Thursday, January 3, 2019

Two TED talks I liked

I recently came across the following two TED talks, both of which I liked. In the first one, the Speaker talks about why it is important to make responsible choices when we are young, not push it for later with the excuse that we are too young and can afford to make a few careless choices intentionally; and how it builds up pressure later on.

The second TED Talk is about procrastination and procrastination being one of my biggest problems, I liked this one as well. When the Speaker said, "The frustration is not that they couldn't achieve their dreams, it is that weren't even able to start chasing them", it struck a chord with me (the Speaker was talking about the life goals/ dreams which have no set deadline and of those for which it is up to us to be self motivated).

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

It's time

The funniest thing happened last weekend when I was visiting some family in Thanjavur. Two of the closest members in my family said to me that my face was swollen and inquired if I was okay. I almost burst out laughing coz the honest truth is that I have just gained weight and my face obviously did so too. But I didn’t laugh. I put on my best poker face, mumbled the lame reason of travel fatigue and fled the spot. LOL!

Before venturing further, I want to categorically make it clear that this post is not to written with the intention of fat-shaming. The only standard I measure myself up against is myself. At one point in my life, one of my absolute nightmares was that I would become fat. So, I do catch myself thinking how did I ever get to this point where I have put on so much weight. My BMI is just barely below the overweight range. But do I feel ashamed of this setback of sorts? No. I feel loved and cherished by those who matter to me (despite flaws and all). I feel I have a certain amount of respect at work (again despite flaws, shortcomings and all). I have navigated turbulent waters, both personal and professional and managed to sail through. I have handled unclear situations with patience. I have always given the benefit of the doubt to my loved ones before I start a fight if there were ever any differences and have always striven to be understanding. So considering all those aspects of my life and how I have conducted myself, I don’t feel bad about the fact that I have gained weight at all. No regrets. Absolutely none.

I can give reasons that my career and all my other responsibilities have prevented me from taking fitness seriously. And it is a valid reason. It is not always possible to have all the aspects of your life in control at all times. Having a career and running a house is no mean feat. As misguided as it may seem in this context there is a Buddhist philosophy which says, “Don’t try to like yourself. Just be kind to yourself” and I believe in it. I think it is important to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and make peace with them. Or at least try to. But I recently hit an age milestone which will not be revealed here (owing to the Author possessing a certain degree of vanity; also, if you want to say age is just a number, try telling that to a person who intends to appear for a competitive exam in this part of the world). And you know when you have thought enough about something and finally reach that sort of Zen-mode where your mind tells you, “It's time”. I am in that state now. So, as valid as all the reasons were, it's time; time to buckle up and take some measures to lose weight.

I do know that if I had made my health and fitness a priority I would not have reached this point in the first place. My weight gain started when I began slacking in my food habits like a year and a half ago. Before then, I had a system of sorts in place and it was super effective. I ate mostly vegetables for lunch, made sure egg was part of my breakfast, made sure to have two cups of green tea during office hours, ate nuts with fruits for my 5 PMish evening snack which I shared with my then colleague and neighbor at office who is also a dear friend, had a light dinner and so on. When I look back, it’s amazing how I invented excuses to get off the rails over time. I have miles to go with my goals in life. I have so many things I want to achieve (again, personal and professional) and that will not be made possible with my current fitness standards. Aside from the endorphins they say that any fitness regimen provides, I also want to increase my stamina. I had a naturally lean, slender frame (which I think can be restored through some dietary changes), a good metabolism, and I always see results as soon as I start putting in some minimum effort. I intend to use these factors to my advantage in this journey.

My strategy is to lose weight by mainly focusing on my diet. Once I have that in control and start seeing results I plan to take up some regular physical activity to get better at fitness. Following are some of the basic measures I want to set in place right now before I come up with more measures to regroup:
  1. Cut back on coffee: This is more of an occupational hazard. I take coffee the way most Tamil people like their coffee- with lots of milk and sugar. Sigh!
  2. Regulate sleep timings: Easier said than done!
  3. Carve out time for myself: I found that I often tend to stay up late or mess up timings in general if I feel like I have denied myself my ‘me time’. So making a conscious effort to spend time on myself will ensure that my sleep timings are more regular, but most importantly make me feel good.
  4. Maintain a more Alkaline diet
  5. Very light dinners: This is tough coz most days after a full day of work, commute (which averages around 2 hours a day) and loads of other responsibilities all I want to do is get some food inside me and crash, so I don’t really pay attention to calories but I should from now and also eat dinner early.
  6. Proper asthma medication: I did not have childhood asthma. I had the first asthma attack in my life this Jan. I am guilty of not taking my medication on good days. Obviously this is a bad idea since no one can function properly when their lungs don’t fetch them the maximum oxygen that they should which is how it feels sometimes when I try to take a full breath, even on good days.
  7. Walking at least 5 times a week for 40 minutes each of those times.
  8. GM diet: I have tried this before and seen results. But let me tell you it is not the easiest of diets. I won’t be taking the decision lightly about getting into this one. But after a few days I think I will start this one. Let’s see.
  9. Drink more water
  10. More fruits and veggies

This is just an initial brainstorming sort of list to get things going. I will update on this a few days later on how it goes. I also have another very good reason to lose weight. Sometime next year my family hopes that my brother will be getting married (it will be an Arranged Marriage). So in view of that, I want to look my best (representing the groom’s side and all). To talk about my brother, he used to be a little lazy when he was living in India. He worked for two years here after completing his Bachelors in Engineering. He then went to the US to pursue his Masters and started working there. I always thought it took a certain amount of guts on his part to leave a privileged upbringing of sorts where you don’t really have to lift a finger at home and to go to a place where you have to do everything by yourself. It is tough to manage to study, do all chores for yourself, manage your own money and so on. And my brother didn’t just manage. He emerged better than ever before. Most of my friends who went to study there struggled a lot academically, had trouble finding jobs to cover living costs and right away gained too much weight because of getting into bad junk food habits and were unable to cope with all the stress. They have nothing to be sorry for about anything (just like I don't feel sorry for anything either) in my opinion but when someone does manage to piece together different aspects of their life it should be acknowledged.

Growing up he was the smarter one of the two of us in different aspects (Note: definitely not all; so if any category is ever mentioned I will always state that that was the category he was severely lacking in :P). Jokes aside, he has got General Proficiency in school for Academics many times, got centum many times unlike me, was a Boy Scout who received his certificate from the President. He also writes way better than me. I still remember how super impressed I was when I finished reading the Statement of Purpose that he submitted to the Universities in the US to secure an admission. Even my dad was impressed with how well he had brought together the different facets of his life to culminate in such a way that his Master’s Degree made sense. I had even written a little about his blog here. After he went to the US he seemed to improve a lot more as I have mentioned before. He finished his Masters in the US with no tuition fee (he was the Teaching Assistant and the Research Assistant during different semesters and he received a stipend). He also got his job with an American company almost right away unlike many of my friends who were so stressed for a long time.

He has been working in the US for close to three years now. He is someone who visits the gym four to five times a week, watches what he eats, manages his own money reasonably well, invests in experiences rather than things (is eager to travel), pursues various hobbies (like boating). Thankfully, he doesn’t impose his standards on others. He is someone who accepts people for who they are. He has told my parents and I a couple of times to take fitness seriously (in my family’s WhatsApp group), but beyond that he has never mentioned anything. One thing I wish for is that he gets over his aversion to social media. I have told him many times to curate some kind of nice presence in his social media accounts. It still surprises me how of all the good looking pictures (which he sends to the family WhatsApp group) in a particular trip, he chooses the most ugly one to put in his WhatsApp DP or LinkedIn DP or FB DP; that is, if he changes any of those in the first place (mostly he is likely to do that once in 2 years). I have also told him to create a folder in FB for big trips (like his recent trip to Hungary) and post a nice selection of very few pics (like 5 to 10) there. To date he has never, ever done this with any of his trips. If I choose one pic for him and ask him to please change his DP, even though he changes his DP, he ignores the pic that I sent and chooses the most ugly one. Like for instance, the WhatsApp DP he has right now (which he changed from another horrible pic which didnt look like him at all either) looks like it was taken after a long day in the Sun with no Sunscreen. So let’s just conclude he is not even moderately gifted in that sphere.

Here’s hoping that my parents can find a sweet girl from a good family who will appreciate all his hard work to reach this point, be his strength and is also mature and understanding of my brother and his shortcomings (some stated above and other ones); and likewise, that my brother will do the same for his life partner. And also, that he cultivates a certain sense of sensitivity and tact which he apparently lacks when he speaks :P Anyways, I know that what is meant to be, will be.

As for me, wish me luck in my new endeavor!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Income Tax Returns

I recently filed my Income Tax Returns for AY 2017-2018 and AY 2016-2017. Though it was pending for a long time and I kept telling myself that I will get around to it, I didn’t. I also knew that for both the years I would get refunds since my Employer Organization had deducted more than what I was liable to pay because some of the documents I submitted were deemed insufficient and it was too late to resubmit them. I know in some areas excuses just don’t cut it and this is one of those. As cliche and boring as it may sound, all I can do is plead a busy schedule. And honestly, I didn't know this much time had passed since I last filed my returns. Time just flies!

I got a refund of INR. 4080 for AY 2017-2018 and INR. 48080 for AY 2016-2017 (how is that for a pattern?). The processing was done promptly too with a decent wait time. The process is even more simplified since the last time I filed, in the sense that I didn’t have to mail the physical copy of the Return with my signature in it. Filling up the AADHAR number automatically e-verifies it, which saves the hassle of taking a print out, signing it and then going to the post office to mail it.

Though there are many sites which are more user friendly and make the calculations a bit easier, I still choose to go with the government website to file my returns. There is something about the process (collecting all relevant documents, poring over all my records, understand each and everything about the figures) and doing it all by myself that I find immensely satisfying.

When I entered the work force 8 years ago, I had absolutely no idea about Income Tax. The first few years I paid the whole thing in full, without even making the most straight forward deductions (I guess I should find comfort in the thought that it all went to the development of my great Nation).

This is true with most of my friends as well. In fact, many of my friends still don’t know the basics. The last time I had filed mine, I helped three of my friends and my baby brother with their Returns. I did everything from scratch for them- created the user account in the government website, pored over their Form 16s and other relevant documents, did the actual filing and finally mailed the Income Tax return and also the user account details (username and password, obviously) of the website to their email accounts. For one of my friends, I lent the tax money that she had to pay, which she prudently paid me back later (love you Pai!). With hindsight, I guess I had time to spare back then. Happy times indeed!

I didn’t file my return for the year AY 2015-2016. I was eligible for a refund from that year also but the last date to file that one has lapsed (was 31 March, 2017). Usually, the late Return can be filed even one year after the end of the relevant AY. I knew this already, but still didn’t file. Except for the AY 2015-2016 all my returns are in order now. This year though the Income Tax Department announced that even for the AY 2017-2018 last date to file is 31 March, 2018 which means they are doing away with almost one year of extra time to file the return. So it is better to look for these news items than rely on the usual practices.

Anyways, filing your Tax Return even if all your tax liabilities are paid already is good practice. It denotes that things are in order. It helps in easy Loan Processing and even Visa Processing. If you already have the Returns in hand, you don’t have to file them in a hurry when you are in the middle of a Loan Processing or Visa Processing which already tend to be tedious processes by themselves sometimes. So don’t be like me. File your taxes on time. I definitely intend to do so in the future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Work Anniversary

The date 22nd February, 2018 marked the completion of 8 years for me as a working professional. It was on that day 8 years ago that I, along with my college friends went to report for my first day at my first ever job in Bangalore. When I reflect on this long journey, I feel a sense of gratitude for all the experiences that have come my way in my work life. I truly cherish all those experiences. According to a recent Forbes article, women hold only 26% of all technical jobs worldwide. This fact makes me all the more glad to be able to be in the 26%.

I was lucky enough to be recruited in the beginning of my final year of education (Bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering) as part of the campus recruitment initiative by the Multi National Organization which was my first employer. This made my final year all the more fun. I have never known the anxiety of what it is to look for a job after finishing studies.

During my job switches later on I had the advantage of having a strong place in my present job and leaving only after having offer(s) in hand and mostly being in a position to choose. Also, since I was always working in a position which offered reasonably good visibility via constant interaction with the client side during development phases I felt relatively safe (touch wood!). All of which have made me feel reasonably secure in my professional life till now. I am so glad about this (especially considering the industry I work in).

I still can remember how eager I was to learn all I could when I was new to my job. I didn't mind working long hours and the occasional working on weekends also. The learnings of the first few years have paved the way for me to sustain myself in my profession. Aside from the actual work that I learnt from my seniors, I also value some of the life lessons they taught me. One such advice was something like this: “Work concurrently on many tasks because if you don’t, either you can’t survive or you will be here all day”. I think this is good advice because of the nature and quantum of work involved in my job. Some of them were seasoned professionals and they knew their stuff.

During one of the discussions with my best friends from college, when I had just started working, we were talking about how we can’t ever be close friends with our colleagues and that we should be a little wary of getting too close with anyone at office. At that time, it held true since there is always bound to be some conflict when working together; two people in the same project meant both are looking for the same promotion, raise, looking to work on the same high priority/ competitive/ interesting task, etc. and hence both will do only what serves their interest best.

Though I have had such scenarios with different people over the years, I have been so, so lucky to have some amazing people work with me as colleagues, who later became some of my closest friends. I am still in touch with most of them and I know that they are friends for life. I often talk to my old colleagues when in doubt about some important career subject.

I am someone who believes in leaving a job on a good note and I also believe that it is in your interest to leave the door open when leaving a job. Keeping in touch with my colleagues turned friends at my old job also helps in ensuring that I know to an extent about how things are going on such as new positions opening up, new technologies or tools they are moving on to and so on.

I am also happy with the fact that my job has not been the one dominating thing in my life to the exclusion of all else as it sometimes gets if I am not careful enough. My career has been relatively well balanced with my personal life. I have been able to be true to most of my hobbies, could take proper trips, have been able to attend almost all important events such as my family and friends' engagements and weddings, have been able to spend good time with my immediate family. If there is nothing pressing at work, I also sometimes take an impromptu leave as part of mental health day off (wink), in a light and fun way, just to give myself a mini break of sorts from it all if I feel that I need it.

When deadlines are to be met at work and pressures mount and when something comes up in one’s personal life at the same time, it is tough to keep marching on. It is sometimes difficult to be sure if some compromise you made in some sphere is worth the trade-off. Through those many challenges, both personal and professional and in a job as demanding as mine, I have been able to hold my own, hold on and stay competent for which as I mentioned before, I am truly grateful. My job gives me purpose, a sense of identity, a good pay and above all fulfillment; and I value these things.

Here is to all Professionals and to many more work anniversaries (in the same field or otherwise) to come! A special salute to all women who march against all odds and are proud of it! May you pursue all your dreams, both personal and professional!

Monday, December 11, 2017

5 Websites I frequent for their Jewelry collection

I have listed 5 websites I like to frequent to check out their jewelry collection:
Though most of these sites sell apparel and other things, it is their jewelry collection that makes me keep going back for more. There are many contemporary pieces they sell which go well with any kind of outfit. Like any Indian girl, I especially like Jhumkis, Chandbalis, Temple jewelry and the like, which go well with traditional Indian outfits.

I never buy gold jewelry online. Considering how expensive they are, I like to go to the shops and choose from the collection presented before my eyes (sans digital media) and definitely after trying it on me, which I guess is true for most people. What I normally buy from these websites are mostly silver jewelry, brass jewelry or gold-plated silver or brass jewelry. I read somewhere that gold-plated silver or brass jewelry can be re-plated multiple times periodically to keep them in good condition; and that these metals withstand corrosion and tend to be long lasting, though I haven't re-plated any of my jewelry yet.

Sometimes I buy metal alloy gold-plated stuff but normally I try to avoid them. I especially like jewelry which have some semi-precious gemstones such as Rose Quartz (more on that later), Amethyst, Oynx and such in them.

I also found that these websites seem a tad bit overpriced, but then they sell good quality, one-of-a-kind sort of pieces that are difficult for me to find together in such numbers in local stores and it saves time to browse a huge collection put together in a single place (I have spent hours going around a single website though, but that is an altogether different kind of hassle). What is more important to me than accessibility is the fact that I like to invest in good pieces which are durable and so I overlooked the pricing aspect. I decided to be prudent and as seldom as possible with my purchases to compensate.

There have been times when I found the same piece across many of these sites, because the jewelry makers probably sell them via multiple sites. Also, I have felt disappointed occasionally that a piece didn't turn out how I imagined it would be based on what I saw online. I guess this happens at one point or the other when shopping online. These days I don't splurge as much as I used to. My shopping urges are under much better control than before which is definitely a good thing in my books.

P.S. The websites listed are to my liking as a Shopper out of several I have come across, based on my experiences. I don't have any association with any of these websites since my Blog doesn't generate that kind of traffic. I have listed them out of my own volition, since I believe finding nice things could be a delight to anyone. I am sure there are many more cool ones out there and I will probably find more exciting ones, but for now, this list holds true.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Korean Entertainment

I have become a fan of Korean entertainment over the years. Which is hardly a wonder, considering their popularity worldwide now. It all started off some 5 years ago when a friend recommended the K-drama series Boys Over Flowers. Though I found it a little kiddish, there was something like-able about it and it was, well, entertaining!

Some other K series I have watched are Uncontrollably Fond, The Heirs, City Hunter, and Playful Kiss. Even though these were a little kiddish for my taste too, it didn't put me off completely and I was able to watch it till the very end. My most favorite ones till date are the dramas Man from the Star and Legend of the Blue Sea (these two are not kiddish according to moi and I highly recommend them) and I hear these were huge hits across China and Japan as well.

One recurring theme I find in their entertainment, be it in TV series or movies is that in their romance the boy is always smart, rich, composed and sophisticated, as opposed to the girl who is almost always portrayed as noisy, clumsy, not so good looking (they often call a perfectly good looking girl as not good looking!) and usually not rich. In fact, in most cases the girl is poor and struggles to make ends meet.

I have also found myself listening to a lot of K-pop even though I don’t understand the language. The music videos are good and the tunes are catchy. Tara, Miss A, Sistah and Sunmi are some of the artists I have listened to. My favorite Korean stars are Bae Suzy and Jun Ji-hyun.

I haven't watched many Korean movies though. I have only watched My Sassy Girl, Seducing Mr. Perfect and Windstruck. Speaking of movies, my appetite comprises of popular Tamil films and Hollywood movies. I go to the cinemas now and then based on word of mouth reviews from those around me and sometimes read reviews online. The last movie I went to the cinemas and saw was the Tamil movie Mersal and I quite enjoyed it.

When it comes to TV series, I absolutely don't watch Tamil serials. I used to watch them some years ago because my mom used to watch them. Even if a series starts in such a promising way and the premise is so interesting, as the series progresses, the female protagonist was always scripted to do something so stupid and annoying that I lost interest for all Tamil TV series since then.

I also used to watch some US TV series like RevengeThe Vampire Diaries and its spin off The OriginalsHomeland and Marvels Agents of SHIELD.  I am sure there are a lot more (and even K drama for that matter) that I have watched but these are the ones I can think of as I am writing this post. I am also a huge fan of the Masterchef Australia series, which I think has a good editing team. I am not following the current season though. Actually I am not watching any TV series now. In fact, except for Revenge which ran to completion, I am not up to date with any of the other series. I am seasons behind in most of these because I am into reading at the moment. I am sort of addicted to reading right now. Sigh!

I came across some awesome cover songs for some of the most popular, recent music videos in the US. The videos are by artists from all over the world and some are even by artists from China and I was quite impressed by them. I will write another post later containing some of my recommendations for these cover songs and mention some of the TV series and movies I liked as well. I think I will also include some Ice Skating videos I liked too (like Yuna Kim 'Imagine').

P.S. Needless to say, when I say Korean entertainment I only mean the work coming from Seoul, South Korea. As we all know, North Korea has a political climate which doesn't exactly seem to promote art.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Job Switch

I have recently switched jobs. The decision to quit my old job and join a new one was not easy. It took a lot of consideration.

What made me go out there and update my resume in a job portal site to look for new job opportunities is that I had not really learnt anything new for quite some time with my previous job and in an industry like mine, that is a sure way of your skills becoming obsolete in a few years' time. Initially when I joined my previous job the learning was good. Along with the product that I was working on, I learnt a lot of new things on the industry standard technologies I was working on. I also learnt some of the industry best practices and the process in place seemed good too. But in recent times, things just got stagnant and it felt like I was doing the same thing over and over. There was something new now and then, when some new feature came my way, but mostly the learning was minimal and felt insufficient. I lost the kind of excitement to work that I had initially and I felt that I was not as productive as before.

But then my old job provided me with good work-life balance which is important to me as well. During the Interview with the new company, they kept repeating that it was a challenging role. It excited me and scared me a little bit at the same time that my work-life balance will go for a toss. Some of the technologies that I was going to work on were relatively new to the industry and also completely new to me so I would have to learn them from scratch.  But then there were already training sessions in progress for these technologies in my old job since they were going to transition to this new technology in the distant future, if not in the near future, albeit slowly. From what I understood they would perhaps start work on this new technology in a year's time.

Another major factor which got me thinking hard was commute. My new job location was twice as far as that of my old one from my home. Earlier my travel time was half an hour and my new job location takes around an hour to reach. So that is roughly two hours a day gone in commute. Although I enjoy driving my car to and fro work and have mentioned that it is one of the best parts of my day, driving in this kind of crazy traffic made me skeptical and wonder whether it will remain the best part of my day anymore. In fact I had a strong feeling it would become a nightmare on days when I get caught in some traffic jam, more so when I have to be on time to attend some important meeting or if I have to get back home on time. These new routes of my everyday commute are very congestion prone and totally unpredictable.

And then there was work from home option available in my old job which was immensely useful to me before. There were times when I worked from home for periods of several weeks at a time. Obviously when I start in the new place, I will not be able to work from home for a long time since initially there will be training sessions to attend which has to be done according to the convenience of those who would give Knowledge Transfer to me and then later on when I begin work on something, I would need a lot of support from the team that I would be working with. The transition to when I would be able to completely work independently will take a long time.

The job switch also marks my transition from a Service based company to a Product based company. As anyone in my industry could tell you, it is considered a good thing. Though not always the case, mostly it means more learning with more ownership, lesser working hours, better compensation benefits, etc. Needless to say, this new job offered me better compensation than my old one.

All these things left me in a confused state of mind. Even after I got the offer letter, I was a bit reluctant to join the new company due to these reasons. I guess everyone goes through this kind of thing when they switch jobs. There are various parameters to consider and it is difficult to guess whether the trade off would be worth it in the end and also to know for sure that you could hold your own in a new job. What about you? What are the factors that you considered when you switched jobs? Did it work out better than you hoped for in the end?

Eventually I decided that this was a huge opportunity that I shouldn't pass up. The Interview went on for more than four hours and comprised of two rounds of face to face Technical Interviews. Three days later there was another round of Telephonic Interview, which was an informal Technical discussion bordering on HR with the Director of the company. He briefed me about the organization a bit more, things I didn't know even after reading a bit about the company from Wikipedia as part of my Interview preparation. He also briefed a bit about my job role at the end of the Interview, after telling me that he cleared me for the position in the span of the same call.

I prepared reasonably well for the Interviews. I was confident through out all the Interviews, even during the difficult parts when I couldn't answer well and I think I maintained a sunny disposition of sorts and a positive outlook at all times. But truth be told even I was surprised that I cleared all the rounds since I took up this Interview after a very long time with my previous organization (four years and four months). This is the second job switch in my career which means that this is the third company I am working for thus far.

I am working in the new company for about two months now. There is loads to learn and there are still some training sessions going on. Contrary to what I originally thought things like work-life balance and commute are okay and definitely way better than I feared it could be. It is still early days, so lets see. They have promised me additional responsibilities in a year if I prove myself. Here's hoping that my new job turns out to be everything that it promises to be!

Two TED talks I liked

I recently came across the following two TED talks, both of which I liked. In the first one, the Speaker talks about why it is important t...