Category Archives: challenge

The Hunger Games

When things go our way, when plans fall into place, when we achieve expected results, we feel safe. Any digression from this brings an unease and causes us to doubt. We feel exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. 

Based on the random theory, we don’t get to pick our environment when we are born. We are stuck with a person who’s supposed to be our mom, our dad, and our sibling. We are stuck with the basics – the community, culture, religion, and capabilities that we are born with. We do however, are given the freedom to select everything else. 

With this set of basics, we are now either Katniss or Peeta, unleashed into the wild to survive, almost like The Hunger Games. The wild consists of the unknown, the surprises, and the challenges that life throws at us. Each person uses a different technique and strategy to bring himself back to safety – a feeling of being in a warm cocoon with a least probability of an attack. To help achieve this mission, we hire an army. In an eclectic manner, we surround ourselves with anything or anyone that brings us instant happiness – clothes, gadgets, money, ambition, working out, adventurous travel – things that bring an adrenaline rush, an instant dose of a happy feeling – serotonin & dopamine. We also hire people who we consider friends – people who are like-minded, people who appreciate us, people who agree with our way of thinking and lifestyle – people who make us feel good about ourselves, make us feel appreciated, accepted, and unconditionally loved.

Anything or anyone else, then becomes an enemy – people who don’t see our point of view, people who challenge our assumptions, people who point out imperfections. While some do it to deliberately hurt us, some do it because they care about us, love us, and only want the best for us. Not all that makes us instantly feel good is necessarily good. And not all that makes us instantly feel bad is necessarily bad. Some medicines don’t taste good, but they are good for us. At times like these, it becomes very important to accurately identify an enemy, so that we don’t shoot everyone in front of us. 

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the fear factor

I wanted to do a quick survey and asked a few of my friends about their fears. I mostly got snakes, caves, and wives. Some are even claustrophobic but I mostly got snakes, caves, and wives.

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It certainly got me thinking about my own. So I thought and surrendered. Mine is a 30 second window somewhere between 10:00am and 10:30am every week day. Without fail and without losing any effect, it attacks me religiously. It’s the time of day when I have to take a tablespoon of horrifying cod liver oil. The oil seems so innocent and yet is the devil himself.

In the 15 minutes preceding the event, I have to become Obama, a perfect orator, and inspire myself to balance out the Omega6-Omega3 ratio. I count down from 5, inhale deeply, block out my nose using my left hand, chug that disgusting thing, and chase it with a shot of guacamole.

And the clock starts ticking… 23:59:59!

median, average, or standard deviation

I smile when I see Tom & Jerry but can’t hide away my frown when someone denies me dark chocolate & raspberry truffle; I cry once a month but my own sense of humor usually cracks me up; I fear the unknown and at the same time, the unknown gets me excited; In one moment, I’m ready to take Karma into my own hands, and the very next moment, I see the advantage of the original problem. We each go through a multitude of moods & states of mind but we always find our way back to normalcy, back to the roots – a perfect analogy would be traveling to different countries and coming back home each time – lying down on your bed, driving your own car, and cleaning your own filth. The roots are what define us with little distractions every now & then.

Although, I do wonder what my roots are… what exactly defines me. Is it what I think of myself or is it dependent on others’ perceptions? If I survey 16 people about me, should I take a median, average, or perhaps a standard deviation?

Have you observed that every mirror in the world is different? Some make you look tiny, and some act like a camera – adding 10 pounds each time you look! There are 4 restrooms at my work and my confidence level could shift to 4 varying levels in a single day. Every mirror is different but what remains fixed is my weight, those stubborn inches, and how my jeans fit. Even the specific location for the camera pre-determines the result of a selfie – it’s after all, an exact science!

In the same manner, what others think of you is sometimes a reflection, a result of their roots. The water is colorless but the depth of the ocean, the purity level, and the ocean bed gives it its multiple shades of blue.

By the way, from all the bathrooms, my favorite is the one upstairs – it’s got dim yellow lighting… hides away everything – freckles, wrinkled clothes, extra tires, everything! •wink•

the ugly, the ugly, the ugly

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I have a confession. I confess that every time there is a story on yet another rape in India, I hide. I hide because it gives me chills. I hide because it brings me shame. I hide because it takes me to a place of immense anger, grinding teeth, and dry tears. It makes me go to a place where I want to pick up the same metal rod and stick it incessantly into each of those 6 criminals. Sitting thousands of miles away, I feel the angst of every individual who is protesting against this inhumane crime. We know about the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS, about the undeletable holocaust in Germany, and the slaves of Dubai. These rapes, the cruel intentions, and the unfathomable activities are in no measure, any less.

Coming from a Quality background and with a mind that is trained to do a 5 WHY analysis, I have been searching for a root cause.

Is it the mentality that men are far more superior than women? If it is, then I don’t understand why a lot of goddesses are put up so high on a pedestal and worshipped! We are the country of many goddesses – Durga for power, Sarasvati for education, and Laxmi for prosperity but when you zoom in, we are the same country where many women are forced to get an abortion immediately after the ultrasound. The woman is impregnated again and again and yet again until a boy is born. Watch the movie ‘Bol’ and you will shake for a few hours.

May be what you see is what you become? On a conscious level, and even on a sub-conscious level, we learn from our surroundings and our surroundings start with our home. Home, where a little boy sees his father coming home drunk and beating up his mom. Home, where mother-in-laws join forces against a member of their own species. Home, where a large sum of dowry has to be delivered to marry off a girl. Sure, the law enforcement has prevented people from using the official word ‘dowry’ but the practice is very much active.

Is it perhaps the taboo? A boy & a girl can never be friends so keep them segregated, unacquainted, and un-united? Let the minds be curious and let the lust maximize?

Is it the education or lack thereof, because I just read that AP Singh, a well-educated lawyer involved in the case made a comment about setting his daughter on fire if she were to be engaged in pre-marital activities? This raises 2 questions in my mind – why wouldn’t the sons / brothers engaged in pre-marital activities be also set on fire? And, what is then the impact of education? With an outrage that followed the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case, a slight shift in the education system should be a public demand – classes on self-defense, classes on domestic violence, classes on women rights.

We carry the burden of being a part of a society where the practice of Sati was common, expected, and justified. We have traveled so far and we have a long journey ahead of us. I have heard the complaints, I have read the rants, and I have seen the outrage. It’s now time to become part of the same society to clean it up.

So what can we do? Not the ‘we’ that means the Indian government, Modi administration, and the Judiciary system; ‘We’ that consists of you & I. Here are some of my thoughts:

SELF-DEFENSE

Women should spend some time and take self-defense classes to learn striking & combat techniques that will help in self-protection. There are workshops available for the ‘DARE’ program – Defense Against Rape & Eve teasers. Free options are also widely available – just go to YouTube and type ‘self-defense for rape’ for free online videos.

http://www.kravmagaindia.in/

http://indianwomandefense.tripod.com/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=self+defense+for+rape

PROTECTION

Don’t just leave the house in a hurry – think and think it all through. Carry a few self-protection items in your purse – pepper spray, Swiss knife, or perhaps a screwdriver.

http://www.chilliguard.com

http://www.healthkart.com

http://www.peppersprayindia.com/

STAY IN & STAY COVERED

It is unfair to ask women to stay in at night and sacrifice a bit of their freedom but unfortunately, at this time it would be a smart move. Stay in & stay safe. We have heard shorts are revealing, skirts are inviting, and jeans are basically just asking for it. Forgive me for I have no combinations of words for this particular one!

MORE MEN

Encourage your sons, brothers, and friends to be braver than the bravest they’ve ever been. We need more men on our side – men who respect women, men with integrity, and the non-psycho’s. We need the Indian Army to safeguard our borders, but we also need a massive army to safeguard women within the borders.

PUBLIC VOICES

Only a small percentage of my Facebook friends will read this blog. After an initial awe, be it awesome or awful, everyone would move on to the next article, to their next selfie. What we need is an influential voice. If you are popular in your network, use it to an advantage, for the superior good. I applaud Kalki Koechlin who was one of the first ones to voice a strong opinion on the subject. Javed Akhtar, Jaya Bachhan, and several others are now thankfully raising havoc as well. We need that!

The change is slow but the change is happening. It is happening with BBC’s ‘India’s Daughter,’ with an angry Kirron Kher, and with you reading this blog.

Not all is bad. There is also good in the mix. I read this article and it brought a smile on my face: There is a small village in Rajasthan where they plant 111 trees every time a girl is born.

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-agriculture/village-india-plants-111-trees-every-time-baby-girl-born.html

For me, I don’t want to stop here. I am going to India and preparing to donate pepper sprays to 100 women. I will push my young nieces to get enrolled in the Krav Maga classes. I will educate my nephews on how to be real men. And I will not be shy in writing my opinion.

Photo courtesy: The Indian Express

5 minute vacuum

Technology may be pulling us forward, but our habits have all gone wrong. We wake up to the cacophonies of an iPhone. We engage in 13 actions and respond to 17 emails before even brushing our teeth. We get distracted constantly by constant text messages, useless Linked anniversaries, and invites to play Candy Crush Saga. And now we rely on technology to tell us how sound our sleep was. The goal of every vacation has shrunk to competitively capture the beauty on Instagram. The phrase ‘good morning, so good to see you!’ has been replaced with a lazy-ass soft chin-up movement. How many friends do we have on Facebook that we’ve never even said ‘hello’ to? Those five minutes of ‘nothing-to-do’ vacuum puts a scare and we quickly grab onto any piece of electronic item available in sight.

I wish to go backwards when the times were simpler – the days when your mom woke you up, the days when you ran to the mailbox in hopes of finding a hand-written letter, the days when you didn’t know who’s knocking on your door – lesser bills, blank calendars, and the days of calmer thoughts.

It won’t happen in a day, week, or a month – but slowly and gently, we could insert some old times. A few ideas that I’ve personally implemented:

Deactivate vibration, light-sensor, sounds, and notifications on cell phone. I’ll see that you called, texted, tagged when I see it. I started with constantly looking at my phone every 2 mins, but it has since decreased significantly. At least this way, I can give my full attention to the slice of hazelnut cake, a conversation, or even a thought. Writing this in a stretch also comes easy.

Leave cell phone home when going for crossfit and yoga. After 90 minutes of hard core effort in deep breathing and pushing away the stubborn thoughts, I see a few jumping on their phones eager and desperate to know what changed in those 90 minutes.

Forget your cell phone in the car when going for groceries. I can’t say for all, but grocery shopping brings a natural smile on my face – it’s a Disneyland for the cooking-enthusiasts. Picking just the right bunch of cilantro, comparing fiber content on 8 kinds of multi-grain breads, and choosing the top 2 from the 200 avocados that all look the same is a delight.

Interact once a day, choose to walk up to a person instead of calling or emailing. Say hi, share a joke, exchange a firm handshake, and collect points on human interaction.

Block it all and create a no-screen day – no TV, no iPad, no smart phone, and no laptop. Instead, spend a few hours at Barnes & Nobles, pick up a book to research on your next travel, the Anatomy of your spirit, the Economist, or get updated on the latest Hollywood gossip. If not a fan, walk to the farmer’s market and pick the top 2 avocados. Start a sketch book. Create a puzzle. Write a letter.

Relinquish and let others win – At a meeting, happy hour, or dinner, stack up your S4’s, iPhones, and the rest who think they’re even in the competition! The first one to pull their phone has to pay the bill. I recently forced my ex-boss and colleagues on this and guess who paid the bill?

Create a vacuum for 5-minutes. Think of nothing. Think nothing. Do nothing.

Smile. Create a 5-minute smile window. Smile for the good things in and around you. Smile while remembering a loving moment. Smile for that time when you farted and no one noticed. Smile for falling down in the water while learning how to paddleboard. Smile while thinking of me. Smile for it’s free with no disclaimers in tiny text. Smile just because this exercise feels ridiculous. If nothing, go ahead and click play!

pray for Anya

Anand & Preethi came to US on a 6 months project at Google. They not only brought their software skills, but also their soft charms. Anand mesmerizes the crowd when he sings ‘Mitwa’ and Preethi reveals her magic in the kitchen. If I were to pin a finger on one quality that would be Preethi’s wide smile showing extra clean & whiter-than-the-color white teeth – so white that mine look yellow in comparison! I know them from my good old band days – from 6 years ago.

Even though I physically moved from the Bay Area, I have seen their life story, and their life surrounding little Anya through Facebook. I have seen her grow from 0 to almost 4 along with her art, her dancing, and her mischiefs. I have seen her getting spoilt by both parents.

anya

Now, in order to continue seeing her naughty giggles, I have to do something and I don’t know what. She has been diagnosed with something that comes with a deadline – Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare form of brain tumor with no known cause or cure. I have to do something and I don’t know what. But just knowing about it and not doing anything has me at unrest. As soon as I read about this, within microseconds I saw Rohan, my 4-year old nephew and grew a heavy heart. I can’t even begin to imagine what the family is going through.

I request anyone who’s reading this to join your hands in prayer and pray for this little angel. If you can take out a few hours, please research. If you have any connections with doctors and surgeons, please reach out. If you know of any unconventional methods, share your knowledge.

Please share any relevant information on this link: https://www.facebook.com/prayforanya

I have registered for the Malibu half-marathon and I’ll be running for little Anya, for giving her giggles some courage, for giving her family some strength, and for giving God an opportunity for a miracle.

rock bottom

I may be doing a kick-ass job in managing materials for $20M revenue each quarter, but I’m out of toilet paper. My responsbilities include leading teams on planning ahead, coaching everyone on the PDCA cycle, and incorporating JIT strategies, but I’m out of toilet paper. I may just have to implement a 2-bin, Kanban system at home. You know you have failed in your life when you’re out of toilet paper. I think I have hit rock bottom.

The Japanese JIT strategy minimizes inventory costs, and cost of poor quality. It ensures that you don’t do the work any earlier than it is absolutely required. Well for me, it is going to be my visit to the bathroom early tomorrow morning. There will be no relaxation, no declenching, and no stress-relief. Just the bare minimum to get me out that door.

It’s 11:03pm and I’m afraid to go to bed. I think I have hit rock bottom.

struggles of a mighty spider

I apparently have a roommate – a spider. For the last three times in the shower, I am practically sharing my space. Having received no cashier’s check for rent, my very first instinct was to attack it with a splash of water, just enough to instill some fear and influence its direction outwards. That has not been a major success.

But in my failure, here’s what I have seen – never for even one second has it stopped climbing. The wall is high, slippery and the end blurry but that hasn’t slowed down any momentum. It must be tiring to climb 13 steps only to fall again and again and again. The spider stays stubborn and determined with no signs of losing any hope. There is no gold, no salary, no gift, and no appreciation waiting on the other side. The independent effort is purely for what the spider believes is freedom, or perhaps just the other side of the wall.

It hasn’t eaten in days and there’s no Gatorade in sight. What does a spider eat anyway; I can’t even see its mouth? Never contemplated on that before! Google says the following and I’ll believe it:

All spiders are carnivorous. Most spiders eat insects but a few of the larger species are big enough to prey on small vertebrate animals like mice or small birds. Most spiders’ jaws work from side to side. They have toothed edges used in breaking up the prey during feeding.”

Back to my story – It hasn’t eaten in days and there’s no Gatorade in sight. With no investment in Zoloft and no dependency on whiskey, the spider keeps climbing. I don’t even hear any heart-clenching songs or ‘Bridget Jones’ on TV while eating a pint. It’s been 2 days but the spider remains focused with 100 percent dedication because the only way out is to keep trying.

So much to learn from the struggles of my freeloader roommate – a mighty spider.

The only way out is to keep trying.” – Roohism

hitch hiking in a foreign land

Yes, I’m not going to lie. Among the three of us knowing fluent Hindi, fluent English, fluent Urdu and a bit of broken Arabic, there’s been a language problem. It took us one full day to figure out where to get the bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia. The journey to Otogar (main bus station) just to find this out was an adventure. The local public transportation is solid, only if you know 1) where you are going, 2) how you are going, and 3) the bus number or the metro station nearest to the destination. There is no guide, no brochure, and no information center. And by the time you figure this out, you have already mentally crushed the plan. Stick to the guided tours, and if you are adventurous, you will need to be brave & patient. We enjoy a bit of adventure, a little too much at times.

Can’t believe this but this time, we hitch-hiked on a truck for 70 km. We had already booked and paid for the house and exactly as planned, we also arrived at the Otogar 2.5 hours in advance. But as luck would have it, the only bus now available was to Aksaray, 70 km away from Cappadocia. The explanation by the seller was too convincing “its only an hour away, you take any minibus and no problem, only 10 Turkish Liras!” The bus seat allowed a 45 degree angle, the Turkish MTV was not too far off in competition, the crew served us chilled Pepsi and even checked on the number of travelers after every stop. As soon as we became comfortable, we were unadopted in Aksaray at 5:45am at a gas station where the conductor pointed towards the buses 100 meters away. However, those 100 buses weren’t of any use to us. For a minibus that starts only at 7:00am, we were told to stand by the side of the road and stop one. After waiting and losing hope, we asked the 7th person (in Turkey, it is 7 times a charm) and he was the lucky one to give us a ride. 

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20140711-115637-42997643.jpg The sceneray all around was breathtaking but throughout the journey, I was scared and kept on replaying the fighting match between Papa & the potential kidnapper. Of course, my 3 months of crossfit should come in handy as well. There were thousands of sunflowers to my right, all facing towards the sun but I kept checking out the size of his muscles, tiny. He was pure lean mass which might actually work against us. I bet my friend Mandy would be able to beat the shit out of him! Every 10 km milestone raised my confidence. It was a smart thing that I had already verified the directions on my iPhone so I knew the turns beforehand. The board for Goreme pointed east but he turned north. “Hmmm” I said but then a potential kidnapper wouldn’t offer you freshly picked cherries. We arrived safely and I finally realized there are some honest people still left on the planet who just want to help. The experience gave me chills and added to my adventures, and it also gave me a trigger to write but I’m still not recommending hitch hiking in a foreign land where there has been a language problem.

squatting on the seat

It takes a mental battle every single day to add 10 more pounds than you did last week, to further deepen that squat, or to stop from stopping yourself. Just when the mind says “I can’t,” the mind argues “Or can I?” Every win requires mental strength.

The plant grows based on the nutrients it gets and the size and composition of your belly reflects what you’ve been feeding it. Exactly in the same manner, your mind functions based on the messages it receives. It’s a constant match between ‘yes I can’ and ‘I doubt it!’ Stuff the mind with some positivity and the body shall follow.

There is a continual itch to improve. I’m swaying my eyes left to right wondering if I should say this out loud but every time I sit on the pot, I’m practicing how to get the posture right. I’m literally squatting up and down my toilet seat. Too late to now incessantly beat the ‘backspace’ button since what’s out is out! But yes, there’s an itch to continually improve.

Yesterday I couldn’t, but today I can. Today I can’t, but tomorrow I will. Awareness towards the inabilities is the very first step towards accomplishing it. Sprinkling a bit of 3 of the above will get you to tomorrow. And if not, you’ll enjoy the today much more than you did yesterday because you tried and you gave it your all. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do a hand stand push up, but my smirk says otherwise.

Don’t let the fear victimize you. You start from one single half-ass squat and you build. The beginning may be embarrassing but only the beginning will get you closer to the end. I started in college with no money. I started my career with zero experience. I started running with walking. That’s what you do.

Befriend the unknown and let powers be shown. Go and challenge a few, you just might conquer the new.

“Yesterday I couldn’t, but today I can. Today I can’t, but tomorrow I will.” – Ruhi Rastogi

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