“Strike the nail aright, boys,
Hit it on the head.
Strike it with all your might boys,
When the iron is red.
When there’s work to do boys,
Do it with a will.
Those who reach the top boys,
First must climb the hill.”

RIP Tayaji.

– One of your boys

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A little room to breathe

The thing I’ve always loved about the people I follow on Twitter is what they bring to my timeline: their curation, perspective, and criticism helps me learn. They bring a variety no editor can, but of late, my timeline has become rather unidimensional: it’s almost entirely about politics and news, and the OOTD (Outrage of the day). The problem with the outrage is that it usually makes for great conversation, and now dominates offline conversations if you have many friends who are active on Twitter. Which I do. I don’t want to be the one asking ‘so, what exactly happened?’, which is true of many of us.

But we need room to breathe, to think. Something a mentor said in a conversation earlier this month: he schedules his email and news reading because he needs contiguous free time to think. I also feel we need contiguous free time to do, which is a luxury that someone in my line of work (entrepreneur + journalist) doesn’t get.

So how do we deal with this? We take social media breaks, and schedule our usage, and block people who do the telemarketer thing: poor targeting with no respect for the other persons time.

Scheduling doesn’t quite address the other compelling problem. One thing that @mrajshekhar said to me a few years ago constantly worries me: at a time when I had become completely consumed with medianama, so much so that it was the only thing I’d talk about, Shekhar told me that I need to change, lest I become too unidimensional, which I never was. I’ve tried, not always successfully, but I’ve tried and keep trying.

The same thing, though, is happening on Twitter: the people I follow have become too newsy and too caught up in things of immediate concern (not necessarily of immediate importance). There are those who’re constantly posturing, sermonising, outraging, whether through tweets or retweets.

I was discussing this with Rishi Majumder in Mumbai, when we met at the Prithvi Theatre Festival: Twitter used to be my primary source for gigs, and for interesting things to do. Now, I invariably miss these gigs because of the flood of news, even from friends. I’m going to do two things, and I hope people won’t mind: I need more than a little room to breathe, and to discover more stuff that doesn’t feel like work. News does.

The third thing is that for my own sanity, I need a bit of positivity around me. There are people who’re negative and bring you down by what they say, not just to you. Then there are those who are positive, and make you believe that good things are possible. I need that bubble right now.

I’m going to create two lists: one for newsy folks, and one for temporarily unfollowed, for those who are going on a rant. This means I’m going to unfollow some people, and can only hope that they don’t treat it like a break-up (I’ve had that happen to me thrice already).

Then I’m going to follow people who do the artsy thing, because that’s the part that’s being crowded out.

p.s.: In case it wasn’t evident, I think I’m becoming to newsy too. Time for me to change too.

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If you’re spending too much time on the computer

I’ve been spending far too much time on the PC over the last two years. The result – a sore neck, shoulders, wrist and occasional lower back problems. The ideal thing is to take regular breaks, but if you’re addicted, you don’t have much of a choice. The following are guidelines that I’ve created for myself based on my experience, discussions with friends, and online research.

You might find them useful, but follow these at your risk entirely, preferably in consultation with a doctor/physician. I’m using these guidelines at my own risk.

1. Take frequent breaks, at least every 15 minutes. is a free software for reminders and exercise. You’ll have to reset the reminder time in workrave from 3 minutes to 15 minutes (or whatever you want). Don’t forget to disable the “Skip” option (which is very tempting).

2. The Chair
: is probably the most important element of your office setup – get a cheap table, but get an adjustable chair even if expensive. The features of the chair that I bought (photo attached)

* Back can be raised, so great middle back support
* The arms of the chair can be raised – this was critical for me since my shoulders have been in great pain. My arms used to be suspended while typing, which puts pressure on the shoulder joint and neck
* Neck support – my neck leans forward while typing, so cervical spondolysis can become an issue
* Height of the seat is adjustable, so my legs are bent at 90 degrees or more. less than 90 degrees is not recommended

What’s not there in this chair, but is available in other models:

* Lower back not adjustable
* The seat base cannot be moved forward
* The arms cannot be rotated or pushed forward

Keep in mind:

* No such thing as a perfect chair (in this case, the neck support isn’t perfect, so I place a cushion
* You need a chair with a straight back. So chairs you sink into are not recommended, neither are chairs that arch your back backwards.

3. The Table:

* The monitor screen needs to be placed at eye level, else one tends to lean forward while typing. This can cause back and neck problems. I’ve raised the height of my monitor. Ideally, don’t use laptops.
* Elbows need support, and should ideally be at 90 degrees. I’ve had the height of my keyboard drawer/rest and mouse drawer/rest on my table adjusted accordingly, and the chair has adjustable sides

4. Mouse: your wrist should not be cocked up while using the mouse, so keep some kind of a rest under the wrist. Also, the slimmer the mouse, the less your wrist is cocked up.

5. Laptop?

* Preferably not. Usually, the keyboards are smaller, and touch pads need you to sustain pressure on them for using. Also, since either the keyboard will be raised or the monitor will not be at eye level, somethings bound to give in the long term
* Solution: when at home, connect laptop to an external monitor, and use a USB keyboard and a USB mouse. These are not very expensive, and very very useful

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“Where are you from?”

“What’s your name?”


“Your full name.” It was a command, not a question, but he smiled to make up for the fact that he had been curt. “And where are you from?”

“Nikhil Pahwa. I’m from Delhi. What’s this for?” I pointed to the paper that Vikram was my details writing on.

He wouldn’t tell me, saying that I’ll find out soon enough, but Deepak, who was standing beside me did, later. Vikram was compiling a list of people in the class –  a list of Maharashtrians and non-Maharashtrians. For what? I never did find out.
I never thought about my caste, religion or region before I went to college, and stayed in a hostel in Maharashtra. To tell you the truth, I still don’t know my caste, and I really don’t care. I’ve seen people (in that college) shocked when I’ve told them that.


I was in Mumbai, the day the vandalism began; at the Airport, on my way out. Love the fast Wifi that Airtel has provided at the Airport. I was online, preparing for work the next day, when the Japanese businessman sitting beside me got up and turned around to look at the TV screen. Slowly, a crowd gathered near the screen, which repeatedly showed vandals destroying taxis, slapping people. The commentary was in Hindi, so he asked a someone about where this was happening, probably wanting to avoid the city. Mumbhai, Bombay? Today? He asked two other people, just to confirm. He was glad, he said, that he was on his way out, and sat down to read a magazine.


During a recent debate on television, about the recent vandalism in Mumbai. AL Quadros, the Mumbai Taximen Union’s General Secretary, called Mumbai “Bombay” a few times.  Each time, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena representative on the panel told him to mind his language.

*It’s strange that most media reports call them Workers, or Activists. Karyakarta. Not Vandals, Miscreants or Hooligans. This also holds true for the Nandigram war in West Bengal, the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan, and several such incidents in the past. A legacy of our communist leanings, that we justify violence as a political movement.


Aamchi Mumbai. Mumbai Aamchich. Our Mumbai. Mumbai is ours, and ours alone.

Do you belong to a city, or does a city belong to you? For me, it’s more of the former. I love – I prefer – Delhi, the city I live in. It’s familiar: I know which lane moves the fastest at some traffic lights, and which route to take in the middle of the night. I know the best little places to eat, and where one can get food at 2 AM. That doesn’t mean I gravitate towards people from Delhi in a motley group. I dislike being bracketed, being called a Delhi-ite.

“This city is becoming too crowded,” my cousin had told me four, maybe five, years ago. We were driving past what was then called the Centaur Hotel, one of the less crowded parts of the city. “There are too many outsiders now. These Bhaiiya log.”  He liked the idea of a passport for Mumbaikars, to prevent “immigration” from other parts of the country. At that point in time, I was considering moving to Mumbai – still am – but still not very keen on it. What attracts me is the go-to-work attitude of the city, and all the friends I have there. What doesn’t, is the traveling, the rents and the apparent lack of cultural events that Delhi has in plenty.


When a mob goes on a rampage, who do you hold responsible – the one who incited the violence, or those who committed it? Both.

Rajdeep Sardesai has written an excellent article, moonlighting as a blog post, on the issue, here.

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the lull after the storm

It’s been a hectic month so far, spent mostly driving around the city trying to get a space that was ideal for our ContentSutra mixer in Delhi. In the end, we went with the Ambassador – partly because it among the few that available on the chosen date (this being the wedding season), and partly because Rafat was really keen on it. I had a few places in mind, but the key thing was that it had to be convenient for people coming from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, and the airport…anything too Noida-ish would have made things difficult for the rest.


I remember very little of the mixer; only that I was very tired, happy and relieved at the turnout, and a little zonked. Also remember feeling a little uneasy (and blushing) when people in the audience applauded when my name was mentioned on stage. The main thing for me is that the mixer was useful for a lot of people…and not “just another party”. Before I forget, the last photo in the first row has three people who used to write for Parmesh, me and Sanjay Trehan (CEO of NDTV Convergence) 🙂

Am off on a much needed vacation to the Phi Phi Islands on Monday with family friends. I’ll be back on the 2nd, and hopefully, the personal blog shall be updated more often in 2009. As Shekhar said yesterday, I’m becoming a little unidimensional, and talking shop too much…That has to change. Resolution for 2008: more personal time, more events. And yes – I shall read more fiction, and try to write some as well

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