Mumbai Matinee

It always feels a bit discomforting to get back on a chair and type out this letter to self about past experiences and thoughts. Let’s just accept that this blog isn’t really the kind that gets updated with a predictable frequency and I am going to partly blame the phone-driven social media for me not able to find time for it. Held hostage by AI driven feeds of seemingly infinite potential, in past few months my literary contribution on the personal front got limited to occasionally posting photos on instagram and retweeting thoughts that I wanted to share but had already been captured succinctly. Writing blog posts in comparison seems like a mega project, something that needs not only unwavering devotion but also cosmic blessings for me to be able to publish a post end to end within a weekend.

But no, really it has been me! Often I’ve thought, if part of the purpose of the blog is for me to document my past experiences and thoughts, why can’t I just remember them. The assuring feeling that I’d remember is the strongest just past the event, hence the reluctance to not document it. What a naive thought, you should be wondering, well, I agree with you, now I do.. The other purpose of sharing my opinions, travels and stories remains. But I must prioritise learning over reflecting, so whenever I am taking a break from the blog, it’s safe to assume that I’m learning something new. In this case, it was the city of Mumbai.

I shifted to Mumbai, from Gurgaon, in August 2017. This time from a small company setup to a big one. Now, if I go back on my own timeline, I did write about my decision of shifting from Bangalore to Gurgaon. where I mentioned why I quit my MNC job and shifted to product operations, in an e-commerce setting. Then why the shift again? And this is a question that I got asked often as I was building my new network here at workplace, it had almost become a way for me to introduce myself. The short version is that I realized to make any sort of impact on the world, I had to narrow down to an industry, choosing a function was not enough. More so for me, as my functional preference sits at the intersection of operations, digital product management and business intelligence.

While e-commerce seemed like an obvious choice when I jumped into it, I realized that it is more of a channel of customer interface than an industry in itself. The product being sold through the channel, was the one which defined the industry. This is how I chose transaction banking as an industry, for its nodal position in financial relationships between service providers ( commercial banks, paymnt banks, NBFCs and other fintech startups) and the end customers (retail consumers, merchants and corporates). Could I have deduced this logically before I actually interacted with interviewers on the other side of the phone, no way! So much for careful data analysis and pre-determined paths!

I got an offer to join-in as a product manager for CMS products within the Transaction Banking ecosystem at Axis Bank. Given how the industry is at an inflection point of digitization, it seemed like a good first step for me in the right direction. I packed my bags and started out for Mumbai.

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today looks like a good day to be out in the morning!

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I had a very bad impression of the city when I had visited previously, mainly because of the density of the old areas, piles of garbage on street curbs, stinking alleys and the shabby state of buildings. Little of  that has changed in the last 5 years, and while these things still bother me, I’ve also found reasons to love the city.

I’ll list some of these things below but before you proceed, I also want to take the opportunity to introduce the revamped page taxonomy. If you look at the menu, you’d see 3 headers – lists, travelogues and hobby network. I’ve decided to publish some of the content on these pages instead of posting about them in posts like this one. It keeps the geek in me happy to use the latest apps available in the market and in a way, have this blog as a place where it all comes together. You should start with my Mumbai Travelogue where I’d be pinning all the places I’ve been to so far, from my base in Mumbai. I’ve done similar maps from my previous bases in Pilani, Bangalore and Gurgaon. Back to why I don’t hate mumbai as much then..

Option to walk/run by the sea, feeling the breeze, has to be #1 reason! My home is at walking distance from the worli seaface, and I often go there for my morning runs.

But whenever I am able to get up in really early on weekends, I head out for the hills away from the coast, for rides! I usually board the local train from the closest station at 5 minutes from home and in 2 hrs I can get away from the city. It took awhile to find the good routes and I did stop once it got a bit too hot, but I am looking forward to hitting back on those roads in the monsoons!

 

The hills are not just for cycling, there are numerous hike one can go for in these hills. I went for a couple as well, just after the rains ended, which is the best time to visit.

 

The way Mumbai is different from Bangalore and Delhi is that it is much more commercial and dense. The business areas in the southern part of the city, where I live, were in previous era the spots where most of the textile mills were located. Changing economics paved way for financial institutions and other offices to take up the mantle of leading employers but the worker force didn’t just leave with the mills. Here and here are 2 insightful posts that you can read on this topic. Those families evolved with time and there is a distinct sense of entrepreneurship and dhandha mindset which you wouldn’t see in the native citizens of other major cities such as Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, etc. So, although I am not very appreciative of the pace of gentrification, one can only wait for bureaucracy and economics to sync. My hope is our newer cities, by the time they grow as old as Mumbai and Kolkata, hopefully would have figured out a smoother transition plan.

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old n new, all the same..

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Nonetheless, the way old and new buildings have come to be in Mumbai, the sight is deplorable yet amusing. If you like cityscapes, you should check out shots taken by Sanjog Mhatre, an urban architectural photographer who specializes in such rooftop shots.

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Ahuja Towers (250 metres/820 ft, 53 floors) by @ahujaconstructions , Sheth Beaumonde towers (150 metres /492 ft, 35 floors) by @ashwinshethgroupltd in Prabhadevi overlooking the Mahim Bay. The strip of land visible beyond Mahim bay is the Mumbai suburban district. One can see areas as faraway as Bandra, the Versova beach, Juhu, Santacruz-Khar-Vile Parle, Andheri, Goregaon, extending as faraway as Malad. I love how the Auris Serenity towers at Malad West by @shethcreators are still visible from such a faraway distance (Lower Parel) (spot the twin towers in the exact middle of the suburban skyline). Also visible at the edge of the suburban skyline are Omkar Altamonte, Malad east by @omkar_realtors . . . Towering Goals-©2018. . . #_soimumbai  #instagram  #mymumbai  #yngkillers  #itz_mumbai  #depthobsessed #soi  #ig_color  #beautifuldestinations  #artofvisuals  #agameoftones  #heatercentral  #way2ill #realestate  #urbanaisle  #cityunit  #visualambassadors #urbanandstreet  #illgrammers #theimaged  #moodygrams  #milliondollarvisuals  #fatalframes  #dslrofficial  #citykillerz  #discoverychannel  #canonusa  #lonelyplanetindia  #theuncommonbox #mumbaibizarre

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My vantage points and shots are much more humble in comparison

 

Moving on, even though the noise gets to me at times, but I love the celebrations here, be it Ganpati or Durga Pooja or just a local wedding. Each city has a culture of celebrations, especially the bigger festivals, but the community driven ground level celebrations here are unlike what I’ve seen in Bangalore and Delhi.

 

And it’s not just limited to strangers celebrating on the road, there are more thematic performances, live music events, stand up gigs, theatre shows, marathon races to participate in. Weekends and nightlife can be fun here if you want it to be! The people have been friendly as well so far. But I doubt that’s a city specific trait since most of us are migrants and I guess the lives of people in plush apartments doesn’t really change much with the city. There are more things to talk about but I didn’t start with a list of top 10 items in mind, so I’ll just end this one here..

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Morning cuteness 😁

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Oh, and because I’m writing after this long while, I must cover my trips in my next posts before I forget about them. I’ll start with the tour of Madhya Pradesh, the extended trip that I made just before relocating. Part of it was exploring the famous spots along with parents and post that I did a 4 day cycling tour in the hills of Satpura! So, come back next weekend for that story..

Classical Indian Dance – A Contemporary Evening

I recently got the chance to attend a dance concert at IIC, Delhi. Inspired by the rains, the concert was themed on the monsoons and was titled – Varsha Ritu, the Rainy Season. The event was split in 2 days, each day hosting 2 dance performances of 1 hour each, in between 6PM and 8PM. The first day had a Kathak Duet followed by a Bharatanatyam Solo Recital. The second day started with a Odissi Solo and the concert ended with a Kuchipudi Duet Recital. The seats in the auditorium might look old at first sight,  but the place is grand! You’d realize it when you’d sit down and face the ceiling!

I wouldn’t call myself as even a serious enthusiast but I absolutely love clicking at these events. As a kid, I never had much exposure to these dances and the only encounter I can recall is the one odd SPIC MACAY concert we had at school, some 12 years ago! Without any introduction to the art or the music, I didn’t like it much, and most of us in the audience were waiting to get done with this forced attendance. I attribute my interest in the classical dance forms to BITS, where we had this wonderful club of enthusiasts – Ragamalika. I wasn’t surprised when I learnt that most of the members were from South India, atleast during my time. I fondly remember clicking the dance performances at the concerts organized during my time there and that’s how I got introduced to this art form! The limited audience at these events allowed me to roam around freely, looking for good vantage points. I could see my learning from BITS days, still helping me in Delhi to get the good shots and get them fast.. Sharing some of the my good shots from the 4 performances with links to the full album –

Kathak – https://goo.gl/photos/ogyQQ3rXH5E6zGqC8

Bharatnatyam – https://goo.gl/photos/pBzrYrAfwd7XoKiJ8

Odissi – https://goo.gl/photos/3Uj8TKsSDavfnD6d9

Kuchipudi – https://goo.gl/photos/AGuZYWhMDzcotmEs5

 

While I was editing the photos, a realization that kept coming up was that even though I had shot the dance poses, I didn’t understand much of the concert. Extending the same thought brought up the question how many of us kids, who aren’t getting trained in these art forms, can really understand and appreciate these concerts. Side Note – Not sure if I can still call myself and the demographic I represent as kids, but we’re still learning the ways of the world, so I’ll go on with it, haha!

The language used in these dance concerts are no longer spoken by common people. The musical instruments and the tunes are very different from what we hear on TV and Radio. The dance steps look pretty but are tough to enact without years of training. Also, most of the dance forms are limited to just 2 themes – Love and Devotion. The enactments are from mythical and classical literature, usually the kinds of stories we have heard about but not witness in our daily lives anymore. Thus, these concerts can be a great source of sensory stimuli and entertainment but it is hard to take away much from these concerts.

I spent some time reading on this on internet and chatting with Disha, and discovered the contemporary dancers of these dance forms. One such Bharatnatyam dancer – Aranyani Bhargav has written on this theme here where she argues that although the dance forms are fixated on certain themes, but the enacted scenes such as waiting for a lover convey emotions that transcend the boundaries of generations. Elsewhere, she spoke of how Bharatnatyam and other dances have been re-inventing over time and the current form that we see is already a modern version of the original dances from temples.

Disha, btw is a Kathak dancer herself and has written and sketched about the classical dances on her blog. Her dance sketches also featured on the urbansketchers blog, so she is definitely one person you’d love to talk to on this topic! Lifting 2 sketches from her blog, first one is Kathak and the next one is Bharatnatyam..

Aditi Mangaldas is the name that Disha recommended as the pioneer in India for contemporary dance based on Kathak. Aditi has taken Kathak as the base, but her contemporary dance form embodies a very unique style, as i understood after reading about her and watching clips of the performances. While this contemporary art form is definitely a visual treat for the audience, I think it has separated itself creatively from its classical roots. What I was looking for was what changes can be brought within the existing context to make the dances more relatable to the audience.

Rajendra Gangani, another exponent of Kathak, rightly puts it in his interview that western and indian classical should not fuse, he said, because they work on totally different concepts. “while our art is spiritual and invokes god (we always start with a guru pranam) their aim is to entertain,” he explained. Pandit Birju Maharaj is one of the few from the classical dance community that have achieved mainstream fame, and he has choreographed some of the recent popular Kathak songs in Bollywood. He calls for more classical songs in movies as a way to promote the arts, but I think it has to be followed by more work in the smaller performances that happen at local auditoriums to get common folks interested.

I might not be trained in these art forms, but have been in the audience enough to have an outside-in perspective. In my opinion, classical dances performances happening today can be bucketed into 2 types – either the dancers are enacting a scene from a mythical story or they are playing out a medley of visually appealing abstract dance moves. To pull these dance styles back into mainstream, we’d have to focus our energies on the 2 styles individually, essentially forking the dance and developing the 2 branches as 2 individual art forms.

During enactments of mythical stories, the dance loses its relevance if the audience is not able to connect with the story. Since the stories are sung as poems written in archaic languages, it often becomes a recital of mantras for the audience. Thus, I would love to see performances where the recitals are in modern day languages and if possible about stories that are not just limited to religion and mythology, but of current world issues. I would also like to be introduced to the stories before the start of the performance. Additionally, I’d say the supporting explanation should continue besides the stage. This can be done using subtitles on a projected screen, at the least; or with the technology we have now, I would be delighted if these aids come in the form of an AR layer visible to those in audience through their glasses, think of a hybrid between VR and 3D glasses. If you’re willing to think a bit more creatively, think of the additional layers one can apply with AR! Those who are interested in the technique and finesse of the movements can switch on a layer that allows them to see the angles and swift hand gestures more sharply. Those who want to connect more deeply with the narrative would be able to see visual elements on stage related to the current words. Imagine the poem is talking about the moon and you’re actually able to see an effect of the moonlight from the roof, which suddenly changes to visuals of flowers on the stage as the recital progresses.

The performance in the video below does a good job in introducing the act and the characters, that’s the level of handholding people need when their only connection with these dances are through the concerts they attend and the off hand videos on internet.

Now coming over to the other form, where the emphasis is not on the narrative but rather on the swift movements creating a grand visual treat for the audience. During such performances, the rhythm in the music plays a much more important role compared with music that is needed in the drama version of the dance, thus allowing for the musicians to experiment and play out faster beats to match the pace of the modern day music compositions. Platforms like IndianRaga have come up in the recent past that are leading this front. Below is one such production from their studio that I loved!

Interestingly, now with youtube as an open platform and ease of creating videos at home, lots of people have started experimenting with popular tunes which can act as the background score for the dance, at times played out with the classical instruments. These fusion pieces although don’t often get the approval from the purists, but I’m sure the younger kids are loving them, the views on these videos suggest so! Also, a bulk of these videos are getting uploaded by Indian dancers in the US, so a culture of classical performance arts is brewing up there!

What I am suggesting isn’t something new that others before me couldn’t have imagined, but I just see so much potential and hopefully good things will follow. I’m not sure how I can contribute as of now, but I’d love to stay connected with this world. If nothing else, I’d get more oppurtunities to click these stage events, for me that still is my first love!

Changes I pushed within – 2016

I have not been active on this blog, as much as I would like to be and it is hard to find a reason that has stopped me from posting apart from myself; maybe I don’t like blogging as much as I have claimed in past. Yet, here I am with no aim in mind but also nothing better to do instead. Talk about loving your freedom!

Interestingly, we’re not new to these hallowed opening lines – “I don’t post as often as I would want to” . So, I am definitely not the only one who keeps trying to get back to the blog but then give-up without publishing that post and let the idea vaporize. I haven’t figured out how to overcome this invisible self pushing me down, but let’s move on to the changes where I could make some progress and hence sharing the updates. This might as well become a regular feature and hence I’ve added the label 2016. I’ll share another update at end of 2017, if not sooner.

I couldn’t find a single long idea to write about, which also is good enough to go as an year end post being published months after the last one, so, I have decided that I’ll make this post a collection of shorter ones. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves on this first day of the year!

Some of these ideas were to become individual posts by themselves but they had been lying as draft notes for so long that I had almost forgotten about them that they would ever get published. I need to change the way I post, either force myself into a routine to post on this blog otherwise resume micro-blogging on twitter. Either option is better than capturing ideas as a note but then letting it rot in the note app instead of getting it out in the public. If you want to be more dramatic about this, then the message is don’t strive for perfection, focus on progress. 

I admit it, this quote came from the internet and quotes are a great way of communicating ideas. I’ve always wondered why the best ones are the most elegant phrases you’ve ever heard?! Think about it, the ones you remember are somehow the easiest way you could’ve communicated that particular idea, and that’s partly the reason that makes them so effective, isn’t it so? Like, who in the middle of their work is thinking about the perfect combination of words that have a deep meaning underneath yet are easy enough to remember verbatim?! It never happens this way, the best quotes are carefully crafted, maybe even perfected over versions and not just discovered or spoken in the moment. So, it is possible that the famous guy who does the work may not be the one who would’ve strung those pearls of wisdom, there might have been someone editing his words and ideas because that’s what he’s good at, only that, not the work that produced the quote.

What I mean to say is that effective communicators have made themselves better over time over time, and we must keep working on this skill even if it is a secondary skill for us, for I believe, we’d need to work half as hard with just 20% more focused effort on communication and keep everyone in the team motivated to do their job. I totally made up this relation but I’m sure if we do an empirical study, the results wouldn’t be far off. Interesting side note – While you’re creating your next motivating phrase, it’d be worth the effort to make it rhyme!

That’s it, these are the 2 key themes that I’ve kept at the back of my mind, more so in the 2nd half of 2016. Also, I did get a lot of other ideas to write about while writing this one, I’ll soon be back here.

Life in the fast lane

Judging from the erratic frequency of my posts this year, it is only logical to assume that something has changed drastically, so it is time to let the cat out of the bag! I quit my job at ExxonMobil earlier this year in March and shifted back to Gurgaon, my home city. It was a rather short sentence for a change of phase in life, but actually that’ how it went! Although it was my first job change, but it seemed like I already knew what was to be done, how to do it and the adrenaline rush was short-lived. Won’t say that it was an easy decision, as I do miss my life in Bangalore, but it does seem like the right move for many reasons. Why? this cartoon strip sums up the story very well –

shifting to swiggy

I was tired of running in circles of the big company I was part of and decided to go back to hills where I think, I belong. I’ve decided to work with much smaller companies, and hopefully build something from scratch, repeatedly. There is little co-relation between what I studied in college, what I was doing at ExxonMobil, what I am doing now and what I had dreamt of doing as a kid but this puddle of ideas and memories is what life is! I am just trying to keep it a notch above mediocrity, that’s all. A lot of my batchmates are now in the US for further technical study, some have switched jobs to get a step closer to their dream MBA college. I do appreciate the long term view that’s at play here but I have not been able to convince myself for I know for sure that I don’t know if my future self agrees with my present self’s decisions. So instead this year so far has been centered on a self generated problem statement – “let’s find an interesting problem to solve!”. Infact the primary audience of this blog is not you guys, ouch! but my future self so that I have no troubles answering the question – “what in God’s name was I thinking!” if it ever comes to that, and I know at some point it would. How this would all tie-up together is something I’m not worrying about, good-luck future-me!

I enjoyed the time in Bangalore, it was my first full-time job out of college, and I learnt a lot in the MNC setup that ExxonMobil provided. If I were to recommend  a fresher, coming straight out of college and clueless about life like most of us are, I would definitely recommend going for a corporate job, for it sets a solid foundation needed for a long professional career. Once the base is set, a job at a younger company hopefully would accelerate the learning and growth. So after 2 years of taking rounds of the parking lot, I am now ready to roll the windows down, get the music volume up and step on the accelerator to feel the breeze, and just to complete the metaphor, mind it that in Gurgaon, dust hits you first but eventually you’ll get to the good part.

More to follow on what I am doing currently and where, but after rounds of testing I’ve realized operations as a function is where I fit. I love analyzing business problems and come up with creative and yet easy-to-implement solutions. So that’s what I’ve been doing, got to it after a few iterations, and the best part is that the INTJ me loves to be at intersection of departments, not having to follow a routine and yet contributing to the overall growth of the company. It gets overwhelming at times but hey! there are no manuals for pushing a rock uphill, one has to JUST DO IT 😉

Publishing an e-book

Today, I am publishing work from a new project that I’ve just taken-up. I’ve been working with my grandfather, evidently very excited about the whole thing, to release a set of e-books. There are 2 books in pipeline, a set of essays on family members, mostly family elders that I haven’t met but he has and the other one is his commentary on Indian history, with the two major chapters being on the 2 epic Indian poems – Ramayan and Mahabharat.

He had been thinking about penning down his thoughts from a long time and finally they have now taken up some shape n form. His essays started in his diaries, in Hindi ( हिंदी ), with an ink pen. I have taken up the responsibility of digitizing the essays, publish them as e-books and hopefully release a translated and edited version in English.

The below pdf is the online copy of the first printed book, which i would now translate in English, the title for this one is – अतीत का पुनरावलोकन  (phonetic – Ateet Ka Punravlokan) this roughly translates to “reanalyzing the past”

If you’ve published ebooks in the past, then do share your tips, would appreciate help in translating Hindi to English with some possible automation! One good tool that I’ve found for quick edits is Input Tool by Google, lets me edit text without having to search for the virtual Hindi keyboard. Also, I’ve come to realize this project would be a good exercise in revising my Hindi grammar!

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New Kid In The Town

It’s been over a month since I started up with my first job after college and in the process.. shifted to Bangalore. This post in on my first impressions of this new life. I had been told enough times by many people that college life is nowhere close to real deal and I agree with that but not in the way things were told to me. Also, Bangalore is very different from Delhi and I’m just getting to know the place, although I miss Delhi life but yes, things look good here as well.

bangalore rooftop

The photo above is of the view from my apartment terrace – I live at Kundanahalli and  what you see basically is Marathalli, South East Bangalore and almost at the periphery of the city

Things are good in Bangalore.. the local people were kind enough to accommodate folks from all over the country without any economic and demographic issues and the terrain here is pretty as a picture with all the lakes and hills but there is one thing I’m starting to dislike already… the constant rain! Look at the photo I’ve clicked and posted above and that’s  how the sky is everyday! Every evening there is a drizzle for 20 minutes and somehow it is perfectly timed with the time I get off from work. It’s not really a pleasant walk on the sidewalks when I keep stepping in puddles. I prefer walking over taking a bus for upto 5kms as the traffic is really crazy in office hours (where it isn’t in any big city, so, I won’t blame Bangalore for it) but this rain is kind of a deal-breaker.

I’ve been putting up just fine here, actually I’m living with four strangers in a flat but it just so happens that everyone in the house is good and there haven’t been any problems so far in this arrangement. I’d like to take sometime to mention that our arrangement here at the flat seems like one decided after a long discussion, it can’t just be that we all got here in this flat by chance. I am from Delhi, my room-mate was born in Pakistan and now lives in Gujrat!  Also, we have one Bengali, one Maharashtrian and one Andhra guy. I couldn’t have myself picked more distantly related and pan-India combination of people to be flat-mates. Each of us has a different mother-tongue and ours can be a good plot for a TV series. I’m just glad that everyone knows enough Hindi to have a general conversation. Whatever this situation is, I’m having fun adjusting to it and learning a lot while living with people who are very different in many day-t0-day things. This is the part I feel is different about real life from the one I had at college. Everyone there had a similar mindset, similar interests and it was really easy to have a conversation about anything as people had similar opinions and views about life.

I’ve been trying to live on the principle – Your personality is the average of the personalities of the five people you live/interact with on a daily basis.

As a result of this although I’m meeting many new people, but I am sort of rating them on my imaginary scale so as to keep my top 5 choices really a good mix of everything. It can be a fun exercise once you get a hang of it, try it sometime!

I won’t go into further details, but yes, I see a much open culture here in Bangalore, maybe it because of the young crowd, i guess see many more people from my age group, the ones who grew up with technology and are more influenced by Americans as compared to their own grandparents. So people might judge you here based on your clothes or the phone you use but not on the basis of your religion or your caste. I see a lot of cafes here which again is a sign of open culture which encourages discussions and collaborative projects.  I’m hoping to find new team members to work on new projects, someone who might be interested in photography, travel and technology like me. There are new ideas bubbling in my head with every line I type but I guess you need not know everything right now..

I’ll end with the thought that I am hopeful from the city of Bangalore that I’ll enjoy my stay here and this would be a memorable chapter of my life! 🙂

Big Change

I am writing this as I am travelling to Red Fort for my last photowalk in Delhi, for I am shifting to Bangalore 2 days later! Everything seems to fit right now…. the first photowalk I had gone for after buying my DSLR was at Red Fort and today before leaving Delhi, I am sort of completing a circle. I’ve been living in Gurgaon (Delhi) for the last 20+ years and I love it being here, it’s the best city! and this fact won’t change for me, it’s too late to stop loving Dilli I shouldn’t be this dramatic but yes.. I will surely miss Dilli and my home ofcourse :’)

I love and prefer taking a flight everywhere I travel. Get More Info here if you want to know how to travel in luxury. Soon I have a flight to Bangalore, and it’s a big step for me to shift to Bangalore. I am joining Exxon-Mobil as a Planning Analyst and have been posted at their Bangalore office. I got the job from campus placement offers at BITS Pilani and I was lucky to have one of the best jobs offered on campus! I think it’s a right career move as I’m passionate about data analysis and business planning. Plus Exxon-Mobil as an organisation seems really great! The reason I feel it’s a good choice is that I feel happy to be moving towards it..

What does this mean for Photowalkrs?
Well, I’m loving photography and travel more than ever, no doubt about that… I am on my way to a photowalk as I am writing these words. But I’ve spent a lot of time on judging whether Photowalkrs can be a full-time startup right now or not…. The more I think about it, the more I think that it’s best to keep it as a weekend project. I’ll tell you why – I believe photowalkrs is a little ahead of its time atleast for Indian Market. And I’m not saying this to brag about the idea, I really wish this wasn’t the case, but unfortunately it is.. I can tell from my experiences with people who were my test cases that they still need spend a couple of years with technology to be able to use photowalkrs effectively. Also, internet is still not fast enough to make use of realtime updates,  no-one wants to wait for more than 10 seconds to open a page to be just able to click on a link and repeat the same process again.

We can make the app, infact we’ve already made a prototype, but if there are hardly people who can use photowalkrs, then it’s really difficult for us to sustain ourselves. The conversations I’ve had with photographers in the US, we might have a good chance there but not enough expertise to start operations in the US as per today. This has been a little demotivating to be frank… As a result I’ve decided to spend more time on studying and observing the photography scene. I’ve redesigned the photowalkrs blog as a feature magazine on this hobby space. I’ve been writing about the news and updates from around the globe and I’m also featuring local groups/clubs and individuals who have been leading photowalks and trips. Photowalkrs is more like Schrödinger’s cat right now!

Now that I’ve started on this road.. another thing that went in the wrong direction for starting up photowalkrs full-time is the founding team…. Well, it is difficult to write about people with whom you’re friends but i should.. Photowalkrs team might be a really strong functional team but we don’t have the X-factor required for that bond as a startup-founding-team. I am probably high on passion but not so good when it comes to the tech part – coding. I am, what they say, the Business guy but without any experience and working on just trial and error basis. You can take a guess that my technically skilled partners dont care as much about the photographers and travelers as they do about the efficiency of their code. Also, a team of 4 maybe is a good idea for a college band but not so for a startup. We should’ve been 2 people but I dont think which 2 of the 4 could’ve been the best. It’s a messy situation and we’re sort of stuck right now between our jobs, which seem to be really good, and photowalkrs and life’s goals in the long run.

As a matter of fact, three of us – Me, Shrinidhi and Jalaj got one of the best job offers in our batch i.e. Exxon-Mobil, Citibank and Schlumberger respectively and Kazi is doing his internship at Morgan-Stanley. So our team is really strong functionally, I’m not just saying it… I think it’s only logical to focus greater part of our time and energy which are promising not just now but in the long run as well. We have to be smart as well along with being passionate. The worst thing would be to work part-time, dislocated in 4 different cities, still not be able to gain traction and along with it sucking at our regular jobs. It’s better to choose the battles we should fight and the ones which are more rewarding.

So, yes, this is a big step for me as I am taking a step off to change directions. I am looking forward to the new life at Bangalore, take up the job and the challenges there, learn new things at the office and yes, ofcourse… explore the weekend photography and travel scene in Bangalore. I’ll continue writing on the photowalkrs blog and feature various interesting groups and share updates. We’ll try launching a test version of photowalkrs to test out our hypotheses about the users, hopefully the results would be better for Banglaorean photowalkrs, maybe that’ll give us a kickstart.

Either ways, I am looking forward to the weekdays more than the weekends, now as I am finishing the piece I had left in the metro, I have my flight to Bangalore tomorrow. I should go to sleep as tomorrow a new life starts for me.. a big change!

life in bits

It’s been 10 days that I left Pilani for the final time. Yes, I’ve completed my four years as a BITSian and the experience was overwhelming to be expressed in words as a blog post. I still remember my first day when I had left from home to come to Pilani, I was unsure about the place, had never heard about it before and didn’t know a single BITS alumnus. In contrast to the first day, the last day was full of memories created at BITS, I was with my friends, the ones I had met at BITS and it wasn’t easy to say goodbye. BITS has always been about the BITSians, no other college in India has such a vibrant and multi-talented pool of students.

I’ve spent lot lesser time at classes than what was required, at BITS we have the liberty to attend or miss the classes, nobody keeps a count, one just needs to pass the exams. It’s a great thing because people end up doing stuff that they really want to instead of sleeping in lecture halls. I could really explore so many things because of this rule. I watched movies, saw documentaries, read interesting non-course books, explored music, explored the internet, learnt computer packages, did projects and thus what I know about the world is much more than what an average engineer does. Some of this knowledge might have come at the cost my grades but then I have no regrets, I took charge of my education the day I entered BITS and didn’t exactly play by the rules. Whatever be it, 2009A4PS315P as an identity has contributed the most in defining me and probably it’ll hold the top spot till very end.

I wanted to write a note that would sum up my time at Pilani but there are so many things that come to my mind that I’ve not been able to give it a structure till now. So, I’ve figured a solution for this! Just like how kids in the 80’s and 90’s used to make mixtapes, I’m making this mixtape as an ode to the time spent, lessons learnt and memories created at BITS Pilani. If I were to pick a soundtrack for my life, I would have chosen these songs!

The album art is a sketch by my friend Rohit Pamnani. He had made this sometime back and if you’ll zoom in, you’ll be able to see that he has really touched upon every aspect of a BITSian’s life. This sketch was his tribute to BITS.. Not as flamboyant as Rohit’s sketch but I too made a set of photos on Pilani in my g+ albums, as a tribute you can say. You can have a look at the photos here.

Well, coming back to the mixtape… this mixtape is dedicated to BITS and BITSians. I hope you’d be able to relate to the songs even if you’re not a BITSian!



life in bits from exeperience on 8tracks Radio.

Status Update

This is one of those posts that has been doing rounds in my head from last couple of days. I initially didn’t want to write about it since it is not exactly a happy memory that I should be sharing with people but then who cares anyways… I needed something to do.

I’ve not been feeling very well lately. I’m not sick but somehow I find myself awake at most of the nights… just rolling from one side to other hoping to fall asleep into nothingness and shut myself down for as long as possible. Maybe Pilani heat has a role to play as well, with mercury rising, days and nights are not exactly pleasing anymore. My skin is the worst it has been in years. Lesions on my left wrist look hideous, it’s as if what is happening inside my brain has started to surface. It’s a terrible thought! I guess I spend a lot more thinking about these things than I should be but the more I think about it, I feel dizzy, less oriented and organized. I’ve always tried to control my world and now that things are slipping away, I’m becoming restless and my efforts futile.

What would you do when you have a large… significantly large.. amount of time and no clear objectives to achieve? I am about to graduate from Pilani in 10 more days and this last semester seems like infinity. What would you do when you have no constraints that you’ve been tying your failure with? I’ve been typing this line over and over again but still it’s not as good as it can be considering that I had infinite time to write this post.

Psentisem as we call it here in Pilani is the last semester you have on campus. I think I would never again have so much time in my life to plan out my journey ahead but I have a feeling that I’ve not done a good job, for I’m totally confused and feel trackless. This time right now is like the bench time that a team takes to strategize for the rest of the game for I have finished most of my structured education and I am to join the workforce from next month and am expected do something good for humanity and myself in the process. Going by the standard life pattern, this free time would come back to haunt me after my retirement and frankly I’m not really looking forward to it. Now that I’m thinking about all this, the standard life pattern in itself is a big let down.

I’ve been working on photowalkrs for about an year now but since I wasn’t the coding guy, I had constraints on how fast we can develop our prototype. The initial plan was to build and test out our prototype site till we graduate and based on the results decide if we have a real opportunity here to spend more time and energy on it. That plan seems to be dwindling as with 10 days left to graduate, we are not even live, forget about the testing part. I know I can’t put the blame on anyone but me for not working out a way when things were evidently going wrong. I had realized this months back but failed in taking a definitive action. On this front I’ve always been a hopeless optimist that things will workout in the end and if delayed we’d have an interesting story behind it but there’s not. That optimism which was fueling my enthusiasm is getting eroded day by day. If you’ll meet me today then you won’t feel a crazy energy in me that was present a couple of months ago. I am hoping to be crazy again, it was fun! Others call it getting mature but it seems like rotting, really!

With all this time I convinced myself to learn things that I wanted to do but didn’t try because I was busy with life. Months before today I had decided to learn to code. Although I’m not very good at it but now I can work my way around things. I’ve been running this blog and the photowalkrs blog myself. Along with coding, there are many other things that I’ve been learning and doing. I took up an online course on Entrepreneurship Laws and Business Administration when I couldn’t figure out the laws I’d have to follow after I register Photowalkrs as a company. I always wanted to learn a new language and Spanish seemed attractive, so I started a course on Duolingo. I wanted to read about world history have made advancement in this area. I am taking the approach of following religions rather than regions, I guess it gives a more accurate account of the way things took shape. In last six months I’ve read about the three Abrahamic religions and Hinduism of-course. You can see the books I’ve read on history on my goodreads profile if you are interested. I’ve been traveling more and will be documenting all my trips on this blog. Another step in this direction is that I’m following lot more Indian travel blogs. One day I’d like to make this blog useful for people who love to travel. Everything is work in progress. Also, off late I’ve been exploring new music – mostly instrumental which often is Jazz. Now comes the bad part….

I’ve realized I’m a person who is excited to start a project but not as good when it comes to following up. I love the thrill I get by stealing time from daily routine to follow my hobbies. Now that I have full time to work upon them, I should have been going crazy from all the excitement but it’s the opposite – I’m bored to death, probably there is no routine left from which I could steal away time. I took up Java this semester to further improve my coding skills but I don’t practice and am still stuck at figuring out the structure and syntax. I study for the online course just to pass exams and that too on the last day possible. It’s been weeks that I last practiced Spanish. I read less than I usually do and this includes not just the books but also the hundreds of RSS feeds that feedly collects for me daily. Travel is the only good thing I can talk about probably because one can’t travel on a daily basis anyways, trips are always occasional by nature. Somehow all these hobbies look interesting when I take them up on weekends or as a break from routine. So, I guess, it’s the getting away from routine part that I love more than the need for a hobby.

All this was fine but now that I’m thinking about it, Photowalkrs also started out from a hobby – photowalking  – doing exploratory travel, photography and keeping things organized (it’s more a of a personal habit). It was never about the money, maybe that’s why I still don’t have a quantitative business plan. Nothing in the world would change if I just take up a regular job instead, the end users of photowalkrs – travel and photography enthusiasts won’t die or stop traveling/clicking without, they are already doing everything they want to without photowalkrs, although in a much inferior way. Photowalkrs is not a ‘must have’ app, it’s a ‘can have’ app. What if I would lose interest in Photowalkrs if I chose to do it full time? But instead if I continue it as a weekend project, it could stand a better chance at surviving, thing would be slower perhaps, but I guess still better than non-existence.

From what I’ve experienced I would work best in a scenario where I have to work on time-based projects in diverse fields or be in control of the resources and responsible for keeping things in order. I think a weekday job in Consulting or Operations and then weekends for photowalkrs would be my ideal setup. Startups do fit my pattern but somehow I am feeling afraid to take the plunge. I think I need to run my experimental test as the weekend founder before I can step in the shoes of a CEO. Perhaps I’m just an escapist who wants to put off these important decisions for later, or just plain afraid of the unknown. Till 3-4 months back, I was in constant touch with many people, mostly senior to me and part of the BITS ecosystem and i guess they would’ve noticed the sudden drop in my communication with them. These people are the ones who have invested their time and energy in photowalkrs. They have mentored us, helped us and have provided us services that helped us grow into a prototype from an idea. I feel ashamed to face everyone now and repeat the same lie that things would improve when I know they’ve been same since last time – slow. I have to somehow muster the courage to face everyone again, it would be a difficult task.

Often my thoughts take a detour and I end up on a totally different topic, but always on this one – It’s my escape highway to nothingness. It may be a cliched cynic reply to all the problems in world but my life, all my decisions and efforts, no matter how sincere, wouldn’t make a bit of a difference to the universe. Think of it, we’re just bunch of atoms capable of distinctively identifying other atoms and nothing more. We’re just a pile of sand on some tiny rock in the corner of the universe about which we know nothing. Even if somebody was to blow off our planet off tomorrow, no one would ever come to know or give a damn, be it our universe or the parallel one. We’re all just figments of memory and all the crap that is forced on us – rules and expectations means nothing. It won’t make a difference how much you’ve contributed to the society, nobody would remember you after you’re dead, so why bother if it makes you unhappy? Everyone is the master of his own world and there are no obligations, maybe moral duty towards your parents but that is it.

After writing the post, I was expecting to find some answers but when I couldn’t convince myself to bring about a change to my situation, I drove all the way on my escape highway to nothingness and reached the conclusion – let it be