Shopping for Electronics

I recently went shopping for a washing machine. Our decades old legendary Hitachi finally breaking down often, we decided this was the best time to get one. In any other household, this would have been easier because of past experiences of brands, shops and after sales services. In our case, we were buying a washing machine after almost half a century. Yeah. All hail the Hitachi PAF-820.

How this thing came into being is forgotten now but as per my dad, he bought this beast when he was traveling through Singapore and Malaysia sometime in the 70s. This thing has NEVER broken down in all these years. Not once. We’ve never had to call for repairs all these years. It kept doing its job everyday without fail and without breakdown. Such things are unheard of in today’s day when home electronics don’t last beyond 5-10 years depending on what it is. Anecdotes from relatives and friends heard over the years is that Air conditioners and fridges typically last a decade or less, Televisions get problematic withing 5 years, washing machines between 5-7 years, irons last anywhere between 2-5 years. Our washing machine has broken all sorts of estimates.

When you want to buy something like this for the first time, you tend to ask a few people so you get a general idea of what to expect and its generally a good thing to do in a country like India because not only do you get a general review of the product but also the manufacturer, the after sales, the shop you buy it from, offers, discounts, etc etc. All this information would be fantastic if it wasn’t full of biases, outright lies, misinformation, lack of technical knowledge, buyers remorse and what not.

Its often tiring to weed through all this and find some grain of truth because once you ask someone they inundate you with all this and more. And it doesn’t stop. These things are often a topic of general talk and debate in family gatherings. My mom must have casually mentioned that we might need a new machine soon and pretty much all the people in that room had their washing machine bible ready and started suggesting the instant she finished that sentence. I get that they’re trying to help. But most of them don’t understand what they’re talking about. I have seen a pattern to these discussions where various biases for various things often get mixed up and shared. Some examples –

  1. The Retailer – The retailer is the first target of any kind of bias because you have to first go visit a few retailers to get a general idea for the various models, prices, offers, discounts, after sales (from the retailers side) and everything else. As per many people I know, if a retailer fails to provide – a good discount, a good price, a good offer, freebies, extra after sales, timely delivery (in any order) they’re bad forever. FOREVER. Its a forbidden place now. Apparently you won’t get ANY good deals on ANYTHING henceforth and you should stay away from this place FOREVER as if it has the plague. Hyperbole, I know. But this is what some genuinely believe. Reliance, Croma, Next, Vijay Sales or the local shop all suck because THEY could not get the required deal and the other place, which is either Croma, Next, Vijay Sales or some other local shop, is good because they gave you what you wanted. Basically all retailers suck and all retailers are amazing at the same time.
  2. The Manufacturer – After seeing the choices you ask which brand is best and everyone will again give different answers. Some of the answers are downright weird like my all time favorite shit argument “the products of X brand suck now because its made in China now instead of Japan/Korea/Taiwan/Germany/USA” and my next favorite shit argument “It sucks because I had a bad experience X number of years ago and therefore you should stay away from them too”. Apparently Samsung is good now because everyone knows and buys Samsung phones. LG is always something you buy after you don’t get your primary choice. Whirlpool and Voltas are something you don’t even consider till you see the price differences because their branding is such. Siemens, Bosch are something you don’t even remember exists because zilch marketing and are good because German. Then there are those forgettable in-store brands which are just branded Chinese imports. People often forget that just because their Samsung phone is top notch doesn’t mean their ACs, fridges and washing machines would be the same. These shit tier per-concieved notions often make it difficult to purchase anything.
  3. Idiotic Beliefs & Practices – If all of the above was not enough, there are ignorant, baseless and downright stupid arguments that get thrown around as a counter argument to buying certain kinds of electronic items. The most popular target is the microwave. Retarded arguments like Microwaves cause cancer and what not are always discussed by misinformed and ignorant people who parrot whatever they heard by other such people without questioning it. Another popular target is the cell phone. Televisions were a prime target back in the CRT days. WhatsApp copy pastas are often shared about these things. When these types of points are discussed, you know its time to keep quiet and move on to a different topic altogether because the original point has been lost.

I just keep quiet for most of such discussions because it is futile to correct people’s misconceptions if they are not willing to be open minded. Yes, I do speak when there is a chance that someone will appreciate what I have to share. After much thought, we bought a Siemens front load washing machine after ignoring much of what people said.

To keep it simple, keep quiet and enjoy the popcorn. Do your own research and buy what is best for you. It’s your money after all!

Dealing with driver pee breaks

I think I have the worst luck when I book a ride through Ola or Uber. I somehow always end up with a driver who needs to take a pee break DURING the ride. I think I got 4 rides on my last 10 where the driver asks me if he can stop for a minute so he can empty his bladder. What can you even do in such a situation? I can’t deny because that would be inhuman and at the same time I am still being billed. And if this awkward situation wasn’t enough, this always happens when you need to be somewhere urgently or whenever you are in a hurry.

Today I was headed to Mulund in the morning and the ride was fantastic till I was about 2 lanes away from my destination. The driver pulls over near a public toilet and asks me if he can be excused. As if I have a choice. In my head I was telling him we are TWO LANES away, just drop me and empty your bowels while in reality I just said “oh ok”.

I get it. You gotta go when you gotta go. Its an unstoppable force. You’d drop everything and go too. Holding it in can cause a lot of problems and its never a good thing to hold it in for too long and too frequently. I think drivers of all kinds have trained themselves to have a holding tank instead of bladders. When your job is to drive all day, you’d maximise your time too. Pee breaks during a cab ride make more sense as a driver than while waiting to accept a ride because what if a ride pops up on your console and you are busy in the bathroom? That’s money down the drain!

But as a consumer its also fair to expect your driver to be fully prepared for a trip which includes emptying your bowels before a ride. Its only fair. You can’t blame nature for this all the time. Pee breaks during a ride should be an exception not the norm. And if you have repeated experiences like me you would eventually end up denying a driver a break during a ride because you are in a hurry and because you’ve had similar stoppages for no fault of yours too often in the past and have had enough of this. It starts to feel like a Modus Operandi of the drivers to bill you for their problem.

This isn’t an Indian problem. This is something that happens everywhere. I came across this article on drivers and bathroom breaks in the US on The Ringer. Its pretty startling as a non-American to read about pee-bottles and such other techniques drivers resort to to not waste time. As a passenger it grosses me out even more. This thread on uberpeople.net which is a forum for all sorts of drivers highlights the driver side of the problems and hacks some drivers use in such situations. Both highlight the human side of this problem which makes you wonder what would YOU do if you were in their place?

Whatever way you look at it, I think the best possible way is to just let them go. It is inhuman and impossible to judge a person who needs to go in such a situation. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, be wary of where they are stopping, especially at night time. If you are alone, you can always deny or tell them to stop over at the nearest fuel station or a restaurant where you would not be alone and maybe take a break yourself too.

 

How i overcome lethargy & lack of interest to exercise.

Today, like many many other days i felt like not going to the gym. There was no valid reason for this feeling. It just happens. The whole day i would be looking forward to going, pumping myself up throughout the day and playing scenarios in my head about what i would be doing today and how i am going to have loads of fun. When the time comes near, i start reconsidering and start thinking twice.

Some of the thoughts that come in my head during this time are –

  • “What if i skipped today?”
  • “I’ll not go and make up for it later”
  • “Just too tired”
  • “i give up, i want the day to end now”
  • “I dont have any energy or capacity to go tonight”
  • “I am too bored to go”

My gym is right next door. I have to walk 20 steps to reach there. Despite that i play up these things in my head and skip many times. I dont know why i do it but i do. Today was just like those days. I took out my gym wear, packed up and then my thoughts went astray and i started unpacking, My mind fights my heart and ultimately the mind wins. I say the above things in my head to justify myself and feel better.

Today though, i did not let this happen. Even though i unpacked, i sat and took 2 minutes and took out my weighing scale and weighed myself. Not much difference in my weight from 2 days ago but it was a reminder as to WHY i need to go. The numbers on the scale pushed the block away from my head and i went.

Not only did i go to the gym but i ran the most i have on a treadmill in my entire life. I ran and i ran and pushed myself. I went from “I am not going to gym today” to “running the most i have ever in my life”. All it took was a grim reminder – the numbers on the weighing scale.

I don’t know if this struggle will ever go away. It happens everyday. But each time i push myself and go, is a day i conquered my mind. Terry Crews in a Reddit AMA gave some really good advice to overcome this lack of motivation and lack of interest and honestly, i have used this many times and it has worked. I don’t think i will ever come across anything so simple and effective –

This is a constant battle. I hope a day will come when i don’t have these thoughts in my head anymore. Till then Terry Crew’s advice and my weighing scale should be enough to push me to go.

One Year Later

I completed one year at my gym this month and it is an overwhelming feeling to be honest. I had no hope that i would make it this far, let alone anybody else. It has been one excruciatingly painful and happy journey. Painful & Happy? Yes. Its that pain that you endure to overcome something troubling you. That pain feels good. It’s the same happy pain you feel when you beat the odds and the doubters. It feels good. 

Summer 2012 was a turning point for me. I kept falling sick, i kept having mood swings and temper problems and frequent stomach upsets and backaches. I have had sinusitis since i was a kid and it is always a bitch when it acts up. I don’t know how being overweight affects sinusitis but it acted up a lot that summer resulting in frequent fevers, ear pain and blocked nostrils. All this, all summer. I had had enough of this. It was time for change. And don’t even get me started on the sweating. I was a heavy sweater. Was.

A family physician is your best friend during such times. Two are even better. I consulted them on putting an end to this unfit lifestyle and getting healthy. It was the starting point of this transformation. Along with their help, i read and searched articles and inspiring ‘fat to fit’ stories of real people. Arm yourself with knowledge about weight loss and do not believe anything that sounds too good to be true. Explore all sides of anything you read. There is no magic pill, so don’t bother looking for one. Instead, learn about your own body, its likes, dislikes and also learn about your food. What works for you and what doesn’t. Set realistic goals instead of stupid ones. Real ones were 3 kilos a month. Stupid ones were 10 kilos in 2 months. I learnt my lessons. 

Then i joined the nearest gym. This is important. If you have a gym near you, go there. A gym near to where i live was the biggest motivation for me to go EVERYDAY. There are at least 5-6 gyms in and around the place i live. They are absolute best, top of the line gyms. But i decided to go to the nearest one. Its nothing compared to the biggies but you get what you pay for. It would have been no use to me to come home from work in the evening, get ready, travel/walk far to the best gym, workout, then travel/walk back home. That did not look good at all. Especially when the nearest gym was 5 steps away. I cannot emphasize this more: GO TO THE NEAREST GYM POSSIBLE.  

The first 2-3 months were nothing but experiments on my body conducted by me.  At the gym i did what my trainer told me to do and nothing else. At home i ate only and only healthy food. Salads, no ghee/oil, no fried foods, no sugary drinks, no white bread, no overeating, no heavy foods, no eating when not hungry, more water, more greens, more fresh and raw food, more fruit. Oatmeal became my best friend. Whenever i was hungry, a bowl of flavored oatmeal was enough. An Apple instead of biscuits, Water or lemonade instead of soda or other other sugary drinks,  I walked more. I would walk wherever possible instead of taking the taxi or bus. I discovered i can walk atleast 2 – 3 kilometers without breaking a sweat and quickly too. This was such a money saver too! 

I stopped having unhealthy fast food. Everytime i found myself in a situation where i was in a restaurant or coffee shop with friends or colleagues or at family functions, etc. I would fill myself up with a lot of Water first. Then would proceed to order to eat the healthiest looking options. Not eating what makes you happy or what you like, just because you are trying to get fit is a BAD IDEA in my opinion. It does not hurt to eat what you like every once in a while. For me every 7 to 10 days i’d eat what i like. Although in a limited quantity. But i did. I never restricted my diet to such an extent that it would begin to feel like a punishment. Its important to do this to keep yourself motivated. Food is the biggest change you will make when wanting to get fit and healthy. It is the BIGGEST deciding factor whether you succeed or not. Do not give up on anything, instead be smart and eat smart and do not suppress temptation.  

Meanwhile, at the gym, i pushed myself to breaking points in the first month. Anyone new to gyming will probably go through this. You give it all instead of pacing yourself. I gave it all everyday and it hurt like hell the next day. Sometimes it hurt so much that i could not go to work. My legs, stomach, abdomen, hips, back, arms, hands, shoulders, biceps, everything hurt. Sometimes everything hurt together and sometimes in pairs. If it hurts, you are doing fine and it will stop hurting later. Do not give up because of pain. Your body is undergoing changes and hence it takes time to adjust. I’d take a day or two off in a month but not more than that. Because in the beginning each day you miss, it hurts more the next.

I measured my weight (113 Kgs.) at the beginning. I was so grossed out i wanted to break the machine. Just to be accurate, i measured it on 2 machines, one at the gym and one at home. Do not rely on one machine alone as these things can be wonky especially if they are old. After the first 2 weeks, i measured again and had lost a kilo. Somehow i found this very humorous. That’s it? That’s all it took? 2 weeks to lose a kilo? WTF!  This was what drove me more and more. After 3 months, Slowly, i was reducing. I saw the change in front of the mirror. Then come your first compliments from friends and family. Then the jeans and pants and shorts were starting to get loose. Yeah. I was getting there. 

Transformation of the self is not easy. It cannot be done overnight. I knew i had to change my mental self along with my physical self too. I needed some mental peace which i had very less of in the past. I was always worried about something or the other. It was easy to piss me off. I needed to change all of this along with my physical self. I know it sounds easy and unbelievable but i did this by changing small things about my daily life. First, i stopped reading and watching the news. I read only 2 tabloids instead of 6 (4+2 tabloids) newspapers. I stopped watching ALL Indian News Channels. These things are a cancer to the mind. I knew if the news was important, it would reach me somehow and that i need not know everything. I need not keep watching this shit-fest everyday on TV. The result was immediate. A week later i was already less stressed. Secondly, i accepted myself, who i was, how i was and made peace with that. I am what i am and i can only change the bad things about me and replace them with something good (for egs the physical change i was undertaking). This reduced my anger quite a bit. I did not get angry on anyone and instead thought from their perspective and that helped not only me but the person i was angry on too. Peace became my mantra. I stopped arguing with cab and rickshaw drivers and paid them extra if they agreed on the first go. If i could not pay extra i knew i could atleast thank them. Small gestures. Small changes. Big difference. But sometimes i still tend to stress alot, worry alot and have a temper. But its lesser than ever before. Anger is rare now. No one is more glad about it than me. Mental transformation was faster and it boosted my morale. 

I had a few hiccups and hurdles along the way. But after a year and losing 15 kilos, i am hovering in the late 90s. According to my BMI i should be around late 80s. Which is roughly 10 kilos more. As of today, i want to reach that target before the end of the year. It will take time. But i will get there. I know what works and what doesn’t now. So this next phase will be more easier and less painful. My trainer is smart and knows when to push me and when not to.

 I celebrated the occasion with 2 bowls of Masala Oatmeal Khichdi for dinner and a small square of dairy milk chocolate. It was all what i needed to celebrate the occasion. 

The Flute Seller

Every month or so a Flute Seller passes by my building playing one of his many flutes and capturing people’s attention with his sweet magical tune. It had been a while since he had passed by. In all the noise outside my window of people talking and going about their lives, the traffic, the incessant honking of cars and the motorcycle engines coughing away loudly, the flute seller’s simple tune caught my attention while i was reading the newspaper. I immediately got up and went to the many windows of my house but failed to catch a glimpse of him. But i could hear his music. He was playing a very nice melody that is still humming in my head. It brought peace and made me smile. 

His simple wooden flute was making such wonderful music that i forgot about my newspaper, my breakfast, the traffic noise and was completely mesmerised by his enchanting and magical harmony. It was such a beautiful composition. I just wanted him to play that flute all day and i wanted to leave everything i was doing and sit besides him and listen to him like Radha would when Krishna would play his divine flute. It is said that sometimes Krishna would speak to Radha through his flute and only Radha would understand perfectly. For her, the music of Krishna’s flute was more than words. A Legend goes that once, Lord Krishna asked his devotees what they would like to become in his hands. Some said the lotus, some the conch, some the chakra and so on, but no one mentioned the flute. Krishna advised them to become his flute He said that in the human personality structure is the same as the flute. There are 8 main parts: The five organs of perception, mind, intellect, and ego. If you get rid of your ego and become like a hollow reed flute, then the Lord will come to you, pick you up, put his lips and breathe through you and, out of the hollowness of your heart a captivating melody will emerge for everybody to enjoy. 

The very fact that the sound of the Bansuri (Flute) stood out from everything around me, caught my attention and made me want to get up and search for the flute seller, speaks for itself. 

I wonder if he is able to sell any flutes to the children of today. I hope he is able to. Because in our daily life surrounded by technology and our present working lifestyle, we forget to hear the simple sounds of nature and instead are plugged in to music from our phones. We keep listening to it on loop wherever we go even if it is for five minutes. Sometimes, one should just leave everything and try listening to the birds chirping, the sound of rain falling and thunder, the silence of the night and maybe even try looking for the flute seller. 

That Irritating Writer’s Block

William Goldman once said ‘The easiest thing to do on earth is not write’. He was right. It is hard to write. Especially hard when you need to come up with something to write every single day. Especially hard when you have to finish writing a book. Especially hard when people don’t realize how hard it is to sit down and write even a decent sentence and expect you to churn out page after page of mind-blasting writing. For some people, writing comes naturally and they are able to write as and when they want and keep doing so for the rest of their lives. For people like me, who are finicky and picky about almost all the things that come to mind, writing is like being a tea taster. You sip and taste hundreds of cups a day until you get the right taste and smell of the tea.

I see everything around me and think ‘Wow, that is such an interesting topic to write about’ and by the time I sit to write about it I go ‘Meh, leave it’. You can say that I am lethargic, but then again, it is severely difficult to write. I am a sucker for quality and don’t settle for anything which doesn’t match my expectations. This is the same reason I take such a long time to write. I want each and every word to be just right and be interesting and engaging. I don’t want to be termed as a serial ranter who has too much time on hands and too much to complain about. I have an opinion and I like to put it into words. I don’t want to write just for the heck of it, but for my own contentment.

It is liberating to put out your opinion on a public platform. When I write, I am just emptying my head of that particular thought. It makes me feel good. I start feeling significant on this planet.

Quite frankly, I hate editing and reviewing. I just like to put out the things I write as they are. It doesn’t matter if its messy and all over the place. I know editing and reviewing is important but writing is more important. Perhaps thats one of the reason I write so less. That thought of sitting and editing and reviewing what I wrote. Imagine, sitting and reading, reviewing and editing all your Tweets of the past one year. Daunting right?

Add the pressure of College and studies and your personal life. So little time is left to clear your head and start writing. Its important to have a clear head to write. Other wise your writing will come out biased and very very shitty. But by the time I am done checking my emails, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, my energy is drained and I don’t feel like writing.

So is all this counted as a writer’s block? Maybe. More than that it is distraction i suppose. Its best to write when you are completely disconnected from the world. Thoughts will flow freely that way and hence writing will be honest. Yes, thats all I need to do!