Thursday, December 29, 2016

The books of 2016

I would pick up a book and start reading.  I would read and read and read, maybe for two or three months.  I wouldn't want to give up on it just yet.  Let me try for a few more days, I would think.  And then, finally, I would just end the misery.  A hundred pages into the book, maybe, and I would never set eyes on the rest.  The scarring would be so deep that I wouldn't take any more books for the rest of the year.  And then, the year end, and new year resolutions and the cycle would repeat again.  I was embarrassed and hurt.  I wasn't like this.  I would read a lot in my school days as well as in my Engineering days.  It's just that with the advent of the internet, and YouTube and host of other streaming sites, the amount of distraction had increased manifold that I couldn't invest my time in books with the same amount of focus that I had in the past.  In spite of the many bleak reading years, I would still complete one or two books in a year and those were mainly fiction.

Personally, I was fed up of giving the excuse, "I just can't read anymore.  I used to read a lot in my college days." I realized that that was the lamest excuse I gave to others when discussing reading habits.  I could as well have said, "I have lost interest in reading books.  I just read snippets online and watch movies and series, one after the other." I could also not bring myself to say, "I have no time." The "not reading" habit was also affecting me emotionally.  I wanted to read but couldn't get myself to read books.  The feeling of not completing a book hurt a lot.  Only a fellow reader can understand what I was going through.

And then, after many years of huffing and puffing, in 2016, I set myself a pretty ambitious goal of completing 12 books by the end of the year.  I started with a couple of parenting books, then biographies, a couple in fiction and lots of non-fiction.  A couple of books later, I had got myself into a rhythm.  My TV time reduced a lot.  As soon as we put our son to sleep, we would quickly finish our evening chores and I would get into a world of my own.  It was my time.  I didn't want to waste watching TV or browsing useless stuff on the internet.  It was magical (not a hyperbole).  I could understand what makes Elon Musk tick.  What exactly happened to Christopher McCandless in Alaska? How to treat infants and toddlers with love and respect? The most riveting and emotionally draining book I read was When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi.  It was simply fantastic.  By the end of the book, I was literally in tears.  I read some really inspiring mountaineering experiences - climbers summiting Everest and K2.  I read about three or four novels. By the end of the year, I realized that I had totally grown out of fiction.  It didn't interest me as much as it did in the past.

Overall, I was happy to be back in the midst of books.  I also realize that there is a lot of time to do things that you really like.  After a point, reading was like an addiction.  I just wanted to keep going.  The target was 12.  But, by the end of the year, I had read 25.  Here goes my list of books that I read in 2016.

I hope 2017 can be as enriching as 2016 as far as reading is concerned. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Pre and post 2014 travel thoughts

It was some time ago, when my blog would have a couple of posts every year dedicated to travel.  Now, unless it is absolutely mandatory for me to travel, I don't take it up and so my travel posts have dried up as well (It's ironical that my last post was on my Amsterdam business travel, but I guess you get the drift).

Earlier, my wife and I would make detailed plans before visiting a place.  Naturally, we ended up visiting a lot of beautiful places in the world.  Travel changes you as a person - so many cultures to learn, different kinds of people to meet, taste different cuisines, explore beautiful landmarks, experience the local transport and learning day to day aspects of how people go about their lives.  The whole experience is truly fascinating.

When we explored Alaska, it was just breathtaking.  We thought we'd never see something as beautiful.  I mean how nature could be so pristine and welcoming was so hard to fathom for us, having come from densely populated areas.  Then, our next big trip was New Zealand and Bora Bora.  It was as though New Zealand was taking a dig at us - Do you think Alaska is the only place to offer something surreal? Bora Bora took us to a different level.  And then you realize that each place with its unique permutation and combination of mountains, hills, water and greenery, can offer its unique surreal experience.

Now, the priorities have changed.  We have a toddler at home.  Going to the nearby Target or Safeway feels like a vacation.  We do have to plan now, but on a different level.  How many diapers to take, how to stock our bags with toddler food, how to engage him if he gets bored (which means, you pack some toys in there) and so on.  It's a different ball game.  Apart from the mandatory India trip, we don't plan a lot of travel.  Just the sheer magnitude of things to consider is daunting.

Our day to day life is consumed with thoughts of how to go about managing our day (read son).  Like I said in one of the earlier posts, our routine is so well established that any deviation from the norm leads to all round chaos.  At this stage, we just don't want that.  I say this to my wife, "Travel can wait.  Let's give ourselves a couple of years more." I am not sure if that's the right approach.  But then, it's best to enjoy travel when you are mentally ready for it.

We just have to head out of the house, sit in the car and one of us would quip "Looks like we have to change his diaper." If that's not the case, then that would be the instant when he would want to sip his water bottle, which he would have thrown it to the ground.  And after throwing all the tantrums for a sip, he would again throw the bottle and the process would repeat, again and again and again until we reach the store.  We would reach the store and he would get on the shopping cart, get into all kinds of positions, some risky and some mind bending.  Every trip is an adventure.  When I say trip, I meant every trip to a grocery store or nearby.

Now, we just love to see all the theatrics that our son has up his sleeve.  It's fascinating to see his day to day progress, soak up his tantrums, cherish the love and affection that he displays time and again and explain the little things that arouses his curiosity.  This for us is more than what any travel can do for us.  There are different stages in life and life becomes great when you realize the expectations at each stage.  At this stage, we wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

So, coming to the point of travel, if somebody asks me about seeing new places, this is what I'd say "Oh, it's just the permutation and combination of mountains, hills, water and greenery." :-)

We'll travel the world.  Till then we'll wait.