Thursday, May 14, 2015

Me Before You

Started reading some fiction as needed some light hearted entertainment while feeding Aayush.  I had ordered 3 books a while back - these were award winning books by female authors.  Me Before You was pretty engaging till 3/4th of the book, then it started getting a little repetitive.  I've been mostly reading non fiction as I feel that I'm learning something new.  After reading this book I was thinking about what I learnt or was it a waste of time.

I guess fiction does play an important role in building empathy and broadening your outlook.  This book definitely did both as I feel that I got some insight into the lives, thoughts and frustrations of quadriplegic people.

Makes me feel thankful for what I do have.  I had hurt my left ankle and wasn't able to walk properly for a few days.  Even that much restriction felt extremely limiting as I was so dependent on Ashish for every little thing like going to the toilet or a glass of water - things you don't even think about in normal day to day life.

As an aside - Aanya asked me what book I was reading and I told her it was called "Me Before You."  A few weeks later I was reading the book "The Whole Brain Child" and I asked Aanya rhetorically "you know what book I'm reading" expecting her to ask what but she responded, "Me Before You".  She's got amazing memory :)

All in all, the book was great for what I wanted at the moment - a book to keep me entertained while feeding that is easy to pick up quickly after interruptions which are plenty at the moment with baby Aayush and his big sister Aanya.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Happiness project - positive thinking, laughing and giving people a break

I finished reading the book "The Happiness Project".  While reading the book I tried to absorb it better by reading it slowly, taking notes along the way and thinking about what it meant and how I could apply it.

The strategy seemed to work as I have been applying it in small ways.  The other day I was on the tube when some school girls got on the train.  Amongst them there was one girl who was standing next to me.  She opened her bottle of soda and it spilled all over - some drops came on me as well.  She apologized (actually rather just asked if I was okay) and I said I was fine.  Then she had a sip but somehow kept spilling the drink from her bag, again on me as well.  The other girls with her asked her to move to another set of seats with them.   They might have been feeling embarrassed by her although I was trying to not make a scene as I didn't want the girl spilling the drink to feel uncomfortable in front of her friends.

Once they moved, a lady sitting in front of me frowned at them and shook her head at them.  I just started laughing and her frown turned into a smile as well.  On the way home from the tube I was caught myself smiling while thinking about the whole situation.

That's when I realized how powerful the combination of positive thinking, giving people a break was. and laughing was.  I could have been like the lady and could have said something negative to the girl. Instead I laughed at the situation, didn't worry about soda on my new UGG boots and made the other lady smile as well.

Since then I've caught myself thinking negatively about someone and have made a conscious effort not to think negatively or change my thoughts to focus on something positive.  I've also resisted the urge to gossip about dinner guests.  And in those instances I remind myself about this incidence on the train.

I continue to feel good about my reaction to the situation and remember it in a very positive light.  If I had been negative that could have been marked as one of my negative situations on the tube of which I have many.  Maybe I wouldn't have any more negative experiences on the train - it all depends on me how I want to experience those experiences!



Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

It's one of those books that you read and want to discuss with someone to try to understand better.  I'm writing about it instead in the hope that writing about it will help me understand the message better.

A year ago I quit my job to "follow my dream" of becoming an entrepreneur.  It's been an exhilarating yet tough journey.  In one of the startup blogs I read it mentioned (or I interpreted it to suggest) that it is important to enjoy the journey of entrepreneurship rather than focus on the end goal as written in the book The Alchemist.  Hence I decided to read it as we're going through a rough patch and I wanted some inspiration on how to tackle this phase.

I enjoyed the book but kept feeling that I might be missing the point or not fully getting what Paulo Coelho was trying to say.  My mom loves the book and has made my brother and sister both read it.  She says there's learning to be had in every sentence!

So I've listed below some of the learnings I can apply right now (spoiler alert: if you haven't read the book then don't read the below):
  1. Enjoy the journey: this is what I was looking for in the book.  Not obvious from reading it so I had to think about this one.  The shepherd learnt many things and had many new experiences on his quest to find the treasure.  He met many hardships on the way but came out stronger from them.  In the end the treasure was where he had started.  But would he have become what he was if he had found the treasure without making the journey?  No!  Hence the journey is as important (if not more important) as the end goal.
  2. Follow your dreams: it's really difficult to actually quit what you're doing right now and take the step towards following your dream.  I should know - it took me 6 years to finally leave eBay and start my entrepreneurship journey.  I was comfortable with a salary, was actually enjoying working at eBay and was constantly discouraged by people around me.  You also are afraid of what others will say (your family, friends etc who have always preferred security and are all professional).  In the end once I did it I had a lot of support from everyone.  Similarly for the Shepherd, he chose to give up more settled ways of life and constantly make changes to achieve his dream.
  3. Don't judge yourselves by what others thing is right: related to the point above, it's very difficult to take a path that is different from what everyone before you (your parents) have take and from what your peer (friends, coworkers) are doing.  The Baker who had a dream to travel didn't because he was comfortable and had the respect of everyone.  
  4. If you want something badly the entire universe will conspire to make it happen for you: this is true for me so far.  I needed a role model to help me make the jump from corporate life to startup world.  At the right time I found a mentor who was starting his second company; I worked with him in the initial phases and that gave me confidence that I could do so myself.  Similarly the Shepherd kept finding encouragement and support e.g. in shape of the King, the Alchemist.
  5. Love will encourage you to follow your dreams not discourage you: this is something I've experienced first hand.  Ashish was always encouraging and believes more in me than I do myself.  He also pushes me to think/dream bigger
  6. Be open to new experiences: This seems to be recurrent theme throughout the book.  The Shepherd is presenting with many new situations and he immerses himself with full enthusiasm in each case - the glass shop, the oasis etc.  We tend to inherently resist anything new (especially if the source comes from somewhere else).  I'm not sure how well I fare on this one - might be a blind spot but I feel I am generally up for new experiences.
  7. Take your time getting there: Related to the first one; don't rush to the goal.  If the Shepherd's didn't take the time to spend time on many detours he wouldn't have collected as much wealth as he did which allowed him to go further and gave him a buffer.  This is definitely something I can work on better as I usually rush through things to go faster.
  8. Pause, reflect: The Shepherd takes time at or before each new endeavour to reflect.  Again something I can work on as it will help deepen the learning and improve next steps.  Hopefully my starting to write again will help with this step.
  9. Trust your instincts: The Shepherd is always in tune with his instincts.  He is one with The Force of the world.  I sometimes feel that I've got a good sixth sense but I'm not always sure what it's telling me and how to act.  This one probably becomes harder as you grow older.  One for me to work on.
  10. Hardships: For any goal worth striving for there will be hardships on the way.  The Shepherd got robbed twice and beaten up and he continued.  This is one of the most important points.  In startup language, there are many death valleys to be faced.  The trick is to take them in your stride and continue.
  11. Perseverance - Don't give up too quickly.  Again this is one that I have to watch out for.  Already I have thought about quitting at various points in my entrepreneurial journey.  I love the story told here about the miner who had just one more stone to turn.  It's personally very inspirational for me to keep going.
  12. Achieving your destiny:  This is what it's all about.  Why are we doing any of the above.  As Paulo Coelho states: a metal will keep being a metal.  But when mankind moulds it into something useful it has achieved its destiny.  Similarly that what we are striving for.  We want to become what we were meant to be and to do.  It's difficult to figure out what that is.  If we have even a small inkling of what it might be we have to give it our everything to try and achieve it.  I guess that's what will bring us happiness!
A lot to take away from the book and tonnes that is relevant for my current situation as a struggling entrepreneur.  There are many things I struggled with in the book.  Things I missed or still have open questions about; such as: 
  1. Should he have been more aware of what's near him?  That way he wouldn't have missed the treasure next to him.  Or I guess the whole point of the book is that he makes the journey and is a better person for it?
  2. Should we really listen to heart despite its failings?  The Shepherd does mention the heart being afraid which is so true.  In Hindu scriptures it's written that we should actually conquer the heart with our mind.  Yes my heart did desire that I become an entrepreneur but on the journey my heart is the anxious one...
  3. Should we look out for and listen to omens.  Aren't we just going to see in the signs only what we want to see?
  4. The entire episode around The Shepherd trying to become wind and talking to the wind, the sun etc was a little lost on me.  I'm not sure I got what I was supposed to from it.
So I look forward to discussing the book with someone to understand it fully.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Delhi by Khushwant Singh

As I mentioned in my previous post, 2 states revived my interest in fiction, particularly Indian fiction. So as soon as I finished that book I needed to get more books to read. I couldn't take my 3 month old baby to a proper book store that would take a 30 mins drive to get to; so I went to a used book store in Kamla Nagar that I used to frequent as a kid. I didn't have any recommendations so picked up a few books randomly. One of them was Delhi by Khushwant Singh. When I got home I pulled up lists of best Indian fiction books and this book was one of them. Hence I decided to read it first.

It started out well and was quite a page turner. However I soon realized that it was part fiction and part history of Delhi. It took me some time to get used to the format of randomly switching back and forth between accounts of Delhi's history and the fictional story of the protagonist. By the end of 3/4th of the novel I started enjoying the stories. Perhaps because the more recent events were more familiar to me. The issue I had with the book was that it touched upon huge events very briefly and found myself constantly going to the internet to read about the people that were referred to in the book. It was hard to really learn about the events just from the book.

Nonetheless, I did learn quite a bit of history from the book that I wasn't familiar with. In fact the only history I knew before this was from history lessons in school and the odd non fiction book I read (the best one being Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre). It was eye opening to read the book and how violent our history has been. It made me realize how ancient the clash between Hindus & Muslims is and the number of times they have massacred each other was astounding. The author did focus primarily on sex and violence though so was a pretty biased view.

All in all, not really the lightweight fiction I was looking forward to at that time. Neither is it a proper non fiction that could provide good insight into Delhi's history. Would need some supplementary reading to understand the history. Maybe more enjoyable for someone who is already familiar with all the events accounted in the book as it gives a different twist to them.

2 states by Chetan Bhagat

In the 4th month of my maternity I went to Delhi. One night was when I was bored I picked up this book. I must have been reading fiction after at least 3 years. I was completely hooked and didn't sleep all night -- just couldn't put the book down. Not sure if it was me being bored, unable to sleep or not having read fiction in a while, or maybe the book was just that good. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have to admit that I do enjoy Chetan Bhagat's humour, I guess being married to an IITian has something to do with it. Just what I needed for this time, kept me completely entertained, easy to read even while feeding my baby.

I've had an interstate marriage as well but didn't relate much to the cultural differences described in the book. However, I think every married couple would relate to the histrionics of in laws described in the book. For example, not wanting your own son/daughter to do any work in lieu of the daughter or son in law.

I didn't learn much new from this book as I would from non fiction except a bit about South Indian culture (which perhaps was very stereotyped). However, this book revived my interest in fiction, especially Indian fiction and bought quite a few Indian fiction books to last me through my maternity leave.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why love matters

I picked up the book 'Why Love Matters' expecting more insights into parenting concepts. The book's cover says that it's essential reading for parents. However I was quite disappointed as the book doesn't really provide any learnings for normal parents.

The first few chapters about brain development and how it is affected by parenting is interesting. However, most of the book talks about the life long impact of ill parenting on children. As is written in the book -- any adult with reasonable sensitivity will be able to provide the right care for their child. Someone who is investing time to read this book is most likely a normal parent who will naturally provide the right emotional support.

I would recommend reading 'What every parent needs to know' which has the same concept explained more concisely and is more relevant or 'What's Going on in There' which has a lot more details about brain development.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

I didn't quite enjoy the first 100 pages of the book. I was really interested in reading RD's views on God and the first 100 pages were just refuting others' rationale for existence of God.

However, when he started his own arguments for why God doesn't exist and even more interestingly, why religion is so prevalent in all socieities, I couldn't put the book down. I didn't agree with all of logic 100%. For example, the argument that God doesn't exist because it's highly improbably statistically. Humans existence, as he mentions, is highly improbable but we still do exist.

My favourite parts were

1. Rationale for religion's existence as a by product of evolution,
2. The explanation for why religion is so wide spread
3. How we would be moral with or without religion

The dangers of religion was particularly eye opening for me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Real World Economics

It's the 3rd week of my MBA program at INSEAD. One thing I am enjoying a lot, besides the huge parties, is the optional reading material of the courses. These readings are mostly applications of what we are taught in class to real world situations. One such reading was an article The $100 Terrorist Insurance Plan for our Economics class. The reading was given in relation to our class on Supply, Demand and Markets. The article suggests a solution to the screening done during the security check by airlines. There is a demand for security checks and people are willing to pay for it. So the targeted passengers should be compensated for the trouble. Equipped with the knowledge worth 5 sessions of Economics, I find the solution pretty neat.

It's a shame that I hardly have time to read the optional cases which are the most fun part of the courses.

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