What Does Focus Even Mean?

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath.

Relax.

Focus.

Teachers and invigilators tend to say things like these before an exam begins, in an effort to give us a pep talk to instantly calm our frantic nerves, all those neurons revising last minute details. They try to motivate us to write down every single answer that we didn’t even study while preparing!

When it came to me, however, I never really understood what they were trying to achieve. I mean, I never really got what they meant when they asked me to focus. They say focus, I ask howww? What do you mean?! How should I focus, what should I focus on? You know?!

And so, today I’m going to try and answer the question: What does focus even mean?

It was about a year back that I began to understand what focus might mean. I was in the middle of this intracollege writing competition and I had advanced to the final round, and it felt like everything was falling apart because I had no creative clue of what to write next. I don’t know what wise old neuron gave me this idea, but I began focusing on my breath.

I remember being told right from my childhood, that whenever you feel angry, anxious, nervous, scared, just close your eyes, count your breath, focus on it, and you’ll calm down. Since I had nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go, I decided to do this. When I opened my eyes a minute later, I saw this third year student, who was supervising the event. She looked at me with her eyes wide, as if trying to say, “Time jaa raha hai, aankhein bandh kyu kar rahe ho! Likho jaldi! (You’re running out of time, why are you sitting with your eyes shut? Quickly, write!)” I smiled at her and for the next 15 minutes, I tried my best to write down whatever best I could come up with.

Later, I found out I won the competition. I’d never gotten to the point of hoping to win it, because in that moment, all I was doing was breathing, and acknowledging that process.

Of course I sound all wise right now standing here, but its something I just happened to do, and it worked. Since then, any time I begin to feel overwhelmed, I just breathe. I don’t know, maybe that’s what focus means, or at least that’s what it means to me. So, today I want to ask you, what does it mean to you?


Remember, a few months back, I shared a post with you, which I said was a speech I gave in my Public Speaking class? Well this post was the latest speech I gave in the class.

I hope you liked it! If you want to read more of what I write elsewhere, or just see the stuff I do in life, go check out my Instagram and Facebook. You’ll find the links at the bottom and top of my page, respectively.

I’ll see you guys soon!

Your Mountain, Your Path

I have had a few thoughts about stuff, so bear with me as I try to compile them into a fairly sensible blog post. I might be incoherent at times, but trust me; there is a method to my madness. So here goes.

Bruce Wayne kicks off Batman v Superman by saying there were once ‘diamond absolutes’. I believe, in real life, there are none. There are no absolutes. It’s all variable and relative.

There’s a lot of idealism in most people’s upbringings, I suppose. I’d hate to generalize or speak for others, so I’m going to stick to me. I grew up with a lot of ideals being placed in front of me. I continue to grow with a similar buffet of ideals placed in front of me. “I must strive to be ‘x’ kind of a person”, “strive to achieve ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’ things”, “look for ‘x’ kind of qualities in people I must accept as peers, friends, partners,” et cetera, et cetera.

Simon Sinek is a well known orator and in general, someone with great understanding of people, among, I’m sure, a lot of other things. There’s this one interview/speech of his where he talks about millennials, the why behind their troubles in life – faulty upbringing, skewed perceptions on life, low self esteem, lack of “grit”, and how society sees them. I am aware I’m not the typical prototype of a millennial, but I couldn’t help but relate to some things Simon says (see what I did there?).  

He says relationships are slow, uncomfortable, meandering, messy processes. He says, “I see young people these days standing at the foot of a mountain, with this abstract concept of ‘impact’ that they want to have in the world. What they don’t see is the mountain.”

The concept of this mountain is what I’m trying to get at here.

Its not wrong to have ideals like the ones I mentioned above. I have many of those ideals, and I’m sure many of you have a variation of them as well. They motivate us and keep us going. They give us somewhere to go. However, there’s some traveling to be done from where you are, to where that ideal is. There’s some climbing to be done, and there’s no one single path. I may walk 20 miles before falling into a ditch 10 feet deep, not coming out of it for a few weeks.

That’s how life is. There ain’t no map, no instruction manual. Each and every one of us is figuring it out as we go along. A different path, is not necessarily the wrong one.

I talk a lot about ‘moments’ and enjoying them, in a lot of my blog posts, but that’s because I believe in the process. I live for it. The ‘little innocuous moments’ as Sinek calls them, when you’re not doing anything, when you’re just sitting and looking around, observing, registering, and thinking. When ideas come and go, when people look at you like an idiot for not looking down at your phone or reading something and instead just gazing around. You’re not an idiot. In that moment, you’re human. And the great thing about that is that while you’re on a path to some esoteric land where you want to get to, you’re looking on each side, at the fields passing you by, the roads, the people, all the other mountains, the rain drops, everything. You’re looking, and that’s more than many of us can boast of having really, truly done today. So, look!

To not blindly walk, but appreciate the path others are on, while walking on my own path, is something I want to live by.

How to not be Stupid – For Dummies

It is common experience that distraction and a temporary lack of definite direction are easy to befriend in certain states of the mind.

I just call it plain stupidity. (Of course, the first step to accepting your own stupidity is to not glare when your closest friend taps you on the head and calls you the stupid fellow you are.)

“…the pangs of sequestration in the maddening darkness of a closed prison,” says K Satchidanandan in one of his essays.

I have a habit of sometimes being too naïve. That’s a bad thing, by the way. I say things I may mean as a compliment, being completely oblivious that there is one small facet of what  I said, that turns the whole thing on it’s head. It no longer remains a compliment, having lost all its endearing attributes. It is now a prickly statement of disinterest. You’d have to be supremely detached to not get pissed when I do something like this. Stupid, remember?

Of course, ‘getting pissed’ thereafter brings with it the various stages of “maddening darkness”, giving birth to the aforementioned “pangs of sequestration”.

Satchidanandan knows his shit.

I could quite easily go into vivid details about how these “pangs” are, in totality, quite sucky indeed. Or, instead, I could tell you how I stop feeling stupid (although I’m told I still am stupid), and go down the river of #SentiFeelz.

This is exactly how.

I write.

And then I am rather hastily transported back to a land of no pangs. Here, its suddenly hard to brush off the thought of those flowers. I actually, thoughtfully, bought flowers for the first time ever today. It was a big deal. They looked amazing. Even better in the hands of whom they’re meant for. The rains just make this moment of reminiscing, shining.

I just keep smiling out into the trees, as the drops continue falling in front of me, the wind occasionally spraying some water at my stupid face.


Yes, that is me in the image, photoshopping a bunch of potatoes. Everyday stuff. No biggie.

On New Opportunities

They said (degree) college life will be fun.

They were right.

They said I’d learn a lot there.

They were right.

They never said I’d learn so much so early! ‘Cause I have. I’ve learnt a lot. And very little has been from studying the subjects, ironically enough.

One opportunity I got at college was to take part in and volunteer to organise the fests that take place at college annually. I volunteered for two such fests, which took place during the past week.

I definitely learnt a lot just from working with so many people organizing something of this scale, but I think I was offered more to learn, because of the different experiences I had working with two different sets of people on two different things. The people I got to know, the things I got to be a part of; it was all worth the ‘trouble’.

One of the fests was organised by a department that I wasn’t connected with in any way because the curriculum I’ve chosen doesn’t include that subject. Had I not gone to that first meeting when they were calling out for volunteers, I would never have been part of this great event, and never would have gotten to know all of those wonderful people, just because I don’t share a subject with them.

Hmm. Funny how that could have worked out.

Now that I think of it, these fests were an awesome place to conduct a social experiment. I realise now that my perceptions of a lot of people changed over the course of the three to four months we spent planning for the fests. Some people to whom I was indifferent, I now really respect. Some who I really respected, I don’t as much, anymore.

I won’t say that this change in perception is solely because I got to know them better over time, because we all judge people and we have a perception in the first place because we’ve made a judgment of them. That isn’t always bad if you don’t consciously let that judgment get in the way of you interacting with them and working with them. I’ll admit there were a few incidents where I failed at doing that. I really did not like a few people I had to work with. There were moments where I consciously despised them and did not want to meet them at all. I ranted about them to my friends and parents. I got myself angry over them. I tired myself out over them. I’m just really fucking grateful to have my parents and friends around, because I would have been cribbing for much longer if they hadn’t listened patiently to my rants, and then given me a kick up the butt to get it together and do what I gotta do.

At the same time, there were so many more people who I’d love to spend more time with. There’s so many people who I have massive respect for and I always will. I had disagreements with a few people in the heat of the moment. I got pulled under the pressure a little and let go for a bit. I said some things to some people, and I shouldn’t have done that. I let them know of that, and I think my relationship with them is in a better place because of the past week.

The last week has been really good for me. I’ve done a lot of running around, both out on physical ground, but also up in my head. I’ve made a lot of new friends, and been a part of a few things at college, and had experiences I’ve never had before. Since the ‘first time’ only comes once, I guess I’ll never have those experiences again.

I wouldn’t like it to be any other way.

Coffee Update #8

Heyyyy guys! Welcome back to another Coffee Update. This is where we grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate, as the climate seems to demand, and I talk to you about what’s up with my life right now. A bit of a vlog in a written form, if you will.

So grab a cuppa and settle down!


If we were having coffee right now, firstly, I would tell you that I can totally NOT get over this song, at all. I’ve played it, like 47 times in the last 5 days. Maybe an exaggeration, but that’s as accurate as it gets. The song’s too goddamn catchy. Ed Sheeran never ceases to surprise me. Go check it out if you haven’t heard it already! Here, I’ll just give it to you:

the-united-writer
Click on the image to go to the football blog I’ve started

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I’ve created another place for myself to write! Some of you may have seen a couple of football-related posts on this blog. I realised that this isn’t exactly the place for those kind of posts, but I do have a great interest in football and, as it appears, some people think I write well about football. So I decided to create The United Writer! It is a blog where I write about football and Manchester United Football Club.

It’s hardly been about three/four months since I started the blog, but its already allowed me to get in touch with some great people in the football-related media community and interacting with others in a field of your interest is always a great experience. For example, the owner of one of the biggest football fan accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, got in touch with me, since (I assume) he probably liked my work. Now I write with him on his website! The name is Man United Zone, and you can check it out by clicking here: Man United Zone

I’m really happy with where I am, and I look forward to growing more, and in that quest, I can use all the help I get!

If we were having coffee right now, I’d briefly tell you about what’s going on with me academically. I had my exams for the first semester of my Bachelor’s course at college about a month back. We got the results for that, just today. I’m not happy with the amount of effort I put in, preparing for the exams. We haven’t received a cumulative grade yet, but going by the individual subject grades I’ve got, I’m pretty sure I’ll make an A, I’m hoping they bump me up to A+. Yes, regrets. Powerful thing, no?

I haven’t done particularly badly, but I’m going to try and not make the same mistakes again. I tend to do that sometimes, and I really don’t like it when I do.

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If we were having coffee right now, I’d talk to you about Sherlock for a little bit. Holy shit, Cumbersandwich you beautiful, beautiful man! What an absolute gem this show has been. It seems pretty clear they’ve prepared for the end, and this was probably it. I think it’s a great end to a great show, and it would seem unnatural to drag it on further. It was a pleasure. I shall miss the two year long waits for new seasons.

If we were having coffee right now, I’d just like to thank you. For being here, reading and listening, with us separated only by something as trivial as a digital screen and maybe a few hundred miles, at the most.

I write because I like to share my thoughts here. Right now, I appreciate anybody who’s reading this, and even those who choose not to.


So, well, that’s what’s up! You are now officially updated with some of the stuff I’m dealing with at the moment! It was great catching a quick coffee with you peoples, I’ll see you soon.

Until the next post,

Adios muchachos!

People are Good

A week ago, I was on my way home from college and I had to make a minor detour to grab a few medicines for my grandfather. It was a Saturday, and the shop hadn’t opened yet. The tailor in the adjacent shop told me I should wait for another fifteen to twenty minutes; the medicine store owner should be here any time now, he said. So I stood on the pavement outside the store and I waited.

I was just looking around, observing things (my phone was precariously low on battery). I noticed a few students from my college walk by, people who I’d seen at college but didn’t consciously remember doing so. They looked quite different from the last time I met them. One had a distinctly different hairstyle now. It was only 10:30 and people were already lining up at the liquor store that had not opened.

A bird almost pooped on me. I was lucky. For now.

Among all this, two connected incidents stuck out to me. Not that they were dramatic paradigm-shifters or eye opening or anything, but they stimulated a thought process to which I have kept returning over the last few months.

Continue reading “People are Good”

Why I Greet People With a Salute

(And why you could too)

A lot of my friends know I do this. Whenever I meet them, whether it’s when we see each other during the first lecture of the day at college, or when we catch up with each other in the canteen, or when they open the door to me when I go to their house to hang out, I greet them not with a handshake, not with a nonchalant, “Hey, man,” or an embrace, but with a salute. Of course, I do partake in handshakes and nonchalant versions of, “Hi,” and hugs (hugs are the best, especially if it’s with a dog), but more often than not, it’s a salute. Here’s why.

 

Continue reading “Why I Greet People With a Salute”

Enjoying The Ride

Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes along. Wise words. Not mine, Samuel Butler’s.

When I was young, no, younger, I was diagnosed with a kind of leukaemia. I was too young to understand what that meant for me, so the obvious next step in my mind was to get rid of the illness. And that’s what we did for the next couple of years. But there were times when I remember thinking, why me, why not any of the other 20 kids in my class? Why now? I didn’t understand the potency of what I was asking myself.

This is true to an extent for all of us. We all at times, question circumstances, and not to be outdone by others, some of us question life itself! And that’s pretty natural since we don’t understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, why it’s happening now and why it’s happening to “just us”.

Not everything makes sense in life. But maybe, not everything has to. Life doesn’t have to answer to us. All life does is get us from point A to point B. We are merely passengers.

And since we are passengers, we might as well enjoy the ride.


I’ve mentioned quite a few times that I’m doing this 2-year long yoga course at The Yoga Institute in Mumbai. One subject we study there is Public Speaking. The course trains us to ultimately be qualified enough to teach Yoga, so speaking in public is obviously important to be a teacher.

The subject includes assignments where we give speeches every couple of months for incrementally increasing time limits. What I’ve written in my post was my first speech I gave. It was 2 minutes long.

Let me now address the elephant in the room. Yes, its been very long since I last wrote here. I know. I could excuse myself by saying I was very busy, or that I didn’t know what to write, or I could attribute my absence to writer’s block or innumerable other things, but then I would be lying. So I won’t say any of that. All I’ll say is that I’m going to try my best to work through my shortcomings when it comes to writing because writing is one of the few things I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.

Thanks a lot for reading through this, because it means a lot to me. I’ll see you guys next time.

Two Miles An Hour

One morning a few days back I was coming home from college since a couple of my lectures had gotten cancelled.

Now that’s not really out of the blue (teachers don’t turn up to class some days, some days they turn up but not many students do, or they’re “cancelled” because I don’t go) but this time they’d been cancelled because the seniors were having their exams and they’d occupied most of the available classrooms.

So, since I’d left earlier than I normally would, I decided to take the scenic route and come home real slow, ideally while having a hot samosa pav and sipping something chilled. I took just the samosa pav instead. Now, in this scenario, I’d normally take out my headphones and put on Twenty One Pilots, or Queen, or some instrumentals. Or put a little of all of those into a playlist and hit play on that. But that day, when I flipped my backpack towards the front, unzipped the front pocket and let my hand plunge into its depths, I realised I’d forgotten my headphones at home.

What I did instead, was have a really slow walk. Like reaallllyy slow. Like, two miles an hour. And I actually had more fun than I’d anticipated. As it turns out, what would have been a 25 minute walk with my headphones on and me walking at my normal pace, became a nearly one hour walk without my headphones on and me walking slower than usual.

As I walked along, and noticed all the trees and their green leaves moist with the rain, something I’d hardly noticed earlier, and snickered at some of the buildings with really whimsy names, and some stray dogs I’d never seen before, I noticed that people were noticing me more too. In a city like this, where most people on the streets are in a hurry to get somewhere, you don’t see a random teenager just walking as if he has nowhere to get to, nothing to do except intently look at the stuff that’s going on around him. I distinctly noticed people giving me weird looks as they walked past me. Many elders tell us to ‘slow down’ once in a while, ‘put the phone aside’, ‘take those things off your ears’, and then when we do, they look at us in a way that almost makes us want to go back to doing all of that.

So, I’ve got a task for you: Take a slow walk. Like, reaallllyy slow. NO HEADPHONES. Just you. You’d be surprised by the stuff you’ll notice.

New Beginnings

All of us lead certain distinctive kinds of lifestyles. It begins when we are very young. We fall into categories, and usually just keep going deeper into them. Habits and patterns form. These turn into mechanical behaviour, more or less. Many don’t realise it. Those that do, find it difficult to reverse. Impossible, we say. “Nothing’s impossible!” our mind screams out in despair. That’s usually where 90% of the optimism gets drained.

A very few of us are fortunate enough to have a light thrown at us, and have somebody tell us that indeed, nothing’s impossible. Nothing. There are other ways to live. Better ways. Good people.

I am extremely honoured to say that I am one of those fortunate ones. I recently had a 7-day long experience that has definitively changed my life.

Starting at 8 AM on the 23rd of April to 2 PM on the 29th of April, I experienced what were probably the most relaxing, liberating and enlightening (roughly) 150 hours of my life so far. I’m being totally serious. Some of you who have read some of my previous posts, and especially the last one or two Coffee Updates, may have read about how I have enrolled in a two year long teacher training course on Yoga, at The Yoga Institute in Santacruz, Mumbai. Since it is an advanced course, it’s prerequisite is that all students must first complete the introductory 7-day camp. The 7-day camp is residential as well as non-residential, which means students can stay there at the hostel for the duration of the seven days, depending on the availability of beds, of course. It is meant to be done living there, to get the authentic experience. And that’s how I did it; I stayed there for 7 days.

It involves waking up early in the morning, doing exercises, or asanas, as Yoga calls it, and various other activities throughout the day, both physically and mentally stimulating, interspersed with wholesome, fresh, nutritious food at regular intervals. All of this not only rejuvenates your body, but it freshens your mind as well.

At this point, I have to admit that I was, at first, very apprehensive about doing this. Not in the ‘I-don’t-want-to-do-it’ way, because I knew I had to do it and I knew how good it would be for me if I let it. And that right there, is probably the thing. A part of me wasn’t letting the course be what it was meant to be. On the very first day itself, I was repeatedly reminded to open up my mind, let go, relax and enjoy. After what I learnt there, I realise that Yoga, as it is marketed in so many places around the world: loosening up your body, essentially becoming some sort of contortionist, is so badly interpreted. Yes, the physical side is an very important aspect, but to me at least, Yoga is more about the mind and being the master of it.

There were a few huge notions that I engineered into my mind while I was there, and these are the kind of notions that stick around.

The first one is of not judging people. There were about 57-58 of us taking part in the 7 Day Camp, out of which a good 30%-40% were from countries other than India. We’ve lived all our lives, being told to be wary of others, how the world’s a cruel place and whatnot. Some of the more skeptical people also tell us that the world’s become so shitty you can’t trust anybody. As we grow up, we also learn from experience and whenever we experience something of this kind, it sticks, because we’ve also been hearing so much of this kind from those close to us. Impressionable young minds. Classmates spreading rumours about you, having a fight with a friend about something you later realise was petty, having an experience of typically snobbish Government employees. This kind of stuff happens a lot in early life, and especially the first two. It all reaffirms our faith in what everybody tells us and how the world is basically a giant pisspot. What we don’t realise, though, is that it’s stuff like this that shapes our psyche, and ultimately our life.

Maybe the world is a giant pisspot. Depends on where you decide to stand. And that’s the second thing I learnt. I, and only I, have control over how I see things. If I see them from a negative light, then it’s only going to make me feel shittier about things. Not a single soul in the world would know. I control my state of mind, and Yoga is all about having a balanced state of mind.

I have always been a bit of a dumb perfectionist of sorts. I have wanted things to be a certain way, for them to turn out in a certain way. I have even wanted myself to be a certain kind of person. But that was a classical kind of punishing belief system that I had created. I even studied about it in Psychology class, but it never struck me. I guess epiphanies are like lightning in that way, they don’t strike unless there’s a thunderstorm. That brings me to the next thing I learnt. I have no box I need to fit into. There’s no hard-frame category I must be in, or a condition I must always be fulfilling. All I need to be doing is my duty, whatever it may be at that particular point in time. At 4 in the afternoon, for example, my duty is to go to the gym, because fitness is a duty to myself. Or at 6 AM three or four days a week, my duty is to go cycling with my sister. Once college begins, my duty would be to attend college from 7 AM to 12 PM 5 days a week. Every Wednesday though, I am allowed to watch The Flash for 45 minutes, since that constitutes recreation and that also is important.


That’s enough of me preaching, I guess. I’ll sign off while you guys are still tolerating me.

Just kidding, I’ve got some more epiphanies to rant on.

LOL, kidding. Again.

I’ll show myself out.

starts meditating