Wednesday 28 March 2012

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I've been somewhat busy with things so I haven't been reading as much I would like to. I am almost halfway through " Why the West Rules for now" by Ian Morris. But its a big book (in small print) with graphs, maps and tables. And though it is very interesting and I will finish it, I wanted a quick fix in the meantime. So I decided to pick up "The Happiness Project". With such a title I was sure of a happy ending. As the back of the book describes, its a cross between a Self-Help book and a Memoir. 


Gretchen Rubin, a Lawyer tuned writer realizes that though she's not unhappy in life, she's not as happy as she could be. Since she also realizes that like most ordinary people, she can't take off on a three-country self discovery trip like Ms. Gilbert, she decides to make small changes in her existing life to remove sources of guilt, worry and negative feeling and enhance and introduce sources of happy feelings. I don't look down on self help books. In fact I strongly feel that for some people and for all people in some situations, a book might hold the answer you are looking for. But this book belongs more in the self-help shelves, than fiction or memoir shelves. Also, whether you will like this book or not depends alot on the phase of life you are going through. I am currently in a "Makeover" phase and I want to make big sweeping changes so the small easy-to-execute happiness steps didn't appeal to me that much. I think I will re-read it when I'm 40. 


The book also has one line summaries of almost all studies published on happiness and that makes an interesting read. Some of the resolutions and "truths" she adopts will definitely bring happiness to anyone who makes the effort. Plus, shes very human in the book. She fails repeatedly, she's mean and grumpy even when she's trying not to be and she accepts herself and her limitations. The best point this book makes is that being happy is something we should all pursue actively. Waiting passively for good things to come and happiness to spread is not such a good idea. You are responsible for your own happiness. I would recommend this book for a lazy vacation. You could read it if you're looking for practical and simple ways to make your days  more pleasant. And I would also recommend this book as a gift to all Mommies. As far feel good factor goes, it was worth every Rupee. I was happy all the while I was curled up reading the book.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Papa Kehte Hain..

All a typical Indian parent wants is for his/her child to have a steady income job. Its the quintessential Indian (Middle-Class) Dream. One Degree- Doctor/Engineer/Architect/Lawyer/Accountant, One Job, One marriage equals One happy life. The dream now comes in a few more versions- Artist Version, Entrepreneur Version, Sports Version, etc. But Mummy-Daddy just want to see you "settled". 

What with the UP elections, rail budget and The budget, I got to thinking about the people who become politicians. How come we don't see a pattern of natural distribution, the law of averages at work in politics? How come there is no bell curve of the type of people who participate in politics? They just seem the cluster around one extreme. And its not the good one. But what if it changed and politics became a noble profession? Or even better, Can politics become one of the accepted professions of the Indian (Middle-Class) dream?

Yes it can! How about this. We open schools, colleges and universities and start awarding degrees to students to participate in Indian Politics. Bachelor of Politics, Masters In politics and even Doctorates. All those interested  can join these institutions and can learn subjects relevant to their future as leaders and policy makers of our country. The curriculum would include History, Political Science, Economics, Civics,Economic, some Maths, etc. There would be electives for students interested in agriculture or mining or transport or finance for students aiming at those portfolios in the cabinet. And at the end, there would be placements. Come day Zero, all political parties would come for recruiting these students. They would offer adequate compensation, provide perks and of course, you might want to join them simply for their ideology. Some students would want to take an entrepreneurial route and start their own political party. 

Once in the party ranks they would be given roles and responsibilities based on their interest and aptitude. Some might go into data analysis, some into marketing and building brand value, some into managing the party's finances. Some may be put into the party's leadership program, to be groomed into potential electoral candidates. Now no profession can hope to qualify for the Indian (Middle-Class) Dream if there isn't a steady monthly income involved. So as far as salaries for these students go, the party would need funds. The party could be an organized enterprise getting donations from supporters or having business interests of its own. Of course for this to work, the donations that individuals or institutions make to political parties should be legalized, taxed, audited and published. Thus the problem of the rich buying political power would be reduced if not eliminated.

This idea of mine is neither perfect nor fully practical.But atleast it will give us an option of educated and aware candidates chosen through a process of merit. Also this would make politics an accepted job option for the Aam Indian Aadmi just like any other job. Soon matrimonial ads will read "Wanted fair homely bride for senior manager working in National Political Party with 6 figure salary". And when Aunty asks Monu Beta "What do you want to be when you grow up? Monu will say " Urban Development Minister" and Monu's Mummy-Daddy would smile proudly.

Friday 23 March 2012

Thought for the Day March 23, 2012 : Worry

This thought is inspired by a the book I'm reading currently. ("The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Ruben, more about this later)

Often I have found that when I worry about what will happen, how something will turn out, will it work out, will I be able to do it, I am actually feeling lazy and reluctant to do all the hard work which will be involved to achieve that goal. I already know how much effort is required to do it, I'm just delaying the moment in time when I'll have to start that work.

Monday 19 March 2012

Thought for the day March 19, 2012 : Mind Space

Your mind space is your most valuable asset. Don't clutter it with ugly things. Don't keep things you don't use. Don't let squatters live rent free. Don't let trespassers outlive their welcome. Guard it fiercely and keep it safe, it houses your soul and thoughts and memories of your loved ones. Use it creatively and efficiently. Fill it with beautiful things. Open the windows sometimes, to let in some fresh air and sunlight. Put on some nice music and lets get to work.

Thursday 15 March 2012

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

It irritates me when I keep checking my favorite blogs for updates, but there is nothing new. And when I get a little busy and lose track, or lose hope and stop checking,  there will be a string of new posts and I would feel left out. I would like to know in advance when a new post is expected, so I wouldn't get my hopes up on the other days nor would I miss out on the new releases. But now I realize, its somewhat difficult to organize your posting schedule like that. You never know when inspiration will hit you. For that matter you never know when a writer's block will hit you. You see,the flow of  ideas is like the flow of susu (pee). You never know when its going to come. And once it comes, you cant stop it! So for better or for worse, I've decided to keep two official posting days : Sundays and Wednesdays. I will try to put up new posts on these days as far as possible. Though I don't promise predictability, I do offer less uncertainty. And yes, the irony that today is neither Sunday nor Wednesday hasn't escaped me. But  a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

P.S. I realize this post assumes I have readers (yes reader-s, plural), but what the hell, I can dream big. Someday there might be people (yes, again, more than one) who would wait eagerly for my next post. So this post is dedicated to that day.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Wisdom from the road - 6th March

Seen behind a beautiful truck this morning. Ladies, pay attention!

"Rani bana kar rakh, Raja bana doongi"

Monday 5 March 2012

Green is good

I was talking to a friend of mine who has just finished college and is about to start a new job. And she says she'll miss college. And I'm wishing I was at that stage in life, about to start a new glamorous job. Another friend went back to college after working for a while and she says she misses the days when she didn't have to bother with assignments and tests. When you are in college, you cant wait to start working. When you are working, you want to go back to school. When you are single, you just want to meet the right person. And when you are in a relationship, sometimes you miss the single life. You got the spaghetti, but the pizza looks better. You live in Delhi, and dream of shifting to Bombay. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. You want what you can't have. And they want you to believe, the grass only looks super green, but once you get there, its going to be your daily boring medium green, just like before. But is it always so?

One of my favorite quotes is: " Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them". For example, I'm pretty sure I cant become an Olympic swimmer now, but you see I never wanted to. So the only dreams which will come in you head are the ones which are within your reach. (Here I mean true heart-stopping soul-stirring dreams. Wanting to become richer than Warren Buffet and hotter than Brad Pitt do not qualify as heart-stopping soul-stirring dreams. They are just the means to an end). So when you see the other side, and think to yourself, I haven't seen that shade of green in my pasture, and I think I like it, maybe its nature, inciting you, to go ahead and have that dream. Because maybe you were supposed to be on the other side all along.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Are you ready for that sort of intimacy?

People rhapsodise about treasures they find in second hand book stores. Secret hidden dens filled with glittering diamonds buried under mounds of coal. First editions, signed copies and even books with previous readers' notes. They say it adds to the charm of the book. Its interesting to see where the book has been. The marks of antiquity, wear and personalization by other readers lend an air of sophistication, mystique and romance to the book. As if the book needed it.
 
I have never liked 'previously owned books'. When I read a book, I own it. The story that I read in it, no one else would find that story in the book. That is why books are different from movies. In a movie, you're watching what Harry Potter looked like to the director of the movie, but you see in my head, he was cuter. And Hermione was definitely not this pretty. The visualization is in your scope. Its your right. Its the pleasure. Its the reason why no good book ever becomes old or obsolete. A book is reborn every time a new reader reads it. So when I'm reading, I don't want to be disturbed by what some other reader thought or felt. I want to form my own first impression. I don't want ready-made insight, I want to realize it on my own. I want to be in communication with the characters of the book. Sometimes with the author. But not with someone who read it and left little notes along the way. I love to discuss a book with others when I'm done. Learn about the story they found in it. But while I'm reading it, its just me and the book, and we like our privacy.
 
This is another reason I don't like lending books which I have marked with my notes and thoughts to just anyone. Its intimate. Its like giving them a map of the wilderness of your brain. Its a flowchart of the way your brain functions. And you really have to ask yourself. Are you ready for that sort of intimacy?
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