I write about a snafu with a plan to work from a Starbucks on a Saturday.
8:38. Woke up at around 6 to the sounds of mad thunder. Like I’ve never experienced before. ever. Nature is furious for some reason. There must’ve been lightning as well but I can’t see that from my hall where I sleep. For the ones curious, I do have a bedroom but it has a bed and I like the idea of sleeping on the floor. So that.
Anyhow. The plan today was to camp at a Starbucks and write till they throw me out. I even prepared my bag last night. The way I would do when I used to go to school decades ago. While I was waking up, I made a mental checklist of things that I will get done. I decided that I will try and avoid coffee as it gives me jitters if I don’t eat something with it and I want to avoid Starbucks’ food. I even told myself that I will celebrate once I come back from Starbucks with some snack or something.
As I heard the thunder crashing around me, I lazed a little more than I would have. To a point that it was 7:45. However, I wanted to reach Starbucks at 8 sharp to make the most of today. Thus I decided to skip the shower. Something uncharacteristic. You know how I am. I may be dying but I need my shower. At least once. Even if water is ice-cold. Or worse, weak lukewarm. But today I skipped it. Today’s that important for me and my writing.
So I skipped the shower. Put on fresh undies. Packed an extra tee in my bag, lest I get wet in the crazy rain out there. Thing is, I refuse to buy an umbrella. In all these years I’ve been in Mumbai, I’ve owned an umbrella maybe once. Too much hassle. Am happier in the rain.
So, I step out. Can’t spot a rick. It has started to rain. I cross the road. See one coming from the opposite direction. That’s the thing with Mumbai – you can find public transport easily. I flag it. Get in it. Take a longish route to reach Starbucks I go to often. I want to be mentally ready for the long day ahead. I am thinking about the chills I would get from the AC. I decide that I have an extra tee. I may layer up if need be. I am thinking about all the regular patrons that I see at Starbucks. I make my mind that I will try to nod at people and all that.
While am lost in these thoughts, I reach Starbucks. I see from the outside that it’s empty af. Why not. It’s 8:05. People in Andheri / Versova don’t wake up that early. They are up till late – they have to be – that’s the nature of the work they do. Most times Starbucks is that empty at that hour.
And then as I enter, the guard tells me Starbucks is shut.
For a few seconds, I couldn’t comprehend what he said. I was like what do you mean shut? It’s at least 8:10. I can see the lights in full glory. There’s staff puttering in there. One of the Barista’s I know arrives at the entrance announces – it’s the weekend.
I was like, “So?”
She’s like, “Sir, weekends we can’t be open.”
WHAT. THE. FUCK! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!
The brain had started to function by now. Of course, the advisory of the government prohibits public places to stay open on weekends. I was like, WHAT THE FUCK!
All the weekend plans went down with the baarish and the advisory.
And here I am. At 8:38. 8:56 now. Ranting about this snafu.
I am so so so depressed that I am dumping shit into my system (eating things that I should not – you know, stress eating) and chewing on a chewing gum like it’s an enemy that I want to maim like I’ve never wanted to harm anyone ever!
It sucks how life gives you lemons when you least expect it to. Suckerpunched.
I really want to get a lot of things done and I can’t get good work while I am stuck in the four walls of this apartment. I wish I could check into a business hotel or something. I wish I was living out of Rove in Dubai – the perfect hotel for someone like me. Fairly ok rooms. Great vibe in the common area.
Now that I am stuck here, let’s see what I can achieve. I plan to work on the following today (in the order of priority)…
And then if I have some time left, get some work for one or two projects that I am on.
Most of these are around writing. Which I thought would be breezy since I am at my most effective as a writer when I am at a Starbucks! Now that I am not there, let’s see how many of these do I get in. Will report during the day. Or may be tomorrow. Again, I won’t be able to go to a Starbucks and thus will have to lower my expectations. Sigh!
Oh, now that I am back, I can actually get that shower that I skipped. May be. Maybe not.
Lazy post on how I spent yesterday and other things at the top of my mind. Mostly rant.
8:44. Woke up a while ago. Was tossing around in the bed. I just did not want to get out of bed. Plus I know I can’t go to Starbucks today – I have a few meetings that need me to be at a quiet place. So am stuck in the four walls. So that’s dampening the spirits this Friday. Plus, I am probably oversleeping. I am definitely sleeping more than 8 hours for sure. I mean, last night, I was in the bed around 11 and today I woke up way past 8!
Anyhow. So here we are. Lemme recount the day.
-Starbucks. Black Coffee. Venti. -Work. Various projects, including the book. -Phone Calls. -Back to the house. -Ate like a hog. I had decided that I will fast but I had three full meals yesterday. After I don’t know how long. I even ate bread! I loved it! I also realised how much I love crunchy things (I had some croutons with a soup). Can’t wait for this Keto plan to get over. Can’t wait to get back to Maggi and Rice and Ice-cream and all that. -Talked to a marketer about the marketing podcast. LOVED IT! More than anything, the guy was brilliant. More about it in a few days. -More work. -More work calls. -Published a 3000-word review of Mare of Easttown. -More work. -Recorded a podcast with an investor for the investing podcast. LOVED it again! I think my happiness is in talking to people and living in that moment. Need to fill life with more opportunities to talk to people. Fuck, as I write this, I realize, I even felt the post-event depression that I have written about in the past! I was so fried that I needed to be with someone or maybe on the road. But no friends, no cars. So, I ate :D. -On a whim, saw the first episode of Fauda. Was exactly the mindless action-inducing piece of cinema that I love! I may actually see more. -And then, sleep!
Yeah, it was a long day. No, I did not so as much work. It just looks like a lot.
So that. Ok, what else? My mind’s so blank and bare that am having a hard time thinking about what to write :D. Let’s see.
Ok. Roam. So lately, I find myself using Roam a lot more than I was previously. Roam has now become the first place where I plan things, make todos, take notes, and all that. And I see that it is really evolving into the second brain of sorts. To a point that I now run a search on Roam before I talk to people about projects and things. I think this is the longest I have stuck to a note-taking tool. Let’s see how the usage it after a few months.
Novel Writing The MOOC am doing is lagging like crazy. I will probably use the weekend to work on it.
SoG Book The goal for June was to ship SoG book. I haven’t done shit about it. Again, probably the weekend project.
Book2 Each day as I write this post and I look at the world, I realize that the world gives far more credence to what you’ve done and not what you say you would do. Which is of course common knowledge. And expected. I’ve been thinking about writing a film, a book, and I don’t know what all. But I never find the time. May be I am merely lying to myself? Maybe I don’t have it in me? May be am fooling myself that I can go through the grind of writing! I have to prove myself wrong and churn out the book or the script ASAP! Pronto! Damn, no amount of self-motivation is helping 🙁
May be I will earmark one day in the week, say Sunday to just writing this? I know it doesn’t work like this but I have way too much work and I need that work to pay the bills.
Damn, how to balance the call of creativity and majboori of money?
I think tomorrow I must wake up at 7 (lemme put an alarm), get ready and be at Starbucks at dot 8. Park myself there till about 4 or as long as they are open (since I dont have any calls planned and thus it’s cool with the ambient noise) and get these things out of the way. Most of the things I need done are anyway “creative” and thus I will be in the ideal zone to do so.
And while I do so, I will switch off my phone and other such distractions and just write, write and write. And of course, let the coffee run amok in my system!
Sounds like a plan. Let’s see how it goes.
Guess this is about it for the day. Here’s streaks…
Mare of Easttown – Unbiased review of the HBO hit featuring Kate Winslet. And deconstruction from the lens of a writer.
I finally saw what everyone seems to be raving about – Mare of Easttown. The hit HBO show has Kate Winslet in the lead role. She is supported by some million other characters, each pivotal for the story. And each actor seems to have delivered their roles as good as Kate has, if not better.
And in one line, Mare was a treat to watch!
Let’s get on with the review. And, spoiler alert 🙂
So what is ‘Mare of Easttown’ all about?
If I were to write the logline, it would go like…
Set in a small-town America, a middle-aged cop, troubled by her personal and professional demons is thrown into a murder case that threatens to rip the town apart.
When a young girl is found dead, the shockwaves rip the life in an American small town. Caught in the middle is this middle-aged cop that has her own inner demons – both personal and professional.
However, the one on IMDB is, “A detective in a small Pennsylvania town investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart”.
So, before I launch in the review, as a marketer and storyteller, lemme try and deconstruct the logline in a ‘checklist’ of sorts where I list down things that I expect from a pot-boiler. Unless some 80% of things on this list are checked, I know I wouldn’t want to binge on it. I wouldn’t enjoy seeing it and the time I spend there wouldn’t be worth it!
A small-town in America. That means everyone knows everyone. And that by itself creates exceptional drama. We know this because of all the films and TV pieces we’ve seen about America! You want a setting, a milieu as they call it in the parlance that has potential for great drama. By the virtue of its design. I mean in The Godfather, you know that it’s going to be a story of Mafia and will have strong familiar tones. You thus already know what kind of film it would be. Mare’s story is set in an American small town and it probably would have a hyperlink story with complex relationships between various characters. In the case of Mare? Check!
A detective trying to keep her life together. We can thus expect plenty of drama in terms of relationships with her family and close friends. There would be all emotions at display – love, affection, jealously, misunderstanding, insinuations, and more. Check!
A murder of a local girl. You already know that someone from the town is involved. You can already guess that the murderer would probably be related to the lead protagonist. You know that the investigation would wedge another split in her already broken life. Wow! Immense scope for drama. Check!
Without reading more from the logline, you know that such a story would have a string of murders (and not just one). Ooooh, exciting. Check.
You can further predict that there would be a few Red Herrings thrown in there for you to you chew on and get blind-sighted by. Not sure of this before you see it!
As an intelligent audience member, you know that there would be turns and twists and the plot would be a rollercoaster in terms of ups and downs. You would be on the same ride with the protagonist. That’s what an epic piece of cinema does to you! Again, I can’t be sure unless I see the first episode or something.
So I have 4 checks out of 6. Not bad!
Now. Coming to the 7-episode, limited-edition series on HBO (and available on Hotstar in India).
Kate Winslet plays Mare Sheehan, an early 50ish (or may be in her late 40s) woman with a complicated life — Has a love-hate relationship with the place where she’s literally spent all her life; Personal life is in shambles – grandmother already, divorced (and the ex-husband living next door and getting married again soon), constantly bickering with her mother; Professionally, is righteous, mostly good and yet has a year-old kidnapping case that she’s been unable to solve.
From the opening scene of the first episode, you are sucked deep into her world. It’s very well. You have a tough time understanding the complex shades that each character seems to have. You are left wondering, even flustered. But it’s intriguing enough for you to invest your time and brains in decoding all that’s on the screen.
You know that Mare is a no-nonsense, short-fused cop. You see shades of flaw in her characters. You see her world through her lens and through the fourth wall. The husband moving in next door, with clearly a better woman alongside. The lifetime she’s spent in the town. The corner she seems to have painted herself and how she’s pushed her own family on the brink. The conflict in her life and the story is revealed – the case that she can’t seem to solve. The town, her friends, and more importantly, she herself seem to carry the burden of the unsolved case.
And when the cliffhanger for the first episode comes in, you are in for a treat.
The second episode opens with somber music. Probably the only piece of music that I thought was noteworthy. Mare knows the girl who’s died.
Lemme digress for a bit here. Pre COVID, I used death and dying loosely. The first book I wrote? It was bloodier than the whole of The Game of Thrones and had more corpses than the number of words in it. However, after COVID, I have changed a bit. Death has more meaning for me than life has ever had. It sucks that when you die, you are reduced to figments of imagination and the pile of clothes that once carried you and was part of your identity.
I loved the scene where Mare is forced to announce the death to the father of the girl. More than Mare, the actor that has played the father of the deceased has done a fabulous job! I literally welled up. This scene I thought was one of the best pieces of writing in the whole of Mare. Imagine you are woken up by a knock on the door. You are hungover and there’s the town cop and your cousins on the door. What would you imagine happened?
And of course, you expect the father to do what he would does in the cliffhanger for the second episode! And no, just because it is predictable, it does not mean that it’s not done well!
By the time you start with the third episode, you start seeing the “real” characters. Mare is transformed into an aged woman and she looks worn out. You see her mother taking her revenge on poor fruits on Fruit Ninja. Mare’s daughter is confused. The side cop asks Mare if there’s “anybody you are not related to”. Everyone in the town is torn and starts to look like a suspect!
This is exactly how hyperlink cinema should be.
Till this point, I was in awe of the writing. However, my enthusiasm dampened when they used the typically lazy device of an anonymous tip to move the story forward.
But then they redeemed when they made Mare do something unpredictable, something uncharacteristic. Something that will have dire consequences for Mare. Something that she could have avoided if only she did not take that action. It exposes the flaws in Mare as a human and by this time, I am in love with her!
The fourth episode opens with Mare’s mother asking if she was going to work late when Mare (and all of us viewers) know that she wasn’t going to! Then, she and her best friend Lor are sitting on a park bench. The bench, if you spotted it, is dedicated to Mare’s father. They even paused the camera there for a split second. Such tiny details are what appeal to the subconscious!
When Mare leans on Lor in the same scene, the dark writer in me is thinking, either Lor’s going to die a gruesome death or they would split soon thereafter. This fleeting thought moves on as you start seeing Mare as a reflection of yourself – someone harsh on self for no reason!
At this point, to be honest, I started losing interest. There are way too many Red Herrings and I found myself checking my phone a lot. I even played a few games of Chess while I waited for the story to move ahead.
PS: A little spoiler here. In case you are like and want to quit, please carry on. If you do, you will be rewarded handsomely in the end. There’s a brilliant ending that I can bet my ass on that you can’t guess what’s in store for you! At least for all the intelligence that I think I am blessed with, I couldn’t figure it out.
A large part of the fifth episode is Mare trying to cope with her past. While you see a lot of her family’s history and you tend to understand what has shaped her. You want to empathize with her but there’s way too many narrations and you feel like you are listening to an old woman rant on and on about the mistakes she’s made in her life.
I wished the writers could help the action rise in this episode but it was anything but that. The story skirts sideways for forever, into the personal lives of people that you are no longer interested in. You want to move on with it. There are more urgent matters at hand. You know, murders are happening that need solving!
Just when I decide that I’ve had enough of this and I was about to turn it off, the story takes a turn. You know how the plane crawls on the runway before it starts to run and then lift off? That. I felt that jolt towards the end of this episode. It came out of nowhere and suddenly, the story was as invigorated as it was in the first two episodes!
From the sixth episode onward, I was so involved with the story and the action and the screen in front of me that I stopped taking notes. My hyperactive mind is making scenarios where Mare’s daughter will probably get hurt. I even postulated in my head that Mare’s love interest would be revealed as the perp. Of course, I was wrong!
The case starts to crack open. While Mare remains unaware of who and why the audience is told about the secret. As a viewer, my interest is now to see Mare find her way and reach the conclusion. The curiosity is more on how than who. This shift in perspective from where both the audience and the protagonist in dark to where just the protagonist is now struggling is done really well. The transition is done so well that you don’t even realize that you have crossed the chasm and Mare is now all alone!
Of course, while you are sort of comforted by the knowledge of the crime, you continue to see Mare continue to struggle and make progress. She’s chipping away at a large boulder, trying to carve a picture out of it. One strike at a time. Like in most good cop stories, there is a lot of hard work, a lot of hustle, and of course, some luck.
As you start the seventh episode, you see Mare make connections. She seems to get closure on the case at hand. And of course, on the case that has been bugging her forever. More than just Mare, all other characters that are affected by the incidents tend to get closure.
Lemme talk about this for a bit. There is so much closure in the story that it’s unreal. I mean as a filmmaker, it’s your job to deliver closure to the characters and to the audience but this much closure? I wish they had left a few open ends, a few open windows. It would probably have made me take a little more note and invest a little more of myself into the story.
Oh, by the end of it, Mare makes a discovery that will leave you shocked, even gasping for breath for a bit. You would feel that you have redeemed the 7 hours you’ve invested in it. I wish I could write about it but I will have to let this hang in the air for you to discover and enjoy the journey with Mare! And if I may, please do go for it. You will enjoy it!
👍 👍 What works well?
This list runs into pages! Let me try and write about the top 4 things.
1. Very very well-developed characters. Even the minor ones seem to have well-defined backstories and arcs. Most importantly, each character has a reason. There is not one character that is not needed to complete the narrative. Further, the presence of each character feels just right. You know, it’s like knowing a community intimately!
2. Acting. I could not spot one actor that has not performed well. Each actor felt natural. Each conversation felt real. To a point that at one time I forgot that I was watching a TV drama. It looked so real as if someone had planted cameras into a real small town somewhere deep in America!
3. A, B, C, … Y, Z stories. In any story that runs into such a length, you better have multiple threads and stories running in parallel. While Mare is Mare Sheehan’s story, each character has a story or two. Even in Mare’s story, there’s a B story and a C story and more! There is no way you would not get invested in it!
4. Detail. There are so many tiny things that add texture to the character and the story. In the second episode, Mare is getting ready for a date and she can’t find a lipstick that she likes! I mean this one tiny detail tells you so much about Mare that a whole book can! Then, throughout the series, the phone Mare uses has a smashed screen. I mean it’s such an insignificant detail and yet tells you so much!
👎 👎 What could have been better?
There are very few things that I can point that damned red flag at. I think two things could’ve been better…
1. Music. Definitely. In my opinion, a great whodunnit is made legendary by the music it has. You know, how the jitters you get when you see a shocking scene are amplified by the music? I found that missing with Mare.
2. Tighter editing. The episodes in the messy middle felt dragged. Like I said, I found myself checking my phone a lot during the middle episodes. It’s like anything else. The beginning is euphoric. The end is ecstatic. The middle is, well, exhausting.
Mind you, I am not talking about the writing per se. It would make for a brilliant read. But on screen, the parts in the middle look bloated!
In the end…
Finally, when I evaluate stories and content, I ask myself two questions.
A, does it shift something in you as a human being? And B, are you haunted by it after years?
I mean I saw Nomadland recently (read my review here) and something shifted in me. Breaking Bad continues to haunt me. While I may not remember a lot, I can’t get over the characters like Walter White, Heisenberg, Saul, and more. I continue to have a soft spot for Walter and I am willing to excuse his actions. Images from Parasite are still fresh in my head. Closer home, a Joji has stayed with me. The nuances it had captured are deep and intricate. From The Godfather, even though it’s been decades, I still get the chills when I think about the wrath of the Corleones. As I write, I am thinking about what would Don Vito be like when he was still not Don.
In case of Mare, I find both these missing.
And this is why I would stop at a 3.5 on 5 for Mare. And not go up to a 4 or more.
I just hope Kate Winslet fans wouldn’t come after me for this apparent sacrilege.
With that, its the end of this post. Do let me know what you think of Mare of Easttown and if you were to review it, how would you.
Over and out!
Edits / notes / observations / comments…
Ankit is of the opinion that this piece has come out way too indulgent. I dont know what to say. Too many “I”s 😀
Akanksha points out few things. Two of those that I am taking note of are… A, this is way too long. I agree. And B, is while the crime is the subtext, the story is more about relationships – Mare’s personal life, her relationship with others around her, of other people and their interactions, and more. I agree. I missed this thread completely. To a point that I missed seeing Mare from the angle of it being a relationship-first story (and not a crime story).
Quick post on a lazy day about things at the top of my head. Lot of transactional stuff. You may skip reading this.
8:58. Woke up a few minutes ago. Slept at I think 1 or so but I did have an Americano at around 8 last night. Guess that’s why I had a fitful night. So on with today’s post. Like yesterday, I will try to not context switch. The music is set. I made a list of what I want to write about. I don’t have a lot of time – I know I am late today and I need to start the day and all that but I don’t have any pressing engagements today so I can take it easy. I may even go to a Starbucks. I did not enjoy, to be honest, that I worked from the home house last night.
Here we go. Will use bullets…
A. So, I restarted on an old project yesterday where I am helping a senior from the IT industry with his biography. It is very very interesting and exciting and I really enjoy the grind when I work on it. In fact, in life, if I can get more projects like that, I would be really happy. Of course, this means that the next few days weeks would be crazy but that’s ok. It’s the kind of craziness that I like 🙂
B. Saw this video yesterday where someone has summarised James Clear’s Atomic Habits. One of the things that stayed with me is Warren Buffett’s advice on the 5/25 rule. In one line, it says that you must make a list of 25 of your long-term goals and focus on the top 5 and put the other 20 in the do NOT do / focus list. I think I must make such a list soon! I also have a fairly limited number of years left and I am craving for some success and all that. Must think about this over the next few days. So that.
C. I plan to get back to life and the world from today on. I am of course out there and working and all that but I have kept a low profile. As low as someone like me possibly can. I mean I am off Twitter, Insta, and all that. I know that I need to be out there and working and all that and it’s important for both personal and professional growth. Most of my opportunities have come to me just because I was on these platforms constantly. And I know that the doors I open today get me opportunities after literally decades!
D. I am also recording a podcast after a few weeks today. Let’s see how it goes. I can’t say I am fully prepared but I enjoy talking to people and podcasts are an important step towards that.
E. LHV is finding it tough. More on this some other day.
F. Thanks to the rain and all that yesterday, the second meal of the day did not arrive at all. I could’ve not had food after that but all the coffee I had made me jittery and I had to order something to get over. Ordered myself a Peanut Butter Mousse. Dying with guilt. There’s no way I’ll lose weight or climb Mt. Everest. I clearly can’t work out. The arm is still shaky after the vaccine last Saturday, so no Yoga. I can’t control what I eat. Grrrr…
Ok, I plan to try and fast today. At least not order anything for as long as I can control. Let’s see how it goes.
G. I am lagging on Write Your First Novel. I plan to take it up today. I am late on Mare’s review. I started the post but I couldn’t find the inspiration, even though I really want to do it. I think I must clearly slot these into weekends or after work hours. As life gets busier, I need to find a way to get more strict with time. I mean I am as strict as they come but I need to go another step now. I must not not do a single thing that is not on my calendar and if I miss something, I miss it. I will not try to fit it in during the day.
So that’s about it for day. Kaafi transactional details but that’s what is on the top of my head.
Wait. While writing this, an epiphany happened. None of these talk about my work as a marketer. And that means a good thing and a bad thing. Good in the sense that work to me is a problem to be solved, a thing to be done, a transaction that I dont care about. Bad in the sense that if I dont write about it, people I work with dont know about it and thus I remain away from opportunities. I mean I know that what I do is not really a long-term thing that I want to do. I’d rather build something that scales and impacts the world but the path to that seems to be missing. I think I am not even sure if I will ever be on that path – I am way too old and the world is way too complex now. Ok, I am getting in the rant zone. Lemme stay away from that.
A longish post about how I spent the day yesterday, things I did and how I felt as I went about them.
8:29. Was up a few minutes ago. Made my bed, opened the windows, got some water, and switched on the computer. And here I am. I will try to write this one without switching context. Let’s see how I fare. I will keep a tab of interruptions and what triggered that.
Yesterday was interesting for a lot of reasons. Lemme recap and then I will write more. So for starters, I went to Starbucks and spent almost half a day there. More on this in a bit. Then I came back and ate (once in the day! yay!). Remember the keyboard I wrote about? I found it! Wedged next to the bookshelf! Then I worked and worked and worked and worked till about 10. And then I slept. While sleeping, I felt like a machine that started in the morning, worked till the day ended, and then shut down. The joy felt missing. I mean the joy is in work itself, to be honest, and I enjoy most things I do. But as I was trying to get sleep (around 11), I wished there was more. May be this is the loneliness that they talk about that people my age suffer from? You know, the ones that don’t have a significant other? I won’t know.
Moving to specifics.
Starbucks. So I went to the Starbucks I go to often. I got myself a Venti Americano and settled into the spot that I used to sit at. In the first 10 minutes while I was there, I realized it was going to be a good good day. In the sense that I will get a lot done. I will be in the zone. I will do better things.
And I did. I felt the spring in my step. I made difficult calls. I was on a literal roll!
Now that I know this and it has dawned onto me this well, I think wherever I go, I will have to find a place like Starbucks to work from. I will invest in a place (as in pay a fee or something). May be a WeWork. It would become a large variable when I choose the place where I want to be. When in Goa, even Clay was not plush enough for my taste. Felix probably was. Just that phone / Internet wouldn’t work there. Plus those places are not built for virtual calls.
Oh, and I will start calling this the ‘Starbucks Effect on Work’. Related is Coffee Effect on Sleep. Like I couldn’t fall asleep easily last night when I tried. And then I woke during the night. Guess that’s all the coffee in me playing a spoilsport.
Next up. Now that I am fully vaccinated and all that, I plan to be in Delhi for a few days towards the end of Jun. I know my work would get affected while I am there – I won’t have the space to work from and I would have to live in a small house with my parents. But I think my parents deserve a break and work can wait. No, they’ve not told me that they want me to live with them. It’s just that I want to. Most times, I make more than 6 trips to Delhi a year. This time around, it’s been tough. I remember I was in Delhi in March of last year. And then around Diwali. It’s been more than 7 months and I think I owe them one. So that.
In other news, I saw that Vikramaditya Motwane Sir is doing a session where he would listen to pitches from aspiring authors. I think I will participate in that and try my luck. In case you are a filmmaker and reading this by mistake, do see this. In fact, thanks to TRS sessions, I have come to love what he’s as a person. I am lucky that I get some behind-the-scenes time with him and thus I know that he’s probably one of the best-meaning filmmakers that I know of. I must must make friends with him. If only wishes had wings!
Finally, the thing that I want to write about is WWDC21. Apple’s flagship event for developers. While I did not catch the event per se but the buzz made me stop and see what all they presented. And it’s amazing how they do it. They make seemingly simple things sound so grand that you are left in awe. I think there are a lot of lessons in there for me as a person, for brands, and for businesses. I mean see the below two videos and tell me you are not impressed!
Damn Steve! What a brilliant organization you created! I am in perpetual awe of you.
Ok, the other person that I want to talk about who I am in awe of? Jeff Bezos! He announced that he’s going to space. In a rocket that one of his companies designed. Along with his brother. I mean WTF! The most epic example of eating your own shit! A part of me is amazed at his dareness. Another part is scared. What if something happens? I mean the odds are pretty high! We lost Steve randomly. Dont think I want to lose Jeff. Or Bill. Or Warren for that.
I know I know I am trying to abstain from Hero Worship but these are the men that actually show others (and more importantly me) that there’s more to life than Ram Mandir! I sincerely wish I end up like that – where my conduct and my life and my work inspires others.
But wait. What about the epic laziness that I am ingrained with? Lemme give an example. Last night, once I was done with all the work and wailing in my loneliness (that I wrote about above), I realized that I don’t have water. And I drink a lot of water. Like a lot. Some 10 liters a day. I am not exaggerating. So I needed water. And I did have a 20-liter jar that I just had to open and pour into a dispenser. And what did I do? Ordered 4 1-liter bottles of water. Such a waste of money and plastic. Only to save me the discomfort of pouring water into a dispenser. Lol!
Ok. After this 10,000 kilometers of a rant, coming to the real thing that I am thinking a lot about. My angel investing syndicate that I am doing with Akash and Anubhab. We call itLong Haul Ventures (LHV).
The thesis there is simple. We want to be long-term partners for young founders that often find themselves alone. You know the ones that aren’t from an IIT-IIM etc. The ones that dont really have a pedigree to gather interest for the bets they are making. The ones that often find themselves alone and in a corner. I don’t want to call them underdogs. Idea is to give them a shoulder to stand on!
It’s been my life’s mission to enable others to do more. LHV is yet another step in that direction. This time, in a little more structured manner. With people who are smarter than me (both share initials – AG and AG). And of course, for the super long-term. Most of the work I will do on LHV will reap fruits after 5-10 years. But I am committed. With my time, money, energy, and even reputation.
So, while there are a few long-term goals we are chasing, I do have a short-term objective to meet as well. I am helping close the first deal by helping a startup raise capital.
And I am learning that it’s tough as fuck! Tougher than raising money for your own startup. For your startup, the friends and family that invest in? They are backing you and your passion and your dreams. Here, they are backing a stranger’s dream and all they have is your word!
Each person you ask for money (and support the startup) has a million questions about you and your thesis and all that. The questions are deep and pointed (as they must be) and they make you feel naked. You have to bare your heart and soul. Some of these questions are so tough that you don’t know what to say. But you need to do it. Right? Yeah!
So that. It’s a new thing and I know it’s a long, hard road I am on. Let’s see how long can I tread on it.
Guess that’s about it. It’s 9:24. A little less than an hour. And 1400 words! Wow! Maybe I had a lot to write. Or may be I did not switch context a lot. Oh, I kept a list. Here…
Music (needed something to play in the background)
Whatsapp (had to ask a few friends about a trip before I goto Delhi)
Someone at the door
Well done, Mr. Garg. You deserve a break! Go call your Pavlovian response mechanism to go berserk.
You, dear reader, deserve a break as well. Go, live your best life.
PS: Here’s streaks…
Morning Pages / Meditations – 178
#aPicADay – 0
10K steps a day – 0
OMAD – 1. Did not plan to. It just happened.
#noCoffee – 0
#noCoke – 90
10 mins of meditation – 0
#book2 – 0
Killer Boogie – 0
Surya Namaskar – 0
PPS: And here’s what Hemingway has to say about this piece…
A write about a keyboard that has gone missing from the matchbox that I live in. Help me find it?
7:53 AM. I woke up about 10 minutes ago. Like the last few days, I woke up groggy and all that. Even my back hurts for some reason. I need to really figure this out. Or may not. I mean it’s probably the age. So it’s cool. However the soreness is almost gone, so that’s a good thing. I must say this vaccine shot has made me realize where I stand with my health. I did not have any adverse side effects (except drowsiness that made it impossible for me to stay awake). I need to do a lot if I want to climb Everest and live till 120! Anyhow.
So the thing on top of my head is a Bluetooth Keyboard that I recently bought to help me work better. It’s a Targus keyboard that is small enough that I can carry it in a backpack and big enough to be comfortable. Plus it’s wireless, BT, and doesn’t need a USB connection. With the MacBook Air I use the number of posts is a challenge (just 2, and only USB C type) and thus I needed a BT keyboard. And I got. I even touted it as the best 1200 odd bucks I spent in a long long time.
However, the keyboard is gone missing.
In the 200 sq ft space I live in, all I have is a writing table, some unopened cartons of books, a book shelf and a kitchen. And yet I can’t find the keyboard. Plus I am not the one to lose things often and yet I can’t seem to find it. I have looked at every inch of the place. While I am pissed at my carelessness, the larger emotion at play is amazement – where could this keyboard even go?
As a kid, I really wanted to be a detective. I was very very inspired by Byomkesh, Crystal Maze, Super Commando Dhruv, and all the other early things that I consumed as a child. At that age, I knew that I would go on to become a detective. I think that’s how I probably developed a questioning mind. Maybe that’s the hidden reason why I write crime-fiction. You know, commit a crime and then solve it 😀
I really want to solve this one. The keyboard has to be within this room – it can’t step out by itself. The only person that has access to its space is the domestic help – she comes like twice a week. Of course, she’s beyond suspicion. I have unequivocal trust in her.
No, I dont think there are any trained monkeys that could climb up to the 8th floor and take the keyboard away.
There is no incentive for anyone else. It’s a simple Bluetooth keyboard that is of no use to anyone. It’s just irksome that it has gone missing. It’s a thing now. I really have to find it. Throw me scenarios? ideas? Where could it be?
While I was working late last night, I realized something interesting. Something negative and yet awesome. I can’t work without task switching. In the sense that I was working on a client project and I had to write a memo. While I was doing that, I kept switching to Whatsapp to Twitter to News to Youtube to I dont know what else. This is such a bad way to get things done. With all this context switching, there’s no way I’d be able to get into deep work and deliver better output. In a world where we are known by our output if I cant deliver great work, what’s the point?
I have tried meditation – I used to be a regular (2-3 times a week) till early last month but I haven’t been doing it lately. Maybe I need to get back to it. Let’s see. As I type this post, I am trying to not switch to any other window. Except tinkering with the music playing in the background (which is allowed). I think I must get more conscious and more mindful about being in the moment. I must catch myself every time I spot myself switching tasks.
Oh, I just saw, I’ve put a sticky note on the wall in front of me where I’ve written: “DO NOT SWITCH”! Lol!
So that. Something that needs working on.
Finally, last but not the least, I plan to work from a Starbucks till about 3 today. I dont have any important calls planned today. This means that I am ok with the background noise on whatever other calls I will get. So that’s cool. I was honestly in two minds because going to a Starbucks means spending 400 bucks on coffee that I am anyway trying to abstain from. But then I think the caffeine and the money are the tax I will have to pay to get more things done. You know, anything for higher productivity.
So, let’s see how the day goes. Wish me luck!
Morning Pages / Meditations – 177
#aPicADay – 0
10K steps a day – 0
OMAD – 0
#noCoffee – 2. I plan to work from a Starbucks. And that means I will have a coffee!
A rant on how I am unable to make decisions about life and things and work and all that.
7:28. Woke up a few minutes ago. I literally sleepwalked through the weekend. I remain groggy enough though enough water has been splashed in the eyes. Guess it was the side effect of the vaccine that I took on Saturday. I mean I don’t have any fever or anything but there’s sluggishness for sure. Maybe it’s because I am trying to stay away from coffee. Or maybe because I haven’t stepped out of the house in a few days. And no Surya Namaskar. I dont know the cause but I know that I am not feeling great as I wake up.
Anyhow, as the lights turn on in my head and the body starts to function, here are the things that are at the top of my head today.
A. Mare’s review. Yesterday, I finished watching Mare’s story and tried to write a review and I am struggling with it. It’s way too tough than how I imagined it would be. This is one of those series that I want the review well. May be a pitch to some international publications. But I can’t seem to get the words. I know what I want to say but when I put it on the paper, I cant seem to find the right flow or the words. Damn!
B. The mile-long to-do list from work. Even though I tried to close the last week with nothing on my plate per se, I do realize that I have quite a few things that I need to work on. And that means today’s gonna be a busy busy day. Which is ok. I am just hoping and trying that I dont get myself a coffee.
Ok, wait. Apparently, Starbucks is open for dine-in from today. Till I think 4 or 5 PM. And that means that I can sit from there and work. If that is the case, I will probably end up having a coffee (or two), you know the tax for sitting out of an outlet and working! But if it’s open, I will be really really glad. At least I will have a place to go. And I will have probably get more work done. Plus, I for one can’t wait to be outdoors, to meet people, to bump into strangers into a crowd and observe them and silently judge them and all that.
In fact I feed off the energy of other people and this is the opportunity to get the mojo back (you know, its been missing for a while). So that.
C. The live in Mumbai or Goa or elsewhere decision is not coming in easy. I dont think I have ever thought this much about things before making the move. I remember every time I have moved, I just took a decision in the snap of a finger and moved. I even lost what was probably the love of my life when I moved first from Mumbai to Delhi. After that, the moving decisions have been easy. Each triggered by opportunities or the lack thereof. But each has been easy. This time I am not sure. On one side I want to move – get away from the humdrum and disappointments of my life. On the other, I want to stay to create more opportunities. I am not sure. This one decision occupies my head a lot these days.
I read somewhere that I need to take decisions that make me choose the tougher alternative. Here are some bullet points that I am thinking about…
I know that in the long run I dont want to be in India. I know that I like meeting interesting people. So I have to be at a place where I can meet interesting people. I don’t want to be at a village or a small town for sure.
I know that I want to at some point make films. As a writer and a producer. Maybe as a director. I dont know that. I like the idea of telling stories. So I have to be in Mumbai. Or LA ;P
I need to deliver on work on my plate. If I live in Goa, I may not be able to. At least I don’t find the internet or the phone working well. Everyone else seems to be ok but for some reason, I am jinxed.
I know that I can create opportunities but I take a long long time to do that. You know, like a slow burn. Most of my work comes from relationships that I take almost forever to develop. If I move to a new place, I am not sure if I’d be able to create work fast enough to justify the move.
So that. You see my quandary.
D. A trip to Delhi. Now that I am vaccinated with both doses and my parents have been vaccinated, I need to make a trip back to Delhi. Been a while since I’ve met them. I think as I am aging, I am getting more and more emotional about people, life, things, and all that.
In fact, as I look back at life, I realise that I was always this rock on the outside but mushy squishy thing on the inside. So while I refuse to admit that I dont care for emotional constructs in life, at a deeper level, I think, I do.
Nah, I dont admit this ever but now that I have decided to live in public, what the heck.
E. The Food Dreams. So I am on this fancy Keto meal plan till about the 15th of this month. That means I am bored of eating variations of Paneer. And I have these fancy dreams of eating carbs – you know Pizza, Dal, Breads, Chips. Mmm!
I’ve never been a foodie per se to be honest. I mean I like the idea of eating good food and I enjoy when I eat something well made but I am not the one to seek culinary pleasures. With these recurring dreams of carbs-laden food, I am not sure what my body is telling me!
Anyhow, I am abstaining from eating other things than the dabba I get. Till at least I have subscribed to this plan. No, I am not losing weight if you are curious about that. Maybe these guys that I have subscribed to don’t make Keto compliant meals? No, I don’t plan to renew the meals. Way too expensive. and not working for me at least. The only good thing that has happened is that I don’t have to think and order every time. Plus I am not eating any kachra. So that in itself is a good thing!
So yeah. Guess that’s about it for the day. Here’s what Hemingway thinks of this piece…
Unlike the last few days, a leisurely post where I write about things on top of my head, hoping to get clarity. No, no clarity happened but.
8:34 AM. Woke up a few minutes ago.
After two-three days of non-activity, I am back. To a point that I am rearing to write. Like you know, put my keyboard on fire! Lol!
So without any ado, let’s go!
In terms of updates, here are the things that are at the top of my head.
1. I got the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. Yeah, it’s Covaxin and that means I may not be able to travel a lot. And yeah, I did have some side effects. I mean the arm is still sore and literally slept through the day even though I had a good night’s sleep the night before. I feel ok as I write this (apart from the soreness).
2. They are most probably opening Starbucks outlets from tomorrow (till about. 4 PM), I cant wait to get back out there and work! The two flipside are that a, I will have to get back to coffee (which I am again trying to stay off) and b, I will not be able to use Starbucks for calls. Starbucks has a lot of ambient noise. I will have to come back. But then, for a bit, I will have a place to go to that is NOT my freaking house. The other thing that may work in my favor is that I will probably stay away from eating till about 4:30 and thus can try and attempt for OMAD! So all in all, a great sign! The world is healing!
3. Thanks to the break imposed by the vaccine yesterday, I am at the last episode of Mare of Easttown. I will hopefully spend a large part of the evening today reviewing it. Let’s see how it goes.
4. I discovered the joys of writing with Hemingway Editor. I stumbled on it by chance. I was cleaning my bookmarks and spotted it. Logged in and was blown by what I saw! Loved the immediate feedback. Grammarly does that as well but for some reason, Hemingway felt more intuitive. Lemme share a screenshot of this text (unedited and in its raw form).
But, you see that point #2 about Starbucks needs rewriting. I mean, I refuse to re-write it, but you get the drift. So if you are the kinds that require a lot of writing to be done, you must must consider Hemingway. Of course, the problem is that it’s an expensive piece of software (some 30 dollars). The free version, on the web, does not save documents. So unless you copy-paste, you lose data. For my use case – where most writing happens on a WordPress or a Google Doc and I can easily copy-paste things, the free version suffices.
5. Staying on writing and storytelling, I stumbled onto this course at Khan Academy where Pixar is teaching The Art of Storytelling.
Wait. What? Pixar? Free? Storytelling? Wow! What else can you ask for? Divided into 6 lessons, this could be the most definitive 101 that you need to be able to write for films. Someone like me needs this FOR sure. On it. Along with the course on writing the first novel.
6. Lemme rant about work for a bit. One of the things I do makes me talk to designers – specifically, the ones that layout ebooks, whitepapers and other such things. Of course I can’t pay a lot of money and I am thus unable to dictate terms. I have to live with whatever designer I can find. And the ones I work with, I kid you not, just dont want to work. They assume that I am doing them a favour by giving them feedback or asking for iterations. They forget that they could be polite. They dont understand that its free market and there are many more options available. I wish people understood that you typically work with people and little politeness, goodness and kindness goes a long long way!
Ok rant over. I mean I try to not rant but people are way to inflexible and set in their ways. I dont know why they dont understand that if they dont change, things wont move for them. Anyhow. Deep breaths, Mr. Garg.
If any of you is reading this and knows any go-getter designer, please connect me. It would be awesome.
7. Next. I dont know what next. I dont know what else to write. There are things on my head that need resolution and movement – SoG Book (the goal for June), moving out of this house, moving out of India, The Aram Nagar Documentary, making money, making an impact beyond just making money, life goals, and all that.
Guess this is it. I didn’t really put the keyboard on fire. But good to have got some words out of the system. Time to get going and get on with work. Meanwhile, here’s the streaks.
Morning Pages / Meditations – 175
#aPicADay – 0
10K steps a day – 0
OMAD – 0
#noCoffee – 0
#noCoke – 87. 13 more days to go before I go swim in that pool of coke ;P
10:05. I have exactly 15 minutes today. I need to be somewhere and that means I need to get ready, leave, and all that. So let see what and how I write in these 15 mins. Oh, I need to eat as well.
I got late even though I slept early. May be cos I hadnt slept day before. May be all the coffee that was running in my system finally ran its course. May be I am just getting old 😀
So what’s on top my mind? Lemme make a list without thinking too much.
Excitement about starting a new thing at The Podium. Thanks to AD. More on this in a few days.
Lethargy at not being able to raise enough capital for the microVC.
Sore shoulders and neck – I use a cushion as a pillow and I think I need to change that.
Curiosity about would the breakfast contain. I am actually indifferent as I will eat whatever they’ve sent, even if I dont like the taste. I am trying to kill this faculty that chases taste. It was probably built in us humans to detect poisons but over time we have abused it into seeking culinary delights. But we would never know.
Planning to buy a new iPhone. This Android life is not for me. Lets see when and how that happens.
How money can indeed buy happiness. I fought with a friend (she’s 25 or 26) and when I did not know how to make up for my rudeness, another young friend suggested I send her flowers and this simple act of sending expensive flowers made her happy beyond belief!
Today is 5th. I was supposed to let go of my house today. But I havent been able to decide on the next destination. Maybe I need to first let go and that pressure will make me decide? Maybe. Lets see. Maybe this weekend, I will try and sort things and discard and dispose of things I dont want to retain. And then the ones I want to, will figure out something. Good idea!
Cant think of more even though I am sure there is a lot on my head.
So yea. That’s about it in a jaldi jaldi post. More during the day. Or tom. Over and out. Here’s streaks.
Unedited, unfiltered, unreviewed, unstructured, unabashed, undercooked, under… thoughts from a night when I ODed on Coffee.
4:37 AM. I have not slept a blink since yesterday. Blame it on work. And too much coffee. And of course, I am drowsy. You know, age and all. I am writing this in that delirious state where you are not up, you are not asleep. You are like hungover. You are probably hallucinating. Guess this is what drugs must feel like. May be I am on drugs. I mean I’ve so much coffee and faux sugar that I probably am flying high like a kite. Faux sugar is the sugar they put in Keto desserts. Even though it tastes like shit (being honest), I want to like really really really lose weight and get them six-packs. Of course, towards an end – the Everest baby!
So let’s see what all I want to probably talk about. Lemme try and sober up a bit. You know, by having some water.
LOL. The most cliched thing ever. Lemme spill some ink bits on this. So, I was talking to a friend that I am helping with some writing. While talking to her, I realized that I love it when I give feedback to people and I see a bulb light up in their head and the twinkle sort of dawns into their eyes and it eventually come to rest in that tiny quiver of their lips that is parting to either spew some work of amazement. Or yelp in surprise! That!
Ok, I digressed. The point was, I love helping other people. Specifically when they’ve written something and I give them input and that input helps them tweak what they’ve written and it becomes better and all that. Wow, that sentence was so long and so bad and so convoluted that it should be a crime to use such a sentence in a post about how I want to be a writing coach.
That. That’s what I want to be. A writing coach.
I know I dont have a great command over the language. I know I cant write flowery things. I can’t rhyme to save my life. I mean I don’t know even know the word that can sound like life. Maybe wife, strife, trife. The similes and metaphors dont come easy to me. They are as hard as the hardship faced by Arjuna when he was forced to slay his brothers and uncles and teachers and all that. What I write cant move a mole, leave alone a mountain. I still think in Hindi and then convert that to English and then I write. I still rely on Grammarly (free edition) to ensure that my emails don’t have stupid mistakes. None of my stories has sold any significant number of copies. The publisher apparently pulped copies of what I had written. I will not be in the history books. My work is not worth preserving. And yet, I dare to proclaim that I want to be a writer. I dare to say that I want to work with people that want to write and help them realize their dreams of becoming writers.
Yet another thing that I want to do in life that I don’t know has how many days left! I think whenever I die, I will die an unhappy man with more things on my #toDo list than I would actually end up doing.
Brings me to the next thing that I want to write about, as I wait for the day to break and some food to get delivered and all that. FOMO.
I have to admit that each passing day I get the feeling that life is passing by me and I am missing out on good things that life has to offer. Truth be told, I’ve had a very very interesting life. I have traveled the world, lived pretty much on my terms, and mostly work on things I like and run my life the way I want to. Agreed that I am mostly reacting to things – got bored of and took another one; got kicked out of a relationship, picked another one; drifted from day to day, month to month, and from year to year. But if I look back, there is no one but me who’s to either blamed or praised for how I have fared.
On one side, I can be glad that I am still surviving, even if I had to take on debt. On the other, I can kick myself in the backside that people that I started my career with have completed their Monopoly runs with what a friend (Mansi) calls the ultimate sign of having lived well – two houses, two cars, two kids, two maids and two vacations a year. The ones that dont have these twos have chosen to not get these. Unlike me. Who’s wanted to have many houses, scores of cars, no kids, an army of helps, and a life that’s more vacation than it has vocations. For the 38 years I have spent here, I have a negative balance that runs in high seven figures and some 2000 pieces of blogposts rants that I have been gathering since 2004.
I really really wish that I was a tad more lucky and I was delivering impact at scale with my work. I love scale. I just love it. I want to bring out a fucking tsunami and not just cause ripples in tiny puddles. I want to move the mountain and not just toss them pebbles around. The shrieks in my head are deafening. The silence in my voice is blinding. The ambition I have in my heart is parched.
The worse part? I dont know what to do about it. And I dont know who to go to. To cry about it and rant about it and all that. No one sees the obsidian that keeps gnawing at my heart all the time.
So yeah. That. It’s 5:47. I wish there was some 24-hour coffee shop or something that I could go and work chill out of at, at this hour. I mean right now there’s a lockdown and nothing is open. I haven’t stepped out of the house for 3 days, I think. But even when things were open, the only option was the expensive and unconducive-to-work lobbies at 5-stars. Money is ok. I am happy to spend on such things but the damn places look down on you, the moment you flip out a laptop.
Anyhow. Enough for the rant. The deliriousness that I talked about in the beginning has begun to wear off and I will try and catch some sleep before waking up to I am sure escalations and urgent matters needing my attention.
Till tomorrow, so long!
Morning Pages / Meditations – 173
#aPicADay – 0
10K steps a day – 0. Been like three days since I’ve stepped out!
OMAD – 0
#noCoffee – 0. Have been having a lot of coffee lately. Had two venti Americanos in the last 24 hours. I think I will need to order one more to survive the day. And from Saturday, I will try and quit again. Even if I am sleepy and all that after that. Let’s see if I am able to.