love

5 min read

Prologue

I am writing this, from my apartment, scared, and defiant, trying to adjust myself to the new realities of life and finding calm in the chaos. My brain still can’t handle the fact that we’ve been caught up, in-between what they call, once-in-a-century pandemic. Spanish flu, infamous as pandemic of twentieth century, infected one-third of the world’s population. And today, we are struck again by a novel virus.

Bill Gates — “The next outbreak? We’re not ready”

Interestingly, Bill Gates had warned us about an outbreak like this in one of his TED talks, dated April 3rd, 2015.

If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic

If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that we’ve invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.
The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola.


Ebola killed about 10,000 people that year,  and nearly all were in the three West African countries. Because of nature of the virus, it didn’t spread more. Ebola does not spread through the air. And by the time you’re contagious, most people are so sick that they’re bedridden. 


So next time, we might not be so lucky. You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market. The source of the virus could be a natural epidemic like Ebola, or it could be bioterrorism. So there are things that would literally make things a thousand times worse. 
In fact, let’s look at a model of a virus spread through the air, like the Spanish Flu back in 1918. So here’s what would happen: It would spread throughout the world very, very quickly. And you can see over 30 million people died from that epidemic. So this is a serious problem. We should be concerned. 


In fact, if there’s one positive thing that can come out of the Ebola epidemic, it’s that it can serve as an early warning, a wake-up call, to get ready. If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic. 

From Bill’s Ted talk

How bad is this?

Covid-19, a name rarely heard three months ago, is on the lips, and in the mind, of every living individual on the planet today. Coronavirus fear is deepening in our hearts, with each passing day, forcing us to reassess our priorities. The panic is real. The threat is real. I am waking up to new heart wrenching numbers every morning. The day isn’t far, when it would reach every nook and corner of the world. Soon, each one of us, may know at least one infected person. We could have contained it. But we didn’t. USA downplayed it. So did Italy, and Spain. Countries with 2003 outbreak scars, seemed to control it well — South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong — until cases started rising again.

As I type this, USA and Italy have surpassed China’s numbers, with Italy — “The China of Europe” — accounting for one-third of world’s Coronavirus death toll. It has only begun, far from done, pushing the world into a fresh recession, as bad, or worse than, 2008, and challenging & overwhelming world class healthcare system.
If this is the situation in developed countries, I can’t seem to think what would happen in India, for it scares the hell out of me. I suspect the official numbers may be vastly dwarfed by the actual numbers. 21 days lock down is only a beginning. After effects will be far worse, and daunting. The blog — Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now — says a lot of things, things one should know.

Coronavirus cases worldwide

We can mitigate it

Exploding number of cases is blowing whistles and raising alarm across the globe. It took 67 days to reach the first 100k, 11 days for the next 100k and 4 days for the next 100k. Before it becomes catastrophic, uncontrollable (are we already there?) and renders us into history — like World War – II, 9/11 — it needs to be taken very seriously. And for that, each one of us, have to play our part seriously, patiently, and wisely. One infected person can reignite the sparks in regions where we have successfully extinguished the fire.
We still don’t understand the virus enough. It took nearly twenty months to find a cure of less 2003 outbreak. We have got one chance of saving the humanity, going into flames, by doing nothing. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Do what a hero does in situations like these. Please stay home. World War – II and 9/11 have given us enough scars. We don’t need a third one.
As they say, nothing lasts forever. We will come out of this, stronger and better. It’s a war of resilience, more than the fittest.

Is technology making it worse?

The advancement in technology has greatly eased our lives. But it comes with side effects. Coronavirus originated from Wuhan, a province in China. Before we took it seriously, we had cases in every other country and territory in the world. We are more connected than ever. Cheaper air travel and change in how we run businesses, exposed us to greater risk of spreading the virus much much faster. The question is not, who or what to blame. The question is, how do make best use of the technology in our hands, while avoiding its side effects.

Coping up with stress and anxiety

News channels and social media, flooded with Coronavirus, are polluting air with distress. With all these around, the question is, how do we cope up with stress, anxiety and fear. Once a hypothesis has become a reality. What-if is shadowed by Now-what.

I’ve been staying at home since March 20th, have stepped outside for groceries only twice for short while. I am writing, playing Piano and reconnecting with people I lost touch with. Most of the conversation I have over audio/video calls, revolves around the pandemic. I am trying hard to hold my sanity altogether — to not allow my mind to wander in distress. I am keeping my hope up — the darkness will clear up, and the sun will shine again.

Coronavirus is giving you a gift,
The gift of time —
To rekindle relationships,
To spend time with your loved ones,
To read a book,
To reflect on your priorities,
To realize there are far more important things in life than money —
A gift of self realization.
Use it before it’s gone.

How are you coping up with the situation? Let’s share and stay strong. This too, shall pass.

Copyright © 2020, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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2 min read

February 14, 2020
Kristen,
It’s not very often that someone you talk to, intrigues and fascinates you in ways you never felt before. There was something in you, that charmed me in no time, like a magician playing tricks, effortlessly in front of awestruck audience. I am unsure of what it was that rendered me, spellbound, while talking to you. If I were to arrange it, in words, in the best of my abilities, I would picture you as a wave, crashing on the shores, making people go crazy, and want more of you. The most valuable art known to me, is the skill to keep the conversation moving. And, with you, it’s effortless, like a daily habit. I can talk to you for hours, and hours, and hours, and yet, it’s never enough. These days, my mind entertains nothing, but the thought of you. It’s irresistible to wait till next morning to hear your voice, one more time. Once a free bird, is now captivated by your enchanting voice, never to be freed again. When did I fall so deeply under your spell, Kristen. It’s hard to tell the time, or the moment. What I know is that I was already smitten by you, the moment I realized.

I always wondered, how two people end up spending rest of their lives together without getting bored. And then I met you. I have started to believe that rarely in your life, the stars align, and you get lucky enough to come across someone just perfect for you, who sets your heart on fire. And suddenly, you can’t imagine your life without her.

I have fallen head over heels in love with you, baby. I love you as bees love flowers and poets love poetry. I love you as icebergs love ship and fireflies love night. I love you as deserts love rain and drunkards love alcohol. I love you as cruises love seas and musicians love chords.
You flew like the autumn in my life with your pleasant refreshing breeze, and rendered me, colorful and significant. You’re to me, what water is to fishes. The potency of this love has no bounds, and I only wish, that some day, I would be able to carve it into words — for this small writing is vastly dwarfed by what I feel for you.

Copyright © 2020, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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2 min read

September 25, 2018
Mary,
A thing in particular I don’t like about life is that sometimes, we get to know someone deeply only to realize later it wasn’t bound to last and a time comes when we have to let it go. It all starts as fun. We screw up sleeps only to live an extra hour in that enchantment. Slowly it grips us in its storm and before we know, it throws us to the other side of the emotional landscape where golden sunshines are annihilated by gloomy thunderstorms, pleasant autumns are taken over by harsh winters and rays of hope are veiled by incessant rains.

It has been said that people our hearts beat for leave a part of them in us marking our souls forever. I know our time was as ephemeral as all beautiful things in the world are. But if there was a moment ever when my presence brought upon your face a smile, my words made you chuckle and my voice comforted you in times of distress, I will assume my existence in this universe has made a mark upon your soul.

What is love, Mary? Is it the sum of all beautiful moments we had? Is love sweet? If it is, why is it that your love is hurting me like hell. Why is that, that thing in your life soured all the things we promised each other? Was our love that weak, Mary? Was it that brittle?

My words would never measure upto what I feel for you. Before I met you, I used to spend nights in silent contemplation of the void in my life. Looking up at the stars, and the moon in lonely nights, I wondered when my life would be miraculous. And then “us” happened. Your presence filled my dormant life with joy. How will I wake up without the crack of your sweet voice?

This is probably the last letter you’ll receive from me. I won’t be writing any more letters to you, for my mind has subdued my heart. All those letters you read were penned with heart, hence they might have felt real. Had mind interfered in between, there would have been a lot of logic, and calculation, and psychology, and words won’t have been the same.

Copyright © 2019, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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3 min read

Years, lovers and glasses of wine must never be counted

Another year has passed. My quest to seek the meaning of life and true source of happiness continues. A question oftentimes pop up my mind, what would you do if you get a chance to design your life the way you want. Would you still choose to do the same work? Would you prefer more friends or solitude? Who would you want to wake beside to? Would you stop chasing money and start earning experiences instead? Possibilities are endless.

I wish life had a pause button so that I could enjoy precious moments longer. It has been said that when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to make it true. I wonder why it never works with me.

If I paint the picture of 2019 highlights, it would be rendered quite vivid and colorful. 5 countries, few photography accolades (invited for guest talk at photography exhibition and others) and encounter with a sweet girl.
Experiencing coldest day of my life, -13 degrees Celsius in the Swiss Alps and much awaited family vacation after 16 long years were icing on the cake.

However, there weren’t only sunshine and roses. I had my own share of rains and thorns too. There was a time when my life became directionless. I didn’t enjoy the work like I did before. The girl I was talking to vanished. Photography didn’t fascinate me anymore. There was nothing much to look forward to. I vividly remember spending days staring at the ceiling of my room doing nothing. These are the kind of days when you contemplate on missing aspects of life, chances you took, opportunities you missed, decisions you regret, people you lost, moments you wish to relive, successes, failures, so on and so forth.

Here is a list of 21 things I learned in 2019:

  1. People always leave
  2. You don’t find excellence. You build it and then it takes you places
  3. Financial knowledge is something you can’t ignore. You are gonna need it at some point in life. And when you do, you would regret how much you have already lost
  4. Sometimes you give your best and yet you fail
  5. Things can go well when you least expect it
  6. Sooner or later you succeed. You just need to keep trying
  7. Some things in life are inevitable. You can’t change them no matter how hard you try. But you can always prepare to minimize surprises
  8. Never lose people who were with you in the dark times. That’s when you know their true colors
  9. Life of chances always trumps life with regrets. Wear confidence, take calculated risks and be expressive. Had I done it 5 years ago, my life would have been different
  10. Trust is a rare thing in this world. Truth is, people who harm you are the ones you put most of your trust in. They change and so do their behavior towards you
  11. If you have a secret, don’t tell anyone
  12. You can be a nice guy and yet lose the girl
  13. When you feel left out, there is always a community out there you can connect to
  14. You always sacrifice one thing at the expense of other. It’s a zero sum game
  15. You are human. You can’t work with the same efficiency all the time. But people would expect you to
  16. Sometimes you don’t measure up to your own past performances
  17. Family trips are awesome. You should do it whenever you get the chance
  18. Buy only what you need
  19. Car is not an investment. It’s an expense at the cost of comfort and luxury
  20. Family, friends, work, hobbies — You get to choose any three
  21. Life rarely unfolds the way you plan and anticipate

Happy new year! And remember, Years, Lovers and Glasses of wine… these are the things never to be counted.

Copyright © 2019, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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< 1 minute

August 29, 2018
Mary,
The night is darker and lonelier than ever. I find a weird grave quietness in the air, the kind when the storm settles down silencing everything around. In this time of the hour, I wonder if you’ve gradually become my muse, for everything I write these days revolves around you. I am unsure if it’s your lingering charm or your stupendous attitude that I’ve started loving the darkness of silos and the only sound my mind entertains is of scribbling on my decade old rusty diary.

When did I fall so deeply under your spell, Mary? I’m probably at loss of words. There is a fundamental reason on why we fall for someone so easily, for the same reason we fall in love with stars and billion years old objects at first sight. There are forces in this world that can’t be reasoned with. And we mortals are weak in matters of heart.

Copyright © 2019, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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< 1 minute
Microtales - S.T.A.R.S.

The universe has always been a mystery to mankind. Scientists compromise sleeps in the pursuit to discover the next earth. While few people like me, look forward to see their wishes come true upon seeing a falling star. But no matter who we are, there is something mysterious in the stars that astound us in one way or the other.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.


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< 1 minuteJuly 12, 2018
Mary,
Very few people in this world have the charisma to touch the lives of others. It’s irresistible to wait for the next morning just to hear your voice one more time. Albeit I haven’t known you for long, which I would love to, there are things ’bout you I know for sure, like the colors of your mood are hard to be painted even by the finest artists.

Mary, irrespective of whether anything happens between us in times to come, I would like you to wear a smile when you think of me, for that’s what I always do when I think of you. You are and will always, for me, be a person with immeasurable zeal, passion and compassion. In our time together, you’ve frustrated me, irritated me, confused me. But most importantly, you’ve made me feel again.

You know what’s so peculiar ’bout you? You are like music, an addiction. I can listen to you for hours and hours and hours and yet it won’t be enough to quench the thirst of the soul. You’re like a bright star twinkling in the darkest sky. I can gaze at you whole night and yet my eyes won’t tire.

I’ve read many love folklore, of Cinderella and Prince Charming, of Adam and Eve, of Romeo and Juliet. But ours will always be my favorite.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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< 1 minuteJuly 9, 2018
Mary,
I don’t know what love is. All I have come to the terms after pondering on excerpts from books is that it changes you. You wake up one fine morning and feel something different in the air around you. You start liking things that you didn’t the night before. You feel extreme restlessness in everything you do and the only comfort is talking to the one you love. Mary, if I can be brutally honest, YOUR love has become my maze. There is no escape from this.
What is coincidence, Mary? Is it a sign from the universe or merely an inevitable happening? Was our meeting a fate written eons ago? Neither did I believe in stars nor understood the language of the universe until I met you and it changed everything. If I hadn’t met you, the universe would have made me realize that my life was incomplete and I would have looked for the missing puzzle my whole life until I would have found you.
If I get a chance to fall for you all over again, I would still choose the same month — When the glow on your face perfectly blended with the color of autumn, as if a fine artist made a painting and you came alive from it to meet me.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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3 min readFew years ago, a personality test revealed that I am an INFJ, the rarest of 16 personality types that exist in this world. Most of the time I was in senses, I used to ponder on why my brain is wired differently from the people I hang out with. Words that describe me are conscientious, determined, organized, planful, creative, thoughtful, introspective, value-driven, private and altruistic.

  1. I don’t quit. I work on my growth relentlessly until I achieve the goal I have in mind. I am my biggest critic. I always have a burning desire to achieve more. For me, it’s never enough. I have a purpose in life — To become better in my abilities and sharpen my skills with each passing day and I strive to make it happen no matter how long it takes.
  2. I choose friends carefully. I have few friends whom I trust. I don’t regret it. Less people I sit with, less bullshit I would have to deal with. And this gives room to pursue my hobbies and expand my horizon in personal development.
  3. More than people, I find solace in solitude and art. Be it writing or playing piano or do photography. But I also find it torturous to spend long time alone.
  4. I don’t share my knowledge in person unless asked. Instead my curious mind often comes up with zillion of questions for the problem the other person discusses. And sometimes, it helps them out. My contribution to the Tech community (GeeksforGeeks) is pure altruism.
  5. I give time to people who are worth my time and energy. Selfish, self absorbed, judgemental and negative people turn me off. I prefer to spend time on my hobbies instead.
  6. I am an easy going person because of good listen quotient and great understanding nature. I have been seen from many people at work as a great team player. Rarely have I met someone who didn’t enjoy a face to face conversation with me. From English literature to urdu poems, from politics to fantasy, from finance to technology. I can talk it all except sports. I don’t very much like talking about politics with serious people. I have seen it turning relationships sour.
  7. I choose who to travel with. Good companions make amazing trips.
  8. I walk out of an argument when it’s getting worse and not going anywhere. I cut off people when they sound judgemental and make comments unless they know me personally. It makes people think of me as a rude and arrogant person.
  9. I take constructive criticism very seriously and use it in my benefit. It has helped me in every aspect of personal and professional development in life so far.
  10. I am on open book if you know how to read well. Otherwise I might be the greatest mystery.
  11. Precaution is better than cure. I try my best preparing for a situation before it disturbs my calm mind and sleep. I like plans and value punctuality. I tend to be more of a meticulous person than a spontaneous one. My brain works like a decision tree and it likes to ponder on the various possible outcomes of a decision and decisions of that decision.
  12. I appreciate talent. You might not be the greatest pianist in the world. But if you play good, I feel fortunate to know you in person.
  13. I care for people I am close with. I usually put thoughts and conscience before saying something.
  14. I am fascinated by high quality things — Good food, nice cloths, great ambiance. I appreciate beauty and craftsmanship. I might disagree that looks don’t matter to me. But that would be a lie. I like beauty around me. Minimalistic by nature, I prefer to dine at finer restaurants twice a week than chilling out in below average eateries every alternate day.
  15. I am quite social and often come out as charming. I make friends instantly when they share some mutual interest.

What is your personality type? Have you tried rewiring your brain to improve it?

I am working on #8 and hope to come out of it soon.

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< 1 minuteJuly 8, 2018
Mary,
I just woke up and all I’m thinking bout’ is you. I feel distracted and my mind has taken the back seat. I open the window, see the sun going down the horizon and all I picture is taking a stroll with you until the stars make their way out of clouds and lie down there afterwards. Do you believe in afterlife, Mary? Or heaven? Your presence makes me feel there is one. I am unsure of what love is. But if I were to arrange it in words in the most beautiful way possible with the best of my abilities, I would picture it as an ocean which has no boundaries and stretches to infinity as far as one can see. I would picture it as alcohol which takes all the thoughts away and captivates one in its effect. I would picture it as the morning sunshine which annihilates darkness and brings hope that bright day is ahead.

You’ve done to me what spring does to cherry trees. You’ve changed me overwhelmingly in ways I could never have imagined. Your enchantment is like sleep. I fell for you slowly and then all at once.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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