Letter with no subject

Jun 05, 2020
9 min

:name-retracted: wrote -

Hi Himanshu,

Congratulations from the bottom of my heart for joining Spotify. We really miss you at college. You're one of the few seniors at KGP from whom I got really influenced in making changes in my life. I've been thinking of writing a letter to you since a few months as a chat/talk cannot convey the message with proper bandwidth. I wanted to talk about a lot of things. There isn't a purpose per se. If there's one thing I regret now that would be making myself away from you guys during my first year because of the intoxicated activities xD. I used to judge people blindly on the basis of their habits and think my parents are always right. As I grow up, I realise that not a single one has any idea of what they're doing in their life, how things progress and end. Everyone learns from their experiences and they think if they could change a decision that they took in the past, they could've avoided some problems in the present but that would erase a lot of things they've gained from their problems. This statement came from a show that I've watched recently called Dark by Netflix. I've been reading a lot of psychology recently and I realised that everyone who I thought was doing good has a lot of insecurities and they keep doing things having faith in their values, finding happiness in their small wins after the hardships and it's beautiful.

I'm getting confused a lot recently. I watched a show called Bojack Horseman and it was so depressing. Whenever I watch a single episode, I used to relate myself to the character who is a horse which always says things about life in a doomer way. I decided to read whenever I'm confused and not feel bad about feeling bad about myself. Whenever I feel like reading something, I either take my kindle or read an article from the internet. I've read your blog posts and letters multiple times and each time I read, I get a new insight. Thanks for writing those. I'm always intrigued by the way you write things in your blog. I hope that's how you think. It's really minimal and the flow of thoughts is incredibly linear. I read a book called Think Straight by Darius Foroux last year and it feels simple to do that, but not easy. I was curious to know how I think and how contaminated my thoughts are. I recently did a dopamine detox. It's more than a digital detox. I stayed away from my laptop, phone, television, kindle, instant gratification activities, talking with people, tea/coffee, etc. for 24 hours. Things I did were meditating and documenting my thoughts. Documentation of thoughts to clear the mind and to learn how you think is called brain vomit. I read about this somewhere from the internet. I always used to reset myself once in a week by smoking up and it does just the opposite of dopamine detox. But this thing was hard. I ended up meditating thrice. I didn't use an app or a specific technique per se. I was just accepting my thoughts by closing my eyes. So 3x1hr sessions. From the very next day, I felt fresh and relieved. I could do anything I was struggling with before. That frustration whenever I stuck while coding up a problem, the difficulties I faced while reading research papers which made me think about my lack of understanding capacity and whatnot - every distraction was just gone. I did my workout for 1hr followed by the remote work I've been trying to do and read my kindle in between. That day was beautiful. It went exactly as I planned but when I tried to sleep at night, I just couldn't sleep. The next day I wasn't insisting to do anything per se. Just did the things I felt like doing but I turned off the push notifications on my phone and used the internet when it was necessary only. I could sleep at that night very well. I felt interesting to experiment the things out of the books I read about habits. This doesn't seem to be the one suitable for me. I should adapt slowly by accepting my imperfections I feel.

I'm closing this letter with this last paragraph. This is about things just getting right and suddenly everything goes wrong but still managing to breathe. When I visited New York for a code sprint last year, I was mind blown by the things I saw there. I wanted to visit the US again. I'd dreamed of settling there. So, I started working hard with the research and it took more than two months to get two of the FTs accepted with funding. There are long stories behind that. But that would make this letter even longer. So, I'm omitting those. I'd to setup my BTP also and I wanted to do that in CS dept. I sent mails to some profs, some didn't reply, some replied negatively and one replied positively asking me to meet him in the office. I'd hopes on him but he humiliated me instead there. I was like I am not good enough, I should be doing most of the people are doing and couldn't aim big. On the last date of application submission, I mailed a prof who didn't even reply once before and was not found in his office whenever I tried to meet him. I mailed him just for the sake of it as my facad told me that he would extend the deadline if I forward him a mail to a prof asking for BTP. Unexpectedly, he agreed to mentor me. Suddenly everything felt like were going exactly as I planned. The very next day US declared emergency because of covid and I just can't go there for my summers. They agreed to mentor me remotely though. I reached home just before the lockdown and it's been two months now. My parents are really happy to have me around. They're afraid of me getting away from them. It's really hard to work from home. This covid made me afraid to settle abroad and still got me confused. This letter turned out to be really long and contain a lot of personal information. I didn't do that on purpose.


I responded -

Hi :name-retracted:,

Thank you for writing this letter. Also, thank you for opening up and sharing the thoughts from your mind. This is a rare pleasure. Let me try to reciprocate! :)

I first saw you on a Metakgp demo day event and I have been fascinated by you since then. Those were the early years of KOSS. I was looking for people in KGP who resonated with the idea. I would always carry a mental model of students with me who were perfect for a community like KOSS and people who would definitely enjoy being there. What you were in your first year, soon became the face of my mental model.

With your experience, intellect and ability to communicate, you are easily someone I wanted to be in my first year. I am glad our efforts and the people involved in the KGP Open Source community fascinated you and now we are close.

What you wrote above related to intoxication made me so excited! They have been some of my favourite topics to talk about. Externally it looks like a conversation about having a drink early in college, but the bigger picture is more about waking up.

I believe most of us in our first year are not awake in many senses. Just after the restless two years of the grand exam preparation, we are not ready to own our thoughts and actions. We eagerly seek advice, for someone to answer us -- What now?. We are sensitive and vulnerable to our surroundings. Some of us use the words of our parents and guardians as the governing principles of our life. Some of us blindly follow the first few seniors that we meet and spend our whole college life doing things which we wouldn't have done otherwise. This is harmful in many ways but not necessarily bad for everyone.

Talking about life in college, I am currently reading Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. The pages about his college life are inspiring to me. I would not do everything that he used to do (Extreme diets, sleeplessness, not showering, being rude to parents/people in general), but his energy and attitude towards life defined him in those moments.

The young students of IITs refusing to do some things which the society has asked them not to do, is a grey area to talk about. Without forcing anything on them, I would instead share one of these questions that I asked myself very early in college.

Am I thinking for myself?

Do I question everything?

How important is it for me to solve this assignment?

What difference will it make if I get a B instead of A or EX grade?

Is this the best use of my time?

Do I have the right people around me?

Are my friendships healthy? Am I exploring the depths of my relationships?

Do I love the work that I do or want to do in future?

Good news is that a lot of us start thinking for ourselves sooner or later. But to do it as early as possible is an amazing experience and shows us the parts of life which we couldn't have seen otherwise. To sum it up, I am not directly promoting drinking and smoking up in college. Doing it mindlessly has bad consequences for most of us. They are nothing but a medium for us to start living a free life in a higher state of consciousness. What you have written above about the realisation and acceptance makes you brave, and you should see it this way.

Thank you for your words about my blog. I am influenced by Paul Graham's Write Like You Talk essay. I was in the literary society back in college and I would see writers complicate their pieces by trying to write in a very different, unreal way, which they thought is aesthetic. At the same time, I was fascinated by the poems and proses which were easy to comprehend but much harder to fully understand. Talking about Paul Graham, my favourite essay from him is called Life is Short. I keep getting back to this essay every couple months. It is heartfelt advice for people of our age.

Lovely to hear about your full day dopamine detox. Damn, I could never do it now. If my mother tried calling me on Whatsapp and I wouldn't respond in an hour or two, she will start getting worried. But, I respect the idea. I am also fascinated by the 10 days Vipassana meditation course where we eat less, live in silence and do Vipassana meditation 10 hours per day, to witness thoughts and sensations come and go.

I remember that you quit Facebook too. It is amazing how we want to spend a healthy life by being mindful about all the dopamine agents around us. I think one of the worst habits of people (including me) is that we do not respect the time between waking up in the morning and us connecting and catching up with the internet. That period of time determines how the rest of our day will go. Some people call it having a slow morning, which is doing slow, mundane things in that block of time. It includes things like making coffee, making our bed, washing dishes, showering, staring outside at the morning sun, etc. This slowness boosts our energy for the rest of the day. For me, nothing is worse than getting up from bed and scrolling Twitter for 10 minutes straight. That dials down my tempo for hours in the day. You can read more about "Slow Morning" on the internet.

I am personally sad to see the effects of COVID-19 on the college students. I feel sad that you didn't get to experience the internship in the US. But I'm happy to know that you got to work remotely!

Your story with the professors back in KGP is disappointing. For me, it has been a vicious circle of me skipping classes and me not learning anything from my professors. The segregation of departments and disciplines is a legacy model and affects many students who want to study subjects outside of our assigned departments.

Let me end by mentioning a letter from Richard Feynman called Do not remain nameless to yourself. He wrote this to one of his PhD students after winning the Nobel Prize. You might have read this already. It is inspiring for people in Science and Technology. Barriers like nasty professors or broken interview systems will not stop you and me from accomplishing what we want to do. "No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it." Someone as skilful as you should grow thick skin for them and keep working on things that you love. I know you love solving problems and creating software. It should be all that is important.

Definitely enjoy the time at home with family. Let's keep in touch.