So Near, Yet So Far

Back in 2009, I was applying for various entrance examinations. When asked for a preference for a place of posting, I remember selecting metros like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. My father always asked- why not our city? And although I don’t remember giving him any reply, deep inside I knew the answer was- I want to live a fast life Dad. This city is slow.

I left Dehradun in 2005 for my college in Meerut. In 2011, as luck would have it, my employer gave me Delhi Circle as a posting. That means I will hardly get to see my hometown but I will be near enough to regret the stupid decision taken while filling the form. And the posting was not exactly in Delhi but in small cities. The Dehradun kind of slow, small Tier-III cities which I wanted to run away from.

——

In 2021, as I completed 10 years in the bank; there is a burning desire to go back to the roots. To live a slow life in a slow city.

In 10 years, I have lived 5 years in Mumbai and almost 5 years in Delhi NCR in three instalments. And at the cost of sounding like the proverbial frog in a well, I am sure I have seen enough of the fast life.

Every time I go back, I feel there is lot of time on my hands. Something which I have found myself short of living in great Indian metro cities. Agreed that when I go there, I am on leave and do not have any work-related commitments but there is this feeling of doing so much more.

In my last 15-20 visits, I have always ensured to drive through the old Mussoorie road around sunset time to see the roads I have been seeing since when I was 5. I have parked myself at Maggi Point to have a bird’s eye view of the city. There is a new restaurant on every visit at breath taking spots. Roads and air look better and cleaner. Traffic, no doubt, is increasing but who am I to complain?

I was in Dehradun a week ago and I don’t remember missing it as it happened this time. On every nook and corner, you can take out your smartphone and click photos and selfies that will make you look a complete pro and amplify your Instagram profile. Did I say that I am slightly jealous of my friends who chose to stay back while I was “metro” hopping?

I don’t know if that day will come when I will be back there for ever. But I have this hope I will go back. I am still hopeful about spending weekends with friends and family in an old shack which is serving piping hot Maggi overlooking the cedar and pine tree covered hills. Or maybe some cold beer on a chilly December afternoon. Or maybe just another drive on some new road winding down the hills.

I choose to believe that there is still time left to do all this. And not when I will turn 60 and beyond. Maybe, while I am good enough to live on my own rather than being a burden on others.

Very near but little far from where I want to be.

The Zomato-esque Leap

Kunal Shah on Zomato

“Iss Desh Ke Graduates Jab Apne 9 to 5 Job Se Bore Hone Lagte Hain Toh Bahar Nikalne Ke Bas 3 Raaste Hote Hain
1.IAS  2. MBA  3. Aur Start-Up”
—— Rajat to Naveen (TVF Pitchers)

Zomato was a startup when startups weren’t cool. They didn’t care. They kept working and on Friday, they went public with markets accepting them with open arms.

I didn’t apply for the IPO and didn’t make any money. But it gives me immense satisfaction to see them listed. If Zomato shares would have traded in loss, the IPO investors would have accepted it, cursed the promoters and moved on. But the negative ripple effect it would have had on the Indian startup ecosystem would have had repurcussions.

India need creators/founders as much as it needs skilled workers. We all have heard stories Indian moving abroad and doing great things there. I believe now is the time to do those things in India. Zomato IPO has shown that if you are good, you will be rewarded. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”- it almost fits perfect for Zomato.

And to the Goyal of Zomato and Bansal of Flipkart, an Agarwal of ‘something’ aspires to be part of your legacy. The idea is there since 7 years. I hope I can find a way out soon to make it a reality.

May the force be with me.

Opinions

What you think doesn’t matter everywhere

4 years ago, I posted 2nd of the 2 questions I have ever posted on Quora-

“What to do to have an opinion on everything?”

The good folks there poured their unabated wisdom for me. Read newspaper, blogs, feeds, newsletters and what not. I read a few of those, got bored and never opened Quora again.

Slowly, my quest for having an opinion on every news started dimming. To detach myself more, I quit active Facebook scrolling, Now I login once in 6 months and have never missed anyone who matters to me- family and close friends.

I use Twitter very actively and there I realize how people feel the need to have an opinion on everything. Zomato IPO, Ram Mandir, Vaccination pace, WB elections- pretty varied interests there.

Especially big handles- it is almost an obligation for them to write on everything and keep their followers humoured. It is like you can hire them for your newspaper and one editor will be enough to cover all the sections. All of them are experts!!

I do have opinions but I stick to things that resonates most with me-  sports, trading, writing. Other than that, I really don’t care about seculars, liberals, political alliances, religious movements etc etc.

Too much information overdose is making lots of Jack asses out there. I am not a jack of all trades and certainly not a master of any but you sit with me and I can talk to you almost on everything (yes bitcoin too). But do I have an opinion on it- I think I will pass that.

For what it’s worth, here is a one liner for those with opinion on everything-

Nobody really give a rat’s ass.

Process and Routine

In trading, there is a commonly used line- Follow the process (trading rules) and result (money) will follow.

And then I heard it in sports where top coaches and players say- it is about following the process.

If you think of it, you can apply this line to almost everything. Have a process- sounds cool too.

There is a football club in England- Crystal Palace. Every season they start, the first target is to avoid relegation and then they think about finishing in mid table. And I don’t think I have heard their manager talk about process ever. Having a process is for bigger teams. For them, it has always been about fight and survival. Fight on the pitch, survive this season and come back again. They have accepted it and so have their fans.

Process is, no doubt, important. But it doesn’t work for everyone.

Everyday I wake up and go to office, there is a routine. This routine isn’t a process. Just a set of activities which I am hardwired to do.

But is this routine leading me towards my end goal- I doubt that. A process isn’t a short term thing. It spans longer periods- years and decades.

An owner can have a process to take his company forward but his employees, unless in decision making role, aren’t interested in it. They are following a routine. However mundane and boring it is, they will do it.

I write everyday. It is a routine.

I write everyday because I want to see my blog getting more visits. It becomes a process.

Petty differences.

Comedy Warriors

I have huge respect for standup comedians.

If you think of it, it is a very tough job. People attend their shows with very high expectations because they have spent a lot of money on the tickets and they are stressed out and they need loads of laughter. They want their money worth. And without being disrespectful, some of them are not worth the money. At least my money.

This is because it is not easy to make me laugh. And there are a couple of guys out there who does make me laugh like Abhishek Upmanyu, Zakir Khan. Their comedy is simply amazing and a proper exercise for facial muscles.

In my bucket list; doing a standup act once is right up there.

I have not thought too much about this. But there is an innate desire to perform somewhere. Maybe for my family, for my extended clan. Maybe in some office event. Someplace where people will not judge.

God has been grateful to me and given me a decent sense of humor and timing. But more than the actual act, it is the script of the act which has to be right. I don’t know if Abhishek Upmanyu has a team or all his acts are his scripts- he is doing one hell of a job.

There have been days when I have sat with a pen and paper and with the expectation that in a couple of hours; I will be ready with my first-ever standup comedy act script. In reality, I couldn’t clear a couple of paras. And that makes me respect these guys more.

A standup comic script isn’t just a few lines. It is basically how you observe the world; its small flaws and big loopholes. It involves observing people, system, manners, reactions, and of course, the situation should strike a chord with the audience. An act on school days or first job will be popular. Write a script of the organizational behavior of NASA and the act will most probably go down the drain.

Here is an act by Zakir Khan on the middle-class person buying a high-class item from Levi’s and buying an iPhone. This act is a class apart. It is relatable. Any 20s something guy who, after his first salary, enters Levi’s showroom for the first time will probably agree with Zakir. And that is what makes them interesting. Of course, Zakir’s way of saying is his USP. I can give the same script to Arjun Rampal and the show will be a dud.

Having tried writing scripts a couple of times myself and realizing how tough it is; I again reiterate my respect for these guys. In today’s world with a high level of stress and constant worry about things; these comedians are doing a great job. In my humble opinion; making people laugh is one of the noble jobs you can do. It can be an act on the stage or in a group of friends or with your wife at home. As long as you are making people laugh or they are smiling with you (or smiling at you), it doesn’t matter. Everything counts.

But for me, I do want to perform once. It will take a lot of imagination to write something and bigger courage to perform as I have a stage phobia. But we will see. The bucket list is meant for that. To keep things separately somewhere where it is not important but yet not forgotten.

The World May Want You to Fail

For an Indian cricket fan, the 2018 Nidahas Trophy is a sweet memory.

The tournament was not exceptional. India sent a team without a couple of stars and gave Rohit Sharma the leadership role. He took India to the final where his team was on the verge of losing. But then, Dinesh Kartik happened.

When he came on to bat, India needed 34 off 12 deliveries. Kartik scored 29 of them, including a last-ball 6 to win the final against Bangladesh. One of India’s best victories.

But this is not about him or the final. This is about a young talent who wasn’t having a great time. This is about Rishabh Pant.

Rishabh Pant was 18 years old when he represented India in U-19 WC 2016 held in Bangladesh. While others were just trying to score runs, this kid was scoring them fast. He struck 24-ball-78 against Nepal and 96-ball-111 against Namibia. Long story short- India had found a successor to Mahender Singh Dhoni.

With a country so passionate about the game, it is easy to falter against expectations. Every time Rishabh played, people expected fast runs. A 19-year-old boy understood nothing but to oblige his new fans. He tried and kept failing, spectacularly.

By the time Nidahas Trophy happened, Pant was 20 and on the fringes of the Indian cricket team. He was the next big thing and it was supposed to be a matter of time when the innings will come when he will announce himself. Nidahas trophy looked like a perfect tournament.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Rishabh played the first 2 matches, did nothing of note, and was not selected for the rest of the tournament. In the second match, he scored 7 off 8. The criticism earlier in hush-hush and murmurs was getting louder. The kid was heartbroken and I think it was Akash Chopra on air when he said- “Imagine, being a 19-year-old and the world wants you to fail.”

This has stuck with me since then. Rishabh Pant was 20. He was a part of the Indian national cricket team and the world has already written him off. Do they know what they were doing when they were 19 or 20? Did they stop expecting from their kid who had failed in his teens? I sure was not doing anything important at that time. I was slogging my ass off for marks in my engineering. And that is what the majority of the world does.

Recently, another Indian cricket prodigy, Prithvi Shaw that he cried after he was dropped after a poor show in the first test when India recently toured Australia in late 2020. Again, Prithvi Shaw is just 21.

It is a common opinion these days that having IPL riches so early in their life; the young kids aren’t serious about their national careers. Moreover, test cricket is lost because of the fast, swagger-filled T20. Although there is truth in that but labeling these players of next-generation greedy and not dedicated enough is an insult.

Thanks to the covid induced lifestyle, few people have a lot of time with them. The easiest thing to do when you have lots of time is to become an armchair expert. And when it comes to cricket; this country has one on every corner.

People wanted Rishabh to fail, to make mistakes. It would not have done Indian cricket any good but it would have given them a lot of satisfaction and a common statement- “See, I told you so.” They wanted Prithvi to fail to give them false conviction about their theories.

The lesson from all this- people know nothing. And when it comes to you, let those decide who actually care for you. Some random uncle in the nearby grocery shop should not make you change your plans.

“Son, there is nothing in a startup. Find a job and get settled.”

“Son, why are you study mass communication? You should have done engineering.”

“Son, why are not you doing MBA? Graduation means nothing these days.”

I am sure you got the gist. This is not a very fair world. More often than not, you will meet people who care nothing about you. They will walk with you but given the first opportunity; they will run over you.

And I don’t want to make this sound pessimistic. But as somebody has said- “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Hope to meet the best guy always but be ready if you get the worst guy always. It will go a long way for you.

Zen Mode

I am sure my blog is wondering today- how come the man who didn’t blog for a year is writing twice in 2 days? The answer is the Zen Mode.

This Zen Mode is in my OnePlus 5T. When you switch on this mode, basically you cannot use your mobile for anything but receiving calls or making emergency calls. No Facebook, Twitter nothing at all.

Right now, my Zen Mode has just started and I have set it for maximum time i.e., 60 minutes. And it pains slightly that I will not be able to use my mobile for anything for next 1 hour. But at the same time, it is kind of liberating.

I talked about the feeling of urgency these days. The impatient desire to know everything immediately. That creates lot of restlessness. Now, with my mobile on this mode; I know there is no point looking at it. I can do anything but browse or scroll.

Our lives have become very fast these days. I remember being in my hometown Dehradun a decade back. I was filling forms for various exams and usually, my choice for place of posting would be Delhi/Mumbai/Bangalore. My reasoning to my parents was- Dehradun is too slow dad. I need to live a fast life.

11 years later, having lived in Delhi/Gurgaon for 5 years and Mumbai for 5 years; I think I am ready to go back to Dehradun. Of course, my being ready doesn’t matter as there are many other factors that need to be taken into account for before I decide something. But I think my Zen Mode for life will come when I move back to Dehradun, ever.

I have seen fast life. I have seen people running; myself running to catch train/metro/bus. I think I am done with it.

If your phone has this Zen Mode, do give it a try once.

Back to Writing?

I have missed writing. There was a time when I used to write a lot. Weekends were exciting as I always had something building up inside my head. Nowadays, they have become busy and tight.

If I say that I don’t know what changed; I will be lying. What happened is a classic case of reading too much. Thanks to social media, the news consumption became easy and a very addictive habit. In my case, it has become such a pain that I need to know everything, every time. Information overload- I think this is it.

Being aware of what’s happening around is not bad. What is bad is the urgency to know everything. In the old days, it was newspaper that brought the news. There was not cable TV and there was no Breaking News.

Today, we have everything. Talking about me; I started consuming too much. And I did realize the harm few years back and quit Facebook. It is Twitter that is getting tougher to quit.

So, as I consumed information, I got addicted to getting more of it every freaking minute of the day. And that left very little time with me to write. Time- a commodity one should never waste.

I have promised many a times to myself that now I will write regularly. I think there will be no promises this time. Let us wait and watch.

Valentine’s Day Throwback

Valentine’s Day, huh?

As I have grown, I have lost sense of this day. And not just Valentine’s day but any day. Women’s day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and of course, the Birthday. In fact, birthdays are something I never understood. What is so awesome about it? Why does people need to make me feel special? But that is just me. You can be different.

Although my rational mind believes it is right that people celebrate birthdays. It is the day one gets a kind of obituary while he is still alive. People writing good things about him. Celebrities are being tagged as #Legend on twitter. Sportsperson are #RoleModels. I am sure it will help anyone when he reads good things about himself. Maybe I will wait for the time when I am a legend and then I will understand the big deal about birthdays.

But this is not about all days. This is about a Valentine’s Day in a millennial’s life.

1998, 6th class. A 11 year old boy who has started noticing girls also. I mean, it happens, naturally without making extra any effort. And then out of the lot, you are looking at one of them too much. So much that your friends have started noticing, even the girl herself. 

Everything has changed. You are awesome and yourself in front of everyone but your heart skips a beat when she appears. The school becomes boring when she is on leave. And your heart known no bounds when the teacher decides to make you sit with her as punishment. 

(True Story- there was a girl in my class who was a punjabi and pretty good in English. Yours truly was a champion in Sanskrit. One day, sanskrit teacher jumbled up the students and that girl had to sit with me. And there was a mock test. I knew all the answers but I intentionally let her answer the questions before me. Her joy was boundless and I don’t think she ever doubted what I did. A punjabi kudi with excellent command in English in that age, thanks to her father being a senior army officer, had just outsmarted a kid who has topped Sanskrit exam every time.)

You see what I did there, right? Anyways, that was class 6th and Valentine’s Day was approaching. We learnt from the peers that it was the only day where one can approach a girl, get rejected and could still save his honour and walk with his head high. And the expenses was 5rs chocolate and a 10rs card.

So I spent 15 rs and went to this girl. She thankfully had a better understanding of these things and said no. And we all moved on- me, she and the life.

Then class 7th happened, then 8th, 9th and 10th. Same stories happened again- sometimes I was the guy; sometimes my friends. I don’t think I saw anyone actually, for the lack of right word, hooking up. Those were harmless attractions.

But there was an excitement. You give the girl card after school and you have to wait for an entire day for her answer. 

Worse case- it is a holiday next day or she does not turn up. 

Worst case- she turns up but reserves her judgement over your card like the famous Supreme Court judges. 

I mean, come on lady. It is already February. Exams are due in a month. You better reply to the card so that we can finish these damn exams and start planning for the life in April and beyond. Only 1990s kids can understand this dilemma.

It is 2nd March. Exams start in a week. The girl has still not replied. You have no option but to start studying. And then the landline rings. Mother says it is for you. And a slight voice at the other end says Yes.

WTF!!!!!!!

Yes to what? You forgot the question you asked her. 

“Will you marry me?”- You must be kidding.

“Will you be my valentine?”- But it has passed.

“Do you love me?”- maine us tarah se tumko kabhi dekha nahi

“Do you like me?”- Of course, this was the question.

Now the phone is cut and you are still wondering what the hell just happened. Then you recollect everything. The chocolate and the card. And the question. And the answer you just heard. 

You are already in dreamland. Sanskrit exam is the first exam, a week away. Because you are already awesome in this subject; you think you can afford to waste 4 days off 7 daydreaming. You can’t mess up Sanskrit. That is your baby.

Then it is the 5th day and the panic about the exam sets in. But you are not able to ring that “yes” out of your ears. It is there with you. Somehow, you finish the syllabus and go for exam.

And when the results come, you realise that the punjabi kudi with good command on English has outscored you in Sanskrit. You never doubted what she was doing. It all felt so real. But she knew all the time. And today, she has a smile on her face that does not look that cute like the one 3 weeks earlier. Although, the “yes” still has a nice feel to it. 

Many years later, when you understand these things, you silently applaud and say to yourself

“What a master stroke. Well played, Madam. Very well played.”

Inspired by true events.

The World Needs a ‘Gooder’ You

Since we were kids we were told and taught that being good is, err, good. Be a good boy whom everybody likes, a good student who get good grades. Then, as we move on with our life, it is about being a good employee, a good husband and a good father. And then we hope to die as a good man.

When I was a kid, good had a smaller and simpler definition- respect elders, do not lie, do not make fun of others and eat and sleep on time. Then in my teens, as I moved out from my hometown to do engineering, good became entirely different. It was more about not manipulating others, not cheating in exams, honouring, rather sticking to your words and accepting that you borrowed money from a friend and returning that on time.

(Actually now that I think of it, once you leave the comfort and security of your home, then only you realise who you are and how do you need to conduct yourself if you need to be known as good. There are so many people around and it is easy to choose the wrong path. That is where the vales kicks in.)

And now in job where you meet so many people- juniors, seniors, achievers, duds. All with different values and all with different perception of good and bad. Like us, they also have grown up with certain theories with them. What is good for one may be indifferent to the other; what is unacceptable for one may be normal routine for the other. Among all this, you try to figure and forge your identity. You see people on the top who are not ‘good’ as per your standards and the genuine, honest guys slogging under them. And you start doubting whether what you have been taught was actually right or it was just a myth that sounded good in books but hold no value in real world.

You know what- you need to keep your goodness with you. The world needs a lot of goodness and whatever you do may not be enough. And I am not talking about charity here. That is a different kind of good deed. I am talking about the goodness that cost you nothing- in terms of money and time.

What is this goodness? Well, nothing much. Helping your colleagues without them asking you. A smile here and a thank you there. Both with juniors and seniors and with people who cannot shout back at you like guards, cleaning staff, lift men etc. If you thank your boss for allowing you to be on leave inspite of some tight schedule; you should also thank the lift man who stopped the lift for you. It is a very small gesture but can do wonders to his morale and he will treat the next guy with more pleasantness in his attitude.

You may think here how does it matter if you would not be nice to people. Anyways, it is just a one guy. As they say, even for that one guy that is more than enough. You may make his entire day by a very small act of yours. It is important that we keep doing what we can do instead of worrying about why others are not doing what they should do. You never know that you may inspire couple of people around you to do the same.

The people around you need a ‘Gooder’ you. You may not feel it but world can do with lot of niceness. Keep doing your deed. And as a famous liquor brand say, you may “Be remembered for Good”.