Dear Mohan,

An open letter to Mohan Bhargava, of Charanpur. Thanking him for being him. And inspiring me along the way.

Dear Mohan,

It’s been a few years now since I’ve come to know you. Our interactions started simple. You were yet another person whose story I would listen to, get awed by and then eventually forget. After all, there is way too much media that people my age consume.

But then there are a few stories that make a home in your subconscious. Even if you don’t want them to.

Your story, Mohan, is one of those. With time, I am forgetting the specifics, blame old age. But the broad strokes of who you are, what you stand for and what you mean have remained with me. In fact, I’d say it’s great that I am forgetting things. The parts that have remained with me are the ones that are probably the most important. Probably the ones that I relate to the most. Probably are the ones that I want to retain!

You know, when I was young, just out of business school, most of my thoughts, ideas and conversations were aimed at doing something large, something great, something out of the ordinary. Something that can make a dent. Something that makes me a lot of money. Something that can make lives better. Something that can inspire others. I knew I had the talent. I knew of my potential. And yet I didn’t do anything. I was often filled with rage about my inability to go beyond from where I was. While I did have the naive confidence that would’ve made me take a shot at the impossible, I missed the nudge, the push, the inspiration to ignite the spark that would turn into a wildfire.

I realise it now, while these thoughts, words, dreams were great, I missed the most important ingredient. Action.

Mohan, action is what sets you apart.

You took action. A large one at that. You quit the American dream at the pinnacle of your career. To come back to Charanpur and screw a light bulb. You were among the stars. Literally. And you were shining bright. Yet you bailed out. To try and crank a water turbine. And seek the glory under that feeble, dim sliver of the faint light of a simple bulb!

You dreamt the impossible. You acted on it. And delivered. And while you did that, you gave an entire village hope to rally behind you.

Like I said earlier, I have forgotten large parts of your story, your background, your life. And the parts I have retained are probably the ones that I want to. I can’t seem to forget your simple ways, your non-conformity and your attitude. And your actions. And your impact.

Mohan, you continue to inspire me to date.
And you mean a million things to me.
If not more. 

You to me, Mohan, are about…
– hope that I would come of age someday, even if I am 40 and past my prime.
– knowing that I am drifting and knowing that it’s ok to drift.
– and keeping faith that the drifting will end someday! Again, if I am past the age where you can contribute meaningfully.

You are also about…
– inspiring me to dream the impossible
– showing that it’s ok to lust for the impossible
– putting in motion the wheel that takes you closer to impossible
– and teaching how to move others to move their respective immovable and do the impossible.

You know, Mohan, you do this to me each time I think about you. You take me away from reality. And into this dreamy world where I start believing that I could be Mohan.

And no, I am not alone. You do this to countless others. You’ve planted the thought that there is life beyond a successful career. That you have a responsibility towards your elders that you discard behind as you pursue “success”. That you need to step out of your comfort zone, your cocoon, the palace of illusions you create around you. And dive headfirst into the world that may not offer you a grand pedestal that you’ve always wanted to stand on top of.

You are not just an inspiration. But a reference point. And a conversation starter. And a North Star that I look up to, often, to find my way each time I digress. Damn, you, Mohan! 

With a tiny bulb, Mohan, you’ve literally changed lives. And inspired people like me to work towards changing the world. To take life head-on. And become someone who does. And not just dreams.

Phw!

Guess this is about it.

Wish me luck and stay by my side. As I try and do things that you would approve of. And as I try to discover myself. And become me. And become Mohan.

And finally, thank you. For being who you are.

Saurabh Garg
20 Dec 2021
Mumbai, India


Notes

  1. An unedited first draft of this post is here.
  2. Other pieces that I’ve written about Mohan and Swades over the years are here and here.

Quarterly Update – JASON 2021

Saurabh Garg’s quarterly letter to friends, mentors, seniors, co-workers and others about how and what he did in the months gone by.

I send this letter to some of my mentors, friends, clients, and others that have shown a disproportionate interest in my life. The letter includes unfiltered, unedited, raw thoughts about life and work and all that. Even though I send a shorter version of this via email, here is the unabridged version for everyone on the world wide web to see and react to.

Hi! I am Saurabh Garg. You may remember me from conversations we’ve had over the years (or recently, in some cases). This is a quarterly-ish update about my life, to people like you that have shown an interest in my life. 

Here we go…

“Executive” Summary

For me, the months of JFM 2021 were a turnaround compared to how 2020 was. I got new work, moved back to Mumbai (from Goa), and tried to get more things done. Post that, AMJ 2021 was about consolidation. I finally got some cash flow going. And thanks to that, I hired some people across various projects that I support. I even started investing. And most importantly, I started saving.

JASON 2021, however, in one word, was disappointing. I could not sustain the momentum. I lost a few projects. More than the money, I lost face. And I lost my reputation. One of the projects overshot the budgeted estimate by 3X. I should have expected that considering that it was a film. But I did not. I started a syndicate to invest in startups, but I could not close any deal per se except making personal investments.

And now, I am back to a point where I am seeking work and taking whatever comes my way, even if it’s paying me peanuts and taking away my soul. It sucks, but I am grateful that I have work, even in this day and age.

And yes, I do have a few things in the good-things department. Allow me to talk about these in a bit.

Meanwhile, here’s a detailed update.

A. Losses / Shortcomings / Failures

This one is a long list. At least ten things on this one. Trying hard to make it shorter and save the face :D.

i. Work. At work, I took on a project that I thought knew I could deliver great things. But I could not. Despite all my earnest attempts, and it sucks that I failed at it. This is one of my most visible and public failures, and I have accepted it and decided to move on. The lesson I am taking away is that while I aim for the moon, I need to try and recognise things that are not moving and cut losses sooner.

ii. SoG Grant. Could not work on it. I could not issue it. Got busy. And once I had time, I did not have the money required to support the grantees. Will get to it at some point. The lesson I am taking away? Side projects need to be taken up one at a time. And once I commit to one, I need to allocate some budget to it and keep that money aside.

iii. LHV. Started with an angel investing syndicate with a couple of friends. Tried hard but could not get traction. I had overestimated my ability to get access to people that could invest in my decisions. While we could not raise the rounds required, we put our savings into the companies we were backing. So, the heart is at the right place. Just that I could not execute it well.

iv. Podcasting. I tried my hands at hosting a few more shows – one for investors, one for marketers, and another for people that I find interesting. I couldn’t get enough guests to be excited about any of these shows. Plus the handful that I could get, I don’t think the conversations were good enough. And then, since there was no traction per se, I lost interest.

I know that being an independent content creator is important to me. And yet, for some reason, I am unable to push the pedal on it. I think I suffer from imposter syndrome. I think I am not good, and I am constantly questioning why would someone listen to what I have to talk about. So that. I need to find a solution to this. The lesson I am taking away? None!

As against the planned goals for 2021 (listed here), I have missed almost all the goals. There are a few that I want to talk about. Just to remind myself that those are open. Here…

  1. Book2. I have been missing this for a long long time. While I know I want to tell this story, I haven’t been able to work on it. Life has kept me busy. Must work on it.
  2. Brand SG. I had decided to work on creating a personal brand for myself. However, I did not even begin to move the needle on this. This would’ve been the single most important thing that I would have worked on. In fact with each passing day I realise the importance of having a great personal brand. This is something that I will make a priority #in2022.
  3. Marathon / Fitness. This has been a goal since I can remember. And I am unable to move myself. Thing is, I can’t even walk a few steps without losing my breath. Plus the hernia. I don’t know when and how will I start on this! While I write this, I must mention that I could hike upto the Everest Base Camp (in Sep-Oct). And come back. Alive.

There is more. But this is it for the time being. Will do a longer review towards the end of the year.

B. Wins / Achievements

There were a few wins as well. Here are these.

i. Everest Base Camp Hike. Managed to hike up to the Everest Base Camp.

To me, this is the hardest and coolest thing I’ve ever done. I have posted some photos and stories on Instagram. If you are curious, do check those out. Come to think of it, I was very very sceptical about my ability to do it. But I did it! In fact, I did better than almost everyone that I went with. And one of the outcomes of this hike is that the resolve to do the Everest is now stronger. More on this in subsequent posts.

ii. The daily morning pages that I write? Well, I wrote those every day till I had to leave for EBC. A total of 280 days on the trot. I did not miss a single day. And I restarted as soon as I got back. Since then, I have moved these to email. Lemme know if you would want to get that email. To me, this simple act of doing this every day, even if I was busy, has been the most therapeutic thing ever.

iii. Co-produced yet another short film. This one should be ready for screening / sharing next month. The path we take would be the same as the last one – start with festivals and then try and get it a home at some OTT platform.

Again, the bulk of the work was done by my partner, and I merely financed it. The ambition is that at some point, I will be able to make commercial, large-scale films. These are baby steps to learn, experiment, and get my name out in the market.

iv. Brand workshop for a startup. I ran a brand workshop for a startup. I loved it! More than anything, I love it the most when I work with people to discover things that even they seem to be unaware of. You know, unknown self! I must find a way to do more of these.

So that.
There are some other minor achievements as well.
I shall skip writing about those.

Moving on to the next section. About the shiny new toys that I am excited about.

C. New projects that I am excited about?

So I have just the December to go before 2021 ends. 1 month may not be enough to do a lot of things but here are a few that I want to work on.

i. Lose 2 inches. Right now, I am 35″. I would like to be 33″ at least. For this, I would want to reduce what I eat, get on a lo-carb bandwagon and try and do OMAD. Let’s see how this goes.

ii. Book2. Lol! I plan to take this as the only non-money-making thing I’d do from December onward.

D. What help do I need?

So, there are a few things that I need help with. Here’s a list.

i. Connect me with the biggest hustler you know of. This has been an ask since I have started working on these letters. I define these hustlers as people that are out there. And they are seeking work, doing things that are out of their league, making connections, aiming higher than they’ve ever done, and more. I want to learn from them. And I want to be inspired by them and their stories.

So, please connect.

ii. Keep me away from Naukri. Thing is, since I can remember, I have wanted to stay away from Naukri. And I have pretty much managed to. For that, I have had to juggle as many things as I can. However, this time, I am this close to giving up and taking up a Naukri. I do make enough to get by, but I put in too much effort for too little ROI, and I can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, please help me get “meaningful” work and stay away from Naukri! PLEASE!

In terms of what I can do, in the past, I have worked on producing large-scale events, crafting brand strategy, consulting on digital marketing, ghostwriting, content strategy, and more. I know this sounds scattered but I do have the requisite expertise and demonstrable experience for each. And client references. Both good and bad.

Help me find gigs (freelance only, please) with businesses doing interesting, exciting and impactful things. I want to stay away from the run-of-the-mill stuff, please. 

iii. I want to work with a billionaire. Do you know a dollar billionaire that I could work with? I really really want to work with one. In fact, I am willing to give up on the no-Naukri promise if I get to work with one. I am also willing to give up to 5 years of my life and work on their agenda with as much dedication as you may imagine me to have.

Do you know one?
Can you make connections?
HELP!!!

E. Finally, what can I help you with?

If there is anything that I can help you with, please do let me know. In terms of specifics, there are two things that I can think of.

i. Connecting with others. I believe I have a wide network, and I can find connections where you’d assume they dont exist. In one word, I am a super-connector. I am shameless, and I can knock on the doors and try to open those. For you. To be able to be of help to you. Please let me know in case I could be of use 🙂

ii. I am very resourceful. Plus, I am very handy with marketing, content, writing, the Internet, futurism, emerging technology, and more. If you are stuck on some project, some idea, something, please reach out to me. I would love to be of any assistance / help / inputs / use to you.

***

Guess this is about it from this update.

See you in Jan 2022 with an update on how 2021 was, the plan for 2022, and may be more.

Thank you so much for reading this.
And your patronage and attention.
Means a lot!

Gratitude and respect,
@saurabh
Delhi, 30 Nov 2021

PS: Should you want to give me anonymous feedback on this email (or anything else), please go to https://forms.gle/28bVP8DYz2WGdHdp8. And yes, I LOVE not-so-kind, brutal, and honest feedback.

Here are previous updates from me…
2021 – Annual Goals, Jan-Feb-Mar, Apr-May-Jun, Jul-Aug-Sep-Oct-Nov
2020 – Annual GoalsJanFeb-MarApr-MayJun-Jul-Aug
2019 – AugSepOctNovDec

071121 – Morning Pages

A quick note from how I spent yesterday. It was not the best days per se but I am inspired to make today a better one.

Morning! Straight to the point.

Here’s the journal!

  1. Emoticon: :). Even though I did not get a lot of things done, I was engaged and I was happy. I guess this is cos I met people and talked about work and life.
  2. Mindful Index (on a scale of 10): 1. I am better than zero. And less than 2 of yesterday. I focussed largely on things but I was unable to not context swtich.
  3. Things that I am grateful for
    1. I am able to find things that allow me to create opportunties for myself. This is something that has held be in good stead.
    2. I have access to people that allow me to engage in deep conversations about life and all. I love those. These conversations help me evolve into a better human. I am hoping. And this betterness allows me to help the ones around me do better.
  4. Things that would make my today great
    1. Work. Mr. Garg, you need to buck up, please! There’s a lot open on your plate.
    2. Work. I mean it.
    3. Work. Really.
  5. A daily affirmation.
    I am a superhero and I will save Mr. Garg from drowning into the pile of misery that could potentially fall on his head if he does not work.
  6. Amazing things that happened yesterday? 
    1. I met a client and talked to her about how her podcast can go further. I hope they action it.
    2. Decoding Draupadi took birth. Thanks, PS and CM.
    3. Had these amazing momos at Ladaki at Galleria. You must try em when you are there.
  7. What could have made yesterday better?
    1. I had carbs, late night coffee, wine and I dont know what all. Need to avoid these strictly. I wont be able to control today either – I have a lot to do and I need simulants. Sigh.
    2. While I was checking in the hotel, I lost my shit with the front desk staff. I was tired and all that. I shouldn’t have. #note2self.
  8. Quote for the day
    “Not giving up is the only way to get to where you want to be.” – Harshit

What do I want to add beyond the journal? Quick commentary.

In a broad sense, yesterday was a bad day. I had carbs, coffee, and wine. As a friend quipped, Gurgaon is making me into an alcoholic. So, I am glad this trip is ending soon.

The highlight has to be the epiphany that I am at a place in life where I cant do things by myself. I can only give gyaan and hope others would do things. Along with a few colleagues, I am trying to build up a new idea. On that, the only thing am doing is giving gyaan and I am loving it. The team may hate it but I am on a literal trip. I put in less than 5 minutes a day on it and I can see the ball rolling already. That’s the kind of thing I want to be doing. Guess it’s the age!

The other thing that I want to catalog is that I am no longer taking those copious notes that I was taking till before I left for the Base Camp. Guess I’ve been busy? And no, I dont like this. I dont like not taking notes. I dont want to miss out on things. I want my notes to help me remember things. I want to grab each opportunity. This being busy is great (I am thinking less and executing a lot) but I am not building my repertoire. I need to get back to spending time with my notes / dreams / ideas etc.

Finally, the highlight was that I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with someone about life, age, death, and meaning. I wish I could reproduce it here. In one line, the other person thought I was afraid of dying (I was telling her about my will and my wanting to die the richest man in the world and my Memento Mori wallpaper) and I told her that I am afraid of the uncertainty of the afterlife (if there is one) but I know it is an inevitable end that all of us will have to reach at some point in time. And I told her that death inspires me and tells me that my time is limited and I need to act. Actually must write more on this. Let’s see when I get to do this. Adding to #toWrite list.

Ok enough for the day. Need to get going. Need to crunch a week-long worth of things into one day. Let’s see how I do this. May the force be with me. 

As I end this, here’s the streaks…

  • OMAD – 0. Lol!
  • #book2 – 0
  • NOFAP – 0
  • #noCoke – 4. Yay!
  • #noCoffee – 0
  • #aPicADay – o
  • Daily Journal – 31
  • Money spent – 2999
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 0
  • Daily Mail to #teamSG – 31
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0.
  • Minimaslism Counter – -3 +1.
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 31