As much as I love my routines, I have recently struggled to keep one. Although there are some that I regularly follow, I lack a daily routine of any sort, whether in the mornings, evenings or through the day.

I know the routines are essential, mainly to free up some mental space for the creative work. It makes sense that “regular work processes allows workers to spend less cognitive energy on recurring tasks, which can support focus and creativity for more complex tasks.” I then find it surprising that I have a complicated relationship with my routines.

I wake up, sleep at fixed times, and have a chain of habits associated with the time after and before. But nothing else sticks.

I don't have a time blocked for focused work. Or for my hobby projects like writing. I then wind down every day feeling frustrated not having achieved what I thought I would at the start of the day.

While ruminating over these struggles in my journal, I stumbled upon a realization. I cannot follow a daily routine because I lack a work-life balance. But unlike the pre-pandemic period, it is tilted much towards #life. Because I am always working from home, I surround myself with distractions while working.

My family, my pet and their stories. The apps on my iPad and my books. My home. All pry for my attention. And I am not strong enough to fight any of that for long.

When I visited the office, I had a clear separation of what I did and worked on while at the office. At home, that separation is difficult to attain. It's funny that this separation of space was considered important during the pandemic's early days. The only difference is that for others, it was not to get drained by work and leave some time for life. It is not to let my home life muddle in my work life.

This has had a predominant effect on my writing. I tell myself I can do it anytime, so I don't do it at any time. Why do I need a creative block marked in my calendar when I can read, write and think any time I want?

Unfortunately, given how lazy and prone to procrastinate I am, I do.

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I witnessed a minor accident today that brought back memories of a similar yet contrasting incident I was part of a few years ago. A car brushed a motorbike parked at the roadside today, and the man sitting on the bike had a tumble. He cursed. The car stopped. The driver alighted. Sensing nothing as alarming, they laughed at the situation's futility in a somewhat anticlimactic moment.

What I faced all those years back was far from ordinary, though.

On a late morning that day, I was driving my regular route to the office. There is a section with many overpasses, and they always get busy during peak office hours. A safe driver, I had held my lane and stayed there. I don't usually drive fast, and I wasn't even that day.

And out of nowhere, a forward jerk and a crashing sound warned me something had bumped into my car from behind. I peeked into the rare view mirror and saw a man in the middle of the road, a motorcycle lying a few meters away. People crowded around him, some picking him up and others doing the same to his bike.

Like a good samaritan and fearing the worst, I parked my car to the side and strode, worried into the crowd that had ballooned to almost fifty.

A scruffy guy in his early twenties was standing at the centre, multiple people checking him for injuries. I was relieved to see him standing, moving, shaking himself off the dirt. At least my worst fears were unfounded.

And then, out of the crowd came a question that jolted me, “Kisne thoka isko?” – who hit him? Right away, I knew things could soon get worse than anticipated. I was rushing for answers, justifications, and truths for the bulging crowd on why I wasn't at fault.

Someone touched my shoulder and said, “In bhaisaab ka gaadi hain”. It is this man's car.

I knew my justifications wouldn't work with this crowd. They wouldn't even give me a chance to tell the truth. A guy walked towards the sweating me. I fumbled, searching for the right first word. But before I could utter anything, I heard a voice. “Mera galti tha. It was my mistake. I was driving fast, lost control of the bike and crashed into the back of this person's car. It wasn't his mistake.”

I heard a few audible sighs. The voice of a man who has just been in an accident and his admission of the mistake made the crowd lose all interest.

As the gathering started to dwindle, I breathed a sigh of relief. I walked to the guy and asked him if he was okay. I offered to take him to the hospital if he was hurt. He declined. Though scuffed at a lot of places, he was okay overall.

Strangely, a few people left were getting restless again and hurling enquiries at the guy. I felt a hand on my shoulder. A man in his fifties leaned and whispered, “Saheb tumhi nigha ata. You should leave now, sir. You shouldn't have stopped at all. Things could have gotten so out of hand.”

Though I was stunned at that moment by the heartlessness of this stranger's advice, deep down, I knew his remark had some merit.

In a world constantly on the verge of annoyance and hostility, was staying back when I knew everything was fine a mistake? I didn't have the courage that day to find the answer. After all, #life had to happen.

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Having gotten tired this evening of sitting idly at home, I decided to step out and roam aimlessly around my neighbourhood. Only when I got on the road did I wonder which turn I should take.

I didn't have any goal in mind — I didn't, as I usually do, want to visit a cafe to read or write. Neither had I planned to meet someone. I just wanted to be out and surround myself with strangers.

There was a thought that I was pondering over from the book “The Little Book of Stoicism”.

A situation does not make us unhappy. Our judgements in the form of thoughts, opinions and interpretations make you unhappy.

It's such a profound thought. The very fact that I was tired of the commonness in a moment doesn't make me unhappy. When I let it eat me within, make me idle around the home aimlessly, stare at my smartphone as my fingers swipe on the screen — it is then that I am unhappy.

I decided I didn't want to let that happen. I want to give myself more chances of being out there. Give my #life a chance to not be monotonous. To observe something new. Find a new place. A new cafe on the block. A new road being paved. A buzzing park. Anything. Do something.

Just thirty minutes of roaming around today made me avoid the pain of doing nothing.

On my way back, I saw a man struggling to pull his motorcycle out of a parking lot. A wheel was stuck in a pothole and he could move it neither ahead nor behind. The helplessness on his face was palpable.

I stopped and asked him if he needed any help. Shocked at first and embarrassed later, he eventually gave in and accepted my offer. We managed to pull his motorcycle out from the pothole and him out of the troubling situation that he was in.

I walked home happily — I like to think he wasn't too unhappy either with the situation he had found himself in. A win-win for all involved I would say.

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I enjoy my evening walks with Snoopy. This guy continues to get all the attention from folks I have never met. I often hear someone call out his name, run to him, play with him and walk away with a smile. Completely ignoring my presence. As if I don't exist. Such is the charm of cuteness, I believe.

He has also made new friends. He knows where he will find them. He walks to the place and waits for them to come to him. These are the regulars.

There's a corner towards the end of our walk that both of us adore. It's usually quiet. A cold breeze always flows through. It's neither too light to expose us nor too dark to hide us. I make sure we halt there and sit next to each other. Nothing in my hand. Nothing on my mind. Nothingness. A bare moment of a void. Amidst the bustling #life.

And I like to believe Snoopy feels the same. Unperturbed. Many people walk by, but no one disturbs us. Maybe they acknowledge the tranquillity we feel.

Today's walk was no different. And yet was slightly different. After sitting through the quiet moments, I realized it was a full moon in the sky. Pink moon. It looked big, majestic. My hand went to my pocket to pull my smartphone out as it often does. I wanted to take a picture of the magnificence I was looking at. I wanted to capture the moment.

How futile was the thought? The day there exists a technology that can capture such moments of calmness, their significance will dwindle. Such moments are rare; they need to be lived and felt. And in that feeling, in that rarity, lies their essence.

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One productivity hack I have read the most often is just to get started. Not to wait for inspiration or motivation. Not to procrastinate. Even with writing, or any art form, many often allude to the importance of blank canvas.

Stare at the page; one's mind will soon start filling it up with colours. Or words, in my case.

It has worked for me, too, for the last few weeks. The posts eventually happen when I make myself available in front of the laptop. With me travelling and visiting my cousins for the last few days, no surprise they didn't.

It was a welcome and much-needed break. I visited Mumbai, a place that I have a love-hate relationship with.

On the one hand, I love spending time with my cousins. The togetherness lends me a reset when I can forget all the stress and burdens of daily #life. Over the food we love and the memories that we chatter about. As time passes, the animated environment gives way to moments of real connection. As individuals find corners where they catch up on others' lives, I get surrounded by mumbles. But soon, as someone invariably gets hungry, everyone regroups, and the surroundings get filled with laughter again. This cycle continues throughout the day and late into the night.

Nothing's more comforting than spending time with people you bond with.

But then I hate Mumbai when I need to visit the city. It's too lively for my liking. Everyone's moving too fast. Every place is too crowded. No one has time to pause. And if I do, I face a lot of glares from the Mumbaikars. This includes my cousins too. Why the hell will you do that – stop?

Some cities want you to pause and absorb their essence. Mumbai is not that city. It wants, needs you to match up with its speed. I struggle to do that. And I struggled this time, too. I returned home exhausted, drenched with the pressure of meeting the city's high lifestyle standards.

As I lay tired in bed, there was a moment when I attempted to push myself to publish something. Anything. But I have already conceded that this place won't follow a schedule. This place isn't a journal that I need to update daily. This place isn't a newsletter that needs to stick to a schedule. This place is my blank canvas.

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Silence is golden. Amidst friends, it is not.

It was Holi today, and I was surrounded by friends or people I knew once as friends. Yet there was hardly anyone I could walk up to and converse with without things getting awkward pretty soon. I knew then that some threads were broken within us. Some memories were lost. Some part of me was forgotten.

I won't be too self-critical by blaming myself. Such has been the #life for the last few years that there has hardly been time to peer beyond the bounds of the close family.

The pandemic locked us in our houses. And we forgot what we had left out.

I have been attempting to come back to normalcy slowly. It was exactly a year ago when I reconnected with my extended family. My cousins. It was the same occasion as today when I'd welcomed them home. We'd made some of the best memories and relived them again today.

Memories. Such a remarkable aspect of our lives this is. Say it aloud, and many would come rushing at you, leaving you drenched with giddiness.

Many did come rushing at me today. Memories from yesteryears when I had spent some wonderful moments with these people around me. But instead of leaving me giddy, they left me wretched. Miserable. Angry that I let the threads break. Break they did because friendship needs holding on to — the tighter you do, the stronger it grows.

I aim to correct this – I won't remain silent when I meet these folks for Holi the next year.

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After three weeks of bearing the beard, I shaved it off today. That act felt nothing short of tearing it apart from my face. These three weeks have elevated my respect for those who regularly sport a beard. Maintaining this beast ain't easy. It grows willy-nilly. And twists and twirls. And bites the face. And scratches the lips. And pokes the nose.

I was done enduring all of that.

Even that wasn't easy to do at home, either. The beard struggled with the face. The razor struggled with the beard. And I struggled with the razor. Cleaning the mess the mayhem left behind was no less than cleaning up a crime scene. It took a toll on my morale. I needed a nice warm shower to get back to my #life.

I am past my fascination for a beard.

Surprisingly, the clean-shaven me felt much less burdened, as if the beard weighed kilos. With the weight of the beard off my face, I walked more throughout the day. A nice morning walk. And a long evening stroll around the neighbourhood. I paused at a coffee lounge and sipped my coffee slowly. It felt good not to share it with my facial hair.

For a Monday, today was also unexpectedly productive. I could focus on work better. I do need to improve my way of closing tasks at hand. I like to be particular. I have my way of building a list and ticking the tasks off the list. Though it works for me, I have stopped doing it. It is time to bring out the notepad & the pen and place it on the table again.

There's also an update on the meta concern from yesterday. Matt responded to my support request and has generously extended the trial by a week while he finds a fix for my payment issue. What that means is blog is up and running as before.

I am happy I didn't have to give up on this beautiful writing interface. Sure, the issue isn't resolved yet. But I hope Matt finds a solution before this trial period runs out. After all, the problem isn't unique, and I assume it has a standard, tried-and-tested solution.

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We had guests at our home today early in the morning. Usually, I would get a lot flustered when there's an unplanned visit. Not today, as these are the guests that I generally look forward to meeting in real #life. And the meeting we had. It started with lots of chitchats about nothing in particular. Chitchats are usually that, aren't they?

We followed it up with a brunch, all delicacies of our choice and liking. Home delivered. A movie screening with popcorn at home. Winding the fun down with fresh mango ice cream. Everything was sprinkled throughout with lots of chatter and laughter.

I love such pleasant mornings when you meet folks you enjoy spending time with.

On the other hand, this messed up my routine thoroughly. I didn't do anything that I had planned to do. A couple of projects have been pushed to tomorrow. Some planned study time with my daughter got delayed. I hardly spent time alone with myself as there was none left. I didn't exercise; I screwed up my diet. I hardly read anything — the streak, alas, is broken.

Fortunately, a streak that isn't broken yet is spending the time before bed staring at the cursor blinking in this space. That I enjoy doing, and I am glad I didn't miss it even on a day like today of messed up routine.

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We are enjoying the walks around the neighbourhood with Snoopy. With this guy getting all the attention, it makes our evenings joyous. He is the favourite among my daughter's friends. And they all are his best friends. He enjoys running around and walking along with them. Neither of them can get enough of the other. The goodbyes are sad; none of them wants to go back home.

They can't even converse with him. He can't tell them anything. Yet you would commonly hear the phrases “he is tired now”, “he wants you to run”, and “he is saying slow down” as they play along. It is heartening to see the friends unable to talk to one another yet understand each other so well.

I had another realization today. Since we started walking Snoopy, I have been a lot social in general. Not swiping, committing and liking on my smartphone. But social in real #life. I have met and talked to many old friends with whom I had lost touch. And I love talking to people.

Why couldn't I do that when I went on my walks alone? Well, for one, I always had headphones in my ear. So the only interaction we friends had was a nod of acknowledgement. Another reason was none of us had any topic to make us pause in our steps. Now we do.

Will this continue? Who knows. But I want to enjoy these cheerful evenings as long as they last.

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With Snoopy's last vaccination done, today was his first walk around society. My wife and I had carried him around earlier though so that the surroundings weren't so new for him that he would go crazy whenever we take him on his first walk. That effort in the past must have helped because Snoopy behaved as if he had been on walks for ages. He didn't run around sniffing and biting and eating stuff. He walked and jogged and played with my daughter, never feeling overwhelmed by the large world around him.

I have noticed peculiar behaviour, though. People judge you when they see a pet with you. They visualize you as idle and workless, living a worthless. Their eyes speak, “you care for a pet; you must have so much time”.

I am tired of these looks. I am tired of the questions. I am tired of the suggestions. Don't be an asshole, man. Don't ask me a question to satisfy your puerile opinions. I may not answer as per your wish.

You live yours; let me live mine. #Life.

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