The touch of serendipity

There is hardwork, there is talent and then there is a giant scoop of serendipity or luck or privilege.

People tend to deny this. They say “I achieved this because I worked hard for it and I deserve it”. There is nothing wrong in celebrating the fruits of your hard work and talent, but to dismiss it as something only YOU did is to over-estimate yourself. You are also under-estimating the efforts of similar talented people like you, who were not as privileged or lucky as you.

That’s the thing about privilege – most people don’t acknowledge it until it is taken away from them.

There was this Bo Burnham (comedian-singer – check him out!) segment on Conan show where the conversation went something like this:

“I worked really hard, I have some ability but I also got really lucky! And when some people act like that’s not part of it, it makes me a little crazy” – Conan
“We are tall white guys, we overcame nothing to be here” – Bo Burnham

And recently, the David Letterman show on Netflix featuring Barack Obama:

“Any successful person be it business, entertainment, or politics achieved his/her success due to a stroke of luck. Sure I am hard-working and I have some talent, but there are so many more people out there. I say this because

a) It helps me feel not too self-important

b) I can sprinkle my star-dust and help people who need that luck”

Here’s to being humble and helping others get that touch of “serendipity” wherever we can 🙂

 

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Konnichiwa from Japan!

As an avid maker of lists, Japan was a country that hadn’t crossed my mind for travel destinations till 2017. But recent Scoot (read budget) priced tickets combined with raving reviews by so many friends, we booked our year-end trip to Japan one Wednesday night. So glad we did , because Japan exceeded our expectations.

As vegetarian travellers, one of the surprising take-away was Japanese cuisine. Love its flavour and I think the courteous service combined with immaculate preparation has something to do with it.

Highlights of the trip include:

  1. Fell in love with trees on fire at 5 Celsius (autumn!)
  2. Learnt to Ski!
  3. Rode the Shinkansen – fastest bullet train in the world
  4. Fantastic Day long bike tour around Tokyo
  5. Learnt some Japanese , Hai!
  6. Went back to being a kid at Disney Land!

On to our journey..

Day 1

Enroute Bangkok , we arrived at Narita International Airport at 8 am in the morning. Famished and thirsty (mental note: always fill up water before flight), we quickly recharged in a familiar Coco Ichibaniya and proceeded to get a Keisei Skyliner train ticket to the city. Airport to city takes only 20 min by this route! We arrived at our destination at Shinjuku and man it was chilly! But oh so beautiful, yellow trees 🙂

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We checked into our Airbnb (TCA Short Stay – very good) , and proceeded to explore the area. Being winter, sun sets around 3.30 pm, so we had just about time to visit the Shinjuku Goen Gardens and take a walk around the city after sunset.

First meal in Tokyo – Veggie Japanese curry at Coco

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Had to try Sake – Japanese Rice Wine

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These Payphones are everywhere!!

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Japanese and their love for Karaoke and Drinking!

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Shinjuku Gardens – took my breath away! Lots of beautiful shades and we even saw a lonesome pretty cherry blossom 🙂

After a refreshing dinner and walk, we retired for the night early!

Day 2

The next day saw us working out through a bike tour around the city.

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Turned out it was just the two of us that day with the tour guide, so we could do the tour at our own pace with more stops wherever we wanted. We managed to cover around 10-15 places with our knowledgeable guide.

Some pictures from the tour :

The Route and the places covered are here: https://www.tokyocycling.jp/route-c/

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Day 3

It was time to say hello to Fuji-san! So we were up at the crack of dawn to catch our Japanican tour bus to Mt.Fuji and Hakone. Our guide was a singing tour guide , so it was fair to say we were well-entertained throughout the trip. And how much energy and positive attitude- I learnt so much about Japan in that bus!

We stopped at Mt.Fuji third station (couldn’t go to the top due to possibility of landslide), Ninja Restaurant , Lake Ashi Cruise, Hakone and Ropeway for Fuji View.

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Day 4 

Next day we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto . Colder than Tokyo, but it warmed our hearts with its pretty small town feel and culture. We checked into our hostel , refreshed and proceeded to Kyoto city center in the town bus. We had a great dinner at the Cafe Matsuontoko (Vegan). Lots of street shopping – just walking around the place is a treat for the soul!

First Shinkansen ride – 

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Kyoto Night Slide show with captions – 

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Day 5 –

Day 5 was the best day in Japan! We were up early morning, had an amazing breakfast in hostel and got our tourist hats on to explore this beautiful city. Some selected pictures for posterity 🙂

Places we covered – Arashiyama, Nijo-jo castle, Ginkakuji, kinkakuji, Kiyomizu Dera

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In the evening, we came back to hostel and had a lovely pizza dinner and wine (perfect for cold weather!)

Day 6

Osaka osaka..

We took the morning train to Osaka from Kyoto, visited Osaka castle , had the best curry and visited Science Museum (all in Japanese :P) A tad laid back compared to our previous days but we still amused ourselves and had a blast 🙂

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At the end of the day, we caught the bullet train back to Tokyo. We checked into a hostel called Bunka. Situated in the middle of Asakusa – a happening area, we had a buzzling night life at this place!

Day 7

First Saturday in Tokyo, we decided to pay a visit to a dear colleague-friend and his family. We got to know the lives of Indians in Japan, went to a Shinto-Buddhist temple, had a homely lunch and visited the nearby zoo – a cute Saturday to say the least!

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Day 8

Yes – its snow time!!  We went to Gala-Yuzawa – a straight JR ride away – very few Ski resorts are this easily accesssible!

We rented our boots, ski jackets, gloves, ski equipment , went up the cable lift in long strides (ski boots demand that from you) and learnt how to ride my long lost love – beautiful droplets of powder snow. After some training exercises and falling down 3 times, I finally learnt how to ski!! Yippie ! Thanks instructor-san! We then lost track of time, forgot we hadn’t eaten, took down the ski lift just when it was about to close and ravenously gobbled up cup noodles. It was all worth it 🙂

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Day 9

Its time to go back to your roots – Disney land! The kiddo world came alive to us – albeit in Japanese dialogues. But it was great to don mickey hats, eat icecream off your hands and watch your old pals try to amuse you with their ever-funny antics.

Pro-tip – Download disney tokyo app and check out queue times! Very useful to reduce time spent on queuing when you could be riding a carousel or a car! Or experience Star Wars Galactica!

Warning – Disney is indeed the happiest place on earth! Watch at your own risk 😛

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Day 10

Day 10 was already there! Time just flew by and it was time to say Sayonara to Japan!

Arigato Gozaimasu (thank you) for being so awesome, beautiful and kind to us! We will be back!

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Bye vending machines everywhere!
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My Ikigai – reason for being!
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Sad faces on flight back to Sg!
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Happy face on seeing rava dosa and vada again in life 😛

Some tips and tricks for your Japan tours – coming up soon, stay tuned!

All in good time , my dear!

Recently I was frustrated about something I had no control over. I was lamenting about it , and my wise better-half gave me a quiet piece of wisdom – well 3 to be precise .

1) You have done all you can . You have no control over others . So as Bhagavad Gita says, do your best and leave the rest to luck or any higher power you believe in .

2) Life is not a race – although it seems like that for the first 20 years of our life with all the competition to the top rank , top school , top position etc. It’s all an illusion . Each of us have our own pace.

“I know people who graduated college at 21 and didn’t get a job until they were 27. I know people who graduated at 25 and got a job immediately. I know people who never went to university and found what they love at 18. I know people who have children and are single, I know people who are married and had to wait 8-10 years to be parents. I know people who are in a relationship and love someone else, I know people who love each other and aren’t together, there are people waiting to love and be loved. My point is, everything in life happens according to our time, our clock. You may look at your friends and some may seem to be ahead or behind you, but they are not, they are living according to the pace of their clock, so be patient.

3) Stop giving too much importance to what people think . There are only 1-3 people in everyone’s life who will genuinely care for them. The rest are reserved for Facebook likes 🙂 The unhappiest people in the world are the ones who care the most about what other people think.

Needless to say , this made me feel much better and I hope it helps someone else who is reading this too !

Long distance relationship – our own little tale

Our long distance relationship was both exciting and excruciating. We would hug in the airport and launch into a whirlwind weekend. But half through the visit , I would begin to crash , awaiting the inevitable goodbye. And far too soon, we would be at the airport saying our farewells.

There was one moment I remember clearly. I was taking a uber to the airport and he had to drop halfway to get back to work . We were looking at each other with pouring tears unable to bid goodbye. We hugged, kissed and silently looked at each other until the car sped away. That was the moment I knew we were meant for each other . I could never feel this way about another human being.

After 2.5 years of long phone calls and skype chats and clandestine visits , we are finally living together for a year and loving every moment and I feel so incredibly grateful and lucky !

It’s our little story – something that might be insignificant in the grand scheme of things , but one that I will hold close to my heart till the end ! 🙂

Rise above !

When they go low , you go high!

Do not ever let petty remarks of other people get into your head.

If you need to respond , reply with something the other person can’t give a comeback on , something polite and sincere.

If that’s impossible , resort to sarcasm – man’s best tool to get through tough times.

But don’t ever seek revenge. Remember… when they go low, you go high!

Tradition or Relevance ?

Society: I think it’s time for some change

Brahmins: I agree. Tell me. We will change our ways of living

S: I know y’all can’t cross seas. But we’re going abroad to work

B: It’s cool. We will adapt. We will come too, in fact, we will come there and build temples and eat pizza

S: There are these new technological products to help enhance the kitchen. Fridges, grinders, ovens and so forth

B: I will take them all

S: And about clothing. These suits from the west..

B: I will take them all, sleeveless is okay – its hot these days.. global warming you know!

S: And the internet, smartphones, virtual reality

B: Already have it. Just updated my phone, my son-in-law’s cousin’s friend works in Microsoft. I got this.

S: And about those new age jobs, working from home, internet economy!

B: Already on it, social drinking with colleagues also okay – you have to build network to get job at Google no?

S. Round the clock electricity, air conditioning, movies, adventure sports, WhatsApp rumours

B: Do you even have to ask? I am also youngster, I will also trek.

S: My NRI cousin is marrying a White American. What do you feel about that?

B: She was brought up in western culture no? As long as we have a brahmin wedding , we are okay. We can have extra Church wedding if you want!

S: I guess they’re all done. Now about those thousands of priest positions. We were going to employ Dalits for 6 of them – they can learn vedas and we can give them employment. And we need to talk about intercaste marriage too.

B: WTF. Is there no room for traditions? Why do you have to oppress us like this? Why are you snatching away our way of life? This is a direct attack on our way of life and we will have none of it. There’s no justice in this world! I will post about you on facebook in my caste groups. Liberalism is a disease in India. Where’s the line? Where are our ways of living! Guruji! Oh lord. The world has finally come to this! what will you ask for next? Non veg eating tenants? What will my NRI uncles think about us. Oh kalyug has come! The world is doomed!

Note: Based on a true incident.

In a world where everything is changing all too quickly, do we want to get stuck in an archaic past or lend ourselves relevant to modern times?

Economist Bytes – May 6th week

  1. Data economy demands right antitrust laws
    • In a world, where data is the oil of the digital era, antitrust laws have to be upgraded so that few giants like Apple, Fb, Google, Amazon and Microsoft, which collectively earned 25bn$ in profit in 2017 Q1, don’t dominate the industry and stifle competition.
    • 1st way – Previously laws were made keeping size of the company in mind. But now the extent of the firm’s data assets should be considered as well. The purchase price(for example fb buying whatsapp for 19bn$ which had no revenue) of an incumbent buying a nascent threat should raise red flags.
    • 2nd way – Sharing of data accessible by third parties, transparency in how much data the firm holds and how much revenue they are making from it should be considered.
    • Flipside – Privacy may be at risk with increased sharing.
    • Either way, Governments should act soon if they dont want data economy to be dominated by a few giants.
  2. Synthetic Biology or cell-free biology
    • A new approach to benefit from nature with out the hassle of life
    • Protiens are constructed in labs, some think its like “playing God” but consider the 3 benefits of it
      • Its efficient (by only producing whats needed), Insulin used to be harvested from pig carcasses, now its being produced in vats by genetically modified yeast or bacteria. The natural bacteria use valuable nutrients to produce a host of other proteins for survival besides insulin, which is of no use to humans. But now , more of those nutrients can be used to make insulin synthetically
      • Living creatures are inherently fragile with the possibility of falling ill,
      • Live stock farming could be reduced giving way to growing more food.
      • Animals suffer, synthetic biology is a better alternative
  3. Saudi women – a captive market for Uber and Careem
    • Women are barred from driving in Saudi Arabia with non-existent public transport
    • They no longer need to rely on husbands, brothers or fathers to get around their own city
    • Local male participation in the gig economy improves, more women can get out and go to work or run their business
    • In fact, the ride sharing companies are directly backed by government, indirectly allowing women to be in company of strangers, which makes conservatives uncomfortable

Other interesting articles

  1. New contraceptive in Africa to be used by women that protects from HIV and pregancy
  2. Financial crisis – it’s been 10 years. How do the banks feel in the wake of Trump administration? Can banks retain millenials at work place?