Review: The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Randy says he was fortunate to have been dying of Cancer. It got him precious time to plan and do things, make memories, leave something behind for his young kids which would guide them in their adulthood; the time which he wouldn’t have got had he died of heart attack or an accident.

The author, who was a Professor at Carnegie Mellon, shares his valuable insights on how to focus on important things in life, for the time is limited. An excellent read.

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Review: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most fascinating books I have read yet. Right from the cognitive revolution, the life of foragers and different human species to the industrial revolution, this book describes in detail many aspects of human evolution, their impacts on average human being and on homo sapiens as collective, reasons for typical changes in human life and predictions about future.

This book makes you think about the human life from a broader perspective. Do you think agricultural revolution was beneficial for human life? Harari argues otherwise. Do you think Capitalism and Consumerism has made the world happier? You might be wrong. Read this book to know how injustice has prevailed in history and why industrial revolution began only on one continent and not on any other continent. Read this book to know how human evolution has affected other species on earth and how all the scientific discoveries are not propelled only by the scientists, but by the socio-political clout.

I personally would have never imagined a book on history can be so captivating. Overall a thriller!

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Review: How to be ferociously happy and other essays

How to be ferociously happy and other essays
How to be ferociously happy and other essays by Dushka Zapata
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really not essays but collection of blog posts. I like Dushka’s writing but sometimes it’s too abstract. This is a book which you can read once in a while, in bits and pieces but not all at once! Most of her writing is based on real life scenarios, so it’s easy to relate to. Overall a good read. Some of the essays give a great insight into everyday emotions and their origins that we don’t really pay attention to.

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Books Connect!



Books are an ultimate way to connect with someone without knowing them.

You are reading my favorite book? We might get along very well.

You are reading my favorite book? Good choice.

You are reading my favorite book? Let’s discuss so many related things and more.

You are reading my favorite book? Let me recommend you something.

You are reading my favorite book? Do you have any recommendations for me?

You are reading my favorite book? What a beautiful site. My favorite book being read.

You are reading my favorite book? Looks like I can trust you even though you’re a stranger.

You are reading my favorite book? No awkwardness when we start talking because we are already connected on a different level.

Quite a few times, me reading a book has forced people to talk to me that would otherwise be impossible in any way. Few years back I was reading “Thinking fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman and a German girl on Shatabdi Express told me how she loved that book and why. Few years before that, a man from Venezuela became my friend instantly when I was reading “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, in a busy restaurant in Pune on a relaxed Sunday morning. And yesterday, just when I was reading “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, a Chinese table tennis player came to me and said “What an excellent book!”.

Somehow books scream something that we can’t hear while we are reading them, and somehow we listen to books in a way that’s not too evident, when we’re not reading them. Magical!

The girl with courageous heart

Morrisville, NC. ISKCON rath-yatra.

“Thank you for helping me.”, her words oozed with gratitude. “You don’t have to say it so many times”, I said. She laughed. And that one smile made me and my problems tinier than ever.

I was giving people directions for parking slots and that’s when I saw a woman trying to get the wheelchair out of her car’s trunk. I sensed she needed help. I walked fast towards her and asked if she needed help. “Yes, Can you please take the wheelchair and the stroller out of the trunk? Thank you so much!”. I got everything out and proceeded to see who needed the wheelchair. A young school going girl was struggling to get her right leg out. She had apparently gone through a surgery and had a cylindrical structure around her leg with metal rods inserted into the bones. I didn’t know how to make her struggle less painful and did whatever I could to settle her in the wheelchair comfortably.

As I carried her towards the venue, she started the series of “thank you”.

“You don’t have to say it so many times!”.

“No, my mom is pregnant. She has to do so many things for us in this condition. You are helping us, I am so thankful to you.”

“No problem, should I drop you there in the shade?”

“Yeah that would be good!”

“Ohh I am sorry!” I struggled to get the wheelchair smoothly across a water pipe.

“It’s okay!”.

Another volunteer helped me to lift the wheelchair and place it across.

“What happened to your leg?” I asked hesitantly, anyway.

“It was a birth condition, I got it operated last month. It’s not even a month. I have to keep it this way for another 6 months.”

“Ohh…. Don’t worry, time will fly faster than you think.” I didn’t know what to say.

“Yeah, but it pains so much. And this weighs five pounds. It’s even difficult to lift the leg with it.”

She was frustrated, agonized. But she was strong.

I was thinking of what to say next and that’s when her mother arrived. “Thank you so much, god bless you”.

“No problem mam, take care, I will take your leave now.”

The girl was not smiling, but she had great courage. People live with tremendous problems showing great determination. The more we see, the more we realize, we are tiny creatures taking our problems too seriously.

The man with smiling face

I saw him first few months back. He was the calmest and the most composed man I had seen after entering the US. We shared a class in last semester. He always had a smiling face. The smile kept floating even when he asked intelligent questions to the professor. We only talked once, the night before the final exam and we discussed many concepts at length. He was not tense. He managed his time very well.

Today I was walking towards my home and I heard someone calling me. I looked around. It was him. I don’t know if god wanted us to meet, but it was definitely not a coincidence. We discussed again various concepts at length, but on a completely different subject. About consciousness, spirituality, getting out of the trap of physical pleasures, being equanimous, how to be involved in everything without getting stuck to anything.

I can see a way he has followed that can help me. And I learned one thing, that being with such people is really important to make sure you don’t digress from your path. Not talking to the people who can’t understand these things is not the solution but talking more to the people who can understand it, is. Getting more people involved for the right cause is not as difficult as it seems. But discussing it with people who are still a little far away from understanding it defeats the purpose.

Goenkaji, who taught me vipassana said, that the one who needs to show that he is following something, lacks the very thing which he portrays to follow. Following your principles without making noise is the correct way.  I never knew the person he was until the right time came. He never showed the person in himself that helped in stay calm until the right time. And here I am, making noises all the time and doing nothing. What a shame.



Trying to be nobody


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Won’t it be a great fun to be nobody? Like Jaqen H’ghar. A man with no ego. A man with no “I”. A man who “is not” but exists. Suddenly all the problems for the man disappear. Because there is nothing to protect. There is nothing that hurts. The man is free. Free from expectations and free from pain. Gautam Buddha was truly nobody. After he set off from his palace in search of the real truth, he practiced meditation for a long time and found the ultimate secret to becoming nobody. After realization, he told his disciples, “I have found out the true reason behind my births and that is ‘the desires and expectations’ in my mind. Now that I don’t have any, there is no reason to take birth again.”

                Leave aside the journey to the “Moksha”, but can we at least try to be free of our expectations and stop getting hurt every now and then? Can we stop being always covered with glue, so that we stop making everything that we like to stick to us? Off course, we have practiced it a few times but we fail to carry on. We are not sure if we are yet ready to give away the temporary pleasure in setting off the journey to a perpetual one. We fail to give up dragging ourselves through the mud of immediate gratification. We know we get dirty but we don’t want to get out of it. Wallowing appears more attractive than getting ourselves cleaned up.

                Are we so weak? Definitely no. Are we underutilizing ourselves? Might be. Great men like Gautam Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, Saint Kabir have shown us the way. Are we afraid to walk? May be. Are we not aware of the path itself? Some of the ignorant between us definitely are. What does it take to walk on the path? Strong will power.

                One of the books I read last year, “Emotional Intelligence” quotes a research done at Stanford a few decades back. They gathered kids of age 6 and put one cookie in front of them. They had two options. Just sit and wait for 10 minutes. If they sit patiently, they would get another cookie at the end. But they would not get another cookie if they ate up the cookie in first 10 minutes. The kids who waited patiently for the whole time were much successful in their life decades after, irrespective of their IQ. What really matters is the emotional intelligence.

                If we know the truth that every intelligent man on this planet speaks up, should we be stupid enough to not accept it? May be not.

Sunk Cost Fallacy – The most dangerous enemy of humans


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Suppose you have bought movie tickets for an upcoming movie which you are eagerly waiting for since a month. A day before your plan, you get to know really bad reviews for the film. While you are thinking about the reviews, you see a book in your book shelf. You had ordered it a month back but didn’t really get time to open it. You will finally get some relaxed time tomorrow to read that inviting book if you don’t go to the film. What do you choose?

Sunk cost fallacy is the psychological phenomenon which compels people to make a choice based on their past investment in something, rather than the future benefits. We do many things in our life because we have invested so much in it, that not doing it feels like a big loss. But in fact, continuing doing it is what makes bigger losses to us, because we keep investing more and more resources in a lost cause.

Just because you have spent a lot of your time in doing something, doesn’t mean you keep doing it. Just because you have invested a lot of money in a business, doesn’t mean you keep adding more money to it to extract nothing. Just because you have put a lot of your emotions in a person, doesn’t mean you keep trying to make that person a part of your life. What really matters is whether your current decision will give you benefits in future.

Past investments are deceiving. We try to rip the returns for past investment by avoiding to invest resources in a better cause which can yield much better benefits. Past investment is what something’s long gone. You don’t have it now.

It would be a wise choice to avoid the bad film and spend time reading really good book. Invested money is gone. Now don’t ruin the precious time to recover lost money!

Using /practicing ambidexterity/ as a tool for maintaining meditative state every moment

When I was in 10th standard, I witnessed one hell of an amusing act by one of my teachers. He wrote on the board two different sentences with two hands simultaneously. What the heck! I thought if only I could do that!

This involved two things. Ambidexterity and parallel processing. Although I don’t know if conscious human brain can operate as multiple cores (subconscious + conscious as different cores does not count!), but it’s certainly possible to deceive people just like uniprocessor computer does. By reducing the switching time quantum between two concurrent processes so much that they appear to be running in parallel. Well, that’s what my teacher did. Why can’t I do the same then?

I tried. I failed. Although acquiring parallel processing skill is more difficult task than ambidexterity, I decided to be at least ambidextrous before I try the next level. Although I practice this every now and then, it’s time to launch this with well directed efforts. Few days back I started playing table tennis with left hand and I could beat my office friends quite easily! Well, it’s not as difficult as it may look!

Here’s what I am going to practice with left hand so as to move forward, and even you can if you want to do the same.

  1. Eating.
  2. Brushing teeth is most challenging.
  3. Writing. This will certainly take 6 months at least to become good at.
  4. Cooking.

Apart form this, doing every small activity throughout the day with non dominant hand.

How’s this connected to meditative state? If you do things with right hand, you do them sub-consciously while allowing conscious mind to think about something else. Now, if you start doing them with left hand, you have to focus completely on the task, thus being in present moment. Is meditation something different?

Try this and your brain will be happy as it gets chance to do some new exercises every day! 😀



I intend to get to run 10 Kms comfortably at the end of my summer break. So I started running a week back with a target of running at least 3 Kms daily.

Some days I ran alone. On some, I ran with different people. The result is astonishing. Whenever I ran alone, I ran for around 3 Kms. Whenever I ran with others, I ran more than 6 Kms.

Why is it so? Does that mean I am lazy? Certainly not. I achieved my target of 3 Kms anyway. But I thought 6 Kms was too much in first week. But it was not. Today I ran 8 Kms. My legs did hurt and I had to take a break due to pain in my rib cage mid run. But it was worth starting running again.

Pains not necessarily mean something’s wrong. Pains are deceiving. They open a store of interpretations for us to interpret. But beware! It’s important to interpret them correctly. You succeed, you push yourself. You fail, a new problem awaits you.

I saw my friend running and pushing himself. He had his own targets. A little walk to grasp the breath and subdue the pain and I was up running again.

In life, it’s very important to find people who inspire you, who run faster and longer than you. Not because they will make you run faster. Only so that you don’t stop. Speed is not important. Continuity is. The one who continues wins. Sprinters fail after some period.