My New Year Fuck-its

There’s a new framework in town for the notorious new-year resolutions – the new year fuck-its.

Just stumbled upon an inspired blogpost that inverses the concept of resolutions from serious things that I will do to serious things I won’t do. Doesn’t that instantly ease the pressure off? Instead of abandoning resolutions altogether, why not explore a more positive concept (namely, fuck-it) and make it work for you. Always enthusiastic about such psychological trials, I’ve decided to give it a shot. So here goes:

My New Year Fuck-its:

1) I will not care about doing everything right, as long as I can do some things right. I heard of this phenomenon all my life; yet fell straight into the trap of classic adult-woman expecting to be awesome at everything – keeping that body, excelling at work and homemaking, etcetera. 2013 from that perspective had me looking like the duck that keeps bobbing up and down to keep afloat. And I say, having it all is not all that it’s quacked up to be. I’ve now decided women who say they have it all are lying. What they do have is the ability to choose and make peace with their choices. So I choose to fuck having it all

2) F* long-term goals: Goals are meant to be realistic and long-term is not realistic. So I’ve decided to set short-term goals, like weekly. If they’re visible, they’re probably doable. So if I can exercise for one week and reset the goal after that for another week or defer it for a week because of other commitments and so on, I will have met my one New Year fuck-it.

3) I will not always be mature: maturity by definition means full development. Is everything ever fully developed? In 2014, I will not waste my energy in pretending to be mature in emotions or actions, when it isn’t possible. Maturity is overrated, boring…and ineffective. General consensus is that we were happier as kids and there was nothing mature about us then. So this year I plan to use all that energy that goes into the trial and fail exercise of maturity into something more meaningful – like beating friends at Taboo and being competitive about it (by embracing immaturity, I embrace that winning IS the most important part of playing :P)

4) F* Moping: I can safely say that after 29 years of being a moper (albeit, a silent one), I have learnt that it leads to nothing. Moping about having too much to do, about annoying patterns of life or not holidaying enough, is a colossal waste of physical and mental energy. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an outlet and only lends fuel to the cyclical nature of moping.

5) I won’t necessarily do things perfectly. F* perfection. It only makes you procrastinate. I’ve waited long enough for the perfect comeback post for blogging (and clearly this isn’t it) or perfect idea for a new venture. But as they say, perfection is the child of time…and time is the child of wind (okay no one says that)…there’s no point in chasing it. So, I choose that 2014 be imperfect, yet awesome.

Cheers to that! Happy New Year y’all 😀

(p.s: Those interested in the inspiration for this post, please read:


New Endings…before new beginnings

That’s always been the paradigm for me.  Before I get excited about the new beginning part, I get overwhelmed with the new ending that precedes it.New beginnings signal that life as we know it is going to come to an end.  In tough times, that’s a relief; but often, life as we know it, is life as we love it.

And when change knocks on that door, it comes with a bag of mixed feelings. Nostalgia, fear, nervous excitement…

Nostalgia has always been a tough cookie for me. Safe to say, I have no idea how to deal with this emotion. It hits me the minute I have to make a big change, and I’m left wondering, should I look back at happy memories and feel good… or sad that they’re over?  If I miss the past or about to be past so much, then do I want to go back to it or make time standstill, or make progress and move on?

My personal record has been to move on but not without the memories in tow – souvenirs, mementos, I carry my entire life till-date with me that makes every commute a bitch and settling a bigger bitch. Letting go doesn’t come naturally and logically to me, as a result of which, my past lands up becoming present perfect. It is perfect in the present because that’s how it always is. In hindsight, everything was always possible and perfect. Isn’t it always just in the present that perfection evades us?

Memories overwhelm me, good and bad. A heavy heart always limits that skip in the step towards the new and I’m thinking about all of this suddenly because I find myself doing the same thing all over again. In about 20 days, I’m going to have to change cities again, get back to studying after 3 years of working, and that brings its attendant responsibilities: making new friends, discovering new places, etc.  With that, the apprehension that will today’s present, the one that I love, ever return?

But that’s the thing.  I don’t think it’s meant to return. Life is full of new endings and new beginnings. The only sense I can make of it then, is that nostalgia is a pre-programmed emotion within us to be able to process this continuous change. Because it’s not always possible to just get up and leave without looking back. Because what has passed is the anchor that hosts what will happen.

Over the years, every move and change has helped me grow. I’ve been influenced by every city I’ve lived in. For instance, growing up in Mumbai, above all things, taught me about ambition. The restlessness, money, crowds, melting pots of people and down to earth glamor taught me to aspire for the best, yet stay grounded.

In Boston during my M.A. , I discovered another important thing about myself – that I operate best when I’m in discomfort. It taught me about hard work and survival – from managing a personal budget to compromising the small pleasures for the big goals.

Delhi, and this is highly grudgingly accepted, as I get ready to bid goodbye to it, also taught me something. For those of you who don’t know the city, it is known (notorious) for its flashy loud culture that is founded in blatant acquisition and display of the big brands and names. While Mumbai remains the fashion capital of India, the real fashion haven is in Delhi. Not a fan of the city when I moved here 3 years back, I have now realized that somewhere along the way, in an invisible, yet highly resisted process, I picked up on this flashiness, not as a way of life, but as a way of self-motivation.  Delhi taught me how to reward personal successes with frivolous, yet meaningful acquisitions that can sustain aspirations. Being the place where I got my first job, first promotion, first pay hike, it taught me that nothing succeeds like success and what’s a little success without a little reward like the first LV bag, or Armani sunglasses?

As I gear up to make my next move (third in 6 years), I know I will have to first get past this nostalgia phase again to finally arrive at the nervous excitement for the future. And so this time, I’m prepared for it. But once it does pass and I’ve consolidated what has passed here, the new-ness will bring hope that all new beginnings do, the fear of the unknown that brings spice to life, but most of all, the smug smile over the fact that fear of change and another ending did not stop me from moving on, from making progress…

That life as we know it, became life as we knew it, right when that second passed. You never know what happens next – but at least we have nostalgia to process the constant churn.

To new endings…


Cheers and Clinks! (2007, the Last Night at Boston)

Cheers and Clinks! (2007, the Last Night at Boston)


Life Without Carbs – Big McDull

Food and I

I have been on a low-carb diet for 3 whole days, and I think I’ve lost more of my sense of humor than weight. 

Gaucomole n Carbs

Gaucomole n Carbs

Procrastination takes a new meaning when you put away exercising for so long, leaving it for the last 5 days before the event that you’re trying to lose weight for and then you know no matter how much you exercise, you’re not going to lose anything but your mind, praying and willing for inches to fall off.

I have severely exceeded my feed limit in the past few weeks, and so I am forced to go off the  item I love most in the food universe – carbohydrates.  Yes, I crave bread like normal people would crave chocolate,   or wine, or cheese.  Today, I went to a café (rookie mistake, why would I go to a café when I can’t eat bread?).  I ordered some wine (some would argue I should be off-wine and not carbs, but I dismiss that on the grounds that wine makes me laugh and laughing is exercise). And then I ordered, ahem, a salad. To avoid seeing other people relish the joy of bread-ing, I selected the scantily populated outdoor seating. That, however, was not enough to keep the occasional whiff of fresh oven-baked bread heaven air from hitting me time and again. Three times of that and there – goodbye happiness.  Life without carbs has been dull, but it’s not just that, I also noticed I’m a lot crankier, slower to catch or throw humor, and disoriented. Essentially then, for me, it seems, food is happiness.  



Anyway, last few days have left me in a hungry daze – intelligent hungry daze because I seem to be intellectualizing everything from self-control to happiness to anxiety (you can see the disorientation). The thing is, in the past few weeks, I’ve been content and happy.  Not that I’m not that usually, but there are certain points in life, when an invisible contentment takes over, hitting you randomly in a car ride, or in the shower or while watering plants.  That slow simmering equilibrium that you notice even more after emerging from some form of unrest or uncertainty. This balance is blissful in that I have worked hard for it, earned it and most importantly,  know how to sustain it to some degree. Don’t worry, there has been no catastrophe, I’m a drama queen more than anything else. But past few months have certainly  tested patience, resilience and the efficacy of personal survival toolkit.  I’m reminded of this today because I read a fellow blogger’s post on how everything eventually passes and becomes okay. Sometimes it takes longer than it should, but then nothing and no one is punctual these days, are they?

The Tom-Yum Day

The Tom-Yum Day

This relates to food, because in the past year I’ve discovered, that food is an important part of my glamorized survival toolkit. Whoever coined the term comfort food knew what (s)he was talking about. No matter what the situation, as long as one is blessed with penny in the pockets and the strong personal characteristic of being a foodie, one has at his or her disposable the most consistent companion of chow.  A hot yummy fresh meal, served right off the oven, boasts of warmth and health for me. Sometimes also of new beginnings, hopes and even memories. I’ve thought plenty of old times, good and bad, while eating familiar meals. But every time I ate and remembered, I smiled at the memory that may have otherwise caused some cringing. When I dig into my steaming hot tom yum noodle soup,  I sense the anxiety of impending elephant tasks, slowly slipping away.  Think about it, when we travel to a new place, its food that first connects us to it, taking away the discomfort of an unknown territory. Maybe that’s why the basics of food, clothing, shelter are designated as basics. As we grow up, we aspire, we desire, and  then perspire to achieve all that (apologies for the limerick, couldn’t stifle it), but as adults, we often forget that all our infant selves needed, was a well-fed tummy to retain those gleeful toothy grins.

Friendly Lobster from Maine

Friendly Lobster from Maine

And so, as I temporarily abstain from carbs, and try to wishfully shrink my waist, I’m happy to make note that as I grow older, make more mistakes, harbor more of  reasonable and some unreasonable fears, step into predictable pitfalls and all that natural wonderful stuff, I am lucky enough to rely on my love for food and  as I like to believe, its love for me, to get me by.  Let food and I continue to be on our honeymoon, and let temporary abstinence only make us fonder and stronger.


No Strings Attached – Falling in Lust or Falling in Love?

I recently watched “No Strings Attached” – the Natalie Portman – Ashton Kutcher starrer-romantic comedy.

This is one of the best sappy movies to be released around Valentine’s Day. For one, it’s good on the eyes – at the cost of being controversial, I’m referring more to Natalie Portman than Ashton Kutcher.  The chemistry between Natalie and Ashton was refreshing, explosive and warm – a good change from the forced cutesy stuff seen in most romantic comedies these days.  The story line was kind of standard – A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more.

Standard movie with outstanding performances and an engaging script made it a great V-day weekend watch.

Later, I got to thinking about relationships – – you can guess from the absence of its presence on this blog, that’s my favorite topic 🙂

I wonder…can it really ever be no strings attached? Has the biology of men and women wired them in such a way that falling in lust eventually leads to falling in love? {never mind the times we can’t tell one from the other}

The couple in the movie has great fun till one of them mentions the word love, almost immediately bringing the feelings of fear, restlessness and complication into the mix.

Of course these complications are a new-age phenomena. Today, being in love is not just the wonderful happenstance of the two concerned people falling into it.

After Cupid waves his wand, it takes a few more mini-miracles these days for the magic to work – first, the two people must hopefully be in love with each other and not some third hero/heroine of the story. Second, they have to be in love, with each other, at the same time, not one after or before the other in some string of comedy of errors.  Third, not only do they have to be in love, with each other, at the same time, but also be in the know of the existence of their love concurrently. There are movies made on this long gestation period of realization or epiphanies, not all with happy endings. Fourth, and the most popular one these days, they have to be in love, with each other, at the same time, concurrently, AND be “ready” for a relationship.

The readiness can be defined in various ways – it means one has miraculously gotten rid of old hurts, let go of previous loves, dropped any emotional baggage, and is open and willing to risk all of that stuff all over again. Hence, the current popularity of that rid-let go-drop-willing readiness stage. Too many verbs to work with.

This particular mental state has gained so much institutionalized ground that even Facebook has offered a thoughtful status of  “it’s complicated” for its dear members.

So as the movie attests, it is of no concern whether love comes first or lust. It all really boils down to this readiness. Let me not spoil it for those of you yet to watch it. Let’s just say because of the non-readiness of one of the involved parties, it takes a while for the happily ever after to come around.

It seems then that what our previous generations had and we don’t is an open and clear state of mind and sense of self, not plagued with today’s frustrations, stress, and most of all, choices.

And if that is so, then I’m reminded of something that struck me from the finale episode of Sex and the City – a show that  chronicled the success and failures of love for six years. The last line of the show went something like this, “Relationships can be new and exotic, or ones that are old and familiar…those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

To the fabulous singles, and the fabulous doubles,  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Taking Flight – Airport Diaries, Entry One


Sleepy, at Hong Kong airport

Post Dated

Ok so I thought I would be blogging about something cheerful, but fate has it that I am waiting endlessly at an airport and there is nothing cheerful about it, apart from free wireless. I’ve been here for the past 3 hours waiting for the aircraft to grace us with its presence. The airline is offering us a pittance of a complimentary “meal” comprising of a squishy Chicken Puff, a desperate looking cookie that’s neither chocolate chip, nor oat, honey or any other known cookie… material.

But there are two upsides to this situation:

1) A little budget airline that does not even offer food in the flight is making an effort to do some service recovery by providing this snack

2) I am technically now “traveling”. It’s a lot more romantic to be writing from an airport, even if it is the New Delhi airport.

I’ve been looking forward to this 4-day respite even though traveling to attend weddings typically deviates from my preferred travel schedule of no schedule. However, before that begins, it seems I’m stuck at the airport for an endless wait – but if you think about it, being stranded at an airport is in fact an important part of travel.

There is nothing pretty about an airport. As Douglas Adams once said, “It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an airport” appear’”. But still, a true traveler can find some beauty in them , if for nothing else then just because of the time spent there when en route. I think there must be something called The Airport Memoirs. Think about it – they’re such tangible representations of departure and arrival, movement and transition. Whenever I arrive at an airport, I feel like something important is going to happen. And so I tend to get all nostalgic and reflective; often not really discovering anything except that I’ve forgotten to pack an important item 😐

I have a habit of arriving  at airports late…for various reasons. I’ve been late because I had to eat my last Pau Bhaji at Mumbai airport, or because I wrongly booked flights and had to board the plane straight from the venue of a friends wedding, resembling a runaway bride myself. My arrivals on the other hand are fairly slow and measured, wondering what to do next. I wonder if this has a deeper meaning into my personality – I take flight haphazardly, impulsively, hurriedly, but take a while to arrive…? That’s probably best unexplored

Over the years, airports have become little worlds in themselves – what with the shopping gallerias and food spreads. But still, my favorite thing to do at an airport remains people watching. I enjoy people watching in general, but the airport is a particularly good environment for this activity. It’s a microcosm of the different personalities in the world…the irritable mothers with noisy kids or happy mothers with well-behaved ones, business travelers, chatty teenagers, grandpas and grandmas intimidated by the escalators. So much energy in one spot – traveling during festivals makes it even more contagious with exuberant conversations, skippy steps, and relaxed napping passengers.

I also enjoy chatting up with complete strangers sometimes. Like the girl from Harvard Law School at the San Francisco airport who introduced me to my first “green beer” as we traveled together on St. Patrick’s day (Irish day, hence the green). She explained that the green beer had no genesis in Ireland and nothing to do with Irish Day, but completely founded by Americans who decided to make the day just another excuse to drink…and so I fell in love with the homegrown world-famous-in-America traditions all over again.

And then there was the time when I met an Indian, who was, for the lack of a better term, everything-phobic. My judgment went wrong on interesting looking strangers – he was interesting in that he did not really enjoy travel, did not like sleeping in hotels, did not enjoy sleeping in a bed that wasn’t his, did not like take-out food, could-not holiday for over a week…you get the picture. But it’s always enlightening to meet different kinds of people and the airport is the perfect place for diversity in one spot.

 Then there are the quiet flights too when you have unadulterated time to yourself like today. A sobering sense of belonging and flight at the same time…it’s probably why so many movies have been made with airport plots – The Terminal, Up In the Air, etc. Also why dramatic sequences tend to be shot at airports. Taking flight is not a phrase for no reason…flying to places is sometimes like that, when the airplane is just a funnel through which you arrive on the other side and cross over…the airport in that sense is preparation of the flight. Sometimes chaotic, maybe reflective, exciting…often acting as nesting places for complicated emotions such as sorrow and pain if you’re separating from someone or leaving important things behind; or as hosts of excitement, thrill and positivity expected from the destination of the next flight…

Options>>Delete Cookies – in real life?

All I’ve read recently are my own B-School essays.  As much because of lack of time, as because of a chain of uninspiring reads. I haven’t had much time to travel or watch movies either, and hence the virtual absence since October. I promise to catch up though; I’m working on the top 100 books of all times and evading my own book purchase decisions for a bit by relying on friends’ recommendations (currently reading – Secret Garden by Frances Burnett).

Delete Cookies

That was a mini-defense for preparing to deviate from the theme of this blog; but I really do want to write about my current reads – my application essays. Maybe I’ll post them here once I’m done and lose my entire readership and people will understand what I meant by my initial warning of having a “monkey mind”. But there is a point to this, I promise.  The process for writing these works of art really did get my ruminative juices flowing.  Yes, business school essays got me ruminating.

Have you ever considered the amount of interesting introspection that goes in these applications? I say introspective because questions on your background, choices, accomplishments, strengths/weaknesses etc really make you think hard…and interesting – because this thinking is not for reminiscing, or reflecting or discovering yourself, but for selling yourself.

 Now that changes perspective entirely – all of a sudden you’re not only introspective, you’re retrospective. If I had chosen Math as a joint major, it would make it easier to discuss why I really want to go with microfinance after I graduate. I can and will contribute to the diversity of Class of 2012 given my rich educational record of study in International Relations, but shouldn’t I have then done IR in say, Denmark instead of plain old Boston, USA?

 You get the picture. In all this retrospection, I realized I was constantly looking for a fresh perspective and angles to sell my experience. Unfortunately, once you go through an incoherent first draft, it’s kind of hard to shake out of the incoherence of it and look at the last draft afresh…similar, I would say, to many things in life.

 It makes you wonder, this retrospection thing – wouldn’t it be great if we could just not want to change a thing in retrospect? What is in retrospect anyway, who created this? I think retrospection makes us futureskeptical – skeptical about the future, given how awfully awry some of our choices have finally landed up being. It mars our thinking going forward because no more are choices about the here and now, but about what was and has been that we affectionately term experience.

 Experience is all very good when it augments our future decisions, but it also has a tendency to become a baggage many times in daily life. Can’t we perhaps delete cookies when we want? For instance, I would definitely delete cookies with my first driving experience, which was comedic and horrifying at the same time. I have since never been able to conquer what has now become a monster task for me. I would like to delete that first experience and start over. This is top of mind recall because in a city like Delhi, you absolutely must know driving to get around.

 Let’s see…I severely need deleting cookies at work too. A consistent feedback on my essays – the tone of the content was all business speak, where is the personal, aspirational touch.  To quote one of my wise friends, “Adding value is an ugly industrial term. Do you want to be a faceless value-adding cog in the wheel!”  Somewhere in the midst of “adding value” at work and “communicating impact fully” in sales meetings and “forging mutually beneficial” partnerships, I lost touch with my personal conversational style. Certainly could do with fresh perspective at work.

 But what would life really be without growth from the past? In love, deleting cookies probably means going back to our first relationship – most of us would probably delete the word relationships from our vocabularies if we had to go through that again! If you don’t feel this way, then, you may not enjoy this post. If you do, then think of this as a microcosm representative of deleting cookies in other spheres of life. 

 The truth is deleting cookies is not so attractive when actually applied to life. Think about it, even B-schools rephrase their questions to get to the bottom of your “biggest mistake”, “why a personal goal could not be met”, “what is the one thing you would want to change from your past choices”.  B-school people are busy people. Busy people don’t waste time on questions that don’t mean anything; it seems to be an institutionalized fact that imperfections create stars.

 And of course, retrospection is almost always accompanied by its half-sister – regret. But there is no end to the “what if” cycle of our minds. As someone rightly said “There is no end to regret. You cannot find the beginning of the chain that brought us from there to here. Should u regret the whole chain, and the air in between, or each link separately as if you could uncouple them? Do you regret the beginning which ended so badly or just the ending itself?”

 And so as I thought about it more, I kind of started buying into the whole spiritual idea of keeping the experiences, but letting go of the negativity. Don’t worry, I’m not a fan of Buddha, or rather Buddha is not a fan of me.  I can think about something upsetting that happened years back and still get all red, angry and dramatic about it. But I like to think I’m getting better at deleting cookies in real life.  Not with computerized clicks but with the awesome can-be done-yourself toolkits only humans can boast of: sleep, humor, friends, wine, food…and giant chocolate chip cookies the size of my head.

 **Coming up next, Christmas and New Years specials

Your Wish is Your Command

It’s been an exhausting day…well, exhausting week, month… A huge marketing event around the corner, GMAT in 3 weeks, pending B school applications…and of course, I’m doing what I do best when there is lots to do…nothing (this seems to have become a specialty).

Positive Thinking, Ya!

Positive Thinking, Ya!

But I haven’t posted in a while; so I convinced myself that I’m really not doing nothing, but in fact relentlessly participating in the pursuit of a personal goal I set for myself 3 months back – starting and sustaining a blog.

What’s really provoking me to write this time is not a particular read or movie or place, but a thought that’s been developing as a red thread in everything around me these days. With so many approaching deadlines, my exclusive, almost patented, works-best-under-pressure Murphy’s Law has of course kicked in. And as all that could go wrong is going wrong…people around tell me to “Think Positive”.

Now if you have ever experienced Murphy’s law as described above…or scratch that, ever experienced an uncontrollable chain, not cute enough to be called comedy, of errors and mishaps, you would know the chemical reaction a statement such as “Think Positive” would release in the body. A crisis is almost not a crisis anymore till someone repeats the blessed phrase.

But let me diffuse some of those combustible chemicals for now and keep them aside to focus on this post. What is it about positive thinking that has the entire world unanimously in agreement with it? So that I don’t go all over the place with this (if you’ve read my other posts, you would know that this is another specialty of mine) let me give this discussion a structural signpost by discussing a book that lends most direct food for thought on this topic.

The Secret by Rhonda Bryne. Disclaimer:  I am neither in the camp of people who despise the book and view it as a double shot of advanced self-help, nor am I a part of the clan that’s jumping up and down with joy at having discovered the Secret and bordering on delusional while practicing it (if I had to choose, I would go with the former, but you should know, I have no bias against self-help books either, I applaud Robert Schuller for Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do!).

For those of you, who seemed to have missed The Secret revolution as it hit the world, this book is based on the idea that the universe will always conspire to bring you what you want if you ask for it the right way; that positive thinking attracts positive events and negative thinking attracts negative events. We already knew this – but the book states that this is apparently a law, one that is backed by scientific evidence that our thoughts have frequencies, which are consistently attracting the positive to the positive and negative to the negative. It works like the law of attraction, or gravity. An impersonal law that is not governed by right or wrong, but only attracts what you think and in that sense makes your wish your own command.

Let me first address the aspects of the book that made me invariably put it down multiple times until I finally decided to get it over with.  Perhaps the part I did not enjoy was the big build-up around the theory that “The Secret” has been hidden from the masses by the classes for centuries to keep the “power” concentrated in a few hands. Or the fact that it introduces the scientific law only at a 30,000 feet level, and leaves it at that without discussing any of the supposed evidence. Further, it fails to address and explain the aspects of karma and fate. How does destiny intertwine with thoughts and actions to make events happen the way they do? Or do we really bring on a natural disaster or accident upon ourselves with our thoughts?

But what I do agree with is its general premise: our thoughts do become events to a large extent. When I first read this confirmation, I felt a flurry of panic. What about monkey-minded people such as myself, whose thoughts habitually swing from one to the other within milliseconds? I shudder to think of what I may be bringing unto myself! (Although some events of my life ARE in fact perfectly explained with this theory).  But surely, there are many days that start off badly and end the same way, probably shaped by our under-the-breath muttering that kick-started the day. And certainly, there are events such as miraculous recoveries from fatal illnesses that can only be explained by positive thinking and will power.  But before I get all Chicken Soup for the Soul about this, this theory, more than anything else, reasons with my senses on a scientific level.

Because the book did not explain the science part of it, I approached Google and found a video of Dan Gilbert, best known for his book, Stumbling on Happiness ( Here, Dan speaks about how we can manufacture our own happiness and apparently be as happy when we don’t get what we want as we are when we do get it. This is called Synthetic Happiness. Dan’s books and papers weave together facts and theories from psychology, biology and behavioral economics to prove that synthetic happiness is as real as natural happiness. Human brain can imagine its own future, and predict which path may bring it the most happiness tomorrow. But if the chosen path turns out to be wrong, then the mental stimulator can also adjust itself and synthesize happiness. The difference between winning or losing a game, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion is lesser in impact than we expect it to be.

In this sense then, if real and synthetic happiness scientifically have the same impact, and our brain has the capacity, when channeled in the right manner, to synthesize happiness, then positive thinking does lead to a happier state of mind. Whether the Universe really conspires to bring us what we want, moves places, people, time to make space for our needs and desires and whether this is truly a law as perfect as that of gravity, is still open to interpretation, experience and belief in fate. But what stands true is the premise of the book: Positive thinking does attract positivity, which converts into action and eventually leads to actual events. In that sense then, we can truly shape our future.

This hybrid theory does help me to understand the brouhaha over positive thinking. It also seeks to explain what we have heard for generations in different clichéd ways:  make the best of a given situation, live life with no regrets, events are not as important as our reactions towards them, what happens does happen for the best, etc.

In the meanwhile, as the sequel to The Secret is selling a million copies worldwide, I shall hope to find better answers for my questions in that one and practice it for my very own Volkswagen Beetle…it did say the law is impersonal with no judgments passed on the materialistic value of the needs and desires…

These are personal comments and thoughts on the book, The Secret. For a formal review, please visit

Vitamin T: Your Pill for Transport Back in Time..or into the Future

On The Time Traveler’s Wife

by Audrey Niffeneger

The Time Traveler's Wife

I often wonder…what with all the inventions, innovations and the world literally at our fingertips now, why haven’t scientists invented a time machine yet? All limited resources follow the basic norm of economics. But time, the most limited of all resources, defies it – you can’t save it, can’t return it, there is no credit for wasting (read overspending) it.  Hence, making a more compelling case for people to find a way to manipulate it.

Think about how much time we spend thinking about time, either about traveling ahead or turning it back. I wish I could have done this or that, if I could change this, if I just knew this before…

We have medicines to cure the most complicated diseases, reverse the impact of age, even a science to predict future, why not have, say, a Vitamin T for Time? Popping a pill could give one more hours in a day, a 500 mg may even catapult us into the future for some time, or a Slow Release version of the pill that could slow us down and transport us back to the past for a bit. I know I’m getting carried away with this, but did anyone think cloning was possible 50 years back?

That was just some food for thought. In the meanwhile, till someone really manages to make this real, we can continue to feed on sci-fi books and movies. My recent read gave me a lot of fodder for this: The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Debut novel of author Audrey Niffenegger, it is a love story set in an unusual backdrop of time traveling. I have to say, along with the “bestseller” and “major motion picture” labels on the cover, it should also have one that reads “water-works”.

In the book, the protagonist Henry De Tamble suffers from a rare genetic anomaly, called Chrono-Impairment that causes him to involuntarily travel through time, to the future and to the past. His destinations are tied to his subconscious – places and times related to his own history. For instance, he visits his wife multiple times during her childhood, almost accompanying her growth from childhood to adulthood…on the other hand, he also tends to keep going back to the scene of his mother’s car accident in which he lost her to death. It’s not unusual for Henry to run into the other Henry from some other time period and help him out of a jam.

Difficult to comprehend? Yes it is, indeed. But Niffinegger makes this sound so real that at one point I felt compelled to google whether this is a real disease (feel free to laugh at me over this, I felt incredibly stupid for doing so myself).

Grown up Henry traveling back to Clare (6 yrs old)

Henry traveling back to Clare (6 yrs old)

Using the alternating first-person style, the novel narrates the stories of Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. When 20-year-old Clare meets 28-year-old Henry at the Newberry Library in 1991 at the opening of the novel, he has never seen her before, although she has known him most of her life. She has adored him for most of her life because he has been popping in and out of it since she was 6 years old.

This makes it mind bogglingly confusing at times, only to make sense after a coupe of pages or chapters and sometimes not at all. But the riveting he-said, she-said, he thinks – she thinks account makes you feel closer to the characters and keeps the reader engaged. You never notice when the story and the characters creep under your skin.

The book traces the evolution and strength of the love story that is fated to endure the trials and tribulations of Henry hopping around through decades, front and back, disappearing at odd hours with no guarantee of where he will be or when he will return. Sometimes hours, sometimes days (Ahem, does this sound too different from normal men? As a footnote, Niffenegger did write this novel after a series of heartbreaks, we can see the analogy).

The love story is endearing because of its simple, Erich Segal, expression. I don’t pretend to know what love is for everyone. But I do know that knowing everything about that person, especially the faults, but wanting him or her anyway, does define love. The book conjures beautiful images of that definition.

Niffenegger’s depiction of the relationship is romantic and realistic, humorous and intense. Her portrayal of their love reminds me of a parent-child relationship.  No matter what the circumstances, parents don’t have the option of breaking up with their children. Henry and Clare play those roles alternately with and for each other. You can see that when you can’t imagine Henry time traveling without Clare to travel to and from.

Their relationship stands the test of daily frustrations, absences; and despite yourself, the longing and uncertainty crawl out of the pages of the book to sting your eyes with tears.

At some point, I did wonder which aspect I enjoyed more: the love story or the opportunity presented by the book to ponder over the functions time can play in our daily lives.

Time does a lot of things for us – it heals the way logic, reason and medicine cannot. It is our companion, always there in the past, present, future…watching us grow, even facilitating achievements and success. Who ever achieved anything without deadlines?

My favorite moment of the book – Henry’s helplessness at not being able to prevent bad events from happening, despite knowing of them prior to their unfolding.  His explanation reminds you of the most fundamental laws of life: “There is only one free will, when you are in time, in present. In the past we can only do what we did, and we can only be there if we were there”.

We’ve always been coming to where we are currently since our time began. There is no amount of time travel that could perhaps change that. As much as we may repent/regret/ want to change the past actions, if not those, some other circumstances would have led us to exactly where we are now.

Also, life, in general, is all about timing. As Stacey Charter says, “(with time) the unreachable becomes reachable, unavailable becomes available, unattainable…attainable, and have patience, wait it out. It is all about timing.

So often, I have found myself frustrated at things not going my way. And each time, have also found that those delays were not denials, that what eventually does come your way was worth the wait.

Coincidentally, I purchased the book when I really wanted to hold onto time. I was at a Barnes and Nobles store, in New York on a bright sunny summer day, with a hotdog stall staring straight at me through the glass door. It was perfect.  My flight back to reality was the following day and what I wouldn’t have done for a Vitamin T right then.

Which brings me to the million-dollar question. Henry travels to the past more than the future. Which I thought would be an interesting question to ponder for each one of us. If you could time travel, would you travel in the past or in the future? (Hence the poll below, punch in your preference, this makes for an interesting dipstick)

My guess is this would be a tough one to answer. As you think about this, do read the book, it is certainly an entertaining read… if you are a romantic, definitely. If you enjoy thinking about science fiction stuff and time machines, you may find yourself wondering about the authors’ mechanism for this, but not necessarily find the answers in there.

But most importantly, for those of us, who frequently itch to be in the future or in the past, it provides a good reference to understand that the trajectory of time travel that we are actually used to, of moving one day at a time at the rate of 60 seconds per minute into the future, has a critical function for us. Displacement of this one-way street, backward or forward, might be more distressing than one would think. Vitamin T, like all other pills, could be counter-productive if overdosed.

We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”Douglas Adams

New York, New York – The Business of Life

The Empire State of Mind

I’ve been harvesting this thought for a some time now, pondering over why this city is so endearing to most people…to me, given that it has never technically been my home.  So I did some quote-searching online and found a couple that succinctly expressed it, but one in particular stood out:New York

There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless – Simone De Beauvoir

Simple. That’s why it really is the city that never sleeps, why most people are either succeeding or striving, all types of people – artists, musicians, models, investment bankers – and people like me who were just break-ing for a bit in the city, yet woke up no later at 8:00am everyday just because it didn’t make sense to waste time sleeping in New York (Of course now that I am back at work and have to wake up at unearthly hours everyday, I’m having a tough time relating to my own holiday behavior)

But, even if you’re just visiting, the restlessness of the city creeps up on you. If you are  not actively trying to make something of yourself, you suddenly want to, just so you can justify your position on those crowded streets. If you’re going to push and shove, it must be for a cause!

What is the romance of New York? It’s not an exotic place; it is certainly not a relaxing place. But it is a lot of other things rolled into one. As Meyer Berger said, every one reads his own meaning into New York, and so I have mine.

Let me warn you, if you’re looking for a light read, this might get slightly philosophical. I may be over intellectualizing this but I feel the need to  articulate to myself, my own reasons for selecting this place. I need that connection between sense and sensibility for this one.

The whole objective of my break was to consolidate my 25 years in some way, make sense of events, experiences, just sit still with them for a bit. But more than that, to reinforce and never forget that there is so so so much more to do, to achieve, places to visit, people to meet, to succeed.

And if you really want to experience aspiration anywhere, it is this City. On the faces of people on the road, walking as if there is no tomorrow, in the lights that seem like if they shut down for few minutes, the universe might as well shut itself down, the yellow cabs that almost add to the illumination at night, the Statue that stands tall and upright, Times Square that is a little microcosm of the city really.

New York, at all points seems as if it is in business everyday, the business of life. Representing truly, what one wise man once said: The business of life is to be, to do, to be without, and to depart. You can’t really speak of the City without using a lot of verbs, to be, to do, to be without and to depart seems just right for the place.


Addressing the being and doing part, the whole world is in the city…literally (On day one, I bumped into three people I hadn’t met in years randomly). The mini-countries in Chinatown, Little Italy, little India-s spurting here and there; the immigrants, it seems, moved there and promptly plopped their countries alongside as well, and the city said “the more, the merrier” and adopted them as natural extensions of itself.

The theatre, art, glamour, commerce, fashion, the Hollywood and even the Bollywood, whatever you want to do or be, you have it. Just know how to get there, the map is important in the city.

Which bring me to the walking, one of the most delightful aspects of my trip. It isn’t called the Walking City for nothing. For one, try hailing a cab in NY. I walked on one hand, out of sheer pleasure and joy of being a traveler, and on the other hand because of my sheer disability to acquire a cab for myself.  There is too much competition, a line of people competing with you to catch one, and apparently the city disqualifies me for this game altogether because even if I manage to get one, I can’t keep one…somehow I never go to a place the cab driver would like to take me to, but the next person after me is always a perfect match. And let’s hope this is limited to cabs in NY only.

So back to the walking, this is when I overdid it and injured my Plantar Fascia (somewhere in the feet, my latest biological discovery). Apart from the obvious delights of the walking tours, you come across bakeries that promise “Happiness Unlimited” in the chocolate muffins. What a lovely idea I thought, why wouldn’t one go in to buy some happiness in the form of a chocolate muffin!

Man Shopping for Wife, NY

Man shopping for wife, NY

They don’t say this city is all business for nothing. Now look at this picture alongside, in which the man is “shopping” for a wife.  This is what his front and back read, “ Hi Friends, looking for a wealthy lady to be my wife. My name is Robert. Single, Never Married, No children. Call me…”

It transforms you a little too. In one of my first cab rides (the ONLY one) the Italian cab driver, when asked to take me to Chinatown, insisted that he must take me home instead, and I, in fact had a conversation about whose home he should take me, mine or his, till I reached my destination. This is what the city does to you. I do not typically chat with cab drivers, I don’t even receive telephone calls from numbers that don’t seem familiar. But here I was sitting in a cab, flirting with the cabbie, who feigned heartbreak as he dropped me off (thankfully) at Chinatown.

The city also brought my Sociology classes back to me. You are the place that you are in, you are the society, you are the environment.  In New York then, you are a lot of things at once. One time, at Madison Square Garden, I decided to stop and people watch. If I stayed there long enough, I’m pretty sure I would have caught the frequencies of the thoughts of all those diverse people frantically going somewhere: happy, sad, distressed, frustrated, exhilarated, success, failure.

It reminds you of all your life’s experiences at once. Somehow, I think the physical representation of grids; the right angled cross of avenues and numbered streets did this for me. I think the cross represents the cross between expectation and disappointment, excitement and gloom, hope and despair all rolled into one.  You take 5th Ave and 75 street and maybe buy some happiness at the big Apple store, you walk 42nd, and you’re bound to stumble upon excitement at Times Square, walk through Central Park, and you may experience contentment, take the financial district and you experience the despair a little, or stop earlier at WTC and some more gloom.  There are days when the tall buildings may seem like they’re all falling on you at once and other days when you feel like you are a part of them stretching unto the sky, into the universe gleefully, touching the stars and all that.

There is something so tangible about the fact that such is life, c’est la vie, be it, live it. The disappointments, the frustrations, the insecurities, all are a part of it, and sometimes do come up on one street and that is fate. But there are times, when all you need to do is walk away, the next street is right there, holding in itself a completely different set of options and experiences, always running parallel tempting you to choose it as an option. You can decide what to do, to be, to live without and to depart from. Life is always an option that way, I thought.  Happiness is the consequence of personal effort and that effort is to get off that street and take the next one. Because it is right there, in front of you, just a block to your right or left, depending upon what you’re looking for.

Do check this video out, if you haven’t already, my post might make more sense:

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