2013 in review

Seeing as how this post  is going up in Feb 2014, it will be clear to you that 2013 was not the year I successfully overcame my procrastination habit. It was a really good year, though, overall. I set some ambitious goals for myself, which in hindsight make me seem pretty vella, since I actually found the time to do them while holding down a regular day job at an ad agency, but it’s mostly just plodding along daily, doing a little at a time until mountains are made out of molehills; and am glad I’ve achieved most of them. Some of the highlights below:

  • I finished two courses online, on Coursera, and received certificates with grades: Fantasy & Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (66.7% grade) and Introduction to philosophy (57.5% grade).
  • 154 books read, though some were short stories and comics, so it’s not that big a deal. 23,066 total pages, Goodreads informs me.
  • Wrote a 44,000-word novel, which is still in the first draft, and should’ve actually moved into draft two or three, but I’ve been too lazy and procrastinatory to do that. Soon. Also entered a 5000-word snippet of the novel to a competition hosted by DNA and Hachette. No reply from there, so I’m not hopeful.
  • Entered three short story competitions, with three different and stories. Won one, and the anthology by 21 authors including me will be published in March this year by Notion Press.
  • Quit smoking: everything. I think for good this time.
  • Began learning Spanish and Python programming. Status: incomplete.

Thank you for reading!

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I got bit by a stray dog – part 2

I’m the first and now also the second person most people know who’s been bitten by stray dogs. Last night while rushing to withdraw money from an ATM I kicked a stray who, with evolutionarily-programmed reflex, turned around, whimpered, barked, and bit me; this scene took maybe less than two seconds. I, with my own evolutionarily-programmed reflex kicking in, heard the barking and felt the bite, and jerked my leg away, albeit too late to prevent any damn thing. Some damage was done, particularly an inch of jeans torn and two shallow bite marks along with slight drag marks where, presumably, the jerking of the leg avoided deep punctures but consequently created the lesser drag-tears. So I went home, found Savlon, cleaned the wound, applied some 12-year-old rum, for good disinfectant measure, that my brother’d stashed, daubed the wound dry, and applied Betnovate-N. Then I sat back and opened a browser and Googled “What to do in case of a topical dog bite,” read that I should mostly show the wound to a doctor, and maybe get an anti-rabies injection just to be on the safe side. Since my last dog bite was 5+ish years ago, — same situation, same leg, different dog — and since these particular injections, the Doc later informed me, offer immunity for only 5 years, I grudgingly got off my ass and went to see him, the family Doc, who injected me with a tetanus shot, cleaned the wound and bandaged it, gave me a prescription for injections I’d need to get and take over the next week; 3 of them, spaced about 3 days apart. Took my first anti-rabies shot this morning.  Doc told me to take these shots every 5 years, so I’m immune to bites from dogs, rats, even jackals, he helpfully added. In passing I asked the Doc if there’s any vaccine to make me less prone to colds and coughs, complaints I regularly suffer from. He looked me in the eye and without any trace of humor said “Leave Bombay.” I left him and went to the office.

I Did Some Math Today

Here’s what it looks like:

2007 – 4 posts

2008 – 37 posts

2009 – 22 posts

2010 – 21 posts

2011 – 5 posts

2012 – 5 posts

2013 – 2 posts (so far)

I looked at these numbers and thought “why did I ever stop writing as much as I did”? But I didn’t stop writing; I just stopped posting stuff online. There’s dozens of half-written posts lying in the drafts folder (of WordPress) and in Evernote (where I write thoughts on the fly). I never did get around to editing them and so they’re gathering dust, waiting for me to someday blow off the grime and polish them and display them and take pride in them.

I Hate Bullies

Before the phenomenon of bullying-on-the-internet, there was bullying-old-school. Being a quiet, emaciated kid helped put me on the wrong side of the Bullying equation. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I recall bits and pieces of those times, flashes of remembrance that make my heart flutter like a caged bird, tensing my body with the recollection. One of those fellows used to bully just about everyone, I swear he was crazy. Used to go around biting people, sometimes for no reason and most times at the slightest provocation or refusing to let him have his way, like cutting in line or not letting him have your spare pencil. He did stuff like this one too many times and one day, in class, I snapped, dragged him down, slammed him to the ground on his stomach, sat on his back and proceeded to try and rip out his leg. The teacher stepped back into class and the situation was hard to explain. On the plus side he stopped bullying me from that point onward.

I think there are times when it’s best to ignore the bullying and other times when you just have to take a stand. That can have consequences though.

This other time in boarding school, a senior thought it pretty funny to harass me verbally and constantly. I ignored it for a few hours but he didn’t quit. We were practicing for the school musical and stepped out for a break, and he continued to get in my face. There was a bit of pushing around. This fellow had more than 10 kilos on me and that fight was pretty one-sided in his favor. Best not to pull punches, I thought. So I punched him on the nose and he bled, which angered him, and he caught hold of me and pushed me toward a drain pipe that was sticking out of the building. One of those pipes designed to let the water drain out the terrace. Rusty and sharp it was, and he pushed me with a fair bit of momentum. I had a vision of the pipe tearing through my stomach like a needle piercing cloth. Time slowed down and what flashed through my mind was, “Shit!” and “What would the guys in WWF do?” (Yep.) Inches from being shish-kebab’ed I brought my right leg up and placed my foot on the wall, taking the full force of his push on it and pushed back, missing the pipe by inches. The guy sobered up pretty quickly then with the realization of what he was about to do.

I think one can’t ever predict the outcome of situations like these. Bad things may happen when you let anger take the driver’s seat.

I don’t think there’s an appropriate response to bullying in general, or even in individual situations. Stay quiet and you’re subjected to more of it but fight back out of anger or pride and you risk a lot more than just verbal assault.

I’m much more likely today  to walk away or deflate a situation than get into an altercation, the outcome of which lies beyond my control. In situations where neither helps, it’s best to go on the offensive. I don’t advocate violence, but other people may not share my ideals.  I strongly recommend learning self-defense. You never know when someone may wish to bring harm upon you or your loved ones.

Reviewing Manuscripts

Only recently I was invited to review someone’s first work of Fiction. I dithered on whether I should or should not take up the responsibility, because that is what it is, a monumental responsibility of giving feedback on someone else’s work. For me, I welcome critics, but that does not mean I don’t feel the sting of criticism, and I imagine anyone who creates something – for writer’s are, after all, artists, and creators of world’s – feels the same sting, probably differing in degrees, depending on how thick or thin their skin. But I took it up anyway, with a swelled chest, for being asked to give my opinion meant that my opinion was, and is, valued.

The work turned out to be fantasy fiction, a genre I’m usually not too keen on reading. I did enjoy the book though, even though it was a first draft and needed a fair bit of reworking. Told the lady who wrote it as much, and thankfully she took all criticism with grace, or at least pretended to. But she does continue to ask me inputs on further changes, so I now believe she genuinely appreciates my inputs. Which is well and good. When I finish the first draft of my first novel in December, I’ll stick it to her for critique, all 50,000 words of shit. 🙂

What is it like to have a near-death experience?

Answer by Yashvir Dalaya:

I can relate two events (out of several) that can be termed as “near-death experiences”.

The first time was when some friends and I went to take a dip in a well. Trouble was, they all knew how to swim, and I didn’t. I jumped in last as the other 3 were coming out. Landed in the center of the well and I sunk. I kicked and got part of my arm out to the surface to signal to the others that I was in trouble. The others were pretty high, and so was I (in hindsight that’s probably why I jumped in the first place) but they were slow to figure out something was wrong. I was under for about a minute, and I remember thinking to myself, “wow, is this how I’m going to go?”, followed by “Must. Live. More”,  followed by some desperate thrashing of legs and flailing of arms. One of the guy’s eventually figured out I was in trouble and jumped in and dragged me out by the neck.

The second instance was when I got on and rode a bike after almost two years. I got in a tight spot, between a rickshaw and a car and I was probably doing about 100 Km/h. I had to choose between hitting the car or the rick and I chose the rick. Banged my thigh on it (broke the femur in half) and flew, tumbled, hit my head on  the ground once (they say time slows down in such instances and when I hit my head to the ground I went “I hope that isn’t going to be a problem” in my head) and came to a stop by the side of the road. My right thigh swelled to the size of a melon but it didn’t hurt a bit. I was just glad to be alive. After this experience I became a lot more cautious, and weary, of fast-moving vehicles, and of acting like “YOLO”, which is only a recent invention and a pretty stupid way to live.

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Lessons From 2011

There’s a bunch of things I learned during the past year. I believe it’s important to ruminate over events and actions and evaluate the decisions made in those circumstances. Here’s five:

 

1. The Value of ‘systems’

More often than not we let the tide of circumstances sweep us away, affecting us on an emotional level and creating a barrier to dealing with the situation effectively. Probably the best way to approach a problem is to rely on a method of dealing with it.

A ‘system’ is learnt by reflecting on past experiences and understanding what could have been a better reaction to that situation. It’s more a process of discovery than a textbook way of doing things.

Having said that, flexibility is essential within a system, to deal with events outside the realm of one’s past experience.

 

2. The merit of taking small steps towards a goal

The problem with large goals is just that; they’re large, vague and encompass many steps and hurdles to get to them. I won’t be the first one saying this, but breaking down the process into small, actionable steps is easier to envision and execute.

For e.g. One of my goals is to gain ten kilos of muscle, to be fitter and, as a byproduct, look better in the clothes I wear. To break it down into smaller steps the first thing I start with is my high metabolic rate. Gaining weight has always been a problem for me and I need to figure an exercise routine keeping that in mind. So my routine involves gym only twice a week and no cardio. My focus is to increase strength so I can lift more, so I can gain more muscle. I’ve put on as much as 10 kilos in a month before but have never been able to sustain that weight once I stopped working out. This time I’m aiming at a much more modest increase of two kilos a month of sustainable muscle gain.

 

3. The importance of a vision

Again, visualizing your goals isn’t something new or revolutionary. But it is the single most effective thing you can do to get closer to achieving those goals. I visualize daily, weekly and monthly goals and that keeps me on track and focused. No more ‘monkey brain’ syndrome.

Here’s a useful article from www.instigatorblog.comAchieve Your Goals With 3 Types of Visualization

 

 

Personal-growth

 

 

4. A healthy mind and body

I fell violently sick last year, losing six kilos in a span of a few days, being hospitalized for ten and taking a month off from work. I knew then that my health had to be ‘fixed’. It was alarming to find, after hitting the gym four months later, how much strength and stamina I had lost. Even worse, my mind took longer to recover, feeling dull and distracted during those months of incarceration. Never again.

The most effective way to achieve overall well-being is any amount of activity, physical and mental.

At the office, get out of your seat every hour and walk around, stretch, get out and get some fresh air. Take the stairs instead of the lift. You don’t need a gym, fad diets or run miles to stay fit.

Read. The single most important thing you’ll ever do to keep your brain at its peak.

I use https://challenge.meyouhealth.com/ to make well-being a social activity. It sends a daily health ‘task’ to your inbox, pushing you ever so slightly to be more aware of the little things you can do to vastly improve the quality of your life. Highly recommend it.

 

5. Budgeting Time

Your time is a finite resource. Know what needs to be done and allocate a fixed time of a particular day to deal with it. Get it out of your to-do list and allocate more time for the things you like doing. Treat time as your most important resource and be selfish with how you spend it.

 

Whatever you do, start small, set achievable targets and reward yourself constantly for meeting them.

That’s all I can do for now. Let me know if any of this works as well for you as it does for me 🙂