Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Pinch to remember


T'was the day before Christmas. Packed like Sardines, I was heading to my nutrition class at Dadar, Mumbai, in the famous Western Local Train. The lifeline of Mumbaikars, yes. I remember wondering about how to strike a personal conversation with my heavily cute and heavily pregnant instructor about her marriage as marriage was on my mind too, and she was a Marwadi wed into a non marwadi family.

My chain of thought was jolted as soon as we reached Dadar, and I was pushed out of the train. One of the perks of travelling by train is that you seldom need to expend energy in alighting, unless you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The narrow foot over bridge entrance was swamped with passengers wanting to get the hell out of the Train station, and except for a lady carrying fish in her basket- she was allowed ample free space to walk, because of the fish and all- all the rest were clinging to each other, so to speak.

In instances like these, where you walk a centimetre a minute, jostling against the crowd, strategizing at times to find the best route out, giving up and just following the flow, there is usually someone who starts encouraging the rest by shouting "chalo, chalo”! Not that it helps speed up the procession though, but you find someone like this more often than not, this time, the encourager was, in my estimation, an old woman who was shouting behind my back, and she seemed in a hurry.

Mumbaikars usually mind their own business, and so did I. I didn’t turn around to look at who she was, despite of her enthusiastic shouting. She must have been in a hurry, I surmised.

When my thoughts were again being drawn to the Maadu Instructor- did I mention she was heavily cute?- about midway onto the stairs of the bridge, the encourager started getting creative with her language. I had never heard such colourful language, such abuses, and such panache in giving them, at least not from someone who I thought was an old timer.
She wanted me to rally along with her too, and started pushing and prodding me, asking me to do the same to the fella ahead of me. His eyes met mine, the fella’s, and we both smirked at the lady’s language and insistence, and as is the case in Mumbai, went back to what we were doing; ignoring her.

It is then that….it happened. I felt a sudden pinch on my buttock. It wasn’t one meant to hurt, it was a naughty pinch, executed by someone who knew the mechanics of a good pinch. It was deliberate, unmistakably so. And mildly embarrassing. I immediately seethed in anger and turned around envisioning the smackdown that I was about to lay on the poor man. Yes, in my fit of rage, I thought it’d be a man, perhaps a homosexual who was taking advantage of the crowd.

I have nothing against homosexuals, more power to them. But since I am not one, I take offense to being pinched in public by one.

My raging fit melted, and confusion set in when my mind recognised the Pincher, and acknowledged  and appreciated the situation I was currently in.

I had been pinched on my buttock, playfully, mind you, by an elderly woman who wasn’t the least bit apologetic about it; au contraire, she was beaming her smile, with most front teeth missing.

In those moments, we reached the bridge, and I was too confused to do or say anything. “Bheed mein aisahi hota hai uncle”! This is what she said to me, nodded her head naughtily-forever beaming- and disappeared.


I felt.. Violated. An old woman had pinched me in broad daylight, and I was completely unequipped to handle the situation. I could see this wasn’t her first tango, going by the mastery of the pinch, and the absolute nonchalance with which it was delivered.

 Half laughing, half embarrassed, I trudged along the bridge towards my classes, feeling sad for the women who have to endure such bullshit each day. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It's a bugs life

Whilst the Syrian refugees had faced and were continually facing conflict, I was facing an immeasurably smaller yet significant one myself with a wasp. Yes, a three inch insect had taken great affinity towards my room, and more importantly, my body.

I am not too fond of insects. I have nothing against them, but, let's be honest, they outpopulate us by a mile; there are about 10 quintillion ( don't know how much is quintillion? Neither did I) of them creepy crawlies on earth, and for me that in itself is unnerving. What if someday, a bug attains a higher level of intelligence? 


Insects are resilient, disciplined, combative, and extremely well coordinated. Take ants for instance. Impressive little suckers, aren't they? Now imagine them being controlled by a highly intelligent bug who is aware of the human population hell bent on eradicating and taking over "their" land, so to speak.  

For almost a week, we were up in arms, the wasp and I. The moment I opened my window, it would enter, and after hovering around the room as if searching for a budget apartment in Mumbai, it would then enthusiastically attempt giving me a wasp hug. At first, I thought it was threatened by me, so I left the room. It lost interest and went out of the window. Back I came in, back came in the wasp! It was almost like it had developed a crush on me. I didn't want to kill the critter by swatting it away, but was not too enthused by the idea of it clinging to me lest it sting- like my wife's words- me. 

I attempted to brush it away extremely politely, something which it took offence to. The buzzing became louder and angrier and I swear that, amongst the buzzes, I almost heard a "Challenge accepted" jibe. Still not wanting to harm it when it was obvious it didn't reciprocate my feelings, I hurriedly left the room again so as to allow the wasp some time to cool down!

This went on almost for a week. It used to wait outside the window-hidden somewhere- and the moment I opened the window ever so briefly for much needed ventilation, it would saunter in for a joust with me. I came close to swatting the shit out of it about twice, but somehow the spider that too had made itself home at the corner of a wall reminded me that with great power came great responsibility.

I then contemplated letting the bugger sit on my forearm or something, and if that is what it wanted, bloody hell, let it sting me. It would, erm, sting, yes, but hopefully that would give it some closure. However, the realization dawned upon me that most insects that can sting use it as their ultimate defense mechanisms, and are liable to die after it. Mr Google helped me allay those apprehensions; wasps could sting more than once. And the stings were extremely painful. 

I have to admit it was uncomfortable sleeping with the window closed, but I persisted for the lack of a better solution. It was so uncomfortable one day that I took my first world problem to someone who had seen death, misery, and had grown up in a warring state, but had still managed to hold on to her innocence and was wise beyond her years.

Reciting to her the whole story, and not expecting a lot of inputs, I jokingly asked her what she would do. "I'd change my room, she said. Maybe you are intruding into its space, its house and it doesn't like that". And here I was, thinking all the time and complaining how the wasp was intruding into mine. By her answer, I was stung. And it was more painful than any wasp sting could have ever been.

 This led me to ask myself some poignant questions. Who were here first, them or us? Who was encroaching whose land? And technically, who were the actual pests? Are there any other species in the world that invade, encroach, destroy as ruthlessly and selfishly as us humans? 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The last I saw of her- Part 1

I’ll be honest Chacha, she is living on borrowed time. You can go in for another endoxan therapy, but in my professional opinion, it will but prolong her misery.
When a friend, a Doctor, says that to your father while you’re cowering at the edge of the room, half praying, half hoping for some good news, all you feel is anger. Since the Doctor is your dad’s friend for the past 25 years, someone who respects him and calls him Chacha, I couldn’t even lash back at him.
Deep in your heart, I wanted her misery to end. Every son would. To see his mum suffer, cough blood, go through epileptic fits, to have seen her undergo dialysis and 60 days of hospitalization in the ICU, every son would.
To see his father crumble, both mentally and financially, to never be the same man again, isn’t something I would wish on anyone. But that is what happened, and perhaps, that is what made me the person I am. That is what gave me the resolve to face that dreaded night, and that is what gave me the strength to see my mother die in my arms.
Please come to the hospital immediately, was what the kind Nurse whose name escapes me now, said over the phone. I remember spending 20 days at the ICU waiting room, and other many days at other hospitals, but I cannot remember why, on that day, we were all home.
I remember Dad asking me to go, as all of us knew what was to transpire, and perhaps he couldn’t muster the courage to face it. I wouldn’t blame or hold it against him. Heck, I don’t think I was ready, no child ever can be. I didn’t have it in me; I was forced by circumstance to bring it out of me.
I’ve never been particularly scared of the dark. As a kid, yes, but as a 17 year old, I had loved the embrace of the dark. Dark was fun. This fateful night, however, at about 2 am, in the dead of the night, a sudden fear encompassed me. I couldn’t find public transport of any sort at this ungodly hour, and the half jog, half brisk walking trek to the hospital was mired in howling dogs.
Mis-assuming their nocturnal shenanigans for that night, I had armed myself with stones and a grim resolve to counter just that. I was taken aback by their howling, at how they maintained an almost deferential distance from me.
Not barking dogs. Not snarling dogs. Not overtly aggressive dogs. Howling dogs; the creatures of the night, the rulers of darkness, who come into their own as the sun falls, snarling, running after and barking, almost chiding those who dare to cross their path at that time, were eerily inept at their routine.
They were howling, and were exhibiting behaviour completely opposite of their usual intrepid self for that hour. It was as if they sensed para-normality. It was as if I was carrying with me, the harbinger of death, the Grim Reaper, or Yama itself. I can well remember the chill down my spine, and how I sprinted towards the hospital, for the fear of what was to happen to mother was little as compared to the unknown fear of the dark I felt at that moment.  
As I darted towards the street light ridden roads that befell my journey, I recalled how Mum had half-jokingly mentioned how she couldn’t sleep when we fell ill. Those days, I didn’t know what an Espresso or a Red Bull was, and despite any stimulants, sleep had evaded me, evaded us all, for the better part of the past two days. Neither had I slept a wink that night, nor was I to sleep again, for about 36 hours more.
Uncle didn’t come? These were the first words out of the worried nurse’s mouth. She genuinely cared for mum; Mum had that uncanny knack of genuinely caring for people regardless of her own state, and that drew people to her, which drew similar feelings for Mum. She was always everyone’s favourite. Favourite cousin, daughter, daughter in law, Chachi, Mami, what have you. She was the kinda lady that prepared bhindi in 3 different ways for the three of us at home, and took pride and contentment in it.
She knew of everyone’s preferences, everyone’s affairs, and everyone’s sob stories. Every guests comfort was paramount, every secret safe. I’d be lying if I said I’ve found another homemaker who was better at it, than her. It was her choice, to be the home bird, as she gleefully used to declare. Dad had encouraged her to pick up some vocation if she so pleased, her interest lied not in entrepreneurship, nor in someone’s employ.
She wanted to do her best to support, encourage and raise us three, my dad, my brother and I. Being the only gal around, she was pampered and loved, but she gave about tenfold of that love and pampering back, and then some.
I’ve served her well in these months, I told myself, and by God if this is the last time I get the opportunity to do so, I’ll do my best. How many people, after all, get the genuine opportunity to serve their parents? Learning to inject her with insulin and intra muscular injections, braid her hair, give her a sponge bath, take her for a walk within the house as some days, that is all she could muster, feed her, coax her into having the bland ass food, entertain her, quieten her down post her fits, drop everything, academia, friends, and ignore inquiries about why I had done so from seemingly concerned from a distance relatives, all that seemed to be inconsequential to the barrage of “duties”, and to the sacrifice that only a mother is capable of.
I had, surprisingly, no trepidation while entering her room, although I remember the wrench in my heart when I observed her struggling for air. She hadn’t given up, for the sake of her kids, and her husband. She knew how dependant they all were on her, and how, without her, our life would shatter.
She had the will to survive. Sadly, her body didn’t have the will to do so. As soon as I saw her, I knew it was a matter of time. I can still remember that feeling of helplessness, and I’ve woken up vomiting, crying, shrieking, or breaking into a cold sweat just thinking about that, even years after that day has elapsed, faded somewhere within my subconscious I lie to myself, yet so ruthlessly clear when it comes to the fore.
Did we make the right medical decisions? Why was she so negligent? Why wasn’t dad more careful? Why was I so self-absorbed in my life that I couldn’t take charge as I was doing now, when charge was thrust upon me? Was the current Doctor right? Was there a way? There had to be a way.
Can you give me some water, beta? That broke my chain of thoughts. And those innocuous words slapped home the stark reality. It is what it is. There isn’t any use dwelling in the past. Do what needs to be done now. What followed was what seemed like eternity, a discipline that covered lowering and elevating her bed to ease her breathing or help her sleep, give her some water, let her relieve herself, on and on again. After a while she didn’t even have the strength to tell me what she wanted. She didn’t have to, because like clockwork, I knew what she needed, when she needed it. I guess that is how she must have realised what I wanted as an infant. By giving me her undivided attention, and love.
But there too, I faltered. Not by actions, mind you, but my mind sauntered off, at the crack of dawn, to the discussions, lectures of note that I had participated in with her, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes just to humour her, sometimes just because I wanted it to end so that I got my pocket money.
I remembered how she had once told me that my child, you may never be a rich man, people may or may not find you handsome, although I will always feel so. You may never be a very popular person, or a successful person, a lot of this depends of how hard you apply yourself at the right time, and well, dumb, blind luck. But regardless of whatever you’re facing, and in whichever stage of life you’re in, you can always, always be a good person. A person nice person. Not in the eyes of others, but in yours. Always do what you feel is the right thing to do, given the circumstance and situation. That, my child is always, and will always be in your hand. Let’s discuss this.
I remember being mesmerised by this concept, and arguing about the demerits of this premise with her for a long, long time, and eventually, all was crystal clear. She had taken the pain of explaining it at length to me, she hadn’t disregarded any of my at times imbecilic inquiries and arguments, and she had never ever imposed her opinion or will on me. Heck, she never even attempted to convince me! All she did was give her understanding and opinion, along with her experience, and allowed me to form my own opinion based on my perceptions, experiences and things I could relate it to. I recollect that to be as her finest moment as a mother, conception, nurturing me from infancy and tending to me when sick, these apart.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Seeking Help on Facebook- Interesting Experience

Recently, my ladybug’s Knee MRI and ensuing Doc consultation resulted in her being recommended an Arthroscopic surgery. Since we’re currently in Videsh, we decided to explore surgical- and other non surgical options- at home, as this entailed crutches for 6 weeks post-op.

Now if we got this done in India, we would have a small army- and a large army of well-wishers- and so were seeking some ortho surgeon who was a friend of a friend and could give us a second opinion remotely; that is, without Himani being present, just all her reports, and MRI scans, and MRI videos.

Knowing this may require some searching, as one needs to have a personal equation with a Medical professional to get this sorta work done, I posted my request on Facebook, hoping that some help might spring up. This is what I had written.

Peeps, anyone personally know any ortho surgeon in Mumbai (preferably) or India who will be ready and willing to provide consultation remotely? If I wanted to inquire about a procedure, it's cost, recovery period, etc. MRI Scans, Xrays and initial diagnoses can be sent via email.
Fee shall be given in full, either through you or bank transfer. If anyone knows anyone who can do this, please PM me. Consider urgent.

Some of the replies I got were, well, interesting.

Interesting Reply 1


Hi! Heard (heard?!) about your problem. Is everything okay?!? I said yes, and explained the situation to her. Don’t believe the Doctors, she said. Told me she knew about an oil that would solve this problem, but she couldn’t remember its name. She did not offer to attempt to recall the name and tell me later. I said ok. She went on further to say she knew a great doctor, an ortho surgeon of some note. I waited in hopeful anticipation. She boasted about how he charged 2000 bucks, but for her uncle, he took just 1500. Optimistic anticipation, high. I requested her to talk to her uncle to see if he could fix up some remote consultation; I offered to pay his full fee.
Oh he died, she said. I said, I’m sorry, but I was confused who was dead. She went on to explain how he had died of a heart attack in tedious detail. I again offered my condolences. There was silence.
She then said her son too was a Doctor. At this moment I took a wild guess that the ortho Doc was dead, and that her Uncle was hopefully hale and hearty. And perhaps his son would be our saviour.
I asked her if she knew him personally and if she could get in touch with him? I felt she is attempting to help me, but has her ways of getting to the point. She said she didn’t, but he was in US and was a heart doctor. She know on good authority that he had married an American! I said hmm and went offline.

Interesting Reply 2


In offline mode, another friend chimed in. Dude! Are you mad! What are you posting on FB?! Why?! I explained the situation to him. He said all that is okay, but why on FB? I told him again about my special situation, and felt that perhaps the power of social networking would help us.
He chided me, what will people think? You’re an NRI now, you have to think thrice before posting stuff. I wanted to tell you for so long. You keep writing fuck, and other abuses, what if you father reads them? I told him, erm, he does, he is kinda okay, if not elated about it.  I further inquired if he could help me.
He said, I don’t know any ortho doc, they are bone doctors, right? I said, yes, brb. I don’t think I’ll be back soon.

Interesting Reply 3


The third one actually asked me everything, right to the minutest detail, and said she would pray for me. I thanked her warmly and said it was for Himani. She refused to believe someone as sweet and nice as Himani could have this problem. She still asked me not to worry (I never said I was worried) and that all will be well. She reminded me to have faith in the almighty lord in these testing times. 

Yes, working for a UN organization that doesn’t allow you to work more than 40 hours a week at one of the most liveable cities in the world with tax free income and with an opportunity to work with nationals of about 150 countries, collaborating to make a difference in the world; testing times indeed. I thanked her very much, and bid adieu.


At this point, I got the general gist of what was to be expected, kicked myself in the head (with Himani’s foot, the still decent one) and took down that post. 

Thankfully, I got some not so interesting but actually helpful replies too. If the readers of the interesting replies read this, know that, well, you were entertaining! 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learnings of the week.

With the advent of the internet, we have access to information like never before. Of course, most of it is useless, but then, it is the innate desire of a being to possess a modicum of such useless, erm, fact, if I may. You can use it to razzle-dazzle, strike up a conversation, or, like me, you're just interested in learning a little more about the world you live in. 

This led me to discover wisegeek. These buggers send me an email a day, with some pretty neat and at times geeky facts. Reminder- Geeky is not always equal to a computer Programmer. 

Here are some things I learnt through Wisegeek this week, amongst some other stuff. 

Wars kill. But whom?

Post World War II, conflicts have killed more civilians ( people not classified as soldiers actually fighting wars) as compared to the actual soldiers fighting them. This is what the UN says.

Monna Lisa. Yep, it's Monna. Not Mona.


My Lady. Monna. Lisa. Well, still Lisa, proper noun and all. Mona was a spelling error. Monna Lisa in Italian is My lady Lisa. Someone made a boo boo somewhere.

Have a headache? Have Coca cola.


I admit this is a bit misleading. As it is better to bear a headache, that die of diabetic complications. However, when my man John Pemberton was finding a substitute for morphine for pain alleviation from a headache, he invented and patented French Wine Coca nerve tonic. Sure, a lab assistant helped him, but who cares who he was; John sure as hell didn't. 

Sad to see something that was made to cure a malady is now a major cause of so many of them.

Water, water everywhere.


We know more about the heavens above as compared to the oceans. Covering 70 % of earths surface, we haven't explored 95 % of it!

I hope you enjoyed reading it and picked up a fun facts while at it! 
Stay Healthy and Happy!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Learnings of the week.


In an attempt to start writing-and regularly at that-again, I am beginning a learnings of the week blog post. I'm hopeful this doesn't turn into learning of the decade kinda blog post, coz that might be way too long.

I enjoy learning new things, and I'm glad that my day job helps me do just that. I'm a voracious reader and listener, and will jot down whatever random stuff I've learnt via podcasts, audiobooks and ebooks ( I've almost stopped buying paperbacks; environment and all). I hope you enjoy reading it and pick up a few things while at it!

Have card? Will Withdraw. ATMs, ATMs everywhere. 

ATMs. Can you imagine banking without them? I couldn't imagine banking if I was smack in the middle of the bank since I've married and my wife has hijacked all my cards, independence and money, but for others who are still masters of their own fortune, you'll be surprised to know that this concept of ATM, and it's founder, are pretty murky. 

Like most inventions (except the one that involves me doubling up as a punching bag, that's completely original, all credit to the missus) the invention of the ATM is also mired in controversy, with a few people staking their claim as the father of the Automated Teller Machine.

It all depends on whose version you want to hear and accept, and also largely on your geography. But that's not the trippy part. This is.


  • ATMs were initially not very popular. It was common belief that only nefarious people with nefarious habits that accumulated money from nefarious means used the ATM in order to avoid the Teller asking them some pointed questions. Not surprisingly, people also didn't trust a machine and prefered the human touch. The tellers of yore were friendly people, and people in general had a lot more time to kill, and hence perhaps didn't mind standing in long queues. 
  • ATMs are surprisingly susceptible to skimming, and a couple of guidelines, if followed, would hold you in good stead.
    • Avoid deserted ATMs. They are most likely to be attached with a skimming device. 
    • Using a popular one, albeit perhaps a bit crowded, is usually accompanied by a security guard, and chances of fraud are lessened considerably. The ones near the railway station, petrol pump, are better options.
    • Don't count your money or flash cash outside the ATM. Always look around for seemingly dodgy people. DON'T hang around once you are out. Little awareness goes a long way.
    • Lose the ATM card, or see illegal activity on card? Before posting it on all social media, CONTACT the bank!

Tarapore Aquarium, renovated, like Singapore's SEA Aquarium! Not yet..


People have been misinformed about the magnanimity and extent of it's renovation. It is your run of the mill social media hype where the Tarapore Aquarium's mention was done with photos of the SEA Aquarium at Singapore. What might also be the case is that it was PROPOSED to become that way, and people jumped the gun. If and when it will be done, with the tunnel aquarium, I know not. I do know it's not the case right now.

They have begun using filtered water from the Arabian sea, which is leading to death of them marine critters though. So if you want to go see some fish before they all die, go anyway. Just realign your expectations with reality before you go. 


Have a fun week ahead!




Saturday, April 11, 2015

Becoming the best vs. Becoming good at something

Somehow, to me, he’s good with the Middle Eastern political scenario does not sound as good as he’s an expert in the Middle Eastern political scenario. Bite me, I’m human.

IIM and IIT degrees, and PHD’s, high flying business school MBA’s impress me. But I’d be lying if entrepreneur’s succeeding without the fancy academics too impress me.

Similarly, people may be experts at one thing, or good with either one, or a few things. Both of these types may get successful, both may fail miserable. That is not the premise of my article though.

I’m merely trying to understand the skills sets required to become the best in something, probably an expert,  OR become adept at something, and more usually, many things.
I’m also trying to understand the different personalities that may choose these different paths.

To do so, let us first understand who an expert is, and how it is different from someone who is good at the same thing.

Who's an expert? Who is the best?



Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net
All of us are aware of the dictionary definition of the word Expert. However, when experts (genuine ones at that, of course) are working their magic, it leads us normal folk to look at them with awe, complete overwhelmed, whilst sub-consciously:
  1. Comparing how well we could do what the expert does.
  2. Remark how hilariously inadequate we are in comparison and why we should be thankful we have a family that still thinks we are pretty cool.
  3. Start thinking about how sad our pitiful life is, and how big losers we actually are.

    Depending on my mood that day, the usual process flow of my thoughts would follow this pattern. Used to. 

Some get demoralised by mean feats of physical or mental athleticism, by stories of achievements and challenges overcome by those people.

Some get motivated and excited and energised by their superpowers, and resolve to become the best themselves. Their resolve lasts for about the time it takes this man to down a whole bottle of Jack Daniels (I have nothing but respect for him, and I'm also sure I'll be paying my respects at his funeral soon.)
Therein, lies the problem. And it's true for me, as much as it is for you. We want to be like that role model of ours, but we end up being:
  1. Immediately demoralised, thinking I can never do that!
  2. Motivated to go achieve the best within us, for about a minute.
Becoming the best, becoming an expert, needs years of practice, a string desire, an almost unflinching focus, and a lot of hard work. This isn't feasible for most of us ( My friends lovingly call me Most of Us). According to Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, it takes 10000 hours of dedication to become an expert. Since I am guessing there are a few other mavericks in a particular field ready and gung ho about investing close to 3 hours everyday, for 10 years, to become kick ass at something, becoming the best, if it can be measured at all, might take a lot more time.

For people who choose to focus on the one thing, and want to become the best at it, an expert, I strongly believe this is the way to go. Now, there is no 10000 hours magic mantra, agreed. A lot depends on your geography, genetics, access to training, financial and physical health, and your life, but to become the best at something requires a lot of time, money and dedication. Discipline leads to habit, habit leads to regular practice, and that maketh an expert. Not easy, but simple. Apply it to most things in life, and there you go, you have your secret sauce. Easy peezy. Not.



But then, how many experts are there? How many people are, and can be the best? The 1 percent of the world? How many are billionaires? How many can run 100 metres under 10 seconds? How many can dodge 8 footballers to score the most beautiful goal? Get the drift? Not many. 1 percent, more or less. 


Become good, at many things.



Photo by jesadaphorn from freedigitalphotos.net
For someone like me, expertise isn't a very desirable prospect. I don't want to be the best, as I don't have the focus to do so. Some might say I can't, and I'll say they are entitled to their opinion. I honestly don't want to either. I want to keep learning new things, keep experiencing new challenges, and if I am pretty decent, if not the best at these things, I'll be pretty okay with that.

I want to be a decent footballer, be able to hold my own in chess when pitted against an expert, cook some delicious dishes for my loved ones ( I love myself most), exchange pleasantries with my german friends in German, serenade my wife while strumming a romantic tune on the guitar, etc.

I don't want to be the next Ronaldo ( Cristiano, the original, take your pick), become a Chess Grandmaster, work as a chef, discuss macroeconomics with a German professor, or be the next Carlos Santana. I don't want to be in the 1 %.

So what do I do? How do I become good, at many things?



To be good at something, is also, quite surprisingly, a heck lot better than most. This is one way to look at it. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to be among the top 1 percentile. Getting into the top 5 however, is relatively easier, and lesser painful. Call me realistically optimistic, but that's pretty fine by me.

The problem is that when I go for glory or bust, and it does work for some, I end up not even pursuing whatever I want to shine at enough to become good at it. Which is why, I've resolved to explore my passions, and interests, and get pretty darn good at time. And if I find that one thing, that sweetest of all mangoes, and body, money and time willing, I might go in for the expert tag. Till that time, here is what I do.


The Master Plan

Follow Pareto's principle. Find the minimum effective Dose.

As so eloquently put and explained by Tim Ferriss ( I'm greatly inspired by that self-experimenting SOB, by the way), instead of the 10000 hours and 10 years, invest about 1 hour and lesser years. Find out the quickest way to become adept at something. Give it thought, and you will find patterns. Patters like these:

  • The English language, or most languages, are close to 500000 words. To be able to speak fluently, eloquently, and understand 95 % of what's being spoken, to be able to convey 95 % ( take the percentages with a grain of salt, it is to convey a point.) of what you mean to convey, you require just a 2500 word armoury. 
  • Cooking revolves around just a few basic techniques, and it take minimal effort to learn to be a decent cook, as compared to becoming a chef and churning out specials.
Study your interest. It may be kite flying, roller blading or parkour. Find out the minimum effective dose. Don't follow the usual set trail. Research, understand and plan your learning. You will find that there is not only an easier way to pick stuff up, which is great for your confidence at the start, you will also find that focussing on 20 % of tasks will provide you 80 % efficiency. Won't attempting to learn 2500 words be an easier target than to being perplexed and overwhelmed by the vagaries of the dangling modifier?
Your planning and observations and identification of the MED will lead you to accelerated learning, boosted confidence, and a good start. Having early wins is a great way to inculcate a habit, and this will ensure all the heavier stuff that might follow will be faced head on by you.


Commit to a small target



Make it a month. Resolve to learn that new thing for a month. Don't think about how god or bad you are, or about the insurmountable task at hand. Just resolve to keep at it for a month. Yes, you can't go shark diving ( I wish!) or jumping off a plane without a parachute ( orgasmic!) everyday, but I am talking about the most mundane and regular hobbies here. Learning to cook, play the guitar, losing fat, writing that book, etc.

Go public

Tell your friends ( the real ones). You post everything from your bowel movements to your brushing patterns on FB anyway, post the desire and the plan to learn that new thing, too. It leads to you being worried about not being able to do what you've declared. A lot. It leads you to be a lot more accountable, as you know that the secret stalker of yours, youe college crush, your degenerate friends ( those assholes!) are watching your every move and you'd better do what you so cooly declared! It is a great accountability tool, I've observed. And won't you rather talk about that when you do met your degenerate friends that how you suck at life?


Track

Keeping track of what you've been upto for learning will be a great reminder and a motivator. You don't want to break your 5 day continuous streak, you feel proud to look at it. You feel mortified at the prospect of breaking that streak, you get things done. 

Well, that's about it! Let me know how this goes for you. If you have any specific quests you want to overcome, let me know and I'll try helping you with it. Have fun!