Posts by Basant

Rules for Book Baba Essay Contest

Rules for Book Baba Essay Contest

  1. Word limit – 600 words. If you think your writing is gripping enough, you can reach upto 900 words. If is a slippery floor; please mind your feet.
  2. Please mail me your essay at The contest is open for 6 weeks. You can mail your essay after the deadline as well.
  3. If I find your writing stickable, you’ll get three great books of my choice. Picking, mine, not yours. If you’re from Poonch, you’ll get six great books. Of my taste.
  4. I don’t send books without making a phone call. Please share your name, address and contact number. If you don’t trust me with your personal information, please don’t participate. I’ll share your essay on social media only if I’ve your consent in writing.
  5. Contest open to my young friends in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Others can send me their essays. I don’t promise books to them. As a matter of definition.
  6. Not every essay gets a reply from me. I don’t read attachments. I don’t play text text on mail.  And my phone number is a no-go-area for essay contests. No questions asked, no clarifications given.

What research says about why mindfulness matters

It can be easy to rush through our days (and nights) without stopping to observe much.

Being more mindful of (and attentive to) our here and now (the present moment) – to our own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around us – can improve our mental wellbeing.

1. Here is what the Harvard guys say.

2. Here is what the NHS guys say.

3. “Why is it that some people are more vulnerable to life’s slings and arrows and others more resilient?” In this TED talk, Richard Davidson discusses how mindfulness can improve well-being and outlines strategies to boost four components of a healthy mind: awareness, connection, insight, and purpose. Davidson is William James and Vilas professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

4. In this TED talk, Dr. Shauna Shapiro draws on modern neuroscience and ancient wisdom to demonstrate how mindfulness can help us make positive changes in our brains and our lives. Shapiro is a professor at Santa Clara University, a clinical psychologist, and an internationally recognized expert in mindfulness.

5. Can you go from feeling stressed to calm in under 30 seconds? Phil Boissiere shares his simple technique to bring mindfulness to your busy life, any time, anywhere. Phil Boissiere is an adult ADHD and couples counseling specialist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

6. Is the practice of mindfulness just for zen masters and yoga afficionados? 35 years of scientific research proves this practice of non-judgemental present moment awareness effectively boosts not only creativity, performance and productivity, but also cultivates kindness, compassion, generosity and empathy. It is no surprise that hundreds of major corporations are offering mindfulness-based interventions to their employees. Charity Bryant is a trained Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher by The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, UMASS Medical School.

Dear 24-year-old Basant

Dear 24-year-old Basant,

You’re less than a month away from your UPSC prelims exam and this is your first attempt and you’re excited like a headless chicken. I’m slightly busy today. So I’ll take the easiest route and write to to you in a list form.

1. Don’t read newspaper after D minus 20th day, D day being your exam day.

2. You’ve a tendency to bite more than what you can chew. Try to stick to the bare minimum these days. Don’t read new study materials. Keep revising your notes till you’re bored. And try solving previous years’ question papers in exam-like conditions.

3. Hang “Don’t disturb” sign on the door of your hostel room. Don’t let your friends create emergency for you. Friendships can wait. For the time being.

4. When it comes to UPSC CSE prelims, there are four subject areas in terms of what to do and what to expect.

      1. High investment – low return
      2. Low investment – low return
      3. High investment – high return
      4. Low investment – high return

Category A subject areas need a lot of hard work (you don’t like these subjects or they’re too vast or study materials are difficult to find in the market) and you don’t get too many questions from these subjects in the exam. Category B subject areas need very little work (these are your favourite subjects or you don’t have to read too many pages or study materials are easy to find in the market) and you don’t get too many questions from these subjects in the exam. Category C subject areas need a lot of hard work (you don’t like these subjects or they’re too vast or study materials are difficult to find in the market) and you get a lot of questions from these subjects in the exam. Category D subject areas need very little work (these are your favourite subjects or you don’t have to read too many pages or study materials are easy to find in the market) and you get lots of questions from these subjects in the exam.

Try to plan your preparation and orient your execution according to this classification.

5. You’re good at attracting traffic jams since you were a kid. So make time to visit your exam centre in advance and get a fair idea about its location and its distance from your Brahmaputra Hostel. Please try to reach there 90 minutes before the exam starts. Delhi’s traffic can be tricky. Please don’t take things lightly.

6. Don’t wear new shoes (or clothes) on the D day. You tend to feel uncomfortable in them. Typical of you. And take off your wrist watch once you find your seat and sit down on your chair in the exam hall. You hate wearing a watch. That’s why.

I know you hate faaltu ka gyaan. I’ll still take my chance.

Sincerely yours,


How did I improve my English while preparing for the UPSC CSE?

I owe my writing skills to Anant, my elder brother. When I came to JNU in 1994, I had a fair idea about how to write and what to write. But, despite my clearing the JNU MPhil. entrance and UGC JRF exam, I realised that I need to work on my answer writing skills and reading spelling in order to prepare well for the UPSC civil services exam.

These are are the books I read to strengthen my fundamentals.

I practised a lot with previous years’ questions in exam-like conditions. I never believed in attending coaching classes. So, while writing tons of answers and essays, I had to keep practising till I found the answers and essays good enough to make them ‘stickable’.

Why systems are better than gaols

Be a good traveller, the Buddha said. Here are a few free, brilliant pieces on how to translate that gem of an advice into a tool to work on your innings on this planet.–goals-oliver-burkeman


Dear 24-Year-Old Basant

Dear 24-year-old Basant,

This is your second year in JNU and you’re 24 now, about to take the UPSC civil services preliminary exam next month. This is your first attempt. And you’re pretty excited. Typical of the street-dog in you.

I’ll give you a few suggestions about how to pace your preparation and what to do during the run-up to the D Day. I don’t expect the headstrong, all-knowing brat in you to take my words seriously. But please have a look at these points. Maybe you’ll love my writing style. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. I know how un-coachable you are.

1. Develop Six Sigma Self-Care Habits

Taking care of yourself – physically and, more importantly, mentally – will help you stay healthy and maintain a positive attitude and stick to a regular schedule.

Don’t lounge in your trackpants and tee shirts all day. Get up at 4:30 A.M., take a shower, and dress in clothes you usually wear when you go to the JNU central library.

You should do these things.

Eat regular, frugal meals. Stay away from unhealthy stuff.

Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Play volleyball with (and against) Sarfaraz, Sanjay and Apu Da like your usual maniac self. (Had it been this time of this year, I would have said, walk for one hour every day while practicing appropriate social distancing)

Find time to unwind. Listen to Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as much as you can. Spend a lot of time with Rao Garu and Umakant.

Get lots and lots (and lots) of sleep.

Go off to sleep by 10:30 PM.

And don’t go to that TV room of your hostel. It’s a den of lazy people who practice wasting time as an art form.

2. Plan Your Day Every Morning

Every morning (after you have showered and wore appropriate clothes), jot down your goals and priorities for the day on that white writing board of yours. You’ve bought it and fixed it on the wall in front of your study table for a reason. Use it.

An organized to-do list keeps you focused on the specific tasks you need to complete. And checking items off the list provides a great sense of accomplishment. On a daily basis.

Once you’ve written down your goals, make a schedule for the day that will enable you to achieve those goals. Your schedule should include blocks of time dedicated exclusively to certain tasks. Do include meal times and study breaks as well.

And once you have created your schedule, try to stick to it as much as you can.

3. Eliminate Distractions and Time Stealers

Your hostel life in JNU offers ample opportunity for distraction. (Even though you don’t have a girlfriend. Poor lanky Basant.) And each distraction is an opportunity for procrastination that leads to reduced productivity.

Most of your distractions require self-discipline to avoid. As you create a  study routine, think about the distractions and temptations around you. Do your best to remove them from your daily life.  Say no to friends and foes as much as you can. Most of your friends are very competent time stealers. As dangerous as TV. Have I told you?

When you struggle to stay focused, try the Pomodoro Method.

4. Focus on the Positive

Give yourself permission to be human. To fail. To err. It’s alright to make mistakes. No need to pursue or expect perfection every single day. And remember your rivals (other students who are going to take this exam next month) are making mistakes as well. Now, don’t gibe that smile of yours.

Look for the silver lining every single day. After you wake up, spend a few minutes before getting out of bed brainstorming the beautiful things you have in your life since your Pipli days. Before you go to bed each evening, make a list of the good things that happened to you that day.

Engage in activities you love (as and when time permits). Listen to Ustaad Nusrat and play volleyball.

I’ll keep giving you tips for free even if you hate my hair cut.