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5 things to learn from the film Her

 

Silence

I was three years too late to watch Spike Jonze’s Her (2013). In my defence, the reason I stayed away from the film was because of its sombre premise that alluded to loneliness in a not-so-distant future. I was wrong, of course. The film is one of the most humane screenplays I’ve come across in the last few years of Hollywood cinema. The closest in its sensitivity to the theme of urban emptiness was the genius Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa (2015). Ironically, Anomalisa is an animated film that has a more laconic pace than live action hyper-speed Hollywood blockbusters while Her is an emotional film about artificial intelligence.

Besides Scarlett Johansson’s warm voice and a restrained performance from Joaquin Phoenix, there were certain things that we battle with in our heads (or on the shrink’s chair) that Her explored. Here are 10 of them.

*Note: Spoilers ahead

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Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara in Her

  1. Relationships are hard work.
    Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is blissfully in love with his OS (Samantha) and agrees to sign the divorce papers his separated wife Catherine (Rooney Mara looking so skinny, you want to feed her a double cheese hamburger) has been asking him to sign for months. He confesses that he is dating and goes on to reveal that it’s his intuitive OS, to which Catherine’s reaction is plain shock. She can’t fathom how. She throws him a verbal arrow that leaves him speechless: “You always wanted to have a wife without the challenges of actually dealing with anything real and I’m glad that you found someone. It’s perfect.” Boom! One moment he was flying, and now he’s questioning his own happiness. Worse, that same night, Samantha initiates their first couple fight, because he can’t do something she has been wanting to try out to bring them closer. Bottomline, man-woman, man-man or man-OS, all relationships need work, hard work. There is no shortcut to it, no way to avoid pain or ego clashes or being taken for granted. Whether you are in love with a man or a machine, you can’t escape the work that love calls for.her-movie-image-5
  2. Don’t guilt trip yourself if it didn’t work out: 
    Theodore’s talkative but well-meaning friend Amy (coincidentally played by Amy Adams) is braving a separation from her OCD husband just when Theo is in the throes of his relationship. She learns  that he has taken a vow of silence as a Buddhist monk, and can’t stop blaming herself for his desire to literally give up on the life he lived. We all tend to blame ourselves for failures to the point that we start believing the accusations of other people. Cut yourself some slack! You are not the sum total of people’s expectations. You are always going to disappoint someone, no matter how hard you try and it’s okay.042596
  3. Human friendship will never go out of fashion
    No matter how warm and cuddly AI gets, it cannot replace man-man, man-woman, gal pal friendships. Admit it. One of Theodore’s few friends, Amy is a case of nerves. She is confused about her career despite a corporate job that pays her well (aren’t we all?) and dreams of making documentaries that have absurd scenarios. When Theodore is going though his honeymoon phase with Samantha, Amy has just separated from her husband. She doesn’t even have to tell Theodore that something is wrong. Her face says it all when they bump into each other (as always) in the elevator of their apartment building. He is there for her during this messy time, the warm shoulder to cry on, which AI can never replace.

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  4. First dates don’t decide fate
    Sparks flew when you locked eyes across the bar. You went on a date but it turned out to be crappy? In the film, Amy sets Theodore up on a blind date with a gorgeous Harvard grad, played by Olivia Wilde. The conversation is a cracker, the venue (chosen by Samantha) is an Asian fusion restaurant and the girl is not afraid to show that she is a passionate one. So far so good. When the time comes to drop her home, their tongues meet in an awkward drunken kiss, and the girl utters a question that shows how broken she actually is inside. Beautiful extroverts have feelings  too, and this one has been through many first dates that ended in bed but didn’t crystallise into a relationship. She tries to hide her insecurity by going on to call him creepy, putting him off blind dates for good. Both characters write each other off after the encounter, and you would too. Instead, understand that there is a human being you are interacting with, not a hot body to get in the sack with, not a number in your contacts you can ignore. Shitty first dates have led to long term relationships because of second chances (dates).

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  5. The world doesn’t end with the end of a relationship
    Samantha goes into the unknown with other OSes; they leave Theodore, Amy and God knows how many human beings in suspended reality. They cannot even reach out to their artificially intelligent lovers and friends. The last scene in the film (this one, I will leave you to watch) is heartbreaking and optimisitic at the same time. Your lover has gone and it looks like life is over? Dawn will still break. The sun will still rise. The world will still wake up to  another day, and so will you. Maybe that person is so special, she’s irreplaceable. Maybe that guy made you feel how no one else can. You are still breathing, and there is air in your lungs. You don’t need anyone to complete you. To complement you, perhaps.

@KasminFernandes

9 life lessons from the Masters

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7 life lessons from Brain Pickings illustrated

Sharing with you a beautiful illustration on ‘7 life lessons from Brain Pickings’. Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.

Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well.

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Brain Pickings founder Maria Popova. Photograph by Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

Brain Pickings is a one-woman labor of love of Maria Popova – a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.

I am reproducing Maria’s nine most important learnings from the journey so far. Read the original article here:

  1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
    Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
  2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone.
    As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
  3. Be generous.
    Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
  4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
    Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
  5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
  6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
  7. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time. This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
  8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.

I recommend brain pickings for its practical wisdom.

 

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Top 5 soundtracks from Pakistani soaps

Listen to Pakistani musicians, yes we will

#IMFO

Just as wonderful as their lingering short series, the accompanying soundtracks to Pakistani soaps are equally powerful. Despite the controversy over banning Pakistani artistes, the sophisticated, well-shot Pakistani soaps on Zindagi are a breath of fresh air from over-dramatized, over-killed everything Indian soaps. Here’s a list of some of our favourites, that always leave us wanting more:

1. HUMSAFAR:
Sung by: Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch  aka QB, whose quite the Diva (more on her soon, we promise!)
Lines we heart: ‘Adaavatein thi, Taghaaful thaa, Ranjishein theen Magar… Bicharne wale main sab kuch tha bewafai na thi…
Other takeaways: The gorgeous Fawad Khan, need we say more?

2. Mere Qatil Mere Dildar:
Sung by:Sara Raza Khan and Sohail Haider
Lines we heart:Chahe Tum Mujhko Sawaro, Chahe Barbad Karo, Bhool Jayo Mujhe Tum Jake, Mujhe Yaad Karo…
Mere Qatil Mere Dildar, Mere Paas Raho
Other takeaways: The sizzling chemistry…

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Making Friends With This Body

Body image is something I had been struggling with all my life, right up until my early thirties when I learnt to accept myself for the imperfections and the wild frizzy hair. Sharing this post because of its honesty.

Alexis Kanda-Olmstead Collective

My body and I are on speaking terms again. After years of anger and silence, we’re re-learning how to be together. It is a truce of sorts.

We started out the best of friends. When I was little, I liked to make it run in my navy blue Nikes with the white swoosh that made me feel so fast. We rode bikes and caught silver wriggling fish. It felt good in the sunshine and so excited in the rain.

It was me and I was it. Strong and fun and wonderful.

But then, the betrayals. I guess you could say my body broke my heart one too many times. So we stopped being friends. And even though I didn’t start it, I finished it.

We are both to blame.

The first betrayal was when I was a young girl and my babysitter touched my body. He was curious. I was terrified. Not only by the…

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O Henry

Tales spun off writing prompts

I have never been good at small talk. As a child, I would often find myself standing a few feet away from the girls at school as they talked about their lunch dabbas, nail polish remover, the new girl in class. I wouldn’t say I find small talk beneath me — I do when it concerns malicious gossip — rather, I don’t have the natural skill to strike up and continue conversations.

I wasn’t a player on the field either. The school ground was alien territory. While the rest of the batchmates played hop scotch or kabaddi, I would walk to the nearest tree and watch the birds come and go. Cuckoo!

One thing I DID feel at ease doing, was storytelling.

Stories of ancient times, of working class heroes, of and when the audience requested, of princesses and pretty girls.

I couldn’t babble and have a heart-to-heart with kids in the neighbourhood or school. Heck, I didn’t even belong to a clique. Yet, there were many times I would be standing at the centre of a near-perfect circle of kids eager to hear the story of the imaginary street bum who discovered that one of the coins thrown at him that day had magic breathed into it. Or the rebellious little brat who wakes up to discover that the world, as he knew it, is over after a bomb strike wiped out his house and family.

The story ‘telling’ became ‘writing’ much later in life. At 19 years, while pursuing the second year of BMM.

(Yes, I am a BMM grad, from the first batch, no less. We were the teens on whom the first syllabus experiments happened. Needless to say, we had no course material to speak of and would be seen running from British Council Library to the spacious Asiatic Library and a dozen other institutions to xerox books which would form our notes for the subjects. Thank God for these resources)

A literature professor sensed the hunger for writing in my eyes, and encouraged me to write my own stories. In fact, the creative writing professor, Russell Barrett (outsourced from the ad world) was another out-of-the-box thinker whose interactive writing exercises made me want to tell stories on paper.

My job profile as part of a newspaper requires me to write ‘stories’ too, albeit of a different kind. These are articles about real people and events, disemminating information or taking readers through the ‘how to’ of something.

Over the years, my first love — weaving stories — has vanished. Heck, it happened right after I passed out of college 14 years ago. The number of short stories I have written in almost a decade-and-a-half? Two. Incomplete.

Inspired by today’s writing prompt – original – I will attempt to write (whenever possible), an original short story based on the word of the day.

Ambitious? Yes. Doable? To answer this question, let me tell you an anecdote I found in the introduction to my favourite short story writer O Henry’s book:

Once while dining with friends at a restaurant, O. Henry was asked by a reporter how he came up with all the plots for his hundreds of short stories. “There are stories in everything,” O. Henry said. He then picked up the typewritten bill of fare and proceeded to outline a story of a lovesick typist reunited with her lost love all because of a typo on a restaurant menu. The conversation inspired O. Henry’s story, Springtime à la Carte.

Enough said. For your reading pleasure, here is the story originally written by O Henry. If you haven’t read his stories (Gift of the Magi or The Last Leaf), this would be a good start.

Springtime à la Carte

O Henry

 

It was a day in March.

Never, never begin a story this way when you write one. No opening could possibly be worse. It is unimaginative, flat, dry and likely to consist of mere wind. But in this instance it is allowable. For the following paragraph, which should have inaugurated the narrative, is too wildly extravagant and preposterous to be flaunted in the face of the reader without preparation.

Sarah was crying over her bill of fare.

Think of a New York girl shedding tears on the menu card!

To account for this you will be allowed to guess that the lobsters were all out, or that she had sworn ice–cream off during Lent, or that she had ordered onions, or that she had just come from a Hackett matinee. And then, all these theories being wrong, you will please let the story proceed.

The gentleman who announced that the world was an oyster which he with his sword would open made a larger hit than he deserved. It is not difficult to open an oyster with a sword. But did you ever notice any one try to open the terrestrial bivalve with a typewriter? Like to wait for a dozen raw opened that way?

Sarah had managed to pry apart the shells with her unhandy weapon far enough to nibble a wee bit at the cold and clammy world within. She knew no more shorthand than if she had been a graduate in stenography just let slip upon the world by a business college. So, not being able to stenog, she could not enter that bright galaxy of office talent. She was a free–lance typewriter and canvassed for odd jobs of copying.

The most brilliant and crowning feat of Sarah’s battle with the world was the deal she made with Schulenberg’s Home Restaurant. The restaurant was next door to the old red brick in which she hall–roomed. One evening after dining at Schulenberg’s 40–cent, five–course table d’hôte (served as fast as you throw the five baseballs at the coloured gentleman’s head) Sarah took away with her the bill of fare. It was written in an almost unreadable script neither English nor German, and so arranged that if you were not careful you began with a toothpick and rice pudding and ended with soup and the day of the week.

The next day Sarah showed Schulenberg a neat card on which the menu was beautifully typewritten with the viands temptingly marshalled under their right and proper heads from “hors d’oeuvre” to “not responsible for overcoats and umbrellas.”

Schulenberg became a naturalised citizen on the spot. Before Sarah left him she had him willingly committed to an agreement. She was to furnish typewritten bills of fare for the twenty–one tables in the restaurant—a new bill for each day’s dinner, and new ones for breakfast and lunch as often as changes occurred in the food or as neatness required.

In return for this Schulenberg was to send three meals per diem to Sarah’s hall room by a waiter—an obsequious one if possible—and furnish her each afternoon with a pencil draft of what Fate had in store for Schulenberg’s customers on the morrow.

Mutual satisfaction resulted from the agreement. Schulenberg’s patrons now knew what the food they ate was called even if its nature sometimes puzzled them. And Sarah had food during a cold, dull winter, which was the main thing with her.

And then the almanac lied, and said that spring had come. Spring comes when it comes. The frozen snows of January still lay like adamant in the crosstown streets. The hand–organs still played “In the Good Old Summertime,” with their December vivacity and expression. Men began to make thirty–day notes to buy Easter dresses. Janitors shut off steam. And when these things happen one may know that the city is still in the clutches of winter.

One afternoon Sarah shivered in her elegant hall bedroom; “house heated; scrupulously clean; conveniences; seen to be appreciated.” She had no work to do except Schulenberg’s menu cards. Sarah sat in her squeaky willow rocker, and looked out the window. The calendar on the wall kept crying to her: “Springtime is here, Sarah—springtime is here, I tell you. Look at me, Sarah, my figures show it. You’ve got a neat figure yourself, Sarah—a—nice springtime figure—why do you look out the window so sadly?”

Sarah’s room was at the back of the house. Looking out the window she could see the windowless rear brick wall of the box factory on the next street. But the wall was clearest crystal; and Sarah was looking down a grassy lane shaded with cherry trees and elms and bordered with raspberry bushes and Cherokee roses.

Spring’s real harbingers are too subtle for the eye and ear. Some must have the flowering crocus, the wood–starring dogwood, the voice of bluebird—even so gross a reminder as the farewell handshake of the retiring buckwheat and oyster before they can welcome the Lady in Green to their dull bosoms. But to old earth’s choicest kin there come straight, sweet messages from his newest bride, telling them they shall be no stepchildren unless they choose to be.

On the previous summer Sarah had gone into the country and loved a farmer.

(In writing your story never hark back thus. It is bad art, and cripples interest. Let it march, march.)

Sarah stayed two weeks at Sunnybrook Farm. There she learned to love old Farmer Franklin’s son Walter. Farmers have been loved and wedded and turned out to grass in less time. But young Walter Franklin was a modern agriculturist. He had a telephone in his cow house, and he could figure up exactly what effect next year’s Canada wheat crop would have on potatoes planted in the dark of the moon.

It was in this shaded and raspberried lane that Walter had wooed and won her. And together they had sat and woven a crown of dandelions for her hair. He had immoderately praised the effect of the yellow blossoms against her brown tresses; and she had left the chaplet there, and walked back to the house swinging her straw sailor in her hands.

They were to marry in the spring—at the very first signs of spring, Walter said. And Sarah came back to the city to pound her typewriter.

A knock at the door dispelled Sarah’s visions of that happy day. A waiter had brought the rough pencil draft of the Home Restaurant’s next day fare in old Schulenberg’s angular hand.

Sarah sat down to her typewriter and slipped a card between the rollers. She was a nimble worker. Generally in an hour and a half the twenty–one menu cards were written and ready.

To–day there were more changes on the bill of fare than usual. The soups were lighter; pork was eliminated from the entrées, figuring only with Russian turnips among the roasts. The gracious spirit of spring pervaded the entire menu. Lamb, that lately capered on the greening hillsides, was becoming exploited with the sauce that commemorated its gambols. The song of the oyster, though not silenced, was dimuendo con amore. The frying–pan seemed to be held, inactive, behind the beneficent bars of the broiler. The pie list swelled; the richer puddings had vanished; the sausage, with his drapery wrapped about him, barely lingered in a pleasant thanatopsis with the buckwheats and the sweet but doomed maple.

Sarah’s fingers danced like midgets above a summer stream. Down through the courses she worked, giving each item its position according to its length with an accurate eye. Just above the desserts came the list of vegetables. Carrots and peas, asparagus on toast, the perennial tomatoes and corn and succotash, lima beans, cabbage—and then—

Sarah was crying over her bill of fare. Tears from the depths of some divine despair rose in her heart and gathered to her eyes. Down went her head on the little typewriter stand; and the keyboard rattled a dry accompaniment to her moist sobs.

For she had received no letter from Walter in two weeks, and the next item on the bill of fare was dandelions—dandelions with some kind of egg—but bother the egg!—dandelions, with whose golden blooms Walter had crowned her his queen of love and future bride—dandelions, the harbingers of spring, her sorrow’s crown of sorrow—reminder of her happiest days.

Madam, I dare you to smile until you suffer this test: Let the Marechal Niel roses that Percy brought you on the night you gave him your heart be served as a salad with French dressing before your eyes at a Schulenberg table d’hôte. Had Juliet so seen her love tokens dishonoured the sooner would she have sought the lethean herbs of the good apothecary.

But what a witch is Spring! Into the great cold city of stone and iron a message had to be sent. There was none to convey it but the little hardy courier of the fields with his rough green coat and modest air. He is a true soldier of fortune, this dent–de–lion—this lion’s tooth, as the French chefs call him. Flowered, he will assist at love–making, wreathed in my lady’s nut–brown hair; young and callow and unblossomed, he goes into the boiling pot and delivers the word of his sovereign mistress.

By and by Sarah forced back her tears. The cards must be written. But, still in a faint, golden glow from her dandeleonine dream, she fingered the typewriter keys absently for a little while, with her mind and heart in the meadow lane with her young farmer. But soon she came swiftly back to the rock–bound lanes of Manhattan, and the typewriter began to rattle and jump like a strike–breaker’s motor car.

At 6 o’clock the waiter brought her dinner and carried away the typewritten bill of fare. When Sarah ate she set aside, with a sigh, the dish of dandelions with its crowning ovarious accompaniment. As this dark mass had been transformed from a bright and love–indorsed flower to be an ignominious vegetable, so had her summer hopes wilted and perished. Love may, as Shakespeare said, feed on itself: but Sarah could not bring herself to eat the dandelions that had graced, as ornaments, the first spiritual banquet of her heart’s true affection.

At 7:30 the couple in the next room began to quarrel: the man in the room above sought for A on his flute; the gas went a little lower; three coal wagons started to unload—the only sound of which the phonograph is jealous; cats on the back fences slowly retreated toward Mukden. By these signs Sarah knew that it was time for her to read. She got out “The Cloister and the Hearth,” the best non–selling book of the month, settled her feet on her trunk, and began to wander with Gerard.

The front door bell rang. The landlady answered it. Sarah left Gerard and Denys treed by a bear and listened. Oh, yes; you would, just as she did!

And then a strong voice was heard in the hall below, and Sarah jumped for her door, leaving the book on the floor and the first round easily the bear’s. You have guessed it. She reached the top of the stairs just as her farmer came up, three at a jump, and reaped and garnered her, with nothing left for the gleaners.

“Why haven’t you written—oh, why?” cried Sarah.

“New York is a pretty large town,” said Walter Franklin. “I came in a week ago to your old address. I found that you went away on a Thursday. That consoled some; it eliminated the possible Friday bad luck. But it didn’t prevent my hunting for you with police and otherwise ever since!

“I wrote!” said Sarah, vehemently.

“Never got it!”

“Then how did you find me?”

The young farmer smiled a springtime smile.

“I dropped into that Home Restaurant next door this evening,” said he. “I don’t care who knows it; I like a dish of some kind of greens at this time of the year. I ran my eye down that nice typewritten bill of fare looking for something in that line. When I got below cabbage I turned my chair over and hollered for the proprietor. He told me where you lived.”

“I remember,” sighed Sarah, happily. “That was dandelions below cabbage.”

“I’d know that cranky capital W ‘way above the line that your typewriter makes anywhere in the world,” said Franklin.

“Why, there’s no W in dandelions,” said Sarah, in surprise.

The young man drew the bill of fare from his pocket, and pointed to a line.

Sarah recognised the first card she had typewritten that afternoon. There was still the rayed splotch in the upper right–hand corner where a tear had fallen. But over the spot where one should have read the name of the meadow plant, the clinging memory of their golden blossoms had allowed her fingers to strike strange keys.

Between the red cabbage and the stuffed green peppers was the item:

“DEAREST WALTER, WITH HARD–BOILED EGG.”

 

via Daily Prompt: Original

To argue or not, the choice is yours

There are certain times in your life when confrontation is a necessary evil. Remember the Kenny Rogers song, Coward of the County? It talks of a father who teaches his son the virtue of walking away from an argument. The little boy always “turns the other cheek” and invariably grows up to be considered the coward of his county. His kindness is mistaken for weakness. There comes a point after 20-odd years when he has to face up to the bullies. And these are his words:

‘I promised you, Dad
Not to do the things you’ve done
I walk away from trouble when I can
Now please don’t think I’m weak
I didn’t turn the other cheek
Papa, I should hope you understand
Sometimes you gotta fight
When you’re a man’

It’s a battle I have often fought. Why argue when you can compromise? Better, why have an argument when you can reach a consensus. There are certain times in life when for the greater good, and your own dignity, you’ve got to confront, man or woman.

Via Argument

Be Slow To Argue

Be slow to anger… and to argue

Purposive Writer

Be Slow to Argue

I do not like arguments. Not because I am afraid to be proven wrong; but because to be proven right leaves a heavy burden on my shoulders. In arguments the persons involved only have one goal: to prove they are right. And when proven wrong they walk out angry and guilty; thinking to themselves they lose face. All because, most often than not, people reason out of emotions and not out of logical thinking. What they have in mind is, how others see them, how their “reputation” would look like the moment they would be proven wrong. To the point that they would twist the truth and fabricate stories just to get out of the mess clean.

The other thing is, if in an argument you win, the other person would find ways to bring you down. Such person has not found the secret yet: that a person with high…

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Daily Prompt: Careful

As a loyal follower of The Economist Style Guide in my decade-long career as a sub-editor, there are certain things I learned from it — and various style guides from newspapers like The Times of India, Mid Day and Asian Age and magazines like Femina Allure, Time N Style and Better Interiors — that any editorial person would do well to be careful about, whether you .

5 quick points for sub-editors to be careful about:

  1. Remove redundancy wherever you can. ‘A friend’ is better than ‘a friend of mine’.
  2. Keep sentences short and crisp.
  3. Use active voice wherever possible. Passive voice is to be resorted to only when there is no choice or the active voice doesn’t work in the context.
  4. Avoid cliches. To quote one of my favourite grammar books Strunk & White’s Elements of Style: Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  5. Never exaggerate. Understatement is best.

via Daily Prompt: Careful

Kaushal Karkhanis: It’s okay to fail at anything

Kaushal Karkhanis

(Interview in my Lifestyle Design Heroes series)

Kaushal Karkhanis is the ‘Exotic Gringo’ (Spanish for exotic foreigner) of the web world. Ever since he fell in love with South America years ago, the digital strategist and travel blogger from Mumbai has been travelling and unravelling the world, hoping to “inspire, educate and entertain” people through his stories. His goal is to “always be a year younger than the number of countries i’ve visited.”

I did a follow-up interview with Kaushal from the time I had interviewed him in 2010 for the blog. He continues to travel exotic and live simple, blending in and living like a local, soaking in the cultures (picking coffee in Cambodia to assembling foodies) while his travel blog Exotic Gringo lets readers travel globally through contests. He continues to learn languages and has some more inspiring stories up his sleeve. Read the interview for more.

Sporting the Prrem’s 2-in-1 Jacket in Finnish Lapland

Kaushal on life since 2010
It’s been a roller-coaster ride, if i have to put it in short. From going broke to realising it’s stupid to try to do multiple things at once to taking up a job for recuperating — to getting back on track as a digital nomad — it has been one fabulous roller-coaster ride.

On his current goals
Not too different from back then — live a fit life while working on the go — the one thing I have as a clear apex goal is to become a great investor. My immediate goal is to get back to fitness. No other goal has failed me as this one, but I’m never giving up. I’m taking to bodyweight workouts, 7-minute HIIT workouts and running because you can do these anywhere, any time with zero equipment – okay, may be a skipping rope.

What he has learned about goal-setting

I was probably overdosing on caffeine when i chalked up my goal set — they were all great, but i was trying to do too many things at once. The goals haven’t changed very much, but i’m approaching them differently now. Baby steps and incremental improvements as opposed to jumping all-in (that only led to fatigue – i had never factored in wellness). You could say i’m aligning mind-body-spirit this time.

Using

I’m actually trying to reduce dependency on technology and automate processes – too much screen time is not a good idea in your 30s. I’ve set my phone to switch off at night and switch on at daybreak to inculcate some discipline. I’m a fan of any technology which helps me be more organised and disciplined.

Best apps for productivity, performance and fitness

I love IFTTT for automation, Google Calendar and Google Now does a fantastic job as a virtual assistant.
Other favourites: Dollarbird for budgeting; Runkeeper, Habits & 7-Minute Workout for fitness.

Becoming financially independent in your 30s

Here’s some basic math which I wish I understood earlier:
Figure out your monthly expenses, multiply that by 120 – that’s how much you need to invest with returns of 10-20%. You would not need to work for a living any more.

Kaushal at a conference

On joining the New Rich

Let’s define who the New Rich are. To me, the New Rich are people who create their own lifestyle and value time and expriences over money (we love money for helping in making our dreams a reality, we just value time more). As for critics, they are great… they keep us motivated. Besides, lifestyle is a personal choice. Maybe they’re not wrong – they just choose a different kind of life and i wouldn’t waste time trying to persuade them.

Kaushal’s steps to re-design your lifestyle

  • Unclutter to the bare basics
  • Define your short, mid-term and long term goals (some may change, so don’t be stoic about them)
  • Fail early by experimenting – the younger you fail, the sooner you’ll succeed

5 things he has learnt over the past 5 years

  1. Keep an eye on the cash flow. You can’t be productive if you’re worrying about finances.
  2. It’s okay to fail at anything – the world doesn’t end. Get back up and move on.
  3. Wellness and internal balance is as (or more) important as fitness and worldly gains.
  4. Keep redefining your personal labels and stay aligned to your goals and purpose. Everything else falls in place.
  5. Small, incremental change is easier and more sustainable than trying to make a sea change.

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