2018: Year In Review

This year has been absolutely crazy. It’s been a year of self-reflection and learning, and a lot of my own personality has become clearer to me. I’ve been able to – through fights, more often than not, understand where my perception has hurt others, and tried, as best as I could – to correct that situation.

It’s been a year of fulfilling personal dreams – whether it was getting to travel to the United States of America, or whether it was spending 3 weeks at home with my parents. I got to spend a week in Africa with my family – an experience I had inertia for, but one, I can never forget.

I’ve made some new friendshipsa I value deeply, and reconnected with old friends who have shown me more than ever that Law school had sucked a lot out of me.

It’s been a year of loss – losing my paternal grandfather was difficult, especially for my father, my Uncle, and my grandmother. Three people in my life I care deeply about. My father’s demeanour and emotion at a time of acceptance is something I’ve learnt a lot from.

It’s also been a year of growth. Personally, as I’ve detailed above, but also for my family and friends. I’m very grateful that over the last year, each family member has found something that drives them. I’ve been judgy at times, especially toward those hobbies I found difficult to understand. But its always lovely to sit back and look at how each person has changed in the year.

Some friends of mine graduated, and some friends switched jobs. Some paid me pocket money out of their salaries, and some didn’t.

Life goes on.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve achieved some goals I had set for myself in 2018. I read a 104 books. I gymmed for a bit. I ran as much as I could. My team and I cracked a moot we worked on. I wrote. I slept.

But 2019’s here now. Pretty much here atleast. So I’m going to use this to tell you that there’s a couple of things I have in the pipeline. Largely so I’m publicly accountable henceforth.

  1. I’ll be writing here daily.
  2. There’s a book blog called Pages With Tejas – you’ll be seeing updates from me fortnightly at minimum. I’m using this year to expand on my readership – and try to cover as many authors as I can. Read them in full. Understand their messages better.
  3. Some academic writing.
  4. Some cricket/sports oriented writing – which I will share when I can.
  5. Will be running a 10k at some point in the year. For sure.
  6. Getting back to music and music playlists.
  7. Learning a language.

I think that’s enough to share for now.

I hope your 2018 has been pleasant as well. If you’ve experienced lows, my deepest sympathies and some ice-cream. It isn’t worth saying stuff like “I hope you’ve learned from the experience”, because sometimes you just need some tender coconut ice-cream from Naturals to cure all your worries.

Watch some Disney movies too.

May your 2019 be full of cheer and stuff! Happy New Year!

Bombay

It’s the 30th of December, and there are easily about 40 posts I had left to write, things I had mapped out that I wanted to share. Ultimately, these aren’t posts that I’ve been able to sit down and write. I’ve procrastinated my writing so much. While running the risk of sounding like a broken gramophone record, I think that I can safely say this year has been a bit of a breather in terms of my writing – I’ve learnt that if I do writing bit-part/whenever I feel like it – I’ll never feel like it. This is who I am as a person. Writing, for me, needs commitment, and that’s something I’ll work toward in 2019. [more on this later]

Anyway, it struck me that a large part of the things I had to share all come out of my experiences living and breathing the air that is Bombay/Mumbai. So it was far easier to club together those 40 thoughts and create a singular piece which articulated everything on my mind. This is that post.

I think there’s something in Bombay’s water that gets people moving, relentlessly. Or something in the air that prevents people from staying still. If you’re standing in one place for more than 10 seconds, somebody will ensure you move ahead. Somehow. They may shove you from the back, shove you from the side, or spit, right in your direction, but Bombay, the city – it’ll make you move. Always.

The height of this is the local. Taking the local was something I wanted to do the first day I got to Bombay, and I had a friend explain the entire system to me. It’s easy to understand, cheap, accessible (from literally anywhere), and timely. It’s rare to have a local train delayed, and even if so, the delay won’t kill you. The people might.

The trains have a charm about them. People get work done on the local, whether it’s wrapping up deals they had left at the close of day in the office, or whether it’s cutting vegetables up. They catch up, or slow down – depending on what time of day it is. The smell and sound of it, however, can kill you. People are crazy on the local. People fight for every square inch of space, and people shove armpits in your face if you don’t move.

It’s fun.

Another experience is the kaali-peelis. You’re lucky if you get one to go where you’d like it to go. You’re luckier if nobody else shares the kaali-peeli with you (only in terms of comfort), and you’re luckiest if the driver actually knows the way. In terms of priciness, I think Bombay kaali-peeli drivers are right up there with Bengaluru auto-drivers. Which makes me wonder what a rap battle between the two would look like. Oh my God, somebody please make this happen. The insults will be amazing.

Or maybe they’ll stare at each other for 1 minute, contemplating whether they want to go to a particular destination, and then say sorry, or look away and move.

You never know.

Bombay is, in that sense an experience.

The work culture is crazy as well. It’s pretty much impossible to escape. I can’t really detail what kind of work I did when I was in the city – but safe to say, it involved transactions with large sums of money. But that’s the thing – I don’t think the quantum of money defines the kind of work culture and lifestyle you lead.

I think it’s the city itself. There’s definitely something that drives people to wake up every morning and forge ahead for themselves. It’s very rare to see people not motivated by something – whether money, or otherwise. But it gets them to move. And try to be better in whatever it is they do – every single day.

And we can judge people for it – we can judge them for their motivations and their aspirations. We can critique society – for example, for giving rise to capitalist ambitions, and a desire to possess wealth.

But what I don’t think you should be allowed to judge negatively is that a person has found something that motivates them – which is rare, and what’s rarer – is that they’ve started working hard toward using that motivation to make their desires come true.

That’s what Bombay looks like to me. It’s just a place where people seem to find what they want. And I think that might be down to the city itself – because it wears you down so much, that you’re forced, by circumstance, to understand what on Earth it is you’d like to do.

The other side of Bombay is the food and Marine Drive, but there’s enough that’s written about that. And basically I ate a lot and loved everything I ate. I spent a bunch of time (in my second month there) with my friends, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

All in all, I’ve had a 10/10 experience in Bombay. I’d recommend going there for a while. And not visiting. But staying.

It’ll change a lot about how you look at things.

 

138/181

Pizza.

It’s the food of simpletons. Which is surprising, considering how unaffordable it is for a large section of society.

It’s also the love of my life. Food-wise.

This is not to say that rasam-rice, mosaranna, or anything else is displaced from the top of my list. I just really love pizza. It carries a huge place in my heart for a bunch of reasons.

My mom apparently survived on pizza and maggi while she was carrying me. And as a child, one of my fondest memories is coming back from the swimming pool and eating the pizzas my mom had made at home. She’d buy pizza bases and coloured capsicums and cheese, and prep everything. We’d all then head to the pool as a family. She’d head out early and cook everything while my dad helped me float around a little, and then pushed me to swim a lot more. I’d come home to hot hot pizzas and a tall glass of milk.

It was a great time.

Pizza also features in some highlights of my life. I’ve eaten pizza on atleast 6 of my 20 birthdays – in some form or the other. My old school in Dubai had this amazing canteen operated by Caesar’s which sold pizza for 1 Dirham, and well, the day we moved houses, the food I was eating when India beat Pakistan, when Manchester United won the Champions League, when RCB almost won the IPL. Pizza.

You get the gist.

So when I discovered that you could get a 1+1 on pizza in Bombay because of Zomato Gold, I was shook. We took this offer way too seriously and went to this place called 1441 – which serves some ridiculously good pizza. I think half the reason why it tasted so good was because we were all happy our internships had come to a close, but also because we saw the bill’s value reducing although more food was coming to our table. That correlation to happiness is indescribable.

I also do believe I’ve had the best pizza I’ve eaten in Bombay at Joey’s Pizza. It’s arguably the best pizza in India I’ve eaten. The crust was flaky and buttery, and it was mid-sized (not too thin, not too thick), it was structured like a pie so you could taste the cheese right on top. Oof. It was amazing.

Pizza is a large part of me surviving the last two months in Bombay. It’s only fair that it gets a mention on this blog.

Please go watch the Pizza Show on VICE if you don’t already. There’s such a rich history to the food we eat across cultures, and I think the Pizza Show does a great job of capturing that history.

I want to do that with curd rice one day.

And saaranna.

 

137/181

To me, aside from all the things you learn, professionally, at an internship, a key component of what makes an internship more enjoyable is the kind of people you meet and get to interact with. Coming into this break, I had had amazing co-interns at every single place I interned earlier. Individuals who were fun to hang out with at the workplace and outside of it. But here, I was a little skeptical. Aside from the interns from my University, and my flatmate, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Given the competitive nature of everyone at Law school, and some of the horror stories I had heard from others, I went into the internship with a mix of trepidation and excitement.

Everything faded away on day one.

I dined with fine gentlemen every single day of my internship. Considering we didn’t get to see each other during the rest of the day, that 30 minutes, and a WhatsApp group we had created, were the only interaction we had. And it was beautiful. We talked about such random things that we didn’t really get to know each other through the month. In fact, it was only on the last day of my internship that I realized one of them and I had an overlapping set of school friends because we were from the same city.

Which I think is pretty cool. The commonality of experience can give people so much to talk about apart from themselves, and so much to share.

Ultimately, though, what really bonded us is three loves: (1) cheap food, (2) pizza, (3) brownies. On the last day of our internship we headed out for a wild night of debauchery – eating 4 pizzas, having unlimited Coca Cola, and getting free food. Aside from tasting some extremely good Theobroma brownies – which I have craved every day since.

And we’ve kept in touch through the second internship month as well.

This extends to where I’m interning right now. My first week here was a blur because I was moving internships while submitting a memorial for my moot. Also, I was definitely under the assumption that I’d fit right in – given everything I had learnt from my previous internship. That assumption was flawed – because I didn’t account for the fact that I had to prove myself again and earn the rest of an entirely new set of colleagues. Having a co-intern who taught me the ways of the team, introduced me to hot chocolate, gossiped, and included me in a running gag really, really helped out.

So yup. Brand new friends all round, and a lot of fun. That’s been a highlight of the past month as well.

136/181

I’ve previously spoken about how much I enjoy reading and everything. But what sucked was that over the course of the internship season – aside from not being able to find time to do the things I really wanted to do, like writing every single day, I ended up being out of the loop with my reading.

To the extent that the last book I read remains the book I finished just before my exams started at University – which I read so I could finish off my reading challenge for the year. It’s strange, I sort of knew this would happen when internship season rolled around, but I didn’t realize how disappointed I would be with myself when it actually happened.

And I guess it’s okay that I’m not reading books during this short time of heavy stress and massive changes to my schedule and lifestyle – but that’s the exact attitude which made me stop reading books back in the 10th Grade for a while, which I hated and had to work so hard to overcome once I came to University.

What sucks – and this is what I’m most ashamed of, was that I was unable to keep up with the news properly.

I think my levels of general awareness hit lows in the last month – where I was finding out about things post-facto, but a whole 24 hours later. I’d be 24 hours late to news that wasn’t gossip.

That frustrated me.

Which means that it’s something I’m going to work even harder on the next time I get this busy – which hopefully shouldn’t be for a while.

It wasn’t just the fact that I was late to news. It was also that it started to feel like my day-to-day happenings were a day later than everyone else’s day-to-day happenings. Which was pretty bad for me.

134/181

Looking good while going to work is spectacularly underrated and underappreciated.

I understand this now because I know how much effort it takes to put in effort into personal grooming and just looking presentable, and wow. It’s pretty commendable that people are able to do that even while living adult worker-bee lives with horrible hours. And managing everything life-related alongside that.

Especially when you’re going to work, man.

It’s pretty easy for males, because our formals are really straightforward. But still.

Shaving and grooming, having polished shoes, clean socks. Having pressed shirts and trousers. Having a set of trousers and a shirt which actually match each other. Having suitable ties. Wearing a nice belt.

And not repeating outfits too often – so that people don’t think you wear the same clothes everyday.

Pretty darn commendable.

Also, just generally. How do people always look better in formals than they do in regular clothes?

And finally, to close out another intriguing, thought-provoking, post: how crucial is it to own a pair of amazing brown formal shoes?

Oh yeah, also. I’ve observed and honestly concur with the trend that owning a pair of jet black laced shoes is honestly the greatest fashion trend. It goes with literally every outfit, looks classy, and can be extremely comfortable.

Look at me, I’m a fashionista now.

 

133/181

Meeting old friends can rekindle the strangest of things in your heart. All of this is sparked by the fact that I met an old friend of mine – whom I had last heard from in 2015. Some context: Buddy and I grew up in the same building complex, and spent time with each other every single day for 6 years. Buddy moved to Bangalore – then Bombay – then US – then Bombay. I moved to Bangalore and then Ahmedabad. Buddy and I lost touch because we only had each other’s e-mail IDs (and I had his institutional ID – which he lost after graduation).

Reached out to Buddy over social media and fixed time and place of meeting. Starbucks.

I reached Starbucks an hour earlier because they had free WiFi and I wanted to sit there and finish off some work – so I was there well in advance. I could only concentrate for about 40 minutes though. As it got closer and closer to our scheduled meeting time, I started to think about what it would be like to meet him after so long – especially because even when we met between 2011 and 2015 – it was fleeting. We never sat face to face and had conversations for hours the way we used to as children.

And all I could think about was, what if he’s changed? What do I say and do then? Will something I say today upset him? Have I changed a lot from when he’s last seen me? I mean, I’m sure I have – but will he still be comfortable with who I’ve become?

A lot of overanalyzing and peeing later, I saw him. And that set off a lot of nostalgia. Him and I running with our other friends – we were a group of six, running down slopes and across the parking lot. And as we met – all I could think about was how different our lives might have turned out if all six of us had stayed in that building instead of moving out for various reasons.

I was still nervous though – and started off conversation with something we shared a lot of love for back in the day: cricket. As we eased into conversation, we had to order stuff, and we went up and ordered Hot Chocolates. The same exact drink. And that’s when I knew things hadn’t really changed in all these years.

It’s weird, and super emo/sentu. But read this.

My biggest childhood memory is cricket. I was CRAZY about the sport. I’d spend every moment watching cricket highlights or playing cricket and thinking about the game. I even watched Ten Cricket shows and wrote to Cyrus Broacha for some contest for cricket trivia.

Buddy was spectacularly gifted at the sport – and a role model in terms of his fitness and ability/flair for the game. We used to spend hours in his house playing test matches – and they’d go on forever. It’s how I improved at the sport a fair amount. That, and breaking the chandeliers in his house with his bat. Till today I will maintain that it wasn’t my fault. Buddy bowled a very fast ball so I hit out instinctively.

In any case, because of how much time I spent in his house, I’d often be over at his place in the evening and sometimes even at night. I’ve eaten countless dinners at his house. But more crucially, I’ve had a lot of Bournvita with him  – in front of the TV watching cartoons, as a break from our test matches.

And while we were sworn enemies as we played those games, we were such pals while drinking that Bournvita. His mum used to tell the house-help not to make my Bournvita as hot as Buddy’s because I could never handle hot drinks.

When we ordered our Hot Chocolate Buddy told the server to mix in some cold milk into mine – so as to reduce the overall temperate of my Hot Chocolate.

That’s when I knew nothing had changed.

Meeting Buddy has been a highlight of my Bombay trip – because it showed me the value of childhood friendships. And it reminded me that those 6 years of my life – the ones I’ve tried saying I no longer identify with – because they’re in a city that now feels foreign to me, are still a part of my fabric, my DNA. They’re a part of my definition of “home”. As is Buddy – the friend who broke my first milk tooth for me.

 

132/181

So I got an entire weekend off in Bombay – in my third week of my first internship here.

That was supremely conflicting for me. On one hand I was thrilled, because, wow, finally. On the other hand, my brain was like, woah, no work? What now?

The answer was fairly simple. Sleep. The thing I had been desiring to do for so long, but had been unable to do on a consistent basis.

So of course I did the exact opposite.

That weekend, I woke up at 6AM to go play football (wow, who am I?), and then stayed up till 2AM working on moot stuff. Then the next day I went out a fair amount to explore Bombay – something that was on my list, and then went out for dinner and some partying with friends. Which was also pretty amazing.

But I accomplished very little of my sleep goal.

That actually repeated itself the next weekend I was free as well, because, at first, I thought – great, I can sleep again.

But,

Guess what. My brain went into overdrive about how I’d regret things if I didn’t do them when I was in Bombay. So I went all out and was social and met friends and people I hadn’t ever met before for the first time.

By the way, when you’re meeting people for the first time, I think it’s helpful to go over some of your best jokes – just to prepare in advance. Having a sense of humour makes it easier to break the ice with people.

On one hand I’m quite pleased with the fact that I got to do a Bombay darshan and meet so many people. Yet, somehow, on the other hand, I actually really want to sleep.

And here I am, writing blogposts in the middle of the night on a weekend.

Why am I like this, guys?

131/181

It makes a world of difference when you’re surrounded by people who you like working with – because you don’t mind staying back in the office late. Also, professional differences become so much easier to sort out, because you respect each other a lot on a personal level. When you’re working with people who are difficult for you to work with, I think you become a tougher person to work with yourself.

These wise words have occurred to me after watching the greatest cartoon of all time about teamwork:

They’re actually also a direct result of the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity of working with for the last two months or so. Everyone has been a delight – especially because they’ve also taken time out of their schedules to gossip with me.

Considering it was celebrity wedding season, this was the biggest highlight and the greatest thing that could have happened, because we spent a good 20 minutes each day critiquing the weddings and the updates that had come in.

It was a great life.

130/181

It’s really nice to come home to someone who is awake.

For a large part of my internship I came home to a pitch black house with 4 of my flatmates passed out – all in different stages of their sleep cycle, as evidenced by their various positions on their designated sleeping areas. One would be in a half-twist, one would only be covering half his body with his blanket, one would have gone to the belly flop sleeping position, and one would be hugging a pillow. It was extremely amusing.

I’d always have to open the door using an extra set of keys we left outside the house (psst: it was on the hinge of our very unlocked door), and enter after. I’d go to the kitchen, draw the curtains – so as to not interrupt my flatmates, and change. Ultimately, I’d set up camp there and work for a few hours on my moot submission. It was a great time for me.

But, on some days, I’d come home to one of my flatmates playing FIFA on their mobiles.

It made me happy to know that someone else was also awake. We’d say Goodnight to each other before he slept – but I had someone to talk to two minutes atleast – before that happened. Which was very comforting.

More importantly, I would find out whether our toilet had enough water to sustain an entire poop cycle of mine (if I really had to go), or whether I should just brave it out till the morning.

I’m kidding, it was never that bad. We did, however, manually fill up the flushing tank in our toilet with extra water we had collected so that we could poop. At times. This other time my room flooded.

More on that in another post.

129/181

I am typing these words one letter at a time because one hand is busy itching all parts of my leg violently. Mosquitoes have attacked Fort Tejas, and things are not pleasant at the moment. Time for S.W.A.T. forces to takeover.

I’ve always viewed winter break as a great time to detach yourself from most things University / School related. This didn’t happen much at school, or, maybe not as noticeably. Considering everyday after 4 I was at home and away from the school atmosphere – it was easy enough to detach yourself from stuff you did for school and do things you wanted to do.

On a residential campus that changes – because even if you’re done with classes, if you want to do something University related, you’re going to end up being busy all day doing stuff that is intertwined with University life and things you study there. It’s rare to get the level of detachment during the semester.

Hence, semester breaks. Deductive reasoning, much wow. (is that right? I’m not even sure.)

Anyway. I used to think this in my first year.

Soon that changed. A lot of this is because of who I am as a person – in terms of how much I enjoy trying new-new things and taking up work. But work spills over to winter, and I found myself carrying work that was happening during the semester into the winter break.

I thought it would be manageable only. Till the internship hours hit me.

After that it just became a situation where I was doing expectation and time management – which has honestly been the greatest learning over the last two months.

Expectation management doesn’t mean you underperform or compromise on quality of work. It just means you’re honest about the kind of effort you’ll be able to put in to work that is assigned to you. It means that you’re able to tell the people you’re working with exactly what the limitations of working with you are – which helps them plan better.

This aids you in your own time management.

And it stops making you feel like things are out of your control.

It’s great for the mind, body, heart, and soul. It also has a great effect on your stomach because you can take time to eat a hearty meal instead of trying to work through a meal because you need to keep up with deadlines.

The other pretty great learning for me has been that it’s important to surround yourself with people who trust you with this entire task of expectation and time management. That once you commit to undertake work, they trust you enough to actually execute it – and don’t pester you every two seconds about it.

That helps the stability too.

Damn. So much gyaan I have gained. And given. Chee.