As Lame As It Gets

If I were a superhero, stories about me would narrate how, against all the odds, I manage to sleep in a devastatingly cramped and noisy place to save the world time and again. Sleep-Man’s incredible feats of dozing-off would bring peace and security to the planet. You see, sleeping is one of my lame superpowers (Yes, I got more!). Time, place, ambience and my own condition are irrelevant when I decide to have a shuteye. Every time I wake up after an economy flight on a no-frill airline lands (the gold standard of discomfort), I see a strange mix of awe and hatred in the eyes of people sitting around me. My sleep is invincible; or so I thought, until, one night, the noise of paper tearing off woke me up.

Throughout the 4 years of my graduation, I curated a collage on the wall of my room. It was a collection of interesting pictures that I found in the newspapers. I used to stick A2 sized sheets to the wall and then use them as a base for sticking the cutouts. As the semesters passed and the collage got bigger, it got increasingly difficult to firstly, stop my dad from throwing me out of the house for ruining the wall, and secondly (and more importantly), keep my creation where it belonged. I was making a huge engineering mistake. I was sticking all the sheets together, making the collage one colossal, and heavy, sheet of paper. Gravity. That insensitive canine female. On a good day the collage would simply come off the wall. But, on a bad day it would come off partially and then get torn partway.

And that’s what happened on that fateful night. I was doing what I do best; Sleeping without the darndest worry of what’s happening around me. And all of a sudden, I am wide awake, standing next to the wall, holding the partially torn collage, stopping the cleavage halfway. I guess, sometimes we superheroes have to give in to our weaknesses, be a little selfish, and abandon the world we are sworn to protect to save the little personal worlds that we call ours. Yes, the Sleep-Man got woken up by the sound of a paper tearing off. It wasn’t just another paper though. You may slow-clap now. Quietly; I am sleeping!

By the way, this song, totally relevant!

Something is better than nothing

Ever wondered how ambiguous this idiom is? Apparently, it implies that the possession of some, however little, part of what you want is better than having nothing at all. Apparently! Well, making some profit is definitely better than just breaking even. I have a bone to pick, but not with its meaning. My war is with the contradictory wordplay this idiom uses to increase the ambiguity in my little universe. Ever since I first set my eyes upon it, it has coyly expressed an opinion exactly opposite to the one it asserts otherwise. Something, it whispers (as it winks), is not better than anything. And hence, something, it whispers (as it nudges), is the worst! And then it slithers up my sense of clarity, asphyxiating it as it warrants that there is nothing in the whole world which is better than something. You achieve a dream in its entirety or you achieve nothing at all. But you achieve “something”? Oh lord almighty! What pity! You got some of it?! Tch tch.

6 Steps to rising early

Few weeks back I decided to finally become a morning person. My extensive experience at failing to wake up early coupled with some neat tips I stumbled onto on the web helped me achieve what I once only dreamed of. In here I make an attempt to summarize my lessons into a structured approach to rising early.

Step 0 : Sleep early

Retire to bed on schedule even if you are not sleepy. You can’t arm twist your body into waking up early if you do not give it enough sleep. I call this the 0th step, because all others are worthless without it.

This rule has another payoff; Since you already know that you do not have the luxury of waking up till late, you tend to focus on finishing up your tasks instead of stupid Facebook updates and senseless cat videos.

Step 1 : Moms are bad alarms

During my high school days, my mother used to wake me up for school somewhat like this: She would stand in the kitchen (busy preparing lunches for dad and us children), and yell my name, telling me that it’s 8 o’ clock and I should get my lazy bum out of the bed. This did not work, ever. Instead of doing her bidding, I would curl into a ball, shielding my ear with my pillow, more determined to stay in my bed. My dad, on the contrary, would walk up to my bed, sit by my side and just keep his warm hand on my forehead. This used to work like magic.

And hence the lesson: Never use harsh or very loud alarm tones. Unpleasant triggers invoke instant negative response; You would simply shut the alarm off even before giving it a thought. Your alarm should be soothing to ear and low in volume. Personally, I rely on a playlist of my favorite slow and melodious songs that my Mac is programmed to play when I want to wake up. Most of the times I let the music play long after I have left my bed.

In the same rhyme, don’t place your alarm within your arms length. Make sure that you have to move out of your bed to reach the alarm. Keeping the alarm too close is a recipe for an incurable disease called chronic snoozing, and this brings us to the next step.

Step 2 : Death to the snooze button

I hereby declare the snooze button as the most evil invention of our times and a threat to humanity. I believe it was invented to lead us all into a state of procrastination and denial. Snooze button represents a false assurance that next time the alarm rings you would actually feel inclined to wake up and not hit the snooze button again. And the more you do this, the more powerful this false belief grows. I have spent countless mornings snoozing and sleeping, ending up in bed for longer after the alarm went up first time than before.

If you can’t make it out of the bed, just stop the alarm. Follow this rule strictly, burn your bridges, even if this screws up your schedule a few times. The fear of not having a backup to rely upon will help you jolt out of your bed. But wait, not so fast..

Step 3 : You don’t have to get out to get up

Don’t bog your mind down with the mammoth task of getting out of your warm, cozy and irresistible blanket the moment you wake up. Take small manageable steps towards being fully awake and aware. Open your eyes. Check what the time is. Take a long, leisurely, I-feel-oh-so-awesome kind of a stretch, making every muscle in your body realize it is time to get going. Message your loved ones, wishing them a beautiful day. Visualize what you plan to do this morning. And, then, finally, get out. Ah, the getting out..

Step 4 : Getting out to more comfort

This is important, because this is where we fail more often. Getting out of bed is almost like a punishment, no wait, it is a punishment. Take steps to make the world outside suck less. One of the tricks is to have a warmer room, using lets say a programmable thermostat. The alternate is a warmer you. Make sure you wear enough clothes so that the room doesn’t feel frozen as compared to your bed. Socks do wonders here.

You could add some more incentives to getting out of bed. Program the coffee machine to start brewing at the time you want to wake up. Or keep those cozy furry slippers by your bedside. You could even program your system to boot up and play your favorite songs.

Step 5 : Winning the war

Doing all this helps, but, there is one thing which is critical: Winning the war within, empowering ourselves to win the argument about waking up or sleeping off. You could take some cues from the very talented David McRaney. His blog and book discuss at length about the human tendency to put off what it otherwise seems important. Few excerpts from his excellent article on procrastination:

…the problem isn’t you are a bad manager of your time – you are a bad tactician in the war inside your brain… The trick is to accept the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you – a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties…

All the best and happy mornings!!

How to lose a friend in 10 days

Who is your best friend?
I don’t have one best friend. I have many best friends.Ok, so, who ALL are you best friends?
Well,  Rahul, Vijay, Inder and.. umm.. Rajat and yaa.. Amit!!

What do you like about them?
They are the best.. they love me for what I am, they themselves don’t pretend, they care for me, fight for me, and umm.. every second spent with them is awesome-ly full of fun.. that’s about it!!

So, in case you were given the chance to room with anyone you could choose, will you pick them?
Of course!! It will be awesome.. we’ll have loads of fun.

I got bad news for you pal, you’ll lose them in 10 days.


Crazy as it may sound, rooming with your friends could damage your friendship forever. However close and understanding your friends are, they don’t have to constantly put up with the person in you who wakes up and sleeps at random hours, is a border line fanatic about keeping the washroom dry and snores their living daylights off. Yes, they do put up with all that at times, like on a rare night-over, but think about the pain of dealing with it every single day.

I am not saying that a stranger or a non-friend roomie will appreciate you being a pain. In all possibility, they will mind it equally (if not more) irritating. But the fact is, they’ll never expect you to behave in the first place. The bigger issue while rooming with your friends is the adjustment and understanding you (and they) expect. The argument that goes here is, you always used to love me as I am, what’s wrong now? So while you might love your friends a lot, as a roomie you’ll be less reasonable with them than with a total stranger.

But wait, the worst part is yet to come. Everybody has issues with their roomie. This is because God made us perfect, and everyone else was destined to be a douche-bag. And although God betrayed us by making us put up with all this crap, he decided to give us some relief and invented bitching. There is no experience more delightfully satisfying than bitching sessions with your best friends. Bitching not only de-stresses and rejuvenates you, it is also completely free and natural. But who do you bitch with when your friends themselves are your roomies? Do you see the trouble now? Stay away. And ask you friends to find another roommate.

The Search

Roughly ten years back, Doordarshan ran a series of selected Discovery Channel programs under the name Discovery Hour. The one hour show, instant pleasure for a nerd kid, was telecast everyday at noon during the summer vacations.

One of the episodes in the series was on Hinduism in the South-East Asia. The episode could also have been on tourism or architecture or some weird satanic pseudoscience prevalent in that part of the world. It was such a long time ago and the memory is so faded, I hardly remember anything. But there was one part of the show that got permanently etched in my mind. The narrator spoke (in poorly dubbed Hindi) of a river which had numerous Shivlings carved all along its bed. Apparently some sages, who had too much devotion and too little work at their hands, thought it was cool to cover the river bed with thousands of sacred phalluses, the aniconic representation of Lord Shiva.

I was moved. The story was too epical to not be. The episode ended and so did the vacations. Years of drudgery eroded every trace of information I had about the episode, except for the words, “South-East Asia”, “Riverbed” and “Thousands of Shivlings”. These words kept haunting me every once in a while, driving my brain berserk with curiosity. With Google at hand it’s difficult to be curious and not do something about it.

Armed with all those ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs and quotation marks and other Google-tricks up my sleeve, I badgered Google with queries using unthought-of combinations of the clues I had retained. At one point of time, I was so actively searching for the story, I was afraid of being summoned by some secret intelligence agency, accused of plotting some perverted act of terrorism. Mr. Jain, do you plan to bomb the Mekong river with thousands of lingams? But, to my disappointment, the engine never relented. Over the years, Google evolved and so did my search queries, but that elusive information never showed up in the search results. And then I gave up. I could have tried more, but in a gradual ebb of apathy, I just gave up. That trivia was, for all purposes, dead to me.

A week ago though, the ghost revisited. A casual discussion with friends on religion went astray. I passed out after ejaculating my thoughts on Jainism in a throw of uncalled-for passion. When I regained senses, at around three in the morning, the motion of the house was growth and spread of religions. I quickly shared my two pence and mentioned the story of the sculpted riverbed. Predictably, the nostalgia held me like a family of five on a moped and I vowed to retry the search with a renewed vigor.

And, once again, the old and weary warrior arrived at the battle-field where he had been defeated time and again. With courage and maniacal determination he stood face to face with his nemesis, Google, ever wiser and more masterful, and armed with even larger amounts of mind-baffling datum. I attacked the gates of the fortress with queries I had used ever so often and as expected the gates stood with a serene intensity and showed no sign of even a little concern.

After an hour of getting had and took, I began to lose confidence and realized it was not a fight I could win. Perhaps, sometimes, to win a battle you first have to stop fighting. Specially, the battles being fought within. With a sense of humility and awe, I peacefully surrendered and knelt at the gates of Google, and asked “Where is the river with thousands of lingas carved in its bed?” and clicked on “I’m Feeling Lucky”. And instantly, the gates opened, blinding me momentarily with a bright surge of knowledge, and exposing the portal which led me to the valley of the thousand lingas, Kbal Spean.