#Everything


This symbol “#” has become all pervasive.

In the digital world across social media, everyone wants to hashtag everything.

I come across posts even on LinkedIn which have a #!

I have seen people hashtagging in conversations on whatsapp or even a simple text message.

For what joy?! Why do we want keywords to be part of a simple conversation with a #

Hunger to be noticed? Hunger to be recognised where our hashtag might get linked to some trending topic or create a trend by itself?

All pervasive and totally irrelevant I say. Why would I want to read something that has everything third word with a #!

First it was the SMS way of texting. Shortening the words till people like me could not figure out what the damn word is! And now hashtag.

#cn #u #c #how #irritating #it #is??!!

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Those were the days


First up, I would like to thank my friend Ashu Sabharwal for sending me a link to songs from a different era. It was a trip down memory lane. The days of listening to western songs on “Forces Request” on AIR. 7 or perhaps 8 songs in one hour with endless dedications interrupting.

The title of the post is from a song by Mary Hopkins in 1968.

“Those were the days”, we all reminisce once we cross an age when we have teenage kids. We try very hard to tell them how our lives were as exciting if not more as compared to their lives now. We are trying to compete because deep inside, we are jealous. Jealous of their lives in this new age where it is very easy to be spontaneous and impulsive. More importantly, it is perfectly fine to give in to an impulse.

“Those were the days” is not actually us thinking about the wonderful childhood. It is more about realising how dull it was compared to the lives kids have today. Yeah yeah we all can rationalise that by saying we didn’t have kind of stress that exists today.

Today when the kids argue with us, we are not upset that they are arguing with us. We are upset that we were not as strong willed or confident when we were kids. We never dared to voice our opinion or discontent.

“Those were the days” we tell our kids when we studied so much and spent endless hours with our books. The truth is that we didn’t have anything else to do! Today the kids don’t need to spend that much of time because their awareness due to technology is way more than ours used to be.

“Those were the days” is our way of holding on to our youth in our memories. It’s probably our “go-to” place to escape our current lives full of stress.

Heart of hearts, we wish we were born couple of decades later to maximise everything that this world has to offer. We want TARDIS. Travel back in time to relive our lives. Ain’t gonna happen. 

When the brakes fail



Life flashes in front of your eyes. Depending on the speed you are at, either you become the news people read in the paper the next day, or you live to tell the tale.

What brought this on? Happened to me yesterday. Made me wonder. Those few seconds (if I was any faster, it would have been fraction of a second) were a whirlwind of thoughts. Of course in between all those thoughts, I did manage to switch off the car and use handbrakes. Lived to tell the tale.

But while I was sitting by the roadside for two hours, waiting for the tow to arrive, I was thinking. The thinking was a continuation of a lot I have written in past posts. Is this what life is about? We build our lives around people, around acquisitions, around things we like to collect and hoard. And all of it can go poof! In a fraction of a second it can stop being meaningful. Become useless. Makes you wonder isn’t it?

Our lives are like automobiles. We drive our lives. Sometimes at a fast speed with open uncluttered minds or the life gets stuck in a jam. Jam of emotions, circumstances, people who want to come in our way, slow us down.

There are times when the car is full of people and there are times when we drive alone.

I always get confused between analogy and metaphor but life and automobile, they are kind of interchangeable. It’s about constant moving from point A to point B. Mundanity is defined by where you travel. If it is all about home to work and back home, the route is predictable and boring. So is life. 

Do we ever travel from point A to point Z? Do we even travel to point D?! I very much doubt that.

We put miles and miles on the odometer of the car, travelling to same old places year after year (and then we change the car and do the same thing). Similarly we go through the years of our lives doing the same thing over and over. In life actually we continue with the same life since we got only one life. Till the engine just shuts down.

I have put many miles on my life and those two hours made me wonder. Yes this drive has given happy moments. Have driven on expressways and also through potholes. Have been stuck in jams frequently but as it happens, there is always a way out of the jam eventually.

There are still many miles left on this old warhorse. The trick now is to explore Point D or E or….

The road ahead is defined by what you see from the windscreen. Not in the rear view mirror. The rear view only shows you wants coming behind you. Far too often we are choosing our left or right basis what’s coming from behind. Whereas we are supposed to navigate what’s ahead and keep moving forward. 

We would all like our roads (and life) to be an expressway but it doesn’t happen. Just as it is tough to find a free road, similarly in our country governed by all the archaic societal traffic signals, our progress is slow. There are bullock carts (rules of the society set in 18th century) and then there are Audis and BMWs that are whizzing ahead and around us. Whoever said driving is easy and life is easy, think again. One bogs you down and the other creates expectations which you can’t match and get left behind.

But then we do get through. We may not travel very far. But can we make the most of the drive? Aim for point E?

Will we wait for the brakes to fail?

(Image courtesy AA1car.com)

Time


Needless to say, it is the most precious commodity. Every second that passes, reduces that from our balance. Unlike money that can be earned to keep the balance stable, we can’t earn it back. Yes we do make efforts to increase the available time that we have left. We try hard to slow down the process of ageing. We want to ensure that time doesn’t run out quickly.

The other way of course is to maximise value of time. It’s like getting a bigger bang for every buck that we spend. So we seek to make the most of every second available to us.

There are products and services that make money out of it. When you use any device to get access (a call, a message, mail or whatever), you pay for the time you have used the service. Modes of transport also make you pay for the time saved. A flight vs a train. A car vs walking. Even the watch on your wrist, you paid for it. There is a price to pay when you want to make the most of available time.

More often than not, we focus our attention on what’s most important to us in that particular second. We prioritise. We have a “to do list!” We pack in as much as possible.

But the unfortunate part is, we are always running out of time. There are always events around us that stop us from making the most of our time. Think about it. From the time you get up to the time you go to sleep, can you claim that you did justice to every second of that day? Did you do all your work and connected with everyone who matters to you? Did you make everyone around you happy?  If the answer is yes to all, an honest answer, then you are truly a magician

The truth is, we struggle and we juggle. And since everyone cannot be a magician, we do tend to drop the balls. Some we catch, some we don’t. Probably what we catch are not the right ones. But as the saying goes, we can’t make all the people happy all the time.

The screw up though is that we use this as an excuse and we choose who to make happy. That becomes your priority list. We prioritise people and events that will have a future bearing on our being content. It is a selfish way of looking at things but hey, that’s also about making the most of the time right?

For many of us, while we know there is all the pressure in ththe world bearing down on us, we let ourselves have time for ourselves. Do things that we want to do rather than being driven by all the people and events that are vying for a time ( distraction is the term people around us will use)

Now I am possibly the one who is very bad at time management. Imagine, I could be doing something far more constructive than wasting my time putting up this post about time! But that’s me. Yes I will get through the day too and get the required things done but just like the time I spend at the gym as ‘me time’, this post also is my ‘me time’.

I am not chasing longevity. I don’t want to make the time last forever. I want it to move at the pace it is moving. I want to do things that matter but as someone said yesterday, we only control 10% of the things in our lives. Else everything else is an environmental impact.

(Image courtesy: Dick Bolles.com)

Unifinished


It’s a scary word.

We all like to live a structured life. Things happen when they are meant to. We make a ‘to do’ list. For work as well as for personal life. The list could have two things to do or ten, but we make the list. It could be on a piece of paper, digital or in our heads. Ticking off things as they get done.

It starts from an early age. The school time table for each day. And it becomes a habit.

We start to live by the list. Everything is done according to the list. Even during the down time, we are thinking about the things that we need to get done.

When we go to bed at night, we think about all that was accomplished from the list. We feel good about getting everything done and then think about things that need to be done next day.

A structured life is considered successful. Have read a lot of self help stuff on how important it is to make a list – for a day, for a month, for a year and even for your entire life! Structure is what sets us humans apart from other animals.

Work to be done. Bills to be paid. Things to be bought… endless.

Hence ‘unfinished’ is a scary word. If there is a task that is left unfinished, it gnaws at our mind. Sits there poking our brain that we need to finish the task. We need the closure. It is unsettling. We worry that people will brand us as procrastinator.

But I want to question this premise. Are we becoming so driven by the ‘to do’ that our entire thinking is governed by that list? I know of a few who are so focused that their mind probably short circuits if they have to think of something that’s not on the list! Linearity must be maintained. Is there ever a winding down that happens? Where we just let go and not think about things to do. Our weekends also are a list of things to do. Even our holidays!! Why??

In my entire working life, I have never made a ‘to do’ list. Well actually I tried it a few times and it just didn’t work. While am not a model of the so called successful people, I think I have turned out alright. Unfinished for me doesn’t mean am not doing it, unfinished for me means that the particular task needs time to finish in the most productive way rather than it being a process and strcuture. It makes my mind run unfettered and be creative. It makes me act on impulse and get excited over little things. It keeps me connected to the child in me. Conventionality and predictablity are so boring. Working towards a defined outcome makes the mind focus only on that particular outcome.

We were given the power of thinking, not to put a structure to it but to think in a freewheeling style.

Think about it. Most startling discoveries have happened when the mind was not thinking a structure or a format. Pursuing a predictable outcome makes us rats or monkeys in a controlled environment of a large lab called society and work culture.

Coming back to unfinished. Yes there is work to be done and if I was a list driven person, I would not have had time to post this. 🙂

Let me take a selfie first!


So across IPL, mobile handsets seem to be advertising a lot. With a single theme. Phones to take great selfies! Group selfies. Perfect selfies. Etc etc. The camera seems to be in focus (no pun) for most of these brands.

Selfistan says one brand. It’s like Hindustan can only think of selfies. Umm perhaps yes. When the leader of the country is into selfies big time!

It’s a craze alright. Go to a mall and it is tough to walk down the aisles without tripping over people taking selfies! And it’s not just one. People will spend time to get the selfie right. Also there is something called a mood shot (my daughter told me what it means), get a friend to click a pic where the person is looking away from the camera staring into nothing.

Where do these selfies go? What purpose do they achieve? Sometimes I wonder if Facebook, instagram and Pinterest, and the lens manufacturers are contributing money to these ad campaigns (like intel used to for laptops).

While I haven’t checked the prices for these phones(maybe I should), there is a certain TG and their psychographics that are being addressed. A desperate need to look good, a desperate need to be part of happening people. Selfies (while they are pics of selfs) have a very outward social expression. They are the ones who are responsible for the growth of of low priced but high on packaging phones.

iPhone 6 and 7 for instance. Great cameras but the advertising was more inward expresssion. Not about selfies at all (sure most of the time will be used for selfies) but about capturing a moment. The expression being much higher, away from social expression but more inwards. Yes those pictures will also make it to social media. But the “wow” will be very different from the wow created by selfies.

Coming back to selfies, I think they have also become a tool of building self confidence (even if it is photoshopped and use of all the filters). It helps the people to feel good about themselves. Also when our lives are being led in the virtual world, where meeting in real rarely happens, it is good to create a good looking profile.

It is about the innate desire to hear compliments. Be part of beautiful and good looking culture. Yes, men click selfies too. With the advent of fitness culture (most go to the gym to attain a great body), guys have selfies of them showing their body. I have come across a few instances where guys were clicking pictures of each other working out (no guesses on why). :p

So how long will this trend last? It has been on for a while now and doesn’t seem to be waning.

The other side


Back when there was no digital age ( yes millennials, there was an age like that!), we were perhaps lot more circumspect, lot more understanding, had a well thought opinion. We had newspapers which always had a counterpoint. We had editors for these newspapers who put a high price on every word that went into the newspaper.

Not anymore. In this digital age, we are quick on the uptake,  finger on the hair trigger, short fuse, shoot first is the way to go.

We read something (facebook, twitter, whatsapp are not for news people!), and we go all out to take a stand. It doesn’t matter to us if what we read is true or not. We don’t wait to check the veracity.

We show our angst, our rage, our support, and every possible emotion that is elicited.

One guy says he had problem with a brand, a thousand people will join to trash the brand. Controversies bring out the worst in us and in our responses. Most of the time, we have no clue as to the real story. We read one version and BOOM!

Newton’s Third Law was “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

When we read something, do we stop to think and consider why it happened? Or we go with whoever between the two was able to get his words in before the other person could.

In digital age, whoever gets the first one in, is the winner. Nothing else matters after that. The other person can cry himself hoarse to give his side of the story. Won’t work. We have already read, believed and commented on the first story and moved on. We are not even there to hear the counterpoint.

What is making things worse is that we have carried out online behaviour into the real world. Or maybe our real world behaviour impacted online. We have all seen instances where if a person is being beaten up in public, crowd gathers and puts in a punch or two of their own.

All of this is leading to something scary in the future. Our behaviour is becoming increasingly violent. Almost like Wild West.

Imagine someday that finger will press the button that will lead to a holocaust. And it will never be a comsidered response. It will always be a result of a hysteria.

While the digital age has been good in many ways, it has also been responsible for many things going wrong in the world. It is very easy to start a rumour and then watch while the world burns. Because no one has the time of the attention span to verify facts. Journalism too unfortunately has fallen prey to this. From writing a well thought out piece in the newspaper to “news in 60 words” and trying hard to stay afloat, it prefers to show snippets of what was shot by an onlooker. It believes what started as a post on social media.

I guess we all need to pull ourselves back just a little bit. Get both sides of the story before forming an opinion. Count to 10 or maybe 100 before giving a response. It might, just might calm this world down.