Programming: Blog Post Re-share Bot – part 2


For more information, look at my previous post.

Again, this post will be heavily technical. In my last post, I had started work on my bot but I had issues. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the bot to publish posts via Twitter or Reddit. I did not have a stable database or a reliable XML Reader. Since then, here is my progress so far.


1. XML Reader & Writer:

It was an accident I learned of XPATH. This was the discovery that made reading XML easy.

Understanding XPath & how LibXML2 uses XPath took me a day but once I did, all I had to do is build a wrapper around it for the RSS file that my blog link gives out. After mentoring C on Exercism, I knew this time I had to do things right. I began first by writing Unit Tests for each step.

I made a generic structure called XML_ITEM which references the structure that needs to be populated. The piece of code I am most proud of is how I was able to use one generic function to extract a XML file into a custom structure without any issues. It looks super clean & I briefly considered making a separate GitHub repo called XML-To-Struct or vice versa. Maybe I will.

typedef struct
{
    // Name of the element in the xml
    char *pszElementName;
    // Type of the element
    XML_TYPES eType;
    // Offset in the output structure
    uint32_t ulMemberOffset;
    // Sizeof the output variable
    uint32_t ulBufferSize;
    // Only applicable for XML_TABLE, XML_SUB_TABLE, pointer to the table containing XML_STRs
    const void *pavSubItem;
    // Only applicable for XML_TABLE number of XML_ITEMS in pvSubItem;
    uint32_t ulArrayElements;
    // Only applicable for XML_SUB_TABLE
    uint32_t ulArraySize;
} XML_ITEM;

#define XML_STR(element, structure, var)                                                                 \\
    {                                                                                                    \\
        element, XML_CHILD_STRING, offsetof(structure, var), sizeof(((structure *)0)->var), _null_, 0, 0 \\
    }

After about a week and a half, I was able to successfully read the whole RSS file without any issues. An XML_ITEM array is enough to translate an XML into Structure. I discarded the idea of making a CSV database file because I didn’t wanna write another wrapper for it & I now had a perfect XML reader. So the database file became a XML file.


2. Social Media integration

This is where I couldn’t continue. I did a minor research into Twitter APIs to post something automatically but I couldn’t find any. I am sure that there is something for tweeting as there are heaps of bots out on the website.

The reason that I stopped looking after a little search is because at that point, I was actually pretty done with the project. I wanted to start using the bot rather than make it and adding a feature of integrating with Twitter seemed like too much work.

It was also around this point I realized that as I use any software, I gain a better understanding of what is actually required and what is just fluff.

I decided to change the bot output onto the command line, use Twitter on my browser and tweet manually. I have been using the bot somewhat regularly. I updated the documentation on the project to make it easier for anyone to pick up.


3. Future work:

I can see that the project is not done. Maybe in the future I will actually implement a Twitter integration so that the app on runtime actually tweets. Not sure if I will actually do it yet.

It is only during the last couple of days I realized my database may not update cleanly. So I need to fix that first.

Other than that, who knows, maybe some other blogger will wanna use my bot too. That means I will have to clean it & actually make an executable. Currently I build it every time I change it.

But as for now, I believe I have almost completed this.


Checkout the project on GitHub.

Journey to Residency


FOR 20 months, my residency application was stuck in Immigration New Zealand’s application queue. The system’s glacial progress finally caught up with my application one month ago and a case officer started looking over my residency application. A week ago, I have been granted residency visa in New Zealand. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I feel right now.


In 2015, when I applied for my student visa back in 2015 I had no plan for residency. Then the only concern was to get my student visa & my student loan approval. At the time, I assumed that would be the hardest step.

If I had a chance to travel back in time & talk with the 2015 me, I would lie & reassure him that was the hardest step. Why should I tell him that life is going to get harder?

My student visa application had its roadblocks. Immigration medical check was a chest x-ray from Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai. They found a spot in the x-ray above my lungs which they said is probably harmless but because of it, I had to do more tests. When I found out that the test would delay the whole process by at least 6 weeks, I broke down. I remember going to my immigration advisor at the time and just asking them if there is anyway I could just withdraw my plans and just give up. I think I was close to tears then. They supported me & I think I should write them a email notifying them of my current state. They reassured me that things will get better and I continued with the process. I eventually got my visa.


In 2017, I had to apply for my second visa, a work visa which had some nightmares too. At this point, I had graduated and secured a full time position. However, turns out Lilavati hospital never sent followup medical documents back in 2015. I had to email & my parents called them to ask for the remaining document which the Hospital should have submitted.

My visa was approved 3 weeks late. I still count on my lucky stars that my work contract wasn’t nullified and I could resume work after getting my visa.


In 2018, I was prepared to apply for my third visa. I had researched everything, written down all list of documents and medicals I needed to do. I repeatedly called Immigration New Zealand call center to get as much information. I applied for my visa 3 month in advance to make sure that my visa arrives in time.

It went seamlessly. There were no hiccups, no emails for more documents from Immigration NZ & my visa was granted well in advance.

Aside from my residency application, I am really proud of this one.

<Posts from 2018 >


It is in September of 2018 that I was finally able to qualify for residency. I had a trip to India planned in November so I lazily submitted my application over November & December. If only I knew what I know now, I would have made sure I finish my application before December 2018.

The only thing I could do since that application was submitted was wait. I could regularly call Immigration’s call center to see if there was any update and I would always get the same answer: No change. 2019 came and was slowly leaving with no change.

In 2019, I had to apply for a work visa renewal in December. I got that within 7 days.

By March, Immigration New Zealand had their Residency application submission portal closed as the queue was too large. The numbers varied but I guess it was around 30,000 people like me were waiting. Then Covid-19 hit.


Covid-19 changed everything. Travels stopped, therefore I imagine Immigration had more people who could handle their massive queues. In addition, Immigration minister was sacked because he misused his office.

It was after 20 months, in August of 2020 I finally heard from a case officer. I was ecstatic: something finally happened.


All I had to do is wait. After waiting for 20 months, I figured I could wait until end of October before I would look into applying for a visa renewal. But on September 23rd I received an email enclosing my residency. I texted everyone: my parents my friends. I started writing this post.

The next day, my manager & his partner surprised me with a gift package containing snacks made in New Zealand & capture the Kiwi way of life. I think I loved Kiwi dip the most.

I spent the evening looking up things I have been meaning to get all these 20 months. I scoured SPCA website to look at cats I can adopt. I looked at mattresses & browsed self contained apartments just to daydream. I could finally sit down and figure out what my future would look like and what kind of things do I want without worrying about a deadline in my visa. The constant anxiety that sometimes raged a storm in my head has finally calmed down.

I guess now all I have to do is just live my life to the fullest.

My Brother is engaged


ON 29th August, my older brother got engaged. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions in India, my family managed to make an occasion that they are rightfully joyous. Writing this post from the comfort of my home in New Zealand, I am conflicted between feelings of bliss for my brother, regret about not being there & apprehension about the pandemic surging through India.


As the pandemic has derailed the everyday lives of the world, I am sure my brother won’t be alone in world taking a big step. Lives don’t stop because we can’t leave our homes.

THE day of the engagement, my mom video called me to livestream the event to me and I watched a glittery video of my brother and his (soon-to-be) fiancé sit and talk with each other. I could see they both were happy about the whole thing, ignoring everyone around them just to talk with each other. I watched everyone tease my brother and he brushing their playful jabs aside. My voice wouldn’t have carried in the entire ruckus of the engagement, so I said nothing.

The next day I got a much better video. It was nice to see my brother relaxed and confident. My mom told me all about the event. The family dogs were left at the dog-sitter in the morning of the engagement. She told me how warm & welcoming my brother’s fiancé’s family were. I listened and I knew I would have been absolutely annoyed with so many people if I was there. The engagement had barely 30 people, a mere drop of ocean in typical Indian affairs.

It was bizarre seeing 30 people together though. I am accustomed to a few people together that crowds seem unnatural now. As the pandemic has derailed the everyday lives of the world, I am sure my brother won’t be alone in world taking a big step. Lives don’t stop because we can’t leave our homes


After talking with my mom, I spoke with my brother. My brother and I do not speak a lot. However, I know he will always have my back. I hope he does know the same. We don’t talk how we feel or why something bothers us. We talk about games, movies and novels and I hope that everything unspoken is understood.

The day after his engagement I spend a majority of our call time teasing him about stuff. He is still the idiot who I can poke about clothes he is wearing. It feels weird to know that he is engaged, as I still see him as the older brother with whom I walked to school with.

My brother is engaged now. Our lives, which have already been changing over the last 5 years are changing even more.


Last week my dad told me that the wedding is going to be on 9th December. Considering India is still a hotbed for Covid-19, I expect the wedding to be a small event too with only 50 people allowed. I am looking forward to the event. I am also not looking forward to the event. How do I tell them to have fun when I am biting my nails looking over the number of cases plateauing over 70,000+ in India daily.

I know that I may miss out on the wedding as well. I have a few months to accept the idea that I would have to watch a livestream of the wedding again, I won’t get to joke around with my brother or his fiancé. I will only get to text them and call them.

I am in a celebratory mood, I am scared and I am regretful.

Guilt


It was February when a couple took over a vacant room in my previous 2 bedroom house. Immediately after moving in, they told me that they can’t live with the cats I was cat-sitting: Odin & Osiris. I had a two week trip to India at the time so the cats were gonna be put in a cattery anyway. I wanted to start my tenancy with the couple on a good note. I decided to let go of the cats. I told the cat parent I won’t be able to take care of them after my trip.

5th February was the last time I saw Odin & Osiris.


I had a dream the other day.

I was walking to work and just around the corner from my current house there was a dog. I came to the conclusion that the poor dog was abandoned there and as I petted him, I read his collar. It said the dog has Covid-19 and therefore abandoned.

I walked away from the dog but could only walk a few steps before feeling guilty. I called the dog to me and he came running, jumping in joy as he knew someone wanted him again. I read his name: Wylie.

I walked Wylie to the vet, never touching him but telling him to heel or sit when needed. He was the best dog ever, always smiling. In my dream he would change from a German Shepard to a Labrador to a Pit-bull. In that five minute walk I loved Wylie.

It was only when I reached the vet I realized that I would have to abandon Wylie. Why did I have to abandon Wylie? I don’t know. I only knew I had to.

I woke up from my dream in tears. I wondered whether I was crying for Wylie, a dog that doesn’t exist, or for Odin & Osiris or for Jimmy.


Last winter, when I had Odin & Osiris, Osiris would love to burrow in my duvet and sleep curled up next to my chest. He would purr like an engine for a good ten minutes before sleeping. He was the source of warmth in a cold season.

Odin loved to sit on my chest as I worked on my laptop. He would sometimes just sit there looking at the laptop screen. He would fall asleep after a few minutes.


After I got back from India in February, I contacted the cat parent and asked her how were the cats. She left me on read. I can understand why she would not reply: we weren’t friends, and I had thrust the responsibility of the cats back at her abruptly.

In the months that followed, the couple broke up and moved out. I moved out just a day before Covid-19 lock-down started in New Zealand. I befriended an old neighbour cat who passed away recently. I never knew the cat’s name.

In hindsight, I can see that I would have to give up Odin & Osiris in every scenario. If I had not found the couple to occupy the other room, I would have had to move out. If I had refused to give up the cats when the couple complained, we would have had disagreements & eventually one of us would move out. If the couple didn’t complain about the cats, they still broke up and moved out a month later.

I hate my ex-couple because they made me choose. They shouldn’t have moved in if they had a problem with the cats. But underneath that hatred, I have guilt. I have shame for being a pushover.

I don’t know how Osiris & Odin are. Are they happy? Are they in a cattery? Do they remember me?

I knew Osiris & Odin weren’t my cats, I would be wishing them farewell one day. I wanted the farewell to be gradual and peaceful. I had to make a choice & I chose to give up on the cats. It was the wrong choice.

I don’t know how to forgive myself for my mistake. I know I should but I blame myself for abandoning them.

Game: Stardew Valley


I have written about pretty much aspect of my life and its passions: fictions, photography, programming & movies but I haven’t written about how I spend most of my free time: playing games. To be honest, I never considered playing games an important part of my character. I would rage at losing while playing Rocket League, get annoyed when making the highway interchange at Cities Skylines. They were just things I did to kill time.

Stardew Valley, in the last month, made me realize I am just as passionate with gaming as with writing or any other hobbies.

Stardew Valley has made me go ‘Aww!’ over its cute animals, ‘Damn’ over the lost crops when (ingame) season changed & exclaim ‘YAY!’ when I got a goal completed. This game is an super addicting gem of a game that I have played it until 3am at times.


Information about the game

Stardew Valley is a role-playing game developed by just one guy: Eric ‘ConcernedApe’ Barone with support from his partner. The sheer work needed to create this game, let alone polish it to its current product is jaw-dropping.

Before starting the game you have to create a character. This character is your manifestation into the game. You have a grandfather in the game who leaves you a letter before the game starts, telling you you will know when the time is right to open the game. Flash-forward, you are a part of a nameless corporate entity and you hate your current life. Opening the letter, you realize that your grandfather has left you a farm in Stardew Valley.

You move into your grandfather’s farm in Stardew Valley. What you do in that farm is entirely on you. You could sleep all day, you could work from dusk to dawn. You could socialize with everyone in town. You could be a hermit and refuse to leave your farm.


What I really love

Halfway through the first (game time) month, I have the option to adopt a stray pet: either a cat or dog. I can name the pet. In my latest save game, I have a cat named Odin, after the cat I was catsitting for a year. I miss Odin. In the game, I can pet Odin everyday.

I can farm plants. And the animations on the game are such that everytime I harvest a crop, my character would stand facing the camera with the crop held up high with pride. Same with any new fish caught or a new item foraged. The character would hold everything high that he has obtained. It is the tiny things that makes me love it more.

I can also have farm animals in the game. Cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats. I can pet them all. When I buy a youngling for my farm, my first interaction with the character has a pop-up box with has something along the lines: Youngling is shy but curious about the new surrounding. It is the tiny things.

The game has an official wiki page too. I keep reading it to see how to finish the quests and I know that is cheating. But I can see what all I have to look forward to. I know I could have a monster flatmate who is just adorable. I know I can pretty much start a family in the game if I want to. I know I can read books, participate in festivals and even visit the spa. It is the tiny things again.

I know that there is always something to look forward to in the game even if it is just to pet Odin. In another saved game, I have a pet dog named Jimmy.

I found out Stardew Valley has an Android version too and I am trying to convince my mom to get it on her phone too. She loved Farmvile.


Why I love Stardew Valley

You can do anything you want to do in the game. Therefore, Stardew Valley asks you what you wanna do. What are your priorities in life: people, work satisfaction or money. And it allows you to have more than one answer. I have been trying to create a nicely organized but efficient farm where I can make heaps of money and yet still have the satisfaction of perfect arrangement.

I haven’t tried it yet but one day in the future I am sure I would try to completely customize my character’s appearance. Go with someone who looks completely opposite to what I am.

Lastly, I love this game because I know things will work out.

It is so relaxing to have a manual for a life, to know the answers to all questions and a strategy for all quests. I can open the wiki everytime I am stuck and then just follow the instructions. My character will overcome obstacles as I know how to overcome the obstacles. He will earn money, he will get a bigger house and a pet that loves him.

My character will be happy.

It is the tiny thing that I can make sure someone’s life is sorted makes me never stop playing this game.

If you have a desktop or any device, you should definitely get this game.

Movies: Little Women (2019)


I have never read Louisa May Alcott‘s 1869 novel Little Women. The first time I heard of Little Women was on This American Life’s episode #680. I did not know there had been 6 adaptations of the book but I knew of Greta Gerwig through her movie ‘LadyBird’. It took a wonderful recommendation from FilmJoy on YouTube for me to put Little Women (2019) on my list and watch it.


A fascinating aspect about the movie was how modern its ideology is. I expected a lot more stigma around women working and not marrying but the movie doesn’t put those things as barriers. It doesn’t present stigma of an independent women as an obstacle, it embraces it as if it is something that has always been a part of women’s lives.

The hardship that the March sisters face is not the society but life itself.


There is a certain joy about watching a movie so well crafted. I felt it when watching Parasite although for the complete opposite reasons. This movie made me live with the March family, laugh with them and grieve with them. It made me proud of Jo and what she had achieved despite everything. It made me happy for Amy & Meg for their marriages. I mourned for Beth like Jo & Marmee did.

The March family become my neighbours or an extension to my family. The March’s lives were mundane and I could see my life reflected in them.

I have thrown tamper tantrums because my brother didn’t bring me along when he hung out with his friends. There are times when I was happy for my name to be mispronounced or given a new name because I wanted to fit in. When we were young, my dad would be working out of the state so it would be an event when he would visit. He would routinely call at a specific time. I have ventured out of my home to accomplish something and support my family just like Jo has. I am sure my brother feels the same.

The characters are people who could be me or someone who I know. I have met people who are basically Jo or Beth and I will always cherish the time I spent with them. And at the same time, just like every character in this story grew up and grew apart, so did the people in my life.

It is a life story. No wonder this movie has been remade 7 times in its history.


The last 10 mins of this movie. Jo is in the attic. Bereft of her youngest sister, and her hope for a normal life. She finds her life not being anywhere close to what she imagined what it would be. What does she do?

What can you do if you are in her place?

You write your own story.

You put it down page by page, break it down piece by piece and rebuild. Editing, rewriting everything. You think about your story, you sleep with your story, eat with your story.

It doesn’t matter if you have to change the end of your story even though you don’t agree with it.

You make compromises.

Because it is not about the end of the story. It was never about the end of the story.

It will, and always be about the whole book that you can clutch in your hands.

After all of the hardship, the pain, the LIFE of it all, you did what you intended to do.

Programming: Blog post Re-Share Bot


Note: This post is a little bit technical and if I write any follow-ups to this, they will get more technical. I will try to make this as simple as I possibly.

Also note: The Bot is not yet complete


Paid version of WordPress offers the ability to install plugins. I am a free version user of WordPress & I suspect I will always remain a free user.

The one feature that I would like to have in the free version is the ability to re-share my old posts on a social media network and maybe even repost it on my blog. I sometimes feel like my old posts are just gathering dust in the archives and I would like to air them out from time to time. I did spend a lot of time trying to perfect them and if not for them, I wouldn’t still be writing.

There are number of plugins which can be used to re-share old posts automatically on a blog. But I can’t install plugins. Therefore, I decided to write a bot that would run on my machine which would do this for me.


Idea:

I am aware of how much a nuisance bots are on social media these days. I am aware that I want to, I could find something which suits my needs. But I also want to write this thing myself. For the last three years, all I have applications written has been for a paycheck and nothing important for myself.

The idea for this bot is about 1-2 years old. It was around the time that I was frantic about the view count of my blog. I no longer care about the numbers. So in a way, this bot is pretty much useless for me.

Here is a rough framework of this app:

  1. The app would read the list of blog posts from a file and extract the following from each post: Title, Link, Description, Category and two tags.
  2. I would create a database of posts from the above information.
  3. I would start at the oldest and move up the ladder sharing posts.

Implementation:

At the inception, I was learning C++ and I wanted to write a C++ bot. I tried to, but between my inept knowledge and lack of design I couldn’t get started properly.

The second time I tried to do this, I was learning Java & Android. So I figured it won’t be too difficult to run an Android app on my phone and it will automatically share posts without any prompt. Again, I didn’t know Android/Java well enough to do this.

To summarize, I had two issues:

  1. I don’t know the language well enough.
  2. I do not have the algorithm for this bot.

C has been the language I am most familiar with. I am a C programmer with 3+ years experience. Plus, I am C mentor to students on Exercism. I could remove one of the two issues by just using C and working out the chunks of the algorithm. This way if I want an Android app later I have a blueprint of how the bot should structured.

Getting a list of my posts:

If you enter your WordPress URL and add /feed at the end of it, you will receive a RSS file. RSS file for WordPress will only give me 150 posts & I know about RSS feeds are just XML files. It is not the complete blog history that I would like to have but it s good enough.

C, unlike Java, does not come with its own XML libraries. So my first job was to figure out what can I use to read the RSS file.

LibXML2 came in the picture. It is OpenSource and available natively in Ubuntu. With a few commands I had it installed. My experience with it is not great. It does everything you want it to, but it still feels clunky to use. But I stuck with it and I was able to get it working.

Next I needed to actually download the RSS file from WordPress. LibCurl was perfect for his. Working with LibCurl was the easiest experience ever. I am hoping that in the future, I would somehow call Twitter APIs with Curl too. I am not even sure it is possible.

I am currently trying to build up a stable database with the list of posts that I can extract. I don’t know how I am going to post things on Twitter/Reddit or any other media yet.


Check it out on GitHub.

TV: Good Place Series Finale


It is difficult to sum up a multi season TV series. NBC’s The Good Place has the following (cheesy) synopsis on IMDB:

Four people and their otherworldly frienemy struggle in the afterlife to define what it means to be good. 

– IMDB

Here is my take:

The Good Place was a brilliantly made show which tried to answer complex ethical questions about how to do the morally right thing. It also tried to illustrate how muddy the concept of good and bad is in our world for most people. The show followed six characters’ (Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi, Jason, Janet & Micheal) transformation into better versions of themselves. 

Also, The Good Place was about Death. 

The first scene of the show was Micheal welcoming Eleanor into The Good Place. In the last episode, Eleanor welcomed Micheal to live like a human. This entire conversation between Micheal & Eleanor is poignant:

Eleanor: You won’t really know what is going to happen to you.

Micheal: That is what makes it special. I won’t exactly know what is going to happen after I die. Nothing more human than that.


It is hard to talk about the series finale without mentioning the penultimate episode. When the characters are finally into The Good Place they discover it was not what it seemed. The episode featured a rendition of ancient Greek philosopher Hypatia, who revealed that everyone in the Good Place has become a “happiness zombie”; an eternity of perfection leads to boredom.

Too much of anything is bad.

So the concept of an end to existence is introduced. Characters who have been in The Good Place can choose to end their own existence. Not out of circumstances, or age but by choice. The souls themselves can decide when they are satisfied with everything they have done. 

They can decide when to not just be. 


I always want to know what happens after the end of the movie/books/TV show. The series finale gave me those answers. It was immensely satisfying to have answers for my curiosity.

And what answers they are. 

I got to see them happy. I got to see them retired and fulfilling their desires. I got to see them make amends with their family.  No more obstacles, no more world shattering news or villains. The characters lived. 

I was ecstatic as I watched Tahani, Chidi, Jason and Eleanor just be themselves. Jason mastered every video game. Tahani mastered everything she wanted to do and also reconciled with her family. Chidi finished every book and ended up picking up Dan Brown’s books. Eleanor got to help the few people who needed help. 


I enjoyed all four seasons of this show. I liked their banter, I liked how light this show was with such a cumbersome theme. I enjoyed the showrunners referencing real life scenarios. I loved how the show reiterated the same message over and over again: everyone can be redeemed. 

However, I believe the series finale was special. I watched the fifty minute emotional & tear-jerking farewell episode in awe. It was reassuring about the biggest fears in our lives: death. It was courageous as it asked us to live our lives morally despite those fears. I will be re-watching the show years from now just to watch this finale again. 

Until then, take it sleazy. 

Lockdown Update


When this post would be published, NZ would have been under lockdown for a month. I have been working from home from my bed for the last 3 weeks.

It is surprising to think that we are still in the 4th month of the year as this year feels so long.

I went to India in February and attended my friends wedding. I am happy for them. Traveling at the time when Covid-19 restrictions were being put up was scary. Luckily I traveled without any difficulties.

The first or second case in NZ was reported on the flight two days after my return flight to NZ.

India has also moved into lockdown. My mom thought she had symptoms for Covid-19 but false alarm it was just her tonsils acting up. My brother is also working from home. I don’t know how their lives look like right now as this might be the longest period of time where all 3 members are home at all times. Wish them luck.

I had pains in my back jaw which I thought was wisdom tooth but was a TMJ injury. I am fine now after some exercises.

I found out that I have a sinus in my lower back that I need a surgery to remove. I am going to have my first surgery. Or I was supposed to prior to the lockdown. Now, my surgery is indefinitely deferred.

I joked to my colleagues that my body just decided to start breaking down after I turned 26.

I moved houses the time when lockdown started. I am much more happy in my new house than I was in my old house after my ex-flatmate friend E moved out.

I like working from home. I like staying at home all day and playing games, watching movies. I am also afraid that I am not making productive use of the time I have but I am trying to.

But at the end, I am scared. Scared about what the future would look like in 3-6 months. I have zero hopes of staying in NZ anymore as Immigration has shut its offices because of lockdown and my residency visa won’t be processed.

Movies: Parasite (2019)


In the last year, Bung Joon-ho’s Parasite is a movie that I keep coming back to. Parasite might be the best economic class disparity movie I have ever seen. It is so tightly packed because of its absolute perfect direction and story that it is an absolute joy watching it and when the movie is over, it makes you really think about the world we live in.

There are better people than me who have talked about the movie. Here are three of my favorite YouTubers talking about this movie.

NerdWriter’s video essay
Lessons From The Screenplay
JustWrite

While these YouTubers speak about the technical details of the movie, I would like to discuss the thoughts that this movie provokes. In no way are my thoughts well defined, and I will hardly be talking about the movie. But I will be talking about what parallels I draw from the movie.


Prior to watching Parasite, I had only seen this directors’ one movie: SnowPiercer. That movie was pretty straightforward (literally) and on the nose. After watching Parasite, I could see Snowpiercer in a different light. I saw it as Namgoong Minsoo did: a prison and the people in it hoping that reaching the front of the train would fix their problems.

There was no fixing a system that was inherently designed to divide people in classes with no permeability between them. Best way is to break it and start anew.


She is nice because she is rich.

I keep thinking about this line. In our day to day lives, we see so many news articles of rich people acting greedy. They hoard money, they evade taxes and they interfere in policies via proxies. But there is no denying the fact that when rich people speak, we listen. Baring a few exceptions, based on what we see, no one will say rich people aren’t nice.

People from an effluent class give money to charities, have fundraisers etc (I am assuming. I have never been to one). I suspect that Philanthropy wouldn’t exist without a massive wealth inequality.

I remember my undergraduate college. Meeting other students who came in from West Bombay. They were nice. Warm? No, I felt distant from them. But nice? Yes.

I wonder now if they were nice because if they are rich or because they were nice because their effluence allowed them to learn social niceties. Maybe that is the same thing.


I am going to assume that anyone aged 20-30 year old are aware of renting houses. I am also going to assume that most of us are aware of how difficult and expensive it would be for us to own a house.

I have been renting for the last 4 years. My parents were renting up until I was in 4th grade. They finally took a home loan and paid it back over 10 years. I remember the day my mom made the final payment and the sigh of relief on their faces.

In my first year in Auckland, I went for a house party in a friend’s (family) house and they had a pool. I envied him and thought whether I would ever live in this area.

My parents are trying to arrange a marriage for my older brother. This is something Indian families do: arranged marriages. A prospective marriage fell through when the bride’s side looked at our house and turned us down stating: ‘Our house is too small.’

The house my parents saved all their lives to buy is now too small.


Do I fit in here?

This is the question I always asked myself in my first one and a half year of undergraduate. This is the question I asked myself in the first two years in Auckland.

This is the question I asked myself when I went to my friends wedding.

I believe I will always ask this question whenever I walk into a room and see, visibly see, that I dealing with people above my economic class.


This is going to be our in-laws house.

There is this trope in Bollywood movies. The main character is a rough but honorable lower economic class guy. His eventual love interest is usually the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. The movies end eventually with the main character marrying into the wealthy family.

This scene in Parasite made me think of all those Bollywood movies selling the same dream that the son from Parasite is dreaming. The same illusion that Bollywood has been selling as far back as my parents generation.


The biggest thing about this movie that I absolutely loved is that all members of the Kim family are really good at what they do. They take advantage of their positions yes. But also, they are each really good at everything they do.

They cleaned a party, got rid of all of their opposition in 20 mins and also served Park family dinner. The dad knew how to drive and he had really good turning skills(I am jealous). Daughter had amazing photoshop and acting skills.

This movie goes out of its way to show that poor people aren’t lazy, they are just not given enough opportunities.


The last scene of the movie is the son looking at us. I choose to believe that we are thinking the same thing. He will never be able to break the glass ceiling of economic divide. He might push against it. Might see through the gaps of that ceiling, might eventually move out of his subbasement house.

But he will never be able to afford Park’s house.

He will always be running after one monetary goal and then another, never finding something that suffices.

It is not his fault really. This is the system that he lives in. This is the system that we live in.

We are, by our circumstances, always chasing after a unattainable dream of a life of luxury, of a life where we are rewarded by our hard work.

I wish someone had told me


People age. Everything grows old. I can see myself aging.

I wish someone had told me how quickly everyone around me would age. I wish someone had told me before I moved to Auckland when I come back, I would notice the wrinkles more.

Everyone who I looked up to while growing up has aged visibly. In the last 4 years, at least four of my uncles & one great-aunt have passed.


This month I visited mothers’ elder brother in his house. His mother (my grandmother) passed at least five years ago. His younger brother passed away in 2018.

I choked up while speaking to him. He has lost a lot of weight. Most furnishings in his house have been sold off. He looked lost and defeated. He was alone. He is being dogged by everyone for some kind of will. He has nothing except a few material possessions left.

I knew that this might be the last time I see him. I also know that I won’t be there when he passes. I hope I am wrong.


Whenever I video-call my mom & dad, their age is more visible. My dad just had a cataract operation done. My mom refuses to get her eye checked up, avoiding conversations about her health altogether. Jimmy is 10 years old now: the lower age expectancy for dogs of his breed. I can see that he is losing his sight.

I stayed at a friends house one weekend as it was late and next morning I met his parents. His dad was recovering from a heart attack. There was a massive stack of medicine on the table.


I don’t know what to do about this. Even though I have been noticing these things for a while, I still don’t know what to do. What else can I do but notice everyone that I grew up under withering away. I remembered something that both my parents say about watching their parents age.

“We hope that we don’t go out like them.”

Anniversaries II


See last year’s post here.

It has been four years since I moved to Auckland.

I have been blogging for six years now.

I have been posting on my blog on my blog over the last year in a pattern of one post every two weeks. I am really proud of myself. After six years of blogging, I have finally found my rhythm. There have been a few times that I posted something that I threw together at the last moment. There have been posts on which I worked on over a month.

Thank you to everyone who has read or better yet commented over my posts.

House Chronicles


The following are a sequence of events which may or may not conclude by the time this post is published ( 30th January 2020 ).

August or September 2019: My flatmate E tells me she wants to move

September – November 2019: I stress myself thinking about having to move. Later E suggests that we can move together to a new place. I like the idea and we look for places.

December 2019: E sends me TradeMe listings for places which I reject as they don’t suit me. Eventually we realize that we are not going to be able to move together. We discuss our options. I love our current place, so I want to stay. The only way I can do that is if I buy the house furniture from E. She is willing to sell it off.

5th Jan: I book tickets for my flight to the Homeland. I will be heading out in the first week of February.

11th January 2020: E gives her 21 days notice to the landlords. We make the assumption that we can easily replace her on the contract.

Our landlords usually are prompt in their responses but this time, we don’t hear back from them.

E advertises her room on Facebook Marketplace. A potential flatmate H looks at her room. He is cool.

12th January: H brings his partner around to view the flat. I guess he really liked it. E texts the landlords and inform them that there is a couple who are interested.

13th January 2020: Landlords finally reply. They don’t like the fact that E has tried to find a replacement. They would like to meet anybody who wants to rent the room.

E & I want the couple to move in. However, the couple work in hospitality, and the landlord don’t want to rent to hospitality workers as they work unusual shifts. The landlord wants to make sure that they are ‘professional’ and work full time.

They are chefs and usually finish work by 4pm, we tell the landlords. The landlords are willing to meet.

14th January 2020: Some other folks come to view the room. S came to look at the house but her deal was her partner would be staying half a week. I was skeptical of this as I knew it would only be a matter of time before the partner moves in full time. I didn’t like her much and after viewing she said she doesn’t want the room.

Our landlords, H and his partner M agree to meet. At this point I am panicking as I don’t trust anyone. I start looking into other rooms for myself to move into in case the couple & landlords don’t agree.

I inform the landlords that I would like to get new flatmates sorted quick as I won’t be staying in the house for most of the February.

15th January 2020: I view a house close by. It is in shambles, barely worth the amount they were charging. But I don’t turn it down. If I get desperate and I need to move out soon, I would pick any.

16 Jan: The couple and landlords meet. I sit back and let them talk. They like each other.

17th Jan: Landlords want them to move in. E & I rejoice.

However, the couple don’t respond for a day. I start getting twitchy again. Landlord calls me to make sure that the couple still want to move in. I don’t have an answer.

18th Jan: Couple finally respond yes they are willing to move in.

20 Jan: E still hasn’t decided when she wants to move out. The landlords ask me to confirm her move out date and the couple’s move in date. I do and I realize that the couple want to move in by 27th whereas E wants to leave by 31st.

My rent is reduced as the couple will be paying a higher share. E starts packing her bags. I don’t let myself relax as I realize that I now own all of the house furniture and until the couple sign the contract, something could still go wrong.

23th Jan: E & I sign off on our old bond. E will be submitting the bond refund form.

25 Jan: I meet the cat owner. She is nice and I make it clear that during Feb she would have to take the cats to the cattery as I can’t take care of them.

27th Jan: I start cleaning E’s stuff. I expected it to be easy. Turns out she had so much stuff that I cleaned 80% of the pantry. My opinion of her changed as I realized she is probably the laziest person I know.

26th Jan: E moves out. She leaves a bunch of perishables behind. I should have made her clean her stuff.

For example: she had unopened coffee which expired in 2017.

Most of the things were expired. I manage to clean out most of the things.

The couple visit. We finally sign the new contract & bond. I have a pizza and coke to celebrate (closest & cheapest things to buy).

29th Jan: The couple move in. I’m not at home when they move in. I’m finally relieved.

Lack of Motivation


I have written about the new things I am learning. Now, as time goes on I am finding myself struggling to keep myself motivated with those things. I am easy to distract, most things don’t hold my attention. My slump has impacted me the most at work.

For about 2 to 3 months, I have been distracted at work. There are days when I would sit in front of my laptop and I would just… not feel like doing anything. I would sigh in disappointment, unable to focus. I would kill time with YouTube, Facebook or any other site where I could scroll.

At the end of the day as I am heading for home I would make a resolution to focus at my work the next day. However, unless I had a looming deadline, I would not be able to focus.

I wondered how did I get to be this guy who now doesn’t want to work.


I struggled with getting up in the morning every since school. I am definitely not a morning person, especially on weekdays. I am usually late to work and that is fine because I would cover my hours by staying late.

Now, I mildly resent myself in the morning for going to work. I would stay in bed until 8:30 for my 9am start of work. I would wake up but keep scrolling on my phone to kill time.


On introspection, I realized that some part of me blames the visa delays for a nonchalant work drive. After all, it still seems like working in NZ will be a temporary thing and then I would be forced to move and start again.

However, it is not the main reason. I don’t spend every working hour fretting over my visa.

Have I burned out? Is it possible for a 26 year old me to burnout after just 3 years of work? If I consider this, I am aghast. How did I burnout when my parents & my brother has been working for years without any complain. I vehemently refuse this possibility.

Does my work not excite me anymore? This is more probable. I have been working for 3 years and I feel like I have learned enough. I know I have not mastered everything but that doesn’t drive me. I don’t crave perfection in my knowledge. I have been mentoring on other learning developers on Exercism.

But I am also learning Android. There is so much to learn that it is daunting. By all accounts I should be excited about this. I think I am. But is it enough for me to be excited for work?


I remember hearing someone make a racist comment about immigrants: Immigrants are lazy. Immigrants are here to earn easy money.

On workdays when I barely worked, I would walk home shaming myself with that line. I am the walking example of that stereotype.


I wish I knew what is happening to me. I don’t.

I know that this work has been good so far. I know that I am limiting my distractions to the minimum. I also have a trip to the homeland coming up, and I am looking forward to that.

I am trying to get the joy back while working.

Movies: Toy Story 4 (2019)


Credits: flickeringmyth

Each Toy Story movies is unique as each presents a metaphor for different age milestone. First Toy Story dealt with teens/early twenties or college years. Toy Story 2 dealt with Woody undergoing a midlife crisis and questioning his life’s purpose. Toy Story 3 dealt with the idea of retirement and the prospect of death. Toy Story 4 deals with life after retirement. A new beginning. I figured this idea should merit this post as it is going to be published on the 1st Jan 2020.


I saw Toy Story 3 before I watched its prequels. I was aware of the first two movies because of the complementary toy given on every McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal’. I used to have/I may still have a Woody from one such Happy Meal.

I was prepared to go for Toy Story 4 in the cinemas this year but for some reason I never did. I ended up watching the first three Toy Story-ies at home first and then watched the latest movie.

The conversation around Toy Story 4 online was lackluster. I knew that the latest movie won’t live upto its expectations. Toy Story 3 is and will forever be one of my favorite movies. Toy Story 3 made me cry twice: the incinerator scene and then the final playtime scene.

I didn’t think Toy Story 4 was a special movie until the climax when Woody said goodbye to the other toys on top of the carousal. Seeing these characters: many of whom have been there since the first movie at their swansong just broke me. I sobbed, I felt as I was saying goodbye to these characters again after ToyStory 3 itself was a goodbye.


Back to the idea that this movie deals with post retirement.

The bulk of the story follows Woody: the character who now has to retire from ‘Andy’s Toy’ to a toy just kept in the cupboard and is hardly played with. Woody is almost everything I can imagine an old almost retiree being:

He is stubborn. He refuses to accept that a kid can start preschool without their toy. He refuses to believe that his days of being a favorite are over.

He is reluctant to change his lifestyle. In another words, he is someone who doesn’t know what he is after he finishes working. This whole movie he is chasing the idea that he has to be there for someone without considering that it is time to be there for himself.

Also, Woody is someone whose experience makes him an old sage. Every toy yearns to have what Woody has had in his whole life. Every toy wants to know what it feels like to be someone’s toy.

Lastly, before he does go on to live his own adventure, I believe he chooses to make sure that he helps out as many toys as possible.

I think the end credits scene where he spends the entire time cheating the system and handing out all toys is a perfect example of him passing the torch.


An awesome video by NerdWriter on the animation technique:


It took Woody a lifetime to live for himself. I hope that you walk onto new year with some of Woody’s enthusiasm and determination. I hope you try something new. Live for yourself after spending a long time living for others.

Happy new Year!

Thoughts on a book: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (2018)


Grief is a hard thing to describe and write about. It is, I think, comparatively easy to write about when grief is thick like morning fog or when it leaves a strong taste in the mouth. It, when coupled with depression, gets harder to describe as most often when there is no feeling.

It is the absence of any feeling, a vacuum which exists where the grief should be, and this vacuum is hard to discern.

This brings me to Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend. Reading the description of the book prior to requesting it from the library, I knew that this book won’t be an easy read.

When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.

While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.

Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.

– Official Description on Sigrid Nunez’s website

We get no names in the book. We get characteristics of the people around the main character. But from the main character very little introspection. We get little indication as to which race the characters belong to, how old they are. They are given a perfunctory glance, as if the protagonist can’t seem to notice them.

The protagonist is someone who is grieving but her grief is not put into words. The character shares her feelings almost halfway through the book, months after the death of her lifelong friend. We don’t get the friend’s name either.

The only name we get in the book is of the Great Dane: Apollo. Apollo is almost exactly like our main character. Alone. Abandoned by friend’s suicide. Grieving but unable to form words to speak about it.

The first feelings the main characters show are of protectiveness. A kinship to Apollo. An attachment, a bit obsessively of Apollo. She herself says that Apollo is almost a surrogate to the friend she just lost. She is a surrogate to the pet-parent Apollo lost.

Apollo is everything a dog shouldn’t be. He is old, hardly wiggles his tail when the main character comes home. Uninterested in any other dog or person. Apollo sleeps on the bed everyday, not giving an inch for our main character.

Apollo is also a Great Dane, and the character is told they don’t live long. Apollo shows awareness of the fact that he won’t live long.

The main character readies herself for his death. And she does that, she gets to terms with the suicide of her friend.

There is a chapter close to the end of the book. I think it is the most important one. As she finally deals with the loss of the friend, even if it was in a dream.

As I finished the book, I almost wanted to throw the book away because I misunderstood the end. I kept rereading it, I read a bunch of reviews to see if anyone else came at the same conclusion. It was only after rereading it the second day that I understood what happens.

The end was not heart-wrenching, neither was it delusional as I thought it was.

It was accepting. She accepted things. She tried to treasure what she had. Apollo, arthritis aside, was a dog again. Both healing, but not completely healed.

Not Welcome


I have lived in Auckland for the last three and a half years. I love this city, and by extension this country. I have explored the city: found new places, food cuisines and occasionally new people. However, in the last year, Immigration New Zealand announced a flurry of changes which on paper looks like an attempt to push me out.

About two months ago, Immigration NZ announced a the discontinuation of six temporary work visas. The six visas are going to be replaced by a since temporary work visa. Furthermore, this visa can only be applied by the company which is hiring the migrant. The details are hazy at the moment and the change will roll in 2021. Furthermore, the hiring company needs to be accredited by the Government and should explain why an migrant is being hired and not a NZ citizen.

Pessimistically, no company will want to jump through any of the hoops that Immigration is imposing itself on it. Even if a company is willing to put itself through the torment of Immigration and its processing times, who will stop the company from exploiting the migrant.

Optimistically, things might not be dire as they seem to be, in fact could turn out to be better with these changes. But I am not sure, these changes seem targeted.

Last month, Immigration also announced the Parent Visas are going to be allowed once again, however the applicants children need to earn at $100000 per year. It is even by Immigration’s own estimate that this will make about 80% of applicants ineligible.


Recently, I was invited back to AUT as an alumni for a networking session with currently enrolled students. I met a lot of International students who asked me the same kind of questions I asked everyone when I was a student: How difficult it is to get a job? Are people nice here?

I couldn’t bring myself to tell them that things were easier when I graduated, Immigration NZ didn’t seem to be bent on pushing us out. We had a lot more options, a little bit more freedom than what you might have.

I couldn’t tell them that ‘Hey! Things are going to be harder for you.’


I understand the reasoning behind these changes. Part of it could be chalked up to pure xenophobia. Part of it to ensure that the citizens receive enough opportunities. The remaining parts could be fulfilling election campaign promises.

It is my empathy of Immigration’s motives that infuriates me. I wish that I was just single minded to blame the Government and therefore Immigration for making my life even more hard than it is already. I am still waiting to hear back from Immigration for my residency visa and I have applied ten months ago.

I wish that this was an overt (non-violent) racism that I could just ignore and move on. What am I supposed to do about policy changes in country that I have very little civil rights? Even if I had any civil right, would I have made any difference?

I wonder what is going to happen eventually. Will this place that I love so much turn hostile to the point that I couldn’t live here anymore? Or was it always like this and it is only now that I am discovering its anti-immigrant stance akin to how I discover a new food alley in the city? I don’t know.


First Blog/Ephemeral Feelings


I needed to post something this week, but I didn’t have anything ready. So I decided to Reblog something that I wrote years ago.

It's Mayur Remember?

My first blog.

Mind any who is reading i have never wrote any thing like a blog before.
I just read a blog by a blogger Ephemeral Optimism before I wrote mine. Though his blog was very interesting about opinions, I couldn’t help but relate to his username.

A few days ago I was just ecstatic. I was practically dancing anywhere, hugging random people. All because I scored great grades in my exams(yes I am a nerd).

Now I am back to being normal. And mind you I am not saying normal is bad, but by comparison it is really sad. So much hard work, so much time and sweat and I become elated for a few hours only?

That is the thing which intrigues me. And I could probably imagine things further down the line in my life. Why are good or great things so ephemeral?

And being normal…

View original post 464 more words

The Waiting Game


When I applied for New Zealand residency visa in December, I had a plan.

  1. Apply : December 2018
  2. Wait the estimated time of processing: 6 months, i.e until June-July 2019.
  3. It will possibly get delayed, let’s say by half the estimated time so 3 months of buffer time, i.e September 2019.

Usually, for visas I am pretty tense. My past experience with visa applications always had it roadblocks. My plan calmed me down and I almost forgot that I had applied for a visa in the last 9 months. After all, all I had to do was wait 6 to 9 months and then hopefully I would have an answer: either my visa would be approved or it would not.

This is how my plan has progressed:

  1. Apply: December 2018 ( check )
  2. Waiting….. ( September 2019 ).

My application has been sitting in the queue for the past 9 months. It has not been reviewed. A case officer has not been assigned. All I could do is wait. Check my email everyday to see if there is any update. Prepare to apply for another work visa because I need to stay in New Zealand.

I am not the only one who has been waiting a long time. A bunch of Radio New Zealand articles have been talking about Immigration New Zealand’s slow work for a while.

From my understanding, this has something to do with which party is in power and their promise at the time of election to cut down immigration numbers. They have successfully done that by slowing down the whole process. If I was not stuck in the middle of this, I would have applauded their method for its simplicity.

But I am. I hate this waiting game.

Dogs v Cats: Who pets it better?


Eight months ago, I moved houses to rent with a friend. My flatmate, E, happens to be cat sitting two sibling cats: Osiris and Odin. Come November, the two cats will move back in with their owner. I consider myself lucky: I have lived with cats in Auckland and a dog in Mumbai.

This made me wonder, between dogs and cats which is my ideal pet?

So in this essay I will compare my life with the two animals and their characteristics.

Also, this post is based solely on my experiences. All of the points listed in this post are subjective and nothing is set in stone. You are welcome to disagree with me.

I would be comparing the two cats: Odin and Osiris with my dog Jimmy. Jimmy is about 10 years old now, and I have not lived with him for the last three years. So, I will be comparing the younger version of Jimmy with the cats.

Side-note, currently in Mumbai, my mom has adopted another dog Snowy. She is vastly different from Jimmy but I have not spent a large amount of time with her, I will not try to compare her. Snowy is adorable though.

Happiness:

There is probably no contest between Jimmy and the cats on who is better at expressing their happiness. Jimmy had a habit of running around (when he was younger), jumping and wagging his tail whenever someone comes home.

He had this habit of standing on his back legs and grabbing something from my hand, run back and sit on the couch or bed opposite the door. He would wait there, wagging his tail for me to come and take my stuff back and pet him. I always loved that routine.

Just seeing his picture makes me happy. My brother and I brought him home. We fed him, watched him grow from an adorable puppy to a grumpy old dog.

I never knew the cats when they were young, didn’t have a lot of memories with them. However, I knew I was a cat person before I moved in with E.

The cats are lovely. They are tiny, their skulls smaller than my palm, weighing about two kilos. The first time they sat on my lap, I was astonished. Now, I write this post with Odin sitting on my left arm.

The cats rub their bodies against my shin. They headbutt, purr and meow. Their presence induces a more calm energy. They wait by the door as I unlock the door and scatter as I enter the house. Then they strut back towards me as I call them, stretch and lay on the floor just beyond my reach. I have to go towards them and pet them.

Jimmy loved to stand on his hind legs and look out of the window down at the world beyond. He would bark when he would see another dog, howl when he would identify one of the family walking away from him. Odin sits at the front door window, curious about the world beyond the door even though he can go out anytime he want to via the cat door.

Osiris just like to sleep. As close to me or E as possible. He would jump on the bed, slide his way into the duvet and just cuddle with me. He would place his head into my armpit, the inner side of my elbow, against my throat or just curl against my chest and fall asleep. Every day, at around 7am he would come into my bed and cuddle. I am always glad he does that.

Jimmy was never a dog who loved cuddles. He would be happily asleep against my brother but not with anyone else. He would gladly take everyone else’s bed and fall asleep but he preferred to have his own space.

Scratches?

There is this popular Instagram post telling the difference the spots where one can scratch the cat and the dog.

It is mostly accurate but not completely.

Jimmy loves head scratches & neck scratches. He would stretch his neck when I found that perfect spot when scratching him. He enjoys belly rubs but its the neck that he enjoys most. Additionally, while being Jimmy, he would start scratching in the air with his hind legs. It is hilarious.

Osiris and Odin: they love scratches. They will headbutt me, meow loudly and sit on my chest as I work on my laptop to get me to give them scratches. As I scratch them, they purr.

I have never heard cats purr this loud before, they sound like a car engine on idle. When they sit on my chest and purr, I can feel the intensity.

Maintenance:

Jimmy got increasingly picky he grew older. He would only eat meat and anything which tasted like meat. Food had to be prepared specially so that he could smell chicken. If he doesn’t like it, he wouldn’t eat it. He would walk away from the food bowl with a look of disappointment.

The cats aren’t picky eaters. They need their dry food bowl full at all times. They need their wet food to be served at a fixed time otherwise they will start meowing at me to remind me.

Jimmy never liked being washed. He hated it, would slump every time I would try to get him into the bathroom. He would whimper and bark whenever I cleaned him up.

The cats on the other hand, they don’t have to ever be washed. They clean themselves. E only has to brush them. They hate it. They whine, sometimes hiss at her but since she is holding them by the nape of their necks, they can’t do anything. After E is done, there is handful of fur collected and disposed off.

Jimmy has to be walked regularly. We never got him trained enough to let him off the leash: partly because we were always afraid that he would get run over. Living in India, we had seen enough dogs be run over that we could never risk it with Jimmy.

I can let the cats out of the house. If we don’t, they just use the cat door. Usually I would find them lounging on our porch or underneath my bird feeder staring at all the sparrows.

I (usually E) just have to clean out their litter box whenever they use.

Damages:

Jimmy. Hands down.

He has chewed my jeans, home furniture, wires, TV remotes, LAN cables, a mobile phone and a couple of jandals/slippers. And every time I would tell him no, he would find something else to chew.

As the years went on, his incidences decreased as well.

Cats on the other hand, just want to sit on my lap. Press all of the keys on my laptop. Play with the power cable.

Conclusion

Jimmy is definitely more work. But his ability to express joy on meeting me is unparalleled.

The warmth from cuddling Osiris and a purring Odin is unparalleled.

Jimmy required long walks and heaps of play time. Cats are easy, perfect pets for someone renting houses.

However, after Novemeber, I am sure I am going to miss Osiris and Odin, just as I miss Jimmy.

I think this comic sums up this post perfectly:

Harry Potter books and the mirror they hold


Image Credits: Scholastic

Art is political. Ergo, books are also political.

I have seen a lot of argument online about how authors shouldn’t try to shove in their own political opinions into books. I don’t think that is possible, as writing bares one’s soul onto paper. An author is bound to throw in their political ideas.

Books are not weighed down by political ideologies, but when done correctly, are enhanced by them.

I have started enjoying books which deal with ideologies. It makes the story tangible, almost like a fabric that can be touched, like a discernible flavor. I cherish books possessing similarities with our world.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise ( 7 books, 8 movies and more ) are an example.

Why Harry Potter matters to me?

I first read Harry Potter about 7 years ago. At the time, I had just started reading novels. I owe a lot to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books because they paved the way for me to find my favorite genre: fantasy novels. I remember being in awe with the concept of magic in the books do. I didn’t pay attention to the minute details and webs that J.K. Rowling had spun in those 7 books.

7 years later, today, I have changed a lot. My views have changed. I know a few things on structuring a story. Movies & books have a more lasting effect on me as I pick subtleties easier.

I read the 7 Harry Potter books again to see if I still like them. My intention was to understand the framework with which Rowling had written the story, to learn how to create a world like she had.

I did not do that. I can’t tell you where are the plot points in the book or what exactly is the story arc of the characters. Because 10 pages into the first book, Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone, I was hooked on to the story of a 11 year old boy walking into Hogwarts.

I noticed the onset of PTSD in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I noticed the miracle by which Harry was different than his arch-nemesis Voldemort. I noticed how real the deaths in Harry Potter were: sudden & unexpected. A single line to describe a character’s death, a single incantation.

There are more important things that the story itself. I started noticing things relevant to our own world.

Always the innocent are the first victims, so it has been for ages past, so it is now.

– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter And the Philosopher’s Stone

The Wizarding World:

I can speculate on how much of the world J.K. Rowling created with Harry Potter was directly influenced from the real world from the hundreds of interviews and articles written on it.

Since its inception, the world Harry Potter inhabits has became an entity of its own, with tons of fan-fiction, followers and content creators. Thus, differences between Rowling’s intended allegories and unintended real-life parallels are hard to pick for me.

To explain unintended real-life parallels: In Hot Fuzz, there is a scene in which the town Chief Inspector says ‘Make Sheffield Great Again’. At the time of movie’s release, this line was probably intended to be funny. Now, this line is no longer funny.

In the books, all 7 of them, three children have to consistently stand against a fascist regime which kills anyone who opposes them. The fight is mostly in the shadows, away from the majority of the population that it could affect, until one day a fascist regime is asking its denizens to present its proof of blood worth.

In book 5, Harry Potter and Order of Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army decide to train themselves because the powers that be, Ministry of Magic, vehemently denied Voldemort is back because they were afraid of losing power. They discredited Harry Potter, launched political propoganda against him to slander & discredit him.

Over the last year in Auckland, I have seen school children marching down Queen Street to protest inadequate action on Climate Change by the people in power. Greta Thurnberg is a major voice in climate change.

It is not hard to find articles denouncing Climate change in general, but the amount of attempts to discredit Greta are bubbling just beneath the surface.

Again last year, survivors from Stoneman Dougman school shooting became such strong voices for gun control in America.

These kids were subjected to massive amounts of ridicule, death threats by not just people in power but also everyone who thought that their ‘rights’ were under attack.

Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012 by Taliban because she raised her voice, protested.

I am not saying one thing inspired the other. I am just drawing parallels.

Then there is the entire Dumbledore subplot of book 7, in which a fascist government backed media continuously tries to throw dirt on a dead man just to distract the world from the very real threat of Voldemort.

If you read news these days, its hard not to see media being used/using to distract from the relevant news. The examples are endless, leaving us exhausted but ultimately forgetting the bigger issues in life. Lookup Amazon Rainforest fire ( how it is crucial in tackling climate change ) which was burning for at least 15 days before it broke the news.

The Racism within the world:

The books deal with vehement racism between ones who are born in a wizarding family and ones not. It also draws an line between wizards and non-wizards to the point where there is a term for non-wizards ( Muggle ).

This separation between sections of human beings who are & who are not wizards existed way before Voldemort came to be, it has always been a part of the world Harry Potter inhabits to the point where wizards getting close to non-wizards are looked down on.

Arthur Weasley is looked down by everyone, including at times his wife and children, because he wants to study human technology. It seems like the wizarding world is so proud that it refuses to even acknowledge the possibility that their methods are outdated.

I can’t and neither am I going to judge who was more advanced. ( They are fictional book after all ).

But this xenophobia, albeit benign in most cases, is echoed through the fabric of the entire Wizarding world.

This benign xenophobia served as the groundwork for people like Voldemort to garner followers.

After all, it is fairly obvious from the books, that Death Eaters were emboldened only because Voldemort was more powerful than anyone else in the wizarding world. Otherwise, they were law abiding citizens ( mostly ).

Do I need to talk about the real world examples of such a relationship between a fascist man in power and his supporters?

Furthermore. the lack of any social changes since the founding of Hogwarts ( Slytherin vs other houses ) made sure that every person sitting in the Slytherin table exposed to ideas of blood purity and impunity.

Why was nothing done to challenge ideas like that?

How many times have we heard, ‘this is just the way it is’ without actually asking why?

How many times have we looked down on another bunch of people without actually asking why?

Conclusion:

Nobody is perfect. These books exemplify that. Not even Harry Potter. He, who of all people should know what it feels like being detested in his own house, has very little empathy for elves.

The Harry Potter books themselves are not perfect. After all, J.K. Rowling keeps appending changes to the story years after the books have been released.

Regardless, the Harry Pottrer books, its characters and the ways with J.K Rowling talks about the wrongness of our world by illustrating an unjust world is mind blowing.

I hope that the next time I read these books again, I get to pick up something more.

Macro Photography


Recently, I brought a bunch of mobile camera lenses. One of those lens was a macro lens, which allowed me to take photographs of objects 1-2 cm away from my phone. Here are some of the good ones results.

I also created an account on EyeEm, an social media/marketplace to sell some of my photos. Of course, these images are also edited as I have started taking photos in RAW format.

What to learn for?


In the last six months or possibly more, I have had nightmares with one recurring theme: exams. These nightmares have a similar narrative: I am about to give my exams when something goes wrong. It is my fault.

Some examples:

  • I haven’t studied enough.
  • I have failed even before I start my exams.
  • I arrive in an exam center in Mumbai for an exam supposed to take place in Auckland.
  • I am three hours late for a two hour long exam.

The nightmares end by jolting me awake in the morning. Minutes pass. I remember with relief that I don’t have to give exams anymore. I am not learning to give exams anymore. I wonder why I keep having these kinds of nightmares though.


I was always one of the smartest in my class. I would not hate giving exams, I would be prepared and focused. Motivated and ready to tackle my next challenge. They were the cause of some fond memories from my school & college days.

  • The last day at my third grade school when my dad and my best friends dad tallied our scores.
  • Solving of my older brother’s math problems with ease while he looked on.
  • Walking on the stage to get awards in my school 7th and 8th grade.
  • My undergraduate years where I explained electronics to my classmates.

Yes, all memories had an audience. Someone to recognize my brilliance. Also, these memories were of a period at which I was great at whatever I was doing. 

I was booksmart. Exams & learning was something I was always great at. Thinking back, it might have been the only thing I was good at, in that particular time period.

It might have been my whole identity.


Part of being a developer is constantly learning new programming languages and principles. I am currently trying to learn Android development.

Some days I am good. Most days, I struggle. I read stuff but my brain just doesn’t connect. The ease with which I used to learn things is gone, replaced by irritation & confusion.

I don’t not as intelligent as I used to be. My brain doesn’t have juice anymore.

I feel like I had the potential but it has wilted away.

I wonder how could this happen.

Is it age? Cause that is preposterous, I am only 25.

Or Am I just lazy?


I remember listening to a podcast in which a line was spoken. I am paraphrasing

‘I feel like I have to keep learning something new.’

Unknown Podcast

I don’t remember which podcast I heard it or how long ago. I just related to what was said.


One of few new things I discovered an affinity towards now is economics. I read a book a while ago on the American Electric Grid system. I read a book about handling finances and I also listen to Planet Money podcast. All of which have introduced me to an area that I have never given much thought to. 

I am learning new languages, both computer and spoken language. I am trying my hand on writing more, giving serious thought (so far) on a novella. I have even started learning techniques on photo editing.

I feel like I am doing more than enough. Everywhere.

Yet, without exams at the end of a term, I wonder what exactly am I learning for?

Hamilton: Zuru Glow


Two months ago, I had my first solo driving trip. I had just acquired a new license and I wanted to celebrate. I drove to Hamilton for Balloons over Waikato’s Zuru Glow night . In hindsight, it is amusing that I drove to the same city I went three years ago when I had just moved to New Zealand.

I wanted to attend Balloons over Waikato ever since I first heard about it. As I was thinking of where to drive, I saw the event again in my feed. I wanted to see these massive balloons float over us ground, slowly becoming dots of light against the night sky.


The balloons never left the ground. They were inflated as the day turned to dusk. Bursts of fire bellowing & heating the air trapped underneath a seemingly thin layer of cloth made the balloons swell and look gorgeous.

There was a Darth Vader face mask Hot-air Balloon. I think it was their main attraction as they used Darth Vader’s voice to announce the beginning of the Zuru Glow Night show. There animal shaped balloons and simple balloons too. The brighter the color of the balloon, the better they looked in the night.

Fire from the balloons was enough to brighten the entire event ground. In addition, they installed pyro and as music blasted from the speakers, pyro bursts out fountains of fire in sync with the music. They closed the show with spectacular laser light show.  


Slow mo of the show that I captured

There were some really great things about the trip. I realized how tiring driving can be and it is totally not how it is depicted. I loved visiting an old style carnival. While driving back, I got to enjoy driving on straight roads with no traffic.

The best thing about the event, aside from obviously the Glow show was the public transport. No stay with me on this one.

Hamilton & the event organizers did a great job. There were free buses from different areas of the city to the event location. You can take the same bus back for free. The services kept running until all of the people had left the grounds. A bus every minute.

It also speaks volumes about the number of people attending that it took me about 3 podcast episodes ( ~ 1 hour ) to board a bus. I didn’t mind, it surely beat driving back.

Also, when I left, we would still see heaps of cars still stuck in traffic as we whooshed past them. The organizers ( city council? ) had cordoned off the flush medium of the road to be a bus lane for that day. Another good call.

Will I go again? Absolutely.

Locked out


I was standing outside my room, a pizza box in my hand as I tried to call my AirBnB host after midnight. No answer. I was locked out.


I was in Hamilton, it was my first solo trip after getting my license. ( I will post about my trip soon. ) The drive was great, the event in Hamilton was great as well.

That day, I had late lunch & I thought I would be able to skip dinner. After I reached my ( AirBnB ) home, just before midnight, I realized I was hungry. So I locked my room, kept the room key in my jacket and went to pick up a pizza that I just ordered.

I picked up the pizza, got back home and was about to open my door when I checked my jacket. I checked it again. Nothing.

I checked under my seat in my car. Nothing.

I went back to the pizza place. Nothing.

I texted my host to see if he had a spare key. No response.

I tried to see if my room’s windows can be opened from outside. Nope.

I was panicking at this point. I wasn’t hungry anymore. Realization hit me like a brick:

‘I am in a different city, I don’t know anybody and I can’t legally drive back home because my license has restrictions. I would have to sleep on couch. Hopefully no one else at the house makes a big deal out of it. ‘

There was nothing I could do.


When I partially finished my pizza, I realized I could do something.

I could pick the lock.

I knew I cannot cause any damage to the room or the lock. I can’t make noise either. There were other people in the house who were sleeping and it would make me feel even worse if I woke them up after midnight.

I sat in the lounge near the makeshift kitchen. I had access to some cutlery. I Googled
how to pick a lock and a site suggested using a butter knife.

There was a few knifes I could use. I had hope now. I abandoned my lackluster pizza and picked up the knives. The site said that try to insert the tip of the knife into the keyslot. Turn it just as you would turn the key.

First knife didn’t work. It was just to thick for the keyslot.

Second one went in the slot but I couldn’t turn it. I guess it wasn’t deep enough.

Third time’s the charm I guess. The lock clicked open and I was in my room.

I was euphoric. I didn’t have to spend my night crawled on an uncomfortable couch, cold and tired. I wasn’t tired anymore, I could have stayed up all night if I wanted just from the rush of successfully unlocking the door.

I did eventually sleep, after finishing my book ( Jurassic Park ) and my pizza. My solo trip was great. I had plenty of things to talk about but every time someone asked me about my trip, I began with how I was locked out.

Blade Runner 2049 ( 2018 )


Also, after watching the original Blade Runner and then consequently watching this one, I am only going to talk about Blade Runner 2049. Also, this is not a review.

I watched this movie partially when I was India but I couldn’t immerse myself in it. The second time I watched it, I was able to. I kept the lights off, kept the volume high as I sat on my couch immersing myself in this exploration about what it means to be human.

There is something stunning to watch a life unfold in slow deliberate steps, to watch a character walking through life and then at the end making life work for him.

Yes, I loved the character of K. A guy/replicant who is hated ( racism? ) for who he is, working to hunt his own kind. I watched this lonely guy, whose only real relationship is with another non-human AI, go through a severe life shattering existential crisis.

K went from being someone who was sure of WHO HE IS, to someone who fought against evidence of what he thought HE ACTUALLY IS and just when he was about to accept his fate, that identity is again taken from him.

Through the course of the movie, I watched the character slowly lose his entire life: his work is compromised, his ( AI? ) girlfriend dies in front of him and his sense of identity dies twice. At the end, he accepted he is and does what he thinks he should do.

And for me, that is a really great story. That is a really great character.

For me, that is a inherently human character.

I am sure I am not the only one who came to this conclusion while watching this movie. I think I needed two viewings to draw these inferences from the movie.

A while back, I posted something about watching a lot of video essays on YouTube. The linked essay is one of them and I particularly love this channel as it makes me see something that I haven’t seen before or realize WHY I like a movie so much.

Shades of Loneliness


The library is a magical place. From time to time, I find truly remarkable books. Recently, I read Jessie Greengrass’s An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It. I picked it as it was the only short stories collection I could find.

I am glad I did. This book made me felt… understood.

It didn’t offer any revelation about my nature or my circumstances. Neither did it try to offer any solution to the things it spoke about. It just … presented them.

I am hooked from the first page of the titular short story. I am bracing myself to confront an emotion that I have felt before and now, I am reading what I have felt.

The regret and the anger at one own’s actions. The character’s realization of the consequences at their own irreversible actions.

The sense of being lost in a world one shouldn’t feel lost in.

The daydreaming one does when their own reality is just okay.

The rationalization one makes when looking back at some of the choices one made.

There is more to the book that I can write here or talk about. Neither do I feel like I have the adequate comprehension to present it.

I knew from each story that the character was lonely in a way.

The stories in the book depicted a different shade of loneliness. I was able to relate to the characters because they are feeling something that I have felt before in my life.

I have felt their anger and regret.

I have felt lost.

I have daydreamt.

I have rationalized.


I wonder why this book of all of the things in my life made me want to open wordpress again. Late last year I realized that I didn’t have anything to write about anymore.

What do I do with a personal blog when there is nothing interesting in my personal life   personal life doesn’t offer anything to write about?

I guess I will write about books and movies that made me feel something, that keep me thinking long after they are finished. I will write about the YouTube channels that help me understand why I love certain movies more than others. Hopefully, I will write a short story or two too.

Anniversaries


Three years. Five years.

I have been living in Auckland for the last three years. I am not a guy to celebrate anniversaries but somehow this feels momentous to me

My blog is five years old now. Five. If my blog was a kid they would probably be in school now. I am proud of this too, even though I feel guilty of not being able to maintain it or sustain it with enough traffic over the years.

So yeah, this is the post. That’s it

I am learning to drive… finally


People are always shocked when I tell them that I don’t know how to drive. It is almost unimaginable for people to live in Auckland and not drive everywhere. There are a lot of cars in this city. I have to explain it to them that I don’t need it right now as I work very close and in Mumbai, everyone relied on public transport.

I got my learner’s license about 8 months ago. I have been meaning to start learning to drive but I was in no hurry to do it. I don’t know why I finally took that seriously a month ago. Probably because I wanted to learn something new.

I don’t have a car. I can’t drive without supervision on a learner’s license and I can’t pass my license test without knowing how to drive. The NZ Transport Agency recommends a total of 120 hours of driving experience before going through a driving exam. This feels like a Catch 22.

I had to ask, like formally, my friends to teach me driving. This weekend, after three hours of cumulative practice in the parking lot, we took to the road.

It is tough to understand how big the car is and how far to the left it stretches ( we have the steering wheel on the right ). It is impossible to instinctively know how to reverse. I have to collect my thoughts, strategize before reversing. And I still got it wrong.

Luckily, I didn’t harm the car or anyone else. My friends were pretty supportive and allowed me to take my time. I might have another session with them in their car before buying my car for practice.

Who knows, I might actually enjoy this. Cause I really want to drive on the road with this song.

Conversation Starters: ‘How’s it going?’


I don’t like that question. I hate asking or being asked the question, “How’s it going?” It is a terrible conversation starter.

I get it, meeting and talking to new people is pretty hard. Talking with acquaintances is even harder. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise that it is pretty common conversation starter.  Almost everyone uses it. There are a couple of problems with that questions, as innocuous as it appears to be.

Firstly, it expects a tale. Not a story, but a tale like Lord of the Rings. It expects a tale worthy of your time and as well as the asker’s.  At least that is how I feel about it.

Every time I am asked that question, I scratch my head to find the most amazing thing that has happened in the last couple of weeks. And every story that comes to my mind seems to be quiver in front of that question. There is no easy answer ( more on that later ).

Secondly, it seems almost disinterested in normal mundane things. The Everyday cannot be answer to that question.

I like mundane, I love normality. I would love to go on an adventure as much as the next guy but I don’t do it as an escape. I would go because I wanna go ( whole other bag of worms ). I would go because after a while I would crave for the normal again.

Thirdly, no one knows how to answer that question. No one. Everyone says things like ‘It is going good’, ‘Average’, or sometimes when people feel a little gregarious ‘Not too bad and not too good’.

After that, everyone just stand there idly thinking of something to say. The very fact that this conversation starter doesn’t even start a conversation seems preposterous to be.

Alright, rant over.

What to do after this question is asked? Or is asked to you?

What is my blog about now?


I completely overlooked the fact that my blog is 4 years old. I should have made a big deal of it considering how quickly my passions oscillate. I am astonished that I haven’t let my blog die.

For the past 4 years, I kept writing without any theme in mind. I wrote about my life, some short stories and lately photo challenge posts. I enjoyed writing. I relished the feedback I received from friends in my real life and the ones I made through WordPress.

The 4 years weren’t smooth sailing,  there were times I thought about stopping. I would always come back though, usually with an urge to get my thoughts on paper.

In January, I took my blog seriously again. I had a few goals:

  1. Write every week.
  2. Generate the minimum traffic everyday.
  3. Comments, likes don’t matter even though they are always appreciated.

I knew that I would always have one viewer on my blog ( Hi Mummy! 🙂 ). But attracting people everyday to my blog was hard. Writing every week is also hard. So far, I have a few irregularities but mostly I have been successful. I won’t admit it was easy, there was a month long gap where I didn’t post anything. But I have to go on since the year’s not over.

For #2, I found two easy ways to get people on my blog: Community Pool and Photo Challenges from Daily Post. However, last week I found out that Daily Post will stop publishing new challenges and hosting pools.

Now, I have to figure out a way to keep my blog alive and post something at least weekly. I can do the latter. I do have enough ideas and content in my head to keep going. My life is exciting enough for me to do that.

I have no idea how to generate traffic. I ought to figure it out someday.

In the months since I started, I realized a few things. I don’t write for the benefit of others. My blog probably never was. It’s mine.

A glorified journal for me to log my important memories and experiences. It was for posting photos I am proud of, for posting short stories I enjoyed writing ( I haven’t done that in a while ).

So this is what this blog is about now: me. It is my attempt to keep something good in my life going. Welcome.

 

With English Language


This post has been long overdue. I first thought about writing it when I was sitting in a bar with some of my friends. Half of us are non-native English speakers. I asked them, ‘which language do you think in?’

I wish the answers they gave me were revealing. They weren’t, all of them thought about it and then shrugged ignorance. No one knew.

I remember reaching in Auckland two years ago. I remember my first conversations. I would pause before speaking because I would get my languages mixed up. Even though I am a competent multilingual, I couldn’t think of the words. I had to translate every sentence I was going to utter from Hindi to English.

I don’t remember the time when I stopped thinking in Hindi. I wish I did so that I could give a definite answer it took for me to leave my language behind. One day when I was biking home and I was thinking of which route to take when it hit me, my thoughts were articulated in English.


When I was studying for undergraduate degree or when I started working in India, I met new people. On the basis of languages, I could categorize two types: ones who would mostly speak in English and others would communicate in Hindi. I also learned that it didn’t matter as eventually everyone who could, would revert to Hindi.

It was natural, almost instinctual amongst us. Sentences would get a motley of words from both languages; idioms roughly translated and laughed at.

It didn’t matter if I couldn’t get my message across in English, I had the safety net of just doubling down to Hindi just like my peers.


In Auckland, there are numerous times when I have to re-frame my sentences because what I said was incoherent. It wasn’t particularly because of our lingo differences, I always found it difficult to form sentences on the go while speaking. Writing, on the other hand, came naturally.

There were also numerous times when I didn’t understand what other Kiwis are saying. Sometimes they would say ‘Cheers’ as thank you and other times they would exclaim ‘Sweet As!’ to express their approval. I still don’t get the second one.

I had to relearn the programming jargon so that I could use it when I am working, or explaining my code to someone.

I am not an accurate representation of every non-native speaker or everyone has the same issues. I don’t face the same issues all the time either. There have been occasions when I was perfect and then some bad days when I would stammer and lisp my way through a conversation. Probably has something to do with my level of confidence on that particular day.


I have a lot of free time in my hands these days. My friends with whom I would spend most of my weekends are gone, and I wonder what to do with them. Sometimes I think it would be a great thing to learn a new language. I ask myself, do I need to learn a new language?

Is it even useful anymore?

Then I go to an Asian supermarket and listen to people speak their language and realize: yeah it is. I really want to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations.


It was one of my first months in Auckland. I was returning home and I was sitting in the back of the bus. A group of three people were talking loudly near me and I could hear everything they said. They were talking about bacon.

‘You never have to use oil when making bacon because there is enough fat in the bacon’ one of them said. I made bacon for the first time a couple of days later.

I also looked over to the speaker and saw that he was also Indian, possibly a Kiwi national by his accent & fluency. One day, I thought.


Looking back on the different things I have done, people I have met, I know that the one day has long been crossed. English is no longer a second language, a means to illustrate my education ( India ) or a barrier ( New Zealand ).

 

Image Credits: Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

Taking photos is fun now


I have always enjoyed taking photos and a while back seriously considered buying a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. The only problem with such a purchase is the camera isn’t as compact as I wanted it to be. I ended up buying the new OnePlus 5T. I am not going to review the phone, it is pretty fantastic and it gives me some features a normal phone camera doesn’t. The result:

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I have been taking heaps of photos in the last couple of days. Last Saturday, I purposely woke up at 6am in the morning, something I don’t do on a weekday, to try and take pictures of the sun rising over Auckland’s skyline. It was a really good day and now I am constantly spending a couple of seconds be fore taking any photo. The biggest surprise for me was when I was able to take a night sky photograph just outside my home in the middle of the city.

Fair to say that I will be taking part in heaps of photo challenges from now onwards and my instagram will be constantly updated. Hell I even started signing my photos because I wanted my name out there!

 

 

Musical Farewell


* Note: This post is more than a week late
* Also, all people in this post are mentioned by their initials

This was my fourth farewell in the last couple of weeks. I joked with P the other day, I am losing my friends. Some friends are leaving because they don’t have a visa and others like E because she wants to travel.

With every goodbye I utter, I expect myself to grow indifferent and apathetic and yet I haven’t. Every farewell is different but each bring about a emotion in me. This scares me. I realize that I am more attached to my friends that I thought I was.


‘I am going to miss you,’ I say as I hug E goodbye after the farewell, ‘it is unusual for me to be so comfortable around people. I am going to miss that.’

‘Of course, we are really cool people’ E jokes. Obviously, someone has to discharge the emotion in the room with humor.


Last Saturday was E’s farewell. I met her around my first hackathon and then we became friends as we started hosting a meetup along with P and A. Our group became larger as the weeks passed on by and I was glad for that. It didn’t change the group dynamics on the contrary it made hanging out even more fun. It was no surprise that Saturday night was amazing.

Somehow a stupid song ‘Ken Lee’ became the anthem of the night, sung repeatedly. The night became truly extraordinary after the clock struck 10pm, guitars and keyboards were brought out.

We demanded performances as if we had never heard songs before. The hits rolled out: Can’t Live without You by Mariah Carey, Winds of Change by Scorpio, Africa by Toto, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, Better Half of Me by Dash Burlin and more. We sang without really being drunk, our mood imitating the ambiance one can find in a Karaoke bar. We were happy. We were laughing and we were singing.


We were sitting down. J mentioned a conversation between her and E about our group. The crux of it was that E has become sort of a mother for the group: she would bring food for meetups, she would organize and plans for all of us to get together: sometimes movie nights at her group.

‘It is true,’ I say, ‘E is sort of the planner/mom of the group. We will not have any plans or things to do in the next couple of weeks.’

Everyone laughs.


I remember my brain taking a snapshot of the room. My brain does that from time to time, ensuring that I would never forget something really important. It is as if time slows down and I observe everything in utmost clarity as I did on Saturday night.

E is playing her guitar, R is playing his keyboard, Ir is holding her phone to read the lyrics of the song as we all sing along in a massive out of tune chorus. I feel a grin on my face and at that time I kind of regret that P and A had left the party early. I also know that it would be a while before we would get together like this again. I also know that I will try to capture the essence of the party into this post and will ultimately fail.


There was a house cat at the party. He would be the center of attraction as soon as he walked in the room. As Enzo was being petted by multiple hands, P mentioned about humans being petted.

The joke was simple: will it be weird if we are walking down the road and random people stop us to give our heads a nice pat.

I might actually like that.


It was a great night. It was one of those times in which the sum of emotions is hard to describe. I was happy to be a part of the family that I had formed, sad because I knew that it might not go back to normal for a while, amazed because I didn’t know that my friends are so talented and… I don’t know what else. It is difficult to dissect my feelings about the night.

 

Parting


I met Rohit two years ago after I started my Masters. Today, he leaves New Zealand as I wait for my visa to come through. Through the past week, I have been thinking about how today might play out. What will we say to each other? Will I feel guilty about things working out for me ( visa abiding ) and not working out for him?

I have been plagued with another question too. Will I even feel anything? After all, Rohit and I were never really close. We never spoke about our hobbies or our families. We didn’t talk nor did we ever bond in our struggles. We just hung out, cooking burgers and drinking beers. I would spend most of my university days in his house. Then in the last year, some of our mutual friends moved in with him and I would visit them on the weekends. We would play Call of Duty on his PlayStation, we would cook pasta or Thai or just get fish and chips because we lost track of time. It was always easy.

He, his roommates and I spent the day doing the things we have always done. We hung out. Played Call of Duty, made stupid jokes. Went to a park for dinner where we barbequed burgers.

After I hugged him goodbye and waited for my bus, I stood there thinking how normal the day was. If it was not his last day in the country, it might have been any other Sunday.

It was so easy to just walk into his place, just drop by on the weekend without an iota of plan. And now, there will not be another weekend for a while like that.

I wondered if this how adult friendships feel like.

 

Tongariro Alpine Crossing


A year ago, when I had just met a new hiking group, I heard about Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I met people who were going to attempt the crossing with the group and I wanted to join her. I love hiking/walking and it would have been a great opportunity. But I didn’t. For the last year, I have been looking for a chance to try the crossing. I would tell everyone whenever the topic came up. Finally, some of friends decided to do it.

This is not a road trip post and neither is this a hiking blog, so I am going to spare those details. I will tell you this: Tongariro Alpine Crossing was one of the toughest walks I have done. No one ever told me that it would be this hard.

When others mentioned above had completed their crossing, the weather was pretty bad. My trip had two things going for me.

One: When we got to our starting carpark, the weather was picture perfect: blue skies with one or two clouds.

Two: I was given a DSLR camera. My friend had an old one and he was more than happy to let me use it ( he used his GoPro ). The entire crossing, I had the DSLR hanging on my chest, bouncing off my tummy.

The walk was easy until a certain point, I guess one fourth of the way in. Then we started ascending: first on spiraling staircase with many false finishes and then on the slope of Mount Tongariro. The staircase path raised my hopes so many times as I could see plateaus where people were resting & I would think: almost there. But I would be wrong cause there would be another staircase, and then another and then another and then another. After a while I stopped hoping.

The steep uphill walk of Mount Tongariro was the toughest, I kept stopping every minute. I kept asking my friends whose idea was to do this walk and they would tell me it was mine.

The last 6km of Tongariro Alpine Crossing felt like 30km. We kept walking, heading downhill steadily stressing our knees. I didn’t take one picture during that part, I was too tired to care. The 20km Tongariro Alpine Crossing sure felt like 50km long at certain points.

Once we finished and I was on the shuttle back to our lodge, I took a deep breath. I had done it, I had finally crossed Tongariro. A year of anticipation, nine hours of leg punishing walk and some three hundred pictures.

There were some great, breath taking moments. Some pictures I took instantly became my favorite. I saw Mount Ngauruhoe ( Mount Doom from Lord Of The Rings franchise ), I could see snow-clad Mount Ruapehu. In the distance I could see Mount Taranaki ( The Snow Mountain as I call it, where I saw with snow for the first time last September ). I saw the famous Emerald Pools, I could see smoke billowing out of the hills.

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I don’t think I will do this walk again, but I know that if I will have the feeling with me. Every staircase will seem puny as compared to Devils Staircase. Every uphill will be simpler with respect to Mount Tongariro. As my friends were making the joke as we were getting back to Auckland, ‘We did Tongariro, we can do anything now.’

 

Midsummer Night’s Dream by Pop-Up Globe


Last week ( another long overdue post ), I had the pleasure of watching Pop-Up Globe‘s iteration of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Having never watched any Shakespeare’s plays, I was in for a treat.

Featuring an all male cast, the play revolves around the events of a marriage, couple of fairies and two couples. Because the play was being performed in Auckland, it had been modified so as to include Maori myths. Two parts of the play was in Maori. I didn’t get most of what was being said during the time but I understood the gist of what was happening by the expressions and gestures of the actors.

Being performed in Victorian/Shakespearean English, it was hard to understand at times. Our seats ( through luck ) were just beside the stage and the actors delivered their lines facing sideways from us. Not everything was lost though as the last part of the play featured the actors sitting just outside our booth and wisecracking.

Filled with enough present time cultural references, Midsummer Night’s Dream was hilarious. It made me hoot and cheer, made me laugh till my belly ache and clap along with the song at the end.

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As the show came to an end, I suddenly remembered my time back in my third year of Bachelors degree when I had performed in a play. I remembered the adrenaline rush just before we began, the pride from the laughs that we gathered from the audience, the cultural references that we had shoehorned in according to where we were performing.

I missed those days acutely as I left the theater. I clapped furiously as the play ended, standing up as I had an small clue regarding the effort in building that play. The rehearsals, the arguments, the pseudo-family born by the end.

I realized that I will always love theater because of my experience. I also realized that one day I might even jump to act on stage again. But for now, I am going to clap and hoot for every performance that I might see.

PS: If you are in Auckland this summer, definitely go for any of Pop-Up Globe’s plays. They were amazing.

PS: Post is not sponsored by anyone

 

Birthday Blues


My birthday was in November. Yes, this post is extremely late.

When I was a child, I had the habit of counting the number of days to my birthday. I would literally start the day following my birthday and count the number of days till my next. I loved it. I received presents. Mom would cook lots of my favorite food. I would cut blow the candle and cut my cake as everyone started singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

As years went on, birthdays changed: it became the day of no consequence. I could literally sleep all day long and no one could say anything to me. I would not do any homework, would try to take a holiday so that I could avoid school. My excuse: it was my birthday.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is my dad. He would hardly celebrate his birthday. He would go to work and come back, always telling me that he can’t take a holiday because it was his birthday. I never understood that. He would say ‘Kya celebrate karna?’ ( What’s there to celebrate? ).

In the recent years, my birthdays changed. During my bachelor’s, my birthday would coincide with the hardest exam. My college mates would greet me quickly and go back to studying. I wanted to study just like them, my birthday wasn’t important enough.

Sometime during those years, I changed my Facebook’s privacy and permanently hid my birthday. I didn’t know why then, I know why now. I don’t want people who I have never spoken to in years, people who could hardly be called acquaintance message me on my birthday to wish me. I never liked Facebook’s insistent notifications reminding me of others’ birthdays. I always thought Facebook’s birthday calendar system was too robotic, devoid of any feelings or emotions.

I don’t remember what I did last year for my birthday. I was probably in bed because I was still sad over what had happened. This year, I went to work. I completed my hours, made a software release, not mentioning my birthday to my colleagues. I made the day as ordinary as possible.

I did that because it is an ordinary day. I was born 24 years ago on a November day was special. For me, it doesn’t make all the subsequent Novembers special anymore even though the young me thought otherwise.As I was walking home, I remembered my dad’s words: ‘Kya celebrate karna?’ ( Now what’s there to celebrate? ).

If I was a character in a show or book, I think I would call this change a character development.

 

2017 in Review


I expect things to always get worse. I have always greeted new year’s with trepidation because I expect life to get harder. 2017 was a year where I always expected the other foot to fall. But now as I look back on the year, surprisingly it was relaxing.

Sure, now that I recall, first quarter of the year was stressful because my visa kept getting delayed. I also moved twice in a month. But also, I was finally able to get a job in my sector. After which it was pretty much smooth sailing for me.

I went home to India after a year and a half, gave my family a present surprise at 3 am. Met most the friends that mattered.

I also saw snow for the very first time and also discovered that I am scared of cliffs. That fear didn’t stop me from going on more adventurous bushwalks though.

Jumped off waterfalls and was mesmerized by Glowworms in Raglan which I could say was the highlight of the year. Jeez, even thinking about it makes me wanna go back and I will probably do that again someday.

Lastly, I got one of my essays published in a book. An actual paperback all thanks to Zee! I spoke in front of people and told them about my piece. I couldn’t have wanted a better first piece and it made me take my writing seriously again.

And now we are here, at the end of 2017, a year which could have been a whole lot worse but wasn’t. So this post is not about how scary the next year will be ( of course it will be scary ), I am trying to sound grateful to 2017.

I sincerely hope that your next year is great! Happy New Year everyone!

I host a meetup now


Well I co-host  the meetup but that’s perfectly fine.

I was just an attendee of the meetup till about 3 weeks ago. One time, the regular hosts couldn’t make it and they asked everyone if someone would like to host it, I said sure why not? I mean how hard can it be?

Next thing I know, I am part of their inner circle, attending their planning sessions and what not.

House of Code used to be called FreeCodeCamp Auckland. It is a technical meetup which was aimed at mostly beginners and newbies but the hosts decided to grow it. Now, they ( we? ) are planning on building this fully fledged web app ( Techincal Language: React app ) and I am one of them.

As to how hard can it be? Not so much. It involves lots of explaining and talking but I can do that when I have something to talk about. Plus, I am talking to people who have a similar interest which is always a nice icebreaker.

There is one thing that I noticed in the last few meetups where I was the host. Usually, at these events I have a partial knowledge of what is happening. I don’t know who is talking about what or who knows what.

As I hosted the meetup, I realized that I knew everything that was happening. Who is good at the language we are going to be using, who is enthusiastic and who is trying to steal our idea.

Of course, I may be wrong about them but usually this just makes the entire meetup really exciting. I always have something to do, someone to talk to, something to talk about.

Plus, all of the hosts are going for Star Wars: Last Jedi midnight show so I would say that I trust every one of them.

 

NaNoWriMo: Halfway Update


This is not my first NaNoWriMo. It is my third attempt, and the only time I succeeded in finishing my story was the very first year. I liked the story at the time, but if I read my words now I realize little in terms of a story. Last year I had no idea what to write so I wrote barely 2k words before I gave up.

This year I had a great idea, I loved the idea so much that I woke up from a dream, made a note of the idea and slept back again. The dream is vaguely fresh in my head.

I knew early on that I might not be able to keep up with the daily goal. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to finish my story this month. When I sit down and write the words do pour out but I hardly have time to write daily. I would rather read a book, which I wholeheartedly do.

According to the site, I am supposed to have 25k words down by today. I have about 6 to 7k words down yet. In fact, I am only through to the first three chapters of my supposed story.

There has been one good thing though: I know that if I have to keep writing, all I need is a half hour sprint. I was able to maintain a daily half hour sprint a month ago and I am sure I can do it again. I might just finish this story eventually so I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I don’t wanna travel the world


Living in New Zealand, I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of people from different countries. The biggest advantage of meeting people is that most of them are/were traveling the world. The disadvantage of meeting people is that most of them are/were travelers.


I remember a Belgian guy from the first group of travelers I had met. He started calling me ‘Mayo’ and the name has stuck since. He showed me his passport, it was full of immigration stamps from different countries. I was fascinated by his passport and since then my first question to any traveler is to see their passport.

Recently I met a woman who has been on all of the 6 continents and plans to set foot on Antarctica at the end of the year. We were on our way to Raglan with two others, both of them had traveled a bit.

Sitting in the car with them, we ( they ) spoke about their trips. The adventures they have been on and the different cultures they have seen. It was entertaining to listen to them recall their great moments and the highs of their years past. All of them were 6-7 years older than me.


Mumbai is big and everyone knows that. I have lived there all my life prior to moving to Auckland and even then I haven’t seen everything. There are areas I have never been to, suburbs I have no clue where they are located. I don’t even know all of the suburbs in my hometown.

Auckland is similar. It is not huge but most of the areas are unknown. I haven’t seen everything, I don’t know all of the beaches. I don’t know the best bars or the perfect restaurants, haven’t hiked all of the hills.


“Where do you wanna go?”

“Nowhere” I replied, “I don’t wanna travel”


The fact that I haven’t actually been everywhere in Auckland is half an answer. It is not crucial but it is the easiest one to say offhand.

It took me a long time to get adjusted to this place ( moving houses multiple times didn’t improve the situation either ). It took a long time to build something resembling a life here and I don’t see why I would wanna leave anything behind.

I like the stability. I like the familiarity that the city offers ( Auckland/Mumbai ), the sense of being home. Traveling in itself is not a significant reason for me to leave my life behind. I don’t wanna live my life off a backpack even though I like minimalism. I don’t wanna be on the road for months at a time even though I don’t mind weekend getaways. I don’t wanna be at the mercy of the strangers that I encounter even though I have read enough tales strangers’ kindness. I don’t wanna talk about the feeling of loneliness or knowing the fact that most of the people you will ever meet traveling, you might never see again.

In today’s age, when everyone travels the world in their gap year or being on the road is associated with maturity, making my point is hard.

It is easy to find something new and exciting when the city is new. It takes time to find something exciting amidst familiar settings. I just think the latter lasts longer.

Ramble On Book Launch


This last Sunday was Z.R.Southcombe’s “Ramble On” book launch and I was a part of it. I read an excerpt of my piece. I loved the entire event, it was simple and full of lovely people.

Before arriving at the venue, I had to decide what part of my piece I was going to read. I knew the essence of my piece but I wanted to reread it to find the one part where I start smiling because of the memories it brings back. I reread my piece and I smiled throughout.

I could read my pieces on my blog all the time ( but I don’t because I don’t think they are good ) but it is a completely different feeling to read my words from a book. I could see paragraphs which could have been better, or the locations described better and it wasn’t perfect but it did what it wanted it to do: make me smile. I loved my essay and I knew exactly what I was gonna read.

Ramble On” was launched in Auckland City Library. According to me, city libraries is the best building in Auckland filled with three floors of books. Zee had invited all of the contributors and other authors for the launch. She had arranged for free goodies, spot prizes ( I won ), face painting ( I didn’t wanna do it ), children’s activities. Library organizers had arranged for refreshments so that guests mingled before and after the event.

I didn’t know there were so many things that went into a book launch. I was shocked by the amount of preparations Zee had done for Ramble on and awed by her efforts. I met Zee for the first time after Twitter and email correspondence. Before I could thank her for letting me be a part of her book, she thanked me for contributing and she insisted that I helped her out.

I met other contributors too. There was one man who was a highlight in the entire event. He called everyone else a ‘Hobbit’. He was huge and broad so I felt like a hobbit in front of him too. He was one of those guys who you meet and you know he is a great guy. He was basically a real-life Hagrid. He invited me to lunch sometime and his wife later told me that he really meant it. He would love to host lunch.

The other thing was really significant about the day was that I was asked to sign copies of “Ramble On”. I looked at the people asking me to sign their copies confused because I didn’t expect it. I was getting my name published for the very first time so how would I know what to write on their copies. What does an author do when they sign copies?

I wanted to tell them that it is just an essay and it is not a big deal. They should probably get their copies signed from Zee because it is her book. They didn’t listen and I caved in. I signed at the end of my essay, hardly writing anything.

When Zee called me up to speak about my piece, I was scared and excited. I cracked a few jokes and everyone laughed. I was funny! I read while paraphrasing small excerpts from my piece where I described my first hike.

Everyone enjoyed it. They all told me that they could relate to the essay, especially the part where I said that I would rather walk in the lead because it was easier than talking to people. I guess most writers fit the stereotypes of being socially awkward.

There it was, my very first book launch. I narrated the entire thing to my friend and I was so excited, I am still excited. It was absolutely perfect.

Buy Ramble On here.

 

About Glowworms


This last weekend I was in Raglan, a small cute little town along the west coast of New Zealand. I did a lot of things that I have never done before. I jumped off waterfalls, walked in a forest in the dark ( and made new friends? ). It was a great weekend. I had the privilege of seeing glowworms.

Yes, it was a privilege.

We were canyoning along a stream, stream’s name I never bothered to ask. I knew I was gonna see glowworms as that is what we went for. The glowworms just blew my mind.

glowworm-cave
I couldn’t find a suitable image glowworm canyoning, so glowworms in a cave it is. Credits: http://wallpapersdsc.net

I have to just close my eyes to see them again. The river was dark, the sky a shadow of light and the trees silhouettes against the faint sky. The trees’ branches swayed and leaves made rustling sounds as the wind flowed. The sound of water splashing against the rocks. Just behind some of the shrubs and weeds I would see a shining dot. Just a dot, no different that a star on a clear night.

A star that was a few inches away from me.

With focus, I saw more glowworms. It isn’t exactly apparent to know if what I was seeing were glowworms or a reflection of our head beams but soon I could see the difference in the colors. I grinning from ear to ear at the beauty around me. I would frequently tell everyone to shut off their head beams so I could look at the glowworms. I slowed them as I kept stopping to checkout the glowworms.

Of course I didn’t really need to slow down and turn off my head beam. I could also shine a red light that allowed me to see glowworms but I didn’t know that. Our guide, Anne,  told us about glowworms and how they actually shine lights. It is a long story and you could read about it here.

The story is not beautiful and in fact it is carnivorous. Regardless, the glowworms’ beauty didn’t diminish in my eyes. We were at the last leg of our trip, it was pitch black now and we had shut off our head beams completely. There was no light, the moon was hiding behind clouds promising rain. We were the only 5 people in the stream. But we weren’t really alone. We were sitting down on the rocks in the stream. Our guide poured us some cinnamon tea which we shared, the beverage being the only source of warmth around us; it made me aware of how tired and cold I was. Our guide said that the last part was like a scene out of Avator.

Avator had a scene out of our world.

There were eels and there were snails in the stream. These snails secreted a glowing chemical so the water also glowed in patches. And the glowworms, oh the glowworms were surrounding us, in their hundreds, nay, in their thousands all around us.

They were in scattered without any apparent pattern but their randomness gave birth to multitudes of connections. In those last 5 minutes of story time in the stream, with the thousands of glowworms, not only was I not alone but I could see that I was not alone.

 

MY NAME IS IN A BOOK!


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Yes! My essay on hiking is published in a book. I can see my name in a list of contributors, can see my bio at the end of the book. My essay takes 4 pages among the last chapters.

daniel-bryan's-yes-chant

Nothing could have been better.

How Did I get here?

I follow Zee Southcombe on Twitter. A couple of months ago she asked me if I would like to be a contributor in her new book. Of course I had to say yes.

However, writing the piece wasn’t easy. I had no inspiration, no recent hikes’ memories to pull apart & prod to see how what hiking felt like. I had to go for a good hike to write this. I had a month to to write a 1000 page piece and an urgency to write it but no feelings behind it.

It had to be perfect, I kept telling myself. It had to be, because it would be the first time my name would be in a book. I have been published in a research journal and I have written ~250 posts on the web but this one is special. It had to be perfect.

On Anzac day, 25th April, I went for another hike. Rangitoto Island formed my association with Got To Get Out group and I took that night slowly going over the entire hike. What I liked, what I didn’t and which instances opened the memory banks in my head. My old hikes were fresh again and I finished the piece.

Following Months:

I know a few writers who proofread it and encouraged me. They were really happy about it and Zee loved it too!

Yes, there were grammar mistakes, lots of them ( Feel free to point them out in the comments ). But that doesn’t matter anymore cause my piece is in the book. I can say I am published now.

I received the book last night and I haven’t really gotten over my joy to read other pieces or even look at other contributors’ bios. Next Sunday, October 15th, the book’s launch takes place in Auckland city Library. I do plan on reading a small sample from my piece. Not a lot of people know that my piece got published. A few friends. My family doesn’t know either, I kept it from them as a surprise.

Lastly, thank you Zee for the opportunity. I am so excited about the launch!

Book Launch Event: https://goo.gl/95p9cy

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House Concert


There is a bar near my house, Flight 605. I go there occassionally because they have host music gigs on Sunday. I have watched ( & heard? ) great Folk music there. Every single artisit had something unique in their gigs, Barrow Brass Band had songs 20min long, Sophie Mashlan played great guitar, Phil Edwards Band had lyrics with which I could completely relate to. One of the artists was Fables.

Last weekend, she hosted a house gig along with three other bands/artists: Albi from Albi and the Wolves, The Goth and the Pixie and Victoria Vigensar. Since I have never been to a house gig like that before, I was really looking forward to it. That Friday night turned out to be one of the best nights I have had.

 

The show was in the lounge and was full of people. I noticed a couple of other things too. I could guess that only artists lived there. The lounge had canvasses and paints in one side while the stage area was surrounded by amplifiers and instrument cases. The walls were adorned by posters of previous gigs they had attended; so many posters that I wondered what would happen if they ever go out for more: will they tear down those posters or will start on a new room? I never asked them that. The lights were dimmed and stage was brightened by three or four lights of different colors which obscured the artists faces.

I met a few people as I got in. I had only heard Fables perform before so everyone was new. I guess I had the impression that the artists wouldn’t be mingling around because when the performances started I was amused by the fact that I was just speaking to the person.

Albi & the Wolves’ Albi was the first to perform. He was great, he set the mood for the night. He was funny when he wasn’t performing and would stop to laugh whenever someone cracked a joke. He told us about the marketing trick of 3 plugin or endorsements during his gig and kept reminding other artists to do the same cracking the audience up. I sang along to his songs ( I don’t remember the lyrics anymore, just the feeling ) tapped my foot at the beats that he set. He was so excited about his performance that a couple of times that he bounced on the stool and afterwards when I was talking to him he said I should come watch the band perform with another jump. Performing to him is such an innocent joy that I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at him, glad that I spoke with him.

The Goth and The Pixie were dressed as named. He was goth and she was the pixie. When I sat down to watch Albi I thought of them as just another person in the audience and it was only after I saw Pixie take out her violin to play along (more on this later) I realized that they were gonna have a gig. The guy, or the Goth I should say was full of one-liners which made their gig more entertaining. They even had a small spoken word poetry embedded inside one of their songs. She told us about her time in a different city and she was suggested that she could write a song about some people and she did. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I knew some of Fables’ songs. She is active Facebook and because of her I came to know about the house show. It was one of the few times that Facebook proved to be useful. She is a different person when she sings as compared to when she talks, not drastically different but just enough to think that two are different people. Her songs are great and as I was writing this I found a few videos of her performances. But between her songs she talks about stuff, everyday stuff that it’s like a conversation between two friends.

Victoria was the first person that I met that night and she was the second person to perform. She doesn’t hold her punches back in her songs, singing about the big issues. I remember two of her songs distinctly well: one was about Syrian refugees and baby Alan, the other was regarding homeless people. There is such emotion in her voice that carries the message through to the heart. During one of her songs, Pixie from Goth and Pixie started playing her violin with them and it was just so beautiful to watch them all perform.

There is no easy way to conclude this piece. I don’t even think that title does the gig justice but I couldn’t think of a better one. I should have written this piece about a week ago but I was busy and out of writing practice. There is no point to this post right now other than to talk about the fantastic people I met and saw. Maybe introduce some of you to good music.

Maybe I shouldn’t have complained


I lodged my first (minor) complain yesterday evening & I feel conflicted about it.

I was on my bike as I was heading down Sandringham road. As far as I know, I didn’t do anything illegal or stupid. I had a bag high-visibility cover on, I was riding in the bus lane (I am allowed to, it was the BUS LANE and not the BUS ONLY lane), I didn’t need to turn on my bike lights cause it was only 5 pm. I was not riding in the middle and others had space to overtake me.

Suddenly, there was this big bus next to me, less than an arm’s width away (I think so). It would have sped up to overtake me if not for someone ahead on the bus stop signaling the driver to stop.

All of this happened in less than a second. I was scared but I didn’t panic and so I didn’t loose my balance. I am really proud of the fact that I kept my cool.

I rode on, glancing back continuously to see if the bus is still on my heels (wheels?). I got on to the next bus stop and stopped there, no longer scared but angry. I expect every car driver to be reckless and stupid around cyclist but not public bus drivers. I expect them to follow the rules, especially the one which mandates that a space of 1.5 m needs to be there between the car/bus and the cyclist when you pass them. As the bus came closer I took a photo of the bus license plate and left.

I should have confronted the driver. Tried to be polite about the fact that he almost ran me to the curb. I didn’t do that for some reason I can’t make out.

I contacted Auckland Transport on Twitter and sent them the photo of the bus and told them what happened and where. They gave me a case number of my complain.

Half hour after this, I calmed down and thought about what I did.

I wasn’t hurt so maybe I shouldn’t have complained?

I may have been wrong and I could have probably been riding in the BUS ONLY lane so it could have been my fault? Maybe the bus driver helped me out?

The bus driver was doing his job and I just complained against him. He must have a family and did I just cost him? He was just doing his job. How would I feel if someone at my work complained about me? Or my clients decided that they want another developer to work with them? I know I would be devastated.

What if I am just another whiny coward who got spooked by a bus and just recklessly complained about it like a millennial?

Even if I had every right to complain and he was the one who was wrong, why the hell do I feel so awful about it?

GovHack 2017: My First Hackathon


We had approximately 48 hours to use open data and create a hack (web app/ mobile app). This was never going to be easy considering:

  1. I don’t know data science
  2. I didn’t have a team when I registered

Luckily, I knew the language I was going to work on: Javascript. In addition, I sporadically dabble on FreeCodeCamp’s online coursework ( Javascript ). FreeCodeCamp’s meetup group in Auckland are people like me, ones who are code newbies working on the same coursework. I met them prior to the hackathon to talk about project ideas and we came up with a few. But the meetup group was huge (12+) so we split into two teams and they used their idea (youtube presentation).

By Friday evening I was in a team of 6 people. Three developers including me, and three non developers.

A: Choosing a Project

This was the hardest part. It took us 8 hours during the hackathon to decide. The biggest mistake that we did was we assumed that data would be available (more on that later). My team started talking about the issues we were dealing with: transport, immigration (due to the changes proposed), housing prices etc. One of us dropped a bombshell and said let’s make a game. Suddenly I didn’t care about dealing with problems: I wanted to make the game.

I always wanted to make games but I don’t know much about it. Plus, I don’t have a clearer picture of where I wanna go with the game development so I haven’t tried it yet.

Our idea was simple: You start the game about 15 years prior. You start buying houses and earn money and in 15 years time you should have certain amount of money to win. Brilliant (and typically the premise of every tycoon game) idea. We knew it worked. To implement it we needed open data of house prices in the city/country.

We don’t have to work on the data at all. We just had to use it as stepping points. All of us loved the idea and even before we found the idea we started working out the mechanics of the game.

Turns out Auckland has no housing data of any kind. Sure we could find data related to renting or number of people in the city but house prices? Nope. This is an important point because there is a house price bubble in the city: housing prices are going up.

On Saturday afternoon we dropped the idea. I wanted to make that game but without data it wouldn’t be eligible in the hackathon. We had another brainstorm and finally settled on looking at the employment statistics.

B: Our App

His idea was to look at how industries are distributed and how many people are depended on it. This way we can tell predict which economies are vulnerable to decline in that particular industry. We planned on using a heatmap to show all the districts with varying colors depending on the distribution.

We found the data fairly easily.  We needed three components: a heat map, piechart for further distribution and lastly a slider so that we can see all fifteen years. We used C3 charts and Here API for creating the heatmap and pie chart (FYI: use C3, they are super easy and look amazing). I worked mostly on the layout and the slider.

Here is the finished product presentation and you can try it out here.

The Weekend

I haven’t seen this much work done in such a short amount of time except in university when the assignment is due. Neither one of us were willing to settle for anything less than what we had envisioned.

My friend also wanted to come but didn’t because he didn’t know coding. What he didn’t know was coding was only 50% of the work and the easier bit. We had to make a video on our project and the skills required for that is rare. All of us occasionally gave feedback to one another, encouraged one another. I ate all the food because someone has to.

There is something amazing about working straight for 36 hours. Sure I was tired, I still am a little bit. But if I was doing everything alone in my time, I would probably take couple of weeks for this, if I didn’t give up on this in the middle by frustration.

I was lucky enough that my teammates were amazing, accommodating to the fact that I don’t know more than the basics about Javascript. I am looking forward to next year, when I get to do this again and maybe by that time we would have better open data available.

RIP Chester Bennington


 

Image Credits: Linkin Park Official Facebook

I didn’t know this would be a shock. After all, I hardly listen to Linkin Park anymore. I ‘outgrew’ their songs as I tell everyone. I have moved on to songs where the singers isn’t shouting or the guitar sounds don’t hurt my ears. Yet when I opened Facebook today, I saw a lot of my friends posting ‘RIP Chester’ and I was shook.

I started listening to their songs again, all of them. ‘Numb’, ‘In the End’, ‘Leave out all the Rest’, ‘Breaking the Habit’, ‘Castle of Glass’ and kept going discovering songs I haven’t listened anymore. Their new single ‘Talking to Myself’ was released just hours before his suicide ( I am not going to say demise. He committed suicide, there is no way I can soften it it up).

His voice sounds different now, I hear his voice with a new clarity now and I get a bigger shock now. How did I never see this coming?!


Linkin Park introduced me to Western rock music. I was in school and at home, we had cable channel which played songs on demand. My brother and I would wait to hear songs that were popular at the time. We enjoyed Backstreet Boys and Nelly Furtado because the lyrics were understandable, the music groovy. I was young, my command on English wasn’t that strong.

We heard ‘In the End’ the very first time. We loved it. My mom definitely didn’t cause she told us to change the channel. After a while she stopped telling us to change the channel when she realized that we loved the songs.

I could only articulate the chorus. It didn’t matter much to us, we were hooked. It was only a matter of time that we were glued to the channel and we heard more of Linkin Park’s songs. VH1 started running in India and we heard more of Linkin Park’s songs. They were really popular in India, anyone who heard any Western music knew them. They were many hardcore fans who had heard every song.

Navin and I were headbanging to ‘Faint’, watching their ‘Breaking the Habit’ video in cause of anime video, we loved ‘By Myself’ because the video was a montage of Dragon Ball Z and I felt really bad for the lead actress in their ‘Numb’ music video. I was too young to understand what their music was.


A couple of years later, when my brother was in College/High School he and his friends formed a band. They would sit in our house because it was 5 min away from their college  and listen to songs. At that point we were deep into rock music, we would listen to Metallica’s “One”, Foo Fighters “Pretender” and so much more. My brother had burned an entire CD full of rock music and he would turn it on all the time.

Linkin Park songs made their way into the CD even then. One of the friends was a hardcore fan. He spoke in length about the band members but I don’t recall him talking about their song’s meaning. I guess it was something that no one really spoke about but left it to interpretation. We should have. Around the time, they had released a new album which wasn’t all that popular but still good. One of their songs ‘Shadow of the Day’ was completely different from all of their previous songs.

Navin’s friend Rajesh commented on the song and I paraphrase: It sounds so peaceful, you can listen to it and fall asleep but when you listen to the lyrics you realize that it is the completely opposite of that. It has been 8 years or more since. The memories have suddenly been surfaced from their long sleep in my brain since I read about Chester’s suicide this morning.


I still have some of their songs. I am no longer oblivious to their meaning. When I listen to their songs, I am teleported to my old home sitting in front of the tele and watching their videos. I realize that even back in the 2000s, they sang about mental issues and yet were mainstream artists. I don’t think that happens anymore.

I have read people talking about Tupac, Chris Cornell, Alan Rickman, Prince, Micheal Jackson’s death but I never really UNDERSTOOD what they meant. I do now. It is not a good place. He sang about his issues and I never heard that.

I could quote their songs, I am listening to their songs now and I could use ALL of them to tell you what I feel like now. It isn’t fair that I riding nostalgia and guilt listening to their music, when Chester is no more with us. It isn’t fair I realized the meaning behind his lyrics and the strength of his voice ONLY after he killed himself.

How hard can it be? (New Plymouth-Paritutu Rock Edition)


(My weekend was not hard except this bit. Considering how much fun I had writing last week’s post, I wanted to continue this. I might write an entire post about my New Plymouth trip later)

‘Is it hard?’ someone in the van asked. A guy, let’s call him C had done it before with his partner L said ‘You need good upper body strength to do it. L did it!’

Well, if L was able to do it, I thought how hard can it be?

My fear of cliffs and shear drops was forgotten. See a while back, while walking along the coastal hills in Piha in West Auckland, I found that I am scared of heights. I can do it but I would rather not stand close to the edge and look down at the abrupt chasm. I can walk on any height as long as I don’t have to look down at a cliff.

Paritutu Rock is hardly 100 ms, located at the edge of New Plymouth over looking the ocean. Hikes take the stairs halfway and then reach the peak rock climbing. The climb isn’t vertical so you can use just your feet while getting to the top.

I went on all fours. And I made the mistake of looking down halfway through. I bit down a scream because I was at a cliff looking down at the embrace of harbor rocks. I swear they were arranged hands spread apart.

View Down, Credits: D

I knew coming down would be harder. For the residents of the city, the hike would/should be a weekly exercise. I saw a family descending with their 6 year old daughter while I was standing at the same edge with A. It was sobering moment, cause I was really tempted to go back down.

I was right about one thing: coming down was harder and scarier. If I slipped, I would tumble down on hard rocks all the way, if I don’t fall off a cliff. My left knee (I guess the ice skating issue) had to bother me while descending too. Great!

I took my time. I didn’t care that children were climbing a million times more gracefully than I was. I squatted to keep balance, used my hands for grips slowly covered ground (or rocks?). My eyes were wide open and I don’t think I was blinking them anymore. I told (pleaded?) others behind me, ‘Don’t rush me’.

The only solace descending was I could the carpark getting closer. I knew I wasn’t just going around in circles. I took more time than my group and they were waiting for me at the carpark.I reached the stairs but didn’t stop till I reached my group. K asked me ‘How’s it?’, my face must have shown my fears. I blew out some air while nodding and sat down, allowing my fear to take over.

‘How hard can it be?’ I thought and had a small laugh. I realized that my week could have been completely different, I could have been walking around snow clad Mt Taranaki. The cliff on Taranaki would have been so much scarier.

Of course, it was worth it. The view from the top of the rock was splendid-breathtaking-astonishing and my vocabulary can’t cover it. As I got the summit, to the left, I could see the New Plymouth arrayed systematically like legos. I could see Mt Taranaki in the distance beyond the city, staunch and inviting in its white attire. Clouds obscured the peak from time to time, testing the patience of the group’s photographers H and D. The view on the opposite side was even better.

New Plymouth, Credits: H

I was standing on the edge of the world. If I started sailing straight from there I might not encounter any land till Africa. Edge of the World with nothing but blue sky shading the ocean with a darker hue, the sky and ocean seemed to be going a long way and finally meeting at the horizons. I could hear seagulls, I could see the waves crashing on the shore.

Ocean, Credits: A

Now, if I do that again, I will not be afraid. I could do it when I was scared, I could do it again. In fact, I am looking forward to the next trip and I am hoping that someone invites me for the hike to Mt Taranaki soon.

After all, how hard can that be?

Weekend, Credits: D

How Hard can it be? (Ice Skating Edition)


If you are going to try something you have never tried before, a person is bound to tell you ‘How hard can it be?’. That person might think that they are encouraging. It is either that or they want to watch you fail so bad that they can send your fail video to FailArmy.  My advice to you: punch that person in the face.

How hard can it be? Extremely hard.

Now my advice backfires on me. I am usually the one who says ‘How hard can it be?’, mostly to encourage myself. Maybe I am overconfident too. Afterwards I regret it because my body hurts and if I could glare at myself, I would glare myself to smoldering bits.

Today, I decided that I wanted to go ice skating. I have never even roller skated so I should have been aware of my imminent regret. Instead, I thought how hard can it be. Plus, there was a free event for beginners and who isn’t ready for free stuff.

Boy, oh boy I was wrong.

Firstly, it feels different just standing in balancing with the entire sole of the feet and balancing on a metal skate. How was I standing? I wasn’t standing, my legs were dancing and my body’s momentum pulled me forwards. It was like I had new feet and I had skipped the tutorial on using them (I think I did that). My left ankle decided to shake disturbing my balance and I would flail my arms in the air trying to catch balance (it didn’t work). I would fall to the ground and then began the embarrassing process of standing up.

I fell four times throughout. First time I fell, I was trying to skate at the outer edge. A beginner behind me patiently waited as I tried to stand up again. Second time I fell was about half hour later, by then I was getting confident again because I wasn’t using the boundary for support.

‘I will never learn how to do this if I keep taking support of the wall’ were the exact words in my mind before I fell on my ass. I fell again a few minutes later and after the last time I was done.

Every time I fell, I told myself I can do it. The problem was I didn’t know what I was doing. After the last time, my legs were sore and I had no energy left in me to try again.I was miserable, cold and my ankles hurt. I slipped a lot of time and every time I did, I noticed a pain in my left knee. I think I was bending my knee along the wrong axis and at last I realized that if I kept doing this I might hurt myself.

And I wanna continue doing stupid things so I don’t wanna hurt myself. Nope!

Others around me kept giving me advice. ‘Bend your knees’, ‘right leg forward, angle it and then left leg forward’, ‘1-2-1-2-1’ and so on. I just couldn’t do it properly. I never went beyond the first 1-2 sequence because I would loose my balance there.

There is a positive side to this though. Firstly, and this should be obvious to the dumb, I wouldn’t have tried if I had thought this is going to be really hard. I would probably prepared myself a little if I had thought that way, but the technology isn’t advanced enough for me to Google skating simulation.

Next,  do you know the sensation you get after swimming? You are walking on land but still feel like you floating in the water. Nothing has ever come close to that feeling. Today after I was done and walked to my bus stop I felt like I was on ice again. I felt I was gonna slip and fall on my ass again. I loved that sensation.

Third, I thought back and realized how many things have I tried by thinking ‘How hard can it be?’ and I failed miserably. I am not ashamed of the fact that I failed, I find it funny though. I am going tramping next weekend I told my roommate, ‘how hard can it be’ today. Yay!

Lastly, I got an idea to write this post. I know ~4 people read this blog, one of whom is my mother (Hi Mom!!!) so yeah! I think I am back.

The Longing


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I was about 8 years old then and till date it is one of the best family photos. My dad is holding me up

When I was a kid, my father used to work in Kolhapur 8 hour train ride away. He used to come once every month and usually on a Friday as it was the day when he had off. Before my birthday, on 8th November we didn’t receive any phone call from him. I think I was worried as he would call everyday at a fixed time. My mom wasn’t worried and that should have given me the hint. Next day on my birthday my dad surprised me by coming home in the middle of the week. The memory is still blurry but I remember getting really happy and my dad’s belly laugh.

I am doing the same thing now.


My manager/company CEO Warren told me a month ago about the company Christmas break. Other than the 5 public holidays, the company doesn’t shell out a 3 week break like every other company. The first thing that came to my mind was I can go home now.

I acted on the impulse without thinking much and within two hours I had booked my flights. I rapidlyy fire messages to all my friends in India telling I am coming home. I was two seconds shy of posting it on Facebook as I realized that my parents would see it. My trip is a surprise for them, it is exactly as I have always pictured my first trip home would be.

I would ring the bell in the morning and my mom would gasp when I say hi. My dad would probably be eating his breakfast and ready for work. My brother would be too sleepy to bother but I know he would be really happy as well. My dog, Jimmy would be the one who is visibly the happiest.

I won’t be landing in the morning but I still expect a similar reaction. If anyone ever tells you a month is not long then introduce them to me.


More than a year ago, prior to me getting an admitted to AUT or getting a visa, I was having dinner with my dad and brother. We were talking about my future and how I was innocently saying that doing Masters’ would be easy or something like that. He was always reluctant with the idea and I always thought it was because of the money involved. He admitted his reason that night.

He said that he was worried that I will leave them and eventually forget about them. I blame Baghban movie for that kind of thinking. His statement was the equivalent of a sucker punch to my gut. Suffice to say that night was a very emotional night for us. My brother wasn’t much emotional though, he was laughing about it eventually.

I did my best over the last 15 months to not forget about them. His sentence would always be in my head.


“How long have you been here for?” a friend asked me.

“15 months”  I replied. I didn’t like rounding off the number or saying more than a year.

“That’s not very long”

“It feels longer”


I have never lived without my family. As a kid, my parents used to scare me that if I didn’t behave they would send me off to boarding school. I think every parent used that line to, sigh, get their children in line.

If I had I would have some experience with living with myself. I would have some taste of the freedom. I would have known how to cook better and how to deal with my finances better.

Today, I don’t have to answer to anyone about where I am going or when I will be back. I can come back at 6pm after work or I can come back at 2am after a party. I could eat whatever I want and I can even sleep hungry. I can keep a stack of clothes on my rooms’ chair instead of hanging them on hooks.

This freedom brings along with itself loneliness. Regardless of when I come home, my room will be quiet. There will not be my angry sulking dad or my chattering mom. There is no dog wagging his tail at the door for me.

I am by no means saying one life is better than the other. Neither am I saying I wanna go back forever. I could enjoy my life as much as I want here and at the same time miss the life that I had back in India.

I can be happy with my life in Auckland and still long for my life back.

For the next three weeks I intend to enjoy my home, my mom’s cooked food. I intend to enjoy meeting old friends and share a laugh or two. I missed them all.

Religions in education?


‘If I don’t pray before the cross I get punished’ my friend explained how his school in Delhi worked. He was in an Catholic school about 10 years ago.

The last time I stepped inside a school was when my mom was working in a school and I had to pick up the house keys. For now, I am no longer living in India but that can change.

The thing that astonished me the most was I never even thought about the way education system in India is so ingrained with religions. It was so normal for me that I never had this kind of conversation with anyone back in India.

My school in India started with morning (Hindu) prayer and national anthem, lectures and classes, closing (Hindu) prayer and then disburse. If you are one of the majority student in the school, this will seem completely normal to you as well.

It was normal to not talk about religions in school, common to not have an opinion in school. Nobody liked the prayers but we did it anyway because we were told to.

We never asked which religion’s prayer are we singing and why?

I never asked that question back in school, college and in university. It was normal to pray in my school. Singing the national anthem is not religious and patriotic so I never had any problem with it.

I think (I am not completely sure) I am Hindu. It makes sense for me back then and now today to pray a Hindu prayer. I can do a Christian prayer too and for me, both of them spell out the same message.

It wouldn’t make sense for a Christian or a Muslim child to pray an Hindu prayer. India is a dense multireligous jungle of a country and if I may paraphrase my friend’s description ‘India had every possible religion’.

Each religion will have its own prayers, traditions and customs. Each of the religious customs have always been seeped into the culture of the practitioners.

If the child of such a culture goes to study in a school of a completely different culture, the result of such a conflict would be severe.

For example, my friend. He is an atheist, for him praying is nonsensical. I can imagine him in a catholic school trying to resist praying sessions, Bible reading sessions and during Carols.

Reflecting back on my school days, I don’t remember having many Christian or Muslim classmates. Almost everyone was Hindu and a majority of us couldn’t be bothered praying unless exams were due.

No one, in my memory asked about why only Hindu prayers and none other. My friend’s school insisted on enforcing Christianity on its pupils.

For me and him, in our 20s, thinking back on it is pretty easy. He says that schools should NOT have any religious influence. He does have a point: teach physics and civil rights at school. Leave the religions at homes and temples, mosques and churches.

Democracy is not about enforcement of religion. It is certainly not what the Indian pledge says : “India is a secular country”

The question now is: What can be done? And more importantly, how many parents, grandparents think about religion when securing admissions?

Because I remember my school friends. We did not care about prayers. We may have cared if we had a choice on prayer.

I Probably Shouldn’t Complain


Life has been tough recently. I am stressed (  because of my visa delay) and really fed up with my incessant problems. I said to my mom the other day on the phone: ‘I never get anything done smoothly in my life!’

Yesterday I met a friend who is almost my elder sister by now. I expected myself to just whine about how miserable my life is and how all I have are problems. She started talking about her new job and I shut up. As she spoke, I was too scared to even breathe.


 

My friend started working in an hospital in South Auckland as an physiotherapist (I guess). Now, if you have lived in Auckland for a while then you will know that South Auckland is considered as the troubled neighborhood. Emphasis on considered as.

She told me that on her third day working there, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She became responsible for taking care of a two month old premature baby. The baby’s mom asked my friend to look after the baby while she went outside. My friend couldn’t stay longer than 30 minutes and told the mum the same.

My friend ended up holding the baby for more than 3 hours. The mother came back after 5 days. My friend did not know that the mother was troubled. The mother was not allowed to leave the hospital and neither was she supposed to leave the ward. There was a communication lapse in the hospital. My friend had to take care of a baby because of it, scared that now she will lose her job and at the same time she would have aided a mother abandon a child.


 

My friend has been working in the hospital for 3 weeks now. She loves children. On her honeymoon, when other couples are busy taking great photos and enjoying, she and her husband volunteered in a slum area in Philipines. They raised money using Facebook to help those children. As she spoke about her job, how she interacts with children and how much she loves them, I knew that she has found her calling in the hospital.

She spoke about meeting children of abuse in the hospital. How children who are supposed to be delighted to meet their parents were too anxious to be around them.

A abused child who hadn’t had a bath since November because of his hydrophobia recently had a bath.

Mothers who would abuse loudly in the hospital and spit at nurses and create a mess.

Fathers who would abandon their new born in the hospital because they did not want them.

She told me about her day as by the end of it, she was tired physically, mentally and emotionally.

“There are small surprises wrapped inside a mass of mess”

I was scared as I heard her speak. I had my hands on my mouth because I was appalled.


 

Back to the mother and the premature baby. The hospital authorities have seen these incidents before. They said ‘This is pretty normal here’.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL! IT CAN’T BE NORMAL!

They spoke with my friend, convinced her that none of this was her fault even though anyone in her place would really think that all of this was their fault.

When the mother came back, she took the child away without any fuss or any communication. She did not give any kind of explanation as to why she was missing for five days. I don’t know much about the social services in Auckland, I am not sure about what will the repercussions of the mum’s actions but my friends couldn’t do anything. They could only send their report on the incident to social services.


 

My problems were my own. My mistakes will only affect me directly. My friend’s work takes a toll on her and affects a lot of people. The families in the hospital, her own mental state, her colleagues and then the social services jobs.

As she finished her stories, I said I have the easiest job in the whole world. In terms of stress and the consequences, I still have it pretty easy. In all, I probably shouldn’t complain anymore.

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Abrupt Changes


We haven’t had coffee in a while. Mostly because I wouldn’t have much to talk about. Sorry about that. I have not had the chance to talk to you about your life either.

If we have met before, you would know that in my life things have a tendency to going wrong in a second. I never see them coming and when the bad things happen, they are overwhelming. Include all the worse possible feelings here.

This week things changed as well. However, they didn’t get worse (in the beginning). After working as an intern for 5 and half weeks, I got a job offer from the company I have been interning at.

I moved into a new house. I hated my previous house, primarily the head tenant and now the new house is perfect. It is everything I wanted and more.

If we are having coffee, I would tell you that in the scheme of things this is unreal. Good news never comes easy and it certainly doesn’t come in packages. I am ecstatic about it all but I am still having trouble with accepting it.

What if something else goes wrong? I can’t see what can go wrong now and it scares me.

Today things went wrong. I never saw it coming as my new house owner told me that she will need me to move out in 3 weeks time. I just moved in the house and now I have to look for something perfect again.

At this point, I am thinking why does this keep happening to me? I remember Murphy’s Law (Something that can happen, will happen) and I realize yeah things always can go wrong. I am also thinking that because the only commonality between these unforeseen changes is me: maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with me.

Maybe I cause the bad things to happen.

I am frustrated, angry and if we are having coffee, then at this instant I would probably throw the coffee cup at the wall.

In other unemotional news, this week while biking to work I fell over. In hindsight I am happy that I was not on the main street and there were no other cars there. Still I am pretty banged up and sore. Before you ask, it was my fault. I took a turn at a very high speed.

I had help from someone living nearby and I hoping to run into her again so that I can properly thank her. I have not met her again, even though I tried to.

And with that, my week is pretty much summed up. Now it is your turn, how are things going? Tell me everything.

You never know you are doing, you just do it


I was talking to my friend past Friday. I was trying to start a PS3 console and it wouldn’t start so I called him. While talking I mentioned that I am trying out ‘Batman: Arkham City’ game even though I have no clue what to do in it. It is at that moment he pretty much summed up my entire life.

‘You never know what you are doing, you just do it.’

I had a great laugh at that and true enough it is what I mostly do. I felt good to hear him say it.


 

I finally moved into a new house. I love it there and it more that what I was hoping for. There are so many empty shelves in my room and will probably remain empty. I like less stuff and clutter.

Sunday is when I moved to a new house. Afterwards, I went to play Holi in Radha-Krishna (ISKCON) temple in the outskirts of Auckland with a friend of mine and neither of us knew what was going to happen there. We just went and pretty much had one of the best parties without drinking. Surprise surprise.

The same night though, my way of living life turned on me. Later that night there was another party (I never say no, another way I live) and I went there as well. Like Holi, I didn’t know what to do here as well. I couldn’t have fun here.

I spent sometime being around with a bunch of guys that I know but not really friends with and eventually I withdrew. I didn’t talk much and eventually I was alone on a table with a pack of playing cards contemplating my choice of coming here.

I was the weird guy at the party who was trying to build a house of cards rather than talk to people and have a good time.

‘That is probably the worst thing I have ever done at a party’ I messaged another friend.


 

My irritating habit of being socially awkward has bothered me for as long as I can remember. I was never as weird as to build a house of cards though.

Last year I went to a girl’s 21st birthday and eventually I was sitting in the corner with a glass of water in my hand while everyone was chatting and having a good time. I just couldn’t do it, get up and maybe get into a conversation.

There is never any better way to explain what I feel at such situations because I actually don’t feel anything.


 

I know if I am invited then I will be going to any social function. I am always hoping that my experience will be better than the last time. Going is not just about missing out or not being able to say no.

I go because I want to go. It will be fun are my thoughts as I am deciding whether or not to go.

It is about being normal. It is about trying and trying again cause the only other option is to give up and let it all go.

I guess I do know what I am doing.

Daily Post: Slur (Fantasy Fiction)


(My plan was not to write stream of continued stories  but now with the help of daily prompt, I am going to try writing them. First story in the series: Glitter)

‘Firde!!!’ the Slurred Cat screamed.

‘Wait what did he scream? Did he say fire?’ Maddy asked.

Before One Eyed Solomon could reply, they heard the gush of fire. If you have never heard fire being sprayed like water from a water hose; it sounds exactly like water. No one can actually make a differentiation between the two unless they see the spray is either fire or water.

Maddy looked and found that from the base of the cave, a stream of fire was being poured out. Only…

‘Is it just me or that fire is too small?’

‘How can fire be small Maddy?’

Solomon looked as well. None of the two were in any immediate danger of being fired upon as they were on the opposite direction and quite far from the cave.

‘Yes you are write. It is almost like that fire is coming from a small mouth.’

‘Small jaw sir. It is a reptile.’

‘Shut up Maddy. Think about what we are going to do next?’

The spray of fire stopped abruptly as it had appeared. Screams from the burned victims could be heard now. The two men had their eyes glued to the entrance of the cave and they were waiting to see what would happen.

‘Is ith gone?’ Slurred Cat asked standing directly behind them.

‘I don’th know.’ Maddy said and immediately received a glower from Solomon.

They got their answer soon as the dragon came out of the cave. The dragon was green scaled and small almost the size of a human when crawling. It was definitely a infant still.

‘So the dragon inside gave birth to a small dragon. Are you sure you want the gold inside which is slick with dragon fluids?’ Maddy asked.

‘Shut up. You have not heard the story have you? Three dragons together captured the cave. They killed almost every man and woman inside.No dragon was birthed inside.’

The dragon was still outside the cave when an arrow was fired on it. The arrow hit the skull of dragon and bounced off as if it was a pebble. The dragon was looking towards the direction where the arrow was fired from.

Another arrow. The result was the same, it bounced off the scales as if a pebble. It did irritate the dragon though.

‘What are they doing?’

‘A mistake.’

Everyone who had bow and arrow was firing arrows now and little good it did to the dragon until one unfortunate shot hit the dragon on the eye. The dragon howled in agony and …. it’s scream was not terrifying.

The scream was a child’s inarticulate scream: full of agony. It breathed fire in all directions burning arrows and heating stones before bolting back in. There was a silence in the night as if time was scared to move. It had to broken by Maddy

‘Now what sir?’

‘These guys run. We wait for the dragon’s revenge. Maddy they are coming out soon.’

 


 

Thank you for reading

 

Gone Too Soon


Friday night was not just a party for some of my friends. It was a night to honor a good friend of theirs who sadly passed away.

Early this week, I saw a friend’s post on facebook remembering his friend, Jérémy, a young university student. Jérémy had passed away tragically with cardiac arrest. I was in shock, cause Jérémy was young, very young for cardiac arrest, too young for dying.

I never knew Jérémy.

Jérémy’s funeral was on Thursday. Friday night, two of my friends invited me out. These two were from a different circle of friends from the one mentioned above. I didn’t know that they had been to Jérémy’s funeral. As I got into their car, they handed me a bottle of liquor, asking me to sip in the memory of their friend.

I sipped and said To Jérémy. There was a seconds’ silence where I was afraid that I had said something I shouldn’t have. Then the conversation resumed.

The entire night, regardless of how great the pub music was, a tight sadness gripped the two and rightly so. I tried to imagine what they must be feeling like and I hoped they were alright. I asked how are they holding up and they said they are okay. Everyone always says they are okay, even when they probably aren’t.

They told me tales about Jérémy. They were talking about how great Jeremy was with his studies, how he was the first one to always finish up all the assignments and the preparations for the exams. How he was meticulously preparing for the triathlon. One of them suddenly got overwhelmed when talking about Jérémy.

They both shared a small laugh on how Jérémy was always ready to go out with them on Friday night.

‘If I call Jérémy now, he would be like let’s go.’

Then we toasted the third time in his name.

I couldn’t bring myself to ask how they were feeling anymore. They were grieving so I let them do it the way they wanted to. I tried to stand in their shoes and think about losing any of my friend.

How the friend’s contact will turn to a meaningless number where no one would answer or even worse turn into a hurtful reminder. I thought about the difference between ‘Somebody I don’t talk to anymore’ and ‘Somebody I can’t talk to anymore’.

I didn’t know Jérémy. But from what everyone said about him, I would have enjoyed his company.

To Jérémy, Gone too soon.

Internship Monologues


PS: I got an internship recently, and this is how I feel everyday.


Angel-Devil-OnShoulders
Credits: The Mighty

What are you doing?

I am trying to understand this code.

You have to admit it is way beyond your comprehension.

No I got this.

You will screw up. They will know you are a fraud.

Shut up! You worked your ass off for this and damn it I am not going to let you quit now. Come on now, move!

Oh, this is gonna end well.


My mind is constantly working. When I am reading, my mind is concocting the next military fantasy novel, when I am coding my mind is trying to create ideas for the next big application. My mind does not deal with small issues.

Go Big or Go Home.

I sometimes hear my mind speak in a voice not very distant from my own, but it has a certain sense of arrogance that I can never manifest in mine. My mind wants perfection, it craves success and lastly, it wants that high of achievement.

I push myself to get it: constantly for almost everything. I have met people who say that it is tiring and they get burnout at the end of the day. I am lucky enough to not experience that so far. My mind is also smart enough to know when to stop trying.

Alas, it doesn’t know when to stop talking.


Oh shit! I screwed up.

No you did not, relax.

What have I done in my program: it completely crashes everything.

It is okay. Take a deep breath, you got this.

No I don’t. I should never have come here.

You are trying. That is all one can ever do, if it works or not is not in your hand.

Yeah I guess I can try.


It gets weird at times though. It is like I have the devil (he is not evil, mostly) and an angel sitting on my shoulders. One tells me to be the master of everything, to push above and beyond I have ever gone before. He tells me not to take shit from anyone ever, to keep chasing that perfection. It doesn’t give me the option of failure.

The other: it catches me when I fall, which is very often. It supports me, allows me to watch lots of dog videos when I am feeling down and slowly gets me back on track. It tells me it is okay to fail.


My internship has made the two voices extra loud. I am scared. Seriously scared about what will happen if I can’t do this.

You will not fail, you can’t.

I am struggling to understand how to code at the level of 4 year experienced coders. I have no idea how well I am doing.

It is okay, you are trying your best.

I am not afraid of asking for help, in fact that is what an internship is all about. Learning new things, working your way through challenges.Everyone is helpful at work, they never say no to helping out. They are also funny which is a bonus. I am just afraid of asking for too much help which can make them think I am not cut out for working at their level.

No you are!

I am afraid of being proved incapable. I am afraid of finishing my internship and realizing that maybe I wasn’t smart enough for all of this. I am afraid that my brain, which was once the my strongest asset, is no longer any asset.

If this does not work out then something else. You can manage things bro!

 

Daily Prompt: Oversight (Fiction)


Nothing bad can ever come here. Last night’s events were not oversight, but they were a result of complacency. How else can three vampires just waltz into Wolf town?

Wolf town is the holy land for all kinds of wolfs all over the world. Werewolves, direwolves, siberian wolves and so on. Sometimes even Huskies are welcome here because predators have hearts too. Huskies are nothing but little lost children of wolves were they not?

It was considered common knowledge that no wolf will ever have to fight for his or her life here in Wolf Town. They can yap and howl all night long with their mates and bros but not get killed. Vampires and ghouls respected this knowledge and wolves territories. They emulated Wolf town a couple of centuries ago and created their own towns.

The names of their towns were alluding as compared to the simple Wolf town. Vampires called their home Bloodhaven and ghouls just called it Brains. Zombies tried to sue ghouls over the town name but no court wanted to have a huge racial dispute on its hand.

Zombies could not settle this the old fashion way, after all attack on one town will lead to an overall attack on all homes. Eventually Zombies called their home “Grrr!” as it was easy for them to say it.

“Where will you go now mate?”

“Grrrr!”


 

The vampires were left on poles exposed to sunlight. They withered and squealed against the sunlight but eventually all of them died. Sunlight gave vampires the most excruciating deaths and after last night’s atrocity they deserved it. But the old wolves of the pack were wary of such a public execution.

“Let’s kill them quietly and then feast on them!”

“They have no blood inside them! Feast on old festered organs?!”

“Well we can always bury them and wait for them to turn to bones!”

“Bones?!” the Husky exclaimed.

Others saw their child and were ashamed. One by one they howled and the Husky joined their howls. The elders were proud of the Husky’s howl though.


The vampired walked towards Wolf town’s square and faced the decayed bodies of the three dead. Wolves all over the town had heard of the new fang in town but he kept waving a white flag as a sign of surrender.

He also had a couple of balls which distracted everyone: elder and young pups.

“You should stop throwing those balls.”

“Your kind is so easy to distract”

“But we don’t attack unless offended”

“True. I would like offer my kinds’ sincerest apologies.”

“The vampires almost killed three wolves and ate one pup”

“And you killed them. Vengeance is dish best served cold”

“Your kind is cold already, they need to lighten up”

The vampire looked down at the old wolf standing next to his hip for a few seconds before laughing aloud. He kept laughing as more wolf heads tilted seeing his strange reaction. He stopped eventually.

“I offer truce. These deaths were apt, and my kind could not have given them a better punishment. As for compensation, we are ready to offer heaps of tennis balls, bones and half of our prey for a month. Let your mouths feast on succulent human flesh so that you will not have to hunt.”

The elder wolf waited and thought about the offer hoping there was no oversight. But wolf are after all parents of Huskies, they trusted very easily.


 

Thank you so much for reading. Comment below to let me know what you thought about it.

#100DaysofCode challenge: These guys made my week!


I have enjoyed coding a lot since coming to Auckland. I had a lot of time in my hands, ample resources to learn and now I am always keen on coding. I just don’t know what to code: I don’t have any project in mind.

One day, reading an article on Design.blog I stumbled on CodeNewbies.org: a website which caters towards beginner coders. They have something which I instantly signed up for.

If you have followed my blog then you would know I have completed NaNoWriMo 2015. 30 days of daily writing needs serious commitment. CodeNewbies challenged beginners to code daily for 100 days.

I was signed on half hour later. Today I am on day 14th. Everyday I try to code an hour and so far I have missed two days. I have made my portfolio (which needs some actual projects) and a tribute page (both of them have terrible content) so far and there are heaps of projects in it. After coding, I have to log my progress and also tweet about it using the hashtag: #100DaysofCode.

Last week, on Wednesday I got a call from a company nearby to schedule an interview. It was an unexpected call and at that time I was almost through my list of companies in the country. My calls had turned up nothing concrete other than some advice but no leads on getting any jobs.

Then I got a call. He asked if I can join him for an interview next day and I said yes while jumping up and down.

I changed my coding practice and then I tweeted this:

 

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I slept that night without waiting for any reply. Granted, I was literally asking for the replies but the response I got made me smile ear to ear next morning. These are the replies:

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Lastly, thank you CodeNewbies, FreeCodeCamp and #100DaysofCode community.

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PS: I got selected for the internship from the interview and I start tomorrow.

Identity Crisis


A couple of months ago, I was debating in my university team on minimum wage. The opposite side debated that minimum wage should stay as it helps establish identity. I remember the moment clearly when the opposite side argued ‘a person’s identity is associated with what they do for a living’. I rebutted against their point saying that a person’s more than just their profession.

Now, I think they were right.

I was a student for a year. I worked as a content writer for six months before that and was a student back in undergraduate school. I worried as to my whereabouts and identity but never like these days. Now, I am not a student and neither am a employee.

I am a job seeker currently and job search is so damn hard!

I can read books, cook and watch TV shows as much as I want but at the end of the day they make me feel like shit. I can’t lie about that, I do feel disgusted on a day when I have literally done nothing. Such days are iterate frequently.

I have to coerce myself to do something each and every day. My motivation is limited and I am running out of it. Ted Talks, reading blogs and stories sometimes gets me off my ass but then something throws me back to my comfort zone of blissful ignorance.

I have made plans to get things done everyday: apply for X number of jobs, call up Y number of companies and so on. I write stuff down as a list for the next day and in the beginning I could do them all but now I can hardly cross half of them out.

The very fact that I have to push myself to do that disgusts me. The lack of a monetary incentive or a professional identity and responsibility makes it harder.

Is it the same for everybody?

Daily Prompt: Unseen Hero (Fiction)


‘How could no one seen a thing?!’ Lieutenant Copper exploded.

The two sergeants in front of Copper had never heard their lieutenant speak like this. Copper was a nimble man, full of courtesy and diplomacy. No other man had stayed in charge for as long as Copper has and that is because of how he speaks. The masked surface was under attack now as there was a new kind of trouble on the streets.

According to him at least there is a new trouble.

‘Tell me what do the witnesses tell us?’ Copper asked again, regaining some of his cool demeanor back.

‘Sir, most of the victims or witnesses, as you put it, say that the train was under attack. There was a metal-tentacled man who killed off the driver and then screwed up the controls. They say they don’t know how the vigilante stopped the train but they are glad that he did.’ Sergent Jones iterated.

Copper nodded, his face focused on the statement. He wanted to find a flaw in the witness statement but there was none. Sargent Jones and Sargent Hunter have been over the witness statements a couple of times.

No one said anything out of the ordinary. No one had seen or heard anything to further their investigation about the vigilante. This troubled Copper, this vigilante’s face was one of the most sought after thing currently in the city.

Never mind the metal tentacled man, or his predecessor the green suited-air gliding man or any of the other menace lurking in the city. Copper’s concern was to stop the vigilannte first and then worry about the other menace.

No lone ranger in my city

The entire thing was bizarre enough until a couple of months ago a witness said they had seen this vigilante. The witness hadn’t seen the face properly but he was sure of one thing: this vigilante did not wear a mask.

No mask! The vigilante was saving the city for months now and yet no one had come forward with any information as to what this vigilante looked like? Was he a blonde? A Caucasian guy or an African-American guy?

The answers were out there, amongst the people he had saved but no one ever ventured any information about this vigilante. The train attack was the biggest break the police ever had with the vigilante.

Yet no one has seen his face.

‘Alright, go out again. I want you to canvas the area, find me someone who can tell me if this vigilante is a kid, an adult or a 70 year old veteran. Find me something until I call the Mayor and ask him a favor.’ Copper paused contemplating telling his sargents about the favor. He decided he could trust them both.

‘I would beg him to declare a reward on testimonials about this vigilante. He cannot be unseen after doing so many things.’


 

Thank you for reading, let me know what you think about it.

Daily Prompt: Cling (Fiction)


The smell clung to his self. He could never wash it out, no matter how many times he tried to wash his clothes. He tried to eradicate it out of his self by trying different techniques, by using the ways of his victims.

He traded perfumes from some of the best manufacturers of the world. They asked him just before their end what did he want. He told them. They laughed and then he joined their laughter.

After hearing him laugh, all the blood had drained from their face. They hurried to bring him perfumes, the costliest ones and the strongest ones. He used them and went out, leaving his victims to live another day.

Literally another day.

Cause he would come back the very next day, angry that the perfume did not work. They would beg more but he would not relent, not this time. You can always make one deal and when you break it, there is no going back. He never regretted doing his job.

In fact he loved his job. He got to travel all around the world. He could go to a country of peace, a country of war and a country barricaded against all of the world. He would sneak in, finish his mission and get out before anyone can notice what had happened.

They would notice after his work is done. That surprise on their faces would always amuse him and he would laugh. His laughter would be silent this time, for no one should hear him laugh.

Regardless of how much he loved his work, it was after all just his day job. The demands of the work impacted his physical appearance and it affected his odor. He cannot take it anymore, the bad odor oozing from his own self. He could smell the lifelessness from his victims radiating from him.

He hated that. Not only did he have to deal with other’s demise but also he had to carry their odor with him.

Once, he met a great tailor who bartered for a new dresscode. He agreed hopeful for the smell to cease. It did, for a day and then the fabric could no longer contain.

It was like a dam had broken and the smell just burst forth. He had killed one person by that smell alone. He went back to the tailor again and he finished his mission. It was the last barter he ever made.

Now, whenever the mission calls he gets up. He looks at his own image in the mirror. The face was barely recognizable anymore, his cheekbones looked ghastly. He tried to find his eyes but he couldn’t help but stare into the abyss.

The job had taken too much from him. Now, there was no way to stop.

He grabbed his cowl, put it on and grabbed his scythe. He had missions to complete.

Daily Prompt: Shine


The light that shines brightest burns fastest

Chanakya kept thinking of the line in his mind since morning. He was scared. He had played his hand and now his gamble might backfire on him.

Definitely result in some firing.

He had no choice but to put one foot after another. He had to pretend that everything’s normal, that his organization was not about to fall flat on its face.

So he made his breakfast, played his favorite Beethoven and sat in silence. Before he started eating, he picked a pinch of salt with his fingers and sprinkled it on his omelette. He looked up at the wall opposite his seat, at the clock.

9:55 am.

Only half an hour more. He sighed and started eating, the knife sliding smoothly cutting the omelet into pieces. He had about 35 minutes of freedom today before the police barges in, according to his estimation.

He was counting on it, the evidence he had dropped in the police station would be opened soon. Police will take 10-15 minutes to reach his evidence and a few more minutes for Judge’s arrest warrant to process.

10:30 am he would be walking out of his own home in cuffs.

He had no other choice. The only consolation for him was he won’t be the only one walking out of his home in cuffs. Chanakya had made sure that when he falls his competitors would also be falling down. The evidence would implicate Swami as well. This will make sure after the arrests, there would no rival families lunging for one another’s throats.

No turf wars. No war on the streets. Not until their sons grow up, which was still 10 years away.

10 years of peace.

Chanakya tried to squash the tiny shimmer of hope burning in his home. The Police had enough evidence to arrest him, he had given them evidence to arrest Swami. Why would his heart still think that the police spare him?

Because of the 10 million I dropped off at the inspector’s house.

It was hopeless though, the inspector’s reputation preceded him. Truthful and idealistic. He would use the money to implicate Chanakya even further.

He stopped eating, the last two pieces of the omelet looked unappetizing now. They looked dry. He was no longer hungry.

His breathing rate was rising, heart was beating faster.

Everything has ended.

He put his head down on the table and started crying.


 

An hour later he watched Police arrest Swami on the news. Not so ideal now inspector.

He is shining bright, but he won’t be burning out today.

 


 

Thank you for reading!

GIMP Edited

I figured out time at the end of 2016


Or at least I think so. One of the good things in 2016.

I reached the realization a while ago but only recently while reading one of the Discover posts, I was able to put my thoughts into words. As soon as I hit ‘Post Comment’ I knew I had an explanation to my obsession to time (close second to death).

I measure time by the clarity of the memories I make.

If I am able to recall a memory then it has happened recently. I am sure I am not the only one. It might be the reason when reminiscing everyone say ‘It seems like yesterday’.

There are no memories created yesterday, only ones that exist are from far back in time.


 

Currently, after graduation I am a job seeker (not jobless: I have to remind myself that). I have surplus time in my hands, full 24 hours to be exact. I am surprised by my inability to sleep more than 8 hours these days. Ironically, I am certain that when I have work I will sleep more than my quota.

GIMP Edited
The two versions of the photos

The abundant time I have I try to spend it wisely: by learning new skills. I finally learned how to use GIMP (an Open Source Photoshop alternative). It is pretty good. I click photos from my mobile and sometimes I am surprised with the quality of images my phone produces. Another thing I am learning (or revising) is programming.

If I may explain time in programming terms then:

  1. You have a great day. Your brain auto-saves that memory inside a database (one of the grooves of your cerebrum)
  2. When you have a normal day, your brain deletes the memories to the recycle bin. You can restore some fragments of the day but not everything. It is similar to the cache your browser saves.
  3. When you sit and reminiscence, you recall the auto-saved memory and not the memories in the recycle bin.
  4. Most of the days go to the recycle bin; they are fraught with meaningless junk which holds no emotional value.
  5. When recalling memories, the cerebrum references the current mood with memories and recall the first ones matched.

The same thing happens with programming and database. The program I was wrote returned only the first matched data unless specifically told to return everything. I don’t know how to tell my brain to return all matched memories, it returns those ones which are matched first.


 

I heard a couple of people speaking about their year in review (not Facebook year in review). I am sure that most people will start writing their posts like me about their year. I don’t want to go back on my year, it had its ups and downs. I do recall two distinct things precisely.

Firstly, I can recall the feeling while writing my last year’s New Year’s post. I just knew that my 2016 was going to be harder. It was (or so my database tells me). I can’t compare it with any other year because when in my 23 years of life have I lived in a new country without the ones I can physically rely on.

Secondly, I can recall my 31st night. I had lied (sort of) to my boss and sneaked to a camp. I was amongst friends that night when the clock hit 00:00. I can’t recall the 31st the year before that or any other 31st before that except the ones when I was very small.

My mom would make a special kind of rice which had three or four colors: red from beetroot, yellow from turmeric & white. I don’t remember any more colors. I remember lots of chips and some bottles of soft drinks and my dad watching one of the thousand New Year specials. I don’t know what my brother did but I am sure he was there somewhere.

The memory is hazy. It was a long time ago.

My last year’s 31st is not hazy, like it was yesterday.


 

I don’t know what the new year will hold for me. I am afraid of saying it will get harder as I (stupidly) think that’s what happened with my 2016. I am aware I was privileged with what happened in my year, the global year can be called horrendous. No one wants to live this year again and we are all eager to brush off the year under the year as if it never happened. (There are so many meme’s of the sort).

What will 2017 hold for me? For us?

I can’t speak for others. I don’t want to say I want to make a memories, my wants have nothing to do with what gets saved in my database. Basically, I don’t know what I want from 2017.

I will just see what life throws at me and I will keep putting one foot in front of another. Somewhere I will create some moments which will forever seem like yesterday.

PS: Happy New Year Folks!

(Inspiration for the post: On Not Writing Christmas cards, In Praise of Nowstalgia: The Sadness in Happiness,  Slowing Down the Perception of Time )

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Graduation Week


If we are having coffee, I will talk all about my week. It was full, filled with different people of different background and different perspectives. It also was the week when I graduated with a Masters of Engineering.

The past weekend has been one of the best weekends so far. It was filled with great weather, a great conversation and two free music festivals. I was headbanging in one and dancing in another. Firstly, it is my first Christmas in a Christian country and the city is festive. Every house is adorned with lights and Xmas trees & I just love looking at the bright houses after dark. According to my friends I have to visit Richman street in the city (aptly named as it is an affluent area).


(Sorry for the shaky cam)I attended the annual Auckland Christmas in the Park. It was was cold & raining lightly but I was surprised to find a lot of people attending. The numbers increased as evening turned dark. The event had a host of native artists performing famous international tunes and a few Maori songs. I kind of love the native songs and I am slowly exploring the country’s artists. One of my favorite songs after I started discovering Kiwi artists has to be ‘This Life’ by Fly My Pretties. The song is in English but there is definitely a Kiwi vibe in the song.

The event was closed by a great fireworks display. Then I went on to checkout the fair in the park, which was closing down at the time but was still lit up. I think the lighting made for a great photoshoot.

 

 

Next day, I went to the North Shore specifically for a alternative rock music festival called ‘Devonstock’. The festival featured around 5 bands with varied genres and at least 2 of which were still in college. I was shocked at the music they were able to produce even if I found their stretched out guitar solos a bit annoying. Because of the event I got to know about some more up and coming NZ artists and found a new favorite song.

 


I graduated from University this week. Finally, after almost 10 months of struggles and hardwork, I did it. I have to thank a friend for convincing me to go. I loved the event fully and the next day, I got an award to recognize my work over the year. I am awaiting photos for the event but this is the award:

 

Graduation

 

 


Yesterday, I went with some new friends to Piha Beach. Two big things: the beach is black in color. The seawaves foam when crashing at the beach. The wet sand ripples when stepping on it, it is like walking on a stretched piece of cloth, with the area around the feet changing its texture because of the weight. It was my first road trip after a long time.


I heard one of the best jokes yesterday. I know a guy who works at Green Peace NZ. His team made a mocking video of NZ Prime Minister Bill English and at a party, my friends’ boss got a little drunk. He felt bad about the mocking video.

So he decided to text the Prime Minister to apologize for the video.

THE PRIME MINISTER TEXTS BACK!

“Its all good mate, all in good fun!”

I couldn’t stop laughing at that for minutes.


I finally went for a bike party. I have been increasingly involved with different biking groups in the city and yesterday was another one. It was disappointing. We met at a park, used a public BBQ for dinner and roam around. It was good but I couldn’t just stay at one place. They went about very slowly, talking and chilling while I couldn’t wait to just go somewhere.

Nonetheless, it is one thing I can tick off.


If everything I did was not enough, today there was a pre wedding celebration. I had two choices, sit awkwardly or dance awkwardly. I chose dancing awkwardly and it was a great decision.

I am just thinking of my week to come, I don’t know what will I do now.

I wish I had a dragon


To Anyone who says Disney movies are for kids,

You are wrong. They are not solely for kids. I have always enjoyed them, although I am one of the adults who love to watch great visuals on a screen. Disney or any animated movie for the matter have more than great visuals going for them, prominently great stories.

They touch on topics which are beyond the scope of comprehension of most kids. Recent movies touched on issues of racism and stereotype. Kids may not have heard of these terms. But we have, and maybe we need to reminded of the things we knew of when we were kids.

Kids don’t need movies which inspire them, we adults need inspiration and motivations. After all, it is pretty difficult to wake up and motivate yourself to get up from bed.  Getting up from bed is a relatively small problem in the grand scheme of things and there are more than one problems awaiting everyday. We need motivation, we need to be taught the important principles lest we forget them in the monotony.

The fact that most of the new animated movies target our childhood and sense of nostalgia is another factor into watching them.

Why else would Finding Dory would be a great hit, or why am I so patiently waiting for The Incredibles 2? I watched the originals when I was a kid and I loved the myriad colors on the screen. How could I understand the emotional depth these films touched.


 

If I watch a Disney movie, I take a trip to Sentiment City. They are so warm and fuzzy; packed with just the right amount of emotional ingredients like laughter, joy and innocence. Of course when I watch them I know they are going to have a happy ending.

Growing up to an adult makes you realize that they are just movies and they are marketed towards children. No child, no money and no profits. No child will love the movie if the main character dies. Disney movies usually have an protagonist which behaves like a dog, so if they kill their protagonist at the climax I will riot.


 

Recently I was watching Pete’s Dragon. I needed a ‘feel-good’ movie because of the day I was having. I knew the usual mind numbing apathetic shows I usually watch would not work. I have not watched the original movie but I trusted Disney to making a great movie.

The movie is stunning visually, with absolute jewels of child characters and a huge dragon which acts like a puppy with wings. I am a dog person and if there is anything more special than dogs it might be dogs with wings.

Or maybe a dragon because I grew up with stories of dragons.

In usual Disney movies, there is the start phase, intermediate stage and climax where everything falls into a new order. The start phase is usually marred by a tragedy and there is a lot of buried up pain in the middle. The climax makes the protagonist and in turn the viewers deal with the buried up pain. Most people would never want the middle phase.

There is also happiness in the middle phase. It is usually after the dog resembling character is introduced, when the protagonist realizes there is more the animated character than meets the eye. It is in the brilliant middle phase where the transition of the protagonist begins. There is a lot of laughter.

In this phase, the protagonist is happy but not as happy as he would eventually be. The movie is able to transmit that happiness from the protagonist’s face across to the viewers’ hearts.

So I watched Pete’s Dragon with a huge grin on my face as Pete and Elliot played around the jungle. Elliot was different than almost every dragon portrayed in the movies, he was kind and loyal. He changed colors when touched, he keeps his powers of destruction inside him and keeps away from people. How did they manage to have an animated character depict sorrow and longing is beyond me but Elliot clearly was sad when he looked at the North Star.

Pete belonged in the jungle with Elliot. He stayed away from people, lived well off on his own and was happy. He stayed true to his childish nature and his curiosity got the better of him at times. How could I forget the fact that Pete scared off a bear? That was funny.

Pete and Elliot had 6 great years together! They were content, wild and carefree. In stark contrast, who amongst us adults can say they had a good week?

Mostly I don’t even have good days, I have good moments with which I try to keep myself content. Moments I cherish. I drew parallels between the movie and my life as I watched.I am grateful for not having personal tragedy as Pete but then he has a Dragon! He could walk around carefree, not worried about what to wear, who to speak and what to say.

It did not matter to me that the adults in the movie seemed out of place. After all, I can willingly accept a kid trusting a dragon but I will probably never accept a full grown adult trusting a dragon. I expect the adult to try to tame the dragon. Exactly like the antagonist did.

I know WHO people are. I may be one of them.

As I watched the movie, I cringed in anticipation of the scene where Pete and Elliot get separated. I was not looking forward to see Elliot captured or any other emotional scene. My imagination raced ahead of me showing all the bad things that could happen to Pete and Elliot.

Thank goodness that the writers don’t have my imagination.

Thank goodness that Pete was still a kid in the movie. Someone who had no pride, someone who could laugh easy and was unencumbered. Thank goodness for the actor who played Pete cause he was able to be the perfect kid, an embodiment of everything childhood was supposed to be.

Innocence. Something I miss, the wide eyed perspective of the world.

It is kind of pointless to be talking about the things lost in a movie which tells you to be brave and move forward. A movie which embraces change in life. The message of the movie was not lost on me. I am not Pete though, I cannot accept change as easily as he did.

So I wish I had a dragon.

A year in AUT


A year ago, I was in Mumbai working 9 hours a day and secretly trying to get my visa sanctioned. I had kept my Masters’ plans secret from my colleagues. I would frequently call my brother whenever I needed some advice about my visa or about my job.

No one really tells you how hard it is to live away from your family. It is harder still to live without home-cooked food. It is hardest when there is no dog happily running around when I return home. I have weird priorities.

My friends from India do not share the same time with me. They are lagging behind 8 hours. If I need advice from my friends, I would get a reply from them 4 hours after my message. One of my friends moved to Germany now which lags behind 12 hours so basically I would wake up when she sleeps. I slowly stopped asking for advice and used my instincts. If I am confused, I toss a coin to decide.

I cannot summarize the last 9 university months in one sentence. In fact, I have been writing this post for the last 2 weeks and every draft I wrote was unsatisfactory. My drafts were mechanical, emotionless and not me. I had to sit and shovel the feelings out of my chest so my feelings can guide the words flow into this post. I should thank one of my university staff for that shovel.

I am competing for an award in my university. The final step to submit my award application is a personal essay to the university staff member. I have to write an essay about my feelings. It ought to be easy considering I have a personal blog right?

When I started in university, I was fresh off a content writing position in India. I was trying to transition back to engineering again. I saw my university’s monthly magazine and I said to my friend “I will submit an article in here”. I never submitted any article and forgot about it. In October I read the year’s final magazine again. I regretted never submitting any article.

I was also happy that I did not submit any article, I was no longer a content writer. My writings were academic focused and maybe no longer suited for magazines. My transition was complete.

Regarding my award application, all my essay drafts were sent back for revisions. She said my essays did not have feelings, they were similar to academic writings. She made me stop and think, think carefully about what my university months meant to me. Without her push, this post would have stayed in my drafts.

I did a lot of things in my university. I don’t want to list them, I want to relive them as I write the words here. I don’t know when I will resume my university for Ph.D. yet. At the moment, the nine months of university is what I have for certain.

I lived in two different houses while I studied. I loved both of the houses for different reasons. One house was near to sea face and my current house allows me to bike to my university. I made some great friends in my previous house, one of them recently sent me a postcard. The simple 3 lines on the postcard gave me immense happiness. I have to send her a postcard back soon.

I can’t talk about the AUT Debating Society enough. They took me along with them to my first roadtrip to Hamilton. I enjoyed the debating weekend getaway, the location and it took some time but I loved the people I met. On regular university days, every Tuesday I would be debating with them, making arguments and high-fiving my teammates. The funniest thing I have ever heard my teammate say during a debate was ‘Spiritual Porn’. The argument used will always be funny.

Recently, I volunteered for a medical technology event. It was not my first volunteering and it will not be my last. During the volunteering, I felt a surge of pride when people appreciated the exhibits. I should have clicked photos of kids reacting to the exhibits. The kids had a curiosity which made them keep exploring. The event was exhilarating and it gave me an excuse to cycle along the waterfront. I was as excited about these things as a 8 year old would be.

I got lost on so many days here. If I don’t have my phone then without maps I would also be geographically lost. I kept looking for a replacement home. I understand my immense involvement in a church now. They are a bunch of great people but with time I realized that I don’t really belong with them. I was trying too hard. Luckily, I found a good replacement home. A entire community of people who want to do good, and they accepted me into their homes with open arms. They called me ‘fam’, family for short. I can’t wait for their wedding in December.

It is not easy to live in a new country. It is easier to stay with other Indians because it is familiar and comfortable. I never fit in with them either. So I never waited for anyone. I wanted to watch a movie, I watched it. I wanted to eat a pizza, I ate it. I wanted to go to a party, I went. I never waited for anyone, I couldn’t possibly call my best friends from India here.

The year in Auckland, 9 months with AUT was a promiscuous mixture. Some days I went outside the house with ambition, some days I just closed my eyes and slept again. The 9 months are no less symbolic than childbirth for me. I feel independent, optimistic and ready for whatever comes my way and I have come a long way from where I started.

Diwali In Auckland


(PS: that is not my home, it is my neighbors’)

To me, Diwali is the festival of food, particularly sweets. Families all over would create  culinary masterpieces and the very air would be infused with myriad aromas. When Diwali is passes by my house would be filled with lots of food, boxes of sweets. The sweets are delicious. They are perfect eatery when I am wandering or standing near the refrigerator door.

I have many favorite sweets. Over Hindu calendar year, there are many festivals where sweets are obligatory. During Diwali, we would go to our cousin’s place to exchange sweets. The purpose of meeting people is to catch up, spend quality time. For me, that never mattered, I am not much of a people person. I enjoyed Diwali as long there was enough food.

I decided this Diwali would end with sweets. This was not nostalgia or delusion. I can’t eat food and be instantly transported back to home. I don’t need sweets to recall what home is like on Diwali.  The evening would be alive with firecrackers’ noise. Mum would startle hearing a burst of a cracker. My dog Jimmy would run around smelling food. He got quickly immune to the noise of crackers.

Dad would watch a Diwali celebration concert on TV. The concert would be terrible but he would keep switching channels. Navin, my brother, would play on his phone or roam the town with his mates. If he is out, he would come home half hour late at the minimum. He always did that making everyone fret over his ETA.

Eventually, everything would work out fine. The entire house would be lit with oil lamps and decorating LEDs on the windows, dry color floor artworks (rangoli) outside the house. The LEDs lights toggle their brightness. It would continue to dance and emulate the twinkling the stars for the rest of the night. The Pooja (prayer) at home would finish quickly while Navin or I would make sure that Jimmy doesn’t eat any of the sweets.

Funny how easy it is to recall mundane memories at times like this.

Auckland is different. There is no startling noise of crackers, no decorating LEDs. But I decided that tonight at least there has to be a meet and catch up. The main reason was food obviously. I made a plan, invited some friends to a nearby Indian restaurant. As I cycled there, I could see which houses have Indian families. It is easy to spot that one house in a lane with LEDs adorning the porch. The house which has oil lamps lit on the veranda. Someone started fireworks as well.

I was not the only Indian out eating today: meeting everyone and greeting them ‘Happy Diwali’ was familiar to the days in India. Over the entire year, no one would say hi to one another, and on Diwali, everyone would greet each other like we are some long lost cousins.

The food was amazing. The essence of Diwali for someone like me was achieved. It was with a bunch of people who I can count on. The familiarity made food more precious. I didn’t miss home today as I thought I would.

End Panic


(PS: I use my blog less frequently than I used to. Now, it is more a therapeutic measure than a sharing platform. I write on the days when I am sad, today I am sad about a small thing that I couldn’t do anymore. A post is due about my events in AUT and I will get it all out. Finally, I do apologize for my recent depressing posts, I can’t help the words that stumble out. I can only say after writing, I feel better.)

It is almost the end of the semester. I finish my last submission, the biggest of them all on 4th of November, 4 days before my 23rd birthday. Now when I am so close to the finish line, I am experiencing what I call as ‘end panic’.

I remember the last six months of my college a year and a half ago in India. I realized that I have a bunch of things I have never done and I decided to try to cross them out. This included going for the college festival, which I refused to go every year, parties and having one last important post about my college, to list a few.

Some of the plans went well: having never been to the college festivals worked well in my favor as I had no expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed. My friends didn’t enjoy cause they compared the previous year’s festivals and were disappointed.

Other plans did not go so well, especially the parties or rather The party. I never spoke about it here cause it involved others from my class and I don’t want to take names. I changed after those events.

Now, I am in Auckland and I am less than 2 weeks away from completing my term. I have my own set of worries about what will I do after I complete my term; neither do I have a summer job nor do I have plans. The only thing I do have fixed is attending a wedding of someone who is like family to me now in December. If the uncertainty is not enough to generate panic then it is looming 4th November.

Now, unlike my college in India I have done a lot of things in AUT. I am surprised about it myself and considering how crazy I actually I am, I will do more things in the coming two weeks. But that doesn’t stop the urges to do more. There is a difference between the end panic of my college days and the end panic of my university days. It is the activities or events I am used to doing; they will be hard to say goodbye to and not the people. In college, it was the people who I cherished and now…

Here is the thing: every small thing that I thing I cannot do anymore disappoints me. Literally SMALL. It doesn’t cripple me but I do need a minute. And my bucket list, so to say, is not so very different from my bucket list in my final semester from my college. College fests, parties, farewell dinners, photographs and the whole nine yards.

Currently, aside from my thesis, it an award which I want to cross off the bucket list. I failed to participate for any awards in my college and I regret that. Now I am so close being awarded in university that I WANT it. There is no easy way to put it for now, only that getting the award will be more striving than previously thought.

With the end panic in full force barging on me, I have to set my impulsive decisions on test and make sure whatever I do, I do them for the correct reasons

Note: I can’t believe I have written 200 posts on my blog. 

Rejections


Imagine yourself on the penultimate step of the staircase. You are almost at a new level, representing a new world in itself. How you reached that spot is another story, worthy of its tale. However, if you don’t reach the final step, something which often happens in my life, it can be because of two cases.

One case: the last step gave away as soon as you put your weight on it, and you fall through the crack into a dark viscous pool of depression. You don’t have time to take a breath, in less than a second you are choking on something that feels like tar and struggling against a liquid that solidifies as time passes.

Second case: the final step is there, but it is beyond your reach. It has grown into a wall, and you have to climb it. You can’t do it alone, and you want someone to haul you up. Only there is no one to haul you up to the new level. You can see people up there, but no one can see you. Slowly your legs feel stuck, then your torso and eventually you have a stiff neck. It is the depression tar again, only, this time, it is creeping up slowly.

I would prefer the first case over the second one every single time. I would rather be a victim of circumstance than be rejected by people who can’t see me. I would rather have the power to save myself than to rely on others to it. While one case I can be free even by any firm ground, the second requires a huge recovery period filled with comfort food, lack of motivation and lots of stupid TV shows. Because rejection hurts, more so when no one can see you.

Why so….happy?


Recently, partly because of my newfound ‘Yes’ attitude and my friend’s insistence, I ended up at a meditation workshop arranged by people from Hare Krishna Temple, Auckland in University of Auckland.

The person conducting the workshop did a good job, outlining the various religious reasons as to why a certain meditation is performed. I know this as my parents have told me about it before. But I couldn’t focus much on what he said because I wanted to ask him:

Why are you smiling? How are you so happy?!


 

I have been going to a church here regularly for a while, now my weekly visits have reduced. The reason I decided to take a step back was because I felt like I don’t fit in there. I always felt it but I tried to swim against the current nonetheless. I go to church and I look around at people. I see happy faces, people with no sorrow.

It puzzles me, how could these people be happy?

Everyone has problems and everyone is going to be tensed about it. But then how could they look so relaxed!


 

After the meditation finished, I told my friend the same thing. I feel weird about a person look so at peace while I am in torturous turmoil. He has found solace in a deity beyond us. But as I look at the people in my church, at the meditation people, all I see are people who are trying to make a happy exterior. An exterior that I cannot relate to, cannot fathom & so I want to break to see what’s inside.

It is really hard to trust someone when I don’t feel as if they are not real. I can’t relate to people when I don’t see the scars. That in itself is scarier than all the pretentious happiness.

No offense intended to any religious practice

Who is this guy?


7 months. Without family, with only an hour long conversations with people who I utterly love. And now, this morning I realized I no longer can recognize myself.

Mumbai would be a place of comfort. Where I would say ‘no’ more than I draw breath. No to cooking, no to cleaning, no to socializing, you get the gist.

Why am I writing about it?

Because it is one of those days where there is too much to do. It is this day that I have to go for a job fair, have a date, try my hand at a coding competition and all of this on top of my usual university project and thesis writing. Others, my mom including say that I am chewing more than I can swallow.

I don’t agree with them. I just say ‘Yes’ more now.

Practically everyday I come home, I make sure that I cook my own dinner. I never did that when I was with family, I would always bring something from a restaurant. Now, I love cooking so much that whenever I try something new and it works, I tell mom with excitement. I make sure that my stuff is clean, at university and home.

However not everything is roses. In college, I would have to walk for five minutes before I would run into a friend. I remember a friend complaining to me I know a lot of people. Now, most of my days are spent bent in front of my laptop, learning codes or watching some important tutorial. Friends? I have already given up. I have spent so much of my time in a church where everyone seems friendly and I would rather stand outside than talk to anyone.

I always thought that making friends in a new country would be the easiest thing I would ever have to do and house chores would suck. In the last 7 min, I enjoy chores more than meeting a new face.

I have always ran on ‘Indian time’, a special scale in which it is practically normal to be half hour late. Now, after a colossal mistake, I am always early. I don’t even have an alarm in my phone anymore, I know I will be up exactly 8 hours from when I sleep.

There are not enough words to articulate the discord between me from 7 months ago and me a minute ago. One is full of naivety and other is practical. One is disorganized, other is organized to the minute. One feels lonely, other is lonely.

I never lived in denial back there, now on the end of bad days I sit in my bed watching a comfort show which does nothing more than numb and dumb my brain down. And I am aware of what I am doing. I know this though, regardless of the rejections, bad days and good minutes: I would never regret this life changing move.

So someday, I look at myself in the mirror and ask ‘Who is that guy?’

Privilege


In recent times, privilege has been branded as a word to describe to Whites. The use of the word is many a times justified, but I am not the judge of that. I am not perceptive enough to pick out subtle race differences, to spot the minorities. I am not writing a post about racism, nothing has warranted it. But now, I have  a taste of privilege.

 


 

Last night, after a hilarious evening with some friends I took the midnight bus home. I didn’t want to read a book. I sat with music reverberating in my ears and looked around. For the midnight bus, there were still a lot of people riding home. Auckland doesn’t sleep either. I saw faces mirroring mine: tired, sleepy and listening to music than talk to each other. The only sound was the roar of the engine (which was not much) and chatter of a couple. I raced my brain to draw some inspiration in the scene, to get inspired and write a fictional story from the dark passage home but I couldn’t. How could I?

 


 

We all are going somewhere. One station at a time #train #blacknwhite #auckland

A photo posted by Mayur Wadhwani (@mayurdw) on Feb 29, 2016 at 10:26pm PST

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On my way to work in train, I was reading a collection of personal essays. I was mundane, another commuter more engrossed in his phone or his book than to observe people or talk to people. This changed until the person next to me took out a novel. Her interests and mine were different, I read novels for fun and she read because of curiosity, which was now focused on understanding New Zealand’s aboriginals Maoris. I could see her interests in tracing Maori philosophical & cultural roots

In my time in Auckland, Maoris look physically big, scary. It is difficult to comprehend their accent their sense of humor is eclectic, only to be understood by them. After I actually got to know a few of them, I can say now they are simple-minded and enthusiastic about everything. (Exclude a gregarious roommate I had in my previous home)

We spoke first about Maori culture, I already knew a little about their mythologies as I have read some novels. I don’t know everything about them after reading a couple of novels. On the other hand, she is trying to understand the customs, their drive. She said she could draw many parallels between her Buddhist practices and Maori practices. One peculiar custom we spoke of related to their ‘Mana'(or in how I could understand the term: respect) is when a person wronged and their Mana been damaged, the same person must restore their Mana by damaging the perpetrator’s Mana. From my sessions in my University’s debate society, I know there is a property law founded on the same principle.

However, we quickly moved on from books and spoke about the city life, which is lonely as compared to rural life, rife with communities and mutual care. She said that she is trying to help out in her own way to take care of the surroundings, to give back to the country she is staying in and trying to understand the wealth gap existing particularly in Auckland. She mentioned that she feels privileged to have enough food, shelter and livelihood.

 


 

If you ever ask any foreign national to describe India, or Mumbai specifically, they will say it is very poor. She said the same thing while reminiscing her last trip to Mumbai. She was torn at the sight of so many poor people living without basic amenities. I wanted to tell her that she was a magnet for all the beggars as she had dollars. The heartlessness of my own words shamed me. Our conversation had quickly moved on from Maori culture to the poverty prevalent in my home city, the intensity of our conversation didn’t. As for the homeless in Auckland, I could say I have seen worse. Became immunized to worse conditions.

Probably why I never complain about buses running late in the city, as I have traveled buses which were running with a joke of timetable in my hometown. Why I never complain about the traffic or for that matter the standard of living here as I know it is four times what I was used to. And I am still scrapping the end of the barrel here.

When we spoke, for me it was very easy to fire up, and be outraged by her pity to call India poor. After all we are improving. However, the truth is we have to fight for basic amenities in India. The biggest of which is, and forever will be, water supply. There is too much in rainy season, too little in summer. I tried to defend my country by quoting Rang De Basanti ‘No country is perfect’ but at the end, I knew she was right. The ceaseless struggle, my city which never sleeps, city I left behind. I moved to a place with better living, with hopes of making a better life.

I have no conclusions to draw from yesterday. Because we never reached a conclusion. Maybe there will never be a conclusion.

Weekend Coffee Share: Househunting again


If we are having coffee, I would tell you that coffee shares are surprisingly simple and difficult at the same time. How much am I supposed to share? Am I just supposed to gloss over stuff, or dive into my feelings as I do in many of my posts.

I would tell you that I hate my housemate. She is subletting the apartment to us and is no longer willing to adjust all the while binding us to her house rules. I don’t mind the rules as long as I get what I want, which I have to argue over. This past week, things boiled over and there was no conclusion other than it is worthless. Time to move again.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I never realized what my parents meant by ‘having a stable home’ till now. After everyone argued, me and my roommate started by taking out our frustration and then each shared stories. I shared the story of the best people I met here, who would call me to dinner every Thursday when I lived in my previous home. He told me his overnight stay in his friends family place, and how he now knows what family is.

I looked in a couple of places this week, one of which I loved but was too expensive. After messaging, the houseowner said that nothing can be done. However, as I visited that place, I cycled by Mission Bay and it was so worth it. Auckland sure does have a lot of coastal ways and that is something I love.

If we are having coffee, it is at this point I would let you speak. To hear some others said, check them out.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Eventful to say the least


If we are having coffee, I would say that this week has been exciting and tiring at the same time. I did a lot of things this week and the main thing is I loved the past week, which climaxed with a beautiful trip down to Taupo Lake.

 

If we are having coffee I would tell you that my manager helped me by providing me with a lot of utensils and cutlery because I asked for a thing or two. Aside from the fact that she gives me enough freedom, which I realized after I tried working for someone else this week, I am really happy that I am working with her. What is even better was this week there was another Jazz Session by University of Auckland students. Who doesn’t love Jazz?!

 

Last night. Jazz session by #ua #musicschool. Amazing!! #jazz #auckland #orleans bad camera shot though! 😞

A photo posted by Mayur Wadhwani (@mayurdw) on Jun 21, 2016 at 5:32pm PDT

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Wednesday my university had a career fair, and I have not figured out if it was useful in making contacts or not. I volunteered as the Student Ambassador that day and while I made contacts in my university I can’t say the same thing for the companies. Was it worth it? YUP!

If I was having coffee with you, I would tell you that I tried to get another job. I didn’t get it though, even though I knew exactly how I was doing. I do know how to tutor kids! Anyway, I am kind of glad that I didn’t. When that manager mailed me by telling me that I didn’t get the job, it almost ruined my trip. Almost. That very same night I had agreed on attending a friends’ 21st and I had fun. I met a recently married couple there and they were by far one of the most funniest couples I met. On the down side, I had to look for a gift for birthday girl. Damn shopping!

Lastly, if we do have coffee I would tell you I love New Zealand. It is so beautiful as soon as you get out of the city. Taupo Lake is as immense as the marina here, twice as cold but so much peaceful. We even found a ghost town there (Kinloch) as when we drove by we didn’t see on soul. We ate barbecue chicken, had excellent music and finished it off with chocolate. Best night ever! I am really happy that my friend invited me. The picture down is of the Orakei, we were lucky to be there just as the sky cleared up.

Now it is your turn! I know I spent too much of your time here but yeah sure go ahead. 🙂

Cycling: A Paradox


In the recent months, cycling in Auckland has become one of my favorite activities. At the same time, I have come to loath this activity too. I love cycling down-slope, even though my nerves fire up whenever I ride in such high speed, I am glad I bought a cycle. When I cycle up-slope, if I ever do, I curse my decision to buy a cycle in this sinuous city. I love the fact that I can ride really slowly around the places, the coastal areas and enjoy the view. But I hate it when some other cyclist overtakes me in their absolutely amazing cycle. I love the wind on my face as I cycle. I just hate it when I have to cycle against strong winds.

 

 


 

“He is still so short”

Everyone would talk about me “make him ride a cycle, that will give his growth an impetus.” I never was a fan of cycling, especially because learning to cycle meant falling down a lot and I didn’t want to get hurt. But whenever anyone would talk like that about me, I wanted to learn cycling. In my family, everyone is at least 6 feet tall. I was not tall at that time and I was slightly afraid that I wouldn’t be able to catch up to my cousins and siblings. So one fine day when one of my aunts said that line, I decided that I will learn cycling.

I learned cycling when I was in grade 9, and my learning curve did not include lots of falling. The few bruises and cuts I got were eclipsed by the joy of learning something I never thought I would do.

And to this day, I have not found any scientific correlation between cycling and getting taller. However, I don’t care anymore as I am taller than everyone in my family. Not really that tall in Auckland though, the people here are gigantic.

 

 


 

When I went to Hamilton, I was mesmerized by the green pastures that stretched for miles and miles. However we were driving at more than 100 kmph so there was hardly any time to actually absorb the views. I knew that if I was cycling or walking, I would have more time.

My first home in Pakuranga (East Auckland) had a great coastal cycleway. Almost every chance I got, I would be there cycling as slowly as I can, but not walking as I had a cycle, to soak in. The sounds of waves crashing into the rocks, the chirping seagulls(do seagulls chirp? I don’t know) and gushing wind. It was bliss.

Then when I would be heading to a friends’ place or the church I would again ride, this time fast as I was on the road. Every car that whooshed by me would be terrifying, especially on the bridge that I always had to cross. I never got used to that.

New house (West Auckland) and luckily I no longer have to cross any bridges. Only here, I saw other cyclist and damn they are fast. They would out pace me as if I am standing still and every single one who did made me want to go faster. It took me a while to grasp the truth: they are better cyclist on better cycles (their tyres offer less friction). I hate that and I want to go faster.

 


 

My first cycle was whatever leftover from my brother. He brought it and then after sometime hardly used it. We didn’t maintain it much I realize now. He had also custom painted it, if I could call it that. So when I started learning, I had to fix it up first and then ride around.

I rode it to my school, but for some reason I no longer remember, I stopped using it. We sold it off as scrap metal. Years later, we brought a scooter and at that time I was applying to many universities. Then, I wanted something for myself as well but I wanted a cycle again. Only for some reason, I never bought it. Money was not an issue, I had started earning and a cycle is cheaper than a scooter. With months passing, I got my visa and I left for Auckland never really buying a cycle. However I knew there are great pathways for cycling here.

Brought my first cycle here with money saved, and immediately did something stupid: tried to ride up-slope. Never have I ever been so tired. It took me a while to remember how cycle gears worked but I still never did try up-slope again. I always dragged my cycle to the summit and had a breathtaking panorama of the entire city now trough of the valley below.

Maybe there is a metaphor in there somewhere but I would just leave it as that.


 

With a couple of issues in my cycle recently, I vowed to ensure that my cycle is always properly maintained. I have put too much efforts in cycling to just drop it off now. I Google for every small thing, YouTube for tutorials on how to adjust the dérailleur. Maybe I am being excessive but I do love cycling. And sometimes I hate cycling. Maybe it is not a paradox but just me being lazy.

PS: Excuse my bad photographic skills

 

Street Art while cycling #nz #cycle #maori #streetart #auckland

A photo posted by Mayur Wadhwani (@mayurdw) on Jul 14, 2016 at 6:32pm PDT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Week’s helper


I missed last weekend’s coffee share as I was doing something. I don’t remember what. The week started early, some 5 am when one of my friend called me to talk to me. Something was wrong I knew immediately and we Skyped so early in the morning. Something had came up and she was scared. I did what I do best: make the lamest jokes possible to alleviate her worries. I wish that was the only time it happened in the entire week but another friend also had some issues and messaged me. Did the same thing but I was only thinking: only last entire week I was in a bad place and now are some of my friends. What is happening?

If we do have coffee, I would break the news: my application for continuing my master’s is approved. I can now work on my Masters project which is exactly what I wanted to do. I am so happy and finally a little relaxed. I knew who all helped me, kept touch with me when I needed it. Thank you.

In other news, I love Pokemon Go. The weekend me and my friends walked around the harbour catching pokemon rather than go out to a pub to relax and kill them. I kept thinking: this has got to be the only time I enjoyed my phone more than my friends company. If we do have coffee and you have the game then we will probably stop talking and go catch them all. It is not just me who is addicted but the entire Auckland is catching only pokemon these days. Can’t really blame anyone for it is amazing.

One of the best things I now realize I did was encourage one of my friends to apply for his Masters. His grades were similar to mine and he had given up before applying.

I guess that is all for the week. It is your turn to speak up and say how was your week?

Weekend Coffee Share: New House


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I moved to a new house past Sunday. It’s not as luxurious as my previous house but then again I knew it was coming. I spent the week here, making friends with the roommates and slowly our bond seems to be getting stronger, unlike my previous roommates.

Also, while sipping coffee, I would complain about my cycle. Start of the week it had a puncture and now there is another problem with the rear gear derailleur. No wonder people give advises to buy a good cycle and not a cheap one. Well, I still have to get a quote on the derailleur problem.

However I love cycling around here. There is a direct separate cycling way to my university, an easy way to the church and both sides it is fun to cycle. Yeah it is also tiring but then again I am having fun. I would have more fun if my cycle stops breaking down so much.

I would tell you that I started working on my Master’s project even before my grades were out. This is especially risky as I didn’t know at that time what is going to happen with my degree anymore. Regardless, even though I worked for a couple of days, I was happy. Finally!

Speaking of grades: they are also out. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I clear them to qualify for my Master’s or not yet. As my grades are bordering between B and C, I don’t know what to infer. When I read the grades all I could do was laugh: even now I feel like Life’s playing with me.

If we do have coffee, I would tell you the highlight of the entire week has been the spoken word event that I attended and wrote about it. I would tell you that I’m desperately waiting for the next such event as I loved it. Considering the response that they got, I hope that they don’t charge it from the next time.

Lastly, I would turn the mike over to you and await to hear from you: how has your week been?

Maybe I should pay more attention


Racism. Something which I would hardly think of when I am dealing with people. So whenever people would ask me “Where are you from?” I would reply where am I from and just leave it at that. I hardly pay any heed to the subtle hints of racism because I do not have time for it. However after listening to at least 6 people speak about the same issue I realize that maybe I should be paying more attention.

After seeing an event on Facebook about a spoken word/poetry event, I decided to go for it. I like writing, I like poetry and I am a fan of spoken poetry. I knew the topic is not a simple one and from what I heard from the speakers I realized how unaware am I about the extent.

The bar couldn’t have been shadier. Honestly, they took underground groups too literally and they had more than 100 people gathered in such a small place. The next door rock band overpowered the speakers completely and I couldn’t make out more than a syllable or two in the first half of the event. However the next half, I sat up front and listened. I was so into it that I forgot to click photos, forgot almost everything and just absorbed.

I heard a girl try to explain and fail, try again and still get all messed up in explaining where she is from: Chinese or Kiwi. I heard a guy talk about what it was like being White after being born in a Maori family. Heard an open letter, not to White people, but to Koreans. Heard two poems from an Australian Maori girl.

Maybe I am missing some of the poems. Even more likely I am actually not doing justice to what I heard. Because I simply cannot; I am not perceptible enough of the surroundings, I don’t think along the lines as the speakers can think. Because their words moved, their experiences made me recall all the months and think: was that racism?

While I may not know which end of the spectrum I exist on, I am surely one of those ‘unawares’ the speakers spoke of. And from what I heard, I cannot help but applaud the speakers and their courage. And learn and absorb whatever I can, from their experiences, from their words and their strengths.

Weekend Coffee Share: The week that wasn’t


I had everything planned. Give my exams, Monday and Tuesday. Finish up my presentation for Wednesday and then go for a Jazz session in a bar in Auckland CBD. I would have finished up with everything with a smile on my face.

 

If we were having coffee then I would have told you that it didn’t go that way. In fact, it might be the worst week I have had here. I gave my exams, tensed and when I was done instead of a smile on my face I had a frown. Then I realized that I have misread the event on Facebook and the jazz session is actually this Tuesday and not last. It would be here from which everything went downhill.

 

I would tell you over coffee that on Wednesday I was late for my presentation. My bus was late, which always reaches on time that didn’t. And I’m regret of my mistake of not taking the previous bus every second. My sir canceled my presentation. No matter how much I begged, pleaded nothing came from it. 10 minutes and I loose 20% grades. As much as I want to hate him, I can’t. I screwed up.

 

I would tell you that the crazy part of my mind was laughing over the futility of it all: work hard over entire semester and screw up in ten minutes. It was laughing, I was laughing as I found out how easy it was to screw up this big.

 

I’m mortified: if I don’t score B grade over the semester then I would not be able to complete my Master’s. I had to worry about my house first, now my degree. I wish this was all for my week.

 

Friday. I had secured a last assistant job at the university for next semester. My professor told me that due to being inundated with applicants, I would no longer be hired.

 

I tried to distract myself. I volunteered in the church I’m a part of since Easter but all I thought about was my screw up. Everyone was talking about exams and all I did was mull over my scores. Sadly the distraction that did work was killing random robots while playing Call of Duty. I didn’t try to ask myself why am I this way.

 

Speaking of the church, today every sentence uttered in the service, every scripture referred seemed directed at me. The Pastors spoke about worrying, tension, forgiveness. Everything that I could think in my mind was addressed in the service. As I left, one of the Pastors walked me out. He knew something was wrong and at the end he prayed for me. I still feel his presence on my back where he kept his hand.

 

Plus, today they had a jazz choir. If we do have coffee, I would apologize for dropping such bombs on you. I would apologize as I wanted to talk but all I did was whine.

If we are having coffee: Some Reminders


If we are having coffee(or tea), I would tell you that something happened that made me want to take writing seriously again.

If we do have coffee, I would also tell you that this is my first #weekendcoffeeshare post. I always loved this idea, I tried it in real life too, however I failed to keep up with half of it. I don’t know if I will be able to do this for long either.

It has been rough couple of days. No actually, it has been a rough couple of months. There was no particular reason, there were many of them. So while studying and speaking to a dear friend of mine something unlocked.

I told her to grow up, I told her to have patience and learn how to deal with things happening because of the wishes she is taking. I told her to take care of her loved ones first before she breaks down. And the reason is not so noble: I told her that she can’t take care of her loved ones when she is the one who needs help.

I don’t remember where I read this. I must have because I picked it up, adopted it without breaking a sweat and now I realize that I have been doing this for so long it is who I am. So I opened up ‘Pocket’ to try find where I read it, it is my treasure of the posts I have loved ever since I started blogging.

I forgot what it was like to feel through reading words. I read one and then I read many. I read this post, one which beautifully described the experience of having a dog: it made me laugh and sad, it made me miss my dog.

Then this post, one where she spoke about her familiarity with funerals and death of David Bowie and I felt her pain.

I wept, I laughed, I ached and I smiled amidst tears. Then I wept even more when I read this post, something that I always do when I read this, one where a other speaks about her dying daughter, I never found out what happened afterwards, I don’t have the courage to. I laughed at this guy’s take on Indian culture, on this blogger’s collection of Cat quotes, this post about depression, this post about childhood & identity, on this absolutely beautiful tale about Guitar and music. No wonder I tried to pick up a guitar afterwards and I am still trying.

If we are having coffee, then I think I must have mentioned all of this before too. I don’t care, I cherish the reminders. I just know that in the space and time I forgot how or what blogging was. I struggled with closing this blog, tried and somehow still struggling.

I am looking for a new place, or found it, giving exams and so much more. I didn’t sleep two days in a row, studied and realized that I still have a long way to go in studies. This week reflected on mostly my studies.

If we were to have coffee(virtually again) I would love that. I know it is not the way #weekendcoffeeshare posts are written but this is my take on it.

Luck’s running out


Random person: “Wow that is awesome”

Me: “Yeah, I got lucky.”

That’s how I always described it. Lucky. Not hard work or dedication; I was just at the right place at the right time. Many would say that I jinxed it myself, I just knew it was coming sooner or later.

The previous housekeeper left and I took up housekeeping. I wanted to save money and the job was the only way. No rent, work against stay arrangement. I admit, I was not an excellent housekeeper but I tried.

Last week I got to know, a mere week before my semester exams, I need to vacate the house by the end of June. I like my house. It was not perfect when I moved in, it is not perfect still. I have seen better houses, been around in better localities in Auckland but I liked the people that lived here. Somehow it suited me to know people for a couple of days, make friends and then never speak to them ever again. In my own twisted way, it suited me to be aloof. I had privacy in a shared room, I joined communities and I bought a bicycle here. It seems like yesterday that I moved in here. I planned to finish my studies in this house. Aside from the monetary reasons, the best thing about the house was its quick access to the coast. So I cycled down the coast to experience it again. If I didn’t have monetary reasons to stay in this place, I would have still tried to live here.

 

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The pakuranga walkway, that is my bicycle

 

Now, I am worried, stressed and mildly freaking out. I know how difficult it was the last time I tried to look for houses in Auckland. Now I have to do it again along with getting my studies done and earning more money so that I can afford a house. When I got to know, I knew that my good fortune will not shine, however I also knew there wouldn’t be total darkness. That things are going to get tougher, and I may still make a lot of mistakes in the coming days. But I can’t just sit here and do nothing.

Now, when I am almost done with househunting (or room hunting), and the experience was not as bad as it was the last time. I knew what I wanted, the location I wanted and the cost. I knew my parameters, my limits. It was not as bad as it was the last time. Obviously, I didn’t expect something perfect, or a house with pets, what I am getting is perfect for the time being.

And even if things do get worse, I do have the feeling that I can figure it out. Eventually.