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Sidin’s resolutions

At some point in the past five years, I hit upon my ideal technique for drawing up lists of New Year’s resolutions that are actually meaningful. I mean to say it is ideal for me, not necessarily for you. But who knows? Maybe you will also find it useful.

I like to have two sets of resolutions. One very short list of big-picture, difficult-to-quantify, non-specific (OK fine, vague) resolutions. Not more than two or three. And another medium to long list of very specific, very quantifiable resolutions which can be evaluated at the end of the year in “Did It/Didn’t Do It" terms.

The idea is to strike a balance. Too many vague resolutions and I never find the motivation to translate them into deliverables and goals. A couple of vague, high-concept resolutions give me the latitude to dabble throughout the year without obsessing over specific goals. Too many tight, concrete resolutions and I feel straitjacketed from 1 January itself, playing catch up with long-term to-dos climbing into bed with my daily to-dos and producing even more to-dos.

So first I want to talk about my second list.

1. I want to run a personal best 10K this year. I’ve run a 10K each in 2014 and 2015 in reasonably good time. This year I want to get as close to 60 minutes as possible. Perhaps 70 minutes. But no slower. At least once. I like this resolution because it has lots of really good collateral. I don’t lose a lot of weight, but I tend to get toned, feel fitter when I start training for a 10K. Also it does wonders for my posture and my sleep.

2. I want to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall this year. Perhaps sometime in late May or early June. By that point in 2017, I should have enough free time to take the week off to walk the 150 mile route over five or six days. I find walking alone a tremendously rewarding activity. It clears up my brain, and boosts the spirit. The plan is to walk around 30 miles each day, and then spend the evening in a lodging, reading and writing and letting the body recover. And then repeat. And then come back home with a tan and some great stories.

3. I want to blog once a week. I miss blogging so much. I want to go back to writing nonsensical things about everyday life. (But isn’t that what I do in my day job you ask? You rascal.)

4. I want to cook more. 2016 was a year of great turmoil in my life. In a good way. We moved into a new house in May and then spent the entirety of the rest of the year bringing the house up to standard. It was back-breaking work. And we ordered in a lot of food. That has to stop. I love cooking. We all love cooking at home. The missus loves baking and I love roasting and slow cooking and such like. So in 2017 I want to eat no more than two meals a week that is not cooked in my kitchen.

5. I will restart my podcast on the Indian Constitution in January. And release at least an episode each month. It is a project that is close to my heart. But I lost interest when I realized that the audience for it was minuscule. But since then I have had a change of heart. I think the world needs more debate and discussion about politics, rights, morality and democracy. I want to do my part. Even if only seven of you listen.

6. I want to watch a live football match in Italy or Spain. Ideally this will go along with my next resolution.

7. I want to go on a family holiday to Sicily. I have spent so much time in the last month or two reading Andrea Camilleri’s crime novels and watching the Montalbano TV series that I cannot wait to find my own little seaside town in Sicily where I can find a little hotel that I will go back to year after year and eventually become friends with the locals. But in the interim anything I can afford will do.

As for my first list of big, hairy, audacious resolutions I have only two entries:

1. In 2017 I want to learn, understand and experiment more with football writing. This is a very difficult and very competitive field to get into. Especially if you are a late-blooming football fan like I am. But I want to give it a go. This means watching a lot of football and consuming a lot of football punditry. There are worse ways to live life.

2. In 2017 I want to start investing more. I am one of those people who spend part of their paycheques each month, and then leave the rest of the money in a bank account where it earns bupkiss. I want to change all that. Also, I just saw The Big Short last night. So I might even consider becoming a maverick trader. Or I might just buy some mutual funds. But I need to do something. I work for a business newspaper. It is beginning to get embarrassing.

Arun’s resolutions

Every January is the same: You see more people jogging, gym memberships increase while alcohol consumption decreases. People sign up for music classes, cooking classes, become vegan, while the odd person might end up bungee jumping in New Zealand. Depending on the weather in Mumbai and the government’s policies (both of which are directly related to alcohol consumption), this mood lasts from two weeks to a month.

Because resolutions, like rules, are perhaps destined to be broken. We make them with the best of intentions—“I will climb up the stairs to my first floor office at least once every day instead of taking the lift"—but trying circumstances usually let us down—“I got so tired doing it yesterday so maybe I can take a break today".

According to a study in the US, only 8% of the 45% Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, succeed. Other articles in Forbes and the Daily Mail quote psychologists who say it’s better to have smaller, achievable goals rather than big, overwhelming ones—so instead of a resolution to lose weight, resolve to skip bataata vadas for a month.

Over the years, I have already resolved to do (and failed at) several of the common ones—will read more, will get a six-pack, will learn to play a musical instrument, will learn to do a headstand, will not giggle every time I walk past Lund and Blockley in Fort… But irrespective of past outcomes, every New Year calls for finding some more achievable (or not) goals. So in 2017, it will be:

One, do more, complain less. We are all bothered by the common urban issues of lack of open spaces, sanitation, noise, health, etc. But it’s far easier to crib on Facebook than to do something about it. So instead, volunteer, hug a tree, sweep a beach, adopt a dog or tutor a kid.

Two, do something I have never done before or learn a new skill. In 2016, for the first time ever, I did a short course on photography, joined one on appreciating western classical music, attended two concerts of singer Venkatesh Kumar, saw Mount Mary’s church in Bandra, completed a 10-day silent meditation course, saw a cow give birth, and finally, attended a wedding in Goa. This year needs to be more experimental.

Three, financial planning: As the government’s recent move to cancel currency notes shows, we have less control over our hard-earned money than we think. We spend more than we need to, don’t track our money the way our parents did and don’t set aside for a “rainy day". The reason we don’t do it is because of carelessness or lethargy or a feeling of invincibility that comes with youth. That changes the day you realize you can’t touch your toes anymore or you recognize faces in the obit pages.

Four, get friendlier with nature. This includes more environmentally easy practices, more visits to the jungles and appreciating the beauty of wildlife even in a concrete jungle like Mumbai. I am already quite pally with the neighbourhood hawk—we have made eye contact often from across our buildings—but that’s just the beginning.

Five: Get at least two out of the six packs.

It’s amazing how the shortest resolution is the most difficult.

Pranav’s resolutions

It looks like it’s another New Year’s. Let’s get cracking on those resolutions then, shall we?

I’m going to broaden my reading (and also read more, in general); I’m going to learn more (the History of Philosophy Without any Gaps awaits); I’m going to grow indoor plants (kitchen stuff mostly, coriander, curry leaves, chillies); I’m going to keep a small notebook of doodles (someday, my descendants will auction it off—The Early Works); I’m going to get back to making origami every day (nothing to put in parentheses here, I’m afraid); I’m going to get into shape (walking, jogging and something approximating running are on the menu); and I’m going to finally fix my atrocious hunched-over-the-desk posture and try out yoga (of my many virtues, physical flexibility is not one).

Well then, looks like I’m sorted. Signing off now. Have a happy new year everybody!

Oh. That’s right, I’ve already resolved to most of these, haven’t I? (The one about the doodles is new.) At the beginning of a year, in the middle, after every quarter, every month, and whenever the mood strikes.

Looking at it now, I feel it is because—at least in part—these resolutions, like most ideas, are transitory. They flit through the mind, stopping over for just long enough to get you excited.

So here’s another resolution: I’m going to try and think slowly.

I envision it as a mental version of “mindful eating". Every thought, every idea that makes an appearance, I shall chew on carefully, savouring the various flavours and implications.

The aim of this, to use another analogy (this is the last, I promise), is to train my mind sort of like training the body for a cross-country hike (or so I imagine). To plod on without pause, to stick to the course over the long run.

That, hopefully, will lay the ground for all the other resolutions.

PS: The better half has suggested a number of other resolutions, from learning how to give directions properly to taking up ballroom dancing. To which I promptly replied, “They have to be at least vaguely possible."

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