Who are you Mumbai?

Being a top tier ranker through school, the obvious expectation of everyone around me was that I would take Science post 10th. Opting against the generalization (not for the sake of being a rebel), I took up Commerce primarily because I wasn’t too inclined to what was taught in Science at school. Two years later when it was time to take another important decision that would eventually change the course of the last 10 years of my life, I chose Mumbai as the city of graduation against the wishes of my Mom. She had given me an option to go anywhere in the world but Mumbai, but here I am, defying all such restrictions and I have no clue why.

27 May 2007 is when I boarded the flight to Mumbai leaving behind almost 18 years of my life. Today, ten years later, these 10 years define me more than those 18 years could ever had. I am not really sure if any other city would have molded me the way Mumbai has done.

Back home, I was an introvert (probably I still am) and inspite of having several friends, there were limited open and frank conversations I may have had with any of them. Today, I am still friends with my school buddies, but I believe we are more like former school mates and not more than that. No, I don’t have a friend who knows me since junior KG nor do I have a childhood sweetheart. Just when I started to believe that all these are just bollywood created stories, I met these friends at a wedding – reality struck – they’re still best friends, I am the only odd one out. But then I am the only one who refused to go back home, while everyone is back there.

People may call Mumbai an emotion and some may call it a magnet. But honestly, I don’t even know if it deserves a name – it is like that bond which is more than friendship but less than a relationship – let’s make it simpler, let’s call it flirtationship for starters. Maybe just like my life evolved over the last decade, by the end of this post I would be able to identify what is that between the two of us.

Pursuing CA

When I first landed in this city, I was lost. Lost on how different, unorganised and chaotic the city is. Obviously like every other 18 year old, I had no clue what I was doing, why was I doing it and where do I see myself a few years down the line. Not that much has changed over the last 10 years, but now the realization has dawned that this is exactly how life is always going to be and you come to accepting this as the way of life. Who knew that years later I would fall in love with this mess and be a vitcim of reverse brain drain.

I came to Mumbai to pursue Chartered Accountancy as a qualification, now that is just a qualification for me and not what I pursue professionally.

The initial set of friends

The only saviour one has in a new city is how quickly one makes friends. I joined HR College for my graduation (though NM was my first choice, but I couldn’t get in) and JK Shah classes for CA entrance exams. Unfortunately due to the rigorous schedule of classes and articleship a CA student goes through, I did not make a lot of friends in college but made a lot of them at classes and my workplace.

My friends at classes eventually became my extended family with whom we have celebrated birthdays to bachelors to baby showers. These became my extended lifeline and still continue to be my best friends 10 years later.

Joining EY

Working with a Big 4 was a dream job, as I joined EY post my inter CA and spent the most amazing 2.5 years of my life. The learning experience I got from my workplace is unmatched. It taught me to be patient and diligent in my dealings. In my pre Mumbai days, I was super impatient and impulsive by nature. But I had to leave that at the door when I joined one of the largest accounting and consulting firms of the world.

And more importantly, I made some super amazing friends who helped me survive the grueling working hours. People who taught me about office politics and bitching about your seniors, the late night dinners and weekend excursions. For those years at EY, I believe I completely broke off with the external world. My world revolved around EY. I still remember I was at a training session at EY when my CA Final results were announced.

One of the most memorable memories of EY was the star tax program where we had a 10 day training session at Goa, my first trip outside Mumbai, missing the flight, meeting someone special and eventually losing her years later.

Immediately post qualifying, I had my GMCS training for 15 days with 40 new friends on board. Those 15 days were a welcome break from the rigorous routine of a CA students life and undoubtedly the best experience of being a student. I found some of my best friends here.

Professional Academy

Like every aspiring CA Final student, I joined Professional Academy for coaching. That one year was one of the most interesting journeys when I made a lot of friends from different walks of life. I was still working with EY when I qualified as a CA in 2011. My friends from classes had written me off from qualifying in the first attempt given my long working hours and regular absentism from classes. But in my defence the lectures were at 7am and I have never been a morning person. However, qualifying int he first attempt with a rank, shut them all up for good 😛

Btw, I was a back bencher and a late comer as well. The class would halt for a brief 30 seconds as everyone would turn back to check who just entered. But who new it back then that I would eventually go on to work with the Academy a few years later.

Theek Kar Do

Somewhere the entrepreneurial bug hit me and we started a venture which eventually turned out to be the biggest failure of my life; yet the best turning point when I look back today. Back on 2013, it was my biggest regret but now my favourite mistake (for lack of a better word).

There have been times when I have grown tired of this city and wanted to run away. I wanted to do it when my first business failed. I had quit a high flying – well paying job to run that business. Back then I questioned that decision of mine. Was it too big a gamble I had taken with my life? Was it all worth it. I was lost. And in Mumbai, it is really easy to be passed by unnoticed. The city which is apparently always on the move. People will not have a second glance at you. But then, when my two wheeler skid and I was on the road seeking help with wide eyes; all the cars and pedestrians stopped, the time stopped, the movement stopped – I bought a part of Mumbai to a halt. Everyone rushed to pick me up and offer water. The city stopped for those 10 seconds. And as soon as I gulped the first sip of water and people ensured that I had no scratches or broken bones; the roads and pedestrians were again on the move; while I watched the quick transitions in front of my eyes in those few seconds – life was back to normal. That is Mumbai for you, the city that cares.

But thanks to Theek Kar Do, I got to be on several news pieces from CNBC Awaaz to Hindustan Times to Outlook Business. Also, got to be a part of Startup Leadership Program, Rodinhoods, Google Business Group, and other such communities.

Jagriti Yatra

One of the take backs from Theek Kar Do was Jagriti Yatra – a journey of 8000kms spanning 15 cities over 15 days with 500 odd Yatri’s on board. The trip changed a lot about me then and helped me look at the positive aspects of life and the real struggle and achievement of people. If anyone had told me earlier to ‘live’ on a train for 15 days, I would have laughed it off till the Yatra happened. The seats were our beds and the coaches our home for those days.

But more importantly it gave me another lifeline of friends across all cities in India available at a phone call. It gave me such amazing friends for life whom we lived with and bonded on the train. The trip did play a major role in making me a more open and positive person in life.

Travel

I did my first solo trip in 2015 to Germany. As my parents packed their bags and flew back home from Switzerland, I extended my trip by a week to be on my own. And the trip did start really well. Where I covered a 4 hour distance in 14 hours, reaching Munich well past mid night with no roof over my head. I was on the verge of tears, in a different city with no idea what I was doing and regretted the decision to do a solo trip without any bookings. But then the next 7 days turned out to be one of the best ever where I met people from different parts of the world just backpacking around. It made me realise that I could be happy being myself and did not need a validation from anyone else.

And then my travel diaries just began. Sometime later, I went to Hrishikesh for the mandatory Bunjee jump. Excited, I was the only one in the group who wanted to go for it, so I paid and waited for my turn. But when my turn came, I looked down and walked back. Somehow I mustered some courage and walked up again and jumped. It was a magical experience but I learnt that it is okay to take two steps back to leap frog ahead in life.

Mumbai – being the chain throughout

IMG_20160730_185526856

How much has the city changed over the last 10 years. Completely and nothing at the same time. Vada Pav is still the staple diet and getting into the train at Dadar is not less than qualifying for the Olympics, it still takes hours to cover a short distance by road and people living in SoBo don’t know where MaKaBo is and going to the airport is the only time they travel outside their geographical limits.

But what has changed is that that vada pao now costs Rs 15 and not Rs 5, the city has got its metro line and mono rail, traffic cameras have been up throughout the city – the Big Boss is watching you and we have got a swanky new airport which is one of the best in the world.

Mumbai lets out different shades of you. The transitions you make from living alone in this city where you become a maid one day and on another you’re fighting that creepy lizard in your room; where you bunk classes to catch up on a movie and where you work weekends to show your professionalism; where you stalk that crush of yours through social media and abuse that pervert in the local train; where you’re the favourite of your friends parents but still not the best for your own. Where you got everything and yet nothing.

During these years I have experimented with a lot of things from my profession to my hairstyle to the friends I keep to the person I think I would want to be. There have been roadblocks but then there have been times when I have been clear that this is exactly what I want to do. I have tried and failed but looking back I don’t regret any of those decisions. All these experiments have played a major role in shaping me.

For several people I have been a snob. It takes people a while to get to know me better and people have chosen to hate me in the first interaction. But that’s who I am and it has helped me filter out a lot of people. I may have a lot of friends today from various walks of life thanks to my extra curricular activities but like every other person I have a small circle of confidants. There are some friends whom I made in the first year of being in the city and have grown like family over the years and some I met just a few months ago. Many people we lost touch on the way but have played an important character at some chapter of my book – to them, we have lost touch but not forgotten.

Living on your own, setting up your house, walking into the empty 4 walls every night after work and eating that cold food, working that extra hour in office, saving that extra penny gradually made me realise life was so much easier back as a child with the only pressure being the school grades.

What stopped me from going back? My dreams and aspirations which I felt would be chained by society and circumstances in that foreign land. Not that I have not fought enough here. I know the struggles my Mom goes through every week trying to convince me to come back. But she forgets that I am her son, as stubborn as she is. She hasn’t stopped trying for once in 10 years, I have not relented yet.

Marriage is still not on the cards and I have not like had some amazing love life to talk about so it makes no presence in this post. Yes, some girls have played an instrumental role but lets stay out of it for privacy reasons. There was someone I thought I would settle with and chased for 2 longs years eventually to accept the fact that she is getting married to someone else. Maybe it’s for my own good. I am not really sure if she knows about it yet, so to not change our equations, shall let the status quo remain.

One person who has influenced me a lot over the last few years is Virat Kohli. My post would have been incomplete without a mention of him. Raw, young, angry, defiant Indian is how I also look at myself and he is nothing less than an inspiration for our generation. Giving more than your 100% and surviving all odds in a sport which is considered a religion in India demands a lot of your blood and sweat which he has already given.

Mumbai has been around when I was drenched in the rain trying to find a roof to protect my cell phone, when I missed that flight because it took me 60 minutes to cover those 5 kms, when my crush got married to someone else, when I got my first salary, when I stayed up all night to see the sun rise at Marine Drive, when I held hands and walked by Juhu beach as the sun set in the background, when I became a Chartered Accountant.

It’s been around when I felt lonely amongst 1.2 billion people, when India lifted that 2011 World Cup, when I got an all India rank, when my future plans were ruined, when I wanted someone to pull me back up, when I wanted everything and nothing at the same time.

There are some chapters which ended on a happy note and some had to be left unfinished. That’s what life is all about, those small moments in between all the milestones.

It clinged on to me when I had made up my mind to leave the city for good.

Who are you Mumbai?

Advertisements

Convert that headstart

If you are reading this, you’re probably the limited few who have access to electricity and internet. Probably we are so used to being engrossed in the surrounding that we do not realize how privileged we are for being where we are.

I recently joined ToastMasters International wherein one of the speakers shared his story from living on the footpath across the street to the ToastMasters stage. His story just gave me goosebumps. I feel so lucky to have all the comfort of my life and the ease with which I have access to all such platforms and then there is this person who had nothing to reach where he is today. And what have I achieved inspite of never having to struggle for my bread and butter and have always had a roof over my head.

At a place where I work, I met a 24 year old who lost his Mom at a very young age and his father last month. He has been working since last 7 odd years. He has not been able to pursue his studies because he had to take care of the basic necessities of himself and his younger brother and grand parents. He had to give up on his personal dreams and aspirations to take care of his basic necessities. In all these years, I have had a smooth sailing and have never had to look into my pockets before following my dreams and aspirations.

But have I made it far ahead? Have I made it large enough? Have I been able to convert that headstart to accomplish and achieve something?

Is it not similar to a Test Match where every team looks to have a first innings lead and convert it into a victory. But the true fighter is the other team which fights back from losing out on the first inning and converting that into a win. They are desperate to come back from behind and take a leap to prove themselves.

Or probably the Formula 1 race, where all drivers wish to qualify in the practice tests with the fastest times so that they start the main race with a lead with a headstart. Though the true winners are the one who come from behind to a podium finish, is it not a black mark on the front riders who do not convert their headstart into a win?

c22c6d7b84320732827e30d927102470_tortoise-and-the-hare-clip-art-clipart-tortoise-and-the-hare_600-312.jpeg

It doesn’t matter who you are and where you are from. Whatever lead you have got, in whichever field you wish to excel, the passion that you wish to follow – remember you have that huge headstart over millions of people, access to those resource which majority of the people do not have – convert that headstart & convert that dream and aspirations to reality because if you fail, remember even the tortoise can race ahead of the rabbit. Let us rewrite History and not be that rabbit.

 

#BirthdayMonth

I know I have received a lot of love, hate, excitement, anxiousness, stares, criticism, WTF expressions, flak, temporary block dhamki’s during the last 31 odd days. What started as a fun hashtag on the 1st of December continued to become a crazy schedule for the rest of the 30 days. There was no reason behind it. Just like we had the #100HappyDays hashtag, this was just for the fun of it. The #BirthdayMonth was like any another month but just to up the stupidity quotient a bit at the end of the year and not to live the whole year in the same manner, I thought kuch toofaani karte hai. The Birthday was just another day. After all even new year is just another day, all we need is a reason to get together and party and have some extra fun. The birthday and new year are just another reason to splurge or catch up with a long lost friend. Because in our crazy life schedules, it is only occasions that physically bind us together, rest all is virtual.

But there are some good things that happened as well. I am ignoring the part which people claimed to have been annoyed with (common, it was just one post a day and I know many of you secretly looked forward to ab aaj kya daalega ye). I did not have my birthdate posted on FB for last 2-3 years which I changed this year. A lot of old and new friends pinged/ called me to check if everything was fine with me and we got talking, caught up on life and how things have been at our end. People pinged to enquire when my birthday is hoping that it will stop then 😛

But then birthdays also bring in a few other realisations, how times have changed over the last 27 years. Ye ye, I am 27 and single. With the flurry of wedding/ engagement/ honeymoon posts on my FB feed (atleast one a week) gets me thinking on what am I doing with my life and ofcourse your family, relatives and committed friends just add fuel to the fire (and let’s not forget the new born parents) – and then reality strikes, you’re on the right track Hardik. You do not need to hitch up just because everyone around is or because society thinks its your age to apparently settle down (I still don’t understand why is marriage equivalent to settling down, it more or less unsettles you from your current comfort zone). I would ‘settle down’ when I feel I need someone special to talk to about everything in my life, take a long walk at the beach and play kabaddi with the waves, a long drive just to see the sun rise and fighting for the music to be played, to watch a movie with and cuddle in the corner seat of the theater, cook together in the kitchen and experiment my tasteless food on someone. And that time is just NOT now. I love my own company.

I would rather like someone to ask me, what do you want to do or achieve in the next year, where are you travelling to, what new you plan to do, going back to job or starting of a venture, any social service – and NOT when are you getting married [I am okay with the idea of dating though ;)]

I feel I am more committed to myself this end of 2016. The hashtag post was also about the fact that I would forget it for the first few days to post and then later part of December, I would be excited on what should I post next. It was something I used to look forward to and of course the reactions of the people on my timeline. This year there are several such small changes I tried to bring about in my life. Resolutions on New Year do not help, such small changes daily in my life do. As a friend rightly pointed out, it is more about a bucket list rather than about resolutions. Like I had a bad reputation for never being on time (for no valid reason), so i decided to change that and ensure that I reach before time come what may and have been able to do it and even be vocal about the fact. Brush my teeth twice a day. Eat healthier and more often – I used to always skip breakfast, not even milk and step out empty stomach – now that has changed, a light breakfast is a must. Spend time on myself with a small but daily exercise schedule, joining clubs for communication and leadership skills, etc Be more in touch with people, try and be a little less sarcastic (ok, fine, that is something I do not want to work on), make new friends to hang out with (you do not want to be the kabab mein haddi always)

After spending the whole of 2015 debating whether I should continue with my job or not, I finally called it quits in 2016. I have not had a proper day time paid job in the last 6 odd months, but I am not complaining. It’s given me time again to explore what I want to do and where do I see myself a year down the line (I don’t plan for 5 years). And things have been looking good as I will step into 2017 with several projects on a speed rocket mode. It’s been a great year as it helped me tick off a lot of things from my bucket list, no matter how small they were. The Leh-ladakh trip (immediately after my last working day), bunjee jumping, river rafting at the zanskar valley and at hrishikesh, the solo trip to Golden Temple, the road trip to Coorg, bringing in the new year at Rann of Kutch, watching a movie first day first show. I managed to travel atleast once a month. Life has always been about this small moments of happiness.

There are things I tried to do but failed this year as well. Like wanted to learn a new language, one international trip, writing my personal diary, watch more movies, spend time with friends etc but somehow things did not go as planned so be it. Looking to work on them this year. And not being able to strike up a conversation with complete random strangers.

Heartbreaks? None this year. Phew.

And now, when the hashtag stops with effect from tomorrow, I will miss some of those comments from people, but detachment is part and parcel of life. Isn’t it? We loose touch or interest with several people/ things during the year and somethings do not make it to the next chapter of our lives. People will move in and out of our lives, that’s a reality we need to live with – so let’s deal with it.

I made several new friends over this year, but more importantly I got back in touch with and met so many of my school friends and reliving those childhood days was priceless. Listening to stories on how much things have changed made me realise that we have come such a long way in the last 10 years, Yes it’s been 10 years that we passed out of high school and struggling with the film called Life. And it made me also realise all the stupidity we used to do during school days. Those grades were just a farce and created a divide among people, because there is not a single person I know who has a fucked up life today. Everyone is doing good in what they want to do.

Happy New Year 2017.

IMG_4411.JPG

Looking forward to more commitments (non matrimonial of course), more adventures, more gossip and catching up more often and healthier, wealthier, fun filled roller coaster ride ahead. It is not about where you are, but in which direction are we headed to.

Signing off the #BirthdayMonth

P.S: Happy to introduce the next hashtag from tomorrow #TheMonthAfterTheBirthdayMonth. Just Kidding.

Who does your time belong to?

When was the last time you told someone – ‘Cannot make it for dinner tonight. I am stuck with work’?

Sounds like yesterday right?

Who decides how you allocate your time? There are several articles that float online which say that you cannot have it all. Work, Personal Life, Family Life, Travel and Fitness. The articles and even interviews of famous people go on to state that you can choose 2 of these 5 or maybe at the most 3.

And why is that so. In the quest to become the King/ Queen of a segment we forget that it is ok to be the jack of the rest? Or globalisation and specialisation has gobbled up us upto such an extent that we cannot afford to be the second best.

Why it is not okay to leave office on time regularly? That extra hour because the client demanded so or because your senior forced you to or because you are simply a workaholic or maybe you are eyeing that big promotion later this year post which you plan to slow down; maybe, just maybe. And you actually think that you would be able to bring a change in your life and not get trapped further down in the maze.

And it is not just about work. You can extend the analogy to almost everything. Like the life of most of our parents is limited to and revolves around their kids. They work and save that extra penny so that the kids can study better, go on that annual vacation with them, buy them that birthday gift – what are they doing for themselves. Some liberals may argue that doing so makes them happy but that’s how the society has accustomed them to become.

We at times are not able to allocate equal time to say the least to our parents, the friends with whom we grew up with and even our respective better halves while trying to manage our career aspirations. I have not even touched upon the ‘ME’ space or the fitness goals or our hobbies which lie in some corner of the house in the slam book gathering dust.

When was the last time you just took the car keys and drove down the highway with your friends blasting loud music, when you planned that impromptu dinner with your family, when you cleaned the dust from the guitar or the fungus gathering on your sports shoes.

When was the last time you did something unplanned? Or maybe took that extra effort to plan something from scratch to end to bring that genuine smile on someone’s face. And that sense of satisfaction for your own self.

It is perfectly fine to be ambitious and have career aspirations and being a workaholic and want to climb up the corporate ladder. But just like we have the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, our lives cannot revolve around just one thing come what may.

Fire-earth-water-air-the-four-elements-39436378-741-256.jpg

Image Source: Google

We may have an excess of something at a point in time and in deficit in another. And who decides this? Not the circumstances or the situations. That is always the easier way out.

It is you who decide the priorities of your life, you allocate a part of your time to them. Maybe not literally, but subconsciously you do. When you decide to skip the dinner  with your school buddies because you have that extra assignment to complete; you preferred that assignment over your friends – yes, you did not mean to do so and had all the intentions to go but in ‘Life’ intentions do not always count – actions do. You skipped that weekend cricket tournament because you had to attend a distance relatives wedding, you allotted your time to the family function over your personal interests.

Some choices are difficult and some you generally make in a fraction of a second. You do not regret them in a long while to come. You may not even realise that till someone does a reality check and walks out on you giving up on all hopes and expectations. By then probably it is just a tad too late but as the cliche goes, better late than never.

Choose right and remember you live only once. Do the things that make you happy and feel contended and satisfied. Work that extra hour if that is what you crave for but remember that comes at a cost. A year later, your school friends may not be around or maybe that relationship did not see the light of the day because a year back they were not your priority and today you are not theirs.

We always talk about the time value of money, but have you ever measured the money value of time? You can earn the money back, but can you get back the lost time? Somethings do not come with a reset button, and that is Life itself.

The legacy factor

How many of you do something because that is what has happened in the past and you’re simply supposed to continue it?

17-year-iit-jee-program.jpg

Like, ‘Mera beta engineer banega’.

Closer home we have the Abhishek Bachchan and the Rahul Gandhi. We have seen there performance in the last few years and borne them. Most of us agree that they are not doing what they intend to do. Is it purely a legacy factor for continuing in the same field as their parents who have left a mark behind.

Everyone cannot be the Ambani’s or Tata’s. Again in those sectors, you can easily put the veil of a strong management to continue building successfully but your individual identity need not be as strong as your parents.

How many of us do something because the society or relatives or even for that parents think that this is what is required to carry the tradition forward. Like the child of a doctor needs to be a doctor and that of a CA needs to be a CA aur kaam waali ki beti ek kaamwali (excerpt from Nil Battey Sannata).

The point is that from our childhood one is moulded in that fashion and the upbringing comes with that basic understanding – a box difficult to break and get out of. There have been even situations that marriages of children of neighbours or friends are fixed in their early years just to make their relationship stronger and the kids need to abide by that without an uff.

And then the trend continues with their kids. Options are closed for the future generation as well. Because you have to live and carry on the ‘Since 1947’ tag.

I know people who have hated the medical course, who have flunked multiple times in their CA exams/ IIT JEE’s but are not allowed to quit. And the societal custom of ‘vansh aage kaun badhayega’ are tied as chains to your legs. Breaking them means doing away with several things and the fear of being disowned from your own family for several years.

So you just cannot blame them for living a robotic life programmed by someone else.

But there is another category of legacy which is equally alarming these days. Continuing to do what you have been doing in the past. Your past suddenly becomes a benchmark and sets the bar for your future, something which you are not allowed to leave or let go.

Remember our childhood, when you accidentally scored a top tier rank in school, you have to continue getting that rank in the future.

If you have managed to do something remarkably different and successful once, you’re supposed to repeat that feat. It’s a legacy that you have created for yourself and continue to build on that. At no point can you go below that benchmark which you have set for yourself in the eyes of the bystanders. And if you try to breakthrough, you will be judged and shamed. Just like Bobby Deol who tried his hands at being a DJ after a failed Bollywood career and the trolls just wouldn’t stop. I am not judging him on his skills on the stage.

Life is going to keep trolling you, it’s for you to decide whether these outsiders dictate the direction of your life or you do. Don’t live under the garb of a successful past, it is ok to deviate and take a new route in life and maybe even fail at doing so. There is no guaranteed road to replicate things and I am sure that is not how you want to live life.

One of the quotes very close to me is “Don’t let every year of your life be like the previous one”. You took up a job, doing well, got your promotions and hikes but after a while you wear out of doing the same thing over and over again, feel free to quit and start all over again. Experiment with life, you’re not getting out alive any which ways. You have been in a relationship for several years does not mean that you need to live with it till eternity, you have tried getting the mojo back and did not work. It is better to move on rather than burdened by an unfulfilled commitment.

Remember there will be several things that press your requirement today, just think if it would matter a year from now. If not, don’t bother much about it and move on.

It is ok to take wrong calls in life and take corrective actions but remember if taking that call made you happy, then it was all worth it. Don’t live in that legacy box for life, that is not what you’re made for.

Even Mutual Fund investments come with a disclaimer that “Past performance does not guarantee future returns.” Since when did Life become guaranteed risk free.

Why do I travel?

I was returning from a wedding at Hyderabad to Mumbai via Coorg including a stopover at Bangalore where I happened to catch up with a Yatri friend over lunch. Since I quit my job like around 2 months, I have been moving around India a bit from Ladakh to Lavasa to Coorg in a span of 30 days. So she sprang a question to me, ‘Why do I travel?’

And I had no answer. Like why do I enjoy travelling? What fascinates me? I probably don’t have an answer yet or probably I know and still I don’t exactly know. It is so similar to the question that gets popped up to me several times on what do I look for in a partner and my answer was ‘with someone whom I can have conversations all my life’ though not really sure what exactly that is supposed to mean but let’s not even discuss my marriage plans; this is not about that.

No, I do not get an orgasm on reaching a mesmerizing locale. I enjoy the beauty and the view, click a few photos, spend some time in solitude and move on. I do not happen to get absorbed in nature. I stop myself and put forth a few questions to myself, but that’s about it. My life will not stop if I stop travelling. But I know a lot of people who get high on nature. I love nature in its true form be it a flowing river or the forests all around but I still get high only on alcohol.

On a recent trekking trip I happened to meet a friends ex. I did not have much clue of what conspired between them but there several metres above sea level by the noise of the waterfall we got talking. She had managed to step outside the (dis)comfort of her home and office after a 6 month long period into the open arms of nature on a rather medium level trek as it included rappelling down the waterfall. And as the day passed, she grew more comfortable to the nature and the new set of friends and did she have fun, Oh Boy, I am sure she did. But more importantly she was out there to redeem her lost self. She had a reason to travel. Not sure if I had any.  Then there was another person who was not sure why she was pursuing the career she was but continuing it with just because she had started it and was there for a break.

A few months back I became friends with a few folks on a trek and then we met recently on this trek and we started off with where we left last time. The jokes, the sarcasm, the fun,  the leg pulling – nothing had changed. Such bonding can be like travel buddies (just like you have drinking buddies) – you do not meet in the interim, hardly interact apart from the social media likes but you are always off to a rolling start when you meet on another trip.

And then on the trek was a Gujju group celebrating friendship with all the khakra, dhokla and thepla. They were happy amongst themselves with all the name pulling and inside jokes. They were carefree on what the other people on the trek thought about them. Generally, we as people try to be cautious to set a good first impression on new people we meet. But that meant nothing to them. They did not care what others thought about them. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. That reminds me of another blog I wrote earlier.

I remember talking to myself while rappelling down that waterfall. It seemed exciting at first when we climbed that hill but when the descend started it did get scarier. It was at a reasonably good height and initially rather steep and slippery thanks to all the algae that gets formed around. Once on the descend, I had no option but to keep going ignoring all the muscle pain, there was no way I could give up midway. I had a similar experience when I bunjee jumped earlier this year. I was excited to get there and the only one on the group who wanted to do it but when I saw down, I developed cold feet and took steps back only to gather courage all over again to do that jump and mind it, I loved the stunt though I am not sure if it would be any easier to do it again. Adventure sports again don’t give me a high but I like the thrill of doing it – the plethora of emotions one goes through from start to end and the sense of accomplishment at the end when at a point you almost thought you would not make it – and ofcourse the tick on the bucket list.

Bunjee.png

It also draws me back to the Jagriti Yatra I did in 2014 where I was on a train travel with 450+ strangers and living in a sleeper train compartment for 15 days at a stretch. That was like our home those 2 odd weeks. The friends I made over breakfast, lunch and dinner rolled over to something I still cherish. These are people who live in different parts of India and we occasionally meet, but once we do just like the Hyderabad – Coorg – Bangalore segment – it is a helluva trip. Or probably the solo trip I took to Germany where I completed a 4 hour journey in around 12+ hours with the intention of saving money and ended up paying way more and then reaching my destination at 1:30 am with no roof booked in an unknown territory. I was mindfucked at that time and cursed myself for being so unplanned and taking that damn trip.

Now, I do not remember the names of all those beautiful European architecture I had seen in Germany. But I remember small things like how a fellow German dropped me to my hostel in a new city at midnight or how a stranger taught me to hold the golf (which is not like the cricket bat) or the girl in the train or the costa rica father son duo in the hostel room I shared.

In hindsight I have stories to share and strike conversations today with fellow travelers and laugh at ourselves. These trips made me believe in myself that you can come out of even a dead end tunnel.

And let’s not forget the antakshari sessions during long bus travels, the teen patti evenings, the binge drinking nights and the long gossip and bitching sessions with your office colleagues. You can never have enough of these. Can you?

Does travel get me closer to nature? I don’t know. Do I enjoy local cuisine everywhere I go. Nope. I prefer my regular taste buds. Just cannot accommodate to a differently tasting paneer butter masala. Do I spend time living the local way. Generally not. Though I respect the local culture and mannerisms, I prefer being a traveler to that city than a local. But I love chatting up with them and hearing their stories and know more about their life only to realise we have so much more to be content with. I would even skip an excursion to have chai pe charcha with them.

Most of my trips have been group travels and its fun. And yes, I would not mind doing a solo trip again as I have grown accustomed to my own company and nothing like exploring a city with a physical map and no cellular network with a 15kg backpack.

And as I write this blog, I realise what I love about my travel. The stories, the conversations, the fuck ups and the dares. This seems like it for now unless my next travel throws up some new surprises. It tests your patience and temperament at different levels and how you react to the same and handle yourself in such situations. Probably I would put my future partner through a travel test as well.

What is your travel story?

Previous Post.

Don’t do it because of someone else

The sole purpose of lives of certain people is to prove it to a certain ‘XYZ’. It is ok to be inspired because of a certain incident with XYZ which helped you realise your true calling but to live your life to prove it to this XYZ who doesn’t give a FUCK about you anymore is plain stupid.

Over bottles of beer when the conversation gradually streamed towards life aspirations and future plans, I drew a blank but some of them around me were full of confidence and surety and had the perfect answer to the typical HR question – ‘Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?’. He wanted to be one of the most successful entrepreneur who is talked about by the most popular financial newspapers. Perfectly Fine. But hold on. He wanted to carry that newspaper to the house of his ex girlfriend and throw it on the face of the woman whom he once thought would be his mother in law.

We all look for inspirations around us and many of us aspire to be like someone in one way or the other. The Indians of the last two decades  wanted to be the Sachin Tendulkar of cricket while many follow Virat Kohli today. The bollywood had the Khans ruling, we have the Elon Musk and the Mark Zuckerbergs in running successful businesses and then we have Warren Buffet and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala as investment kings. Maybe not be a replica but we try and follow what lot of these successful people have done in their respective domains.

On the other hand some of us are inspired by a failure to stand up and do well again. Way back during school days I had a friend who scored 1/5 in dictation test of a regional language. Technically he failed in the test – for the first time ever. He was heart broken because he was a ranker. But then he did not let that be the bearish phase of his life. That was the lowest he had ever been. He picked himself up from there and in the annual average he scored a 4.5 on 5.

Even circumstances at times hit us on the face and we are pushed to the wall only to come out stronger than before. Have read several stories on quora about a women coming out of an abusive marriage to take care of herself and her child, a child standing up to the sudden death of his/ her father to shoulder responsibilities of the household.

But revenge for a living can be disastrous. And I am not even getting to the political divide we see in our daily lives these days. All I am saying that living it out to prove it to a third person. Yes, third person because that someone is not part of your daily routine and yet they play a major havoc in your life. If you have seen 3 idiots, you’ll remember that bet wherein if Aamir went and proposed Kareena, Sharman would give an interview without those ‘lucky’ rings and Madhavan would opt for the Photography internship. And then the conversation that Madhavan’s dad made all the sacrifices for his engineering entrance and not the neighborhood uncle. They moved out of the cycle of being controlled by a third person.

How different is it from being possessed by someone else? All your actions are motivated by that. On a rather more common note in today’s life, it is about proving to the society that I am capable of doing this. Several people give multiple attempts of JEE to qualify into an IIT or maybe multiple attempts of the CA examination and spend years behind obtaining that paper degree. Yes, those degrees hold a lot of value but is all the mental stress and depression and years of exile worth it? Do it because you want to do it and not because SharmaJi kya kahenge.

Nobody is expecting you to do something drastically different than the general. We don’t expect every individual to stand out in the crowd. It is perfectly fine to be a commoner – aam aadmi (without any direct or indirect reference to the Delhi based political outfit) but do it because that is how you see yourself and fight it out if that’s not what you want to be. That Anu Aunty is not going to feed you when you’re unwell. She will not hold your hand and pick you up when you are fallen. That girl whom you broke up with half a decade back is probably going to mother a child with another man. Don’t ruin your life for someone else. That moment gave you that motivation to do soemthing in life and make something out of yourself. Everybody is not Salman Khan from Sultan to get Arifa after pursuing your dreams because she dared you to do so. Life is not a Bollywood film.We all should just try to be a human being.

main-qimg-195f54e9d61526e8867345c62dd92e6c-c

Image source: Google