Work and Such

How To Start Your Bullet Journal – Today!

I’d posted a tiny video on my instagram today – it was of my bullet journal, and I had asked if anyone would be interested in knowing how to start a bullet journal in a quick and simple manner. I got so many yes-es! So without further ado, here’s a quick guide on how to get started with bullet journaling.

But first – What’s a Bullet Journal?

A bullet journal is a system of logging tasks that was created by New York City designer Ryder Caroll. It’s pretty straightforward – you write down a title/topic, like the day’s to-do list or a say, a list of things to buy/do for a party you’re planning on top of the page, and list the associated tasks down using bullet marks and short sentences. Once you’ve completed a task, you cross out the bullet to indicate its completion. The official Bullet Journal website has a sort of key (dot for tasks, an ‘o’ for events, hyphens for notes, and so on), but I personally just follow the dot system, and cross the dot out when my task is done.

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How is this different from using any other planner?

It’s different because it’s entirely customizable. While I do follow certain methods that have been listed by Ryder Caroll (I use the monthly layout), I don’t use all of them. There’s no pressure to follow the rigid formats that planners have, so you write your tasks down exactly the way you want to write them, and in the order that you want to write them.

Okay, now what do I need to get started?

All you need is a notebook and a pen. Nothing fancy, any plain ruled or unruled notebook will do. I use a Moleskine but any notebook will do. It can be ruled, unruled, dotted, whatever you like. Here’s the most important rule about starting a bullet journal – IGNORE PINTEREST. You’ll see photos of beautifully handwritten, illustrated, coloured journals which will take a minimum of 3 years just to set up. All you really need are two layouts – a monthly (or weekly) layout, and a daily task list. I use a monthly task list and a daily task list. Here’s what I do – at the start of every month, I take a fresh double page, and make a little calendar on one side of the page. On the other side of the page, I list down tasks for that month.

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No, I’m not telling you where I work, or whose invoices I’m chasing.

Once this is done, I start my daily task list, which is basically the date on top and the list of tasks for the day written down. When I’m done with a task I either cross out the bullet mark, or put a tick next to it. If I can’t get something in my list done, it goes over to the task list for the next day, or whichever date I think it’ll work best. Sometimes, when I don’t see an end in sight, I list it in the monthly task list so that I don’t miss it.

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What a daily task list looks like.

You may have noticed that I’ve stayed away from the doodling & the colouring. I recommend you stay away from them too, at least until you’ve a solid routine in place. The idea is to have a notebook that will help you get stuff done quickly.

All of this sounds easy, but will I stick to it?

Isn’t that the hardest part! Bullet journals are a habit. Having said that, I promise it’s an easy one. Here are some ways you can stick to it –

  • Make sure your journal is a notebook that fits into your work bag. You’ll need to be carrying this everyday. Pretty notebooks are a bonus.
  • It is recommended that you write down the day’s task the night before, but who has the time for that? I do, however, take my journal out first thing when I reach work. I write down my tasks, and use that to plan my day. It only takes an extra five, ten minutes, but I get way more work done.
  • If the monthly spread looks complicated, ditch it. Start with just writing down the date, and the tasks for the day. Once you get comfortable with the idea, you can start on monthly and weekly layouts (as per your convenience)
  • Write down tasks in the order of unpleasantness. TRUST ME ON THIS.Get rid of the annoying stuff first and the rest of your day will be so much better.
  • Remember that it’s okay if you miss a day, or don’t fill up stuff for the weekends. That’s one of the great things about the bullet journal. There’s no empty space staring at you disapprovingly.
  • Don’t leave spaces between days. If you have only five tasks for a day and it covers half a page, leave a couple of lines and write down the next day’s date and tasks. Not wasting space makes your journal look good, and also encourages you to keep at it.

That’s it!

That’s pretty much it, actually. Given that November has only now begun, I do hope you try it for this month and see how it goes. Also, I did write about how to be productive in the October 2016 issue of Elle, so please do check that out as well. I’ve even listed some apps that help me focus and get more done during my day. I consider myself very, very lucky to be as busy as I am these days, and it’s thanks to these hacks that I’m able to get through!  I have a Pinterest board where I pin inspiration for bullet journals, so you can follow me there, too! Keep in mind that these are just ideas – if you have something that works for you, stick to that. Colouring is pretty, but productivity is better.

Good luck!

Red Eye

Two days ago, I took the last flight out of Ahmedabad back home. It’s scheduled to depart at around nine in the evening, reach Chennai half hour before midnight, and is sometimes delayed but always rickety. Taking the last flight is never the most convenient thing to do, but I am the kind of weirdo homebody who has this permanent urge to get back, even if bone tired, to my room and my bed with too many pillows (mine).

This time on the flight, there was a group of particularly loud men sitting in the two rows in front of me. Gathering from the snippets of their conversation that I (and every other passenger) was forced to hear, it seemed like for a majority of the group, it was their first flight and naturally, they were all visibly excited. The excitement though, after some time, got out a little out of hand – in the midst of the hooting and laughter, they stood up and started posing for pictures during the security brief, making comments about “including the background”.

While I am not one to be bothered by loudness or hooting or any behaviour that is not visibly offensive/involves physical contact, this was the first time that I’d seen picture taking that involved including the background and I got uncomfortable since I was, along with a few other women, part of the background. Thankfully, the steward noticed what was going on and came swiftly to handle the situation. She made the man take his phone out, enter his security code, said a lot of things in shuddh hindi about flight policy, and deleted the pictures off his phone. My discomfort soon became aggravation as I noticed that these men had the widest grin on their faces while they were being chided, and that when she left, they broke into laughter again, like it was all a big joke.

I felt terrible for the flight attendant, and what she had to go through, but she looked unfazed – she proceeded to busy herself about things, ever the picture of calm and even came back to ask them, with a warm smile, if they were interested in purchasing a sandwich or maybe juice, as if these engaging in these skirmishes was routine, as if they already knew something like this was going to happen when they set out to work this morning, as if an incident like this had already happened during the course of the day and it was now getting boring to deal with guys like this, as if it was part of their job.

I don’t think I’d ever been happier, or more grateful to be an accountant.

Thoughts on a Saturday

A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner party organized by a group of my father’s friends. It was standard as far as dinner parties went – nobody could completely recognize everybody, the kids were bored out of their minds and everybody laughed uproariously at jokes that weren’t at all funny.

While all of this was happening, one of the guests came up to me, and asked me what I was doing at work. When I did tell him what I was doing he smiled sympathetically and told me, very gently, that it wasn’t good for anything, and that I should be considering alternatives if I wanted to make money, and if I really wanted to succeed. Look at me, he said, and went on to list all his dazzling achievements which he dazzlingly achieved during his dazzling days in the practice and even after he left practice, before he asked me if I had an exit plan in mind, and whether it was as dazzling as his own.

I started to make a bad joke about raising cows only to get cut off with a serious response about the potential of organic farming, and how his own organic farm (that will do dazzlingly in the future, I’m sure) is shaping up instead. Thankfully, my exit plan appeared a few minutes later in the form of his kid who wanted ice-cream and I slipped out of sight to another corner in the room with the hope that I wouldn’t have to see him again.

I get really unnerved when people who are senior to me discuss their career accomplishments with me, and more so when it is accompanied by advice (which is usually unsolicited). I think it probably is because of the fact that my personal definition of what constitutes an achievement has always been very fuzzy. I don’t know if that is because of the way I was brought up. My parents were never the ‘punishing’ type – failures, and awful marks would be met with disappointed faces and the statement – “It’s your future. We can only do so much.”. Good performances, and academic success was met with happiness, but they were never really surprised or even labelled such performances as “achievements”, or whatever it is that gives you the ego that comes along with having accomplished something.

My sister and I have never let good performances really get into our heads, but I remember the time when I’d just passed CA – I was extraordinarily smug and possessed the arrogance of someone who had touched the moon by building a ladder made entirely of toothpicks. My mother went on to prick my ego balloon by telling me that passing CA was the least I could’ve done, given my background – My father is a Chartered Accountant, and even if that wasn’t a factor, I attended the best classes one could attend/money could buy, had access to every book I’d ever need and the best environment required to study – The only odds I had to overcome were my own tendencies to sleep on my textbooks and not pay attention to my teachers and the fact that I failed despite everything that was provided to me was more of an achievement than my passing. You milked a cow and got milk, my mother had told me. Tell me about the day you milked a cow and got orange juice, and I’ll let you have an ego then.

Today, I’m still looking to really achieve, do things in ways that only I could’ve done, but it seems stupid to say oh, I want to achieve without even knowing what I want to achieve. I know quite a few people who seem to have it figured out, who seem to know exactly where they will be, ten, fifteen years from now. I don’t. What I do know, though, is that I don’t want to be in my forties giving unsolicited advice to young people about how they should be living their lives.

And that, I suppose, is as good a start as any.

On Cows

The family made a trip to the ancestral village (and many many temples) last weekend. I jumped at the opportunity, ofcourse. It was my one big chance to write that moving documentary on India’s Rural Landscapes, which would eventually pave it’s way into becoming the inspiration behind the script of the next Bharatiraaja movie, and stand as our family’s greatest achievement, and maybe even overshadow 1970s-IIT athimber’s letter to The Hindu. “Did you hear?” they would say in the next family gathering (I say gathering and not get together/function, because ours gossips at deaths too. But not about the deceased of course. We save that for the next death. Keep it classy, people) “She wrote a moving documentary on the rural landscapes of India which eventually paved it’s way into becoming the inspiration for the next Bharatiraaja movie!” 
“Really? How nice. Did you hear Calcutta Paati’s grand daughter eloped?” 
Because you know, only a true achievement would be discussed before someone eloping. 
Unfortunately, the only landscape I got to investigate the entire weekend was that of my digestive system’s since I had (most predictably) succumbed to travel sickness. But, but. During my  fleeting stay in the village I discovered something that could change my life forever. 
Cows. 
Lots of cows. Managing cows. Mooing cows. Healthy cows. Cheese. Paneer. Milk. Ramaraj. Maybe not Ramaraj, but it was definitely something that could change my life forever. Even if it didn’t, it seemed like a pretty great excuse to sell to my father at that time to avoid the heart burn/attack/pain/brain hemorrhage etc of writing CA Final in case I flunked again, which was a very real possibility.  
“Appa, who takes care of all these cows?”
“In the village, I think every one has their own set of cows. I don’t think one person owns them all.”
“Is there a Dairy Farm close by?”
“No, I don’t think so. But considering the number of cows here, and the space available, there should be.”
“I think I should start one. It would be a great alternate career if results aren’t in my favor.”
“Hahahahahaha! Definitely. If you’d known this was what you wanted to do before, you needn’t have studied so much! But let me ask you something, you’re sure you’ll go around telling people that you’re taking care of a bunch of cows?”
“Ha. I thought about this, so I came up with an excellent name for my organization.  I’ll call it Kamalapuram Pasu Management Group. So if anyone asks anything, I’ll be like Oh, I’m the Director at KPMG!” 
My father laughed uproariously for twenty minutes.

“Hehe.” I offered.

“You’re joking only no?”

“Not really.”

And he laughed for twenty more. 

PS: BY THE BYS! Results did turn out in my favour! I’m a Chartered Accountant now! But I still think the Dairy Farm is a great idea.
PPS: Pasu is tamil for cow.

Bullets

Some people were asking me to write and some other people were asking me if I was too busy to. The thing was, I used to be all My-Blog-Grammatically-Correctest and made a decision that if I ever were to write blogs and all, they had to be like publishable. Then I realized that I don’t really have anything like that the last three years I have been writing here anyway, so yes, I’m afraid all of you all have no choice but to put up with another update of my life you didn’t really ask for.

1. I just realized all the cool people are doing and saying what all the uncool people were/are doing and saying to be cool. I am sure all of you all have noticed the widespread usage of worst spellings and SunMusic I love you Arthy by G.Siva SMS language floating around in all these social networks and being used by cool people. I had always been one uncool only, but one word which I have major issues against, but everyone (cool people also!) seems to be using is Hai. There is something about that spelling which disturbs me. This is the first time I’m saying it out loud, by the way. Had I said it before, I assume my extremely well educated, late grandfather would have made me sit down for a sermon about how I am being unnecessarily elitist and how the French spell and pronounce Anglaish worse than the Indians do, but they’re proud of the fact that they can speak a language apart from French and never poke fun of their countrymen but we’re the ones who do and also that Hi isn’t even a proper word to have a proper spelling and that I should be proud of the fact that we came up with the phonetically superior spelling, much like the Americans who came up with program and color instead of programme and colour.

I am glad we never had that discussion. Also, Hai (Two Ramya Iyengar Bakery sandwiches says you cringed).

2. I am sure all of you all are aware of the fact that the family put one numbers trip to our Ancestral Village, the village where aforementioned grandfather was born. If you weren’t, it’s ok. My family put one numbers trip to our Ancestral village. I had always been of the opinion that Thamizh Movies exaggerated the whole village scene but I got mild metaphorical current shock when I realized that they don’t. The village I went to looked just like the one in that 1980s movie where Ramaraj has all these unnatural feelings for Cows. And Kanaga. We went to the Banks of one of the tributaries (8th standard geography I remember, see) of  Kaveri/Cauvery/Caveri/Kauvery as well. It was very smelly, but it was also very cool. Maybe it was the smell of coolness.

3. Then what. Oh yes. I worked in my father’s office for a couple of weeks on an assignment. I had two other colleagues working with me. One played the mridangam and the other was 7 feet tall. But both of them were petrified of my father so I was very glad to know that we shared common ground.

4. I hope all of you all aren’t of the opinion that I write numbered paragraphs all the time. Because I don’t. Sometimes I put bullets.

10 things I learned during my internship

(Not too long ago, I was searching around in my computer for academic material when I stumbled upon this. I had noted this down after a particularly exhausting audit season to remind myself why I was where I was.)

One of the prime conditions in the Chartered Accountancy course is that all students are mandatorily required to undergo what the Institute terms a “rigorous articleship”, to “prepare the student to tackle professional challenges head on.” There’s an important lesson here – DON’T BELIEVE THE PROSPECTUS. But we’ll come to that another day. So here’s what I learned about internships the last three and half years of my particularly, er, rigorous, articleship training.  
10. Making/getting coffee is also part of the job description:
Sure, you’ve topped school, your classmates are industrial scions and you drive the same car as your boss. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make you the boss. Expecting to be given challenging assignments the second day you’ve joined doesn’t really happen, no matter how shiny your academic record is. Getting coffee and learning to operate the photocopy machine will definitely be a significant part of your first few months in the office. On the plus side, your mother can now include “Makes excellent filter coffee” along with that part about you being the perfect blend of traditional and modern values on your tamilmatrimony profile. 
9. Networking and friendships:
It’s important to make friends with the people you work with. Even if you’re not going to be exchanging “Frendz4ever” bracelets every August or sending each other “Oram-nnu peru vechavan Nera podraan aana Nehra-nnu peru vechavan Orama podraan” type SMS forwards every morning, it’s necessary to be cordial. Remember that you’ll be spending 8+ hours at work, 5 days a week, so apart from the fact that life would be that much more painful if you don’t get along with the people you work with, you never know who’s going to end up where. That checked-shirt full naamam Varadu boy the rest of you made fun of might just become the Commissioner of Income Tax. Or worse, your husband. 
8. Dress well, dress appropriate. 
I worked in a typically conservative tamil brahmin office where the youngest partner was about 52 years old and the oldest, 80. So I didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to adhering to the Salwar-Kameez-with-Dupatta dress code. It’s not very likely you’d be under similar constraints, but if you are, I’d recommend you embrace your inner housewife. What? We both know what you want to do after you finish your CA is to become a housewife. Seriously. I know. 
7. There will be times when you feel like jumping out of the nearest window.
It happens to all of us. Hang in there. And no, whatever you do, don’t try to push your boss out of the window. They almost always survive. 
6.Mistakes WILL happen. 
And no, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s the very purpose of your internship. You’re there to make mistakes. Goof ups are an integral part of the time you spend there, and the more the merrier! Ofcourse, there’s something about learning from your mistakes. Or something.
5. Be grateful to your boss.
The man is literally paying to let you screw up on his behalf. 
4. Remember that there are people who’re going to be better than you at work. 
Deal with it. In fact, ask him/her for help with your assignments sometime. Happiness comes from triumphing over your ego. Greater happiness comes from seeing other people do your work. 
3. Never regret the choices you make here
There’s no going back, anyway. You don’t have a degree, do you? 
And even if you do, there’s no going back. HA!
2. You ARE going to get yelled at.
Your brain’s exact whereabouts will be questioned, as will be your general ability to locate and extract hair follicles. Also, part of your job description. 
1. You ARE going to get better at the job. 

Hindi Movie

Overheard at office: 

“Machi, endha padathukkum ticket illa da”
[Dude there are no tickets for any movie]
“Seri ya paathiya? Endha padathukkum illiya?”
[Are you sure?]
“Aamanda hindi padathukku dhaan irukku”
[Yea man, there’s a hindi movie though]
Hindi a? Enda padam?”
[Hindi? What film?]

April Fool

I know there’s been a complete lack of updates this month, and trust me, it hurts me more than it’d ever hurt you guys! The truth is, I’m not married. And I haven’t found a new boyfriend either (believe me, I’d have had PLENTY to write about if either of the two had happened). Point being, all out of ideas. My mother always says that making lists will help you get ideas. So I thought I’d make a list of things I could possibly write about.
My career – I just signed an agreement with Mukesh Ambani for offering my services in the area of financial reconstruction, strategy and general awesomeness for his company, after which Mukesh invited me to his place for dinner and made a rather sentimental toast. Something silly about how his company didn’t really deserve a guy like him and that I ought to be at the helm. I laughed it off, gracefully. (Contentment is important to me. In fact, that’s what I told Indra Nooyi too last week, when she asked me if I was interested in taking up the CEO position of PepsiCo.) And when Mukesh was about to give me the keys to the new Audi he had bought me as a token of gratitude, Tea-Anna asked me if I wanted Coffee. I said yes, and made a mental note to ask him for his name the next time, instead of sleeping. Again.
My lovelife – So Dhoni came up to me the other day….wait. You know how this is going to end, right? Yea. Next.
My Education – I’m becoming a graduate this year! I’ll have my B.Com final year exams at the end of May, after which the University of Madras should declare me to be a graduate. The convocation ceremony will basically consist of the Courier Boy giving me my certificate while my parents look upon with tears of joy.
Miscellaneous – I saw Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya. I liked it. No really – not only does Simbhu look like an actual human being, he’s acted pretty well too. It’s very watchable, and very romantic 🙂
Also, I managed to get my hands on some extremely awesome stuff the other day, namely Vadivelu ringtones. My life seems complete everytime my phone rings and I hear him go “Yenna idhu vaaliba vayasu”.
Pah, for this mokka post I might as well have said I got married. So here’s a question – is there anything that you guys might want me to write about? No really, I’m going through some Matthew Hayden-esque slump in form and was hoping that maybe, maybe you guys’d have an idea. Or two.

Boredom

I’m typing this very furiously to look busy. Why, you may ask. For starters, I’m kinda done with my present assignment and hence jobless, but there’s a very very hot guy sitting across my cubicle and I need to atleast act like I’m busy (impression, ma). I’ve been assigned to a new audit, and it’s been quite a lot of work lately [which is evident in my lack of updates on this space. Come to think of it, its more of writers block than anything else {there I admitted it!(look, BODMAS!)}]. More than the actual work, it’s the commute that’s highly painful. The office is in Pallavaram, which happens to be a whole different planet from the city and so I don’t have any other option at hand than taking the train. My father calls it divine intervention – he’s convinced that it’s about time I be taught how to not be a brat and be thankful for all I have. Personally, I think it’s a divine practical joke.
At the start of it, I thought catching a train would be fun, that I’d meet interesting people and have interesting conversation and maybe even spot (or be spotted by) a Madhavan. DON’T LAUGH – I clearly haven’t been on local trains much. The most interesting person I met on a train was this beggar lady who had a mike (no shit!) and sang her own compositions from Meenambakkam to St.Thomas Mount (her song included the very moving lyric – rendu pillainga saar/ennakku rendu pillainga saar*), the most interesting conversation I had was with the “samsa” guy at Tirusulam (He asked me if I wanted samsa and I said no) and surprise surprise, cute madhavan type dudes don’t take the train! Sigh.
Oh and there was also the one time I sat next to this uh, big aunty who opened her lunch box at Mambalam and did one full-meals cutting through Pallavaram. She didn’t offer me food (not like I’d have taken it anyway, I’m not really a meenkozhambu fan), which I thought was very rude considering the fact that I was pretty much falling off the ledge of the seat thanks to her extra occupancy. People, I tell you.
There’s nothing much else to report on the life front, other than extreme boredom. So much boredom that my favourite pastime here is to make the Oriya accountant say Bisbanathan (Bijiness on alternate days) as many times as possible and try to not crack up.
Somebody save me.
*- enakku rendu pillainga saar – I have two children, sir

Goodbye Tuesday

I am aware that it’s been a while since I updated. There’s been quite a bit of pressure from the work front and hence I was compelled to spend most of my time pretending to analyze a bunch of spreadsheets.

The week was quite eventful, I must say. It opened on a rather morbid note, with the date of my results being announced. I had my trademark I’m-done-for face the whole day in the client’s place and the accountant, P was visibly concerned. When I explained the reason for my twisted expressions, he was only too happy to explain that he too had written the same exam as I did and spoke about passing the exam in the same manner as one would about passing an LKG addition test. “Vaazhkayila edhuliyume na thothadhilla ma” (I’ve never failed in my life) he said, in a manner that Rajnikanth would have been proud of. P may be 40 and fat, but you gotta hand it to that guy for his never think twice attitude – whether its to pass an accounting entry or scratch his crotch in public. In all honesty, if that guy clears and I don’t, I’m taking a day off to go and throw bricks at the Institute building.

But more than my results, the issue which is seeming to cause tsunami like waves in the household is the whole swine flu scare. My mother seems to have taken full impact of all the ZOMG-swine-flu-we’re-all-done-for type stories that have been doing the rounds in television news channels and papers, so much so that she has gone on a disinfecting spree. Amma actually bought one of those jumbo Dettol bottles and sanitized every last pillow cover, as a result of which our house smells like the corridor of Apollo Hospital. I understand the whole better-be-safe-than-sorry deal but I sincerely feel that allowing me to bunk office, err, avoid possible swine flu habitats would be more effective.

Come to think of it, I’m actually happy that my mother didn’t prevent me from going to see Kaminey because of the flu. The deal was that we would be seeing it in Ega due to budget constraints among the peer group. Although Ega is renovated (read – no more compass holed seats), 99.99% of the crowd continues to be, Maarvadi. In the Shahid-Priyanka kissing scene, there were multiple hoots and whistles all around for a solid 2 minutes. I mean, I understand that they’re a cute couple and all but this was absurd. My friend helpfully explained that almost all of them would sit for a second show just for this one scene. When I inquired as to why, he told me that they were too “excited” to see anything the first time and would actually watch what was happening only the next time. On a completely unrelated note, I thought Kaminey was a very fun movie.

Moving on, the week also saw a sharp increase in my s/km (no of vicious stares/kilometre) measurement. For all those who haven’t driven in Chennai before, anyone who drives a car in this city are subject to vicious stares for no apparent reason from guys on bicycles who are convinced that their road presence is second only to the Chief Minister’s, and other random people who insist that the middle of the road is the best place to stare at shop windows. While them plebeians may insist that the apparent cause of the increase is my complacency in the acceleration department, I would like to think that people only stare in my direction because I’m cute. But then again, why they would do so venomously is something one must ponder about.

Keeping with the whole theme of traffic, if there’s anything that I find more pissing off than the woh-my-baby-be-my-sexy type english lyrics in Tamil songs these days, its these morons at the traffic signal who skip the signal when the orange comes on or get ahead when there’s still around 10 seconds of waiting at the Stop sign. As if that it isn’t obnoxious enough, these guys also honk incessantly in case your vehicle is blocking theirs.

Not judging here, but I’m pretty sure the guy in the TVS 50 whose path to glory I was blocking wasn’t James Bond/a Heart surgeon with an emergency appointment/an international drug smuggler who is being chased by Interpol. Then maybe, his haste was understandable. But here’s a man, whose emergency at the max, is meeting his attu girlfriend in Nageshwar Rao park for some lunch time louwings, who was honking as if his life depended on it! I didn’t give him way though, which meant that 6 seconds later Mr.KLPD would overtake me and then turn around and shout at me in the same manner the Indian cricket fan would whenever Sreesanth comes to bowl. 3 seconds later he got caught by the Traffic Police for not wearing a helmet. It’s at times like these that you’re all the more certain that there is a God.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you are allowed to be jealous of my glamourous lifestyle.