Here’s Why I Read

Podcasts and YouTube may quite possibly surpass the act of reading, but books were the technology of an era long residing in the dried up pages of nostalgia. Suffice to say, the consumption of content has moved on from reading words printed on dead trees to blogs, podcasts, YouTube and Netflix. It’s not all bad, though; but reading gives the same pleasure as a croissant bursting with Nutella and strawberries with the assurance of a no insulin response. Here’s why I read is my personal attempt at convincing you to read and explain why I find this a seriously rewarding past time.

Just like a Nutella-filled croissant, reading a book offers a sense of warmth in stringing words together to form feelings. It’s magical and very real at the same time. The following assertion is true — We exist because of stories and are experts in generating tales that have created religions, philosophies and political movements.

But, in my case, reading has been an effort to pack a myriad of experiences into what is expected to be a short life. We live in a world where extroversion is adulated and introversion is despised. Non-readers won’t understand the happiness that lies within when you’re sipping a gin and tonic; all the while inviting your eyes to see those cursive fonts that form those magical words, which thread together a story that leads to rivulets of goosebumps on your back.


What is the act of reading but an exercise in distraction? A hobby it may be, but it is certainly one which is enjoyable. Anyone who is Lankan, and who grew up in the 80s and 90s would know of the tumultuous times that this island nation went through. Life under the LTTE and JVP were nothing like how a decent life should be. This was a time where access to a telephone or television was a luxury. A smartphone, laptop or Kindle would’ve been straight out of the pages of a science fiction novella that resided in the book shelves at The British Council.

Stephen King is and always will be an all-time favorite author

Speaking of The British Council, this was the one solace that existed for the denizens of Colombo. You see, there was nothing else to do in Colombo during that period except to dodge bullets and bombs while focusing on your education in the hopes of migrating to greener pastures. Oh, how things have changed. For the record, I still escape; usually to worlds and plots concocted by Stephen King and Agatha Christie.


Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Instead it made the cat smarter. Books are education. Consider Rene Descartes during the 17th century who offered the theory that only humans feel, and that animals are mere automatons. This is why doctors used to dissect live dogs while placing no mind to their screams.

What better way to get connected to your culture and history than to read about it?

Humans are curious by nature, and this leads to progress. Descartes was a participant of some inhumane activity, but it was education and a progressive mindset plus a change in beliefs that led to a change in how we view other species today. While curiosity has led to the concept of imagination being stretched, it has also served to offer a sense of progress.

I will offer you another example in the form of Yuval Noah Harrari. He has been central to the change in the global mindset when it came to humanity’s reliance on religion. The latter had done more harm than good, but religion certainly did have its place. But the shift is happening now; people are trusting science more. The best instance of this is when science told all churches and mosques to stop religious activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And the vast majority of the human race believed science.


The entertainment value of books are unparalleled. It’s the cheapest way to travel and the cheapest way to experience brand new feelings. There’s a reason why the written word will always surpass the pixel.

Poetry could be defined as being little heartbeats of words

Netflix may be able to showcase one point of view, but I rather read a book and let my brain expand on the intricacies of plot, tone and character. Books help expand your mind and the universe within yourself. What is life if not for a vibrant and colorful imagination. Today and all the intuitive products we use is an idea that has been dreamt up and created thanks to a creative imagination.

New Skills

Reading the right books can help you expand your perception of the world, and assist you in changing your mindset. What reading does is help you learn the skills that make you relevant. In an era where technology is as pervasive as sugar, it is mandatory to always stay relevant. Consider all the manuals that I used to read on WordPerfect back in the 80s — while it still exists it might as well be redundant.

An important book that helped me expand my skillset

If there’s one book that has helped me stay relevant in 2020, it would be — 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. It is a must read for those of us who are in our 40s and are still trying to be relevant. It is a must read for anyone; and will offer a great lesson for any person to always keep learning. Don’t be a Kodak, be an Apple instead. You see, to stop learning is to die.

Real Life

Reading books is living experiences. The suave lines in poetry and literature hints at how people behave. It’s this familiarity of human nature via books that led me to be rather unsurprised by Colombo; unsurprised by how Colombo society is okay with someone stealing someone else’s husband or wife, but bad table manners is a serious faux pas.

One of the first books I read in my late teens that I ignored then but respect now

Reading helps you develop empathy. We all know this is something that is seriously lacking in the world today. Philosophy and knowledge have the answers that we crave. One huge influence in my life has been the observations made by Arthur Schopenhauer; his quote — compassion is the basis of morality — is a fantastic indication of how man should live hand in hand in peace and harmony.

I Read Classics

Simply because classics offer an exceptional view of human nature. All these tales by Dickens and Elliot gives you an opportunity to understand the nuances and intricacies of the human heart.

Consider the tale of Silas Marner: a man who loves the material world, but reluctantly desires that all-important human connection. It is still very relevant today. Capitalism is the God we serve at the expense of real human relationships. This might give an explanation to the recent rise in loneliness, suicide and depression.

The Biggest Lesson That Reading Affords You…

… is discipline and patience. Reading lends these two skills to your life. Your impatience is stilled as is your mind. How else are you supposed to soak up the words and travel a literary route? I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. Books help us live through the people in them. Social media helps us compare ourselves to others. Interestingly, like in other rewards, both learning and cognitive areas play a significant part in the food reward. Who needs comfort food when there’s an increase in the dopamine response from the human amygdala whenever one indulges in cognitive tasks.

It’s understood and accepted that reading and writing can help stave off cognitive decline. As shown in previous paragraphs reading helps keep you relevant and makes you empathetic. As a former literary student and, more recently, a lifestyle journalist, the very act of reading helped me increase my vocabulary and add value to the content I put out. Reading is bliss; and it quite possibly might be the solution to all our problems and worries. Either way maybe less conversation is a better way to get started on the journey of reading the written word.


Why Are We Envious?

Firstly, let’s define Envy and Jealousy. Jealousy is different from envy in that envy covets what others have, while jealousy is the fear that what you have, or may have, will be taken away. We view the world as a place where we must fight to get what limited resources there are before they are gone.

We’ve all been there — that insidious purgatory of ill where we are green with envy. Maybe it’s inherent within us or maybe it’s a result of the influences around us. With that thread of thought leading away, let’s look to a Jungian idea for explanation — We are all at war with our own evilness.

It’s true that we have cosseted within the deep and dark recesses of the privacy of our hearts terrible feelings and intentions. I wrote about how we are often the authors of our own destruction. This is largely true. This topic has been discussed over and over again with well-meaning friends until such thoughts have dissolved into bottles of whiskey and arrack throughout the years.

“All of our lives are too unique to copy the path from someone else”.

Master Shi Heng Yi

Surely there’s a salve for this pain we choose to put ourselves through, yes? Maybe the answer lies in knowing ourselves and the way our mind functions so that we can perhaps condition ourselves to react and feel differently. At times you have to wonder if solitude is the ONLY way to know yourself. Other people influence you and shape your character to fit theirs to help their gain. There are very few genuine people in this world but if you find one keep them.

The above paragraph is an attempt at urging you not to keep bad company. Bad company leads to bad habits. Being envious of others may possibly be something that’s learned. Or, could it just be biological?

Envious Hormones

We are animals just like our relatives the chimpanzees — a bundle of neurons, flesh and bone with an ocean of thoughts and emotions stitching our personalities together. Part of such personalities are the cocktail of hormones that make us feel. A new study carried out at the University of Haifa has found that the hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity, also affects opposite behaviors, such as jealousy and gloating.

One or the other

The hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: when the person’s association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments.

This possibly could be an avenue to hack your biology so that you come out of this internal battle unscathed. Consider mindful meditation, which would be an excellent antidote to those evil proclivities that stand in deep thought within us.

A Solution

Jordan Peterson has a great solution which is to nurse your feelings of envy to fuel your ambition. This is a thought that speaks volumes. One aspect that he mentions hit a nerve at one instance, and that is that you have no idea of the terrible life the person in the Ferrari is having.

Compare yourself to who and what you were yesterday

Our brains have this insidious way of leading us down to a path of taking actions that could be illustrated as being self-sabotage. Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday is a better stab at maintaining your mental wellness that coveting the materialistic illusion crafted by social media influencers and the like.

Memento Mori

Stoicism probably has an answer when it comes to dealing with envy. I’m sure at one time or the other you would have woken up at some liminal hour wondering — Is there life after death? No one knows the answer while you were probably trying to unravel that tangled skein of confused beaded thoughts.

History unravels the tale of how Roman slaves whispered Memento Mori — remember that you must die — to their commanders en route to war. Who would have thought that one verbal phrase uttered in a quasi-whisper would be a stark reminder that one must not be consumed by hubris, and that one must have your feet firmly on the ground.

I view this Latin phrase as a reminder not to waste time. Why waste time when life is short? Why make it shorter by coveting an imperfect life that is not yours? The Stoics used death as a sort of compass towards life, guiding them towards what really mattered to them. In other words, use this reminder to un-worry about other people’s lives and to start living one that is solely meant to be yours.

Stay Envious

Envy is a complex, socially repugnant emotion made up of a mix of inferiority feelings, hostility, and resentment. Maybe it’s not a bad deal after all — to be envious. There is such a thing called Positive Envy where you can use these feelings of green to better yourself. We humans are complicated entities. While one emotion can lead to a state of disrepair, we could flip that same emotion on its head to achieve something positive, and maybe — spectacular.


The Machines Are Taking Over

Gods have a habit of dying: they usually do once a civilization ends. Case in point: does anyone still worship Poseidon or Zeus? But humans need something to worship, and as human revolution has given away to technological evolution, it is obvious that the machines are taking over.

Yuval Noah Harrari talks of the gods of the technological era. These are (or yet to be) our new masters. We know about how the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is leading to the loss of jobs, but maybe some cannot be replaced at all.

But why is AI becoming a big deal today? For one reason, we have a huge level of computational power today. We also have oceans full of data and that’s not going to stop. Another reason is the level of complex algorithms that we have. Plus the accuracy and benefits offered by AI means that businesses and governments are investing in AI, and it is becoming an economy in itself.

Upgrade on Netflix is an example of Artificial Super Intelligence

John McCarthy first coined this term in 1956. He defined AI as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines. Artificial Narrow Intelligence, which is known as Weak AI, like Siri is what we have today. Then there is Artificial General Intelligence, which is known as Strong AI, can be a reference to something like AlphaGo. Lastly, Artificial Super Intelligence, which is a hypothetical situation, is where computers will surpass humans when it comes to capability.

I Am Mother on Netflix is a firm favorite, and showcases how AI can be devious and nefarious

The writing of this particular blog post is heavily influenced by Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harrari. We hear of how we humans are living longer now, and how violence and famines are on the decline. It’s clear that the future of humans is one where we elevate ourselves to becoming gods. This is clearly happening with the marrying of tech and biometrics. The desire to live forever is fast becoming a serious expectation, and the evolution of technology could probably lead to its reality.

Ex Machina on Netflix portrays the dangers of AI, but then again, it is fiction after all

But can humans survive an AI apocalypse? Nick Bostrom argues that a computer with near human-level general intellectual ability could initiate an intelligence explosion on a digital time scale with the resultant rapid creation of something so powerful that it might deliberately or accidentally destroy human kind. We are someways away with such morbid and despondent predictions. Present-day AI fatalities are more to do with faulty car sensors.

Or, alternatively humans in the near future might become a class known as the ‘useless class’ since tech is evolving at such a fast rate and we are being made redundant. We see this happening in the job market already. Even in the armed forces, drones and cyber worms have taken over the jobs of soldiers.

Despite the ideas being portrayed that the future looks bleak, I suppose, one could trust human nature and its ability to feel a sense of connection. This excellent interview with Yuval Noah Harrari shows how technology can be an issue and lead to a dictatorship, but that can also be a blessing in disguise. Technology in one form or the other is a blessing. It is true to state that the machines are taking over, but the question remains as to what checks and balances should be put in place to ensure that humanity isn’t at the wrong end of this transition.


Life With A Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

Let’s discuss lies, and how they are related to the forever argument of whether Android or iOS is better.

Lie Number 1: Apple/iOS is the best.

Lie Number 2: Samsung/Android is the best.

Your purchase depends on the narrative that you choose to believe, you see. Sadly, in society you need to subscribe to one or the other. Like most things that make up society whether it be religion, food or a university/school, you are compelled to choose. Or, your circle of influence (think parents, friends, religious leaders et al.) will embrace you into their fold and hammer their beliefs into you.

But, it is all a lie. Anyone who has read Sapiens will know that we choose the narrative we want to believe based on the stories around it. That sense of community created by brands (because, they all are brands, aren’t they?) is the glue that builds camaraderie.

Android and iOS both fulfill a function, but most audiences prefer to snuggle in a rabbit hole of arguments and dysfunction. Rather see a product for what it is, which is to cater to a requirement, and make whatever inconveniences redundant. The problem with any circle of influence is the set of beliefs they instill in you.

Thus begins my justification of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite — (sometimes) referred to as Lite hereonafter. Whatever you assimilate today make sure you ponder the contents of this article before you make a purchase decision. Full disclaimer: I’m comparing the Lite to an iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus running on iOS 14.

Productivity and Word Consumption is Better on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

The stylus on this Lite for some strange reason helps the sinuosity of my sentences. Maybe because it is a novel experience or maybe because the user experience is conducive to creativity. Either way this is a great addition and it makes the Lite a fantastic smartphone.

The stylus on the Note was a game changer and continues to be one

Since I’m a writer by profession, the varying keyboards that you can draw up are helpful. I usually shift between the Samsung Keyboard, Gboard and the Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard. The whole experience of collating, curating and fleshing out data is a joy on this device.

Who needs a laptop?

Although I want to try Stencil as a design tool, I have decided to stick with Canva since I have a Pro Version of it, and working on it via the Lite is an absolute breeze. Collaborating via the Google Workspace and using apps like Ahrefs is convenient.

Ted Chiang is an inspiration

The Kindle app works great on the Lite, and reading is a rewarding journey on this device. Of course, there’s nothing like a book as far as the writer in me is concerned. But this works well and the reading experience is fantastic.

Samsung Health is Better than Apple Health

My weight loss journey is documented on this blog, and I used Apple Health to document the distance of my daily walks. I knew that there is assured to be some disparity with regard to the accuracy of the distance covered. But what I realized is that some measure was better than nothing.

Apple Health was generous with clocking in the distance on the 20th of October

Enter the Lite. I was curious to see what was actually better when comparing Samsung Health vs. Apple Health, and so decided to do my morning walk with both devices.

On the 20th of October, Samsung Health said I’ve walked less compared to Apple Health

The Lite said that I’ve done less when it came to the distance covered. And based on the app reviews present, I think I will believe the data generated by Samsung Health simply because there is proof.

Netflix and Apple Music is Better on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

Who would have thought that Apple apps work better on an Android? Without diving into the whole mechanics of what is under the hood, it makes sense to remember that it is the experience that matters. The Note 2 that I had promised a lot in the way of specifications but ANY iPhone would have put it to shame.

This is my jam and Doja Cat is the bomb

And then there’s Netflix on Android, which offers a fantastic viewing experience, too. This is largely thanks to a 6.7 inch screen that is Super AMOLED. Running on Android 10 with One UI 2.5 the user experience on this Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite is far better that iOS 14 and that truly is just my opinion.

Deadly Class is a great watch on Netflix and I really think that Tarantino actually made this

Let’s also consider sound when it comes to the listening experience. The Lite features a 3.5mm audio jack and Dolby Atmos surround sound technology. The sound experience on this device offers one eargasm after the next.

Dolby Atmos on and Dark Mode off

I use JBL earphones when walking and the Samsung earphones when listening to media. Both are great, but, as you would expect, the JBL noisemakers are better.

Battery Life is Seriously Good on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

Everything works seamlessly in one cohesive team powered with a 4500 mAh battery pack. The Lite has lasted more than 1.5 days on a full charge.

4500 mAh worth of power

This efficiency will reduce as time goes on. But with 4 months on the clock, there’s no visible sign of the battery losing its glimmer. The Lite has a Snapdragon 855 processor, which is a flagship phone processor, and that’s quite a good reason to go for it. The processor is one generation old compared to what is powering the Note 20, but the Lite is great as it is.

What Should You Buy?

It’s a good rule of thumb to skip the first generation of any product since there will be teething issues. This is why I researched thoroughly before deciding on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite.

Additionally the whole concept of marketing is done in such a way that you would always opt for the flashiest and newest iteration of whatever product. And, this is a surefire way to ensure that you end up burning a hole in your pocket.

Rather choose a product based on your requirement; this video shows why a Samsung Note 10 Lite is enough compared to a Samsung Note 20.


Understanding Architecture

Understanding architecture is akin to understanding art. It is, I suppose, similar to subscribing to a story that fits your perceptions. Consider the famous architect — Le Corbusier — who was somewhat minimalist. He desired that the houses of the future be ascetic and clean and frugal. Architecture for him was meant to be about mechanical efficiency. A home had only a few ambitions — to provide shelter, to be a receptacle for light and air, and a place to look at the stars.

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter active during the 17th century

Now consider art by Johannes Vermeer, which is a celebration of the ordinary. His famous work of art — The Little Street — shows the attractiveness and beauty in ordinary life. The Ferrari car, Gucci shoes and Michelin Star meal is an empty and vacuous representation of modern life that is wrongly celebrated.

An architectural design by my friend, Gayan, showing that ordinary lines and curves are indeed beautiful

Maybe society needs to change the narrative towards celebrating ordinary. It is the long walks, the appreciation of the rays of sunshine streaming in through the window, and the smile of a parent that ultimately matters. There is deeper meaning in art and architecture.

Another angle of the same property crafted by my friend Gayan

I’d like to segue into the school of thought perpetuated by Andrea Palladio during the 1500s. It is this school of thought that I would subscribe to. Palladio thought how architecture’s purpose is to make us better people. Calm, harmony and dignity are the virtues promised by architecture as per Palladio.

Although Gayan De Silva, a close friend, whom I’ve known for many years is probably not aware of how his work probably takes on the same philosophy that Palladio promoted, I see similarities. There is less noise in his work. There is balance, symmetry and the focus on space, and the dislike for ostentatiousness. Palladio was all about simplicity and ensuring that everything aligned with proportion.

There’s this assumption that simplicity is easy and cheap. In actual fact it is the opposite. It’s incredibly difficult to create something that is functional and a solution to inconvenience. Grandiosity is a travesty. And such ostentatiousness only serves to be costly and not useful.

Dieter Rams who designed Braun is the epitome of simple and useful design. A quote by HoraceThe art lies in concealing the art — offers an insight into how architecture should be showcased. Considering how influencial architecture has become today, maybe we need to change the narrative we want this influential art form to have.

There’s pleasure in simplicity. Because simplicity shows a lack of anxiety about being ignored. As a modern society that is comfortably cosseted in the 21st century, we possibly need to shift our focus and indeed our ideals onto the values that matter.

Rams and Vermeer possibly have a lot in common, and could offer us all a way when it comes to understanding architecture. Rams creates designs that are for everyday use, while Vermeer did art. The majority of these individuals have in some form or the other contributed so much to architecture. It is the guiding philosophy that we need to embrace.


Why Are We Addicted?

If it’s poison, why do you drink it?

Because there are things inside of me I need to kill.

Why do we drink alcohol? Why are we addicted? The above conversation piece from Two And A Half Men gives an insightful answer as to why. You see, there are demons in our subconscious that lie and lie silent. Lucky for you if you don’t meet them, but most of us do.

I was an alcoholic, and now I’m not. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a drink. I choose gin since it’s keto-friendly.

So, this thing with Addiction — is it something that is predisposed or a choice? It’s neither. It’s the result of our environments. Consider the issue of PTSD afflicting soldiers who survive war.

Addiction, you see, is an attempt at a solution; it is not a problem by itself. As per Gabor Maté, most of our trauma can be rooted in childhood. The subject on this is huge, but a child that is emotionally abused will overcompensate by being overly nice even if they don’t want to.

A child’s brain circuitry is developed while in the mother’s stomach. A stressed out mother leads to a stressed out child. Children when growing up are narcissistic by nature, and believe that they are the center of their own universe. When they don’t get the love and attention they crave from their parents, they carry such dysfunction into their adult lives.

This is the reason why stressed out parents bring up children who are stressed out. This is why children are more prone to autoimmune disorders like Multiple Sclerosis and even Cancer.

So, does the fault lie with parents? Somewhat, but the majority of this fault lies with the social, economic and political issues that we have faced throughout the years. For instance, both parents, in recent times, have had to work to bring in the finances thereby leading to their children being neglected with no mother at home. We know that our emotions and physiology cannot be divorced from each other. When one suffers, so does the other.

We are social creatures, and human connections are intrinsic, and looking for comfort in electric connections just won’t do. In fact, it would only lead to those who are vulnerable to resort to a variety of addictions.

Why We Are Addicted

“Nothing records the effects of a sad life as graphically as the human body.” – Naguib Mahfouz.

Most addicts aren’t afraid of dying. They are afraid of living. What does alcohol, drugs, food and shopping in excess have in common — they cure pain. The question shouldn’t be — Why is there addiction? The question should be — Why is there pain? Keith Richards in his biography talks of how he sought oblivion through his addictions. Why? Because he was not comfortable being in his own skin.

A truth bomb

We are addicted because whatever we are addicted to offers respite from the pain that we are feeling or because it gives us pleasure that’s available to us.

Let’s first define this whole concept of Addiction — it is any behavior that gives you temporary relief or pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, and you can’t give it up despite the negative consequences.

Drugs per se aren’t addictive. Many people choose their addiction, and it is all to do with Dopamine and Endorphins. As many addicts claim, the stimulus they are addicted to offers them warmth and comfort and a space that is non-judgemental. This is all an attempt at trying to fill in the void that exists within us. It all goes back to what we didn’t get when we were small.

The Meaning to Life

I wonder at times if addiction can be cured through science. The meaning of life is to distract ourselves from the
meaninglessness of life. Love is the highest meaning of
life. We pervert it and fail it a billion times over. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it satiates the spirit like nothing else.

Professor X is kind to those who are flawed

It takes courage and responsibility to be kind to flawed humans as Professor X has shown us. But it’s our highest calling. It elevates everything we do. Any sense
of value or meaning in an
objectively meaningless universe can only be the result of whatever sense of value we subconsciously project onto the world and some of the experiences within it, or in turn, whatever meaning we perceive when we look out into the world.

The very fact that people say — Find your meaning — means there’s no meaning to life. Rather we need to find our own individual purpose, and finding it means there’s a thin line between sanity and insanity.

Leave Well Alone

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within. Buddha said be a lamp unto thyself. The choice we have to make is to heal and be kinder to ourselves. The majority of us are damaged in one way or the other. Yet the only solution, as per Jordan Peterson, is to be strong.

And, if we do choose to move away from the hurt and grief we feel, we’ll realize that we made those first steps towards healing. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll realize that choosing contentment is possibly the only way forward. Once we do heal, the Faroese word — nøgdsemi — gives an indication of how we should live. Nøgdsemi means Life Is Good The Way It Is and it offers a way to accept life just the way it is.


A Concept Called Happiness

As someone who is at the tail-end of the millennial generation (as per Nielsen Media Research), I’ve seen my share of colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances succumb to mental illness and/or deaths of despair. And, more often than not, it has to do with this nebulous pursuit of this concept called happiness.

Throughout my life, happiness was always defined with a smile or a laugh. But no one spoke of the demons lurking underneath such cheerfulness. Such were the times that I grew up in that happiness was defined as relief — relief that you didn’t die during an LTTE-inspired bomb blast or a JVP-instigated machete attack.

Happiness was being with family and having enough food to eat. It meant there was a secure household, a roof over your head, and an education that could possibly be a one-way ticket to the West. Why the West? Because the basic necessities were not even present then where I lived. Today, thanks to globalization, more people are dying of obesity than war.

Yet the context has changed today. In the 80s and 90s, we found respite in the arms of the church, and the promise of a better tomorrow, along with the chance that one day Jesus will come, and rapture us to walk on streets of gold. Today, the definition of happiness is one which resides within yourself. Happiness is a biological event, and just like hacking your hormones to ensure productivity, we can hack it with a smile or a Prozac or two.

My conclusion is this — Happiness is a Decision. You see, sometimes we are the authors of our own destruction. We give the devil too much credit for our own mistakes. Don’t listen to, or rather, don’t believe the tyrant in your head. He/she is a false god. For someone who lived a very epicurean life, lived through a war, joblessness, bare minimum in terms of food, there is a certain joy present in the mundane.

Some Definitions of Happiness

I suggest you listen to this great podcast by Dr. Laurie Santos about work and job crafting. Humanity has moved from one context to another. We lived through the agricultural revolution and are now in the technological revolution where our lives are all about swiping right. Today, we are trying to find our life’s meaning in a world inundated with pixels and data bombs. We are searching to fulfill our Self-Actualization Needs.

It’s all about the creative life, yo!

Growing up in my generation, the only two types of needs that were satiated were the Safety and Physiological aspects. They were only partly satisfied what with the issue concerning the social-political upheaval of the time.

Achieve Ikigai: it is your reason for living

Ikigai makes sense to me, and while we were taught that Happiness is equal to your Passion, there is more to the whole idea as well. Carl Jung simplifies the whole concept of happiness, which is shown below, and his list has a great degree of similarity with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Ikigai as well.

  1. Good physical and mental health.
  2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
  3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
  4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
  5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

Following most of the narratives throughout the decades, we were compelled to aim to achieve happiness. Happiness was defined as the perfect marriage, the perfect job, and, it was aligned to success. But, as Jordan Peterson states happiness is rare and rather we should aim to have a meaningful life, and be resilient in the process. There’s happiness also in knowing how to live.

My Conclusion

The Stoics and the Greeks all had their definitions when it comes to this concept called happiness. Every country and its citizens will define happiness differently. Here is mine — My perspective is that happiness is a decision, but it’s an ambitious state of being. Rather what we should aim for is a state that is far easier to achieve, and that is Contentment with a dose of Peace of Mind. It could also be residing in a state of flow. And, you will realize that achieving such a level of bliss is usually just a simple thought that needs to be entertained over a fragrant cuppa Joe.


Why Art Matters

Let’s talk about books, about paintings; and, all things art. There are plenty of reasons why art matters, and you will realize that the reason for its importance has changed throughout many decades.

Certain things are just waiting patiently to be explored. And that exploration can lead to a change in conversation, and, possibly, a change in culture. For instance, we hear of art in its various forms that had shifted antediluvian attitudes towards women in this era.

Art is a gift, which needs to be generously shared with the world, irrespective of accolades or compensation. Make something that’s worth reading or deciphering so that it’s an idea that spreads. I wrote Crimson Spaces: Art as a Medium of Connectedness which offers an insightful look into what art actually can become. As you would have gleaned from the latter article — Art is carved by the agency of human emotion.

Why Art Matters?

Dillai Joseph’s painting titled Lady From The East — It’s an exploration of the human condition: A Woman Who Has Seen It All

Art, in my opinion, is the exploration of the human condition; and, the human condition is about overcoming adversity. And that’s beautiful since adversity has this dark way of introducing a man to himself. Art is doing that brave thing which is original and human to change someone for the better. 

For instance, art can reflect the zeitgeist of a certain time, like, Britain and the Pre-Raphaelites where art was used to counter the effects of brutal industrialization. Periodically, art has violated the canons of current literary taste during that time to evolve into something else. 

Still, art does have some other uses: art keeps us hopeful, art makes us less lonely, art rebalances us, art helps us to appreciate stuff, and art is propaganda for what really matters. Suffice to say art with its tumultuous imagery bivouacs in our brains for quite a long period of time. 

What Does History Say?

Another painting from Dillai Joseph titled Praying Hands — It is another exploration of the human condition where faith and hope collides

Christian art dominated Europe for a very generous 1000 years by making the whole monotheistic doctrine resonanting, emotionally attractive and incredibly appealing. 

The question of the purpose of art is a modern dilemma, one that didn’t exist in bourgeois society in history. Modern art tried to escape bourgeois society. Ironic that it ended up alienated from the general public and only enlightened millionaires can understand the complexity and mystery of an urinal or senseless colors splashed in a canvas. 

Why do artists offer part of themselves on such a prolific level? It is to connect with others. This generosity gives credence to an artist, and helps him or her to connect and garner a following. 

What I Think Art Means

I take on the position of Théophile Gautier who in 1833 stated — l’art pour l’art or art for art’s sake yet I sympathize with a different definition as well. Art had been an excellent tool for a myriad of intentions, but this is probably something that needs to be done away with. On the other hand, we hear of Marcel Duchamp who desires that art stands to be enigmatic, provocative and reeking of mystery. 

With capitalism being in the forefront of the world in 2020, artists today have become defenders of unfettered free enterprise, and, rightfully so. From reflecting on poverty and its issues, art today has become a veritable tour de force where it is the hobby of the super rich. From the Venice Biennale to art by Banksy, the investment in art is magnanimous. But let’s not forget the real meaning of art, one that Gautier would disagree with, which is to help us understand and appreciate the human condition. 


How I Lost Over 15 kgs

TL;DR: How I lost over 15 kgs is all about a lifestyle change. Don’t entertain dogma: always question. Try out a ketogenic diet. Be disciplined. Consider the art of dry fasting. Ensure that you do some form of exercise, and choose these exercises based on your goals. For me, walking burns the most amount of fat while for most people, resistance training leads to muscle retention and muscle gain. Manage your stress. Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep. Optimize your nutrition: special attention should be paid to the consumption of vitamins and minerals.

You know it’s true — When you are fat, the jokes then write themselves. And, you will realize that those jokes become an albatross around your mental well-being — It becomes an active state of roiling pain. I decided to write how I lost over 15 kgs simply because the act of losing weight isn’t a complicated task, and almost anyone can do it.

Losing fat is a conservative pursuit. Your investment in diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep, is an extension of your well-being. There’s a reason this particular article is long; after all, it took a few months and a great deal of knowledge-based actions to help me lose close to 16 kgs.

From a personal viewpoint, it should be noted that there’s so much that needs to be looked into before starting your fat loss journey. Also, you should realize that we function differently, and what works for you may not work for me.

I’ve done it all, and some of these ways didn’t work, and, in fact, made my health worse. One such cultish route I took was going vegan: it truly was one of the worst decisions of my life. We are surrounded by so much dogma (one person’s truth is another person’s lie, you see), and that serves to gently prod you down the wrong route time and time again.

Just like how religious leaders have the ability to loosen your purse strings with eloquence and hands well-oiled to massage insecurity, the proponents of one dietary route have used the beauty of the English Language to cajole. Don’t entertain dogma, and always question what you hear. Not being a slave to dogma was central to how I lost over 15 kgs.

This is not to say that I’m demonizing going vegan rather it just didn’t work for me. It’s interesting to note that the strongest man in the world is vegan. From veganism, I trundled towards paleo. I’ve even done the whole Lemonade Diet popularized by Beyoncé. I only truly ever saw proper results when doing the Atkins Diet. In hindsight, I know now why the latter diet was far more effective than everything else — Refer the part about Ketosis in this post.

First, Some Background, Before I Tell You How I Lost Over 15 kgs

I’ve been relatively athletic in my 20s; I was a huge fan of Kyokushin karate, Kandyan dancing, tap dancing, swimming, tennis, badminton and was a regular at gym. I used to be a trim and slim guy with a 30 inch waist carrying around a weight of 70 kgs.

In Goa at 21 years of age

There was only one philosophy to follow in that era; it was worshipped time and time again — No Pain No Gain. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) was what gym bros (myself included) aspired to believe — albeit wrongly — that it was this pain that led to muscle gain.

Kyokushin karate was an addiction.

The early 20s were great in terms of working out. Then the corporate world happened. Late nights, stress, beer and a dysfunctional work culture led to weight gain and led me towards a destructive downward spiral.

In 2008 I got fat

I ballooned to 110 kgs with a waist of 45 inches in my late 20s. This wasn’t good. The mirror coupled with my brain had this habit of making the situation appear not too serious. It was serious. For someone who used to get up at 4 am to jog everyday, I could barely walk for 5 minutes without heart palpitations knocking an exotic beat in my chest.

That’s me in 2008 on the left in the above picture. Then me in 2010/11 on the right. Like I said, I tried everything from veganism to paleo to fat burners to some pretty hardcore workouts. Yet, it was the Atkins Diet that worked.

Achieving this level of body recomposition in my 40s is a blessing

Surrounding yourself with the right people matter, but I ended up with a coterie of foodies. All sense of scale becomes redundant when you start consuming sugar: it’s all largely thanks to that oh-so-desired dopamine release and nefarious insulin response. Sugar and alcohol will gift pack you a heavy dose of mutually assured destruction.

Sugar is pure sweetness and pure evil

The socio-economic environment at that time was of no help when it came to keeping me honest, so a whole basket of reasons (foodie friends, night outs, comfort food, late work nights, stress eating, stress drinking etc.) led me to lose track and balloon again.

The second-time assault on my love handles was more structured and I was better prepared. There’s a plethora of information out there that you can try and use for your own benefit. 

Be Disciplined

How bad do you want it? There’s nothing glamorous about being fat, and I refuse to subscribe to the lie that being fat is okay. It’s not. Go Google all the data on obesity and mortality rates.

Comorbidity is a term you’d hear with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic; you’ll find that most victims of this virus had two or more chronic diseases — I’m looking at you diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol and auto-immune diseases.

But let’s talk about my situation, and why I hated being fat: I hated the joint pain; the task of finding clothes to fit; the terrible feelings of fatigue; the lack of purpose; the uptick in insulin followed by the mindless eating and the resultant crashes; the cognitive decline; brain fog; mood swings; and, the physical unattractiveness that belonged to just me.

I wanted a trim waistline and a lean physique, and I HATED feeling and thinking like I was 70 when I was at the cusp of just 40. And so I researched every single day until I was convinced with the information I had to make a change. 

Why Ketosis Is Key

Having read so much with regard to Peter Attia’s journey into a ketogenic lifestyle, I decided to jump into his teachings wholeheartedly.  No fitness guru has quite the cachet of Peter Attia. As much as I wanted to believe that my body was 100% healthy, it wasn’t.

Fact is I was insulin resistant, and this Wikipedia article will explain the issue comprehensively, but here’s my one sentence explanation -— Some of us function better on fat than carbs with the focus being to minimize the insulin response. 

Workout Smart (Not Hard)

When it came to working out in my 20s, I subscribed to the whole religion of No Pain No Gain at gym, and had only a world of hurt to show. I used to think that pain at the gym and the resulting DOMS was key to building muscle and looking good.

Know your hormones

I didn’t know about the role played by Cortisol, Growth Hormone, Insulin, Leptin and Ghrelin, and the importance of rest and recuperation. For someone who used to jog daily followed by hours of karate, I can categorically say that my metabolism was on the road to dysfunction.  

I have to thank Breakthrough Studio, and Ashanthi Mirchandani for helping me kick my butt into shape. Fat loss is directly helped by physical inefficiency. For example, the more difficult a workout is, the more fat you will burn. While being in a state of Ketosis helped me lose weight, I was sorely lacking muscle tone.

Breakthrough Studio

The whole art of TRX Training helped challenge me and my body to a whole new level of fitness. I also encourage you to find a solid personal trainer. Someone who will push you out of your comfort zone, but will also ensure that you won’t get injured. 

Dry Fasting Works And It Was Central To How I Lost Over 15 Kgs

Contrary to most popular beliefs out there, you don’t die when fasting. I tried intermittent fasting where I ate only one ketogenic meal for the whole day at dinner. Your body doesn’t need a constant source of food. We are overloading our digestive system when we eat constantly.

Another piece of dogma that has been religiously fed to us is that we need three meals a day — we don’t. You do realize that when animals fall sick they fast. Us humans on the other hand increase our food intake. 

Start with intermittent fasting

I decided to see what else I could do besides fasting. I decided to try my luck with dry fasting for one day, two days, and three days, respectively. This was when I saw the craziest amount of fat loss, and it was unbelievable to see the fat just melt off.

The human body is super strong, and knows how to manage itself. In order to create water, the body taps into its fat stores thereby generating water and leading to a depletion of fat. 

It’s Not Just Fat, Carbs And Protein

Trace minerals and vitamins are of utmost importance, and where I learned most of what I know is thanks to Dr. Berg and his YouTube channel. It didn’t take much detective work to realize that I was lacking in selenium, magnesium, zinc, boron, and Vitamins A, B, C, and D.

The good stuff

This is where I started introducing liver, asparagus, beetroot leaves, gotukola, lime, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, moringa and seaweed into my diet. And let me tell you — I’m so much better for it. 

Dial In Your Sleep

Late nights in the corporate world is the worst thing you can do to harm your progress when it comes to fat loss. Sleep should be a human right. There is research to show that sleep helps drain amyloid plaques in your brain and gives your entire system a good rest. You’ll need it if you want your fat loss to be sustainable. 

Deal With Stress

Life is short, and stress makes it shorter. There are many sources of stress that we are faced with. You’d know what stresses you out. Dealing with stress on a daily basis is key, and maybe tips like using mindfulness, gratefulness, stoicism, and meditation to deal with life might help you, too. 

One huge area of stress for many is keeping up with the Joneses; this is fine as long as you choose the Joneses you want to keep up with. One of the main factors creating stress is social media. Read The Social Dilemma is Why I Left Social Media to understand more. Cultivate those other relationships. We put 90% of our energy into our dysfunctional relationships and only 10% to those who have our backs. Flip that. 

What I Was In The Beginning Of 2019 And What I Am Today

I was fat. The corporate world and a cycle of working crazy late, drinking, stress, and breaking rest helped in offering a confluence of dysfunction.

Bad days in 2019

I started the whole process of intermittent fasting, water fasting, and dry fasting.

A very unhappy me

It was a drastic lifestyle that led me to piling on the pounds. And I knew I needed a different drastic lifestyle to get myself back on track.

In the best shape of my life

There’s nothing more fantastic than getting into clothes you thought you could never wear.

Got packs!

What’s even more fantastic is seeing your packs, and trimming your waist down to 29 inches.

What You Should Take Away From This Blog Post

How I lost over 15 kgs is not just a quick fix, and it was understanding the science behind it all. It is a change in thinking and lifestyle. I will conclude by saying that you should accustom yourself to new ideas, and erase off the comfort of dogma.

There are many fitness and health gurus who are on the opposite sides of this issue. The plausible deniability zone is something that even doctors and fitness professionals practice (not just politicians). You are seduced into listening, and you believe in the lie that appeals.

Be careful of the lies perpetuated by the health industry; believe and act on them, and they have a way of catching up with you. Knowledge is power, and research is what’ll help you in the long term. I hope this post encourages you to start your weight loss journey.