Non competitive hobbies

During my riding trip two months back, I was wondering why I enjoyed riding so much more than any of the other “hobbies” that I have indulged in over the last twenty years or so. It was tough for me to think about any other hobby that had given me as much pleasure in the early days as riding did, and no other hobby seems or seemed as sustainable as this one. As I rode, and daydreamed while I rode, I thought about what it was about riding that gave me the kind of unbridled joy that any of my other hobbies had failed to provide. The reason, I figured, was that it was not competitive (no I don’t intend to be a motorcycle racer, ever).

Looking back at the hobbies that I’ve had since childhood – be it playing chess or playing the violin or even writing, they have all been competitive hobbies. As soon as I got reasonably good at chess, I started playing competitively, and soon the pressures of tournament play got to me, I lost my love for the game and stopped playing. Violin was a little better off in the sense that for a reasonably long time I only played for myself (apart from the occasions when I had to entertain random visiting relatives). But then, I was asked to take up an examination, and then enter inter-school music contests, and I find it no surprise that I quit my lessons six months after my examinations. I must mention that I’m on the road to committing the same mistake again, in my second stint at violin learning. As things stand now, I’m scheduled to appear for the ABRSM Grade Three examination this October, but I have my reasons for that and don’t think the process of appearing for the exam will kill my love for music.

Writing remained a passion, and a hobby which I think I was rather good at, until the time I started thinking about monetization. The minute I started thinking about wanting to write for money, I lost the love for it, which might explain the deceleration in activity on this site over the last three years or so. I had lost yet another hobby to the competitive forces.

The thing with competition is that it puts pressure on you. You have to being to hold yourself to a standard other than your own, and that means you will have to do certain things irrespective of whether you think it makes sense to do that. Soon, your hobby ends up as a slave to your competition, and it is unlikely you’ll be able to sustain interest after that. You can say that the moment a hobby becomes competitive, it ceases to be a hobby and becomes “work”.

The reason I’m bullish about motorcycling at this moment is that I don’t see a means for it to become competitive. Since I don’t intend to race, and don’t care about whether others have ridden more than me or whatever, I’ll be mostly riding for myself. Yes, when I planned my Rajasthan tour, I did think of monetizing it by writing about it for the media, but that I think was more a function of wanting to monetize my writing than my riding. In the event, i didn’t get a mandate to write, and that in no way affected my enthusiasm for the ride. Rather I felt freer that I could enjoy the ride rather than thinking about what I would write about it.

As I go along, I hope to pick up one or two more such non-competitive hobbies. Of course I intend to make motorcycling a “major” hobby. As it is, I love traveling, doing it my own way and going off the beaten path. And I love the feeling as i accelerate, with the wind penetrating the air vents of my riding jacket and my thighs grabbing the petrol tank. Now if only I can convince Pinky to also take this up as a hobby..

Punjabi Muslims

So earlier today I was reading this profile of a Harvard professor that Chan had shared on Google Reader, and I came across this name called Iqbal Dhaliwal. The name immediately rang a bell, and I realized I’d come across this name long long ago in the Competition Success Review (yes, I admit I used to read that ) when he topped the civil services exam.

So one of my hobbies is to try find out about a person’s origins and ethnicity given his/her name. Like I once figured that this colleague is of Danish descent because his surname ends with -sen while the more common spelling of that name is -son. And so I was trying to figure out where  Iqbal Dhaliwal came from. It was clear from the first name that he’s Muslim. And the last name, I thought, sounded Punjabi.

And then my thought process went something like this:

First name Muslim, last name Punjabi-sounding… So is he a Punjabi Muslim? But then, I don’t know any Punjabi Muslims. Do there exist any Punjabi Muslims at all? Hey, wait a minute, I remember reading somewhere that the majority of people in Pakistan speak Punjabi. So there must exist Punjabi Muslims. But I don’t know any.. I don’t know any Punjabi Muslims but there are lots of them in Pakistan. Yeah, I don’t know any because all of them are in Pakistan. Yes, all of them are in Pakistan, most of them at least!

I know Kannadiga Muslims, Bengali Muslims, Gujarati Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims and Muslims from UP. But I don’t know any Punjabi Muslims. Because there are no Punjabi Muslims in India. Because ALL of them went to Pakistan. Tells you how much of an impact partition had in the Punjab,  compared to anywhere else in India.