Thursday, September 26, 2013

Zen and the art of washing the car and other such obsessions

Exactly two months ago I discovered that the fuel in the car seemed to have been depleted by half even when the car was parked in its bay under the building and I had spent the Sunday lazing and cooking. Then I started noticing things that I never bothered with - clumps of rotting leaves in the grooves at the back of the car, finger marks on the wind shield and an oily sheen on the car. And most annoyingly, unwashed and grimy car most of the days when I had to leave 30 minutes earlier than the 8 am schedule. I asked the Nepali watchman what the problem was and he refused to accept that he was doing a bad job. I let the matter rest and one night one of the watchmen was caught siphoning petrol from someone else's car. We leave the car keys in the lobby so that the cars can be shuffled if required. The culprit was sacked. The remaining guys were asked to behave. A week later I requested the guy cleaning the car to try to do a better job and his reply was that if you think you can do better then do it yourself. Something snapped inside me. I did not react then and after looking for an alternate solution, not finding any and a week of dirty car later, started cleaning the car myself.

Everyday after seeing off my daughter at the school bus stop, I clean the car. And in the last month or so discovered a great many things about the car and myself. I found scratches that I did not know existed, discovered a way to clean the wheels really quick and fashioned a routine that allowed me to focus on the areas that needed attention once in a way. You do not really need to use water to wash, it rusts the car considering Mumbai has salt laden air. I KNOW the car now, it is no longer a utility that I use to travel, it is an extension of what I am if you know what I mean. I feel good to know that I have a car that shines when it zips across the EEH on way to my office.

 As an added incentive I realized that I could reduce my routine of walking up and down 13 floors from 4 laps to 2 and still manage to get a sweat worked up.

The experience is similar to running a startup, unless you do the things needed for the startup yourself, you will always find someone willing to cheat you or do a shoddy job. Once you start doing things yourself, you discover ways and means to optimize and can apply it to other parts of the chore. I recently sent the car for its scheduled servicing and I for the first time knew what had to be done. Which part of the body had scuff marks and which mat needed to be cleaned on both sides, if the water level in the windshield spray was low. It is liberating. I feel enlightened. And I save around 1000 rupees a month.

Now I am obsessed and am thinking of car shampoos and waxes and such!!


Another obsession that has gained in strength is finding coffee blends that go beyond the crap that is served in the CCDs in the campus. I discovered BlueTokai. They do a fantastic job of roasting, grinding and shipping coffee from some of the best single origin estates. I recommend their Kalledeverapura Estate Coffee. If you like it black and strong and with a nice fruit after taste buy the samplers and get addicted.

I brew the coffee in my office. And the coffee fragrance wafts across the entire wing. Discovered that politics can be interesting if one adds coffee to the mix.


The last obsession is something that I recommend that everyone who has had problems with money should do. I write down every rupee I spend every day into a notebook (yeah, laugh!). It has not made me spend less, but ever since I started doing it from December 2010 onwards ( I joined Star TV that month, and got a regular salary :) ) I know where every rupee goes, I have an excel that has all the major expenses marked in and the expected funds every week. For every 1000 bucks I record I reward myself 100 bucks which I can use for anything. The fun part is that this reward is limited and has to come out of the savings and I have an upper limit.

Anyone interested in creating an app for this using Gamification is welcome for  a chat, will thrown in a cup of the above mentioned cup of coffee as an incentive.

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