Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Year in Review

There is this stupid trend, which I try to follow every year, which is to write about my year on the last day. While I haven't been regular with these posts in last couple of years, I thought, I should keep up with the tradition. The primary reason, why I did not write in last couple of years, was that I found the updates to be mundane, routine and not worth writing about ( the saved, unpublished drafts would be a testimony to that). However, while going through some of the previous posts of my year in review ( apart from being horrified about how badly I wrote), I was surprised that I did not find the instances mentioned routine or dull. What seemed like routine then, now seems like a point of view about the world at a particular age. So well, that brings me to write about my year in 2014.

2014, a year in which a lot happened. Change of government at the centre and state. A football world cup with Germany winning ( though the semi final was the game which would be talked for years to come). A flight disappeared from the face of the planet, while another one was shot down to feed hubris of one man. The Indian stock market raced upwards, while the world melted down around us. Rise of ISIS, Peshawar Attack, Great Game for Oil, Narendra Modi, tension at the border and all that. But this was the general news, how was my year, personally?

  • I took a long family holiday to Europe. Visited Paris, Lucerne, Lugano, Milan, Innsbruck and Zurich. Trekked a lot, stayed in the finest of hotels, appreciated art and history of Europe and had some great meals. However, when I look back, if I had to choose one moment, it would not be the monuments or the hotels or the malls. In Lugano, we trekked for two hours to reach a small village called Gandria on the other side of the hill. There, we found a small family owned quaint restaurant overlooking the river. I probably had the best pasta, I ever had there, in that quiet moment, over looking the river while the kids played around and some one was playing the piano. 

  • Talking about trips, I went on my first camping trip in the lower Himalayas. Me, Himanshu, Sambhav, Pama and Elodie trekked to the base camp of Deo Tibba mountain. Did I enjoy it? May be, May be not? My reasons for going on the trek were different. I went on it, because I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone. For the longest time, I have preferred the sea to the mountains ( still do), however as a friend puts it " When you stand in front of the mountain, you realise your place in the world". Perhaps, I wanted to face my fear of heights, perhaps I wanted to be away from civilisation, whatever it was, it was fun! The fact that I walked on a single unpaved meandering path at 14000 ft where a single slip would have sent me hurtling down is something I am proud of. The two sun rises which I witnessed on the trek were a sight to behold. There is something romantic as to how sun rises in the mountain, the way the light bathes the upper reaches and then when the first rays, finally hit you, you have no option but to bow down. On the first night, I also had sort of a spiritual experience, but it is not something to be put on the blog ( everybody will laugh at me), however, that would be something which would stay with me for a long time.  Also Shambu's " Bhaiyon aao mujhe dekho".
  • I also made a conscious effort to stay fit this year. It started with the Mumbai Half Marathon in January. While, I was not too happy with my timing there, I was proud of having completed it. Europe was an inspiration, seeing that the only obese people you find there, are travelling Indians. Took up Yoga, which is truly a great experience. Till now I used to think of Yoga as something which Gurus on TV peddle, however I realised that it is much more than that. I ended the year with the Delhi Half marathon, this time, I was happy with my time. The highlight was however running next to India Gate. It is a pity that the area is cordoned off for most of the year. I was in awe as I passed the building, something you cannot describe. 
  • Lots of friends got married during the year. Had great fun at Tapan's, Aastha's and Prateek's weddings. However, could not go to many other weddings. The funny part is, you attend some weddings, but might miss the weddings of some of those closest to you. Weddings are fun, the  games which the bride groom play, the gastronomic delights and the chance to dress up. However, for most, they are a chance to meet friends. You realise that time changes people. The guy who was the first one to start drinking, now swears off it and it purely into Yoga. The quiet chap is seen shouting at some hapless guy and the most reserved one is putting up the performance to remember during the sangeet. However, eventually you all connect with each other over bunked lectures and flunked exams. Talking about wedding, murmurs to get me hitched started in the house, lets see how long I can hold the fort. One thinks about finding a " soulmate" and then is asked to make a decision in a fortnight, pretty funny this business!

  • Made great friends with work colleagues in Mumbai. I never expected to bond this much with folks from work, but well I think we have transitioned from being some random people who work together to a group having in jokes and nicknames for each other. We had great bonding sessions at Kashid, the sunset from the top of the hill, the bonfire on the beach, where we were the only people for miles around and finally the post bonfire session. After that was Tapan's marraige and the trip to Shimla. The craziness of playing Taboo and Vamshi's antics. Add to that the countless parties and friday evenings which we had. Couple of them left for greener pastures, 2015 would be different without having all of them here. 
  • Talking about friendship, I made a conscious effort to remain in touch with old friends. So now I at least message people on their birthdays ( phone is still a bridge too far). One would be surprised, how happy people are to see a personal message. I have connected with people, I thought, I had lost connection, only on the basis of one message. In today's incresingly connected world, people are lonelier than ever, while one may have 250+ messages on facebook wall, people still crave for that personal connection. I also met Rishabh in Paris, that is the thing about old friends, you have a different connection, which gets activated no matter after how long or in which continent you meet. I also reconnected with an old friend, a connection which we had lost due to time, circumstances and hubris. The year also made me realise things I should have done/said years back. There is a thing about growing old and wise, you are more open to acknowledging your mistakes and realising people who truly matter to you. Hopefully, I would learn lessons and not repeat the mistakes.
  • On professional front, things stabilised towards the end. I finally graduated from the Bank's rotation program, would be starting in a new role in Private Banking. A bit of butterflies in the stomach and a tad bit of apprehension. This is the first time, somebody at my level is being taken for the role. So lets see how it goes. Apart from deployment, I also had my share of ups and downs. Had to acquire SME customers for the bank. The one moment which would stay with me, would be sitting in a Ganesh pandal after a bad call with Gautam and wondering what am I doing with my life. Having said that, the high of the year, was the first deal which I closed. It was a great experience. 
  • I also took upon myself to learn a new skill. So started learning french on Duo Lingo ( sadly left it in the middle). Learned to code in Python and a bit of Java. Discovered Coursera and randomly started viewing courses. Loved the new insights. This is something which I would love to continue in 2015. Also keep in on trying news ways to keep my brain busy ( mostly because I am afraid that I may start forgetting stuff and die of Alzheimers) 
  • Read some great books during the year. Mostly because of the long commute which I had to work. Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Taliban Cricket club by Timeri Murari  and The days of Sepia and Gold by Yasmi Premji were, some which I enjoyed reading particularly. I also decided to start reading some of the old classics. One book which I truly enjoyed was The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, not so much for the lyrical prose but for his insight into his characters. Why do we carry out certain actions which we do and how materialistic the world is. I am currently reading Against the Gods by Peter L Bernstein. Ohh and I bought a Kindle finally.

So well that was what 2014 was all about. How would I like 2015 to be? I would like to travel more, have a solo trip, discover myself a bit more, learn new skills, hopefully take up an outdoor sport, do well at work, listen to some great music and hopefully find somebody to share the craziness with. But mostly, I would just want to be happy. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What If!

"It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world - Chaos Theory"

I have always believed that the best way known to man for time travel is to look at old photographs. There is something about these gems, the one's which are kept hidden in some corner and are discovered serendipitously. They have the power to elicit a range of emotions. It always starts with a smile, those happy memories of a perfect past, the jokes shared with friends, that one prank which you played, that pic taken on some one's birthday which showed everybody smiling except the chap who was beaten black and blue, the pictures of events and convocations which seemed so important at that time, that picture with that girl on whom you had a crush, the picture of some date in that dimly lit restaurant, that first party which you had when you got your first salary or that farewell picture where nobody realized the fact, that it might be the final goodbye. It is then that a picture, like the last one makes you wonder about the people whom you left behind, the places you never went back to and the things that could have been!

I recently came across a stash of such photographs, hidden at an obscure corner in the net, a place about which I had forgotten  and only stumbled upon while trying to find something else. And while I smiled thinking about the times which were and even contemplated about picking the phone and refreshing the jokes and memories, an idea which I dropped, partly because of hubris and partly because I was never really good at small talk and sudden calls were never my forte', the thought with which I closed the browser window was that of what if?

The peculiar thing about human beings is the power to think and contemplate - Cogito Ergo Sum. We always want to think about what could be ( future) and what could have been (past). The answer lies mostly in some small events or actions which you carried out or failed to carry out at any point of time. What if you had given that one answer during that interview for the dream job? What if you had courage to call a spade a spade when it mattered and not be swayed personal equations? What if you had told your feelings to that girl? What if you had not acted the way you did to hurt some one? What if you had applied to that one college or accepted another admit? What if you took those half chances .... What if .... What if ....

There would always be things which could have changed the course of your life ( and probably other's) and transported you to an area and a situation radically different from the one you are currently in. I have always believed that in such cases where one encounters these dilemmas and questions, it is important to ask yourself " Did I do everything which i could? Was my conscious clear?  Do I have any regrets". And while majority of times I have found the answers to these questions as an unequivocal "yes" , the few times during which I have hesitated in answering myself, I have taken those events as life lessons. These lessons have helped me understand a lot about my character and at times helped in defining it. The few times when I have faced a similar situation again, these lessons have helped me doing things, which might appear tough or even unpopular but those which have helped me sleep peacefully at night. These lessons which I hope at some point in the future would stand me in good stead and help me in not repeating some mistakes or more appropriately choosing a path, at which I would be, much more at peace. 

And yet, there are those questions, the answers to which I would never know. Was I right in taking that course of action? What if I had done something else? Probably with time and age, I would have better sense of these situations and while getting over my hubris and picking up that phone to make the call would take some time, I hope someday I would be able to talk and resolve these things with the people who mattered. Till then I would rejoice in traveling through time via these old photographs and smile, reminiscing about the times gone by. 

As for the rest of you, open that old album and pick up that phone and revive that lost bond! :)

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