Saturday, December 31, 2011

Personal reflections on 2011

2011 has been a year of great transformation and change within me. A kind of personal evolution, or even - dare I say - revolution.

As the year finally draws to a close I feel ready to share some of the ups and downs of this journey, with you.

Success and failure: I became a super-successful author this year. My third book ‘I Have a Dream’ released in June 2011 and stayed at the # 1 spot in the non-fiction bestseller list right for 5 months (until Steve Jobs’ biography was released :)

I got featured on the cover of Outlook magazine and I started getting 2 invitations to speak, every single day.

But everywhere I spoke, a part of me felt like a fraud. Part of me wanted to scream, “Do you know I started JAM magazine and now it is no more?”

It’s been one year since JAM magazine (print edition) was suspended. The office we occupied for 12 years was wound down, the furniture and PCs given away to charity.

All that we are left with are spiral bound editions of every copy published and folders full of cartoons labeled ‘Pawan Dutt’, ‘Venu’, ‘Prashant’ and ‘Sameer’.

And a website which we maintain, out of love (but which needs a lot of work, if it is to become a serious, digital venture.)

The decision to stop printing JAM was rational and logical.

Digital is taking over print.
Costs were increasing but not revenues.
Funding was elusive, despite sincere efforts.

The magazine had been losing money, for almost 3 years.
In the process, we were losing our peace of mind.
It just did not seem worth it.

And towards the end, I know I neglected JAM, to focus on myself. The life of an author gripped me with intensity. Entrepreneurship felt more like pain than pleasure...

You decide to do something, and yet there is grief. You ask yourself a thousand times, “What could I have done differently?”

Every entrepreneur I interview, gives me some insight to that question. But there is no point in pondering on ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. Because life is relentless, and simply goes on.

So, did JAM magazine ‘fail’? That depends how you define success and failure.

The business model failed. And as owners, we failed to reinvent the company.

But I know that over 15 years that we were in business we made so many people happy. Gave so many of you a platform.

Wherever I go, I meet these people. They come up to me and say, “I used to read JAM when I was in college and I loved it.”

How can something that spread so much joy be a ‘failure’? Just because you run out of gas at the end of a long journey, doesn’t take away the fun of the journey itself.

To all those of you who ask me, “Why don’t you write about people who fail?” – I hope this answers your question.

I would still do it, all over again, maybe a little differently, more smartly.

‘Failure’ is just a form of hibernation, at the end of winter there is always a spring.

Peace and Joy: Despite so many comforts and blessings of life, how many of us are truly peaceful and joyful within? Very few (I know I have not been!)

In fact, for the longest time, I suffered from a vague sense of depression. I snapped out of it by finding something I could lose myself in - writing, writing and writng.

But questions about the meaning of life persisted. Is this all there is, or is there something more?

In my search for answers, I read many books, met many amazing people. In 2006, I did the Inner Engineering program of Isha Foundation. For the next two years, I practiced the kriya taught by them but then, I fell out of the habit.

Until this year in April, when purely by chance, I visited Coimbatore and went to the ashram. Perhaps it was a call from Sadhguru himself :)

I restarted Shambhavi Mahamudra. Then, I attended the BSP (Bhava Spandana) program, which was a phenomenal experience. I experienced what it means to be pure joy, pure bliss, no matter what is happening outside of me.

Sadhguru says: “This moment, how peaceful and joyful you are is the quality of your life.”

And I have decided to make that the focus of my life from now on.

Being part of Isha as a meditator and volunteer help me in that effort.
I have taken Sadhguru into my heart, and feel his Presence within me.

Being a totally rationally and logically driven person this took a long time to happen (too long I think!). I hope you do not resist, as much as I did.

Because one thing is very clear: if you get it right on the inside, the ‘outside’ will automatically take care of itself.

I cannot *explain* this further, I can just advise that you too embark on the path of inner transformation and experience it for yourself.

What is love: I used to think love is an emotion. I know now, it is a state of being.

That all the love we seek from other people is actually available right within each of us.

That sometimes love shows its face to you in a form you are not ready to accept.

That those who love us the most are also the ones who come into our lives to teach us the most difficult lessons.

That love is all we need, and it is all we leave behind.

And on that note I leave you, wishing you love, light and happiness in the New Year.

Status Update

Sharing a year-ender piece I wrote for the Deccan Chronicle/ Asian Age, on the request of a friend.

Status Update
What 2011 meant for the young and the facebooked.

by Rashmi Bansal

If I had to pick out one person, place or event of the year, the one which truly defines what it means to be young today, it has to be this scene between Katrina and Hrithik in ZNMD (Zindagi na Milegi Dobara).

Hrithik has just experienced deep-sea diving for the very first time, and his eyes shine with a new and different light. He understands the philosophy of the scuba chick, the idea of living in this moment.

The only moment you truly have.

It’s a philosophy which pretty much sums up the mood of a generation. And this mood is reflected in the just about everything you do with your life.

In fact, the idea of reflecting back on an entire year of events is, in itself, pretty redundant. For an event is an ‘event’ for all of 48 hours. A song can be a rage for, perhaps, two weeks.

The world according to Mark Zuckerberg is defined by your status update. And who the hell remembers yesterday’s update?

Nevertheless, here is my pick of events of the year 2011, which made a difference to the lives of the young and the facebooked.

The 'India Against Corruption’ crusade in August this year, which galvanized young people across the country like never before. They skipped work and bunked college, to join the protests on the ground. To carry candles and placards in support of the movement.

All that appears to be a distant dream now, almost a part of history. The conversation in the canteen is back to cricket, Bollywood and girls.

Speaking of cricket, India’s win over Sri Lanka in World Cup cricket was possibly the proudest moment of the year for any citizen of India. But, even more so for the youth, who have absolutely no recollection of the 1983 World Cup victory.

The trouble is the performance of team India since that victory. Young India still loves Dhoni but would rather spend its time watching F1 and Man United.

F1 bole toh 2011 was also the year that India ‘arrived’, with the Buddha International Circuit hosting its inaugural race in Greater Noida. I don’t know how many made it to the actual event but it was thrilling to know that the Gods of racing were descending on our soil.

Love us, hate us, but you can’t ignore us. We’re the largest youth population in the world, the market of the future for every brand.

The idea of the ‘brand’ is, in itself, changing. A brand is no longer a fast-moving consumer good or service, each individual is a brand. It no longer matters whether you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, what matters is that you stand for something.

Salman’s Character dheela hai became one of the ‘it’ songs of the year, because it rang so true about the actor. It’s all about ‘being human’, after all.

With humanity also comes tragedy. 22 year old Malini Murmu, a first year student at IIM Bangalore, committed suicide in September this year, after being humiliated on Facebook. Her boyfriend’s status update read: “Feeling super cool today. Dumped my new ex-girlfriend. Happy independence day.”

The peril of living your life 24 X 7 online – under the scrutiny of peers - is vividly reflected. One instance when being ‘in the moment’ was not advised.

But then youth is all about extremes – of passion, of depression, of ascension. That has always been, and will always remain.

To pick out any more ‘events’ of 2011 which defined or changed youth is kind of irrelevant. It’s everyday events which don’t make it to newspapers and television channels which matter to an 18 year old.

The first flush of love.
The cruelty of an exam.
An ipod received on a birthday.

Yes, Steve Jobs died but life must go on.

The future is ours and what we make of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuition ka tashan

I used to think ‘tuitions’ were taken only by kids who were a bit soft in the head.

That’s how it was, when I was growing up.

We gave our board exams, with self-study. Though we did refer to ’21 sets’.

The teachers at school covered the portion well enough. And a few went well beyond the call of duty in doing so.

At least, this is how I remember it. But then, I was the class nerd.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, I first heard of kids taking ‘tuitions’. Yes, tuitions for kindergarten.

Actually, there were kids taking tuitions to get into kindergarten as well (a certain school in south Bombay, which I shall not name).

The world had obviously changed.
For better, or worse?

The ironic thing was, the syllabus seemed to be much simpler (I refer to CBSE pattern). What’s more, my daughter’s school had no ‘exams’ upto class 6. Only weekly tests.

Phir bhi kids were taking tuitions.
Phir bhi I thought we would buck the trend.

“We’re an educated family, after all”.

There’s a PhD in Physics ready to teach Maths and Science.
A Double MA for Hindi and Sanskrit.
And two MBAs to cover everything else.

But what does she do instead? Join tuitions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These days, she is ready at five minutes to five pm, to go for her class. This, is nothing short of a miracle.

She likes to go to tuitions. Even though sir makes her study. So, what’s the secret?

‘Tyushan’ is another form of outing. And, it’s parent-approved.

I wouldn’t let her – at age 12 – hang out in a mall with friends (without supervision). But I do let her go to tuitions with friends, and sometimes they stop by at McDonalds and share an ice-cream.

And hey, no matter how educated your parents and grandparents might be, it’s no fun studying with them. They are short-tempered, and often distracted by Blackberries and iPhones (I plead guilty to the second count).

There is another exciting side-effect of joining tuition classes.

“I think you will have to buy me a mobile now,” she said, with a glint in her eye.

Something I have resisted… so far.

The economy may falter, exchange rate may alter, but one thing’s for sure. Tuition zindabad rahega, employment aabaad rahega. Jai Hind!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Youthpal bill

Sharng a guest column I wrote for India Today's Youth Special issue. Pasting below my original, slightly extended version.

Youthpal Bill
by Rashmi Bansal

If we want a Facebook or Google from India, we have to stop telling Johnny and Jyoti to "be good"

The moment I walked into Christ College, Bangalore I knew something was wrong. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Until a student giggled and whispered to me, “You are wearing jeans. We are not allowed.”

College without jeans? That's like Dabbang without Salman. Is it even possible? The old fogies seem to think so!

Welcome to the brave new college campus where 'discipline' rules. Students will be less distracted if they are neatly dressed in t-shirts with collars and formal shoes. Girls, please don't leave your hair open and stick to salwar kameez. Now, nose in books!

Of course, we encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Can't you see the shiny new incubation centre we have set up? Please - feel free to disregard conventional thinking and come up with the next Facebook or Google.

But no bunking classes, and complete your syllabus first. We are disabling the net connection after 12 midnight, because we care about your future more than you do.

Our college had 100% placement last year. Students got jobs in a wide variety of jobs which require very little thinking but everyone has at least heard of the company names. It looks good in our brochure.

We would very much like this trend to continue.

Across India, from Kota to Kakinada, I have visited college campuses where students are being moulded, into sheep. The kind of minds which will not think, or question but accept what is told to them. Instead of searching for answers from within.

'Be good and we will be good to you'. That is the unspoken letter of blackmail posted into young hearts by parents. Whether it's career choice or whom to marry, the Family Stamp of Approval still dictates dynamics. Surrender and you will get a pink laptop and study abroad and inherit the family business.

Who wants to be a rebel and lose all this?

And yet, in moments of darkness, moments of doubt, the Young Indian knows there is something more out there, waiting to be discovered. A hidden potential, a secret spark.

Ki hum bhi koi cheez hain, is duniya mein. Our time on this earth has made some difference.

I see a small but growing band of young Indians taking the path of idealism.
Breaking out of the 'Be Good' box and breathing free.

Some, leaving plum jobs to set up their own companies. Others, choosing the path of social entrepreneurship. Many more thinking and dreaming of such options.

“Please help me, guide me, mentor me…..” they write to me, after reading one or another of my books.

Very well, I say, but remember there are no shortcuts on the path of Self Actualisation. Unlike that Bournville chocolate you really have to earn it.

Do not be fickle, do not be weak. Be steady on the path, and persevere. Your life is your life, live it while you have it.

Or, wear Levi’s jeans and forever hold your peace.

Choose whichever path makes you happy. Just remember, you owe the same to your children. When it's their time, their day.

A note to Indian parents
Kahlil Gibran on Children

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams….

My last word: Let your children live their dreams, not yours.

Friday, September 16, 2011

'I Have a Dream' - ebook (kindle edition) now available

For those of you who live outside India and are unable to lay your hands on my physical books.

Or those of you, ahead of the curve, who prefer reading ebooks.

I have good news for you! The kindle edition of 'I Have a Dream' is now available on Amazon.

I have priced the book at $2.99, a very reasonable price. I want this book to reach out to more people across the world. In fact, I look forward to 'I Have a Dream' becoming the highest downloaded Indian ebook in the next 6 months.

So go ahead, download without a second thought. Those of you using ipads can also download the book and read it using the kindle app.

And if you've already read the book, do add a review on the kindle page, to help people decide if this book is worth their time and money!

P.S. Amazon adds $2 as charges for those using the 3G download facility from outside the US making the price $ 4.99 :(

P.P.S. 'Connect the Dots' and 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish' will also be available on kindle very soon. Watch this space!

Start of the month:

A few days ago I invited nominations for 'Start up of the Month' on my facebook fan page. The idea being to give some exposure to young entrepreneurs and for me to learn something in the process, as well.

Well, I received 18 entries in all - amazing work being done by an amazing group of people. With help from my virtual assistant Tabish Azeem I shortlisted 5 start-ups. The criteria used was: Uniqueness & relevance (10), Execution (10), Revenue generation (10) and X factor (10).

The start-up which received the highest score - of 37 out of 40 - was And here is why:

Entrepreneurship is not always about creating a radical new concept. It could be about taking an existing idea and executing it in a better way.

That is whatGodparents is doing. There are many NGOs connecting donors with those in need, CRY and Helpage have been pioneers in this field. But Godparents addresses the idea in a new and interesting way.

A Better Product
Like GiveIndia (which I covered in Stay Hungry Stay Foolish), Godparents is an online system connecting people like you and me with those in need. But, Godparents goes a step further in making me want to give to that needy person.
By giving him or her a name, a face and a background story,

Ranjith G is 10 years old and lives in Kerala. He is a student in 4th class hailing from backward tribal community. His father isdisabled and hence the mother looks after the family with her meager income (Rs 7000 or so a year). He studies well and stands as first in the class. Also good in sports activities.

Ranjith requires Rs 12,000 a year to continue in school and also for basic food and medical expenses.

6 donors have already contributed Rs 8750 for Ranjith. Their profiles also appear below his name. Yes, donors also get a profile page which displays the names of their godchildren and the amount donated to support each one.

I think connecting people on both sides of the giving rainbow is a beautiful idea. It's apt use of technology to increase the emotional bar and hence raise more money, from the haves for the have-nots.

While GiveIndia also uses this idea it only displays the cause, not the actual person you will be helping. GiveIndia does send you a feedback report detailing name and photo of the person your money went to, and its impact. But that may take a couple of weeks or months.

With Godparents, the feel good factor is more real and immediate.

Effective Promotion
There is also a very well made video on the homepage which is a collection of responses of people to the question: “What would you do if I gave you 500 bucks?”

It’s clear that for people like you and me Rs 500 has very little value but for a poor person it can make all the difference. And this point is put across very beautifully.

Godparents has also come up with a novel way to promote itself – by inserting bookmarks in books delivered by Flipkart.

Clear Communication
The main homepage of Godparents very simple and effective. It explains everything you need to know upfront – what is the site all about and how does it work.

The fact that your donation is eligible for tax exemption under Sec 80 G is also prominently displayed. )Many first time donors don’t know that and many NGOs don’t really educate them about it).

Credibility & Commitment
I also like the fact that the site displays the amount raised so far:
The total amount of donations is a little over Rs 18 lakhs. 1022 donations have created 305 fully supported children and 456 'godparents'.

It is rare to see this kind of transparency from any social organization!

The other interesting fact about Godparents is that the entire team appears to be running the service as a social activity, while working elsewhere.

Shubham Srivatsava (BITS Pilani 2009) and Shivam Srivastava (IIT Kanpur) are the co-founders, the rest of the team is also mainly BTech grads working in MNCs or doing their PhDs abroad.

According to an interview given to CNBC Young Turks given in Oct 2009, two months after setting up, Shivam got this idea after reading Nandan Nilekani’s ‘Imagining India’. A book which suggested that technology could be used to solve large no of problems in India,

With Rs 1 lakh investment, Shubham and Shivam, along with a team of friends and wellwishers made a small start. The toughest part was convincing NGOs to participate, and on the other side, giving donors the confidence in these NGOs. For this, Godparents has evolved its own due diligence/ credibility criteria.

In conclusion
The voluntary nature of this enterprise is its greatest strength and also its major weakness. Since everyone appears to have a day job, there is no pressure of cost on the start-up.

But to take the idea to the next level, one of the founders or team members will need to devote full time attention to it.

I wish all the very best. God bless and may many more feel a tug in your heart and the desire to contribute through them. To make a difference.

P.S. I will exchange notes with the co-founders and update this post with additional inputs. But that will take a couple of days.

P.P.S. Many of the other start-ups are also very interesting... lagey raho bhaiyon aur behnon. You may very well make it to this space next month :) I will shortly be inviting nominations for the Start up of the Month, for October.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Goodbye, Ved

Exactly one week ago, friend and IIMA batchmate Ved Prakash Arya passed away. He was just 42.

Hundreds of friends, co-workers and former colleagues attended the condolence meeting held on a hellishly rainy Saturday.

Unable to find any words to comfort the family.

Or any rational explanation for the bizarre manner in which he met his end.

Read my tribute to Ved Prakash Arya - entrepreneur, outstanding professional, and above all, a good human being: An Unfinished Life. (published by Businwssworld magazine).

May his soul rest in peace.

And may we all remember that life is short and fragile.

Think about what you *really* want and make it happen today. Instead of just making plans and promises... for tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to be a 'yahoo' in life

Here's the link to a column I wrote published on today.

Because Shammi Kapoor was a true blue original and that's something each of has the potential to be, whoever we are, whatever we do in life!

For those who prefer regular format to slideshow, here it is below.

How to be a 'yahoo' in life
-Rashmi Bansal

Shammi Kapoor died in his sleep on 14 August 2011, 04:30 am IST, at the the of 79. More than 40 years after he last played out his junglee days. The light hearted romantic hero of numerous hit films.

Yet, there was an outpouring of grief on social network sites. As his mortal remains were taken for cremation, the streets were lined with ordinary people, Koli fishermen played the song 'Yahoo!' in one last, boisterous, celebratory farewell.

All this, because Shammi Kapoor was a symbol of life, of zest, of joy.

Imagine any other person, say a businessman, who ran a very successful company for say, 10 years. And then, failed and shut shop. Which is kind of what happened to the jovial Shamsher Raj Kapoor.

By 1970, he was edged out Rajesh Khanna, the new, chikna romantic hero. But more than that, it was Shammi's own (lost) battle with weight which proved to be his downfall.

He did try directing films. But unlike brother Raj Kapoor, he did not succeed in that arena. The hero now played supporting actor roles, and over time pretty much retired from the public eye.

And yet, like I said, he left such an imprint in the minds and hearts of generations of Indians. That 40 years later, we woke up and cried to hear he was gone.

I think that is so beautiful and rare, and something we all should take note of.

Are we bringing joy to the lives of the people we touch everyday?

Because that is all that really matters.

Are we being original and true to ourselves?

Because that is all that is needed.

We can't all be actors, but we can learn from the life of Shammi Kapoor. The one and only way to be truly successful is to create your own brand. Like he did.

Creating the Cult

Shammi Kapoor entered the industry at age 17, as a junior artiste, at a salary of Rs. 50 per month. He made his debut in Bollywood in the year 1953, in the film Jeevan Jyoti.

As the son of Prithviraj Kapoor and brother of Raj Kapoor, getting into the movies came easily. Getting into the hearts of the audience was quite another matter. Shammi was stuck in uninspiring roles, wearing silly wigs and melodramatic expressions.

What's worse, critics wrote him off as a copycat. Years later he recalled how a review of his second picture Rail ka Dibba said: 'Shammi Kapoor apes Raj Kapoor'.

"It hurt a lot because I didn't understand what it meant to ape somebody because I wasn't aping. I came from the same school of acting. We were from the same stage and had done the same roles. But it made me realise that it was going to be tough."

In 1955, Shammi married Geeta Bali, a popular star of that era.

"I was in even deeper trouble. Then I was no longer only the son of Prithviraj Kapoor, and brother of Raj Kapoor, but I was also the husband of Geeta Bali. That's three-to-one. It gave me a challenge, an incentive to go out there and prove myself."

Apparently, at one point, Shammi Kapoor even considered giving up films and finding a job as a manager on a tea plantation in Assam. It was Geeta Bali who persuaded him to stick it out.

The turning point came when Filmistan gave writer Nasir Hussain a break as director, with Tumsa Nahin Dekha, The problem was Dev Anand was not available, Neither was Sunil Dutt.

Sashadhar Mukherjee, co-owner of Filmistan told Nasir Hussain, 'Try this lad. Let's see how it works out. I see some greatness in him.'

Shammi could never be sure what that greatness was, but the fact that *someone* believed in him inspired him.

"I had nothing to lose, so I went all out, changed my image, shaved off my moustache, got myself a crew cut, and there grew the yahoo image."

The rest is history.

Why did it work?

Because it was different, and captured the imagination of people. Nasreen Munni Kabir is a film journalist who's written the chapter on Shammi for an upcoming book titled 'Bollywood's Top 20: Superstars of Indian Cinema'. She notes:

When Tumsa Nahin Dekha was released in 1957, cast opposite Ameeta, Shammi Kapoor impressed with his intuitive and fresh acting, playful edge and great physical agility, which involved jumping, leaping and general cavorting.

Most importantly, he exuded an unabashed and irresistible sexuality that was far from the prudish heroes of the time… With his dreamy eyes, soft voice, charming dialogue delivery and arresting personality, Shammi radiated the raw appeal of an Elvis Presley -- especially evident when performing the songs.

Success then, was a mix of destiny and design. Established heroes not being available, Nasir Hussain being a debut director open to new ideas - these were the elements of destiny.

Design was the careful crafting of a new image. A more Westernised, free-wheeling 'rebel' star. Of course this only worked because it was not 'put on'. Shammi was just being his natural, exuberant self.

A man who dances to the tune of his heart must create the steps to go along with it. And that, is literally what Shammi Kapoor did.

As he once said in an interview, "My dancing was entirely extempore. I never knew what my next step would be. Sometimes, if I had to give a second take, my steps would be different. I couldn't do the same thing again. I had, within me, a dormant, incredible energy that was screaming out for expression, and, luckily, my directors agreed to let me do what I wanted."

Tap your own dormant energy, express yourself fully and honestly.

It is bound to work.

Finding your own rhythm

Shammi Kapoor found 'success' after four years of struggle and 19 flops. That's how life treats most of us. The important thing is to retain hope. To build self-awareness. And seize your moment, when it presents itself (as it must!)

Working in a large company, you may have a chance to work on an exciting loosely defined new project. Take it!

Tired of bureaucracy and bossy management, you may have a chance to partner your college buddy in a start-up. Give it a shot!

Struggling for a break as a writer/ musician/ graphic artist, you decide to 'self publish' and market your own creation. Give it all you've got!

Nasir Hussain and Shammi Kapoor went on to make dozens of hit films together. The first success opens doors to fields of golden opportunity, beyond your wildest imagination. But the burden of creating that success rests solely on your shoulders.

On your judgement, your inner compass of intuition.


Wellwishers will advise you ki aisa karo, this is what the market wants. The truth is, nobody knows what they want. The real needs of people are unspoken, unfelt. But when you tap into those needs, they embrace you with a fierce loyalty and enthusiasm.

Shammi slithered down the snow covered valleys of Kashmir with a light disdain of parental authority and conventional behaviour. He struck just the right chord.

Employ the same principle, and create the product or service, song or book, that everybody (secretly) wants. People will flock to you, like bees towards honey.

Create a revolution, your own Ramlila maidan.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I pledge to end vocational corruption

The entire country is gripped with anti-corruption fever.

Many are taking a personal pledge to neither give nor take bribes, which is wonderful.

But is that the only form of corruption in our society? If we expect our public life and public servants to be honourable, fair, just and honest what about other aspects of our lives?

What Anna stands for is the highest moral standard, applied to everything you do and say. To do what is right, versus what is convenient.

Because each individual’s actions and intentions create the goodness of society a as a whole.

It is in this spirit that I have formulated a series of pledges for people belonging to different professions. If you really feel strongly about ending corruption in this country, silently make your commitment. To create that brave new world.

Chartered Accountants

I pledge to truthfully and faithfully conduct audits, refusing to overlook and sign off on discrepancies.

I pledge to ask my clients to pay the correct amount of tax rather than asking them how much tax they want to pay and working backwards.

I pledge not to employ my young colleagues doing articleship for the sole purpose of generating fake expense vouchers.


I pledge to truthfully and faithfully examine patients, refusing to send them for unnecessary tests and surgical procedures.

I pledge to prescribe the correct and lowest priced medicine required, not the brand of a pharmaceutical company which offers me junkets and incentives.

I pledge to give receipts to patients for fees paid to me instead of operating in ‘cash’.

Marketers & Advertisers

I pledge to truthfully and faithfully sell products which live up to their claims.

I pledge that I will not play on the fears and insecurities of people by bombarding them with messages which make them feel old, ugly, unhealthy or unloved.
I pledge that I will not digitally enhance the hair, face and bodies of film stars and models to my products look better

Stock market experts

I pledge to truthfully and faithfully state whether I have made money using my own tips given to various television business channels.

I pledge to be a true expert by asking tough questions to company management and promoters.

I pledge to disclose all my personal investments in the stock market, before offering my ‘unbiased’ advice.


I pledge to truthfully and faithfully report the news, without fear or favour

I pledge to not publish or broadcast paid news, or advertisements disguised as news.

I pledge that I will not suppress news, on the request or behest of any person/ persons.

The list of professions is long, I leave it to the readers to formulate the pledge necessary for their own line of work. You are welcome to add such pledges in the comments section :)

But here is one final pledge for all corporate fatcats:

I pledge to truthfully and faithfully work towards not just the bottomline of my company, but the health and happiness of society as a whole.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Startup of the month

Lots of you write in to me saying 'I want you to feature me in your book someday'. Well, someday is in the future. Meanwhile let me support you by choosing one entrepreneur every month who I find interesting, energetic, fresh & promising.

So nominate yourself by posting a few lines here abt who you are and what you do, what makes your product or service unique. The person I select gets featured here as well as on my Facebook fanpage.

Please be clear, concise in writing about yourself. Don't hardsell, but don't be too shy either. And remember, even if you don't get selected, this is a form of 'free advertising'!)

*Drumrollll* Let the nominations begin!

Monday, August 22, 2011

I am guilty

dear Blog & dear Readers

I am guilty. Guilty of neglecting you both.

There is a lot I want to write and say. Earlier I would right away come to this space and express myself. Now, thoughts and feelings get an immediate outlet on Facebook and Twitter.

But while I love these mediums, there is nothing as satisfying for a writer as putting together a thoughtful, well-researched blogpost.

I promise to rededicate myself to such writing, at least once a week.

Hope you all continue reading and sharing your feedback!

And now, for some news & announcements:

1) My book 'Connect the Dots' has been nominated for the Vodafone Crossword Book awards in the 'Popular' category. if you liked it, you can vote for it using this link:

2) I invite you to connect wih me on Facebook at www.facebookcom/rashmibansal. That way you will get regular updates of all events I am doing.

The next one coming up is the reading from 'I have a dream' at Reliance Time Out, Korum Mall, Thane (W) on Wed Aug 24 @ 630 pm

3) Lastly, this blog template is really very old and outdated. Somehow I find it familiar and comforting but realize it's time to change and upgrade. So I'm looking for one of you (maybe a student web designer/ small start up) to take on the challenge.

Email me as always at rashmi_b at with brief cv and 3 things you think need to be done right away @ Youthcurry and we will take it forward.

And remember, while this is a paid project I am looking for people who want to do it more out of passion than for money alone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Har ek friend zaroori hota hai

After a loooong time, I caught an ad on TV which truly captures the spirit of youth today. Airtel's 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai'.

This is the Facebook generation, where you can have 500 'friends'. Cynics wonder *how* can anyone have 500 friends. The truth is, you can. This isn't the ''yeh dosti hum nahin todenge' kind of friendship. This is an acquaintance of casual utility, every kind of friend can have his/her role.

Jaise chai ke liye toast hota hai
Waise har ek friend zaroori hota hai.

The early morning friend, the late night savior, the guy who throws his house open, the guys who always pile on. The ones who borrow money from you, the ones who pay for you - the list is endless.

The line I liked best of all:

Ek ghadi ghadi kaam aaye, kabhi kabhi call kare
Ek kabhi kabhi kaam aaye aur ghadi ghadi call kare

Don't we all know someone like that!

In short, it is a brilliant piece of work which is definitely going to catch on. The ad airing on TV is shorter while Youtube has the extended version (another great idea!). The Youtube video also features lyrics in sub-titles (TV version should do that too!)

Google does not reveal who's composed the song and lyrics, or the agency behind the idea. But I surmise it is the effortless genius of Taproot, which is rumoured to be the new creative agency for Airtel.

Taproot is an independent creative agency headed by Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi (both ex-JWT). Not as 'famous' as Piyush Pandey or Prasoon Joshi but their work speaks for itself.

These are the guys who worked on the Nike Cricket ad (I thought that was amazing back in 2007) . And numerous Times of India campaigns (Lead India, Teach India and the ''Day in the life of… ' series).

Yessssss I am a fan.

And here is some excellent advice Agnello has for new entrants in the creative industry. In an interview to Adgully he says:

In the creative field, success is not equivalent to talent. Success depends on resilience. It also depends on what pace you can keep coming back after a bounced ad or a released ad that has not done very well. Most of the successful people in the creative field are people with great(er) creative resilience than talent… youngsters should remember that.

I agree 100%. Creativity is about a constant flow of ideas.

Having the judgement which one to pick and run with.

Discarding the ones you loved but did not work.

Not operating from your ego or need to show cleverness but what is required, what is right, what is created from the head but finds its way to your heart.

Over time - say 10-15-20 years - this starts coming to you naturally. Whether you are a musician, an artist, a writer or a copywriter.

And yes, if the System does not allow you to work in this way, you do what Agnello did. Your Own Thing. It is tough and hassly for creative people to become entrepreneurs (looking into finances and whatnot is a dull distraction from creative work!). But it is worth it.

I hope there are more Taproots, more Agnellos, more unmundane advertising. Until then the remote control is your only saviour from sufferance and 7 day hairfall challenges. And impossibly shiny hair, whiter than white teeth and skin.

Creatively created on Planet Photoshop!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A new sunrise

On Independence Day, I caught snatches of Attenborough's evergreen 'Gandhi'.

Gandhiji is fasting for communal harmony. Uncontrollable riots have broken out in partitioned Punjab and Bengal.

Nehru and Sardar Patel have come to meet him, to call off the fast. Instead, Bapu tells Sardar Patel,"You join me in fasting."

Sardar replied, only half in jest," Bapu, if I fast, I will die. But if you fast, people will listen. They care about whether you live or die."

On the morning of 16th August I thought to myself, "Do people really care whether Anna lives or dies?"

After all, he is a Gandhian but he is not Gandhi.

Events of the day which followed answered that question loud and clear.

We care. Enough to move our butts and join protests on the ground. In numbers that look large enough on TV to excite the rest of us.

Ki haan, kuch ho saklta hai. Aam aadmi ki awaaz duniya ko hila sakti hai.

Democracy, which existed only as a word in textbooks, has suddenly become gloriously and vibrantly alive.

In a way that you and me never felt, when we cast our vote for some unknown, unseen, undeserving political candidate.

Yes, the purists among you are ready to jump on me now and proclaim there has to be *some* method or there will be madness. But isn't what is happening in the name of democracy another form of madness.

Where power is seen not as responsibility, but privilege. Where the elected representative of the citizens becomes a 'supercitizen'.

He has right of way on roads., can breeze into the airport without ID proof (I saw Renuka Chowdhury do this with my own eyes at Delhi's T3 last month).

Has no 5 year plan to improve the welfare of citizens, but 25 year plans on improving own welfare. Stashed away in lockers, mattresses, benami plots and houses.

As if one man or woman *needs* that much for one lifetime.

As if the next seven generations will benefit.

More likely, they will come to ruin.

Not to mention generations of Indians who are being ruined.

Will getting out on the streets change anything? Who knows. But sitting quietly in our homes certainly will not.

Join the movement, wherever you are.

Check for events on, or create your own on the site.

Follow on twitter:

Believe that one man - Everyman - can make a difference.

This is the sunrise of Hope.
After such a long and moonless night.

Do not draw the curtain of cynicism.

Awaken, fellow citizens, awaken!

(All pucs taken at rally in support of Anna held this evening at Shivaji chowk in Vashi, Navi Mumbai)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

'I have a dream' events across India

dear Readers,

You will be happy to know that my new book 'I have a dream' is currently the no 1 non-fiction title in India. Thank you for the love & support you have given me over the years, as demanding readers and friendly critics. Your presence in my life has certainly made me a better writer!

I am travelling across India for a series of events. Details re: next two cities are as follows:

Friday JULY 1, 6 pm
"I Have a Dream" - INSPIRATIONAL TALK by Rashmi Bansal, hosted by Persistent Foundation at Dewang Mehta Auditorium, Persistent Systems Limited, S.B.Road branch, Pune. To attend please register here.

Saturday, JULY 2, 6.30 pm
You are cordially Invited for a 'I Have a Dream' - Book Reading event by Rashmi Bansal on Saturday 2nd July @ Crossword, ICC Towers, Pune at 630 pm. If you're attending, add your name here.

FRIDAY JULY 8, 6.30 pm
You are cordially Invited for a 'I Have a Dream' - Book Reading event by Rashmi Bansal on Friday 8th July @ Crossword, S G Rd, Ahmedabad at 630 pm.

Baroda Management Association and Faculty of Social Work, MS University cordially invite you for a talk on 'I have a dream' at Faculty of Social Work Auditorium, M S University, 3-5 pm

SATURDAY, JULY 9, 6.30 pm
You can also catch me at Crossword bookstore, Baroda, at 6.30-8 pm for the book reading/signing event!

Other cities

Details on exact venue, time etc will be posted here soon :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Climb every mountain

"Just a week back, I was holding on to a near-vertical ice face with a pick, weighed down by 25 kilos of supplies, with two other guys tied to me with a rope, completely dependent on me. And I think that was easier."

Easier than getting admission to Delhi University.

That statement by Arjun Vajpeyi, the youngest Indian to climb Mount Everest, is echoed by thousands of students vying for a few hundred seats in the 'most wanted' colleges of our capital city.

The DU mountain has always been a difficult climb, But this year it has gained Everest-like proportions, with the prestigious Shriram College of Commerce (SRCC) declaring a cut-off of 100%. Making the prospect of securing a seat icy and bleak, even for 'toppers'.

The trouble is there aren't too many other mountains to set one's sights on.

Unlike the mighty Himalayas, the college landscape in India consists of a few majestic summits and a large number of minor elevations. The climate on these academic molehills is neither pleasant nor invigorating.

It's like being in Lonavla during the height of summer when your friends are holidaying in Europe.

The cold hard fact is that the list of 'top colleges' in Delhi - and most other cities across India - remains practically unchanged in the last fifty years. The colleges students vie for were established during the British era, or shortly after Independence.

This is not at all surprising, because a good college builds its reputation slowly. It can easily take fifty, or even a hundred years. That is why commercially driven colleges cannot and do not prosper easily. The businessman looks for short-term gain, breakeven point and bottlomline.

For that reason alone, new colleges are not coming up in the traditional areas of Arts, Science and Commerce. Returns from engineering and management are far more attractive.

Even the government is focused on 'professional' education, and more so on existing brands like IITs and IIMs. That leaves the 'degree' college market stagnant and under-capacity. God help the 'average' guy when the 98% er is anxious and unsure, about his kismat...

Making the best of it

Some are calling this the 'Rajnikant' effect in admissions but sadly, this is only a cruel joke.

All your dreams are shattered, your spirits low. You resign yourself to joining some 'shady' college. Right now, quite honestly, it feels like the end of the civilised world.

I know because that's how I felt in July 1988. After a year in the US, where my father was working with NASA, I came back to India and wanted to join St Xavier's college, Mumbai.

They said, "Sorry, you've come late. Admissions are closed..."

"There are other good colleges," said my mom, and off we went prospecting.

The gloomy corridors of Elphinstone college depressed me; Jai Hind looked like a place where 'what you wear' mattered too much. Sydenham offered only commerce. Where else could one go!

Try Sophia college, someone suggested. I wasn't keen, but what choice did I have? We made the trip, from Navy Nagar to Peddar Road. And guess what, the moment I walked into that cool marble corridor, I felt a sense of peace. The sun came out from the clouds.

We met the Vice Principal, a kindly lady whose sari pallu never quite learnt to stay in place. She did not labour too long over my odd foreign marksheet. Or scold me for applying late.

"Okay - you are admitted. Welcome to Sophia!"

And there I was. Not getting into Xavier's - in hindsight - was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was jolted out of my sheltered existence.

Those three years at Sophia changed me, in ways I could not have imagined. I learnt to travel, make new friends and take up positions of leadership. The less-than-perfect college I was forced to join gave me a far bigger canvas - to discover myself and what I was capable of.

But it did not happen on day one...

The Lotus Effect

"I am back in school!" I thought to myself.

Sophia college didn't have a uniform but the way the girls spoke, the way the professors taught - it didn't feel like college.. No one asked questions, everyone just took notes.

The large majority of girls were from conservative families - both Hindu and Muslim. Some of the Muslims came to college in burqa - for their convenience there was even a stand where they could hang the.burqas during college hours.

After spending a year in an American high school, all this was a cultural shock. To think I had once dreamt of attending an Ivy League college, and now I was stuck in a convent, administered by nuns.

Well, soon enough I discovered there was a silver lining at Sophia. It had plenty of extra-curriculars in the form of clubs. Immediately I set about joining as many as I could - International Relations Club, Film Club, Bhartiya Sanskriti Parishad.

My personal favourite was SPRAG - the Sophia Press and Radio Action Group.

The second thing I quickly realised is most of the clubs were dead. 90% of the girls had no interest in extra-curriculars and didn't want to stay back till 2 pm (when college officially ended and club activities began).

So if you came forward, you quickly got to do things. To become one of the core group, to do what your heart desired.

Over the course of three years I represented my college in dozens of inter-quiz competitions. Even at outstation fests like Oasis (BITS Pilani) and Mardi Gras (IIT Madras). My big challenge - every year - was finding one more girl interested in quizzing. Since most competitions require a partner!

In my third year, I became editor of the college magazine. And secretary of SPRAG (the media club). Every month I produced an 8 sheet xerox offset newsletter called 'Snippet' which was sold for Rs 2 per copy.

The issue which carried a debate on whether Sophia should remain a 'girls-only' college created a bit of a stir. As did my idea of a 'black band' day to protest against the Mandal Commission.

The Principal -crusty old Sr L Rodrigues - said to me in so many words, "If you want to do this kind of thing, find some other college."

Point taken and protest halted... There is a limit to 'democracy' inside a college with pink walls!

Lemon vs Lemonade

At Sophia - because of the combination of subjects offered - I had to take English Literature along with Economics and Statistics.

I enjoyed it so much that at the end of the second year I almost changed my major. Although in the end I stuck with Eco, I know those two years of Keats and Yeats were a wonderful exposure. That shaped my thinking and writing in years to come.

To sum up, when life gives you a lemon, you gotta learn to make lemonade. What's more, something that appears to be a lemon from afar may actually be a semi-sweet orange, when you take a closer look.

A college where 'things don't happen' is a place waiting for someone to come along and 'make things happen'. Revive existing activities, or start new ones. Set up a chapter of NEN (National Entrepreneurship Network) or Rotaract - become part of a larger movement.

In every college where 'teachers don't take interest' there is at least one teacher, waiting for an interested student. Be that student. Take whatever subject you are studying seriously, go deep into it like a diver looking for that elusive pearl.

College is like a mental gym. The subjects you study are like equipment. You might prefer treadmill but only get a chance to use barbells - either way you will see the benefit.

English literature or economics - neither is going to be of 'use' in practical life. But if you study a subject with passion and understanding, you will develop a critical faculty. The ability to think, to look at a situation from all angles, to assimilate ideas. And come up with your own,

The Last Word

If you still need convincing, do pick up a book called 'Adapt' by Tim Harford (of 'The Undercover Economist' fame). It's a dazzling and convincing argument on why success always starts with failure.

Harford believes that 'trial and error' is the most effective way to solve problems. And that flexibility and experimentation are the qualities you will need the most in an increasingly complex world.

Be that person who tries harder, and is never afraid to make a mistake. Treat your life like one grand experiment. For, results come in the most unexpected ways.

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin because he never kept his laboratory clean. Who knows what you might discover, in the contaminated petri dish of life.

If you believe in yourself, 100%.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No happy endings

So I've seen two movies over two weekends and they both have the same basic message: Bure ka phal bura hota hai.

Or, if you do bad stuff, you will ultimately meet a bad end.

'Shaitan' is a stylish film about five stylish friends with too much cash and too little purpose in life. Their descent into hell begins accidentally (drunk rich kids killing motorcyclist) but thereafter, they make some really bad choices. To cover up and 'get away' with the initial crime.

'Bhindi Bazaar' is a tale at the opposite economic end of the city, where young Tabrez is enticed into the world of crime by an aatthane ka ice-gola. Here too we see a group of 'friends' who eventually falls apart. Their story is likened to a game of chess, except in the end there *is* no winner.

Marne ke baad pata chalta hai ki Bhindi Bazar ho ya Malabar Hill - kya farak padta hai.

Unfortunately life itself is not so black and white. There seem to be a large number of people who seem to get away with assorted sins. While Tez and Fateh in Bhendi Bazaar were pickpocketing hapless commuters, our leaders continue to pickpocket the entire nation.

Sending a few individuals to jail - and denying them bail for a while - is not going to change that!

While Amu, KC and gang in 'Shaitan' stage their own kidnapping and become headline news, our leaders create their own daily drama to stay in the headlines. Some of them appear to spend more time hopping from channel to channel participating in schoolboy debates than doing their actual jobs...

And yet. I am sure these pocketmaars with Swiss bank accounts must be suffering. Do they have the health to enjoy their wealth? The peace of mind to enjoy a sunset? The genuine respect or admiration of the people who live and work with them?

I think not.

The world would be an ideal place if bad people met a bad end within 120 minutes, but lessons of life are far subtler and slower. And we aren't directing this film so we can't see the big picture, the connections within connections, and their consequences.

They say that if a butterfly flutters its wings at one end of the world, it can produce a hurricane at the other end. There *are* hurricanes all around us, inside us. Or cases of exploding mangoes (as in the classic black novel by Mohammed Hanif)

Only the timer mechanism is sometimes faulty.

Bhindi Bazaar mein paida hona kisi ke haath mein nahin hai, says the movie. But maybe it is. You reap what you sow, and a tree of hate, greed and violence offers no shade.

In future lifetimes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Invitation to the launch of 'I have a dream'

dear Readers

You are cordially Invited for the Official Book Launch of ’I Have a Dream’

Date : 15 June
Time: 6:30 -8.30 pm
Location : Crossword Book Store – Kemps Corner, Mumbai.

Meet some of the Social Entrepreneurs from the book who will share their Inspiring Stories & also answer your questions. Present from the book will be:

Shaheen Mistri, Founder – Akanksha Teach & for India

Dhruv Lakra, Founder – Mirakle Couriers

Santosh Parulekar, Founder - Pipal Tree

Vineet Rai, Founder – Aavishkaar Social Venture Fund

I will also be signing books of course :)

Looking forward to seeing you there! And of course there will be events in other cities over the next six weeks. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crime and Punishment

The byline 'J Dey' always fascinated me. Who is this guy without a first name, as mysterious as the shadowy figures he writes about...

Most journalists, after all, want to be known.

Sadly, I now know that J stands for Jyotrimoy. And his photograph is on every front page. Jyotirmoy Dey was shot down, in broad daylight, on a busy thoroughfare in Mumbai city. Just like so many of the gangsters he has reported on over the years...

The life of a crime reporter is tough, it is thankless, and I am sure it does not pay very much. Yet, Jyotirmoy Dey devoted his life to it. And sadly paid with his life for it.

May his soul rest in peace.

It is certainly a very sad day for journalism and humanism.

Also read: J Dey: The Eagle Who Dared

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Maid in India

In the year 2002, when my daughter was a toddler and life was a scheduling algorithm, I had this idea of starting a 'maid agency'.

An agency which would supply professionally trained, trustworthy domestic help - something I would gladly pay a premium for.

The inspiration was a visit to Singapore, where the maid economy seemed to flow so smoothly and efficiently (just like every aspect of life in that country!). But surely, there was *something* we could learn from them, and implement here.

I didn't actually get into it - because it was a great idea, but not the idea I wanted to devote my life to. Life somehow went on, I was lucky to have a wonderful girl work with for more than five years.

Then, Lata got married and I was back scouring maidland for clean, reliable and efficient domestic help. Once again I wished there was an agency I could call!

So this morning, when I woke up and glanced at Mint I said to myself, "Finally!" The cover story chronicled the quiet revolution in the 'home service staff industry'. Thanks to entrepreneurs like Shawn Runacres of Domesteq Service Solutions, a a Delhi based domestic staff placement and training agency.

Originally started to cater to expats, 60% of Domesteq's clients are now Indians. And in Gurgaon, where they've just started a branch it's 90%.

The report says a similar service is offered by Partners in Prosperity, a Delhi-based NGO. Catering to more middle class homes. Similarly, there is 'Care Service' in Bangalore. In Mumbai I am told an NGO run by Jesuits called Seva Niketan has a domestic employment bureau.

So far, so good but demand far exceeds supply. There are many agents, but all they do is serve as middlemen - connecting you with a potential worker. Very few are taking up the task of training and upgrading the women, thus increasing their earning capacity. And making life easier for working couples and young mothers.

But that apart, sometimes I wonder, what is it *we* can do to make things better. Why don't we pay our maids far more - for they are literally our lifelines.

Because we believe there is a 'rate' for everything and it isn't wise to disturb the status quo.

"Zyada sar par chada kar mat rakho" is the advice given by generations of mothers. Treat your maid kindly but firmly, never let her forget who is the boss.

But again, times are changing. I recall this beautiful article by Rama Bijapurkar on the subject of maids which hit bullseye:

On her 45th birthday, my friend decided to thank the important people in her life who had helped her with her home-and-career juggling act all these years; so she took her cook and her housekeeper for a multiplex movie and a good dinner. Working mothers know that when it comes to the crunch, it is the quality of your maid and not the quality of your presentation that determines your career success.

Rama also has quite a few practical suggestions on how to a 'maid to order'. With or without an agency, training, motivating and rewarding an employee is, after all, in our hands.

Hands that today, are free of dirty dishes. But who knows, what tomorrow holds...

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Author Brand

My third book 'I have a dream' hit stores all over India on the 8th of June. And I am told that as per A C Nielsen, the book was #2 even before its release, based on orders placed by the trade.

It is deeply humbling and amazingly feel-good that so many people out there are placing their trust in me. Rather, in the author 'brand'.

When retailers pre-book a title, or customers do so, it is with the belief that they will like what I write. Based on what I wrote before this.

This is not very different from the manner in which people buy other kinds of products. Like Colgate toothpaste or Kissan jam - tried it, liked it, now don't want to *think* every time about this purchase.

A brand is thus a mix of preference and force of habit. It makes the process of navigating a world with too many choices, a little bit easier.

But the 'Author Brand' is a slightly different animal. The tube of Colgate you buy from one month to the next will remain *exactly* the same (they change the packaging slightly, maybe once in a decade!). But every new book an author writes must be the same - yet different.

By this I mean there should be enough in the book to identify the author brand and yet it must not feel like 'Bah, I've read this before!'.

So how does one achieve that? Well, I have a simple formula - encapsulate your Author Brand in 3 words. What do you stand for?

If I look at Stay Hungry Stay Foolish I would use the words 'Inspiring', 'Real Life', 'MBA Entrepreneurs'.

So Connect the Dots was a natural extension - 'Inspiring', 'Real Life', 'Non MBA Entrepreneurs'.

And 'I Have a Dream' extends the brand as - 'Inspiring', 'Real Life', 'Social Entrepreneurs'.

The really important elements, to me, are the fact that the stories are inspiring and real life. The term 'entrepreneur' I define far more broadly than a Peter Drucker. To me, an entrepreneur is anyone who has charted out his or her own destiny.

Yes, setting up your own business is the most visible form of entrepreneurship. But you can be an entrepreneur in the social space, creative arts or even the spiritual arena.

I know there are hundreds of amazing stories out there, and these stories will come to me - as I need them.

Of course the 'Author Brand' is not so rational. As with music, where every singer is distinct and identifiable, the true strength of a writer lies in his or her 'Voice'. A certain style, a manner of expression.

My style of writing - from the very beginning - has been simple. I prefer small words to complex ones, small sentences to big ones. I often twist the rules of grammar (not because I do not know them) but because I want the words to flow as if they are being spoken.

And of course, I mix a bit of Hindi with the Queen's English. It doubles my vocabulary and makes what I write more accessible and relatable to the aam aadmi. (yes I know some of you strongly object to it but that is the way the words flow out!).

So why am I sharing these thoughts? To guide those of you who are embarking on this path - struggling to find your way. Wondering what will make your writing 'sell'.

I can only say that you have to be true to yourself, above all else. Don't worry about failure. Don't get carried away by success.

Those are not the reasons you want to become a writer in the first place.

You write, because you have to. Not for recognition or readership, but for your own selfish pleasure. When you write in that state of mind, your heartfelt passion and joyous energy and will spill into the pages.

And create happiness in the world.

P.S. 'I have a dream' is available in all stores and also online at Flipkart , Infibeam , Indiaplaza and Dial a Book.

You can also get regular updates on events around the book here:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crash course in curiosity

Think 'research' and what comes to mind is serious, bespectacled individuals - with or without labcoats - obsessed with matters tres importante. Certainly, they must possess PhDs and use long English words in long winding sentences. After all, they cogitate, while mere mortals only think.

Well, think again. This Saturday, I attended the annual exhibition cum graduation ceremony of the PUKAR Youth Fellowship Program and saw another kind of research. 'Barefoot' research.

On display were the projects taken up by a diverse set of youngsters - from Pen to Ghatkopar, Lalbaug to Bainganwadi. Each researching a topic close to its heart.

A young boy - no more than 16 or 17 - earnestly explains to me the problems faced by orphans in choosing a career path.

"Gorment ke jo hostel hain unme attharah saal ke baad nikaal dete hain… is liye ladkon ko chhota mota naukri lena padta hai, padhaai karke kya fayda ho sakta hai wo bhi samajhte nahin."

The best a boy from an orphanage can hope to do, he says, is join an ITI.

"Magar aap batao - khaali ITI se zindagi ban sakti hai kya? Kuch aur chance bhi to milna chahiye… "

But the boys have neither the knowledge, nor the financial capability to dream bigger dreams. To become doctors, CAs or engineers.

Indeed, it's a subject I have never paused to think about. Or read about in the media.

"Why did you choose this topic?" I asked the boy.

"Kyunki main bhi orphan hoon," he said, without hesitation. Just a little luckier than others. This boy is studying in class 12 and also working as an apprentice with Godrej. In fact his entire 'research group' consists of orphaned boys, and they have attacked the subject of their study with vim and vigor.

As have the boys of Bainganwadi, a slum colony in Govandi suffering from severe water problems. This group has put together a poignant photoessay capturing every aspect of the issue - from the hardships caused to men, women and children queueing up for water, to the hypocrisy of the local politicians and religious leaders supposedly 'fasting unto death' to secure water for the residents.

"Unke ghar mein to paani aata hai," they knowingly declare.

Two glass beakers are on display - one filled with grey water, one with yellow.

"The yellow water is what people take out of the ground, by digging a hole inside their kholi…"

The entire colony you see, is built on reclaimed land.

The grey water people buy - and use for bathing and washing. Two rupees a bag. Clear water - Bisleri water - is a most precious commodity.

"People spend almost Rs 60 a day just on water!" says one of the boys.

"Log subah uth kar sochte hain aaj kya karenge… yahan log subah uth kar yehi sochte hain ki paani aaj kahaan se aayega…"

And this is the situation inside Bombay city - not a drought-affected village in some distant taluka. Quite an eye-opener!

Another project which truly stood out was a group of girls from Santacruz (E) who decided to investigate an everyday matter: "Ladke naake par khade hooker chhed-chhad kyun karte hain?"

Why do boys congregate at street corners to ogle and whistle at girls? Results are here, for you to see.

An important conclusion of this research was that 'padhe likhe log bhi chhed chhad karte hain". ie educated men also indulge in this behavior. I don't know if this is a path-breaking finding but what is path-breaking is that girls are no silent victims.

"Jab aap un ladkon ke paas gaye aur aapne kaha ki hum aapse kuch sawaal poochhna chahte hain… to darr nahin laga?" I asked.

They laughed. "Nahin.. sab ne co operate kiya. Aur phir humne focus group discussion kiya na is liye sab ne khul kar aaraam se apne man ki baat keh di."

Of course, the girls' families were a little taken aback initially but now they are proud and happy.

I don't know if any of these projects follows the strict guidelines of 'research'. And the usable output at the end of the project is often unclear. But one thing is for sure, Pukar is an initiative with a difference, and one which makes a difference.

The most wonderful aspect is that it is not restricted to English-speaking elite, college-going youth. A majority of the projects were prepared in Marathi and Hindi, and the participants came from diverse backgrounds. Which is something we rarely see...

At the end of the day I don't know if Pukar projects can really be called 'research' but certainly it is citizen journalism at its best. Curious minds working - with passion and direction - to document the world around them.

The facts and findings are raw and relevant, and I hope they are used by journalists, by sociologists and by the administration - to do their jobs better. As well as inspire students everywhere to put their hearts and souls into any project they take up.

Not wake up the night before and frantically do google 'research'.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Insider's Take on 'Alternate Careers'

Two weeks ago I was in Dehradun, addressing an auditorium full of 12th class students on 'alternate careers'. And I realized one very sad fact. Twenty years after I felt pressurized to take up the safe option of science over arts, economics over English literature - the same mindset prevails.

95% of the students - representing the so called 'middle class' of India - raised their hands to say they are pursuing a path laid down by parents. Engineering nahin to medicine nahin to MBA.

But don't we keep hearing - "Today kids have so many options!". While that is true, most students are not given the freedom or encouragement to go down different paths. Parents mean well and want their kids to be 'happy'. But they are woefully ignorant and see safety in sticking with the herd.

Students know, in their hearts, this is not what they want. But they don't have the courage to take a stand. And what do they take a stand on? They have no idea of where their passion lies.

Agar kuch idea hai to they are convinced it is 'very hard' to make it doing something you love. Rozi roti kamaane ke liye kuch to sacrifice karna padega!

Since all of middle class India is dreaming of one thing - acchhi degree leading to acchhi (assured) naukri - let us examine the premise. Let's say you do your BTech from a theek thaak college and make it to Infosys or TCS. You can expect a starting salary at age 22 of about Rs 3 lakhs.

Assuming you perform in the top 25% and hop a couple of jobs, you can expect to earn around Rs 1 lakh per month by age 30.

Is that such a big deal? I think not! My contention is that if you join any industry at age 21 or 22 and gain 8-9 years of experience - you would be earning that much. Assuming of course that you have some passion or flair for what you do.

The path taken may of course be slightly different. You may not get a 'brand name' employer right out of college and your starting salary may be much smaller. Your work output and skill will matter more than a 'degree' as such. But I can bet there are any number of you out there who are nodding your heads as you read this. Haan - yeh to sau pratishat sach hai.

Radio jockey, rocket scientist, helicopter pilot, pastry chef, hair stylist, film editor, insurance salesman, psychotherapist, college professor, veterinarian, entrepreneur.

Share your stories with me. The criteria is that you are earning Rs 1 lakh per month at age 30. Give or take a couple of years. And if you don't earn it in money terms you get it in perks or other material benefits. Not to mention the satisfaction of doing something you are really good at and love doing. And calling it 'work'.

Mail me at rashmi_b at with brief details of what you do and I will mail you a small questionnaire. I will share your stories on this blog and other mediums, to spread awareness among students.

I know the vast majority will continue to follow the easy path, the path of mediocrity. But if we can ignite a few lost souls out there, those few sparks are enough to create a bonfire of old ideas and prejudices.

Breaking this cycle of doing the done thing, even if we are dying in the doing of it. Every minute, every hour.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Down Red Brick Lane

There are many many institutes, but only a handful of institutions. Because an institution is built not just with bricks but with a collective mind, heart and soul.

IIM Ahmedabad is one such institution, which I am lucky to have been part of. As we celebrate our golden jubilee year, it's a time to look back in wonder. To remember and to reflect on the people, the purpose and the principles which made us 'who we are'.

Much can and has been written on this subject, but as they say, a picture can speak a thousand words. Or even ten thousand, when it is a book of pictures as lovingly selected and produced as this one.

I am talking about the IIM Ahmedabad coffee table book, a work of not just art but beauty, joy and eternal spirit.

From the early days of the institute, right to the present time, the book brings to life the campus and its somewhat crazy way of life. The freedom enjoyed by both faculty and students, the many rituals and traditions (such as 'dunking' and 'WAC runs').

I was particularly fascinated by the many rare black and white pictures, including the first convocation, construction of the now-famous red brick campus, and pictures of some of the legendary professors like V L Mote, in their younger days.

Another beautiful thing is that the pictures of campus life were sourced not just from institute archives but from the alumni scattered across India and the rest of the globe. I was surprised to see two pictures of myself - looking young, thin and starry-eyed - which I'd never seen before!

All I can say is, a lot of thought and effort has gone into the making of this book. A team consisting of Prof Rakesh Basant, Prof Monippally, Sunil Handa, Aditi Handa, and Pranay Gupta took a year to put it all together. But the end result is certainly worth the sweat!

The book itself carries the weight of history not-so-lightly. The 150 page volume weighs 1.6 kgs and is printed by Thomson Press on a wonderful, thick paper called 'Natural Evolution'.

In short, it's a book you would want to possess and treasure, whether you have been associated with IIMA as a student or participant, or as an observer and admirer.

You can order your copy online through The site also carries a
range of other wonderful products from the WIMWIAN (the Official IIMA Souvenir Shop on the campus) .

The IIMA Coffee Table book costs Rs 3000 (plus Rs 150 for courier and beautiful, sturdy packing!). It's a limited edition, so place your orders quickly!!

For any further queries email

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Have a Dream!!!

Finally. This is the cover I chose for 'I Have a Dream' - it's designed by Rupinder Singh, a young graphic artist from Kolkata. Yes, it was one of the 70 odd entries I received in response to the 'Design my next cover' contest.

I knew it was the 'One' the moment I saw it.

A big thank you to all who participated. I really appreciate the time and effort, and the love you put into this. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful readers and wellwishers out there.

And I'm sorry this announcement took its own time. But that's the world of publishing for you :)

I am also happy to announce that I have a new publisher - Westland. I am sure they will help 'I Have a Dream' reach out to even more readers. Touching more lives, inspiring more young minds.

The format of 'I Have a Dream' is similar to 'Stay Hungry' and 'Connect the Dots', but the theme is social entrepreneurship. A brief synopsis:

'I Have A Dream' is the story of 20 idealists who think and act like entrepreneurs. They are committed to different causes, but they have one thing in common: a belief that principles of management can and must be used to achieve a greater common good.

These stories say one thing loud and clear change starts with one person, and that person could be someone next door. Someone like you.

'I Have a Dream' will be released in the first week of June. Meanwhile, you can pre-order it at Flipkart, Infibeam and Indiaplaza.

For exact release date, launch event and loads more updates do 'like' the 'I Have a Dream' FB fanpage (which will be populated today):

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Inner (Re) engineering

"Do you know what you want from life?"

When a question is posed by a man with orange robes and dancing eyes, the word 'no' tumbles out spontaneously.

"See, many people say I want this job or that house or this much money... but then what?"

Then what is the reason we are standing at the entrance of the Dhyanalinga temple at the Isha Yoga Ashram near Coimbatore. Swami Patanga is our 'guide'. And he must have repeated these very same words a hundred times before, but he is so involved and animated.

Because each time it is an honour and a privilege, to open the door to a new seeker.

I will not play back the words, or provide a textual tour. All I can say is the experience of the Dhyanalinga is different from any other.

At this 'temple' there are no rituals, no poojas. No jostling, no queues. Dhyanalinga is a space which you enter to be with yourself, to experience the joy of a quiet mind.

They say you don't need to 'know' how to meditate. You enter Dhyanalinga and it just happens. And that is absolutely true.

In the short time I spent at the ashram I visited Dhyanlinga four different times. The first time, during the naad-aradhana, which is held twice a day. At this time, the majestic dome reverberates with an offering of sound.

People say it is one of the most beautiful experiences they have ever had. But for me, the Dhyanalinga experienced in silence was the 'real' thing. This time, I first took a dip in the Theerthakund - a reservoir of 'sacred water'.

Theerthakund is a rectangular tank embedded 30 feet deep in the earth, you walk down giant granite steps to reach it. The water is cold enough to make you go Brrrr - it will invigorate you to the core. But it's more than a religious 'swimming pool'.

Theerthakund is 'energised' by a mercury lingam (known as Rasalinga). This lingam is said to have healing properties and 'opens' you, makes you more receptive to Dhyanalinga. And kuch to hai, you can feel it.

I have never been the 'religious' type but what I have understood in the last five years is this: the true purpose of visiting a temple or a guru is 'darshan'. Darshan is not merely to 'see' but to receive energy. Energy embedded in the deity, or in the living person.

The lingam form is the purest form of energy worship.

Dhyana, in Sanskrit, essentially means meditation, and Linga means, the form. The first form is a Linga and the final form before dissolution is also a Linga. A Linga or perfect ellipsoid can be energized in various ways, to serve different purposes. It is one form that when energized becomes a perennial storehouse of energy.

Hence in very simple terms Dhyanalinga is a recharge station. You plug in and your receive. You don't have to 'do' anything, just being there is enough.

A more eloquent explanation provided by Sadhguru himself in this video:

I know that all this may sound like mumbo-jumbo to some of you but you have to experience it for yourself. The third time I entered Dhyanalinga, I sat there for an hour, feeling a sense of complete calm and wellbeing. I was connected to some Higher Power, a loving energy, The Source.

I come back, feeling different. The very first day I woke up at 5 am, feeling fresh and ready to start the day. With Isha yoga practices which I found 'boring' just a week ago.

It feels like something deep and fundamental within me has shifted.

I share this very intense and private moment with all of you, because I know *some* of you are lost and looking for 'answers'. For one brief moment, put logic aside and open your mind.

To ideas which are as old as the world itself.

To know more more visit

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth