Tag Archives: #betterme

Be Elastic

I am sure all of you have used rubber bands – they are very elastic. If they were stiff, then there is no point in using them. Each rubber band has its breaking point, but for the most part, they are flexible when it comes to holding things together – be it a small bundle of pens or a big wad of paper. Rubber bands have a spectrum or a range in which they operate as opposed to a binary decision point.

We all make resolutions or decide to make some new habits, right? For example, waking up at 5:30 am every day. For most of us, it is a binary item – we are successful if we wake up at 5:30 am and unsuccessful if we do not. Either we wake up at 5:30 am, or we do not. Does that make sense? Does that take into account that the rest of our life is not so binary? What about the nights when you have extra work, and you are not able to go to bed at your regular bedtime. Or what about when your baby refuses to go to bed on time? Or you have your best friend visiting you? Or how about you need a break? Our life is unpredictable. The waking up at 5:30 am needs to adjust for those needs. When we decide the success criteria for such habits, we need to have a range like if I wake four days out of 7 at 5:30 am it is a success – for example.

Operating within a range or spectrum – being elastic has its benefits. One, it is practical. The Chinese have a saying that doing something 80% is perfection. Second, it helps us be kind to ourselves. Imagine beating yourself up because you did not get up at 5:30 am because you wanted to sleep in one day. Third, it accommodates for us being humans. We all have days when we are lazy or don’t want to get up at 5:30 am, and elasticity gives us a way to honour that need.

Not, all items we do can have a range. Like, if you are catching a flight at 5:00 am then the plane is leaving at 5:00 am – there is no range around that. But most situations, you can build an array. I like to get up in the morning and do a bit of yoga – and my plan used to be – get up do yoga every day. If I missed a day, I would beat myself about it, which would of course not motivate me to do it anymore. So, now I have different built-in levels. For example, if I am up and early – I do all the exercises. If I got up late or have to go to work soon, then I do one cycle of each exercise. And if I have absolutely no time, then I do one sun salutation. This way – I still do my yoga, life-permitting and also be kind to myself.

How will you bring elasticity in your life?

Joy Of Moments Shared

Imagine you are an observer at a wedding. The wedding celebrations have just started – the stage decorated with flowers. The priest, groom and the bride’s father are performing the religious rites. A handful of people can be spotted sitting in the audience. You see an elderly man sitting patiently in the audience.


A few minutes later, another man walks up to the elderly gentleman in the audience with a hopeful smile. He taps him on the shoulder. The man from the chair gets up, and his face lights up with a smile – they shake hands. And they both sit down – chatting eagerly. And as the wedding celebration picks up the pace more and more, such gentlemen walk in. And it’s the same routine — the gentleman who walks in taps somebody on the shoulder with a big grin on his face. The person who is sitting down gets up, and his face glows with pure joy as recognition sets in – they shake hands, move down a chair and make space. The new arrival greets other people. Sometimes he needs help to connect the dots, and other times he knows who he is talking too.


As an observer, you find the entire process fascinating. There are some apparent similarities at first glance. They are all older men retired or getting ready to retire. They are all bank officials (once you have worked for a bank in India, it leaves an indelible stamp on you). They all have grey hairs or balding hair situations. If you look closely, you will notice that they might look old, but they are reliving the memories of yesteryears when they all roomed together, fresh out of college – no wife, family. The carefree young days when they cooked, watched movies and lived together 24 X 7. They are connected by days of working together, matching journal entries, making sure the ledgers are correct. They share the experience of having a not so good manager, being shouted at by an angry client. They do not talk about these things, but it is evident that these gentlemen share a deep bond which goes beyond caste, religion, language.


What you see is a genuine camaraderie with no upmanship. The experiences in the bank have made them very wise in life – they can laugh at themselves, accept whatever life throws at them, and they know there is a right time for everything. If you listen carefully the conversation revolves around – ‘How somebody has changed?’, ‘Where all they moved since the last time they met?’, ‘How their mannerisms are the same?’ It is apparent that they are looking at each other from the lens of old days and the pure happiness radiating from their faces is a testimony to the friendship they have which has withstood years of minimal to no contact.


As one of the gentlemen in the crowd struggles to take a photo, I step in and offer to help. Even though the picture is from the present – you can catch a glimpse of how these young men worked together in Punjab National Bank.


This blog is dedicated to my dad and his friends at Punjab National Bank – and their genuine friendship. I had accompanied my dad to one of his friend’s daughter’s wedding, and in all honesty, it was a reunion for these old friends, which left me with a warm joy in the heart.

Small Connections

While growing up at home in India, I was not very observant. But now that I am away and I come back – I see more and more. Like my parents make tea for the watchman and our maid everyday. My parents went to our neighbour’s wedding, who also happens to be the Ruby Fruits shop’ owner – shop across from where we live. (Street shops are more common than malls, still thankfully).

Yesterday, we smelled something burning outside. And today we found out that our building watchman had informed our neighbours that he saw a snake, so they decided to put all the dried leaves etc. together and burn them to prevent the snake from getting tempted.

Our neighbours know when my parents are away for a long time so that they can watch the house. They all know that I live in the US, and my brother lives in Sydney.

You cannot hide anything from the community. My parents decided to live in our ancestral house in the village for a month or so. And they would diligently go for a walk in the evening. After a week or so it was a frequent topic of discussion – people would ask, ‘Not going for a walk? or How was the walk?’

Communities are a reality for cities and villages in India. You end up forming a connection which starts off with small talk but eventually ends up being a little deeper than that.

Lives in India seem more intertwined naturally as the remnants of a reducing community culture still exist. These small gestures help us stay grounded in the fact that we are all humans going through the human predicament. We are not that different from each other despite what religion, leaders or sometimes even textbooks say.

Just because you go to a different place of god – does that make you a different human from me? Only because you live across a man-made boundary, does that make you any less human than me? If we genuinely interacted with other humans, we will realize that we all are not that different from each other. Unfortunately, the society we live in today does not encourage or provide opportunities for such interactions. In India, it still exists, but in lots of other countries people live inside their house and occasionally wave to their neighbours, or they don’t even know who their neighbours are. In contrast, my parents can tell you who are all our neighbours not only in our building complex but on the street we live as well.

Trust word as symbol in chrome chain

Social media and technology seem to be driving us towards a culture of divisiveness. We need to remember that we are connected at a fundamental level. We need to pro-actively indulge in activities that bring us together as a race so that we start from a place of trust and not from a place of mistrust. We tend to trust people less than we should because we believe the media and the news which tells us what is happening in 10% of the world – what about the 90% of the world which contains humans just like you and me.

How will you connect today?

Do Not Throw It All Away.

During the ten days Vipassana Retreat, Goenka Ji tells the story of a little kid and his favourite dish. His mom makes his favourite dish – rice pudding and to add flavour she adds cardamom to it. The little kid sees the cardamom seeds, thinks they are small stones and refused to eat the dish. Mom tries to convince him that it will taste good, but the kid refuses. Mom gives in and takes the seeds away, and the kid happily eats the dish.

If his mom had not taken away the seeds, the kid would have thrown away the entire pudding which he loved. How many of us throw away the whole dish because of stones – which in reality add flavour?

As some of you may recall, I was a big fan of Bikram yoga (see my previous blog). Recently I happened to watch the documentary on Netflix about Bikram himself – titled, ‘Yoga, Guru, Predator.’ Even when I was taking the class, there was talk about how Bikram owns a fleet of Rolls Royce et al. It did not fit in the usual stereotype of a yoga teacher. I remember thinking that regardless of who Bikram is or what he does, the yoga itself – 26 postures with two breathing techniques is fantastic. It worked – for me. I left the classroom feeling refreshed and energized. I looked forward to going to yoga in the hot room. If I had not practised yoga but heard about Bikram and decided not to pursue it – I would be missing out on a beautiful experience. Akin to the little kid throwing away the entire dish because of perceived black stones.

If you do watch the documentary – one of the students says that the best advice she got was, ‘Separate the man from the teacher.’ Pretty logical, if you think about it. We all have ready-made ideas of how a Yoga teacher or a Guru or a Manager should be like. And if they do not fit the mould, we tend to discount what they see. But, is it possible that some things they say might be exactly we need even if it is coming from a person who does not fit our idea of ‘The Person.’? When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher might not be what we expected, but the teaching is exactly what we need. If we are not careful enough, we might discard what we need because it is not offered it to in a medium that we had expected.

If you read about the qualities of Hitler – he was a teetotaller, vegetarian, a strict disciplinarian. – All good qualities, right? I am not suggesting that we all start doing what he is doing – the point I am trying to make is we have to look for what is useful for us and take it and have the wisdom to the leave the rest. Yes, it is wisdom.

What gems are you missing because you are discarding the entire dish?

The Sounds Of India

I landed in India after twenty-three hours of flight time. I enjoy long flights however gruelling it may seem – there seems to be something about being suspended in the air – which is very freeing. And I look forward to landing and coming out of the aeroplane. Not only my mind but also my body and other senses realize that I am home — the humid and hot air, that smell and most importantly, the sounds. People are speaking in an Indian accent – which is not an accent for me, technically speaking. It’s the sounds that fascinate me the most and this blog is dedicated to those familiar sounds.

Horns: You do not even have to get out of the airport to listen to the honking sounds. The small golf carts in the airport had a horn to them to get people to move aside.

Pressure Cooker: In India, the house is very close to each other as there are a lot of us who need to fit in a small space. One can always listen to the pressure cooker in some house or the other – lunch, dinner. Some homemaker is busy cooking.

Crows: I am not sure about other countries, but the crows in India are distinct. You can hear them during the day cawing, anywhere.

Dogs: There are so many stray dogs in India, and they seem to come to an understanding amongst themselves. They choose a street for them, and that’s their territory. God forbid – another dog or a new person comes to the road – they will bark their heads off until somebody comes out to see what the ruckus is all about.

Hawkers: Yes, street hawkers are still popular. They sell all sorts from curtains to carpets or even vegetables or will buy old newspapers from you. You will hear at least one a day.

Frogs/Insects: If it is the rainy season, you will hear the cacophony of the frogs, which is a consistent ringing.

Traffic: It does not matter where you live, but you will hear at least one scooter/car or even buses on the road near you. Or some truck is moving near you.

Neighbour’s TV: If you are careful enough, you might be able to catch a glimpse of what your neighbours are watching from at least one room in your house. It is hot enough that people leave at least one window open.

When I lived in Bombay, we lived near Bombay dyeing – mill which had a constant humming sound. And when it shut down on national holidays, I had a hard time sleeping. I saved the best for the last – Fans. Yes, all rooms in all houses have a fan, and they all like people have a unique personality which changes depending on their fan speed. Some squeak on lower speeds and some rattle at higher speeds but they all make a noise.

These noises or sounds help us remind that we are all connected and if nothing else that we all have to bear the same sounds together in the human predicament. And in this world of divisiveness, we need to look for more connections.

How are you finding connections with other humans?

In Your Head

As some of you know, we have the most gorgeous, most handsome, loveliest of all pups – Aki. His Instagram handle is #iamluckyaki. Some would say that he is a little spoiled and they would be right. He gets daily massages, owns the house. He goes to daycare a few days in the week. Adam and I always imagine what he and other doggy friends might talk about during the day.

Scenario 1: As they greet each other in the morning
Aki: Guess what guys, it is my birthday today. My humans gave four beautiful chew toys. I was so tired that I slept off without even playing with them.
Dog 1: Wow, that is so cool. My parents bath me that day – can you imagine?
Dog 2: Well, I don’t even know if my humans know when my birthday is.

Scenario 2: During lunchtime
Aki: Man! I wish my humans gave me lunch like yours.
Dog 1: You think this is good. You should see what I get at the dinner table.
Dog 2: Yeah, the human cubs are the best – they share everything with me. By everything, I mean everything.

Scenario 3: As they leave
Aki: Remember, guys – behave as if you own the house and your humans will let you sleep in your bed.
Dog 1: Easy for you to say, I am not sure I can do that.
Dog 2: I am not even going to try – the human cub makes the plea on my behalf and works every night.

Adam and I are not the only ones who imagine these things. Movies like Cars, bolt, life in the days of pets are all prime examples of such thinking. Now, do you want to know what happens in a dog’s mind?

Oh! I am hungry, let’s eat. I smell something – is it coming from here? A dog peed here; I better pee over it. My human is back – maybe he will play with me. I need a belly massage; I am going to lie on my back. My paws need licking. I am tired. I need a nap. Nothing is going on – life is good.

They live in the moment without worrying about the past or the present. Dogs are content with what is. But, we humans see ourselves in everything and everyone. So, the chances that what you are thinking is what others are thinking about is rarely correct. What does this mean?

If you think that your friend does not care for you because she forgot to call you. Chances are she got stuck in traffic, her phone got stolen, or in the rare case, she did forget it is not because she did not care for you. We live in our head and make that a reality when the reality is always different.

Somebody told a monk once, ‘You are out of your mind.’ The monk said, ‘Thank you – it took years of practice.’ And that my friend is the key to everything. And like everything else, it starts with awareness.

Which story is your mind concocting now?

In Your Own World

I am an avid fan of Downton Abbey. For those of you who are not familiar with the show here is a quick synopsis.

The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1926, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era—with the significant events in history affecting their lives and the British social hierarchy. Events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the Titanic in the first series; the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Marconi scandal in the second series; the Irish War of Independence leading to the formation of the Irish Free State in the third series; the Teapot Dome scandal in the fourth series; and the British general election of 1923, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and the Beer Hall Putsch in the fifth series. The sixth and final series introduces the rise of the working class during the interwar period and hints at the eventual decline of the British aristocracy. And recently they have released a movie as well.

I love the British-ness of the show. Humour is just too good, especially Maggie Smith who plays the dowager – her lines are to die for, and I am sharing some of them with you

If you are looking for logic, I won’t look for it in the English upper class.
She sits on a swivel chair, and when asked if she would like to move, she responds – ‘I am a good sailor.’
When a dinner guest says that he can do the work on a weekend, she leans over to the guest next to her and says, ‘What’s a weekend?’

If you look at the show, it is nothing but a depiction of the daily life of the people upstairs and downstairs in that era. And the entire play takes place much inside the Abbey itself. Isn’t that fascinating? The lives of the people who live in the Abbey is enough to sustain an award-winning show for six seasons. I found myself wondering as a fan of the fantasy genre why do I find Downton Abbey so exciting – it is mostly set in the Abbey, no planets, no aliens just normal life.

The show pulls you in – before you know you want to know what happens in the lives of the people who live in Downton Abbey. And the Abbey becomes your whole world with characters in the Abbey creating season after season with their drama. Does this sound familiar?

Doesn’t it sound a lot like the lives you and I live? Extending our life stories by the dramas, we create with characters around us. What is scary is we have forgotten that this is just a show. And there is life outside of the show. We are so engrossed in our petty dramas of ‘She said this to me. He was rude to me. They did not want to go out to dinner with me; My Dog loves me.’ – There is no end to these stories.

It is time we raised our awareness and consciousness outside of the entertaining but albeit distracting dramas to Humanity as a race on this planet earth.

What dramas are you going to let go of?

Do We Trust Enough?

I recently signed up to be a Beta Tester for an online course ‘Employee Happiness’ created by an excellent friend of mine – Raj, McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. Raj has also written a fantastic book along the same lines, ‘If you are so smart, why are you not happy?’

In his course, Raj talks about the famous wallet study where researchers spread wallets containing money in different parts of the world. The wallets also contained a clue to the owner’s identity so that they could be returned. What do you think was the percentage of the wallets returned? 10%, 20%, 30%?

Results were astonishing. A good 60%-80% of the wallets were returned. I found it surprising, growing up in cities like Mumbai, Delhi you are told to watch out for pickpockets – keep your bag close to you. To this day, I hold my bag with the zip facing towards me. 

The moral of the story is – People are more trustworthy than we believe them to be. The reason for this is negativity bias. When we were all cavemen and cavewomen, we needed to focus on the one thing that would go wrong as our lives depended on it literally. As Sandrine from the online course states – If there was an orange tree – we had to watch out for one tiger that might be lurking behind it. 

But, we don’t live in that world anymore, but we still operate on that negativity bias. We live our lives in fear of the 20% of that can go wrong instead of focusing on the 80% that is going right. Can you imagine the amount of stress that we go through? And we wonder why the divisiveness in the world is increasing?

The world now, more than ever needs more love – in any shape or form, regardless of sexual orientation, nationality, religion. Forget about these big dividers – even in our daily lives, in our office, in our teams, in our social circle – do we trust people? Do we think they are out to get us? Do we believe they will do what is best for everybody? 

I am sure a lot of us are thinking – it would be stupid for me to trust that my colleagues at work want the best for me. Now, think about the wallet study. Can we afford to trust others a little bit more? Even 5%-10% more would make a huge difference. It is time we start doing this if we want humanity to survive happily for future generations. It is all in our heads. It is time we broke the conditioning of our primal mind and evolved to a new level of consciousness. It starts with us, each one of us can contribute to it. Let’s start from a place of trust, give each other benefit of the doubt, and we will be pleasantly surprised – at least 80% of the time.

How will you play your part in increasing the trust in the world?

Are You Listening?

When I was in London, there was one topic that would come in almost every conversation – Greta Thunberg. Who is she you ask? She is a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden. She is fighting for a normal life for her generation and the generations after hers. She wants the planet to be alive when she is in her prime. Is that too much to ask? Check out her Wikipedia page – at the very least to get to know her. It is her solo strike that resulted in millions of young students striking this year. 

I feel ashamed that I have contributed to climate change – I am guilty of trying to look away from the climate change because selfishly I knew I wouldn’t be alive. Greta’s talks make it hard to look away. And I understand that my level of connectedness and consciousness is not yet high enough to go to even carbon-neutral existence, but I have accepted my part in it. And awareness is the first step. The first step is to intellectualize it, and then it becomes a part of who you are. What am I going to do about it? This blog is one of the first steps. I know other ways to contribute will arise, I will be ready for them and hopefully have enough courage to act on them too. 

We are exploring solar panels, going fully electric, be more conscious about recycling, reducing plastic/paper bags usage, volunteer to plant trees/clean parks. These are some of the ideas – I will keep you all posted in blogs like this.

In one of her talks, she says, she does not understand why people ask her, ‘Why are you so passionate about climate change?’. For some reason, that statement hit hard. Imagine, you are on a boat, and it is sinking as there is a hole in the hull – and you are the only one on the ship who is baling water out. Imagine someone comes to you asking why are you so feverishly baling water out?

When I say the word – Long term planning, what comes to your mind? Five years, ten years, twenty-five years. In Japan, long term planning is a hundred years. Most of us live in a world where we are unable to look beyond the petty incident where your co-worker tried to undermine you, or a car driver cuts you off in the morning commute. Unless we rise beyond our petty personal problems, how can we even think (forget act) on what kind of planet are we (yes, each one of us) leaving behind for the next generations? 

What is sad about this is that we are the most evolved species on the planet. We are the first in line who are destroying it. Even a lowly cockroach lives within its carbon emission limits. We humans are not even aware of it. And even sadder is we refuse to take responsibility for it and instead desire after the next promotion, phone (me included)

The problem may seem significant, but each one of us has to start somewhere. Stop taking plastic bags, talk to a tree today, express gratitude to nature.

Will you play your part to do what is right?

Be Surprised

I was a little down when we were leaving London – it is almost a physical tug on my heart. It gets harder and harder to leave London, much like India. Such is life – and we ordered a Uber to get to the airport.

I got into the cab all prepared to dwell on the sombre feeling of despair as we edged towards the airport in grey London weather. And before I could fasten the seatbelt – Adam said, ‘Hey, look he has the new Prius.’ Adam and I drive Prius, which started as being a cost-saving option but now has become a way to reduce our carbon footprint. I was super excited to see the Prius dashboard and how it could connect to the phone so seamlessly. I expressed my joy in so many words and that got our driver Piotr (from Poland) to start the conversation. He even paused and reversed the car to show us all the features.

And then we got talking – first about how easy it is to be a Uber driver in the US when compared to the UK. Being MBA students, we ended up doing a back of the envelope math on how much a Uber driver will have to earn in the UK to break even. And then the conversation drifted to how he goes home to Poland, and with all the relative hopping, he feels like he needs a vacation when he comes back to London. How expensive it is to live in London but he cannot go back to Poland because his kids are English. We spoke about driverless cars, insurance, Brexit, climate change and before we knew it, we were at the airport.

And I enjoyed the conversation – the conversation was no different from what I would have with any other dear friend of mine from London over tea. The topics – home, longing for home but not being able to go, climate change, Brexit, voyages were all something that I relate it. Mind you; this was the conversation I had with my Uber driver. How often does this happen?

London as a city invites people or rather sculpts people into this mould because the city encourages discussion, openness. Once you cross the local – petty personal problems – then we can see that there are bigger things in play. The diversity in London makes us look beyond borders. What is the point in fighting over a silly line which we call a country border when the planet might not even survive in fifty years? What is the point in investing millions of dollars in the new technology when we will be having a bottle bath in a few decades? And we don’t even use 10% of the technology we have today – do we use our iPhones and Androids to their full capacity. We all have more computing power in our wristwatches these days but do we understand our carbon footprint on this planet?

This blog took its meandering path from a lovely conversation to awareness of our planet – making the title of this blog apt.

How are you going to surprise yourself?