Story of my stuff

This environment day I want to make a case for re-using old stuff.

  • Globally, our collective consumption patterns are creating a huge amount of waste. It makes sense then to re-use whatever can still be used.
  • It if often cheaper to get something repaired or buy something second hand.
  • It requires somewhat higher effort to sell something used but donating something isn’t all that difficult compared to just throwing stuff away which is in usable condition.
  • Thrift shop finds can be classic, one of a kind pieces at extremely low prices.

Over the years I have bought, used and loved second hand items be it books from the streets of Daryaganj in Delhi, inscribed plate from a pop up market in Stuttgart, tea cups from a charity sale in Bangalore or my mother’s old clothes from her closet… to name just a few. We started our balcony garden from plants and pots given away by friends who were switching cities, and we still remember them fondly for it.

We got pre-loved clothes, baby carrier, toys, swing and what not when our kid was born and are passing it on or selling it forward as & when kid outgrows these things, which is every alternate month. We sell everything that is unused around the house or we don’t need anymore through one or the other online services. I have bought a couple of old tee shirts from street markets and regularly give away my used clothes to someone they’ll fit better or to a charitable organisation. And I have taken a pledge to not buy any expensive wedding clothes from now on but to rent them instead.  For the longest time we avoided getting a car but recently when we decided we do need one, we went ahead and bought a friend’s old car.

Because money is ample and exciting products just a click away, it’s easier to not think twice before making that shiny new purchase. But I urge you to take a moment and see if you can re-use instead. Ultimately, it’s just stuff and nobody cares how we got hold of it. And if they do, it’s their problem. There’s absolutely no shame in re-using things as far as possible whatever be your purchasing power, in fact it can be pretty cool and has the potential to become a fond memory. 🙂



Worst things about living with a baby

  • No matter how careful you think you are, know this: you will be peed on, pooped on and puked on. And that’s not even the worst part, that’s just the bad part. The worst part is that you will be okay with it. You will even laugh at this like it’s some sort of a joke.
  • Continuation with the point above, if you hated laundry day before know that every day is laundry day with a baby.
  • They will become the number one item on your priority list.
  • All your other relationships will take a backseat.
  • You are going to become that person who cries happy tears. If you were already that person, then prepare for the feeling to intensify a gazillion times.
  • The sleep deprivation is so real. You will feel like a zombie the first few weeks.
  • Sometimes babies cry for no reason. You can’t really fix it except keep trying to soothe them.
  • Prepare to be judged. By friends, family and complete strangers too.

Having a baby is like having a piece of your heart outside of your body. You can only protect them so much. Brace yourself for heartache.

P.S. Here’s my list of best things about living with a baby.

A little story on social conditioning

My partner is a creative cook. Kitchen truly is his lab and oh boy he likes to experiment. He’s always there trying out some new recipe he found on the internet involving some weird ingredient (often makes me wonder what the hell was he searching for that landed him there). And he’s also messy and careless (at least from where I stand) which can be a cause of irritation for me.

Now, I like to eat. And I’m fairly experimental in trying out new things too. But not when I’m hungry and this new recipe requires 50 mins prep time and mixes stuff that I know in my heart should not be mixed together. I don’t want to be disappointed you see. But not him. He’s disappointed if we ate the same dish twice in a week even if it tasted great both times.

One evening years ago when we had just started living together we were having this usual fight: him trying to make something new & me convincing him we are better off eating something which we already know how to make and can be made quickly. Along the course of this heated argument, I remember being fed up and saying something like “Leave my kitchen. You are not helping at all. From now on I’ll handle cooking alone.”

He simply replied, “This is not your kitchen. It is our kitchen.”

And that really made me pause. Kitchen was not my department alone and he wasn’t there to help me out and be my sidekick. He was there to cook the food he wanted to eat, just like me. And not only did he win this argument, with one little statement he managed to break my social conditioning too. Growing up, I had never seen men in my family cook food, let alone consider the kitchen as theirs. Most men in my family hardly ever take their dirty dishes to the sink, let alone clean the vessels. Somewhere inside I still felt like the kitchen is primarily my responsibility and I felt irritated that he wasn’t following my rules in my domain of work. All of this when I do not even like cooking everyday!

Of course all of that is behind us now. We have a little system in place where he usually picks out the recipe based on what we both are in the mood for eating, and we both cook it together in our kitchen. 🙂


Best things about living with a baby

  • Can sniff their heads whenever you want. Oh that delicious baby smell!
  • You can watch them smile in their sleep and feel your heart melt away.
  • Loads and loads of cuddles. ❤
  • You can have those brief moments of intense eye contact and wonder about what they are wondering about.
  • Sometimes they wake up all confused about their surroundings and then they see you. The change of expression on their faces, the instant relief and laughter, the pure joy they show because you exist around them in that moment.. This stuff is to die for!
  • Tiny baby feet and fingers. Tiny baby clothes. Tiny everything!
  • Watching that baby tummy go up and down as they breathe during their ever so peaceful sleep.
  • When they gently clutch your finger or pull your clothing.

There’s an endless list of ‘firsts’ with a baby. Every little human behaviour which is so routine for us is a whole new experience with them. Something about watching a tiny human struggle and then finally succeed in doing a mundane thing such as roll over is exhilarating. Babies are magic!


P.S. Here’s my list of worst things about living with a baby.

My privilege

I am a privileged human being in a lot of ways.

  • I had the opportunity to get educated from one of the finest institutions in India. I got the chance to be able to do it. Roughly 7% of population in the world is college educated.
  • Getting good education does not always correspond to getting a good job, but in most cases it does. I’m no different. My pay should put me in top 10% of the world population economically & top 5% in India easily. It might even be better than that.
  • I can read, write and speak in English fluently. Something only ~10% of Indian population can do. But this percentage is likely to improve a lot in coming years. It’s so important because it makes knowledge accessible.
  • I have a loving family. I had a happy childhood. And I have amazing friends.
  • I have never been poor, never seen poverty, never slept hungry.
  • Living in India in my economic class means access to cheap labour in abundance. At various points in my life I have had the pleasure of employing people to do just about anything for me, from watering my plants to ironing my clothes to applying oil in my hair and giving me head massages.
  • My partner and I split house work and share the load equally. I couldn’t find the exact stats on it, but a number of articles suggest this is not the norm in most homes.
  • I have a healthy body and a healthy mind. I haven’t been gravely injured or suffered a traumatic experience in my life.
  • Even though I’m an atheist, I was born into the dominant religion, Hinduism.  That too upper caste.
  • I’m heterosexual.

These are just few of my privileges which I got either by the accident of my birth or through pure luck, both things being entirely out of my control. I find it important to keep a track of my privilege, it helps with the attitude.

Also makes me wonder if I’m using my privilege well and what would be good ways in which to use it. 🙂


Can we do better?

This was the question our algorithms prof. Sathish Govindarajan always asked to make us think. His lectures almost always went like this:

  1. He posed an algorithmic problem. And invited the class to think about it and propose solutions.
  2. People’s hands shot up and we’d hear some solution.
  3. He then posed questions on the solution, making us think if it worked.
  4. He then asked us the cost of this solution (how long will it take? how much resources it will consume).
  5. And then he asked his golden question: can we do better than this? (Can we do it smartly, in a shorter time?).
  6. Finally, he’d ask us to prove that it can’t be done better than this (this was the part I struggled with the most and still do).

I find myself using this approach regularly, often while trying to find solutions for problems that aren’t strictly algorithmic. 🙂

Skewed Society

Recently, a friend shared an interesting probability problem, the solution of which led me to a horrific conclusion. The realization that struck me isn’t new, we all have read about it in newspapers & social studies text books. But somehow figuring it out like this when I wasn’t expecting to, helped me really see it. So here we go:

Problem statement: Imagine a hypothetical society where there’s a preference for male child (not that hypothetical). In this society, a family continues to have children until they have a boy child and as soon as a boy child is born, people stop having any more children. What will be the ratio of boys to girls in the population of such a society?

Assumptions: Probability of a single child being a boy or a girl is like a fair coin toss, 50-50. Only one child is born at a time.

Solution: So in this skewed society, a family can have the following number of children:

1 Boy, 1 Girl + 1 Boy, 2 Girls + 1 Boy, 3 Girls + 1 Boy, … and so on.

What we get is each family having exactly 1 boy and either 0, 1, 2, 3, … number of girls.

Ratio of boys to girls = Total number of boys in the population / Total number of girls in the population

Given X number of families to start with, we know that each will have exactly 1 boy child. So,

Total number of boys in the population = X

So all we need is the total number of girls in the population to find the ratio, which can be calculated as follows:

Total number of girls in the population = Number of families having 0 girls * 0 + Number of families having 1 girl * 1 + Number of families having 2 girls * 2 + Number of families having 3 girls * 3 + … and so on.

To calculate number of families with n number of girls, we need total number of families (which is X) multiplied by the probability of a family having n number of girls. When a family has n number of girls, they have n+1 children, last one being a boy. Probability of any child being a boy or a girl is 1/2, so this probability is 1/2 * 1/2 * … n+1 times.

So, total number of girls in the population = X/2 * 0 + X/4 * 1 + X/8 * 2 + X/16 * 3 + X/32 * 4 + …  = X (1/4 + 2/8 + 3/16 + 4/32 + …)  [Equation 1]

Let S = 1/4 + 2/8 + 3/16 + 4/32 + …

Then, S/2 = 1/8 + 2/16 + 3/32 + … [Divide both sides by 2]

S – S/2 = 1/4 + (2/8 – 1/8) + (3/16 – 2/16) + (4/32 – 3/32) + …  [Subtract the two equations]

We get S/2 = 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + …

S = 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + … = 1 [Multiply both sides by 2 and we get a famous example of geometric series.]

Plugging this back into Equation 1 above, we get:

Total number of girls in the population = 

Aha! Since number of boys in the population is equal to the of number of girls, the ratio of boys is to girls is 1:1. This means that the population is still going to have 50% boys and 50% girls. In fact, since the probability of any one child being boy or a girl is 50%, no matter how many kids people choose to have for whatever reason, it can be proven that the population will always have roughly equal number of boys and girls. Neat!

So here’s the horrific conclusion: female infanticide and sex selective abortion of female fetuses is real. It’s so damn real. Anywhere there’s skewed gender ratio, you can bet that they are intentionally stopping girls from coming into existence.
It means that even with all their preference for a male child, the gender ratio will still be close to 50-50 if they just let the girls live. Just let them live.


P.S. The problem of female infanticide and sex selective abortion is often reported in the media under the headline “Missing Women”. The issue exists world over, but is more prevalent in China, India and Pakistan. Read this brilliant piece for it’s consequence here. Read more about the India specific problem here.

* I regret having to exclude non-binary genders from this post. The problems assumes binary gender and I understand it’s non inclusive.