Coffee and its associations

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Right at this moment, I am sipping a hot Latte, which surprisingly is Cappuccino with very little foam and more milk. Ha! Who knew! While coffee is my poison, I never really knew the difference between a Latte and a Cappuccino.

Interestingly, yesterday, while sipping on his Cappuccino my husband did ask me what the difference was between the two. Now, I’m not proud of this, but I do have tremendous faith in the gift of gab that I am blessed with and I also do remember making up some pretty convincing stuff to answer his question. There was no follow up question.

It isn’t surprising then that the grey matter in my brain feeds on coffee and that right from when I was a little girl, coffee has been my vice. Yeah, I sneaked coffee in my mug, when mom wasn’t watching. But there’s more to the caffein than just the kick it gives you. There are all these associations that make coffee more glamours than Wine. Of course, wine is more intoxicating, but nothing replaces a coffee kick.

Here are some associations that make coffee more important than the air we breathe:

  1. FRIENDS: Anyone who has ever seen Rachel and Ross kiss in Central Perk know what this coffee house means to us. And not just that, I think of that group of friends, the couch, the mundaneness and the coffee house every time I sip my coffee. Well, every time would be an exaggeration, but i’m pretty sure everyone who has been a fan of this show has at least once thought about it.
  2. Fraiser: Well, not as popular as FRIENDS, but Fraiser is one of the pioneers in popularizing the coffee culture amongst the people who watched the show. Cafe Nevrosa was Fraiser and Nile’s favorite hangout. A place where they’d fret and celebrate together. A different kind of coffee shop, which did not have a couch, but instead had a bar like seating and a huge bookshelf. An absolutely cozy ambience located in rainy Seattle.
  3. At a personal level, coffee was like the forbidden fruit as a kid. The elders always had a cup, while I just sat there waiting to grow up. I got my hands on it the first chance I got and then never looked back.
  4. Movies: So many films have their leads sitting at a coffee shop, sipping her coffee, watching the world go by. I think that imagery kinda made a deep impression here.. I’ve always wanted an oil painting of a coffee shop on a balmy summer afternoon, set in paris. That’s the dream.
  5. The Barista at the corner of Shivaji Park in Bombay. Enough said. No explanation needed there.
  6. The fanciness attached to the names that once meant nothing. Who knew what a Latte was till a Starbucks popularized it? Expresso, Cappuccino, Americano. People who survived on cutting chai, today brag about not being able to function without an americano.
  7. The cost. Admit it, walking about with a Starbucks or Barista coffee cup in your hand says a lot about your standard of living. And honestly, who doesn’t like showing off their pay checks.
  8. A coffee conversation is better than the one you have over a few drinks or over dinner. Coffee is casual, coffee is pleasant, coffee doesn’t make you throw up on a stranger’s shoe. Coffee is safe.
  9. The invention of a coffee sleve. It’s just the best thing ever!
  10. Finally, just taking a break. Get up, get a coffee!
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Kim vs Aish!

Honestly, I’m not a fan of either and I’m not a feminist too. But aren’t there some similarities in the controversies regarding their pregnancies and more differences over the way people are dealing with it. 

I mean, yes their pictures pre and post pregnancy (in Aish’s case) are not their usual fabulous selves but seriously give them a break. There is a whole person growing inside of them. 

This post might sound a little confused, because while I am all for letting them grow bigger and taking their time to slim down, I am also surprised by the overwhelming support Kim is receiving from her ‘peers’ in Hollywood. Reports of new Hollywood moms asking the media to let her grow fat, are pouring in from all sides. While, this is very evidently well placed on front pages of glossy magazines and newspapers, thanks to Kim Kardashian’s hardworking Public Relations agency, there are also rumors about her actually being paid to get fat.

Now isn’t that more shocking than the fact that she is actually that big! I mean, what’s real anymore? Is she really getting paid to grow bigger? And does she have any control over her body whatsoever?

On one hand, no one, absolutely no one came forward to lend Aish a helping hand. Note: not even her in-laws. In fact, a random google search on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan only pulls up images of her in beautiful Indian dresses (that nobody notices, now that she is fat), with some baby weight. 

Again, no, I’m not a fan. But I think she is unfairly targeted sometimes. For instance, a few years back she was highly criticized for her wardrobe at Cannes, designed by Neeta Lulla.  Lulla was an upcoming fashion designer then and wasn’t much of a name in the industry. While I didn’t find anything wrong with her intricately designed dresses and saris, the fashion police went bezerk over a pin that was apparently sticking out of her outfit. Honestly, she looked gorgeous. And since there wasn’t anything to criticize, might as well blame the designer for the disaster. Who is to say that these media opps were not planted by the older more experienced and jilted designers? It’s all about appropriate media placement after all. Where you get seen and who sees you.

So back to Kim vs Aish, the only difference here is that Kim apparently is making money out of her pregnancy. She is getting paid to put on all that weight (which I highly doubt) and she will be paid millions of dollars to shed it. Aish on the other hand was the laughing stock of Bollywood for the past few months. Unfair, isn’t it.

But wait, I don’t think this is the problem either. The problem is how these controversies are confusing young women about their body images. The issue here is much deep rooted than you can imagine. Earlier, all we heard the Kardashian sisters do were criticize anyone who was a size more than them. Now we see them defend their fat sister.

Isn’t that a little to complex for a woman who is not too sure of herself to begin with? A young woman who is blindly following trends to keep up rather than be herself.

I’m pretty sure Kim and Aish will take care of themselves, but who is going to stop women from spend thousands of dollars or rupees on beauty treatments and slim clinics. We’ve got to watch better television!

 

The long lost Indian holidays

I’ve just managed to come out of a fabulously amazing American long weekend. The recovery has been rather slow this time, since it was the first long weekend of the year. When you’ve lived in this country longer than the number of years you’ve owned that little black dress, you know that a long weekend is a big deal. 

Even though a long weekend is just an additional day to your usual weekend, it demands months of planning. You just cannot afford to do the things you do on a usual weekend on this pious occasion. This means that you’ve got to go somewhere, meet someone, have a good time and most importantly flash it across Facebook. While this routine has sort of sunk in well now, my mind often wanders to memories of old Indian vacations taken with parents years ago.

There are absolutely no similarities between the two types of holidays: American and Indian. In fact nobody calls them holidays in India. It’s a vacation. It’s time you take off work to be with your family. Your family is almost always a part of your vacations. Except when you’re on your honeymoon, the only time people are willing to go on a vacation on their own.

 Moving along, unlike American holidays, Indian vacations are most inconveniently placed in the calendar year. Almost as if somebody decided to scatter pigeon food all over the year. A holiday rarely comes along with a weekend. It’s almost always a Tuesday or a Thursday, with exceptions of Wednesday. They tell me nobody plans this on purpose, but I have my doubts. 

And if this wasn’t messing with your vacation plans, organizations in India most definitely have holiday calendars of their own. In short, as a school going girl, if I had a whole week off for Diwali, my dad would most certainly have to work four days that week. Which would mean that we would have to apply for a four day leave, which would not be sanctioned till the day before we were set to leave. Honestly, this would only ensure that our trip was filled with uncertainty and mystery. What fun!! Not only did this teach me to keep my expectations under check, but it also helped me to appropriately deal with disappointments. Not bad for a seven year old.

And that was probably the only planning part, because this trip involved hardly any. With no maps, GPS systems, rental cars and online databases of hotels, we were pretty much on our own for most part of the trip.

If we were to rent a car and travel to the destination by road, we would most certainly have a driver with us. A concept unknown to most non-Indians, a driver is the owner of the vehicle who would drive you along the whole trip to places far and wide. Honestly, having been on innumerable such road trips as a child, my character sketch of a driver is quite muddy. He is a rather creepy looking big man, who only speak when spoken to. He slyly peaks at you through the rear-view mirror at regular intervals. Whatever your name, he calls you baby. His mere presence makes you uncomfortable. The stack of cassettes he has in his car drawer are not your type of music. But he insists on playing them. Loudly. To keep himself alert on the road. He drives rashly, takes steep turns, chuckles when you complain of your stomach churning and turns a deaf ear to your dad’s advise on slowing down the vehicle. But trust me, he’s not the worst part of the trip. The roads, the public bathrooms, the food, the sanitation and the mosquitoes are. 

But, its still the best trip you’ll ever be part of, because you’re with your parents. Mom hands you a goody ever time you look at her with droopy tired eyes. Dad buys you a crate of Frooti and a few copies of Champak before you begin the trip. And every time you’re about to throw up, they give you the attention you’ll crave for when you grow up. 

Then there are annoying cousins. But not all of them are bad. The little ones are a pleasure to travel with. They look at you with awe. They lean on your shoulders when they are sleepy. You can hold them tight when the car takes a sharp turn. They sleep like angels on your lap. 

Now you’re sipping on your hot pack of Frooti. It’s sweeter than soda can ever be. Sometimes mom holds it for you. And then you can just roll down the window and look at the mango trees as you pass them by. Pure nostalgia. 

If I could Instagram this day

I’m sitting in a Library in a suburb of Oregon and all I can think of is Instagraming the heck out of this day. If I could, I’d Instagram the entire week and the week before that. I’m debating using either the Rise or the Kelvin filter, which will bring out the solid colors and brighten this dull grey day.

There are people around me, who seem the least bit bothered about what it looks like outside. Yet, I haven’t been able to get over the million shades of grey I’ve seen over the last two weeks. It’s always grey, on the grey scale it’s either more grey or less grey, but it’s always grey.

It always goes like this, the beginning of a long rainny week, I’m all pumped up. I’m going to take over the greys, concentrate on the green and make it work. This time, maybe this time, I’ll succeed. But, No. It’s the same story every time.

So yeah, I want to Instagram this day. I want to make this day look better. I want the grey to turn in to soft shades of pastel yellow and blue. The green to be green but Instagrammed green. The kinda green that makes life look beautiful. The kind that you want to run your hand through and the kind that feels like soft velvety fur.

I want to be able to think. I want to be able to write. I want to be able to get out of bed feeling happy and excited about the day. And if only I could add some filters to this day, that would be true.

Now it’s raining. Rain doesn’t capture well with my phone. But I know that if I did take a picture and instagram it, it would look like little crystal beads. The ones that will send tiny light rays in all directions, making the day look so colorful. The prism. Just like the prism.

I’ve realized now that this is not possible. That I’m going to have to get through the day without a beautiful rainbow across the horizon. That I probably have a higher chance of winning the lottery ticket than turning this raining day around.

 

Monday blues for the unemployed

When you have a job, whatever it might be, whether you like it or not, your monday blues begin and end on the same day of the week.

But, when you’re as awesome as you are, with no job and not because you don’t want one, but because you can’t have one, the whole week is a big blue ocean. The depth of which is unimaginable and every sunday evening you see yourself falling deep in the abyss. 

See, the thing is that from the outside, my unemployed life looks like a real vacation to most people. And why wouldn’t it, right? People imagine me sitting on my couch all day watching television, occasionally snacking on stuff that I didn’t have to pay for, Facebooking all day (I know i’m the center of envy for this one), voluntarily switch activities when I want to: from watching television, to taking long walks, to drinking coffee or wine.

What they fail to notice is the frustration that rarely peeks through all of my social media activities. What they simply overlook are the innumerable activities I force myself in to (sometimes even paying for it myself) to keep me motivated. Why is motivation important you ask? Well, because without that all that you think I do, would be true. And honestly, I don’t do 20% of what you think I do. I have more to myself than that. 

Because without the bare minimum motivation I manage to gather by keeping my mind occupied, I can’t get out of bed everyday without feeling worthless and incomplete. And, because even though I don’t have to be somewhere at a particular time or meet deadlines like the rest of you, I set them for myself so that I have a reason to get through the day like all of you.

Often, at social gatherings, I don’t get asked what I do for a living. It is conveniently assumed that I don’t do anything. Well, I don’t totally blame my unemployment for that because it is also very cultural. A woman, let alone an unemployed girl rarely gets asked about her career, because she is assumed to not have one.

When I’m with people I’ve known for a few minutes, I make an effort to understand what their lives looks like on the outside. Sometimes I do that simply to get asked back about what is it that I do. But it’s disappointing when that doesn’t happen. Most people love engaging in inane conversations about their favorite superheroes than talk about interesting human beings physically present around them. 

I’ve been at dinners where the host, a man, has barely looked at me while making conversations with the other male members present there. I do not think that was about me though, and completely brushed it off feeling complete pity for his wife. 

And honestly, it’s not all that bad. Except for sunday evenings that make me think, what having a job was like. And it sort of spills over to the Monday morning, where for most people with jobs, unless you absolutely hate yours, it kinda ends once you dive in to work. But for me, it’s a long day ahead and an aimless blue week that will probably never end. I long for Fridays as much as the next person with a job. I love Friday as much as you do.

 

Three separate stories; Repressive state of women in India.

This morning, the Supreme Court in India ruled in favor of a dead woman by sentencing her husband to a seven-years-jail term for torturing and driving her to suicide.

In an article titled, “Daughter-in-law be treated as family member, not housemaid: Supreme Court”, published in the Times of India, the judge urged family members, including the husband to treat daughters-in-law as human beings with the love and respect they deserve, and not as personal slaves.

While this comes as a ray of hope for many tormented women/daughters-in-law in India, there are two facts in this case/article that are highly disturbing:

a) A seven years jail sentence does not do any justice to a woman who suffered physical and mental torture for years and had to take her own life to get out of it. Nor does a small sentence like this one make for a good lesson for the families out there who still do not believe that their daughters and daughters-in-law are worthy of decent living conditions.

b) What kind of Indian culture are we boasting about, if in this day and age, a Supreme Court judge has to order people to treat their daughters-in-law with love and respect? What does the much preserved and celebrated cultural heritage teach us, if for starters we cannot even treat our own family members as human beings?

If this case wasn’t enough, skim through a Times of India. I obviously read the poorly designed app, which I think aptly fits as an example of the way media is trying to restrict our worldview by cutting off our access to real news. But, moving on, there were two other rather overwhelming reports that caught my attention. I don’t consider myself a feminist. Neither am I an expert on woman’s social conditions in India. But I do fear for my country’s extreme backwardness and absolute stubbornness towards change.

In two separate incidences, in different parts of India, village elders made decisions for two young brides, without so much as asking for their consent or giving them a choice. And as outrageous as this may sound, this is perfectly fine in India (even in major cities), where a woman’s opinion is barely heard. Hardly matters.

So what were their stories?

Well, bride A would not have in her entire young life imagined that she would be divorced the same day as her marriage on the whims and fancies of the village panchayat. A fight that broke out during the wedding ceremony between distant relatives of both the wedding parties, cost this young girl her marriage. An issue that did not concern the bride or the groom, was considered so important as to separate them even before they began their lives together. And honestly, this isn’t the worst thing to happen to her, because this her real misery begins now. Barely married, divorced and unwanted. She has quite a life ahead.

Bride B’s wedding had a ‘happy non-consensual’ ending. Because, nobody really knows if she is happy with the choice that was made for her. A wedding that went haywire after her would-be husband turned out to be married, this young bride was married off to the first person her father found amongst the guest present at the venue. Fearing societal humiliation, the brides family did not even consider asking her consent, but made a choice on her behalf. Because after what is she? Just a woman, unfortunate enough to be married to a man who she barely knows of.

Is it just a coincidence that these three cases however different in nature speak of the same suppressed state of women in India? We might not have definite answers to a lot of questions here, but one thing we most obviously know is that this demands immediate attention.

The thing about procrastination..

Honestly, the real deal with putting off things for later is that you do it, because you can actually afford to do.

Why else would I have spent the last 30 minutes of my life just sitting on the couch, scrolling through my Facebook page, mentally composing this post instead of actually writing it. 

And that’s exactly the case when you spend those ten extra minutes watching a series of youtube videos before you do the dishes. Or load the washing machine or begin preparing for an interview, or a test.

What really needs to be understood is that none of the activities that follow a long productive period of procrastination are of the urgent nature. Very obviously, the key words here being productive and urgent. 

Let’s review these one at a time. Productive. History and your mother has time and again reminded you that procrastination is a bad thing. But, is it really?

There are people, I know of who have this compulsive need to be engaged in an activity or two at all times. Except, when they are asleep, which is usually not for very long. They are often referred to as being ‘hyperactive’, a term that is very loosely defined and can be easily misinterpreted. The point here being, that these are among the few people, along with your mother who think procrastination is a criminal waste of time. 

I disagree, and here’s why:

I’ve noticed that my productivity almost exceeds my expectation after productively putting off things for a while. The outcome of a highly fruitful procrastination session is directly measured with the mental satisfaction you get after completing the activity you weren’t able to get to for so long. 

Why isn’t procrastination considered an activity in itself? I’ve had multiple eureka moments while on awesome prolonged breaks. When you’re waiting to be struck with ideas, such moments are god sent.

Culturally, not doing something or sitting ideally is often looked down upon. Unless you are doing this for an obscene amount of time, I don’t see why this is so offensive to people. Also, I think this is one of the most important reasons why people spend a lot of time in their restroom. 

Procrastination is like a strong stimulating shot of caffeine. Minus the side effects, shaky hands and addictiveness. 

Finally, contrary to the idea that lazing around is a bad bad thing, relaxing your eyes, mind and body can lead to a kick ass dishwashing session. Ever heard of sparkling clean dishes? Not all detergent, I tell you. 

Urgency. umm.

Well, up until six months ago, I believed that I worked better under pressure. Well, considering I’ve been on my toes since I was 18: bachelors, two masters, three jobs, four internships. Phew. This complete state of joblessness came down pretty hard on me. What I did realize over this period is that I do work better under pressure, but some of my best work is a product of taking it easy. 

It’s important to understand that stress keeps your mind busy, which works for most people. But peace makes your mind run in directions you’ve not explored before. So while, you’re on the fast track mode to becoming the youngest CEO of Yahoo!, take a deep breath and stare at a blank wall for a while. Experience joy. 

Similarly, procrastination is often possible only when you know that you’ve got those few minutes to spare browsing through your twitter messages. 

This means that urgency is not a factor and you can actually spend a few more minutes with your coffee mug and watch the leaves rustle through your window pane. 

Watch out for those guilt trips!

As I buttered my bread this morning, I thought of all the people who would have judge me for using a full fat butter spread, instead of a tasteless gooey looking zero fat margarine. I quickly put down the second piece of bread I picked up earlier fearing an familiar judgmental voice in my head.

I got thinking about the way most of our actions are a product of some form of guilt induced by the outside world? Who is making us doubt our sense of decision making? Why is everything we do either ‘out of fashion’ or ‘just not right’, while what’s out there is just about always right?

Why is the world taking pleasure in guilt tripping us?

How often do you get to your wardrobe and spend a massive amount of time picking out clothes for that day? All the time wondering how a certain somebody would react to your clothes today? This is too white, thats too lavender. This material is too tacky and who wears plaids anymore. Boot cuts are so not in right now. And although I can’t for heaven sake fit in these skinny jeans, I have to pretend like I can breathe in it.

Do I wear my hair up or let them down? Does this car go with my personality? Do I walk right? Do I eat right? Can I do anything right anymore?

These tiny voices at the back of your mind, repeatedly suggesting, you are not doing it right. You’ve never gotten anything right. In fact your whole life is a mistake and only ‘they’ know how to rectify it.

What’s more is that these directive messages are not coming just from advertising anymore. Basically, it’s not these fancy commercials on television that make you throw up after every meal to make you look like a pale skeleton. But, it’s who they influence. It’s whose mind they capture and make them believe that it’s actually a consequence of their thinking. And that conforming to it would some how magically make your life wonderful.

These subtle armies of absolutely judgmental people marching towards us, making us doubt our most insignificant decisions. Walking down on a crowded street on a workday , have you noticed the fancy coffee flasks people carry around? Simple flasks are just not good anymore. It doesn’t taste like coffee, unless you’ve spend 20 bucks on a designer Starbucks coffee mug.

As in intern at a publication in New York city, I would often eat my lunch at my desk. Just so it happens, news organizations are filled with stone hearted cold people, who’d go out of their way to make you feel like pure unadulterated crap.  So i’d keep to myself and eat my lunch, while I prepared for my interviews. Over a span of three months that I spent at this organization, I went from eating deliciously cheesy pasta to horrible and utterly tasteless greens. Moreover, not only was I eating salads for lunch, I was also drinking green tea.

One day my boss walked to my desk, looked at the utterly disgusting salad I was eating and casually said, “make sure it’s organic”.

Like he hadn’t done enough damage already. He’d haunted me earlier for eating wholesome meals for lunch on account of it being too cheesy and full of carbohydrates. He’d commented on the way I didn’t perform as well as I did before lunch because of the heavy meals I was having. To make matters worst, he wanted me to spend four extra dollars (on an interns salary, you can barely eat one meal a day) to eat organic leaves instead of the pesticide laden ones I was forcing down my throat now.

It’s practically the same case everywhere (expect I believe in Tech offices, where nobody really cares about what you wear or eat), at the gym, the regular black mats are just not good enough. You’ve got to go to Target and get an extra comfortable yet firm mat for your Yoga or Pilates classes. God forbid, if you’re ever caught drinking water from a fountain. Whatever happened to ordering a transparent water bottle from amazon. And don’t just order an ordinary one. Get the one with a small tube within the bottle where you can pour freshly squeezed berry juice to get those extra nutrients while you exercise.

How about those cushions on your couch. Seriously who needs six of them? And that sleep number bed you got yourself? What about that tablet you bought? Do you really need one, considering you barely read?

That’s the thing about guilt. It gets you. No matter where you are. It’ll catch up with you.

I envy simple people

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to wake up one morning and accept the routine completely. Without having so much as a thought of an exciting moment in the entire day. My whole body, mind and soul devoted to getting through a day that looks just like yesterday, and the day before and the day before that.

But this almost never happens. I wake up wanting more to the day than there already is.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll hit the jackpot today (all the time knowing this is never going to happen), maybe today pizzahut will announce a 3$ large pizza (one time offer only), what about that sale in forever 21? Do they have their summer dresses on sale yet?, how about Victoria’s Secret? Have they realized that normal people wear lingerie too? Not just size zero skinny rich blond girls, what if Reuters/Bloomberg calls me to anchor/report for their prime time show?

But it’s the same story everyday. None of the above mentioned more than pleasant thoughts have ever become reality. Ever. Yet, I never stop hoping. With great difficulty i’ve accepted the fact that I’m an extremely complex intellectual individual.

And that’s the reason I envy simple people. Here’s why their life is so much better than mine.

  1. They obey the alarm clock. They are not making up intricate excuses in a half asleep state as they snooze the clock for the seventh time. They prefer to give up on the five and half minutes of sleep rather than devise imaginative stories. 
  2. Their aspirations are limited to making it in time for the 7:45 am subway or local train.
  3. While on the train, they catch up on their sleep or read the horoscopic predictions for the day. Unlike me, who’d engage in silly, yet extremely interesting activities such as observe people, over hear conversation, stoop over somebody’s shoulder to read a text conversation, stare at the lady who just got in wearing a fabulous outfit, wonder what my BFF is doing at this hour, wondering which bagel to pick up, deciding whether to get a coffee or a hot chocolate etc. etc.
  4. As I get out of the station, I dig my head deep in to a magazine I carry only as cover, in order to avoid a five minute long awkward conversation with an acquaintance you bump in to at crowded stations. On the other hand, a simple person will look for people to chat with. They always remember mundane details such as your children’s names, your pets name, your wives maiden name and the last time you were seen with a controversial person. Simple people remember a lot of details.
  5. Lunch is the same everyday. So is dinner. Nothing really excites them. Nor does it disappoint them.
  6. Routine is their lifeline.
  7. ‘70% off’ doesn’t mean anything to them.
  8. Texting is almost never indulged in.
  9. They do however have a sly presence on Facebook. FB brings out that quality in almost everybody.
  10. They never stand out in the crowd. In fact they are the crowd.
  11. The way they dress hasn’t changed in like a decade.
  12. They also pray to like a million gods.
  13. They make friends easily. However, not everyone is really their friend. Because they are uncomplicated, they cannot imagine the possibility of someone having a life other than the one they lead.
  14. They rarely have a life outside their routine.
  15. They go to their grandma’s house for a vacation.
  16. Their kids have nick names similar to their neighbors kids.
  17. Their conversations are often about other people, groceries and bollywood. News doesn’t interest them, nation and international issues don’t concern them, anything remotely intellectual is miles away from them.
  18. They judge you. And oh my god how. You will never be good enough for them. Your bohemian lifestyle bothers them. It doesn’t make an iota of difference to you.
  19. Sarcasm is past their mental capacity.
  20. Life is a joyride.

I can go on and on. But I just want to reiterate that I really do envy them. Simple living, very little thinking.