Sunday, August 21, 2022

Dopamine Nation

DOPAMINE NATION : My takeaway !

Each book teaches me something. Sometimes directly , sometimes indirectly. The books that I read do not act on a blank mind has several years of ( & several  books)  worth thoughts. I do not always know where one stream of thought ends and another begins. Even this writeup has lots of sprinkling of thoughts from other books that I have read before, plus some other books that the editing Maya has read after this book. 

Truth :  Pleasure & pain balance - Body craves for equilibrium.Any pleasure ( dopamine high) will be followed by equal dopamine low( depressed feeling) so that body can attain equilibrium.

That means when I thought I was depressed I was really suffering from.a dopamine low. That's happy news !! 

Truth : We have made our lives easy by inventing gadgets ,but we don't know what to do with the free time they create for us.We use that time to indulge in easy passive, pleasure generating activities ( surfing ,socials , binge watching ,easy reading) which give us easy dopamine high,which ultimately leads to a dopamine dip,sadness,depression,low feeling.

NOW I UNDERSTAND THE BHAGAVAD GITA SAYING :  Neither very happy in good times nor too sad in bad times. Equanimity ! Or the Buddha Way : The middle way ..

Also remembered one marathi book which said tears are necessary,they increase the sweetness of happy experiences…just like how most sweets need a pinch of salt..juxtaposition of good n bad , happy n sad is necessary to experience the true taste of life ! 

An interesting thought is that addicts are modern day prophets who show us what we all can be(how bad ).. And also what we can achieve if we just take effort and receive timely guidance , there is always hope and redemption if we put in the effort …

Truth : It is uncomfortable to stay with our thoughts,so we try to fill all our time with activities…

Like I continuously play some music or video in the background which decreases my efficiency but gets me out of thinking about my loneliness ,negative feelings , workplace issues ,my shortcomings, mistakes and what I should be actually doing. We must learn to stay with our discomfort.Discomforting thoughts could be things under control where some action can be taken. Or they can be feelings which need to be experienced… like boredom,grief,sadness. Or they can be just anxiety or fear thoughts which do not serve any purpose and these are outside our control zone but we still need to notice and identify them.

Instead , spend time with your thoughts.Become familiar with yourself.All the devices and distractions to avoid oneself contribute to depression.Allow yourself to get bored. Boring is also terrifying,it forces us to consider bigger questions of meaning and purpose.It leads to discovery and invention, a space to new thoughts without which we are constantly reacting to stimuli around us.

Difficult choices now ,easy life later and vice versa.

Truth : It is never like we imagine,neither the pleasure nor the is always less..Anticipation is more intense than actual thing.

Truth : The reason we are miserable is because we are working so hard to avoid being miserable.

We want rewards too easily without working for it.

Why do we need to be happy or pleased all the time ? Iisn't that unrealistic ? Why not accept your true nature ? It is totally fine not to be on cloud 9 all the time. (May be when I sit with my thoughts in silence, I will realize this. I wouldn’t suffocate my true nature. I would learn to make peace with slightly low feelings instead of fueling my addiction induced dopamine spikes and then crashing down into low feelings.)

We have over-sanitized life for kids and us too.Too much smoothening of obstacles and needing low efforts to get anything.

 Some degree of pain is healthy.. expectations of a pain-free world has caused addictions.There is a cost to wishing away every type of pain and discomfort.

We constantly run away from the pain , the present moment, we get distracted deliberately.

Pain : Cold water showers ? Exposure to pain to reset the balance/enhance the pleasure ? Intermittent fasting ?

We need to separate wants from needs.

Why do we want to own so many things ? Why do we want to have so many kinds of varied experiences ? Why do we need to do so many things( - hobbies )? Why can't we just limit ourselves to one great hobby which we love , one thing to learn , fewer books to read ,fewer /no shows to watch, fewer choices( clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, food ) in  anything that we own ? Why is there FOMO ? What are we afraid of ? Missing any of these varieties isn't going to kill us. We are now slaves to the variety. Why do we need so much variety in every kind of thing and experience? 


D- data about your addiction-details

O - objectives ..why do u use the substance


A-absteinance form the use-4 weeks recommended for dopamine pathway reset.Withdrawal symptoms for first 2 wks.Dangers of cross addiction..not to replace one substance with another

M-mindfulness.During the withdrawal observe yourself.Stop running away from your thoughts and observe them.Live with them,tolerate them and learn.

I-insight about addiction.About your behavioral patterns around the addiction.

N-Next Steps,goals.You may learn to use it better

E-Experiment.Pleasure Pain Balance,

Abstinence from reading /socials involves just being with yourself. The idea may appeal theoretically but it is difficult to put into practise.It is scary even for a solitude loving person like myself to sit still doing nothing. Today I am at the still-in-the-process-of-making new laboratory and I find it difficult. I have been looking forward to it since morning. I thought I would sit there ,read academics, write this essay but now I find myself with many uncomfortable thoughts. One of these is  ‘what if anybody says “ why aren’t you working during your working hours.”’

Self binding : keeping a distance between objects of addiction and self,before you start to feel the power.

Willpower is like a muscle…it will develop over time but it gets fatigued if you have to use it more and needs a break to be functional again…hence binding is necessary.

First acknowledge that you are powerless (and also surrender to the higher power).


Physical - space/distance



Understanding the process brings your behavior into your awareness,you may still repeat your patterns( and you need to forgive yourself for it) but at least you do not do it unconsciously, and there is a possibility that you will do better next time.

Temptations may be in easy availability - eg Nykaa/Amazon Sales( delete the app ! & If you splurge ,do it deliberately telling yourself I realize that I am giving in to my addiction but doing it anyway,This may help next time.) , chocolates received as gifts ( I gave it away but still ate a few more than I was allowed to as a diabetic)

Also binding may happen incidentally e.g. my beauty parlor moving away.( Though I am not addicted to beauty therapies ,I do use it to numb my negative feelings.)

( Now trying to sit in silence and face all kinds of thoughts and discomfort that is rising in me instead of listening to something…

When I sit and listen to myself plenty of things emerge…all those which I have not been listening to..hence do not feel like writing in the diary…many issues that I avoid thinking about and hide from myself may emerge and trouble me....

The bitter truths that I need to face 1 : 

I have a reading addiction .I often read to run away from my thoughts.Even on occasions when I sit with my thoughts,it ends in me going and gobbling up something or splurging on unwanted stuff online or offline !

My listening to the audiobook aloud in the morning working hours ( and writing this ) is also an addiction and reluctance to face my feelings of discomfort about the work situation/restlessness/boredom ?

Bitter truth 2 : 

I lack Loving kindness , I lack ability to handle stress. I was under stress yesterday and therefore instead of helping an incidental caller yesterday,I took out my frustration on her. I feel bad.

Bitter truth 3 : Also the reluctance /negative feelings/discomfort while speaking to some close family members is due to the discomfort that I possibly lack the love that I should have and the fear that  I will possibly receive this same treatment from my family in future ?

Bitter truth 4 : I am scared of confrontations, arguments,saying the wrong thing ,being rude,losing my face,not being able to cope with situations.. also of not being enough , of being lonely …

Just now realized that the midmorning snack that I have everyday is also probably a mechanism to cope up with /run away from my thoughts..

How will I get any ideas( creative ) if I don't spend any time with myself doing nothing ?

Some more things that I learned from other books which are connected to these thoughts....

Dopamine is the molecule of the generates anticipation and makes you work to achieve things. But once you achieve those things the other chemicals in the brain ( serotonin epinephrine etc..called as Here and now molecules ) take over. To be happy in life we need to.achieve balance of both. How do we do that ?

  1. Concentrate fully on whatever you are doing right now. Be present.

  2. Achieve mastery on or hobby. That will give you a feeling of control.

  3. Pursue a creative hobby. Using brain and hand coordination. 

  4. Never multitask.  

  5. Concept of deep work : Working uninterrupted without using internet browsing or  social media is necessary for working better and being better at personal, family and inner life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Snapshots #1 : All in a day's work !

Kammu ( name changed) is a unique character. 

He is the most hardworking person in the organization according to me. Always ready to step in and do overtime if someone is absent , can work for straight 72 hours if needed; and still finds energy to do whatever is needed by the department. At the end of the month ,a fat cheque in the hand and he runs off to a jeweller . By now he is wearing 2 rings each in all 10 fingers.( Actually right thumb has only one ring, now that I think of it.)

Plus a thick smuggler/ Bappi Lahiri like chain in his neck and a thick kada in his right hand. With more money ,I suppose, he will try to match more of Bappi da's looks ! 

Once he carried his Overtime  salary in an envelope and forgot the envelope in an auto. Loss of around Rs.15,000 ,remainder  after purchasing gold and giving his mother her monthly household expense. Also, one day,he removed his bracelet and kept it in the locker, which was stolen. The culprit was never caught , this was pre security camera era.We told him,your excess money was taken by God and redistributed. Poor chap, he was sad for a few days and then started doing OTs again.

Funnily enough , he doesn't own a watch or a cell phone. Still, he is always available when you need him .

Amongst his unofficial duties , one task is to procure snacks for office parties and cakes for birthdays from his favourite cake shop in Andheri west. I suspect he has struck deals with various shop owners and earns a tiny commission on MRP , but we do not grudge that..he gives fantastic service. When there are these parties or celebrations in the department, he is always there to dance. His dances are as famous as his jewellery… his nagin dance and dances on famous marathi rapchik songs are legendary.

During the covid era, he started a new service of procuring Dettol bottles and sanitizers for the staff who had gone into panic mode in the initial stages of the pandemic. He had tied up with some chemist who procured things for him. Honestly, even if he made profits, he never charged more than the MRP ,so we never minded.

He is still single and always on the lookout to become 'double'. A favourite amongst the young girls who come to our department for training , these girls often call him 'dada' and destroy his hopes ! But our K will never give up his efforts ! Always eyes and ears open for 'hariyali' as we call in colloquial.During the covid era, when I started to wear eyeshadows , he was the one to stop and stare and say " Madam, whatever colourful thing you have done to your eyes looks nice !" 

A chatterbox with too-fast-to-understand talking speed due to which the words appear jumbled , we tell him "the only time you keep your mouth shut is when you have gutkha in your mouth and then, we can smell you from a mile ! " To that he says, "No No, I have given up gutkha for life now, I just had a tiny bit ,just now." ( This happens on a daily basis,by the way.) He explains , we listen and accept.

 This story happened just yesterday.

My colleague bought a new house in a good locality and got some sweets and snacks for the department.

As usual, K knocked and saluted , saying good morning. Then with his usual speed asked , " how much did you pay?"

She said.." so and so for the sweet and so much for savoury items."

He says., " No ,No , I am asking how much you paid for 'the room' ! "

We both looked at him and started laughing. 

I told my colleague,"you are going to acquire a new neighbour now and then you will have to play a match-making auntie in your spare time !"

One should never curb one's aspirations to own a house in a great locality ,despite your humble circumstances. You never know when the goddess of luck might smile upon you ! 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Some ranting about a book which I hated.

I finished 'In the woods' today. I absolutely hated it. But I will still recommend it with caution because not everybody would have my reading tastes, somebody may actually like it.
I will not continue this series, in fact I will not read anything by Tana French.
My reasons for hating it...
  1. First person narrative : I don't like it in literary fiction , fantasy , mystery and even in police procedurals. Exception is Agatha Christie.
  2. Was it really a police procedural or detective story ? Most of the novel was spent in analysis of detective's feelings.
  3. I like mysteries as puzzles. Intellectually stimulating. Satisfying when they are solved. This was none of that. I don't want to read about the real legwork, boring paperwork, tons of interviews of witnesses.
  4. Unreliable narrator , psychopaths : hate both.
  5. Detective could not separate his personal life from work.
  6. Failed romance between detective partners which spoiled their relationship. Unnecessary.
  7. Very slow pace , would have been acceptable if I would have liked the mystery
  8. Mystery uninteresting, but still disturbing , I can not sleep now. Hence hating it even more.
  9. Lots of unnecessary, boring stuff regarding road development. ( 🤦 !)
  10. 2 mysteries,of which one remains unresolved. Feeling cheated.  Hate it absolutely.( But thank God, I haven't spent my hard earned money…)
  11. The narrator detective remains as a solitary depressed and disturbed man in the end.
  12. The perpetrator goes unpunished. In fact, unblemished and unaccused too. Free to commit more such crimes. Hate that so much that if I had a physical copy, I would have thrown it across the room ! And the perp was not particularly intelligent too, just psychopathic. 
  13. Though this is a series, the only common theme will be the city of Dublin.
  14. Not formed an attachment to a single character.
  15. Feel absolutely stupid for spending so much time reading it.

Down the memory lane - Taxi driver 1954

Taxi driver 1954
This film was apparently shot in 30 days without much budget.It was a Navketan film,all the three brothers and their wives and fiancees were involved.The beautiful,then empty & spacious city of Bombay played an important role in the movie.. 
The so called vamp without any evil acts was the one who wore (comparatively more ) plunging necklines and danced and sang in a nightclub , racy but melodious and meaningful numbers. The nightclub definitely had a before and after moment, before it was a dingy,shady place populated by goons,poor gamblers and taxi drivers. After its owner wins the lottery,it is made a more sophisticated place.  The opening song ‘Dil se milake dil pyar kijiye’ is the most melodious of all the cabaret songs. (I wonder why SDB used different voices for both the ladies ,Sheila Ramani & Kalpana.) The second song is actually meant to break the fight between two groups, hero and some goons. ‘Jeene do aur jiyo…’ she tells both. ‘Dil jale to jale’ is another wonderful song,depicting the anguish of both Hero ( heroine has left him) and the vamp( Hero is not interested in her).
The story is unremarkable, though it was one of the first noir films,showing the underground mafia and their involvement with the film world. Girl comes from a village to sing for a music director, can not find him in the huge Bombay city and ends up meeting our hero, called Hero by his friends. Hero rescues her from some goons who stay in the movie and perform various other nefarious acts like bank robbery,car theft etc.She stays in his house ,till she suddenly feels she is coming in way of his romance with the nightclub dancer.( That premise was really thin.) This is followed by a bank robbery by some goons using the hero's car( I expected the hero to be framed for that) , the hero's friend finding the heroine and then the hero delivers her to her true destination ,the music director. She is instantly liked,accepted there and supposedly gets an opportunity to sing in a movie ( song here is implied,not shown). The plot suddenly ,a little disconnectedly jumps back to the nightclub as our good soul Mala( the heroine) recommends the vamp's name for some racy numbers in the same film. The final climactic action sequence is flimsy, though there were some good moments . The night shots in BW films had these problems frequently ,you can not see what is happening till somebody decides to smoke and use a lighter or a matchstick.
When they meet each other after a brief parting, the scene that follows is one of the most romantic (and even bold) scenes from the fifties. Hero hugs her very tightly in the small space of the cab ,says 'why did you go away ?'and she smiles with joy.
The comic scenes are not very funny ,in fact the way in which Hero chops of Mala's hair is very cruel. The poor girl is crying and still doesn't blame him and he callously hushes her.This is followed by Hero teaching Mala smoking,swagger and foul language of the drivers and cleaners of Bombay.This also involved sudden appearance and disappearance of Hero’s sister in law.
The hero with a hairy chest and a wristwatch ( however poor he is) on a hairy wrist is strangely manly. ( Dev was never a manly action hero, though there was at least one action sequence in most of his films.) However poor, he will wear a necktie in at least one scene. Most of the films, he was very nattily dressed in full shirt, coat, suit, tie. We never see a shirtless hero with his six packs in any old films,in fact the hero's conspicuously non muscular arms were a norm ,if he happened to wear a half shirt or a Tee.
‘Jaye to jaye kahan’ is one of the most melodious pairs of songs. I always thought the Talat version was primary(  comes first in the movie) but this is the song where Mala showcases her talent for the music director and at the same time expresses her anguish that she will not be with Hero after this. Beautiful, haunting , soulful and meaningful words and melody ! The Talat version has entirely different lyrics with the same tune and is equally haunting and soulful. The only shortcoming was their expressions. Not too strong in the emotive expression department, these two !
There is also a scene where a drunk Hero comes home to sweet, simple,innocent Mala, holds her roughly and also holds her by her hair but she refuses to see anything but goodness in him. However,the next day she understands that all that was wrong and she is sulking. So this is followed by  a roothna manana type of song( dekho maane nahi) … not very famous , mostly forgettable , but cute. Picturised in a ferry off the Gateway of India , both of them look cute together ,her smiling shyly at him and he feeding her something ,when she is just beginning to lipsync an aalap .. she manages to avoid that thing, probably an orange, till the alap is finished. Looks like there were not many retakes and cuts.
These two keep on calling each other Funtoosh endearingly. Not sure what they mean by that, Funtoosh sounds like somebody with a devil may care attitude. But their behaviour is hardly that.
I wanted to see the film where Dev married Mona. I wanted to see if I could spot a sort of before and after. But I couldn't.The film was okay, though it had its moments.Songs were beautiful...

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Three books that I would be reading next

Three books that I would be reading next
1.Lethal white - Robert Galbraith
I love JKR's Harry Potter books . I like her Cormoran Strike ones. They are okay but I wouldn't  miss them. But then why I am reading this ? Even after deciding that I will not continue the series ?  Well, because I got it free and as a part of my minimalism drive, I have decided to read and/or throw away all the unread books I possess !
This is a thriller and it is the fourth book in the series. I have already started this and I'm about 20% in the book. As with all her books, the characters are well written. The plot moves a bit slowly and takes detours to show us backstories and side stories of the characters. I do like the reading experience but I am find that it evaporates soon from my memory .
2.Fool's errand : Robin Hobb
This is the seventh book in her 16 book long  fantasy series ‘The realm of elderlings’.Unlike the previous JKR series , I love this one and I read other books in between because I don't want to finish the series fast. Because I would find it very heartbreaking to live in the world where there are no more Robin Hobb books to read.
This series consists of 4 trilogies and a quartet. This book is the beginning of the third trilogy. Here we return to the characters of the first trilogy. These are  slow moving books with well written, strong characters and strong plot . They are in fact called literary fiction fantasies. The magic element is not wand wielding, firework inducing thing causing people to transform ,disappear or die. It is more of a mental connection to people and animals and hence feels natural and realistic....if at all there is such thing as natural or realistic magic. And there are dragons , which may not be my favourite trope in a fantasy but they make life interesting in there.
3. There are  many candidates for the post of the third book. There is Circe by Madeline Miller which is an award winning fantasy book. There are also second books in at least 2 different fantasy stories and there are many first books in fantasy series waiting for me . So, difficult to say which book I would pick after finishing these two….
On books that teach me :
Human soul thrives on stories. Books give us that and much more. It teaches us courage , to go forward in spite of fear. It teaches us about truth and reality , that it only our perception , truth cannot be set in concrete.
I believe school teaches us facts and concepts , it introduces us to various subjects. Real education begins after the school and books are our hand-holding, guiding friends for that journey. The lessons they teach stay in our mind, long after the facts and concepts fizzle out. They shape ourworld view.  
I read somewhere ' why read dull, drab self help books,when you have great stories giving you the same wisdom, in an intersting way, so that you will remember and internalize it forever?'
To conclude, books for me are great friends and guides, sometimes more than the real people...

Monday, January 28, 2019

Audiobooks ?

I am a more visual person than auditory. In school I never understood a topic by merely listening to it , I had to read it myself. So,it is not surprising that I do not go for audiobooks. Only written word for me ! On paper or on electronic books… I read !

But I feel audiobooks are here to stay . Like all new things , they may have resistance in this generation of readers. My generation has embraced the electronic reader with gusto , next generation will audiobook their way through their TBR pile ! As long as they love books, one should be happy about it.

I can see certain advantages in audio books over ebooks/paper books.  When you are driving and you have a long commute , you can listen to a book . A good way to utilize the time !

Also,  if in old age,God forbid, your eyesight becomes weak, you can still 'read’ a book.

In my opinion , the most wonderful experience of an audiobook would come from  a work of fiction or a book that would have a lot of dialogues . Here the author / narrator would enunciate the dialogues and the character would come alive in your mind. Different accents, tones, voice modulations … sometimes the way words are said , may change the whole meaning !

I recently heard an audiobook..’ 84, Charing Cross Road’ by Helene Hanff. It is an epistolary book based on the correspondence between the american author and a British bookseller. The way the narrators made the characters alive was wonderful ! I almost decided to buy an audible membership !

But then I heard another audiobook. The book was a nonfiction one called ‘ Goodbye things ‘ by Fumio Sasaki. I had no problems with narration or the content of the book , but when I tried to look for a particular idea expressed in the book , I couldn't. It may be easy on Audible, I am not sure ,but since this was a freely available book on you tube , I was lost.

So,in conclusion , I will say that for now,  I will stick to my e-reader and physical books, but I will surely keep my ears open ….

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Favourite books 2018

The year 2018 was very good in terms of reading as I mentioned in my previous post. I read so many good books, that it was very difficult for me to choose my favorite ones. Some books which I enjoyed reading did not remain so in my memory, so I demoted them to honorable mentions. Some books, however, have remained in my mind, long after I finished them. In lingering there, they have risen in my mind. Here is the list of my favorite books.

1.84, Charing Cross Road : HeIene Hanff

This is a nonfiction epistolary book about the correspondence between the author and a London bookseller. I loved this book so much that I read by it immediately after I finished it.

2. Diary of a bookseller : Shaun Bythell

Again a nonfiction book, on books. This is, as the title says, diary of a bookseller ! It is written in a diary format( as the title says !)  and is very funny.

3. Broken earth trilogy : N.K.Jemisin

I know this is cheating because I am including 3 books here. But as this is my list, I follow only my rules!

This is a fantasy series with the magic system based on natural energy of earth. I loved this series because the story and characters were good ,the writing was simple,beautiful and flowing. Most importantly, the way in which the story was told in second person ,was unique and intriguing and as we realise in the last book ,was very important for the story.

4. The final empire : Brandon Sanderson

This is the first book in the long fantasy series Mistborn. The magic system here is very interesting, based on burning/utilising metals inside your body. As I have read only the first book I will not comment on the story or characters here ,but I will say that Sanderson is a terrific writer.

5.The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle :

A very unusual mystery where the time is warped and characters go round and round on the same story arc. Loved it for the unique idea and will be rereading it soon.

6. Sapiens : Yuval Noah Harari

This book took me the longest time to finish, no fault of the book as such. I kept on getting distracted by new fiction books. I am going to reread this book ,at some point in future.

7.Holding : Graham Norton

I read 2 books by this author in 2018. Though both were good, I preferred this one. This is a mystery but rather a slow one and has very well written characters. An unusual thing about this book is the protagonist who is an obese , good natured ,middle aged policeman who actually has a love life.

8. Ship of magic : Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb has become one of my favourite fantasy authors. This book is a part of a really long series called’ The Realm of Elderlings’ ,and  is composed of multiple trilogies and quartets. This book is the first in the second trilogy. Though there is a common thread in all the trilogies,this one appeared totally unrelated. But I am patient (and eager… ),eventually, when I read all the 16 books I will know…

9. Little fires everywhere : Celeste Ng( pronounced Ing)

This is a good ,old, solid, family ,emotional drama..

I loved it because it is written in a easy,flowing language, with great characters and a great story with a fantastic twist…

10. The western wind : Samantha Harvey

This book has a beautiful cover,but I have the e book so …

When I read it , I was irritated because of the slow pace. Though it was a murder mystery, the story is told backwards and when I reached the last page , I couldn't see the point. It was as if the author wanted me to live life as if in 13th century when the book begins. I gave it only 3 stars. But slowly ,the book has grown on me. I will probably re read it in this or the next year.

So, that is my list of 2018 favourites..

What are your favourite books ? Have You read any of these ? If yes, what is your opinion ?