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All work and no play October 15, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, ideas, life.

My leisure time is spent the most efficiently with nearly zero overheads and the reason for this efficiency forms the “About me” just alongside the picture you see.

Okay, let me back off – most of my work is done online – not just on the desktop/laptop but connected to the university network. So the romantic riversides and mountains will mean nothing to me if work is what needs to be done. No, dont get me wrong – not that they mean nothing to me per se, but unlike a writer or a theoritical scientist who can retire into the woods and mountains to become more productive, I have no such option. This by the way is true of many a graduate students doing experimental and indoor research.

So how is the leisure spent afterall. No surprises – reading and writing, mostly the former. And all I need to do is really just say “Ctrl+Tab” and the browser takes me into a world of hyperlinks. There have been a few saturdays when I have been reading articles/newspapers/blogs for 7-10 hours breaking only for a visit to the kitchen or the loo. Its unlikely ever that I would be found lying on my bed reading a book – those days seem nearly gone. The html page and the infinite links out of each one, to me is a dream come true. The only place I would be found reading a book is perhaps in the bus or waiting for one. I have been asked many a times if I get headaches or pain in the eye spending so much time reading stuff online. I will answer that question again – No. ๐Ÿ™‚

I want to change this imbalance a bit. One problem is this low walls and thin lines between work and leisure is that its hard to keep track. Its easy to imagine ( and fool oneself ) that lot of work has been done while most of that time has been spent reading or writing stuff online.

Sitting here in my lab I can see so many books I have bought in the past year. I have been a regular at the 2 used book shops within literally a minute walk from my lab. A brief list :

The Universe and the teacup : The mathematics of truth and beauty

Cycles : How we live, work and buy – American popular culture

How to lose friends and alienate people – One man’s experience doing down the New York City social ladder

KGB : The secret work of Soviet secret agents

A Random Walk down wall street – How the stock market works

The Enigma of arrival – Naipaul

Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Freedom at Midnight – Lapiere’s work on India’s freedom

Love Visions : Chaucer

Utopia by Thomas More – Satirical work suggesting how unrealizable a utopia would be

Maximum City by Suketu Mehta – About the City of Bombay

Einstein, the life and times

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond – The role of geography in western dominance

Waiting for the weekend – About how the concept of weekday has been historically and how its evolved

and perhaps 20 others – none of them technical !

Many of these are at different stages of reading and I hope to read a good number of these in the coming weeks – that might mean reading fewer blogs !

Infact I got so frustrated with this trend of having so many wonderful books here, lying unread that I ‘decided’ I would not buy anymore unless I am done with each of these or even 50% of these. That though doesnt work – sounds coercive and besides, I have fought this frustration by convincing myself quite successfully that I am infact a book collector, rather than a reader – rather a collector so that I can, one day become a reader. I admit that my success in deceiving myself into believing this ( and several other ideas ) bothers me.

To wind up though, I must not forget to mention what seems to me the prime reason why reading things online ( not just electronic, but with a machine connected to the internet ) is preferred to conventional lying on the bed, staring occasionally into the sky reading habits. Links and Search engines – the fact that you can at a moment’s notice ( to yourself ) wander off for no particular reason, or look up something if it were unclear – is a delicious prospect. Ofcourse, this sense of freedom and convenience, I once claimed, continues to ruin my life.



1. Harini - December 1, 2009

Makes me think… it was a good decision to take a sabbatical from blogosphere. To me it looks like, it became an obsession to read / surf so as to come back and gloat oops, sorry, write about it. Yes, we travel the world without moving an inch when we sit behind a book or in front of the laptop/desktop monitors. But what fun it would be to visit and experience something new, in real and not always so surreal!
I think you made a wise decision to move away from intellectual narcissism.
But two years is a long time. New heights reached, new coasts traveled, new people met, new ideas thought of and definitely a changed Sharath Rao. It would be interesting to see what you write about now in this cycle. ๐Ÿ™‚

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