2014. The year that will be.

John Trever. Via Log 24
Its that time of the year. When everyone gets into the rut of making resolutions for the coming new year. And since I am a mere mortal I have to give in to the temptation of making a list and adding more noise to already existing noise.

Here is my list. And if all goes well, by the end of 2014,
  • I would have published at least one book. Most likely, it would be The Nidhi Kapoor Story.
  • I would be 30" in diameter. I am far more than right now. 
  • I would have saved enough to not work for someone else. Enough said. 
  • I would have learnt to code. Atleast code WP plugins and themes.
  • I would have learnt how to play guitar. At least the 25 most played songs on my playlist. 
  • I would've done all the things that I have listed here. This is a private list, in case you were wondering. 

And everyday, I would do the following...
  • Write 1500 words. Towards a book or towards this blog or towards yet another writing project. 
  • Think of ten ideas. As recommended by James Altucher.
  • Workout for 30 minutes. It could be a walk, a swim, a session of yoga (I attend Yoga Kuteer) or something on similar lines. 

And often I would...
  • Meet strangers. I want to meet one new person a day but I know its tough to do so. I would try to meet at least one stranger a week. I'd call it #meetAStranger or something. 
  • Create and put out a new project once a month at least. This could be a business, could be a text, could be a blog etc. I think I would work on all those ideas that I have saved on my parkedIdeas tag. 
  • Read a book every week. I will use tips from this Farnam Street post to help me reach my goal. 

Thats all I want to do. In 2014.

Come to think of it, at my age, when I should be changing the world and making the dent et al, here I am, trying to write a book. Sigh. But then I guess I need to take small steps towards greatness. The endeavor to make the dent remains. Like Archimedes said, "Give me a lever long enough and I would move the Earth", I will move the Earth. If I dont get the lever, I would make one. But there is no doubt I would. 

That's it I guess. Wish everyone a very happy new 2014. May the new year be full of health, love, luck and happiness.

P.S.: To arrive at this list, I have taken inspiration and lifted ideas from the likes of Steve PressfieldJames AltucherChris GuillebeauFarnam Street and others.

P.P.S.: Need to stop using all the extra "And"s.

2013. The year that was.

So 2013 is almost over. Its time to take a stock of what all I did in this year. In fact this is first in line of many posts that I would hope to write over the next week talking about 2013 and 2014.

In numbers
  • 3 - number of countries I travelled to. Out of these three, one was a new country. Now that I dont have that awesome naukri, firang travel is increasingly going to be tough. 
  • 4 - number of jobs that I have held after I finished my MBA. In almost 8 years. 
  • 100 - the number of posts that I published on this blog in this year. Including this one. Apart from these 100, I have published almost 1138 posts over the last ten years. Yes, its been ten years since I started writing this blog. And a lot of good things have happened to me because of this blog. 
  • 150 - number of likes on my book's FB page. If you haven't, here is an opportunity. I normally do not pimp these links but I am going all-in with the book and there is no stone that I would leave unturned. 
  • 434.50 - in rupees, the lowest my bank balance reached before I was rescued from the sub-prime crisis. 
  • 73 332 - words I wrote for The Nidhi Kapoor Story, my first book. The book is still not complete though. I had hoped I would be able to. 

In terms of milestones
  • May - wrote the first chapter of my first book. I never planned to convert it into a book while I was woking on it but guess somethings are meant to happen. 
  • Jul - took a sabbatical from full time employment to work on my book. And work on the business that I put money in. I am out of it now. 
  • Nov - Roadtripped in US. Covered about 5000 miles in 12 days. Havent had the time to write my posts about this. I hope to do this soon. By January of 2014 I think.
  • Dec - Finish first draft of tnks. I could not. 

The year, like the rest of my life, has been all over the place. In 2014, I hope to change all this and give things a little direction. The big big dream about making a dent is still alive. Would be alive for another three or so years, before I am forced to settle down. And if that happens, it would be very very unfortunate.

The other thing that I realized while writing this is that there isn't much to talk about for the year. I mean there is this attempt to seed and run a business, attempt to write a book but there is nothing to talk about when I look back at the year from a time in future. There have been attempts but there are no outcomes. I need to look towards outcomes, rather than attempts.

Going forward, in 2014, I need to have years that I can write boast about in my biography, if I get to write one! Hope 2014 is a stepping stone. If you are the kinds to believe in God, do pray for me. Guess only thing that can help me, is divine intervention!

Thats it for my yearly report. More posts on 2014 coming soon.

P.S.: I made similar lists in 20082009, 2011.

Reading vs Hearing

Posted originally on The Nidhi Kapoor Story blog.

Yesterday I was dinnering with a friend and talking about The Nidhi Kapoor Story. While we were at it, he told me something very insightful about the way I write. He said, "my sentence structure is very conversational."

I did not understand this at first. When I prodded him more, he said that he meant that when he reads things that I write, he does not have to make any special efforts to comprehend what he is reading (aka what I've written). Its like someone talking to him. Its like a regular, everyday conversation that two people are engaged in. There is back and forth of ideas, thoughts. The words, the sentences, the meaning is plain jane and is commonplace. He said he could consume it while sleeping and yet comprehend it.

So, next, I asked him, "What is the other kind?"

He said, the one where you use flowery language and you write with the intent of using words to exaggerate the meaning, club them with other interesting words to create poetry. Poetry not as poems but poetry as expression. Where, while reading, you need to focus on what is written. Where, when you do comprehend what is written, you are filled with pleasure. Pleased at the ingenuity of the writer. For example, Jack Kerouac's brilliant timeless piece, "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."

When was the last time you heard someone use "burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles" in a day to day conversation? Unless you were talking to a drunk man. Or unless you were sitting across a poet high on something. Or unless it was a philosopher. Such people, like Jack, they think in rhymes. They ponder over deeper meaning of words. And they have a mastery over human emotions. And then equipped with all this, they coin new words and twist the rules of grammar, rules of language to create masterpieces. It must be such a pleasing sight to see such masters in action.

Truth be told, I would love to create poetry like that. I believe that its my reason, my purpose. To create poetry I mean. But I am not equipped to do it right now. In some time may be. I shall wait. Hopefully you guys wait as well.

And, second truth be told, I could get offended at the entire commonplace and plain jane remark but I choose to take it as a compliment. The Nidhi Kapoor Story is an important milestone in my writing career and I plan to, want to, evolve as a writer with every such milestone.

Anyway before I get into a rant, to summarize, writing is a battle between prowess with words to create poetry vs intent of narrating the story as if you're talking out loud. I am definitely the later kinds. What about you? What is your forte? Writing poems? Talking / Thinking out loud?

The happiness formula

tnks' FB cover
I have spoken about happiness multiple times in past. Its the single most important things that I chase. I know there are multiple schools of thought. Some say its fleeting, some say its a process, some says its the outcome. I dont know all of that. I am not evolved enough to be able to talk about all that.

But I do know something that made me happy today. And I hope that somehow, I can continue doing it over and over again. And its pretty simple to be honest.

All I need to do is to wake up early, take a shower, head to the nearest coffee shop (preferably Starbucks), plug in my favorite music. And write. Write till I am dead with exhaustion. And then eat a lot and then sleep. Yes, I am that simple. All the gibberish talk about starting up, getting rich, changing the world, making a dent etc sound so small when I am in the zone and writing. And not just writing but debating about each work, thinking on the fly, creating, molding, killing my characters. Its a lot of fun.

Just need to make this into a routine, over the next few months.

Nidhi Kapoor BSODed

Posted originally on The Nidhi Kapoor Blog. This is a slightly modified version. 

Unlike most writers, I write on a Windows based laptop. And I initially used tools like OmniwriterScrivener etc to get things written.

But then, as I went along, despite all the rich features that these writing tools offer, I craved for simplicity and flow. And thus, once I reached beyond 50,000 words, I moved my files back to good old Microsoft Word. All was hunky dory, things were great, till the blue monster showed his face. I am talking about Blue Screen Of Death aka BSOD.

The dreaded BSOD
Just when I was writing the climax scene of the story, the computer crashed. And along with it, it took the entire word document. And no, I could not recover it. The word document got corrupted and I tried retrieving it but despite all efforts and all software, only thing I got was a 200 page word document full of gibberish. It was as if my work of the last five months was reduced to the infinite monkeys punching on the keyboard at random.

I have nothing against getting compared to monkeys but what about all those promises I've made to all the friends? to myself? the promise I made to readers of tnks? What about my dreams of becoming a full-time writer? There were a million questions and I hit the panic button. And hit it again and again, so hard that I almost broke it.

But somehow, while I was shitting bricks, I remembered that I still have the story saved as a Scrivener project. I fired it up and voila, I had a large chunk of story there. I had shifted to Word about two weeks back and hence apart from whatever I did in last two weeks, the entire story was there.

If I could be honest, since I started writing the book, the last two weeks were when I made real progress, real breakthrough in the story. I made it lot more deeper, lot more interesting, lot more complex. I added layers and introduced more characters. I even killed an important character and un-killed someone who I had killed in the second chapter. Sadly, I cant recover any of what I wrote in last few days but the bright side is that I was not back to zero. Just that two weeks of my life went down the drain.

Thankfully, the story, the plot and the twists are still fresh in my head. With little extra effort, I am sure I can recreate all of it. Despite the setbacks, I remain committed to my deadline of finishing the first draft by end of the year. And I promise I will.

I dont know who to blame about the fiasco. The old laptop, or the operating system, or all the applications installed on my computer, or all the multiple windows that I keep open, or myself for being so callous about something as important as #tnks.

So lessons learnt?

  • A. Always always always take backup. Three times. And buy insurance. Just that you need to understand the pricing. 
  • B. Keep calm and carry on. I shouldn’t have panicked. Things always tend to workout in the end. 

Someone buy me this notepad! 
Thats it!

And while I work towards writing longer and harder to finish the book in time, do help me spread word by sharing / liking the fb page. I am also looking for someone to help me with design around the book. If you know someone who can help me, do let me know.

And finally, please let me know if you would want to read and review the first draft of The Nidhi Kapoor Story. 

I. Yoga.

Image Credits: Anonymous. Found here.
Ladies, gentlemen, friends, fellow countrymen and other minions of the world,

With one simple stroke, a sheer brilliant one at that, I have done the impossible. I have dislodged Nidhi Kapoors, Arvind Kejriwals, Sections 377, Tarun Tejpals and other such news hogs of the world from their usual position on the top of my mind. And replaced all those with one word. Fitness. And replaced all the thoughts with one thought only. I need to get fit. And replaced all my frivolous actions with one. Chase of personal excellence. Ok scratch that personal excellence bit.

In short, I have now joined a fancy Yoga training regime. And I have been doing it for a week. And I am loving it.

The regime includes alternate day visits to a yoga studio about 25 KMs from where I live, at 7 in the morning. At the studio, I have a personal instructor that spends anywhere between 20 minutes and one hour with me and works on my breathing, poses and peace. All of this, in attempt to make me healthy, peaceful, effective and better.

And if I could make an confession, even though its just been a week, it has been amongst the best experiences that I have had in a long long time. Its been so good that I am wondering why din't I do this sooner. Actually, for the sooner bit, I have no one but myself to blame. I thought yoga was yet another Indian thing that the new media and collective conscious of the modern, evolved, educated world has made popular (other things include naturopathy, homeopathy, social media, Arvind Kejriwal etc). But like they say, if something has to happen, it will happen. I was nudged pushed into this amazing world of yoga and I have been enjoying it immensely.

It did not come easy to be honest. My sis had to pester me forever to go join the classes. sgMS had to consistently ignore my existence and my attempts to woo her back. A cute stranger with beautiful hair and smile had to remind me that I am fat and ugly, when I made a pass at her. My folks had to get angry and inform me of my limited and fast-dwindling supply of money. Nidhi Kapoor had to remind me that I have made no progress, no breakthrough in the story, even though I am so close to the deadline. My body had to remind me that I am not young anymore. In short, everything that I care for, except that stranger with long hair, was gaping at me and questioning my choices in life.

I did not see a way out and initially joined these classes to shut all these people up. You know how it is when you think you know better than anyone else and you do something just to stop all the noises in your head?

In terms of doing it, I do it with all seriousness that you expect from a 31 year, balding, single, almost poor man. The one that starts with pumping a mini fortune, buying ALL the equipment that you may potentially need in the next ten years that you'd do it seriously. And the one that ends next day, at all that equipment getting stowed in crevices and shelves in your house that you never knew existed. You know, I have all the paraphernalia. An expensive yoga mat, a set of clothes made by a brand that only makes and sells yoga merchandise, expensive music bought from iTunes that helps me in meditating, an acupressure chappal that is more expensive that a Nike and a routine that has made me start questioning my erstwhile choices in life. 

But now that I am doing it, I dont see myself not doing it ever. Ever. I just need to figure out if yoga can help me fix my bald head!

Warm Regards,
Saurabh "Nouveau Riche" Garg

Oh, one more thing. You may want to give it a shot. Trust me its awesome! And watch out for more posts on yoga in the next few days.

What to expect from #tnks?

Originally posted on the Nidhi Kapoor blog.

Dear Reader of The Nidhi Kapoor Story,

In my opinion, a book is like any other product. Or a service. You pay a certain amount of money to buy / avail it and you put in a certain amount of time using / consuming it. And in return, you expect a certain amount of satisfaction. Money and time are tangible, I can measure them. Satisfaction is not. I cant measure it.

So before you commit either of the two, I thought I would make you aware of a few things about The Nidhi Kapoor Story (#tkns). This could also act as a sort of a disclaimer. Disclaimer in terms of what to expect from the story.

The story is very important to me
#tnks is one of the most important projects of my life. For a lot of reasons. For starters, this is the first time when I've taken a sabbatical and I know what I want to do with. This is the first time I am trying to write a full length fictional book. This is the first time I am going all-in with a project. This is the first time when I am actually trying to work towards a long held dream.

The promise
I made the promise that it would be worth your time to read the story. And I would do everything to fulfill the promise. I hope you would like what you read. If you do, please let me know. Nothing works better than feedback from people who've liked what you've written.

However if you do not like it, its even more important that you write to me and let me know that you did not like it. The best way to reach me is on email. For a faster response, please ping me on twitter.

As good as I am 
#tnks is as good as I am. Not more. Not less. I am putting my best foot forward with it. I am putting in 6 very important months of my life on this project. And this is a very visible project. I do no want to fail at it. Someone once said, "I am scared of failure". So am I. I will do whatever it takes to not fail with this story. I even made a tiny post-it note and stuck on my wall.

But all said and done, the story would be as good as I am. It will be bound by my imagination.

English as a language
I am not a native English speaker and I am not good with complex constructs of the language. Please expect a lot of mistakes in grammar, sentence formation, tenses, verbs etc. I am trying hard to improve on these things but I think I have hit my limit. I may not be able to come upto the standards of literary geniuses and The Grammar Nazis.

So, while reading it, if you find that I have massacred the language, please excuse me.

Original Story
The Nidhi Kapoor Story is an original piece of work. I hate the very concept of plagiarism.

Years back I used to maintain a fan-site for Lucky Ali and one fine morning I see pieces from the text I wrote appear on front page of Delhi Times without any attribution or credit. I couldn't take on the might of TOI and I couldn't do anything about it. For them, it was one of the million pieces of texts that they print on their paper. For me, it was my life. I put everything I had into that website. And I felt cheated. I felt dejected. I felt as if I have been robbed of everything I had. Its an extreme reaction and that blog meant that much to me. It taught me how it feels to be on the receiving end.

Thanks to that incident, I have never even thought of copying from someone else. And I am proud to say that the Nidhi Kapoor Story is my original work. The story, characters, plots, locations, everything else is inspired from real life people and real life incidents. However, if it does looks similar to something else, I assure you that it is purely coincidental. Please do let me know if you find similarities.

I guess that's about it for the time being. Hope these things help you make an informed decision about #tnks. In case you choose to read it, I would love to know what you thought about the story. And if you dont, I would love to know why you dint. Please do write in.

And, like always, thank you for reading this.

Saurabh Garg

P.S.: This may not be important for anyone else, but for me, its very very important. Because I would be custodian for your investment. Its my moral responsibility to ensure that your time and money is spent well.

Love Actually. Movie Review.

For a 30+ year old man, I realized that I am very very melodramatic. And I am the king of mush, if I may. I mean I have always known that I like romantic comedies (Notting Hill, Maine Pyar Kiya, Serendipity, DDLJ and others) but I did not know that I would be such a sucker for well told romantic stories. Before I go ahead with writing a review / post, a note to self: must try and write a romantic story. 

So I was on this long flight over the Atlantic and I had nothing to do. I was forced to turn on the 6" or so wide screen and this film, Love Actually, caught my fancy. My film policy is that I want to watch the first ten minutes of a movie and then see if I want to see the entire thing.

Love Actually is like an anthology of love stories of a few different couples characters that are loosely related to each other. Remember NY, I Love You? Life in a Metro? Its like multiple stories in one story. I am very very sure that I want to write one of these cities of love things. May be Delhi, may be Mumbai. In 2014, I promise I would write.

Anyway, coming back to the movie, the ten minute test that I have for films, Love Actually passed it with flying colours. In fact the first few minutes-when the aging rockstar sings the modified version of an old British classic, Love Is All Around-set the tone of the movie for me. The way that actor goes about performing for that song on screen, I could give an arm and a leg to see him doing that for real. He's singing it with so much passion, so much energy, a child-like enthusiasm and that thing, that in Delhi we call, feel. Its contagious. Its addictive. Its viral. I want to see it over and over again and keep watching it on loop. Its done so so well. Watch it here.

And after that sequence, the movie gets into other various characters and their stories. And despite numerous characters and their complex professions and obsessions, I was hooked. So hooked that a part of me did not want the stories to end. And a part of me wanted the characters to find their true love and see them living happily ever after. Any story that can tear your thoughts into two polar opinions has to be a great story.

Each character's story has something endearing about it. Each story is believable, each is very much possible, if you ask me. Each story could happen to you. Or people around you. For example, the love story of a guy madly in love with a woman that his friend is getting married to. Its like a typical one sided love that most Indian men (at least me) have fallen into. The guy doesnt have the balls to admit his love for the woman, for whatever reasons. But then he finally comes out of the closet and admits his love for the woman. It has to be amongst the most beautifully penned and shot proposal scenes that I've ever seen. Without a doubt.

Then there are other stories, of a writer who finds love in a house maid who cant speak English (the third best story in my opinion), a school kid who is infatuated with a classmate, even the British PM who falls for a staffer at his residence, an office romance between an old boss and a young secretary. Every story has a nice ring to it. Each story is well thought, well crafted, well written. Each story is better than most full length features that we create in the name of cinema in India.

Its a beautifully written movie. For the love of reading, I would love to read it as a book, more than a movie.

I would love to talk about production value, direction, music etc but then its one of those movies that indulge you so much that you seem to ignore everything. At least I did. I wouldnt want to talk about those things and spoil the gooey warm melted chocolate feeling that even talking about the movie induces in me. Gooey warm melted chocolate - wtf am I high on? 

So, yeah, its one of those movies that you just can not miss. If you haven't seen it yet, please do YOURself a favour and go see it. Its totally worth your time.

And anyway, Christmas is just around the corner. You ought to take out time and watch it, even if you dont like movies. If you do, trust me love will take an entirely new meaning. And to end the review, like The Troggs' say, "I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes // Love is all around me, and the feeling grows", ladies and gentlemen, let go and let the feelings grow.

Oh, one more thing. Thank you Reg Presley. Thank you Richard Curtis.

P.S. Starting 1 Dec, I would attempt to make another streak of one post a day. And 1000 words a day. December is a tough month, I need to finish tnks and another compilation of short stories that I am working on. But I shall try and write everyday. If you dont see a post a day in December, please point out.

P.P.S.: I had decided that I would not talk about sgMS. But the movie, on a long trans-Atlantic flight, made me miss her like crazy. So crazy that if I had an option, I would have jumped off the plane, waded through the waters, walked over mountains, braved seasons to knock on her door and and ask her out fr a dinner. 

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?