The Bus Stop

It was 9 AM when I first noticed her. Though I hadn't noticed her earlier but I am sure she's been on the bus stop for more than an hour at least. She couldn't have been more than 15 or 16. And she was dressed better than most girls that took their buses from this bus stop. She had a small and yet eye catching yellow backpack clasped in her arms. She held it tightly against her chest as if her dear life was caged in it. She was staring intently at something on the other side of the road and was otherwise motionless. If she wasn't waving her hands to ward off the flies, I would have passed her off as a mannequin that some cloth merchant had left behind.

Surprising bit was that that while she was on the bus stop, some 30 buses would have passed by and she did not take any of those. In fact I realized that she wasn't even looking at the bus numbers or making any effort to ask the conductor about whatever destination those buses went to.

She definitely did not belong to the scenery. I have been running the tea shop by this bus stop for almost five years now and I know a local when I see them. I thought that she’s from a well to do family and maybe she has had an argument with her parents and is hiding from them or something. The newspaper was full of reports like that. May be her family has put a large award for information on her whereabouts. This is the kind of luck that I desperately need. I have to pay that damn loan back that I took to start this tea shop. A large chunk of that loan was spent on bribing Pandey, the local constable and his bosses.

Just when I was going to speak to her, I was interrupted by Pandey. He never pays for his tea and I don't like him a bit.

I generally setup my shop by the bus stop by 630 AM. Today was no different. In fact, today I found Shukla Ji waiting for me. He runs the chemist shop in one of the by-lanes and he has been a customer since the first day of my shop. And since then, he has always been my first customer of the day. He says that my tea is like amrrut - the magic potion. He says my tea can infuse life into even a dead man. I think he merely exaggerates. He is a good guy and he keeps recommending me to all his customers and friends. Everything is good about him except his useless conversations. He apparently knows about everything the world has to offer and every day, he chooses a new thing to talk about. Today morning, while he kept me busy with his inane talks about women, their ailments, their whims, I took my time to clean up the place, boil water, brew the tea leaves, pound ginger, cardamom and lemon into a paste and make the first cup. Shukla Ji sipped onto the clay pot with great satisfaction and continued his monologue about women and their shopping habits. At times I have this dying urge of poisoning the tea with a rat-kill and put an end to Shukla Ji's stupid monologues but I refrain myself because I had to run the tea shop and ShuklaJi meant 7 to 8 cups a day and numerous referrals.

Just like that it was 9, ShuklaJi was long gone and it was time for Mrs. Verma to make her appearance. She is the principal of the government school for girls. Though she lives at a walking distance from the school and my teashop, and she can have her tea at home, she still likes to come over, sit here and indulge in gossip about other regulars. I don't mind. 3 cups a day. Mrs. Verma was about 45, looked 40 and considered herself 35. And like all women her age, she was particular and liked doing things her way. Like, she carried her tea cup with her every time she came to my shop. It said "World's Greatest Friend". The cup was too big to serve tea in and I suspect its was a gift from someone. But I am not sure of the greatest friend bit.

I have told her on numerous occasions earlier that since I sit on a bus stop, a cleaner mug makes no difference to hygiene and danger of diarrhea. Anyways I saw her coming and as she was approaching, my gaze automatically went towards her usual place on the bus stop. And I saw the girl with the yellow backpack again. I had almost forgotten about her. She was sitting on Mrs. Verma's place. Of course the bus stop is a public installation and no one can claim any personal rights to a specific bench. But once get used to things, we start getting personal with those things. Now look at me for example. Anyone can setup a tea or a cigarette shop here and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. I could theoretically talk to Constable Pandey but I know him. He will take sides with anyone who greases his palms.

Before I could think of a list of deadly misfortunes that may befall Pandey for not helping me, Mrs. Verma reached the bus stop with her large bag and her coffee mug and she headed towards her regular seat. Knowing Mrs. Verma, I was expecting fireworks. I had mentally taken a note to help the girl if Mrs. Verma got nasty. It’s a free country after all and anyone can sit anywhere they want to, as long as they are not doing anything illegal. Mrs. Verma can anyway be unnecessarily harsh. And the lonely girl needs a guardian angel before I can inform her parents and claim my reward.

Mrs. Verma stopped right in front of the girl and stared down hard at her. Mrs. Verma has a huge imposing personality. A little on the heavy side, she always wears faded pastel sarees that are ironed, creased and starched as sharp as knives. To add to the dramatic appearance, she has this huge pair of reading glasses that keeps dangling from her neck. I have never seen her using them. I think they are useless and they are merely in place to add to her strict image. She says that little harshness goes a long way towards fixing attitudes. She always asserts her opinions on things that she has no clue about. I mean who dares calls my cups dirty? The entire world drinks from them and so far nothing has happened to no one.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Verma was still staring down at the girl and she kept the stern gaze for what seemed like the longest minute ever. Anyone else would have seen the signs and would have fled. But not this little one. She kept on staring past Mrs. Verma. I think this was the first time when someone had refused to acknowledge Mrs. Verma's presence and authority. Mrs. Verma stood there with puzzled expression. She didn't know how to react. She shuffled on her feet for a few seconds and with uncertain moves and disorderly steps walked towards me. She averted my gaze and she feigned a search for something in her bag. Talking to no one in particular, she said "look at kids these days. They don't respect their elders at all. Look at the pride on her face. I wonder which school she goes to." When she looked up after the rant, she caught ShuklaJi staring at her. He had come just a couple of minutes back and hearing the rant, his face developed an expression of a man possessed. ShuklaJi ensures that he is here at 9 everyday without fail. I suspect that ShuklaJi has a soft corner for Mrs. Verma. Rather than talking to Mrs. Verma, I have often found him talking to her bosom, her bag, her saree and even her mug. And I reckon even Mrs. Verma likes the attention. May be this is why despite all the trouble and my dirty mugs, she comes over to my shop for the tea.

"Madam, who said what to you? Just tell me and I shall take care of the bastard", Pandey spoke as he walked towards the shop. He had apparently heard Mrs. Verma’s anguish and unlike us, could infer what she was saying.

"Nothing Pandey Ji. Just some kid who needs to be disciplined", replied Mrs. Verma, eying the girl.

Shukla Ji was feeling left out. He looked at me briefly and loped a question in the air. "Arey, wasn't this girl sitting on the bench when I left after my morning walk?"

I replied, "I think she was but I am not sure. But she has been here for more than an hour for sure and she hasn't made any effort to stop any bus. I wonder what’s wrong with her.” Though I stated mere facts, I was hoping to add some fuel to fire and get people talking. My experience has taught me more people indulge into conversations, more time they spend at the tea stop and more tea they consume. And nothing like a mystery or a controversy to get their opinions and hunger for tea flowing.

At this, Mrs. Verma who considers herself an authority on young women added "What are you saying? I am sure the girl is a chain snatcher and is waiting for the right target to come along. I know such girls. Like Hawks, they can sit for hours and wait for their prey and when they spot someone, they are as quick as lightening and before you realize they are gone. Look at her long legs. She must be a good runner. And since she is thin, she must be really hard to catch hold of. Pandey Ji, I think you should round her for interrogation. In fact do you remember when I had to call for you when one of my teachers lost her purse in the school? Dint we find it in a girl's school bag? Didn't that girl confess about her crime and how she wanted money to buy expensive clothes so that she may please her boyfriend? Boyfriend at the age of 15. When I was growing up, girls were married for two years by the time they were 15. Girls back then were so obedient and they respected their parents and in-laws. Now, we have a totally different generation. Talk harshly to a girl and she would have a meter long tear running down her cheek. I am telling you, we are giving so much freedom to these girls. It will not help our society. Our culture is getting lost. I mean look at me. Despite the fact that I am a teacher and I need to keep my mind open, I still adhere to things that my parents taught me. And those values that I learnt back then are still helping me instill discipline in my students. PandeyJi, you at once should go and check with that girl and search her yellow bag. How dare a criminal like that is roaming free on our streets?"

Mrs. Verma was breathless by this time and had to actually sit down and fan her face with the edge of her saree. Before Pandey made his unlikely move, I had to do something about the situation. Mrs. Verma was just being vicious and I had anyways told myself that I would help the girl. I was beginning to like the girl. And if Pandey identified the missing girl, I would lose the opportunity to claim the missing person’s award. I retorted, "Verma Madam, how can you say something like that? Look at the poor girl. She seems to be from a good family. I think she needs help. Does she look like a chain snatcher to you? Look at her clothes? She is dressed better than most of your girls. She is wearing such nice blue shoes. Look at the watch on her wrist. She can’t possibly be a chain snatcher. The bag would not have anything but her books.” I eyed towards Pandey for support. I knew that he is the laziest policeman ever and even if the girl had crook stamped across her face, Pandey would not bother moving his butt.

Constable Pandey wanted to speak up and before he could do so, ShuklaJi jumped in. "How can you talk like that to Mrs. Verma? She is the most educated person amongst us." Shukhlaji paused for a second, looked into the eyes of Mrs. Verma and continued talking. "She has a point. If she wasn't a chain snatcher, why would she be sitting here? If she is lost, can’t she ask people for help? If she was from a respectable family, she would never run away from home and bring disgrace to her family. But what would you know? Only Mrs. Verma can appreciate these things. We should listen to Mrs. Verma. We should check with the girl. If PandeyJi is reluctant to go, I volunteer to go and speak to her." Dropping his tone a bit, addressing Mrs. Verma's dangling reading glasses, he said. "I have even heard that there are girls her age into flesh trade. They look for gullible and unsuspecting people and trap them. These girls would come to you, cook a story and tell you that they've lost their way and they need help. What can an honest and kind man do in such a situation? And moment you offer help, they cling onto you and dont let go. I have a friend who got trapped like that. I am ..."

Pandey cut ShuklaJi short and said, "Your friend? If my memory serves me right, dint you yourself come to the police station a few weeks back and filed a report against a girl who had stolen some money from your shop? And you dint have any witness to support your claim?"

"Uh  ... yes yes it was me but how are these things related? It was a case of shoplifting and this is a prostitute we are talking about here". ShuklaJi tried to dodge the volley.

"Prostitute?” I asked with disbelief. "ShuklaJi! Sir, if we can’t help the poor girl, let’s not throw baseless allegations at her.", I said.

"I think in your report you said that this girl asked you for help and you gave her some money and when you refused to give her more, she snatched money from you and ran away", continued Pandey.

"Arey nahi nahi sir. That was something else. Anyways I took my report back after I spoke to the Station In-charge. Didn't I? And we have a bigger trouble here. We need to know who is this girl and where is she from. We need to know if she can cause any harm to Mrs. Verma and her girls.” ShuklaJi tried making peace with Pandey.

It was now Constable Pandey's turn to put forth his opinion. He said, "We are just making a mole of a mountain. I am saying its nothing. This is just a case of the girl bunking her college. She does not where to go and hence she is just whiling away time at the bus stop. It’s so cold outside. Who would not like to soak up some sun? I think we should leave her alone. Why waste our time and effort on talking to these girls? Anyways once they are old enough to get married, they would be sent to their in-laws house and all they would do the entire day is cook and clean."

I was aghast. I was amidst a bunch of people who were supposedly educated and yet they spoke of women as if they were mere objects. Especially in the age when women were launching rockets in space and running big businesses. I did not know how to react to these comments by Pandey, Shukla and Madam. I sincerely wish I could do something for the little girl and help her. I could think of only one way. I handed a cup of tea to Pandey and told him, "PandeyJi, I know it’s inconvenient to you but could you please check with her? This is the least we can do for her and if she is lost, we can help her find her way to home".

Pandey looked at me with irritation and said, "Ok ok, I will do it."

And moment he turned towards the girl, he stopped in his tracks. So did we.

There was no one on the bus stop. Not even her yellow backpack.

Things to do after an event

Backstage, at an event in Amsterdam, Netherlands
After an event is over, irrespective of how it goes, almost all event managers end up depressed after all the adrenaline that an event pumps into their system. I wrote about this last week. Here read it. Quite a few friends from the industry read it. And a handful of those who read it in entirety (it was a long piece at some 2000 words) called to say that they could relate to it, word by word. Of course everyone had a different perspective. This is what makes life awesome - multiple perspectives, multiple personalities, each as different as chalk and cheese.

But then, everyone who called, invariably agreed on one thing. The thing about post-event depression.

And then I thought may be it would be a good idea to explore this depression in little more detail. Actually not depression but things that people do, after an event, to get over their depression. I mean I reckon that most men in jobs that need them to be on their toes all the time (air traffic controllers, stock brokers, doctors in emergency room, event managers et al) must have their respective (may I say quirky?) ways of beating the blues. And since I have an insider's perspective on events, I can bring to surface things that us event managers do to get back to our feet after a hard hitting blow.

Like the last post, I would stick to just 7 things that event managers do, after a hard and a long day at work comes to an end.

1. Get drunk. Simple. Really. Nothing is as potent as alcohol to loosen you up. I think those taking acting classes must get drunk before they face the camera. Whoever said that alcohol helps lose inhibitions was spot on. Spotter on than the dart hitting the bull's eye.

So we get drunk after an event. And no sir, since we are the flag bearers of style AND adrenaline, we do not do it at some shady bar. We end up at either the most happening club that that city has to offer, most of the time teeming with teens and other older people who believe that they are still in their teens.

Or we shut ourselves in the confined misery of the expensive hotel room that is not accessible to anyone but the closely knit event team. After all, nothing breeds camaraderie and brotherhood better than a calamity. The decision between that exclusive club or the hotel room is pretty simple. Actually the decision happens by itself, depending on how the event went. No points for guessing where do you go when.

If you go to a club, you will always grind the section that plays electronic music, for you are an event manager and you ought to like EDM. Everything else is either too boring or too slow for someone who needs a regular dose of excitement. If you voice your dislike for EDM you may be thrown out of the company. You dare not.

Oh, you "check-in" on Facebook places AND on Foursquare. And tag everyone else present at the club with you. More importantly, Like and Comment on the check-ins of your colleague who borrowed your phone a while back, to register his check-in at the location. You see, we love spreading love. And this love-spreading is like a ritual that we hate to break. An event company without rituals is like a human without a soul. Yes sir. There. I said it.

And coincidence, love also brings me to the next thing that event managers do after an event. When I say next, these things are NOT in any order fyi.

2. Try and find love. Like drinking, we have two distinct places where we hunt for love. Either we KNOW, for sure, that that performer (read dancer, manager of a celebrity that we hired, singer, crew member, DJ's friend etc) is the end of our long and torturous search for true and eternal love. If not that (all such potential targets loves are "taken" by your seniors or they are too cute for you to have any chance with them), you simply scourge the red light districts. Especially if you are from India.

You see, despite coming from the holy land of KamaSutra, true unconditional love (read sex) is something of a taboo in India. Yes, even if you are married or going steady or into a secret live in relationship.

So, if you are from India and you are managing an event at the likes of Thailand, Russia, Netherlands and other such liberal countries, you do not miss any opportunity to scoot to a "legal" club. I am using the word club for the lack of a better word. Is there one? I can call my mom and tell her that I am at a club and she would be as care free as if I am at a temple. Its a temple after all. Temple of love.

Love, you thought was that item dancer that you accosted for three days, that you got coffee for (from local Starbucks), that you took for long walks along the beach and that you paid for a meal consisting largely of raw fish eaten with thin sticks, at the most expensive Japanese restaurant in the town (and you are a vegetarian come to think of it). And you knew you loved her, till you see her cooing blissfully with your boss.

And then what do you do to get over the depression (of the event and the love betrayed by the dancer)? You goto the temple of love. To find your true love, that can not last longer than two hours, because you would be tired of all the action. And what do you do when you are tired? Sleep!

Sleep in next in my list, list of things that we do after an event.

3. Sleep. Yep. We are boring people. Really we are. And since our job requires us to be on our toes all the time, we hardly manage any sleeping running up to the event. So when you get over the event, get into you room, to take a shower before you head out, do NOT look at the bed. The thing with these beds at expensive hotels is that, more often than not, they have these white sheets that are as inviting as true unconditional love is.

You know that if you get between those sheets, you could disappear from the face of this world. You would then be by yourself, along with your depression. Its a sure shot way to get over it - by drowning so deep in your sorrows that every other problem (negative feedback from client, betrayal from that item dancer, lost opportunity to scalp a couple of Euros from the production money etc) seems trivial.

Sleep is like a superpower. You've always had it but it takes a jolt, a shock, for you to realize that you posses it. And then once you become aware, you use it to your advantage and use it to save the world (by not firing your light engineer because light was too harsh and was right into the eyes of the client, by not giving a piece of your mind to that item dancer for her betrayal, by not putting in your papers because your boss is being an asshole for no reason etc).

Of course there are days when sleep in far. Even though you have tried hiding in the sea of tender white foam sheets. You dont want to the step out either (because you couldn't scalp some money of the production budget). So what do you do?

Use the bathtub! Next on my list.

4. Use the bathtub. That bathtub in the fancy hotel room that you were booked by the client, has been inviting you ever since you came in. Its been four days and you've hardly had any time to sleep, leave alone a shower. And now that event is over and there is nothing to do and everyone else is either getting drunk or hunting for their love or sleeping, you fill the tub up, make some lather, get a beer and just lie down in the tub.

Ideally you would have your true love in the tub with you but since today you are out of luck you just make use of your fantasies. No, no, not those fantasies. But fantasies of owning your own event company some day. Yes ladies and gentlemen, every event manager worth his salt wants to own an event company at some point in life. Sooner the better. And since he has been managing events for so long, he knows that he can trust a couple of his clients to give him work to get started.

So you drown in your fantasies, in your bath tub. And since fantasies don't really last long, it gets boring to just soak into water, you login to Facebook and start Like-ing and Comment-ing on check-ins that your colleagues posted a while back, from the most happening club of the town. And you curse them for not even mention-ing you in their posts. If you do get bored of that as well, of course you could read this series of posts (shameless plug) but you may find these too hard hitting and you may want to ignore these.

And you put your favorite music in background to help you relax. Music and beer. Mmmm.

5. Dance. Ever heard a drunk man dancing naked next to the bath tub? Well, I have had the pleasure of stumbling into bathrooms with such men least thrice in last three years. Averaging one per year, I would say its not a rare occurrence. Diwali happens once a year and its certain that it will come around each year. And I am sure I would stumble on more drunken revelries of the "free" kinds near the bathtub sometime soon, for its been some 8 months since the last incident.

And even if we dont dance in the bathtubs, we do shake a leg at that expensive club. Just that at those clubs, chances of finding better dancers are slightly higher and we detest competition of any kind.

We would rather not do it, than compromise on quality and output. Wait, is that line even valid here? It may not be. But its the safest line that we can rattle out in even our dreams when anyone talks about competition or money. Money? We would rather not do it, than compromise on quality and output.

Get the point?

No? You think its a gamble that you are taking by paying us so much? 

So much?

We would rather not do it, than compromise on quality and output.

Ok ok! Fine I'd gamble. 

Gamble? You too? Its next on the list of things that we do after an event to get over the depression!

6. Gamble. We are men of vice. We are vice-er than the vice-est of them all. And they say, there is no vice like gambling. Thing with gambling is that it gives you an opportunity to get over your sorrows by fast wins. And along with the opportunity to get even more adrenaline in your system. And these wins are tangible. You can hold them in your hand. Or put them in the bank. Or spend those wins to get you more love, more alcohol and more sleep at an even more expensive hotel.

Wins also make you the celebrity that you have always craved to be. All your life you have seen film stars, businessmen, politicians, cricketers, speakers from very close quarters and you secretly wish to be like them. You want to get phone calls at 3 in the night from random people. You want to be stalked. You want police protection bodyguards. You want it all. And since you cant sing or dance or speak or hit the ball as cleanly as Sachin can, you cant really get famous. You can only hope that you win so much money at the casino that the casino is forced to give you a security cover that make your celebrities envious of your stature.

And most importantly when you win, you can then go to the item dancer, ask her to perform exclusively for you and you can ask her boyfriend to manage THAT event. Figure it out. Exclusive event for an event manager, managed by the manager that event manager reported into, where the only performer is someone that the manager managed till a while back.

But then thats not how life operates. Does it?

In real life, rather than winning truck load of money, you end up losing your one year's savings. Because you knew last year that the client you manage will host their next event at Amsterdam, you saved for one full year to get that one shot at freedom, richdom and celebritydom. And there you are, all your money, now in pocket of, who else, the item dancer, who also likes to dabble into casinos when she is not having coffee or Sushi. You swear to never buy any other dancer any coffee. Life is after all about lessons learnt hard. And you also promise to yourself that when you own your event company, you would not give any work to that dancer.

And when you have lost all your money and hope, there is nothing left but to go back to your hotel room and write about your day.

Did I say write? Do event managers and writing coincide?

7. Write. Yep. We are not merely about yelling out loud in the walkie-talkies or reading from run-orders or saying yes to every demand from the client. We are lot deeper. We are better than your average Joes. We have emotions. We have perspective. And better still, we love to put them forth on paper. In black and white. Mostly on hotel stationary (and sometimes on the Internet as well).

And you must thank heavens that everything we write does not come out in open, especially what we wrote after we were drunk and we were betrayed and we lost money at casinos. If any of it was in open, the world would be a far worse place than what it is. After all we are privy to everything that goes behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, travel industry, hospitality industry, across international borders, offices of local administration and most potent of them all, our client's organizations.

We have more dirt than Paparazzi, NSA, Wikileaks and Baba Ramdev put together. And we have more means to spread it than India TV, Rajeev Masand, Arnab Goswami and Narendra Modi put together.

Just that we use discretion while making our thoughts public. Of course there is a little matter of saving our jobs but thats trifle considering a good event manager is always in demand. Dont believe me? I have been offered thousands of jobs and I have made millions since I quit my job a month back.

No, serious!

In the end 
Thats it. Thats all we do after an event is over. No one talks about it. Because we wants things here and we want them now. After an event is over, the event manager is left to fend for himself. Someone had to talk about it.

And a disclaimer to end it all, if you are a prospective employer or girlfriend or bride (or a dancer, only if you are vegetarian). Even though I know colleagues who do all of the above, in one night, I am slightly boring. After an event, all I do is item N3. And at times 7. And nothing else.

Believe me.

And thanks to DJ Killa for the post idea. And, you, drum roll, hope this is not apologetic?

Originally posted here.

And Yet...

The other day I was reading about famous authors, I do that a lot now a days, and I realized something about myself. Nothing profound. Simple to be honest. I realized that I am everything that I did not want to be and I am not a single that I have wanted to be.

Here are some examples.
I wish I could design and yet I cant draw a single straight line 
I wish I could sing well and yet I don’t even qualify for being a bathroom singer 
I wish I could stand out and yet I am drowning in the sea of mediocrity 
I wish I could travel the world and yet I am stuck in a nondescript neighborhood in Mumbai 
I wish I could stand out and yet there are times when even I fail to recognize myself when I look in the mirror. 
And few more things like this.

I think its because I want to be a lot of things at the same time.

Of course I cant be good at everything that I do. And before I decide what I don’t want to do, I want to try those things out. And after I have tried them, if I don’t like, I want to move on to the next set of things. Let me call this “discovering myself by process of elimination”. This process sounds like a brilliant plan, on paper. Except one small hitch. We, humans, have limited time and in my case, half of it is gone already. If I do discover what I want, at the age of 60, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

So, to do that thing that I’d enjoy doing and to make a dent (assuming that dent would happen once I know what I love doing and I am good at it and I keep doing good at it for some time), I need to find it fast. And fast means really fast. Faster than that fleeting glance that I just made at that woman in red on the next table. 

If life was like a shop full of tools and machines, I could do quick prototypes and decide fast, on what I wanted. But then life is not a mechanic’s shop and it takes forever to learn a skill. And it takes even longer to realize that you are not good. And still longer to admit that you aren’t anywhere close to where you thought you would get, if you put in time. You get into denial and all that. More on it later. But bottom line, it takes forever to realize what you are good at and what you are not. All you get is “drifts”. But to be able to sense those drifts is the tricky part.

Let me digress for a bit. There are some people, I know quite a few of them, that are somehow aware of what they want, from the time they were kids. And now by the time they are as old as I, they are doing really well in life. Then there are some people who get into lucky accidents, they hit the ovarian lottery (as Warren Buffet puts it), and get to know what their calling is. And rest of the people, they just keep doing what they get handed out randomly in life, they keep doing it, get good at it and assume that that was their calling. That was their purpose. That was what they were put on this earth to do those things. All the while they don’t even realize that they are spending their entire lives chasing someone else’s dreams and living someone else’s lives. They do make a lot of money and build large comfortable houses and move around in cars as big as their houses and drink wines as rare as their opulent houses and develop a ego that is larger than all of these tangible things (money, houses, cars, wines) put together.

I know quite a few people like this. Belonging to all three categories – aware ones, lucky ones, rich ones. And none of the three kinds is as unhappy as I. Unhappy not in literal sense but figuratively.

Coming back to the time it takes to understand yourself and continuing from the unhappiness bit above, I just have one question. Isn’t the journey supposed to be more rewarding than the destination? Everyone but me seems to have their destination in sight already. I, on the other hand, am having a tough time figuring out the road that I am supposed to take.


And while I write this and read this for review, I realize that I am smart to be able to put this in words. And yet, and yet I am unhappy. Figuratively.

Occupational hazards of being an event manager

Last three years, apart from dabbling into other small time things, I spent most of my time as an event manager. And as an event manager I planned, executed and managed events of all sizes. From audiences as small as 5 guests to crowd as big as 20,00,000 over a period of five days, I managed it all.

So first things first. Unlike other "office" jobs where you are supposed to just play the role of an email jockey, you need to be out there on the ground and be a live witness to all the "action". In most cases, rather than being a mere witness, you end up being part of the "crime scene". I did not mind any of this action; on the other hand, I loved being at the middle of all these crime scenes. And more time I spent in the middle, more time I wanted to spend. It was like an addiction. The way you get addicted to dope, I was getting addicted to spending time running shows and getting things in place.

Panorama, from an iPhone,of an event that I managed last year
Now that I am not actively working on events and I have time to zoom out and look at my time as an event manager. And I realized a few truths about myself. And most of them can easily be classified as occupational hazards!

Here's is a quick list.

1. You learn to live with a perpetual depression. I dont know about others but after every major event where the event ends on a high with dinner, I get majorly depressed. I get sad. So sad that I want to bury myself neck deep in sand somewhere and not do anything. Not even sleep, sleep anyways wont come because you are so high on adrenaline after an event well done. You just lie on your bed, staring at the ceiling and waiting for a kick in the butt.

And I can clearly see a pattern. Every time, without fail, after an event, I get into a major depression. Most of my colleagues get drunk after an event and by the time they wake up next morning, the previous evening is all foggy and I suspect that leaves no room for depression. But for a teetotaler like me, events can be hazardous. The very thought of writing this post came to me after a large event that I did a few weeks back. Never got around to writing this that time.

Funny, while I write this, I can sense a tiny amount of depression creeping up on me, for, I haven't really been at the center of action for some time now. Its one of those things, you cant live with or live without.

2. You get addicted to a state of constant excitement. Ever read about junkies, alcoholics and gamblers? Why do they keep going back to their poison? Not that someone forces them to. They crave for the rush that they get from that next injection or that next vodka shot or that next bet of a thousand bucks. The outcome is not important. What is important is living in the moment. The moment when that drug hits your blood stream, or when all the attention of other gambler is on you and you are supposed to bet a lot of money. That rush. You get addicted to it. You know its taking you on a downward spiral but we are humans. We give more importance to immediacy. We want things now. There is no time for later. We can deal with consequences later. Time is unlimited. We would fix. But right now, let me order just one more peg, play one more hand, do another event.

You get the drift? Ok, compare it to driving an open top car at high speed on a long road without any bends. You can see mountains in the distance and there is no trace of humanity on your right or your left. Its you, the road, the open roof car and that wind in your hair (even if you are bald). Or compare it to writing. Like when words magically appear on your screen without you planning for those words. When a small note expands into a long narrative. When you forget that you had to meet the love of your life for breakfast and you cant not go to meet her. You dont want to stop the dance your fingers are doing on the keyboard? You cant decide. That!

And if you dont get the drift, try stopping an alcoholic friend from his next outing and ask him to explain. He may do a better job.

3. You become superstitious. I am the kinds who thinks that the concept of God is created and popularized by weaker people. Yeah, judge me. And yet, before every event, I do my bits of stupid rituals to ensure that event goes well. I know that I have done my homework well and I have planned for contingencies. I know that I have backup of the backup of the backup and I have my entire team on standby. I know that there are way too many variables than I can not control and yet I am prepared for every eventuality. But then I want that extra element of help. Like the weaker people that I spoke about. I want the event to go well. So what do I do? I create my rituals. And I participate in them religiously, despite no apparent evidence of those rituals of being any help.

What rituals you may ask? There are plenty. The evident ones are bowing and saluting to the stage where the speaker would talk from, apologizing to my crew in advance for eventual outburst of profanities and emotions while the event is running, holding onto my breath when an AV is beaming on screen.

Thankfully this superstition did not transition from an event day to my daily life. Actually I dont know if it has transitioned. Did I bowed reverently to a car before I starting driving. Or did I pray to water god before my dip in the pool? I dont remember. I'd take note next time.

4. Blatant disregard for hotels and their opulence, grandeur and snobbery. And of other such fancy places (office complexes, expensive malls etc). Since my work often required me to walk into these places at all hours and in all states of dress (and undress, shabbily dressed etc), I got used to hostile glares from hotel staff. At first it is intimidating but then you get used to it to a point that you enter in the Dont Give a Fuck Mode and you start operating on auto pilot. This disregard has stayed with me even after I stopped working on events and that is why I am perfectly comfortable walking into a five star lobby with broken bathroom chappals and tattered clothes.

Of course your very presence makes other patrons uncomfortable, but then like Col. Jessep's "...sleep under the blanket of very freedom that I provided...", I provide these patrons with an opportunity to enjoy an active social life by planning and executing an impeccable event.

So, I believe that I am justified in the disregard. Of course there are causalities but then which battlefield does not have em?

5. Sleep deprivation becomes your secret superpower. Most people, when sleep deprived, cant think straight. I, on the other hand, thanks to my stint as an event manager, am totally comfortable with less than four hours of sleep every day. In fact ability to operate efficiently even with few hours of sleep is like my superpower that most people dont have. You see, I did not work for a big company and we did not have events everyday but there is so much happening all the time that you ought to be on your feet all the time. And since its a small company, you are expected to do everything at the same time and don multiple hats. Some may argue that its about managing time well but trust me its not. You have to be physically alert. All the time. And that means, no sleep.

In fact, a confession. I miss this secret superpower more than anything else now that I am not working on events. I need my ten hours of sleep now and the day I dont get my ten hours, I am drowsy and I am irate. I just need to get the sleep mojo back. How? 

6. Family becomes a set of acquaintances and friends become strangers. Being an Indian, two most important sets of people in life are my family and my friends. But then thanks to my role as an event manager, there were months when I just did not see my family. I would leave home at wee hours and return at an ungodly hour. I would see them in various states of drowsiness, to unlock doors for me, to pack lunches, breakfasts for me, to ask me about medicines that I may need because I have been tired and working constantly.

Friends and notion of friendship is probably hit harder. You live in the same house with your parents (even at 30, we are Indians) but friends live at some distance. And they have their respective jobs. So when you meet your friends after a few fortnights you dont even know what to talk about. That silent camaraderie that you felt when with friends, its suddenly missing. You can no longer relate to them. Things that made you laugh with them, they dont seem funny no more.

I dont have a girlfriend so I dont know how being an events manager affects your love life. Any opinions on that? I do have sgMS (ok, not her but just her thoughts) but I think my job just got me lot more closer to her - I would constantly think about her and try and guess how would she react to a certain thing, what part of my job would make her happy, so on and so forth.

7. You become an overpaid coolie. You need to work on events at different cities and countries. That means you get to travel to all these places. For someone like me who loves to travel, its a great thing to happen. But then like most travel for work, you are restricted to certain places.

There are times when I have been to really exciting destinations in different counties and all I have done is checked-in at the airport (on the foursquare app) and the hotel where I am supposed to get the event done. I dont even step outside the hotel. Most people would be ok and content with just the foursquare checkin at the airport and hotels but I am slightly old fashioned. I believe that there is so much more to a place than the airport or the hotel.

And when you are in a new city for a few days, its all easily accessible. You just need to step out. I mean you travel all the way to Sydney from Delhi and all you do there is spend four nights in a hotel. You dont even step out of the periphery of the hotel. And stuck in your room on the 34th floor, you think of all the great things that Sydney is famous for. And then you start cursing your luck. And you forget that you are luckier than most other people you know of in life and yet you are complaining and whining.

You know, its like a lot of foreplay but no action. And then the craving for action, in terms of exploring the city you are in, is no less than craving for action after a prolonged foreplay. If you know what I mean.

Oh, did I use the word coolie? Because while I am traveling for events, I am expected to manage and carry all the equipment and other things that an event may need. Often translates into 300 KGs of material. And all airlines hate you for that. So much so that now that I am not an event manager, they still shoo me to a distant counter that is reserved for lowly people, like event managers!

Ok, this is about it. Though, when I started writing this, I thought that the list would be longer. I was so wrong. Do you have any more things to add here? What do you think are occupational hazards of being an event manager?

And before I end this, standard disclaimer. I have worked for some seven years now and have worked for a global MNC, a start up, an advertising agency apart from an events company. And trust me, there is no job like running a show. The kind of faith your clients exhibit in you, the kind of things you do that you thought you couldn't, the amount of quick thinking that you get attuned to, the rush, the excitement, its something that no other job in the world can give you.

I think if the book I am working on does not happen by the end of this year, I would be back at running around running shows.

Just hope, I get the damn naukri. Wish me luck.

First posted on Medium here.


The other day I was trying to find a touch screen phone for my dad and I did not want to spend a lot of money. So rather than going to Flipkart and doing a random search for phones, I thought I would use (a friend is a co-founder. Please see disclaimer at the end of the post).

Last few years, online shopping has proliferated like mushrooms and its time that some kind of filtering system came up that helped users sift through so many online destinations, each destination claiming to be cheaper and better than the other. FindYogi is one such "decision engine" that aggregates prices and data from multiple online shops. More than mere aggregation, it also enables the users to make an informed choice - both on the what to buy and where to buy from.

Since I had to buy a phone anyway, I gave FindYogi a spin. I started by browsing through the home page and looking at "popular products". I am assuming that this list of popular products is generated by amount of search traffic that each product gets. homepage

So I clicked on iPhone and was taken to a page that had detailed specs (albeit too detailed for someone non-technical like me). Apart from details, FindYogi showed a long list of stores where I could buy it online and I could go directly to seller. And the stores were listed in an increasing order of price. Sweet.

Next thing I tried was the comparison feature. I went back to the home page and selected three phones that I am vaguely aware of. Nexus, Canvas and iPhone and added them to the comparison basket. And then I did the side by side comparison. Few things immediately caught my eye.

FindYogi highlights the best feature amongst the three phones that I compared and I was in for a surprise (I did not know that iPhone is dual core and Micromax Canvas is quad core - whatever that means, but I did not know that iPhone was inferior to other two). Coming back, FindYogi also throws a result by recommending a phone, as evaluated purely on features (everything else like Brand, emotions etc withstanding). 

Comparing three phones on FindYogi
While doing my comparison, two things that helped me shortlist (and reinforce my belief in the decision) were the Yogi Index and Feature Score. They are simple ideas really but can make life so much simpler for users.

Over time, if I was FindYogi founder, I would try and make these ratings impeccable and try and get these ratings out to the market. I would love if users would say, "this phone has a FindYogi index of 4.1, just buy without any questions". More on this in the good things bit.

All in all a good and intuitive comparison engine. Separating "brand" from "product" does not come naturally to us humans. And engines like FindYogi help up over come those biases. And, yes I do hate the fact iPhone is not the best phone out there.

So, next, I entered the word "touch" in the search bar and I got a few interesting results

Search results for "touch"
The top result was a phone by Acer called BeTouch. And other results were phones that had the word touch in their name. Though its a good idea for a search engine to find items from the catalog that has the words "touch" but I ideally wanted to identify "touch" as a feature on mobile phones and give me an option to show only those phones that have that feature. Of course in the database, FindYogi does have a classification like that, scroll down and there you have options like touch, numeric etc, but I want to see it used better. This "feature" search needs improvement.

Also on the search results page, I could use the slider on the price range and multiple selection to make a shortlist of phones available to me. But then this shortlist was limited to phones matching to the keyword "touch" that I had initially used.

Thats about it I guess. And here's the summary. In terms of good things and things that need improvement.

The good things
  1. The Yogi Index. It is a brilliant idea. It helps me save time because I dont have to read long pieces of texts or browse through multiple websites. Its like that star rating that often decides the future of a movie on the box office. However, having said that I would love to see Yogi Index include ratings (on price vs value) from the members. May be a weighted average or something (50% weight to editor's rating and 50% to reviewers and mode reviews you have, higher your weight). A great feature none the less and has immense potential.
  2. The shortlisting and comparison. Awesome feature. Shortlisting was intuitive and its a neat little effect to see that phone getting added to the list at the bottom right. So much so that I actually played with the list for some time before I resumed my search and shortlisting. Comparison also works well.
  3. The good and the bad on the product page. This is probably written by an editor manually for each product. While I can create an algorithm for everything, I can never replace human intelligence. And this is what helped me shortlist the phone I want to buy. To me is the winning combination - someone gathering all the data points and then adding a layer of opinion on top of results. How I wish search in general was like that (remember in its earlier avatar?).
Things that need improvement / suggestions
  1. A better "feature"search, as explained above.
  2. There is a feature score in place for each product. Ideally I should be able to filter my choices on this feature score and Yogi Index. Right now, I can merely do a sort on this data. This would help establish credibility and reach of the two numbers that FindYogi "owns" (everything else is "owned" by the brand). If I can start popularizing these numbers, I can sell this data to brands. I guess this is more to do with marketing, rather than anything else.
  3. What if apart from just the price, FindYogi also had a store rating (they may have to gather this data from their users, dont know how though), it would help as well. The price difference in the phones category across merchants can't really be a lot and if there were a rating, I would rather pay some more money to buy from a reliable place. But then it may be just me? 

The End Note
FindYogi is brilliant with their focus on user experience and convenience. As a customer I would love to use it and recommend. Do check it out when you want to shop for a phone or a tablet.

However, they need to do a couple of things before I become a devout convert. Hope I get to see those soon!

Naman, co-founder at FindYogi, is a good friend and advices me often on my startup ideas. And yet this post is in no way biased.

Note. Starting now, every now and then, I shall try and post review of few start ups ideas that catch my fancy. I used to do this a few years back and it helped immensely to structure my thoughts better. Now that I have time, I want to restart this and exercising my grey matter.

God Mode vs I Don't Give a Fuck Mode

All my life, actually since I've played Q3A, I have often dreamed of a real life God Mode where I could get immortal and do whatever I want to. I have written about it in the past as well. I thought I have but I havent. Anyway the other day I went dinnering at a friends place and while talking about life and other things in general, we started talking about a guy that we knew some years back. According to my friend, that guy was irreverence personified and stood for everything anti-establishment. I thought that he is talking about that guy being in the God Mode.

Fast forward, while driving down a highway, most of my best ideas have come in while I was driving, I was thinking about the conversation and I realized that I was wrong. God Mode and the mode that that common friend seemed to be operating in, the I Dont Give a Fuck Mode are two distinct ones. Let me elaborate on them.

God Mode is:
  • When you are not scared to take risks because deep down you know that you can't die and hence there is nothing that can touch you. 
  • The mode you get in when you become the part of higher management at a large organization where you are just a number.
  • When you fly. You fly as in fly. There is no Gravity. There is nothing to hold you back. You can soar. Soar like a hot air balloon. And then then soar some more like something that is in orbit. And then may be even escape the orbit. Fly like that.
  • When you know that its temporary and God Mode can end any instant. You merely live for the adrenaline rush that the God Mode gives you. The rush that you may get addicted to, like a junkie.
  • And because you know that God Mode is temporary, you try to make the most out of it. You run faster, you fly higher, you gather as many power ups, you back stab more people and so on and so forth. Because its all temporary.

I Dont Give a Fuck Mode is:
  • What August operated in, throughout Upamanyu Chatterjee's brilliant debut novel.
  • When you know that Dont Give a Fuck Mode is a perpetual state of mind. You know that you can get killed in an instant but yet you dont give a fuck. You are not scared to die. You dont welcome it either, but when life or death is immaterial. What is important is the flight of fancy. Important is you doing things as per your whims, not because someone else expects you to do something else. Heard about not being part of rat race?
  • The mode that you are born with. The mode that you are hard wired to have. You either know about it since forever, or you realize that you have it as you go along. But its there.
  • The mode that is evident in all your endeavors. The mode is visible to everyone around you. You may or may not know that you are operating in such a mode but its there. Its screaming out loud from your entire countenance. You know that swagger some people walk with? That. Of course it could get you killed if you met someone else with an even bigger swagger but that's the point. Right? Of I don't give a fuck?
  • And finally, when you do NOT have to work hard to develop and operate in the I Dont Give a Fuck mode. Its there. Or it isnt. 
And all my life, I lived in the delusion that I operate in God Mode and hence I was untouchable and I could do whatever. But I dint realize it, till I sat with my friend and discussed with him about the common friend, that I was so wrong. So so wrong. Wrong like fuck. Actually, fuck is not wrong. God Mode is. Ok, now I am just rambling.

But I do have a coherent question though. And a pertinent one at that. Which mode do you operate in? 

Credit Note. Starting this post, I shall try and include these credit notes. For this one, thanks Parijat for inspiration. Thanks AR, the common friend that I have talked about. Thanks James for this post. And I used Inkscape to create the header image.

Gaming Mumbai. Part 1 - Managing Traffic

I wrote this originally as Mumbai Part 2. Now that this is Part 3 of my affair with Mumbai, I would post this as a part of Part 3.

Mumbai is a tough place to live in (compared to Delhi - where I come from). There is never ending traffic jams, air so polluted that you cant breathe, roads and potholes that could put minefields to shame and so on and so forth. If I was to scribble it on paper, the list of rants against Mumbai, the trail could go to the moon and back and yet not get over.

But then this post is not about the rant list or the distance between earth and moon, but is about how I plan to game Mumbai and its travails while I am here. I mean I know that I am going to be here for some time, so I better get used to it and start gaming it. Gaming as in manipulating, scheming it to suit my purpose.

So the plan to game Mumbai is in nascent stages and shall evolve over a period of time. Right now I would talk about how to avoid traffic, that is probably my biggest crib against Mumbai.

And few assumptions. Unlike a lot of people I can control my time most of the times. I have the luxury of not going to office and hence I can control my time and meetings, except a few times when I am supposed to meet people. I realized that the gaming bit has to start with managing life around traffic. If I can do that one thing, my life would be so much sorted.

Here is the list that I shall take up seriously to avoid traffic in Mumbai.
  1. Avoid rush hours. Never never never (three times for emphasis) travel between 8 AM and 11 AM, and between 5 PM and 930 PM. Leave home at 11 and be back by 530. All the meetings, interviews, digging out, sniffing out, research and other work related chores must happen between 11 and 530. This is a good 6 and half hours and this is enough time for three, one hour long meetings. And the commute time to reach from one meeting to another. If I have to have to leave before 11 AM, leave before 8 and reach destination by 830 and wait. Numerous McDonalds across the city are open and they serve really good breakfast. If I am somehow left on the road after 530, I'd park myself at the nearest coffee shop for few hours and not waste time getting stuck in traffic. And while at the coffee shop, order the cheapest beverage - a bottle of water.
  2. Meet when absolutely necessary. No more socializing and making new contacts. Phone calls and emails work as well. If I have to travel to meet, club meetings as per locations, as much as possible. If not at the same place, stay within a particular locality. So one day I could have meetings at Bandra, the other day at Powai and then one at BKC and so on and so forth.
  3. Stay close to highways / stations. So, for example, an ideal place to meet is Oberoi Mall if I have to meet someone Goregaon.
  4. Use peak hours for self. The time between 530 and 930 could be an ideal time for a catnap. And socializing could happen post 930. This time can also be used for gymming swimming, reading, dinnering etc. 
  5. No first thing in the mornings. If someone insist a meeting “first thing in the morning”, politely decline and schedule a “last thing on the previous evening” meeting. 
  6. Spend time frugally. Always carry some reading material. In case I am getting stuck at a coffee shop without any inspiration to write or create, I would rather read, than idly surf the web or tweet away to glory.
  7. Maker hours. Use a tweaked version of maker hours. A concept I borrow from PG, maker hour is defined as a time where you don’t have any meetings. I actually do something in those maker hours rather than just push paper. So two days in a week (Monday and Thursday), I plan to use as maker hours. I would write for longer duration, update the blog, design and do things that I need to do on a computer. I am writing this post on a Saturday, the first half of which, I am using as Maker Hour.
  8. Multi task. Get a car and a mobile phone headset and use the commute time to make phone calls and get work done on the phone. It could be a good idea to keep a list handy that would have all calls to be made during the day. Unless there is fire when the call flow would become unpredictable, this overall is a good idea. Not applicable for jobless me.
  9. Know my traffic. And shortcuts, back alleys, city etc. And use Google Maps for traffic predictions. It is fairly accurate and when I know that I am heading into an area with a lot of traffic, I can avoid it or take a detour.
Thats it. If I do these things well, I believe I can cut a lot on useless commute and I may actually do something, rather than merely talking.

Of course one may argue that I dont have to stay in Mumbai if I am peeved so much about traffic and I need to think so much about getting out off my house. I can just go live in Delhi, Bangalore etc if I have to. But then, despite all my cribs against Mumbai, there is no denying that there is something about Mumbai that brings me back over and over again.
Anyway, more on Gaming Mumbai in subsequent posts. May be a list of places in Mumbai where I could park myself without paying a lot of money while I am in transit.

A tragedy etched in wood

That writing table that I got, remember? I even wrote it and the pic that you see on the left. So that table, is of no use no more!

Its got infested with termites and the wood has already started to chip. I thought furniture was meant to last generations and all that but this table had other ideas.

I paid a mini fortune to buy that table, thinking that I would recover my "investment" in it by penning (aka typing) my best seller. But thanks to my world famous addiction with procrastination, I havent been able to. Of course I've had excuses for not writing but since I am jobless now, I shouldnt have no more excuses and I must complete a book. Before the table is rendered useless by humidity, moisture, termites and boredom.

Oh, by the way, I bought the table from Shoppers Stop, you know that big retailer? And despite repeated calls to Shoppers Stop, no one seems to be doing anything about fixing the table or giving me a refund. I dont know what to do about it, except making noise on the Internet about it. And since I am Joe Nobody, dont think my voice noise would get heard.

Longer than the longest day of my life

Today, whoever is reading, ladies and gentlemen, for the records, was the longest day of my life. No wait, longer than the longest day of my life. One of those days when you spend one entire day, about 12 hours of your life doing something and yet there is no output to show for it. Not show it to the world but show it to yourself. Like when you are lying awake in bed late at night and you are talking to yourself, about things your did during the day. Those things. That output. And the worse part, its not even a step in the general direction of output. More so, now, when I am apparently the master of my own destiny, days like this suck even more. I should be on my way to greatness, riches, pursuit of vain hobbies, wild parties, world travels and other such things. But here I am! Stuck and confused and dazed likes its nobody's business. Or as Siddhu would say, as a child in a topless bar.


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?