At the end,

Even though we believe and behave as if we are immortals, all of us have a super finite time here (about 80 years if you are lucky). And while the average is about 80 years, we never know when our time runs out. I mean a meteor could hit us right now and before I "publish" this post, it could all be over and I won't even know. Neither would you for that matter! If I do get to publish this post, I could get into an accident on my way home from Starbucks. I won't know how many people did this post reach and all that. Or I could die at the old, ripe age of 80 after posting 10000 blogposts (I am at 1500 something posts, written over the last 13 years) and doing all the things that I wish to do!

So, I was reading something and somehow I stumbled on to this post by Kevin Kelly. I pick two things from that post.

A. KK starts by talking about when he was 29. Back then he lived as if he only had 6 months to live (P.S.: He's still alive and kicking at the age of 65). All his actions and thoughts were guided by the knowledge that he would be gone in the next 6 months.

After those 6 months, he estimated the time he had left (he calculated the approximate date of his death, by looking at statistics and other medical information). He used/uses this expiry date as a goal post. He put a widget that counts the number of days left in his life. At any given point in time, he knows the exact number of days that are ahead of him. And this "fear" (or may be "awareness") helps him decide the things that he wants to spend focus his time on. A ticking clock time-bomb is such an important tool for motivation!

B. The other thing that he talks about is how one of his friends (Stewart Brand) sees life in 5-year chunks - he says that anything worth doing takes about 5 years. In my experience this is not true but I am sure this is how things are.

So, if we combine A and B, it could probably become yet another system that helps us do more. How? By buying a time-bomb!

Lemme talk about me as an example.

While I want to live forever, I will assume that I am going to die on 1 Jan 2026. And that leaves me with little less than 8 years (3174 days to be exact). And thus, apart from personal things, that means I have just two things that I can do well before I die. One of those things is C4E. The other, I dont know yet.

So, all I ought to do is focus on C4E. All other things become recreation, for the lean days, for the days when I am so tired that I don't want to work on making C4E the greatest entertainment business in the world. Of course in these next 4 years, situation could change and I am ok with adapting to the change. But the endeavour would be to focus on just C4E! Every act, every investment will be towards that one goal.

Does that mean I will leave all other projects hanging in the limbo? After all I am the kinds to have multiple things running at the same time - in fact it makes me who I am!

No it doesnt. Two reasons. A, I have traditionally been a bad finisher and now that I have started to finish things, I will take all open projects to conclusions. And then, either handover to others or find a way to merge them with C4E. B, this multi-tasking, inter-disciplinary approach, swinging on multiple trees is what makes me, me. It has served me well and I enjoy it. I just need to reshape the priorities and I should be ok.

So yeah. The time is limited. 3174 days in my case. How about you? How many days do you have? How many 5-year long projects can you take up? What are those? Tell me about it. Lemme know if I could be help. Please?

Thats it for today. 3173 more to go! Thanks for reading.

P.S.: And the meteor did not hit us before I hit the Publish button. Let's see if I reach home.

P.P.S.: Some books that you may want to read about life and death (especially in context of today's day and age) are: When Breath Becomes AirBeing Mortal and The Last Lecture. You may also want to see Steve Jobs' address at Stanford. Here.

P.P.P.S.: Here's some trivia - Steward (KK's friend, the one that talks about 5-years) is also the creator of Whole Earth Catalog that Steve Jobs talks about in his Stanford talk. Plus the phrase "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!" originated on the last issue of the catalog. Here...


P.P.P.P.S.: Writing something on my blog after a while. Not that I was not writing - I did average about 500 words a day week (which is WAY less than then average that I want to maintain - 1000 words a day). Most of it went towards #book2 and some of it towards the gyaan blog. Funny thing is that I dont really have any regular readers but the blog feels like "home". 

At IMS

Highlight of the day has to be the session that I took at IMS. They wanted someone to work with MBA aspirants and make them understand the nuances of things that happen during the GD phase of the selection process.

This was after a while I was doing something like that. And I came home with a few things. Here's a list. In no order, as always...

A. Realisation that I suck at public speaking. I would want to believe that I am good at it. But I am not. I do have a speech impediment - I stutter, speak fast, gobble up words, have a nasal voice. Thankfully, all these can be worked on.

The things that are tougher to work on, confidence, presence, ability to structure thoughts - I have those. So, nothing to worry about. Need practise. Thats about it!


B. The "proud" and "popular" decision that I took to NOT read newspapers and consume just the online pieces, its backfiring.

Why? Because when I was reading newspapers, I was getting something in my head (howsoever crappy, biased, inaccurate it were). On the other hand, when I consume stuff online, I often get lost in the forest full of trees of knowledge. And the way I consume new information, I tend to look at just the highlights and not the details. I am doing what Feynman says is knowing the name of something. And honestly, I dont know how to fix this.

While reading online is great, I can choose what I want to read on. So, most of what I know tends to be from one of my favorite buckets - startups, decision making, evolution, human behaviour, business, investing, cultures etc. Now as a social animal, I need lot more than these disciplines. And thus, more.

Also, lately I have been thinking about reading. When I say reading, there is books, there's blogs, there is newspapers and there is reading for business - industry reports, opinions etc.

Lemme talk of books first. There are three distinct ways in which I hope to read to learn from books.

  • First, I am becoming convinced that reading entire books (for learning) may not be the most efficient method. Like Naval said in a recent podcast, most books have one or two points to make and then they use 300 pages to drive home that one point. I can do better by reading book summaries and other such things. Bastardised form of learning but I am ok with it. So, books like Blink, Influence etc. would fall under this category. In fact thanks to platforms like TED, Youtube and podcasts, you can watch a 18-min video and you would have consumed the entire book. Or you download a 30-min podcast on your phone and as you reach your office, you would know about a new thing!  
  • Second, when you read about lives of great people - thats something I ought to continue doing. When you read a biography, you are not just learning from the lives they lives, you are also living their lives with them, seeing what decisions they made and how they made those decisions. The best part? You have the advantage of the hindsight! 
  • Third, there are few exceptional non-fictional books that pack more points than one. Case in point? The one that I am reading right now - Sapiens. The other such book that I immensely enjoyed is Tools of Titans. Its essentially a "listicle" 2.0 book (list of lists), it had lists of things, daily habits and other such things from some of the most successful people. Such books ought to be read cover to cover. 
Keyword, read to learn. This does not include fiction. Books that I read for recreation. Like John Grisham. Or Lee Child. I am planning to pick Simenon. Let's see how that goes.

Blogs - well, I follow some 400 odd blogs - I dont read them all. I skim (and skim fast) and I am happy with the approach. Unless while skimming, something catches my fancy. I then sort of deep dive into it. I read arguments in favour and against. I try to read more opinions. I try to think (not too deeply though) and once I am convinced, I try and take a stand. This piece about reading is one such example. Everyone says that you ought to read. I know. I agree. But then there's so much to read and the speed at which I read, how do I ensure that I read a wide range of things? The way I have just explained! 

Newspapers - I ought to start reading. The thing that I am not happy about with newspapers? What they consider news, I consider them non-events. Things like Virat Kohli buying a 100-crore apartment is not news. But since that is what sells, that is what they write. I dont blame them for this. Look at me. I am so used to the idea of free things, I would not pay any money for high-quality journalism / writing! So, for newspapers, I ought to pick and choose what I read. 

Business - thankfully, my day job is not analysing businesses (which people like WEB do). As a result, I dont have to read things like annual reports where they apparently "hide" things in plain sight and you have to be very diligent to be able to sift wheat from chaff. I reckon that it would be a very time consuming process and since I do not hope to be a master of one particular discipline, I can get away with it. 

I'd rather know about a lot of different things, make connections and let serendipity and happy accidents guide me home. 



C. Retention. While I was taking the session today I realised that I dont retain much from what I read. I had the same realisation the last night when I was at a friends place and we were talking about impact of technology on traditional walled-gardens like banking. I have read about the subject in detail but I could not recall specifics. And its not a cool thing.

In fact I've spotted this trend lately. Little signs that I am growing old. It's exactly like they said it would be. Creeping over slowly, imperceptibly as I am busy with my day to day life.

So, I need to work harder onto undo-ing these things. One way is to write. Because, I have noticed that I tend to retain things that I write. Ok, digressing. And not to forget, other things that old age inflict upon us.


D. Handwriting. My handwriting sucks so bad its not funny. While taking the session at IMS, I made notes and when I had to give feedback, I could not read what I had written! Poor students.

But then, its something that I am sure I dont want to work on. Let the handwriting go down the drain for all I care. While I love the feel of pen on paper and on whiteboards, I continue to be a fan of typing (on an Apple keyboard ofcourse), unless they come up with a new way to capture thoughts.


E. In the end, I loved spending time with students. I was in the zone.

I would love to do it lot more - with other MBA aspirants. And students in general. I am not sure if I have a lot to contribute but I do have a lot to learn. About myself. About the world. And the ideas that these young ones have.

Need to figure out a way to do so. May be pick 5 students, work with them through the year and prepare them for this? Seth Godin did something similar. He calls it the altMBA. Lemme think more. Will be back on this.


So yeah! This is it for the day. Thanks Ojas for asking me if I am free to take these sessions up!

The Powai Proximity Problem

I live in Ghatkopar and its about 35 bucks away from Powai. And all the places that I typically hang out at - Starbucks, LPQ, Mohini etc. And places like Harry's that I like to go but they frown when I go in chappals and shorts.

So since I've moved to GK West (as VG calls it), I try and not go anywhere else but Powai. For shopping, for eating out, for fun, for parties, for running errands, for working, for doctors and for anything else that a 35-year may have to do.

Except office, that is about 150 bucks (and an hour) away from GK. And places that I cant avoid the travel to - client meetings, my homoepath in Mahim, airport etc. When I do have to travel to these places, I ensure that I leave GK by 7 AM and am on the way back by 4 PM. Thats how you avoid traffic in Mumbai. There is no other way. And there is no worse way to waste life.

So, when I have to meet people, I "request" them to come over to Powai. Unless they really really really can't make it and I really really really want to meet them. Or unless I am already at work and they could meet in en route to GK.

But then life is not that simple. There are tons of issues with it. Here's top three that I can document.

A. Monotony 
Most of my friends want hang out at newer places, experience new things, taste new tastes, go to the newest fancy thing in the town. For me, all these are merely incidental. The idea is to catch up with friends and we can do that at a Starbucks or at one of the numerous places around Powai. Or even a drive for that matter.

However, I am told that the idea is to have a good time and good time is a combination of good food, good music, good shared activity and good conversations. There are varying degrees of contribution of each factor. For me, the conversation and activity contribute 50% each. Food and music is immaterial. So, at Powai, I we can find any activity that we may want to indulge in, at any budget (which often is not a challenge as most of my friends are richer than me) and almost all cuisines. So, I dont see the need to step out.

I understand that for people other things could have varying percentages. And I ok with it but I dont understand why would the group travel to Bandra (about 40 minutes and 200 bucks) to just eat a salad and go back to their respective places. Sum total of all hours wasted in all this travel is criminal. And on top of that, our time is severely limited.

B. Limited contact with others 
As I try and build AWSL and C4E, I realise that human connections are super important if you want to get ahead in life. So this is something that I anyway suck at. I am not an extrovert and I suck at sucking up. I am generally nice to people but I cant be overtly praiseful. My EQ is questionable and my empathy for others borders on the ones that sociopaths have.

I am working on changing this. Not tough if you ask me. However most people dont operate at the super-rational level that I am trying to achieve. And thus it gets tough to call them to Powai all the time. Or meet them at 4 at Saki Naka. Or at 3 at Andheri.

The other issue is that other constructs that allow you to mingle with people require fake camaraderie. And that requires sessions of alcohol, smokes, drugs and other such things. The only thing that I abuse is Coke. I thus get stuck with it as well.

One way to resolve this is by considering new contacts as work. And then, just like I dont question the need to go to work, I probably wont question the need to go to meet people. Lemme give this a shot in H2-2017.

The other way is to do such brilliant work that they really really really want to meet you. And travel to where you are. This is something that I can work on, starting NOW! 

C. Old age
As you grow old, you get set in your ways. You develop strong opinions about things and places and people. And worse of them all, you develop opinions of self <this entire blog, this particular post, the thoughts and all that are a manifestation of my opinion of myself - which is pretty huge>.

This opinion of self (aka ego) needs to get broken soon and fast. And that can happen when you expose yourself to new things, new ideas, new people and such. And all the new things, ideas, people dont really hang out in Powai. The composition of people at Powai is not a representative of what we have in Mumbai / MH / India or the world. And it is definitely not representative of the kind of people I want to hang out with.

And who are these people that I want to hang out with? Entrepreneurs. Startup folks. Athletes. Rich people. I want to hang out with people who create new things, solve real problems and as they say, move the human race forward.

Assuming that they would want to hang out with me!

Brings me to a rant. I am driven by the lust to improve myself. In everything I do. I want to be healthier, richer, happier. I want to push my limits. I want to climb the Everest! I want to do a lot of things. And I want to do all those things well. And for that I need a certain kind of environment (not that people without that environment dont do things well - I am programmed to do it like that) and leave Powai (or Mumbai for that matter), I cant seem to find the same. Its funny because we live in the world full of information and connecting with a Bill Gates is as easy as sending him an email - his email address is in public domain. And yet I cant seem to find the kind of people I want to be around. 

And you know a funny thing? I am happy to get away from Powai for that.

Funny how the Powai Proximity solves itself! 

I cried

Few facts first.
  • I am 34. Will be 35 this year. In other words, I will be past my prime in a few months.
  • My bank balance as we speak is 39000 and change. And no, I dont own a house. Or a car. I do own some stock.
  • I have no clue what I want to do in life. At different times in life I have wanted to make software, produce movies, become a travel writer, be an investor, teach, play poker professionally, play cricket, become a politician, make documentaries, be a twitter celebrity, become a publisher author, an adrenaline junkie and I dont even recall half of the things! A bucket list is here
Why am I talking about all this? Because I just a documentary on Warren E Buffett and at a point in the documentary, I cried. Will come back to it in a bit. 

For the time being, if you are alive and you think you want to be a better person, you have to see it. Its on youtube here. Dont know how long its gonna stay there. Do see it while its around. Content like (expensive to produce, insightful etc) belongs in the public domain. Never know why museums are ticketed so high. In fact one of the things that I want to do in life is to create such things. That allow humans to learn more. 

Am digressing. 

Coming back to the documentary. I've known of WEB since 2004 (atleast) when Prof. Bakshi first talked about him at MDI. And since then I have consumed numerous pieces of text about him. I am, what they say, a fan. And I adulate him all the time. 

So, when I heard about the documentary, I did not think much of it. After all whatever WEB says can be easily summarized in few lines. I was half-expecting it to be boring and yet another "fan" made documentary that will recycle facts and snippets from other previously published pieces of text. 

But I couldn't be more wrong.

The documentary had original footage and interviews with the most important people in his life - Charlie, Melinda & Bill, his children and couple of friends (including Carol Loomis). I got the rare look into his office. There were pics from his family album, footage from his personal archives and above all - interview with him, on things that are important to him. For the first time, I saw WEB as a human being. I saw his private life like I've never seen before.

It just made the demigod more human.

So, in the documentary he talks about things like Coke, Float, Bill Gates, Philanthropy, Moats, See's Candies, his family, his team, various companies that he's bought and most importantly, about himself.

While watching and I could be wrong here, I realised that the relationship with his wife probably was strained. After all he was busy reading all the time. And she admits that she and WEB differed on their respective approaches towards philanthropy. She believed that she had to give more money, sooner. He believed in the power of compounding and wanted to wait out as long as he could, before he gave it away. In the end, he got what he wanted, like he has always had.

And when the documentary talks about his decision to give his wealth away. And when they showed that press conference when he signs those letters to give away his wealth to his children and Bill Gates, I broke. I cried. With tears and flowing nose (despite my nasal polyps) and all that.

I dont know why I ended up in tears. Probably the gravity of the decision? The impact that his life would have on the world? Probably it was his greatest gift to his wife (that I think came too late and WEB would say, came just at the right time)? Probably because his life is in contrast to mine and Ive been thinking a lot about mine lately.

This is where I talk about me. Rant.

Compared to WEB who is super-focused at what he does, I am all over the place. And not that I havent tried to come back to one thing, its just that it feels stuffy when I do that. I am not myself. May be I am not supposed to be focused. And like Sheldon says, "we will never know."

I dont know what I want to do. I am competitive but I am not like WEB. I want to make the money - to use it as a tool to work towards making the world a better place. And how do I make the world better? I dont know yet. Neither did WEB. But WEB had the tools - reading and focus - and the understanding of things like reputation, compounding and other things. And most importantly he was in the game to come out a winner. And he knew what game he wanted to play. So, he played the game. And everyday he trained himself along the way (and continues to do so, even at the age of 86). And eventually he reached a point where money became unimportant. And then he figured (thanks to his wife and other things in his environment) how he planned to make the world better. Wow! What a life! What a person! 

For me, it I need to know the game I ought to be playing and then honing the skills till I have a superior, unfair disadvantage over others. So that I can make money.

Except that I am 35 and I have bills to pay. 

The other thing. Do I even need to do this? Do I really want to do this? Why do I even want to make money? If my memory serves right, I have always wanted to be the richest man in the world. I wanted to be a dollar millionaire at 25 and a dollar billionaire by the time I am 35. I actually told this to a friend at MDI (Saumya J - hope she remembers). Another 5 odd months to go. I am worth about 15000 dollars. About a gazillion times less than what I had planned. 

Compare me to 2 of the 5 people that I spend most of my time with. Last night I went on a drive with them. Both are pretty successful, on all counts. Happily married (to two wonderful women), each(family) has a kid. Both own cars, properties that run into crores (almost dollar millionaires), they have fulfilling careers, are reasonably fit and suffer from no large, life-threatening ailments to speak of. Days are full of mindless action that a high-performing naukri entails and weekends are spent with family and watching movies and running errands and there are holidays twice a year. And they both seemed pretty oblivious to fact that life could mean more (they are, as WEB says, "sleepwalking through life" - which is not wrong, but that is not for me). And I seemed lost for words to explain what that more could be. 

I saw this glimpse into WEB's life and I immediately knew what that more is. More is spending time doing things that you are uniquely positioned to do - outcome of Ovarian Lottery. In my case, more time I spend with life and things, more I realise that my purpose is teaching. Its mentoring. Its entertaining. Getting people to achieve their dreams. Ideally a combination of all four. I just need to find a way to reach a point where I could do it at a scale that impacts billions of people. Lately, I have started saying that by the time I die, my work has to impact a billion people. I dont know the shape of my work and I hope I will find it as I go along. Just that it sucks that I am 35 already and there is that looming threat of an unpredictable end. Often when you expect it the least.

Anyhow, a few other things that I am taking away from WEB and the documentary are:
  1. Health. He gives an analogy that if you could get just one car for the rest of your life, how will you take care of it? Your body is that car. Will you not take care of it? 
  2. Focus. Though I am not sure I best exemplify this. So I am going to leave it at that.
  3. Relationships. I need to have a Susie around. Though I am not sure about kids. 
  4. Compounding. If there is one thing that you could take away from his life, it would be compounding. Not just in terms of money but other things. You write everyday. You workout everyday. The key is everyday. Build on top of other work.  I dont know if there is anything that I own that is compounding. 
  5. Reputation. Enough said. 
  6. Purpose. WEB made all the money in the world that he could. And then he gave it all away. Why was he doing it? What made him tick? I think the answer is that he was super competitive. More than anyone else. And he enjoyed it. And thats what made him do what he did. And when he gave it all away, he would have thought of no other, better way to use that money. The best part? Rather than he getting into things, he gave it to people he thought were best suited to use it! (circle of competence).
  7. Death. Mortality is a very very real thing. And with each passing day, we are getting closer to it. And that means, each passing day, you have to try harder. And we ought to do things that make us happier, better and more fulfilled. 
That's it.

Do see the documentary. Its worth its weight in gold. 

The Umbilical Cord

Yesterday I was in Delhi and I had to give my passport to people at Gravity (they have a show coming up in Budapest and since I havent been to Budapest, I am keen on going). I could have sent it via a runner but then I decided to drop by. Half expecting A and S to be around - the two guys who've taught me the events business (and the skills I use to run C4E). If not for them, I would not know what is this events management business and wont have all the travel that I get to do or make whatever money I get to make. In one line, my life would suck so bad without them.

While I was at Gravity, I traveled far and wide, I stayed up for days to put up shows, I did things that I did not like with people that weren't worthy of my time, I have cried, I have laughed and I have partied. I have learnt all that I know from that place. In fact I think I am a minor version of the guy who runs that place. I think like him, I talk like him, I am elitist at times like him. I make the same mistakes. Hell, I want the same car as him!

It's at Gravity that the idea of entertaining others struck home. I started realising that purpose of my life could be entertainment. I started thinking of writing while I was bored during the slow part of the season. And while I worked, I got exposed to so much that the scatter brain in me got ever more scattier. It fuelled my appetite for knowing more things - even if I were merely scratching the surface. This was the second time (after CLA) when I felt alive. At CLA, it was sheer brilliance of people around me. And at Gravity, it was the breadth of exposure I got.

So, when I left them to start 5x5 and work on #tnks, I started feeling this void. At least in my head. It was like the Stockholm Syndrome I think. I missed the unpredictability, the petty issues that you face while working, and other such things. I was like that junkie that needed a shot in the arm every once in a while. At first I would merely twitch at the separation. Then it started hurting in the head. I felt as if I were lost. But then, like all other things, I came around. I got settled in the routine at Mumbai. The book happened. SWI, C4E happened and I thought I had moved on.

Till I spoke to them a few weeks ago. I was putting up an event and I needed some help. I spoke to S and all the memories came rushing back. It was like meeting a lover after a gap of few years and you rekindle memories of the good time and bad times? And like lovers meeting after a long time, we had so much to catch up on. Slowly we started talking more and before I knew, the relationship was back. To the extent that I felt strangely attracted to the beautiful mess that that place is. On top of this, at the back of my head, I've always known that I belonged there. It was home. I could go back anytime I wanted to and they would accept me with open arms.

Back to the visit last night. So I went and I was meeting A and S after months (dont even recall when I saw them last). As I walked into their office, I was literally shaking. I could not speak for the first 5 minutes. When A asked me how were things with me, I had no clue about how to respond. I dont know if it was adrenaline or something else. But I could not speak. For someone who's been given the gift of gab (well, almost), I was short of words. I was not short. I knew what to say. I had the thoughts and the words but I could not blurt em out. I guess thats what they say when they say you've been struck by lightening. Think of the time when you met the love of your life for the first time. Or, you see that you've won that award that you've been dying for! Or you hit the lottery. Or any of those things.

And while all this was happening, like a thunderbolt. I realised that the place is not the same that I left. I no longer belong there. I am welcome and there are people and memories and all that. But I dont belong there. The umbilical cord has snapped. Now I know what they mean by moving on. I've moved on - a first for me. So, while I care, I am no longer emotionally attached to them. Or to the place. Oh, and apart from the guys who led the business, the entire team was amazing (at least the initial set of people I worked with were). With time, people came and people went and the camaraderie, sort of, seized to exist. I think the place did not have or foster a "culture", if you will, that makes people irreplaceable. Ok, am getting off topic now.

The point is, if you know me well, you would know that I have hard time getting over things. So, this is like a big deal! Big enough to merit a long, ranty post.

This feeling of not being tethered to a place is new to me. I do not know how to react. So, I spoke to a couple of people that were around when I was there. Both echoed the same sentiments. The place aint no same no more. And both agreed that they have fond memories of the time we spent there, they too are done with it.

So yeah. The cord, is gone. Here I am, on my own. Wish me luck.

Modern Love - next steps

Note: Second email to a few writer friends, seeking contribution. See this for backstory.

Hi Guys,
Trust you guys are well.
We some new people here. For their benefit, this is an attempt to create a community-authored (or crowd-sourced as marketers will say) blog of sorts where we capture true, real-life love stories from urban, modern, middle-aged Indians. You may want to read more at my blog.

Coming to the point.
So, first things first. I have got few submissions. I uploaded some at https://project2602.wordpress.com. This is a pre-pre-alpha version right now. And it's been put up to show you the kind of stories we could capture. There is a love letter, a story, a tweet storm and a thought.

Second. This is the second email in series. Last time I wrote to you guys, I had this vague idea about what and how I wanted the project to look like. Since then, I have some more clarity. See the mindmapish list of things that I have thought of about this project (source file is here and you can edit it using a free tool - www.xmind.net).

So, I now know that it will be a blog and a thematic quarterly magazine / special edition. I know what could it look like. I know the success / failure metric. Of course, I am open to suggestions. More the better. Please email me!

Third. Next steps (aka immediate tasks)!
  • Need a name. We can't call this Modern Love. For a simple reason that NY Times uses it and while we are “imitating” them, can't lift the name! So, suggest some names please. 
  • Manifesto. Need a raison d'etre, if you will! Something that captures the attempt in one line. The one I wrote reads, “This is a collection of personal stories, anecdotes, experiences, incidents and other such things that emerge out of a middle-aged, modern Indian's pursuit of love”. Not very happy. Help me with it. 
  • Submission guidelines. I don't know how to do this - no experience with running a “mag.” Will need serious help. Any inputs? So far, I just have two things that count as submission: A, it has to be a real story. Or inspired by real-life events and B, the story has to be set in contemporary India, by and for “modern” Indians 

Finally, I plan to wait till 31 Mar on this. So far I have 7 stories. Another three have been promised. If by 31 Mar, I get 20 stories, I will go live on 1 April.

If not, then whatever stories I get, I will bind them into an anthology and pester Sachin (my publisher at Grapevine) or Crossword to bind them as a book and put it on Amazon / Flipkart etc. That's the least I can do - give each contributor an opportunity to get the credits of publishing a piece in an anthology. Not the best thing but a great consolation prize if you ask me.

That's about it! I love when these projects sort of take shape!

If you have any questions, please ask me and I will be happy to help!

Thanks,
SG

Untitled - 26 Feb 2017

This week (and most the month) passed away in a blur. I was away (do see some of the pics I put up on Instagram) with super limited access to Internet. And unlike other times when I did not have Internet, I did not do any soul searching. I was merely living in the moment, seeping in the scenery and all that.

So the week after I came back from the travel, all of it was spent in recuperating from the laziness that had engulfed me over the previous three weeks. Its hard to get back to the groove but slowly, I am getting back. Thank God for that. There is so much to think about, capture, say, write. This is first in the edition.

So, a few lessons, observations and reflections from the trip are:

1. You are not irreplaceable. At work or at home. Or at friends. Or with anything else. Life goes on. The ego about you being the immortal and all that is so superficial that its not funny. Apart from work, all those pet projects that you want to nurture and grow, no one gives two hoots about them. You think you are adding value to people's lives and they must care? Nope! You are wrong. Nothing adds any value to anyone. And if it does, they dont care. Life is too busy and they'd rather do more things with their time than pause and reflect. Not everyone thinks about larger issues that surround them. May be everyone does. Well, am rambling.

2. Kids can be great! While I was in Mel, I met this Indian family and the young one, a 6-year old girl, was so innocent and so endearing that for those few days, I actually wanted a kid of my own.

P.S.: Now that I am back, I dont think I want a kid. I am happy with once-in-a-while meetups with Myra. And if I get more craving, there is N.

3. It sucks to be a dark-skinned man in a white-country. You may claim that beauty is deeper than skin and your mind is more beautiful than the body and all that. Bullshit. The fact of the matter is, the way you look makes a HUGE difference. You get judged moment you walk in. And why not? We are evolved animals and we have survived all this while by merely relying on the mental models we've created. If we know that we would be safe in the company of people that look like us, we go out and seek the company of similar people. And if you are brown, apart from the billion and half of us that predominantly live in the Indian subcontinent, you will be "them" for the rest of the 5 odd billion people. I dont know if we can fix this but there has to be a way for me to not get bogged down by things!

4. Poker is a tough game. Played at two casinos and both times I was card-dead. Well thats not an excuse. The likes of Negreanu are card-dead all the time and still do well. If they can, I ought to. But I dont. Thing is, I have been playing it pretty regularly (at a point I was playing it once a week, now I get to play once in three months) since 2012 and these three sessions at at the casinos has made me realise that I suck so bad at it. In all I've lost about 75K, not including travel, accommodation, hours and all that. I thought I was good but clearly I am not. I do think that I have what it takes to do well but I am not sure if I have the time to practise. The ones who do well, the ones I know who do well, they get in a lot of hours on the table. More on this some other day.

5. Loved the professionalism and the respect for time in people there. If someone told me that they would meet me at 2, they met me at 2. Irrespective if it was raining, middle of the day, bad weather, they had a bad day, it was their birthday or whatever. People respect time like nobodies business. Here in India, well. Time is like that thing that we want to be strict about but are not. I wish I could live in a society where time gets such precedence as it gets down under. Of course all things are not rosy there but then time has to be THE most important thing that we have and if we cant respect it, what else is there to life?

Apart from time, the other great thing was that people do it with all their heart. If they are working on something, they are in it. They are not slacking. They are not cutting corners. They are not sweeping under the rug. They are doing it as if its going to be the last thing they'd ever do. Something that we have to learn here in India.

So yeah, thats about it for the time being. Over the next few days I hope to write more. Even though there is travel planned but I am going to not let that affect how I live my life. I am pretty lucky that way.

Over n out.

Modern Love - Call for partnerships

Sent this email to a select set of people. Reply if you are in.
Hello, 
Writing in to explore your opinion (and help) on a new project that I am hoping to create. 
I call it Modern Love and its going to be a collection of personal stories, anecdotes, experiences, incidents and other such things that emerge out of a middle-aged, modern Indian's pursuit of love. Of course, love could mean different things to different people. For some, it could be the love for their pet, for some it could be the chase of someone that they can retire with, for others it could be finding meaning in their otherwise drab married lives, or could be as cool as the love for a certain activity, thing, say driving?
Plus when I say modern, it HAS to be set in modern India, in the contemporary times. And it has to be a real life story. Your story. Your friends'. Your neighbours. Or of the guy next door. A real person with real emotions. Real story. So imagine you are writing about your experiences with your spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, pets, colleagues, tinder dates, okCupid contacts, twitter crushes, train-friends, building buddies, instagram celebrities and so on and so forth. The common "thread" for this collection has to be modernity. And the impact of modernity on how we Indians love (or express it, or talk about it, or experience it, or indulge in it etc).

That's it!

What do you think? Will you want to contribute a story? Will you want to read these stories? Will you have the time to edit this? Will you want to tweet about this?

If yes, here are the specifics.

Who can contribute?: Each of you is a writer (some of you are published, some believe you are amateurs, some do blogs and some want to be; Plus, I've interacted with you at some point in time) and thus this email. How about I invite you to write a piece on modern love and share with me? And then allow me to publish on a blog.

Output:I am thinking of a blog right now. Once we have a blog out, if we get traction, I can pester Grapevine, my publisher or Crossword (the bookstore) to publish an anthology. Honestly, not a big fan of anthologies but I never say never :) Or we can gather all stories and do an ebook or something - free distribution over a blog / twitter etc. Nothing fancy.

And if all goes well, I would REALLY like to do a movie. Like Love Actually, Paris, Jetaime, NY, I Love You or even Metro from closer home. Yes, a super long shot but when they landed on moon, it was a long shot come true.

The thing is, the way Christmas binds the stories in Love Actually; Paris, NY and Mumbai bound the stories together in other three movies, I would want Love and Modern Love to bind our stories together. And no. It doesnt have to be hyperlink cinema. 
Target Audience: I do NOT believe in writing for a specific audience. I write for writing. However if this helps you write, think that you are writing for a 30-something adult in India. Above average income, independent, "educated" and has been in and out of love for some time. Someone who is aware of the world around him. Someone who has an opinion. Someone who believes that his / her love story is unique. Someone like me.

Word Limits: None. I am ok with a couplet. I am ok with an entire book. You are free to a Proust if you want to. You decide. How many words do you need to tell your story? 
Selection Criteria: I don't know. I am not a great judge. I thinking that each submission will be made live on a blog. And then let the wisdom of crowds take over. Or I will ask some of you to volunteer and help us.

Money: I am not even thinking on this. But, in case you are, whatever money we make, I will keep the numbers in public domain and all of it will be donated to Mensa India (or any other apt beneficiary we can think of). Please do NOT do this for money. Rather, do this for love!

End Notes: And like all my projects, this remains open - in terms of details. And unlike other projects, I am very sure that I want to do this.

It would be such a heartwarming thing to read stories of other people like ourselves. No?

Also, you may want to read www.nytimes.com/column/modern-love for some fascinating reading. And I think Love Actually is the closest thing to what I have in my head for this project.

Please do revert to me with your thoughts and ideas. In case you are ok with the details I've shared, please do send me a confirmation of your participation by end the week?

Will take it from there.

Thanks for your patience.

Regards,
@saurabh

Rant: #foreverAlone and loneliness

So, in this year (2017),
  • I promised myself that I was not going to crib.
  • I decided that unless I wrote 5000 words in a week, I was not going to have Coke. And in the process get Book2 Publishing-ready. I haven't written shit and yet, as I write this, I am on coke. 
  • I wanted to work on getting over sgMS. This meant creating more opportunities to bump into great women.
  • I wanted to get fit (32" at least, if not 30). Run a half-marathon (if not the full), work towards climbing the Everest. 
  • I wanted to make money (enough to allow me to not work) and work towards that large impact that I wanted to make.
  • I wanted to be the best year of my life. The best version of SG ever. 

And things were all looking up for the first few days of this year. I picked pool, I started with guitar, I started working on the next book. I started reading. I was going for walks often. I was doing so much that I felt like 16 all over again. The way I haven't felt in a long long time. I was, like Red, "... a free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain." I am the beginning of a journey and while I know where I want to be, I dont know how I would go there. Free man (well, almost), long journey (yes), conclusion is uncertain (yes)!

But, then I dont know what struck me. Things have been on a downhill last few days and this weekend I think was the worst so far. This is the week (and weekend) where all went for a toss. The momentum (if there was one) that I had built since the beginning of 2017 is down the drain. I will have to restart all over again. From scratch. 

The weekend sucked like no other. Even though I did EVERYthing that you would expect a 34-year old single man to do on a weekend - played pool (on Sat and on Sun), met a couple of friends (one for work and one for mental masturbation), went on a date (with a really intelligent, funny, easy going, beautiful woman, who seemed to enjoy my company), wrote some, read some (finished third book in 2017 - fiction, Hindi, Ved Prakash Sharma), cleaned a room that's been in mess since I moved, slept, even had Diet Coke (3 at that! Had to break a promise but I had to - I was feeling super shitty about myself).

Now that I've put this on paper, I realize that this is actually FAR more than I've ever packed in a weekend. I must be tired by now (its 8:30 PM on a Sunday) as I write this (note: finishing this at 10:05 AM on Monday). And I am. Honestly I am. And no, its not physical exhaustion. I am tired in my head. There is this load on my head for I don't know what. And I have tried really hard to pin point the cause and I cant seem to find it! And this inability to find the answers is bugging me ever more! 

Thing is, I believe I have a sane head on my shoulders that is capable of thinking and being objective about things. I can reason. I can zoom out and try and understand what is affecting me through different vantage points. And that's what I did. I tried to look at myself from different vantage points and here is the list.

The Shrink
I would've admitted to a doc that I am lonely. I terribly miss having someone around me. Someone who treats me as the centre of her universe. And most importantly, someone who allows me to make her the centre of my universe. And someone who acknowledges it. Gives me confidence that she's with me. And no, its not easy to find someone like that. Lucky are those who have someone like that. Actually luckier are those who dont need someone like that.

Coming back, I was so lonely that I took my rants to twitter (side note: I did get AA to come have a drink Diet Coke with me).
I think I have started to feel the need of having someone around. Age does funny things to people!

So, am I ready for Shaadi? I dont know. I am not sure if I can take on the responsibility just as yet - theres' so many things that I am supposed to do before I "settle" down. And yes, shaadi is settling down. Because you have another person's life attached to you. You have one another family to look after. Agreed your partner looks after you and all that but I think that the idea of two things coming together is to make things stronger, not weaker. Marriage adds variables and infinite amount of complexity and thus it makes the entire thing weaker. How? Here are some scenarios:
  • You want to quit your job and write a book? You can't because you have to feed more mouths. Agreed that the partner could work and you chase your passion (or vice versa). What if partner wants to chase passion as well? It becomes the battle between two passions. 
  • You want to move cities / countries. You cant because you have another career to consider. 
  • Health. You cant seem to manage how fit are you. And here is one more person's health to keep a track of. 
I can go on and on about the added complexity. I am very vocal about making lives simpler and shaadi is an opposite of that! Plus, a shaadi is such an investment of time, energy and don't know what all.

The pragmatic side of me tells me to make an excel sheet (discussed with AA yesterday) and evaluate options on it and then settle down. With someone who has such a huge passion project that I am happy getting a stable naukri. Or with someone who has no passion and I can continue to chase randomness. On the other hand, the die-hard romantic in me wants to wait till cupid strikes. 

And the without-thinking-reacting-acting me wants someone who's... 


In an ideal scenario, I would want to be around someone who has a passion project that is independent of how things are with me.

Do I have someone like that? No.

Do they make someone like that? Am sure they do.

Am I the best person for that person? May be. But I am willing to work on it. All great relationships are about working on them. No?

Anyhow, the shrink will ask me to get married. No discussion on pros or cons or anything like that. Just get married. Simple.

The Career Counsellor
This is a tough one.

Apart from the loneliness, I think the thing that is killing me is the inability to find meaning with work. I know what I want to do (work at the intersection of technology, entertainment and communication, may be sports) - I enjoy what I do. I make enough money to pay my bills. I have enough opportunities to contribute.

But for some reason, I am not happy. It could be the scale of work I do, the money I make, the impact I make, the number of people I reach, the expression, the lives I change, the visibility of what I do, recognition (do I want this? I dont know), inability to hustle, or one of million other things.

May be its the absence of flow? Thing is, when I look back at the times when I have been in the flow, it has happened when I am:
  • creating something - writing, researching, talking about new things
  • talking - to a stranger, addressing a team
  • travelling - while I dont eat more than half the things, I suck at small talk, I love being on the road - it keeps the curious kid in me excited.
With what I do, I think flow is increasingly absent. Probably its natural evolution. I am no longer a creator. And as a manager I am often interrupted and I need to chase things. And flow with that may not happen.

So there is this battle between being a creator and growing up. Its a battle between making money and making impact. In the ideal world, Id do both. But then the world is not ideal. No?

But apart from this, dont think there's anything wrong! The career counsellor will thus tell me to stop ranting and get back to office and deliver that damn presentation that's been pending on my desk for three weeks. 

The Fitness Trainer
He would see someone who's making a serious attempt - within his circumstances. I am going for walks when I can. I am eating in moderation. I am trying to be active. Of course I can do so much more.

The fitness trainer would ask me to buckle and do more. Lot more. And yes I am capable of doing it. Today on!

Friends
Realized that I dont have deeper connections that most people have. If I were to die today, I dont know how many will stop what they were upto and attend the funeral. And no, I am not just talking about the funeral but I am talking about things that you need friends for. A shoulder to lean on. The kind of friendship that they talk about in books like The Count of Monte Cristo. The kind of friendship that makes you want to lay your lives for! The kinds that does not allow the vacuum to creep into your life when you're bugged on a weekend.

May be this vacuum adds to my unhappiness?

Or may be I need to embrace solitude? Read Walden's opinion on it.

Also, as an objective thinker, may be I dont have friends cos I dont invest myself in their lives. After all reciprocation works better than most other things na? I am not sure. I dont know.

And this is when I am thinking deeply about relationships. My sis shared something the other day where some scientists have proven that if you want to achieve more and live happy, you have to have happy and deep and meaningful relationships.

I dont have any. May be that's why I am unhappy? I ought to work on this. In fact the key takeaway of this post for me would be to go and attempt to fix my relationships. Of course it will start with an investigation on why I dont have these in the first place. And then go about fixing them.

More eventually.

But, the friends will tell me (as they already do) to stop taking things seriously, remove the burden from head, lower expectations from self and get laid. Lol! What else do you expect from them? :). I love em!

Family
I am forced to put an "all is well." facade. Because I cant tell them that I am not happy. Thing is, I dont know how to tell them that things are not alright. I mean I dont even know what is not right. If I knew, I would fix it. No?

The sad bit is that I have had the most brilliant opportunity to have born in such a supportive family and it sucks to not make them aware. We are in this together. Thats the closest to we that we would ever be. Everything else is me. I. Ego. Ahamkaar. Etc.

But I cant. I dont know what to tell them.

And no, I dont want to hide things either. Thus this blog - helps me pour the heart out. Allow me to feel good about publishing something - if not a piece of fiction, account of shit in my head.

So, if they knew, my family would tell me to do things that make me happy and if there is absence of that spark in life, they'd ask me to come back and take it easy,

Random Bystander on the Internet
To a random bystander on the Internet, I will be a dark, bald, middle-aged man that cribs a lot about problems that are not unique to him. He needs to see a shrink, get treated for depression and top of it all, get laid. And then, get a life.

They would tell me to.. wait. They will not tell me anything. I am not a celeb. And whatever little trolls that I get, I ignore them.

You?
Whoever you are, if you are reading this, tell me what is your evaluation of who I am. My entire life is like an open book. Divided between this blog, my twitter handle, my LinkedIn profile and the Facebook page you have access to everything - what I think of, my opinions and my deepest, darkest thoughts, am ambitions, my fears and everything else that makes a man, man.

Me!
The last and probably most important vantage point. Mine. My perspective. On me. As unbiased as it could be.

I dont have to do the evaluation thingy here. I know what I am and who I am. I'd just tell myself to get some patience, buckle up and continue doing what I've been doing. And most importantly, remind myself that this too shall pass.


***

So, now that I've exhausted these vantage points, am I closer to an answer? Damned I am not.

Do I feel good about who I am and how I spend the day. No I dont.

Is the dopamine going through my blood faster? No!

Do I see meaning in what I do? Who I am? Where I am? No!

Am I little less lonely? No I am not. In fact I think I am so lonesome that I can die. I mean it. There are friends, there's family and there are tons of people around me. But the one that I want to be with, I dont have her around me. I miss her. I crave for her. Or may be its just the thought of her that I sort of miss? May be. May be not.

Ok. enough.

That's it for this post. Do write in if you happen to read this. You know my email address.

Over and out.

P.S.: I am not sure if I am depressed. Over times I've used the term loosely but this time things may be real. Need to see a doc and figure out. Once I am back. 

P.P.S.: Yesterday I was talking to AA and it dawned on me that you dont create impact if you sail with that goal in your mind. The idea is to do things per your understanding and nudge people towards the impact. I think that makes a lot of sense. More on this in the next blogpost. 

P.P.P.S.:  Some months back someone wrote about Urban Poors. NY times has Modern Love (with context largely set in America.). I think I need to write about Modern Love in India - especially for people like me. The ones at the verge of middle-life crisis - old, single, busy with work, ambitious, underachievers. What say? Want in? 

P.P.P.P.S.: Song of the day? Pyasa's Jaane Wo Kaise Log They.

Rant on Digital India

This is a long rant on my inability to get a half-decent Internet connection. Read at peril and with caution. Lots of cuss words.

Context
So, ladies and gents, as you may know, I am a computer-science graduate. I run an events agency and a digital marketing business. All my life's content is on a cloud storage. I use a iPhone as comfortably as a fashion model handles those stilettos on a ramp. I live at a pretty affluent neighbourhood in Mumbai in an even more affluent apartment complex (rented, shared and "semi-furnished"). I use Vodafone as a mobile-service provider, which is probably amongst the top 3 telcos in the world and is generally priced at a premium. My sis worked for Vodafone for 5 years. My ex-roommate continues to head one of the most important divisions there. A really good friend from MDI heads a product division there. So, I am pretty connected at Vodafone. I get access to a level of service that most others dont. And yet! I will come back to this.

The rant!
The place where I live, that locality is "owned" by this politician that controls everything happening around here. Might sound like bullshit in this day and age but he does. From the maids to shops around the building to servicemen to nariyal paani wala to brokers to the fucking Internet Service Provider, all are controlled by him. And since he controls the shit, he can actually choose who delivers what service to the complex. Including the ISP.

But I did not know this when I moved here. In fact when I moved, I had to choose between his ISP and MTNL (the state-owned-operated telco). The commonsensical man in me told me that MTNL is of no use and I must get the alternative. And I promptly did that. Little did I know that his ISP is probably the most fucked up I've ever experienced. Bad speed, unreliable service, unresponsive support staff that doesn't know an IP address from a MAC address (wait, do I know? I dont. But am I a service provider?).

So after a month or so, I moved to MTNL, which is another story in itself. I will not digress. When MTNL started giving me trouble, I started looking for alternatives. And this is when I realised his clout. Apparently if you want to operate in the complex as an ISP, you have to use said politicians' ISP as support network and of course they can hold you ransom. And no, I am not making this up. They did that to me. I was not allowed to get a new connection (from a different company) because I refused to pay for shoddy service.

Oh, the most established ones, the Airtels of the world do not provide internet because they dont have enough subscribers. Why? Because everyone else in the complex is using either the politicians' broadband or MTNL and no one seems to be bothered about it.

This is where I could have relied on Vodafone. I am happy paying for a service that I use. And I am super happy paying for Internet, well its the lifeline. But Vodafone is another story. I do not get coverage at my place. Apparently the floor I live at is very high for them to ensure connectivity. No, they do not know that these days planes that fly at 33000 feet or something have fast mobile connections and Internet. They just cant ensure connectivity on the 24th floor. So when am home, I am living in a cage - no Internet (because of what I said above), no mobile (because Vodafone cant put a booster for just one house, even though my ARPU is like 5000 bucks and on top my sis knows EXACTLY the guy who can make it happen).

And when I am out, couple of days ago, Vodafone decided that I have exhausted all mobile data (even though their official app shows that I have data left) and I am downgraded to 2G. And no, I cant buy more packs as the packs are already active on my connection. So, all in all, I am pretty handicapped right now. My work is suffering - no I am not giving bahanas - I am just lamenting.

As a result, here I am. On a day when we are celebrating our constitution. Forced to workout from a business that is American and yet has found a way to operate in India. Irony much?

Anyhow. So, while we usher in the cashless economy and digital India (which I totally support), I remain in the dark ages. And I realise that I will continue to do so till the time I become someone who can influence things around him. For starters, grow the balls to tell the politician to fix things. I cant even do that. I choose to remain a faceless blog on the Internet and do a fucking candle-light march of the blogosphere.

And if you are living in an illusion, no, we are not yet free. We are not yet republic. We are and we shall remain in the dark ages till we sort us the people who cede the power and control and respect to a handful few.

Because of all this, my work suffer -- I refuse to budge down and get a connection from the said person (and Vodafone can't help). I refuse to give him my business. I know that my 1500 bucks a month is not significant to the billionaire politician (who apparently owns 2 benami flats in the said complex). I in my head is making a change. I dont know if this change will impact anyone in the long run. The point is, I am without an Internet connection. And there is no solution. Even if I throw money at it. So yeah. Damn!!

Over n out.

Posted from a Starbucks outlet - because they have a ISP that actually works. And no, its not owned by a politician. And no, the ISP is not Vodafone India.

Filed under: Urban Poor, First World Problems, Internet, Vodafone, ISP, Rant

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?