Tag at source

Back in the day when pirating music was a big thing, I too had an impressive 40 GB collection. When I say “back in the day” I am talking about the time when internet was all dial-up and the fastest broadband available was 128kbps.

40GB of mp3s is more than you can listen to in a lifetime, and knowing this did not stop me from acquiring it. Not all these were downloaded from the net, I, personally preferred ripping cds that friends and relatives and neighbours had. Now, as you can imagine, organizing these MP3s was a bitch. The regular mp3-pirate was expected to know what tools to use and how to keep the library organized. So I used tools like music brain picard, tagmp3, mediamonky and (my favorite) foobar2000. These lovely tools, used correctly would ensure that my mp3s were tagged, categorized and organized in the folder structure of our choice.

But all these tools were useless if I did not follow the golden rule: Tag at source.

Once there were a few GBs of untagged stuff on my hard drive, it was next to impossible to make sense of it.

Every pirate knew this, if you dont tag at source, you are going to end up with useless music.

Sort at source – this is a golden rule for life.

Impossible Choices

“Do the right thing” you were taught as a child, and strive to do so as an adult. But what they didn’t teach you as a child is about impossible choices. Situations that not only have no right choice, but just by their existence change everything.

Life loves playing the “heads I win, tails you lose” game with us.

Next time you are faced with a choice which will mess you up irrespective of whichever way you chose, remember this; impossible choices are life’s way of telling you you are not in control.

What do you do when faced with one of these choices? No idea, so far, i’ve been fucked over by every one of these. I guess you pick up the pieces, learn to be happy where you are and be prepared for the next time.


“What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?”

A young priest fresh out of seminary once asked me, when he learned that I was a fan of philosophy and other arcane things. I remember the delight on his face, watching me struggle to come up with an answer. He did not give me one. This is a famous paradox also known as the omnipotence paradox.

Much later, I learned that the correct answer is- such a meeting is not possible, because, by definition, if there is an irresistible force, there cannot be an immovable object. This is a rule in logic.

Life doesn’t give a rats ass about the above rule.

You will face things that simply should not exist, but do. Good things and bad. Forces, events, emotions, people that cannot possibly be, but are. Life’s like that.


All of us have non-negotiables. 11 years ago, fresh out of home, when I went to college, my religious beliefs were non-negotiable.

“There is one God eternally existent in three persons, the Bible is His word and The Brethren ( my church) understand it best”

In a year, the last part eroded away. Then the others did too. After a decade , a bare-bones, qualified version of the original statement of faith persists.

The evidence based practice of modern scientific medicine was the non-negotiable then. No way I was going to be a quack.

Then I started practicing medicine and realized that there was much my training was completely useless for.

Some time along the way, I also picked up a love for the free market economic system. And then, that changed too.

Today, some of my old non-negotiables are back, most are new.

Honesty is not always the best policy, but family always comes first. The definition of family has changed, though.

Here’s what I’m saying: If you are doing it right, you will chip away, brutally, at all the things you were taught or believe are the most important things in your life, and then constantly refine the remaining list.

Most of your non-negotiables are negotiable.

The glorious battle

J oswald chambers zen pencil we were made for the valley
Adapted from the lovely zen pencils cartoon linked below.

Remember that part in the new karate kid movie when Jackie Chan makes Will Smith’s son put on and take off his jacket again and again and again and in the end  it all makes sense because he was teaching him the greater lessons about kung fu? And how in the end he uses this knowledge to win that big amazing glorious event?

Here’s the thing; most of us- we’ll never have that final glorious battle.

We just get to take the jacket off, put it on again, and agin and again till we “get” it. Because character and life and all that grown up stuff is not about how you do in the last glorious battle, it’s about how you do now, today, tomorrow and the day after that, even when there is no glorious battle right at the end.

Inspired by this brilliant-as-ever Zen Pencils comic:Made for the valley 


Every time you do, you become better.

When you do the dishes tonight even though are bone tired, your tomorrow begins better.

When, after having wasted the whole day preparing to write your assignment, you force yourself to write one paragraph even though you just want to sleep in shame; the assignment has one less paragraph to do.

When you fold your clothes right after you dry them, when you tag your mp3s as soon as you download them, when you do; you become better.

Because the next time, it is a bit easier, and once you do it regularly, it’s actually fun. If not the action itself, the realization that you’ve transitioned from wannabe to is.



There is a hierarchy of needs. A hierarchy might not imply one is more important than the other, but it often implies one is more urgent than the other.Roti, kapda, makaan, (survival) always gets more attention than freedom and equality.

For a society to reach a place where a “higher” goal becomes important, the “lower” goals need to be met. This is why, even amongst widespread agitation against corruption among politicians, corruption in the common man goes un-challenged. It is assumed that the common man needs corruption for survival. More accurate would be how, as people rally against corruption, that theie leader is a homophobe is not important. To them it is more urgent  to have a nation that is not corrupt, than a nation that treats everyone, even the queer, equally.

Around 60% of this country does not have its basic needs met. of the remaining, only about 10% have enough to sustain themselves and some more. only around 2%of the country can be considered “upper middle class”. Clean streets, therefore, have a lower priority than clean water.

The common indian understands this. We prioritize.

This is why all voices are important. Even that of the homophobe who fights corruption. As important as the enlightened, non-homophobic, non-corrupt, highly ethical leader. (Except that the latter does not exist. Yet) Because it takes many small voices crying out about their priority to transform a small thing into a massive movement.

This is why activists take a lifetime to get awards.

What is your priority?



Whole wheat pancakes: quick meals for the time-deficient

It’s not a super quick meal, because what we often forget is that while something might be quick to make, eating too fast to enjoy it is counterproductive. Want a fast meal like that? grab a samosa or something.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Eating time: 30 minutes minimum


Whole wheat flour or any atta you can get your hands on – 2 measures

Warm water: 1 measures

2 Eggs

Baking soda: 1 tablespoon

Salt: 1/2-3/4 teaspoon

Melted butter: 1 spoon

Milk: 1/4 measure

Sugar: 2 tablespoons

Stuff that you eat this with:

Coffee, honey, powdered cinnamon or chocolate and salted butter.


Add the baking soda to the flour, mix.

Beat the eggs, add the sugar, salt, milk. Beat till it is frothy. Set aside

Add  warm water to the flour in a deep vessel and use a big spoon to mix

Once the water is over, add the beaten eggs etc.

Keep mixing, you can use any  long handle spoon, an egg beater or one of those things that go round and round. (they use it for making buttermilk also)

Now, add the butter.

The batter is done.

let it stand for about 5 minutes as you heat the skillet (non stick) and make coffee etc.

Pour one dollop of the stuff which should be the consistency of thick cream onto the hot skillet.

If you’ve got it right, it will flatten into a small disk and  small holes will appear all over the uncooked surface  (from bubbles of air rising so fast you can see it)

Once the pancake is covered in holes, flip it

Wait till the edges start browning and raising off the skillet,

Repeat till the desired number of pancakes is ready.  2 cups of flour should give you around 8- 10 depending on size. I like mine the size of a flattened tennis ball. Or a poori.

To serve:

Sprinkle some cinnamon or cholo powder on top,  add butter liberally, have coffee ready and sit down with some honey (maple syrup is fattening)

Good company is preferred, but not mandatory.




Long Form Indian writing Digest 003

The phenomenal Mary Kom—five-times world champion and mother of two is profiled in Intelligent Life

India’s Gold hope in the upcoming Olympics is interviewed by Rahul Bhattacharya

But next to Mary, these other girls were ponderous. Their feet were sluggish, their positioning not so clever. She could fight with her guard down, testing her reflexes by offering them her bare chin as a target, and counter-attacking in angles unfamiliar to boxers who take the orthodox stance.

All around the gym the girls furtively watched her. They covet her low-gravity wound-up springiness, her pure petite explosiveness. They would love to lunge so wide and fast, and never need to wrestle or go to the ropes. Aggression is her hallmark, and it makes her exhilarating to watch.

“Yeh leh Mary,” Mr Bhaskar Bhatt goads her, “take this. And this.” This too is the play of boxing.

“He tries to make me angry,” she says later, “but I have to be cool.” Her grimace is hidden by her white gumshield. You can feel her burn; it’s been 80 minutes now.

Whatever Has Happened to Civil Society?

Neera Chandhoke, who teaches political science at the University of Delhi, and is director of the Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi, takes a detailed look at the rise and fall of Civil society in India. She traces its history, political challenges, failures and success.

One of the most creative of Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), had warned us that liberal democratic states possess formidable capacities to harness civil society to their projects of domination. Civil society, according to Gramsci, is the space, where the state and the dominant classes produce and reproduce projects of hegemony. And this is exactly what has happened in India. The rush of political theory that acclaimed civil society in the aftermath of the Velvet Revolutions of 1989 eagerly claimed that it is only the third sphere that can take on the state and the market. The participants in the debate had forgotten Gramsci. And they paid a heavy price for this, because liberal democratic states – and India is one of the most sophisticated of this genre of states – quickly moved to neutralise civil society by laying down the boundaries of what is politically permissible and what is not.