Annual Letter: Diwali 2018

How are you?

I send these letters every year. This is a way for me to send thanks to all the mentors and friends who’ve been part of my journey so far. And I wanted to drop by and say

Happy Diwali :)

What is up with you? Is there something I can do for you?

For what is up with me?

Health & Wealth


Since the beginning of this year, I have tried ‘building better healthy habits’. Progress so far:

  1. Have spent 5000+ minutes working out
  2. Improved my BMI from 32.4 to 30.1 (lost 7 kg)

I am going to spend the next 12-24 months on health. Particularly learning to manage my allergy and asthmatic conditions better. This will be my top non-work priority.


A Year with Soroco I completed a year with Soroco. I have a sense that my strengths are probably not in core AI/software. Yet to figure out where they are. What do you think?

Reading (Learning?)

Last year, I wrote how When Breath Becomes Air has been very influential to me. This year, I’ve been into online blogs such as:

  • Thinking Better: Farnam Street (mental models), Morgan Housel (Different Kinds of Smart), Ribbon Farm (Premium Mediocre), Derek Sivers (Obvious to You, Amazing to Others) - which resulted in me contributing to open source
  • Dreaming Better: I binge-read through a few books by author’s like Dushka Zapata, and Javed Akhtar. Reading Hindi, specially poetry - strung a new chord with me. It instantly brought black flashes of memory fro my early teens which I had all but forgotten. If you have any scifi recommendations - I’d love to read 1-2 this year.

The other essay which I mentioned last year was The Case Against Work Life Balance. The core idea? As long as you’re fit, it’s better to strive to improve work to the point where it fills your life with contentment. An year of experimentation later - I have a better handle of when this may or may not apply. It seems to be mostly true, except when it’s not.

Outside Work

Owing to about 2% better mental discipline and focus, I had a lot more free cycles since March. This resulted in me spending less time with my phone (and laptop) but mostly thinking deeply and creating something:

  • Economics Nobel Laureate, Dr. Paul M Romer (2018) found my notes on programming tools helpful (link to his Tweet)
  • Writing a book on Natural Language Processing, for software engineers - and comes out before Christmas on Amazon!
  • Won an International Fellowship with Fast AI for their advanced AI (deep learning) course

Few more small wins slightly more technical:

  • Won the first ever Natural Language Processing themed Kaggle Kernel award - that’s about $500 in cash, $390 in software (Twitter link)
  • State of the Art results on Language Modeling for Hindi: Github Repo
  • Finished in Top 10 at the Global AI for Education Hackathon (link)
  • Lead Maintainer to the Github’s Official Natural Language Processing Repo, featured in their ML Collection too (NLP Repo link, ML Collection link)

What’s Next?

I’m still working out the chinks, on the wetware that I am - and I’m eager to hear any feedback that you might’ve.

Cheers, Nirant