On mental health...

Sent this email to some co-workers. Publishing it on my blog because I think this deserves a larger audience. 


Disclaimers first.
  • You are getting this email because you work with me. And I work with you. In the capacity of a partner, employee, employer, friend, mentor, intern, associate, client et al.
  • This is going to be a long email. Please DO read this. It's important to me that you do. No, you don't have to reply.

So, you, of course, know me. And you know that I have always taken pride in pushing people out of their comfort zones. To a point that I zealously justify that "Good Job" thingy in the movie Whiplash. I love the idea of going all-in. Your work has to consume you or it is not your true work at all. I like the idea of NOT having a work-life balance. I have worshipped hard and long work over anything else. People that are famously workaholics are my idols (not just for what they've been able to achieve but the work ethic they had - and yes apart from a few exceptions I have not seen a lot of people work less and yet get successful). To me, you either went BIG or you did not try. I would push EVERYONE I know to try and aim for a large objective. With the rationale that even if you failed, you would have achieved things that were beyond your imagination. And I thought it worked well. I mean it DOES work well. I have enough evidence.

But something happened this week that is making me re-think the very core of my belief system.

So, the day before I met this young boy, A, for a coffee. He is one of those typical young people that I like to spend time with. Young, intelligent, ambitious, hungry for success, believes in self and his ideas. Hustles hard - travels through the length and the breadth of the city to meet people. Closes loops. Follows up. Actually does the work. Creates opportunities that don't exist. Finds work wheres there no scope of it ever happening. In one line, if you asked me, he is on the fast track of success. Has EVERY ingredient that I always wish I had. I would've bet my life that in 5 years he would be amongst the richest and most famous people!

But then one minute into the meeting, I realized that something was amiss. And while talking excitedly about what he plans to do, he started sobbing. In the middle of a coffee shop. In the middle of a sentence. In the middle of a slide. Took him a few seconds of crying and then he was back to normal and continued where he had left! As if nothing happened. I figured that he is suffering from some mental ailment that I did not have an inkling of.

I saw him breakdown in front of my eyes.

Normally I am good at spotting signs but this one escaped me, even though I was meeting him often. Since the meeting, I've read quite a few things and I know that mental health issues can hide in plain sight and people suffering don't even realize that they are suffering!

Coming back. So A, otherwise articulate, in that 20-minute meeting was hyperactive, jumped from topic to topic, cried a few times without realizing that he was, made the same point multiple times (he lost track of what he was speaking), talked about how he will rule the world (and he was damn serious about it), popped a few medicines (I hope they were legit) and could barely sit still.

This was the first time when something like this happened so close to me. And I was, I am shaken.

I am not exaggerating that it was THE most painful meeting of my life. I have been in meetings where people have lost their loved ones, lost business, flunked years, broken up with the loved ones and more. Those were comparatively ok. This was so painful that I could not sleep. And I was mostly like a vegetable for almost a day. I could not process that life could be so unfair. As I write this, I still can't.

But what I did process was that my approach towards work may not work for all. Of course, I've been told by a lot of people that there is never a one-size-fits-all solution. I've read it multiple times at multiple places. I've even discussed it with close friends but never believed in it. I would dismiss these as easy reasons to be lazy, short-sighted and un-ambitious.

And I've never been more wrong!

So wrong that I am probably going to reevaluate my whole life. And like I said, my belief system.

I believe that all human progress was made by people that did not have work-life balance.
But at what cost? By having broken people living in misery? Or may be misery is indeed a fundamental truth of life? I know I am going down the existential-nihilism dredge and I ought to stop.

I believe that we need to work hard and do nothing else.
I believe that every waking minute needs to be spent on chasing growth / money etc.
I do not believe in the concept of breaks.
But does that really make people more effective? Does that deliver more? The whole of tech-space yesterday was debating about this on twitter. None of the sides was a clear winner. No, it's not about winning or losing. It's about people. And understanding that both may have its own merits. And you cant diss others for their unambitious, slow life. That is their decision to make and I can NOT push them to see things my way.

I believe that we need to surround ourselves with others that are on the same path and trajectory as us. And more importantly, chase the ones ahead, the ones that seemed to have it figured. Chase them till you die. Till you reach where they are (which is never because by that time they are further ahead). You know, rat race?
May it's this rat race to the impossible top that sends people off the cliff? What if there is never a cliff? Just a treadmill?

I believe that we need to workship these heroes that have done superhuman things. And live with the maxim that if they can, then you can as well!
Of course, they have had different circumstances, lives, opportunities, ideas and all that. But who are we to think about those? What is important is that we have a cultish fervor towards these heroes.

May be, just may be, this entire startup culture, youth revolution, row your own boat, blow your own trumpet life is what is pushing people over the edge? Everyone is surrounded by so much media, content, information, signs that you can do so much more, that you can be the king of the world, that life is beyond the comfort zone, that you are special etc, etc. We hear about people next door that go on to raise a billion dollars, people that come out of nowhere to become the next Bollywood superstar, people that start with nothing and go on to captain the most prestigious team ever. These things are supposed to inspire you. Their stories are meant to help you push harder. After all, they cast-off, did their own thing, worked hard and achieved fame. 

Is this the real culprit?

If they did not have glory, we'd not have heroes. May be there is indeed merit in remaining anonymous. Or may be not. What would make a man get up from his bed if he did not have his brethren to make envious?

I have ranted for so long now. And trust me I thought about A and his condition for hours before I could gather the thoughts to be able to write this.

And the point of this? 
Well, if I've pushed you beyond your comfort zone, it is to help you see things that you probably aren't able to. Now I know I have no right. If I've said anything out of place, caused you discomfort, belittled you, I am sorry. 

And if you ever think you need some sort of intervention, if I can help in any way, PLEASE do let me know. PLEASE speak up. You ARE important to me. And to a lot of other people! 

And please keep looking for signs around you and when you spot someone in distress, please please intervene! 

And that's about it. 

Oh, one more thing. I love you! Really do. 


PS: No, please don't call me and ask who this person is.

PPS: If I sound incoherent, please excuse. I am writing after a while. And I am still shaken. To a point that I took a break for a day before resuming work. I can't even imagine when A must be going thru. Or how any of you is.

The feeling of being listless

So I have been feeling listless in the last few days. Even before I went to Bangalore. And I don't know why. May be it is the new place that I have moved to. Or may be that I don't have an AC at my place and thus I have had inconsistent and fitful sleep. Or it could be that I don't have an office place anymore (the guys I was sharing an office with, they moved onto a new place and they no longer have a vacancy). Or may be I am stressed about something important to me - my work, relationships, money.

I can't seem to put a finger on things but I am being so useless that it is not making me listless. You know, spiraling down the feedback loop? You do something because you are not well. That act of doing that something makes you all the more unwell. And because you are unwell, you do that something. And you get in that loop.

Lemme give another example. You are fat. You want to lose weight. But because you are fat, you can't seem to gather what it takes to go ride the treadmill. Rather, you eat more as you struggle with the misery of not going on the treadmill. And because you can't go to the treadmill and you can't stop eating, you get fatter.

Fuck. I am doing such a bad job of explaining this! I need to brush up my skills to explain things.

Anyway, I have been so listless that I am actually miserable in the head. I am so out of sync with how I identify with myself, the story that I tell myself, the narrative if you will...

Who am I?
What is the story that I tell myself?
What is the song that I sing to myself?
What is my narrative?

I am someone who wants to improve every day. And help others around me improve. And in the process, make money, create impact and move the world forward. This quote summaries me well...

So, if I am not improving myself every day, I believe I am not living. I am not alive. And how do I improve myself every day? Simple. Create (more) and consume (lesser). Meet more people. Work on my physical, emotional and mental sides of life. Physical - no I don't work out but I like to walk, I like to eat in moderation. I like to sleep better. Mental - get active, keep my head engaged, think of things that I believe need work on. Emotional - become stronger to be able to cope up with the vagaries of life.

And I am not doing any of these. At all. I am not reading. I am not writing. I am not meditating. I am not creating. I am not meeting interesting people. I am not chasing largeness the way I ought to chase.  I am not creating opportunities for myself. I am not consuming media (not reading books, seeing content, listening to podcasts, etc). I am not thinking. I am not actively questioning things and opinions and ideas. I am just being a vegetable. Heck, I am not being a good vegetable - not been sleeping well at all, like I said.

I am not doing anything that I want to be doing with my life or time. And it sucks so bad that I can't seem to put my finger to it!

This suckyness in the head and the inability to think of answers is not the best place to be at. And I need to get out of it. And from whatever limited I can think, there could be a few solutions. Lemme try and list those.

To start with, this...

Found this on Kunal Shah's twitter feed. Very consistent with what I've been saying all my life. Happen to things, rather than waiting for things to happen to you. Become a high agency individual, if you will.

Translating this into specifics, the action items for the next few days are...

1. I will go and find an office place for myself. Just that most of the co-working places are way too expensive and not designed to enable work. Really. They are not. And it's pathetic. So, despite the limitation, I will find something that allows me to start work at 7 AM. And is accessible. Even if I have to spend extra, I will.

2. Get back to that life where work was the only priority and nothing else mattered.
Last few days, I don't know why and how I started to take it easy. Which means that I would do those parties and stay up late and socialize and meet people to "catchup" and all that. Which works well for a lot of people. But not for me. So, I need to get back to that inhuman life and routine where I am up with the sun and spend more of my waking time working (and not leisuring). 

3. Think hard about each thing and cut out parts that are hampering my sanity. If a relationship is not giving me happiness or comfort or peace of mind, I will move out of it. If there is an idea that is not progressing despite all my intentions, I will get out of it. If I have to take hard decisions, I will. Like AK told me yesterday, I am fucked because I am attached to things that I should've let go a long time ago! I mean if C4E does not make money for me, I should think hard about it and put a pause to it, if I have to. If I can't seem to get the book 2 going, I must quit the idea of working on it. You get the drift?

4. Get my sleep in order. Since I've moved to the new house, I've not been sleeping well. And it's affecting the way I operate. May be that it the key reason for my unhappiness and how I operate. Over the new few days, I will get my sleep in order. Everything else can wait. In fact, this should be on the top of the list. But it's too much edit. So let is remain here.

So yeah.

This is the rant for the day.

Thank God I have this blog and a daily journal of sorts to record how I feel. If not for these, I would probably go mad. I wonder how those people that remain quiet operate. I could never. I need something to talk to, someone to rant to. Even if its the blog.

What about you?

The Bangalore Diaries

Started writing this in Bangalore when I was there a few days ago. Edited and published it on 05 Dec 19, from Mumbai. 

So as I write this, I am at a Blue Tokai Coffee Shop at Indira Nagar, which to me will be among the top 5 places. Not Blue Tokai. I mean Blue Tokai is also nice. But Indira Nagar is dope. One of the top 5 localities to live in, in India.

Indira Nagar has everything that you may want. Wide roads, lined with trees on both sides, a mix of international and local businesses, offering you everything that you may want for life. There are cafes that offer healthy, organic food. There are coffee shops that offer you free wi-fi and uninterrupted long-hours of work. There are stores that sell from organic clothes to bicycling accessories to hard to find trinkets to electronics and what not! And on top of everything, the weather is just perfect. It could get hot but there are so many trees that you can take shelter under. There is footpaths that are not encroached by hawkers, bikes, and people. There are quiet lanes and bylanes and small gullies where you don't have creepy people lurking in the shadows. There is fancy modern buildings and larger fancier row houses that put those bungalows in Delhi's Sainik Farms to shame!

Shot on iPhone, by Saurabh Garg. More pics on this twitter thread.

Anyhow. So I was here for a TRS event. We had two filmmakers, one almost indie (Devashish Makhija) and another almost commercial (Hardik Mehta) talk about their idea of films and filmmaking. And this was our first event outside of Mumbai. We hoped to get some 50 guests but could only get 25-30. But then thanks to Devashish and Hardik, we made up for the empty seats with the quality of conversation between them. If you want to be a filmmaker, you HAVE to see the conversation. We'd try to put it on Youtube soon. Remind me in a few days if we don't :D

Devashish, Hardik in conversation with Shikha. Here's a snapshot of the event. Photo by Anusha S

So, while I was here for the event, I stayed back for two days to catch up with people that I needed to meet. In fact, I have been planning this for a while now. And a funny thing happened. I texted some 10-15 people and not one responded to the request to meet. This is the second time this has happened to me in the recent past. I really need to investigate the reasons. May be I don't add enough value. Or may be people are genuinely busy. Or maybe I need to revisit how I work and operate. This entire "me being me" doesn't work.

But then, from the ones that did make time to meet, I have to talk about meetings with S, M, and A.

S talked to me about life and work and was easily one of those few people that I automatically opened up to! While talking to her, I could talk about my insecurities, how my heroes seem to have fallen off their high pedestals, how I feel lost for most of my gurus are monsters, how I need to maintain a balance between a life I choose for myself and what I leave behind. It was easily one of the most mind-expanding conversations I've had.

M is a senior from MDI, has sold two startups and onto the third one. While talking to him, he spoke about what makes him decide when to jump in. He said till you get so obsessed with the idea that you can't think of anything else, you MUST not jump onto it. Makes perfect sense. Just that I am not sure if this is applicable to me. As a human being, I am very very curious. To the point that I am a scatterbrain. But if I think about all the great people and the things they do. And they HAVE been obsessed with the ideas that they were working on. May be I need to think hard about my choices and all.

A has been one of my greatest supporters and with time, a friend that I wish lived in the same city as I. We first connected when #tnks came out (#note2self - must write more often - writing allows me to meet more people) and we've been in contact since. She is also a writer (see her work here). And a photographer (check her Instagram here). And one of the nicest people I know. So while talking to her, it dawned on me that I need to be better with the distribution. What this means is that today, once I share a piece once on twitter, I think my job is done and then I don't do anything about it. Whereas, I've been told multiple times by multiple people that as a creator, my larger job is spread what I create. I can't just write something and then hope that it will spread. As a "high agency" person (see this twitter thread), I need to take an active interest in distribution and make sure that everyone sees it. Especially in the times when Facebook and Google and other distribution channels obfuscate your content unless you pay them! We also talked about how she can work on her book more effectively. And I think I quite enjoy helping others. Well, who doesn't :D

The last thing that I wanted to do while I was in Bangalore is to try and meet Lucky Ali. Bangalore. Lucky Ali. How? Well, the gentleman lives there. And I know where's his place. And I thought I would drop in unannounced and try to get a meeting out of him. And hope to get to write his biography (one of my life's ambitions). But then more I thought about it, more I realized how insensitive and obtrusive it would be. I mean imagine someone walking into your home unannounced. How would you feel?

So yeah. That's that. There were other smaller things there. Like the best butter dosa I've ever had in my life is from this place called Sri Udupi Park. I went back again and again to eat. I spotted this cafe that had organic food. The food was ok but loved the vibe. Then there was Jaypore - had like 5 shirts for men but priced very reasonably - I bought one of those 5.

In fact, Bangalore trip was like life in the slow lane and may I say, I loved it! Need to make more such trips! Until then, over and out :)

There and Here

Hello, world! Today I want to talk about the adaptability of human life. Seen from my lens.

What do I mean by this?

Well, I recently moved from a place where I lived for close to three years. And because I was there for three years, I had made more than a casual acquaintance with the people that lived and worked around there - apart from regular suspects like the neighbors, the residents, I also made got to know the people that worked there - you know, the security staff, the Starbucks Baristas, the grocery guy, the chemist and so on and so forth. After all, we are but social creatures.

So when I was making the decision to move from there to a new place, far away, one big criterion was this proximity to familiarity. I mean I was like, I'd have to do a lot of work to find new connections, get familiar with people, find my permanent place at the coffee shops, etc.

Now, its been about 15 days since I made the move. And you know what? I don't miss the people or the place that I left behind. In fact, I am enjoying the new place. Not the house or space per se. But the locality that I've moved to. There is this sense of familiarity (after all we are in Mumbai, India) and there is this newness. The way it is with a new fling.

Plus, I am walking a lot more. I am seeing new people. Doing things that I would (and could) never do previously. And I think, more than anything else, Andheri is a lot more... for the want of a better word, real!

I mean the place I lived at before this (Wadhwa) and the place I hung out most often (Powai), people everyone had such perfect and rosy lives that it was unbelievable. I would feel out of place. You know, how those poor people are uncomfortable stepping into plush showrooms of luxury brands? That.

Here, in Andheri, I see people that are a lot more common folk. There is heat & dust, good & bad, gorgeous men & unfit women, wannabes & famous people, rich & poor and a lot more. There is more, how do I say, heterogeny here.

Back there, everyone was the same - like a friend would say, each family had 2 cars, 2 kids, 2 houses, 2 perfect bodies, 2 hobbies apart from work, 2 club memberships, 2 pets, 2 relationships (in and out of home), etc. They were so perfect that even the oldies were fitter than most people I've known in my life. Plus the issues people had there were about which car to buy - Audi or BMW. No, not Merc. The conversations I would hear over the din of life were about which new restaurant to go to for brunch and if a 15-day holiday in Europe better than that in America. I would know of the movers and shakers in the corporate world. And which actor is sleeping with which.  I would not know about the dal roti ka bhao but I would know expensive the Kiwis and Avocados Avos are.

Since I have moved to Andheri, the things that I come across are people postulating about what moves the country and writers courting producers for scripts that they've taken 2 years to write and students pooling money to buy that one beer. People here are hustling hard to make ends meet. I now see those numerous idli-dosa stalls at 6 in the morning and a crowd of people jostling for space even when they can't afford that 20 rupee breakfast. The restaurants I goto, the laughter seems a little more unrestricted, little more unbridled. Compare it to the suaveness of conversations around a plate that has just a morsel of food on it, often called culinary delight and artisanal. Yes, there are rich people. Probably richer - the maids are expensive here. Yes, there are as many luxury cars as I saw at Wadhwa, may be more - the largest Audi showroom is right here.

But the thing is, people here have a spring in their step. Back there, life was more leisurely. You know, brunches were more common than struggle to schedule life around when the BMC would supply water - yes there are places that do not have 24 x 7 running water. And no, I am not talking about different strata of people. The same middle-class household around here is a lot more active than it was back there. May be that wasn't middle class and I am doing apples to oranges comparison? May be the Orange in me couldn't fit in with the stack of Apples there? May be that's why I don't miss things there?

Staying on this fruity comparison, here, I can smell the real world, you know the world with all its vagaries and gifts? Some people call it the smell of Mumbai that hits them when they open the doors of the plane! There, it was all organic diffusers and Body Mists (which I dint even know existed) and Chanel's No. 5.

Of course, a lot of things are still the same. There is the same harsh sun and magnanimous clouds. But there, the place had enough space to stare at the sky. Here, when you look up, you see buildings covering you and all you get is this sliver of blue. You know, how a bird must feel when it is still trapped in the egg in the cocoon!

In fact, when I was there, I'd tell this to a friend of mine often. That they lived in a cocoon. That thought has got a lot more reinforced after I moved here. That place was indeed a cocoon. Heck, the club there was called Club Cocoon!

Thing is, this sudden move from a place where I lived for three years, to this place where I am all of 15 days old, has opened my eyes. To things that I knew all my life but was never on the surface. I am wondering, the ones that move around a lot when they're growing up, they'd have such rich experiences and opinions. They'd make such brilliant storytellers! Damn! I am jealous! Yet another thing that I did not have. Maybe if I were there, I would be better. Or maybe I wouldn't even know that I ought to be better if I were there. This thing about them being better is in my head just because I am here. There. Here. There or here. There and here.

The mess in my head

I was not happy (Not unhappy. There's a difference between not happy and unhappy) over the last few days. I was not even content, not at peace - the default state I want to be in. I could not put a finger on what was stopping me from being that. And I tried real hard to figure out but failed at it. I mean I am the kind that can sleep well even when I know that the world around me is crumbling. Or when I know that the world around me is gifting me EVERYthing that I have ever desired.

But for the last few days, I haven't been sleeping well at all. To a point that I have this nagging, consistent, neverending mild headache. And of course, I am irritable. To a point that I am not talking straight to people that matter. And of course, I don't like this. I have to have a cordial relationship with people. There's nothing else that I care for more!

So, I continued with the investigation. I thought about everything that had changed in the last few days. And apart from the move to a new house, everything else seemed to be the same. The new house meant a new place, a new set of people that I'd nod at, a new Starbucks, a new neighborhood et at. What remained constant is the things I use at home, the clothes I wear, the food I ate, etc. 

Just that I did not have the wardrobes and almirahs to place my things inside. And the new house still has all those boxes littered in various rooms. The curtains are yet to come. I am yet to find a maid to do the cleaning. No, I cant clean by myself. I mean there are some million chores to be done before the house becomes livable again. But these things can't affect me.

Or can they?

I did everything I could to think of the reason and I almost tore whatever hair is left on my head.

I had no clue and was puzzled like hell about what was causing me discomfort. I was so frustrated and so angry that I threw my phone on a pile of clothes lying in one corner in the bedroom. And then after 10 microseconds, once I realized my mistake, I tried to search for the phone. The pile was so deep that it took me a while to locate the phone. And no, the screen did not break. And yes, I was wrong to have thrown my phone like that. As a kid, I would throw tantrums like this. I am way past that age now!

As I was hunting for the phone, the eureka moment happened for me. It dawned on me what was bothering me!

The mess in the house!
The untidiness.
The unorderliness.
All those boxes strewn all over the place.
All the dust that would rumble under the bare feet as you would walk.
That thin layer of dust on surfaces.
Dirty clothes that haven't been washed in a while.
No order to how to things were arranged.

Of course, all this is temporary. I've just moved to a new place and it will be up and running in a few days. This is just the transition phase.

But if I reflect and think back, all these transitions have always made me miserable. Maybe this is the reason that every house I move into, I don't like it? The dislike is not for the house per se but the mess that the movement accompanies! Fuck, epiphany! 

In fact, if I go back in time to when I was a kid, I used to hate it when my parents got the house painted. We'd pile all our things in one room and spend time there as the painters worked in other rooms. And then we'd move all those things in the rooms that had got painted and then painters worked that one room. This entire process would mean there's always mess and clutter and movement and all that.

I could not stand the mess back then. I can't stand the mess now.

I like open spaces (which are of course hard to come by in Mumbai). I like cleanliness. I like order. And at the age I am at, I am averse to any change per se (and yes I want to learn and experience new things). And this moving houses is not just my cup of tea. Yes, I am all for living in new places. In fact #in2020, I will live in a new country. But the process of movement is not my scene. 

When I say I want order and cleanliness, I don't want to live in a fancy hotel room where everything is measured and placed at just the right place to add to aesthetic or comfort. Neither do I want to be a snob that will only like expensive, fancy things.

And no, I am not a sucker for familiarity. I just was cleanliness and order. You know, books arranged from shortest to tallest, containers stacked neatly, bed aligned in straight lines with other furniture, etc, etc. Long-time back, there was this ad where the guy would want absolutely round rotis and want to clip each stand in his beard to the same length. Don't remember what was the ad. But I am that guy! 

Anyhow. So, now I know what moving houses does to me, I need to list some lessons that I need to use when I move next. Here's a list...

Lessons for myself?

1. Never take a house in a standalone building. Even if you have to pay a premium and you'd never ever use the facilities, take a house in a complex that has well-maintained amenities (like a swimming pool, a gym, etc).

2. When you are moving houses, before the house is settled and is up and running, stay in a hotel. Or crash at a friend's place.

3. Pay extra for the movers and get a professional service. They would pack things well and handle stuff with care. Each time I have moved, movers have done a shoddy job with things. And I can't handle incompetence.

4. ALWAYS insist on a semi-furnished house. Semi means wardrobes and appliances. Not furnishing.  Never ever furnishings. They typically are worn and shitty. It's ok to pay extra to avoid the heard-burn.

5. Reduce the number of things I own. I assumed that I have very few things but when I moved houses, I have some 20 boxes full of things. Books would be about 2 of those. But rest, I had no clue! With time, I will reduce things that I own. And now that my clothes are gone, I am gonna be very careful about buying new ones. I bought 4 shirts yesterday. I plan to buy 2 black shirts and that's that for the next entire year.

6. Money is a tool that allows you to feel better and live better. If I could spend more money this time, I would've fixed all of the above. Honestly, I may not - I did not know these things myself. But next time, I will!


And that's about it.

I hope next time I move, it is better.

I hope that now I know what had fucked my head, I would be a little more tolerable to people. And no the Mercury had nothing to do with this :D

#untitled - 111119 (on Andheri)

I don't know what to write. There is a lot to be done - both in terms of what people expect from me (reverts, etc) and what I expect from myself (proactive work). But I am not in the frame to do either. Well, the frame is a funny thing. On one hand, you want to make your mood your bitch and get it to act as and when you want it to function. And on the other, you want to succumb to the vagaries of mood and give in. After all, that is what being human is. No? Anyhow. Here we go. 

So, I've just moved to a new locality within Mumbai (Andheri West). Even though I have been on and off in Mumbai since 2007, this is the first time that I am living in this part. The first time when I was here, I lived in Santa Cruz. Then I was in Nahar (Chandivali), Bandra, and Ghatkopar. Never in Andheri. I don't know why. Thing is, my choice of houses has always depended on proximity to work and to friends. There's no third leg. I've always sought familiarity and convenience over everything else. And that has meant that a lot of things that you would expect when you change a house haven't happened to me. The best example? Hunt for a maid! Every time I have moved because I have been close to a friend or something, I've had references. If I am in trouble, most times, someone is a hop, skip or a jump away.

Not this time.

The place where I have moved to, I don't know anyone. The only thing familiar is an McD, about 500 meters from my place. And a Starbucks about a KM from my place. And because these places are close by, since I've moved here (about 2 days now), I am walking over. And walking a lot in general.

These walks are reminding me of the time I've spent in unfamiliar locations in new cities in strange countries. Just that I don't have Dipanker next to me. And I don't have an event that I am supposed to execute. But everything else is the same. New place. New experiences. New things to ogle at. New questions. And the quest to find new answers. As I walk in these new lanes, I marvel at the sights and sounds and smells and people around me. Yes, they are Indian, as Indian as you get. But there is something about the place that is different from all the other places that I have lived in Mumbai. Oh, that's the thing about Mumbai. Each pincode offers you a distinct flavor of life.

Ghatkopar is upper-middle class Gujju. That means, "modern outlook with traditional values" and other things like that. Could also mean nouveau riche but you never know. May be they were rich even back then when Ghatkopar was not what is it today? 

Powai is expats and expat kinds. That means people who have fancy jobs that allow them fancy lifestyles. The kinds they would have in a different country. You know, cobbled streets, running clubs, gardens et at.

Bandra is cool and modern. That means that any new revolution, a new spark would first get ignited at Bandra and then spread to other parts. I think if you traced back the origins of Avocados, Keto, Kombucha and other such things, you'd end up in one of the tiny lanes in Bandra.

Andheri, ladies and gents is what the maya nagri is all about. The city of dreams. The city that never sleeps. Where everything is possible. You could be hoping to land a job at a radio station and you can become the biggest superstar the world has seen. You could be beach-hopping searching for the love of your life and you'd find her on the very last beach of that day. And then you'd conquer the Bollywood. You could sleep on the floor of cafes for years and then catapult to stardom overnight. You know, this where you could be that bhagwaan in an instant. Your greatest success is just an accident away. And from whatever I know, accidents routinely happen around here. In fact, I think one ought to pick the place they live at, things they do to maximize the number of unplanned interactions with others in the same interest areas. You want to be an actor? Live in Andheri. Want to be a painter? Bandra. A start-up? Powai!

Coming back. Everything written about the magic of Mumbai, I suspect, is applicable to Andheri. Charm could be Bandra. Heritage could be Colaba. Fashion could be Bandra. But Magic has to be Andheri. And nothing else.

Now, I am just about 2 days old here, a tad delirious (I haven't been sleeping well - there's no AC at home) and little lost (people are still unfamiliar). I will explore more in the next few days. Let's see if I can discover what makes Andheri this unique melting pot like no other. In Mumbai. Or may be in India.

Till then, over and out!

Oh, one more thing. Should you have stories that you think are uniquely Andheri, please do share those with me. I am at @saurabh.

PS. The biggest superstar does not live in Andheri. But his life, his story must've inspired a disproportionately large chunk of men and women and others to move to Mumbai, to Andheri. Hoping they'd get a step closer to their dreams. 

PPS. This move to Andheri is unique for me because this is the first time I am not doing it for my work or for a friend. Something in me had rebelled against I don't know what and I wanted to sort of restart my life from scratch. This move is the closest that I could do to erase, undo, delete my previous life. No, I can't stop with C4E or AWSL. No, I can't hit that reset button. But I can start. You know, today's the first day of the rest of your life? That. Ok. I don't even know what I am talking about. Over and out. Do lemme know what you think of this piece. 

Black Swan + Black Shirts

So I want to be a minimalist and I don't want to own a lot of things. I mean all I own is a TV, a writing table, a bookshelf, 300 or so books, two luggage bags, a guitar, a uke, 10 odd shirts (most of them black or blue), 1 pair of denims, too many undergarments, 2-3 pair of shoes, some paintings (art), a lot of paper and one small box of trinkets that have an emotional value. I also have some pass-me-downs from my sis that she left behind when she moved away from Mumbai (kitchen utensils etc). Wow, this is a lot! Need to reduce. 

Apart from this reluctance to own things, I don't want to do any chores either. This means that I outsource everything. Including grocery, cooking, cleaning, ironing, follow-ups and all that. And I've tried to automate most things. My food comes by itself. My house gets cleaned every day at 5 PM. I drop my clothes at a security guard and they come back ironed. So on and so forth. 

Why would I do this? I want to minimize decisions and make life simple.

Now, coming to the story. 
So, a few days before Diwali, I followed my routine and left a bunch of clothes to be ironed at the regular place, with the regular security guard, with the regular instructions to hand over these to the regular ironing guy. 

When the clothes did not come back for a few days, I chased the regular ironing guy and he said he never took them! 

I then I spoke to the regular security guard and he said he's not aware which ironing guy took my clothes as he was away (on a break or something) when the ironing guy took those clothes away. 

I thought about it for a bit, was worried for a bit but then got busy with impending travel to Delhi. And thus forgot about it. Actually, I did not forget. I just conveniently ignored it. 

Once I came back from Delhi, after about 7 days, I realized that the clothes were still not back. And that bunch of clothes that I gave for ironing had ALL the shirts that I own! Not that I own a lot of shirts - I think about 8 or 9. 

But the point is, they were all the shirts I own. Including the ones, I wear in the office, on events, on dates, at functions, on important meetings, etc, etc. 

And all of them were now missing.

Suddenly, I was shirtless! You know, not a shirt on my back. 

I tried to investigate and spoke to multiple security guards and multiple ironing men. But no one seemed to have any answers. The shirts had just disappeared. Out of trace. Without any clue. Something like that had never happened to me. You know, I am generally careful and don't lose things. That's a different matter that on this trip to Delhi, I lost my travel-pillow. 

I was perplexed and I did not what to do. 

Till I saw this message from VG, who lives in the same apartment complex. 

So there! 

Phew! Loss. Closure. 

You know, to this to happen, how many coincidences had to happen at the same time? I had to give all my shirts (which is not the case most times) for ironing. It had to be the wrong guard on duty (because the regular guard would know my regular ironing person). It had to be the wrong ironing guy that picked my clothes. The ironing guy had to forget a bunch of clothes at the wrong place for someone else to pick them up. My clothes had to be in that bunch of 20 flats. Then, someone else had to pick up old clothes at the exact same time! Black Swan? 

And the worst part? I would've never found what happened to my clothes, if not for VG and his super-connectedness. I would've always wondered about the mystery of the lost clothes! Now that I know, I am at peace. Closure is good! 

So what does this mean?
Three things. 

1. My shirts are being used by someone who needs them more than I do. So, yay to that! 

2. I will have to buy new shirts. Which is a good thing again. Because I can buy just three and try to live my life in those three. Could be tough but let's try! 

3. I realized that I am not emotionally attached to my clothes. I did not feel even a tinge of sadness. Though, I am bugged at the thought of spending time shopping for shirts. I am bugged at the idea of spending money. But that's it. I am not bugged about losing my favorite shirt that makes me look thinner. I am not sorry about losing the shirt that a friend gifted. Heck, I don't even remember the designs or patterns that I owned! I am not bugged that this minimalism and automation has cost me a wardrobe - you can never control Black Swan events. 

So yeah, that's it! How is your November going?

PS: Anyone wants to gift me any shirts? 

This Diwali...

So, there is this tradition at home where all four of us (my parents, my sis and I) come together for Diwali. Well, come together is hyperbole. My parents live together at the place that I call home (in Delhi). My sis and I are often out for work. But wherever we are, we make it a point to come back to Delhi for Diwali. Even if it's for a day, we come back.

We do the Diwali pooja in our kitchen (used to feel like such a big space when I was a kid; now we hardly fit inside. That's the thing with spaces - they don't contract or something, just that we grow up and things that we work with expand).


Coming back.

So, this Diwali was probably the first time all 4 of us weren't together. My sis is away and it was too impractical and too expensive to come home for the tradition.

And I will not lie but I did feel a lump in my throat for a few seconds when I realized that this year's togetherness will not be complete. I even imagined that a time would come when none of us would be around and I don't know who would miss us. Or if there is any meaning to these traditions.

Maybe this is what growing up is. May be this is how the entire world feels like because they don't have enough things to digress themselves with. You know, if I had things to occupy my head with (work et al), I would probably be too busy to even miss my sis. But work has not been too great lately and that means all I had was emotions. And they were running high! I even wrote a post about it!

That's the other thing. I have been writing this blog for some 15 years now. And I have remained pseudo-social. I have spoken about things that are personal and that I often don't tell my friends and all. And I think it has served me well. In the sense, this blog has sort of become that person that I can confide in. I am fucked in the head. I write some stuff here. And then I am ok. This blog is like my best friend that I can confide in and does not judge me and has the answers.

Of course, there are far deeper and darker things that I don't write on a public platform. I write those on this secret blog that no one has access to. It has things that I would be ashamed of if they were to be published in the newspaper.

But the thing is, as I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I am becoming a lot more comfortable with myself as an individual and with my insecurities and my flaws. I am the way I am. And I want to not hide the flaws. I want to see them in the newspaper. I want to blurt yell at the top of my voice and make the world hear about them.

I know that the business I am in runs on reputation and a lot of people may not want to attach their names with mine if I start living my true self. I already get a lot of flak for the way I dress. I don't think I can add more eccentricities to it.

But then, as I go along, I think it's ok. I'd rather be with people that I like to be with and the ones that like to be with me. There are 7bn+ people and the law of numbers dictates that I would find some that respect me for my decisions. And that's what I want to chase. Fuck the pretense. Fuck the attempts at fitting in. Fuck the conformity. I am going to embrace my individuality and the choices that I believe are worth making.

Wow. I digressed to dunno what level.

When I started writing this, I wanted to write about traditions and how they gain importance as they age and how they add meaning to the lives of people. And how people do irrational things to fit into the world's view of traditions. And how someone like me who loved to be so rational that I left things behind to chase optimal results could become irrational to follow traditions. I wanted to use the Diwali pooja at home as an excuse to write about emotions and how they are often meant for people that have nothing to look up to. Or forward to. But I don't know what all I wrote. As I was editing, I realized that I have written about the ideas of conformity and freedom and choice. Heck, are we even free? Fuck, that's another debate for another time.

For the time being, I think I am glad that I back to writing. Wrote an SoG yesterday after almost 2 months. And today this blogpost. And if time permits, another SoG today.

For the time being, over and out!

Where did WAR (the film) miss?

War, starring Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff (more on Wikipedia)
A couple of days ago, I did something that is very unlike me - went and saw a first-day first-show of a Bollywood Movie!

When I was told it is an action film and is a story of a spy, I had my doubts - I mean look at Bard of Blood and Family Man. But sometimes you have to do things that you may not want to. And to be honest, while I went for it very reluctantly (an understatement) but I must admit that I enjoyed watching it. I think War probably marks the coming of age for Bollywood action flicks.

Having said that, as a writer, there are a few things that I need to talk about that I could not digest. Please note that there are spoilers ahead. Please read ahead only if you have seen the movie. And if you plan to, please do not read from here on.

So, in the movie, you learn that the person betraying the country is someone from the team itself (as always is). But the traitor has been able to avoid detection because he has taken the face (plastic surgery) and tone (vocal cord modulation) and mannerisms (I don't know how) of another soldier that has died previously.

Now, the thing is, the tool of plastic surgery and vocal cords modulation is one of the laziest things you can ever use to spring surprises and suspense.

If you are a detective, you BETTER work hard to solve the case. You are a superhero, goddamit! Agreed that in the film the lead spy was flummoxed by this plastic surgery and all that. But what did I do to deserve earn answers? 

And more importantly, the audience needs to work hard alongside the detective. It is as important for the audience to solve the case alongside, as it is for the spy. People watch movies (or read books) because when they watch or read, in their heads they are living extraordinary lives (of the spy) that they can never live otherwise.

And finally, as the creator of the story, you better work HARDER to create a mystery that your readers / viewers can solve alongside. It is what gives them release. It is what will make them go wow. This release that the audience gets made Sherlock great. And Poirot. And Reacher. And almost all the detectives / sleuths / spies that we have come to love over the years.

Of course, they go wow when they see all those thousands of abs scattered around. But you are not making an eye-candy flick. It's a spy film! 

The other issue I have with the story is that the character of Tiger Shroff did not get his due.

In the entire first half of the film, he is shown as a person that is struggling, literally dying, to prove that he is a true patriot. And he wants to redeem himself and his mother for the things that his father did.

And the let down is that he is killed without him even getting a chance to get what he seeks! I mean, how DARE you kill a character like that like that?

Like that one - you did so much hard work to build a character and tell us about his wants and likes and all that. I want to fall in love with the character. I want to cry when he dies. In my case, I was laughing because of the frivolity of the plot.

Like that two - you invested so much time in building it and so much effort in creating his story and all that. And then you just killed him, just like that. And you gave him almost zero shot at redemption! Why would you do that?

In a story, you do NOT create a character and tell me what he wants and then do NOT take that character to a place where he gets what he's wanted all along. Of course in the pursuit of his "want", the character may fail (Joker failed to get what he wanted) but he has to die fighting and as the audience, I need to be a part of his struggle. I need to feel for him. Feel happy that he did or did not reach there. Feel sad that he could not reach there.

In #war, he just died. Like died without even putting up a fight. And the worst part? His last act before he died was insubordination. I mean is that great last memory of the second most important character in the story?

Can't digest.

So yeah. That's it.

Phew. I feel lighter now that I have written this. 

Of course, I am absolutely ok with creating eye-candy and with leaving logic behind. No doubt that the film is an absolute treat to watch. It has everything that a Bollywood fan may want. In fact, I would love to make films like that. But then this is very close to the kind of stories I write. And thus I had to speak my mind.

And in the end, I must mention that each piece I write where I critique the work of others must be read alongside this disclaimer by Anton Ego. Read is here.

PS: Even though I am one-half of the TheRedSparrow, this post has been written in my personal capacity.

Winter is coming!

So, I sent this email to some people that I work with. Triggered by some incidents at work. What those incidents were, different talk for a different day. The lesson, pertinent. For each day, for each person. Especially for knowledge workers in this information age and economy. 

Oh, some of my people told me that this sound condescending. Which it may. And if it does, I apologize. But the message is an important one to be sent around! 

Read on... 
So I wrote a 2500-word email on how we need to be reliable as knowledge-workers and a collective and a company and all that. I called it "Winter is Coming" and I meant to say that the way the world around us is moving, most knowledge workers would find it tough to find work in an environment when purses get tightened, costs plummet and more and more people join the workforce. 
But in the morning while I was editing it, the email disappeared.
And there went my angst with it.
I think it was good that it disappeared - I had written nasty things in it. 
Well, that email was triggered by three separate instances of people telling me that people I promote (you guys, your ideas, and your companies) are NOT reliable at all. 
Let that sink in. 
Not reliable at all. 
I was told that we promise the world and then we don't deliver. Heck, chuck the delivery, we don't even call back. We go radio silent for days. Clients keep chasing us but we don't take their calls, we don't respond to their messages while we are active on twitter and all that. 
Guys, everyone can see that you have time for chilling but no time for work. 
And 2 of those 3 told me that they are taking their work elsewhere. We may not be paid a lot by these people - we are in the build phase of our lives - but each interaction, each opportunity is worth a lot! We can't afford to lose opportunities. 
Boys and girls, I am ok with sub-standard work but I am not ok with not being reliable. And of course, sub-standard work is not cool. We must strive to do great work. More on this someday later.
So, as someone who has partnered with you (or hopes to partner with you soon), I can not have this.
I will not tolerate that we are not reliable.
If we cant deliver a certain thing, we MUST say so.
In as many words.
If we cant deliver, let's apologize and not keep them guessing.
It's ok to say no. But it's not ok to not deliver. 
In the business we are in, reliability is THE most important thing ever. If we cant be reliable, we have no rights to be in the business. In fact, we will be out of business before we know it. The world is run by people that are reliable. You could be the most brilliant person ever but if you are not reliable, you are nothing. I learned the lesson the hard way. Till a few months ago I was loose with what I said. But I am changing and improving. And can I request you to please improve as well, please? 
Each of you is better than me.
And I am super proud of what you do and super grateful that I know you and work with you.
But I am NOT ok with this thing about being unreliable.
This may be a tiny thing for you - for the world, it is LARGE.
Think of the times when you have promised things and not delivered. Swap yourself with the person you promised things to. Now, if someone tells you that something will be done by a certain time and then they don't do it, how do you feel? That is how the world feels when you don't call them back or do as promised. 
Not pointing fingers at any one person in particular. Just want to make sure you know who we are. Reliable. Trustworthy. Accountable. People that believe in Zubaan Ki Keemat. 
Ok enough. Have to go. That's the lesson for the day. I get so riled up with this! Imagine if I can write these 500 words dripping with exasperation, imagine the effort I had put in for that 2000-word essay! May I will re-write that 2000-word essay. But for the time being, the word reliable has to be tattooed on our foreheads. Please :D 
Love you guys!
PS: Not every one of you is unreliable. But I want to reinforce this as the number 1 thing that we stand for. 
PPS: Sending this to some people that I don't work with right now but am hoping to work with, in the near future. Please tolerate this outburst :)

The Birthday Blues

So, for the record, birthdays are the absolute worst thing in the world for people who are underachievers and are not ok with their underachievement.

You know what am saying? Some people do well for themselves. Most people don't and yet they are ok with it. And then there is a handful like me who want to do really well really bad and are unable to and have no clue what to do about it. And for people like that, people like me, birthdays are the worst thing ever.

The very idea that I am a year older with nothing tangible or emotional to show for is the worst ever. Most years I escape the feeling when I get away from the world I know and thus even the idea that it was the day when you were born almost 4-decades ago. This year, thanks to the lull in the business and dwindling bank balance, I had to stay put. And it was a terrible decision. I should've gone away.

Anyhow. So because I could not get away, I was watching this documentary on Bill Gates - where he is talking about his life and what he wants to do with it. And there's just one word that came to my head as I was seeing it. Wow.

Bill is a living example of what exemplary achievement is. On all counts. Business. Impact. Philanthropy. Investing. People. Growth. Partnership. Relationships (though he could do better on that count). Think of a thing and he has excelled at it.

Now, look at me. All 37 years of my existence. What do I have to report for these years?


But then, thanks to Bill, I am inspired to do more with my life. Really am. But I am also a tad bit depressed about my inability to have led a meaningful life. Or have any impact. Or reach any sort of success with anything. It's been 37 years and these years that I have spent amount to nothing.

I don’t have a thing that people evaluate others on - financial savings, tangible assets, intangible impact, etc. I don’t have a thing that will be remembered after I am gone. Fuck the legacy - I don’t care what happens when I am gone but I want to make a tangible difference to the lives of people around me. And beyond. I have nothing of that sort happening. If I had a fat-ass naukri, I would tell myself that at least I have this fat bank balance. But that too is, well, blue!


Chalo, enough.

Hope tomorrow is a little better.

#untitled - 20092019

Yo Fam (see am a hipster - I call readers "fam". If you are old like me, you may want to read what fam means here)!

Trust you are well. I am ok. I could be better though. Such is life. You know, ups and downs. Ebbs and flows. Light and darkness. Yin and yang. Yes and no. Fuck I can make a long list of dualities that us humans are subjected to all the time! But that's not the point of this post. The point is, well, no point.

Thing is, I haven't written for a while - not here, not on book2 (which is a focus area for me this month), not on SoG (even though, thanks to a tweet by Ashish, it got more than 20 new subscribers), not on my echoChamber, not on my tracker that tracks EVERYthing I do. Heck, I am not even posting on twitter (well, I am. But not as much as I would like to).

There's this lull. I think its a reflection of how things are around us. Almost everyone including me seems to be struggling to make ends meet (except the ones that have stable naukris - and what's a stable naukri, well I don't know). And because there is this general pessimism, it probably has trickled down to me. And you know these things tend to have a feedback loop. I am not happy. That means I don't feel like working. I am not working and hence I am not creating anything. I am not creating anything, I don't see the output. I don't see the output, I don't get happy. And I get unhappier. And the thing spirals down to a point where I hit rock bottom.

This spiral had to be broken. And that can only happen if you are creating (in my case). Works different for different people. So, I am back to creating. Starting with this blog. And then extending this to work. And beyond.

You know, how they say that you can't control shit that happens in the world but you can control how that manifests at your end? That!

That's about it for the time being. Good to be back.

Oh and in case you did not spot anything amiss, I think I would say I've done a great job. And if you did, pray tell me. And if you don't care, well, who does :D

Hello, September!

I send a monthly letter to a few people that have helped me grow in my career. This is a slightly edited version of this. If you want me to add you to this list, please do let me know.

Hello, September!

This is Saurabh and this is the September version of my monthly emails to people who care :) In case you forgot what I wrote in August, it's archived here.

August was long and yet it flew away faster than the fastest Bullet Train that has been promised to us Indians. August was faster than you can blink. I mean I couldn't even read and respond to your emails and the month had gone by!

I will talk about what I did in August, but before anything else, thank you!

Thank you! 
For being around.
For helping me when I was in a soup.
For tolerating these emails.
Even if you don't read these, the thought that you are reading these emails keeps me going. You know, Eklavya?

So, in August, I had said I'd do the following...
a. Finish Show Bible for my second book
No, I did not do it.
I tried. I could not.
It is taking longer than I expected. I did put in the effort and yet it is far from the finish. It is taking me longer. I will work on this in September as well.

b. Lose 1 inch from my waist.
I did this one.
Thanks to a combination of a lot of things - sleep, tracking what I eat, mindful snacking, a 3-day fast to get into the healthy habit and walking more than what I would typically walk. And a lot of effort from BR on helping me understand the importance of food.

I want to lose another inch this month. Even though I am on the road a lot this month, I am hoping to add running / brisk walk to my fitness regimen this month on. More on this in a bit.

c. The other notable things that happened in the month of August 2019 are... 
  • #tnks (my first book) got shortlisted at the South Asian Film Market at Singapore South Asian International Film Festival. Was a big deal for me. I hope it gets picked up and gets converted into a film. If it does, it will be a step closer to where I want to be as a writer. Also, when I was in Singapore, I understood how much harder and smarter I need to work to be able to reach where I want to be! I learned a lot and I was left humbled. I even wrote a short post on it. If you are curious, you may read it here.
  • Bin Bulaye, the first short-film I co-produced with a couple of people is now ready for release. This officially makes me a filmmaker that has shipped some content and marks the start of my career as a filmmaker. The next step is another short and then after a series of such steps, someday, an actual feature. Oh, for the next short, I am raising money. In case you know people who want to fund indie, short films, do connect. Please note that "investing" in a short film does not give any returns per se - so these are risky "assets" (the largest return you'd get is bragging rights). And if you want an esoteric answer, as a filmmaker (or a creative individual), you do these things and put your life and money and effort and blood and toil and everything else into the art to be able to open the eyes of people who've shut them tight. Indie films allow you to do that.
  • Launched Hop197.com. Hop197.com will chronicle the journey of a dear friend Sujoy and his wife as they attempt to become the most-traveled couple from India. So far they've been to 120+ countries. I am helping them put the website and a partner in the online piece. Let's see how it goes.
  • Gave my first paid-for talk on a stage to an audience of 100 odd people. On branding and storytelling. And oh boy, what a bad job I did there! I need to work hard on my presentation skills. I am thinking I will join some acting school or something to improve how I talk and how I conduct myself on stage. Thankfully the presentation I made at Singapore about my book was pretty cool. Phew!

So, September.
In this month, I plan to work on the following...

a. Show Bible for the second book
Been on this since August 19.
It is taking longer and from what I've seen, it will take more than just a month :(
So, even though I will gun for a finish in September, it may stretch into October. Let's see.

b. Start running
Not walking, not jogging. Running.
This means that I need to be able to 4 kilometers in 30 minutes.
I know it is not fast. But that is what I hope to do. To start with.
If I can do this, in October, I will add weights to my training regimen.

c. Get saurabhgarg.com up and running
I've always wanted to have a home for all that I do and think and play with and all that.
I've had the domain name for a while but never cared to work on a website.
In Sep, I will.
And along with the website, I will stop underselling myself and start marketing myself.
No, I don't want to go overboard but I want to be known a tad more. After all the size of opportunities you get is a function of the number of people you know! This thing about being known more has got reinforced after the trip to Singapore. In fact, I ran an experimental survey where I asked people to tell me what they think of me and this is what they had to say. Not really in the zone that I want people's perception to be about me, but it is a great starting point.

d. Do a one-month reading deep-dive into one specific topic
I plan to read about one topic in as much depth as I can. And then try to put a blog post about it. For example, can I read A LOT about whatever Warren Buffet has said (and see all his videos) and then catalog them into a nice note that can be a primer for others? Much like what Tim Urban is attempting about "everything". Or what Julian did for writing, muscle, and growth. And of course, I will continue to read about a wide range of things, apart from this one thing. I just need to find a subject. If not Warren, then maybe I'd read about crypto. Or about what Jeff has said? What do you think will be in demand in times to come?

e. Work towards creating a business that takes me beyond India
The intent is to go global and have reduced dependency on the motherland for my survival and growth.

And why would I do that? Long story. I'd write a post about it someday.

But help me. I can straddle between digital marketing, events, and strategic marketing. If you know of opportunities, would love to pitch in. And apart from that, please do tell me what other things could be done that take me beyond the borders. I've been meeting people and I have some ideas but I need more help.

That's it. That's how September is going to be. And no, these are not too many things.

So that’s about it.
Thanks again for your patience.
And all the help.

Hope you have a good day and a good month ahead.
Please do let me know if I could be of any service to you.

Gratitude and Respect,


Saurabh Garg
Send me anonymous feedback
Updates from previous months - 0819


Previous updates: Aug 2019
All posts here.

On writing (from my newsletter)...

Wrote this in today's edition of my daily-ish newsletter. Subscribe here. Thought it deserved a wider subscription. 

What I write, to be honest has nothing to do with my book or the film. Neither it inspires any of my readers to do anything extraordinary. But to me, writing is about writing for the sake of writing. You know, getting some words on paper (or keystrokes on a laptop) is like the best thing that can ever happen to me. I mean, I can't paint. I don't have the ability to hold attention. I am not well-read (ok, I read a lot but I haven't read deeply about things - you know, have merely scratched the surface). I cant doodle. I am not funny. I have two left feet (so dance is out). I am the greatest bathroom singer to have ever walked the Mother Earth and thus I must never sing outside. The guitar and the Uke are rotting in some corners in the house. Bicycling is not my thing. Clubs are boring. I'd love to take photographs but requires way too much patience. Video games were a thing when I was younger - now, I don't have the reflexes. I would watch TV when I had more time but with attention spans getting shorter and time becoming increasingly rare, I tend to pick other things to invest my time on. 

So, I am left with writing as the thing to find an escape. And to find inspiration. And to try and get to salvation. Of course, I am yet to reach a point where I can say that I am good writer, the point, ladies and gents, is, writing is what makes me happy and makes me forget the fuckeries and vagaries of the world around me. And you know what, I am grateful about it. I just need to do a lot more of it!


Originally posted in today's edition of my daily-ish newsletter. Subscribe here

Saurabh Garg - Personal Brand

This is an excerpt from the daily newsletter that I send out to some friends. More about the newsletter is here.

Please read this and tell me what you think. 
The next thing that I want to share (and more than share, write and thus get clarity in my head) is my personal brand.

For starters, twitter. 
So, twitter is the largest, strongest, baddest, bestest connection I have to the outside world (I remain an introvert at most other places). And on Twitter, I would often post whatever comes in my head, even if those things are embarrassing and cringe-inducing. You know, I was being authentic (I am like that IRL). Which was great to a point in time. But I feel that authenticity is making me a tad more human that what I hope to be and is thus preventing me from making business connections. And to be honest, right now, I need business connections more than anything else at this point in life.

Ergo, fixing twitter. Step 1 towards fixing personal brand.

Last night, I split my twitter usage in three. Yes, three. I am not for small measures ;)

@saurabh - where I'll mostly talk about work. Try to create connections that can take me far. I will talk about my writing, marketing consulting assignments, events and all the projects that I am a part of. The idea will be to use the platform to showcase work, create more opportunities and meet more people that can help me grow.

@altsaurabh - this is where I would move what I was doing with @saurabh. Put things that I want friends and family to see.

@altsg - this remains the way it was. A backup account that I use when I am super-fucked in the head. 
And yes, I take myself very seriously ;P

I know I should not - I have been warned by enough people in as many words (including that longish comment). But I don't know how else to live. I am a reflection of my work. And my work consumes all of me. I don't have a personal life, heck, I don't want one. I don't enjoy anything else but this grind. There is nothing else that I am passionate about. There is nothing that I think I will ever do in life but think about the next. You know, divinely discontent. Each thing I do -- from writing to fitness to hopes to live long and more -- is an input for things that I can work on.

I know my definition of life and work is kind of warped. I don't know what is work-life balance. I don't even want to know. And the range of things that I work on is pretty wide but it is what it is.

Assuming that is the border you have to work in, if you are willing to help, do see my LinkedIn profile and my website and please do tell me if all these are in sync and make sense to you.

That's about it I guess for the time being.

See you guys tomorrow!

On drives!

Wrote this yesterday on my newsletter. Subscribe here

I continue to fail. Sigh!
But I continue to not give up either. Yay!

That's' how the life of an artist typically is. At least mine is.
Lot of action. Lot of lulls.
Lot of work. Lot of waiting.
Lot of inspiration. Lot of dark periods.

So anyway. Coming back. A Saturday. How's it going for you guys? Yesterday, I slept at 8 PM and I thought I would wake up at 4 AM and get all the pending things done. But then I woke at 1:55. Then I woke up at 4:01 and finally at 7 ish. No, no remorse for sleeping in for 11 hours. I have this drive today (if it happens) where I would be up for some time.


One of those things that I am a BIG BIG fan of. If I had all the money in the world, apart from playing poker and teaching, I would own a few good cars (and some bad ones as well) and spend a lot of time on the road. And no, I would not get attached to these cars (I am perfectly ok to drive the car to a far off destination, flying back to my place and then letting a driver bring the car back).

I have no clue what is it about the road and driving that I like. I think it is that feeling of escape from the routine that is so enticing. Maybe it is the chase of the unknown - you know, how us humans have always wanted to push boundaries and unravel the mysteries? Or maybe it is that feeling of control that you get when you are behind a steering wheel. You know, that fake sense of being in control that motivates all those dictators and egomaniacal people?

I think I will never know what it is about these drives. But I do know that these are getting increasingly rare. And because they are getting tougher and tougher to make, I am craving for them a lot more. To a point that I do not leave a single opportunity to go on these. Just that I hope it never reaches a point that because of all the craving, I just give up on em. You know what I am saying?

See, that's the thing with most cravings. They follow a graph.
You experience a new thing.
You get excited about it.
Then you want it more.
You get a lot of it.
You get used to it.
And then when you stop getting it, you get withdrawal symptoms.
And then you do whatever it takes to get that kick.
And then after a point, you can no longer afford to do whatever.
And then either you kill yourself. Or you give up.

In my case, I give up on things. And on people. And on situations. And wants. Probably explains why I am the way I am. Ok enough of revealing my dark sides.

So, the drive is what I am looking forward to this weekend. What about you? What is it that you are working on that is not letting you sleep?

First posted on my newsletter. I try to send one email every day. Subscribe here

Update - August 2019 - Saurabh Garg

I sent this letter to a few people that have helped me grow in my career. I plan to send this every month. If you want me to add you in this list, please do let me know (please send me your email address - you have it with you). I plan to send one letter a month. 

Please tolerate the formatting - I composed this on Google Docs, sent it on Gmail and now posting on blogger. And even though all three are Google products, there is zero interoperability in terms of fonts etc.

Update for Aug 2019

Hi! Good morning!

I am Saurabh Garg.
Of course, you know me!

You are one of the 30 or so people getting this email. And you are getting this because…

You know me from one of the places I’ve been at - MDI, GE, CLA, Gravity, Social Wavelength (aka Mirum now), VISCOMM, C4E, The Nidhi Kapoor Story and at airport lounges, community tables at Starbucks outlets, Twitter threads, and other similar places.

Yeah, I’ve been around a lot.

And because I have been around a lot, I have a lot of experiences and opinions and ideas and thoughts and expectations and ambitions and energy and more ands and lot more ands. You know, the kid in the candy store?

So, I know you. More importantly, you know me (you may not remember me though - if you don't, I don't blame you - I’ve largely flown under the radar). And thus this email.

Newton apparently said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.

Newton never named those giants, but I know who those giants for me are.
You are.
Yes, you!

Each of you has helped me shape my personality and helped me reach where I am. At various times, you have taken an active interest in my career and without your generosity or your shoulder, I kid you not, I wouldn't be here.

Whatever little I’ve done in life is because you allowed me to stand on your shoulders. And no, I don't mean it as a humblebrag. I’ve done very little and I have a really really long way to go - and I promise I will reach there!

From where I stand, I see a lot of hits.
Thank you to each of you for making those hits happen.
Can't stop thanking you!

And even more misses.
And I know I could've done a lot more with the kind of opportunities, time and access I had. If I could not reach where I was supposed to, I am solely responsible for the miss. And oh boy, I only know how many misses I’ve had! I could write a book on those and it would run longer than the Bible!

So, thank you for your shoulder. I feel I owe a regular update to you. And thus this email.

I read this Harvard Medical School study (link, story, TED Talk) that postulates that healthy relationships are key to a long and happy life.

And the age I am at, not young enough and not old enough, I am beginning to think a lot about these things.
Of course, I continue to think about making that dent in the world.

And while thinking about it, it dawned on me that each of you is important to me.
After all, you’ve given me your attention and mindshare.
And backed me up.
And gave me a long leash.
And allowed me to experiment and make mistakes. And grow.
And helped me to develop the ability to master my time (most months, I can get by without worrying about going to an office on a daily basis; few months I need to beg. But that’s ok).
And shaped my personality (all the opinions, ideas, thoughts, experiences, expectations, ambitions, value systems that I spoke about earlier? All of those have happened because of your patronage).

While I continue to wander, in search of that ever-elusive new new thing, that shiny new toy, I realized that I need to work on nurturing existing relationships.

And what better relationship to nurture than that I have (/ had in the past) with you?
You were a teacher / employer / mentor / partner / colleague and lot more and you made me who I am!

And thus this email.

This weird epiphany happened that most of the misses I talk about in B above are a result of two things and two things only.
1, I am / was not a finisher (I am working VERY hard on it and early signs are encouraging).
2, I thought as a “creator” all I must focus on is to create. Even though I am a marketing consultant (to brands, companies, individuals and everything else in between), I never thought about marketing myself. You know, build a personal brand! I even tweeted about this.

So, need to fix these.

Like I said, I am working hard to fix 1.
I pick fewer projects, I have measurable objectives (thanks John Doerr’s OKRs - blog, book) and I have clear deadlines. The number of things that are left unfinished has reduced considerably. I can now proudly dole out the most important advice that Steve Jobs ever did - ‘Real Artists Ship!’

The 2, marketing myself, remains a challenge.
This letter is an attempt in the direction.
And thus this email.

So, clubbing A, B, C and D…
So, like I said, I am sending this to about 30 people that have helped me over time.
So, why this email?
So, what if…

Ok, I so got carried away.

So, well, the agenda is threefold. Lemme use bullets.
I clearly love em!

1. Seek your help as an advisor
I said I am making great progress on the ability to finish things. And I need to accelerate that ability. In the sense that I want to finish EACH project that I take up. By making a commitment to you and holding myself accountable to you (I do NOT want to disappoint you ever), I will increase the odds of me not missing the goal!

This is not peculiar to me but is a universal thing - many research studies postulate that when you make yourself accountable to people you don't want to disappoint, the odds of success go up manyfold!

The other way to look at is to consider yourself as a board member on a company called Saurabh Garg’s Life. I am accountable to you, even though I may not have access to you. You know how Eklavya built a statue of Guru Drona and taught himself and held himself accountable? And became so good that he was better than Drona’s best student, Arjun? That!

So, at the risk of jumping the gun, here’s my first promise to the board.
In the month of Aug 2019, I will…
a. Finish the Show Bible for Book 2.
Yes, I am still working on my second book. And unlike the first one, this time, I am writing the entire story beforehand. In the form of a show bible (what is a show bible?).
b. Lose 1 inch from my waist.
I will do this by focussing on the diet, working out and generally working on my fitness. I met a friend yesterday to take tips on this and he told me that number 1 tool you need to get fit is to get great sleep. So, I will fix that as well.

I will write in September and update you on how I do on those goals. If I get stuck, I will ask you for help! If you have something that can help me work on these two, please do point out.

2. Learn from you!
Thing is, I consider myself a sponge. I love to know more. And I love to know about all sorts of things. And I love it even more when all those things make a connection in my head. You know, when I see the dots connect. And I sincerely think that this ability to use a large information set (howsoever shallow it may be, Feynman will hate me - here’s why) and use inputs from multiple disciplines will be a necessary skill to succeed in the times to come! Jacks will rule the world soon!

When I was with you, I was on this steep learning curve that kept me on my toes. And I loved it! Plus, you are among the most learned, evolved, intelligent people I know.

So, can I request you to please share content (books, texts, links, videos et al) that you loved? That you thought were brilliant? That you would revisit over and over again? That you think I MUST read if I want to become better! May be on email. May be on Whatsapp (click to message me)? Or on email?

3. Give back…
If I could be useful to you in anything you are working on, I would love to volunteer.
No, I don't want anything in return. I really want to help. I want to do good work. I want to be of use to you.

Thing is, I sincerely believe in the concept of Guru Dakshina.
Lemme get back to. Eklavya. Guru Drona asked Eklavya for his thumb as Guru Dakshina (here's why). And as an archer, you can't do anything without your thumb. A regular person would have probably said no. Eklavya did not bat an eyelid before he chopped his thumb and placed it at the Guru’s feet.

You’ve are and have been a Guru to me and I owe you. I don't have a thumb to offer. But anything that you think could be useful to you, I will be very happy to offer! I am pretty nifty with marketing, events, digital, branding, writing, storytelling, content, brainstorming, big-picture thinking, etc. And I have a fairly large risk appetite. You will probably know this if you remember me.

Please do tell me if I could be of use to you.



So, yeah this is it.

I plan to send similar emails every month, once a month. I know this one is long (1800 words or so). Promise that the next one will be shorter, crisper (not CRISPR) and more concise. I don't know the difference between these words. They just sounded nice together!

So that’s about it.
Thanks again for your patience.
And all the help.

Hope you have a good day and a good month ahead. Please do let me know if I could be of any service to you.

Gratitude and Respect,
Saurabh Garg
saurabhgarg.com, @saurabh
Send me anonymous feedback

PS: I understand that you may not want me to clog your mailbox. Some of you probably wouldn't even remember me! So, PLEASE do tell me if you don't want to get these once-a-month emails. I promise to not get offended. I’d understand.

PPS: The intention of this email is not to seek work or connections or something from you. If I need em, I will ask for those things directly. What I seek is continued patronage and an active interest in my life, my career, my ambitions et al. That is it.

PPS: You may use https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8 to give me anonymous feedback on this email. Or anything else under the sun. I will read EACH input and work on it! Promise!

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?