Comfort Zone


We all have our comfort zones and we love them. They provide a sense of security and a walls that keep us away from all the supposed stress and bad things.

We fall in love with our comfort zones so much that we turn it into a fortress. We believe we are protecting ourselves but what we are doing essentially is saying no to a whole lot of things. We are rationalising our behaviour. Stepping out, bringing the walls down takes a lot of courage. We look for reasons not to do so. If we were to toss a coin, we will go through “best of three”, “best of five”…

What is a comfort zone really? The obvious answer of course is everything that makes us comfortable. People, things, products, service, our habits, our culture. You can add or delete to the list but this list essentially forms our comfort zone. We do try once in a while to push the wall on one of the things. Test ourself out. If it works, we will push further. But if it doesn’t, the barriers are raised.

But enough has been said and written about this, so wont go on and on.

Coming to the reason for this post. I have decided to test its limits. I am going to give up on smoking, drinking, non vegetarian food and sweets. People who have read my blog regularly would now my complete love for nicotine and how I look at it. The ones who know me well enough, they know what a big foodie I am and how non vegetarian food is such an integral part of me being foodie! And I do like my beer too. Sweets I have always been partial to desi sweets. Four things in one go. I am really going to test myself. And test the patience of people around me!

So lets see how it goes. I am going to work on the quarter principle. One quarter at a time. Forever sounds like a huge task and I don’t want forever. So breaking it down into smaller goals.

That’s a life lesson by the way. Do not aim for something really big and plan for it. Yes that is the ultimate goal but focus on smaller steps that will get you there. We usually do not do that. We aim for the big goal and create stress for ourselves when it takes time to reach there.

So here goes with my experiment of stepping out of the comfort zone. If this succeeds, there are more things to do. 🙂

 

Best companion


DISCLAIMER – This post does not promote smoking. Also for the non smokers, you can stop at the disclaimer and not read beyond. And yes, smoking is injurious to physical health.

The title of the post and the disclaimer will be enough to let people know what this post will be about.

A while back, I had written about caffeine and nicotine. This one is all about nicotine. Well not nicotine really but cigarette. Only the smokers will understand the sentiments.

We all think that we light up a smoke because, having become used to it, body needs regular dose of nicotine at frequent intervals.

I think it is not about the physical need but smoking operates at an emotional level. Sit back and analyse the number of times or more like occasions when you have reached out for a cigarette or craved for one. It is never just like that. There is always a trigger. An emotional trigger.

Stress, depression, loneliness, good times, happy times, excitement, when you want to spend time with yourself, when the brain is working very hard on solving a problem… the first instinct is to reach for a smoke rather than somebody to talk to.

Why does that happen? A cigarette does not judge you. It doesn’t give you profound insights if you are stressed or depressed or lonely. It doesn’t give a word of caution if you are feeling very happy or having a good time. It is also not the voice of conscience. It just lets you be.

In a world where everything is a function of relationships and having to conform to those relationships, a cigarette is your silent partner. It probably knows what’s on your mind but doesn’t say a word.

The act of lighting up a cigarette, the first long drag, it is kind of cathartic. Meditation at its best. Letting the thoughts flow rather than telling you to let them flow right out of your head.

Yes, we all know the ill effects of smoking and yes we all need to cut down or stop completely. There are enough voices around you telling you to stop. But a question for them. Can you be what a cigarette is? Will you listen without judging or giving your opinion or advise? Will you be there in good times and bad times? No you won’t.

Those 7-10 mins spent with the cigarette are satisfying. You are with yourself, running all the things through in your head. Even when you are in a social setting (well not anymore because you will be away from everyone. Not allowed). Which I think is a good thing. For the non smokers and also for the smokers.

Smoking does not give you solutions to all your problems every time you light up, but the time that you spend, it helps you perhaps organise things in your head and eventually something might set you off in the right direction.

It’s the solitude that is provided. When the world around is cluttered and clambering with advise, orders, deadlines, responsibilities, duties, commitments… those few minutes away from it all, silencing all the external voices is an emotional oasis. At peace.

I am not promoting smoking in any way but it’s just about how I view smoking.

Caffeine and Nicotine


Statutory warning – this post in no way is encouraging consumption of caffiene or nicotine. The views expressed are solely of the writer and an addict 🙂

I had thought about “confessions of an addict” as the title for the post but then it would have led in all kinds of directions 🙂

Yesterday I was watching some random movie. The protagonist has a lit cigarette in his hand (bottom of the screen has the statutory warning) and is in a heated discussion with another character and the character says something to the effect ” look at you! You don’t belong to this world. Nobody smokes anymore and here you are smoking and living with so called machismo”. Made me wonder. Machismo? Surely we have gone way beyond the Marlboro Man days and yes that kind of imagery perhaps got us into the habit. For me of course it was the crumple pack with a denim feel of Charms. But once in, I doubt if everyone we take a puff, we are feeling macho about it.

So am addicted. To caffiene and nicotine. Yes go ahead and judge me. Am sure you won’t be judging me as much for caffiene as you would for nicotine. I like my addictions. I am not going to say I know they are bad and I should stop. What’s the point of life if you are not addicted to some things. It’s not like I am the only one with addictions. I have mine and you have yours. I am not going to judge you for that.

But coming back to caffiene and nicotine. Only the true addicts will relate to what I say. That sip of coffee. That long first drag of cigarette. That feeling as both go down the throats and mingle with whatever they are supposed to mingle with and do what they do to the physiology and psychology of the person.

These two are extremely individualistic. They do not have a social context or a setting. Think about it. Out of all the cups of coffee that you have or the smoking that you do, what % of it is social? Yes you could be sitting in a coffee shop full of people and be sitting alone and giving your elbow exercise every time you take a sip. Or the smoke. Every time you smoke, it is not like alcohol that you more often than not are with people. It is mostly alone. So after a point ( having got through the social setting it was peddled in) it is about you and you alone.

Caffiene and nicotine, they are there with you in happy times, sad times, stress or euphoria. They are your companion when you are sitting and thinking. About work. About life. About relationships. About what’s bothering you. They don’t talk back. Give advise. Judge you. You are not doing it for social acceptance. If anything, smokers in this world are becoming pariahs. So are the people who consume coffee for what it is and not the imagery. There is a certain bliss, momentary slowing down of everything within your immediate environment. These are the downtimes that you get in day full of pace. You are with your thoughts and eyes are staring into space. The last sip of coffee or the act of stubbing out the cigarette is either done with excitement because you got the thought in your head that you wanted or there is an inaudible sigh of the mind that the downtime is over.

Yes people talk about health issues. How we are destroying our lives with these addictions. And these voices have become vociferous. Specially about smoking. And do you know why? Smoking perhaps is the most visible of all addictions. The spiralling smoke is visible to all. So are the stubs. So what’s visible, is attacked with all the vigour. Passive smoking becomes an issue. The smell (I will call it fragrance) becomes an issue. Also perhaps there is a direct impact on non smokers so it is condemned.

Tell me which addiction does not impact people around the addicts? Perhaps the impact is not direct but there is an impact all the same.

Drinking is socially acceptable. Being on social media all the time is acceptable. Being addicted to making money is acceptable. Being addicted to work is acceptable. And please let’s not talk about corporate culture of maintaining work-life balance. It’s all lip service to act as a great corporate. Tell me which organisation would not want its employees to think about work 24X7?!

So why are most of the addictions socially acceptable? Why do we not even think they are addictions? Boils down to larger social norms and conducts of living in a society or being part of a larger world. Individualism and doing something for One’s own pleasure goes against the norms of being part of the society. Individualism vs collectivism. “How dare you be so selfish and have no consideration for people around you?!!”

Being individualistic is not good. Doing something for your own pleasure is not good. Free will, while it is talked about as a good thing, is not to be encouraged. We may strongly deny it, this world is very much Orwellian. Perhaps not as draconian or explicit but it still is. Under the garb of “it is for your own good”, we expect everyone to conform. Those who don’t, are constantly pushed into a corner or an invisible space. The best example perhaps is to be seen in pubs today. Either you smoke outside (you are an outsider) or you are on display in the small smoking room within the pub. It’s like being in a fishbowl.

These are symbols of a society. A society which says that if you don’t conform, you are an outcaste. Everyone will look at you with that derisive reproach in their eyes as you smoke.

This post is about my addiction to caffiene and nicotine. It is perhaps more about nicotine because like I said it is so visible. But it is also about questioning conformity. Cigarette is symbolic.

(Image courtesy http://www.insider.gr)

The Diesel Vehicle Ban

The Diesel Vehicle Ban

Like all bans, I would imagine that the reason behind the ban of diesel vehicles entering Delhi city is entirely different. Far too often the social causes are used as a reason for the banning something. It is the government or society trying to implement its own agenda under the garb of “Greater Good”.

Yes the air pollution is bad in Delhi. But it is so in many other cities too. What makes Delhi so special? Is it because of its status as the Capital of the country? and thereby all the VVIPs. AAP reduces the electricity tariff and water bills in Delhi? Apart from it being the state they rule, are we saying that other cities in the country do not suffer from these problems?

But coming back to the ban. Let us look at who benefits from the ban on all vehicles older than 10 years. And please… lets not talk about how the quality of air will improve. This quality has been bad for many many years. I still remember 15 years back getting off the flight and the air quality hitting you. So who benefits? Vehicle manufacturers of course! I am wondering if there is an estimate in terms of how many vehicles older than 10 years exist in Delhi/NCR? Given the fact that the automobile population is highest in this region, it would be a very large number that will need replacement.

People shouting for banning the diesel vehicles completely. What is your motivation? Is there a certifiable proof that it is the diesel vehicles that are leading to this? The new age diesel technology is very different from the one that used to exist. Probably on par perhaps with petrol. It is not the vehicle that causes pollution but the poor quality diesel that goes into these automobiles. Of course it is an entirely different issue that the government and the Oil PSUs probably make more money on selling petrol than they do on diesel.

Of course, this ban will also help corrupt officials line their pockets.

My belief has always been that greater good is never ever the reason for the so called actions taken for greater good. Yes some good may actually come out of it but that is not the reason.

Let’s look at this whole controversy on size of the image on Cigarette packs. 40% or 85%… do these policy makers really think it will cut down on smoking?? I would like to know the data of how much did the smoking come down once the images were introduced on the packaging! Oh and it can be from any country and not just India since according to a minister, there is no proof that smoking causes cancer in India. If the governments think that smoking is bad, why not ban every single tobacco product? No wait… banning beef is lot more important right now! Government the world over will never ban these products simply because these products form a very healthy chunk of the revenue. I have a feeling that the way this image controversy will play out is that there will be a negotiation whereby the image size may not go up in a big way but the tax component surely will.

Anyway, call me a cynic for being a non believer in social causes, the fact is that the reason behind people, government and society taking up these causes is always well hidden and never what is shouted from every roof top, every newspaper, every tweet etc. etc.