3 Sep

There are some compelling reasons to switch to a Macbook.

  • The battery-the amount of charge it holds in one go and how many years it runs with that same stamina (that is truly mindblowing).
  • The resale value, which is insane, even for older generation systems.
  • That crazy cool Universal Control thing where you can use the cursor on a Macbook/magic keyboard or whatever they call those external input devices, and literally drag an item from the Macbook screen onto another apple device next to it (approx at 0.15 here-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3-2Md-Zt3o). I mean!! :D.
  • The new M1 and soon M2 chipsets which are apparently insane (though, also apparently, Ryzen could be an eventual competitor).
  • The size, solid build, screen quality, lack of heating (or so I hear?)

But there are also equally compelling reasons to never, ever.

  • The cost. I doubt I’d ever be able to justify to myself that kind of expenditure on a computer, unless I was unable to do the things I need to do on other, cheaper systems. And it’s not just the initial purchase cost-there are also repairs and replacements to think of, which, is insanely expensive at best and impossible at worst. No cheap Nehru Place/Chandni Chowk options for yer Macbooks.
  • The inbuilt port situation. Like, seriously?? Everything is Type C in no one’s world as yet, Apple.
  • It’s built to work best as an entire ecosystem, it seems. They like you to give them ALL your money. Perfect for you if you use an iPhone, Apple watch, Ipad etc in conjunction with your Macbook. It’s quite cumbersome, I hear, if you don’t. None of the welcome compatibility of Windows devices.
  • If you like gaming, apparently it sucks in terms of options.

Youtube is wonderful. And apparently, I’m not done looking up current gen laptops online because it’s so much fun!

(Also, I have to say, I’m extremely pleased with how the new Inspiron 15 5510 is performing. After the initial issues of receiving a faulty device, and the pain-oh the pain!-of going through the post-sales Dell customer support system-I’ve had no issues. I get about 11 hours of battery, even if I play a lot of Youtube videos, though that tends to come down to 9.5 hours when I have multiple browsers open, with multiple tabs open on each. Which still feels luxurious, given that my previous devices gave 2-3 hours at best! The metallic body is always cool to the touch, hasn’t thus far heated up and I can’t recall the fan turning on even once, depite the constant multiple browser, multiple tab situation. Despite my general gripe about flat keys on modern laptop keyboards, this one is reasonably clickety clackity to compensate for its flatness. I love the manual camera shutter and the thin bezels situation. And ooh, the SSD related speed of everything ❤ :D)


26 Aug

So, that article got accepted for publication. The news came like an early birthday gift earlier this month; so fulfilling, that I did not feel the need to top it up with anything more by way of celebration. It isn’t a very exciting article, and I’m not super proud of the material within it (it’s a small subset of my overall dissertation work), but I’m quite pleased that my university requirement is now met, and via my top choice journal at that. When I compare the original version to the double-revised final version, I see the improvement. The anonymous reviewer comments helped me tighten the paper quite a bit, and now I feel I have a better idea of how to write my next paper aimed for publication. That’s a good feeling.

11 Aug

Dell finally shipped replacement parts for my defective but new machine (quality control anyone?) and the technician replaced it. What a painful and painfully long process that was, even though I paid for premium support! The trackpad issue seems to be resolved now, and I need to monitor the system continuously for a bit to gauge whether the system is still generating shocks when plugged in, or are gone for good.

We used to have a great experience with their after sales support and the quality of their machines. All my machines, and our family machines have been Dell , and my good old Inspiron 1525 from 2008, with Windows Vista Home Premium, still boots up fast and works reasonably well (I miss that keyboard!). I’ve been using a family member’s old Inspiron from about 2016?2017? when the internet became unusable on my 1525 (because web browsers stopped working on Vista Home Premium and Windows stopped issuing security updates for that much maligned OS). All machines have given 8+ years of use, with minor tweaks/replacements.

This time though? Oof. Never again. A defective trackpad on a new machine is unacceptable, and it shouldn’t take hours on the phone every day with tech support to get them to firstly issue replacement parts and then to hurry the heck up with despatching the parts. It shouldn’t take 15 days to make a new laptop useable for a customer- people’s work lives depend on these. Their escalation mechanism is also a pain in the butt-you are entirely dependent on them to escalate, you can’t contact more senior folk on your own.

But what is the alternative? The technician who came for repairs handles Lenovo laptops too. He said while Lenovo machines are better built, their after sales is worse. I hear HP has worse support than Dell too. Not sure how it works for Asus, Acer etc.

The sad fact is that Dell makes a huge variety of laptops and offers features at a cheaper rate than most (all?) competitors. I looked at a lot of options when picking out my machine this time, and this combination of 8GB RAM, 11th gen core i3, 512 SSD, 54 Whr battery (7+ hours of use! Whee!!) and MS Office was not being offered at this price point. As a bonus, this machine also has a premium metal body (I don’t care much about metal vs plastic, since my hinges have never burst out of ther plasticky casing, but if I’m getting it? Sure, why not…) and is so light! It’s nearly a kilo lighter than both my previous laptops.

So I might not automatically reach for a Dell for my next machine, but chances are I might land up with one again :-/

Bye July

3 Aug

A month of Delhi, family, Guru Purnima, more (safe-ish) local errand-outings than I packed clothes for, and getting vaxxed.

A few days after that last post, I submitted the revised article, following over 48 hours of continuous, sleepless, work. Where that sudden spurt of energy and focus came from I don’t know, because never in my life ever have I managed to pull an all-nighter without needing to catch up on sleep the next morning, forget two continuous all-nighters. Oh wait, I do. It was divine grace ❤

Now I wait, fingers crossed, to see if the editors feel it passes muster and can be published. If they feel it still doesn’t then atleast I can rest easy knowing I did my best, and then examine the market for shitty journals that will host this piece, and help me tick off a pre-submission requirement. I fully intend to publish quality pieces in quality journals after the PhD, so I don’t mind resorting to this inferior option, if needed, if it allows me to accomplish what is at this stage more important-100% focus on chapter writing.

Since I finished the revision before June ended, I was able to come down to Delhi soon after, thanks to the then waiving off of the requirement for pre-flight RTPCR tests (for Delhi). I’m not sure if this is still the case. Adjustment in a 4-person household was difficult, as expected, but not as much as I feared. Sure, it took me a full month to arrive at a good-enough equilibrium state, but the process wasn’t as distressing as it has been in the past. I was able to focus on and enjoy what I came here for- spending time with family, catching up, even as I struggled to establish my daily rhythms- the ways I begin and end my days, the meditation routine, and the ways in which I fuel body, soul and mind throughout the day. The lack of solitude has been the most challenging, since it is in that solitude that I find myself and ground myself and my rhythms. I still don’t have all of the latter, as well as a perfectly comfortable workspace, but that’s not why I chose to come down at this critical point in the chapter writing phase, so it’s okay.

In other news, that dreaded thing happened-my laptop gave out. Well, not fully, since I’m typing this out on that ol’ Dell. But the trackpad is dead, it’s randomly shutting down open applications or refusing to read my Word Docs (all my work!) and I’m routinely spending hours every day waiting for things to load or unfreeze. I had the option of trying to get it repaired/have the RAM upgraded/pay for a year of Office 365 but given that the thesis is due soon, and one can’t anticipate what would next go wrong, my family insisted on paying for a new laptop. Which was so generous of them! (Because I’ve already spent the 2.25 pay cheques from last year and there’s no question of looking for more freelance gigs until I submit.)

A new Dell was purchased, but it arrived with faulty parts. I’m waiting for the whole replacement process to finish so I can migrate to that machine and write without fear. I’m going to activate the automatic cloud-based backup for all future word docs.

And oh yes, finally got jabbed! Have the second one due soon, because Covaxin.

26 Jun

I’m about week overdue on my deadline, though the journal has been incredible about proactively offering what time I need, out of consideration for how covid complicates one’s return to work.

It’s been hard to deal with missing my deadline so badly. I’m used to things going down to the wire, but I can’t recall ever missing a deadline this badly. It’s been feeling like a personal failure, and has meant that my trip to Delhi is indefinitely postponed, and I risk missing my vaccination slot (in Delhi). I’m beginning to suspect that perhaps deadline trouble this time is, atleast in some part, covid-related. For two weeks I was able to focus well, and work (though with the fear etc. which meant that I was working at the cost of well-balanced meals eaten at the right time, meditation and regular sleep hours), but after that my system was done. Panic and high anxiety for 2 days, and relentless, crippling exhaustion that refuses to ease even with a LOT of rest, and-worst of all, from the point of view of the deadline-brain fog. I cannot think clearly, my ability to string thoughts, ideas and arguments together is missing.

I’ve been feeling severely frustrated with this, and have not been reacting to the situation with much grace. It is in these moments that I’m most susceptible to negative self-talk occupying all my being. Taking so long with the PhD, not being financially independent, not having journal articles, book chapters etc etc out, not even attempting to apply to a conference or workshop since 2019…

Generally speaking, I’m VERY interested in failure and experiences of failure. I take a fierce joy in living through/striving to live through these periods of failure well-because, I believe, it is in the lowest phases of life that we really get to discover for ourselves what our foundational beliefs and values are worth. Do I still love and delight in God and Guru when things aren’t going well for me? Being able to practice one’s deepest held beliefs and values in these periods feel much more valuable than at other times.

However, every now and then I struggle to retain this perspective, and gain enough distance from my immediate troubles, to practice this. Like now. Especially since I stopped filling my ‘tank’ with meditation for 2 ish weeks.

I’m trying to find my way back. I’ve returned to a short meditation daily, and am trying to remind myself to be patient with myself. I’m trying to remind myself that there is a reason why this PhD is taking so long- I know what kinds of arguments find most favour within my discipline. I know that I could have easily interpreted my field findings in line with those arguments, thus finishing early, being reasonably recognised by academic peers for work decently done. It was because I couldn’t settle for that and strove for more that I’m where I am at presently. Perhaps my failures are actually not failures, but simply the unfolding of the path I chose.

Now if only the brain fog would go away enough for me to finish this journal article!!

22 Jun

Thought I to get by on two weeks of only ‘light’ God/Guru contact!

Not out of arrogance or complacence, but because of high anxiety as I worked on the journal article revisions. That old fear and self doubt about my capabilities means that close to any intellectual work related deadline- seminars/workshops, journal submission things, etc., I end up addressing the work that needs doing from that place of fear and self-doubt. Meals, sleep schedules, regular meditation etc, everything goes.

I’m getting slightly better at practicing working from a place of knowing that all knowledge, everything that can be known, is contained within the Infinite. That Infinite is present in me. Therefore formulating arguments, refuting or confirming existing literature, constructing a thesis is not a matter of me grappling blindly for ideas and competence outside of what I have available to me. My perceived inadequecies do not matter, because the Knower of all, the universal set of Knowledge itself, so to speak, lies within me. All I have to do is tap into that Infinite, and craft a sentence, and then another, based on what is shown. My many real inadequacies are not greater in magnitude than the ability of that Infinite to direct my intellectual process and output.

This time, I was better at consciously relying on that inner guidance, as I revise my paper. But my cup runneth empty, since I still functioned out of enough anxiety to prevent deep communion with that Source. Panic became overpowering, so I requested for an extension on the deadline, was kindly granted one, and used today to fill myself back up again. (My respect for this journal just keeps on increasing. I work on questions of justice, highlighting deep inequalities and design flaws in our society that means our very development models are predicated on exploitation. This journal publishes work in my area, and on multiple occasions I’ve seen how they practice the ethics that they publish their debates on. In the academic world finding someone practicing what they preach is rather rare.)

It is my one wish that the rest of the PhD period be but an intense practice in learning to do this properly. Rely on that Source, dissolve my fears into the reality of that Source, and commune properly with that Source. Balance.

13 Jun

I have a looming deadline for a paper, after which, the plan is to go to Delhi for a bit.

This is for the journal publication I’ve been pursuing since last August/September and I’ve been aware of this deadline since March. However, unsurprisingly, it’s still come down to the wire. I’d begun work on it in early April, then Covid struck, so no further progress was made. May went in tending to my mind and soul (and post-covid recovery, because precautions are advised for 2-3 months after), trying to process the Covid-devastation in the country and frantically praying for loved ones, and crafting a structure and plan for the only dissertation chapter that I had not yet started working on (the other chapters are not complete, but they are far from blank drafts).

The plan had been to resume the journal revise-and-resubmit edits from 1 June, but the first week went, again, in tending to the mind. Le sigh. (I did, however, in this period of tending to the mind, find a wonderful new fantasy series of books to devour- Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. I loved all 7 books, and am now slowly savouring a fairy-tale-ish collection of short stories she wrote connected to the Grishaverse).

Late that I am, I was unsurprisingly struck by a bit of panic today. Today was meant to be the last day of pre-revision prep-work,reading and re-reading the literature I’m referring to, pulling notes from earlier pieces etc. Tomorrow was going to be the day I’d begin the actual writing and rewriting.

I’m not very good at pushing past panic, to soldier on with work. So, I think, I’ll take the time to read a few pleasure pieces, and encourage my mind into a calmer state. I’ll still address the task I had scheduled for the day, but I’m reducing the to-do list for that task.

Tomorrow calls for an early start. Perhaps I shall meet the dawn, and stare at some trees, while reading tiny sections from the Ursula Le Guin I’ve been trying to stretch out for months. And perhaps after breakfast, a cappuccino, ordered in, as I dive into the re-writing. Fingers crossed.

29 May

Demanding to have God, chasing God, is not an external pursuit; one is not running after something that is external to oneself. It is the other direction we run in when we demand to realise God, the universal everything-inward. That which we seek is already within. All spiritual pursuit-no matter what faith or religion- is a matter of revealing the presence of Divinity within us, realising we are that. Through our practices we peel away at the layers of what we think we are as humans, as individuals-all the limitedness we think and feel we embody- until we uncover the limitlessness of the Self, the universal everything, which is what we are actually constituted of.

So simple. So hard.


Grief

13 May

A short while back I read that a monk from my spiritual organisation passed away because of Covid, day before yesterday. This weighs on my heart. I did not know him personally, but in 2016, when I was frequently at the NOIDA ashram, I saw him many times-conducting the group meditations, meditating alongside others during a long meditation, after some of the evening meditations…

Last year, when the Ashrams closed around mid-March-before we had an inkling of what was to unfold- I sat up and took notice, because the ashrams and meditation centres have never to my knowledge taken such an action. It was my first indication that things were serious. (They have continued to be cautious, and the ashrams have not opened to the public since they shut last year; neither did they organise a Kumbha Mela camp this year, which I fiercely love them for. But they also continued to figure out ways of being there for devotees, and non-devotees-through an online transition offering meditations, and now live, daily prayer and healing services. I have lost count of the number of names my family and I have been adding to the anonymous prayer request form, lovingly offered, over the past month-ish.)

With the passing away of this Swamiji, I don’t know what to feel. Grief, that it’s hit the ashrams. Joy, for his soul, now freed from the body. Worry about the health of the others at that ashram, and at the other 3 ashrams.

There is so much uncertainty about which of us, and our loved ones, will survive to emerge at the end of this immensely challenging period. Certainly those of us that make it will be forever changed. The grief of the losses will be heavy. I don’t know a single friend or relative untouched by this second wave. Nobody does. A dear friend’s young, under-40 cousin. Two people my age-dear friends of friends. A dear family friend’s young sister-in-law. The next door neighbour’s neice-in her 20s-days after her baby was taken out via a caesarean section. An unimaginable number of former colleagues of both my parents. All dead.

Others amongst our nearest and dearest family friends became serious, spent time at hospitals-itself a luxury and blessing right now-and returned to begin long recoveries.

How to handle so much grief? How to stand immovable, and strong, as soldiers of light and love? For we are in a war-like situation, and gentle, half-hearted prayers will not suffice. Spiritually, we will need to be warriors of prayer, love and service, behind closed eyes, and in our communities for the foreseeable future. Because this isn’t and has never been just about a virus. We suffer because of the way we designed our societies. We suffer the consequences of our actions-material and spiritual. Without a collective, transformational change of heart, we will face such tragedies again, and again and again.

(This is not just abstract, loopy new-age woo woo speak-science has known for a while the correlation between the destruction of natural habitats and the beginning of pandemics. And yet, we still globally, with aplomb, pursue extractive, destructive development models. Even as I type, the government of my country is spending Rs.20,000 crores-USD 2.8 billion- on a vanity project that is removing the green lungs of central Delhi, including countless 100 year old Jamun trees. It is a natural habitat for countless birds, squirrels and their brethren. Let nobody ever get away with saying India is a poor country-we’re not. We just choose to not spend on healthcare, education, housing and on other infrastructures and security nets that increase public good. We don’t passively have poverty-we actively create it.)

I don’t have words, I haven’t felt very coherent. This isn’t much of a reflection, just reaction.

The situation is grim, but no situation, no matter how grim, is ever worthy of despair. For what were the endless flashes and revelations of the Divine last year, if not promises and reassurance of help for what lay ahead? I firmly believe we have a task ahead of us as a collective-but even as we participate in that task, in whatever way we can-the workings of the Divine never cease.

14 Apr

My cafe working days are brought to an end by…covid. Yep, I tested positive. So very glad that on that last cafe day I accidentally ordered the biggest cappuccino cup they offer, and ate both my favourite sandwiches, rather than just one. That giant cup of cappuccino will carry me for months.

I don’t know where I picked it up from-whether Chandni (unlikely, since I was masked and shielded for the entire duration) or the cafe (more likely; though I used to sanitise my seat, the table, and even the wall beside the table before sitting down, and would wear the mask at all times except for eating and drinking). The AC was very cold that last cafe day, I was freezing, and my lower back was jammed from not moving for 6+ hours. So when I came back and had a severe headache and lower back ache (which persisted for 2 days), with a possible temperature (I didn’t use a thermometer) I thought it was my body reacting to the Siberian temps at the cafe that day.

I stayed home, and on the second day, started receiving Pranic healing, and carried out a few gentle exercises that are a part of my meditation routine, intended to flood all the muscle groups and body parts with prana. Because of the Pranic healing I began to feel completely fine, so much so that I felt well enough to cook. Then a couple of days later, my nose became blocked and my sense of smell went. It was still confusing, I wasn’t sure whether this was a normal cold or covid.

However, even though I was feeling on the mend with whatever I had, and the symptoms were not typical covid symptoms, I decided to get tested to know whether I needed to quarantine or not, to keep others safe from me. (Thankfully the last I’d stepped out was on that cafe day, and hadn’t come in contact with anybody except for fleeting seconds). And thank goodness! Because I tested positive with a mild case (the have some CT numbers in the RT PCR test which apparently indicate severity of the infection-the doctor said mine was mild.)

I called the last two cab drivers I rode with, the cafe and the Chandni repair shop to warn them. Thankfully, till then, they had been ok (hopefully afterwards too). The person who comes a few times a week to clean is also ok. I’m quarantining until I’m no longer infectious, and then an additional week or two just to be sure. My kind neighbours have been leaving home-cooked meals at my door because one needs a healthy diet during recovery and doctors ask you not to exert yourself until you’re ok.

I’ve been back to full health for a few days now, thanks to the Pranic healing. And I’ve been very fascinated with the smell loss thing-I’d assumed it would be uniform and severe. However, in my case it fluctuates quite a bit-I can smell and taste some things (though perhaps less intensely than usual times), and some- like Earl Grey tea- I cannot.

I feel very fortunate to have gone through this bout with covid with no medication, no distress, and practically none of the usual symptoms. And I feel very, very grateful for my neighbours!