During and after a week on a raw food diet

Following up a 2-day raw fruit diet in November 2011, and a 5-day one in the first week of 2012, I thought it was time to do another one. I had been reading the book Clean, and slowly getting excited to launch myself into the 3-week detox diet mentioned in the book. But  reality struck after a particularly troublesome night with a crying baby, and I settled for the easier raw food diet. It has now been more than a week since I ended the week long diet, and thought that now is a good time to reflect on the past two weeks on how I felt during the week and after the week of this diet.

During that week

The plan was similar to my previous attempt — to eat only raw fruits and vegetables. The diet was complemented by nuts (almonds and walnuts) when I felt really hungry, and a teaspoon of flax oil or olive oil at night to get the good fats. It is recommended to take a protein shake as well, but I could manage to down ‘muscle milk‘ only one night before questioning whether I really needed it, given its horrible taste. And of course it is recommended to drink lots of water.

What is always surprising to me during such a diet is how easily the body and mind adapt to the newly imposed constraints. I knew this from past experience, and so was much more relaxed during this week than in the past. That allowed me to navigate this week even easier than last time. I would rate the difficulty of going through the week as a 8 on 10 – a rating I would give to a ‘moderately hard’ weekend long run. Given that my sleep schedule was still haphazard thanks to an infant in the house, it was satisfying to be able to go through the week with relative ease.

While subsisting on raw fruits and vegetables was a breeze for me this time around, it was a new challenge to me this time to eat in strict moderation, i.e., allow hunger to come in before eating and double checking with myself whether I was hungry or not before launching into a plate full of fruits or vegetables. Earlier I had thought that it is ok, even preferred, to keep grazing all day. Once you allow that, you can always take in a handful of almonds whenever and get that feeling of fullness. However, the book talks about giving the digestive system of the body ample rest and to “work with hunger” to try to really understand hunger. The following quote and advice from the Clean book was useful to remember:

“What we call hunger is often just a habitual urge or just the desire to eat, often to distract, numb, or comfort. Drink some water, because often dehydration appears in our body as the feeling of hunger. Take some deep breaths and find something else to occupy your mind, or better yet, to occupy your body. Move around. Go outside. Keep breathing. It will pass. Each time this happens, that ‘hungry’ feeling will pass more quickly, and you become stronger than your cravings.”

Once I started practicing this, it became second nature. When hunger came, I could check in on myself and enjoy that feeling of being able to check in on myself during such bouts of supposed hunger. Make no mistake – this was not being masochistic or being cruel to myself in any way. Think of it as a really interesting thing to be able to look deeper into oneself. And there were a couple of times when I did feel really hungry. At those times, indeed a handful of almonds makes you feel quite full with in half an hour. To be sure, neither nuts, nor fruits or vegetables make you feel satisfied in the same way as a pizza or your favorite hot meal would normally. But the interesting part is that you stop wanting to feel satisfied in the same way you wanted to usually. You start to “work with” your diet and the craving just stops. That was the most interesting part for me. By the 6th day, I was not even feeling hungry or craving anything that I would normally crave, such as coffee or a hot meal or any of the other plentiful free snacks at work. When the 7th day ended, and I could again eat anything I wanted, I actually had no rush of desire to eat anything that I had not eaten during those 7 days.

I also lost about 5 pounds during these 7 days, which was a nice side-effect. I did not feel weak or lethargic at any time, except a couple of days of a bit more sleepiness when the night sleep was again disturbed thanks to an erratically sleeping baby at home. I went for a run twice in that week. My mind was clearer and I could notice that it was indeed more available to the tasks at hand. This difference was most noticeable in early afternoons when the past lethargic feeling post lunchtime was still fresh in memory. And inexplicably, there were a few moments when I had sudden rush of energy – the kind that you feel when the endorphins are flooding your body post a good run or any aerobic exercise.

A week after

It’s now been about ten days since I returned to my normal diet. In many ways, this, now, is really the much harder part – to translate the reset of the body during that week to a daily practice for life. That indeed is the thing to crack. And I have failed to not succumb to the odd bout of snacking or overeating a meal or two in the last 10 days. But what has happened is that I have been able to be much more mindful of my overeating than before, and have been able to take some action after if not during the act of overeating. For example, if I got carried away and over-ate at lunch, I could check in with myself and go without dinner. This would never happen earlier – because you know, at night, one was supposed to have dinner, without fail.

Also, I have been able to mostly (though not all) replace my previous coffee with green tea, and my afternoon snacks of dark chocolate almonds with a peach or an apricot. My weight has increased by a couple of pounds since the drop, still leaving me net 3 pounds or so lighter. More importantly, my body still feels lighter and I still feel quite better than before the dieting week.

All in all, a successful experiment. I am looking forward to doing it again in a few months.

Meaning of the Hindi word “Jiya” जिय

We have named our newborn daughter “jiya”. For some reason, we had thought of this name many years ago, even before our first child Manan was born. In this post, I want to share my attempts at finding the origin and real meaning of jiya. Here’s how far I have reached:

जिय is a word from the Hindustani (aka Hindi-Urdu) language that likely originates from the Sanskrit word जीव which was probably first morphed into the colloquial Hindi word जी and then into जिय and variation जिया. The Sanskrit जीव is a deep word that signifies the essence of life, the spirit and the soul that imparts life with vitality. Hence the words जी and जिय both mean “spirit” or “soul”. Sometimes जिय is used to denote “heart” or “piece of heart”, but it does not literally mean the organ heart. Synonyms in Hindi would be the words मन and चित्. Here are some ways these words are used in the vernacular:

  1. जी कर रहा है …..
  2. मेरा जी खुश है / जल रहा है / सुखी है / भर अाया है / ….
  3. जिय has sometimes been morphed into जिया and appears in many popular Bollywood songs such as “जिया जले”, “जिया धडक धडक जाए”, “जिया बेकरार है” etc.

Note that the word जिय appears in much of Hindi literature from eminent medieval poets such as Tulsidas, Suurdas, Rahim, etc.

If you are reading this and have some more insight, please do let me know!


The “Digital Dictionaries of South Asia” is a wonderful online resource. The word जिय appears in many different dictionaries there. For example, Shyamsundar Das’s Hindi dictionary says:

जिय † संज्ञा पुं० [सं० जीव] मन । चित्त । जी । उ०—(क) अस जिय जानि सुनहु सिख भाई । करहु मातु पितु पद सेव— करई ।—तुलसी (शब्द०) । (ख) प्रसनं चंद सम जतिय दिन इक मंत्र इष्ट जिय । इह आराधत भट्ट प्रगट पंचास बीर बिय ।—पृ० रा०, ६ । २६ ।

and Platts’ Urdu/Classical Hindi dictionary suggests:

H جيا जिया jiyājīʼā [S. जीव+कः], s.m. Life, soul (=); beloved, dear, darling.

It also suggests many more common uses of the words जी and जिय here.


  • The words ज्या and जिया also appear in Sanskrit and from there in Pali, Prakrit and even in Persian as zih. There they mean “rope” or “bowstring”. As an aside, this word is at the root of the trigonometric word “sine”.
  • The name Jiya also appears in South Africa and means “piece of heart”.
  • The name Gia is an Italian name that means “God is gracious”.
  • The name Jia in Chinese means “beautiful”.
  • An easy way to search for how popular a name is to search for it on Twitter. For example, these are the results for Jiya.

It is amazing how some things have success written all over them

Note: This was posted in April 2011 in my Posterous blog. After Posterous was shut down, I resurrected this post on April 25, 2015.

It is amazing how some things have success written all over them.

April 5 2011, 12:09 AM
by Pankaj Gupta

It is one of life’s pleasures to fondly remember, through hazy memories, how a certain place or people there used to be in the good old days. I indulge in such a pleasure quite often. It however is a special joy, an oddly humbling joy, to see how a certain event or phenomenon that one started has grown to be bigger than what one ever imagined.

I am talking about an event I co-founded with 4-5 other friends when I was a student at Stanford University. We were volunteers in the Stanford chapter of Asha, a non-profit organization focused on child education in India. A constant pre-occupation of our small group was to raise funds by organizing various events (those funds would then support NGO-run education projects).

The event we decided to celebrate on one fateful evening of 1999 was to hold an event on-campus to celebrate Holi, the festival of colors. On March 7, 1999, we were expecting 50 people to show up. We got 300. We raised perhaps $2K. Yesterday, I went with my wife and our not-yet-2 year old son to the same event, now run by a new generation of volunteers, definitely half a generation younger than me. There were probably 5000 people there, the event was sold out in advance, and I would guess $50K might have been raised. Me and my friends of 1999 have reason to be pleased. I was feeling proud and dug up some old documents and links from that fateful spring 12 years ago.

Asha Holi 1999

I distinctly remember saying to the group that we should do some event for Holi. There were a few events to celebrate Holi in the bay area, but none really fun. None of them provided water, or even colors to play with. Our group spotted an opportunity. We decided that here was the time to be really different and provide what no-one else could: water, colors, and a fun and young crowd to play Holi together with. Any feeble protestations of logistical difficulties must have been dismissed, for I do not remember them. We had nothing to lose, and set up the event in the Bechtel International center, hoping 50 people would show up. We took the necessary permissions for colors, water and food.

We got up that morning of March 7th 1999, nervous of not knowing how this would turn out. Somehow help arrived in the form of new volunteer faces. And then students started showing up. And then more and more showed up. We ended up counting close to 300 and had such fun that I remember we declared the event to be a smashing success to ourselves and counted every dollar of the $2000 we had just raised for Asha.

Sadly, no images survive on my computer. However, an article was carried by the Stanford Daily the next day.

(The Stanford daily URL has been known to be flaky, so here is the screenshot as well).stanford-daily-march-1999-holi

From that point on, there was no looking back. It was immediately clear to us that we could make this big if we spent more effort on it. We immediately moved it out of Bechtel and into Wilbur Field, and prepared for 500 people the next year. Well, 1000 people showed up and there was no looking back in subsequent years. This became the single biggest fund-raising event, and by a huge margin, for Asha Stanford.

Asha Holi 2011

Fast forward 12 years. Kudos to new generations of Asha volunteers have taken this event to completely new level. Year on year, the event has gained strength and people. There is hardly any Indian in the San Francisco Bay area who has not heard of this event.

Here are a few videos of the event.

Obviously, the magnificence of the event now has nothing to do with me or the small Asha group in 1999. The event might as well had petered out. But it did not (another event, us showing world cup cricket in a shared area, did die out). Full credit goes to passionate volunteers for progressively taking it to the next level. Still, I reckon I might be pardoned for feeling self-pleased. I am very very humbled and very very proud that our legacy lives on, in a form that was never imagined by that small group of volunteers in 1999.
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Update on April 25, 2015: The Holi event has continued to increase in popularity. It is now celebrated at Stanford on two consecutive days and also by the Asha chapter in San Francisco. I just attended the latter today and tweeted this live stream of the event.


I want to tell a personal story. An incident happened to me in all of one moment and shook me to the core. It made me laugh at my stupidity and also handed me a valuable lesson. Oh and a story to tell the grandkids some day.

The story is set in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, in a parking garage. A map of the exact location in Mission is needed here. J, B, U, Serrano’s and SFBC are locations on the streets as marked around the parking garage in question.

J and U are food establishments that I have frequented quite often in the past year that I have been in San Francisco. My route on such occasions from home via car is the orange arrow from Valencia on the left into the parking garage.

A couple of months ago, I enrolled in a weekly evening course at SFBC (on Bartlett, on the RHS of the map above). I would come straight from work using the route marked by the black directed line on 21st from right. I would cross Bartlett and turn left into the parking garage. I would park my car in the garage, walk over to the door (unlabeled gray box directly opposite SFBC) and go into SFBC. After the 2 hour class, I would walk back to the garage, pay the parking attendant at the booth the parking fees and exit out the garage the way the blue arrows go in the map above: out and left on to 21st facing Serrano’s, and then left on to Valencia to go to home.

I went for 6 weeks to SFBC for my course. The course finished. Then a few days later, I again went to Serrano’s (via the same orange route) and parked my car in the garage as usual. And there, in one moment, it was as if a bolt of lightning had hit me. I was left thoroughly shaken. I realized at that moment that this is actually the same parking garage that I used when coming in for my SFBC class. My brain raced to think about how it was when I used to come for the class. I then realized that I had often marveled how the parking attendant looked somewhat familiar and how once or twice I had felt that I “knew” the pizza place called Serrano’s when exiting the garage after the class. Whoa! How stupid could I have been? To top it all, it was a meditation class in SFBC that would usually leave me quite calm and awake so I was definitely not in an unalert state around my class. Granted that I am still new to SF, but what happened? Why did my brain not realize it earlier?

It is astonishing to me that I could not conclude this simple fact even at those times when I “felt” after the class that I had somehow seen the parking attendant before. Equally astonishing is the simple but powerful life lesson embedded in this episode: the crucial value of perspective. Isn’t it amazing how the same thing can look completely different depending on how you are looking at it. In my case a parking garage looked like two different garages for no good reason. You look at a thing slightly differently, perhaps at a different time of day or in a different frame of mind and an apple could look like an orange. Isn’t that incredible? A simple lesson in the wisdom of practising tolerance of other points of view.

I am definitely passing this story to my grandchildren!

Too Big To Fail – My thoughts

I sometimes like to listen to audiobooks on my daily commute (which is typically 15-20 minutes each way), and I just finished “Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin. This book is a gripping drama of the events that were unfolding for a while and that precipitated in Fall 2008 when some of the most iconic names of the US financial system either failed or missed failure by the smallest of margins. This effectively led the US Federal government to part-nationalize the six biggest US banks, in a move that can not be vehemently argued to be against the principles of capitalism and free market. Though, a lot has been written down on the financial excesses and the excessive leveraging that led to the bursting of the bubble in 2008, this book has a lot to offer.

So that’s what this means

First of all, it took me the longest time to clear up my confusion about the title of the book, as the events seemed to unfold to me exactly opposite to what I thought the title meant. I now realize that the title is meant to mean : “Too big to be allowed to fail”. On further investigation, this is actually a term of art in public policy!

Worth Noting

Several things appeared to me worthy of being noted down:

It was shocking to see how close some of the biggest banks were to failure — the book talks about companies not lasting the weekend and multi-billion dollar deals that had to be made overnight to save century old banks. It was indeed chilling to realize how close to the brink some of the most solid names in US financial industry were!

I also mentally noted how hard the folks in charge in the Govt (Henry Paulson, the then Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, the then President of the Fed and their teams) worked to try to get to grips with the problems that all seemed to precipitate simultaneously. The folks at the helm, and their team deserve at least some credit. The other day I happened to listen to an interview on NPR of Neel Kashkari, who oversaw the $700 Billion bail out plan (called TARP). Indeed, as Kashkari pointed out in the interview, those were the hardest working days of his life. (Kashkari, then all of 35 years old, was considered one the heroes of the Government bailout plan). NPR also ran a story on October 4, 2010, the day of expiry of the two year old TARP program.
Neel Kashkari

It was also hard not to feel for Lehman Brothers, the historic bank that was founded in 1850 and employed more than 26000 people when it filed for Chapter 11 on September 15, 2008. It somehow got caught in between the indecisiveness of the Fed and the times when the market could have swung either way, collapsed. Luckily, the same fate was not meted out to other companies like AIG and Morgan Stanley.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is fascinating to see that the diagnosis of the problems in the financial system was that the “market was too free” — Adam Smith must be squirming in his grave!

Adam Smith

Two years on

I am equally surprised at what I now see has happened in the two years since Fall 2008 when the Fed had to take the extraordinary step of effectively forcing the biggest private banks to be part-nationalized.

Firstly, not much has changed! The banks who were too big to fail in 2008 are still too big to fail, while folks of all kinds continue to debate the merits of various alternatives.

Secondly, the TARP program, much maligned and ridiculed by the lawmakers and armchair critics at the time, has actually been pretty good for the Government. As Wikipedia says, “Originally expected to cost the U.S. Government $356 billion, the most recent final net estimate of the cost, as of October 5, 2010, will be close to $30 billion, …”. In fact, judging from the fact that there has been no major economic disaster since, the program seems to have been a success.

Finally, it seems like this will not be the last major financial crisis to hit this generation. All said and done, several respected people claim that it is just a five or ten year cycle and that these crises are expected to occur! In fact, we seem to be in a “doom loop” because, despite the rhetoric, big banks know that they can get away with high risk, high reward gambles and that, despite everything, they will still be considered “too big to fail”.

A mesmerizing ghazal: Woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar thaa (वो जो हम में तुम में करार था)

For those of us who listen to Hindi or Urdu Ghazals, there are undoubtedly a few special favorites we can never get tired of listening to. Three months ago, I chanced upon this Ghazal and since then I haven’t been able to take it off my mind. There were two whole weeks when I listened to nothing else but this (that ‘Repeat one’ setting is useful).

The genius of Momin

The Ghazal’s writer is Hakim Momin Khan Momin (1800-1851) who was an Urdu poet par excellence in Delhi. This time period was perhaps the peak of Urdu poetry in India, with poets like Mirza Ghalib and Zauq who are contemporary to Momin. (This was also a time of great political upheaval. Under the last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the 300 year old Mughal empire was ceding to full British colonial rule of India.)

Perhaps the greatest of them all, Ghalib, truly appreciated the genius of Momin. Legend has it that he offered Momin the authorship of Ghalib’s दीवान (entire poetry collection) in exchange of just one couplet of Momin’s. This couplet is the following enigmatic two lines:

तुम मेरे पास होते हो गोया
जब कोई दूसरा नही होता

tum mere paas hote ho goya
jab koii doosra nahi hota

You are close to me [as if]
when no one else is

The English translation does not capture the many layers of meaning in the verse. Scholars have been trying to interpret the meanings of these two simple lines above for a long time.

Want to listen?

The ghazal has been sung by various singers. Singers in order of my preference for this ghazal are: Ghulam Ali, Begum Akhtar, Usha Uthup, Nayyara Noor. The ghazal has also been sung by Madhurani, Pankaj Udhaas, Abida Parveen, Farida Khanum and Talat Aziz. Each singer brings out the beauty of the ghazal in different ways. I am in love with the Ghulam Ali’s version while I must say that Begum Akhtar’s is also special.
These are some YouTube links you might find interesting (wherever there is a live video of the actual singer, I have embedded the video directly, while for others I have only provided the link to youtube).

  1. Ghulam Ali Live:
  2. Another version by Ghulam Ali
  3. Begum Akhtar. This includes the poem in Urdu and its translation in English (also see my notes below).
  4. Nayyara Noor live:

  5. Also, by Nayyara Noor: with lyrics in Urdu
  6. Farida Khanum
  7. Abida Parveen

I had the youtube links for versions sung by Pankaj Idhaas, Madhu Rani and Chitra Singh as well, but sadly those links are not working any more. If any reader comes across these versions, please let me know.

It is worth pointing out that I have not been able to find any singer who has sung the whole ghazal. Most singers have unfortunately sung no more than half the verses.

The Ghazal

I will write the verses in Devanagari, provide an English Transliteration in semi-ITRANS, as well as make an impossible attempt at an English translation, which will remain necessarily impoverished. Unfortunately, I don’t know the beautiful Urdu script otherwise I would write the verses one by one in Urdu as well. However, the whole poem in Urdu is on Wikipedia.

1 (matla)
वो जो हममे तुममे क़रार था तुम्हें याद हो के ना याद हो
वही यानी वादा निभाः का तुम्हें याद हो के ना याद हो

vo jo humme tumme qaraar thaa, tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho
vahi yaani vaada nibhaah kaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[qaraar = स्थिरता, सुकून, stability, steadiness, contentment, understanding, agreement, deal
nibhaah = get along, stay/live together, loyalty]

That steadiness we had between us, you might remember or you might not
That promise of staying together, you might remember or you might not

[The second part of the verse (tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho) is repeated at the end of every sher (couplet), and can be translated in many ways: “whether you remember it or not”, or “perhaps you remember or perhaps you don’t” or “you might remember or you might not”. It is also possible that Momin meant a subtly different meaning in the different couplets. The tone seems to be a mixture of regret, taunt, sadness, or even anger.]

कोई बात ऐसी अगर हुई के तुम्हारे जी को बुरी लगी
तो बयाँ से पहले ही भूलना तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

koii baat aisii agar huii ke tumhaare jii ko burii lagii
to bayaa.N se pehale hii bhoolna tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[bayaa.N = speak out
boolna = forgetting, ignoring]

if some thing might happen, that was not to your liking
the forgetting before speaking it out, you might remember or you might not

सुनो ज़िक्र है कई साल का कोई वादा मुझ से था आप का
वो निभाने का तो ज़िक्र क्या तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

suno zikr hai kaii saal kaa koii vaadaa mujh se thaa aap ka
vo nibhaane kaa to zikr kyaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[zikr = story, mention]

listen, the story of many years ago, some promise to me you had made
forget the mention of keeping that now, perhaps you remember it or perhaps you don’t

वो नये गिलहे वो शिकायतें वो मज़े-मज़े की हिकायतें
वो हर एक बात पे रूठना तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

vo naye gilahe vo shiqaayatei.n vo maze-maze kii hiqaayatein
vo har ek baat pe rooThanaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[gilahe = dissatisfaction, resentment
shiqaayatei.n = complaints
hiqaayatei.n = stories
rooThanaa = to show or behave like being displeased]

those new resentments, those complaints, those light hearted and fun stories
that being displeased at every thing, you might remember or you might not

कभी हम में तुम में भी चाह थी कभी हम से तुम से भी राह थी
कभी हम भी तुम भी थे आश्ना तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

kabhii ham mei.n tum mei.n bhii chaah thii kabhii ham se tum se bhii raah thii
kabhii ham bhii tum bhii the aashna tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[kabhii = once upon a time, some time, at one time
chaah = want
raah = joy
aashna = friend, lover]

some time there was this want in me and in you, some time there was this joy between me and you
some time we were dear friends, you might remember or you might not

हुए इत्तेफ़ाक़ से गर बहम वो वफ़ा जताने को दम-ब-दम
गिला-ए-मलामत-ए-अर्क़बा तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

hue ittefaaq se gar baham vo vafaa jataane ko dam-ba-dam
gila-e-malaamat-e-akrabaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[ittefaaq = by chance, for some reason
baham = together
gar = if, when
gila = complaint
vafaa = loyalty
dam-ba-dam = every moment, every breath
malaamat = mildly scolding
akrabaa = very close, near]

if we got together by chance, to express loyalty for every breath
those complaints and rebukes to loved ones, you might remember or you might not

वो जो लुत्फ़ मुझ पे थे बेश्तर वो करम के था मेरे हाल पर
मुझे सब है याद ज़रा-ज़रा तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

vo jo lutf mujh pe the beshtar vo qaram ke thaa mere haal par
mujhe sab hai yaad zaraa-zaraa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[lutf = मज़े, fun, joy
beshtar = प्रायः,अमूमन, often, always
karam = दया, कृपा, kindness, blessing
zaraa-zaraa = bit by bit, every bit]

those joys that were often on me, that kindness on my being
I remember every bit, whether you remember or not

कभी बैठे सब में जो रू-ब-रू तो इशारतों ही से गुफ़्तगू
वो बयान शौक़ का बरमला तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

kabhii baiThe sab mein jo ruubaruu to ishaarato.n hii se guftaguu
vo bayaan shauq kaa baramalaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[sab mein = amongst all ?
ruubaruu = आमने-सामने, in front of each other
isharaat = संकेत, मतलब, sign
guftaguu = बातचीत, conversation
bayaan = speaking out, saying (n.)
shauq = चाह, लगन, liking, interest, desire
baramalaa = खुल्लम-खुल्ला, सामने, openly, in front of each other]

sometime when amongst all, we sat in front of each other, that conversation with only signs
that open expression of interest, you might remember or you might not

की बात मैंने वो कोठे की मेरे दिल से साफ़ उतर गई
तो कहा के जाने मेरी बला तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

kii baat maine vo koThe kii mere dil se saaf utar gayii
to kahaa ke jaane merii balaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[koThe = house
balaa = danger, calamity, problem]

when I mentioned the house, my heart said plainly
you said you don’t know or care, you might remember or you might not

वो बिगड़ना वस्ल की रात का वो न मानना किसी बात का
वो नहीं-नहीं की हर आन अदा तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

vo biga.Danaa vasl kii raat kaa vo na maananaa kisii baat kaa
vo nahii.n-nahii.n kii har aan adaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[vasl = meeting, union
aan adaa = हाव-भाव, mannerism]

that fighting on the night of the meeting, that not agreeing to any thing
that saying no-no to everything, you might remember or you might not

जिसे आप कहते थे बावफ़ा जिसे आप गिनते थे आश्ना
मैं वही हूँ “मोमिन”-ए-मुब्तला तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

jise aap kehte the baavafaa jise aap ginte the aashna
mai.n vahii huun momin-e-mubtalaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[baavafaa = loyal
aashna = यार, दोस्त, dear friend
mubtalaa = ग्रस्त, पीड़ित, आशिक, suffering, being tested]

whom you called loyal, whom you counted as your friend
I am the same suffering Momin, perhaps you remember or perhaps you don’t

Note that different singers have sung the first line of the last couplet differently — Ghulam Ali has as above while Begum Akhtar has “Jise aap ginte the aashna jise aap kehte the baawafaa’. In fact, Ghulam Ali sings the couplet “vo jo lutf ..” later than “kabhii ham mei.n tum mei.n bhii chaah thii…” Further all singers I could find have sung only part of the Ghazal (5 couplets at the most).

Its quite likely that I have made several mistakes in the Devanagari above and will be grateful if you point it out. In general, I will be extremely grateful for any feedback.

How to give creativity a chance every day ?

Andrew Wiles, the recent solver of the 350 year old mathematical mystery of Fermat’s last theorem said of his process: “You have to really think about nothing but that problem — just concentrate on it. Then you stop. Afterwards there seems to be a kind of period of relaxation during which the subconscious appears to take over, and it’s during that time that some new insight comes”.

Closer to home, it is known in the circles that D.E. Knuth, the famous author of the seminal work “The Art of Computer Programming”, has abandoned email since January 1, 1990 with the poetic words “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.”

Wiles and Knuth provide a glimpse of how they manage their creativity. These are great men and I am under no illusion of being in their class. However, in my own little world, I have to engage in the creative process as part of both my work and my interests. Hence a question often emerges in my mind these days — how can I allow creativity the attention and the time it deserves, on a regular, and ideally on a daily basis? Specifically, how many hours of time should I make myself engage in creative work, and during what portion of the day, and whether at one stretch or over multiple sessions? This question becomes more important over time with the increasing distractions of the modern work life such as email, blogs, twitter, meetings, interviews and so on.

Before we make headway, I need to define creativity, at least broadly. Because it is easier, I will define non-creative work instead — as any work that is reactive, any work that makes us a net consumer than a producer. By this definition, reading anything is non-creative. So is watching TV or consuming any information or facts. I want to put pretty much anything else in the creative category. Examples include thinking of new ideas, writing, even making a powerpoint presentation, writing a software program, deciding the goals of a team, etc.

I realize that problems can be trivially pointed out in this definition, as consumption and production are often intimately connected, but I don’t feel the need to explain myself more here. I can not believe that anyone believes that reading an unsolicited email is creative, or that thinking about a new way of doing what one needs to do is not. Further, my question probably doesn’t apply to some jobs by their very nature, but I have no particular interest here in getting to the general answer for all natures of work. Having said that, creativity seems applicable to me to a vast majority of works.

What is my purpose in asking this question? My own work requires a mix of creative and other work and certainly creativity needs the input of and interaction with external information to prosper. However, my goal is to maximize my creative output and tune my non-creative work to the level that only serves that goal. (There is also the very important role of relaxation, as Wiles has said above, but let’s ignore that for the time being).

I am doing my own research into this question, but am also quite interested in everyone’s opinion on this matter since I suspect several people wrestle with this problem in the modern era.