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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I often forget that stealing hours from sleep is not worth it — I have to pay back soon, usually on the very next day. Today was one such day.

I stayed up till late, doing nothing unavoidable. I read, or rather skimmed, some purposeless writing. I found nothing that interested me, but I kept on browsing with the hope that I would. And before I knew it, I was well past my routine bedtime. Thus I woke up late, which cascadingly screwed up my whole morning routine.

Missing my morning tea, though, was the most catastrophic effect this had today. I usually need my cup before the #life's chaos in gulps it down. I couldn't have my tea till the sun had risen more than I liked. I knew my productivity had gone for a toss.

The evening was better, though. I went on an unplanned walk around the neighbourhood, taking care of an unplanned but long-pending task. I hoped to mend the tea saga in the morning, so I drank jaggery tea at a nice-looking eatery. The tea saga only worsened, and let's leave it at that.

A few nice cafes have sprung up nearby that I had no clue existed. Neighbourhood passes you by as you pass by driving.

I wish I had taken a couple of pictures during the walk. Maybe next time. Without a tea saga of any sort.

I have decided to change my routine from being an early-morning person to becoming a late-night guy. I realized that the mornings did not leave me with much time. The routine got packed recently with the added responsibility of Snoopy gobbling up the mornings. It just didn't leave me much time to read and write.

So when Snoopy recently started going to bed early, leaving me a silent hour at night, I couldn't pass on the opportunity. I sit alone with my laptop and a blinking cursor at write.as. There is hardly any noise around as my wife and daughter are in bed with their thoughts. Doing their stuff.

Mornings in my #life had stopped being calm. I was always praying that others should not wake up early. Before that, I should. Even if I did wake up, I felt sleepy. Thoughts ceased to come through. There was always something waiting to clog my mind.

“Maybe I should read the news first?” “I shouldn't make too much noise, or I will wake others”. “Let me just lie down for 15 minutes”. And on and on.

That's not how I remember a productive morning routine. It was time to change things. I have. I have no idea if this works. I hope, for the sake of my writing, that it does.