In 2020, I found myself away from people yet close to them at the same time. My family. My friends. Even strangers. And through the engulfing darkness, I was quite surprised to find my timeless retreats like reading, writing, and coding were still intact. Like food, water, and human connection, these things helped me get through it all. Here, from my sanctuary of sanity, is a quick recap of 2020 that I’d like to share with the world.
I stuck to my favourite genres—sci-fi, noir, mystery, and dystopia. Last year, out of the novels I escaped into, the following books stayed as my favourites.
The Handmaid’s Tale — Dark, beautifully narrated, with uncomfortably bizarre moments. The loneliness in this one … is contagious! I loved it.
Flowers For Algernon — Wholesome, emotional, and heartbreaking.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union — A perfect find, I’d say. A witty detective story in an alternate-reality Jewish settlement with a trope of self-destruction sprinkled sideways with dark humour. Also! Alaska! :) I recommend you read it on those cloudy evenings. Meyer Landsman, the detective in the story, reminds me of my favourite video game character, Max Payne.
The Little Prince — A tad overrated short that takes you on an emotional walk down the lane if you feel growing up sucks and you miss being innocent! In the end, weirdly, the baobab infestation on the Little Prince’s planet rekindled my nostalgia for one of the video games I used to play as a kid, The Legend of Kage.
Summer Frost — The best novella in the Forward Collection I’ve read so far. It’s a solid sci-fi page-turner and a borderline cautionary tale on the control problem.
I didn’t write much last year. But out of all the drafts, I managed to complete two shorts and the second revision of my novel.
The Cook — A cook, a superior, a church! Guess what she’ll cook!
Metamorph — My poetic take on singularity.
Dischafer — After years of editing and blocks, I finally published the revised edition. If you are into noir, sci-fi, and thrillers, Dischafer will be an enticing read. Here is a cool teaser and music (use headphones to make sense of it) I made! :)
After I left my job in May, I started working on Arclind Mindspace, a free crash course platform. Riding the highest tide of my mind that lasted through the development and launch, I broke out of my comfort zone for good and found myself in uncharted waters, dead reckoning and exploring new areas.
I’d say it’s the best thing that happened to me in 2020. I learned new tech. New hacks. Connected with interesting people. And I experienced and did things that I never thought I could do. Especially, on the social front where I got to interact with people! :)
Once the beta was up, I reached out to humans outside my comfort circle. Friends of friends, acquaintances, strangers. I showed them what I did, listened to all their stories, suggestions, and experiences, documenting them all the way. This endeavour was hard for me at first. It felt intrusive and intimidating to my introverted brain, but I learned otherwise as soon as I reached out. I felt welcomed. People were genuinely interested to know more about Mindspace and some even voluntarily contacted me with feedback. Wish I had stopped overthinking this years ago! On September 16, Mindspace got featured as the #5 Product of the Day on Product Hunt. Got more feedback, connections, and … thanks to that, more insights.
Boy, I could write about this all day! It’s kind of an ecstatic high, you see! You only get that when you create something from scratch and put it out in the world! And then when you walk through people’s mental spaces, you find interesting models through their vision! That kind of research has its own enlightening moments! It made me realise that it’s not the code that solves the problem, but the users themselves! I intend to continue exploring that path this year. And I hope to write more on that journey soon!
I started reading more on social psychology once I got the taste of the creative high with bites of lessons from building Mindspace. Eventually, I found The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, which I found relating to me at a conceptual level. The best book on design I’ve read so far. Every chapter struck a chord with me.
Probably, this could be THE book that summarises all the things you need to know about modern product design and development. But … I prefer not to anchor around it. And even if you are not into products, just give it a shot. It’ll encourage you to discover your own learned helplessness in your day-to-day life and help you develop filters of appreciation for things that make your life.
Why isn’t this book not in schools? O_O
Another book that I loved was Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record. If you have a good idea about the depth of the mass surveillance in this world, this book will show you the personal account of its effects with all the ‘why’s and ‘how’s. It’s more than just an autobiography. I liked it.
Technology doesn’t have a Hippocratic oath.
Do you think it should? If you don’t, I think you should read the book. Do you prefer convenience over digital privacy? If you do, I recommend you read it. If you don’t want to read, I recommend you watch Citizenfour (documentary) or Snowden (film).
I could go on about digital privacy, but that’s for another day.
This year, I plan to survive, read more on psychology, tech, and products, write more (something experimental outside my usual genres), code more, learn new tech, create good products (hopefully with another good team), and interact with more humans.
Happy 2021, folks! May the force be with us all!