Sep 24, 2019

Experience of a live AR Rahman concert

I had checked off one of the items from my bucket list in Aug. Such an important thing, yet it has taken me nearly 2 months to record my experience here on my blog. Better late than never!!

Long time readers of my blog might know how madly I'm in love with AR Rahman's music. His music came into my ears on the most tragic day of my life. Till date, I'm not able to listen to Kaadhal Rojave without a tear lingering in the corner of my eyes. Apart from that one sad emotion, his music has brought in so much happiness and memories to cherish, right from childhood. Every album of his has a memory, a feeling that takes you back to the simpler times of 90s. When I started earning (back in 2002), one of my dreams was to experience a live ARR concert. Now seriously I don't know why it took me 17 years to make my dream come true.

I accidentally stumbled upon the details of his concert to be held in Chennai on Aug 10th. Though my daughter loves music, she doesn't like loud sounds or crowded places. I knew if I decided to go as a family, it would inconvenience her and I wouldn't be able to enjoy the concert as well. So on a whim, I just booked a single ticket for myself one fine afternoon. Husband suggested that I should check with some of my friends in Chennai who might be interested to join. I reached out to a few friends but no one was free to join (or as crazy a Rahmaniac like me!). The day dawned, we left from Bangalore early morning, reached Chennai around noon and headed straight to the venue to pick up my ticket. What a happy feeling it was! After having lunch at home, I relaxed for a bit and prepared my daughter that mommy would be gone for a few hours. I took an Uber, reached the venue by 5:30PM and took a proper seat with a good view in the Silver category. I'm not sure if I was the ONLY girl who wore FullyFilmy's Rahmaniac (since 1992) t-shirt ;-) There were many guys wearing the same t-shirts.

The next 90 minutes was a patient wait, admiring the setting sun and counting the number of airplanes flying above. The concert began with ThalaivARR's rocking entry. I let go of any inhibitions, screamed and hooted along with the crowd. Those 3 hours proved to be one of my most memorable fun evenings of my life. There was hardly any breathing space for the fans to recover 😉 The songs came one after another, a perfect mix of old and new. I didn't want to be distracted with my phone by recording the performances. So I planned to record the first 10-15 seconds of each song, keep the phone in my bag and sing along with the crowd.

Singappenne in ARR's voice was so uplifting and energizing. I got so excited when he sang Dil Se Re. It's one of my favorite songs in ARR's voice. Jonita Gandhi is clearly a multitalented performer - singing Jiya Jale and Kannaalane, dancing with such grace. The energy of Madhuraikku pogadhadi, Veerapaandi Kottayile and Top Tucker is so infectious that the crowd automatically danced and swayed. Then entered one of my favorite singers, Sid Sriram. Endhira logathu sundariye, Adiye and ofcourse, Thalli pogadhey - just amazing to hear him live.

The highlight of the evening was ARR's performance towards the end, singing Musthafa. I just can't put the feeling into words, so exhilarating! Instead of candles, it was our mobile phone torches that replicated the feel. Oh wow! I could feel the goosebumps even now as I type this out.

I didn't move an inch away from my chair in those 3 hours to buy food or water (glad I didn't contribute to the pile of disposable plastic waste). Music kept my soul happy and content. This day - I'll never forget in my life!

After returning home, my daughter was hooked onto those 15 second videos of the songs I had recorded. She has now added many of the songs to her playlist, with Kalla Kalavaani being her top favorite. Another Rahmaniac in the making! :-)

Sep 23, 2019

Book Review: Indistractable by Nir Eyal

2019 - the year where we have seen the release of two books that primarily talk about minimizing distractions. The ability to focus on work or pay attention to relationships without getting distracted is becoming such a challenge these days and I agree with these lines by Nir Eyal.

In the future, there will be two kinds of people in the world: those who let their attention and lives be controlled and coerced by others and those who proudly call themselves “indistractable.”

Early this year, Cal Newport's digital minimalism was launched and I loved it so much. Detailed review here.

A few years back, when I read Nir Eyal's Hooked, I learned about many key insights into human behavior that are being used as inputs into building habit forming products. If "Hooked" is a must-read for developers, designers and product managers building such products, "Indistractable" is for consumers using those products.

Through a 4-part framework, the author takes us on a journey to become indistractable. The following passage sums up this framework.

Imagine a line that represents the value of everything you do throughout your day. To the right, the actions are positive; to the left, they are negative. On the right side of the continuum is traction - actions that draw us toward what we want in life. On the left side is distraction, the opposite of traction. Distractions impede us from making progress toward the life we envision. All behaviors, whether they tend toward traction or distraction, are prompted by triggers, internal or external.

The biggest takeaway for me while reading this book was about how social media, smart phones, video games etc are the proximate causes of our distractions. The author shares several examples on how each new invention (be it print, newspaper, television, telephone etc) when it was launched was blamed for its distracting abilities. The bottom line is that we need to figure out the root cause of our addictions/distracted behaviors and implement strategies to manage potential distraction-causing triggers.

I loved the chapter on scheduling time for important relationships. We often tend to neglect (or even take for granted) the relationships where we need to invest our time and energy, without being distracted.

On dealing with external triggers,

"Is this trigger serving me or am I serving it?"

is such an important question to ask ourselves.

Many of the examples and case studies shared are easy to relate to, especially the author's role as a parent, his struggles to deal with distractions and get writing done. The solutions suggested are also quite simple and easy to implement for most of us. Apart from dealing with distractions on a personal level, the author also talks about workplace distractions - meetings, emails, Slack, content overload, social media and most importantly, managing expectations to be "online" during non-working hours. 

The chapter on raising indistractable children talks about the psychological needs. Overuse of technology is ONLY a symptom; we need to address the root cause. When kids' psychological needs are unmet, they go looking for virtual alternatives. Parents need to enable offline environments where children get to experience autonomy, competence and relatedness. As parents, we should model how to be indistractable ourselves.

My favorite passages from the book:
    Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality. How we deal with uncomfortable internal triggers determines whether we pursue healthful acts of traction or self-defeating distractions.

Evolution favored dissatisfaction over contentment. Our tendencies toward boredom, negativity bias, rumination, and hedonic adaptation conspire to make sure we’re never satisfied for long.

Our technology gives us a way of being physically present but mentally absent; the uncomfortable truth is that we like to have our phones, tablets, and laptops in meetings not for the sake of productivity but for psychological escape. Meetings can be unbearably tense, socially awkward, and exceedingly boring—devices provide a way to manage our uncomfortable internal triggers.
 This tweet by BJ Fogg sets the tone for the future.

 "....we will start to realize that being chained to your mobile phone is a low status behavior, similar to smoking".

Nir Eyal's Indistractable provides us with actionable takeaways to manage our distractions and address the triggers that lead to distracting behaviors. An informative and relevant read for all.

P.S. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher. The review is my honest and unbiased feedback on the book.

Sep 10, 2019

Misleading claim on replacing rice with chapati

I came across this ad of Annapurna Atta with the claim "Replace rice with chapati and lose upto 2 kgs in 3 months." I know many South Indians who have switched to wheat and diligently eat chapathis every night, hoping it would help in weight loss and deal with other lifestyle disorders. Some even have chapathis for breakfast too. You step into a South Indian restaurant in Chennai, hoping to relish a proper banana leaf meal. What's the first thing they serve? 2 chapathis / 3 pooris and only after that, they serve rice. I firmly ask, "chapathis vendaam. rice podunga". Not that I don't like chapathis but I don't see the need for it in a typical Tamil lunch menu.

This idea "wheat is better than rice" is a false claim, being propagated by packaged atta brands.

Let's come to this brand. In fine print, they try to justify their claim. 

Many factors affect weight management and individual weight loss results will vary. To be consumed as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle. Based on analytical studies, Annapurna atta has 3 times more dietary fibre than commonly consumed variety of rice (Sona Masuri and Ponni).
Replacing 1 bowl of rice (300 g of cooked rice / 100g of uncooked rice) with 3 chapatis (made from 75g wheat flour, without oil) in 2 meals per day for a duration of 3 months causes a calorie deficit (179kCal per day) enough to obtain upto 2 kg of weight loss.

 Let's dissect this paragraph

- Wholewheat flour has more fibre than white polished rice, fair enough BUT nobody eats ONLY a bowl of white rice OR ONLY chapathis. The vegetables/dals increase the total fibre of a meal and so that needs to be taken into account.
- The brand recommends replacing 100g of uncooked white rice with 75g of wheat flour. I checked the quantity that we normally consume in a meal. Yes, when I make chapatis, I use around 75g of wholewheat flour per person BUT when I make rice, it is certainly not 100g of rice per person per meal. I use around 60-70g. Please do check how much quantity of white rice do you eat in a meal. The 100g mentioned in this ad seems too steep.
- The whole comparison relies on calorie deficit. Just replacing white rice with wheat isn't enough, one has to maintain an overall calorie deficit of 179kCal per day (for 3 months) to achieve the 2 kg weight loss.

There are plenty of indigenous rice varieties that are high in fibre, various vitamins and minerals. The glycemic index of such rice varieties is lower as compared to white rice. Given the high amounts of fibre and the fact they are unpolished/semi-polished, they give satiety, we don't end up eating more quantity of rice. My suggestion would be to not fall for such "wheat is better than rice" claims OR that wheat helps in weight loss. If that was the case, we wouldn't be seeing such high obesity rates in Punjab.

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