The God Who Loved Motorbikes (2019)

Cover of The God Who Loved Motorbikes

I picked up the book written by Murali K Menon after seeing that the book was launched by John Abraham on September 25. The book is a Juggernaut publication and I saw that the book was available at a low cost on the day of the launch. Hence, I picked it up without giving a second thought.

The book takes on a usual motorcycle enthusiast story and stretches it into the realm beyond time and space. The enthusiast in this case is one of the small shrine gods that dot the landscape of Kollengode in Kerala. The story revolves around how the god, KK Swamy, follows his dreams of riding several motorcycles. The premise makes sense at some level. However, things get a little hazy here while considering the plot.

The story then hops several steps and we enter another story. The storyline begins quite naturally but then gets stranger and weirder as time passes. Then, things get so weird that I paused reading to think that the story has gone from a motorcycle story to a sci-fi genre. There are a few plot twists but none that surprise you too much. There is a lot going on, action wise but they are mostly just moving things forward.

When the story ends, there are many things left hanging. The plot fails to tie things up at the end. There are many loose ends. The story takes off in so many directions that I wonder what the author was thinking about while developing the plot of the story.

You could consider picking up the book to give it a read if you love this genre of motorcycle storytelling and sci-fi. It was a good way to while away time but at the end you are left asking if reading through it was a worthy investment of your time or not.

Let’s Talk Money (2018) – Monika Halan

In 2015, I discovered The Dave Ramsey Show on YouTube while trying to figure out how not to live pay cheque to pay cheque. I did not follow his plan, called the Baby Steps, because I thought it did not apply to the Indian condition. There was no 401k tax free investing in mutual funds, no 329B to invest in your kid’s education, no Roth IRA, no good expense tracking or budgeting apps.

However, the principles were the same. I believed that my income freed up from debt would be the no 1 wealth building tool. I believed debt was bad and broke marriages. I believed that finance was 80% habits and just 20% head knowledge. That did not stop me from incurring debt, though. My budgeting system broke frequently and I didn’t have 100% faith in the Dave Ramsey plan because at the back of my mind I kept thinking that his system would work only in the USA and not in India. Also, the program had a whole ecosystem of people involved – books you could buy, offline courses in churches, a whole spiritual dimension, a radio talk show for constant reinforcement and web resources to help in your struggle with yourself.

When I searched for a similar programme in India, I stumbled onto Bloomberg UTV’s Smart Money programme’s YouTube version. Here she spoke of stuff that we were very familiar with in India like gold, real estate, PPF, ELSS, mutual funds, endowment insurance policies, ULIP policies, etc. Like Dave Ramsey, she suggested term life insurance only, mutual funds for building long term wealth and a dislike for debt. A Google search told me that she had written a book way back in 2005 called the Seven Steps to Financial Freedom. The book was hard to get and I could eventually manage only a physical copy of the book.

So, when she announced her new book was out in July 2018, I bought the book immediately. July turned out to be a month for a lot of changes. I got a promotion at my old job and moved from an urban locality to a rural locality. While I read the book there was no coherence in my strategy in arranging my financial life. I felt the book lacked a coherent strategy of moving from a place where one was to a place where the book wanted us to be. It was good for a person arranging his finances for the first time.

The financial advice in the book is simple in substance but difficult to implement – get term life insurance, get medical insurance for you and your family other than what you get at your workplace, have 3 bank accounts for income, spending and investing, invest in mutual funds of various kinds as per your goals (index fund if you don’t want to go through the hassle), invest in PPF, PF, ELSS and NPS for tax savings and have a will. The details are in the book.

Despite being in banking for six and a half years, I felt I did not have a good grasp of financial concepts and even clarify certain concepts. This book helped me with the same. I certainly recommend this book to everyone who wants to put their financial house in order. I am currently in the process of applying Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and walking through those using the concepts that I learnt from Let’s Talk Money.

The Shooting Star – Shivya Nath

I have been following the works of travel blogger Shivya Nath since I found India Untravelled on Google. I wanted to go to Spiti and was looking for places to stay there and this was one experience that I wanted to have. She used to run the site that discovered these homestays before she sold that company to become a digital nomad. Not going to Spiti remains one unchecked item in my bucket list.

I picked up her book hoping to regain my bearings and rediscover my love for travel once again. I was going through a particularly difficult phase at work and hence, even reading the book got postponed for a really long time. I bought the book on September 18, 2018. I made slow progress but it’s finally done.

My travels have mostly been with family. I have travelled solo very few times.

Shivya talks about two journeys in the book. One, were her journeys solo to different parts of the country and across the globe. Another, is the parallel personal journey of overcoming restrictions of society and the ones that she herself placed and overcoming these to become a digital nomad and a travel blogger that she is today.

Her journeys across the world are well covered on her eponymous blog, The Shooting Star. But, I’d recommend the book more for reading about her parallel personal journey. For anyone who travels, one knows that this is a given as we travel more and more. But, it is still wonderful to uncover. Resistance from parents, hesitation before taking the entrepreneurial jump, worries about safety while travelling solo, meeting strange people in strange lands, discovering the things that matter to us the most and perhaps most importantly chasing the dreams and turning them into reality. It is this part of the book that I really enjoyed.

Chapter 1 Tritiya

Ayn was sitting at the console today. She got a notification for a Longreads story on the beginning of the Quantum Computing on the Moon. She opened the notification to read the story.

Quantum Computing came to the Moon with the Indian company, Pradnya Labs. Pradnya Labs was founded by Pradeep in 2020 after he quit his banking career. He started it for teaching Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to his peers. He found that more money was to be made by teaching others than the application of these skills in an industry that youngsters were getting into than someone who lacked experience in the field.

Pradeep turned out to be a much better teacher than an employee or a worker in India’s software industry. Pradnya Labs then expanded into digital literacy drives for the elderly. This Pradnya Labs saw as Corporate Social Responsibility as the company grew big in Southern India and went public in 2024. However, students who left Pradeep came back to join him in India as teachers. Along with them came two important people – Shruti and Sriram.

Shruti worked with Microsoft in the US and was working with its Quantum Computing division. Sriram came from Tesla and came from its famous Batteries Division. In a famous meeting held in a tea shop in Palakkad, they encouraged Pradeep to foray into Quantum Computing. First, they held classes for Quantum Computing core processes.

Pradeep learnt that Quantum Computers would not sit in people’s hands like ordinary computers. These would be installed in the cloud and would communicate with people’s devices through broadband. From the profits that Pradnya Labs made up to 2025 and raising money from family and friends, Pradnya Labs founded it Quantum Computing Division with Shruti heading the same.

In 2026, Pradnya Labs produced the first quantum computer, called Adi. Pradeep thought that putting these quantum computers in the sothern pole of Lunar craters would provide them with natural cooling. The Aitkens basin was identified. He spoke with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman, Pavan. Pavan was not sure if Pradeep had a working idea and hence called his colleague at the Indian Institute for Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad, Mukunth for setting up a demonstration. Adi was setup with the quantum computer built at IIIT and was test run. Adi outperformed the IIIT-Q by 15 seconds.

Pavan asked Pradeep how they hoped to communicate with the Moon? Pradeep said a relay satellite would be placed near the Moon and would re-send the signal to Earth. Although, Pavan was not fully convinced, he agreed to place one Adi on the Moon’s Aitkens basin.

Meanwhile, Sriram was working away in a nearby lab in Hyderabad to build Tesla style battery packs within which the quantum computer could be carried to the Lunar South pole. He added a communications module. The body of the Adi-packs were tested in ISRO labs in Bengaluru. After they came through successfully, the first Adi-packs were launched to the Aitkens crater in 2025.

Through 2026, ISRO, IIIT and Pradnya Labs tested the relay system and found that the speed that Adi got was lost in communication with Earth. Dwitiya was launched in December 2026. Developed in the Pradnya Q Labs in Coimbatore, Dwitiya was faster than IIIT-Q by 83 seconds. ISRO launched a Dwitiya pack to the Aitkens basin in 2027. Happy with the results, Pradnya Labs got orders for Dwitiyas themselves as well as for time for use on the Lunar Dwitiyas.

Meanwhile Sriram got in touch with his former boss at Tesla and through him got Pradeep to talk to Elon Musk. Pradeep asked Musk for a redesign of their Starlink satellites to provide a way to receive data from the Moon and relay it to Earth. Working through 2027 and 2028, the Starlink 2.5 satellites were launched by SpaceX in 2029. These provided improved speed, better data crunching and faster applications. With the advent of this, many of the other service providers in India started gaining an equal footing.

Pradnya Labs’ profits soared. In 2030, Isha Ambani of Jio approached Pradeep with a new idea. She wanted Jio to build satellites that would relay the information from the lunar Dwitiyas back to Earth. Pradeep shared that they were working on Tritiya. One Tritiya would launch next year. But, one demonstration at the Pradnya Labs Quantum Computer simulator meant she paid for the construction of three more Tritiyas exclusively for use of Jio. In addition, she also paid Exseed Space for the construction of 25 Jiosats that would relay the information for users in the Indian subcontinent.

A total of five Tritiyas were launched to lunar surface at the Aitkens basin. Two were used for scientific data crunching for science institutions in India. Three were used by Jio. They said the three lunar data centers took care of half their data center needs on Earth.

It was one of the Tritiya that had predicted that an asteroid was to hit Earth in 2040. Ayn was one of the few human beings that left on the spacecraft one year before impact was predicted. Today was the day when the asteroid would hit Earth.

James Clear: Akrasia

From James Clear’s blog:

Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.

An important thing to look out for is:

Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

This is one thing that I’m trying to fix:

This is one reason why the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification—at least occasionally, if not consistently—can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik is a writer whose books I love to read because he interprets puranas in their modern sense. It makes sense to me. It sometimes makes better sense than their traditional interpretation as I have heard.

My Gita is Pattanaik’s interpretation of the Gita. He begins the book by stating that the poem is not to be read from start to finish as one would a book or a poem today. He suggests that the wisdom is scattered throughout the verses of the Gita. Traditionally, the Gita would be expounded by a Guru to his disciple by teaching him only the relevant sections with explanations. Not the whole poem in the form it is read today.

Accordingly, Pattanaik’s book is arranged in a scheme such that the Hindu philosophy expounded in the Gita could be more clearly grasped and better understood.

The book is a tiring read. I have read various voluminous books like Radhakrishnan on the Upanishads and even his Dhammapada. I have even read Pattanaik’s earlier books but none have tired me so. It’s difficult to keep up with a thread of thinking in the book. This made my reading progress slow and tiring as I found it hard to grasp concepts.

The way to overcome this difficulty is to skim through the book quickly the first time to get a basic idea before reading the book understanding the depth of the book. The book is a complete guide to the Gita with context, several interpretations offered including alternative versions but finally is Pattanaik’s interpretation of the Gita.

Back to Reading

I had a promotion exam in the middle of July. This meant essentially that all of my reading went for a toss in the build up. A lax period arose as I stopped following many things that I had followed dilligently till then. I also had no list of things that I did follow. This meant that after the exam I was enveloped in a period where I did not know what to do. I raked my mind and nothing came to me or rather everything came at me at the same moment. At this moment, I just let things be and let them slide for a while till about day before yesterday.

I picked up Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Inner Engineering book and went through a few pages just highlighting them. I did not read it with any focus. But, after having read it, I felt happy for a few moments at having begun reading again.

p.s. I hope this has also started me blogging again.