Mondays, Januaries and Birthdays

Time might be an illusion, but the calendar is a fraud. Its periodicity skews our perception of time; Mondays and Januaries give out a sense of resumption. So do birthdays. We look forward to these beginnings with renewed hopes for our future. But life is a linear progression from birth to death. It may turn, meander or even come full circle, but it doesn’t offer a reset that the first of a month craftily promises.

And it is easy to fall for the apparent optimism of it all. As fake as it is, what’s the harm in getting a symbolic restart ever so often? It could be used to achieve something better! Problem is, the concept of future as a new and segregated quantum of time allows us to indulge in a false assurance of self-improvement. We assume and expect different results from the chunk of hours up ahead because it is disguised as a new day. Tomorrow is that magical utopia where we will lead a flawless life. But nothing really changes with passing weeks, months or years. Not unless we make it so. Happy birthday!


आशिकों को मौको की कमी कहाँ?
ये मोहब्बत सब रंग-ढंग सीखा देती है।

वो कहती है बकवास करते है हम,
ऐसे इज़हार-ए-इश्क की सजा देती है।

हमारी बातें उबा देती होंगी तुम्हे, मगर,
दिल की लगी कुछ और कहने कहाँ देती है।

चलो दिल्लगी ही कह लो इस को,
खुश हैं, ये कोशिश तुम्हे हँसा तो देती है।

इश्क में कोशिश होती है, फ़िक्र नहीं।
ऐसी लगन है, कामयाबी को धता देती है।

चलती फिरती ग़ज़ल है वो लड़की,
उसकी बातें ही हमे शायर बना देती है।

तेरे मेरे बीच

अनजान है तू, खुद से, मुझ से, इस बहती सड़क से।
कोई दूरी लेकिन मुझे, दिखी नहीं तेरे मेरे बीच।

नज़रे मिली नहीं, पर हटी भी नहीं, जैसे पहरा हो रूह पे।
कोई शिकन लेकिन मुझे, दिखी नहीं तेरे मेरे बीच।

आवाज़ लगाऊं या, आँखों को कहने दू, किस्से तो बहुत हैं।
कोई अनकही लेकिन मुझे, दिखी नहीं तेरे मेरे बीच।

ना बेपरवाह हैं, ना ही बेक़रार हम, बस एक खिचाव सा है।
कोई तड़प लेकिन मुझे, दिखी नहीं तेरे मेरे बीच।

Mom, Dad, you are right.. But you are wrong!!

My dad was 51 when I was 15. He had no reason to connect to a teenage rebel, no obligation to walk across the generation gap and hold my hand, but he did. Through the years he did his best to understand me and my idiosyncrasies. He led by example, and made us [me and my three sisters] honest, hard-working and compassionate. My mom is the smartest homemaker you can find. She is skilled in the sartorial arts and is an amazing cook. She stood by my dad through thick and thin, worked as hard as he did [may be even harder] and brought us all up smart, strong and ready for life. They are the best parents a child can ever get. I am what I am today because of them. The only fault I could ever find in them was that they care a little too much. My folks are a rare exception, and hence, the words that follow are not for them.

Parents, inherently, are bad people. When I say “bad”, I don’t accuse them of making mistakes, being wrong but unaware. No, when I say “bad”, I mean they are bad by intent; their actions are incorrect and they know. For example, they take your life decisions for you. No, they don’t help you reach your decision, they don’t equip you with the right skills to take decisions, they take them for you. Granted there is a huge chance that they are right, that everything they warned you about your decision will happen, and you will be proved wrong. But life is not about taking right or wrong decisions, it is about taking decisions and facing the consequences with all your strength and pride. [And mind you, I am not talking about simple things, no-brainers; of-course drugs are bad, they are supposed to tell you that and stop you from destroying your life. I am talking about those situations in life where failure is more fruitful than success because it teaches you invaluable lessons about the world around you and yourself.] They know it is good to learn the hard way, but they want to make an exception for you (you, their precious vehicle of gene propagation) to give you a head start in life. If it worked that way, vaccines would be 100% distilled water.

They are at a stage in their life when they have a lot of unfulfilled dreams. These dreams are withering and terminal. A majority of them were killed by life [ironic, eh?] and some had to be killed to give birth to a new life [ironic again, eh?], that, would be you. As if possessed by an unknown force, they shape your life around those incomplete desires. Your aptitude and abilities ignored and flushed down the toilet. [Sometimes I wonder if it is actually the dreams which act like a parasitic virus, abandoning a dead carcass for a new life to enslave and feed upon.]

And that’s not it, they commit another horrendous crime. They succumb to social pressure and try to look good at your cost. So you ought to score higher than Mr. Sharma’s daughter and be better at cricket than Mr. Gupta’s son. Or make it to an NIT at least (if not an IIT like our neighbor’s son) and get a better package than what’s-his-name. You are an investment that should reap maximum benefits and gratification. But their biggest mistake is, they persevere in a world where they don’t belong. They are from a time which is long gone. If you could somehow speak to Warren Buffett from a decade ago via a miraculous time-defying phone, would you be willing to take his investment advice? They exist in a different reality from ours and hence their experience and wisdom doesn’t really count for the reality that envelops you.

These problems are inherent to parenthood. The responsibilities and conditions involved makes one extremely liable to these mistakes. Moreover, it is very difficult for a parent to do all this and not believe that it is somehow for our good. But, like I said I have the best parents ever, then why am I blabbering about all this? Because in few years, I’ll be one.

Reflections on the Motive Power of Life

In 1824, Sadi Carnot published a paper, titled Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, which is considered the seminal work on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. If the First Law spoke of Work, Energy and their transformation, the Second Law spoke of the constraints to that transformation.

There are several statements for the second law, which can all be summarized simply as the impossibility to create an engine that works with 100% efficiency. No matter how perfect the design and material are, only some amount of energy received as input will be converted into work, the rest gets wasted in the process; discarded to a heat sink. Thus, in real world the resulting action will always be lesser than the energy supplied for it, irrespective of the process. And, I want to discuss how universal this law is, but first let’s take a detour.

Successful individuals have always been the subject of keen scrutiny and research. Mankind has invested a lot of effort and resources to understand its greatest achievers and categorize their attributes. The curiosity is the facade to a widespread desire of formulating genius and mastery. A hope that exists despite the collective and historically proven lesson that rules may never fail but they have to be broken for reaching greatness.

There’s one aspect to greatness that stands out, primarily because it is almost always perceived as a fault by us lesser mortals. In an act of self-righteousness we blame the super achievers for a severe lack of balance, questioning their sanity, butting it (with a heart full of self-defeating malice) against our own ability to handle every aspect of our lives with equal attention and poise. But, is this balance responsible for our mediocre life? Let’s see.

The lack of balance in successful people is the direct result of an ability to focus on the task at hand to an extent that everything else drowns out, becomes indistinct chatter. This ability, in turn, comes from the complete disregard for the result. Let me explain. When we set out to do something, we meet failure more often. Success always seems like an elusive dream, within sight but never reachable. Being hard-wired to seek immediate results, every such disappointment comes with a strong urge to give up and follow the beaten path, embrace the mediocracy. Obviously, it is difficult to pursue your dreams with a mind busy seeking social approval and progress. This tendency to fixate on the result, never lets us obsess about our work, giving us a balanced perspective, but a common life. But then, how do the Greats resist the urge to seek gains? Are we the ones prioritizing it incorrectly? And here comes the Second Law to the rescue.

In life, just like in any other thermodynamic system, input exceeds the resulting output. You cannot expect all your effort to turn into fruitful gains, because a large chunk of it, inevitably, gets wasted. Since every action results in a definite loss of your faculty and resources, what you achieve in life is always less than what you invest to get it. So, if the sole motive behind your endeavour is success, or tangible gains, you might as well not take any action at all. Sitting and metabolizing should be your best bet, the path of least dissipation. Unless you discover a non-tangible gain which balances your loss. Unless you realize the joy of doing, the pleasure of finding simple and elegant solutions to complex problems, the revelry of manufacturing immaculate assemblies and precise fits, the beauty of designing intuitive and organic processes, the sheer exhilaration of using graphite to turn a blank piece of paper into an idea which ends up changing the world. Unless the only thing you care about is the task at hand (and not the success you might achieve if you happen to complete it).