A gift!

It is 7:24am. I have been awake since 4am. I have a midterm at 1pm and I have another one at 4.

It’s gonna be a long day ahead.

I often find myself in situations where I’m maybe 15% through a long day’s work and already wondering how I’m going to get anything done. So what do I do? I roll around in bed wondering why my life is so hard life. I picture all my friends doing their third revisions as I learn concepts for the first time. And finally, I blog about it.

As efficient and well-thought-out as this process sounds, it’s really not. But today, half-way through my early morning introspection session, I wondered why I’m wasn’t scared of the two midterms I have today. Theoretically speaking, I should. They count as a part of my grade and I’m more than a little behind on my work. But I don’t feel anxious or scared to write them.

I find this feeling to be a gift.

I am lying in bed, relaxed, comfortable and typing this blog when I should be studying because I refuse to let this long day get the best of me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not avoiding my studies. Nor am I criticizing those who are already well-prepared. I am simply fine with my current state of being.

Now, this comes at a price, of course. I will need to study very diligently for the next 4.5 hours. Probably, I might not do as well as I could have. But, I am blessed with the ability to stay calm on before a long hard day knowing I will make it. I see my colleagues study all the time. They ask me questions about concepts I haven’t gotten to. And as I fail to answer them, they feel scared for me. And then go back to preparing for battle.

I could do the same. Actually, I can’t. I do not have the physical or mental capacity to push myself over the edge for an exam. Maybe because grades are not my idea of achieving something. Therefore, I am unburdened by the pressure to constantly fuss over every percentage and free to learn at my own pace. By the grace of a higher power, I am blessed with a family that understands this feeling.

Now, this blog isn’t an excuse for poor grades. I usually end up doing okay and quite well, sometimes. But I am gifted. Gifted with the ability to stay calm in the face of a storm. And so far, I’ve always come up on the other side safe, sound and proud of myself.

 

When no one is looking

There was once a young man who was going through a bit of a financial crisis. He would spend the little money he earned, living an extravagant life he couldn’t afford. One fine day he turned up at his long-estranged parents’ house.

The mother took him in gladly, but the father took caution and wished to test the man his son had turned out to be after leaving his home for “better prospects” almost a decade ago. Not long after, the son approached his father with a business proposal. He asked his father to fund his venture and see his money triple in a year. The father agrees and takes the son into his study, where he unlocks the family safe with the son watching. The son is amazed at finding a huge amount of money in there and gladly takes the amount he needs.

But that night, as the son lied awake in bed, he could not help but think about the safe. About how he could always use some extra cash and how his old parents had no need of all of that money. He sneaks into his father’s study and finds the safe to be open. “The old man is getting too old”, he mused. He took as much as he could carry and once again, left the house he was born in, for “better prospects”.

The next day, the mother was horrified at what her son had done. But the father calmed her down and said, “That money went towards a good cause. I now know what kind of a man my son has grown to be. A man without integrity.”

How do you define integrity? Have you ever defined it? Let me help you.

Integrity is what you do when no one is looking.

In it’s purest form, it is a test of your actions when the world is not there to watch, judge or criticize. I don’t know about you, but my childhood was one of discipline as I waded my way through six years at a boarding school. It was made sure by someone that I took complete care of myself right from making my bed all the way to managing my studies efficiently. There was approval upon success and a scolding for every stumble. In short, I had someone making sure I grew up to be a responsible person. They tried their best.

But now as I live away from home in a city almost half a world away, I find myself to be free of constant supervision. My parents can not tell how I live my life now. Some of my friends envy this. I find it to be a burden. A heavy, yet a necessary one.

As I write this blog at 6:11am right now, I have no need to wake up early or go to school or do anything, to be honest. But because it is what I am supposed to do, because it is what my family entrusts me to do, it is what I must do. No matter how many alarms it takes.

When you find yourself in a situation where the only person aware of a decision is you, believe me, that is the toughest place to be. At that moment, “you” are the only one you can disappoint. But make the right choice and you will find a deep satisfaction like no other.

And here’s how. Most people that believe in you, be they family or friends usually hold you in a high place in their minds. They believe that you are a good person and that you will always do the right thing without bothering to find out whether you actually will. All you need to do is to become the person they already think you are.

If you take anything from this, take this.

A person with a whole lot of nothing to show for, but his integrity intact, has done quite well for himself.

-Harry

Don’t be perfect

I always loved watching sports movies. Rocky was one of my all-time favourites. It was about a man who trained hard and rose to the occasion. As I watch that movie again, it makes me want to do the same thing. Not take up boxing, but to work hard. Harder than anyone else. To make sure nothing can stand in my way. To be perfect.

Every single day, I want to be perfect. But I’m only human. So, sometimes I sleep through the alarm. Other days, a really good TV show brings me down. Sometimes, I don’t go on my run because I’m out of clean socks.

The next day, I judge myself for not being perfect yesterday.

What does it take to be perfect all the time? What do I have to give up to get there? And if I knew, would I give it up?

Storytime. Back in my boarding school days, I loved reading Harry Potter. Those pages sucked me in and I pored over those books for months on end. I read them in class. I read them while I ate. And I read them when I was supposed to be sleeping. And on one fine day, a teacher found me reading the book a day before a final. I got a nice long talk on how I should be focusing on my exams instead of on pish-posh like that. How that book wouldn’t get me anywhere in life, but the math textbook might. It was not a good day.

She told me that working towards a goal meant leaving everything else behind. And that, I truly believe, is the definition of being perfect. To be immaculate in everything you do. To leave behind tiny things that don’t concern your work. To be a flawless diamond as you walk through life.

No one should have to live like that. I’m done trying to live like that.

From now onwards the mantra is,

Do your best to be your best.

-Harry

You might be tired of hearing me preach, but here’s another thought for you. If at any point in time you find yourself doing something wrong, or not doing something that you’re supposed to be doing. Take a second. Admit to yourself that you have messed up. And go do your best to make things right.

Trust me, it’s the best way to live.

 

 

 

Do your “thing”

Whenever I’m in a space full of people I try and understand some things about human behaviour. After about 16 hours in two planes and an hour on a bus back to my place in Guelph, there’s something I noticed.

So there’s all kinds of people I see whenever I take public transport. Loud people. Well-dressed people. Serious-faced people. Lost-in-the-floor people. The list goes on. So let’s say they all have a thing. And based on today’s world, some of these “things” are more socially acceptable than the other. I won’t go on to point them out but it’s the way it is.

My “thing” is music. I always have earphones on as I travel. I have some incredible self-made Spotify playlists which could, in my opinion, quite possibly blow the roof of any public transport vehicle. So I listen to music. On some days it’s Drake. On others, its Arijit. I switch here and there. Today, as I was on the bus, I was totally in my zone. I was listening to this incredible song called Suffocation Blues. I was tapping my legs. I can’t always guess the lyrics but I do try.

And as I’m listening, I look around the bus and see someone who was looking at me with this quizzical look. Now I chose to give the person the benefit of the doubt and went back to my song. A couple songs later I notice the person again, looking at me with an expression that clearly said, “What is wrong with him?”

So back to my original point. Here is what I noticed. Some people generally reserve themselves from doing anything that they consider to be “a couple centimetres south of normal”. They sit there looking into their phones waiting for their Snapchat conversations to progress further down the path of pointlessness. And that’s okay. That’s their thing and I’m proud they do it no matter what. But why is it that when someone has a “thing” a bit on the unusual side, people around them immediately disapprove? They crinkle, point it out to their friends and enjoy their silent derision.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself on that foot-tapping, song-singing side of that scenario but if you have, then you’d know that it can get pretty awkward. And it did for me. But later that day a thought passed my mind.

Only one who is uneasy in his own skin will laugh at those that are living their lives to the fullest.

-Harry

Do two people dancing with crazy moves ever look at each other and disapprove? No. They just silently congratulate each other on not holding anything back and continue to boogie. 

Now if you’ve never been on the crazy dancing side of life, maybe that’s just who you are. Nothing wrong with that. But maybe, you’re letting the best in life pass by. So either join the stage or enjoy the party from that bar stool. And if you’re on that dance floor going nuts, and you see someone looking at you like you’re crazy, feel sorry for them. And then go back and do your “thing.”

 

 

Keep at it!

“You need commitment to start something. But you need consistency to finish it.”

I have no idea who said this, but it makes a whole lot of sense to me. Especially today. You see, I started this blog exactly a week ago. Last Friday, I wrote the “About Me” post almost feverish with excitement about this new project. At that point, I had a ton of ideas flowing across my mind before I could even catch them. Bliss.

But just today I noticed, that I haven’t given it much thought over the past couple days. It just slipped my mind. Maybe because I’ve been so concerned about whether to go with the brown or the black shoes on Amazon. But that’s what happens, isn’t it?

For me, it’s just like the gym.

I start out pumped and ready to go. The first day is amazing. The second day is better so. The third day I tell myself it’s going great. But on the fourth day, some friends decide to go out. I go out, have a great time and come back satisfied. The gym slips my mind. Something else comes up the next day. And suddenly, it’s been a week since I last went to the gym. This is how most of my projects get cast aside. Consistency is an art I haven’t yet mastered but I mean to start working on it with this blog.

That being the case, this post is my version of dragging myself to the gym on a lazy day to do at least half of my usual workout. The goal here is to keep moving. Doing a little bit everyday. Especially, on the days when I don’t want to. We all hear the quote about working hard. But they don’t go on to say that some days are harder than others. And on those days, you need to look back and remind yourself of the reason you started.

So do me a favor. The next time you don’t feel like doing something that you should be doing, think of a reason. Think of one singular reason that stands out amid all the negativity. And if you can’t, borrow mine.

“Because I said I would.”

– Harry

 

 

 

Overpopulation: Do we need an inferno?

Quite a few years ago, I was walking through the local Borders store, and my eyes fell on the new Dan Brown book, “Inferno”. The synopsis was intriguing and Dan had done it again. That night, I began turning the pages to what turned out to be a most invigorating read.

In the book, a billionaire geneticist decides to cure the world of overpopulation by engineering a biological virus that will wipe out half the human population. And there begins the heroic professor’s race to stop this semi-apocalypse with nothing but an eidetic memory and a Mickey Mouse watch.

But I can’t help but linger on the issue Dan Brown addressed: overpopulation.

Here are some facts:

  • The current world population is 7.6 billion. (based off of a UN estimation)
  • We are growing exponentially, not linearly.
  • We will be nearing 9.9 billion by 2050.
  • This is not good at all.

Numbers aside, while it is not something we notice, it is happening all around us. And the irony is that we did this to ourself. The better healthcare we applaud ourselves over, is one of the root causes of overpopulation. The death rate has undoubtedly lowered over the past few decades. But with it, we are pushing our natural resources to the limit, in an attempt to meet the demands of an ever-growing number.

And that begs the question, given where we are headed and factoring the rate with which we are headed there, do we need an inferno? Do we need a means to cut our current population in half? Gives me the chills just asking the question. While I assure you I have not been collecting Infinity Stones over this summer, we must admit, it would tip the biological scales back in our favour. There would be enough fresh water for everyone. Decreased population in bustling places like Africa, India and China would literally save the planet. But let’s look at some other options.

Adoption is most certainly one. There are currently over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States alone. We need to remove adoption as a last measure and give it the priority it deserves. I don’t mean to get into a “my child, my flesh and blood” debate with parents but every little helps and we need a lot of help.

Launching people into space is also something that may become a critical way to save us, and I don’t mean the US Space Force. Putting it in a more refined way, setting up colonies on other planets would require manufacturing artificial atmospheres, terraforming and better space travel technology. Ongoing research on all these fronts is hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and frankly, wouldn’t you like to wake up and see Earth from out of your window?

There are several other options like a one-child policy, better environmental awareness and universal access to safe contraceptives. I believe that we need to work hard and fast on the single most important issue that threatens life as we know it. I also believe that the most viable and moral solution will have multiple fronts to tackle and that more people need to dedicate their lives to this one cause.

I don’t ask anyone to drop what they’re doing and start handing out contraceptives. But research the subject. Realize it’s importance. Find out how you can make a difference and begin to make that difference. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t need an inferno!

 

 

Ping-Pong & Churchill

Failure comes to us everyday in different sizes. Right from failing to get up on time all the way to failing a course that nearly sets you a year back.

It’s a fascinating experience. I say this not to sound philosophical, but given what happened about an hour ago. I failed to pass my driving test. For the third time. Has someone ever said the words, “Third time’s the charm?”

The charm of the third try is greatly exaggerated. Do not believe it.

-Harry

On the way back, I asked myself why I messed up? I practised driving smoothly almost every day. For context, I’m learning to drive stick. I always had problems starting on an inclined road. So I worked on that this past week. Made my inclined start silky smooth.

Went for the test. Got to an inclined road. Stopped for a sign. Shifted to first. Balanced it perfectly and started up the hill smoothly. I finally conquered that slope. In five more minutes, I’d be done.

After four minutes, a car parking took me down.

As waves of Middle Eastern heat and disappointment washed over me, I had an epiphany. I lost my focus. That was what went wrong. It was just like Ping Pong. Yeah, I said Ping Pong. Here’s how. Whenever I’m able to return a particularly tough shot from my opponent, I do a momentary victory dance inside. This makes me lose focus and at times, the game. That was exactly what happened. I’d say the lesson is, don’t lose sight of the end goal. No matter how many mini-hurdles you cross.

As I concluded that self-analysis stage, there was still that disappointment to deal with. That’s where Churchill comes in. He said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I gladly took his advice, and I invite you to do the same. Failure comes everyday, but there’s still stuff that comes after. After a bad exam, there’s usually three more. Don’t let your future suffer the woes of your past. And that’s about as philosophical I get for the day.

Toodles!

Insights from “Job”-less Summer

Being a part of a co-operative education program back at the University of Guelph, I was expected and excited to get my first job over this summer. Unfortunately, coming from from a place where financial independence doesn’t really kick in until after college, my resume didn’t have any work experience on it.

Nevertheless, I applied for jobs. The constraints set by the idea of having to re-locate entirely for a summer and the lack of a “full G license” didn’t allow me to branch out as much as I should have for in my job search. Living alone far away from home, even in Canada, can be scary. I didn’t expand my job search locations beyond Guelph and came up empty on both jobs and offers.

“Never let location be a constraint on your job search. The perfect job is usually about two hours away by bus. Find a way.

– Harry

But this summer wasn’t a complete loss. I had the opportunity to intern at a environmental waste water management company in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman (The Middle East). Haya Water collects, treats and re-uses wastewater.

My two months of internship included brief but detailed insights into several functions of Haya Water:

  • Asset Management
  • Lab
  • Quality, Health & Safety
  • Waste Water Treatment facilities
  • Pumping Stations
  • Wetlands Management
  • Human Resources

As students, we study so much about so much. But when exams come around, we wonder,

“My work three years from now will have nothing to do with this stuff. Why am I studying this?”

Well, I finally got to see the application of things I learnt in school. Concepts of BOD, COD and reactors came into play at my time in the lab. The equipment used in calculating Biological Oxygen Demand (What is this sorcery?) for instance, blew my mind. Fluid Mechanics is a big part of setting up the waste water collection network for each locality with defined flows. Apparently, the collection includes three systems: Gravity, Pressurized and Vacuum. Each comes with its own benefits and installation costs.

I can’t thank everyone at Haya Water enough for guiding me in what I can only call a rich experience I will always cherish!

Another blog solely dedicated to the internship will follow. Stay tuned!

NOTE: It will be highly technical, you non-technical folks!

All in all, this summer taught me that there’s ways to make a summer productive. Getting a job is just another way of working on yourself. This internship meant a lot to me. It was the first exposure I had to the real world of environmental management business.

I’m sure as you read this, some of you already have a job. Bravo! But if you don’t, always remember this great quote I just made up:

“A paid job is a great way to have a productive summer. But it’s not the only way.”

 

 

 

About Me

I’ve wanted to start a blog for quite some time now. But today, I decided to kick off the project after my dad said, “Make something of your vacation.”

Any who, I’m Harkrishan Singh. My friends call me Harry. You will never find out what my mother calls me. I’m a third year Environmental Engineering student at the University of Guelph in Ontario. I stay in Guelph during my school semesters and fly home to visit the folks during the summers.

I love reading books, meeting new people and public speaking. I am a Toastmaster by passion and love the concept of helping people speak better. I have been working on my speaking and writing skills ever since J.K Rowling made me realize that words, when framed well, can move both people and mountains. I am currently working on enhancing my communication skills. This primarily includes not saying “umm” every ten seconds. You could say that I’m a work in progress.

My choice of being an environmental engineer sprouted from two facts: I could never sit at a desk. The environment needs all the help it can to recover. Also, I like being outdoors. Make that three. My first few studying years in Canada made me realize how incredibly vast the  cultural differences and upbringing practises are in the Eastern and Western world. I’m stuck in the middle, trying to adopt the best practises out of both.

More blogs to come! Stay tuned.