Food is Memory, Music is Emotion

I have been thinking about this for some time. A long drive today kinda tied up all the loose ends in my head. I strongly believe food is all about re-creating memories. When I cook, every time I cook – I am basically trying to recreate the great memory I had eating that food in the past. Even when I go out to eat at some special place it’s all about recreating memories or reinforcing them. Similarly, music is about invoking emotion. I believe we associate our emotions to music. Re-living them through various strums and hums – beyond time and space. Basically tell me your Spotify playlists and I can pretty much guess the kind of feelings and emotions you like to experience.

sadness

Speaking of emotions – Inside Out movie is one the smartest and well done representation of our emotions. I loved it and I think every adult should watch it. The biggest surprise was (now on hindsight it makes it kinda dumb) Sadness is a key emotion for us to feel. Because happiness does not exist on it own. It needs a standing ground to sprout. Sadness provides that and this daily trauma of life has ample opportunities for us to experience sadness. And if we don’t resist it or ignore it or deny it and accept it we might actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And so speaking of accepting things that make us sad. There are 2 songs that I feel that strongly make me sad. I have never figured out why they make me sad so far, I don’t honestly know. One reminds me of Home – far far away. One reminds me of my teen years.

On Being Accepted Unconditionally

Growing up in India, I grew up in a middle class family where the only way you can get upward mobility is through *education*. I spent most of my teens (like 10 years in extreme educational competitive environment), and years after that mired in studying and working hard towards something which I never clearly understood what it will be like. Now looking back on my life I realize there was some meaning to it. I mean it’s kinda assigned meaning but yeah I will take it.

So what does it mean to get out of a middle class in India and to make to to this land of opportunity? It means no one around you accepts you as you are! Yep. My father was never, never happy with the grades I got. I mean c’mon I was like breaking bank with Physics! My professor met with my dad and told him that I had a great future in Astrophysics. But he didn’t accept it just because I wasn’t top of my class in Math! I did my best with computer science, but my dad wasn’t happy with any of it. He had some other plans for me. I would say some other expectations of me.

My extended family was surprised I wasn’t going to US of A when I made it to Singapore. They were like kinda unhappy about it. I mean I frigging took a risk and made it in Singapore, but none of my family acks that!

So the sad story of my life is – even though I excelled in a lot of things – people around me thought I wasn’t doing good enough job and wasn’t good enough. Which kinda left me with a feeling of lack and insecurity in my life that still to this day haunts me.

But not my daughter – the other day she asked me to tie her hair up and put it in a *bun* as she calls it. I tried. I mean I really tried. More than I would try to fix the nastiest bug at work. I couldn’t make it work. All I got was a lame bun and a half assed pony tail up her hair. Finally, I told her – “You know your mom actually knows well how to fix up your hair, I don’t know how to – you should ask your mom” – It was a very vulnerable moment for me. I am like admitting that I suck at this. All my insecurities flying all around. My daughter, looks at me – I swear to god there was a pause for like 2 seconds but it felt like eternity – she says “It’s ok daddy, I actually like it the way you did it”.  For the record, she is 4! She just scooped up my heard with this unconditional love.

Later I tried to get her hair fixed by asking my wife but my daughter refused it. She just wanted it that way. I think I have rarely felt unconditional love, but it was one of those moments. I know my daughter isn’t aware of all this stuff, but whatever she did – no one did that to me for a very, very long time. That acceptance of who I am – I haven’t seen it or experienced it in for a long long time. It really made my day. I think I will remember that forever.

How I increased my attention span

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I know this might come off as boasting or trite. But the most valuable thing we as individuals have is our attention span. Our ability to give our full attention to one and only thing in front of us. Amidst the tumultuous waters of multi-tasking and constant binge tapping of alerts, social conversations – our attention span is dying. Dying by million distractions.

A few weeks ago – I started doing couple of simple things. No big plan, I just thought I would do some simple things to make myself less distracted. Here is the list of things:

0. I meditated for 15 mins every evening.

1. I stopped using my laptop or phone at least 30 mins before I went to bed.

2. I read an actual dead tree book for those 30 mins and then simply went to sleep without worrying about what happened on FB.

3. When I wake up, I didn’t jump into my phone – which usually starts of as, what’s the weather going to be like and then like 30 mins later I know everyone’s status on FB.

4. I didn’t check my personal email till noon.

5. I didn’t check FB when I was bored. I read something interesting about my field of work.

6. I jumped straight into work as soon I got to office.

This was all new to me and somedays really hard. But I kept at it. Not sure what’s going to come off of it.

After like 7 days, I realized few things.

1. My concentration while reading a book or writing code, spiked up. I was able to focus on one thing in front of me for more than 30 mins, without being physically interrupted.

2. To my fascination, whenever I read long articles – like from longform etc, I was *actually* able to finish the article in one sitting.

3. When I interacted with my daughter, I was not hiding behind my iPhone, I was able to pay full attention to what she was saying. Oh what a fascinating mind is of a 4 year old!!

That’s it. Nothing major. I wasn’t aiming for this level of focus and concentration but I think what I did actually helped me build it.

Why I think Parenting is tiring

Parenting I think is a moment by moment minute or minimum impact decisions for which your whole brain has to use immense resources to compute and decide on each of them. Parenting is deciding what is good for your child every moment. It’s tiring because there are many times that you yourself don’t know that something is good for your child or not. Added on top of that, the behavior you might be prescribing or expecting of, in your child goes completely against what you might believe or it could be something that you think it’s good because some expert thinks so.

Parenting is a profession where you practice it, as you learn it and you become expert when it’s already too late. Maybe useful for nephews or grand kids!

Parenting is a lot about doing exactly what you believe in and setting examples to your child but often what we say, what we believe and what we do is so in-coherent that it hurts to see that we are sending mixed messages to our own child.

Parenting is tiring because in essence it’s a minor step in the grand scale of this social conditioning, this retrofitting of a free flowing wonderful creature into tiny slots and shapes of order, structure and behavior.

Parenting is tiring because you sometimes get that glimpse of your own conditioned self – preaching, pontificating and trying to convince your child about ideas, theories that you don’t believe in.

That’s why I think parenting is tiring. I am not saying it’s bad or good (it’s your call) but it’s my observation. It’s a multitude of unexpected and unseen challenges. One that makes me feel extremely thankful to my parents and have high regard and respect for other parents.

Look Up!

I love this video. Somehow this guy has managed to put this so well!! “We are a generation of dumb people with smart phones”

I could say that not to look awkward on BART without digging myself in my cell phone – I end up closing my eyes!

I notice that the speed at which people walk now a days is how fast they can like the things on their facebook wall! The amount of time we spend at red light is how many text messages we are reading and sending. It’s kinda sad.

I love what this article talks about how we don’t know any more about just purposeless walking – –http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27186709

And added to that this book really shaped about what I think about how technology is disrupting families.

Big Disconnect

This is me

Watching this moved me a lot. This was me growing up. This was me in every social situation that I came across. This is still me. I vigorously cut those cutouts and work very hard to fit myself in. It never worked perfectly and I ended up carrying so many of them with me. This is me. This made me both sad and happy.

My Worst Fears

Couple of days back I had a great realization. I realized what my greatest fears are (and have been). I mean I kinda knew some – but this time I came across the core of them. We all have our own dark corners and I nurtured mine with complete denial and ignorance. It was culmination of what I have been reading and that one amazing video watched the night before. Here is the book –

tamingA simple and amazing book which talks a lot about how internal chatter creates these seemingly uncontrollable gremlins that we carry around and believe the picture they paint as true. It’s really hard to identify them as they usually become part of our identity and severely limit our scope to catch them in action.

The books premise is – there is a core in everyone of us. The pure core and then there are these gremlins. We are kinda slaves to these gremlins (if you watched Cloud Atlas, there is a perfect example of it in that movie. The “Old Georgie” is nothing but a personification of Gremlin). Gremlins control us based on a pattern. They keep us anywhere except the present and now. Obsess about past, fear the future – that’s gremlin talking.

I think that book needs to be re-read and re-read till we can clearly identify and sort out those gremlins. So, here are my worst fears.

1. The Fear of not fitting in : This is so much part of me that it was really, really hard to dislocate and watch it. Basically not fitting in for me means anything from clothing, accent, pronunciation, culture, politics, knowledge, humor, sports, finances, habits and everything else. I am so dreaded by the fact that I won’t fit into something that I will totally avoid anything if I have a slightest hint of not fitting in well. It’s a painful truth and probably has kept me off of many astounding opportunities in my life but yeah that is my fear and it’s part of me.

2. The Fear of not being nice : This is nuts as well. I hate to be one with conflicts. I mean internal conflicts I seed and grow a many but outer conflicts I can’t take it. I am so scared of not turning out to be nice to other people that I will actually avoid them rather be angry at them or even show even a hint of discontent. Once again this fear is part of me and defines me.

3. The Fear of not being smart enough : This is the most craziest and the more I dwelled into it the more I realized that this is a double edge sword. I hate to be not smart enough among a peer group. If I am among a bunch of smart people, I strive really really hard to act and do smart things. But on the other hand if I come across someone who is not as smart as I think they are – then I drop, I completely drop and “act” stupid to accommodate me. So, I act more smart and more dumb when required to fit into the above two fears.

Remember the question here is NOT “why am I this way?” Doing that encourages another gremlin and you lost your battle already. It’s just to put the fears out. Pull out these grotesque creatures I have nurtured and created since my childhood and just watch them. Just be aware of them and do nothing. As simple as it sounds, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. Just writing this blog post makes me think that I am publicly shaming myself and making vulnerable to outside world.

The video I talked about which helped me to figure out the above process is by Alan Watts. Here it is.

I created this blog to actually post stuff that surfaces in my psyche and in the past there have been many books and stuff I read that have helped me to identify these. Here are some of them that come to mind.

I just came across this gem – The Blerch is nothing but a Gremlin – http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running

 

 

 

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