Monday, March 30, 2020

Count your blessings

To all my friends who are complaining about this lock-down - count your blessings!

  1. We are amongst the lucky few who can continue to work from home (make a living, earn money) while we are locked down at home
  2. We can absolutely survive (and thrive) from home (everything is available online - entertainment, essential foods, pharmaceuticals, capital goods etc. - you name it you can order it!)
  3. We can entertain ourselves (video games, card games, board games, Netflix, Amazon Prime, TV, YouTube etc.) You name it you have it!
  4. We can study any subject we like online and even get some certifications! (Coursera, Udemy etc.)
  5. You can virtually talk with anyone around the world at anytime through video chats (use it!) No friend is far away. We can do high-quality HD video calls with people tens of thousands of miles away! That's unprecedented in the history of mankind.

The best outcome of this pandemic has been that most of my prospects are now open to doing video conferencing without having to physically see me in a meeting room! All the IT security measures have magically disappeared as now I can login remotely to most systems (which they earlier didn't allow). I hope this sustains after all this is over. I am hoping we finally end up reducing global business travel and reduce our carbon footprints!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The COVID-19 Cut

So Singapore is not yet technically under a complete lock-down for COVID-19. We are still allowed to go out as long as we maintain social distancing and do not form large groups of people. But looking at the pandemic situation worldwide, I think (personal opinion), it's wise to stay at home as much as possible and only step out for essential services. That would mean - grocery shopping (if you can't buy things online) and an occasional walk or a run in a not crowded open area to get a feel of the nature. Again I repeat, we are not under a lock-down yet and things might change till you even read this blog post.

One of the monthly necessities that men like me have is a haircut. I had been delaying my haircut for a while cause you can't socially distance yourself from your barber. While robots can perform complex surgeries already, they still can't style you up. I guess we will have to wait a decade at least for robots to develop a sense of fashion.

So finally last week I succumbed to my unruly hair and went to the hair dresser. And I decided to cut my hair as short as possible so that I won't have to go to the hair dresser again - at-least for 6-8 weeks. So here I am presenting my new COVID Cut. I ain't interacting with anybody so it suits me well while I am holed up in my home working my bottom from home.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

The global work from home experiment

As the virus situation evolves, I am guessing a lot of us have now officially started working from home. While working from home in the IT sector (my industry) is not something new, continuously working from home is a bit of a new experiment for all of us this time!

My job involves working with remote teams across Asia during the day and Europe in the evening so I am stuck to communication devices most of the times. Life is getting intense and my day starts around 07:00 AM and ends after 08:30 PM almost everyday juggling multiple time zones and people.  I also realize I take little or no breaks when I work from home.

There is a general sense of business as usual though everyone has the virus at the back of their minds. It seems like it is here to stay longer than anyone of us expected it to be. I am sure there is also a serious economic downturn on the horizon and I hope we come out of it strong.

It's 2020 and I am thankful that we have 24 hours reliable, stable bandwidth and always-on internet connectivity. We can share our desktops, do video calls and talk to each other almost as if we are together (without the human-touch factor!). I hope this comfort with working remotely with each other prevails even after this threat is gone. Will save a lot on business travel (time, money, inconvenience)..

I hope you all are coping well. After working from home for almost a week now, I have started appreciating the little things in life. E.g. - I love how airy and bright my home is if I open up all the windows and doors, I love the sparse look, I love my sit-stand desk, I enjoy using my blue-tooth headsets and I feel I am 10 times more productive because of no cross chatter from my colleagues or people dropping by my desk asking for something that is urgent for them disrupting me from my urgent and important tasks!

Take care, stay safe, stay healthy and be happy!
And, its time now we actually called our long-lost friends and spoke to each other!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Body weight exercises

You don't need a gym membership to be fit. All you need is determination. I know I sound like a "guru" there, but after spending thousands of dollars over several decades on gym memberships that I hardly utilized and didn't see much of a difference, I can tell you that I see more progress (relative to where I started) in a year of only doing "body weight" exercises than more than a decade of pumping puny weights in gyms.

So let me get started. These are the exercises that you can easily do at home (or hotel room, or at office when no one is looking) without any equipment whatsoever:

  1. Burpees
  2. Push-ups (and other upper body variation exercises)
  3. Squats/ Lunges (and other lower body variation exercises)
  4. Planks (and other core exercises)
  5. Sun Salutations (and other stretching/ Yoga exercises)

All you really need is 30 minutes (or 3 - 10 minute intervals) or (10 - 3 minute intervals) or 20 minutes or 10 minutes or just 5 minutes a day. I hope you get what I am hinting at - you need to "make" time and the discipline to do it even if you don't see any progress for weeks together.

If you are currently unfit and can't even do a single set of any of these exercises, then try their regressions. Start from what you can do.

Repeat. Everyday.

Eventually you see progress and that's what should keep you motivated on your path to fitness! So if you have been a lazy bum like me, drop whatever you are doing right now - and try your first push-up, or your first squat (if you are in a public place and can't push up!). There you go! Now let's start.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Leap year disease

So today is 29th February. By the looks of it, this blog has seen 4 of them (leap years) already. This 29th is a bit unique. I have never actually experienced an infectious disease spread the way the current COVID-19 has gripped the world. Being in Singapore, I am quite close to the action. While I am generally impressed by how Singapore is containing the spread by strict quarantine and contact tracing measures, it doesn't look like it is going to be contained anytime soon globally.

As of writing this blog, it ain't a global pandemic yet (according to WHO's strict definitions). In my entire working life (though I went through 2 big recessions) I haven't ever experienced business slowing down the way I can see it now. Maybe because I was never in a sales related function before.

I hope this disease does not have a catastrophic impact on the global economy and we are able to contain it fast enough. I can however first hand experience the impact it is having on travel and tourism especially with all touristy places in Singapore deserted, and a lot of restaurants looking empty even on traditionally busy days.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hydration packs

I have never been that into physical fitness. Growing up, I was more of the stay at home - study and read books kind of guy - that occasionally played some badminton and table tennis and hardly ever engaged in team sports. I was a disaster in the favorite Indian team sport - Cricket, and I was even worst in Football. I hardly scraped through my physical training exams, and I generally belonged to the geek category.

Unfortunately, this ritual of me growing up - now sourly shows as I age (not so gracefully!). I picked up occasional physical fitness more seriously in my 30s. While I yearn to be more disciplined so that I age gracefully, that determination is fairly lacking.

Anyway, since you have already experienced my love for water containers before here and here, I thought I add to this list another of my hydration gear that I purchased a few months ago - A hydration pack. Now hydration packs for me have always been that "serious" fitness gear that endurance athletes use. It's like stuff that I see on TV and then see my fit friends carry it around. Never in my life I ever thought I needed one till until recently when I started doing short hikes (read - few hours).

If you go on the trail for anything in excess of 3 hours, then carrying hydration in this part of the world is essential. I used to carry bottles before, but you realize that it's inconvenient because it's bulky and heavy. Also with the necessity of carrying mobile phones, house keys, and money almost everywhere, the need for a small pack that I could keep on my back along with some water in it grew. And so I invested in a hydration pack.

Treks have been much pleasant now. I don't have any particular pack to recommend, just the fact that having a hydration pack on your back, makes life just so much more easier. And the best part is - you can drink water from a tube whenever you want, and as you start to tire and drink more water the weight on your back correspondingly decreases.

If you are into casual hiking or trekking or trail running and are sitting on the fence thinking about whether to invest in this piece of hydration equipment - I would whole-heartedly recommend - go for it! And if you are a serious mountaineer, don't smirk. This is for newbies like me.

Monday, January 27, 2020


Indian passport is not felt welcome in most countries in the world. I practically need a visa almost everywhere I travel. While some countries are sweet (like they allow me to get a visa on arrival), most expect me to give hundreds of documents to prove my intentions of visiting them, and also that I will make my way "out" of their country. I need to prove I have sufficient funds, I need to book my flights, my hotel tickets, medical insurance, travel insurance and above all provide itinerary of what I am going to do there, even on the weekends in between. And then to top it all some countries also require my last 10 years travel history!

This is annoying at least and downright humiliating at worst. I remember one particular nasty visa interview in which I told the officer that I ain't interested in visiting your country, if not for my business trip. She didn't like my answer, and I got a visa that was valid for exactly the dates of my meetings.

Anyway, this blog-post isn't about that. It's about the citizens of these privileged countries that come to south-east Asia unchecked (as a virtue of their passports). They have no money, no return tickets and then they go around most of Asia by begging. You can go Google "begpackers" and look for yourself the photos that vividly explain what I am saying. A lose definition of begpackers (beggars + backpackers) would be  - people from first world countries travelling to poorer countries in Asia and asking for money to continue their journey. The reason they can enter the country in the first place is because of their privileged passport.

My office in Singapore is in a touristy area, and I also occasionally pass such privileged travelers on my lunch break. I guess Singapore is much more stricter than it's south-east Asian neighbors so you see it more often in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and of-course Bali. Most (if not all) of these "beg packers" I can only guess based on their skin color come from the privileged western countries.

Anyway, I completely understand why the visa system is currently the way it is. And I don't think there is any easy solution for what I feel is fundamentally unfair (classifying people just on the basis of their place of origin). However, till this can be sorted out by a better system, I guess, my fellow Indians and people with not so privileged passports will continue to suffer and get annoyed by the privileged begpackers.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The New Year Celebration Irony

So every year we all make resolutions and decide to do a better job of our life in the next year as compared to the previous year. Then many of us go party late into the night on the 31st of December and get drunk, wasted and start our new year with a terrible hangover and a late start.

So  much for having a "good start" to the new year. New Year Celebration is probably the worst celebration that the entire world has. It has no reasonable meaning whatsoever (why celebrate the earth going around the sun?) and even if we celebrate, the alcohol induced late night on the first day of the next cycle of 365/6 days is morbidly insane.

Anyway, statistically most new year resolutions are broken in the first 3 weeks of January. So as you read this blog, most of us have already given up on whatever resolutions we had. Some of us celebrate the lunar new year, so yeah, theoretically we have another chance of setting up a resolution for 3 more weeks before we break that one. And if you happen to be an Indian (from Maharashtra) then you get another chance in April (Gudi Padwa).

Anyway, as I get older, I have discovered (like many of you already know), a resolution is better off if you decide to follow something as a habit. "Habit forming" is more effective than yearly resolutions. Whether it is learning a language, learning a new musical instrument, exercising, keeping your house clean or just plain dieting to maintain your health, it's the consistency that matters more than anything else. Resolutions are essentially habits to be formed for the rest of your life. And to set those habits, you can start anytime, not just the beginning of a year.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bye bye 2nd Decade

So today we celebrate the last day of the end of the second decade of the 21st century. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I took a day off from my hectic office routine, went to a coffee shop overlooking the Marina Bay Sands and am writing this special blog post to reflect on it. This is what I am staring at - right this moment:

So here I am, continuing on my tradition of reflecting on the year before and giving you ideas for resolutions for the next year.  2019 was a year of awakening for me. I sort of realized that work can't be the focus of my life. I need to slow down and smell the coffee (figuratively). I should pause every now and then and look back and celebrate my successes (however small or insignificant they are) and focus on "acknowledging" happiness whenever it happens. Mid-life crisis continues to bother me. Aging is a continuous process and staying healthy now takes priority. As for my resolutions - I managed to read yet another 12 books in the year, and managed to get a bit more fitter - fastest 5K, longest run, did my first spartan race and exercised a bunch of muscle groups in my body that I didn't even know existed!

As for the decade, this one has been by far the most revolutionary decade in my personal life. A lot of major events happened this decade. If you are in my age group, I guess it has been your case as well (statistically the decade between the late 20s to late 30s is the one in which a lot of "changes" happen for most of us anyway - till we more or less "settle" down).

Thank you so much for being a part of my journey. I wish you a very happy 2020 and I hope your next decade is amazing!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Annular Solar Eclipse

So I finally got to see a Solar Eclipse. Not a total, but an annular (ring). Weather gave way and I managed to catch the exact fleeting moment (less than 2 minutes) when the "ring of fire" appeared. Singapore was expected to have a cloudy weather with chances of thunderstorm, but luckily, clouds cleared long enough for all of us to experience this amazing natural phenomenon.

At the end of the second decade of the 20th Century, we (as a human race) are more or less accustomed to everything of entertainment value (concerts, movies, sports events etc.) to happen flawlessly. We hardly see any natural phenomenon, so the concept of "chance" or the possibility of not being able to see it has become very remote. So while we started seeing the solar eclipse almost right since the partial eclipse began (at around 11:30 AM local time), I was not sure whether the clouds would cooperate and let us see the maximum eclipse (at around 01:22 PM local time). Luckily everything went smoothly and the clouds decided to cover the sun only after the maximum eclipse was over.

I had purchased a "Solar Viewer", the prices of which were obviously jacked up for the event and for a change I managed to see the eclipse (through the viewer) without getting affected by mobile phones, cameras etc. Just a pure experience without any social media or photo taking frenzy.

The last time I saw something of this sorts was the Lunar Eclipse in 2017 over Europe. But it was a partial eclipse, and I could not wait to see the maximum because I had meetings the next day morning and had to go sleep. I am glad I could see this solar eclipse completely and without much hassle. I am not sure if I will ever see another one.