On self doubt. And a promise.

The other day, I was reading Bloodline by Sidney Sheldon. Its one of his classic works where you have intrigue, mystery, debauchery, murders, backstabbing and other such things. While I was reading it, I could immediately compare it to The Nidhi Kapoor Story. I dont know if the comparison is valid, Sidney being a master storyteller and I, a rookie. But after I read it, I knew that its not going to be as easy.

I thought telling stories (captivating stories, stories that make people want to read again and again, stories that people would want to share, stories that are real, stories that people can relate, stories that people want to go back to, stories that people do not want to end et al) would be easy. I thought I'd just need a pen and a chair. And a few months. After all I have been writing a blog for almost ten years now. And what if I am not comfortable with English. What if I suck at vocabulary and grammar. What if I often leave things incomplete. I could do this one. I just needed time. How hard could it be? Right?


I couldn't have been more wrong.

I started working on Nidhi Kapoor around May of this year. And by July I was convinced that it is a story that I want to tell. And I took the plunge. And its been two months now that I have been at it. And the progress is painstakingly slow. So slow that one monkey on one typewriter could do a faster, and may be a better, job. If the infinite monkeys got together, they'd make a mockery out of me.

Reading Sidney's book was like a shock. The one that I needed and yet did not want. That writing is not going to be easy.

I now have a new found respect for the likes of Chetan Bhagat. I may flog them for writing boring cliched stories with fancy titles. But they have been able to finish what they started and they backed it up with all their might. I am sure that when they started writing, at some point, they would have been in the same space as I am right now. But they overcome the insecurity to actually finish what they had started. They defined the odds. Quitting is so easy. So easy, its a wonder how so many people actually finish. Even if the finishers are less than 0.001% of the ones that start. sgMS A dear friend calls it closure. And I suck at it.

Self doubt and lack at achieving closure. Brilliant combination. The perfect recipe for failure. Odds are that I would fail with Nidhi. That I would not reach closure.

But I will not.

I. Will. Not. Fail. 

I may not get to publish it. But I will finish it. And I would do a damn good job at it. And I would ensure that whoever reads it, its worth their time. Thats the greatest responsibility that I have as a writer. That the reader, her time or money is not wasted when they read what I've written. And I promise that your time or money would not be wasted while you read Nidhi's story.

I know that my story is not even a fraction of what a Bloodline is. And mind you, Bloodline is great but its not even the greatest piece of fiction that I know of. There's Godfather, there's Count of Monte Cristo. There's a long list.

But what I know is that I have made a promise. And for a change, I am going to keep it. Despite all odds, I'd finish the story.

The good part of this self doubt bit is that all the doubts are creeping in at a stage where I can still work on it. All the lessons are happening at a time where I can still patch the logical and narrative flaws. After all, I am at the 30000 word mark. Far from the 120K that I have planned before I send this to publishers. There's still time for the Nov. 11 deadline that I have kept for finishing the first draft. Some 40 days. A little discipline and a little grit should see me there.

Just need a little bit of push. A small nudge. An angel to watch me over. A boss that I can report into. Probably I need a Nidhi Kapoor or a Renu Sharma to actually come to life and help me work on this. That would be so cool. No?

On Writing

The Thinker! 
Writing is the toughest job that I've ever had. And I've had some tough jobs before this. Thing with writing it that you are alone when you are working. Of course you have your support system and friends and other such people around you but when you put pen to paper, you are alone. You are the only one who can move the story forward. You are the one that decides on the next turn the that story would take. If even its a simple one act story, which in my opinion is tougher to write, you need to do it by yourself. You are the planner, you are the designer, you are the expert, you are the executioner and you are the manager. 

Writing is one those things that are probably as close to meditation as they can be. You could sit in a room full of writers, you could talk to them about your plot, you can pick their brains. You do whatever but you would have to put the damn thing on paper by yourself. And I am learning that I suck at it. 

The first problem for me was to be able to sit at one place for some time and work without getting distracted. I have got that figured out thankfully. I mean I am still working on it but its a start for sure. I move around and all that but I do not have an active Internet connection and the phone is on silent mode to keep out distractions.

The next is to be able to write fast. I mean today it took me about 8 hours to write 3000 words. And not a new story. I had the plot in place. I just had to add a few words and complete the narratives. And it took me 8 hours. At this pace, the three projects that I am working on, I dont think I'd be able to get those done. And all those three are really important to me. I can not compromise on any. And all three come with strict deadlines. One ends in 30 days from now, on the 23rd October. And the other two, mid November. So I better learn how to write fast. 

And mind you, thats the simple bit. The putting it down on paper bit and the speed with which I write bit. The other things that I need to do to be able to be a good writer, are the tougher ones. Here is a small list. 
  • A. The non stop rounds of editing where you have to kill what you wrote, even if you are fond of it. Even if you loved it
  • B. Then there is shameless promotion of what you write. I suck at this totally. I dont even put these on facebook. Why is it important? Because every reader is an opportunity for you me to improve your my craft. 
  • C. The dwindling bank balance. Its not directly related to writing but its an occupational hazard for me. For a lot of people, writing comes naturally to them and they can write in the evenings, on the weekends. I, on the other hand, have to struggle for every word that I write. And hence the joblessness. 
  • D. The infinite homework required, just to keep up. This includes learning words like Moxie, Shibboleth and Chagal. Of course unless I use these words in what I write, there is no point. So far, I havent been able to figure out where would I want to use Chagal, unless I am writing about a sub-Saharan adventure. This also includes reading a lot. I dont mind the reading bit though. Just that I am getting used to reading on a computer. I thought I could use a device but nothing like holding an actual book. And nothing like the convenience of an entire computer (not just a tablet or a ebook reader).
Bottom line, its a tough job and I am totally sucking at it. There is no assurance of money / fame / future prospects at the end of it. When I took it up, I did not know that it would be tougher than a full time job. I mean agreed that I have the flexibility to choose my time and I can sleep during the day and I dont have to struggle through traffic for hours but its a tough tough job.

And I am just ranting here. And to the rant, if you are a struggling writer as well, you may want to do these following things.
  1. Subscribe to a word a day. There is nothing like an extensive vocabulary. And since I still think in Hindi and translate it to English when I write, my writing it limited. I use wordsmith.org. You may choose whatever you like. I am sure there are quite a few of these.
  2. Read about writing. You must read a lot anyway but read about writing. Almost all the great writers have written about their art/craft. Right now, I am reading Chuck Palahniuk's essays and Stephan King's On Writing
That's it for the time being. Oh, I have set up a mailing list where I would send periodic updates on how the book is coming along. If you are interested, you may subscribe to it. I promise not to spam you. Just leave your details in the form below.

Introducing Shorties 2013!

Hemingway's 6 word short story.
Time for a new project. I call it Shorties. And I need your help. You, the unknown 120 people who come to my blog everyday. You the 127 friends I have on Facebook. You, the 2000+ people (and bots) that follow me on twitter. You, the 5 people on the favorite's list of my iPhone. You, #sgMS, the reason or my existence and being. And finally, you, the curious onlooker reader. I need your help. All of your's.

What is the idea?
In one line, starting tomorrow (20th Sep) I would write and publish one short story (less than 5000 words) everyday, for next 100 days. For each story, I want you, all of you, to help me with ideas, plots etc.

How can you help?
Send me a story idea, a keyword, some characters, a plot, interesting links, oddities and anything else that can be converted into a short story. And I would write a story inspired by what you send in.

I'd select a story idea at 9 every morning and write a story by 8 the next day.

The first week, I'd do stories on plots that I have been wanting to write for some time. After that, I'd hopefully get you guys excited enough, to send in your ideas, plots etc.

The fine print. Why am I doing this? The future? Etc.
You may know that I am trying to write my first full length fiction (a book, about 80000 words). And the process of writing is making me aware of my shortcomings. As a writer. And as a human being.

To be able to write the book well, I need training and practice. Time and again, people have said that if you want to improve your writing, only thing you could do, is to write more. And hence the Shorties. Shorties would make me write fiction everyday and would hopefully make me a better writer. Good enough to be able to write something that publishers in India would want to publish.

That (getting better at writing) is one. The other bit is the dire need of discipline. I have realized that when I have someone to report into, I get my act together and work better. With Shorties, more than one boss, one man, I have you, all of you, to report into.

So these are the two reasons. I know that a lot of what I write, will be crap (for want of a better, milder word). But I would write something everyday. I would ship. And if I do it for next 100 days, at least one of the 100 stories would be good enough to get published in a magazine of repute or something. No? If not that, I am hoping that I'd see some tangible result in the way I write!

Thats it. Wait for tomorrow morning. For the first of 100 Shorties.

The Charging Cable Conundrum

If you read this blog regularly, you may know that I use an iPhone 5. In my opinion it is the best phone available in market. I know its debatable but we'd get into it later.

The thing with iPhone 5 is that it comes with a different charger, as compared to all other previous iPod and iPhone family devices. Apple calls it lightning charger. Its a great charger. Takes less space, charges fast and is as small as a charger can get without affecting functionality. But then since its so unique, its so hard to find. I mean most people I know has either an older iPhone or a phone that uses a miniUSB charging input. So if I am in a room, the probability is almost zero, of finding someone with a charging cable for my phone. Let me park this here for a bit.

Next up on the rant is legendary requirements of smart phones for constant charging. And when they are on 3G, this requirement goes up by tons. And something in me refuses to use the iPhone on EDGE or GPRS. I mean whats the use of a smart phone if you cant use the awesomeness that data connectivity allow you to indulge in. And an iPhone 5 is a sucker for battery juice. Really, literally and otherwise. The battery drains out in less than 4 hours for me. And all this when I use it moderately. Blame it on million applications that are running on my phone or constant use of twitter feed or whatever, the battery dies so soon that I am left wondering, if there was any battery at all in the first place. Ok, hyberbole but I'd park this as well.

Third thing is my legendary carelessness. Funny thing is that till three months back, I wasnt. Am I getting into the artist zone? I dont know. Its a post for another day. But now that you know that the charging cable for an iPhone 5 is so important, can you believe that I lost misplaced my cable? I have lost larger and more important things - my wallet, my driving license, my credit cards etc. But iPhone 5 cable! For God's sake I can not move around without a phone. People dont call me that often since that July evening but I still need a phone. I love the concept of being connected all the time. If for nothing else, but for Google Maps and Twitter (follow me on @altSG and @saurabh). And since I cant charge the phone without a cable that I lost, I am left in a conundrum. What conundrum? Hang on for a minute.

Fourth thing is legendary money making prowess of Apple. The charging unit is patented and that means that a company of repute will have to license the design from Apple to make their chargers. And that means that their accessories would be more expensive than Apple's. This to me was counter intuitive. I thought Apple made the most expensive accessories and here I am looking at units from Griffin, Capdase that are more expensive than Apple! There are a few fly by night operators as well, that sell these accessories for a fraction of money but then they are fly by night. What do you expect from them. Id come back to those guys.

So after these 4 back stories, after I lost my cable, the jobless me decided to save some money and buy a cable from those fly by night operators. The cable was priced at 499, compared to Apple's 1460 and Griffin's 1799. I saved about 1000 bucks at the drop of the hat. The cable worked well for a week and then it stopped working. I bought yet another cheap one for 179. It worked for exactly 5 days. Then I bought one for 250. It worked for a month. And then I bought one for 499 again. It worked for, a week. And then finally I was on the road whole of yesterday and I missed an amazing opportunity to meet colleagues and friends from my previous job, because my phone did not have battery and I did not have a cable. I decided its time to take matters in my hand. And that my dear friends is the conundrum I am talking about.

I could chose to buy the cheaper cable, at the rate of one every fortnight. Or I could buy the expensive one and be in peace for a year at least (apparently the official Apple cable comes with a one year replacement warranty). Of course this time,  I bought the official Apple cable for 1460.

And I am cringing since then for the insane amount of money that I have spent because of my carelessness. Damn me. Side note, you have to see the packaging of this official cable. Its so beautifully done that it almost bought tears to my eyes. Thing as insignificant as a charging cable has been packed with so much love and so much care that I dont really feel bad about paying them all this extra money. 

But you know unlike popular belief, iPhone 5 users are NOT rich. They could be jobless as well you know. I do love the iPhone 5 and I would recommend it any day to anyone. I love using it. I love owning it. I love everything about it. Just that, I wish the accessories were cheaper. Or may be I wish I could make some accessories and sell em to people at these inflated prices!

And for you, the reader, next time you want to buy me something, you know what to buy. No? #facepalm!

P.S.: If the title of this post sounds familiar, you, my friend, are addicted to Big Bang Theory. As Sheldon would have said, "O, I am amazed at how the great mind works, in its own subtle ways!"

Now hiring. A manager to manage me.

Hotlinked from here.
I havent written for well over a week now.

Not that I did not have things to write about. There are some 112 drafts on my blogger console. My evernote account is overflowing with blogpost ideas. There is the 7 things project. Of course there is Nidhi Kapoor. And there's no writer's block to stifle my creativity. I am just being lazy. I am procrastinating for no reason. Nothing else. I know that our time is limited and there is so much to do. And yet I am lazy. Like Neo says, "laziness pays now, hard work later", I am trapped in the lure of instant gratification.

Come to think of it, I left my job to write. And I havent wrote for half the days since I quit. I should be ashamed of myself. I am.

I think its only about discipline. I know I want to be the master of my time. I tried working in that direction. And I failed. But I did not know that it would be so tough to learn this art of mastering time. I just cant seem to prioritize my time. I still want to do everything and I want to do all those things now. And come to think of it, I am a grown man old man. And an old bipolar man suffering from ADHD.

Anyway, whats done is done. I will try and make writing my priority. If I have meetings lined up, I will wake up early. If I am travelling, I will make time to write. Even if I am not feeling like it, I will force myself to spurt out 2500 words a day. A steep target but I will try and get it. I need a visual dashboard to be able to measure my progress on. There has to be some app for it.

The app reminds me, I want to hire someone to manage me. Yes, someone who I can report into. I tried doing that last year but could not find someone stern enough to make me work. I want to try it again.

The idea of having a boss is that there is constant pressure and motivation from someone else. There is someone to keep a track of what I am doing and what I am not. Frees up time to get things done. And no, I am not talking randomly here. I have learnt that I work better when I have deadlines and bosses to report into. I work better when a stick is egging me all the time. Carrots dont work for me. Anyone wants to volunteer? I am serious about this. Can discuss terms et al in strict confidence.



Thats the word that comes to my head, to explain the kind of day I've had today. Woke up at 8, ate, slept. Woke up again at 10, ate and slept again. Woke up at 6 and now I am writing this. I am clocking more sleep that ever these days. 15 hours on an average. 

Come to think of it, not just today but last few days, have been like this. 

Is it because I have just too much inaction in my life right now? Or something's wrong with weather? Any other plausible explanations? Why am I lethargic these days? What's wrong with me? Any medical professionals on my TL?

Balam Pichkari

It was that kind of the day. The day when you were unwell and you did not know what to do to cheer you up. The day when you've tried looking at pictures from good old times when you dint give a fuck to days like today. The day when talking to your special someone actually makes the day tougher than what it has been. 

And then somehow from somewhere you hear faint traces of a song playing. A song that you know you've heard somewhere. Was it at a Rahul Vaidya show at your last event? Or was it playing on FM? You know that song is the answer to every tough question that the day has asked you. What song was it? Oh yes, unbelievably, its Balam Pichkari!

Not kidding. Put on the headphones and hear it. And see all your sorrows just leave your skin. And see yourself dancing to it like no one's watching. And you dance like mad, so mad that even you yourself cant imagine yourself to have that kind of energy.


Thank You Starbucks

Dear Starbucks India,

Thank you so much.

Why? There is a long backstory that you would have to know of, before I can come to the reasons for this longish letter.

The Backstory.
I am a struggling writer and I spend a lot of time working out of third places (you know, not office, not home). Third places are coffee shops, hotel lobbies, office receptions and other such open places. When I say I work out of third places, I mean I am on my laptop and I try and write. I try. And I write. What I write may or may not be good but I write.

All these third places offer me a few things that are essential for working out of those places. Enough space for me to sit comfortably, a power socket, a table, a chair and unlimited supply of water. I have given away a fortune to all these third places trying to find my comfort place. And despite all the attempts, I have never been able to find the right combination. Combination of space, seating, options to eat, hospitality and prices.
You know, I have been to almost all coffee retailing brands. From a Café Coffee Day to Barista to Gloria Jeans to Costa and all ten thousand other such businesses. Each of them is same, is about relationships, chilling out, friendship and all these “addy” things. Each of them is a brilliant business with proven business models but to me, they are in the business of retailing expensive food and beverages, under the garb of third places. Nothing wrong with it. Everyone is here to make money.

At each of these third places, everytime I have spent more than an hour, I have almost always got glances from the staff. If I don’t order enough to keep cash registers ringing, I have had staff coming to me and asking me for orders that I don’t want to make. You know, I am a cheapstake. But then like Pavlov’s dog I got trained to look for signs of displeasure of the staff at these places and make a move right before they would put me in an uncomfortable position. At times the move is good, I need a break after working for an hour. But most times these breaks, break the flow. Flow if you know, is hard to get.

Ok, enough of rant. I can go on about problems with coffee shops.

Starbucks at Arrival area, Mumbai Domestic Airport
Fast forward, Hello Starbucks! 
I studied business management and was taught of a lot of case studies on interesting businesses created by passionate entrepreneurs. I heard about Starbucks in a marketing class. And then I read Schulz’ book. And I have been a fan ever since. Since Starbucks was not in India those days, I could at best remain a fan on paper.

I remember the first time I went abroad in 2008 (or was it 2007?), I went to Paris. It was a memorable trip and I was excited about flying abroad for the first time. And I wanted to goto just three places in Paris. Not the Eiffel, not the Louvre, not the Moulin Rogue. But Ikea, Disneyland and, you guessed it, Starbucks.
And I did. This was a Starbucks in Louvre, if I am not wrong. Its been some time so details are little sketchy but I remember getting a picture clicked outside the Starbucks. The coffee was too expensive for me and I wasn’t paid any money to spend while I was there. So I did not buy anything from but like I said, I did get a picture.

And since then, everytime I have travelled abroad, I have tried to go see your stores. From small ones to big ones. And like any business that has operations on this scale,  I have encountered the good, the bad and the ugly.

And then one fine day we hear that Starbucks is coming to India.

And media latched it up like crazy for some reason. Did you put a lot of money in PR? You did not have to spend any money on marketing – people queued up outside your first store for hours to get in and buy a coffee. It’s a coffee afterall. Right? You can not make It that great that people queue up? But then people in Mumbai have always queued up for everything and I left it at that.

Till the time I hadn’t visited a store, I dismissed you guys as yet another American brand coming to India and selling their over expensive merchandise to us. I did not goto a Starbucks for quite some time. And then, on insistence of a friend, I went to Elphinestone store one late night after dinner. And I was surprised, no, I was shocked to see the store. It looked like the coffee shop that I have always dreamt of opening. It was a brilliant mix between Indian and American ethos. Loved every bit about it. There was a lot of detailing in that store. More detailing than a girl probably puts in her makeups for her wedding in India. In fact that store on list of one of the top ten places to visit in Mumbai. The other nine, let me write a post about that.

And since a visit to that store, I have been to a few stores in Mumbai and Delhi. And each of your café has a distinct personality and yet they are part of Starbucks, the business. You guys even made the colour Green cool for me.

By this time you must be wondering, why the letter! Let me come to it.

Why this letter?
So, after all the stories, here is the real reason for this letter.

You guys are the only establishment that made me feel invited, like we Indians welcome a guest at home. And not treat me like a customer at a shop.

When guests visit me at my home, I don’t call them customers, I don’t call them Sirs or Ma'ams. I call them by their first names. So do you. You are probably the only business (in hospitality industry and otherwise) that has addressed me by my first name.

When my guests come see me, I don’t ask them to leave if they have no more conversations left. You do not ask me to leave if I do not order a beverage or a snack.

I am accommodating for guests at home. So are you.

I am very friendly, to the extent of getting obnoxious. So are you.

And thus the letter.

Thank you for inviting me like a guest, treating me like a friend and taking care of me like your boyfriend (or girlfriend if you will). Thank you for not overtly selling coffee. Thank you for great work on the business. Thank you for giving me a lesson in brand and business management. Thank you for your patience. Thank you, most importantly, for the way you serve me water. In a glass, with a lid and a straw. Love sipping water like that. You made water sexy for me.

Thank you once again.

As you expand to more locations in India, hope you can continue the great work. I cannot really afford a lot of your beverages all the time but I can definitely make my gratitude more evident. This letter, is one such way to show my gratitude. Hope I can think of more. Till then, thanks a ton!

A fan

And a disclaimer
And for anyone else that may be reading this, I am NOT a coffee fan. I do not even drink coffee. Coffee constipates my system. I order iced teas when I am at coffee shops.

And Starbucks is NOT paying me to write this, neither do I expect something from them. They are merely giving me a place where I can sit and work. I did order a Black Tea Ice Tea but I paid for it myself.

And Starbucks, thank you guys, yet another time.

The weekend trip to Goa

Panaroma - en route to Mumbai 
I think my first trip ever to Goa was in 2007 when I passed out from college. Those days, after you finished your college, it was in vogue to gather the whole jingbang, go to an exotic destination for few days and hopefully create memories that would last you a lifetime. But for me, there is nothing home to write about it except the painfully long train journey and scorching heat that made us all fight for every single breath.

So since then I have been to Goa like a million times with friends and for work. And each time I went with friends, I either ate and slept or spent time in a casino playing poker. For the records, I am a teetotaler and I dont eat sea food. When I went for work, I was largely confined to the hotel I was organizing the event at. Over time Goa became a place that to me meant two things and two things only. Work. Or poker.

Now that I am out of work, the travel-to-Goa-for-work-bit is ruled out. And for poker, since I have realized in the last few days weeks that I am not really as great as I thought I was, I have stopped looking forward to Goa for poker. Of course I havent given it up as yet. I will play smaller games (micro stakes) and then see how things go. I can afford to lose some money I think.

So Goa, has become a place where I dont really know what to do (its sad when you order vegetarian french fries on a beach - even the waiters smirk at you). I am anyway not a huge fan of how native Goans treat people like me (more on this sometime later). So most trips to Goa are now instigated by friends. And I go there for the sake of merely going there, spending three days away from email and computers and coming back. No real pleasure to be honest. I could do as well by merely not stepping out of my place.

But then this weekend a few weekends back, I went to Goa and the trip was way different from other trips.

This time I was in Goa for less than 24 hours. Like all my previous trips, I did not do my regular jig of dinner at the beach, binge at the casino, long car rides at night etc. But, spent one whole evening on a beach and talked with my friends about an idea that we are working on.

The noteworthy thing is not the conversation or the dinner; but something that happened on the beach.

Picture this. You are on the beach at night getting drunk on Breezers and Red Bulls and then out of nowhere, it starts raining. And raining hard. Cats and dogs. The kinds that you are helpless against. You cant run, running would be futile, by the time you move even an inch you would be drenched. You cant stand, its raining so hard that it hurts. And there is no protection. Its you and water. Hard, thick drops of water. Falling with enough force to go deep in your skin. Tear your skin. And you touch your heart and soul. And open you. Open you for contemplation, for thinking and for lot of other such things that I dont really have words for.

I dont know why but I headed to water. I dont know how to swim. And I was not drunk. And I play it very safe. And thus I stood right at the point where the ocean and the earth battle it out to claim turf. There was water pelting on me from up above, trying to hammer me into earth. There was water splashing at my feet, sometimes reaching upto my knees, trying to drag me into the sea. And there was winds, fast enough to sweep you off your feet, trying to take me away from earth and the sea.

Three forces of nature, furious forces, all trying to dislodge from where you are. All three forces trying to tell you to go find a shelter. All three forces getting fiercer by the minute. It got really scary after some time. But I stood there. I help my ground.

And then suddenly most amazing thing happened to me. I dont know why but I let myself go. I loosened up my body. I submitted to Mother Nature. I just wanted to be one with her. I left myself to her discretion. I spread my arms and I looked up. I could not really see any child Gods at play but I could see some stars, playing hide and seek with clouds. I couldn't see the moon but the clouds had some kind of faint glow on em, as if someone is smirking at me for being ignorant. Or as if someone was dismissing me with an all-knowing smile.

Meanwhile rains, water from the sea, winds, everything was still playing but they were not strong anymore. They were gentle. Like they want to give you a massage. And cradle you like a baby. Like you were their baby. I suddenly somehow knew that I wasn't going to get harmed or get hurt. I knew there was someone looking out for me. I knew I was not alone. Like a friend says, God was with me.

Except that I dont really believe in the concept of God. Whatever it was, it definitely was not a divine intervention or something. It wasn't any hand from any God. It wasnt the light that is supposed to show me the way. Its just a stupid coincidence really. Nothing. And yet I want to read a lot into it. I want it to be some kind of a sign - like I want to hang onto anything that I can lay my hands on, when I am out of breath in the swimming pool where I spend a lot of my mornings.

So, let me park this bit here.

The second thing to have happened was that I chose to drive back to Mumbai, rather than taking the flight. We took a combination of some state highway and a national highway and the outcome was a drive that lasted more than 12 hours through roads that were as flat as steel plates, as bumpy as battlefields, as curvy as a Jalebi (there was this particular bend that looked like an angular Z), as straight as a ruler that we used in school. And then there were numerous places along the way that were so scenic that a good photographer could actually click postcards out of those places.

We passed trees, green stretches of land, forests, waterfalls and other such places that we hardly get to see at our concrete jungles. Since this was for the first time that my mind was unoccupied by random thoughts about work and life, I could enjoy these things.

We stopped at numerous such places and spend time soaking in the energy from nature at work.

There were pure shade of greens that made you feel great about just being alive. At those places, you forgot everything that is cluttering your head. You became thoughtless. They were so soothing that you felt as if you are starting your life all over again with no baggage.

There were amazing waterfalls and the water was so fresh, so clean that it could remove all the dirt from even your soul. Like that dip in the Ganges. Just that this time we were on top of some mountains in the Western Ghats. I had never expected water to be this cold. This penetrating. This sharp. This heavy. I did not have the guts to actually take a shower. A friend did.

And finally, there were clouds. Passing right through us. Its a wonderful feeling to have a blob of cold dense air pass through you. You know you can hold them if you stretch your hand and yet they remain elusive.

So the rain on the beach and the drive through the most breathtaking scenery I have seen in some time, was something that I hadnt anticipated at all. More than anything, it was the first time when I felt Mother Nature's awesomeness. I mean I have been to mountains and other such places but I have never felt this touched. And I realized that I havent been kinds to think a lot about nature. In fact, on the contrary, I am an energy and convenience hog.

But after this trip to Goa, something has begun to change. I have become lot more conscious. I mean I dont think I can survive without AC but I will start to being that shift in my thinking. It wouldnt happen overnight. It may or may not even happen. But I will make an attempt.

I am glad that I went and great that I could see the immense power of Mother Nature. Lets see if this sticks with me.

Oh, and the biggest lesson? That I am we are insignificant. All the stupid things that we attach to ourselves, ego, emotions, all of it is frivolous. Over rated. And hyped. Need to start living in harmony with nature.

Month 1, (of the Four months of frugal life)

Remember this post?

Of course I do. So I said I would reduce my spends and do so without compromising on my lifestyle / travel / hobbies. Its been a month now since I started thinking in terms of frugal lifestyle. And here is an update.

What has changed 

  1. The credit card bill reduced by 50%. May be because I had lost my card and I was forced to use cash. But it has come down and I am happy about it.
  2. I did not buy any new garments. I have been guilty of buying truck loads of clothes that I would never wear. And especially when they are on sale, I indiscriminately buy clothes. I stopped that. Despite all the offers and everything, I did not buy anything. I used this cheat sheet by Vishal, before every purchase and it has helped me immensely. Thanks Vishal.
  3. All the long phone conversations have died. Primarily because I dont have anyone left to talk to. Neo is in Mumbai and I meet him face to face. sgMS is now too busy to talk. 

What did not change

  1. I am still travelling like mad. As I write this, I have a trip planned to Goa and SFO. In the month of September. And I bought tickets for Diwali in advance. Apart from SFO trip, I can remove it as one time expense, I am not cutting down on my travel. And I am still using planes, rather than trains or some other mode of transportation to save on money. Like I said, I would save time, not money. 
  2. I am still well fed and do things at my whims. This includes travel, meeting people, buying gifts (more on this later), working out of coffee shops and all such things. I want to believe that my productivity has increased as well. I can now write for at least one hour on the stretch. And when I write, I no longer shuffle between multiple pieces. I dont know if being frugal and becoming a better writer is connected but I spend lot more time in the zone
  3. On coffee shops, I said I would work lot more at home. But I havent been able to do this. I still spend a lot of time at Starbucks and pay for overpriced coffee but I have realized that I work better when I am at a coffee shop. In fact two of my favorite writing spots are Starbucks in R City Mall and Starbucks at the Airport. In fact I am writing a letter to Starbucks. It should be on this blog soon. 
  4. August marks birthdays of a couple of good friends. Early September is birthday of one of the most important people in my life. Normally I would have bought something expensive that would be of no use to anyone and it would have made me happy. But this time, I am not. A plain old phone call shall do. I know these guys understand. They know that I am jobless and trying to manage money better. 

What did I do different in last one month?

  • Rather than spending by cards, I used cash. Thing with cash is, you can see it depleting and you know how much is left. So when you are nearing the end, you can take corrective measures and reduce your spends. I like this bit. So as a matter of practice, I would start carrying more cash. I dont really like a heavy wallet but I will compromise on it.
  • Reduce the amount of times I eat out. Before this, I have been eating out a lot. A lot as in all three meals out. And its expensive to eat out in Mumbai. I have consciously reduced eating out. Now I try and scalp meals off friends. Dont have a lot but enough to keep me well fed. Especially, Neo, AS, NL. Thank you guys. 
  • Thanks to this thought about gaming Mumbai, I have reduced my travel bill substantially. I am still paying a fortune to travel but its has come down. I now club my meetings so that I dont waste time or money in travel. I now travel at non-rush hours and that translates into less time (and thus less money) on the road. I have started to fuel the borrowed car with CNG. Like the Pune trip a couple of days back turned out dirt cheap, for I used CNG and ate at non-fancy restaurants. I still havent gotten around to using public transport and I dont think I would ever use it. 

That's it. In tangible terms, my cost of living has come down by 30%. I wish I could make charts and post them here but I dont think they are required. This post is primarily for my consumption. Next target is, reducing 30% from where I am. 

The next month's report would be interesting because I would have spent a large part of my time out of home and expenses would rise like crazy. Id mark the US expenses as an anomaly and extrapolate expenses of time spent in India to over a month. Lets see how it turns out. 

So far, I am loving this idea of a frugal life. I know I love spending money and despite that, I love this new found power that I have over controlling my spends.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

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

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