Counter Gauge

“I didn’t get you. What happened? I thought we had sorted this out.”

“Well, maybe I don’t really understand it myself but I just feel so constrained here. I don’t know how to say otherwise.”

And this is how it went. The review – an inescapable act of predomination of one individual over the other usually not by the virtue of skill but rather of authority. I had been softspoken since the beginning and I was accused of it as well. Now, here I was, voicing my opinion loud yet sugar-coated so as to not hurt the feelings on the receiving end.

Disclaimer – I initially started writing this post based on an incidence at my workplace but quickly realized that its implication could be very well extended to personal life and other spheres of human interaction. Given my inability to cram up all the relevant experiences, regardless of their significance, into this tiny post I chose to restrict its domain within the previously intended scope.

Ok, people.

Yeah! people. This post is about people and how their behavior has broken (and thus I have mended) my measuring dial a thousand times.

Due to my technical background, taking an analytical approach towards any matter, even social interaction, is something that comes naturally to me. Anyway, human beings are highly irrational entities and hence keeping all the biases and presumptions out of the equation really helps to see it through a rational lens. Although, the possibility of inducing my own human error cannot be entirely neglected.

Sometimes, I wish to find independent quantifiable parameters in order to represent reality even better. There ought to be a function, right? – the toughest expression, immensely complex, ever-changing, peculiarly behaving in nature and yet when you finally understand it, everything starts making sense. Welcome to the crazy side!

A few days back, I found myself in an interesting dichotomy.

Consider this – suppose, you enter into a completely new social environment, say a workplace. The length of engagement is ensured so that you are bound to be there a little longer than what we could be referred to as a short stay. You try to get accustomed to things, naturally, trying to understand the people around you while still keeping your own character in check, in order to not overdo it. You have to be “professional” (means the real you has to act within certain etiquettes) and carefully gauge what suits this setting and what does not.

And while you are doing this, it is highly probable that you are being misread because there still exists an invisible barrier in communication. If the ice has been broken, there now lies this puddle in between and we both have to meet the midway. In other words, they are equally trying to understand you and through this ordeal of understanding each other, there arises a huge misunderstanding on both sides.

What do you do now? Do you take a leap and state your opinion openly (which may fall on deaf ears)? Do you take a step back and consider if it’s actually your fault? Do you openly bash the others because you haven’t been adaptive enough or do you try to be accommodating, stay silent and give it some more time?

I don’t know the answer to this question but I can confidently say that my introversion usually takes over my inner desire to establish a clear line of communication. Also, I’m a little freaked out because workplace dynamics hadn’t panned out in my favor thus far. There are a lot of little things at play – draining mind games, favoritism, office politics, blame games, backstabbing, crazy manipulations, and uncalled speculations – all of this because we let our assumptions ride the decision than simply asking talking about it in person. Who even says exactly what goes in their mind, right?

In fact, me writing this post could very well be a consequence of those shortcomings but given that I sat on this topic for over a month in order to be absolutely sure about its content, I choose to believe it is not so.

Having worked in Engineering Management for more than a year and then in a creative field for a while now, I can consolidate my observations into following few sentences (mostly within the scope of this post) –

  • Most people are just bad managers. They lack the very basic instincts one ought to have – empathy, compassion & respect. That’s something no business school teaches you. No matter how technically sound you are or how you see things working out if you don’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you are not helping your subordinate to flourish. Your words would either be ignored or misconstrued in order to prompt contradictory behavior.
  • If you think you are a good one (so you get to tick all the boxes when exercising your authority on others), then the road is full of thorns for you. You sub-ordinates will be lauding praises but the upper management would be breathing fumes. So you have to find a middle ground for yourself.
  • People say that they want an open conversation but it is rather an opportunity to exert their dispositions onto you. They would crook, mold and twist and skew the dynamics until it suits them. No one is ready to listen, even though they would throw tons of advice on active listening here and there. Patience is a lost virtue and humility is seldom reminded.

I never really talked about my previous workplace on this blog because no amount of words, that I am capable of, can hold together my sufferings. I thought of expressing it through imagery & visual storytelling which I can do much more comfortably. But even that is stuck in the editing phase for months. Every time I sit to put together an account, the burden of those past moments almost eats away my patience.

My friend once joked – “What doesn’t cease to amaze me is life. How it pushes you to the rock bottom and then make you dig a little deeper.” We laughed but this very well summarizes my experience.

Regardless, any kind of workplace is fascinating in the sense that you see people of all kind and characters, with their skills, strengths, and quirkiness sitting under the same roof working towards a similar goal. I’m talking strictly in the sense of a startup. Corporate is altogether a different beast to tackle. Needless to say, it also doesn’t take into account how invested or detached once feels from the common goal.

It seems like just yesterday when we were seeing each other for the first time, saying those awkward hi and hellos. These faces, whom now I relate to my friends’, cluelessly scanned our new surrounding where we would be spending at least one-third of our weekdays together. Then we were gauging each other’s compatibility, forcing our disagreement aside in order to act in synchronous harmony. And now here we are, already discussing work and bouncing ideas off each other, cracking jokes and laughing aloud, hanging out on a Friday night.

Each of us has different stories of ending up here. We have different experiences and hence we hold different perspective over the same thing. There are different plans on where life goes from here. The diversity is huge even in this small subset and the complexity increases exponentially when more people are added but camaraderie is what one seeks.

What would I remember when I am not here tomorrow? The hangouts, the jokes and the good times or the banality, the conflicts and the silent groaning of dissatisfaction?

So, here’s a request – for one moment, just look at a person, not with an intention to force your authority on but rather to be in company of. Have patience & compassion and you would be amazed how wonders are created out of a genuine human connection.


Song highlight – Glad to say that I am on a quest to find some new music again. Two that stand out are Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR Music and wonderful Gia Margaret. Although, I am featuring something different here because I love the vibe of this video. Enjoy!

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Celestial Happiness

I have a vivid memory of being absolutely content, the most peaceful and oddly happy I have been in recent times, even though for an ephemeral moment. And all of this because of an app.

Who would have thought?

We all have, on an average, 70-80 apps on our phone, right? For how many of them can you say that it gives you joy? Apparently not many, I assume. In fact, our experience has been contrary. Well, I have one and I’ll tell you why.

But for you to appreciate the intention, we would have to do a little time travel. Ready?

It’s sometime around December. Winter is at its full swing and the wall clock is ticking 2:35 AM. I have just finished my work for the day and put my laptop on hibernate. I got off my chair, ready to sleep. But you can see something is not right. There is just so much unease. I have had a series of painful days, had frequent dates with disappointments and it reflects on my weary face.

It’s pin-drop silence of the night. There is no sound except occasional barking of the street dogs and a spinning fan. Yeah! a fan and no, it’s not here or anywhere near my home (who would operate a fan in this chilly weather?). It’s a distant wave, carried over by the wind, attenuated to its last breath, now barely standing to make an ambient sound. Contrary to this, my mind is in complete turmoil, totally chaotic.

Remember any movie scene where everything is going calm and serene and suddenly there are noisy flashbacks and then back to the present. Yeah! that’s how it would have looked if you could see me and then inside my head back to back.

There is my younger brother, sleeping on the bed. The cutest little being. I lie down beside him and hold his tiny, warm hand in mine. I am wishing, I am praying for it to give me the strength to pass through yet another night like it always does. I can’t sleep because I don’t deserve it. And like most of us do, I open my phone and there is this notification –

Screenshot_2019-03-13-10-19-12-305_com.miui.home

So there is this football field-sized, 100 billion dollars incredible machine floating above us. For those who don’t know, it’s called the International Space Station and it is equipped with crazy high-definition cameras which beam back live view of our planet.

ISS

International Space Station (ISS) 

I open the notification and there it is, our gigantic blue planet, rotating, and revolving (although not apparent in this frame), going on its course like it has for past billions of years. There is no music. In fact, there is no sound at all. There are no laughs or cries or screams or calls that make it there. All there is, are the breathtaking views as it passes over the Pacific Ocean, then ice covered Antarctica, the illuminated countries in the night time and lands covered in clouds in the day. It’s wheezing past over them faster than we humans could ever go here on earth.

I keep watching this stream unfold for minutes and suddenly my frantic gaze starts searching for something, almost subconsciously. The ISS was passing overhead my region and so I thought, even if the cameras might not resolve me and other people from that distance, I should be able to spot my problems.

Yeah! my problems. Apparently, my worries felt much bigger than the physical self, so it must be here, somewhere.

No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find it. How insignificant were they that I couldn’t see them from just 400km above?

And just like that, I felt a peculiar calm within. I was neither laughing nor smiling but I was oddly happy. It was different than all the other time I have been happy and this made me question if there was any equivalence between the two.

Gradually, I transformed into an amorphous being and blended in with the airglow that wraps the earth. I was the aurora over the northern hemisphere, dancing with the charged particles trapped in earth’s magnetic field. Then I broke free and got along with that tiny Hydrogen atom floating indefinitely in space. I was infinite.


There are two ways to reach the stars –

  1. You make an elaborate scenery inside your head. You fill it with the planets, stars, asteroids, comets and tiny little ions. You can make the binary system like two friends holding hands spinning around the circle, rejoicing. You can eliminate the bad stuff like the black holes, the pulsars, and all the explosions. There is no reason for it to be vacuum so you can fill it whatever you want – air, candies or your favorite fragrance (subsequently particles). You can hop on the cloud carpet and whizz past the galactic course and interplanetary garden. You can have it all. All you have to do is dream.
5cmpersec

A still from the movie ‘5cm per second’

  1. You dream, you imagine, you study and realize that it doesn’t just have to be inside your head. The secrets of the universe are guarded by certain physical laws whose key lies with precise mathematical calculations. The tryst for exploration has propelled humanity to venture into unknown and we must continue that endeavor.

Mind you, neither of them is easier than the other. If you adopt any one of them, you might as well be true to it.

I get to do both. By night, I dream of the world beyond and by day, I work on bringing those dreams to reality. Two worlds blend together. My dreams were grounded in reality to begin with. And that way, the stars feel all the more close.

Desperately, reaching recklessly toward the sky. Launching that massive object in search of something, almost overwhelmingly far in the distance.

I have felt my celestial bliss and superlunary happiness being an earthling. I have seen the worlds, just like our own, which are not so apparent to my “human” eyes. I have caught glimpses of the distant galaxies playing with Hubble’s images. I have traversed through interstellar space and looked back to our pale blue dot and realized – there is no reason for all the emotions to be confined on this fragile planet. It is so unfair this way.


Additional Notes –

  1. I almost completed this post once which I had been writing for the past 4 days but then because of the technical glitz with WordPress editor, the entire post got deleted. I couldn’t retrieve it even after multiple attempts. So, I rewrote this version from all the things I remembered.

In a way, this post is a tribute to an app but also so much more. Also, I don’t use ‘ISS HD Live‘ often so as to not overwhelm myself.

  1. The feature image is of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II performing the first untethered spacewalk during the mission STS-41-B. I wonder if he was scared to float into oblivion or the happiest he has ever been. Did he feel his celestial happiness?

  2. While we are on the topic, something interesting happened a few weeks ago. On March 2nd, SpaceX launched its inaugural Dragon2 capsule on DM-1 Mission. This spacecraft is meant for astronauts which brings up a new era of human spaceflight. On Sunday, March 3rd, it was about to dock with the ISS. I was watching the entire live stream and the docking almost felt like a scene from the Interstellar. At that instant, I knew I had to make this and so I did –

https://twitter.com/OrangeDurito/status/1102184114600333313

I posted this tweet in reply to Elon Musk’s tweet. Soon enough, it started gaining momentum and then I went to sleep, not knowing what I would wake up to. Overnight, my tweet exploded. There were hundreds of comments, thousands of retweets and my phone notifications kept going off. Senpai Musk himself has retweeted it and for the whole next day, I was kind of trending on the nerd Twitter 🙂

It was kind of distracting but I also realized how much power does a small creation hold. People got to realize how a sci-fi movie, released just 5 years ago, has been turned into reality by genuine human effort. We are living in revolutionary times indeed.

Pedaling Around

A clunky metallic sound echoed in the abandoned shed…

My stay at home has been transient ever since I left for my intermediate studies, then for college and now work. I have been to tons of different places all over the country since then, so much so that I forgot what the comfort of my home felt like. Obviously, counting my stupid stupid decision of not visiting home for one and half years would be the top factor. Have I written about that before?

Oh man! It was tough, to say the least. After my winter break in the junior year when I was about to leave my home, I said to my mother that the next time I come back, I would have achieved something significant. I was filled with a sense of purpose – my junior year internship was coming up (which I had yet to find) and then the placement seasons would begin. There was also this startup idea I had been keeping aside for years – all the real deal.

Melancholy started to dawn on me during the summers when the hostel was once again filled with silence and I was one of the few who had stayed back. Once again, I was bitten by the only thing I have been running away all my life. Things did improve afterward and that period proved to be transformative in a big way.

Anyway, the time was never succinct to relive those old memories. Home became more of a halt for the onward journey. I was rushing, for one there were always those projects to complete and secondly, now that I had seen a different world, enjoyed the change of scenery and tasted different food (home food is the best), how could I be tied down to this old place? Amazing, how quickly you come to your senses in your 20s.

For 6 years, it has rested at this place.

I removed the sheet half-covering it and took a quick glance of its overall health.

My bicycle.

It is covered in dust, tied in cobwebs, eroding in rust. The tires have gone flat – probably because the air leaked over time. Brakes are working fine but the chain has come off, so I put it on. After washing and greasing, the ride of my choice is ready for a round around my hometown.

It’s Sunday afternoon – my favorite time for a stroll. The sun overhead is signaling somewhere around midday. The dogs are catching their breath, perspiring through their tongue on this autumnal weather. People sitting on the chairs, soaking, basking in this comforting noon, reading newspapers. There aren’t any dumper trucks on the road, so I’m not worried about the dust. It’s not a little thing I’m making a fuss about – my hometown is surrounded by coal mines, so dust is a serious problem here.

At home, maa is finishing her daily chores and papa is in the garden – his favorite pass time activity on Sundays. He has asked me to pick up some flowering plants from the market. Things are moving slowly here as if coming to a halt. There is no commotion, no traffic noise, no shouting people and no loudspeaker blasting gibberish in the air. In fact, this part of the world has never been in a rush anyway.

I take my bicycle out of the door and do a quick trial runs – you know, just going some distance, then taking a turn, coming back to where you started and then taking the turn again to go the same spot where you had turned. It’s circle but elongated. Umm…I would say more like a rounded rectangle if you really want to visualize it. One final turn and then I am off.

Disclaimer – Minor bumps are ubiquitous here especially on the streets so I would omit that throughout. Although, you should know that they are there nonetheless.

The whirling wheels, rubber tires rubbing against the concrete road and, chains hitting those gear teeth on the push of the paddles…

The houses on both sides don’t go beyond two floors. They rarely have a terrace. Some are more like huts but these old cottages feel so refreshing today. Ah! how I got accustomed to the buildings & skyscrapers so fast. There are a lot of turns, one lane merging into another until you come out of the main road. On the way, I pass through the home of my once ‘best friend‘ whom I haven’t seen in years. I have moved on from a lot of people I had held dearly in some phase of my life and people have done the same to me as well. It took me some time but I have made peace with this fact now.

All the shops are on the other side of the road. From what I remember, not much has changed. Yeah, one general store in front has converted into a xerox shop, although I still prefer the old one, few meters away on the left. Beside that, is the old saloon. The barber identified me at once when I went there last Sunday. In this tiny town, identity is not something you keep to your own. Everyone knows everyone else.

You can never miss the fleet of snacks vendors on the pushcarts – samosa, jalebi, pakode, panipuri, chaat, cutlets – all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies being made and sold on the street. There has been a significant increase in their numbers lately and that means more options & better quality for us. It’s still afternoon so they are preparing their materials in advance for the evening when the whole place would be swept off with people for Sunday market.

I move further towards the old temple – one of many like everywhere in this country. It has always been the same and occasional renovations haven’t brought much change. The same old priest, after the morning offerings, is now sitting on the doorstep reading his scriptures. The air here is more fragrant because of all the incense sticks and flowers. Housewives usually visit the temple after they have finished their domestic chores.

I see the florist casually sprinkling water on the plants to keep them fresh. He keeps a display of all kinds of seeds, saplings, some plants with flowers blossoming. I picked marigold and jasmine for my garden and he delicately put it in a wrapper. There is more to this stretch but it would be a mere repetition of the elements I have already told you about. Instead, let me take you further down the main road which I had crossed earlier.

It’s the one which brings me to home from the city’s railway station. That side of the road has been traversed countless times but the other side has equally been trodden in the past. If you keep driving on this road for 4km and not take a turn anywhere, you would ultimately reach my school. This part has seen my morning rush and the afternoon panting and I have seen it changing from calm to chaos. Over a thousand trips of those uneven terrains which somehow always felt like having more ups than downs. Gravity played with us within and outside classrooms.

Somehow, I was always late for school. Even in exams. Then I went to college and there I was late for my classes too – early morning, afternoon, evening or even night classes. I joined work and I started going late there as well and I will tell you why. I was never late on the first day or even the second or even a few days after, for that matter. It takes some time to gauge how much I could push the official mark for a troublefree inclusion. I have always felt guilty to slip into this habit and reprimanded myself, after all, punctuality is a good trait to have. But in all rationality, you are late for things not because you are always at fault but also because that thing doesn’t truly draw you towards it. You are not excited enough to actually want it ahead of time.

If there are vehicles on the road, it has to have service shops, right? For me, it was that tiny bicycle shop – basically a hut where a weary mechanic would sit in his dirty grey shirt mending bicycles the entire day. No companion, no distraction and no regard to the traffic on the road, it was only him playing with his tools. I sometimes used to halt there to fill in my bicycle tires. It was harsh and really not an enjoyable addition to my already short breath.

The bank is a little further down on the other side of the road while the post-office is on the lane beside the bicycle shop – two of my frequently visited destinations apart from school. I actually went to the post-office on Friday as well. It was in the same desolate state – same letterbox, same counter and the same people on the other side. Bank was a bit critical in a sense there isn’t any designated place to park my bicycle. It is literally on the side of the road, always filled with people, so I had to be in the line and also be on the lookout for my bicycle.

There is a shortcut to my home from the bank. Remember, I went the market way earlier and then took the road and visited the bicycle shop? Well, the journey goes full circle from here. This time, it runs through the park on one side and a big playground on the other (the only one we have got here). The park is just for the namesake because it’s tiny, one half of it is filled with trees and no one really visit there. There is a pool in the middle which doesn’t have water and is now filled with stones. Its circumference is grazed by plum trees whose branches overhang on the boulevard.

I used to play cricket here – a sport which I don’t follow at all now but is basically considered a religion in India. Every Sunday after 11AM, sneaking past angry glances of my father, I was there inebriated on the spirit of this awesome sport, intoxicated on the mere taught of winning the bet of a meager sum. It was enough for us. Playing with a different set of people every week whom I hardly knew – childhood didn’t know how to act like strangers. I had to be back by 12:30 so as to not arouse suspicion.

On the other side, the big ground is where the adults played. We couldn’t have played there if they were playing, so we played in the park. Corporate tournaments happen here sometimes. The only Annual Sports Meet I remember about my primary school happened here as well. Today, no one is playing there. It’s all empty. Well, things had started changing when I was in middle school. People started moving out for education and jobs like I did while new kids were hardly keen on physical sports. Maybe some are but they are not to be seen today. Anyway, I had all the time to ride around the perimeter once and then I was on my way home.

Ooh! one little geeky thing – you see, when you drive past the park with enough speed, the air that reaches to your ear through the fences (or the slots in the boundary wall) would make a strange sound due to differential stream. It’s like beat (interference pattern due to two sounds of different frequencies interacting with each other) which always fascinated me. I still haven’t found a proper explanation for that sound and this is the closest I could get from what I have studied.

Now that I live in different places, people often ask me where I am from. All I tell them is the name of the city and never this part of my homeland. How much I wish I could show them this.


Song Highlight –

Kid Francescoli is an electro-pop music project of French origin. I first came to know about it when Casey Neistat used one of its songs at the end of his vlog. I was instantly hooked to that tune and searched for it online. I have come across plenty of amazing music videos and this one stands out even among them. As a person who sometimes dabbles into graphic design, a similar aesthetic being used in a music video certainly gripped my attention.

Power Spectrum

Author’s Note – This was an experimental post where I prompted my readers to take a walk with me and had a one-way “conversation” about things I concern myself with. Some musical pieces, few video essays, messages from Twitterverse, the Kickstarter campaign and a lesson of life. I originally intended to keep this up for 24 hours but later extended it to 45 hours because we were having so much fun (or was it just me?).

When I write a post, several things are taken into consideration which somehow influences the content that makes it to the final cut. I can’t exactly put the finger on a single reason but it’s constraining. I just wanted to come out open – unrestrained, unconcerned of the consequences, unmindful of what my words would entail for others – just being true me and yet keeping it within the threshold of my comfortability.

This was a little different than what usually goes on this platform. I’m glad that I did this because where is the fun if things are not innovating, right? 2019 style.

So, thank you to whoever read this while it was online and for those who missed – well, I’m always up for one to one conversation. All you have to do is to tap that send button 🙂

I guess I can’t take back this song. Seriously, Illenium’s music is pure magic –

When The Odds Are Trolling

Have you ever taken a stand on the situation and shouted – “how the heck did this happen?” or sighed – “huh! what were the odds?” or, or frowned – “this is not what I expected”? Well then, you have got a company here.

My friends from the spaceflight community would know this –

18th December 2018 (UTC timing) – With 5[1] back to back rocket launches scheduled, this day was going to be written in history. The entire December has been a party for us space nerds but this was like a double bonanza. It has actually started feeling like we have ushered into a new era of space race.

But, but, the lauchapalooza turned into scrubapalooza when 4 out of 5 launches got scrubbed for 4 different reasons.

SPACEX – Falcon 9 with USAAF GPS-III 2 satellite – Out of family reading on first stage sensors

Blue Origin New Shepard with NASA Payload – Ground infrastructure issue

Arianespace – Soyuz CS01 mission – Bad weather conditions

ULA Delta IV Heavy with NROL-71 satellite – Scrubbed due to high winds

ISRO GSLV Mk-II with GSAT-7A satellite – Launched half hour later than first scheduled time but within the launch window

 

Huh! what were the chances of that? Let’s do a little bit of maths here, should we?

A rocket can either launch or stay hold on a particular day. So 2 possibilities.

Summing it over 5 independent launches, the probability of that all of them would be scrubbed is –

(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2})(\frac{1}{2}) = \frac{1}{32}

Ok, things are little weird with binary possibilities because compliment of \frac{1}{2} is also \frac{1}{2} and in any case, the probability would be \frac{1}{32} . For accuracy sake, we should actually take Probability of Go into account for each of those launches. The result would be an even smaller fraction considering weather wasn’t much of the issue for three of them. In a sense, nature actually picked the option which was the least probable.

At the time of writing this post, SpaceX has attempted its GPS-III launch for the 4th time in 5 days and it has been scrubbed again. By the time I would be posting this, hopefully, they will have a successful launch.

But this wasn’t the inspiration behind this post (although, it certainly contributed to some content and an interesting start, in my opinion). The topic first came into my mind at one cold morning of early December when I was standing at the train station. It was an overnight journey and I had another train to catch a few hours later. So I separated myself from the crowd and got to the waiting area. While standing there, I looked around and suddenly it struck me. The scenery felt rather odd.

I have been to that place numerous times before but that day it felt like being caught in the wee hours when it was still getting ready. I do accept that it was more of an internal feeling than an external cause yet it got me thinking – what are the odds of me witnessing it like this? It wasn’t even a planned trip.

Later that day, I took the most defeated walk of my recent memory. A plethora of emotions turned, twisted, collided and merged inside my head as my feet traced the road which stretched to eternity. I felt totally helpless, for now, I held a secret I couldn’t have divulged. On the other side, the usual place of my retreat wasn’t the same because of a sudden turn of events. I wished I could be a recluse, just for that day or the day later. Yet at that moment, I knew, I was the only strong bond holding all loose ends together.

You know those voices at the back of your head which shout the least favorable but probable outcomes? The one we shut down because either we don’t wanna face it or those we think are irrelevant – chances of later being less. What’s the way of safeguarding yourself? Would you turn and run away or would it take it head on as it comes?

There have been far too many such instances recently which led me to re-evaluate the odds of mere speculations. In a sense, this entire year has been like that. Facing the least expected. Fighting the odds which knocked on my door. I was cornered into my little space, confined in seclusion until I turned, looked it straight into the eye and decided to fight. Let’s see what all I can remember for the recap –

I started this year still working in a so-called core company. It was a well-respected Govt. job and I am grateful to it for giving a start to my professional career but it sucked the soul out of me. I constantly felt like I was downplaying myself but it paid well because of which I was finally able to finish my student loan within a year of graduating – that was my biggest relief (people spend years buried in debt). I started out at one place got transferred to another place in the second quarter and finally, after months of scrutiny, I resigned. Seriously, don’t get stuck in a shitty job and get out while you can. Life is too short but weigh your liabilities carefully before you take the risk.

I got a coveted fellowship but took a conscious decision of not taking it. It was after I took a hit of the quarter-life crisis. Relaxed, enjoyed with my bio-design buddies and traveled to a new place to stay with my friend while I applied to different jobs there. It felt like a tug-of-war between my fate and destiny. Things didn’t materialize according to my expectation but settling with alternatives meant neutralizing the risk I had taken. For two months, I fought with the question of ‘what actually that I should be focusing on?‘. Somewhere in between the process, I realized, I needed to re-calibrate my strategy to be able to do things I really want to do. Specialization is for ants but one should develop a strong core-skill first. Other things can be outsourced.

Image result for loving science explosm net

Sometimes you find your answer in unexpected places. Courtesy – Explosm.net

Owning to my responsibility of an elder brother, I came back to look after my brother’s preparation for upcoming exams while I turned my focus towards building a portfolio & planning for graduate studies. I realized that the break would be a little longer because application deadlines approached faster than I could have caught up. On the bright side, I have got time to gain research experience (although it has to be at the mercy of professors I have been mailing). This break has been a bitter-sweet phase but I got to consolidate my future career plans.

Somewhere in February, my school friend called me to talk about this idea about a 360-degree travel experience platform that he has been working on. I liked it and went on-board. For the next 2 months, we worked most part of the nights. We had a working product ready and hence, triplou.com was born.

Working on a startup besides full-time hectic job was a challenge and it certainly took a toll on my physical health. But it was all worth it when we saw the hits counter rising. We entered into few startup competitions in hope that it would bring us recognition (the cheapest and least expensive method of gaining credibility). Didn’t make it to some even after hefty write-up and a concise pitch-deck. Well, that’s how these B-Plan competitions go but it doesn’t lessen our worth. We are now in the finals of one – looking forward to it.

I met my family once in January when my brother’s son was born and then again when we celebrated my parents’ 25th anniversary. I took my niece for shopping and brought her favorite dress with my own money. Held my brother’s daughter like she is a part of me while she slept in my lap – the absolute best feeling of my entire life.

It was also a time to look at relationships from a critical perspective when I understood how each of them rests on a fragile delicate balance. The string is tightened by compromises made on both sides. Also, when we start romanticizing someone, somewhere along the line, it ceases to be about the person and start to be more about the very idea of that person being in our life. It’s not worth it if it is not reciprocated and you should rather spend time on things that make you special. Some people are non-linear humans after all. This story also inspired the plot for my upcoming short film ‘That Thing About Lost Chances‘.

The test also covered the syllabus of friendship when my best friend and I took the opposite stand on an issue which led him to pivot into a totally different career field. Felt like it was for all the wrong reasons and I tried my hardest to convince him. He later came back to his senses and found a rational reason behind his decision. That was certainly a difficult period to deal with but I learned that you don’t easily give up on people you love. You simply can’t.

On the other side, our WhatsApp group ‘Kerala Expedition‘ felt silent for the most part. It was occasional buzz ground but went on frequent hiatuses. It has started dawning on me how our lives have taken different turns after college. We still haven’t made our trip to Kerala, hence the name continues. All four of us are now living in four different cities preparing to pursue four different careers (the odds man!). We didn’t get together at one place even once but I met two of them when I went on the Bangalore trip.

On the creative front, the first half was rather slow and I don’t recall any significant even worth mentioning. By March, I was finally able to churn out my first video of the year -‘The New Kind‘. I made it as a channel trailer promising more frequent videos with more unique stories. It peaked up the momentum afterward and I was all geared but it has come to an absolute halt by the end of the year. Tons of footage has still not made it to the editing room.

I had planned to make a video series titled ‘The Job Experience‘ for which I have been shooting for the past one and half years. I wrote the script, organized the footage and I had nearly finished editing the first episode but then I had to give it a rest. My focus was shifted for the above-stated reasons so I can say that the place and time haven’t been favorable. It’s still in post-production and now scheduled for next year.

For the first time, I got to collaborate with my friend who is an excellent cinematographer to edit his travel video. It felt absolutely amazing editing those beautiful shots and the entire video came out really good. Finally, I was done editing my sister’s wedding video after she continued pestering me for a year and I gifted it to her on Raksha Bandhan. I also shot sort of a documentary on a person in whom I saw a reflection of my own story but I couldn’t edit that too. We went to some exotic places in the land obscura to shoot. Face that These are secluded places which not many people know about, made the experience even more exciting

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This lake right here is in a bear-prone forest in the middle of nowhere.

Blog posts which were highly unpolished in the first three quarters finally started taking shape in the fourth, There are still some incomplete ones which I need to finish. My writing grew more and more personal and started piling up in my personal notes rather than ending on this blog. Twitter became my micro-diary but some things are still better left unsaid. I also posted more on my tech blog than the previous year but not to my satisfaction. My reading this year, which was only confined to articles on random sites, finally returned toward novels as I got to complete a few books. I missed my yearly goal by a large margin though and honestly, it sucks!

On the consumption side, I only remember finishing my long-awaited fourth and fifth season of ‘Silicon Valley‘ and now think it is the best tech-comedy ever written. I got hang of Reddit way too much in the first half but got in my senses in second. Later, I got obsessed with videos about ‘Exploration‘ – from Antarctic sea to Amazon forests, hidden civilizations and the world beyond our blue marble. It was a manifestation of the phase I was going through. I looked up for things which would help me become far-sighted and not get bothered by immediate circumstances. It rekindled my tryst with space.

I also watched a lot of SNL sketches (I mean a lot). Some excellent channels were added to my subscription list which taught me a completely new way of looking things. Peter Mckinnon continued to be my push to get things done while discovering Everyday Astronaut & BPS.space is certainly one of the best things that came out of my otherwise random YouTube surfing. I think I teared up watching Rory’s Lake Life 5.

Music continued to be a big part of my existence. It is the voice of my conscience. I ventured to explore even more genres and worldly music this year- not just confining myself to songs I can understand. Music transcends comprehension. I looked into the heart of techno through Charlotte de Witte & trance music through Armin Van Buuren, fell in love with lofi hip-hop – all thanks to Cubic Radiation!

It is mostly people who make up for off-screen experiences and this year, I got to meet some really great ones who accompanied me on this journey – from the toughest guy I knew who broke down when the time came for us to depart to the apprentices who came forward with all their heart to make my stay less miserable at an unknown place. I particularly remember one guy I met through my colleague who wanted me to make a dance audition video for him. He worked as a janitor in the day but slogged his night hours for dance practice because it was his passion. It was my absolute privilege to oblige and a great experience to count for before I left that place. I met several other inspirational persons who showed how talent nurtures among adversity and constraints.

In conclusion, a major part of this year was spent on daydreaming, finding means of escape. I started detaching from things that were near and longed for those which were so distant. Lessons were learned the hard way as I wandered through another year of adulthood without a guide. Let me tell you the crux of it all[2].

Getting what you want, how you want it, whenever you want it, is about three very simple things –

  1. Find something you want
  2. Find out how to get it
  3. Get it.

Only you can get the trolling odds to turn into your favor.


Note – I know this post went quite long but eh! Hope I could pack some lessons in those words. Wish you all a very happy new year in advance. May your wishes come true and you achieve greater heights. Have a great one! 🙂

Footnotes –

1. If we count ISRO’s GSLV Mk-II launch early morning next day.

2. These are not my words but absolutely nails the lesson. I took it from one of Mio’s vlogs.

The feature image is that of Starman on a Tesla Roadster on his way to Mars. It was launched on Falcon Heavy, courtesy of SpaceX. Couldn’t have chosen a better image for my year in review.


Song highlight

This song is attached to a very personal memory of mine. Last year, while I was listening to this song, I actually lived it lyrics (see the odds here?). At that moment I had decided that I have to make a video on it. I had the entire storyboard in mind and I gave myself till this year’s Christmas. Well, that didn’t happen.

It was relatively easier to make videos in college because someone or the other would volunteer for the role. It has been so tough afterwards since I’m not doing it professionally. Anyway, this song is still on my list, so if you or anyone you know would be interested in this project, hit me up. Peace✌

Stillness

Why is it that when I think of a title, there is always something else attached to the main word? Really, just look at all my previous blog titles. It’s never a single word for the sake of carrying all its essence. Does making it longer convey more information or lesser the word, the broader its domain? Well, certainly this is something to ponder upon.

Anyway, breaking the norm this time, I come up with a topic that struck me hard recently (almost like a eureka moment) – stillness or rather the dynamism behind it.

So, I was combing through my WordPress feed, looking over some of your blogs. There I came across a post which talked about anime. I don’t exactly remember who wrote it but I’m sure he/she was someone I had recently followed. I went to the comment section to see what others have suggested and there I found this movie which instantly intrigued me. Title – The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Now, the title itself is sufficient to raise significant interest, so naturally it tickled the cinephile in me who is in perpetual search for a good addition to his growing list.

I should take a moment here to describe my lesser-explored fascination for anime. I have never talked about it on this blog because I never understood myself what exactly about it that resonated with me, besides my understanding of the complexity involved and of course some of the childhood memories which have faded over time. In college, few of my friends were truly crazy about gaming, manga, anime or anything that involved some sort of artificial character in the virtual world (which is conspicuous unlike fiction).

I always felt disconnected then because I couldn’t relate it to anything real. I was too busy chasing stars in my physical world. Pardon me to say this but it also felt a little kiddish for my taste (or so I thought). Anyway, it didn’t catch up to me until that time in the final year when I fell for someone who identified herself as a proud citizen of the anime-verse. So, I had to follow upon.

I had always looked at animation from a viewpoint of creating it – time, effort, skills, patience – and all of those that are essential to make a beautiful art piece but I couldn’t fathom its extent for effective storytelling until I saw ‘Death Note‘. That anime simply blew my mind and established a new benchmark for any future psychological thriller I’m going to watch. All of a sudden, it felt like a new world has opened up.

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How could I be so naive about it? Source – Giphy

Watching ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time‘ simply consolidated my newfound belief. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend that you give it a try. The story, the animation, the sound design – the overall execution is just incredible!

Anyway, more than halfway through the movie there is a scene that captivated my imagination. At this timestamp (what could only be called the climax), everything comes at a halt and there are several still scenes are shown to symbolize that. What’s commendable is the usage of parallax movement of layers to account for the running time. The animator has beautifully utilized movement in relation to the progress of the movie even though the context is essentially that of frozen time.

If anyone has worked with graphic designing software, you would know how it essentially works on layers. In movie editing, we can either use motion keyframes or rotoscoping to separate out the elements and achieve a similar effect but technicality aside, I would let the scene do the talking –

Now, let me put some of those frames as images –

Does it feel the same? No, right? Isn’t that amazing?

At that instant, I knew I had to write about it. But what? As a person who prefers longer posts over short rants, I had some thinking to do. I wanted to look for instances in real life which could be mapped with this stillness function that yield dynamic results. I wanted to look for the inherent property of life i.e. dynamism disguising itself in other still moments. Think about it – it’s so non-intuitive yet so much rooted in reality. It feels like those paradoxical theorems of Quantum mechanics.

As a film-maker, I work with videos which are essentially moving images typically rendered at 24 fps. I know this but if I am to nit-pick individual frames and talk about its effectiveness, I would take a critical stand. Videos, from an engineering perspective, have always been that synergy where the overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts. But photographs are known to elicit strong emotions, right? Heck, I prefer taking photos over test videos to set the framing and test composition. Then, why don’t I venture into it more often?

Honestly, my photographs lacked movement. My still images feel like as if numbness has crept into the liveliness of the scene. But I’ve seen photographs which beautifully incorporate dynamism and I’m sure you have too. I have tried to learn that craft but somehow the learning didn’t translate to the intended effect in the final result. It still felt like it lacked a critical component for wholesome portrayal. Photography is that sense is much harder. It is like a highly efficient compression algorithm that crunches the whole data into its bit size storage.

Thinking about it made me wrap some of my surreal experiences by a single thread. These are the things that strike you at odd moments when you are lost in reverie. When you are motionless outside but your mind is host to turbulent thoughts that try to give definition to abstract phenomena. These are somehow internalized and keep piling up. I particularly remember something like this from my childhood.

Growing up in an Indian countryside essentially meant a constant chase with power cuts. There was no escaping though. In one of those dark nights when it would happen, the time that already passed lazily would feel like coming to a complete stop and the only thing that showed there was life to that still scene was the flickering flame of our study lamp. For me, those were the moments of reflection, of realization of something larger-than-life, of recapturing the world which has slipped out of my fist during the day. You were all to yourself wandering into your imaginary world where solitary nights carried you.

About the imaginary places – do you form imagery of a place or a person just by the name of it? Think about that time when someone told you that they visited a place or met someone or stayed somewhere and suddenly you have a picture in your mind of how it would be. It’s instantaneous without any need for description. Of course, it is refined based on the information like that crude sketch takings its shape as more features are added to it.

Don’t we picture scenes in our head when reading fiction? I’m sure we do. That’s what we are conditioned to. As a human being, we have more grasp over imagery than textual information. Consider it as a stillness.

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Now think about the time you actually encountered that place or person in real. Think about the very first thought. Did it strike you? Think about that infinitesimal moment when you are calibrating the picture in your head against what you actually see. Slow it down and analyze how you are modifying that still imagery to better suit its real form. Later, we may be saying – of course! it’s like this. How else could it have been?

Even in contrasting ways, it makes just as much sense. Now, on some random day when you are out of that space and try to re-picture that place or person, it feels like we cannot imagine it in any other way. The imagery has now changed – the disguised dynamism. It corresponds to a different stillness, transformed albeit to a more persistent one.

And it is not just about things outside of my control. It is even evident in my own works – say writing for example. I am not always with my notebook or laptop ready to write down anything. Inspiration may strike in bizarre ways and the sensible thing to do is to just note it down in my phone’s notepad. Sometimes I would write about it soon enough to retain the original context but more often than not, the time passes and I sit on it till the time it has loosened its essence. I can’t remember what I was actually thinking and now, these are just jumbled words I try to make sense of. It all feels still, desensitized until it is revived by my writing, even though it evolves in a totally different way.

I know this post goes all over the place with this topic but hopefully I gave you a glance through my eyes. There are multiple dimensions to it which I could have explored. Say optical illusion for instance – it is the perfect embodiment of subtle dynamism in stillness.

Stillness is an interesting character, a virtue of objects nonetheless but like it’s said – it’s not alive if it’s not moving and thus we see how movement is sneaked in for a lifelike characteristic. If change is the only constant, can the same be said about its converse? If yes, in what capacity? Think about it.

Have you experienced something that’s hard to explain? Tell me about it in the comments.

Feature image source – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/560768591086248106/


Song highlight (put in your earphones and let it progress, gets better every second) –

Lessons In Failing

At times, I’m gripped by this crippling fear of failure.

I have always refrained myself from talking about failures. There hasn’t been any ‘what if‘ or ‘plan B‘ in my conversations ever. It’s about winning all the times because that’s what you are supposed to show, right? No one will talk to a failure. No one will ask and there won’t be anyone to seek advice, not even your close ones. You are basically a social outcast. But deep down I’ve known how I have always been running away from this fear. It’s by spending this energy on masquerading my failure instead of working on my preparedness that I basically prepared for its inevitability. Who was I kidding with this happy facade around myself? I’m vulnerable.

I can recall specific moments from my life when I have felt this. It’s always those liminal spaces, the valley between two peaks, the pit before the leap, when efforts failed to materialize and I was running out of options (remember? there weren’t many, to begin with). Confidence dwindled, self-reliance took a massive hit. Under uncertainty, every prospect seemed blurry. Things have certainly gone better afterward but this fear somehow finds its way again. I call it ‘crippling’ because it forces to ooze out every drop of my pride.

So, why am I writing this? Well, now that I have this big pile of rejections sitting by my side, I can finally come out and talk about my perfect imperfection in open. I have failed so many times that I have lost the count by now. I once started maintaining a folder in my laptop for rejections of the tangible kind (sadly, your personal goals & ‘game of hearts‘ doesn’t end up with such notice). It had screenshots, each containing a polite apology on the lines –

We appreciate your interest in this position but we found a more suitable candidate for the job. We will consider your application if any new opening comes up.

Ummm…Thank you?!

This is a system generated mail. Please do not reply to this message. 

Few failures in life are necessary. They teach us invaluable lessons which we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They show us a weakness in our methodology/preparation/approach, giving us opportunities to self-reflect, mend and improve. But failing too many times shatters you to the core. It’s even worse when you don’t get feedback on your mistakes. I feel there is actually a threshold age after which you are supposed to figure out everything on your own.

I have been at both the extremes. There have been days when I was at the zenith of confidence while some days I found myself doubting my capabilities. Was there any meaning to my endeavor? I questioned. I have come to realize that the line in between is much thinner than I used to think. All it takes is one core component to go wrong which you were betting too much on. It’s a delicate balance driven by circumstances. My ingenuity suddenly starts to feel like a grand play of ‘imposter syndrome‘.

Anxiety never really leaves us, even more so nowadays when we are surrounded by continuous waves of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) inducing information. We grow restless. Restless makes its way for stress, anxiety, and depression. Often, while scrolling my twitter feed (or internet surfing in general), I come across memes like this –

meme

 

As much I would chuckle over its silliness, I would marvel at its astuteness as well. I don’t support making fun of mental health like this but I certainly had those days when I just didn’t want to wake up and face the day. Lying on my bed with my face buried in the pillow, shielding myself from the outside world through my quilt, I could feel the time passing by. Day turned its phases but each inch of my body would shriek ‘not today‘. Does deliberate sleeping solve the problem? I don’t know.

I don’t mean to give any pessimistic vibe. Optimism is my biggest tool. Hope has been my most effective weapon to fight adversity. I have sorely passed through difficult times having faith even though luck hasn’t been a laudable companion so far. Also, it’s by failing and rising up numerous times that I have managed to reach subsequent pedestals in life. But hope isn’t a tangible thing, is it? Can hope be attributed to certain things? How do we realize hope? What gives us strength at nonchalant times?

It’s quite subjective to each individual. Though I’m no expert (as you must have come to know), there are certain things which have given me solace in difficult times and I wish to write them here. Maybe it would help someone else or maybe one day in my happy times, I would come back to this post and know what state was I once in and how I made it through.

Less screen time – If there is one indicating factor which can quantify our modern lifestyle, it would be the ubiquitous presence of screen around us. As much as I embrace tech, I always had this love-hate relationship with screens. The Internet can be an overwhelming place and when the situation is to contemplate over big questions concerning myself, I better maintain a distance. I have had intermittent periods of complete boycott, quite too frequently in recent time. Here’s my friend’s excellent post on the same topic – One Week of Algo-free Lifestyle.

Stop Overthinking – Have you ever noticed how voices in your head get stronger when you let it to? “Would you please stop thinking for a second?” –  I say to myself. Often this thinking majorly constitutes of comparison than actual strategizing. The more we grow, the more expectations we hold on our back. The cut-throat competition apparently put us in the league of geniuses where failing is never seen as an option. But are we really running the race for the sake of it or the end goal is the one we should focus on?

Reading – This is the umpteenth mention of ‘reading’ on this blog but I still feel it hasn’t been stressed enough for the profound impact it had on me. Somehow, in the obscure literature of my recent finding, I have discovered solutions to my lingering questions as if it were my deliberated search for an answer in the very same piece. Read because you can. Read because you never know. Brainpickings & Zen Pencils are two of my favorite go-to destinations.

Crafts & Novelty –  You need not always look at everything you do from the prospect of a profession, no matter how good you are at it. Pursue it because you love it, not because you want something from it. Remember those childhood doodling habits you have cherished over the years? Maybe you like to sing, swim, make music, craft stories, solve puzzles, cook delicacies, take photographs, stitching/knitting – it could be anything, as long as you enjoy it. Cultivate a hobby & find novelty in it. They have tremendous potential, far beyond our realization. These are the things that enliven us. Remember, when things get dim, those little lights illuminate our way. Find something which when you see or listen to, you can say – ‘this gives me joy‘.

Music – I think most of the people either understand very little and don’t understand the realm of art at all. They try to contain the uncontainable because they haven’t experienced it the way you have. Making them understand is futile because you can’t put wording to it. It’s abstract. This has been the case with me. Also, ‘Music’ here is really a placeholder for anything that has a mysterious power of healing for you. For me, it has been music, especially that of Illenium. For my friend and brother, it’s gaming where they find their mental piece in. My fascination with music is not inconspicuous on this blog but again, the amount & variety of music that exists in this world simply blows my mind.

Travel – Things that we imagine may seem alien at times but they are not pulled out of thin air. All our crazy ideas must draw inspiration from realization – subtle or profound. Curiosity is built on the foundation of experience and grows through our inherent nature of exploration. Travel brings both these elements together. Being in the same place for a prolonged period can gradually fill up the contours of our open mind.

This has really taken a toll on me. Though I have been to a few places in the past year, it has either been for work or similar purposes. I desperately miss those trips with my friends where we lived in the moment soaking the scenery that lied in front. There were no exams, no assignments, no internships, no jobs, no question of ‘what’s next?‘ – none of the worrying elements and we just existed for the sake of it. In desolate moments, it’s important to take a step back and ponder over the bigger picture.

Communicate – Better part of my life has been spent in isolation. I don’t usually admit it (because no one asked) but I’m not afraid to write about it here. Different phases can be attributed to different reasons but this continuous period of being alone instilled a fear of loneliness in me which somehow I’m still forced to dwell in.

Image result for before assuming try this crazy method called asking

Credit – Pinterest

Sharing subsides the pain. It will all go away if I could just talk. It always has. Feedbacks are critical. Getting a fresh look over your approach may give you a chance of analyzing it from an unexpected perspective. Or even just narrating your problem to someone can make you realize a different aspect of it. Keeping it within us only let the feeling grow. It starts feeding on our conscience. It erodes us of the positive energy like a dark ball of discontentment growing bigger, it’s weight bogging us down. If I wish of anything outside my personal domain, it’s meaningful companionship.

Writing is communicating too.

Working Harder – This tops all the other points written above. While they certainly help to rejuvenate, nothing but our own effort would propel us further. Accept that you screwed up but not all is gone. Put that feeling aside and get back at work. Here’s what I have realized – It’s easy to be mediocre at something if you overcome the inertia of just pursuing it, but it takes an incredible amount of effort in order to be really good at something. Every profession is noble. They all have their elements of risk and complexity and there is no one-day wonder.

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We need to fail. We need to fail down here, so we don’t fail up there” – First Man

While my previous achievements may seem like I landed on the moon, only I know that I actually shot for the star and failed. No problem. I’ll come back, work on it and try once again. I’ll Keep trying until I reach there. Only I can realize my goal and no one else. For now, it must remain in me to stay afloat and not succumb to this hostility. I must fight for my dreams. These are just minor setbacks I ought to overcome so when I finally reach there, it wouldn’t be called a fluke. I will be a deserving winner.

Edit – It’s amazing how just a click can land you somewhere so relevant. So my usual Internet surfing brought me to my Pocket feed where I found this really personal article  – Earning My Smile.

I think everyone should have the privilege to read it. This article (actually a memoir) perfectly embodies the essence I wrote this post with. To be honest, it actually made me tear up. There are a lot of other things that bring dust to my eyes (ah! another secret I had upheld) but more on it later.


Note – It has been really hard for me to come forward and write about something I never talked about. I’m a private person who keeps things to myself. My introvertism would rather let it haunt me inside than to proclaim it in open, especially when it’s an insecurity I hide.

Also, I write ‘failing’ not ‘failure’ because failing is a process while failure is a consequence and I wanted to talk about it as the former. It’s been quite a while that I wrote a post this long, so hopefully, it would be of some use like few other blogs have been for me in difficult times. I’m forever grateful to them. Peace ✌