The Other Side of the Coin

We all have been experiencing a lot of things which have changed around us owing to the difficult times that the entire humanity is going through. While we continue to fight this invisible enemy, I am writing this to share a couple of things that I have come to realise in last 4-5 months of this pandemic. Besides all the sad things we have been facing like financial difficulties, emotional imbalance, panic attacks, etc., there are indeed a lot of things that have happened which interestingly fall on the positive side. Since this is a disease, problems and difficulties are bound to come, however, as they say “every coin has two faces”, this one also has given lot of things to be grateful about. 

During this period, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, my wife’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday, Raksha-Bandhan (Indian festival about celebrating the bond between a brother and a sister). Though we missed being with our loved ones, shopping and dressing up for the occasion and all the other things of the likes that we correlate a celebration with; one new and a very interesting thing that I experienced is that we spent our resources like time and energy on purely the celebration and nothing else. Things like handmade cards, homemade dishes were in the forefront and the best part was that we spent and devoted the entire day completely to ourselves. “Did I say I missed the cake?”, No I didn’t miss it, as these are the perks of being married to an excellent baker. 

One interesting realisation is about the “choice of vegetables” for meals which I used to be quite vocal in complaining about. Now since I am the one who usually goes out for vegetables and interestingly, I also end up buying similar sort of veggies, I no more have the luxury to express my displeasure. I initially thought the idea of only me going out for these errands had a larger and noble objective to minimise number of people going out, however, after a while I realised the hidden agenda and now, I can very well relate with the analogy of teachers appointing the most disturbing student as the monitor. 

Given the kind of profile I am into, I was literally living out of my suitcase; in fact, there used to be times where I was travelling for about 20 days in a month. Although I love travelling, but eventually it becomes tiring when you come back only to change the packing. Although it’s been more than four years that I am staying in my current house, nonetheless, I hardly would have got a chance to socialise in the neighbourhood, leave alone making friends. And I am sure lot of people in my society also would not know me. One fateful day after being into the house arrest for almost 3 months, all thanks to COVID-19; I planned of stepping out for a small walk, “of-course with all the precautions” in the mind. While I was enjoying my evening stroll after ages, of course in my society compound itself, I noticed two gentlemen interacting with each other, maintaining the proximity, so as to ensure “social distancing”. I greeted them and tried to strike a conversation with them and to my delight they were pretty welcoming. Within next 2-3 minutes, I also found myself chit-chatting with them comfortably. We had a great time together discussing lot of things like current situation, our surroundings, movies and what not. What started for me as a random meet, became a weekly activity and now I wait for Sunday evenings to meet with my new friends. This encounter is very close to my heart as I got my inspiration to “write” from it. I love reading books and would sometimes write also, however never thought of expressing my thoughts with a larger group at a platform like this. Although my wife had been pushing me to write for a very long time, I don’t know what, but something was stopping me. But a book written by my “Sunday evening friend”, who’s now a very good friend, acted as a tipping point and here I am sharing my experiences and realisations with you all. 

If I put all those difficulties that we all are treading through because of the pandemic, there are lots of positives and learnings also. It has given me the time to rekindle my own relationship with myself. When I look back, I realise that it has given a chance to spend more quality time with my family, which I was missing even when I was not travelling. This scenario has given me an opportunity to interact with the people who were just “some familiar faces” until sometime back. It certainly is a difficult time for all of us, in terms of its emotional and financial impact, but that is something beyond our control, what is in our control is to look at the positive aspects it has given. 



Do we really get tired or it’s just a state of mind?

Imagine, it’s Monday morning, alarm bell rings at 5:30 am, with your eyes still closed, you drowsily move your hand and after dragging yourself a bit, your hand finally reaches to stop the alarm. Although it’s time to get up and start moving ahead with your routine activities like a small work-out, cup of coffee, newspaper, getting ready and finally off to office, you still lay in bed as you don’t feel like going to work today. You feel really exhausted and even before you realise, a chain of thoughts gets triggered in your mind,  

Should I go to office or take a day-off?“,  

I am badly tired”, 

I am putting so much of hard-work, I truly deserve some rest”,  

I am really exhausted”,   

It’s fine to take a day-off sometimes”  

You mentally decide to take some rest, as you really had a hectic week. You plan to take a day-off in order to refresh yourself and gather some energy. The more you think about your strenuous week and the way you had to really slog to complete your project, you feel all the more tired. While you lay in bed with this self-talk, you suddenly realise that you are so badly tired and can’t even gather the courage to move from your bed. You decide to call your boss to inform that you won’t be coming today and a minute later you finally you pick up the phone…  

Sounds Similar ???

Why do we get tired?“, I sometimes wonder……

Is it because of the physical and/or mental fatigue, that we experience after a frenetic day? 

Or, is it just a state of mind? 

If it is just because of the exhaustion that we experience after a hectic day, then how come we suddenly start oozing up with energy if we get a phone call from our best childhood buddy even if we have just entered home after a long day or if it’s a weekend and we have plans to go out

We binge-watch our favourite series for hours together and we still feel energetic but only an hour of working on a presentation or some data analysis reminds us of the screen time going higher and we start feeling our eyes burning

We get bored and feel sleepy after reading a document pertaining to the terms and conditions of the insurance policy that we have just purchased, however, we want to finish an interesting thriller novel in one sitting

Our exhaustion from the entire day melts away just after having a look at the innocent smile on our son/daughter’s face. 

What does all this suggest? 

It means tiredness is more of a psychological thing than a physical thing. Having said so, I am in no way discounting the efforts that we all put while commuting to our workplaces or while working on a challenging project or handling daily chores and so on. We all work really hard towards a lot of things and we do get tired also, nonetheless, up to a “great extent” it is psychological than anything else. 

So, what does it mean? 

Does it mean, if we are in control, we can switch-on and switch-off our mental states? 

In my opinion, the answer is “yes”. If we can prep our mind not to get overwhelmed by the challenges that we have handled “today” or the challenges that we are expecting to face “tomorrow”. I believe the key lies in training our mind to live in the “NOW”, the “present moment”, rather than living the stress of the day all over again or thinking and getting anxious about what’s going to happen tomorrow. This doesn’t mean that we should not plan things, it is very important to plan our goals but as they say “journeys are often more enjoyable than the destination”, therefore, we must learn to enjoy every moment of the journey rather than getting astounded by the complexity of the final goal.  

Robin Sharma also quoted beautifully in his bestseller, The Monk who Sold his Ferrari, 

The past is water under the bridge and the future is a distant sun on the horizon of your imagination. The most important moment is NOW”

If we can train our mind to step away from this “time-trap” of living either in the past experiences or in the anticipation of future events, we can enjoy each and every moment with almost similar energy and it will surely add more life to our lives. 



What’s your “High”

I was reading this book called “When strangers meet” by Kio Stark, gifted to me by a colleague, who also happens to be a very good friend of mine. The name itself was so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading the book. It has some genuinely nice insights about interacting with strangers.

I reached home from work and started packing my bags, as I was supposed to travel to Munnar (Kerala) for a 4-day workshop. My flight to Cochin (Kerala) was booked for the next morning and in order to avoid any hassles in the morning, I pre-booked the cab thereby allowing myself to sleep for 10 more minutes; morning sleep is truly the most precious. Luckily, the cab arrived on time. I boarded and made myself comfortable on the rear seat. A lovely song, in fact one of my favorites, from a hindi movie was playing in the car. To be precise, “Sach keh raha hai deewana” from “Rehna hai tere dil me” was playing. Since, I was travelling to an exotic location Iike Munnar, I was anyway in a very good mood and this song added to the glee. Just by entering the car, I started dreaming about the tea-gardens of Munnar and its lovely weather. 

I thought of interacting with the cab-driver, just to make sure that I am putting my learnings from the book into practice. To start the conversation, I asked him where does he live in Mumbai, to which a quick response came, “Mahim” and then there was silence again. I was expecting that this question itself will initiate the conversation, but I was wrong; dynamics of every human interaction are different. So, I started to think about something else to keep the conversation going. Then a thought hit my mind, of going into reverse psychology, so that he’s bound to ask me a question. I told him to stop the music and to my delight, the plan worked, he asked, 

kya hua saab, aapko gaana pasand nahi aaya” (what happened sir? did you not like the song?). 

Now I got a chance to keep the conversation going, I told him, 

nahi nahi, ye bahut achcha gaana hai, balki mera favorite hai”, (No, the song is really nice and in fact one of my favorites)

My response completely took him by surprise. Baffled to hear this, he said,

arre agar pasand hai to fir band kyu karwa diya”, (if you really like it then why did you ask me to stop playing)

I told him that because I wanted to talk to him and music was the hinderance, that’s why I asked to stop the music. Hearing what I said, he got even more puzzled.

While now the conversation had started, I asked him, where did he belong to, as in where was his “hometown”, to which he answered “Begampur, a village near Allahabad”. Just to give him a little more ease, I shared with him that my hometown is also in the northern part of India and it is in Dehradun. By now he got a little comfortable talking to me and we discussed lots of things ranging from Mumbai rains, Marine drive, Vada pav, etc. I think we were around Chembur, when he stopped the car and got out to get pan-masala for himself. He came back in a minute’s time with his mouth full of some strong-smelling pan-masala. I really don’t like pan-masala and have always had this question as to why people consume it. 

Since we already had got comfortable interacting with each other, I couldn’t stop myself asking him about this habit of chewing pan-masala, however his response left me thinking even after I got down from the cab.

He replied by saying, “this is something that keeps him going”, and somehow, he already anticipated my response to it and therefore continued by saying, he knows this isn’t good for his health but anyway we all have our drives and passions which not necessarily are good. Now I guess, it was his chance to take me by surprise. I really got perplexed and asked him to explain what exactly he meant. 

He answered by saying, when you booked this car you had a choice of booking “Uber go” also which is comparatively less expensive and you could have saved money, but you didn’t do that, rather you went ahead and booked “Uber Premier”, why because travelling in a luxury car is something that gives you a kick. Same goes for me, consuming tobacco gives me a high. We all have our drives, for you maybe luxury or comfort is something that gives you a high and for me it is tobacco.

To be candid, I was not prepared for this kind of an answer. Although, I completely disagree with his justification of consuming something as harmful as tobacco, but the fact remains that he left me thinking about it. 

Yes, we all have our passions and drives and there’s always something that we do because of certain emotion attached to it and that emotion could be anything from luxury to comfort to status, etc. I think we must be mindful of all the activities that we keep doing as they slowly become our habits and before we even realize we become addicted to them. Its good to pamper yourself, however it is also of great importance to understand, is it actually pampering or does it harm you physically, financially or may be mentally.

More often than not, we get muddled between 

what is a passion and what is an addiction?”.

Actually, there is a very thin line of distinction between these two. In fact, any passion can turn into addiction. Addiction as we define it, “is a repeated behavior even though it is harmful.” I guess, if in doubt, we must ask ourselves, “given the harm, am I willing to stop?” and If the answer is no, “you are addicted”.