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.

Untitled – 290821

A dump of things that I am thinking about. Nothing specific. Just a random walk on keyboard in an attempt to feel good.

About 7 PM. Sunday.

Have nothing to do and nowhere to go. There’s a lot of openwork that I can do but I dont feel like. This is the time when I want to be lounging at a comfortable place – you know, like a hotel or something. Instead, I am trying to find solace at a Starbucks with a cup of green tea. And no, that does not offer any solace. It merely allows you to distract yourself from the fuckeries in your head.

What fuckeries, you may ask. Well, the ones that keep your head churning. The ones that make you question the choices you’ve made. The ones that make you think that the damn grass is green on the other side while yours is withering and shrinking and shriveling like it’s the perpetual winters. I mean I love the winters. But you get the drift.

What sucks is that you think you’ve done so much for others all your life and you’ve hoped all your life that at moments like these when you want comfort, you want company, you would have those people around. But when you look around, you see standing alone. And everyone else that you hoped would be around standing atop mighty towers in various stages of their respective bliss. Which is not wrong, to be honest. It’s an issue with your expectation. How about doing things without hoping that you’d get something back? The act of asking for things, expecting from others needs to be contained. It’s a pandemic in itself.

The thing is, most times I am so hyper-active on social media channels that I dont get time to think and wonder where things are. But then since Jul, I’ve been away from Twitter and Instagram – two channels that I hang out the most at. Over at these two places, I have enough and more fodder to kill time with. In the sense that I am busy with general chit-chat and aimless wandering. Not that I made any deep connections there but I was busy. At least in my head. Of course, if I were dying, none of those would people would come to help. Lol. For that matter, the ones that I believe are my true friends, wouldn’t come in handy either. But then the point is that there is enough to kill time and keep busy. And leave me with little time to think about things like the meaning of life and all that. So, in a way that distraction is not bad. You know, filling it with fluff.

Ok, I dont know what else to write. I think I need to distract myself. I think I will go find something to waste time on. Over and out.

An Ode to She – Elvis Costello

An ode to one of the best pieces of music ever created and ever featured in a film! From the lens of a hopeless romantic that refuses to lose hope!

So in the morning yesterday a few days ago, a friend sent me this Instagram reel. I saw it, with audio. And my jaw dropped to the floor.

Someone has taken the track that I love like mad and put it on a happy scene of a woman running in a tight alley. The camera is close on her tail, she’s consumed by her happiness and everyone in the scene is sort of coming together to make her experience even more beautiful! You know, the shared celebrations that the primal us want?

This has to be one of the most beautiful portraits of a woman I’ve ever seen.
Ever.
In my life.

Please please please please see it.
It’s at instagram.com/p/CQJzn9nn_rI.
It’s a pity I can’t seem to embed it.

Ok. Deep breath.

So, She.
Here.
Listen to it, if you want to.

She, from Notting Hill

Lemme talk about it.

My memory fails me but I think I first saw heard experienced this track when I saw Notting Hill all those years ago. I dont recall when was this, to be honest, but I must’ve been very very young. However, I remember that I definitely lived in a lower-middle-class part of Delhi. English was a language of the elites and thus aspirational. English was still making inroads into daily parlance. It was considered cool to listen to English music. The only music to trickle to my remote corner of Delhi was the pop chartbusters like Backstreet Boys, Bryan Adams, and others. No, the rock music scene around me was limited to one or two sightings of a Bon Jovi fan. And in rarest of the rare cases, Sweet Child O Mine by Guns N’ Roses.

So, back then, being able to namedrop an English track immediately elevated your status. It was a sure-shot way to become an anomaly in the group of kids that were otherwise stuck on Super Commando Dhruv and Lucky Ali and all that. You were perceived as cool. You’d get more “followers” to flock at you. You’d become that alpha that every kid at that age aspires to be. All this, without trying if you could blabber names of some English songs.

This is when I probably first heard music from Notting Hill. It would have been a pirated version of the film (with subtitles downloaded separately), this was well before the unlimited Jio’d Internet days.

Oh, those days. I remember I got my first computer in 1999 something and we would have dial-up connections and floppy disks and pen-drives with less than 1 MB of capacity. So watching films meant firing up Windows Media Player. Even Winamp! Films were still in CDs that you could rent from various holes in the walls. Often the print was grainy and often the film would get stuck, you know, scratches on the disks. Damn, those days. Of anticipation. Of hope. Of pain. Of wait.

Ok. I digressed. Coming back.

So I would have seen this film on a computer screen. Sometime around 2003 when I was finishing college and preparing for CAT (and thus trying to deck up on English). It’s been almost 2 decades since I’ve remained hooked to the film!

I would’ve seen this film at least a hundred times, if not more. I have literally rattofied the film. I remember the dialogues and scenes and expressions and costumes and the props that you place next to the actors in those complicated set scenes and everything else about the film.

Thing is, back then, when I first saw this film (and heard music from this film), I would have ignored “She” for sure. For it competed with the more famous “When you say nothing at all” by Ronan Keating / Boyzone. It was the track that each “just a girl” that stood in front of a boy asking him to love her would have heard on loop. And imagined a love as warm, as goofy, and as (im)perfect as that of Anna and Will.

Heck, I have pictured myself in that garden, on the June and Joseph bench, under the trees, on a clear, moonless, starry night. I continue to do so to date. Before I die I want to be in that setting. With the love of my life.

Ok. Digressed again.

So coming back. Fast forward a few years.

To this day and age.

With time, I have traveled a bit, seen a bit of life, and probably evolved a bit. I’ve seen Notting Hill again. With fresher eyes and a deeper understanding of the idea of love, friendship, and relationships. And it is one of these recent viewings that I started to appreciate “She” a lot more.

I now understand the contrasts that Costello talks about. I can now decipher the abstraction of shades from the extremes. You know, pleasure or regret, heaven or hell, famine or feast, and many more.

I now know that “She” is about her. The woman that’s rarer than you. The one that makes you feel alive. The one that makes you want to survive. The one you can stay #foreverAlone for, for decades. The one that’s probably the love that you cannot hope to last! And among other things, the one that you will kill (or die) to see the smile on the face of.

In case you missed, I lifted parts of the lyrics to write the parts above.

The thing is, while the track by itself is brilliant, the way it’s been used in Notting Hill makes it 100x better. The song appears right at the end of the film.

This is when Anna and Will have had their ups and downs and right before the all is lost moment.

In there, Will asks Anna a fairly complex, funny, and irreverant question. It is loaded with their inside joke. No one but the two of them can make sense of it.

Will has used way too many words, in a room full of people that use words to make their living. While the meaning was seemingly lost on most of those there, Will’s lavish use of words did exactly what he wanted to! Communicate love.

Anna has a measured response to Will’s question. She is guarded. Probably hoping against hope that things will turn in their favour.

This is when another journalist asks a simple, innocuous, harmless question – “Anna, How long do you plan to stay back in England?”

She replies with one word. “Indefinitely.”

If she had use even one more word at that time, it would have killed the entire film. To a point that you’d not want to even see the fim.

This is the instant when they play “She”.

And it starts the recap of the Will and Anna story. And probably the best 3-minutes of cinema ever shot!

In the entire scene, none of the actors speak a single line. Anna is merely smiling, with a twinkle in her eyes and that unmistakable mole on her lips. Will is merely gawking at her beauty. In a room full of strangers, and the ones that have a keen eye, the two lovers speak to each other and pass on more words than the longest of love letters have ever done!

This is when I start pining for love like that.
A “She” like that.
And wants me to be worthy of “She” like that.

Here it is. All over again. Do see it.

She, Elvis Costello. From Notting Hill.

Oh, and if you are curious, I’ve been with some really remarkable women over the years. It has to be me that was unable to keep their attention and interest. Of course, I remain hopeful. For a “She”.

Thanks for reading and indulging!

The Money Plant Companionship

What if I told you that a money plant mimics the way my life moves? Would would believe it? Wait. Why should you even? Read on to find out.

Again, a day where I don’t have anything specific to write about. Well, except, this! And since there is nothing else to write about, I am going to talk about it. After all, I have committed to writing for 30 minutes every day for 30 days.

Like I said yesterday, I want to be attached to as few things as possible. And I want to own as limited things as possible. And as a result, over the next few days, I will throw / discard most of the things I own.

Of the things that I will retain is this money plant.

3

Why?

Lemme tell you the backstory.

To be honest, I don’t know when I got this plant. Or how I got this plant. Maybe someone gifted this to me? Or may be my sis left this behind when she moved back to Delhi 3 years ago. But I do know that I have retained this plant for at least 4 years now and I have moved this particular plant every time I have moved houses. And over these four years, I have seen the plant flourish and I have seen it withered down to just 2 leaves. And each time, the state of the plant has sort of mirrored the state of my life!

In fact, I think, like in the Last Leaf (a masterpiece by O Henry) the way protagonist attaches her life to the leaf on a tree, I believe my fortune is attached to the leaves on this money plant.

I am serious. I have data to prove it. Since I have started tracking, the plant has hardly had any leaves and my life has been topsy-turvy. In fact, I don’t recall when was the last when the plant really flourish. And honestly, I don’t remember when was the last time I flourished. I mean I have had a fairly decent life, but I haven’t really flourished per se.

For a large part of the past 2 months, the plant had just 2 leaves.

But as I was prepping to move on to a new one, I spotted another leaf. The third one. So, there is an improvement. And thus, I am hopeful that the new house will be luckier than the previous one. I hope the plant goes back to having many more leaves. May be this year on, it will flourish again? May be I will flourish again?

Or, may be I am merely being a fool and I am confusing causation to correlation What do you think?

This post is a part of 30 minutes every day for 30 days project. This was Day 8. Other posts are at 301031100111021103110411, 0511.

PS: Realised that the trouble with writing AND publishing every day is that I hardly get any time to edit. And thus a lot of bugs slip through. Need to find a way out. Any ideas anyone?