have been nothing but a roller coaster, moving across the country, being homeless, bumming around on people's couches and taking advantage of their hospitality and then living in a hotel suite. I have been living out of a suitcase in shared spaces for so long that it felt weird and unnatural to completely unpack.

I'm still feeling odd to have my own room, to decorate it and personalize and make it my own. I took up the challenge to make the room as quirky as possible with gusto. It has been an entire year since I've the luxury of having my own room and I have been looking forward to this luxury for far too long.

However, it also seems empty. I feel alone and miss having a chaotic household. I miss waking up and having somebody to talk to all day and all night. I miss cooking with everyone and having massive communal dinners. 

I think I just need time to adjust to this newfound freedom and newfound solitude.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 32: It depends

The more of school I attend, the more I start believing in the philosophy of 'it depends'.
I have no concrete answers for anything, because nothing is certain at all.
I could be doing something today and then not end up doing it at all tomorrow.
What courses I take, what projects I do, what goes on my resume, well, it is all contextual.
It's funny how three months ago I was sure about what I would be doing this semester and now I am second guessing every little decision I make.
I think I'll do what I'll be doing only on friday, since I will not have the power to change my decision after that at all.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 31: Thirteen Weeks

I am sitting here in this office, where I have spent the better part of the past three months.
Forty hours a week, for thirteen straight weeks.

I remember how I felt the first day I arrived, completely clueless. I didn't know what to expect, wondering what would we be doing with these huge desks, marveling at the brand new equipment we got and wondering what to do with so many whiteboards. I was awed by all these successful people and wondering what the hell I was doing here in this place so close to the heart of innovation. I was pretending to be at ease and was quite petrified inside, not knowing anybody in the building.

Three months have gone by and I'm so comfortable here. I can see the whiteboards, full of small debated details fighting for space. I can see how much effort it took to organize the contents of my laptop, to make it readable for everybody. I can see the junk accumulated on my desk and amount of paper I seem to have doodled through. I am going to miss the lunches and the random catch phrases that nobody else will understand. I am going to miss the studio and the lovely people here who have taught me so much.

It's hard to believe that it's just been thirteen weeks. 

Day 30: Saying goodbye

Here it is, the time to say goodbye again,
I'm saying goodbye to three months of my life in one of the most exciting places in the world.
I'm saying goodbye to a project I devoted my entire time to.
I'm saying goodbye to people whose guidance has helped shaped my work and the way I think.
I'm saying goodbye to the first office I have ever worked in.
I'm saying goodbye to the amazing inspiring atmosphere in the Silicon Valley.
I'm saying goodbye to beauty of this place.
I'm saying goodbye to sunny California.
I'm saying goodbye to some of the best times I've had in my life.
I'm saying goodbye to a trip every weekend.
I'm saying goodbye to the amazing memories we created.
I'm saying goodbye to the beautiful life changing conversations.
I'm saying goodbye to the summer of my life.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day 29: Dread

I am kinda dreading going back to school.

I'm not dreading the course load, the crazy amount of work, the pressure, the travel, the new apartment, the new routine. No, none of these.

I'm dreading the weird feeling of returning to a place you knew intimately, where everything may have changed. These are small minute changes which add up and turn into a monumental change. The people who've continued staying there during your absence, may have acclimatized to the persistent change, but appear magnified to you due to the time spent away. The building half constructed when you left might have been completed. The loss of the old familiar faces and the old familiar patterns.

I guess I should be excited.
I know, in due course, I will be excited.
However, right now, it's just dread.

Day 28: Days like these

There are days when I don't know if I am sick.
There are days when I don't know why I feel like shit.

There are days when I don't know if I am angry or merely hungry.

There are days when I don't know why I don't want to talk to anybody. 

There are days when I don't know whether it was something somebody said or did.

There are days when I don't know how to articulate what is wrong with me, even to myself.

There are days when I don't know why I want to sit at the window and stare glumly at the rain.

There are days when I don't know why I would rather lose myself in the fictional life of a literary character rather than analyze my own life.

There are days when I don't know why I miss my friends so much that it aches but I cannot get myself to call any of them.

Is that so bad?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day 27: I met a girl

I met a girl last year.
So many questions, so many doubts, so many aspirations.
She was worried about the future. She was stepping into the wide unknown. She wanted reassurance about every single step she was taking.
She was certain about the future. She knew what she wanted and she knew she was going to get it. She knew the path she was taking.
She was excited about the future. She wanted to be surprised along the way. She was hoping that the world was as vibrant as she had always imagined it to be.

I met a girl today.
So many answers, so much self assurance, so many aspirations.
She is still worried about the future, but she knows that after the lowest lows, you always find the highest highs.
She is still certain about the future, but the things she is certain of have changed over time.
She is still excited about the future, and that's something she will never stop doing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 26: Random

I love how random life can be!

So random, that you can move into a new house, pack some bags, visit a friend on the other side of the country and then join some people who you've never met on a road trip to the one place you've always wanted to visit.

So random, that you work hard on an internship to be told that they don't have a job for you, cry and then take it in your stride, decide to move on and never look back, only to be offered a job on the very last day of work.

So random, that you meet a new person who is as unlike you as possible on the surface, with an upbringing as diametrically opposite to you as possible, a teetotaler to your wine enthusiasm, a strict vegan to your pescatarian, a chalk to your cheese, to discover that both of you have an uncanny love for the same music and marvel at the same exact points in every song that you listen to.

So random, that the one person who you thought would be perfect for your best friend, the person who you got along just okay, the one person who was too boring, too staid, too conventional for you suddenly starts becoming the one person you fall for.

Day 25: Small random rants

I have written three paragraphs and then erased them out within the past three minutes.

There's so much I want to say but then I don't want to say anything at all.

There are so many topics I have listed in my book. Little observations I wanted to elaborate on, think about and write about. But at this time, at this moment, there's nothing that I want to do.

All I want to do is sit still.
All I want to do is run.
All I want to do is walk along the beach.
All I want to do is hike through the forest.
All I want to do is meditate.
All I want to do is pack my bags and go back home.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Day 24: 4 months

With some friends, distances don't matter at all. You can meet after months, without having spoken even once during that period and nothing will have changed. You think it will be a momentous occasion, something special, something you'll remember later. However, when you do meet, it is special because it is the same, no fuss, no drama, everything is just the same! You know you can still talk about the same stuff, share your deepest secrets, rant about your job woes without any preamble. You know you can go anywhere in this world and nothing will have changed, something you can count on even when everything else has changed.

Day 23: Edge

I never understood the meaning of living on the edge. My fear of heights never let me appreciate the view. Ever. I have steered clear of any edges for as long as I can remember.

Then one day, I decided to jump out of a plane.
It was random.
It was sudden.
It took less than five minutes for me to decide to take the plunge.

I marked off the one thing on my bucket list which I never imagined I would.
I went skydiving.

The jump from the plane was the scariest thing I have ever done in my entire life.

I knew I was doing a tandem jump.
I knew that somebody experienced was in control.
I knew that it was completely safe.
I knew that I was shit scared.

So scared.

But jump I did, and am I glad about it!
The view from the edge is beautiful.
And, my fear is gone.

Day 22: Convenience

Are all friendships just for the sake of convenience?
Are they meant to last a day, a month, a semester, an internship, college or a lifetime?

You go to college together, work on a project together, sit late at nights discussing matters of meaning and life, visit monuments, discover music, live together, share meat and mead and life lessons.

And then what?

You move to different places. 
You don't take the same classes anymore.
You discover different hobbies.
You visit places without each other.
You get on with life.
You find new friends.

It's a bleak realization.
And I sincerely hope it isn't true.

Day 21: Flow

"When you can't really control what you're doing, then just go with the flow, and you might just like it"

Our lives are like water, governed by winds and the will of gods, creating eddies and currents, guiding us, making us step away, crashing against some shores multiple times, lovingly caressing the goal only to be taken away from it, flowing through the highest highs and lowest lows, storms rising and waves lapping.

Our lives are so malleable, shaped by multiple factors; some which we can control, some which are completely out of our hands. Every year, I look back at what I did and realize that I end up doing many things which I wouldn't have deemed possible, many I really wanted to do, many I never would have wished on anyone. 

All you can do, sometimes, is to just go with the flow and enjoy the ride as much as you can.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 20: Sometimes

Sometimes, all you need is some food, packed with preservatives, ready in two minutes, delicious like a hot pakora in the rains, eaten off paper plates and makeshift bowls.

Sometimes, all you need is a place to sit, unswept and messy, surrounded by bags and moving boxes, comforters and old blankets serving as the carpet.

Sometimes, all you need is music, old and melodious, the songs of your childhood, the songs you had memorized without ever knowing their meaning, haunting you and mesmerizing you by their deep meaning.

Sometimes, all you need are friends, sharing the food with you, pulling your leg, laughing with you and at you, loving you, giving you joy, and making sure that this new place you've come to welcomes you, and making it your home.

Day 19: Tunnel

It is like going through a tunnel. You never know what awaits you at the end or whether there  is an end at all. All you can do is keep going, hoping that the tunnel leads you to a better place, hoping that the darkness will lift someday, hoping that your suffering has paid off.

You keep going, though.

There are patches of sunlight it in the tunnel. You dance around them, hoping against hope that the sunlight you see is the end of the road. You cling on to these patches once you realize they're over. It may take time, but you realize that it was just a patch, promised field full of light is not there yet and you learn to move on.

You have to climb up, struggling to continue on the steep hills. You have to roll down, exhilarating in the adrenaline of running downhill. You break down, crushed by the journey, finding it very difficult to find any kind of solace in the darkness around you. You get excited, happy and jump with joy at the smallest glimmer of possibility.

You've heard of other people who've been through this tunnel. But their experiences have all been varied.

You've heard of those who were out of the tunnel in less than five minutes, a certain certainty enveloping them their entire life.

You've also heard of those who've been through the tunnel countless times. Each patch of sunlight making them think that they've reached the end, only to find themselves back inside the tunnel.

But they've all said one thing.
That it is worth it.
That there is nothing like it in this world.
That you're going to get there someday.
And when you do, it is going to be beautiful.

And that tunnel, my friend, is love.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 18: Plans

I loved plans.
I loved how everything was carefully laid out.
I loved how they fit like pieces of a puzzle.
I loved how they sense.
I loved how there was no uncertainty involved.
I loved how I would know exactly what I would be doing.

Then these plans failed.
And guess what?

It all worked out anyway!

And now, I don't plan any more.

I like not knowing things.
I like the sense of adventure.
I like the high it gives you.
I like how open minded it makes me.
I like how I can have fun, without worrying about having fun for months in preparation.
I like uncertainty. Heck, I embrace uncertainty!