Baggage of dreams

It was his first TEDx speech.

He rehearsed for yet another time on the way to the venue. A lot of people knew about his achievements already. This was his chance to let them know the story behind it – the pain and hardships he had to undergo to make it happen.

Not every seedling becomes a tree!

Dreams don’t just fructify out of thin air. They need intense effort, discipline and dedication. They need a lifetime of sacrifice. Stuff that people with broken spine simply cannot manage.  Continue reading

Walking away from a wrong table

Several times in life, I’ve sat at the wrong table and waited for things to get better. A wrong job, a bad investment, a bad industry… to list a few. Talk about table selection and I’ve made all mistakes one could!

2 years in a job I hated. 3 years with a significant investment I wasn’t sure about. 2 years in an industry that I knew would take me nowhere.

I waited.

Nothing really happened!

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The circle of life

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As I take pictures of her, I’ve realised that it is not about her. It is about me.

It is about the memories we’ve shared. The times when she’d take me to Mohan’s or Chellaram’s or Higginbotham’s and buy those things dad would not. The times when she’d sit at her large desk in Collector’s office as the Tahsildar and I’d feel proud visiting her.

I realise it is about my childhood. She was my angel in that period. The person who I could go to for anything and receive undivided attention.

It is also the realisation that our relationship peaked in 1990s and has somewhat declined ever since.

Adolescence took me in a direction away from home. To look good in the eyes of outsiders, who I didn’t even know, mattered more than those at home. And adulthood took me in a different direction away from home too. The pursuit of things and the pressure of creating a career took me away from them.

It is very easy for me to repay all of that in money and kind. However, I cannot repay that in ‘time’. The ‘time’ she (or dad or mom) spent with me, I can never repay. The only way I can do it is by paying-it-forward.

By spending more time with my kids.

And I know my kids will spend less time with me one day. They will probably spend more time with their kids. That is life.

Sisters

We brought her home 2 days after her birth.

I was anxious. What does this do to our first girl? She’d shown signs of feeling neglected when Amma couldn’t spend time with her in hospital.

When we went shopping for the baby, she kept asking, ‘who are you getting these for?’. I got her a few toys and pretended like we were really shopping for her.

Mama’s time was now split and she probably realised things would change. And cried about it. I felt sorry for her.

Surprisingly, she warmed up to the baby very quickly. That night, she went close to her and caressed her feet. I took the baby and gently gave it to her. She held her for a while, very carefully.

“Appa, she’s sooo small,” she said.

I nodded my head, lost in my own thoughts.

Grandpa

Grandpa!

The only person who can give her completely undivided attention!

When she’s in Shimoga, grandpa’s orbit shifts around her. From taking her on his morning walk to having breakfast together, from having his staple evening masala dosa  to watching kannada plays and yakshaganas, from visiting friends to even taking her to medical council meetings… they literally spend all the time together.

Few days later, we return to Bangalore. He calls eagerly to talk to her.

“Tell him I’m busy,” quips she, cuddling her toys!

Being daddy!

She invades your personal space like no one else can. Yet, you don’t mind.

She shares her fear of monsters and expects you to slay them. You hug her hard, for you were responsible in bringing her to this big bad world!

Her world is filled with good rabbits and bad wolves. Beanstalks that grow to the sky and ogres taller than trees.

And princesses locked up in castles!

It hurts you no end that the rescuer is always a prince in shiny armour. Not daddy!

There’s only one man in her life. Daddy. You think, wishfully.

One day, she will be out seeking a new man of her choice. You have to let go!

Relationships are hard and messy. Yet, being a daddy to your little girl is special. You’ll do it again without batting an eyelid.

Anything is fine!

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Every Sunday, I visit her at a long term care home.

Looking into her eyes, sometimes, it feels like looking into a deep well that leads to nothingness!

That is not how I know her!

I know her as a strong minded single lady who became the 2nd woman Tahsildar in Ooty. As the kind aunt who pampered me a lot – those expensive lunches (for those days) at Shinkows and Spencers in Ooty and outrageously priced toys at Chellarams and Mohans! The warmth of her love and affection above it all!

Or, frustratingly, as the lady who picked battles that didn’t make sense (to me) – like spending all her savings on a 40 year case that went nowhere. There were a lot of things we didn’t see eye to eye on, and quarrelled often for. Yet, we had a strong bonding.

She was always very involved. She gave it all. Once she was in, she was all-in. No half-measures! People were bad or good, things were right or wrong. Black or white, grey didn’t exist.

On November 25th, she was found unconscious and was rushed to hospital. A massive stroke left her motionless on one side of her body and more importantly, robbed her off her emotions.

Those very emotions that I have come to see as my aunt – having largely accepted her flaws as time has passed. I miss those.

It feels strange. She is alive. Yet, I miss her. I miss those emotions – those fights, those warm weekly calls, those arguments on yet another lawyer bill.

The last 3 months have been stressful, but time heals everything. I am now thankful that we had our moments. I don’t pray for anything – I can embrace anything. If she disappears into oblivion never recovering from her state, she will be just fine. I will be too. If she recovers and embraces me with all her being, that is fine too. Things can get bad, painful and sorrowful – that is fine too! Or better, that too, is fine!

Anything is fine. These two months, I have learned to remove expectations. That helps!

At the risk of misinterpretation by someone, I quote my opinion on life.

To pass through this brief life as nature demands. To give it up without complaint.
Like an olive that ripens and falls.
– Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

The ethics of money and business

Ever since 2005, I have really enjoyed studying businesses and have kept my money mostly in publicly listed stocks and since 2011, been interested in building one myself. At the same time, I love and seek inspiration from nature.

I’ve had trouble keeping them together because capitalism and its main cogs – business and finance, seem to be largely working against nature. I find it disturbing and hard to balance.

Several years ago, I owned ITC shares – a friend questioned how I could make money from smoking and tree-chopping (paper). I got out (though my reasons are ambiguous at best).

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True financial freedom

A friend and I were discussing money and financial freedom, amongst other things in life.

“How much is enough money to be financially free? How do you decide?” I asked my friend.

Is it a fixed number? The ability to not work for money and have enough of it to pay all your bills through your lifetime? Is it 30 times your annual expense? 50 times? Having a good part of it in inflation beating investments? Or having a business that has good free cashflow and longevity?

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Growing the root

I read this statement by Rahul Dravid in an article and loved it. It’s similar to this post I wrote a while earlier.

“When I’m requested to speak to youngsters I like talking about this phase of my life and liken it to fascinating plant: The Chinese Bamboo. You can take a Chinese bamboo seed and plant it in the ground, water and nurture the seed for an entire year & not even see a single sprout. Infact, you’ll not see a sprout for 5 years. But suddenly, a tiny shoot will spring from the ground. And over the next 6 weeks, the plant can grow as tall as 90 feet. It can grow as fast as 39 inches every 24 hours. You can literally watch the plant grow.

What was the plant doing during these 5 years, seemingly dormant period, it was growing its roots. For 5 full years it was preparing itself for rapid, full growth. Without this root structure, the plant simply couldn’t support itself for its future growth. Some would say the plant grew 90 feet in 6 weeks, I would say it grew 90 feet in 5 years & 6 weeks”