Untitled – 24 Dec 2023

A short note on things clouding my head. There’s no structure to this post. Read. Or ignore. Your call.

The last few days (three weeks or so) have been a whirlwind. I was on a stressful project that needed my attention. Now that it’s behind me, a sense of normalcy has returned. Plus the world is on almost a break for Christmas and New Year and that means there’s little pressure to get things done. And that means I can sit and dream – my most favourite thing to do.

Along with daydreaming, I am thinking a lot about how I’ve spent 2023 and what I hope to do in 2024. I wrote this when we started the year. I don’t think I’ve done even 1% of what I had planned but the year was remarkable in its own way. The three most important things would be (in order)…

  1. I started paying off the debt I had accumulated around COVID-19. I haven’t paid all of it yet but I have started to repay.
  2. I was able to build a team of sorts (we at C4E don’t really have any “employees” but each person who calls C4E home is a partner and if not a business owner already, will own some soon). And may I add that EACH person on my team is incredibly special. At times I can’t believe my luck that I’ve been able to find support from so many people.
  3. I was on the road a lot. And I loved it. And it was a big big win! I took 30+ flights and I was in Dubai, Manila, Bangalore, Delhi, Goa and more. I would’ve loved a lot more travel but as I grow older and go deeper in work and life, I think it’s actually an impediment. More on this in a bit.

Lemme talk of each thing.

1. Debt
This is the largest thing, to be honest. As a 41-year-old, to me, this is the single most important driver of things. I am ok with not having anything that makes my blood boil. I am ok with not having any large why to live. I am ok to vegetate and disappear when my time comes. But I am not ok to have this unpaid debt on my head. COVID-19 was a very interesting period and 3 years after the world was shut, I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Team C4E
If you know me, you would know how much I talk about my people at C4E. What started with Pooja has today become a 10+ people-strong setup. We could get started cos Pooja transformed the lone nut in me into the crowd that we are today. We are still far from our tipping point though. We remain unique – no one is an employee and yet almost everyone believes C4E is their home. The keyword is believe. And home. And while we want to be a good marriage of family and sports team, to me, we’ve had a brilliant start. Now, I need to this setup into a company for the long term. Let’s see how this goes.

3. Travel
So while I love to travel, I am realising that it’s incredibly hard to build things while you are on the road. When you’re travelling, you have no fixed rhythm, routine, desk et al and you are unable to get things done. Yes, I am talking for myself. I know of tons of people who live on planes and yet do grand things.

In fact, I’ve made a conscious decision to not travel anymore for the rest of the year and I will avoid as much as I can. My sis is here from CA and I could be in Delhi but I am not going (that’s another thing that I dont like Delhi so much that I am choosing to not to be with my fam). I am scheduled to be in Bangalore on the 17th of Jan for a few days and then in Dubai towards the end of Jan for a fortnight. I will avoid all other travel as much as I can #in2024.

The other thing with travel is that you are unable to focus, you dont get to eat well, your clothes are always dirty and smelly and piled up. You can’t think even though you are bombarded with so many new things!


So that was the top three thing.

There are quite a few things that I’ve been thinking about the last few days. Lemme write about dump those.

A/ The unfairness, disparity and stupidity of life
The other day some of my friends went for lunch at a fancy restaurant. They ran a bill of 33K + taxes for a party of 9 (including kids). I realised that 33K is almost the same as what I pay someone who starts working at C4E (we pay 30K).

And I was left with a question – why would I “invest” 33K on a meal when I can pay someone that kind of money to someone to add value?

So henceforth, I will NOT go to a restaurant where the per head bill for a proper meal is more than 1000 bucks. I would like it to be at 500 but the work I do requires me to meet fancy people and thus I need to be more extravagant. So 1000 bucks.

I will also not go to a place where we are consuming alcohol – it’s the best way to run up a fat bill. Last night 4 of us from C4E had dinner and we paid 2700 odd bucks. 1100 of that was for three beers. Sigh.

B/ Suvi Chawla
I’ve written about Suvi a lot. And I can write more about it. Till I get tired. And then still more. He’s had an immeasurable impact on my life. More than anything else he taught me how to produce and direct events. And this knowledge has helped me build C4E. Heck, we were C4 Events before we became C4E.

I recently did an event that went like clockwork (except for three mistakes) and I couldn’t have done that with the training I got under Suvi’s wings. So, been thinking a lot about what I’ve learnt from him and what I can teach others.

C/ Panchgani
I was there last week. I think it’s a place where I can retire.

It is a tiny town with one market that sees all the action there is. Everyone knows everyone else. There is hardly anything to do there except, well, I dont know. The weather is perfect. The hills are not too steep. The distance is a tad more than my liking (about 6 hours from Bom) but that’s ok. I’ve written a lot about it in the past. Must find a way to write more about the place. And the people.

D/ Jigsaw puzzles
On a whim (prompted by BVHK), I bought myself a Jigsaw. And started on it today. I’ve done a few in the past. Let’s see how this one goes.

Here’s how it looks right now…

I will try and upload this as it starts to take shape.

E/ YearCompass
I’ve started to work on my 2024 YearCompass. If you are the kind to think seriously and plan for the year, you must use this tool. Trust me when I say this, this is one of the best structures you can use to reflect on your past and plan for your future.

One part of figuring it to look at the previous years. I found for the last 2 and I flipped through those, I realized that nothing ever seems to change while there is change all around us.

I will write a longer post soon where I talk about my plans for 2024 (including what went right and wrong in 2023). And I will write at least three sets of emails – one to the C4E Village, one to select people who have had a large impact on me and one to the entire world.

So that!

F/ This video.
I dont have the words for anything else. Watch it for yourself and decide what you care for more as an Indian.

And that’s that. And the end of this post. Thank you for reading.

When I travel…

A reflective piece on how I travel, what is home and what is the meaning of life for Saurabh Garg

I wrote a part of this from an airport (DXB) when I was waiting to take my 27th flight of the year. And this has been a bad year in terms of travel.

Oh, and this one will take me home. Delhi. Where my parents are.

I had always imagined that at heart I would always be a Delhi person but now that I am fairly comfortable in my Andheri West and Ghatkopar West life, I dont know what is home. It’s no longer Delhi. And it’s not Mumbai yet. Apart from my parents, the only family I’ve known is VG’s and even he doesn’t have a base per se – so I dont know what or where is home.

Wait. That’s not the point at this time. Moving on.

The other part of this is being written from a flight. Indigo’s 1908. To Del. And since I have nothing special to do on the flight, I’ve had the time to reflect on how I spent the last 7-10 days in one of the top tourist destinations – Dubai. And an epiphany happened. The way I’ve spent the last few days in Dubai is exactly how I’ve spent my entire life as a tourist (or a traveller).

Read on.

So, I was in Dubai for a week or so. And despite it being a haven for tourists and infinite offers for food, attractions, experiences and whatnot, I did exactly what I would do if I were in Mumbai. I was in the infinite loop of “home to a coffee shop to a client’s facility (office, warehouse, meeting room) to another coffee shop and then to the bed for the night”. I have lived in this loop since 2010 now and I think this is for the first time I am thinking and writing about it.

Lemme elaborate.

So this must be my 10th trip to Dubai since the beginning of time. And I have not gone dune-bashing except for a trip back in 2010. I have not been to the top of Burj. I dont know how Dubai Frame looks from the inside. I can’t remember when was the last time I went for a Desert Safari and saw a Belly Dance or a Tanura Dance. The Museum of Future looks gorgeous from the outside but I dont know what it is like inside. The old Dubai may be like, well, the old Dubai but I have no way of knowing – never been there. I am hoping the Dhow River cruise would be nice on most days. The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi must be a spectacle. The made-for-tourist things like Yas Island, Ferrari World, F1 tracks and all that must heighten your senses. I have never experienced those.

Similarly, on my maiden trip to Manila earlier this year, I would walk every day from home to a coffee shop, park myself there and do whatever on the laptop. The only time I left the 3 square kilometre area of BGC was to go to the airport and once to a weekend getaway that I was not keen on but VG was. And at that getaway, I sat under a canopy while I saw people frolicking in the water.

For each trip that I have made in the last few years, this would repeat. Hotel. Coffee Shop or the same restaurant. Hotel. Repeat.

The point is, I do NOT do touristy things. I do NOT go to must-visit places. I do NOT indulge in experiences that people travel to the end of the world for. I can’t understand all those people who travelled to Ahmedabad for the India-Pakistan cricket match. Some of my friends have booked a visit to an Ed Sheeran concert for the next year. People I know plan for Diwali parties like we used to schedule classes in school and college – each hour of the day is preallocated and optimised. Reminds me of the fervour participation of people around me at MAMI – people made Excel sheets and all that! For watching some films! I mean really!

Brings me to the point – why do I live? I mean if I am unable to…

  • a, enjoy these experiences,
  • or b, crave for finer things (lately I have decided that I will only buy things when I ABSOLUTELY need them and I would stop wanting all the luxury brands that I’ve wanted (things like Prada sunglasses, Birkenstock chappals, Apple Watches et al))
  • or c, have the wants to attend social dos
  • or d, have any wants that most of us have (gold, sex, legacy)
  • or e, mindlessly consume content on Netflixes of the world
  • or f, have any large personal ambitions for self,
  • or g, have any familial or social attachments

…why am I even alive?

One line of thinking is that I live to be able to become the conductor of opportunity for people that I know – you know, create opportunities for people that I work with – even at my cost. Remember that quote that I often use? Sai itna deejiye?

However, I am unable to answer what drives me. I mean, there’s no end to the opportunity that I can create for people. Today I enable a few people to make ends meet in a respectful, kind manner. Tomorrow, these few could become many. And then those many could become a lot. But it remains a goal without a tangible finish line!

The other line is that I am lost. In the chase of grandiose ambitions and God-like plans, I am lost. And so lost that I am ignoring the very fabric of what makes us human – interactions with others, participation in society, celebrating social constructs and engaging in primal things!

I may be. I may not be. But this is how I am and on a day-to-day basis, I think I am ok. If someone were to ask me about what keeps me up at night, my answer is, nothing! Most days I sleep ok. Some days I want crave for someone special next to me but with time I think I have trained myself to ignore that instinct as well. I couldn’t understand how a lot of Bengali men remained single even when they were old – today I think I can relate to it even though I am unable to put that in words.

Things that people worry about – future, retirement, money, work, health, relationships, I think I am very blessed to found a way to not let those things affect me. I mean I know I dont have any savings, I know that my health is not the best, I know that my parents need my attention, I know that at work, we at C4E could do better, I know I sometimes crave for another human. But overall. I think I am ok.

So, either, I am lost. As lost as a child in the topless bar. Or I have attained Nirvana. And this brings me to the third line of thinking.

The third is that I have somehow attained Nirvana!

I have no needs or wants (except the AC, iPhone, shorts (not pants) and personal space) and I live in the present. I dont think about the past at all and I dont care about the future at all. All I have is this moment and I live in this. Right now, I am in a cramped seat (7D – I always take aisle seats) and writing about the trip to Dubai. I love the idea that I can express myself in a lucid manner and I have some people that listen to me when I talk.

I bring the best of my ability and intention in each interaction. I try and create abundance for everyone. Making movement is an important driver for me. I can not sit idle. I am that man with an axe who’d not breathe till he’s chopped the entire forest down.

While working, at a point in time, I had these rules that I made about the kind of people that I wanted to work with and live with. I was very very very selective about who got access to my inner circle and I was ruthless about who I slowly ejected from it. But I think over time, it’s come to a point where I dont even care about those anymore. Whoever I interact with slots me in a stereotype as per their understanding. I do the same. And as long as a relationship is kind, polite, rational, and win-win, I am okay. The ones that dont play long-term games get filtered out and are best allowed to slip through the crevices of time.

So, that’s that.

Brings me to the next important point.

Why do I travel and what do I do when I do that?

Well, I don’t seek any experiences that tickle any senses (apart from massages, and hitting a runner-runner nuts on a poker table) and that means I could travel each day of the year or I could be cloistered in a city and I would be ok. Wait. This is important. If I am held captive and I am unable to step out of a room, I’ll die. I need to be able to breathe fresh air (hopefully cold), walk around, see other humans going about their lives and augment the dataset on which I’ve built my life. But I am okay to do so in a tiny block or in the world at large. Preferably in the world at large because it will offer me a larger data set and thus more experiences and more lessons.

Also, I like the idea of living like a local. I love to look at people and from a distance, see how they operate, learn, live and all that. I like to experience routine but in new places. I fondly remember the Baristas at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at BGC. I almost became friends with the Barista at the Starbucks at the Marina Promenade. I think about people at the Kabra Starbucks store even though I haven’t been there in more than 10 days and I won’t go back for another 10.

I can call this way of life “living local in a global village” and I think I would love to roam around communities across the world and immerse myself as a local there. In fact, I started this piece with a quip on home. May be I am one of those people that aren’t meant to have a home. May be the nature of my nature to have homes in all the communities that I get to live in?

Of course, I know the flaw in this – my life has largely been spent in privileged communities (MDI Campus, Nahar, Address, DN Nagar etc) and I may not enjoy this local living in a global village If I were to live in harsh places.

So, with the awareness of this privilege, I am grateful that I get to have many homes in many places in the world. I hope I can create more such homes for more such people like me that dont have homes. Maybe this is the purpose that I chase. Maybe this is why I am alive. Maybe.

I guess this is it. If you reached till the end of this piece, please do let me know what you think. Am I ok? Or do I need help :D?

PS: If this has been established that I would live on the road, out of a suitcase, I think I need to be more present in EACH thing I do. While I enjoy doing many things and multi-tasking, I think I will want to live each moment as fully as I can. So, henceforth, I will bring my 100% attention and intention to each task that I do. While I will want to optimise things (say listen to podcasts while I am in transit), for each human interaction, I will give my 100%. If you see me giving any less, do point it out. If you see me checking my phone while talking to someone, please point it out. If you see me replying to emails while running an online meeting, please point it out. If you see me eating and watching TV, please point out.

That’s it! More later!

030421 – Meditations

A short note about my love for hotels and how I thinking way too much about the space that I live in!

6:12. Surat.

On a work call yesterday, when I told the client that I am in Surat, she asked me if I have decided to travel through the length and the breadth of the country while we are in the lockdown. Funny but that’s how it is. Even though I don’t want to be traveling, things happen. Plus the lust to be on the road is never-ending! So ya! That!

I am in a hotel as I write this. Not a fancy resort kinds but more of a comfortable business hotel. I have stayed in one after almost a year (I think the last I stayed in a hotel was when I did that event in Lucknow in Mar 2020). I sort of missed it! The thing is, I love hotels as much as I love to travel! There’s something about white bedsheets as taut as the skin of the drum, staff as impersonal as doctors, the furnishings in the room like a page from a luxury magazine, the characteristic smell of the bathroom towels, the hazaar pillows strewn around the room, the laundry bags, the water bottles aligned liked the ships in a battle formation! Uff, I can continue to write about hotels. I miss those days when I was with Gravity and I literally lived in hotels (or transits) for a large part of a month. Damn, I miss those days. In fact, if I had the means, I would literally live in a hotel, you know, in a serviced apartment! I can totally live in a hotel even if they are impersonal af. Well, maybe someday. Someday karte karte half the life is over!

So the other decision that I took over the last two days is that I am moving out of the current house I am in. Have had enough of it. Too small. Too cramped. Too old. I keep bumping into walls or furniture. I keep spotting a lizard or a cockroach in the house. I can’t move around when I take phone calls. The entitlement from other residents is mind-boggling. You know how the human mind works. You can find mistakes in everything if you want to. You know, the rationalizing animals that we are.

I think that decision to get unfurnished, empty houses in new buildings is the best one. I can then plonk a mattress, fit my writing table and the bookshelf in it and get almirahs on rent to store a handful of clothes I own. And I am set! I can literally workout in all the empty space that I would get. Of course, all this makes the house an impersonal and functional space. I wouldn’t be able to host anyone there. I wouldn’t be able to invite friends etc. But that’s ok. I anyway don’t like the idea of people in my personal space. The 6-month lock-in gets over at the end of May and I will start a hunt for a place. Unless I get the Goa project off the ground by then. No, I have not given up on Goa. Lol!

If you realize, for some reason, I have decided that I want to move on from the current place and I am now seeking excuses and “rational” reasons for moving on. I should actually talk about this in more detail on this blog. Or even on SoG.

I have more to write but I guess that’s about it for today. I am running on a clock. Need to get out and about in less than 30 minutes and have a workpiece to write by that time. More later.

Here’s the streaks.

  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 113. I am glad I could pull this off even when I was on the road.
  • #aPicADay – 93
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • OMAD – 0
  • #noCoffee – 24
  • #noCoke – 24
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • #book2 – 0

040321 – Morning Pages

A note on trains, a third-party realization about how I work and a rant.

7:56 AM. Mumbai.

Yeah, I came here last night. On a train. I have now taken more trains this year than I have taken in the last 10 years. Except for the locals. And the metro. I hate train travel that much. But then thanks to COVID and the ridiculous inconvenience imposed on air travel, I had to do this.

But then, despite my hatred, I have to say, trains are awesome. Each person in the train is a story. Each person is there for a reason. And is going to someone. Or away from someone. Like last night, there was this old man (who the Ticket Checker told me was 75) who was drunk out of his wits and was picking a random bone with a co-passenger. To a point that he called cops!

I also have to say that the quality of train travel has grown leaps and bounds. I could order from a menu of a million dishes from Chinese, Indian, Fast Food cuisines and there were fresh fruits and snacks from all parts of the country. It was amazing. The compartments were clean. The toilets remained filthy but I think that’s more to do with travelers than the railways. Good job, Indian Railways.
So, am in Mumbai. Had to come here for a meeting that could not be pushed. I still want to be back in Goa. Or at least have a foot there. But then, I have to chase money before other things.

Anyhow. So, yesterday, I was talking to Akshay (my partner at Podium). He said a couple of very interesting things (which I knew intuitively but was amazing to hear from someone else). He said one, I perform the best when I am juggling multiple things. And two, when I sniff that money is around the corner.

Of course I kind of knew both these things but I never thought AD would be so good to be able to figure it from a distance. Or may be he’s not good, I am merely so visible with these actions that any intelligent person would be able to spot those. Lol.

The point is, he’s right. And I need to play to the “strength”. If I can call this strength. And how do I play? Well, simple. Find so many opportunities that I am unable to handle, as long as each of those has the potential to throw money at me. So going forward, that would be the mantra. Do you know any such opportunities?

What else?

Oh yeah. That old person from the train. I have to have to have to do whatever it takes to not go senile when I am old. It just sucks that people want to respect you because you are old and because you are senile, you lose the respect, and to make matters worse, they pity you. The worst thing that can happen is people pitying you. I will rather walk into the jungle. I hope some of my younger friends would help me retain the sanity. And if not that, push me in a jungle. I may not have been able to do a lot in life but I will not become someone that people pity!

Guess this is it. I have a fairly long day. Need to move the butt.

No, nothing on book2 :(. Dunno when I will be back.

Let’s see.

The Missing Magic of Metal Tubes

A satarical piece about the missing magic of flying. From the lens of a former event manager.

Its no secret that I love to travel. And the two modes that I love, apart from walking, are cars and planes. Both are essentially metal tubes that take you from one place to another.

When you are in the car, you are, sort of, in control. You are navigating, you are changing gears (automatic cars – go eat shit!), you are seeing the rear-view mirror and the road up ahead and you are zooming around.

In a plane, however, you are merely tied to a seat and are hurled thru the thinnest air we can imagine, to your destination. Even though a large part of flying is getting tossed around in a pressure-controlled metal tube, there is some charm, some magic to the entire experience of air travel. You know, fussing over the airline, the seat, the plush interiors of an airport, the comfort of a lounge, the pseudo sophistication of people that are regulars and the inside tricks of people that are more regular than regulars?

I’d say I am more regular than most regulars. Even though I may not have the suaveness of thick sunglasses or the Tumi bags with my initials monogrammed but I have been in my share of planes. Of course, since the COVID crisis hit us, I haven’t really been near a rick, let alone a plane. Ok, that was an exaggeration. I’ve been working out of a Starbucks as I type this, I am in a lounge at the Mumbai airport, waiting to catch a flight to Delhi, Y class. The lounge was made accessible by a credit card that I paid a fortune to acquire.

While the entire ordeal of check-in, seat selection, security et al was better than the regular days, I miss the fun of traveling by air. I miss the fuss that I would create over people not behaving when in queues. I can no longer spot kids running amok while their parents take selfies. I am no longer inconvenienced by pushy salesmen trying to sell their overpriced wares (including the ones at Tumi), while secretly hoping I had the money to buy all the crap they were selling. There is no stores selling raste ka maal un-saste me. Btw, these sasta maals have actually saved quite a few days for me when I would take em as gifts for people I was gonna meet.

Like I said, there’s no magic left in travelling by air.

It’s now akin to traveling in a local train where you are merely using the tube as a mode of transport and you can no longer be a humblebrag about the flight you just took and the extra things (baggage, upgrades, etc) you got the airline guys to dole out to you.

It’s now akin to flagging a rick and posting about it on insta cos the cars get stuck in traffic and ricks are “oh so convenient”. It’s like still going to a CCD when you have a Soho House membership, cos, “why would I go to Juhu for a coffee?” It’s like buying a Samsung or a One Plus, cos, “what new feature does an Apple have?”

Get the drift?

I hope so. It’s time to board the flight. While boarding may or may not happen, the seat next to mine may or may not be empty, the flight may or may not be bumpy but I have to mock people on how they want to jump over each other to open the overhead bins before the plane has even landed! Assuming that’s still happening. You never know. Like I said, there’s no magic left!

Part of 30 days, 30 minutes, 30 posts project. Others in the series are at 3010, 3110, 0111, 0211, 0311041105110611, 0911.