Tag Archives: life

2020 was a long time ago

I’m playing a game of chess while listening to a remix album of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I finished work for the day, went to buy seeds to plant coriander and mint plants in my balcony, ate warm food and an Alphonso mango. In short, life is good.

This playlist always reminds me of the first half of 2020. Hearing about this new disease for the first time in the media and really not caring about it. Then all of a sudden, Berlin case #1 turns out to be a second degree contact.

It was a scary day. I remember fearing fear to the level that I had not experienced before. It was fair, to be honest. No one seemed to know what was happening, and all I was seeing was growing numbers on worldmeters.info‘s coronavirus stats.

Going through my Google Maps timeline shows an interesting stoppage in going to office or getting food outside in the middle of March, which was when I believe it hit us in Berlin, Germany. Within a week or two, most of the city went offline, so to speak.

Seeing the people we always met and hung out with on Google Meet calls was weird at first, and we wondered if things would ever change. It felt persistent and tiring. It felt like things would stay this way forever. It was overwhelming and I’d closely monitor any symptom I was showing and then trying to over fit it to Covid19 (with so many first hand experiences on the internet, almost any general sickness symptom could’ve been attributed to Covid19).

I still remember closing looking at the stats for age vs fatality graphs and convincing myself and my family that it isn’t that bad, although I didn’t believe it fully myself then either.

Masks were the norm. Shops had a N-people-only-inside ordinance, and sanitizing supermarket groceries was common. Entire days were spent just thinking about how life felt like before this new norm, and that was mixed with news of people dying, strangers and familiar names alike.

What a weird time. And I was one of the privileged ones who didn’t actually get affected nearly as much. A work from home job, residence in a country with state healthcare, parents who could afford staying indoors etc. I cannot imagine what it must’ve been for those who weren’t as privileged.

I regret not documenting more of my thoughts from that time. I tried to suppress it, trying to convince myself this is kinda normal. It has been more than four years since those scary first two weeks of lockdown. “Lockdown” feels like a strange word to type, but it had become such an integral part of our vocabularies back then.

It was a troubling time, and we’ve just come out of it, albeit not everyone and not completely. I feel grateful for being able to do the things that we couldn’t do during the covid19 time, things like hugging, eating out and traveling freely. Things that I took for granted before 2020. That year will serve as a good reminder of how quickly life can change, the fragility of it all and the importance to make the most of our now.

Thank you for reading!

I’m A Five Year Old Berliner Today

Some 1,826 days ago I arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport. Missing my connecting flight, losing my luggage due to that and landing in a completely dark, freezing and rainy Berlin wasn’t pleasant, but it also wasn’t that tough. I was just happy that I finally stepped foot in another country, and given how long I prepared for this journey, I was glad it had finally started. The kind HR person from the company I was about to join was at the airport to pick me up which I’m extremely grateful for to this day.

The first super market trip was nerve wrecking, and not just because I only had 100 Euro bills with me and was worried I’ll get yelled at by the cashier. But I managed to have dinner that night (as depicted in my picture above), and sleep well. And then to my surprise I also managed to survive the rest of the week. And the rest of the month, and the year, and then some.

I did more than just survive, as one ought to aspire for. I made friends, traveled to pretty places and ate good food. I learned a new language and experienced a culture that was totally foreign just five years ago. I learned to play a musical instrument, play chess and cook tasty food. I did a lot of what I had only dreamed of, including landing my dream job at Mozilla.

Reminiscing on the time from my first day in Berlin till today, I have a lot to be grateful for, lot to smile about and a lot of notes on how to do better in the future.

I’m writing this eating delicious glutinous rice ball dessert, to celebrate the little milestone. The past few years brought us all a lot of changes, and it feels like the world is caught in turbulence. I wonder if I am only thinking so because I’m getting older and tend to pay more attention to what’s happening around me, or if everything is actually happening faster.

It was undoubtedly an interesting journey living through these last five years here in Berlin, and I’m looking forward to the next.

Thank you for reading!

Living a couple of nights at Marine Drive, Mumbai

When I was little, going to downtown Mumbai used to be exciting. A huge metropolitan city with double-decker buses, zoo, planetarium etc was sure exciting for a kid. Even as a young adult, my university friends and I would take the train to the city center to sit by the water front at Marine Drive or Bandstand. The city of Mumbai has fascinated me for a long time, and I’ve always wondered what it must be like to live in the center.

Of course, living in the fancy areas of downtown Mumbai is close to impossible if you don’t already live there or are extremely wealthy. Since I was neither, it always remained a wonder. Back in the day perhaps I’d have said that I’d love a home in the city center, but lately I’m over that thought. The steeply rising prices, the commodification of places of residence and prevailing view of buying a home as sort of a financial investment has been quite off-putting for me, to the point where I no longer desire to own my own place in the city.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped being fascinated by the idea of living in downtown Mumbai.

Fortunately for me, a friend was visiting Mumbai and decided to book a room in one of the poshiest parts of the city; Marine Drive. The “fortunately” part is about him booking a room big enough to accommodate me during his three day stay in the city.

Living at Marine Drive

So how does it feel to living at Marine Drive? Amazing. With a sea view, the sunsets are a delight to see from a french style full height glass windows. I could see all the people sitting exactly where my friends, family and I have sat numerous times. I woke up early to go for a morning walk and grabed a coffee along the way, something I literally dreamed of doing for years.

Eating casually at some very good restaurants, or going to a evening musical at the Opera House just a short walk away or having problems like having to travel quite far up north to get to the “regular” part of the city were a delight and I felt extremely privileged and fortunately to be experiencing it.

In closing

Yet another of those silly bucket list items got ticked. Sure, living the permanently would be cooler, but this is probably a close second. Or perhaps living there permanently wouldn’t have made me appreciate it as much as I did now.

Even as I was living in that hotel room, I knew how much I’m going to miss the couple of days that I’ll spend there. Now, as I’m writing this, I can see how my past self very accurately predicted that. I’ll end with a picture of sunset over Arabian sea from the hotel room’s window.

view of marine drive from my hotel room

Thank you for reading!

Something about enjoying the journey

Last Sunday I visited the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe near Kassel, Germany. I was wow-ing the entire time at probably one of the most impressive pieces of architecture I’ve ever witnessed with my own eyes. If you do get a chance, I’d highly recommend paying it a visit.

So we started our hike from the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe and started climbing the hundreds of steps that lead all the way up to the Hercules monument. I read somewhere it is a 250 meter elevation. Whenever I paused to take a look at how high I had reached, it got more and more impressive.

I was eager to reach the top. I tried to rush my way through some of the points of interests along the way to reach ever so higher to get a better view. I had my little camera with me, and I wanted to get the best view. Finally, we reached the top of the hill, but there was a whole building up there, on top of which was the Hercules statue.

Of course, I wanted the best view, so I started going up the stairs of the building trying to get ever so higher. The stairs got narrower and narrower as I rushed to the top. But finally, I was there and tried to look outside through the small windows.

The view was underwhelming. It was more or less the same that we’d been seeing for some time during this hike up the tower but this time through tiny windows that had a lot of dust built upon them. I took a picture, and started walking down after not too long up there.

I was thinking about it in the car on the way back to Berlin, and I realized this is just how I sometimes go about my life; rushing towards a goal while not appreciating the views along the way, thinking something better awaits me at the end of it. I’d have slowed down, had I known how little joy the reaching the destination would bring.

Fortunately, I could appreciate everything a bit more on the way down the hill. Unfortunately the same cannot be done with passed time and experiences.

In closing

We live we learn, and such experiences are always a good reminder to slow down and appreciate the views around us; appreciate the present consciously and intentionally for it cannot be re-experienced.

Thank you for reading!

Mai bada hokar kya banunga?

(Note: This article is written in Hinglish, and requires the reader to know Hindi in addition to English)

Socha ek post Hinglish mai likh du. Whatapp aur baki saare apps pe dosto ke sath toh aise hi baatein hoti hai, toh phir iss blog pe kyu nahi.

Koi khaas aisa topic hai nahi mere pass. Saturday ko ek dost se baatein chal rahi thi, aur vo kisi baat pe mazak mai bola “Mai bada hone ke baad…” aur hass diya. Joke yeh tha ki bade toh already ho gaye hai, aur kitna bada hona baaki hai?

Usse milne ke baad jab ghar jaate jaate maine socha, akhir bade hue hi kab? Kab vo pal aaya zindagi mai jab hum sab bade ho gaye. Socha maine akhri baari “Bade hone ke baad…” kab kaha hoga.

Kuch khaas yaad nahi, par shayad college ke shuruvat ke saalon mai. Tabhi vo transition hota hai na, hum chahe jo vo kar sakte hai to humari placement hogi ya nahi. Shayad ussi wakt kaafi logo ke sapne chote ho jaate hai aur life ke boundaries thode jyada clear ho jate hai. Ussi ke sath responsibilities aa jati hai aur society ke set template pe zindagi aage badhti chali jaati hai.

Job, uske baad shadi, shayad bacche, agar naseeb hua toh ek acha ghar, gaadi. Bas yehi sab mai vo “bade hokar kya banana hai” wala savaal kahi dabb jata hai. Aur phir yuhi kabhi baaton baaton mai yaad aa jata hai vo saval, jo bachpan mai kitna aksar pucha jata tha.

Padhne ke liye shukriya!

Recover the cost of a BVG ticket via the USB charging port inside the bus

So I was merrily riding a bus yesterday on my way to Potsdamer Platz for a Dosa lunch when I noticed this:

Image of a usb port inside of the buses in Berlin

And a couple of thoughts hit me: What’s up with the piss stains? 🤷

And something I could actually answer: How long would I need to use this USB port to make up for the 3.20 that I paid for this ticket.

Now, a day later, I have a calm Sunday morning to ponder all of life’s most urgent questions so let’s get back to the thought from yesterday.

Power draw from a USB port

The best way to know exactly how much power I can draw from that port would have been to test it.

The next best thing is to try and guess based on some indicators. From the color of the port, it is safe to conclude it is a USB 2.0 port, and not a USB 3.0 port. From Wikipedia, we see that a USB 2.0 port intended for high power devices allows for a current draw of a minimum of 0.5 amps. The voltage is also standardized to 5 volts.

Amperes times Voltage gives us the power output of the port, which is 0.5 amps x 5 volts which is 2.5 watts (again, at a minimum).

Measuring power consumption

2.5 watts is the power that can be drawn from the port. To calculate how much energy can be consumed over a given time period, we need to simply multiple the watt number by the time number. Typically, it is measured in watt-hours.

My electricity company bills me for the kilowatt-hours I consume. If I use my TV that’s rated at 100 watts for 10 hours, it will be billed as 1000Wh, or 1kWh of energy consumption.

Price of electricity in my area

Electricity does not cost the same everywhere, and not even in the same area. Even the same provider might use different prices depending on the time of consumption and a whole list of other factors.

Looking at Vattenfall’s website (an electricity provider here in Berlin), I can see prices range between 25.07 cents / kWh and 33.37 cents / kWh. To make it easy for calculations, I’m going to go with 30 cents / kWh (all cents).

How much electricity can I buy for the cost of a BVG ticket?

For €3.20, the price of a single BVG ticket at the time of writing, I can consume (3.20 / 0.30) kWh, which is 10.667 kWh (or 10,667 Wh) of energy with my current electricity provide.

How long do I need to use the USB port to cover the cost of the ticket?

To find the time duration in which our 2.5W port will output 10,667Wh of energy, we simply need to divide the target consumption number by our consumption rate:

10,667 (Wh) / 2.5 (W) = 4,266.8 hours (the Watt unit nicely cancels out giving us the number of hours)

Which is roughly 177.8 days, or just under 6 months.

This time can roughly be cut by half if BVG changes the USB ports to 3.0 guaranteeing a minimum current draw of 900mA but I’m not holding my breath.

How much will a ticket effectively cost if I make full use of my ticket’s validity to charge a device?

Now of course being in a bus for 6 months is going to cost more money for season ticket and I might never recover my full ticket.

But what about the journey that I’ve already paid for? A BVG single ticket is valid for 2 hours. If I make 100% use of the time a ticket is valid for to charge my device, what’s the effective cost of my ticket?

At a minimum of 2.5W for 2 hours, I’ll consume at least 5Wh. At 30 cents / kWh, that’s 0.15 cents worth of electricity.

That’s 0.15 cents or €0.0015 that I can immediately recover from my ticket price, effectively making my single journey BVG ticket cost not €3.20, but a jaw dropping €3.1985 😎🫡

In conclusion

So there you have it. Go grab your 0.047% discount on BVG tickets! Subscribe for more financial tips. Thank you for reading!

Want to write more

Back in the day, I’d try to publish an article every month on my blog. It was difficult, but I’d still manage it for most part. I just looked at my last published article, which was in March, and the plethora or drafts sitting there, receiving little to no love.

Whenever I come across blogs with last published articles from years ago, I wondered what might’ve happened. Why (and how) do some people manage to keep publishing long form content after all these years, while others have given up on blogs. Some of them have done so in favour of more short form content that has taken over the web in the last decade or so. And of course, there’s a whole spectrum in between, where I see myself right now.

I came across this idea of perceived cost of doing things, depending on how much time it takes. For example, if I have an article that took my 2 months to finalise (and thus get satisfaction from), my brain might associate the cost of writing a long form article to be 2 months, thus discouraging me from picking up my computer to write again. If the actual satisfaction is derived from people finding my writing useful, then the gratification is delayed by several months or even years.

Creating a meme for Instagram, on the other hand, gets me gratification within minutes. Of course I know how these things work. But possession of a piece of knowledge isn’t very useful if it cannot be applied in a meaningful way.

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong about creating short form content, and there’s nothing superior about people who create long form content. Personally, as long as I retain my ability to do either when I wish, I’d be pretty happy. I want to make memes and make my friends laugh, and keep publishing valuable content on the internet.

And that’s why I started writing in the morning today as I was on my way to meet some friends: To publish it immediately and remove some of the cost burden that has creeped into my head around publishing on my blog. Hopefully I can write more soon.

Thank you for reading!

Focusing on the beauty in the world with a camera

In late 2021, my friend Ed handed me his Canon 7D for me to try my hands at photography. I already had an itch to get into it but didn’t have the “gear”, or so I told myself. The camera came without a lens or SD card so I rode my bike to the Saturn store at Alexanderplatz and got myself a Nifty-Fifty; a Canon 50mm f1.8 lens. It is still to this day the most fun-to-shoot-with lens I own.

I’ve taken thousands of pictures since then. What’s changed between owning a smartphone (that features brilliant cameras) and owning a dedicated camera is that when I have a dedicated camera on me, I go looking for something interesting, something beautiful, something funny, something new. It is deliberate and intentional.

The world is full of patterns, symmetry, life, history, people, clues, colors, shades. There’s just so much that sparks curiosity. Would I find it interesting even if I wasn’t trying to take a picture? Probably. The camera on me reminds me frequently that I’m trying to focus on the beauty in the world that I can sometimes forget to notice.

Having a camera just gives me an excuse to step out, wander around, stare at walls, look at people and dogs and cats and insects and flowers.

The best camera is the one you have you on

I’ve read this quote at a bunch of places, and that’s why I got a paid pro camera app for my iPhone last year. A smartphone is perfect as a camera. It is always there, always charged and it is getting better at a rate faster than any dedicated camera system can imagine. It is getting to the point where smartphones are taking pictures that isn’t reality but what the phone thinks you wanted to shoot, but that’s a different topic.

But smartphones don’t just take photos. They have our social and work life on them, and they’re always connected. I struggle to stay intentional about anything with a smartphone around me, probably because it does so many things. And that constant state of being distracted by nothing in particular is quite exhausting.

What I wanted, for lack of a better excuse, was a camera that was just a camera. And that’s why I decided to get my self a relatively cheap point and shoot camera from Sony.

With the little Sony, it is as fun to take pictures with as my DSLR, but at the same time it is more subtle and it fits in my other pocket. It is like the best of both worlds! Of course, it isn’t without its drawbacks. It needs to be charged separately from the smartphone, the photos are worse than the DSLR and so on. But it is always with me and it forces me to be intentional with my hobby which makes it all worth it.

Photography as a memories generation tool

I remember watching this video where that idea of routine making time fly faster was exposed to me. I watched it many years ago and thought it was very true, although I had not had any real routine back then. Today, I kinda still think it holds true.

Photos are a good way to get back some memories, especially when they’re taken intentionally. I read somewhere that good photographers are intentional with their shots. They try to remember what made them take a picture. There’s a story associated with a picture in their heads that they can tell you. It isn’t about the camera or the lens or any of the technicality. Just the moment captured on film.

I’m trying to copy this–to think why I’m taking a picture before clicking the shutter button so that when I’m looking at the pictures later, I can really remember the scene very vividly; the scene in the frame, sure, but just as importantly, the scene outside of the frame–the sun’s warmth or the cold wind and rain on my skin, the sounds and my thoughts, and also did I decide to take picture of this very thing of all the other things. Like a wormhole back to that moment in time. That somehow helps make memories easier to go back to and make the time spent doing event the mundane-est of things count.

In closing

That was a bit all over the place, so apologies if you kept searching for a topic in this article and failed to find it. I just wanted to get it out. On a different note, I want to document my photographs better, but I’ve not found a good way to do so. Instagram isn’t ideal, and while Flickr might work, I find myself questioning how long will it be around. In the end, I think hosting an image gallery plugin on WordPress with my showcase-worthy photos might be a good idea. We shall see.

Thank you for reading!

Letter To My 18 Year Old Self

I have a love-hate relationship with articles such as this. On one hand, the thought of going back in time and changing certain decisions is always fascinating, and documenting some of those thoughts into text that I can keep coming back is alluring. What is also appealing is to have this documented as a reference for my future self who’d probably (read: most likely) also want to write back to his 18 year old (or 27 year old self 🤷‍♂️, who knows).

But on the other hand, articles with titles such as this are so cliche that they don’t feel sincere and make me cringe. What’s even the point of publishing it? Don’t I believe that my current state defines the combined success or failure of all my past decisions and events in my life? If I’m happy with the state of affairs in my life right now, doesn’t that mean everything in the past kinda worked out in the end?

I don’t know. My current philosophy doesn’t allow for an article like this one, for it doesn’t make any sense to wish for the possibility of a different present when I have the certainty of my current present, which I believe I’m okay with. But then, why stop myself from writing down all the lessons that I’ve learned ever since I turned 18. I guess I could post that under a less cringey title along the lines of “Generic useful lessons in life”.

But then, useful to whom? When? Would I like it to be handed over to me when I was 5? 10?

Exactly. We’ll move in circles here and never get anywhere. That’s probably the reason this article has been a draft for a year or more. But I think I’ll have to get it out of my head first, and deal with the above thought later. Having cleared that, let’s get started * snaps finger *

The satisfaction of reaching a goal is so much smaller than the satisfaction of doing something you love, so love the process for that’s where most of the satisfaction lies

Quotes that urge us to enjoy the climb more than the peak, the journey more than the destination or something along those lines are dime a dozen. Being a quote-collector, I’ve known them forever.

But it is only after repeatedly going through the same journey over and over again — desiring something, working my way towards it and then eventually getting it — have I learned that the joy of having achieved something is minuscule compared to the joy I got along the way doing the thing I loved.

Happiness derived from external sources is very limited, and once the basics are covered, very superficial

Very similar to the previous point, but with an important distinction. Time and again, something has repeated:

  • I’ve desired something materialistic
  • Spent countless hours reading about it and contemplating about the joys its possession will bring me
  • Eventually acquiring it
  • Only to have the joy feel underwhelming after a matter of minutes of doing it

And then recently I came across this quote

“Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his 1841 essay, “Self-Reliance.”

I think what Emerson is trying to say is that trying to fix something that’s an issue on the inside by changing something on the outside seldom, if ever, works. But if you’ve ever spent hours browsing Amazon out of boredom thinking the new iPhone or Sony’s new mirrorless camera will make you content and solve all of your life problems, and were lucky to actually be able to buy it, you’ll know that the satisfaction was very short lived and things go back to being exactly the way they were before.

We also vastly overestimate how much joy we’d get from achieving our material goals. Getting to a higher salary, or a dream job, or the latest iPhone; I realized how little joy the outcome eventually brought compared to the misery that the desire for it brought.

Friends and family are what keep you going even on the gloomiest days

I arrived in Berlin on a very cold and gloomy day, and the next few weren’t any different. Unable to cope, and having had my luggage misplaced, I was naturally sad after the second day, asking why was I even there.

Just sitting quietly in my bedroom having exactly 0 friends in this new city, I was feeling (what I’d later learn) the seasonal low mood sprinkled over homesickness. Then I got a call from a friend back home. Then my parents called me. And within an hour or so, I was actually happy I was in Berlin, went out for a walk and had some kebab 🥙

Case in point, I learned that my brain is easily tricked into happiness by interacting with people I love and care about. Just a casual chat a day with a friend keeps me in generally good mood. It is like a tonic for my mental health, doubling as first aid when time comes.

Hence, I think it is important to always have people that one can open up with. These people don’t magically appear but have to be invested in over years to cultivate such relationships and that’s something I really value in my life today.

Bad decisions attract bad circumstances which bring a bad state of mind, and a bad state of mind brings more bad decisions. Works just as well with good decisions

Or the snowball effect. Habits, outcomes of decisions and events in our lives, both good or bad, generally start small and they slowly spiral and become greater in magnitude and have a greater influence on our lives.

For this reason, I think it is important to 1. Be mindful of smaller problems that might have the potential to spiral into bigger ones, 2. Have people around you who can point out and alert you of the small cracks developing and 3. Believe that little good habits, however small, will compound with other little good habits and bring much greater good than their perceived insignificance.

Be aware and intentional

David Foster Wallace’s speech titled this is water talks about learning how to think, how to chose what we think about inside our minds irrespective of what’s happening outside of it, to be in control of our thoughts. I’d highly recommend you listen to it.

Like many, I found the speech very educational, and decided to not only be more attentive of my thoughts and the way I think about things, but also be very intentional about my actions. For me, it means to jump out of the default setting and steering the direction in which I mind decides to run with a thought after having passed it through my values filter.

It also means that when something doesn’t work out, it is usually not a sad outcome, but an educational one because I chose this version of reality over the others, and accepted the risks and rewards associated.

In closing

Phew, that was not easy to write. But I’m happy I did. I can already see myself coming back to this article from time to time. I hope you found some value in the text above

Thank you for reading.

Twenty-seven 🎂

I turned 27 a month ago. I’ve not written a birthday post in a while (last time was turning 24, three years ago) so decided to write something for this one. Not that 27 is a special year or anything (well, I guess it is (un)special in the sense that it only comes once in a lifetime). However I do somehow feel 27 is a round number.

It is hard to explain, but I think I’m at the line that separates an early adult and a full real adult. It’s complicated, and I feel like neither to be very honest.

This year was quite exciting, from settling into my new role at CareerFoundry as a web & security engineer, to traveling around a bit, to getting my dream flat in the Neukölln district of Berlin (only to lose it six months later, but hey, not everything has to work out :), to getting my dream job at Mozilla, it has been a really happening year.

I’m really looking forward to this year. New job, new apartment, new part of the city, new technologies to learn and master. So much to be excited about. I decided to write more starting on my birthday, and I’ve been seeing good progress in the last month and a half since then. I’ll document my note-taking habit in an article about Obsidian soon.

My hope for the next one year is to get some stability into my life which got a bit rough in H2. Also hope to do well at work and life in general, but we’ll see that.

Currently I’m into this game called Life is Strange and have been listening to sound tracks from it. I play chess around once or twice per day, and sometimes paint.

Work takes up most of my time, but that’s expected and I’m really enjoying the new learnings coming my way. Overall, life’s good. I’ll go into more detail regarding some of the things I’m up to in separate articles.

Thank you for reading!