Cultivating New Habits!!

Weekend Projects

I am nervous, anxious and sometimes even feel responsible to fill the silence of the room. The stress of nothing activates the palpitations of my heart and it is sometimes unbearable.

My brain is working at an accelerated pace and I sometimes miss collecting my own thoughts. If I start speaking out loud I’ll start to swallow words and things become difficult to comprehend for the audience. I can relate to all things perfectly, but my audience is left stranded.

I want to calm down, breathe, listen, absorb more and then share my thoughts. I requested a Friend to hear me out and help me deal with the situation.

The realisation is the first step and he congratulated me on identifying the challenge. But this was not enough, I had burning desire to act immediately, so I asked him to help me lay down an action plan.


First, I must consciously remind myself of the habit I want to cultivate. “Listen More”, “Listen Attentively”, “Active Listening”.

Second, I must learn to let the conversationalist finish first. “Do not interrupt unless absolutely essential”

Third, I must reiterate to have a better level of engagement or write it down if I want to come back to it later. “Reiterate”, “Take Notes”

Each step sounded like a new habit for a talker like me. But I had the recipe crafted in few minutes.

This is an investment worth every penny.

Do you have any more tips for active listening? Share with me.


Weekend Projects

Meditating about God

To secure a good harvest, a farmer prepares the land, sows the seed, irrigates the land, monitors the growth of the crop, adds fertilizers and sprays pesticides to protect it from any infestation. Each step in this cycle determines the quality of the end result. Good quality seeds offer a promise of healthy harvest but, poor irrigation or lack of fertilizers or even weeds competing with the existing crop can turn the tables around.

In IT parlance, the stakeholder plays the role of the farmer. He has the vision to do better for his business. The challenge, however, is exponential as we are dealing with human beings. The seed cannot think for himself or call for help if the irrigation is insufficient. It is the farmer who needs to know how much and when to irrigate the land.

A human being on the other hand has a gift no other species has.

The power to Think.

Like minded people can accelerate the success of a business. Yes, failures are inevitable, but the power to do better than before keeps us going forward.


Weekend Projects


I have learnt it the hard way that a new fad diet in the market with a flashy punch line “Lose 5 pounds in a week” will not work and neither will the electronic gadgets causing perspiration. However, the exceptional desire to achieve the dream size has clouded my judgement every now and then. The infomercials are contrived with great conviction and appeal to many like me.

Today, I hit the gym or the road for a long jog and try to control my diet to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

I am covered pretty well under my company health insurance and that has been sufficient until now. To be honest, it was only a couple of years into my job that I realized, I was paying my medical bills that my company can fully reimburse. Thankfully, none of the bills were too heavy. But, I saw a pattern that as my colleagues progressed to a higher position, stress levels resulted in hailing one or the other health problems. High blood pressure being the common denominator.

When I shared my observation with my financial agent, he suggested me to buy a health care plan that would take care of me not only during my old age, but also during the premium period. Fear is a powerful motivator and an equally powerful manipulator. To reduce the lurking stress, I was sold to the idea of insurance.

Reciprocal Altruism

Weekend Projects

img_2209The concept of “reciprocal altruism” is defined as an act of helping another individual with the expectation that the other individual will act in a similar manner in a reverse situation.

Lending a helping hand to a younger brother on his holiday homework, endorsing a peer on LinkedIn, complimenting your spouse for a delicious meal, congratulating a colleague on her wedding, recommending a friend for a job opportunity, offering discounts to potential clients and even donating money to political candidates are all examples of fostering goodwill.

I was having a casual chat with my sister on this subject when she shared her recent journey by bus.

“An old gentleman, probably around 70’s, boarded the bus packed to its full capacity. In the absence of a decent straphanger, he grabbed the handle of two seats to stay put and embraced the bumpy ride. I couldn’t watch him balance the bounce for long and offered him my seat. He smiled and thanked me several times as he sat down.

He reminded me of “Pitaji” (Father). Someday, someone might offer his seat to him when he needs it the most.”

I was touched by her random act of kindness and taking reciprocal altruism to a whole new dimension.

Do you believe in reciprocal altruism?

Be your own Shrink

Weekend Projects

whyI was listening to the audio book “Start with Why”, by Simon Sinek earlier today and I came up with the idea to examine every decision I make today. Perhaps it might exemplify my inherent virtues.

I went for an approximately 10km jog today. Why?

The step challenge on my “Garmin” watch reminded me that I am 10,000 steps short for my week. I didn’t want to craft another excuse to rationalize my failure so, I geared up and went for one. I also knew that if I wear my gear and shut the door behind me, I will easily surpass the desired score.

Monitoring is the key and gold stars feed the upholders* like me.

I called my parents. Why?

I call them every other day, but today is a holiday so I thought of calling them a bit earlier, not at our regular hour. Maybe hear from my mother what is she cooking for lunch? Did I tell you, she has magic in her fingers. She can come up with a wonderful dish even when there is nothing in the house. And it was true today as well. She had varied vegetables that can’t be mixed together. But, she prepared a thick flour batter with the greens and fried them to prepare an aromatic curry. I was drooling when I heard the recipe.

Relationships are important, especially with your parents. In one way or the other we all try to emulate what we love the most.

I declined a friend’s request to watch a movie today. Why?

The reviews are good and there are very few in a year that are worth the trip to the theatre. Most importantly, I like the protagonist. The plot is great, but I am a bit tired after the early morning jog. I wanted to get some rest. I scheduled it for another day.

Exercising is important and so is recovery. I like to hang out with my friend, but sometimes my selfish desires -recovery in this case, takes control. 

I changed the setting of my room. Why?

It’s just refreshing. There is not much furniture in my room, but I like to rotate it once in a while. Clutter magically disappears and it feels like I have entered a whole new place.

I like to have a decent amount of cleanliness around me and might have an inclination towards interior design.

I’m enjoying this game of playing shrink. Let’s listen to the remaining half of the book. I might discover another secret.

*read about the upholders in the book Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin

A Dialogue on Chinese New Year!

Weekend Projects


What is Chinese New Year?

It’s the new year as per Chinese Lunar Calendar.

How many days is it celebrated?

Well, in Singapore it is celebrated for two days, Vietnam a week, China two weeks. It really depends.

What do you do at Chinese New Year?

We try to meet all the near and dear ones. It is a chance to meet all the family members and eat together and perhaps gamble.


Yes, a lighthearted game within the family.

Do you have any special preparation before the new year besides food?

Of course, we deep cleanse our house. But you must remember not to touch the broom or mop on the eve and few days into the New Year.


Yes, the belief is to sweep into the house. Basically, you start from the main door and sweep into the house. Luck “CAI” must stay inside the family or house. But preferably don’t do that on the eve.

Is dust associated with wealth?

It’s a symbolic reference. But, who would want to sweep away good luck?

Any other superstitions?

You bet there are. Eating porridge, cutting hair, needlework, to name a few. Porridge is considered a poor choice of food or say not a royal breakfast. Cutting hair is a sign of depleting wealth. Needlework or working with sharp tools can result in accidents and you might be rushed to hospital. It is a bad omen.

What is considered good?

Wearing bright clothes, especially Red is considered good. You must have noticed all the “AngBao’s” (or envelopes) are in red color.

So, all of you receive “AngBao’s”?

All the unmarried children in the family receive “AngBao’s” from all the married couples.

Interesting? Singles must feel very lucky.

Yes, but you must be prepared to answer the impending question “When are you getting married?”

Apart from “AngBao’s” do you exchange gifts?

Yes, we do. A pair of Mandarin oranges is presented to the host. Sometimes an extra pair is offered to the grandparents too.

New Year eve is considered one of the most sacred event in Chinese tradition and it is spent with immediate family. We even stay awake until midnight in the belief that it would bring longevity to the parents.

Since you are leaving for vacation, I must wish you a very Happy New Year! 

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Brief exchange and Immense Joy

Weekend Projects
Digital eye and cross

Close up of eye with digital lights and Christian cross

I was waiting for my turn outside the eye OPD when the nurse announced my name. I jumped out of my chair and hurried to the optometrist room. He asked me to cover my right eye and read the alphabets approximately 20 feet away. Then repeat with the left eye. I read almost all the rows with great agility except for the last few words that appeared hazy. A bit unsure, but I read them as “W” and “M”.

He scribbled on my card 6/6 and asked me to concentrate on the tip of his pen. He moved it from left to right, top to bottom, far and near constantly reminding me not to move my neck around just the eyes. Pleased with the results he asked me,

What brings you here?

I came for a regular examination.

Disbelieving, he asked, where are you from?

Oh! I just live across the street.

Well, not many people visit us just for a regular examination. It’s a rarity he affirmed.

I smiled agreeably not revealing that I came to the city for a short vacation.

He asked me to wait outside for the senior doctor to examine my retina. He also explained that the nurse will administer a few sets of eye drops to dilate my pupil.

I took some magazines from the rack to read, but the chatter in the room was quite distracting. I was not carrying my smart phone today, so there were no games, no videos, no emails and neither social media to connect to. Well, I just have to wait.

I was gazing at the people around when I noticed a three-year-old boy wearing a red tee and khaki shorts just a few seats away watching me closely. When I matched his gaze, he shyly turned around and hugged his mother. Almost instantly he looked back to see if I was still watching him. This time he smiled and I reciprocated.

Acknowledgement, admiration, compliments followed by a session of peek-a-boo laid the foundation of our friendship.

The couple seated beside me started smiling too, and the next one and the next. I neither knew this young boy’s name nor did I know where he came from, yet I felt a connection. He had livened up the entire room. It was way more than watching a movie, more than playing video games and certainly more than being connected on social media.

The nurse announced his name and he walked smiling into the Doctor’s room with his mother.

Happiness in this brief exchange was indeed contagious.


Perspective, Weekend Projects
child holding balloons standing in front of fantasy storm,illustration painting

child holding balloons standing in front of fantasy storm,illustration painting

As a developer, I have written several programs varying in technology, complexity, scope, platforms, etc. I studied the scope and build the logic to satisfy every permutation and combination of the known scenarios. I was also aware of the potential vulnerabilities and did my best to cover all known grounds. I would rate myself pretty good, but there was always more to be done when the code touched the hands of Testing Nazi’s.

As a test analyst, all my energies were channeled into breaking that damn (pardon my French) piece of code. Not here to gloat, but I managed that quite well too. When I stepped on to this side of the arena the dynamics of the game had changed. The little things that were so hard to remember as a developer were my bread and butter. A simple navigation in different browsers and I could easily report double digit issues.

I wonder, which category does a hacker falls into?

A hackers dream is to write an algorithm that beats the security of NASA or Defense or perhaps any Bank. A cent doesn’t hurt anyone and one cent from all over the world from billions of accounts, Voila!! I don’t even know where to start counting. One of the ransomware that could spread to other hosts on the same network was “WannaCry” -a clever amalgamation of words chosen to create a notorious identity. I believe it certainly made many people cry. When the intention is to hurt someone that’s where the subject takes a turn into the dark alley.

I wonder if the passion of hackers can be sublimated into Artificial Intelligence and create a whole new arena of skilled jobs. Maybe their research can find a cure for fatal diseases or not so fatal, but comfort those living on the edge.

I Crave, I Like, I Enjoy and I Love

Weekend Projects

Every day I challenge myself to do something different, something unusual, something I have never tried before. Recently I was introduced to non vegetarian food and trust me, I almost ate my fingers away. My friends were skeptical and almost disbelieved watching me swallowing the fish, enjoying the oysters and cracking the crab.

I admit, I am never going back to the other side.
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I tried to learn a new sport, kayaking. How hard could that be? I was fortunate that my gym provided paddle simulation equipment. The best part was there was a game flashed on the monitor. The more energy you expend in rowing the paddles, the greater distance you covered and the fish (or perhaps the boat) swam faster. Interesting, isn’t it? The first day I barely managed to paddle for 2 minutes. I had excruciating pain in my back. I must not give up. The next day I tried again, 2 minutes. Well, I increased the speed and resistance gradually. It was amazing that it was less painful. My body was adapting to this pain. Next week I managed 10 full minutes. I was elated and called my friend to go for an actual kayak expedition. 2 hours, can you believe it. We did kayaking for 2 straight hours.

Kayaking! Yes, anytime.
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I like to sing. I am not really a stage performer but I like to sing for myself. I have always loved certain hymns that have touched my heart. And there is no better place than my bathroom for practicing the various notes. The acoustics are amazing and fear of none. I can sing out loud, scream and test my pitch to its limit. Not to forget the water from the taps and hissing of the shower administer a perfect rhythm. I also record my voice here and there and it is hilarious to hear myself.

Sing to your heart’s content.
Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 9.37.55 PM

I am fascinated by the English language. Words are its true power. Words are born, mature and die and sometimes are re-born again in a different century with a different perspective. These tiny packets packed with TNT can spread the love or wipe out humanity. I want to learn, love, adopt and be comfortable around them.

It’s only words and words that all I have to take your heart away –Bee Gees

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How do you challenge yourself? Do share!


Sojhi, Weekend Projects

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 12.03.24 AM
Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) offers a comprehensive Gurmat based curriculum called Sojhi; in the Panjabi language ‘Sojhi’ means ‘insight’. The Curriculum is oriented around the goal of developing insights to inspire a Gurū-centered life. *

ZERO! I have zero experience in teaching.

It’s a daunting task to teach a class of primary 6 students when you have ZERO class management skills. As the D-day is approaching near so is my fear to face the mischievous boys and girls. If teaching my parents how to work with WhatsApp and Facebook counts a little, I might say I have the bare bones under my belt.

Teachers Training Programme!

I am under the weather. The incessant cough pretty much dug up tunnels in my throat. I have just finished one full course of medicines, but there is no respite from this saga. Honey, lemon and oranges do provide the much-needed Vitamin C, but relief is nowhere to be seen. Despite the slight fever, I managed to reach my venue just in time for the session. I was given a name tag that I glued to my jeans, a sky blue folder to maintain my notes and a table number where I will be seated.

I self served a cup of hot tea and relished the fruit cake. The tea had a perfect blend of spices that instantly calmed my sore throat. I was packed with energy and excited to meet all the volunteers, particularly those seated at my table. SS, JS, JK, AK, RK and MK. Three amateurs and three veterans-a perfect blend. I had barely grasped everyones name that the squeaking sound of microphone grabbed our attention.

Session Begins!

We all recited our prayer (moolmantra). Thanked the almighty for giving us this chance to serve our community.

Next in line was a game. Dumb Charade!

Our challenge was to form a circle in chronological order of our birth day and month in under 5 minutes. We struggled, whispered, laughed and finally formed a circle from January to December. Besides a few hiccups, it was a perfect start of the day. Memorable birthdays were 1st January-New Year, 1st April-Fools Day and 13th April-Vaisakhi.

We were all bubbling with energy and were ready for some serious stuff.

Ms Nandini**, a professional storyteller, gave us some insights on story telling. I had never paid much attention to this art form until today. The subtle changes in the posture, modulation of voice and pace, expressions, eye contact, visual aids, etc., painted a different perspective each time she dramatized. It was worth a try to internalize the story before we presented it to our students.

We will be sharing several stories with our students in due course of time, but this session was my favorite. I must practice this art!

We quickly went through our curriculum for the year and yes, all sessions included a story that must be shared with the students.

Lunch is served!

Oh man, it was delicious.

Garlic and butter naan, jeera rice, mixed raita (tomatoes, cucumber and onion mixed in yogurt), dal (lentils), paneer capsicum and gobi aloo (cauliflower and potatoes). Even though I was sure that spices will trigger my cough but I couldn’t resist the temptation to eat the curries.

Rasmalai (dessert), was delicious and, trust me, all of us wanted a second serving.

Our next guest was Mdm, Heng Yee (MOE).

She gave us the golden key to be a good teacher:

  1. Build the Bond
  2. Motivate
  3. Discipline

Without a bond you cannot motivate and without motivation you cannot discipline. All three must be followed in the same order. You cannot inspire a child unless you’ve built a strong bond. Once the bond has been established, you can motivate him or her to accomplish the goals. And only after you have met the two rules comes the game of discipline.

Four decades of experience and the crux was right in front of us. It might seem to be just three principles, but the struggle is inevitable.

The session concluded and we were handed our files for our class scheduled next Sunday.

After a light snacks and tea, I headed home.

Although still nervous, I have to prepare myself for the first challenge “Bonding with the Children and focussing on relationship”.

* Reference:

**Nandini Nagpal: