Smita Patil - Unofficial Biography

Hello! So somehow I stumbled onto the life of Smita Patil and I was so fascinated that I got reading about her. The output was this Twitter thread. Here's the same thread, in the shape of an essay (originally published on SaurabhGarg.com). 


Smita Patil was an actor par excellence and above all, an extraordinary human being. She lived for all of 31 years but her legacy HAS to stay around for 31 millennia at least and this is an attempt towards that. 

If I could sum her life in 3 bullet points, I'd say, she was/is...
  • - a study in contrasts
  • - deeply compassionate, especially towards under-represented (indie filmmakers, feminists, the common folk)
  • - fearless, spoke her mind and lived life on her own terms

Lemme elaborate.

Wait. Before I start, I think she was probably not meant to be even born! 

Smita was the second child of Shivajirao Patil (a politician) and Vidyatai Patil (a social-worker/nurse). However, when her mother was pregnant with Smita, their financial condition was unstable and her mother was reluctant to continue with the pregnancy when she conceived Smita. Even when the mother went ahead with Smita, she was born premature baby (on 17 Oct '56). 

Legend says that when she was born, she had an angelic smile on her. Her mom named her Smita. Smita means "ever-smiling woman". And since she was dusky, her mother endearingly called 'Kali' or its appendages like 'Kaloba' and 'Kaluli'. 

Most of her friends call her Smi though. I will take the liberty of calling Smi in this post. 

Smi, as long as she lived, had a very strong and important relationship with her mother. Smi would often quip (in Marathi), “Tula mi nako hote na” (you didn’t want me, right?). Nothing could be far from the truth. Smi's mother has been a pivotal figure in her life. She in fact raised Prateik (Smita Patil's son) when Smi passed away at the young age of 31.

Growing up, Smi's family was based in Pune and was part of "Rashtriya Sewa Dal" where they'd travel to towns and villages across India and performed dance dramas. She'd play the role of Jijabai (Shivaji's mother). This was her early tryst with dance, acting, stage, and everything else that we know her for!

How did she get into films? Well, luck! 

One of her friends, Deepak Kirpekar, was a hobbyist photographer and would take pictures of Smita Patil in various outfits. Since the photographer's friend was a newsreader on DD (Jyotsna Kirpekar), the couple would often go to the DD office at Worli, in Mumbai. Once while they were there, the office was getting renovated and the friend spread Smita's photos on a makeshift table, while his wife was busy. These photos caught the eye of then DD director, P.V. Krishnamurthy. 

He invited Smi to audition and the rest is, well, history!

Smi started as a newsreader on DD and she was so good with her husky voice and magnetic eyes that people would rush home to catch her show! One of these was actor Vinod Khanna, who was romantically involved with Smi at a point in time.

Cut to FTII. 

A couple of students (one of them was Arun Khopkar) were looking for actresses for their Diploma Film. They asked Shabana Azmi but she was unavailable. They were lost and went walking around the FTII campus. They passed by a TV shop where the bank of TV screens was tuned onto Smita Patil, reading the news! They were stuck by "defined cheekbones and striking eyes" and decided to cast her. 

They did not know who she was but they tracked her down and convinced her to do a role in 'Teevra Madhyam'. This film is on Youtube! See it here

Post that film, Smi got to work on some roles for Shyam Benegal. These included Charandas Chor (a children's film), and Nishant (Smi shared the screen with Shabana Azmi in this one). 

Later, Benegal signed her for Bhumika, which was based on the life of Marathi actor Hansa Wadkar and her struggle to cope with her career, love, and independence. For this role, Smi won the National Award for the best actress (in 1977).

This film made her realize that films were her calling. And there was no stopping her. 

Three years later she won her second National Award, this time for Chakra (in 1980). It is said that she donated all the money that she got as the award to women's causes. She also won a Filmfare for this film (in 1982). Oh, random trivia - Nasserdduing Shah was her co-actor in both films. And years later, the two of them also auditioned for an adaptation of Gandhi. 


Her string of awards did not stop here. 

She was conferred with a Padma Shri in 1985, one of the youngest (if not THE youngest) film personalities to be awarded. The Government of India ever released a postage stamp honoring her! 


As an actor, she chose to do experimental, small, and art films over commercial ones. 

She would do films for free or tiny sums if she liked the subject and content. Case in point? Bhavani Bhavai (in 1980). The film explored caste-discrimination in Gujarat and Smi did it because she believed in the underlying theme and message of the film.

She eventually did foray into commercial cinema. She did only to expand her acting prowess. Plus she believed that if she becomes famous, she could support small filmmakers more! After all her audience would be curious to see smaller films if they featured her. She apparently said, “commercial film is a job I have to do in order to pursue my goal of helping create an audience for the small film in India.”

Even with commercial cinema, Smi refused to do films that underplayed the role of women. 

Namak Halal is a noteworthy exception. 

The 'Aaj Rapat Jaaye' track apparently pained her immensely. She was reportedly very upset with the song and after it was shot, she locked herself up in her room and cried for hours. It was only AB who could put her at ease! 

Anyhow. She did about 80 films. About 10 of those were released after she passed away. She was paired frequently with Rajesh Khanna. And with Raj Babbar (RB).  

In Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth, Smi's character loves a married man and wants to settle down with him. Ironically, the theme played out in her real life as she fell in love with RB, a married man with two kids!

Smi was married to Raj Babbar (RB) and like other things in her life, it probably wasn't meant to happen! 

Why? 

Well, for starters, RB was already married to Nadira. Second, her mother was unhappy about it. She apparently said, "I can't get out of our purana sanskar nor can I embrace contemporary morality fully." Plus, it may not have mattered to her but the very feminist institutions that she supported, labeled her "ghar todne wali" once the news broke.


But Smi and RB persisted and eventually married. Oh, and RB was still married to Nadira at this time. A big deal in Indian society. And more so in those times! 

Years later, RB said about Smi, "I would say that she was a bit mizaazwali (this is being said with all the respect and humility towards her)" 

And so yes she was! 

PS: I must add that there are unsubstantiated reports that she apparently had a turbulent, emotionally abusive marriage with RB. She reportedly planned to leave him after childbirth. Not sure of this though. 

Smi was "delighted" when she became a mother. Here is an anecdote. Soon after PB was born, she developed a high fever (104 degrees). She put ice packs on her body and fed him! 

PS: I can write a LOT about the early days of Prateik Babbar and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip it.

Smita Patil is probably the most remarkable person I have come to know. I don't even know how to get started talking about her. 

People that knew her to call her bindaas, bohemian, and Tom-boy-ish. And yet she stood for women's rights and the early feminism movement. Even though she would play tough, conservative roles on screen, in real life, she was the polar opposite! She was a typical bindass girl, "very liberated and progressive in her thoughts and work." She was fond of western clothes and wore off-shoulder dresses, halter tops, fitted trousers, and boots in contrast to her screen image in perfect handloom sarees.

For her news gigs, she would go to the studio in her jeans and shirt and wrap the saree neatly just minutes before the camera rolled in! 

Her mother once said, "She used to dress like a bhikaran (a tramp). She'd wear a pair of jeans, pull on a kurta (even her father’s), Kolhapuri chappals, tie her hair into a bun and rush out. She never needed a mirror. Once she was to meet a well-known editor for an interview at a restaurant. He couldn't recognize her. He kept waiting for 'actress Smita Patil', till she introduced herself. They both burst out laughing."

Smi was dedicated to women’s causes and women empowerment and wanted to change the perceptions about women. She was part of the Women’s Centre in Bombay and contributed the money earned from her awards to women’s organizations. This link is a great read about her support for the feminist movement.

I have to say that unlike most of her co-stars, she belonged to the people! Apart from taking a vocal stand for feminist causes and indie & small filmmakers, she truly was a gem a human being. She treated everyone with respect. She could be found playing volleyball with the unit boys. 

She would sit with the women of the village to catch breaks between shoots and was often unrecognizable to the public who had come to see her. Smi was a vegetarian and did not complain even at tough locations. If required, she would cook her own food, by borrowing things from the villagers. 

Once there was a rebellion in one of the units on a shoot. The workers were demanding better food. Smi tackled and ended by announcing and eating the same red rice that they were served! 

Even as a child, she was deeply compassionate. She'd bring stray cats and dogs home and feed them with milk and biscuits. She would personalize her gifts. She would write something special to make the gift special.

Smi was fond of photography, roads, drives, and adventure in general. The minute pack-up would be announced, she’d zip off! She once took off to Rajasthan and gave no explanation, no reason to anyone. When she came back a month later, she had a heap of photos she had shot on her Leica.



Once during monsoons, Smita drove Ashalata, another actress, at neck-break speed to Khandala. She jested with the scared Ashalata and said, "Imagine the fun if tomorrow the headlines carry, 'Smita and Ashalata died in a car crash'!"

Other trivia about Sri before we move on? Well, she... 
- wanted to be a director
- contributed to production and costumes
- came up with "Genesis" as the name for the new company of the veteran adman, Prahlad Kakkar.

Smi loved the sea and she wanted a sea-facing flat and yearned to enjoy the rain splashing through open windows. On her visits to see the house she was building, she would have chai from the kettle along with the workers. In fact, Smi wanted these very workers to be the first guests in her home! And they were indeed the first guests. Just that Smi had passed away by then!

The end of this fascinating life is also intriguing like the rest of it. During the shooting of Situm (1984), a handwriting expert apparently said that "She won't live long!". She herself had this uncanny 6th sense, apparently. She had a premonition about AB's Coolie accident the night before it happened! About her own life, at different times in her life, Smi apparently told...
- her younger sister that she wouldn't live long
- Mahesh Bhatt that the lifeline was short

the most freaky she told ... 
- Poonam Dhillon that she'd die at 31! 

And boy, was she right? She did die at the age of 31. Her son was all of 2 weeks old at the time.  

The most commonly held belief is that Smi died of Viral Encephalitis and most reporters write it as complications arising from childbirth. I am not sure of this though. Plus there are accounts that she died from medical negligence. And there are murmurs of murder. No, this is NOT substantiated at all. 

I'd say the cause of death is a mystery. 

Once Smi told a friend (Deepak Sawant) that when she died, she wanted to be sent off as a “Suhagan”. And as per her wishes, she was indeed decked up like a bride on her last journey.

Random Trivia - DS has worked for decades with AB as well.

As I wrap this piece about Smi, I want to mention two people here. 
- Shabana Azmi (SA)
- Prateik Babbar (PB)

A. Shabana Azmi
SA and Smi started their careers almost at the same time and they had this rollercoaster relationship. SA apparently said they "were good colleagues who could never be friends." Further, SA said, "She was born for the camera. It lingered over her face and she held it captive without the slightest effort. I felt both challenged and inspired by her as a co-actor. She was also very feminine and deeply traditional, at times easily intimidated. I think it’s these contradictions that were both her strength and her weakness. But it was also this that made her an artist who will always be spoken of when the finest actors of Indian cinema are counted."

B. Prateik Babbar
I can write a LOT about the early days of PB and how he coped with the loss of her mother! But I think I would skip those. Have to mention that PB was raised by Smi's mother. 

As I end this, two things stand out about Smita Patil. 
1. She is if not THE MOST, one of the most remarkable women I've ever come across.
2. It's uncanny how her Reel and Real lives were so similar and so starkly different! 

That's about it. Thanks for indulging. 

Oh, who would you want to read about next?
 
DISCLAIMERS 
  1. 1. All photos from Google / FB searches. I did not save the sources. Regret the laziness.
  2. 2. All info from online research that I did over a few days.
  3. 3. I don't mean to slander. Am merely presenting what I found online. If I am wrong, please do point out.
  4. A lot of this has come from various reports, press releases around the time Maithali Rao's book on Smita Patil came out (on Smi's 60 birth anniversary). It's titled Smita Patil, A Brief Incandescence. No, I have not read this. 

PS: There are talks of someone making a biopic on her life. When it comes out, I will be there. The first day, first show. I am that smitten with her!

PPS: Secret wish to Universe - I'd love to work on crafting the biopic!

Other things that I did not know how to include in the essay?  
  • Smita did not know English as a child. She learned it herself by reading Hadley Chase novels and through her friends
  • Smi would frequent FTII to see evening screenings with friends. In fact, she was so regular and frequent and commonplace, some people mistook her for a student/alumni.

Links that I read to come up with this essay? 
These are not in any order

The House Hunt Decision

This is that time of the year. NO! Not that time when there is this festive cheer in the air and everyone is happy and smiling and cheerful and in the celebration frame of mind. But the time when I go through the annual ritual of looking for a house that's good enough in my opinion and affordable enough in my pocket's opinion and unobtrusive in my friends' opinion and accessible enough in Mumbai traffic's opinion. 

You would've guessed that the combination is as rare a find as life's purposes are. 

And you would've guessed that the over-optimistic me would do whatever it takes to look for a place. Just that this time, the amount of money I want to shell out is like one-third of what I would normally do. And thus I am crunched on the decision.

And lemme vomit my thoughts on how I am thinking about this. You know, am trying to make a decision in public (without giving you the specifics).  

So here are some questions that I ask myself before I start looking for a house. 

I believe if I have to save time or money, I must do whatever it takes to save time. Money I can earn. Time I cant. And thus, I ought to choose an option that gives me more time. This often means living close to the city center. This also means that living close to public transport nodes (even though I may not use those a lot) 

Second, I believe that you need to live as close to the ecosystem as you can. If not bang in the middle. This allows you to create serendipity. You can meet newer people and it is meeting with people that opens doors. 

Assuming you want to live in India, here are some places where you could live... 

  1. You want to do a startup? Live in Bangalore, at Koramangala, or at Whitefield. Or BTM. 
  2. You want to make films? Live in Andheri West. Or Malad. 
  3. Want to be a politician? Delhi. 
  4. Want to be an Athlete? Depending on your sport, pick a hub. 
  5. Want to be happy? Live next to your family, even if they are in a village! 
Before it pops in your head, no, I don't think that this entire remote work and work from home would make these hotspots redundant. Maybe SoCal would change. But most of the hotspots would not change. In fact, with time, newer hotspots may emerge, if at all the old one shift. If I had enough foresight to figure out the next hotspots, I would move there.

Third. It is very very important for me to feel good when I come back home. Or if I am holed up in my home for extended periods of time. Now, for most people, this is taken care of if they live with their families - after all, its people that make a house home. For someone like me who is not capable of keeping relationships beyond a few nano-seconds, I need to rely on other things that make me feel good when I come back! 

These three withstanding, I made a list of other things that are important to me in a house. Here's a list. 

  • Large space, open layout (less clutter, less furniture), higher floor (so that I may stare at the world)
  • New-ish building (so that I don't have to worry about pests, leaky faucets, etc), less than 10-years of vintage, 
  • A balcony (I love sitting out)
  • Access to a Starbucks (really - this is very important)
  • Connectivity (I love meeting people and I need to be able to commute easily)
  • Neighbors that are not nitpicky. 
I kid you not, I have an excel sheet with all these variables listed on it. And all these variables have a weight allocated (depending on the importance of that variable to me. For example, a new building has the highest weight and neighbors have the lowest). And each time I make a decision, I play with the numbers to arrive at the decision.  

Of course, I could have made enough money that I did not have to care about the rent and would have maxed all the variables. Like SRK, I would have had a Starbucks in the very building I lived in! But then, life's like that. You cant get everything you want and you need to juggle around to find the combination that works for you. 

So, coming to the challenge at hand, the new house that I need to move into, in less than 10 days, I am trying to, well, juggle around things till I find a match that works for me. That means I have explored options in Andheri, Thane, Kandivali (and beyond), Madh Island. I am yet to explore places like Chembur and Kanjurmarg and all. 

I am yet to finalize on any but the two that seem to make the cut are, 1, a smallish one-bedroom house in Andheri and 2, a little bigger than a smallish one-bedroom house in Thane. 

The one in Andheri is 2X the price and about half the size of the one in Thane. And while I am tempted to take up the place in Thane (thanks to COVID and general fuckery of how I run my life, it would be a stretch to afford the place in Andheri) and pay less and get more space, I am not sure if I want to. It is VERY far from any place that I want to be at. Place. Not people. 

Place - I want to live near the city center and amp up my odds of serendipity. If Thane was a hub for any of the disciplines I am interested in (films, startups, marketing), Hiranandani Estate would have been ideal. But I am not sure what I'd get access to there apart from the world's best Rajma Chawal that a friend makes (she lives in Thane). Unrelated but she's lived in places like Malad and Kandivali over the years and I have traveled to those places to stuff myself with her Rajma Chawal. 

People - I don't know if this is good or bad, there is no one person that I want to live close to. Neither is there a thing that I want to live close to. Most other people want to live close to their friends, offices, families, etc - I don't have any such connections, may be except Myra.  

So, while the amount of money I want to pay may dictate where I end up, it would be very very unfortunate if I can not close on a place in Andheri. Or may be in Bandra. Or Goa for that matter (which I was VERY strongly considering, till I realized that there is no work for a generalist like me there - a topic from another post on another day). 

For the time being, it's over and out. Wish me luck :) 

Tweets vs Blogposts

Hola! 

If you are a longtime reader of this blog (or blogs in general), you would know how blogging as a hobby has been sort of replaced by things like Instagram, tweets, and so on and so forth. Both in general and for me. And how blogging is now a lot more "content marketing" where companies pay peanuts to desk monkeys to churn out words that trap those search engine spiders logs. And how the "content" that is created does not really do anything good to any reader, even if they may want to read about that topic. And how there is so much content that it's impossible to filter noise and signal; assuming you know what is signal for you! And how long-form writing by non-writers is dying a slow death? 

It's sad that so many people sharing so many deeply personal anecdotes with so many strangers is all gone. I mean it's now moved to Twitter and Instagram and all that. But I am not sure how many people are blessed with the talent to push their thoughts in mere 280 characters (or maybe 2200 for Insta). I, at least cant. Not that gifted. May be if I work hard on writing, I may learn the art of brevity? 

And this is why I have kept the blog alive. And this is why I love the idea of writing letters (come, be my pen pal?). And this is why I like the idea of journaling, diary entries, notes, etc. 

The thing is, a blog allows me to push my unfiltered thoughts, things I am thinking on, things I am working on, things I seek opinion on. And put those somewhere on the world wild web. For others to see and respond to and allow me to think better.

I miss those times when I'd be brimming with ideas about the blog posts that I'd want to write. I'd have a draft folder thicker than all the 7-8 Harry Potter books combined. And I'd look forward to publishing posts and wait with bated breath for that one rare comment that I would get once in a month or two. It was another level of exhilaration. Something that the Twitter generation would never know - after all, tweets are far faster to engage with :)

Anyhow. 

So, today, I am thinking about where do I want my content to go (this is what I'd do with my blog - write write write till I get tired; vomit out all my ideas, thoughts here; and since the blog is in the public domain, I'd try harder to put forth better arguments; and by the time I was done writing, I'd have some sort of clarity). Here is my attempt to think with my words. 

And, with that, here we go. In no order... 

1. In the times to come, unless you are a media company (even as an individual), you'd lose out. As a business, as an individual, as even a rock or a vegetable. Stories, media, content would help you stay relevant. 

You thus have to think like a media company and churn out content that is valuable and interesting and all that. 

2. The entire idea of 1000 True Fans would be far far more relevant in the times to come. Creators (a word I used when I applied for Gumroad's gig for customer service) would live lives that they want and will rely on patrons to support them with micro-transactions, micro-donations. And with time, you would see more and more people go down the creator route. We are already seeing the likes of Patreon, Onlyfans, etc allowing people to create economically sustainable lives. 

3. As someone who likes to straddle multiple things and at some point in time make an impact for a billion people, I need to be very very good with words. After all, words do move mountains. And these words will open doors for me, allow me to know more people, satiate my curiosity, and so on and so forth. 

In one word, my words will give me access. And thus I need to get more active and more aggressive with this! 

4. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. So, to improve the output by a 1000x1000, I need to pivot to doing videos at some point. Not sure though when.

PS: Thanks, Annkur for the nudge. Do tell me what would you want to see on a video from me. 

5. Right now, my content is scattered at multiple places - my own website, medium, blog, Mailchimp, tiny letter, substack, and more. And with each passing day, these platforms are only going to grow and more platforms would come in. And thus the content will scatter even more. 

And as a result, my patrons (and the ones I want to get access to) would probably not find what they are looking for! 

So I need to find a solution to this. May be I will use the website to showcase the best work and one blog destination to dump these thoughts? I don't know yet. 

6. Continuing with the scatteredness, it is no secret that I am a scatterbrain. My writing, output, and other things are spread too thin. I talk about marketing, entertainment, content, podcasts, entrepreneurship, writing, habits, notes, poker, and a million other things. 

And thus there is no way I can give a consistent experience to readers that are interested in just one genre. I mean if you are a filmmaker, you may want to read what I had to write about The Trial of the Chicago 7 but why would you read about how I refuse to have a kitchen at my home? Or that walking barefoot is the thing you need to practice but living in a city like Mumbai, it's literally impossible! 

So once I know what and how and where all I am writing, there has to be a way for people to identify "tracks" they want to consume and they must be able to go down that path easily. For example, when you are subscribing to newsletters on those large websites, you have an option of subscribing to certain sections (kind of content) and receive updates from only that section, that track. I will have to implement that! 

7. Lemme talk about Twitter. The thing that got me down this path! 

The thing with the tweet is, even though there is a permalink of the tweet per se, to me, a tweet looks and feels ephemeral. It is something that's hanging in the air. I'd love to change it and have a more solid, permanent, tangible link. Like a URL to a website. A website feels a lot more solid to me. Oh, by the way, the public URLs that I host on my own website on? They are tough to pull off - I keep trashing my website every now and then and I start from scratch! I need to fix this. 

Plus, while most of my greatest connections have come via Twitter, I still can't wrap my head around the fact that it's the primary destination where I create content. It can at best be a distribution platform. And heck, it's a powerful destination! No? 

8. Making money and pivoting to being a writer! This is a big one. And this is what I am most conflicted about. 

The thing is, I'd love to be on substack or Patreon or something because I like the idea of monetizing my audience, my true fans. Even though I do NOT write with the intention of making money off my writing, I have been told by at least one person (thanks, Krishna!) that he is happy to pay me for what I write. Apparently, it adds value to his life. And that to me is music. 

For two reasons. A, I add value. The reason I even write in the first place. And B, people find it valuable enough to pay! 

So, if I can get 1000 people like Krishna, I'll be free from the rigmarole of holding onto a steady job! And I can potentially take a step in the direction where I won't have to work for others. And spend my life like a dog chasing cards - in random pursuits, where the chase itself is a reward! 

Of course, once I start seeking money for what I write, I need to not get sucked into this honeytrap and go down the desk-monkey route. 

The other thing that I am sure of is that I do not want to "profiteer" by sharing things I know. Whatever little I know, I know those because I have had generous people who were kind to me and shared things with me without expecting anything in return. And it is not right for me to profiteer when I myself haven't paid for those! So that!

A big part of me thus does not want to charge at all. May be I'll accept donations? I can ask people to donate whatever they deem is ok. But then, while I go with the pay what you go model, do I want to guilt-trip people into paying? Dunno. 

And if and when I do go the monetization path (in whatever shape or format), I need to decide how do I do it. With Patreon? Substack? Stripe? Ideally, I'd love to have a button or something (may be stripe connection to WordPress) on my own website. Let's see. 

Sigh! You see the conflict? 

9. Accountability. This is a big one. Right now, I write things as and when I feel like. There is no structure, no predictable cadence, no topic, no accountability. But once I decide that I want to be a writer for hire, I would have to be a lot more accountable. Someone said it right that a predictable routine is one of the secrets behind a free, wild, flowing, interesting life - the kind that gives you experiences that you long for. And the experiences that can shape you into a better man! 

So, I need to probably pull them socks up and get to a routine. For what I write, even if it's across genres and all that. No?

***

So yeah, these things. 

What started as a rant, a comparison between tweets and blog posts has become a tome that I am not sure who would read. 

I will decide over the next few days and I will of course keep you guys posted. Till then, it's over and out! 

The Insignificant Installation of I

Once you ignore the title of the post and dig deeper, you'd probably see what I am seeing. 

Somehow and for some reason, I have grown up into someone that takes myself way too seriously. This means I am humorless, often found gazing into the future, and have my head clouded with a million thoughts - most of those around how to become what I've always aspired to become - rich, affluent, impactful, giving, contributing, learning, fit, lean, emotionless, machine-like forever living thing. 

And all these adjectives / verbs play just one role -- they add a qualifier to the idea of identity that I have for myself. 

That identity is probably as meaningless as the concept of immortality. I am sure we would find answers (about the grand plan of life and all that) in due course; but as of today we do know that all this that started with a Big Bang will end in a few gazillion years (how exactly would the end come is still being speculated). 

And all the adjectives that you use to define you and the very concept of you will cease to exist. 

And thus, this image that you have installed in your head about yourself (wait, am talking to myself - so this image that I have installed in my head of myself) is meaningless. Insignificant. I think I need to see Pale Blue Dot more often.

The insignificance gets even more, well, pronounced when you realize that all that you've been building towards does not add up to that grand picture that you had in your head about things and people and life and all that. All those sacrifices that you made hoping for a better tomorrow, all the gratification that you delayed for deeper meaning, all the struggle you were engaged in chasing happiness at a later date, all of it, is insignificant. And if you've known me, all my life has been a run-up to this grand picture where I am happy, successful (whatever that means), and have contributed to the well-being and happiness of a billion people (in whatever way). And it's a sobering thought that this grand picture is a mere mirage - something that you think is around but it is a mere reflection of something that's not even there in the first place!

Even these words that, sort of, give you immortality will cease to exist. 

The momentary masterness that we are chasing, the fleeting validation that we chase, the semblance of control that we wish to exercise over life, well, insignificant. Like the I. 

So, what is the point of going on, you may ask? Well, I don't have any specific answers per se. But I do know that if by your actions, your thoughts, your work if you can give someone else some comfort, some break, some hope, some validation, some inspiration, it is worth it. 

No? 

Hello September / Monthly Review - Jun-Jul-Aug 2020

Good Morning, ladies and gents!

Trust you and your loved ones are safe and well-taken care of! 

Things in India don't seem to be improving and as that joke goes, everyone is now at dekhi jaaegi as far as COVID-19 goes. Not sure if this is a good thing. I just hope that people remain sensible and don't do stupid shit while they are bored with the lockdown. 

I had predicted that we would have the second lockdown if cases continue to grow but I was clearly wrong - cases ARE indeed growing (at the time of writing this, we are reporting a new high every day) and yet no one seems to be taking any precautions - the entire world is out there!

Anyhow. 

Here's a recap of the last three months (I could not send it out at the end of August). To jog your memory, I do this bi-monthly review and I track progress on to my yearly goals, life plan, and goals. And for the record, three large goals for 2020 are, publish #book2, run a sub-5-hours marathon, and a business with a topline of 50 crores. 

So, in one line, the last three months were a mixed bag. 
There were bottomless pits and there were some highs. 

Lemme use the regular sections of fails, wins, inbetweens, lessons, and plans for the next two months. And with a reminder that each thing I do this year must help me reach three large goals. I wrote a longish post about these goals here, in case. 

Here we go... 

😡😡 #fails 
+++++++++

1️⃣ No action on book2.
I did write for a few days, thanks to daily prompts by Prak but it got lost somewhere. 
The thing is, if this was any other project, I would have thrown it in the trash by now and stopped thinking about it. But, writing is as important to my existence as food, water and air is. So, have to be on it. 

Plus I am at a very exciting phase in the writing journey. I want to tell the story like I have wanted to tell no other story! 

2️⃣ Works not being too good.
My primary bread comes from two things - an events agency and a marketing consulting gig as a freelancer. Both continue to suffer. And my attempts at landing gigs have proved futile. I always thought that an MDI tag and the experience of all these years would help me get some projects. But I was never so wrong! It's been a struggle! 

However, The Podium continues to do well. We are now a well-respected podcasting network. Need to now go to bigger strengths. 

Plus, within the Podium network, I FINALLY launched my own podcast (yay!) where I speak with some of the biggest marketers in the country. I was very very skeptical of the same (I was not sure of the quality of my interactions with them and I hate my voice) but AD pushed me hard for it and made me do it. No, I don't know how it is doing but I do know that the weight is off my chest! You may want to listen to it on Spotify here

So that was work. Largely suffering. 
But, as Guruji's taught me, this too shall pass :). 


😊😊 #wins
+++++++++

I'd like to talk about 3 things. 
1️⃣ I started going on hikes. 
I know lockdown and all but these hikes have been rejuvenating, to say the least. Especially after a harsh June and July. 


The good part of these hikes is that I got to know that I am severely underprepared for the Everest lifeGoal. Not just in terms of my physical health but also with my mental game. If I cant do a tiny hillock in Thane, how am I going to get to the top of the highest rock we've known as humans? 

Apart from this, the last quarter has also been great in terms of my step-count. 

I walk around Andheri and listen to podcasts and see people and click photos. Each month the goal is to do better than the last. 

Sep will be tough - the weather has gone to the dogs here in Mumbai - there are no rains and way too much humidity. Plus the traffic is back. And back are those cars and bikes and all the incessant honking. I guess I need to wake up sooner! 

Well, Annkur, Puneet, and I have expanded that into a full-blown workshop! 
We call it Notes For Growth and we have delivered it to 300+ people so far. The feedback has been unexpectedly good! To a point that we are thinking about offering it to companies. Clear example of how random things convert into opportunities! In case you want me to offer it to your teams, please do let me know. I sincerely believe that it's powerful! 

3️⃣ Continued with the lessons on screenwriting. 
With Anjum Rajabali and Boman Irani (yeah, he teaches screenwriting as well). In fact, this is the only thing I've learned with some religiousness since March. 

Like I said last time, this lockdown has been a blessing to me. I know it may sound insensitive but if not for the lockdown, I would have never got this opportunity to learn from stalwarts like Satyanshu, Anjum, and Boman. I can't write this and not thank Harshit for making me aware of these. Forever in debt to him.


#inBetweens, #miscNotes, #lessons, etc.
+++++++++

Few things... 
1️⃣ I quit #aPicADay
I just did not feel like continuing with it. Must have some good 175-200 days! 
Plus its September now and that means I will take my annual break and will not have access to the Internet for about 10-12 days. So, I will anyway break the continuity. Lesson? Need to pick up smaller goals (even though they do NOT sound as fancy as larger ones, they have higher odds of getting reached)! 

2️⃣ I published quite a few words in the last 3 months! Yay! 
While I may not have an exact count, here are three long-form pieces that really I want you to read (if you have more time and if you haven't already)...
  1. How to make your personal board?
  2. How do you get better at long-form writing?
  3. 9 Tips to build your personal brand
All three were written first on my weekly-ish newsletter, SoG. 
In case you wish to subscribe to these weekly-ish letters, the link is here

3️⃣ Some random updates that have no meaning :)
  • My computer broke. And I realized that I am so addicted to a Mac OS that I can't get anything done on any other machine. 
  • I got myself a second screen (I hooked a TV that I never watched onto the computer and now I can't imagine working without a second screen). Try it and you would NOT go back! 
  • I am off Diet Coke once again! But this time, to replace the addiction, I have started with binging on Soda, the closest Indian alternative to sparkling water. So far, so good :)
  • Serendipity is real! The biggest lesson for me in the past 3 months! Most good things happen to me because I open some doors thinking they would lead me to a certain destination; but when I chase them, my curiosity and chance often lead me to another place, which is far better than the one I had originally set out to reach at! Guess I really AM a destiny's child!

#inNextMonths 
+++++++++
What do I plan to do in Sep and Oct of 2020? 

Three things. 
1️⃣ So here's the big thing. 
You may remember from the last letter (and a quip above) that I am seeking work? Thanks to general hustling around, I may have stumbled upon an idea that can help me do what I've always wanted to - enable others, create impact, and in the process, make money! And I seem to have found a partner and a mentor to do it with. And both of them are aligned with how I look at the world. 

So that's probably gonna become the primary vocation over the next few months and if all goes well, over the next few years. I am almost all-in on it! 

But then, this also means that I will have to give a hard look at all the other "projects" that I tend to dip my toes into. Lemme see what I decide. Will keep you informed. 

2️⃣ Second, I will try and get some running done. 
Lol, I have been talking about this since I started walking! Let's see if I manage this in the next few months. 

3️⃣ I am moving out of Andheri. 
Unless there is some miracle. The lease of this house expires in October and I will be forced to look for an alternative. Even though I've been in Mumbai since 2013 and this is the first time the thought of cutting the cord has crossed my mind! And in fact, I am thinking if I want to move to Goa for a year or so, till the pandemic settles. Most of my work now is largely remote. And if the startup takes off, we'd do it fully remote. So, let's see. 


***

So, that's about it for the update. 
As always, thank you for your time and attention. 
Please stay safe!

If there's something I can do for you, please do let me know. 

Over and out!
@saurabh
06 Sep 2020

FEEDBACK. 
Should you want to give me anonymous feedback on this email or anything else under the sun, please use this form - https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8. And yes I do get not-so-kind inputs. Brutal and honest feedback is the best feedback.

PREVIOUS UPDATES are here...
2019 - Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
2020 - Annual Goals, Jan, Feb-Mar, Apr-May, Jun-Jul-Aug

Thank you for your patience. 
I know it is not an easy task to survive these long emails!

Untitled - 14 Aug 2020

Hello, World! 

I am back with another post on the blog. And another post in the #untitled series. A place where I pour out my head, without an agenda, without any expectations. 

Here we go. 


1. 15th August.

Tomorrow is India's 70-something-th Independence Day. From a kid that was like a true patriot and thought about Bhaarat Mata more than I thought about anything else, I am today an indifferent middle-aged man. I don't know how this transition happened. I don't know what pushed me towards becoming indifferent. I am not sure if I am even coming back to being a jingoist nationalist. But I know that I am disillusioned with the idea of India that I grew up with! 


2. Technology snafus.

These last few weeks have been terrible in terms of technology - the laptop broke, the phone is anyway half-broke, I've not stopped spilling things on the keyboard. This new blogger sucks. I think after using this for over 14 years, I am finally ready to move elsewhere. Where to though? Someone help please! 


3. Attention-deficit.

While I have been mostly ok with the lockdown, lately I have started to feel a problem with how I attend to things. I've anyway had the attention span of a goldfish. Now, it's reducing even more - I am guessing I can give a hummingbird a run for its money! 

I did try meditation for a few weeks ago but I just could not get myself to sit still for those 10 minutes. Compare it to a point where I was doing some 60 minutes every day! I don't know what is wrong and what needs fixing but something IS broken somewhere. Let's see when I discover it. 


***

That's about it, I guess. 

This new blogger is really not cool. I can't even type on this! I need to port out soon. Will update a few days. Till then, over and out! 

This too shall pass

Hello, whoever is reading this!

Hope you are well! I am not sure I can say the same thing about me. Life's being unkind - both at the personal front and at the professional one. Wish I could say more. But I will leave it here. And tell myself that this too shall pass. It always does. 

So, I did not write a post in the whole of July. Has to be among the longest breaks I've taken from writing. And has to be the longest I have been so out of action or inspiration. I mean the entire month of July passed by in a blur. Much like most of 2020. And if you know me you would know how much I hate inaction! And on top, there was tragedy upon tragedy inflicted on me. Life's been fucking relentless! But, like I said, this too shall pass!

And even if I ignore things that happened in the month of July, I think this lockdown is getting to me. I mean I am comfortable at my house (not home), have food on my plate and enough coffee to sip on all day long. But I crave for human connection. Human contact. The physical touch. I need it desperately. To a point that I am willing to risk myself. And others around me.

When the lockdown was announced, I thought I was ok with the ideas of being alone. I've always been ok every time I have gone into a shell. But this time I am not.

Thing is, previously, I would have a Starbucks to go to. A mall to wander into. The humdrum of life around me to get lost into. I had the non-creepy people-watching that gave me optimism about life in general. I could feed off the energy of other people, even strangers. I'd see someone immersed in their work and I would get inspired to get immersed in mine! And while I may not be surrounded by the people that gimme comfort, people I love or others of the ilk, I would always have people around me. Yeah, I like people. Even if they are strangers. And even though I have been enamored by the idea of people that survive isolation for years (hello, Andy), thanks to the lockdown, I know I can't survive it!

So, I have been walking around. And not that I am reaching somewhere with all this walk, but I do like the idea of movement. And I like to see whoever is out on the road. And going by what I've seen all of July, quite a few of those are out and about. I mean the traffic jams are almost back in Mumbai. You can no longer walk in quiet. You even have those loud Delhi cars making a guest appearance in Mumbai. The point is, I am out and about. And I am on the move. And I hope this activity takes me someplace in August.

Here's promising to be more active. Here's hoping for a better time ahead. Heres telling myself that this too shall pass.


SG
2 Aug 2020
Mumbai

Happy Birthday, pd29june!

Lemme tell you a story. The kinds that is only possible on the Internet. 

The year is 2003 (I thought it was 2001 but thanks to my obsession with not deleting anything ever, I discovered it was 2003). The age od chain emails and Orkut and coming of age, of people my age. The time is Diwali when everyone in India is in this cheerful and all that. And I am being the way I am - frivolous, enthusiastic, and trying hard at being funny.

Some friend sends an email to some 100 people and I reply to that with something apparently funny, which I don't recall now. And someone responds to that email with among the most unique Diwali greetings ever. 

And I reply to that. 
And then she replies. 
And then I reply to her reply.
And then she replies. 

And before we know it, we become penpals. 

Of course, back then I did not know what pen pals were. But we became friends. And close! As close you can imagine two friends to be. Even though we hadn't met each other. 

I would share my deepest feelings with her. I guess this is what anonymity offered by the Internet did. She was in the US, some saat samandar paar and there was no way she was going to rat on me. And how would she? And if she did, why would she? I guess she was the first person with which I let my guard down (apart from this blog ;P). 

She of course shared updates on her days at her college. I remember pining for a life abroad when I read her mails. 

And like with such things, our friendship relationship started with josh unparalleled to any. And then got milder with time. To a time now, where we hardly speak. 

Which is cool. Not complaining. Such is life. 

But this person is among the most special parts of my growing up. If I were to ever write a biography, she's getting a chapter for sure. I may even dig out some of the emails and publish those. I hope they are not too embarrassing ;P 

So to cut the long story short, she and I would exchange long emails. At some point in time, it got flirty and yet not crass. I had still not seen her, she hadn't seen me (we did exchange photos). All we knew was each other's letters. Mind you, this was the time before Whatsapp and other IM tools. The email letters were our connection. And those became increasingly rare with time. Like others, we had some really cool and interesting inside jokes and chats. Can't make those public. Yet ;P 

While this was happening, I moved from Delhi to Gurgoan to then to Mumbai and then back to Delhi. I don't recall what all cities she lived in the US. And despite all this flux, we stayed in touch. We'd make plans to catch up if we were ever in the same city. But every time she'd come to India, for some reason, we 'd not be able to meet. Apart from her letters and photos, she remained an enigma to me. I don't know what I was to her. 

This changed in 2010, 7 years after that fateful Diwali. My parents and I were in the US and she and I happened to be in the same city at that time (I think we were in LA if my memory serves me right). And we met! After 7 years of penpalship. We went to grab, well Chinese. And there was this joke that we often shared - that I know how to use chopsticks and I failed at it and she had told me she was learning but she was as pro at em as Kung-Fu Panda is! And I, of course, made a mess of it! Random trivia - To date, I don't know how to use chopsticks. And I have had multiple bets with multiple people that I would learn how to use em! 

And that's that. 
End of story. 

Been 13 years since that hour-long lunch or dinner or something (can't recall but I do remember that it was Chinese). We have remained in intermitted contact. She has moved on with life. More than her, I think I have moved on. Rather thrown around. 

No point there. 
Just that, thanks to emails and Diwali, I found this really cool friend that I wish I had stayed in contact with! And no, there is no special ending to this one. Just a record of how some people come into your life by accident and you want those accidents to keep happening again and again. 

Oh, if you are reading this (at a time you were the only regular reader of this blog; now there are none), happy birthday! May you live long and prosper :). And in case you've forgotten, here is some blast from the past from our jawani wale din.

Untitled - 16Jun20

I slept off early last night. I was on my bed by 930. And then drifted off to sleep at around 1030 or something. No, it's not the earliest to be honest. I would love to sleep every day by 9 and then get up at 4 (yes I am a morning person). But I think till I reach a time where I can control my time fully (I can control a large part of my time, but not all the time) it would be tough. Lets see when that happens.

It is 730 AM. I have been up since 7 at least and I have been puttering around. The neck is a tad sore (I need to get new pillows, I think) and there is general bodily discomfort that people my age typically have but apart from that I am ok, I think.

So a Tuesday, past the middle of June. The year was supposed to be when I would slay it and get a ton of money and all that but it is proving to be anything but that. I am sure this will pass. 

Ok. Here's the thing. I don't really have anything specific to say. I just want someone to talk to at this hour. Previously, I would be at a Starbucks at this hour (if not earlier). And to reach there, I would've had Poha from this lady that had a tiny kiosk on the roadside near Starbucks. And I would've had my small-talk with her. And at Starbucks, I would talk to the Baristas that were gearing up for their day. And then I would settle down with an Americano and read a long essay, or watch a TED talk before I started the day. I would write for a while, get things done till about 10, 1030, and then get on with the day. 

Of course, that is gone. And I don't think it is coming back anytime soon. 

Honestly, I am thinking, if this continues till after Diwali, I'd move to a small city, may be even Goa for that matter. Something where I have access to a beach. I am sure the world would have woken to the wonders of working from home (which I detest if I can be honest). I am assuming I would have figured out the next career (unless events make a comeback) and the small cities would offer a network of creative, enterprising people that actually do not mean to lay low. Of course, in the long run, I want to live at a thriving hub of activity, you know like a Mumbai. Unless life changes altogether and these hubs stop existing. I refuse to believe that these would not. Time shall tell. 

No one knows where we are headed and how fast. 

Coming back, it's 735. Took me all of 5 minutes to write these few lines but I think I am ready to kick-start my day! Yay! 

Time to get some coffee and get going. Hope you have a great day ahead :) 

Day 81 of Lockdown

Day 81.
Not lockdown per se but seclusion for sure. 

Yet another day where minutes blurred into hours and that made the day flow past by like crazy. I started at 9 AM and before I got the time it was 4 PM. And then I blinked next, it was 8 PM and here I am, trying to make sense of what and how and why. 

These days the highlight of my day is this couple of times when I make myself some coffee. I mean I don't really make coffee per se - I just boil water in an electric kettle and pour it over a coffee bad. But these two times during the day are the ones when I get into this meditative trance-like thing. Apart from that, it is a whirlwind of mindless activity. There is no work "work" per se but there is a lot of madness around things! 

So the day goes past in a blur. Without a lot of action. But the day does pass by none the less. With each passing day, there are less and less of these moments that I want to cherish and save and remember once I grow old. 

Except flashes of brilliance once in a while. 

Like this song that a stranger shared with me on Instagram. Its called Baagey and a modern rendition of Jagjit Ji and Chitra Ji's Tappe. Listen to Hari and Sukhmani. It is on Spotify here and I've been tripping on it since morning! And it is becoming an earworm and I can't get enough of it! 

That's it. That's all I had to say today.

Over and out. 

Previous posts that I wrote during the lockdown are - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 19, 30, 32, 34, 35, 37, 39, 45, 47, 57, 63, 64, 69, 74, 80

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?