All good things need to be forced

This is what my usual day looks like. I am up by 6.30 am and in the gym by 7.15 am. Depending on what my workout of the day is I usually am able to come back home by 9.30 am (showered and ready to leave for office). I am in my office by 10.30 usually and unless I have a meeting elsewhere I am there till at least 8 8-30. I reach home by 9 9-15, depending on the traffic, where I spend the next 1 hr or so having dinner and catching up with my wife. She is usually in the bed by 10 am and I by 11 am since we both are early risers. I am sure this is more or less (except the workout) your schedule as well. Our lives are a hamster wheel loop of sleep-work-sleep which we are turning, trying to be faster, all day every day. Most of the leisure, let’s call it that though I prefer the words culture or happiness, we defer for weekends. Not much is accomplished on such weekends. I wish I could read more. I wish I could do something about my health. I wish I could travel more. I wish. We all carry a lot of such related regrets on our shoulders which we take off your back from time to time, stare at them, sigh and put them back blaming the busyness of our lives for not being able to do what we wish. Days go by and one activity that kept us busy is replaced by two more and the chance of ever making time for the “I wish”s. I realized that I am stuck in this loop and there is no way out of this. At least no immediate way that I could see. Finally, I came to a conclusion that I will have to force the culture and my “I wish”s into this loop only and somehow make it work.

My first wish was that I wanted to incorporate some kind of physical activity in my live. Around 3 years back I decided to force this in my life. Like most of us on New Year, I too started as resolutioners, highly motivated to build a healthy life. Soon I realized that motivation was not enough. Motivation will get you out of your bed on a cold Delhi morning maybe for a week but will fail, rather miserably, to do so in the subsequent. The human mind is great at making excuses and will come up with such great ones to skip a workout that you yourself will be amazed. When motivation fails, discipline comes to the rescue. Fortunately, I was able to force the habit of regular workout into my life and not it is not something I do or have to do but something which is a part of my lifestyle. This is now a habit for life and I could myself blessed to have been able to do it.

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Raees, and the genre of mediocre movies

Raees in an unforgivably mediocre movie. But honestly, the mediocrity of a film is never the real problem. A lot of times a project that seemed like a great idea, in the beginning, ends up with a not so good execution. Passable movies as an end product are definitely not the problem. The problem, especially with this one, is that clearly the makers of Raees were actually only aiming for mediocrity. Throughout the movie, it seems the goal was to keep it just ‘good enough’ so that it does not tank. A good enough movie, along with a megastar and ultra-hyped marketing strategy, can work wonders in terms of box office collections. The movie lacked any good scenes or even a single good moment. Every character, except only the lead, was a prop. Replaceable, as well as removable, without making an iota of an effect on the movie. I personally feel bad for the actress, who I’ve heard has done some really good work in her country, come all the way here to just be an accessory for the songs.

The reason that filmmakers can even think of aiming for such passable movies is because we, as movie-goers, have accepted such mediocre movies and have time and again made them multi-crore success. We flock to the theatres every time a Sultan, Dangal or Raess releases just because of the lead actors. It would defy all business sense for a movie maker to not continue following this path of averageness just for the sake of financial security. So they continue making such movies which you will forget as soon as you’ve had your post-movie dinner, maybe just remembering the Sunny Leone item song or Nawaz’s entry. Nothing else. Only we can do something about it. But as masses, we won’t. Till then hurrah to such average films and their success.

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India cannot be saved

Yesterday Sushma Swaraj, the current Foreign Minister of India, threatened Amazon to remove from its Canada store an item or face severe consequences. The item in question is a doormat with the Indian flag and the consequences are the denial of visa to Amazon officials and even rescinding of the visas of Amazon execs already here. At this point, I do not have any appropriate adjective to express what I feel about this whole matter. If I had to explain my thoughts in one phrase, it would be “why is this happening?”.

Sushma Swaraj is one of the few politicians I personally admire and all this admiration has been earned by her acts as a person in power working for the common man. She is very active on social media and has effectively used social media to help Indians world wide. Even save Indians. But this time it seems she is trying to save India. Now the way I look at it, India cannot be saved. This is not the normal cynical or naysayer POV of looking at the malice in India and just saying that India cannot change. India that she is trying to save is not the physical country which is named India. It’s not the land, the skys and the air of India that she is trying to save but the India in question here is the concenpt or the notion of India. The India that exists in the history books. The India that exists in the minds of the people, Indians and others. The first mistake one could do would be even assuming that this India can be attacked or harmed. Even worse, thinking that this India can be affected by a doormat print is, in my thoughts, us not being very confident about the strength and perseverance of India. Now I do not, in any way, condone the act of using the Indian flag as a doormat. I am pretty sure out constitution and the justice system have defined rules about how the flag has to be treated but I for one am really unhappy about the public display of pseudo (or real) patriotism and the aggression that follows. Let us not delude ourselves. If someone wants a doormat with the Indian flag, he will get it. If not from Amazon, someone else. If no one is selling it, he will get it custom made. Would it make sense to make it a mission to find such people, across the world, and make them respect us. In the entire history of civilization, has this ever worked for anyone except tyrants and despots and do we want to be listed with the likes of Hitler and Kim Jong Un. The issue which could have been easily resolved by a single simple email is not a shit-show (yes!) for the entire world to see and mock. There is no scenario in which we as Indian come out at the top when this ends. For every step that we take forward as a nation, these things take us 2 steps back.

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Iniquitous Zomato and how to screw customers

This is going to be a rant post about how @Zomato service and customer care royally screwed me over Wed night. You have been warned. I wanted to initially make this a twitter rant but this got way to long for that. Also, I want this post to reach Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal so please share. And yet that’s a clickbait title. I am salty; deal with it.

I was working late this Wednesday (23 Nov 2016) with a teammate and the client. Around 10 PM we decided to order food since it seemed like we were going to pull a late nighter. It was decided that butter chicken and roti was to be had. I quickly opened Zomato Order and found a decently reviewed nearby place named Sighri. The order placing process was complete by 10.27 PM (ref attachment). Now Zomato has this process of order acceptance in which only placing the order does not guarantee food but the restaurant has to accept it. Which Sighri very graciously did and I was informed that the order will reach me by 11.22 PM. (ref image).

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Stop this 500/2000 note GPS tracking nonsense

I cannot believe that I have to explicitly put it in words but looking at the misinformation out there this needs to be done as this is really annoying the techie in me. THE NEW 500 AND 2000 NOTES WILL NOT BE TRACKABLE. Identifiable - Maybe. GPS trackable - Absolutely not. Its only in the movies where the entire GPS circuit (chip, battery et al) can be concealed within the pages of the books and wads of cash. It is physically not viable today (at least not on a nonmilitary scale). I personally know more than 10 startups who are working on creating the smallest possible GPS device what can be worn by women and children so that they can be tracked for safety. The biggest hurdles these people are facing are form factor (making the device small) and rechargeable battery. No commercial solution exists that has built such a small device that can be embedded in a paper note. At this point discussing the data center requirements for such a large scale GPS device network would be a moot point because the NOTES DO NOT HAVE A GPS CHIP.

Now I can have a guess about what kind of “tracking” could be possible. The note could have a small RFID chip (the kind used in office IDs and metro tokens) which has the note serial number embedded in it. A RFID reader which can be placed anywhere a transaction takes place (bank, shops etc) and what can be tracked is what was the serial number of notes that were used for a transaction. Theoretically, if all this data can be captured at one central location / repository (which is a data and connectivity nightmare ) it could be possible to predict where the note was last used. But GPS location tracking is not happening. Not in the near future.

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Why would today's youth join the armed forces?

Last week an ex-serviceman committed suicide over the delay in implementation of OROP. It is saddening to know that a man who gave his life to the service of the nation had to kill himself because there was a delay in getting him what he deserves. I had been meaning to write this post for a very long time but this is what finally brought me to writing it.

I come from an urban middle-class family. No one in my family or the extended family or their friends has ever joined the armed forces. You could say that our previous generations used to only take after their fathers when it came to choosing an occupation and that is why it’s like that. But even now no one of my generation in my extended family and their friends and neighbors is part of the Indian Armed Forces. In the current times it is not uncommon for kids to venture into new fields. Men and women are now performing the roles which earlier used to be designated to opposite genders and many of us are doing jobs that did not even exist 1-2 generations back. Yet, the number of people who come from a non-defence background and join the armed forces is still way too small. Why is that? Risk. That seems to be the apparent reason but lets look at it this way. A quick google search shows that the odds of an individual dying in a vehicular accident are way higher than death on active military duty. This difference gets even bigger if there are long periods of (relative) peace. Yet everyday millions of Indians ride their two-wheelers to work. Mostly without a helmet. Could it be that they have to stay away from their families for long period of time? Most of the young Indians are already doing that for their jobs. Clearly, it could not be that the job is not prestigious. If there one thing that a military person will definitely get, that would be respect. Yet why is the youth not going in that direction?

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Scattered Thoughts : Diwali Smog

Looking at the frightening smog that I am encountering daily since Diwali and looking at all media outlets, social and traditional, attributing it to Diwali fireworks there are a lot of thoughts in my mind. Honestly, I am not able to format them in a presentable way so I would rather make a disorganized scattered list.

  1. Indian fireworks industry is pretty small (INR 2000 crores in 2013) and its market has been getting smaller every year by both the decrease in demand and the increase in sales of Chinese fireworks. Legislative and accident related issues also have a fair share in this industries misery. More info here
  2. Now this is completely anecdotal but I personally feel that there has been a palpable drop in the amount of fireworks Delhi consumes every Diwali. Without denying that it still is certainly way more than it should be, it is still getting reduced every year. (I couldn’t find sales numbers to quote, hence the anecdote). Yet this is probably the first time the smog situation has been this bad even 3 days after Diwali. Maybe I am missing something or there are some factors at play.
  3. Diwali is a one-time occurrence annually. The idea that somehow NCR was able to produce such a huge amount of pollution that it is overshadowing the other major regular players like industries, traffic, and fires (accidents as well as deliberate one) is really hard to put my head around. Considering that I believe that its contribution to pollution has been going down steadily.
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Our Ratings

Almost all of us at one time or another have been guilty of trying way too hard on social media to be funny, witty and smart to gain likes, hearts, retweets, followers and what not. Way too hard. The reason I am bringing this up is because I was deeply influenced by a single episode of a TV series. Now usually my social commentary about TV and movies is usually limited to discussion with friends and a mere single tweet at the max. But this time it was different. I watched the first episode of Season 3 of Black Mirror last night and honestly, it hit really close to heart. It was the story of a young woman who lived in a society where social media popularity or “rating” was something that had real world implications. Your interactions with the physical world affected your ratings and your ratings affected how the world interacted with you. I don’t think we are that far from this future. Today no matter what the event is, good or bad, the first thing that comes to mind is what witty post can be shared on social media to garner social clout. Minds start racing to think of that one witty tweet that will get all the RTs in the world. Taking selfies for Instagram and Facebook takes precedence over actually making that moment worth it. The amount of effort that goes in keeping up and maintaining this facade could easily be diverted into actually building character and hobbies. But who does not know all this? We are like any other kind of addicts. Smokers know that the cigarette is killing them, so do drug abusers. Yet somehow constantly looking into that 5” screen has become socially acceptable. I am in no authority to point fingers or preach any cure for I too am one of the addicts. A self-aware addict who knows that every single funny Reddit post is 2 minutes I will never get back and yet here I go swiping away to the next post. I know the solution. We all do. Yet. Maybe we love our ratings more than we know.

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Goodbye WordPress

I started this blog in September 2011 with this highly controversial post (which has apparently lost all the controversy with the loss of comments but trust me it got pretty wild back then) and have been writing here on and off. Till today, 25th Oct 2016, this blog had been powered by Wordpress, that too pretty well I must day. But starting today this is now a static site comprising only of static HTML, JS and CSS files using Hexo as the backend static site generator. If you have visited the site in the past the first thing you will notice would be the improved speed. Taking away all the runtime code compilations has drastically reduced the load and render time of the site. Honestly, a simple blog/site does not need to be dynamic at all. The primary reason I, like everyone, chose WordPress is the sheer ease of use. Having said that I would like to list down some of the factors that made me decide to make the switch.

  • Speed - Whenever we open a web url the page that is rendered in the end is HTML, CSS and JS only. No matter what the backend technology is or how complicated the logic is the end result would always be HTML only. Wordpress was doing the same but with an added step of running PHP code to determine what HTML has to be rendered. By eliminating this step I am able to save the load time.
  • Safety - If you have used any of the PHP based CMS’s in the past I am sure you are aware of the “Viagra Hacks” that these are prone to. If you are not careful about updating your Wordpress or Joomla installations or do not have a reliable hosting provider you will not ever know when your site will get hacked and search results for your site on google will start showing links to Viagra. Not only is this embarassing at that moment but takes a lot of time to fix. No such problem exists with a static site.
  • Better and easy deployment - This site is currently hosted on AWS S3 which means this site will have 99.99% uptime, and 99.999999999% of durability (yes, 9 nines), I won’t pay anything for hosting if I am doing less than 20k file requests a month, and I won’t have to waste any more time messing with servers.
  • Cost Effective - I no longer have to manage a hosting/server which saves me a monthly fixed cost I had been incurring for a very long time. And S3 os cheap.
  • Less Code - The static site generator tool Hexo is really minimalistic in nature. Any change in the theme layout only requires the knowledge of HTML, CSS and JS which fortunately I know :)
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How are you proud to be an Indian?

The concept of patriotism has never come naturally to me. Gender, race, nationality, religion etc are traits that I have but had nothing to do to get them. I was born a male brown Hindu Indian and that was the default setting and I never had a say in that. If I say I am proud of being a male I will be termed as a sexist, a white person is called a racist if they claim they are proud to be white, we all know how much issue secularity causes in our society but being proud of once nationality is not only socially acceptable but is rather expected. Even worse there could be sever consequences if someone is considered non-patriotic in India. I am not saying that I don’t feel good about being an Indian at times, many times, but pride does not come naturally. Hence I implore the people who think they are proud Indians, please help me reach the point where you are because I do want to be there. Thoughts?

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