A date with self-doubt

To set the past week in perspective, my first working day of the week was Friday. I had worked from my room’s desk Monday through Thursday (the small pleasures of a start-up ), and started an independent consulting project on Friday. The week has been one long weekend. I’m writing this as I watch Tron on Z-Studio from the corner of my eye, and it’s well on its way to a rotten 10% on my personal TomatoMeter. All this lone time got me remembering how different my thoughts were in July, when I decided to leave my US job and return to India.

My reasons were personal: a longing to spend my life in India, a desire to be with my loved ones in a time they seek company, my affinity for a simpler life, and my hope of doing more meaningful, spiritually satisfying work that lets me help fellow living beings. After discussions with my loved ones, my enthusiasm multiplied as I learned we all wished for the same thing: to be together. The path looked clear. It was now a matter of breaking the news in my office, and preparing to leave.

And all along, there was doubt poking me on the side. Trading a high-paying job for unemployment? Exchanging security for uncertainty? Moving from the Promised Land to the crowded, chaotic homeland? All this, driven by some obscure ideals that usually invoke a raise of the eyebrows? The burden of my decision felt very heavy, as it felt like my entire life hinged on this one choice.

And here I am, four months later, drinking chai sitting on my terrace and writing a blog. I learned some things along the way:

  • No matter how heavy and critical a decision may seem at the time, life will always move on. All decisions, in time, become a matter of the past. Life does not stop.
  • Why fear making the wrong choice, when we can never fully comprehend the impact of our decisions? Life usually plays out differently from the way we imagine it. There is immense liberation in knowing you do not know what’s coming, even if you watch your steps carefully. In the Mahabharata, Bhishma pledged never to marry so his father Shantanu could peacefully marry. Although he did this to bring joy to daddy and Hastinapur, in time it led to war between Shantanu’s descendants. This would not have happened had Bhishma assumed kingship, and left no room for a new king. So we see even in our mythology, it is usually exhibited that we can never fully control the outcomes of your decisions. So why fret?
  • It is important to make a choice, and then make peace with that choice. If the choice we make does not bring us peace, we are subconsciously choosing what’s easier, not what we want. We live once, so why cheat the heart? If we truly choose what “we” want, not what somebody else wants, we will find peace.
  • It’s all summed up in this quote I read somewhere – “Life is so rewarding, even in mishaps, that to complain is to miss the whole point.”

So if a big decision awaits you, or looms in memory from the past, lay back, relax and tell yourself you did well – and it’s all gonna be alright.

Chilling my heels in Alleppey, Kerala
Chilling my heels in Alleppey, Kerala
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A trip to Neemrana – Part 1

For our anniversary, Mansi and I spent an evening at the Neemrana fort. Built in 1464, this fort was the capital of the Chauhans (the clan Prithviraj Chauhan belonged to). The fort is at once majestic, tranquil and a step back in time. If you’re visiting Delhi and have an evening to spare, spend it here. It’s 120 KM from Delhi, and you can easily cab it from Delhi. Now, let’s tour the fort…

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Doga: takes no prisoners

Growing up, I spent much of my time and money on comics. I probably bought my first Nagraj comic in 3rd standard. From there on, it was a quick move to patronizing other legends – Super Commando Dhruv, Parmaanu, Bhokal, Ram-Rahim (of Manoj comics fame). These comics had it all: Wizardry, icchadhaari naags (shape-assuming snakes), sensuously dressed damsels, violence, iconic villains – all elements needed to make a young, impressionable child part from his 10 rupees to buy these fantasy books.

This was a while ago, and most characters and mindless stories I read have since faded. However, there is one comic character I still respect to this day: Doga. Here’s a list of things that make Doga #1:

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  • He is an original Indian superhero. He doesn’t fly like Superman, isn’t bitten by a spider and didn’t fall into a batcave when young. Doga had a tough childhood, abandoned at birth and raised by strangers.  Growing up, he identified himself with stray dogs: orphaned and unwanted. When he becomes a vigilante, he makes himself a dog’s mask, as is ruthless like a dog too. (that’s 10/10 on the awesomeness scale)
  • Doga takes no prisoners. He doesn’t want to change the system, and doesn’t want to transform miscreants. He simply wants to eliminate the bad guys, and does it coldly and brutally to make examples out of them. He is the Indian Rorschach.

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  • Doga the comic weaves stories around social issues. Two recurrent themes are: communalism and corruption. Doga is a cop called Suraj in the day, and through his eyes, the comics captures everyday corruption within Bombay police in great detail. Also, there are many strong Doga comics tackling the Hindu-Muslim divide in India. Read Doga Hindu Hai.
  • Perhaps no other Indian comic delves into a superhero’s psyche as much as Doga does. There are dark conversations and monologues he has with himself, when he is overcome by the violence he has himself inflicted, and still finds the reasons he went fighting for stand more broken than before.

If you’re a comic fan, you should pick up a few editions on Doga. You will not be disappointed!

Doga

Seeking our answers in data

Websites were burgeoning with analyst perspectives during the US Presidential elections. XKCD took a dig at this in their comic, but I cannot rule out some political pundit may have actually concluded “No candidate whose first name contains a ‘K’ has lost.” I follow New Scientist on Twitter, and usually get tweets like “Dinosaurs might have once gazed into the Grand Canyon.” My response usually to such tweets is, “Ok”.

I believe advent of numerous analysis techniques, and human curiosity leads to all kinds of research. That is great – research and curiosity are important, fulfilling endeavors. What I find absurd is the human audacity to conclude “Rigorous analysis shows X happened in the past, hence Y will happen in the future under similar conditions.” I find this logic echoing in many expert opinions across politics, science, health and even arts.  Here’s a Dilbert comic on our need to extrapolate research facts to understand ourselves.

I believe the need to know, and atleast predict the future, is a human flaw. Historical lessons and analysis can definitely make us wiser, but they cannot help us predict the future. Case in point: During the ’80s, sci-fi movies showed us grandiose visions of space travel, and us getting eaten up by aliens. 2001: A Space Odyssey gave us HAL, thus painting a vivid picture of a future filled with abominable space creatures and evil, plotting, philosophical computers.

However, nobody could predicted the scientific breakthrough that came to redefine our lives – the Internet. Such is future, it unfolds in often unexpected ways. Trying to predict it is futile, let it play like a movie you haven’t read reviews of and give yourself room to be surprised (hopefully, pleasantly).

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