Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

To Gym or not to Gym?

In Health, work life balance on November 9, 2019 at 00:02

I started gymming after a friend pointed out that I was in no shape to defend my girlfriend from hooligans. It was the first year of college. I had neither abs or a girlfriend. And I had no plans. But to my adolescent mind that was reason enough to start. 15 years later I still can’t stop gymming. Motivations have changed and so has the GDP. But I still go three days a week, 4 if I am not touring and not writing such posts at 2 in the night. It is better than any other habit I would have picked up in college. But all these years later I am still not sure if regular exercise is a good investment in time. 

Nicholas Taleb says, ‘Gymming is to physical exercise what social media is to socializing.’ It should come down to goals and my current goals are longevity and aesthetics, in that order. But then Taleb also says, ‘Modernity’s dual curse is to both to make use live longer and age faster.’ And if your gym plays Kabir Singh on loop for 6 months straight, is the longevity even worth it?Research over the past several years has been disconcerting. 
Even at the lowest average of 2 days per week and 45 minutes per session, I have spent 70,000 mins = 50 full days at the gym, more than three months if you count only waking hours. Not to mention, coming and going, shower and supplements. I hope that it is at least adding more days than it is taking away.
Research on this topic over the last several years has been disconcerting. One study shows mice who were on a healthy diet outlived mice who were on a healthy diet plus exercise. The hypothesis is that while there are benefits; exercise adds to the wear and tear of the body which adds up as ageing and all the conditions that come with it. This is corroborated by latest research on ageing that shows intermittent fasting as the surest way to live longer. All the protein supplements and excess calories cannot be helping. Most of us overeat as if we are compensating for dying of starvation in a previous life. Mild exercise and dignified eating are the only way to go.  
What about all the Mr. Olympias and other sportsmen then? The straight answer is, we never hear from the ones who are past their prime and off the air.  And they don’t have a day job to hold on to.
There are fringe benefits of improved posture and confidence, increased basal metabolic rate and an endorphin boost. But as a student of philosophy I am too acutely aware of the passage of time to let these be deal-breakers. In a world of unlimited pleasures, taking out an hour or more for exercise is nothing short of sacrifice. And just feeling good about yourself cannot be reward enough. The media onslaught of perfect bodies and the Nike onslaught of sweaty motivational videos is overwhelming. But if you are someone who reads my blogs you can easily see past these things at least more than the average Salman fan.
The clock of mortality is ticking constantly. Al of our efforts to shore up against its ultimate collection day are so in vain that it is not even funny. Coveting an idealized physique or even some  arbitrary peak  performance may be taking way more time from the bank than the quality it adds. It is like we are all preparing hard for a final exam for which the result is already out. The best we can do is celebrate the anti-climax. To quote one of the greatest movies of all time, ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying.’ 

Marathons and the art of Outrunning Hubris

In Health, humor, SlavesInc, work life balance, Working on Weekends on January 31, 2018 at 17:45

There is nothing like a saleable product. Any product, service or idea that has margins can and will be exploited to its legal limits and beyond. And if it gathers enough steam it will itself become a part of law and eventually canon. That’s how most religions were born and how new social customs find footing.

One of the most saleable ideas of the past decade has been simply the act of running. Everyone can do it, almost everyone. It is very difficult to feel bad about or guilty after running, unless you have caused yourself an injury but more about that later. You can sell everything from space-age t-shirts to cattle tag watches to electrolytes that cost as much as scotch around the mere activity of sprinting. Marathons have become city-defining events to the extent that taxpayers see no absurdity in paying money to be allowed to run on their own calories in their own city on their own streets. In fact, they look forward to it.

Image result for forrest gump gif

It is every marketer’s waking wet dream. Our lives lack many things; direction, motive and target being the most common absentees. A marathon packs all these into one certified package, a space-age solution to an age-old problem.

In the classical world, Marathon runners were employed because the 4G bill hadn’t been passed yet, labour was cheap and capital punishment was indulged in like dessert. Marathon runners would run hundreds of kilometers without Nikes over dirt roads and such to deliver your message. Sometimes, they never made it. Other times, they did but later died of exhaustion. And if the recipient didn’t like said message, they were known to cull the messenger without even offering him Gatorade first. That is probably where the expression ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ comes from (Please do not try this with your Blue Dart guy). You could afford to this if you were royalty of course. If you were a commoner, you probably didn’t have any friends on the other side of the Alps to ping. But in the modern world, marathons have somehow come to stand for celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Over what? Hamburgers?

At a time in history where most of our frail muscle power is redundant and the parts of our body we use the most are our eyeballs and fingertips, a feeble display of our collective sprinting abilities reeks of vanity. After you’ve worked yourself ragged over the week, the same companies now want you to transform into weekend warriors who will overcome a life time of stuffing your face with cheese with a couple of months of preparation leading up to one day of running. The effort to get a city of over 10 million people into festival mode is a gargantuan one. And they do a scary-good job of it. But with enough profit and political will, we could have been on Mars right now and had a Mars Marathon…sponsored by Mars bars with Bruno Mars as the opening act.

Then, of course, there are those running for a cause.
“I am running for __ (insert cause of choice from pandas to penguins to pygmies).”

If only it were that easy. It is a step ahead of push button activism but many steps short of any real difference. Fitness of the body is an everyday habit and fitness of the mind is a life-long struggle. It is not a public holiday based circus event. Marathon see as high as 50% of participants needing medical attention. Is this not enough for people to wake up from their ad-induced trance and for the health authorities to wake up from their general state of coma? Running for long periods on hard surfaces (few are harder than concrete) is terribly ill-advised. There are enough studies and general understanding of anatomy to prove it. But all the products that can be sold to inactive consumers at home have already been sold. Only your own pain receptors and sense of self-worth can save you now.

Sure some people feel elated after running, specially if it gets 100 likes on Insta. But the rest of us are just caught in a wave of mass paranoia and marketing afterburn. There are many blogs, videos and stories that have you convinced that few things will make you as happy as running. But that faint throbbing you feel in your head after a morning jog through industrial smog…is just peer pressure that under the anaesthetic of daily drudgery and hourly advertisements, it may vaguely feel like happiness. Just like bungee jumping, Zumba and MBAs.

Running is not even a complete body exercise. And anyone who has bored himself to death on a treadmill will tell you that the calories burnt can be undone a couple of glazed donuts or one chocolate eclair. The most dangerous aspect of this entire circus are the stress injuries and long-drawn joint niggles. Prolonged physical stress and exertion shoots up a lot of adrenaline and you feel the damage only next morning when you have only yourself left to blame. Boxers go through this in every match. But they don’t have to submit that sales report the next morning after wading through two hours of rush-hour traffic.

There is nothing like a saleable product. And anything that doesn’t kill you immediately will keep selling with Warning Labels.

– Punit Pania

Not a Morning Person

In Health, humor, Office humor, work life balance on June 2, 2014 at 01:02

As related by a friend and fellow slave


As the minutes pass into hours and hours turn into the morning, you realise time is unforgiving. It is cold and consistent. No wonder you are not on good terms with it.

If you were to plot a graph of the number of hours you sleep, it would be a morbidly declining picture. But wake up you must for you have got for yourself what is called a day job. And after years of doing it you have realised that it would be fair to say you are not a morning person.

not a morning person

After your second visit to the loo and the third rerun of Two and a Half Men, you shudder to even look at the watch. Various methods including multiple alarms on different devices, keeping the curtains ajar and paying the watchman to knock on your door at 7 am every morning have ensured you hold on to your job. In hindsight it seems like one continuous nightmare with interludes of hazy wakefulness…at least it pays the bills.


And it has taken a toll on your circadian rhythms. You find yourself wrestling with sleep even on weekends. It is hard enough training yourself to be one type of person; there is no place to fit in a weekend mode in there. It doesn’t help that the watchman doesn’t keep track of what day it is.

It is 3 am and every cell of your body is crying for a reboot. You tell yourself to power through it for one more day even though you know by now that the tomorrow of work-life balance never comes. The tomorrow when you go to bed early, have an apple in the morning and ditch coffee for green tea is a modern day myth.

Lack of sleep or lack of coffee

You check your calendar: One client visit, two meetings and three con-calls. So you decide to suck it up, you double check your alarms and order your brain to stop thinking. Being professional is a 24-hour job.


At ten minutes past eleven, you realise being professional is overrated. A full blast of sunlight through the window is accompanied by a half-cake recipe being discussed on the telly. The morning rush has passed and all you can hear is a distant dog barking, a bored baby crying and maybe even an odd bird chirping. It’s like you hit a fast-forward button in your brain. You even get a fleeting feeling of what they call…peace.

Truman In case I don't see you

Then you check your phone: three missed calls, two skipped meetings and one defaulted radio taxi pick-up. But the world didn’t end.

Calvin Stars

There are more missed calls coming in. You switch off the phone and look out of your window. Time is cold, consistent and unforgiving. The least you can do is forgive yourself once in a while.


– J.

Life Spans and Short Cuts

In Health, humor, SlavesInc, Technology, work life balance on October 29, 2012 at 04:08

Your brow is sweaty, your heart’s a beating and you sense a vague but seldom felt emotion…that of being alive! Maybe it is a mix of adrenaline and testosterone coupled with (shudder) normal blood sugar. You have not exactly jumped out of a plane but in a nine-to-five cityscape, this is the closest you can get to physical exercise.

Walking. That’s right. Plain old walking. On your own two feet. Imagine that. Just like our ancestors who climbed out of the trees.  That is all you have to do for good health is what some ‘experts’ will have you believe. But it also all you can do for good health. Fair trade. But even you know that walking while eating a king size cheese burger is just fooling yourself.

And to think all it took to get you vertical and in a non air-conditioned environment was a series of seemingly unrelated cross-leveraged events, like Cloud Atlas. Powers that be in your galley decided the long term cost of employee insurance would take us all down like the Titanic. Gone are the good old days when you could select your slaves by looking at their dentures and shooting them dead when they were too frail to pick in the fields. Now, you have cover for their medical expenses. What a scam!

WalkOn they call it, for lack of a better name. And quite a pile on it is. Each employee is given a Pedometer, you know, those devices that magically count the number of steps you take. They are kind of like cattle tags except you can harness them on your person without the need for painful piercing in the absence of anesthesia. The cost has probably been claimed as depreciation already. But a lot of pomp is beaten up citing ‘employee engagement’. You have heard the word ‘care’ so many times over the past few weeks; it has begun to sound like something dangerous. They just stopped short of getting Johnny Walker to sponsor it. Something about company policy and alcohol came in the way. It was close.

So if you haven’t got it by now, here is the dough: Fat employees eating up too much insurance-Need to whip them into shape-No time left after insanely long office hours and working on weekends-Gyms too expensive-Simplest way is to make the blobs walk-But they are bound to cheat-So we stick them with cattle tags linked through the magic of GPS to their Slave numbers (employee IDs) and hence their insurance benefits and salary accounts-Wrap this all up in the shiny gift wrapping paper of employee engagement and…

There is one problem. Motivation. Yes, it is in short supply. We can’t give out more green, if anything, we should be giving out less. So you tie it with up with team building-KRA- inter-department-competition hoopla, add weekly updates via mass automated mailing and voila – Healthier Slaves!

It is a modern day miracle.

So on a typical Monday morning, typical meetings begin as such:

Colleague X: Hey, we can’t start, J is not here

HS:  Oh I have put him on…another assignment

Colleague X: You mean the new product? That is a dead end

HS: No-no. This is a very important assignment; he is taking one for the team

You see, walking is a team activity with team goals and you can’t expect to HS to be out walking when there is millions worth of business walking past us. So you agree to do his part of the walking and a little bit more. It is a pain to carry a change of clothes and sneakers. You look like you are going out hunting in the morning and your use of deodorants has increased significantly. But any bit of work-life balance is welcome, random events and ulterior motives be damned.

PS: The Pedometer is not a very smart device; it continues counting even when you take a bus. It gives you a feeling of bastardly smugness, like a Hedge fund manager. But that is not how you were raised.

– J.

The Cribber next Cube

In duracell bunny, frayed ends of sanity, geographical sense, Health, humor, minute periods, Office, violence and bloodshed on September 16, 2011 at 03:21

It is the same tedious movie over and over again. Only the actors change, the characters remain the same. There is the squealer, the cribber, old man Jack, the almost good-looking receptionist and the Duracell bunny high on Valium. You would like to think of yourself as ‘caught in the wrong job’ type but that is not very niche, is it?

In every galley you have served time in, you seem to attract the most stressed species. Off course, when you say attract, you mean in a geographical sense: same department, neighboring cubicle, shared printer.

In your current slammer, the character of the cribber is played by none other than Mrs. Saldana. Loud and within earshot, Mrs. S is a cure for deafness and a malady for sanity. With planetary precision, she starts her record soon after 9. She quiets down by 4 by when she has already started packing. But it is too late by then. You are at the frayed ends of sanity and your to-do list seems to be defying many laws of physics by simply not ending.

Though cribbing audibly seems to be at the very top of her KRAs, Mrs. S does some other work too. She attends exactly 3 personal calls throughout the day that may last in multiples of 30 minute periods. These are more peaceful times as her tone of voice undergoes schizophrenic changes when on the phone. Almost alchemically, she reverts to the slow grinding cribbing as soon as the receiver of her phone clicks ending her call.

Any question or greeting directed at her invariably meets with a complaint about how overworked she is and how the work sucks and how she is just gonna die doing this! It is not very eloquent but it gets the job done. Like a construction site next door or an alarm clock that you can’t locate in your cupboard, Mrs. S’s voice speaks to your most primeval urges of violence and bloodshed. There have been times when you have almost gotten off your not-so ergonomic chair, stepped into the cubicle next door and told her to put a sock in it, or two. But frustrating civility keeps you in your chair. The only thought that comes to your mind is: ‘Where is your gun when you need it the most?’ It keeps you up at nights. There have been times when you could have sworn you heard Mrs. Saldana’s baritone outside your window. On most occasions it turns out to be a cat but it is disconcerting.

Following months of bombardment, a different day finally dawns. On a rather peaceful Monday morning, your train of thought is broken by the piercing sound of silence. Amazed, you stand up to check on Mrs. S. She finally took a day off, you think. Next door Joe seems to have read your thoughts.

NDJ: Mrs. Saladana won’t be coming in for a while.

You: (only manage a ‘what gives?’ expression that barely contains your joy)

NDJ: You see that young man over there?

You: (still the same expression)

NDJ: That is her son, he has come here to collect her things. Mrs. S suffered a heart attack over the weekend. So she won’t be coming in for a while. Doctors say it was stress.

You: (only manage an expression that is a mixture of shock and guilt)

Sympathy is long dead and empathy is in short supply. It is every slave for himself.

– J.

Daylight Saving Time

In circadian rhythms, conspiracy theories, day of creation, Health, humor, nine to five, Office, rare occurrence, Technology, Wage Slaves on September 6, 2011 at 03:16

As you near the gates, your steps grow anxious. You are still trying to determine if this is really happening. You have a look of heightened disbelief on your face as you approach a familiar milestone. But it looks different, better, happier. As you finally step out, “Daylight!” you utter loudly ‘Daylight,’ the guard concurs affording a faint smile.

This is not the last scene of a formulaic prison movie. This is you leaving office on time; it is a rare occurrence, a blue moon. For a few seconds, you just stand there, not knowing what to do next. Your eyes are still adjusting to the extra lumens, your nose taking in whiffs of what actually feels like cleaner air. You want to do a Hulk and tear off the shirt but prudence is hard to shake off even in broad daylight. This is your interview shirt but you can afford to loosen your collar, let your hair down and call it a day (sic).

You have still not understood why your galley pulls the blinds and uses flourescent lighting throughout the day. It does not fit the penny-pinching personality of Slaves Inc. You can think of numerous evil reasons why artificial light would be imposed: to develop detachment from nature, induce vitamin D deficiency, scrambling circadian rhythms, acclimatize to never-ending shifts… But there will be loads of time for conspiracy theories tomorrow, and the day after. Today, you need to make the most of day light hours. A quick nap seems appropriate. Sure there is a mountain of work to climb tomorrow. But for now, the demons of your desk seem to have sublimated like Vampires in sunlight.

– J.

Caffeine Clique

In Boss, Health, humor, Office, Organisation, Wage Slaves on June 27, 2011 at 13:40

In most Futuramas, everyone wears the same clothes, uniforms if you will. They also have the same asexual haircut and vitamin-D deficient facial expressions. That is because utopias are boring. Real world is not.

Social orders, stratifications and competition make the game worth playing. Unlike video games and competitive sports, we can’t have people walking around with jet packs and sashes. So we give them milder trophies. Like a shinier name plates, a costlier chair and better quality tea and coffee.

These everyday drinks, humble in their commonness are also stratifying in their variety. From your chicory-adulterated pedestrian cuppa to your boss’ Darjeeling organic to his boss’ ultra green, there is one to suit every palate and pocket. There are almost as many varieties as there are layers in your company’s organogram.

Placebo or enabler

You would think a ‘company with presence in over 100 countries’ can afford better coffee for its employees. But you may be missing the bigger picture. You realize this on a fateful day when your boss’ boss calls you to his cabin for the first time. Let us call him ‘Slave in Chief’ – SIC for convenience. SIC is known to be magnanimous in person but stingy over e-mail.

“Have some green tea, it’s organic.” So far, he has stuck to his profile.

He serves it to you without waiting for your reply. You awkwardly slump into the chair facing SIC’s ping-pong table-sized desk. Small talk ensues, mostly moderated by him. He is intermittently distracted by his phone that seems to be flashing something unpleasant.

“What is it?” he finally barks into the phone. This initial pleasantry is followed by long drawn silence, interspersed with nods.

Meanwhile, he motions you to add honey instead of sugar. Your village upbringing has already given itself away.

 'It's not a gift, I earned it.'

After the initial salutation, SIC does not manage to get one full sentence in:

“But I…

…wanted to…

Let me at least….

We will…

This Satur..

I prom..”

……………someone just hung up on your SIC.

The rest of the meeting, post phone call, is vague and unproductive. However, two important things were learnt on this day:

  1. The wife doesn’t care two hoots what your visiting card says
  2. Organic Green tea tastes like expired cough medicine

High end caffeine drinks must be an acquired taste, like classical music. Weather they are an outcome of or means to enter inner circles…you will only know when you cross over.

– J.

With a Cigarette in their hand…

In Health, humor, Office on May 17, 2011 at 03:12

It is a closed group with complex social dynamics. There is a hierarchy and detailed customs. The Alpha usually controls the proceedings. In his absence or late coming, a deputy may take over. However, on Alpha’s eventual arrival, the deputy meekly surrenders the throne.

In the Flesh

A payload of camaraderie ensues as the day’s proceedings goes up in smoke through intense interaction. The general form is relaxed, almost casual. To the onlooker outside the pack, the whole thing exudes a ‘we came, we saw, we filed’ demeanor.

It is only 10 am, time for the day’s second smoke.

For most nicotine junkies, this is the manliest thing they do on a given day. Sometimes, you think they are better off this way. Having doodled/photoshoped them without their moustaches on a never-ending Friday afternoon, you have serious doubts about their…modesty. The figure hugging polo-necks sported on casual Saturdays have not helped their cause either.


You would think they are discussing some serious manly stuff. But if you happen to stray too close to the pack and overhear the banter, this is what you may probably chance upon:

Smoker α:   I think tea is giving me acidity.

Smoker β:   I hear you.

Smoker β1: Really?

There is more intellectual fodder on offer, but you choose to move on.

Ethics and support groups aside, you experience new-found respect for heritage brands that made cigarettes what they are today. Had the folks in these frontier companies relied on something akin to modern day consumer profiling/consumer connect, we would have had these daisies in our collective conscious as the essential smokers. It might not have encouraged as many people to smoke which would have been a good thing. I would still prefer a cow boy though…

But it is only 10 am yet. The best ideas usually emerge after the 5th stick.

–          J.

Lunch Time!

In Boss, Health, humor, Office, Office Romance, Wage Slaves on April 17, 2011 at 17:28

It is past noon. You have willy-nilly worked-up the appetite for some calories. Yes, machine-dispensed caffeinated drinks and tobacco do give you the strength to go on. But even desk-bound organisms need some edible organic stuff every few hours.

Until a few generations back, food used to be a primary reason to work in the first place. Now, it is a lot more complicated. But we digress.

The point is; it is lunchtime. And you need to go to the canteen damn it. On holidays, when you have greater freedom as to what to do with your person, you eat late into the afternoon whilst recovering from the brunch. You let your mood decide when and what to consume. It can be a stressful process. Hence, some employers generously take this difficult call for you.

1.30 pm to 2.00 pm

Take it or leave it. And you don’t want to be the 3rd person to be waiting in line for the photo-copier machine on an empty stomach. Have you ever noticed how the last guy in front of you always seems to be Xeroxing a huge stack of papers, papers that can be bound together to rival the Bible (King James’s version)?

But we digress again. It is already past 1.40 pm. Any further delay and you will not get the dessert, again. You say, ‘Screw everything, I should eat!’ And you get up to storm out of your floor. A gut feeling slows you down. You know you shouldn’t look back but you just can’t help it, like a Slasher movie. And it happens.

Your phone, no. 653 on the speed dial, is ringing. The silhouette through the blinds and the generally deserted nature of the rest of the floor tells you it is probably the boss. He has evolved into an alternate life form, one that does not require proteins and carbs like you lowly amoebas. He probably just feeds on your brain waves! Come to the think of it, you have never seen him in the restroom either. He is too young to be on a catheter.

All this pondering has eaten into another couple of nutrition-less minutes. But the phone refuses to shut up. You pick it up but are too disgusted with yourself to say hello. “Where’s the file on Turkey?” utters a soulless voice at the other end. You look at the clock, unforgiving, detached and not hungry. If only you could be more like it. You sit down and start looking for the file with only yourself to blame.

You try to turn your apprehension in humanity into neutral detachment. You forge a smile as your co-workers trickle in, sub-standard food in belly. “Lucky you didn’t come for lunch, it was nasty! Grabbed a sandwich for you, here”, says Rita with a smile that is immaculate in conception.

Mini-miracles defy prediction. Detachment will have to wait.

–          J.


In Health, HR, humor, Office on March 21, 2011 at 17:57

Soft music is playing in the background. It is like pipe music, only more gay. You lay on the ground. You are awkward about the fact that you can’t remember the last time you felt more comfortable. An impressive but slightly jarring voice commands you to feel various parts of your body. As you try to let go of your inhibitions, you are faintly aware of the communal scheme of things around you.

Just as you are drifting into suspension, a gathering vibration pulls you back into gravity. It is probably a random message selling you packaged tours on your cell phone. You look at the clock, the official photographer and relatively limp bodies of recent acquaintances that are littered around you.

This could only mean one thing: an HR-sponsored time-eater!

Names can range from the Mythological (Rejuvenation) to the pedestrian (Training Programme.) Claims can be even loftier.

Enlightened Detachment

You hate ‘motivational talk’ and formal turn-by-turn introductions as much as the next guy. But there are up-sides to look forward to:

>> You are away from your desk and you are being paid for it.

>> Slightly better caffeinated drinks than office.

>> The food looks more expensive than canteen food and will taste different, if not better.

>> Some of the activities might actually be fun, eg; paintball. You can finally aim for that bald spot on your boss’s head (all for building team spirit off cousre).

>> Not falling asleep in this set-up would be a new challenge and can enhance your skills.

>> Meeting a cross-section of the organization’s talent sloppily out of their element may make you feel good about yourself.

Sure there are is an organized sanctimony about the whole event. As grown men sing songs, hold hands and struggle with craft items, you feel like you are in an orgy with Robin Sharma, Shiv Khera and Oprah!  The natural response off course is revulsion. The positive energy being exuded by the ‘trainer’ makes you feel so warm inside that you want to puke!

But you will only make it harder for yourself if you go with your natural response. Do the opposite. In most cases, the opposite is what the organization wants. So just give in to the packaged motivation.

To the Trainer: “Mr. Sequeira, sorry, Bob…I think we should also share the meaning of the poems we have written.”

In the feedback form: “I have learnt so much. I can’t wait to get back to work to implement all this. I propose HR follow up every week to document the positive changes this session will bring about.”

To participative co-workers: “I agree.” and “Could you elaborate more?” every two minutes.

To all participants:  “Can we hold hands for a little longer?”


“Let’s do that again!”

Being politically correct can be fun when the audience knows you don’t mean it. This way, whatever memories you have of another day earning your bread will be almost pleasant.