2015 – Year In Review

2015 has sure been an eventful and amazing year. The pivotal year of 2014 set the scene for a new reality for me in 2015. The two big things this year have been changes in love and wealth. I also did a lot more travelling in 2015 and started really focusing on becoming a better tutor and a better songwriter/producer. I also seem to have had a lot of afternoon tea.

Bavarians

Becoming Bavarian for a day in Nottingham

As my relationship with my girlfriend developed through the months I experienced companionship, love and intimacy. I had a bigger and more expanded social circle and family as I got to know many of my girlfriend’s friends and I met her parents. She met my mother and siblings a few times too. I got to appreciate that when two people come together, it is about both people finding new friends and a new family. As I got to know her parents more and went to visit them I had a comforting feeling of belonging to another family. Sadly this came to an end in August as we split up. Splitting up, like being in a relationship was a new experience to me. I’ve taken a lot of positive things from being in the relationship and I matured a lot. I am glad I got into a relationship at all. With this part of my life handled for much of 2015, I focused on my career with true drive and conviction, and continue to do so.

The Little Mermaid Copenhagen

In Copenhagen by the little mermaid

And it has paid off! Paid off in money. I am so happy that this year I’ve made more money than I have done so in any year, and more than when I had a full time job. All while being self employed, working on my own terms and doing something I really love doing! It’s taken me a few years to get to this point. 2015 can be split up into two school academic years, Jan to July 2015 and September to December 2015. My decision to tutor less and less outside London has been a very wise one. This year a switch flipped in my mind and I hit a tipping point. The more money I made the more confident I got at selling myself as a tutor, the better I got at selling myself the more money I made. And a positive self perpetuating cycle was has been formed now. Millionaire by 2017 surely? Feel free to invest in Atul Rana inc!

Ion particle accelerator at CERN

I saw the Ion Particle Accelerator in action at CERN

The 2015-2016 school year has seen me take my tutoring to a new level. Around half my income is now from online tutoring and I have well and truly embraced it. It’s a really exciting time for me career wise. Having more money has meant I could invest in myself too, I started attending tutoring and songwriting courses and bought new things.

On a more solem note, 2015 has been a really tough year for my extended family in rural India. My younger uncle had a minor stroke and my other uncle also fell seriously ill, my aunt also suffered from a brain injury. I’ve felt helpless from this distance and unable to do much. I’ve been able to send some money to them as they and kept giving them support and advising them as much as I could. As of now they are all on the road to recovery.

DonkeyBox

Winning a battle of the bands heat with DonkeyBox

So here are my key events of 2015:

  • Ate a lot of cheese, it started on New Year’s Day 2015
  • Afternoon teas and an amazing Valentine’s Day on the river
  • Discovered Musicals! I saw the The Kinks musical, American Idiot Green Day musical, Sweeney Todd and Kill Me Now. That’s more musicals in one year than I’ve seen in my entire life
  • Trips to Brighton, Liverpool, Chester, Grassington, Denmark, France and Switzerland
  • Did some crazy white-water rafting stuff
  • Stag dos and weddings, and I performed a re-written version of Crap Day at one of the weddings, and man it was fun!
  • Went to Roskilde Festival in Denmark after years of thinking about it, and saw Paul McCartney play loads of Beatles classics
  • I saw CERN in Geneva, a Physics tutor’s dream come true, and I still don’t stop talking about it to my students!
  • My band DonkeyBox won its first ever battle of the bands contest. I started doing fewer open mic nights and focused more on songwriting and production
  • I decided not to visit India in 2015
  • Bought a brand new electro acoustic guitar – my last guitar purchase was in 1997
  • Bought a new phone
  • I started reading a lot more fiction, finished reading White Tiger, Transmission and Catcher in The Rye
  • Thanks to Spotify I discovered two incredible new bands – Eve 6 and As It Is

Apparently there was a UK general election too in 2015, did anyone notice? Making money aside, my favourite story of 2015 is one of goodwill and humanity in London. Here’s a post I put up on my Facebook wall in late May:

Two days ago I lost my diary on the tube, and with it I lost my entire schedule for my half term tutoring (which involves travelling to student’s homes all over London, Skype tutoring and billing info). Some good soul found it on the tube and then emailed me! And given its importance to me they were then kind enough to email me my schedule for the next few days while the diary arrives in the post. There’s some good humanity in London!!

Isn’t that just amazing? Here’s to an even better 2016!

2014 – The Life Defining Year

It is the last day of 2015 and I am writing a review of 2014 (and 2015). After moving out of the flat I lived in for over 7 years back in October 2014 I stopped updating this blog until recently. But with all of 2015 now gone I can look back on 2014 and appreciate how pivotal the year was. My blog has always been a nice way for me to record my thoughts, and I am glad I once again make the time for it🙂

There are major events in life that can shake things up and redirect the course of your life, such as when you graduate, get a job, get into a romantic relationship or an unexpected family/friend death takes you into a new path. For me that path started in November 2005 with the sudden death of my father. My father was a very big influence on my family (and his own family in the village). 2014 was the year in which my family made the first crucial step of recovery from the shock of that event, and nearly 9 years later we have moved on to our separate and independent lives living away from each other. 2014 was a year in which I more or less left the world of self help and self development, 2011, 2012 and even more so 2013 were years of self change and 2014 is where it all finally came together.

Atul Rana

At a Sikh wedding with my sister and mother

2014 was a wild roller coaster ride, multiple changes in health, wealth and love that have shaped the course of my life now were occurring simultaneously. These were the changes I was planning for. I now had a girlfriend and I had moved out away from family. My physical appearance had also changed and I looked slimmer and younger. The vortex of all these changes was in September 2014, no longer single, moved into a new place and a 10 day trip to New York behind me, I knew that 2014 was a great and amazing year for me already. So here’s what happened roughly chronologically.

Jan – Feb
I was travelling to tuto near Salisbury and further West near the Cotswolds. I kept tight discipline with running and the gym, and really started enjoying it. Running in the cold rain had a fighting against the elements feel to it all. I was doing more and more open mics as I found a bass player and we started performing as a duo, even at my local pub!

March-April
I was losing interest in Donkeybox,  the run of bass players was disappointing as the latest bassist quit before a gig. I really didn’t have time to manage or sort out staffing issues with the band. I was performing more and more as a solo artist and at this point that felt more rewarding. I also discovered something immensely cool, online gig streaming. And boy I did loads of that Spring/Summer 2014. It really shifted my focus as a musician and I felt like the band would take too much energy to revive so I went open micing and online streaming all on my own.

Atul Rana

At a Sikh wedding with my sister and mother

I aired in Europe and Asia and South America on TV and did some press interviews beforehand for a small programme. While I was very disappointed by the end result and felt exploited by the evil media, I had learnt a valuable and first hand lesson about media. Looking back to be on TV was an amazing experience and something pretty cool. It took me a while to recover from this though.

I quit eating refined sugar in February. I was already on a good fitness regime and had lost some weight towards the end of 2013, but this time I lost over 10kgs in one go. As a result my body changed, I looked sleeker and younger. And I had to buy a few new clothes a size down. What a change! March, April and May were insanely busy with tutoring as I travelled to Yorkshire, Shropshire and Hampshire. I also got back on the hockey pitch after 6 years.

Yorkshire Dales River

Yorkshire Dales : Tutoring Trip

Summer
I went to a Skih wedding in May 2014 and some of that romance in the air rubbed off as someone sitting next to me set me up on a first date with a friend. The date didn’t work out but it got me started.

Summer kicked in, and with our landlord giving notice we had no choice but to move out. During this meditative time I opened myself even more to the idea of dating, I started meeting more girls, some felt like first dates, some were friendships and some in that grey zone. I did meet someone amazing around June/July and for the first time I experienced colour and vividness of romance. Our relationship barely lasted two months, we split up but then got back together again at the end of August. I performed a lot of music that summer as a solo artist, at open mic nights and from my bedroom online. There was the Ice Bucket challenge and my trip to Sonisphere Rock festival as well. Except for the urgency to move out, Summer 2014 was one truly incredible one filled with romance and music.

Autumn
After a long, protracted stressful period of trying to move out, we finally moved out in early September, there were threats from the landlady who seemed to disregard our contract, and then the high emotions of us splitting up as a family and going our own ways was a real strain. My brother had his own flat, but me, mum and sister moved into a space less than half the size of our last flat and we had packed in such a rush that the new place was (and to an extent still) a jumbled mess of boxes. I still hadn’t found a place to move out myself. I travelled to New York and visited the US for the first time, and even performed at an open mic night there, my first ever foreign performance! As soon as I got back I then moved into a flat in Old Street in London. The turbulence of 2014 was more or less over now. I was based between my own flat, my girlfreind’s flat, my mum’s flat and the trips to Yorkshire and Hampshire which felt like second homes to me anyway. It was nice to be wanted in so many places🙂

Winter
After a two year break, I travelled to India for a 3 week holiday, my family village got electricity for the first time ever. The trip was stressful and perhaps ill timed given we had just all moved out to our own independent lives. Tutoring wise, I had made a brave decision to further cut out my travelling to different counties. Brave because I had no guaranteed income at the time, but by then I felt I had enough clients in London to build upon. For a short while my expenses increased due to moving into a new place, travelling to New York and other things, and my income didn’t. But with enough savings I managed well. I was in a nice relationship and life was great. True to my plan I got my usual rush of work in December and things were plain sailing after that. Right at the end of the year my mother caught a heavy chest infection and was in hospital for a few days, but as luck would have it, on 31 Dec 2014 on her birthday she was discharged healthy from hospital and was back home. Things were going to get better in 2015, and that they sure did. 2014 is one I’ll always look back on fondly. One in which I also listened to a lot of Third Eye Blind🙂

iPhone 6s Plus – My Review

I splashed out and got myself a new phone! After 5 long years I upgraded my iPhone 4, which I reviewed back in 2010. Gosh 5 years is a long, long time and I am proud to have made my iPhone 4 last that long. The hardware of that phone is beautiful and had it not been for how slow the phone had become with new software I still wouldn’t have replaced it. This is one of the annoying things about smartphones, they have become like PCs of the 1990s/2000s. Bulky software is built year on year to slow down perfectly good machines.

How I used my iPhone 4 over the last 5 years
The smartphone experience has been truly amazing. In the time I had my smartphone most web based applications went mobile and it is hard to imagine that at some point in time I was emailing and social media-ing and even working using a desktop PC! I used my iPhone 4 to the max, work and play. By tutoring on it on Skype and FaceTime I more than made up for its investment. I started using my desktop PC less and less, and as the world moved more towards cloud computing I even moved many of my documents and spreadsheets online. As a self employed person I have a google docs spreadsheet that does my tax return and keeps my books up to date as and when I get payments or have expenses. By entering these as and when they happen I’m completely on top of my business accounts all the time. Having my bank’s own app on my phone also helps me pay people and stay on top of my spending as I have instant access to my accounts any time of day from anywhere in the world on my phone.

I used my phone to record videos – my music, videoblogs and educational videos. I used the audio recording to record notes, talks and band rehearsals. I used apps to teach maths and Science. And travel apps such as Citymapper and National Rail enquiries are a lifesaver and it’s hard to imagine what life was like before these. Onwards and upwards to the new iPhone 6s Plus experience.

Huge Plus Size
The iPhone 6s Plus is massive. It’s a mini tablet and there’s no lying about it. It can fit into one hand, just. But operating it for the most part needs both hands.

IMG_7096

Awesome big screen on the iPhone 6s Plus. Note the awkward one hand grip.

Gripping it firmly with one hand at first felt like a challenge and even now I don’t feel like I’ve got as secure a grip of it when just using one hand. I’m still adapting to handling the sheer size of the phone. There is a double tap function that brings the screen down so the topmost icons can be handled by one hand, but not sure if that helps too much. On the picture I have posted, you can see that one handed my thumb struggles to reach the very top icons.

Nontheless the bigger keyboard and keys are a real joy to work with, and I always felt my fingers were missing the mark with the keyboard on my old phone. I got the big phone on purpose, and it for its big clear screen, and this it certainly does not disappoint me with. Here’s why:

Screen Resolution and Size
The iPhone 4 screen was revolutionary for its time, there was nothing crisper and more beautiful than the Retina display. The iPhone 6s screen feels even smoother, but the jump from a non smartphone to a retina screen was so big that this next increment seems and feels minor. The iPhone 6s Plus screen experience is completely different to the minuscule iPhone 4 screen. Watching my old imported photos and videos showed how limited the screen capacity of my old phone was. Using Instagram makes the square sized photos that much bigger and clearer. I watch more documentaries and videos on my new phone. It has more or less even replaced my desktop for that purpose.

One thing I like is the auto brightness adjust, the brightness is always subtle but never overpowering. I found that Samsung tablets and smartphones have that overpowering glow on the screen especially when using them in low light. The iPhone screen remains easy and relaxed on the eye as it senses the light level. This is an improvement on my old phone by a long way.

Apple Pay and Touch ID
Contactless payment is revolutionary and I’ve embraced it fully. One of the best things about the new iPhone 6s is that I can pay using the phone, and unlike a contactles card I need to authorise the payment first. I feel this is more secure than a contactless card. Touch ID is simple and secure, the middle button recognises one of my fingers and unlocks the phone instantly. It also acts as authorisation for when I have to pay via Apple Pay. I now use my phone to pay for day to day grocery shopping and anything less than £20, from bookstores to guitar shops.

Camera
I have learnt a lot about photography using my phone camera, and it is hard to believe that I’ve had a camera on my phone since 2005. In 10 years I have learnt about composition, getting a good frame, and a bit about exposure and how that affects day v low light photography. Smartphone cameras are really good now, and I would say that learning how to take good photographs is way more important. A good camera helps, but photography skills, even simple ones can be learnt and are more important than getting a better camera. I am no pro photographer, but I am becoming a better amateur day by day :-)

Santa Claus toy photo on iPhone 6s Plus

Close up photo taken on the  iPhone 6s Plus

There is so much hype on iPhone camera photos that it is hard to be objective on this. The iPhone 4 camera was miles ahead of its competition at the time. The 2014 poster campaign ‘shot on the iPhone 6’ further cemented the iPhone camera’s superiority. A lot of it may well be hype as other phones no doubt have good cameras by now. The iPhone 4 camera was extremely good in daylight already and in all honesty I find that softly lit outdoor photos are almost the same quality on the new phone. Nonetheless the contrast and sharpness on the new phone is very apparent. Additionally the camera also detects faces and optimises exposure accordingly. This is a godsend when taking an image against a white background or clouds, the old phone would try and optimise for the white background and make everyone too dark. The face detect knows exactly what to optimise for. This makes taking photos more automatic, accurate and better quality. Where the new iPhone 6s Plus wins hands down however is low light photography. It shows colours in low light with beautiful contrast and vivid bright and colourful detail. Taking photos at night or indoors under artificial light has become a real pleasure.

China Town London, taken on iPhone 6s Plus with no filter

China Town London at night, taken on iPhone 6s Plus with no filter

There is also a higher resolution front mode camera, and while the lens does not match up the quality of the main camera, having a better front camera is very useful to me as I use it during online tuition using FaceTime. Both cameras have a flash, but I’ve never been a fan of using a flash, even on a DSLR so I can’t really write about that since I haven’t used it.

The video quality on the iPhone 6s Plus is substantially better than the iPhone 4, it works faster and can capture video in clearer resolution and even up to 4K! Personally I found the old setting of 720 just as good and there’s no reason for me to go higher than that. The new iPhone takes 720 video much more efficiently than the iPhone 4 and videos take up a lot lot less memory space. The following video clip was taken in a loud surrounding and both the video and sound quality capture are crisp and clear. I have seen this on a big desktop screen going via hi fi speakers and it sounds and looks good!

In summary for the camera, massive improvement for low light and indoor photos and a general contrast and crispness improvement overall. I was considering buying a good quality point and shoot Canon Powershot camera but now I don’t think I need one.

3-D Touch
It took me ages to get used to this, as at first pushing too hard on the screen made me feel like I was going to break the screen. We still think of touch screens as fragile so pushing into it that bit harder felt unnatural at first. I have well and truly come to love this feature and I think this will catch on slowly as more apps become compatible. The way this works is that by pressing on the screen lightly it temporarily opens up the entire window of the preview, let go and the screen disappears again. On Whatsapp this makes browsing through messages a breeze, and CityMapper becomes almost instant to use. I’m hoping the Gmail app becomes 3-D touch compatible very soon.

Siri and voice recognition
One amazing thing about the new iPhone 6s Plus is that it can recognise voice and turn it into text much more efficiently and accurately than any other voice to text application I have seen. The old iPhone 4 was just one phone off from Siri, and at that time I felt like I had missed out. But now that I do have Siri on my new phone I can’t believe how convenient it is and this alone is a huge improvement in the way I use my phone. In fact I have just dictated this very last paragraph on my phone to prove how good the voice to text recognition is. This does also mean that I can ramble on more and my written articles are even longer than they used to be! Siri and voice to text are altering the way we interacting with phones and computers, we speak to them and it really feels futuristic. Of course Siri isn’t perfect but I’d say it gets things right 80% of the time.

Battery and Low power mode
I had become a bit of a pro in utilising the battery of the old iPhone 4 efficiently by switching off a lot of unnecessary processes in the background. Although the new iPhone 6s plus has a much better battery life than my old iPhone, on the whole I’m disappointed by the fact that I still pretty much have to charge my phone every day. I would’ve expected the bigger iPhone to have a bigger battery which would last longer, but that seems to have been outweighed by the larger power consumption of the bigger screen. Still the battery life isn’t that bad and we do now live in an area where phones are expected to be charged every day. There is also low-power mode on the iPhone which can be turned on when the battery is at 20% or 10%. So far I haven’t really found this very useful of power saving at all.I know my brother has a Samsung galaxy and it’s low-power mode really does feel like a low-power mode with the screen greyed out and all but the most essential features on Lo fi mode. So I can’t say I am too impressed by the low-power mode, however the phone performs very well even below 20% and is not to lose charge that easily. At 1% I was still able to make a 20 minute phone call, which is really impressive!

Misc – Big speaker, 4G voice and the 4G experience
In all this tech talk we forget that the iPhone is actually a phone and can be used to make phone calls. Thanks to Three’s 4G with voice technology I’m hearing calls with clarity that I’ve never experienced before. It does actually bother me that with such huge bandwidths available on mobile phones, basic phone calls are still made at a very crude and low audio quality designed for the analogue world of telephone cables. Voice calls on Whatsapp or messenger use data and are infinitely clearer so why can’t normal phone calls be? Well 4G + voice is making that happen. This brings me to 4G itself now. I’ve got a 4GB allowance and in my first month I’ve used just less than 1.5GB of data. The 4G speed is utterly staggering, this is not like the increase we saw from 2G to 3G, this is way faster. 4G is like having broadband with you all the time. Citymapper loads up and searches faster. I haven’t tried video calling on 4G yet, but even on 3G it was never a problem so 4G finally gives video calling true freedom. The only downside of 4G is that it is not everywhere (although 90% of the spots in London have it from my experience), so when you go from a 4G to 3G area it feels like a right slowdown.

The iPhone 6s Plus speaker is large for a phone and gone is the tinny distorted sound of listening to rock radio stations via the phone speaker. The bigger speaker has a much more rounded sound and clearer bass. But let’s not beat around the bush, this is still a phone speaker so when I do want to listen to good hi fi sound, I plug my iPhone to my Denon Hi Fi via the USB lightening cable. The iPhone and Hi Fi compatibility is a godsend.

iPhone 6s Plus Upgrade Summary
Upgrading from an iPhone 4 to a bigger iPhone 6s Plus is a no brainier – the experience is vastly improved and a better one by a very long way. Using my phone to make payments, as a tablet with a big beautiful screen and as a computer in which to do my actual tuition and all tuition admin means the expensive 64GB version of this phone will pay itself over many times. I wasn’t so sure about 3-D touch at first but I feel like I just got the right iPhone as this will no doubt take off. The experience of upgrading to a new iPhone depends purely on what your old phones was, but I can say that even from an iPhone 6, having the 6s gives you 3-D touch. For me the upgrade has been two fold, to a new phone but also to a much larger screen size. So the question now remains, will my next upgrade be in another 5 years from now? Only time will tell.

The Rise and Rise of my Online Tutoring

I started online maths and Science tutoring back in 2012 in a moment of desperation, it was to reach a London student who had upcoming exams, a student that lived 5 mins walk away from where I lived in London. It isn’t that I couldn’t walk 5 mins, the problem was that I was tutoring a few hundred miles away in Yorkshire for several days. In that year I spent 72 days out of 365 tutoring away from London in Yorkshire, Hampshire etc., and I was struggling to actually keep up with my London students. Something had to change.

Since then over the last 4 years I have started tutoring more and more online. In the 2014-2015 school year 10% of my income was from Skype/Online tuition. This school year 2015-2016 I gained a ton more confidence in my tutoring business and my selling skills, I also started following advice from the very few online tutors I could find from The Tutor Pages Linkedin page forums. My increased confidence led to a very very important shift in mindset on the value of online tuition V face to face tuition. And this is:

Online tuition is as good (and in many ways better) than face to face tuition. Both for the student and for the tutor.

So instead of offering it as the ‘cheaper and less effective alternative’ I offer it as the main option and at exactly the same rate as face to face tuition. In the current 2015-2016 school year the income I gain from tutoring online is now 40% of my total tutoring income (online + face to face), and this proportion is still rising. My overall income is also rising. I have now hit a very important tipping point, and the benefits of online tuition have been phenomenal. For one, my income has increased as I am able to reach students practically anywhere in the country, and I can fill in the precious daytime hour slots that used to go empty. I save a lot of time that was spent previously travelling on trains to get to Yorkshire/Hampshire or internal commuting in London. The time that I save can instead now be used to tutor online. So now I save time, and with that time I can actually make more money…and I’m less tired from travelling, it is win-win! As a tutor these are the benefits I have found from tutoring online instead of face to face:

  • No need to commute
  • Time saved from commuting can be invested into tutoring
  • Online customers pay online ; payment is quick and efficient
  • The world is my market, not just a 5 mile radius from my postcode, I can reach a huge number of potential customers now
  • I can tutor from anywhere; cafes, my home, my mum’s home when I visit her..I’ve tutored from these different locations. With my 3G/4G (superfast mobile internet) I can tutor from any spot, even outdoors!

I tutor online using Skype, and I don’t use any special software. Sometimes I will use FaceTime if the student has a mac or an iPhone. Tutoring online has truly set me free from geographical restrictions, and my eventual aim is to move most of my tutoring online. I have spoken with other online tutors (it is easier to network online with online savvy tutors) and learnt many things, including an online Biology tutor who tutors 100% online from a cottage in Devon. I still like meeting families and going to homes so I will always do some home to home tuition.

And I don’t just tutor online, I also play gigs to people online who could have never seen me perform before due to being in other continents. I have been fortunate enough to already understand how video and audio work as I have been using this for years being in a band. The rise of faster internet speeds, better computers, more accessibility and adaptation of video calling (FaceTime etc.,) means online tuition is the future and there is no better time to do it than now.

Happy Diwali 2015! And staying in London

A massive happy Diwali 2015 to you from from London. For the last few years I have been going to India to celebrate Diwali. But this year I’m staying back in London. I’m sad not to be going to India because I do miss my extended family there and my cousins. The main reason for not going is that I no longer felt a family responsibility to take my mother and siblings to visit. Visiting India every year had become a ritual, in part to remember my dad and in part to try and connect to a sense of nostalgia and continuity to a previous life. But mostly it was there to support my mother who has a sense of freedom, independence and belonging when she goes back to India. As she is now able to go there on her own I don’t feel the responsibility to take her there as much as I used to. Although some of my family and cousins in India might disagree with that.

Diwali is a festival of lights, it is a festival to celebrate a new beginning and by worshipping the goddess Lakshmi it can also be about prosperity. And the last year has certainly bought all these things to me. My tutoring business is booming and I have been doing better on it than I have ever done before. In the last year I found new love, a new place to live, and have a new vigour and interest in teaching.

So here’s to the next year being even bigger and better. And next year I’ll hopefully be celebrating in India. Hope you have a great Diwali too.

Moving In to a New Flat – October 2014

A clean crisp white colour of paint, as I applied it in my brand new room it came to a new life. My sister was there too helping me along and making the job much faster. I could hear the traffic outside and it felt a bit surreal being into a flat away from family. It was like I was 18 all over again, and I had moved out of “home” once again. It felt like a re-birth in many ways. That first week of October was always exciting for me during my student years, straight after my birthday, a new university year would begin heralding a new start. And after 11 years this was indeed a new start all over again. Quite simply, my life entered a new phase once again and as a family me and my siblings headed out our own ways. My dad’s death was a big event in November 2005, he was a big influence in our family and to my mother. It is only now that I felt like we had finally dealt and moved on from the short term effects of his death, this short term had ended up lasting 9 years.

Regents Canal Hoxton

Regents Canal along Hoxton in Shoreditch

After moving out of the home I lived in for 7 years I was in a state of limbo for about a month living in a small flat in a cramped room full of boxes on one side and an air mattress on the other side, in which I slept on. Part of September 2014 was spent in New York, which is pretty good, but the rest of it was in this temporary state.

Moving into my new flat and shopping for extra household stuff, utensils and a bit of DIY was exciting. At first I was spending only just over half my time in the new flat in central London. I spent some time at my mother’s flat and some time at my girlfriend’s flat, and I now had three “homes”. I was still tutoring in Yorkshire and staying over there. There was a small period in which except for Yorkshire, which gave me a sense of having a constant, everything was brand new!

Old Street is vibrant and right next to the Silicon roundabout where many new digital start ups are coming up. It is a stimulating area to live in that is for sure. And while I haven’t got a hipster beard and skinny jeans (actually I do wear skinny jeans!), it does feel pretty cool to be living in Hoxton and Shoreditch. I live 5 minutes away from the beautiful canal area and go for peaceful walks there, which is an oasis of bliss, unless you are walking in the evenings and you are avoiding speeding cyclists. It has also made a huge difference to my tutoring and I can reach many students far easily from central. I have now fully got on board to living on my own again and in many ways it has been simply like taking over where I left off as a PhD student, but better.

Starting a New Romantic Relationship – August 2014

I have not updated this blog since February 2015. Where I have been? In short, I have been in a relationship, moved away from my family home, and my tutoring business has expanded a lot and has really kept me on my toes. The period covering August 2014 to now has seen some big changes in my personal life. The most important change for me was to take control of my love life and start dating. This is something I touched on briefly before.

2013 and 2014 were years of profound change for me in terms of many of my cultural belief systems and values. The way I look changed as well as I lost some weight, got a fashion makeover, quit refined sugar and upped my gym and running routine. On the inside, I went through a lot of introspection and thanks to some invaluable mentoring and guidance I started to have the courage to let go of some old cultural beliefs that were no longer relevant, and were holding me back massively in the world of dating.

I felt the burden of conforming to my Indian family expectation of getting an arranged marriage, and the way the dating rules are written in the rural part where my father grew up. His death in 2005 bought me closer to India and I went to India almost every year since. I was beginning to see where my dating beliefs were actually coming from, a small patch of land in rural India where my father, grandfather and previous generations grew up. I was finally able to see that these beliefs were implicit, and in 2013, I told all my family that I do not want to get arranged marriage.

I was finally set free to try online dating and when someone would suggest setting me up with a friend of theirs I was open to that. I met someone at a wedding in 2014 who later set me up with a friend. It was a nice date. I started going on first dates without any guilt! They were introductory meetings rather than dates as such, or somewhere in between maybe.

In August 2014 I got into a beautiful relationship. I experienced what it is like to spend special moments and share your life’s day to day moments with someone. I went on many dates, we gave each other gifts, and surprise gifts! I supported her through her many changes in life, and she supported me. We met each other’s families and I realised that dating is more than just two individuals coming together, it is their friends and family also getting to know each other. For me this was a culmination of a lot of my effort, letting go of many fears and jumping into the unknown. I was dating outside my culture, and in the way I wanted to. It is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me.