It has been a while since I sat down and wrote one of these personal updates— the last one was when summer was like a cat about to stretch itself. And here we are in Autumn, the season of color and cool air. A time when baseball has become a bit more urgent. And we start thinking about festivals, jingles, and worrying about the winter ahead. It is also why people around the world start craving that disgusting drink, Pumpkin Spice Latte! Nevertheless, the reason why we love this concoction is that it triggers memories of this season. According to two scientists who researched the problem, the trigger is the smell.
“The association that the smell has with the season in our memories allows it to powerfully evoke the refreshing feelings of fall,” according to Jason Fischer, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins. The smell is a one-way ticket to nostalgia and memories, as perfume makers have known forever. The faint smell of roses takes me back to my childhood, and so does the haunting, mellifluous smells of (frangipani) Champa, a smell so uniquely represents my hometown to me! These trees line many avenues and Delhi streets, and the smell is so pervasive, especially as we enter cooler days.
Even though Delhi has become bustling, busy, and overwhelming, I could still smell the flowers while visiting my parents last month. Mark Vanhoenacker, in his book, Imagine a city, devotes many pages to Delhi. As an outsider, he eloquently tells the story of the city, its places, its rhythms, and its life. I can tell he is writing as an outsider. I was born there, so I know it differently. Or so I like to think. It is the arrogance of being born here. I can still curse in my native language. But the rhythm of my soul beats not to Indian stretchable time. My sense of self is not the other but the decidedly self. Like Janus, I am trapped in the contrails of life of an immigrant.
Yes, I encounter many signposts of my past on the visit. But that’s all they are. I have lived in America longer than I lived in India. I am less of my past, just as I am less of my present. Maybe it is for the best — I somewhat skew to the future: it brings the joy of mysteries yet to be untangled. French actress Jeanne Moreau summed up when she said:
“Nostalgia for what? It’s like climbing a staircase. I’m on the top of the staircase, I look behind and see the steps. That’s where I was. We’re here right now. Tomorrow, we’ll be someplace else. So why nostalgia?”
I started writing this piece a week ago, just before my birthday. My good friend Chris Michel shared a photo of me on Twitter with his wishes. He very generously captures me on camera every time we meet for coffee. I asked him to send me a photo from 2012. I looked at the two photos side by side — the journey continues to enthrall and excite.
My idea of a great birthday is a small dinner with a handful of friends and asking them what is the one thing they wished I focused on during the next 12 months is. Last year, the most common wish was for me to improve my health — and I did precisely that. I have eaten better, lost weight, and brought all my vitals under control. Last year, on the heels of the pandemic isolation, I promised myself to let life happen to me — a difficult task since I am wired differently!
I am taking some of the lessons learned in the past twelve months for the upcoming year and will use them as guardrails for the next phase of my work and life. As a personal goal, I want to get a driver’s license before the end of the year — I have failed my test twice so far. On the health front, I want to lose another 15 pounds and overcome my fear of swimming!
I have set a few tangible targets and am sharing them publicly because I want my community to keep me accountable! For now, this is the plan:
- 12 interviews and 12 essays are to be published on this blog
- I will publish a blog post every working day.
- I will have 16 episodes of my podcast (and some of them will overlap with the interviews I will publish.
- In addition, write for a “pro” publication. ( I have started contributing to The Spectator, by the way!)
On his blog, Terence Eden shared three things Douglas Adams had to say about technology and wondered if he had reached the inflection point.
- Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
- Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
- Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
For my writing, I will focus on anything and everything that is “against the natural order of things.” I work equally hard to unlearn as much as I do to learn about the new and the unknown. It is the only way to be part of an ever-changing world. As Confucius (apparently) once said: “To gain knowledge add one thing each day. To gain wisdom, subtract one thing each day.” Hopefully, we will enjoy the journey into the future together.
What does this mean for you? Nothing more than a tiny bit more email in your inbox 😜, as I promise to send the weekend newsletter with a more regular cadence!
(PS: I am going to be looking for a sponsor for the newsletter and podcast, so if you are interested or know someone who would be interested, get in touch! )
Now, here is what I have published in recent weeks!
- The joy of paper
- What do sensors know
- Some thoughts on the 2022 MacBook Air
- Apple’s missing “augmented” intelligence
- The golden noose around Apple’s neck – The Spectator
- What the Figma acquisition means for Adobe’s future – The Spectator
I did spend a lot of time reading and wanted to share five of my favorite longer-form pieces.
- An astonishing, edge-of-the-seat, and courageous story of Susie Goodall, who wanted to circumnavigate the world. What an adventurer and what incredible storytelling by CassidyRandall in The Atavist. Read on, Alone at the Edge of the World – The Atavist Magazine
- What’s wrong with design thinking? A lot, as Nick Foster, explains in his essay On Design Thinking.
- How To Kill Your Tech Industry A great retelling of how and why the UK lost its edge.
- How an Iowa man cracked the lottery?
- Carbon capture is big business, reports The Texas Monthly.
October 2, 2022. San Francisco.