If something is good for me, it should be good enough for others with similar interests.
Let me start by saying what this piece is not.
Not one where I advise young adults to meditate, banish sugar (white and brown), respect women, advocate passion and connect dots backward. Everybody is already doing that.
This is about some things that have worked for me. Try them without IP infringement issues and if someone gives you a raise, hug or kiss, send me a smiley emoji as a consulting fee.
1. Type fast: A life skill that needs to be taught in school. The student who can type 50 words a minute could well become the outlier of tomorrow, surprising teachers/lovers / visa processors /angel investors with ‘What? Done already?’
2. Send voice messages: More personalized than sending hand-folded namastes. Moves people. The problem is they keep sending namastes in return. I surrender.
3. Run down the stairs to meet the lift: I have never understood why one needs to stand on the ninth storey and wait for a lift to come from the ground floor when we can run down and meet it half-way. Multiply 40 seconds saved with 250 times a year. That’s living 10,000 seconds more a year. If you were gunning for a Six Sigma at an industrial shop floor you would say ‘wow’ at this seeming inconsequence.
4. Remember half-birthdays: My invention. Would rather wish the person born on 1 January on 1 July with a half-birthday note and book (sugar-sinning cakes are oh so yesterday). Tickles the ribs out of people.
5. Take pictures of what you read: I send heart-warming media pieces on dogs to a ‘Dog lovers broadcast group’. I get a large number of namastes in return (occasionally smooches as well to which I allocate a metaphorical cold shoulder). I remember who likes what and keep sending them pictures with a line, ‘You were telling me just this the other day’. It tells them I was listening and not ogling elsewhere.
6. Create focus groups: The modern university is getting a group of enlightened people together on whatsapp, lay down a collective discipline that we will not discuss ‘NarendraModi’, sit back, soak the erudition, selectively scatter pearls before [word censored] and collect admiring glances while one flits from one scrum to another.
7. Banish ‘dey’, ‘ur’ and ‘plz’: I fear the day when everyone seeks the short cut. I fear the day when students are taught to seek tricks over the trade. I fear the day when one will read whatsapps with a decoder. You may say I am an exaggerating dreamer but I am not the only one.
8. ‘Remembered you’ lines cast a spell: In a busily engrossed world (‘Masroofzamaana’ inSahir’s words) this two-word message is guaranteed for effect. If you add the reason then it sounds credible. A recent instance on whatsapp elicited an emotional voice reply. The friend responded with greater brevity (bugger wrote ‘Touched’).
9. Document your ignorance: When I was 15, I started listing all the words whose meanings I did not know (peaking at 737 words); I can decode Tharoor comfortably today. A few years ago I started doing the same for Urdu; in three years I hope to be able to decode Dilip Kumar with similar ease.
10. Make ‘no reason’ gestures: In a quid pro quo existence, I would rather buy ice creams for neighbours for no reason. I have done so, so I know. The children who opened the door stared with wonder (so I was compelled to give two). The ladies who opened the door said ‘Koi good news hain?’ The PYTs said ‘How chweet uncle!’ (resisted the urge to argue the noun).
11. ‘Who else can I do it for?’: If something is good for me, it should be good enough for 38 others with similar interests (caveat: doesn’t apply to sex). So, if I find something worth reading / buying / learning from, I am likely to share. These social media chaps have even created a word for PLU. Influencers.
12. Apply the ‘So what?’: Stoic philosophy. Excellent morality-reminder.If you apply it four times in sequence to any development (good or bad), you are likely to arrive at the same destination. Amazing, no? Those therapists who charge Rs 5000 an hour have a word for it. Centred.
13. Praise: Praise extensively (but with meaning). The more you praise the more you will discover reasons to praise. I praise the KMC sweeper assigned to my road, my cook, restaurant chef, colleague for a job well done, someone who posts something interesting on social media, a middle-level executive at my client’s company etc. Since ‘likes’ have become a number, I prefer to send a whatsapp voice message instead (see point 2).
14. Did you thank the cook?: When I am leaving a guest’s dinner at 1140pm, I pop into her startled kitchen to thank the ‘back-office’. I do so because I am grateful. I do so because I need to make someone’s day (sorry, night) by providing a memory for a lifetime.
15. Measure, measure, measure: I measure the door-to-door steps on the morning walk. I count the number in a queue and the average time per person (making it possible to predict my turn at 11:23 am). I measure the time taken from one city point to another. Useful? Well, this disappears into the black box of my mind and there is no saying at what moment this will all come in handy (remember the guy who was kidnapped, blindfolded and driven off? He measured the time and sequence of turns. The police never even had to call in the usual suspects).
16. Not a very good idea to use ‘very’: The elimination of this one word from your vocab can kick-start a virtuous cycle: restraint, descriptive word use and a powerful CV score (‘Smarter than she looks’).
17. What if I were a brand?: Suddenly you would list do’s and don’ts, focus, positioning, periodic investments, discipline and even ‘extension’, just because I gave you six words to play with. You could be the next Ries & Trout on the subject.
18. Create folders: I have 79 folders on my smartphone (‘Awards for Stupidity’, ‘Whacko ideas’, ‘Books not returned’, ‘Dad memories’, ‘Positive people’ and ‘Making Kolkata better’). The chaos of the world is enough for us. Don’t add to that with the spaghetti of the mind.
19. Make lists: I once speculated ‘Who are the 5 greatest batsmen of all time?’ and other such imponderables on a 37-hour train journey and the result was the Penguin Book of Cricket Lists in exactly four months (1987). Ever since I have been making a list of things to do in a day, ticking each accomplishment and celebrating the liquidation of all by the time I flip my Lenovo closed each evening. I was once asked by someone surprised at my turnaround: ‘App djinnaathain?’ (Are you a djinn?)
20. Create your library: The day I created a YouTube library of mood-shifting songs (for free, which matters to me) I started walking longer on my terrace with the JBL speaker set loud, my BP had returned to 122-83 and a tenth floor neighbour told me in the lift of wonderful evenings when she hears Englebert in her mind.
21. Bullet points: When you write something, try and find an excuse to structure it across bullet points or sub headers. Readability increases 42 per cent (estimate copyrighted to me).
22. Smile with the eyes: I do it all the time while walking past dozens of people at the Rabindra Sarobar, eliciting responses of shock, dismissal, reciprocity and gratitude. I have no option: they made face masks compulsory for morning walkers.
23. Write for a change: I write notes to people by hand, take pictures and whatsapp them. I did this for an ex-colleague’s birthday. He was touched enough to request: ‘Laminate and courier to Singapore.’ Paid Rs 780 to Fedex something that cost Rs 15 to laminate and nothing to write.
24. Write your vision statement: If you don’t know where you are going, you are probably going to get there. I wrote my life direction and it pinned on the felt board: ‘To seek in every moment the opportunity to make a positive difference’.
The writer is a contemporary story teller who lives in the past, a garbage picker who has been out of work, a protestor seeking causes, a people networker with one eye on the cellphone, a wannabe philanthropist scared of giving money away, a tree-erector praying for crane-owners. He is also a Columnist seeking editor introductions along with an Urdu-phile who can’t read the script. He is a pep-talker in search of an audience and collector of things people throw away. He has worked for ABP at 18 but never got a salary slip. He was also Imran Khan’s one-time ghost-writer who has not seen him in 31 years. He is also among Penguin India’s earliest authors (Penguin Book of Cricket Lists) who was never asked again. He wrote two books before 24 that disappeared without a trace. He started as one of India’s first equity research outfits, disbanded after the market collapsed. He has cleaned Santragachi Jheel twice but the hyacinths returned. He has helped turn Rabindra Sarobar around before the NGT kicked him out. He has pioneered the creation of India’s Annual Report sector but most employees left to create their own agencies. He writes 1.2 million words a year but cannot run 100m without panting. He describes proof- reading as meditation but takes an eye-drop for glaucoma. He responds to whatsapps within three minutes but has been putting off a diet for seven years. He has collected and distributed 9600 saris to the marginalized but hasn’t brought the wife one in 27 years. He interrupts people all the time but calls himself ‘introvert’. He uses the word ‘amazing’ 36 times a day but gloats on being creative. He was born in 1962 but calls himself young.