Dear Mohan,

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

Shahrukh Khan, from Swades

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.

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