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!

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