Category Archives: Personal Development

Day 35: A good day at the gym

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I had a very good workout at the gym today. I feel tired and drained out. I love it. I have only been warming up and doing Abs routines.

Unfortunately, four months of home stay has affected my stomach significantly. I have a big belly now and am rightfully ashamed of it.

It’s funny how hard it is to get a good body but so easy to lose it. I’m very excited about singapore. And for all the wrong reasons. I am thinking food, chinese and the people.

I also had a good time with AJ today. We chatted over chilli chicken and porotta. Both were good.

I need to plan out my time to decide how I am going to manage the rest of my time here and get my goals done. This is vital.

I am now in the stage that Covey pointed out – I am very busy but not very effective. It’s the wrong forest people.

 

 

Day 33: Changi! Here I come.

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I finally have my Singapore visa in my hands. I’m all set to leave in a few weeks. I’m now very concerned about finishing up all my goals for this term. Given that I’ll be spending over half my allotted time there, I would need to work extra hard so as to be able to live and do all these tasks. 

Will keep you updated my Optical fibers!!

Day 27: The Crippled Tree by Hans Suyin (China)

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I have been reading Han Suyin‘s The Crippled Tree – a delightful account of her eurasian family during the tumultuous years of the last century. I have always wanted to read an account of China written by Chinese themselves, but for some reason has never been able to find a suitable text. Han Suyin represents a rather different brand of Chinese – her father is a “returned student” who married a Belgian woman. Han Suyin speaks French and Mandarin proficiently. Her Chinese family is a landed gentry in Szechuan (currently Sichuan) province of China. Whenever I read a book,  a stage comes when the books becomes too interesting. Then no effort is required to focus on the book, every moment is awake and the whole story is vivid in my mind’s eye as if I myself was there. Then, I cannot stop from reading the book – it’s almost a punishment. I read and read and then read some more.

The books is now old, having been published in 1965. However, the details are intricate and we get a rare glimpse of China from within China itself. I have been very curious about China for sometime now. Perhaps it is because of the large number of Chinese students at my University. I learned Chinese for like a month and a half during which my confidence in learning languages (which had been pretty high until then) took a deep blow. Chinese is just damn hard. There is nothing you can relate to – usually when you learn something, you can say things like – “that word is like ‘Blanch’ in English but with a ‘v’ sound at the beginning..” but Mandarin is so differen!  Sounds and vowels are very alien to the uninitiated with having to do gymnastics with our tongue just to pronounce them. Think “rui” for rain..( By the way, Pindin does not phonetically represent chinese pronunciation making it unbearably difficult to remember these words)

But then the Country began to fascinate me, more so when I discovered that I knew next to nothing about China – given that my knowledge of world history is not so archaic, I simply wanted to update the oriental section of my personal library as well.

Today, drawn by the book and it’s numerous references to Sun Yat Sen, the Hakka, Szechuan, Manchu’s, Taipeng, Returned Student etc, I plunged into the abyss that is Internet and was lost for a considerable number of hours. Having begun with Sun Yat Sen, I found myself at “Chinese Cuisine” of which there are four major styles – the Cantonese, Szechuan, Huandong and Hunan. I never knew that China had the next best thing to a meritocracy for centuries and a gentry class…or that ancestor worship was(is) very common in China. That the Chinese travelled far and wide to gain knowledge (and hence “returned students”). How much Confucianism played a role in setting the social mores of this class and how bloody Chinese history seems to be when compared to Indian history and in particular the history of the more tranquil South India.

A few months back, when the China fever was setting in, I happened to read Amitav Ghosh‘s The River of Smoke, which is the sequel to his Sea of Poppies. The new book is set in Canton (now Guangdong) province of China. This book is as fascinating as the first one and I’m sooo waiting for the third book.

The River of Smoke set my China fever on fire, it provided a massive visual to Canton and how life there was like before the Opium wars. I’m always drawn by food and apparently so is Amitav Ghosh- there is almost exquisite account of food from those times, no doubt greatly researched. I won’t be surprised if Amitav Ghosh hasn’t tried making all of them just to be able to write about them authentically.

China is fascinating but is a too giant of a country – more complex and varied than India. I get the feeling that Indians can be understood – in that if you know an Indian enough, you can predict their thoughts to a certain extent – but China eludes any kind of generalization. Maybe I’m wrong.

I remember a quote attached to Napoleon Bonaparte in The River of Smoke – “When China awakens all the world will tremble”. I will go to China and learn Mandarin – one day.

One day….

Day 25: The story of the half

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So here it is. Day 25. I’m now 25% of the way towards my destination of a 100 days. Just to brush myself, I am on a medical leave of absence from my university now and I wanted to make the maximum use of these days, so I set myself a list of 7 goals to be accomplished in a hundred days. This began on January 12, 2012 so that the one hundredth day would be 1 May, 2012. The significance of this date is that it is then that I would submit my papers for readmission for the next semester and hopefully get back to the United States. You can read all my goals on Day 1.

Twenty five percent has a special significance for me. There is a saying in my native tongue (M) that literally translated to “You half, God half”. What this is meant to imply is that in any task that you do, half would be your contribution, while the other half would be from God. No to be taken literally of course – if you are running a 5K, this does not mean God is going to run half of the marathon. I think this refers to all those extraneous factors that are totally beyond your control – which are definitely part of any exercise. You may call this Luck, the people from my native state would prefer God.

I read a very interesting article once that gave a new twist to this saying. The author claimed that he could pinpoint where God would begin and end his influence. He (sorry to my female readers – Nah! You are all optical fibers anyway) cannot help you begin, as this would mean that God is partial to you – which is a gross violation to all the other participants. He cannot help you finish, the same logic applying here as well. Thus, if you put in the first 25% and the last 25%, God would take care of the half in between.

Growing up, I derived a lot of comfort from this saying. To begin something is also a lot harder than simply maintaining it. So if I begin something and put in enough effort, there would come a period where things kinda happen by themselves. Then the task is to take it to completion. I would eagerly begin a task and then wait for God to put that on Auto pilot. I started to learn something – let’s say calculus, would struggle with the initial concepts, then understand them and soon would be more than half way through the chapter. Then I would come across more advanced topics, where I would lose interest and stop. This is not a very good example, but is the only one that I can think of now.

I think very differently about this saying now.

For one, I would like God to take charge of the whole 100% and not just the half in between! But also, I would like to think that he/she is with me in the beginning and the end as well – so that I am not orphaned at either ends of my task.

What would the Gita say?

For one, I am sure that the Gita would claim that it’s all you – “You half, You half”. Further, it would argue that we should do our tasks unmindful of the results so that anything in between shouldn’t affect us – God is an omnipotent being, it is stupid to imagine that he has no role in something..

Aaargh! I really don’t know – it could either be “You half, You half” or “God half, God half” – depending on your point of view. 🙂

It’s definitely not a mix of both!

 

 

 

 

 

Day 24: Online money making and existentialism

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After declaring for what is now 24 days, my apparent love for the written word, i finally explored the possibility of monetizing my blogs – not this one of course; no one will read this. I write to please myself.

Making money through writing blogs is no easy task – as I find out. It is more like agriculture, where you sow and then wait to reap, all the while tending to the crops. It seems that blogs are nearly the same thing – with much more work involved. The key might be in clubbing together my own interests and the pandering to the public.

Anyhow, let’s talk about something else.

I started with the mindfulness method today – did the body scan first, followed by breathing meditation. The first one was a total flop – i fell asleep and the second was only a moderate succe….oops! I violated a cardinal rule of mindfulness – no judgement here. You don’t classify a practice as either good or bad. They are all neutral.

I find myself drifting into random imaginary situations and then reacting to them as if they were real. I had this habit before – one of my root behavioral traits leading upto depression. I am not saying that this is sign that I am going into depression soon – but this is a unhealthy habit anyway, I should get rid of it anyhow.

Let me explain what is happening – I don’t think the graduate student council at my university is doing a good job now – perhaps one day I could be the president of the council and bring greater vision into the organization and be a system that provides valuable support to the graduate student community. But there is this other guy DS who is somewhat of a jerk and is very active the community. Now, I haven’t even joined the organization and don’t have any exposure there. This guy has been there for two years now. I project my own fears on to him and so assume that he is after the post as well. So a conflict is for sure- we won’t agree, we fight and fight and I get angry at him for no reason. While everything else is totally fictitious, my reaction to it is completely real – I feel genuine anger, my teeth clench, my muscles tighten and my blood pressure rises. What a revelation – my mind, the very same mind with which I grasp the complex concepts of general relativity and write prosaic literature, cannot distinguish between a real and imaginary event. How can I be mad at someone – whom I hardly know – for something – that hasn’t even happened – for something that they “apparently” did? Isn’t that just plain stupid – all those doctors were right. The mind is a sucker when it comes to this distinction.

No wonder i get into this mess all the time – if fictitious event -> real emotion AND also real event -> real emotion; then where is the line? I do this a lot, I imagine up situations that don’t exist, put real people into it and then either fume at it, or get low – either way, I put myself to several minutes (sometimes several hours) of discomfort, because of this habit.

There is also a positive side to this. The ability to project into the future – and to be able to predict how people would react is often necessary. We call that ability good judgement. If I suppress that entirely then wouldn’t I also be a bad judge of people? Can I stave off all the bad stuff while keeping the good part?

This is a more general problem – I have prided in my imagination. Surely, if my thoughts are strong enough to produce real emotional resistance, then that means that I am a good imagineer ( copyright: Disney), ie, my stories and my constructs are that much real. I can therefore infuse life into my creations. However, the catch here is that the same ability is also at the root of many of my issues – not being able to live in the present.

Consider the general idea of existentialism – Live in the Here and Now. But one of the greater abilities of humanity is to be able to visualize the future, predict it to a certain extent and prepare for it. If we did not have this ability then we would not be any different from the rest of the animals around us, who simply follow their internal RAM and do not try to project into the future (or do so restrictively: think ants saving for the winter). But as human beings, our very own survival can depend on this ability. Can we give that of to live in the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’? Many modern success philosophies talk of ‘living in the present’ but does this mean not thinking about the future?

I believe that the correct approach should be “Do not live in the future” – ie, you are free to think about and consider your thoughts and ideas about the future – but draw a clear distinction between what are purely ideas and what is real. Does that sound right? Perhaps not entirely – No, not entirely, but definitely an idea.

Day 23: What is boredom?

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I was afflicted with the same disease today as yesterday – complete and absolute boredom. I had no motivation to do anything – I tried reading a book, moved on to tweaking dreamweaver, then lay down thinking I wanted to sleep, then got up and made some soup (My own proud invention). Then I decided that I wanted to write but ended u watching Alien (1979) again. Great movie by the way.

Also, didn’t go to the gym.

So, what’s happening Lord? I ask myself. I ask you. But who are you but nefarious optical fibers that link servers floating around in  a virtual universe? (Evasion, is the first step of a coward), Focus! What is happening to me?

That question itself is not well constructed.. “What is happening to me? ” – It first of all claims innocence on the part of “me” – I am not at fault, please help! A kind of passive of a crime by deigning helplessness. Nothing is happening to me – I am happening to myself. (Philosophizing, second step of a coward).

The lack of motivation is definitely true. The Gym is perhaps the foremost example. I find myself making constant excuses not to go to the gym. Once there, I simply can’t wait to get out. I fool around and then wait for either A or D to finish off so that I can run away with them. I finally found that Artisteer cannot be used to maintain a website, so that kind of rules out that program for the website. I had Dreamweaver installed on my brother’s laptop, but then found out that the heavy volume that I bought is only a Bible of Dreamweaver CS4 and does not really tell you how to learn with it. I feel like I have learned enough Java and there is no progress with it. The same with Tensors – reached till Ricci tensors and then proceeded no further. Bought 10 CD’s of the Bhagavad Gita and heard only one and a half. All my books are half read. I’m basically a ruminating cow now – with a full belly but no nutrition. The “hunger” that I  felt before is replaced by something much less defined – something that’s like a mid summer sun at high noon – oppressive and lethargic. Lethargy – just don’t know if that is the cause or the effect. All this when time lime 25 is approaching – a full 25% of my allotted time.

I am definitely bored. I could blame it on my stomach bug – it seems like i’m pregnant with a food baby all the time. But that won’t go away that easy – been the bane of my life for some time now.

Maybe, like Godin, I should wait, wait?

But I don’t wanna be bored. I loved it early, when I was full of energy and ethusiasm and looked forward to doing everything. Achieving a lot. How did things change? What set this up? Could it be because, i had kind of reached a stalemate in all my goals? Possibly. How do I get out of this?

I’ll sleep on it, and like Scarlett O Hara, will deal with it t0morrow!

Day 12: The three days to time line 15

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There are three more days to reach Day 15 – which is my official time line 15. I feel like my initial enthusiasm is coming down and I’m reaching my ground state.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing – equanimity is always more preferable to euphoria.

At this stage, the website development is kinda stalled, largely because I do not have a windows enabled PC and is in no way able to do an installation in my virtual box. I haven’t written a single story, Laila is still serving Rasheed his mutton Korma (you won’t get that), I’m stuck with the Christoffel symbols in tensors and hasn’t done anything on torsion. The gym is going well and so is the blogging – but that’s pretty much it.

As I write this, Windows 7 is being downloaded from somewhere through my utorrent. It says that it would take three days to download – but I am prepared to wait. During this time, perhaps I could rest my Mac rest and focus on the other stuff that has been long time due. Like the depression part – which is largely reading the book and writing in this blog. Things that I can very well do!

See ya tomorrow!