Master of None

There have been many things that I thought I could develop into serious career options over the years. When I was around sixteen I considered growing up to be a professional skateboarder or a professional gamer. I only ever learned to do an Ollie, which I think I could still pull off with a few days of practise. I have since given up on these two as career options. Around eighteen I was really good at maths and physics and I thought I’d go study at an IIT and spend a decent amount of my life doing research and other science stuff. This too seems only a remote possibility at the moment. I was gifted Feynman’s Lectures on Physics many years ago and I still haven’t read them.

When I was in college I’d gotten pretty good at algorithms and AI for puzzle games and I thought I could build a career around that. I think I’m still pretty sharp with these skills. I could probably still do this if I was to leave my current job and be underpaid for a couple of years. It’s because this is somewhat similar to what I currently do (which is run an ecommerce website), that I still think of it as an achievable option.

I first started this blog in 2005 on Xanga. I’ve enjoyed writing since then but I’ve never done enough of it. I once made a submission to a science fiction short story writing competition and I won second prize. There was actual prize money and they mailed me a cheque. I thought I could write more things good enough to put out into the world at some point in my life. I never believed I’d make any serious money writing and so I thought that when I’m older and I’ve figured out the making money part of my life I’ll do some serious writing. I guess I still believe this.

In my early twenties I made a couple of simple websites built on WordPress as freelance projects. I then thought  that I could make websites or web applications for a living. I guess I was right about this one. I also worked as a software developer making a web application in Java for almost two years. The work was easy and paid decently well but I always knew that this couldn’t be all that I’ll do for the rest of my life. It was nowhere close to as exciting as any of the other things.

When I was really young my parents sent me for tabla classes. They were once a week and I went for years. I didn’t learn all that much but I developed a good sense of rhythm. I eventually bought a second hand guitar. I thought that if I don’t manage to write prose, I can write songs instead. Maybe they’ll be easier because they’re shorter. The fulfilment lay in telling stories. I wrote a few songs and some of them aren’t too bad but this didn’t go much further either.

When I first played the drums it felt like I could get the hang of it quickly. It could have been all the tabla knowledge I didn’t know I had. The drums don’t help me tell stories but they could help me make more complete songs. They’re also a lot of fun to learn and jam with.

This is not a comprehensive list. This is probably less than half of all the things I thought I could do and spent at least a little time learning, but these are most of the important ones. These are the ones that have stuck with me for long enough to really count. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then I’ve told you almost all of these things before at some point. I’m sorry about repeating them. I needed to tell you this story to get to the point of this blog post.

I’m the kind of person who wants to do a lot of things. And we live in a culture that glorifies people who do one thing really well. I partly believe that with a rather large dose of discipline and a few difficult choices I could still be one of these things; a socially acknowledged success. But that’s rather difficult and very little fun. I’ve tried making these difficult choices and working on one thing at a time. When I decided that I should make writing a top priority I’d feel guilty every time I started doing something else that was fun, even if it was something equally fulfilling and meaningful. When the guilt would drive me to try to write, I’d be staring at a blank screen. After backspacing a couple of sentences a dozen times I’d be back on Reddit again.

The realisation crept up to me that I’ll never get good enough at any of these things because when I stop and focus on only one thing, it still doesn’t work. I never openly accepted this to myself, but it was always at the back of my head, looming and melancholic. Too big and scary to deal with.

Learning something is also really rewarding at the start, after which it starts to plateau. It takes an increasing amount of time and effort to make what seems like diminishing progress. Add to this the knowledge that I’ll never be good enough to really make something of this skill and I’m at the point when I stop trying to get better. It’s now just another guitar standing in the corner of my room that I’ll pick up once every couple of months.

I want to say that it’s okay to be mediocre at something forever and I’ve tried believing that but it doesn’t work for me. I’d rather just watch TV and go out and drink with friends and spend hours browsing Reddit or Instagram than put in effort to be just a notch above the the level of mediocre that I used to be. So that’s what I did for over a year. I still didn’t want to admit that I’d abandoned most of my ambition, and so I never thought about it and things largely remained the way they were.

It’s honestly not that bad a place to be. The good thing about actually enjoying doing so many things is that even if I do one of them once in a few months it feels great. I just need to have forgotten exactly how good it felt the last time. If I do it more often then I’m hit with the realisation that I haven’t made any progress and I never will.

It took me a couple of years to fully understand that just because I’m not going to be as good at anything as I’d once hoped is not enough reason to stop trying entirely. I will never be enough of a musician or writer or skateboarder for that alone to be satisfactory. I am a part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie. There may be a few things to add to that description but it’s largely pretty rigid. I’ve tried to change it and failed. What I really need to do is be the best part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie you’ll ever meet. This is the only way to keep a distant-future-me from suddenly being struck with the crushing guilt of not having done enough in my life at a point when it’s to late to do anything about it.

In the course of my whole life, I can probably make twenty to thirty songs that a few hundred people will love and be really moved by. I can also manage to be a good enough drummer and guitarist to jam with for most part of it. I can also write a dozen short stories and maybe even a book or two out of which three will ever be liked by over a thousand people. I can also contribute in a very small way towards making software that significantly makes the world a better place. I can also be a forty-something who can have fun at a skate park and briefly explain the latest developments in particle physics. I can hopefully also use one or more of these skills to make enough money to live a decent life.

Any one of these things isn’t much but if I can do all of them, that’s really something. That’s also something that twenty-nine year old me feels is certainly achievable.


Wishing you luck with whatever you chose to do with the rest of your life,

The best part-entrepreneur, part-programmer, aspiring writer and musician, amateur drummer who can strum chords on a guitar and can probably do an Ollie you’ll ever meet.


There’s many good things about being in my late twenties. One of them is not needing to answer to anybody about life-decisions. I guess this really starts in your early twenties or maybe even earlier for some but it takes a while for it to set in and to get the hang of making good life decisions. Another one is having enough money to do all those things you said you’d do when you’re older. I could afford a month long trip to Europe or Japan or South America. I can buy a new TV and a good speaker system and a Chromecast to go with it. I can buy a tablet and an Xbox. I can buy an electronic drum kit along with a good amp or studio quality monitoring headphones. I can pay rent to have my own place to keep the drum kit. I can have one room air conditioned and soundproofed and have the walls all padded and the whole floor be a bed so that I can literally bounce off the walls. I can put everything I just bought into this room and make it into a jam room and a bedroom and a party room at the same time.

Imagine it, the drums will be on a movable platform that can be lifted up to the ceiling when they’re not being used and the TV will go into a hidden panel behind the cushion walls. I’ll get perfectly spill-proof glasses to that nobody spills a drink on the 100 square feet of bed. There’ll be a hidden cupboard somewhere to keep all the music equipment and the fold able table if I ever want to bring food into this room. 

Yes, I’m getting carried away but my point is that i can’t do all of these things but I can do those few things that I really want to.

Life decisions…

From dogs to copyrights

I came across this story on twitter today. It’s a beautiful, short, touching story.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.” Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The Six-year-old continued, ”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

I wanted to share it, and since I like attributing the sources for interesting stories I find online and giving credit where it’s due, I wanted to find who originally wrote it so that I could link to it. After a quick Google search, I still couldn’t find where this story originated. It’s been shared and blogged by lots of people in lots of places, but everybody just heard it from someone else they know. Then I started wondering if this is a real story or if it’s fictional, or if it’s a story that evolved every time it got re-told and now it isn’t much like the real event that it’s about, it’s just the best Story about the event.

Sometimes it’s important for a story to be accurate, because we wouldn’t want to be ignorant enough to believe that Hitler was a nice guy or something. But most times the stories we tell each other are just containers for a feeling, an emotion or an idea. I can explain an idea to you, but it can’t form as deep a root in your mind as when I tell you a story that makes you think it yourself. I can tell you how I feel, but you won’t really feel it as much as when I share the story or experience that made me feel that way with you. Just as we need words to communicate simpler things, we need stories to communicate these things that are harder to articulate. And so these stories evolve. The events are altered and the characters are changed to make the feeling clearer. If you look at it objectively, these stories are exaggerated, distorted and sensationalised but as we go on telling these stories to each other, only the ones that best convey the feelings attached survive in our collective memory. It’s like a form of Natural Selection.

And then I remembered this article I read a while ago on whether we can apply the ideology of Open Source to fiction. It’s a thought provoking article, and beautifully written. You should read it if you have the time, but for now I’m going to paste the important part here.

Ideas–stories–can enjoy a freedom that physical things never can . Imagine: someone’s grandmother tells a cautionary tale, it gets passed around the playground, it winds up in a book of urban legends, maybe one day it even makes blockbuster status at the box offices.  We gossip.  We embellish.  We lie.  We daydream.  Stories are being born all the time, and some of them even make it to paper.   The point is, stories live, and they can live forever.   Like all living things, they emerge organically.  They grow.  They evolve.  They are used.  They are molded.  They share their existence with the other living things on the globe.  They make change and are changed in return.

But as modern writers, we’ve accepted a limited lifespan for stories.   They begin and end between the covers of books.  At least until long after we are dead.

And I want more.

I want my stories to live.

When I’m done with a story, I don’t want it to die a quiet death–not if it doesn’t have to. I don’t even want it to be stuffed and preserved forever behind a pane of glass where people ogle at it all day long.  I don’t want a mandatory DNR stapled to its chest the moment it leaves my hands.

I don’t want this to happen to my stories.

And I won’t let it.


Up until now, every time I had an idea about a story to write, I would wonder where it came from and what inspired it. Every time I would get an idea for a story while reading a book or watching a movie, I would guiltily feel like it’s stolen and I wouldn’t pursue it much further. I’ve read sentences that describe situations so perfectly that I remember them word for word. I wouldn’t think it’s okay to use them in something that I wrote because even though it’s just a short string of words, someone else put them together before I did . Sentences like “her words hung in the air like too ripe fruit.” Every time I make a song that sounds nice I spend at least five minutes thinking if I’ve sub-consciously stolen it from somewhere else.

An interesting point is, I never felt this way when taking segments of code, or even entire modules of software and using them as a part of something I make. It’s strange that our moral view on borrowing ideas changes so drastically from software to literature. But I think it’s wrong to feel guilty about it. I think, leaving the legal issues of copyright aside, it’s okay to take something you come across and do what you want with it. Even if you take a song and only change a few lines because it means more to you that way. Even if you’re writing an alternate ending to a popular story. You should sing it and write it and share it and put it on the internet. You should be able to. Fuck the legalities. Since when did legal mean right and illegal mean wrong anyway? Hitler didn’t break any laws in Germany in his time right?* So yeah, since everything we ever make is built on something borrowed anyway, take what you want and use it as you please.


*I don’t know why I was thinking of Hitler so much tonight.

Day 7: Settling in

Good Evening,

It’s 10:32pm, but I can’t really start a blog post with ‘Good Night,’ can I? I don’t feel the least bit articulate right now but I will at least provide you with the pictures for the previous blog post.

Large clean sidewalks. Notice Guitar Center on the left. It’s an awesomely large guitar store.

“No Horn Honking. $350 Fine.”

Beautiful Buildings.


I really, really have a lot to say and a lot has happened since I’ve come to New York and I’d love to tell you about all the places I went and show you pictures and tell you what I thought about it but I think my brain stops working after 11pm around here. It’s been a whole week that I’ve been here and I’m settling into a routine here. The problem with routines is that they make life monotonous and boring. The problem without routines is that I never seem to have enough time to get everything done. I stayed at home all day today, it being sunday and all. By staying at home, I missed out on this topless women’s equality protest parade and who knows what else. There’s way too many things happening in this city and I can’t possibly go for all of them. At the moment, I feel like staying at home for the next two days but unfortunately I can’t do that because I have to go to work. I guess I need time to myself as well. Time to organise myself, to watch TV and maybe even read a few books. That’s the problem, you see, I’ve been hyperactive since I got here and I can’t last like that for more than a week. I was at times square yesterday but after about an hour and a half there what I really wanted to do was come back home and chill! Three months is a very long time, and yes, I probably won’t get to do everything that I want to over here but in order to enjoy whatever little I manage to do here I need to do it at my own pace, which is going to be the same pace that I lived my life in Bombay at.

So for better or for worse, I’m sinking into a routine here. I’ll tell you more about New York itself the next time. I’ll try to do this as soon as I get back from work tomorrow. Good night. I’d wish you a happy Monday, but we all know that those come around as often as once a year so I’m going to be realistic and wish you a not-so-bad-Monday.


Day 2

Hello All,

I thought that today I would have the time to sit down and write a long elaborate post along with some pictures and videos about my first impressions of New York. But the truth is that I’m too tired. I didn’t get to sleep much on the flight here and coz of the time difference that day lasted 33 and a half hours for me. I could have slept after I got here, but it was 12 in the afternoon and my roommates were going to see the India Day Parade, which has been happening in New York on the 15th of August for the past 30 years and after all it was my first day in New York and I thought that since I’m still only twenty three I’ll be able to manage it. The consequence, however, is that I had a terrible cold all of yesterday, which I’m still getting over, and even after sleeping 11 hours last night, I’ve been sleepy since 10pm today. I should sleep at 11 anyway, which is 12 minutes from now since I have to get up around 7 for work tomorrow.

This place is awesome. And as Shivani said, I do feel right at home here. Sadly, I haven’t got the chance to explore NY much. And that is exactly what I plan to do tomorrow after work. I need to find ways of keeping track of all the fun stuff that goes on here. You know, live music and other such stuff. This means that I might not find the time to write a decent blog post tomorrow either. I unpacked today though. I moved all my clothes into my closet. Now the only things I have on the to-do list in my head are: organise my pictures, figure out how to make calls for cheap from my ipod and laptop, write a decent long blog post and find places to keep track of all the fun stuff in NY. I’m being redundant, I know. I guess by the end of this week my I should have adapted to this. This house I’m staying in is big and comfortable. I also have a roommate who cooks, but he’s leaving next weekend. I’ll let you know more when I have the time. For now, I’m off to bed. Let’s hope tomorrow goes well. Goodnight.


We love measuring things in numbers, it makes things more tangible. So here’s a list of numbers to quantify my life for the past one year since it’s been almost exactly a year that I’ve been working.

  • 1,50,000 – My current bank balance.
  • 4 – Songs I’ve made that are worth singing again. (+1 with the band)
  • 14 – Blog posts. Way above my annual average of around 2.
  • 6 – Trips out of the city. 2 were to Lonavala so they don’t really count.
  • 1744 Hours (~73 Days) – Time spent in office.
  • 564 Hours (23.5 Days) – Time spent traveling between Lokhandwala and Thane.
  • 4 – Books read.
  • 10 – Liters of hard alcohol consumed. (estimated)
  • 10091 – The mileage on the car bought last June, to which I must have contributed about half.
  • 365 – Times I’ve spoken about quitting my job. (estimated)
  • 2 – Times I almost quit my job. (That’s twice that I actually walked into my boss’s boss’s office thinking I would)
  • 0 – Pieces of fiction written.
  • 0 – Computer games finished.
  • 450 – Cups of coffee consumed.

From 2011 onwards, I want to pretend like we’re all really going to die in 2012.

Work life

I don’t normally do things I don’t want to. In fact, I try as hard as possible to not do things I don’t want to. I never really studied for exams after the point where I thought I would pass them, I never attended class if I didn’t feel like, I didn’t wear full pants when I didn’t feel like, I woke up when I felt like, and I slept when I wanted to for most of my life. All these people who tell you that you have to work hard to get what you want, and that if you torture yourself now you’ll have it easy in the end, I think they’ve all lost their minds. And I’m more sure about this now than I ever was. I’ve seen 30 year olds with bellies the size of pregnant women who sit at their desks for over 9 hours a day and live what you would all call the ideal life and I know that they haven’t known the pleasure that I would get when I made a song or wrote a short story or probably even a damn blog post for even a day in their lives.

I’m happy being happy. I believe in indulgence. And this is mostly why I know I can’t work a 9 hour a day job. No matter how good the work is, no matter what the benefits are. I can’t work in that environment, I think it’s absolutely inhibitory to any kind of productivity. Why would anyone be driven to work at a place where they care more about how much time you spend doing what you do rather than what you do? I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.  And I, being the person I know myself to be, would not go to work tomorrow. I know that even if I do go to work tomorrow, I won’t accomplish much there. There, where the clocks on the wall watch you work, with the air-conditioning and the artificial lighting and the artificial personalities and stale humour and well, I could go on.

I haven’t seen the sunset in weeks! I would understand why you wouldn’t think this is a big deal, but honestly, try it. Sunsets just have a way of making my mind work. I heard that in early Mayan civilisations they would have a particular time of day when everyone would stop whatever they were doing and watch the sun set. I don’t know how reliable this information is, but it makes sense. We tend to overlook these things living our busy lives in these big cities. I live about a kilometer from the sea and yet I hardly ever go to the beach anymore. Here, I actually found a research that links decreased exposure to sunlight with cognitive impairment among depressed individuals.

But here’s the thing, I probably will go to work tomorrow and I probably will sit there in office all day and do nothing productive. Just accept money for some time of my life. Who was the idiot who said “time is money?” He ought to be locked in solitary confinement and be paid in millions for it. And yes, I can think of buying myself a new guitar or an iTouch or a Wii, or even a fucking PS3 with a hi-def TV. If I wait a bit longer I’ll have enough to buy a car, not that I want a car, I’m just saying. I can go to Blue Frog and not be that bothered by how much they charge for entry or for alcohol inside. But I think I’m lucky enough to know that I don’t want any of that as much as I want the freedom to be able to do what I want and when I want. I wouldn’t mind having a 2GB mp3 player and traveling by buses and trains and living as stingily as I did in college.

I had decided that I would stay here until I figured stuff out and until I had enough money to do whatever else I might want to do after this. But I’ve had enough money for a while now, and I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life but I’m pretty sure that there’s no one thing I could do for the rest of my life. I know what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life and that, I’m sure that I’m sure about by now. (No, I didn’t type that twice by mistake, notice the comma.) So why haven’t I left yet? Well, because when I told them I wanted to leave my generous employers said that I would get to work with them in New York for two to three months in a complicated arrangement that means I have to stay with them till somewhere around November this year. And though this is a very sweet deal there’s a part of me that’s hoping that this won’t work out, hoping that all managers are indeed the rotten bastards I would like to believe they are and that they pull out of this deal at the last minute just so that I can show them the finger and go on and live the rest of my life being me.

But despite all this, I will go to work tomorrow. Do something that I wouldn’t normally do. Do something that’s not me, and watch time pass by as I grow a little more estranged from myself. I will show them the finger someday, before the end of this year, and that I’m sure of. And if you can relate to any of what I said then I suggest that one day you sit alone and watch the sun set and think about it. Because I think that watching the sunset is more important than any of this.


Currently Reading
Surely You’re Joking, Mr.Feynman! : Adventures of a Curious Character
By Richard P. Feynman, Ralph Leighton

Life’s short.

Not short enough for you to get in perspective how short it is, but short enough for that to bother you.
Not quite short enough for you to worry about wasting it thinking about how short it is, and short enough for you to worry about forgetting that.

If we were immortal, we’d mostly kill ourselves before doing as much with it.

Reading about someone else’s life has a certain way of making me feel.