2019: Three Hundred and Twenty Two

Navigating is difficult work. Especially when it involves providing navigation instructions to your mother. Nonetheless, she did a pretty fine job of her driving, and we managed to travel 300 odd kilometres, from our house in Dubai, past 5 of the 7 Emirates to end up in Ras Al Khaimah. I’m fairly certain several individuals and lorries travel across all 7 Emirates in a given day, but this is no mean feat for a driver who is regaining her confidence. Naturally, everyone has celebrated this milestone achievement by sleeping early. It appears that there is indeed rest for the weary.

I haven’t driven a car for a while now. That isn’t because I don’t possess a licence, or because I don’t have the confidence. It’s because there’s hardly ever the opportunity, or the reason to go out driving – apart from the fact that I enjoy the activity. I hope I get to drive a carbon-neutral vehicle one day. That would be very fun.

2019: Three Hundred and Twenty One

Sometimes its fun allowing my parents to experience new things they’ve always wanted to try out. Go-karting is one of them. My Chikamma was with us back then too – and I remember loving how fast my dad was and how he drove the go-kart with such skill. My mum had a field day with the bumps and the skids, because she was nursing a bad lower back issue at the time. We chuckled though – it was all really enjoyable.

My mum has been in the UAE for several years. She couldn’t recall the last time she went on an abra, which I’m sure she has – but maybe when she first arrived, or so. Today we crossed the Creek on one. Abras are nice – they’re essentially just motorized wooden boats constructed in a typically Arabian fashion. The Creek route is really short, it’s just a diagonal length of maybe 10-12km or so, so the journey takes barely 6 minutes. It made her happy though, and that brought me some joy.

Visiting the Old Souks always bring back memories of the several tantrums I have thrown because I did not want to be a part of the long walk down these streets. As a child, I didn’t particularly enjoy walking. I also didn’t enjoy not being at the center of attention, and I especially hated not having entertainment. I found it difficult to be my own source of entertainment in some respects, I guess. Gold Souk basically made Gold the center of attention, offered the adults other things to strike their “oohs” and “aahs” at, and left me massively bored and without new things to try out. Plus, nobody would let me touch anything [obviously]. Today though, I love walking there. I love the smell of Oud, and the sight of spice shops and stalls. I love hearing the bargaining happen and the variety of languages in which sales are taking place. Most of all though it reminds me, I love Dubai. I’m not as conflicted as I was a few years ago.

2019: Three Hundred and Twenty

I’m born into privilege. I have acknowledged this privilege before, and I am grateful for it. Over the past few years especially though, I have been able to get insight into several aspects of life for individuals who have not been as fortunate as I am. Birth is a lottery. You don’t get to decide which household you live in and what circumstances you are born into. You only get to decide what you do in those circumstances – and several times, your circumstances make these decisions for you, making the exercise of free choice tougher, and tougher. Not acknowledging the existence of poverty and the underprivileged is sheer ignorance in today’s era – and frequently, I find myself wondering: what can I do from my position of privilege?

I’m still relatively young and I haven’t figured out an answer to this question yet – but I will, because I’m spending time thinking about it. I don’t think there is a correct answer – but I’d like to figure out an answer that gives me satisfaction. I guess I’d be looking for the satisfaction of knowing that I am using my position of privilege to the best of its capacity – to do as much as I can.

Today, I went to a gurudwara near our house. I’ve been there before to offer my respects, but I’ve never participated in a langar before. A langar is a community kitchen in a Gurudwara which offers free meals without discrimination. While eating, I was silent. I’m usually not a silent eater in crowds. I enjoy having conversation flowing, whether on tables, or at any social settings. But today, I found myself thinking about how some people look forward to this meal the way I do – as an experience, and some people look forward to this meal as subsistence. That shocked me. I don’t know what sparked the train of thought – especially because I’ve always been grateful for the food I get to eat. But it was a moment of great clarity for me. I guess I learned how much more to value food and food security in some sense.

I know I’d like to use my privilege to this end soon. Need to figure out how.

2019: Three Hundred and Nineteen

My Chikamma arrived from Bangalore today. Which is always fun. Going to miss having my Uncle here over the next few days, but spending time with my chikamma is never something I’m going to reject. It’s nice having relatives around you all the time. My grandparents were here recently and we had an absolute ball, so I’m looking forward to all of the adventures we have lined up.

My chikamma and I are cut from the same cloth in a lot of respects. She recently told me my mum called her up early during my first grade exams or something, where I refused to study – yelling at her and saying I was just like her. We both chuckled and acknowledged that we were lucky to be that way. Who takes first grade exams seriously? [spoiler alert: my parents]. We’re also very happy being at home from time to time, especially when we need breaks – which is not something my mum was super keen on. After a handshake agreement, I agreed to lay the groundwork for a minimalized Dubai trip for my chikamma – allowing her to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy her time here on her own terms.

I think I succeeded. Only time will tell.

2019: Three Hundred and Eighteen

Today, my mother converted a short walk into a much longer tour of a shopping mall near our house. I sometimes wonder how I let her bully me into these things, especially given that I have a bit of a pet peeve when it comes to adherence to plans [I’m very rigid]. Thankfully I didn’t have my watch on, and we spoke about how I was on holiday – which assuaged me a lot.

I think the last four years in college have been at a very high pace. I’ve consistently been moving around, doing some work or the other, trying to scavenge for fresh work, and basically not lifting the pedal off for a while. That’s transcended into my personal life as well – what with all the challenges I make for myself, and the kind of stuff I aim to do each day. It’s not that I don’t love it, but I guess it makes me a bit of a stickler – and today was a good chance to let loose and be good company to my mum.

Which also meant going to several shops I had no intentions of visiting whatsoever. Some of that was enjoyable though, so I’m grateful to her for that. Maybe I should take my watch off a little more when I’m in Dubai. I don’t really have appointments to keep.

2019: Three Hundred and Seventeen

I’m rediscovering the art of playing games on my laptop – and spending time on my laptop not reading, or working, or searching for information. It’s been a ton of fun so far, honestly. It’s refreshing to get nostalgic for the times where I used to go to my friends’ houses and watch them play for hours together – because I had a restriction on the amount of time I could use the computer in our house, and I got a kick out of the fact that they had paid for Membership access on most games. It allowed me to experience what these games were like for them, and learn about all these new areas on the same maps I had access to.

Most online gaming hasn’t come easily to me. I’m not gifted at first-person-shooter games, or action-adventure stuff. I’m a classic FIFA gamer. I play once in a while, for kicks. My skill level isn’t incredible, but its enjoyable enough to not lose often against the AI. Nowadays though, with more time on my hands, I’m able to actually work on the tougher missions and the stuff I used to find irritating as a child. Cracking them has surprisingly led to the same amount of joy as I feel I would’ve had when I was 8 or 9 years old. Plus, given the various forms of social media that are available for interaction today, you get to discover so many different kinds of communities that exist on the same gaming network to support you through the quests. It’s brilliant.

2019: Three Hundred and Thirteen

In the docuseries, “Inside Bill’s Brain”, the interviewer asks Bill Gates what he’s most afraid of, and what scares him. His response is that he doesn’t want his mind to stop working. The first time I heard that, I was taken aback by how simplistic, yet how selfish that was. I couldn’t quite understand why he felt that way, and what motivated him to say that. Through the entire docuseries, he highlights so many challenges and so many problems that the global community is facing, and yet – the one thing he’s scared of is that his brain will stop working. I didn’t get it. I thought his response would be “climate change” or something of the sort.

Upon reflection though, I sort of do get it. On multiple levels. First, the individual level – Gates’ brain is what keeps him going, literally. Second, the societal level – after watching the documentary, it was apparent to me that he viewed all these issues we call unresolvable as challenges, and he’s spending all his time committed to thinking about solutions to these.

It’s therefore sort of comprehensible that he’s worried about his brain not functioning.

In a sense, I am too. Reading Flowers for Algernon made me fear that even more. Today, I had a really productive day – I got a ton of work done, spent a lot of time with my family, and read two books (almost). All these things gave me immense satisfaction, of different kinds. I’m worried I’ll lose my curiosity – which comes from my brain wanting to know more. Then I’ll stop reading, and that’s not something I ever want to do.

2019: Three Hundred and Twelve

I read this rather crazy book called “Do Fish Feel Pain?” by Victoria Braithwaite today. It’s unfortunate that the manner in which I found out that this book, and this line of research exists in the week after she passed away, but I’m so glad that I did. It’s been such an eye-opening read, and apart from the tidbits of knowledge I’ve now gained, I’ve gained so much more appreciation for the scientific method – and I realized how much I missed my Sciences. I’m probably going to read more Science & Technology nonfiction just to overcompensate. As a thought experiment, I spent some time thinking about the kind of problems I’d likely work on if I pursued the Pure Sciences. I’m not quite sure what I would have done, but I do know I harboured equal passion for Mathematics, Theoretical Physics, and Organic Chemistry. My thought experiment went kaput because I couldn’t figure out which one of the three routes I was likelier to pick if I turned back time to Grade 11.

2019: Three Hundred and Eleven

My mum drove me to the mall today, where we hung out, ate a Japanese cheesecake, and completed grocery shopping. Then I cooked dinner. After that we watched the new David Letterman episode with Shah Rukh Khan. By connecting my laptop to the television and beginning to stream some Netflix, I successfully conned my parents into staying awake for an hour longer than they anticipated, which I find hilarious.

The Grammarly tone detector tells me that this text sounds “confident”. Its related emoji is a firm handshake. I find this hilarious too. I don’t see how a narration of mundane fact is “confident” at all. Its just, fact.

Aha. I have successfully deceived this tone editor into thinking I am now “Joyful” and “Friendly”. Excellent.

That is all. I’m going to go do some work and play chess now before passing out.