My love for animation movies

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A severe flu infection. Or a bad day at work. Or a long journey through traffic jams. Or a fight with a close one.

Such situations are intense and tiring on the body, and more often on the mind as well. What is it that you do as ‘first-aid’ to your mind and body in such times? Drink coffee? Smoke? Work out? Go to sleep? Cook? Watch TV?

For me for several years the solution to any stress build up is quite simple – I watch an animation movie. I have an intense love for watching stories of hypothetical animated characters which often, have out-of-this-world possibilities and insane humor!! They take me into a new world and bring me back to this world refreshed. My introduction to animation movies began with Toy Story when I was in primary school.

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Toy Story (Wikipedia image)

I remember watching it with my cousins over the summer vacations; and it was such a delight. Woody and Buzz Lightyear formed a part of my day dreams for days after that. Sure enough I had been watching Disney cartoons even before that, but this was different. This was when animated characters are a part of a MOVIE! Where they were actually a part of a long story; with a defined start and end, and had so many characters. These were not the 15 min shows that we saw on TV every day or every weekend.

 

 

Soon after; creative and imaginative animation movies have become an important part of my life. What started as a source of rolling laughter and awesome imagination as a school kid however soon began to transform itself into a source of very pertinent everyday life philosophies as I grew up. The charm of these just kept multiplying as I began to realize the bigger messages from each of these stories. I, in fact, also realized that I have a lot of like-minded friends and cousins who derive similar happiness from animation movies.

So why do we love this world of animated movies so much? What is it that appeals to us?

Why do these movies, initially designed for kids; have a much deeper impact on us as thinking adults?

Why do these seemingly child-like concepts and definitions become our go-to stuff when we grow up?

I guess as we grow up, along with the humor in the lack of plausibility of the situations in these, it’s the conceptual take-home that comes screaming out at us.

 

There is absolutely nothing that cannot happen in an animation movie! Talk about any miraculous event that defies every law of science ever demonstrated – it happens in an animation movie. Cartoon gravity, forces, chemistry are all beyond any rules that we see in our world. Because the world of animation has absolutely no confinement and limits for thinking, the possibilities are endless. And so are the ways of conveying larger messages. And that is why we need more of these in our lives.

 

Because Inside Out taught us that once in a while it’s fun to see how our emotions must be thinking! And in a fun way, that makes us realize that it is often we ourselves who decide which emotion should get the final gear move in our brain!

Because we need to be assured that physical in-capacities were never as much a limitation as mental in-capacities, which Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda showed us.

Because we learnt from Up that we must love wholeheartedly even when we grow old, and that beautiful friendships exist across the barriers of age.

Because we can be friends within different species, across different tendencies and temperaments, and then fight calamities together as in Ice Age and Madagascar.

Because Gru and his girls from Despicable Me showed us that happy families need not always be composed of the classical structure of members; and an ex villain with a heart that cares and melts down can change to become such an awesome father to little adorable girls! Because cuteness, honesty and innocence can win over anyone’s heart.

 

Because Wall E taught us that what seemingly appear as inanimate objects have an equally intense love and deserve to be respected.

Because Kung Fu Panda tells us we should often do our best and leave the rest to destiny. It’s the greatest match maker ever.

Because the adorable Shrek and Tangled showed us how the most seemingly impossible love stories do work out.

This is just a glimpse of the many awesome movies I have seen and the great stuff they tell us.

I guess we go back to these stories because more often than not we need to be reminded of what the essential lessons in our life are; through a world that is essentially different from ours. I seek these reminders from these stories. And they create optimism. They make us feel positive. And above all, are reassuring. To me the best part about watching this animation stuff is this reassurance. That things may or may not go our way but we must continue to believe in the goodness. Because goodness always gets its due, sometimes not in the most predictable way but it does. And that there is no impossible ever.

Cheers are due to the brilliant concept writers and illustrators for these movies. I wish I could personally go and convey this to them. And may God bless guys like Pixar and Dreamworks Animation!

On that note, Despicable Me 3 releases this week. Anyone up to give me company?

The Fitness Quotient on your wrist

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Fitness trackers are the new additions to accessories owned by people. What started as an exclusive expensive commodity that was initially purchased only in the western world has now come to the ease of procurement in India as well. You will notice little devices (like the ones in the picture from the Fitbit website here) adorning the wrists of several individuals in a reasonably age independent manner. An increase in awareness coupled with the ease of quantification of calories has led to a new spirit of measuring the number of calories spent, gained, efficiency of workout`s, number of steps, heart rates and what not. A walk in the park, a routine in the gym, or even climbing up and down the steps in work areas sees people peeking into their wrist belts to check on a digital output that either gets translated into a smile (yeah nailed the calories!!) or a grumpy frown (Man, I needed a higher heart rate from this cardio!!)

Personally, I am not very fascinated with this tracking of calories but I am nevertheless happy with the way people are getting more fitness conscious, and how seeing numbers on their wrist motivates them in some way or the other. Indeed we do so much to ensure that our bodies are getting their share of fitness activities; and that we are in the correct shape and size. When fitness activities result in an increase in our endurance and stamina, we feel good about ourselves.

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The variety of fitness tracker devices available at http://www.fitbit.co.za/

Lots of efforts on measuring fitness of the body. But what about fitness of the mind?

What if we came up with an analogous tracker that measures how much positive and negative emotions and thoughts you accumulate throughout the day? How would this world be if we gave exactly equal importance to mental fitness tracking along with physical fitness tracking?

So, say every time you get angry with someone, yell and fuss, there goes a cling on your wrist. -1. Every time you smile, wave at someone with happiness, do something to help someone, you hear another click, a +1 count. So a digital output tells you how much happiness, anger, jealousy, and compassion you have had throughout your day. You program a minimum level of positive aspects into your mental workout regime and check if you achieved it at the end of the day! How does that sound?

Having been in science all this while, I am always tempted to imagine products that will utilize scientific research into creative everyday tools. And one such science fiction tool that I think about is something that measures your body temperature/hormonal changes when your emotions change; and displays them on a digital meter. And I call this a fitness tracker for your mind 🙂

Well, we can always leave the science fiction part aside for now and nevertheless keep our own track of mental pluses and minuses for everyday. Often we do it unknowingly. My point is do it intentionally. Keep as much track of your mental exercises and fitness as of your physical fitness. And make changes to improve your mental fitness, agility, flexibility, positivism just as you would manage workouts for your body. Charles Darwin has long ago taught us about the survival advantages of the fittest. And our net fitness a being is a sum total of both physical and mental health states.

I see this invisible mental fitness tracker on the wrist of every individual I meet. Is this what they say karma is doing all the while? Keeping a track of what positive and negative things happen in every person’s mind? I know not, and can only wonder.

Your everyday essentials

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I have always wondered about the definition of a ‘day’. Years ago, we were taught the geographical definition – through rotation of the earth. Then we were taught about times and phases of the day by timings, activities and routines – the social definition. But here I am curious about a personalized definition – what makes your day seem like a ‘day’?

In other words, is there an activity in your life that is essential for you to feel ‘complete’ about each day?

I have had discussions with several people about this, and have heard very variable and interesting everyday essential elements such as:

  • A day without laughter is a day wasted
  • A day without a good deed is a day wasted
  • A day without exercise is a day wasted
  • For the workaholics, a day without work is a day wasted
  • A day without prayers is a day wasted
  • A day without coffee is a day wasted!

What is it, that for you makes your everyday count? Any more interesting ones from your side?

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For me, the definition of a worthwhile day has long been the productivity associated with the day. Pretty much like the brain here in this ‘heart versus brain’ conflict. I am more like the brain here! I do get perturbed if there is no productive element to the day. Do you ever felt trapped in this yardstick of ‘productivity’ that makes your day seem like a day? Do you feel lost, unsuccessful, wasteful if there is no ‘productive’ element in your life?

I have often struggled to establish equations with myself with the permissive limits for daily productivity in order to feel accomplished at the end of the day. Because being productive each day is not easy. When we desire to have small and big successful missions everyday, we often meet with disappointment. Be it something as small as dusting your piece of furniture or finishing some pending work at the insurance office or something big at work like, say in my case, a crucial experiment in the lab. The success or ‘productivity’ of our tasks are governed by so many factors which we do not control; that it’s almost always more likely to go wrong than go right 😛 And the resultant failures or delays that arise have made me feel wasteful about that day.

And hence over the years I have done some upgrades to my thinking system, my definition of ‘daily productivity’ has undergone evolution; and I am glad that it has.

I have shifted from a necessity of ‘productivity’ to a necessity of ‘contribution’ for each day. A contribution – be it to work, to an organization or to another persons life – is my measurement of the worth for everyday. Not the productive or non-productive outcome of the contribution. I have now realized that the only way to make each day count is to try and contribute in as much spheres of life as possible. Mistakes will happen, things will often get stalled, factors beyond our influence may impact the outcome – but it’s important to keep contributing. At the end of the day, this attempt to contribute is my everyday essential.

Needless to say, writing this post has made a tick on my contributory checklist for today 🙂 Have you been able to tick off your everyday essentials in this day?

 

Twists and turns of curly hair

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An illustration by one of my old friends recently got me ticking about something that has been on my mind and head (literally!) for a long time. Gravity defying self organizing structures on my head that are sensitive to humidity. Simply put – curly hair.  My relationship with my hair has undergone exactly as many twists and turns as the hair filament itself. It started with wonder. As a kid I always wondered that my hair looks different from others. I had realized that in my class of about 40 students, only about 8 had curls and everyone else had straight shiny free flowing filaments. Then, a few more years and the relationship changed to dislike, almost hatred. That’s because most of my girl buddies would sport lovely silk ribbons and clips that made their hair look so organized and pretty all the same. My hair on the other hand, was impossible to organize and always made it a point to bury deep down or actually break any hair accessory due to the enormous jumble and weight of the curls. I disliked them. But, soon enough this dislike itself sparked up my interest in biological questions, and subsequently biochemistry classes in college taught me that it was all just a game of sulphur based bonds that creates curls. Wow now it seemed cool. Now the relation changes to scientific awe. Around this time itself I had my newly found perspective of scientific awesomeness in curls and I started noticing a lot of personalities (especially scientists) with curly hair and the unique dimension that this gives to them. Needless to say, a lot of secret (and open!!) crushes on cool European scientists with curly hair followed :P. A few more years and the novelty of the biochemistry of curls died down, and the relationship has now changed to that of acceptance. I know what curls are, I know their charm and how to manage them and I know their issues too. I did try straightening my hair once, and totally hated it because it just wasn’t me!! Curly hair does come with a management price – but it’s okay since the charm and uniqueness makes up for it 🙂

Over the years, curly hair gives you a lot of unique experiences. From school to college to now, I have definitely earned extremely innovative nicknames because of my curly hair. Some cool ones are maggiehead, black burnt Maggie noodles, cauliflower look head, Greek Goddess Medusa, woolly sheephead (Abcam sheep to be precise – for all my biology friends to understand :P), DNA/chromatin loops, birds nest and many others which essentially meant ‘non-straight’ :D!! I’m sure all of you with curly hair must have had some of these as well – do you have any new ones to share? I have also had at least 100 aunts give me suggestions on how to reduce curliness. I have had hair dressers tell me ‘Ma’am aap smoothening kara lo baalon ka, fir theek ho jayenge’ (meaning – Ma’am do try the smoothening treatments on your hair, it will heal them) – (Yes in my mind I have punched each one of them on the nose and shouted -Dude, curliness is not a disease!!). On the positive note, I have also bonded with many people over curly hair.

So all in all, overall, I am on a steady acceptance and balanced relationship with my hair now. And one thing that has been reiterated in my mind over and over is – I want everything in my life to be straightened out, except my hair 🙂

Spectacular clarity!

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Spectacles are one of the best inventions of mankind. The ability to correct a faulty vision has given so many people an opportunity to witness the beauty of this world. From being a sign of a nerd to a style statement, eye glasses have evolved a long way. For someone who has been using spectacles since the age of 11, there is a special bond with those two glass lenses held together by a frame. Do you feel a similar bond with your spectacles? I will never forget the day I was asked to start using glasses. Like a lot of school kids it started with headaches and an inability to read what was written on the black board. Alphabets and numbers appeared fuzzy and blurred (Clearly eating carrots and coriander for 10 years had not been useful enough!!). Then as soon as the doctor slid various glasses in the holder for me to try, my vision cleared up! I could see things that were far off with clarity. With focus. I could read comfortably! My spectacles introduced me to the meaning of the word ‘clarity’ in its entirety! My first pair of specs was a hideous brown frame that had stripes all over it…. Something that seems so cool when you are 11; and absolutely disgusting by the time you turn 16!! And from then on, its been half rimmed, full rimmed, rimless, square cut, round, plastic, metal all kinds of frames and all kinds of glasses in my life. All pairs of specs have their own charm, but are united by one purpose- of presenting the world with clarity. Its grown to become a part of me. A few attempts to use the cumbersome contact lenses were futile. My eyes kept rejecting them. My mind had rejected them long before my eyes tried them 😛

Over the years, I believe my glasses have shown me the world with the maximum clarity that they could, be it people, or visible things in the world or structures inside living cells. Sometimes it has also shown me apparently hidden tears, sometimes cheeky smiles, sometimes happiness, sometimes deception, sometimes selflessness and so many other things!! And through this contribution, my glasses have become a part of my thinking process, my perception process, my imagination process. And so, when someone says put on your thinking caps, I put on my specs and get to work 🙂

I don’t know if they have a World Spectacles Day or something. But for all of you with specs, take a moment to thank this everyday tool that lets you see the world with clarity (and hey, unlike most everyday tools these days, it doesn’t even need a charger 😛 ). And for those of you who don’t use spectacles, you too should thank them. Cos I am sure at least some people important to you among your friends or family or better/worse halves have noticed you with clarity only because of a pair of spectacles 🙂