What made 2014 special for me?

Devika prompted me to write about what made 2014 special for me. Here is the post that I wrote for her blog. This piece originally appeared on Devika's blog

2014 is a very special year for me. I'd always remember it. For the rest of my life. After all, my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story (#tnks), published and released in 2014!

Writing a book has been a dream that I've had for I don't know how many years. And now that #tnks is out, I don't want to stop. It's a high like no other. To see your name in print. To have strangers send emails to you and tell you that they enjoyed the book. To have your long lost friends call in and congratulate you. It's a feeling that is unparalleled.

When I look back in time, I wonder why didn't I write a book sooner. I always thought that writing would be tough and getting a book out will be next to impossible. But when I got around to doing it, I realized that starting was the toughest bit. After that, everything just, sort of, falls in place. Trust me it does! Start writing yours and you'd know what I am saying.

Apart from the dream-come-true bit, even though #tnks doesn’t sell a lot, the book has opened a lot of doors for me. I made tons of new friends and each friend taught me a thing or two. The ever-elusive doors to the Bollywood opened up (as I write this, I am talking to a few people to sell the movie rights of #tnks; fingers crossed). Friends and strangers read, appreciated and said kind things about #tnks (most people who've read the book have liked it and of course there are few who do not). And all these things have encouraged me to go forth and write my next.

Also, may be, just may be, writing is my calling! I don't know yet. I will figure out in the next few years.

Most importantly, writing and publishing a book has given me confidence like nothing else. Now that I have done the seemingly insurmountable task of getting a book out, I believe that I can do anything. Throw a challenge my way and I will accomplish it. Well, any challenge except beating Mr. Bhagat on the sales or popularity charts. If all goes well, I may actually do it someday!

While I was working on the book, there were so many moments of self-doubt. I remember I had considered leaving it midway at least thrice. After all my grammar sucked, my vocabulary was limited and the story was full of clich├ęs. And which interesting writer has a name as boring as "Saurabh Garg?" I mean if I were called Chandraprakash Paul Chatterjee or Basant Singh Chatwal or something, I would've become famous by the virtue of my name. But Saurabh Garg? No way!

But everytime I felt like quitting, I was reminded of this famous quote by my self-appointed guru, Steve Jobs. He often said, "real artists ship." I shipped. I did not allow my limitations to deter me and I continued to write. Once I was done with the manuscript, my publisher fixed a large part of my book. And helped me ship. If I didn't ship I wouldn’t have got so many people to give me feedback on how I write. Each piece of feedback has helped me improve. This post and the new readers I'd reach to, hopefully will help me as an author. In fact, if you are reading this, I urge you to please point out mistakes. I urge you to please write in. I shall be grateful.

Apart from the book, another highlight of 2014 would be my decision help other first-time writers. I realize that I've been lucky with the entire publishing process and there must be a lot of first-timers who may not be as lucky. So, I try and work with them on their manuscripts. So far, have worked with three authors already. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do have some experience and insights. I have given them inputs basis my limited understanding of the publishing process. If you think you need someone to go through your manuscript, please do let me know. I would be happy to help.

Why am I doing this? Call it a way to give back or call it paying it forward. It just feels natural. So I am doing it!

To end this, 2014 has been great to me. And I am very excited about 2015. I plan to write 250K words #in2015. That's like three full-length books. I also plan to publish my second book in 2015. And I plan to work with more first-time authors. And I plan to continue to push myself. From where I am, the journey will only take me higher. I know it will be one hell of a ride.

Join me, if you will.

All the best to you too for 2015.

@Devika, thanks a ton for making me review the year gone by. Like last year 2014, I hope that in 2015, you continue to allow me to pick your brains.

@Other readers, may 2015 be the greatest year of your lives. Like I said, please do tell me if you think I could improve somehow. And if theres something I could do to help you, please do let me know.

Thanks!
Saurabh Garg
30 Dec 2014

Why Starbucks?

As I write this, its 5.25 PM on a Tuesday. I have left office early. Not because I did not have a lot of work. But because I had a lot to do and I did not know where to start from. I just needed a break from all the things I was working on, all the people I was surrounded by and all the things open on my plate. So I took one.

And I am at Starbucks. And for some reason, everything that was bothering me for last few days, all of it is gone! I am in my zone. Where thoughts come to my head and those thoughts become words. And the words appear on the laptop screen. And I feel that I am moving in some direction.

I dont know what is it. May be I have trained my mind to work best when I am sitting on a wooden chair on a wobbly table under the yellow light with all the din of a coffee shop listening to my music on headphones tapping onto the amazing keypad of a MacBook pro.

And while I wrote this, I asked a few questions about a website to a friend, replied to a few work emails, bought the secret santa gift for a colleague and sipped onto an ice cold Javachip Frappuccino. And it's 5:36 PM. About 10 minutes to come up with these 200 odd words.

#ftw. Or as they would have said, "all your base are belong to us"!

Dear Chetan Bhagat

Dear Chetan,

First things first. Let me get a few confessions out of the way.

A, I have not read any of your books and yet I have seen your popularity and sales figure soar with every title you come up with.

B, the only rendezvous I’ve had with you was when I was working as an event manager. I came within breathing distance of you when I was trying to put a mic on your jacket, moments before you were to go up on a stage and address a gathering for the a motivational lecture. Oh, you seem to have done a brilliant job of delivering the lecture. Because after you were done, I heard enthusiastic and loud applause from the audience. Alas, I could not hear you deliver your lecture because I was running around to get the next act ready.

C, I am yet to meet anyone who has shown fondness for what you write or how your write. But for some reason, everyone I know has an opinion or two about you. And that sir, is no mean feat.

Chetan, I write to you to thank you for giving me the courage to quit my day job and wade in uncertain waters while I chased my dreams of being a published author. If not for your success, I couldn’t have done it.

Please indulge me as I go back in time. I first heard of you sometime in the later half of 2004. I was a first-year MBA student at a leading business school - MDI Gurgaon. Since it is a college of repute, students were expected to be good with academics and be well rounded. Those days, reading was regarded as a great way to “build CV value” when the placements happened. So I picked up reading.

I tried different genres. And by trial and error I settled on and fell in love with winding and layered tales of injustice, crimes, murders and the common-man-doing-uncommon-dares-in-face-of-adversity spun by the likes Jeffery Archer, John Grisham, Sue Grafton and others. What more, I often found myself lost into day dreams of creating such plots and stories myself.

Even though I had faith in my abilities and a fire in my belly, I was not sure if I could actually become an author. How could I? After all, I came from a humble background and English to me was, what can I say, intimidating! To me, English was something that only the elite could indulge in, in their fancy, lavish dinner parties. Lingua Britannica was something as exclusive as an admission to your alma matter – the IITs and the IIMs.

The writers and the readers of content created in English had to be special. I mean look at the bestseller list in India from Oct of 2004. Giving you company on those charts are greats like Dan Brown, Amitav Ghosh, Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma, Mitch Albom, Khushwant Singh, Pawan Verma and others. All these authors have a pedigree that I could give an arm and a leg for. Each of them is read by and discussed by those socialites in their fancy Page 3 parties. And like most things they mulled over in their parties, I could hardly comprehend the language, the depth, the richness, the detail, the pain, the suffering, the longing and other such things that their books talked about.

You, Chetan, were like a whiff of fresh air in an old room full of yellowing books that hadn’t seen sunlight in years. You presence on the list dispelled the famous notion that writing was a serious business; and the notion that you had to be, if not a doctorate in literature, a post-graduate at least to even think about writing.

In fact more I read about the publishing business in those days, more I realize that if I had approached a publisher back then with my manuscript, they would’ve laughed on me. I probably would not even get to enter their grand, opulent offices. On top of it, back then, there were hardly any publishers. And most of them probably believed that they were the custodians of English language. In today’s parlance, we call them the Grammar Nazis.

Fast forward to the Oct of 2014. The tribe of these Grammar Nazis is fast headed towards extinction. The remaining, handful Grammar aficionados are hardly given any importance by anyone. There are more publishers than there are authors. Even foreign publishers have set up shops in India and they regularly publish books by authors like you. And I. Literary agents, and good ones at that, are now dime a dozen. Experienced editors are willing to work with newer authors without expecting a fortune for their editing talent. Great designers are willing to work for next to nothing. Modern trends like self-publishing and social media have unleashed a new crop of writers and given them cheap innovative ways to reaching their audience.

The publishing industry as we knew it traditionally had changed. And Chetan, you ushered this change. Your success made this change possible.

Unchanged however remains your presence on the bestsellers lists. Or may I you’re your dominance? On the latest list of bestsellers in India, you are accompanied by the likes of Paulo Coelho, Sachin Tendulkar and Boria Majumdar. And then there are authors like Preeti Shenoy, Ravinder Singh and Durjoy Dutta.

Sachin is an exception here because it’s his autobiography and it would probably be his only book in life. Apart from Boria (who co-authored Sachin’s book), I am not sure if any one else on the list has a background in literature or journalism.

The Ravinders, The Durjoys and others like them are not yet in their thirties and they command a fan following as large as established Bollywood or Cricket celebrities. Each book they come up with, is much-anticipated and celebrated by their fans. Without your influence I bet they wouldn’t have even considered writing as a career.

You know Chetan, you not only gave the Ravinders and Durjoys the confidence to go forth and write, you gave me a precedent that I could share with my family when I decided to quit. I could tell my friends that I was going to be an author like you and no one raised even an eyebrow. I could talk my employer into granting me a leave without pay for a period of one year. Your success gave me a plausible justification for switching careers after almost 10 years of work. The world around me questioned my sanity but because I had your success as an example, they eventually acquiesced. 

There is more Chetan. You also helped create an entire ecosystem. Because of phenomenal success of your books and non-stop inflow of money pouring into your coffers, new publishers, distributors, designers, editors, reviewers sprang up. All of them attempting to ride the wave, the avalanche of new authors pounding on the doors of impending boom in the publishing industry.

As one such writer, an author, I shall remain indebted to you forever for your seminal work, 5 Point Someone. It started the avalanche that we all are hoping to be a part of. You have proved beyond doubt that English language and literature is no longer a slave to the modern and the rich and the famous. Isn’t that what you are reinforcing in your latest book, Half Girlfriend?

Chetan, Thank you so much! For giving wings to a common man like me to chase my ten-year old dream. And for helping create an ecosystem where the dream could actually see light of the day! You are the knight in the shining armor for dreamers like me. If not for you, my dream would’ve remained a mere thought bubble. I would’ve gone through life without realizing my true passion, my potential.

Thank you once again!

Saurabh Garg
Author, The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Oh, would you have time to read my first book? I would love to send a copy. Please do let me know.

Note: An edited version of this letter appeared on qz.com at http://qz.com/315668/dear-chetan-bhagat-i-quit-my-job-and-became-a-writer-because-of-you/

Untitled. 12.12.14 / 18.12.14.

It's one of those days... Just too much has happened in last 24 hours. Let me try and chronicle those things here.

(a). A friend's dad was unwell. I spent an entire day in hospital. The hatred and aversion that I have for hospitals came rushing back at me. While I was there, I could totally see lives of my loved ones flash past by me. I took a vow to get healthy and never ever see inside of a hospital (for myself). So unless it's REALLY REALLY important, I will not step inside an hospital. More on hospitals on some other post.

(b). One of those important women that I talk about in (a), I called her. I told her that I loved her more than anyone else, anything else. And she hung up on me. She had to. I had no right calling her after all these years and do that. I am sorry for doing so. But I was way too full after the incident at the hospital.

(c). I made a new friend over the last few days, thanks to the book. She is THE 3 AM friend that I've always wanted in life. Not that I dont have other such people. But she is in a different continent and is as broken as I and can totally understand where I come from. But then these are early days. So let's see how it goes.

(d). I am ready to move on yet again. Its not been three months and I've had enough. Let's see what is next. More on this in some other post in some time. I DEFINITELY know what I dont want. And I still dont know what I want. May be I need to see a shrink or something. If only I had the money.

(e). I was messed up in my head and I was killing time on YouTube. Stumbled on this video. And while I enjoyed the performance, I had this shade of guilt and pity. My heart goes out to artiste like Lucky Ali. I have some vague idea of the show business and the kind of tantrums people artists throw. Here he is, performing at a stage that looks small by all standards, on a sound that is fucked up and with a band that looks like an ensemble at best. And he's Lucky fucking Ali. The God reincarnated. Yet getting old by the day. Lucky Ali is / was my first tryst with romance. With O Sanam. How can he perform at such a small stage? May be he likes to do so. May be he does not feel the need to be on a stage that is worthy of his stature. So yeah, pity, guilt and confusion.

(f). I have almost closed on my goals for 2015. Top on that list is my health. Second is guitar. Third is running a marathon/ The others are same as that of 2014. Financial freedom, travel, writing etc. Again, more on this eventually as we draw close to the year-end.

That's it.

Wrote this on 12.12.14. Published on 18.12.12. Why? I did not get time to work on this. Wonder how would the next book happen. #fml

Hello, #trss

Ladies and gents, #trss is now live. 

And it will be out in the market in less than 365 days. 

Help Me!

I sent this email to a few friends and strangers. Seeking help. The version below is an edited one; after I got feedback from some who chose to respond. If you want to help me as well, please do let me know

Hi,

Most of you know me. The ones who don't, I met / spoke / interacted with you while I was working on my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story. In a couple of cases, you read the book and wrote in. In one case, you are a friend of a friend and you've liked what I wrote. And one of you is a person who reads my blog (yay)!

I write to you because I need help. I have realized that writing makes me happy and if I can get better at it, I can work on my terms, actually make a living out of it and get out of the rat-race. And not just living, I could live comfortably!

For the record, I define comfort as a state where I don't have to think twice before I buy the latest iPhone. I use the iPhone as a proxy to PPP or the Big Mac index.

So coming back, I know I make a lot of mistakes when I write. My grammar could do with improvement. I even slaughter a few sacred cows! I thus want to create a group of trusted friends, acquaintances that would read first drafts of what I write and give me feedback before I publish those on public platforms.

 It will help me in two ways.
A, I will get advice from a trusted group of people.
B, It will help improve the quality of my output.

So, here are some more details on it.

Why you?
Because you have helped me in past. Because you have a view point that I thought was really unique. Because I believe you could help. And most importantly, because I thought you cared about how I write!

What kind of things will I send to you?
These would often be things that move me, things that I need an opinion on, things about technology, life, travel, writing, characters. Things that I really want to share. And of course things I write for commercial purpose - books, scripts, speeches etc. Think of this as a private blog or a closed mailing list. Think of this as way to peek into my brain. Think of this as a testing ground for me to test my ideas on. Think of yourselves as guinea pigs. And FYI, guinea pigs are actually rodents!

What do I expect from you?
Three things. Only.

  • Honest critique on what I send you. This could be comments, praises, edits, suggestions, ridicule, death threats, love letters, friendly fire etc. 
  • Opportunities. If someone asks you for someone who could write, please point them to me. 
  • Links, tips, things that I should be reading, videos that I should be watching, content I ought to be consuming, people I must talk to, practise that I need to put in, to become a better writer. 

What is in it for you? 
I dont know. Except the rush of good hormones that you get when you help someone. And my gratitude. Think of yourself as a king. Or a queen. and think of me as an artesian who's come to your court seeking your patronage and blessings. In the times when Kings and Queens ruled the world, they would often shower artesian with gold, pearls, palaces, princesses and what not. On the other hand, all I am asking for is your time, your patronage. Too much to ask for?

 That's it!

Over to you guys! Oh, this IS the first piece that I want your feedback on.

And, as Steve Jobs would've said... one more thing... Who all do you think I can seek help from on writing? Can you please connect me with them so that I can include them in this list? I promise that I would not send more than one email a week.

On that note, if you choose to not receive these emails, PLEASE tell me and I would remove you from the list.

Thanks so much! Please do tell me how to improve this.

Regards,
Saurabh

P.S.: Once upon a time, I read this quote and I just cant get it out of my head. It goes... "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." I have used it so often that I think I am bordering on getting obnoxious. But I love it so much that I cant stop using it. And I will continue to use it. So, dear giants, please help me see further.

Departmet of Silent Audence (DOSA)

Goodreads. As on 06 Dec 2014.
When I was at MDI, there was this bunch of guys - all of them were really intelligent and good to talk to and everything - who never spoke in the classroom sessions. Even though MDI placed a lot of rigor on class participation and speaking up in lectures, these guys will never ever speak up. Even when the professors pointed at them and asked them questions, they'd stay shut at the cost of getting ridiculed and docking grades. Of course they knew the answers and they could speak eloquently outside the class. But in the room, they'd not utter a word - no one knows why. And they called themselves DOSA - Department of Silent Audience. They were there to seep in everything and not speak up. Like sponges. They were there to stay shut. They were like silent lambs. Actually I could've titled this post the Silence of the Lambs.

Anyhow, it's funny that I am reminded of it them almost 10 years after I first encountered them. Why? Because in the last few days, the feedback, the reviews, opinions and other things on The Nidhi Kapoor Story have started to dry down. I dont know how the sales figures are moving for the book. But I do know that a lot of friends and family have bought the book. And I know for sure that I have not heard from most of them. Not strangers, not the common man. But family and friends.

The first few days were fun. I am not exaggerating but I would get some input, some feedback, some other comment almost every hour. It was probably my 15 seconds of fame. Only if each second, I wish, could last a lifetime!

Once the first set of people were done with their response, the frequency dropped drastically, the way a ball plunges down a tall tower perched on a high hill.

Next lot of people to write in were strangers, casual readers who had picked the book after they were exposed to all the noise that I made on the Internet. Remained absent was feedback from friends and family.

Now, almost 15 days after the book became available to the world, the feedback I get is now few and far between. And all of it is from people that I did not know of before I wrote the book. Thankfully a disproportionately large proportion talks about the book in good light. There are a few things that I've been told to work on. And I am working on those as I work on my next book. More on it later.

So, if you are reading this, I urge you, implore you, beg you, on my feet and with folded hands to please share your feedback with me. Postive, negative, ugly, good, excellent, pathetic. You may choose any word to express your opinion on the book. I promise I will neither fly away to the cloud 9 (or cloud 7 or whatever) nor hurl myself into the abyss of depression. Your feedback would only help me get better.

Please. If you have read The Nidhi Kapoor Story, please do share what you think of it. Like these 20 people who have taken the pains of letting the world know what they think of #tnks. Apart from these 20, there have been people who think that that book is a piece of shit and they've stopped talking to me! That's ok. I loved the fact that it could provoke such strong reactions.

As long as there is a reaction, all's well. But a reaction guys. Please. Life doesn't work like that. We are after all social animals and we ought to communicate. We response to stimuli. Remember Biology 101? Hope this is a sharp enough bite in the arm to wake up from your slumber and make you share your feedback with me.

Oh, and the guys at DOSA, I am not sure what happened to them, its after all been ten odd years since I've seen them. Get the point?

No? Damn!

The Story of The Nidhi Kapoor Story

A friend who wanted to quit to write and didn't have the balls to do so asked me about how I went about it. I told her that I didn't think a lot and just did it. She was insistent that I write a story. This is an edited version of the email I sent her sometime in Sep of this year. I think this post is relevant to other authors that I've made a commitment to on Catapooolt. Thus posting it. 

The Car Ride in August 2013
"Are you out of your mind? You want to leave a job that takes you all over the world and pays you for it? How many people are that lucky?" Vivek said when we took that turn towards Lonavala. If we didn't take that turn, we would have continued on the Mumbai-Expressway towards Pune.

"I've had enough of travel. And I think it's the right time. You know that I've always wanted to write a book! And if I am lucky, let me ride my luck and try and write a book. Worst case, Suvi will hire me back. He's promised me as much." When I quit Gravity, I had asked my boss, Suvi if he'd hire me back in case the book doesn't happen.

"Whatever man. Just know that you are not young any more and you ought to leave these frivolous things behind," said Vivek. He continued to drive at a steady 40, both of us enjoying the crisp air of the night shrouding us.

I could see that he was concerned about me. Unlike him; he is as emotionless as a rock. I however was optimistic about the time to come. Unlike me; I am not the kinds to think about tomorrow.

I said, "Que sera sera. Whatever has to happen, will happen. Right now I've gotta go pee. Just stop the car please."

He parked on the side of the road. Before I could step out, he said, "you better fucking finish that book or I'd kill you!" 


Sep 2014
The conversation above happened sometime in August last year and it's almost the end of September of 2014. I am still alive. That means that I must be done with my book! Update. Yes I am. Its on www.tnks.in. It took threats from friends like Vivek, encouragement from people like Rana Sir, coaxing from #sgMS and infinite support from my sis and my parents to be able to get the book done.

It's been about 15 months since I've quit and I've exhausted my life's savings (I had cashed all my savings to be able to afford to live in Mumbai).

The good bit is that the book is now out. The great bit is that I enjoyed my freedom as a full-time writer and a part-time contractual marketing guy. And the sad bit is that I will have to join a naukri in a couple of days (Update: It's Nov and been working for almost a month now).

So the challenges I faced, the mistake I made and the lessons I learnt while writing the book are listed below.

Challenges I faced.

  • Life away from home. I may not be that attached to my folks but I miss having my family around me. They remain the biggest source of inspiration, support, comfort and all that makes me what I am. I hate to be naked about these things but I miss them. I could've done better if I was home. But I had to be in Mumbai for other reasons. 
  • Comfort Place. I need a perfect setting to be able to write. The right chair, the right table, the right temperature on AC, so on and so forth. And while I was working on #tnks, I often had to contend without one or more of these things. Starbucks came closet but I can't sit there forever.
  • Loneliness. The dreamers are often alone. I think its because its hard to sell your dream to someone else. It often got lonely. I have tons of friends but they've got priorities. Thankfully, a lot of strangers were very kind towards to me while I was working on the book. More on this soon.
  • Money. Money makes our world go around. I did not have enough of it. Actually, no one ever has enough of it. So there were times when I had to not do things that I would want to, to save money. And for someone like me, who's been lucky to not see bad days (in terms of money) it was a huge huge challenge. 
  • Self-doubt. I must have asked this myself a thousand times. That why would someone want to read what I write. I still don't have an answer. And I don't think answers are coming anytime soon. 

Mistakes I made.
  • Took a part-time job that ate a lot of time. Thankfully, I was fired from it. But then the flip side is that I had to take up another full-time job that virtually leaves me with no time at all. Money, like I said, makes the world go around. Sucks to be a slave.
  • Took all advice on face value. Just because something worked for someone else, doesn't mean that they would work for me as well. I took suggestions and instead of helping me, they acted as deterrents. Of course the ones helping were doing it with good intentions. And that means that none of this may work for you. So, rather than blindly taking up advice, please please see if it makes sense for you. 
  • More. There must be more mistakes that I would've made. Like most other self-obsessed people, I may not be able to recall all the mistakes here :)

Lessons I learnt.
  • Write everyday. If there is one lesson I've learnt, it is that I ought to write everyday. It's like a muscle. If you dont flex it everyday, if you dont practise it everyday, it will rust. In fact I remember this line - "karat karat abhyaas te, jadmati hot sujan" from when I was a kid. All these years hence I am reminded of the lines! 
  • Leap of Faith. It’s ok to take leaps of faith. When I quit, I had plans of living off my savings. I did that. And before I could really dip into my savings, I got an opportunity to work part-time for someone who paid me enough to take care of my rent. Everytime I was in a soup, some solution came my way!
  • The world is far nicer than I though it was. When I quit, I heard of grim stories of how the world has wronged people. Plus, I have always been a huge cynic. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers towards me. People came forward to help me, support me and even give their time and money to me. 
  • Assume that the world will ridicule you. I have another line. From I don't know who, "Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." I learnt that no one will ever understand why I crave so much to write. They may not, I am not answerable to anyone. The world ridiculed me, laughed at me. It was tough to stay strong. I tried. I failed. I am learning. 
  • A life of poverty. Lately I have been trying to figure out if I can make a career out of writing. My language is not really perfect and my vocabulary is limited. But what the heck, I'd try. So, I've been meeting writers and hustlers. And everyone has told me that it's a long long long road and it's full of poverty and rejection and dejection. I am not ready for this one yet. But I will someday make an exception. 
Finally, I totally believe in the concept of paying it forward. I am going to do the same. I am willing to help other first-time authors discover the magic of writing a book. Trust me guys, there is nothing as pleasurable as seeing your name in print. Especially when you’ve been cherishing the dream for almost 10 years. 

Please write into me and I would love to help in anyway possible. Ofcourse if you believe in my story and you really want to help me, please consider helping me in my fundraising attempt with Catapooolt

I may not be the best writer around but I know how to get a book out. I am going to get 5 books out by 2020. Just wait and watch. 

Thank You. 
Saurabh Garg 
30 Sep 2014 22 Nov 2014

The Life Triangle

Source: Unknown
Apologies for the rant last night. I was probably intoxicated by my inability to get things done and my thoughts were paralyzed by my financial condition.

Now that I have slept over it, it sounds like a trifling thing.

Actually to be honest, it's not trivial at all. It is important. It's one life. We live only once. And we better live it with peace, happiness and with friends and family while we are at it. What else is the purpose of life?

So, from where I stand, I think of life in three variables. Money, Health and Writing. Health is a larger theme encompassing physical, mental and emotional health. And of course, on top of these three are things like family, friends, relationships and other such things that make us human.

Let me talk about each now. Start with writing. Writing gives me pleasure. Though I am not sure if it can pay my bills. It can't. Not right now. May be sometime in future.

Money is what makes the world go around. To be able to do nothing but write, to live in the mountains, to travel the world, to buy those gadgets, that car, it takes money. And apart from me, everyone seems to be making enough and more of it.

Health is probably the most important of the three. If I not in the pink of my health, I cant enjoy the orgasm that I get from writing, I cant ride that bike that I would've bought from all the access money I would have and I definitely would not be able to enjoy the mountains and beauty around it.

So I need to juggle these three tough balls (of money, heath and writing), while walking on a tight rope that is stretched on the poles of relationships, friends, family and other emotions.

I can't fall down for sure. And I don't want to drop these balls either. It's like being on the guard all the time. It's like being that circus artist that has a million eyes watching him; and he has to perform, even if he is unhappy or unwell or bored or something. There is no way he can let his guard down. There is no way he can not perform. And worse part, you he can't even say that he's bored or tired or unhappy.

Damn life!

There was a time when I thought I could manage all three and get things done. I did it for a few days. But I guess I was wrong.

I can't manage all three. Leave three, I am having tough time figuring just one of the three out.

How do you guys do it?

I give up!

I give up. I can't do it. I can't. And I hate myself for it. I just don't have the time to do it. Or may be I don't think its important enough for me to do it. Or may be I don't have the balls or perseverance to do anything. Or may be I am loser. Or may be, I am a quitter. Isn't that why sgMS left me?

Irrespective. I can't do it. I am a loser.

Second year running, despite all the effort, intent and determination, I have failed to reduce my waist or my weight and I am going to lose a bet. Bet is not important. Important is that I can't do a shitty thing like losing weight. Especially when for a large part of the year I had nothing else to do. Fucking kept procrastinating. And here I am. Fat, old, unhealthy, lethargic all the time.

Of course now I have something to put the blame on. And yeah, that's what I am doing. Getting off easy by putting the blame on someone else. I am not owning upto my shit. I am merely putting the blame on someone else. My job. It keeps me busy and so I don't have any time to do anything. Guess this is what they mean when they say that it's tough to juggle a day job and a hobby on the sides. Hate the fact that I have to slog the entire day, sitting behind a desk to be able to make ends meet. Hate that I've given the control of my life to someone else, willingly, so easily. Guess this is what that Apple TVC from 1984 spoke of?

The world, is fucking unfair. Life, unfairer than that. I refuse to play thy game. I want out.

Really do.

Book Review. God is a Gamer.

I recently read God is a Gamer. The latest by Ravi Subhramanian. Got the book as part of the book review program by Blogadda.com. 

Please note that this is NOT a paid a review. I do NOT make any money from this.

Before I launch in a full-blown review, let me get some numbers out of the way. I mean the ratings.

Readability: 3.5 on 5
Suspense: 3 on 5
Storyline / Plot: 3 on 5
Overall: 3.5 on 5

One line verdict
God is a Gamer is an attempt at writing a chase through myriad locations, characters and situations, all of it culminating in one destination. A pot-boiler for sure.

Full review
I read the book a few days back but never found the time to write a review. Here I am, on a Sunday morning. Trying to wrap my head about what I read a few days back. Whatever I write will come from my head and I would not have the advantage of flipping through the pages to write the review.

So, the plot is slightly difficult to talk about in few words. I'd still try. A few seemingly unrelated crimes happen in New York, Washington and Mumbai. In US, a high-ranking government servant / official is murdered and the great police departments, the FBI, the CIA and all other three-letter agencies can't seem to figure out the intent or MO. In Mumbai, a banker is killed and the police is forced to cast a net so wide that the Finance Minister himself becomes a suspect. Meanwhile in Mumbai, a BPO handling transactions for the large financial institutions in US gets hacked and it results in

At time the books reads like a corporate espionage, a political thriller, a murder mystery, a chase and of course, a love story! Love the way Ravi got all these themes together in one place! I wish I could do the same with my books!

Of course I could get into more details but then I would have to unravel the suspense. Nah, I won't do that. The book has to be read. It's definitely a one time read. And a racy one at that.

Coming to the good bits...
  • Short chapters. Each chapter is about 2 slides of the page. Brilliant strategy. The book becomes a page turner. I think that's a new trend. Last book I reviewed, Private India was similar. 
  • A brilliant way to teach the basics of financial industry, especially a peer to peer currency like Bitcoin. Reminds me of Goldratt's Goal. I think Ravi needs to look at that genre closely. Can he make the boring things like finance into interesting plots and stories like God is a Gamer? 

There were a few things that I did not like. I call them not-so-good bits...
  • Too many characters for my liking. Unless the book is a Godfather that requires me to think of motives and actions of men (that are guided by long standing traditions rather than moments of insanity), I dont want to burden myself with too many characters or too many side plots. May be its Ravi's style. 
  • The Bitcoin misnomer. The book has hardly anything to do with Bitcoin. Agreed that crimes happen because the Bitcoins are at the heart of the issue but again, I won't call it The Bitcoin Thriller. 
  • Hollywood-ization. There are elements in the book that probably are best suited for a spy thriller (spoiler alert: hidden rings etc) based in the US of A. As an Indian reader, I just can not relate to these things. May be other evolved readers can. But I cant. So it could be my limitation, as compared to the book. You decide. 
That's it I guess in form of a review.

In the end 
Definitely a one-time read if nothing else. Do read it. At times the book is unputdownable. I could finish the book in two sittings. That's it. 

Thanks!
SG

Notes
1. This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

2. Since I am an author as well now, I take these reviews even more seriously.

3. If you want to review my first book, The Nidhi Kapoor Story, please write into me (or leave a comment) and I would be in touch.

To pay or not to pay...

"Influencer" marketing
Continuing from where I left on Tuesday (the rant about book marketing), I have a few decisions to make. And I cant seem to arrive at em. Let me first put forth the questions. And then I'd talk about my thoughts on those.

a. Some very popular book review blogs, websites, e-zines have agreed to cover my book (website, buy) and review it. Surprisingly most of them are asking for money. The money will apparently go towards "writing" the review, "promoting" the review (on their websites, Facebook and twitter) and creating imagery associated with. Though the brazenness with which they've asked for money, it looks like a norm in the industry rather am exception but I am not sure if I want to pay to get my book reviewed. Or may be I ought to pay because I have to market the book somehow. So this is question number one.

b. Most of the publications that I've wrote into (begging to cover my book) haven't replied. Some have. And most of those "some" have huge ego issues. The emails are snooty, arrogant and full of words that I can't even comprehend. Some dont even understand the context and market for books. It was surprising to know that such ignorant people run these successful websites. The question thus is, is it worth talking to such people? Agreed that they would help market the book. But do I tolerate them? And why is that I am the only one seeing such attitude? What about my other writer friends / contacts? They don't seem to be fazed by any of it!

c. Where do I draw a line between marketing, advertising, bribing, advertorials, editorials, product placements, interviews, debates? I know that boundaries are blurred. Who else will know this better than I (after all I work in the industry)? Am I willing to do this for my own product? All this while, I have never had issues paying people to talk about other people's products / services. Why is that I am having issues paying for mine?

d. Will I spoil my relationship with these "influencers"? After all I am in the market for the long haul. I am hoping to write one book every year. And I need all the help. Each of these people can tell me if I am a good writer or a bad one. They can help me improve the craft. They can connect me with others. So on and so forth. By refusing to work with these guys, am I sort of alienating these guys? Am I making enemies out of these guys? Will this come back to me in future, to haunt me?

So far, I dont have any answers. Since the book has started to ship, I need to now probably pull up my socks and get along with these influencers somehow. Would love to hear thoughts and opinions from other authors, writers. And if you read a lot of book, want to know what you think as well.

Thanks!
SG

The Marketing Madness

Dibert on Marketing
I have been up since 4. No kidding. I have data from Moves (which I love btw) to support the claim. I slept at around 10 yesterday and after whatever little fitful sleep I managed, I finally got up at 4.

Since then, I've walked for 30 mins, did 30 crunches (despite my hernia) and had a green tea (which makes me sick in the gut but people say it's supposed to help). And I made a poster for my upcoming book. And I sent out emails to 20 strangers, literally begging them to cover my book in their publications, send mails to random people asking them to share the book with others and so on and so forth. You get the drift.

That's how my day looks like these days. That's what I do these days. And I am a teetotaler. That makes alcohol out of bounds. Guessing, of course is what I do. The entire day!

So whatever morsels of time I can save during the day, I try and think who all could I be contacting about the promotion of the book. I then add those names to a list. And at the end of day, or early next day I send out emails, starting from the bottom of the list. Remember that FIFO principle?

And no points for guessing the response rate - which (or that?) remains dismally close to zero.

But...

but...

but... I understand this is all a tiny part of hustle. In a positive way. I am learning a lot of new things. The chief one being that it's ok to let the world judge you. All this while, in my entire life, I have not subjected myself to other people's opinions. Even then, if there were any opinions, I took them on the face value and ignored them. This time around I think I'd be affected. I know, I know. First book is just testing waters. It's not a big deal if people don't like. And other things like that.

I have these endless conversation with myself. Damn!

The other side, the flip side of the entire thing is that I literally get no time to do things that I want to do. This todo list includes poker, learning a new hobby, taking it easy, meeting people, more writing, travel. The list goes on. I have come to accept that I am a lost soul and I shall remain one. I just need to maximize my time. This marketing madness is not helping matters. Only thing I get to do these days, is talk about my book for a couple of hours every morning. And thats' about it!

And it sucks. S U C K S. Yeah, loud.

I am a fucking artist writer. And I am supposed to work on writing. On the craft. Not on the ancillary things like marketing. I know it's an important part of the craft. But these days, it has become the only part. Ant that's where my problem is! I wonder how to other writers manage this bit. May be they have money and they have large departments to churn out ideas for them? May be they don't need marketing. I mean if Stephan King came out with a book tomorrow, he'd just have to drop a tweet and rest shall take care of itself. Look at Chetan Bhagat. He could book a front-page ad in the most widely circulated daily of the country! How do they manage? How do other authors manage?

I have no fucking clue. And I hate wasting my limited time like this. I hate doing non-productive work. Hell, in my time I could choose to sleep but that's my decision. And I am not answerable to anyone. This marketing shit... damn. Oh, and come to think of it, I am a marketeer by training and profession. Irony!

Anyhow, in the entire episode, there are a couple of silver-linings to be happy about. A, the folks at Catapooolt have been a pleasure to work with. I can totally see myself recommending them to others. And B, I have made so many new friends. While the world at large remains hostile and friends (and acquaintances continued to desert me), I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness that a few strangers have shown towards me. More about them in some other post, on a day when I am not feeling rotten about how I am spending my life.

Till then...

Wait a minute. Did you like the FB page yet? Did you buy the book yet? Did you tell your friends about it yet?

P.S.: That's crib # 2 in as many days. Note to self. Watch out!

The Impending Monday

So this is what it feels like.

When tiny chores get piled up for the last two days of the week. When despite two clear days, you can't seem to get even one chore done. When the two clear days blur and the Friday evening merges into the Saturday morning that in turns creeps into the Sunday; all without you realizing that it has happened. When before you know, the weekend is over. When the gloominess of the impending work week that you'd have to spend trapped in office sets in. When you miss your days as a free bird where you were the master of your time and the concept of work week was alien to you. When you start craving for that time as the free bird to come back; even if it meant financial insecurity. When the financial security starts feeling like a chain around your ankles and life looks boring. When you start questioning the meaning of life. When you watch Steve Jobs talk about life again and again. And when Steve says the think about looking into the mirror, you think of the ticking time bomb. When you look for reasons to clock in mandatory nine hours and try to diffuse that time bomb; even if none of those nine was spent on any actual work. When by the first hour itself, you start comparing yourself to other rats in the race. When the futility of it all hits you in the face and you cant comprehend why are the other rats so oblivious to misery of a financially secure life. When you forget the futility bit because the fancy paycheck that you get allows you to go to fancy restaurants and afford things that you never could. When you do buy those things, it dawns on you that you have no time to enjoy those things because you don't have the time. When you suddenly have to go sleep by 9 on Sunday night because you dont want to be late to work the next day. Oh when you dread things like getting in late. When the little question from the poor administrative office feels like a nag from an old, sore wife. When the entire experience feels like dragging a dead relationship because you don't want to let go; hell, you can't let go. When the entire thing makes you depressed about it. When the fogs of depression dont let you see a way out. And when the fog lifts, you realize that life's reduced to staring at the clock, hoping it would go faster; but the torturous clock actually ticks slower than it ought to and no one can help. When you suddenly think that may be, just may be, if you believed in God, may be He would have have helped the clock go faster. When you realize that others that believe in God are faring no better. When you see those God-fearing zombies all around you, happily walking into the doors of slavery. When you can't understand what makes the other slaves tick and so excited about the mundane days ahead for the rest of their lives. When the gloom of the predictable eventually sets in. When you get used to it. When you become a part of the crowd rather than screaming. When, when, those jokes, those stories, those anecdotes, those cartoons about perils of Monday mornings start to make sense. When you are.. you are...

Thoughts on book industry in India

Now that I am a stakeholder in the publishing industry in India and over the next few years I hope to become a significant one, I am going to start talking about things I've learnt while I was working on #tnks (wow that was a long sentence).

I plan to post my thoughts in a series of posts. And I am calling this series as Business of Books. So before I start getting into any serious discussion or prose, here are a few things that I would talk about over the next few weeks, months. If there is something specific that you want me to talk about, please do let me know.

No, I am not an expert. I am a mere curious observer standing on the sidelines of this amazing business.
  • Print vs Electronic. The non-stop battle between printed and ebooks. Which is better. Why? What is the alternative?
  • The monies. What do the publishers make, what do authors make? Who else makes money. Of course a lot of guesstimating will be involved.
  • Marketing. Of course. I am after-all a marketeer by training. The jury is still out on my "expert" level though.
  • Managing egos. Of other writers, publishers, retailers, distributors. Even readers have egos!
  • The mafia. No no, not the Italian Sicilian one. But the mafia in the books industry. Yes, there is. Trust me. I've had an encounter already. Thankfully it was not dirty.
  • Support groups. I am lucky to have folks at Wrimo India as a huge support group. Without them, a lot of my work would have suffered. Why is important to have a group? What to do if you don't have one.
  • First-time authors. This one is probably where I'd spend a lot of time. After all, I am an outsider and it took considerable time, effort, hustle and luck to get the book done. Publishing for me was surprisingly easy. More on this as we go along.
That's all I can think of for the time being. I am hoping to do one post per week. Let's see if I can stick to the schedule. No promises though. 

Oh, I just need to figure out how would onWriting.in co-exist with this. I don't have answers for the time being. Let's see when they dawn. In the meanwhile, hope you've ordered the book!

Originally published on tnks blog.

"You think and do, whereas I do and think"

SRK. Source: Unknown.
The other day, on the 2nd, it was SRK's birthday. And I am sure that if you know me well, you know how much a love the man (or the popular perception he's got).

So on his birthday, I was reading one of his interviews from 2014 and when Rajeev Masand asked him about his relationship with Aamir Khan, SRK said [he said to Aamir Khan],
"You think and do, whereas I do and think," 
I read the line and I was like, wow!

In this one line, he put to rest all speculation, all doubt that I had about SRK's ability to choose what he does. I can now ignore, forgive, forget all his mistakes. I mean the man simply acts. Agreed he thinks a lot and he's created a perception about things but he simply does. For him, action takes precedence over foreplay. Karma wins over buddhi vilas.

So, coming to myself (after all the blog is supposed to be about me), I think I do the same thing. I act. Often impulsively (or may be I act on gut and intuition. whatever but I act) and then I think about what I've done. As a result, I often make mistakes but who cares. Every mistake makes me richer. It strengthens my gut, my intuition muscle, creates a rich library of incidents that I can refer to. After all, I am in this for the long haul!

Not a bad epiphany to happen first thing in the morning!

Thank you SRK for helping me with the epiphany. And oh, belated Happy Birthday!

The Paycheck Puzzle

Rat Race. Source: Unknown. Found here.
In my entire life, since I started working, I have never had to wait for a paycheck. I have been lucky like that. Not that I had things in abundance but I did have enough to not worry about that one tranche of payment at the end of the month. May be because I got a head start (I do not contribute anything to my home) and I've largely been prudent. 

In fact, I want to claim that everytime I have needed money, I've somehow got it from some unexpected source. No, I don't win lotteries or get estates from old uncles but I do get some unexpected work (freelance). Or some deferred payments comes through or some refunds happen. Somehow, something has happened and I've got money.

But lately I am having issues. First a freelance job that gave me a regular trickle of money every month, I was fired from it. Second I made some unnecessary expenses at the behest of some friends; the expense was totally unjustified and sad part is that I can't get a refund on it and I will have to live with it. Finally, I did not plan things well. I kept delaying things, hoping that they'd fall in place by themselves. They did not and I am thus reeling under the pressure. 

All these, things, have made me a slave to paycheck that is supposed to come at the end of every month. I started a new naukri and it's been a month. Well almost. The paycheck is due and I am waiting for it desperately. It's actually the 5th day of the month already and money is nowhere in sight. However, the overdraft on my credit card is staring in my face. Oh, I am behind on the rent. And I could do with some new clothes. The phone needs to be replaced and the computer that I loaned from sis is almost broken. The list just goes on. I will not bore with details but the matter of fact is, I need money. Side note. I think I also need a year off.

I have no clue how the rest of the world lives their life waiting for a paycheck. Total respect AND pity towards the ones who do. My folks did the same and most people around me do it. And no one seems bothered about it. I have no clue how they do it. The damn rat race is so evident and I am now a part of it. Existential crisis is so not happening. That too, first thing in the morning! 

On an average, during the day, I think that I can change the world. I really mean it. I really think that I can add a lot of "value" to whatever I do. I believe I am gifted like that. I have no shame in saying so. Neither am I proud about it. I just know that I've been given a gift and I am not using it. And I am stuck in this mindless chase to nowhere. If I were any less, I would've accepted things and would have done haalat se samjhauta. But I can't. I know I can do lot more. I don't know when or how though. Any help anyone?

While I finished posting this, I am still refreshing my bank account page every thirty seconds. Hoping for a miracle that somehow some money would land in the account and I would ward off the creditors for a bit, before they are back, next month. And the month after that. While I am still waiting for my paycheck to happen!  

Oh, and just yesterday I met someone who told me that great men like Anurag Kashyap and others had to sleep on the kitchen floor for years. And for every great man who's made it big, there are a million others that die an anonymous death. Can I take hope from their lives? I don't even know what I am rambling. 

More later! 

P.S.: These days I think a lot about money and life and other things. Don't know what's up!
P.P.S.: Things aren't that bad to be honest. Most of my issues are first world problems really. Some other such problems are here

The first ten copies of #tnks

The first ten copies of #tnks are here at the publisher's office. I would get mine in a day or two. My copies. The ones I own. The ones that the publishing contract said I would get for free.

I can't wait to see em. Can't wait for that damn courier to arrive. I just hope that paper is nice, cover is thick enough and it feels like a real book when I hold it in my hand.

How do I feel? A million bucks. Damn right! A million bucks! After all the book was on my bucket list forever!

So, after the euphoria, now that the book is here, I need to do two things.

a. move on. Last two months sixteen or so months, I have done nothing but talk about the book. I need to let fate take it's own course. I need to let go. I have been having sleepless nights over it (the response, the sales, the feedback etc) but I need to let go. I need to stop worrying. I need to get #tnks out of my system. It's done and it's out there. I need to move on. That doesn't mean I'd stop the hustle. But that means that I would mentally move on. Irrespective of how book does or how many copies do I sell, I need to move on to the next one. I call it Book 2 and I am fairly certain of the style that I want to write it in. And yes, it is slightly different from #tnks.

b. housekeeping. I need to do some bit of housekeeping. For starters, I need to give the first copy to Rana Sir. After all, he paid advance for his copy way back in Oct of last year. Then I need to hand over a copy to #sgMS. Of course I have ordered one for her already that would reach her home once the book is on the bookstores, but I ought to give it to her by hand. And then, I will give a copy to few friends, including my sis and Neo. And I would keep a few copies on me all the time. So that next time I goto a bookstore, next time I meet someone who loves books, I could flip the copy out and show it to them!

That's it!

In case you want to buy, you know what to do. Head over to Amazon and Flipkart.

Epicness!

So if you know me, you would know that all my life I have been scared of kids. Not scared actually. But there is some other emotion at play that I can't pinpoint. I can not, just can not be in the same room as kids. I hate them. Detest them. Don't want to be anywhere close to them. Please dont blow these words out of proportion. I merely mean that I, Saurabh Garg, am not fond of kids. And I have no problem with other kids. I mostly leave them alone. I just don't like them around me. May be I would when I am old and won't have anyone else to call of my own. Whatever.

But yesterday night, something epic happened. Epic as in E P I C. I took a 3-month old baby in my arms. Let me call her babyNeo for ease of reference. Ok, so babyNeo may not 3-months, she's something like 6-months. But she still is a big orange ball of flesh. She kept clawing at my face and my arms and it was the most brilliant feeling. Almost up there with time spent with sgMS. That brilliant. Yeah man!

No, I am not excited about holding her again. It was that one off thing. Like those things that you do just once in life? Party in Vegas, Bungee jump, road trip across America and so on and so forth.

But yes, it was EPIC and it had to come on the blog. Even though I am swarmed with work and thoughts about life and things. More soon. Over and out.

Untitled. Oct 30, 2014.

I don't even know when was the last time I posted on this blog (edit note: On 6th Oct). Since the book went live on Amazon and Flipkart, I have spent all my time talking about it, to everyone that I meet. So much so that if you wake me up at the middle of the night, I would rattle that TNKS is the story of one Nidhi Kapoor who happens to be a famous actress...

Most of these people-many are meeting me for the first time-look at me with pity. They are like, "Here's another misguided soul who thinks that writing could feed his expensive lifestyle." Some obviously are kind. Take GK for example. He is the first contributor to my campaign to try and raise money for the book. Thanks GK.

To top the misery of marketing hustle (to get the book known by as many people as possible), I just started a new job. It's been a month and with the Diwali leave and other small leaves, I have spent very few days in office. And, trust me, all those days were so full with work that I did not have time to even die. Writing, reading, meeting people, traveling, thinking, poker and everything else's now been reduced to things that are meant to be done on weekends. I am now part of the rat race. I am now trapped in that inevitable month-on-month paycheck cycle. A life that I detested all my life. Irony. Guess when they said "never say never," they said it from experience. It's like someone's clipped the wings of a grasshopper. Or a bird. Take your pick. So, yesterday, the monotony of warming one chair with my fat butt got better of me and I left office before the time I was scheduled to leave. Of course I would be reprimanded by HR for it. But what the heck. I am not a slave. I love what the company does but my freedom is more important to me. I left early, came home and fell face first on my hard bed. And no, it did not hurt. It actually felt nice for a change.

It was 7 I think when I forced myself to doze off. The sleep was fitful and I woke multiple times at night. Each time I checked my phone, hoping that #sgMS would have reconciled things and would have asked me to come back. No, she did not send any message. She'd never do something like that. Her pride is far too big for it. I did dream of her though. She and I were on some train journey. Very unlike because I detest long train journeys but I am not complaining. It was a dark night and train was passing over a never-ending bridge, erected on top of some ocean somewhere in Europe. Apart from that faint sliver of moon at some distance, it was a pitch black night. I flipped out my phone to take a selfie, both of us bathed in moon light. But I am klutzy when it comes to camera. So she snatched my phone and extended her smallish arms and took a picture. While she clicked, she squeezed in close to me. I could breathe in her perfume, see that tinge of white hiding behind the thick bun that she loves to tie her hair in. She was close to me than she has been in years. And I wanted the moment to last forever. Ok enough. Just because I am reading my first Mills and Boon does not mean I start writing cheesy things on a public blog. And that too about sgMS.

To come back to the afterlife of being a published author, to be honest, it sucks. While I was writing, I had no one to answer to. No one had any expectations. I broke away from all relationships. I was a free fucking bird. I had saved some and seen the world and all I had to do was write 1000 or so word everyday. The 1000 words were a struggle but every word I wrote brought along elation and excitement and satisfaction. I was rowing my own boat in the vast ocean and it did not matter if the boat stayed afloat or drowned. No one would've noticed to be honest. I was truly by myself. I was the master of my time. I could choose what I did.

Now, now that the book is done, I am back to being the chief bread-earner for my family. A side-note on my parents. If not for them, I wouldn't have been able to lead such a nomadic life. Not nomadic but hippy. Thanks Ma and Pa.

But now that I am back, the grind sucks. The ones I listen to, I goto advice for, my mentors, they tell me that that's how life is meant to be lived. I refuse to accept. When God, or whoever else made us, he had to have a plan. And that plan definitely could not be as wasteful as spending hours in a room with other people, trying to give wings to other people's dreams. Damn life. It's so frivolous and wasteful. Something needs to be done. I don't know what.

At times I think the ones who are called mad, they probably weren't mad at all. They were merely taking the world for a ride. That dude Nietzsche said something interesting about such people. He said, "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." I want to believe that he was right. I want to believe that a lot of people around me are dancing to their tunes and I have no clue as to what they are listening to. Wish I had a tune playing in my head. I could've danced to my tune and I could've ignored the world around me. But then, the eternal question. Is it what the life is meant for? To take other for a ride?

There has to a way out. Someone has to have answers. Someone must know the meaning of it all. Someone has to solve the conundrum. There are so so many things that are wrong about the world around us. The unfairness of the world, the hazaar khawahishs, the bonds that prevent us from taking wings, the expectations, sgMS, money. There are so many things that I dont have a clue to. Time to seek help? I don't know. Who'd have answers? Are they easy?

Guess this is what Midlife Crisis is all about?

P.S.: Loved writing this little rant. Oh, the pleasures of venting out. And the pleasures of writing. And the pleasures of a coffee shops. Thanks Starbucks!

P.P.S.: Just updated my bucket list.

#tnks on Catapooolt

News!

I just signed up for a crowdfunding campaign on catapooolt.com to help me raise money to market #tnks. The campaign is live on the catapooolt website. Please go see it. Here is a small intro I made for it.



So why I am doing this? What do I hope to get out of it? What is the exact status of the book? You must have like a million questions. Hopefully this post will answer all those. I like the QnA format the best. Here it is.

U: What is the status of the book?
SG: As we speak, the book is with the printers. Should be available in first half of November. The publisher (Grapevine) has sent requests to Flipkart and Amazon India to list the book but I don't know the status as yet. I need to check with the publisher for it.

U: What do you hope to get out of the campaign?
SG: Two things actually. A, Reach out to more people. And B, raise some money (Rs. 5 lakhs to be precise) that I plan to use to market my book.

U: Thats a lot of money. How do you plan to use it? 
SG: To be honest, Rs. 5 lakh would not translate into a lot of actual cash. A large chunk of it would go towards the cost of running the campaign (cant get into specifics buts it's in low double digit percentage points). Then, each contributor will get atleast one copy of the book. Another large chunk will go towards its cost. Finally, I would be left with about a couple of lakhs for marketing. I hope to spend it on conducting a book tour, physical meetups, placing sample copies at libraries across the country and online marketing (SEM, FB and other online platforms). No, I will not take home any money that I raise from the platform. Please do ask me in case you have questions around this.

U: Do you have marketing plan in place? 
SG: Yes I do. Available on request. Please ask me and I would share.

U: Why crowdfunding?
Few reasons. Here is a list.
  • I am poor. No shame or guilt in admitting it. Heard of poverty porn?
  • I need money to market. Like any product, the audience (people who read books) needs to be told that a product that they may like (my book) exists and they ought to try it. This telling the audience bit requires money. And hence crowdfunding. Simple.
  • Access to "crowd." As much I hate calling people "crowd," it's an accepted term. So, crowd is a set of people spread all over the Intenret - who I may or may not know - that often help others realize their goals dreams. Most crowdfunding websites have a long list of patrons and a ready community of such people.
  • No other alternative. I have to spend money to get attention. Everyone may hate the book. That's a different matter. But they need to read it first. So, I don't have a rich father or long-lost uncles. Not dating a rich heiress. Worked for peanuts all my life and hence no savings. Don't like the concept of loans. And hence no other source of money.
  • Marketing. Every person who sees the crowdfunding campaign gets to know about my book. That's a motivation in itself. The entire idea of getting as many people possible to read the book is driving this bit. Higher the number of people who read the book, more feedback I get and better I get. I am in this (writing) for the long haul and I better get better with time.
  • Finally, why not! 

U: What would you give in return if someone supports the campaign?
SG: Boat load of thanks. That translates into good karma. In terms of tangibles, you ofcourse get a copy of the book.I volunteer to sign and write a personal message in each copy that I ship to people who support me. I know I am no big deal and my message is not important to anyone. But your support is important to me. And writing a message is the least I can do for you. A few goodies that the Catapooolt guys have thrown in (more details on the campaign page). I also plan to work alongside other first-time authors come up with their books. I am definitly not the best writer out there. But I am sure that I know how to finish a book and get it in a shape that a publisher may want to see. To me, that was the biggest challenge while I was working on the book. And I want to work with other first-timers on it. And, an opportunity to pitch your book to my publisher, Grapevine India. Trust me, its a tough ask to get a face-to-face meeting with a publisher.

U: What if the campaign is a flop and you can't raise the money you seek?
SG: Big deal. Things often don't go as planned. That does not mean we stop living. I would atleast learn a few things about this thing called crowdfunding. No? That's it. I've run out of questions. You have more questions? Yes? Please ask me. No? Please support me.

Thank You! Oh, one more thing, Catapooolt guys are really really cool. If you are looking to raise funds for a project or something, please do consider them. I would be happy to connect. It's been an absolute pleasure to work with them.

Originally published on #tnks blog.

Hello, Mr. First Timer!

I subscribe to a few blogs and newsletters. One of them is by this guy called Jack Cheng. His last newsletter talked about things he did for the first-time in the last week.

Taking inspiration from him, here is a list of things I did for the first-time in my life, in the last week till the time of writing this. In no particular order.
  1. Slept for over 18 hours on Sunday. The time when I was awake, I took a flight, ate, showered and walked. No phone calls, no conversations, no interruptions. It was just me, with myself. Wish life had more days like that. 
  2. Asked the 50 dates girl out. She runs this blog, 50 dates in Delhi. Love the project. Love the way she writes. I had to make friends with her. Wrote in and asked her out. And no, she hasn't responded so far. Knowing of her popularity, I dont expect an answer. But, like Geeta says, karm karo, fal ki chinta nahi. [Update. Before I could publish, I did get a reply!]
  3. Pushed, shoved, tugged, dragged a shopping cart full of things that I bought for someone else's house. Hoping to make the place better. And despite the fact that I hate going to these grocery, home product places on the weekend but that's all I had. I had to do. Why? I dont know. The person better keeps the house clean.
  4. Decided to run a Marathon. By June of next year. Gives me 8 odd months to prepare. More on this later in the day / week. I am using this book as my guide. Prof. Bakshi had recommended this book some time back in one of his posts. 
  5. Cancelled a reminder that I had put to alert #sgMS on a med that she ought to take every monday at 8. She is no longer with me and I ought to move on. Tough but I would. Inshallah. I would.
  6. Missed deadlines. On two things that could impact how my book does. One was to one of the best social media marketing brains in the country. And other to a platform that could have helped me market my books to people I don't know. Knowing both of them, I dont think I am getting another shot. Damn! 
  7. Got an author page on Goodreads. Its at goodreads.com/saurabhgarg. Takes me a step closer to having a wikipedia page some day :). Why do I want it? I dont know. What would I do with it? I dont know. After all it would be one of 5 million (and counting) pages on the wikipedia! 
Thats it. I am sure there is more. But cant recall. These 7 were the definite highlights. And I loved writing this one. Thanks Jack! Lets see if I remember to do write one, the next week. 

And what did you do for the first-time in the last week? 

P.S.: Mandatory plug for my book. The Nidhi Kapoor Story. Website: www.tnks.in. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheNidhiKapoorStory

The Girl in Yellow Boots

Background. a.k.a. Context. I was talking to this friend and she told me about her fetish for shoes. She told me about 40 different kinds of shoes that she had. 40. Four zero. For someone like me - I refuse to wear shoes even when I am taking interviews - 40 different types of shoes sounded crazy. And that's where an idea happened. What if I could write a fictional story, each story inspired by a pair of shoes? 

Here is the first.

Timberland Yellow Boots. Via AK.
[Start]
I saw her first at Indigo deli. Indigo is one of those upscale places where a lot of celebrities come together to break bread and sip on wines. Although, out of place, I was there to meet an old acquaintance, hoping to get a lead for a writing job. After all, that's what I am supposed to do as a struggling writer. Suck up to people, hoping to get work that would allow me to survive in Mumbai for yet another month. I lived like that. Month on month. Hand to mouth. I lived on hope. That some day my words would make some reader cry her heart out and eventually I'd move the entire country. And may be that day, that day I'd make a living from my art. Actual living. Not tiny morsels that aren't enough to feed that insatiable hunger that's gnawing me since I decided to take up writing as a career.

Oh, I have drifted. I often do that. When I see words come up, I tend to get lost. I guess it's one of the curses of being a writer. So, let me come back to her. I saw her first at Indigo. No no. It wasn't love. I guess it was surprise and amazement. It was intrigue. It was this urge to know more about her. Be friends with her. May be spend the rest of my life with her. That's it. Not love. Not even lust. But intrigue and a desire to be with her for as long.

She had long curly hair that fell on her face like a veil. She was chewing onto a gum furiously as she scribbled intensely with a pencil. I don't know what made me look in her direction first. But whatever it was, I turned to her and immediately dismissed her as yet another actress. She looked like one and that anyway was Indigo's claim to fame. That you could spot celebrities even on the dead days.

Since my long-lost friend, who could get me a job that promised another month in Mumbai, was yet to come, I had nothing to do but watch people. Yet another hobby that I had to develop to help me write better. So, I was looking at everyone that I could see from my vantage point, in the other corner. There was this young couple who were apparently arguing over something. May be they were having a crisis in their relationship. There was this mother-daughter duo engrossed in their food. Another couple - they were relatively older - was together on a table but looked bored of each other's company. Guess they were married for some time and they had nothing left to talk about. The man was lost in his phone and the woman was leafing through the menu. Damn such relationships where togetherness loses its meaning and people merely go through the motions. Thankfully, on the table next to me was a group of old ladies, none of them less than 60, who apparently were celebrating life like they were sixteen. On another table was this man who sat by himself, engrossed in a book. And then there was me. An out-of-job writer. And of course her.

While I was busy casting all these people in stereotypes, for some reason, my gaze continued to shift back to her. As if I was watching a ping-pong match. I would look at a table, think about the occupants and then go back to her and think about her. Even when I was busy lamenting about the couple that lacked a spark in their lives, somewhere at the back of my head was thinking about her.

I tried hard to avoid her but I could not. She was like this magnetic force that continued to pull me. I don't know why. May be it was her beautiful hair. May be it was the way she curled her lips while she concentrated on her work. Or was it way she held onto the pencil? I don't know. I would never know.

To make matters worse, I think I was the only one who was interested in her. No one else gave her a second look. And all this was new to me. I have always been unfazed by the presence of even the most intimidating women. And here was this woman who captivated my attention like no other. She, on the other hand, in all probability, was oblivious to my presence and was ignorant of the effect that she had on me.

I knew I had to talk to her. Somehow. I had to come up with a reason, a pretext. I had to find one. I had to speak to her. May be she was a writer as well. How else do you explain a girl, a pencil and a cafe in one sentence. Suddenly, as if on the cue, she dropped it.

I traced the pencil as it fell on the wooden flooring that lined the restaurant's floor. For a fall from a three-feet or so high table, it took forever for the pencil to hit the floor. May be it was one of those incidents where time slows down and things get etched in your memory forever.

The pencil landed near her feet and that's when I noticed her mustard-sauce colored yellow boots first. I had her in my field of vision for this long and I never noticed the shoes that she was wearing. I was stumped yet again. I just couldn't comprehend that a strikingly good looking girl, dressed impeccably in a red dress could wear such ugly yellow boots. To me, a girl wearing yellow boots means a tough woman, who is headstrong, bold, prefers outdoor, loves to travel and is more alpha that the alphaest of men.

I know that I couldn't paint a more cliched picture of a girl in yellow boots. And yet, she, the girl in yellow boots and a red dress, looked like a polar opposite. She was this a fragile little thing that for sure would shatter into million tiny pieces if I even touched her. Her countenance and her boots, together, were like this study in contrasts. I had all the more reason to find a pretext to talk to her. She was away from me, or I could have helped her pick that pencil off the floor. I could have sent a note or something with the waiter but that's probably the oldest way to get rejected the fastest. I could walk up to her and ask for her permission to join her but I did not have the balls. There had to be a way. Do I drop a dish or something and create a ruckus to catch her attention? But what woman wants to talk to a sloppy man?

It took me forever to come up with an elaborate plot to get her attention and go talk to her. In my head, I repeated my opening lines that I'd use to talk to her. I perfected my approach and fixed my hair. I pumped myself with fake confidence and I was finally ready to go talk to her and ask her about her boots. That was going to be my opening line after all.

With an elaborate gesture and a swoosh, I got up from my place and let my gaze travel over other patrons - the man lost in his novel, the old ladies making merry, the boring couple munching onto their salads in uncomfortable silence - to the corner where she was seated. To my shock, it was empty. She was gone. I checked again, I checked all the corners and all the tables. She was gone. I did a desperate dance in the deli but she was gone. I rushed out but she was no where to be seen. I asked the doorman about her and he merely shrugged at my enthusiasm about a nameless patron. I spoke to the parked taxis and rickshaws but she was gone. She was gone.

Before it could sink in that she was gone, my friend walked in. While he briefed me on the job, my gaze continued to go back to that corner that she was sitting at. The corner now housed a group of chatty young women, all of them pretty and interesting. But the one I wanted, the one in yellow boots, the study in contrasts, was gone.

***

It's been three year now. I haven't bumped into her again. Even if I have, I wouldn't have noticed because, to be honest, I don't remember how she looked like. I just miss that red dress and those yellow boots.

I do visit Indigo deli more often than I ought to, hoping to spot those yellow boots, hoping to find out more about her. Over the years, in these three years, I have perfected my approach, my opening lines. I know what to ask her and what to talk to her about. I just need one more encounter with her. Damn I deserve that one more encounter. One more chance. And I will not be slow this time about.

Even though three years is a long long time for memories to fade away and people to move on and things to change, I can't get that evening, those boots out of my head. I remember that tumble and that roll of the pencil as it fell down, as if it had happened yesterday.

Of course, some things did change. That job that I was expecting to get that day, eventually came my way. The thing that I wrote for that job, did make people shed tears and did move the collective conscious of the country. One thing led to another and I have now become what I desired the most. A successful writer. Who makes a real living. Who is vaguely recognizable. Who has a few fans. And I am in a relationship that I dreaded the most. I am with a charming woman and most evening, she and I hardly have anything to talk about. I don't know who's fault is it. But I am the man who is perpetually lost in his phone and she is the woman who keeps fiddling with the menu cards when we go out.

Though, the only thing that hasn't changed is that whenever I am at Indigo, my eyes automatically go over to that corer where I saw her the first time. Hoping to see a flash of pale yellow near the foot of the table. Hoping to find her there. In that red dress, chewing onto a gum furiously, scribbling in her notepad, wearing those ugly yellow boots.

Even today, my woman and I are at Indigo. She was busy talking to someone on her phone and I was pushing my salad around with one hand and twiddling my phone with the other. Suddenly, someone tapped lightly on my shoulder and said, "Excuse me! Aren't you the same guy who wrote that book about that film actress?"

I looked up to her and nodded absentmindedly. My book about a film actress and a nameless stalker had done wonders. I assumed that she was talking about the same book. Before I could add anything, she pushed a copy of my book and a pencil in my face. She said, "It's a brilliant book. I loved it! Could I have your autograph please?"

While I did not want to be rude to the woman, I really wanted to be left alone. To drown in my disappointment and sorrow of not seeing the girl in yellow boots at Indigo yet again.

But I managed a feeble smile and took the book from her. Just then, she dropped the pencil.

I saw the pencil fall to the wooden floor. The time seemed to slow down. Yet again. After all these years. The pencil rolled and tumbled as it raced to the floor. The slow and agonizing fall eventually came to an end as the pencil came to a rest on the floor next to the mustard-sauce colored yellow boots that she was wearing.
[End]

P.S.: The other pieces of theGirlIn series are here

P.P.S.: If I sound like the protagonist in the story and I come across as a vain writer please note I am not trying to be one. 

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?