Motionless in Darkness

Three weeks before Good Friday, it was Bad Friday. I flew too close to the sun and burnt my leg. I was playing volleyball. From the outside looking in - it was no tournament with big-league players. Just a rag-tag group of middle-aged men with their sexual innuendos, kids still in school, kids thrown out of school, senior citizens who hadn't given up on life, and me (to label would be a guy going through a quarter-life crisis). The game was not particularly impressive. The net was short, the ball slower and the rallies often ended with simple errors. Nothing like the plays in reels of Instagram. But for some of us - it was everything. We had to keep the ball up. We had to fight for every point. We had to win. And one of those idiots went too far. 

I was playing left as I am lefty. The lanky guy from the other team was smashing the ball from the middle. Our middle blocker was a small well-mannered uncle whose approach to blocking was "Go ahead and smash your heart out". Frustrated with all the smashes - I started going out of my way to block him in the center. I couldn't block him once. I was late. I was short. I just couldn't reach him. So, this one time I jumped as high as I could and somehow reached him. He changed the direction of the hit. The ball dropped on the surface like a bomb and the blast reverberated in everyone's ears. There was another sound,  a crackling one - which only I heard. He had landed and I had crashed. I felt an excruciating pain in my ankle and just couldn't get up. After a good minute, I somehow made it to the bench. This had happened a few months back as well. I should have known. "There goes a week", I muttered. I casually looked at my leg and my ankle had ballooned. Meri phatt gyi (I got shit scared). The uncle beside me casually remarked, "You have displaced your ankle. It has happened to me six times. Don't worry - it will heal." My leg was put in a cast. Sentenced to three weeks. The doctor casually remarked, "You are lucky that it's just a minor fracture. Don't worry - it will heal." Much like my leg, my world was split apart.

Now, I am stuck in my bed. Motionless. Devoid of the sun. Basking in the fluorescent blue light. My scalp is covered in dead cells. My face has started collecting dead cells. My underarms reek of sweat. My body smells like shit. My limbs are getting thin and tummy fat. I stare at the blue junk wrapped on my feet. It seems like the more I stare - the angrier it becomes. It fumes and shrieks in pain. I try to calm it down with an ice pack. It mellows down a bit and stares back at me. I feel pity. I should have been more careful. But I am always too careful.

My room has become a store room. Things are lying here and there, so I can reach them easily. My desk is wrapped with a layer of dust and the chair is flung out in a far corner. I miss sitting in it. There are empty boxes and used utensils beside my bed. My bedsheet is covered with a layer of food crumbs, strands of hair, and tissues. My plants are slowly dying. The peace lily died. It was struggling for some time. I forgot to water it and keep it in the sun. My neck and back give out often as I sit hunched. My eyes are dry as I stare at my laptop and phone alternatively for hours. Sometimes, I just lie down straight and close my eyes. I feel like a rotting corpse.

Other times, I feel like a newborn child - easily irritable, dependent, and breaking down randomly. I have to rely on my family for every little thing. I feel reluctant to ask for help given our strained relationship. Every plea for help dredges up memories of past conflicts, with all the arguing and insults hurled at each other. Feeling helpless and needing to extend my hand for assistance is a humbling experience, very tough for the ego. I've never been sick or motionless for so long. I've heard that fractures can sometimes immobilise you for months. I don't know how people manage it. I find myself in uncharted territory.

Sometimes, I wonder if I can make something out of this crisis. I get a little hopeful, read a few quotes, and think that this will build character. Dust my old dumbbells and do a few sets of curls. But the optimism is fleeting. The day ends. The darkness shrouds my being. I somehow get a few hours of sleep in awkward positions.

The new day starts, and I count the days since Bad Friday. I limp to the balcony and search for the sun. A few minutes of sunshine every day gives a little bit of relief. From 10000 steps in a day to 100 - how the mighty have fallen. I stare at people walking nonchalantly on the streets. I look at these kids with their water pistols (it's Holi time) - running, jumping, sliding, and falling without a care. How come they are not twisting their ankle, their foot is landing properly so effortlessly. I am unable to even put a fraction of my weight on my leg. It feels surreal, as if I have forgotten how to walk. 

I don't know if there is a lesson in this experience. Perhaps I'll romanticize it once I'm fully healed. Or maybe simply getting through it is enough. One thing is for sure though - life is so unpredictable. We just have to accept and then accept some more - whatever that is written in our fate and try to make the best of what we have. Easier said than done though. Right now, I can do a few other things but I just want to walk dammit.

A Passing Afternoon in North Campus

Tired of staring at screens, badgered by major life decisions and cravings for Sudama's Kulhad Chai - I decided to take a walk. I had been to North Campus before but never alone. 

I leisurely walked to the metro station. It's a nice change of pace when you have time. There's no rush. The metro on weekend afternoons has a relaxed vibe. Empty platforms are illuminated by sun rays dancing through the openings in the shed. There is no fight for seats. The abundance ensures humans are on their best behaviour. 

Boarded off at Vishwavidyalaya. Always buzzing with life. Rickshaw drivers vying for your ass, hawkers spinning egg rolls and students haggling for the latest in fashion. Sudama's tea stall is about a mile from the station. I strolled towards it, bearing witness to a chimera of experiences: trad-clad graduates fresh from a convocation, a couple in a heated argument, dogs in a playful tussle, e-rickshaws racing towards the station, and random scammers lurking about. The walk felt lengthy, maybe because I was alone. Usually, I'm with a friend, chatting away the miles. 

I reached the place - no stall in sight! Given my bad sense of direction - I checked Google Maps. According to the digital oracle - it was right across the street but all I could see was a pot-bellied policeman lounging beside a big Scorpio. And then it hit me. That damned convocation - they must have evicted all the hawkers. A tinge of disappointment settled in as I had hoped to bask in the evening sun, slurping the delicious tea and engaging in casual philosophising. But I philosophised nonetheless. Life rarely goes the way you want. The goals you set will change - maybe due to your own priorities or external events out of your control. You can crib about it or you can move on. It's important to enjoy or rather embrace the journey with all its twists and turns. "One must imagine Sisyphus happy"

I got tea from another tea shop. Not quite reaching Sudama's perfection but it did the job for me - a decent imitation. I strolled a bit more in the market until my legs started to protest, perhaps influenced by all the revolution slogans plastered across the campus. "Leg day" was catching up. Took an e-rickshaw to the metro station. As the rickshaw approached the station, I did not feel like going home. I was overwhelmed with thoughts so I decided to get down on a random street and settle on the pavement. The sun was almost gone and it started to get a bit chilly. I surveyed my surroundings and all I could see was big fancy cars, towering trees, and imposing houses. I was probably on an old-money villa road. Struggling to make up my mind about anything - I started tossing the coin I received as change from the rickshaw ride. The outcome: a frustratingly even 50-50 split. God, it seemed, wasn't offering an easy way out. The decisions were mine to make.

Out of nowhere, a stranger approached me and said "क्या में यहाँ मूट सकता हु?" (can I piss here?) - caught off guard, I immediately stood up and asked him to go ahead. Strangely or perhaps mimetically I felt the urge to piss as well. I pissed my heart out - no, not on the pavement with the guy, but in a public toilet nearby - exchanging my supposed coin of destiny.

I was done for the day and headed to the metro station. Passing through the checking line - I stood on the pedestal for the routine manhandling. But Mr Policeman was busy staring at a group of chicks. After a good few seconds, he sensed my presence and with a small smile, uttered, "ज़रूरी है" (it's necessary), to which I chuckled. It was the first time in the day I laughed. Until then, it was just a long day of contemplation and philosophising over every little incident. I just laughed and laughed as I went to the platform. My mood somehow got better. I felt like listening to Michael Jackson's Dangerous. As I plugged in, my spirits soared. A spunk developed in my walk. Soon I started dancing a bit - in total contrast to my usual reserved public demeanour. I continued to dance my way home. What an unexpected day it was. Flaneuring around proved to be a refreshing experience. I am definitely gonna do it again. 

Ending with a quote:

Polishing forks

The Bear, Season 2 Episode 7 - Forks. Having consumed a fair share of shows, movies, anime, and whatnot, it rarely happens that I come across an episode that evokes so much emotion and thought. The first time I watched it, I got chills. The second time I watched it, I got chills. The second watch sealed it as a masterpiece for me. The great thing about it is that you don't have to be an all-knowing critic to appreciate it - it's an easy watch. I would wager that even if you don't know the series and watch it standalone - you will still be able to appreciate it. Though knowing Richie throughout the series does add a little more flavor which elevates it even further. Not to discount the subtleties - like those alarm clock scenes. 

"Fuck you, cousin," Richie groans and enters the world's best restaurant. A depressing, ominous background note.

"Every second counts" - a sign on the wall.

He meets Garrett, who promptly directs him to polish forks. 

"Does everyone polish forks on the first day?"

"First week."

"How long am I supposed to be here?"

"A week."

Oh, the face Richie makes - I don't have the words to express. He continues as he doesn't want this to be yet another fuck-up. He has caused enough trouble and disappointment as it is.

Three days in, boredom sets in, and Richie asks Garrett if he can do the dishes or something. To which Garrett replies that the forks are not cleaned properly. Richie argues that they are just forks.


Enter one of the best monologues I have heard in a long time. It reminded me of the speech Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) gave to his son. The sincerity with which Garrett speaks really moves you. He tells Richie that it's about respect. He needs Richie to respect him, the staff, the customers, and himself. He doesn't have to drink the Kool-Aid. 

"I can do respect."

Richie then calls his ex-wife, telling her that he was able to get the Taylor Swift concert tickets their daughter wanted. He also got one extra and wondered if she also wanted to come, only to learn that she was re-marrying. The way he mouths, "I love you," when a train rushes by is brilliantly executed. Talking of well-done - all the shots in the kitchen of cutting food, touching surfaces, and plating are so satisfying to watch. Oh, and the score, "Glass, Concrete, and Stones" by David Byrne - so good. Been listening to it almost every other day since the first watch. But I digress.

Back to the restaurant. Richie sees some delighted guests - the ones Garrett was talking about. And he just stares at them with a look of astonishment, understanding and realization. Have to give it to Moss-Bachrach for his acting. 

Cut to the next day - "No more forks, you are trailing today." The pace of the episode picks up. We are shown how a three michelin star kitchen operates. The minute attention to detail and military-platoon-like movement of taking and serving orders. Every little detail is noted - the guest's background, how fast they eat, or what they are talking about. Richie hears that one of the guests regrets not having the famous deep-dish pizza before leaving Chicago. And next thing you know - Richie is out to get the pizza. They make a dish out of it. Richie asks for the chance to serve. And he nails it. The guests are delighted and Richie is delighted.

The "Love Story" tune begins, and scenes of Richie prepping and answering restaurant trivia set the stage for the episode's most epic moment: Richie singing or rather shouting "Love Story". This scene is a symphony of emotion - heartwarming, electrifying, and cathartic all at once. You get this strong urge to sing along. Though I have heard "Love Story" before, this rendition transformed its meaning for me. Now, whenever I hear it, it will remind me of this scene.

The next day, the pace of the show slows down. From the electric scenes - we move to more tender ones. First, the talk with Garett on hospitality and then peeling mushrooms with Chef Terry. Oh, and before this - the scene that cements the character development - Jess asks Richie if he wants to observe staff reviews while he is in the middle of polishing forks. And he declines that he first gotta finish this. Respect. 

The conversation with Terry really delves into the philosophy of this episode. Richie asks why she is doing something as small as peeling mushrooms. She says it's about respect. Feels attached. Time spent doing this is time spent well. Richie asks if that's what it's all about. The chef thinks so. She then recounts her journey and the start of this restaurant, from a successful and arrogant upstart to a jobless hobbler on the streets - she saw a 'restaurant for lease' sign and started again. 

"Never too late to start over." 

In the end, she talks about her father, and how he used to write down every little detail of every strange, interesting thing he encountered in pocket notebooks. He signed off every entry in the same manner. As soon as she is about to tell what, she has to go. Richie and I are left in suspense about her father's signature sign-off until he glimpses it on the wall

 "Every second counts."

The episode makes you think of life in general. In an overly specialized world - things that we do seem so small. Especially more so with our feeds filled with people doing big spectacular things. Our jobs are boring. Our lives - much simpler. It is easy to feel lost and disconnected. But I think if we do our work, whatever it is, with respect, earnestness, and attention to detail - it can be fulfilling. Knowing that however small - it connects to a larger thing. And if we are patient - there come moments when it is showcased to us - how what we do connects and means something. Maybe we will stumble upon the cliched purpose. We don't have to drink the Kool-Aid but I wager it's better if we do. So, yeah, I am polishing forks and trying to stay put. I don't know how but what I do today will connect. And every now and then when there are moments of joy - I hope to laugh as heartily as Richie does. For this is life.

The Day I Got Hired

I was in Parvati Valley. I had my third interview round scheduled in the afternoon. It had been raining for the last few days. On the day - the weather report said no rain til the afternoon. The plan was to go to Soul Kitchen in Kalga for brunch and head back to the hotel for the interview.

I contemplated not going on the day - in order to not mess up the interview. But the clear weather tempted me. We needed to salvage our trip from the infrequent rain showers. 

I contemplated not going on the trip - in order to not mess up the interview. But the mountains tempted me. I needed to salvage my laid-off time from infrequent interviews. 

The day started late - we got dressed up and our taxi ferried us to the stairway to Kalga village. A stairway to heaven, I dare say. A little drizzle started. Four hours to the interview. We donned plastic protectors and started the summit. With no trek shoes and climbing poles - we made our way through the muddy makeshift staircase. The ground was squishy and we slipped quite a few times. I was surprised by the underdeveloped path. But it was for the better. The environment and scenery was still preserved. The air felt fresh and the wet earth smelled nice. It was green all over. Though we did see pieces of plastic littered here and there - the animal always leaves it mark. I looked at the sky and I could see distant dark clouds. The weather was changing. I had a feeling - this day would be filmy

We made it to the top. The Soul Kitchen was still far away. We must have walked a few kilometres before we reached there. I got tired and cranky. But when I entered the cafe, the warmth washed over me, bringing comfort to my weary soul (had to go for it). It was a small, cozy place tucked on the edge of a cliff. There were no chairs. You made your way through the foyer into a big room with tables. A bit like Japanese drawing rooms - at least the ones they show in anime. The walls were plastered with paintings. From the windows, you could see the whole valley. It made for amazing photos. I understood why my Instagram-savvy friend wanted to visit. 

The place was filled with a pleasant aroma. We ordered a whole feast - big paranthas with dollops of butter, chocolate pancake, Baba Ghanoush, fried rice, Turkish coffee, and shakes - something for everyone. I went at it like a hungry wildebeest. No savouring. Just at it. The taste was beautiful. When I regained my senses - I checked the clock and it was two hours to interview. I had to make a call - if I wanted to go back to the hotel or stay here. I checked the Internet speed. It was okay - slightly better than the days when I had an MTNL connection. I looked out of the window - it had started raining. The path which we had come from was meandering. Ripe for getting lost and contemplating life. The taxi back to hotel could get stuck. And dozens of other scenarios raced through my head. And I was sleepy. The place was just too cozy and the food too delicious. The interview was gonna happen here. The kind folks at the cafe offered a comforter. I made myself home and slept. My friends were playing bluff. I could hear the laughter, the shuffling of the cards, and the raindrops against the window.  The whole atmosphere was serene. It made me recall the past month.

The day I got fired - I was thrown into the murky ghettos - far away from the corporate kingdoms. Inhabited by exiled wage workers. No longer of use. Discarded, downtrodden, and desperate - the day started with flooding inboxes of the gatekeepers (recruiters) - flashing my pamphlet of "I am worthy." Few batted an eye. The competition for their attention was fierce. As they say, the market was (is) shit. People said that the bubble had burst. It's the opposite of 2021. Now, the tables have turned. Employees no longer have the upper hand. But personally, it was a struggle for me back then as much as it was now. I was a fresher from a no-name degree-making machine. I had no code-chef badges to my name. With a few projects and a bit of Javascript knowledge - I knocked on the doors of hundreds.

Getting a job at Unacademy was a chance of a lifetime or at least something which fast-tracked my career by a few years. The work was tough and demanding. Learning to code is hard. I remember seeing strands of hair on my desk every other day. Long conversations with friends if I am gonna make it became routine. Somehow I made it through. But I digress. 

Nothing remarkable about that month of drudgery - mass applied everywhere - few callbacks - even fewer interviews - failed most - repeat. Relatives and people up the ladder told me to not get a gap in my resume - to get a job as fast as I can but also to relax. This was also my time off. Yin yang. There was always this anxiety lurking at the back of my head - how long will this go on? The desperate pleas on LinkedIn of people unemployed, my government service parent's told-you-so and the sight of my fellow laid-off seniors, once-confident code maestros, now crestfallen, all fuelled the fire.

Finally, I landed an interview at my present company. With decent GlassDoor ratings and recent funding - it seemed like a place I could join. I cleared the first two coding rounds with "above average" performance. The recruiter told me that I have to give a solid performance next round otherwise they won't consider my ask. It was a technical discussion round. I had to crack it. But at the moment - it seemed like I might not even be able to give it. Forty minutes to the interview. The weather was getting bad and the cafe starting to fill with noise. And of course - my headphones were not working properly. I asked the cafe folks if they have any place from where I can give my interview. They had a room in the basement which was just vacated. Picked my laptop, bid my friends goodbye, and made my way into the dungeon. It was a dark place with barely enough height for me to stand upright. Even with all the lights - the place looked hazy. I positioned myself beside the window to get as much light as I can. Opened up the laptop, the browser, the mail, and finally the meet link. Probably checked my video and audio five times. Five minutes to the interview. I was all nerves. I started doing Vipassana meditation. I calmed a bit. It was time. 

I click on "Join". The meet got stuck on connecting. My heartbeat rose. Eyes gaped. Mind cursed. It was one of the longest minutes of my life. Finally, it connected. I could hear the interviewer. He could hear me. I could not see him. He could see me. I was flustered. It took a good amount of time for a visual to appear. I told him that my internet isn't good. He told me that his internet isn't good. My first sigh of relief. 

We started talking. I introduced myself. He introduced himself. He asked a few questions. I gave a few answers. His personality was very comforting. My confidence rose up a bit. I started getting more at ease. The conversation just flowed. My video went out a couple of times during the interview - at one point we decided to just have an audio conversation. But despite all of this - he remarked that this was one of the best interviews he had in a long time and I should expect to hear from them soon. High praise! I was on cloud nine. The interview ended. I seldom feel the emotion of happiness as completely as I did at that time. Most of the time - it has a tinge of something else mixed with it. 

I emerged out of the dungeon. Shawshank Redemption, baby! Though the rain had stopped. I rushed upstairs. I saw my friend eagerly awaiting the outcome. I exclaimed that it went great. She was delighted. Warm hug extended. The cafe owner remarked that whoever gives an interview here - their interview goes great. And from his eyes - I could tell that he was not bullshitting. At that moment - it struck me - there was something divine about this place. It's hard to put it in words. But when I sat there I had the feeling - the same feeling I got from the Dhamma centre I went to for my 10-Day silent meditation course. I told the cafe owner that this place had a similar vibe. To my surprise - he told that he has heard that before. I was filled with gratitude towards my friends, the cafe, the interviewer, the universe - everything. I gave the biggest tip of my life and parted ways. The way back to hotel was a slippery adventure worthy of its own story but that is for another time.

It's been three months since all this happened. I still remember everything - will probably do for the rest of my life. It made me think deeply about fate. Trust the process. There are signs. Listen. Observe. Embrace. If it's meant to be - it will find its way to you.

How To Get A Seat In Metro

Imagine a battlefield, only instead of soldiers and weapons, it's a swarm of everyday commuters and the coveted prize is a cold, metallic seat on the Delhi Metro. Welcome to my reality.

With my new job came a new challenge, a 30 km commute to the office, a journey which takes around an hour and thirty minutes. I have traveled by metro for over a decade, but only for short distances and in less crowded conditions. Now, it's a long distance and more crowded. The commute takes a toll. Securing a seat becomes critical. As a young man - the odds are against you. But as they say, where there's a will, there's a throne - a cold, metallic throne.

I write for the Delhi Metro, but I am guessing this will apply to other metros as well. And it is my sincere hope that people from different metros or at least from different commute times will read this more, for this knowledge, in the wrong hands, could very well be my undoing.

The quest starts long before you actually enter the grey dungeon. The peak rush is between 6-9 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening when hordes of employees are released into the metro substrata from their respective corporate kingdoms. Now, obviously, you can't tweak your office arrival times by a lot. But if you can do it - even half an hour makes a difference. Many veterans at my place leave before 5 in the evening. But you are not that lucky. Read on.

As soon as you enter the metro station, move swiftly through the gates - have your awkward frisk at securities - swap your plastic card and start the trek. You have to get yourself in a good position to board the metro, ideally, a minute before it hits the platform. After making the trek, you must strategically position yourself on the platform. Now if I ask you which coach to board? You will probably say the last coach. I used to always go to the last coach as I liked walking and it was easier to coordinate with someone you are meeting. Also, old folks (unless they're a battle-scarred uncle), will avoid the extra miles as it's away from the stairs. But most people know this. And they all target the last coach. And it always feels like it can take a little more as there is space in front of the end wall. So, the last coach ends up being more filled. In my opinion, the ideal coaches are second/third to last. 

So, you are at the station. Hopefully, the right platform. Now, don't just stand there and enjoy the pollution. The battle has only started. Position yourself at the place where the metro gate will open. Like prize horses, take your position behind the yellow line. If you are a douchebag, you can stand directly in front of the gate. Otherwise, stand in the direction opposite to the stairs to seamlessly get in. Take a moment to look around - know thy competition. If you are surrounded by middle-aged uncles/aunties or god forbid a full-blown family with small chihuahuas (kids), especially one of the new-to-city types who think it's a local train - you are out of luck. It's a battle you can't win. Just surrender and take an Uber.

At any time, the automated voice will kick in - brace yourself - the metro is near. It hits the platform. Wait for it to start slowing down. Scan for potential seats. The best seats are corner seats, but these seats are the most susceptible to being left for charity. Half are anyway reserved for the elderly and females. Go for the middle. Play the long-term game. Even if you sit on the unreserved corner seat, uncles and aunties of all sorts will try to make eye contact and pressure you into giving up your seat. Some will downright ask you to get up as if it's their ancestral property. And unless you are a sociopath - you give up. It's the right thing to do (actually you have to maintain your image as a gracious young man)

The gates open, and the games have begun. Move swiftly, and avoid extra steps. Don't run. Or else you'll bump into someone and give them an outlet for all their pent-up frustrations. You have to be fast but gracious.

Now there are three situations you could be in : #1 you got the seat - holy crap, enjoy. Take your small fluorescent thingy out (cellphone - yes I have to write it explicitly) and put on some show on Netflix or just doom scroll. If you are a bald, middle-aged uncle, get that Whatsapp going - you own this place - screw others - bang that thing at full volume. Okay, enough. You obviously did not get the seat.

Maybe you are around the gates only. What an amateur. You have two choices: You can take support near the gate (if it's not already occupied) and call it a day.** But if you dream big, dream of the riches, dream of that cold metallic kiss on your ass, then you must get in the thick of it. Bide your time. Surf through the waves of humans. Into the middle muddle. There is a checkpoint. Middle pole. Take some sahara. You will have to. With a screwed-up physiognomy, you can't stand straight for more than a minute. Now I know you were out in the heat and pollution carrying your medium metallic thingy on your curved back and are about to collapse but don't. You must persevere.

The hard labor is done. It's time to use your brain. Now, if you are a psychopath, you could ask the people on seats where they're headed. It's a social faux pas. You risk being perceived as Stalker-san. Don't do this. Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes. See the people around you. Judge them hard. What are they wearing? What are they carrying? What station are they likely to get off at? Do they look worn out with strands of grey in their hair, have an expensive phone reverberating with *knock brush* sounds, donning worn-out company T-shirts and ugly sports shoes, a comrade-in-arms - they are probably going to the Cyber City station to build Atlantis (actually shiny buttons and checkout flows but a man must cope). Try to avoid standing right in front of them. Find people who look like they will be getting off early. You are a tiger in the deep savanna. Alert. Eyes on the prize. Nothing should go unnoticed.

If they are sleeping or don't give a rat's ass about which station the metro is at - they will probably go long. Avoid. Find those alert deers. With their breath sharp and eyes on the board, checking which station is next. They are your prey. Position yourself in front of them. Again, an unsaid social rule: if someone old is standing right beside you - give up the seat. But if not, it's time to close it baby. Wolves around you have also caught the scent of sweat on the seat. Stand in a way that is opposite to the way they will get off, and be close. Cut unnecessary gaps. There is slight movement. They are getting off. Swiftly occupy the seat.

Hopefully, you got it. Hopefully beside a digital majdoor minding their own business. Hopefully, no big fat mass of carbon is taking up half your side. Hopefully not beside a big fucking joint family with their kids swinging by the rods. Hopefully not beside a middle-aged uncle who hasn't bathed for weeks. You can relax now. You have arrived. The journey is still long, but now you can rest. Just don't forget to get off at your station, my sweet summer child.

Disclaimer: Give seats to people in need, hit the gym, stand and suffer in dignity. Or strike deals with the rich - ask them money for a seat (I don't know, may work for you - humans are weird)

**There is one exception here: Do not, I repeat do not be near the gate at junctions - (think Rajiv Chowk) A tsunami of humans will drown you in sweat, fart, and bad breath.

Stop And Stare

Getting an indoor plant is a bit of a rite of passage for a dev active on Twitter. The mimesis catches up with you.

Early on in my dev journey, I saw people posting photos of their indoor plants on Twitter, touting them as happiness hacks and aesthetic additions to their desk setups. Though not immediately, eventually I jumped on the bandwagon and got myself a cute little potted snake plant. It grew so big that the other day I had to get it shifted into two pots.

As time went on, I added a parlour palm and a jade (good luck) plant to the family. Calling them family feels a little cringe. I used to scoff at people calling themselves plant parents, but now I understand them a bit more. Not that I think of myself as one. Maybe that will happen eventually too. I guess that's how it is with most things. When you experience something yourself or try to have more empathy, so to say, put yourself in other people's shoes, you understand their motives and reasons better.

This morning, I had a strange happy feeling. Jade is the latest addition to the mix. I got it cheap from a street seller at Banjara Market. It looked beautiful and healthy. But then I went to a shop, and the shopkeeper said, "Your plant doesn't have cocopeat - your plant will die." It took me by surprise. I was like, "Why are you saying that?" He explained that my plant has normal soil devoid of nutrients, etc. He seemed convincing, but I convinced myself that he was exaggerating because I didn't buy from him. When I came home, I did some research and realised there was some truth in what he said. Plants need care. You can't just water them and be done with it.

I informed my mother to let me know if she sees any maali (gardener) around. This was a few weeks ago. I was a bit worried about my plants, but not too much. Just a little. Finally, a maali came early Sunday morning. My dad woke me up and said, "A maali is here." I quickly got up. He shifted my big snake plant into two pots, pruned the dead leaves of the parlour palm; added manure and  medicine (apparently for a fungus infection in the roots) to all. As I watched him through the process, I felt really great. Maybe someday I will do it all by myself, but not today. I am clumsy with hands-on stuff. This process made me appreciate and understand people who get into gardening and talk about its meditative nature.

When my plants were all spruced up, I gave them some water and just stood there staring at their greenness. It felt strangely calm and peaceful. Having an indoor plant is great. Sometimes I just stare at them, and I have this strange feeling of connection that's hard to put into words, perhaps due to my current writing skills or otherwise.

I recommend everyone to get one, especially if you are a desk worker. But remember, they need care, just like any beautiful thing.

The Path

Reading REAL manga by Takehiko Inoue always makes me nostalgic - wondering about what my path is, and how it will all connect, or if it will connect for me. 

For as long as I can remember, I have fond memories of being on the internet. It started with visits to my uncle's cyber cafe. I used to be stuck there for hours and hours, playing games on Miniclip.

Then I had a clunky computer with an MTNL connection - oh, the frustration of using that.

Now, as a web developer, I get to build this internet. So what if it's not some exotic career and everybody is doing it? This is my path, and frankly, I don't know what else to do.

The past month has been stressful, to say the least - all the cold calling for interviews and the rejections. But this is the path for me. Maybe my luck has run out. Maybe the market is down, but I have to keep moving forward.

Moving forward with resilience, positive intent, and honesty. Why give up on the world just yet and resort to shady ways? Move with honesty, assume good intent, and let's try to be a little more optimistic. Let's listen to my intuition a little more. So what if I fail? At least it will be a decision of my own.

(Note to self: I don't need to justify myself to others all the time. Stay true to yourself.)

The Day I Got Fired

My friend suggested I use "laid off," but "fired" has a nice ring to it. More dramatic. So, going with "fired."

29th March 2023, I made my way to Connaught Place to work. The sun was shining bright, and I regretted not bringing my sunglasses. Working from home had grown tiresome, so I decided to head to Blue Tokai for a change of pace. I had been there once before, and I remembered the fast internet, delicious coffee, and filling paneer tikka sandwich. As we worked, I told my girlfriend that we should work from the cafe more often. It was all going well. Save for the seat adjacent to us with a pretentious holier-than-thou jhola boy with one equally obnoxious cult-fit clad pseudo fitness enthusiast chirping off the most cringe-worthy gibberish I have had the misfortune to hear.

I had less work to do in the last week, mostly making small UI improvements. Not many substantial changes, which made me a little worried, to be honest. Rumors of layoffs were circulating. One of the more prominent ones was a mysterious WhatsApp forward that claimed Unacademy leadership had prepared a list of people to lay off. Add to that my manager's cryptic advice to work on my problem-solving skills in the last 1-on-1. My suspicion had grown because of this but I still had a flicker of hope that it won't come to. But I knew - we all knew that it will happen someday. With no VC funding and razor-sharp focus on profitability - it was inevitable. We were all deadmen waiting for our turn to take the rope. 

Anyway, on the day I was working on the "end class" confirmation modal among other things. I completed the UI and started testing. When I finished testing and I clicked on the "end class" - it felt like an omen. I kid you not. I distinctly remember that moment - even now after two months. 

Nothing happened immediately but as the day went by - I received a message on Slack. The VP of engineering informed the channel to stop all deployments to production. It all but cemented my doubts. The metaphorical nail in the coffin. To top it off - it started raining. God has a sense of humor. It was the first of many unusual showers to bless/curse Delhi. 

On my way back home, I listened to old Hindi songs, and the lyrics made more sense for some reason. The shuffle was getting the right songs. The situation was dramatic, and I was blabbering corny shit, adding fuel to the fire. My poor girlfriend tried to console me.

Now, I was just waiting for the formal communication, and it felt long. The next morning, all of us teammates got on a call. Everyone was a little shaken. There were moments of silence between the talking and half-joking. We ended the call, and I had lunch. Then, I got a message from HR asking if we could get on a call. There it was, my moment of doom. My heart skipped a beat, immediately followed by resignation to fate. She droned on and said how sorry she was. I told her it wasn't her fault, and it was done. 

Gone. UN5259 signed off.

goals and all that jazz

the encounter

In late 2022 - I started taking dance classes. Enjoyed it quite a bit and vowed to do more dancing next year. 2023 - first two weeks in - all good. But then one day - I stumbled upon people playing volleyball in the park. Young, old, and middle-aged - characters from all age groups. My eyes were fixated. I was itching to play. I used to play in school. My hands remembered. They were full of sensations. But I didn't know these folks. I mustered up some courage and asked if I can join in. A chubby bear-faced uncle welcomed me in. I started playing. It was a great feeling. Sport is amazing. Deserves a separate blog post. But coming back to the point - I started playing volleyball after dance class for a bit. But it was hard to do both. I was faced with a choice. Should I continue dancing or play volleyball?

the shift

Learning to dance was a goal. A long pending one. A resolution for 2023. But volleyball came in. I enjoyed both - volleyball more. And part of my plan for 2023 went for a toss. Now, this might seem like a small thing. Not really a major life decision. But it made me contemplate how little control we have over what the future has in store for us.


You are so sure of the thing that you are doing. You can't imagine yourself doing something else. You become confident and set up goals for the future. Life happens. And you are doing a completely new thing. Is having goals useless? Some people say you should have themes instead of specific goals. Some rally for systems. I have mixed feelings. I feel the specificity of goals helps. It's easier to get complacent with broad themes. But at the same time - life is so uncertain. Achieving the exact thing you set out for may not always be feasible. But without goals - it's easier to just wander aimlessly until one day life catches up to us. I guess we can have both. A general theme and specific goals. Caution with goals is to assess the current situation and make changes. Or give them up entirely for new ones. But again - not necessary that the new thing you choose will be better. Tradeoffs. I guess what we need is contentment. Acceptance that things will not always go the way we want them to but that shouldn't stop us from trying. Yin yang. I feel like emphasizing that trying is very important. But mere trying is not enough. How to try better?

awareness and reflection

Two things come to my mind - building awareness and reflection. How to build awareness? I find meditation to be the most effective solution. At least on a day-to-day basis. When you meditate regularly - you notice things. There is a delay in your reactions. It really helps. 

Now meditating builds reflection as well. But we need to remember our patterns to reflect. Nothing like writing for this. Mental checkpoints of what, why and how of things we did. You can get insight into your behaviour, your patterns, your ticks. So, yeah theme for this year is to meditate and write more. Have set some specific goals as well. Let's see how it turns out.



The other day I was watching IPL (T20 Cricket League) - the biggest event in India. The best and hottest brands line up for an ad spot during the overs. I was curious to see the ads. Interestingly - even more than the match itself. Maybe because the match wasn't that interesting. There was the novelty factor in play as well.  And of course, they are brilliantly executed by top executives from IIM and the like earning crores.

Not really a surprise but it did make me feel poignant that almost all of the ads were around gambling and debt. The remaining slot was taken by gluttony and speed. It's kind of representative of how life has become. It's no longer slow and human. A little hesitant to use the word human because whatever we do is natural isn't it? It kind of makes me wonder where we are headed as a generation and as a nation. Debt and gluttony. Runs contrary with the whole idea of you first need to work for it and then get it.