Thoughts on choosing a daycare

Choose a daycare that's a friend, not an acquaintance.

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We recently changed our son’s daycare. Again. We moved him back to the old daycare he was going to.

We did this because we wanted a daycare that’s a friend, not an acquaintance.

Both friends and acquaintances will care about you in different ways and at different levels. You need a daycare that’s like a friend because you need a daycare you can depend upon. A daycare is there to make your life easier, after all.

tweeted some thoughts on things parents can keep in mind when choosing a daycare. I’ll put them up here as well–for posterity.

Choose a daycare that’s flexible

You’re going to pick your kid up the in evening and you’ll usually be on time. But there will be days when you will get delayed. It could be because of work or because or traffic or because of a ton of other things. Your daycare should have the facility to stay open till you reach half an hour late.

Choose a daycare that’s not pricey

I know of daycare facilities where monthly fees are higher than school fees. These places will be fancy-schmancy but let’s face it, they’re not altering your kid’s life in any big way. Watch out for how much they charge for extra hours–that can really hurt your pocket.

Choose a daycare that has fewer holidays than you

There have been times when my wife and I didn’t have a holiday but the daycare did. One of us had to take a leave on such days, which simply defeated the purpose of having a daycare. Basically, the daycare should be open when your office is open.

Choose a daycare that’s not super professional

Schools can be professional, but daycares have to be homely. A daycare often is a home away from home for your child. Hence, go for a daycare that’s run by an individual, not for one that’s part of a chain.

These are some of the things we’ve experienced with daycares. We’ve gone from an individual-run daycare to a professional chain to back to the same individual-run.

The chain we dumped Klay Schools, more specifically their HSR branch in Bangalore. They didn’t seem like a friend at all. Very money-minded and no heart.

Three hundred dollars - A short story

Wrote this for a short story competition that I didn't win.

Too long for email? Read it on my blog.

I love walking. It’s the one physical activity that I genuinely enjoy a lot. There’s nothing quite like a leisurely stroll in the evening when the weather is pleasant and the traffic is scarce. Walking helps me not only clear my mind and come up with new ideas, but it also helps keep my stomach calm. I’ve a mouth that’s very fond of food, but not a stomach that can easily digest everything I consume. Hence, I walk.

Earlier today, much like every other day, I was out for my evening walk when I noticed a $100 bill lying on the road. Picking something up from the streets is technically not stealing, and yet you become cautious because you know that thing is not yours. The $100 bill wasn’t mine, which is why I looked around me before I bent down to pick it up.

It was real. It seemed real, at least. I had held a $100 bill in my hands only a few times before, so I had no clue how to make sure it was real or not. I stood where I was for a minute or so, and then walked on when no one came forward to claim the bill.

A few steps later, another $100 bill. Once again, I looked around myself, picked it up, stood still in anticipation of getting called out for picking up something that wasn’t mine, and walked on when that didn’t happen this time either.

But another few steps later, another $100 bill on the road. It was at this point that I started to get really intrigued, suspicious and scared. In that very order.

Why are there $100 bills on the roads in Bombay, I asked myself. $100 bills on the roads in the US would be something to wonder about, but in India it was something to more than just wonder about. It was something to ponder deeply and carefully about.

The famous Hansel and Gretel story came to my mind. I don’t remember much of it, but I knew the two children in that story were lured by a witch who left pieces of bread in a forest. Who was luring me with these $100 bills!

I was a middle-aged man out on an evening stroll. Who would want anything to do with me? Neither am I wealthy nor am I famous. Why would someone want to lure me into something bad? Made no sense.

And of course, I had to make sense out of what was happening. I had 300 dollars with me now, which was equivalent to around 20,000 in Indian rupees. That was enough to take care of a month’s expenses for me. A sensible person would have walked away from there with the cash. But mysterious things hardly ever happen to sensible people. They happened to curious cats like myself.

And so I walked on. I walked further on, but there was no sign of other $100 bills anywhere. Was that it, I wondered. Had someone just dropped these bills by mistake? Was there no sinister plot to lure me into something? Was Rs 20,000 all that I was going to make on this evening walk? Was I satisfied with $300? Nope, I wasn’t.

I walked on. A little further away, I came upon another $100 bill. But this time, it wasn’t alone. There was a man standing before it. A white man. Not a man dressed in white, but a fair-skinned male from a foreign country. I assumed him to be an American. Not that I know a lot about people from America, I assumed because of the currency he had apparently been leaving behind on the roads.

I looked at the $100 bill and then I looked at him. “Hello,” I ventured when he himself didn’t say anything. He grunted an acknowledgement. “Is this money yours?” I asked, showing him the three bills I had collected so far. “It’s in your hands,” he replied. “It’s yours.”

“Oh, thanks!” I said. He grunted, again. I lingered around for a minute or two, waiting for him to venture an explanation. “But, why?” I asked, when he did.

“Ask not why, ask why not,” was his reply.

“Umm, okay! Why not someone else apart from me?” I tried.

“Who said you have been the only one?”

“Oh!”

I didn’t know what else to say. The American was clearly not in a mood to explain. He just stood there and looked at me with an expressionless face. I wondered if the $100 bill at his feet was for me as well. I considered trying to pick it up as well, but thought better of it. I didn’t feel like getting any closer to him than I already was. Mumbling a barely audible “thank you”, I walked away with the three $100 bills safely tucked away in my pocket.

After walking away a bit, once I was out of his sight, I ducked behind a car. I wanted to see if he would place $100 bills for other people as well.

“Hey, what did he say?” I jumped up at the sound. Looking behind myself, I saw another man hiding behind the same car. “Tell no, what did he say?” the man asked again.

“Who? What did who say?”

“That foreign person, the one who left money. Did he say anything?”

“You also got money from him?” I asked.

The man dug into his pocket and pulled out three $100 bills. The same as mine. “He said it is mine,” the man said, “but he didn’t say why.”

“Yeah, he didn’t tell me either,” I said. “Let’s wait and see if this happens again.”

And so we waited, hunched behind a car, eyes on the lookout for the American. Minutes turned into more minutes and after what seemed like quite a few minutes, we were beginning to lose patience. There was no sign of the American.

“Let’s go and ask him together,” I said to the man hunched beside me. He agreed readily and jumped up immediately.

The two of us marched purposefully to where we had left the American, ready to together make a case and demand answers. We were happy with the 300 dollars we had been gifted, but we would be happier only if we understood why. It was a different type of greed.

But alas, the American wasn’t there. We looked around the area, but he was nowhere to be found. We hung around there for a little more time, hoping to chance upon him. “Maybe he’s gone to a washroom,” my fellow gift-recipient suggested. Plausible. Maybe he had gone to address nature’s call. No harm in waiting for a little while longer. But the wait was in vain.

Aghast, we finally decided to part ways. His 300 dollars in his pocket; mine in mine. Wealthier but dejected, I came back home.

“That was a long walk,” my wife commented. “Longer than your usual.”

“Yes, it was,” I said, not sure how much of my adventures to tell her about. Money is a tricky commodity. Hardly anyone’s happy with what they have. But having more seldom makes them any happier. I decided to forget about the American’s intentions behind distributing his dollar bills. I had some some of his money and I had it in cash. Might as well get the dollars converted to rupees and put them to some good use.

“You’d been talking about that bracelet you wanted, right?” I told my wife. “Come, let’s go get it.”

“Really? Why?” she inquired.

“Ask not why, ask why not,” I replied.

The Most Interesting & Useful Takeaways from Atomic Habits

A lot of things that are useful in our day-to-day lives.

Read this on my blog.

Most of us tend to scoff at self-help books. The entire genre is often a subject of ridicule from people like you and me, who like to think of themselves as highbrow. 

I was in this same boat. Even until recently when I picked up the widely-popular The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, a book that could be summarised into one line as – “Prioritise your fucks.” For me, that exactly is the problem with self-help books. They rarely have had much to impart beyond the obvious few bits.

But that has changed with Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is a book about breaking bad habits, and building and maintaining good ones. Again, the topic seems like something very obvious, but the book has insights that are anything but obvious. 

James Clear is clear (sorry) in what he wants to put forward and how he wants to do it. He’s given actionable takeaways throughout the book. I found them so useful that I started to jot down notes while I was reading the book. So, here’s a list of the points that I found most interesting and useful from Atomic Habits.

Focus less on goals and more on systems and processes

If you’re obsessed with goals, you won’t pay attention to doing the little things properly to achieve those goals. On the other hand, if you do the little things well, you will build the systems and processes that are essential to achieving these goals.

To change habits, change how you identify yourself

If you want to quit smoking, instead of telling yourself, “I wish to quit smoking,” tell yourself, “I’m not a smoker.” 

To build good habits, the environment is more important than being motivated

You might be motivated to start a good thing, but you won’t be able to if the setting around that good thing is unfavorable. Build the environment, the habit will follow.

To break a bad habit, reduce exposure to the cues that cause it

If you are bothered by how often you get distracted by notifications while you’re trying to work, turn the WiFi off on your computer when you have to focus on work.

Bundle an action you want to do with an action you need to do

Do something you desire to do only if you are able to do an action that forms a good habit. For example, I allow myself to open the Twitter app only after I’ve read a chapter or section of a book on the Kindle app.

Instead of saying “I have to,” say “I get to”

You don’t have to stop drinking alcohol, you get to start living a healthier life.

Don’t try to make a habit perfect, just repeat it

The perfect story for your book is never going to come about, but a very good story will come about if you keep writing stories regularly.

Reduce friction for good habits and increase friction for bad habits

Don’t keep a pack of cigarettes in your bag if you want to quit smoking and carry a gym bag to office if you want to work out in the evenings.

To make something not seem like a chore, do it for short periods of time

Walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes is tedious, but walking for only 2 minutes is easy-peasy. Start with a short period and gradually take it to a longer time.

To achieve long-term goals, make small habits rewarding

Treat yourself to a Rs 200 ice cream if you invest Rs 20,000 for your retirement.

Never miss more than once of a habit

If you miss one day of working out, make sure you don’t miss the second day as well. The more times you miss, the tougher it gets to rebuild the habit.

The biggest threat to success is boredom

Fight boredom. Do it even if it’s boring. It’s easy to let boredom win, but when boredom wins, you fail. Doing something when it’s boring is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. 

These are some of my favorite takeaways from Atomic Habits. I’d totally recommend the book to one and all. Very rarely do I find a book that is actually useful in my day-to-day, and Atomic Habits is one of those rare gems. 

How to be a writer when everyone's a writer

Ideate a lot, write even more and don't sell your craft for cheap

It’s true, everyone’s a writer. Everyone with a computer is a writer. Everyone is a writer because it is so easy to be a writer — all you need is a word processor. You have that, right? So even you are a writer. And once your building watchman has finished watching all videos on the Internet thanks to his carrier’s unlimited data plans, he’ll become a writer too.

But that’s not a bad thing. I love that everyone’s a writer because it shows them how difficult it is to be a good writer. Let’s not even talk about being a great writer; you’ll get there once you start being at least a good writer. So, what makes a good writer? Let’s see.

  • Ideate and then ideate some more

  • Be selfish

  • No grammatical errors, please

  • Read, write, repeat

  • Focus on the context

  • Write about what you know

  • Don’t sell your craft for cheap

  • Use the words that you actually know

  • Support arguments with data

  • Forget about the world

Head over to my blog where I explore these points in detail.

The convenience economy is seriously inconveniencing me

Because you're lazy af

Read this on my blog.

Did I just coin a term there? Damn right I did!

The convenience economy comprises companies that are flourishing because of lazy fucks like you. You want everything to be conveniently delivered to your doorstep, and that is making things seriously inconvenient for people like me who can actually get stuff for themselves on their own.

You people are so lazy that it’s a wonder you even put in the effort to open apps on your phone. But you do, because that’s the least you’ll have to do. You’ll launch apps to order food, call a cab, get groceries, clothes, footwear and even medicines delivered, get something Dunzo’d from one place to another. What you won’t do is walk to the neighbourhood store yourself or hail an auto when you have somewhere to go.

And why does this bother me? Why is this so inconvenient for me? Because cab drivers stop in the middle of the road and double park anywhere, as if they are cows. Because deliverymen will drive fast on the wrong side of the road without wearing a helmet, as if they’re driving on a highway. Because all these added vehicles on the road, brought there to cater to your lazy ass, have taken traffic and pollution to new levels. Because there is an immense amount of garbage getting created thanks to all the boxes and packages you receive all day long.

Your laziness is such a pain!

Sure, there were cabs and food delivery before, but it wasn’t at such a scale. People used their own vehicles or took an auto because app-based cabs weren’t there. A few food chains delivered, but there was no Swiggy or Zomato that picked up food from any damn place and brought it to you.

I’m sure Uber and Ola train their drivers well, as do Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, Flipkart with their deliverymen. They might have the processes in place, but there’s no incentive for these humans to follow these systems and no way for the companies to ensure that the processes are followed. If a delivery guy can finish a delivery quicker by driving on the wrong side, then he will. If a cab driver can cut through traffic instead of taking a long u-turn, then he will.

If they’re at fault, then so are you.

  • You’re to blame because you don’t cook at home or hire a cook and order food every single day

  • You’re to blame because you will order three items of clothing even when you need just one, because two can be easily returned

  • You’re to blame because you order fruits and vegetables online, which you can easily pick up on your way home from work

  • You’re to blame because you book a cab for a short distance and then make the driver wait while you leisurely put on your shoes

  • You’re to blame because you’ll have an app-based service deliver cigarettes to your place, which you shouldn’t be smoking anyway

  • You’re to blame because you’ll wait for 2 hours to get medicines delivered to your home, but won’t walk to a pharmacy that’s 200 meters away

It is entirely your fault that you are so damn lazy. The convenience economy is booming because of you and it’s great for the companies. But it’s really inconvenient for me and I need you to get off your ass. Once in a while, at least.

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