May 032016

I have begun thinking about loss and grief, and coping with grief, a lot in the last one year. Also, about acceptance, and coming to terms with grief. It isn’t that one doesn’t misses the person who is gone (in my case, my father) , one does intensely. But, the death was natural, the natural destination of a life well lived. He went surrounded by loved ones, with memories of a, more or less, happiness and laughter filled life, and today it is possible to remember him with a smile. In a way, acceptance is also because you expect your parents to precede you in death. It is the natural way of things.

I have often wondered, at the kind of grief that one has to cope with, if it is a parent mourning the loss of their child. It is not really the natural order of things.  Many years ago, i had written about putrashoka, the grief one feels at the loss of a child. There are many kinds of losses, and many kinds of grief.

Two days ago, a person I knew and worked with, not even 30 years old died. At that age, it can only be an unexpected death. My heart goes out to her parents. What does one even say at a time like this.

Feb 212016
My dad used to do the laundry, and the ironing. He could cook up a divine meal. he adored his kids, and was adept at changing  diapers. He treated women as equals, and brought me up as an equal 🙂He got me a lego set, dolls too. He got all of us books to read – on adventure and science, on far away places and history. Told us stories of ghosts, and heroes, of treasures in far away places; of the adventures from the epics; on advanced
All three siblings (two are brothers)  learned to cook, and to fix plugs, and to change fuses, and we played with cars and dolls – and saw no difference in it. We learned to clean the loo, and wash up plates on which we have eaten food. We learned, there was no difference between boys and girls, in the chores we did, in the books we read, in the paths we choose for life.
There was only one condition – ‘don’t lie to me or your mother’. We didn’t. An open, open honest relationship at home, translated to all our relationships in life. We fought. we made up. We laughed. And, when i look back on our lives together, despite the many crisis and tears, the overwhelming memories are all of us laughing together.
Btw – he taught me to swear in multiple languages (with the right inflection) and to fight (if you are hitting a man attacking you, hit him with a closed fist and your thumb inside) ; he taught me to appreciate art, music and good alcohol. My love for photography comes from him, as does my passion for music.
It is another Sunday, and there isn’t a day when i don’t think of him, or miss his counsel or his humour in dealing the world, on a Sunday the missing seems more acute.
Fathers of daughters do end up changing the world. Not out of anger or fear. But, because they want a better, safer, kinder world for their daughters.
This ad made me tear up, it is true in most houses. It made me tear up because my dad was like that when he was young, and we were kids. 


(Buddha, Angkor Thom, Cambodia when i was visiting Cambodia, it was part of his unfulfilled dream i was living. He always wanted to visit. )

Feb 092016

…. and there is a part of me that is terrified, and there is a part of me that is terribly excited. I missed this sensation for the time i worked in corporate land. This sensation of being completely attuned to my universe and being alive.

Friday was my last day at my last employer. I had put in my papers towards the end of the last year. I had a great, great time in Zee. Fabulous boss and fabulous teams, and  quite a large number of very nice people – people who make it a great workplace. And, I had the opportunity to work and interact with one of the greatest media visionaries in India, and that itself was a great experience and a great education.

Working in a corporate structure is like climbing the Himalayas with a safety net. Working for yourself is like jumping off the Himalayas without one (and then climbing up again, and then jumping off again).. Ha ha , i am doing the latter again, I must be nuts 🙂

So what am I going to do ? Right now – i am taking a month off to just get my priorities straight. And, at the core of the priority list is me and what i want to do. Am having lots of conversations on what all can be done – and there is a lot I can do, news, entertainment, education, across forms, formats and media. But, it is humanly impossible to do it all. The screw up is that all of it is terribly exciting, but there are only 24 hours in a day 🙁 So, i am sitting and pruning the list. |No, you cannot go to central Uttar Pradesh and create a web series … no. no. no, says my rational business mind.  Not yet, agrees my creative mind, and things go from the junk to the maybe one day list 🙂

I am thinking maybe 2 out of the list. And, even that means a lot of time commitment. As, i get older, i have begun guarding my non work time. I get so little of it, that it is important.

Finally, as i go back into figuring a start up ecosystem – some thoughts based on my last experience (as much for me, as anyone finds it interesting).

  1. Ideas are the easiest things in the world. Everyone knows how to fix the world, intellectually. Fixing the world, however, is about implementation. And, implementation is about roadmaps – you need to know what you are fixing, why you are fixing it, how will you fix it, and who will fix it. How much will the fixing cost, and how do you make money out of this. You, at the very least, need to have a pragmatic fix on this. And this goes beyond spreadsheets and presentations. oh, and it also goes beyond coffee shop conversations.
  2. While it is important to meet people and discuss your idea, do not meet so many people that you get confused about what you are doing. Refer to point one – everyone has a killer idea, the devil is in the implementation. Spend time meeting people who have implemented anything.
  3. Have a time plan — what are you going to do with your time and how. It is important to be disciplined. This is not an extended break, it is work. Work for yourself You only have two assets now – your intellect and 24 hours each day. The former needs to be sharpened and sharp focused so as not to wander. The latter needs to be used well. else the tendency to fritter both is huge. Use a small mantra – there is no tomorrow, only today. Stuff needs to be done today.
  4. While you are talking to random people in this journey, remember to talk to people who have undertaken the journey, successfully and otherwise. Success does not mean unicorn funding alone #justsaying.
  5. Your personal space is just as important as when you are working for someone else. Don’t let work crowd out your personal time so much that you begin resenting work.
  6. Be honest – there is no substitute for direct, and sometimes brutal, honesty. No point committing to stuff you don’t believe in, or don’t think can work. But, at the same time don’t burn bridges.
  7. Be clear – do you want to be a vendor or do you want to be an entrepreneur – in the former, the only risk is 90 days credit will become 120 days. The latter can be trying to do an obstacle race in a minefield.
  8. Don’t ignore paperwork — Government, who is God, loves paperwork. As does everyone in each of the Government departments. If you think you have done this paperwork before, you possibly have – except it was for another Government department, not this one. Just because the Government is talking about #StartupIndia doesn’t mean the paperwork will go away.  Paperwork is in our dna … even the private sector has it. Hire an accountant if needed. Far more important initially than getting that fancy alienware laptop you are eyeing 🙂
  9. Meet the audience regularly. Figure if they really want what you are plugging – no point discovering there is no market for it.
  10. Have fun – if you are not having fun, you are doing this wrong, and go get a job. Being in a start up is not like being burnt at the stake – it is loads of fun, joy and excitement. there is a tremendous sense of achievement If you are miserable, maybe you should be doing something else.

Does this mean, being entrepreneurial is only a function of starting up.  Not really, you can find a company that is entrepreneurial and join that. There is no one path – all are equally valid. Just don’t be miserably unhappy at whatever it is that you are doing.  There is more to life than that (and, no i wan’t miserably unhappy – i had just become placidly smug. and, i didn’t like myself quite as much as i did before ) 😀



(shot a couple of years ago (but processed last year) — the boatman on the Ganga, Benaras)


Dec 312015
As you get older, one of the things that you realise is that life is measured less in terms of the tangibles – tickets sold, people enticed, targets met, audiences garnered – and more in terms of the intangibles – friendship, love, laughter, family.
Somehow, when we are younger, we tend to value the latter less. That sense of all of these being there always, is palpable. While one knows, intellectually,  that no one is immortal, the propensity to believe that death is something that happens to others, is huge.
The death of a parent, makes you grow up.
it is like a safety net has been taken away, and you have no one to catch you when you fall.
I haven’t had time to grieve … i haven’t even cried yet. Part of me is yet to accept he is gone.And, the other part of me is trying to fit (unsuccessfully) into his shoes to try and do what all he did, for the family. I have more conversations with him today, than in the last two years he was around. Those were more of the nature
him: “how was work”
me: “fine. What did you do today” … He : “watched TV. slept”.
Now i have conversations. Detailed conversations, in my head. And, as Dumbledore points out in one of the Harry Potter books, just because it happened in your head, doesn’t mean it is not real.
I am hoping the next year will be better. i pray for peace. closure. and maybe even some tears. I feel guilty for not not being able to cry. It is not that i loved him less – i adored him. I just can’t cry. It is like all those tears are frozen deep within me – and one of these days, i am going to end up crying a river.
Today, is the 7th month. and, the end of a long year.  I miss him.
Nov 302015

The last time i took a break, was about a dozen or so years ago. I had just finished launching Zee’s education channel (in my first stint with the group), I was exhausted – physically, mentally and emotionally – and i took off to Munnar, in Kerala. Within 3 days of going there, Offitis struck me – i began missing work and the people there 🙂

In the intervening years, many things happened. I quit corporate life, set up on my own – and traveled a bit, on work. The travelling was less metro, and more hinterland. Less tourist life, and more a seeker. I shot extensively in the rural parts of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia. And, the decade i worked for myself, it never felt like work. And, taking a break was out of the question. There were lulls in work life, those became breaks in themselves.

This has been a sort of traumatic year. More than anything else, I needed to heal. Angkor Wat was the break. It was both a visual treat and a spiritual journey. The world’s largest temple complex dedicated to Vishnu. Awesome and Awe inspiring.

Angkor Wat


While Agkor Wat was a visual delight – and a physical strain — gosh it is a lot of walking and much of it is steep, it was also immensely informative. The way the structure was created, the thinking behind the various layers of temples, the library within, the prayer areas, the grounds – all of it was thought through to the greatest possible detail.

Angkor Thom – the Buddhist temple complex (Angkor Wat, too in that sense is Buddhist. When the country turned Buddhist many centuries ago, Buddha’s statue replaced Vishnu’s in the main prayer area) – was the capital of the Khmer Empire.

Angkor Thom - the doorway to the royal garden


But, the single most spiritual part of this journey was the trek up to see the sahasralinga – or the 1000 Lingas. This was at a place called Kbal Spean, and it is a 1.5 km vertical trek. While trekking up, the thing that strikes you most (apart from the fact that you are terribly out of shape) is the aroma of the ‘sacred’ forest. And, when you get to the top, it is simply like going home. The calmness and pristine nature of the place, the aroma of the woods, and the purity of the water fall – all help heal.

More pictures to follow. But, this is what i was doing the last week.