Life, Change & Startup Service

For many of us, life happens in the background while we strive to live through our dreams of achievement and accumulation. For some of us, there is a pause in our lives and we suddenly start observing our life and living it.

I have been on this journey of observation the past couple of years. But recently, there was a major shift. As I’ve been watching my actions and simplifying my thoughts. In October 2014, along with Amit, I found myself at an startup event that was no less than ‘magic’.

Startup service for me was like a dream-reality sequence, unable to decipher what was real and what was a dream. But, philosophically I knew both were as valid as they come. The weekend was about ideas no doubt, but the spirit of cooperative participation and the intention to ‘give’ dominated. Each person who participated in the process was there for a reason, all with a personal journey story to share. Happiness, humility, love, gratitude, empathy, positivity, productivity, giving & accepting – all people at this 3 day event were about these things. Amidst all the love teams worked on their ideas with care, to convert them into actionable concepts / products.

There were folks with who the idea originated, there were other folks who were supporting them as a team, there were some other folks who were there as mentors. In all, everyone was happy to help each other with the goal of building something that could help each other by the end of the weekend. All of us worked on ideas ranging from Activity Kits for kids, workshops on mindful food preparations, education framework for kids, participative art installation activities, to products made of sustainable material like sugarcane fibre, and many more.  The people there were special with their own uniqueness and it was sheer joy to see each of them adding to the energy of that place.

All of them touched my life and something inside has changed forever. This was the first time I’ve been introduced to a concept like Service Space. Personally, with Morpheus Gang’s shift of focus from being a commercial accelerator to a community of entrepreneurs who participate by giving first. Interacting with folks of Service Space and first hand witnessing people living the ‘giftivism’ way of life; has reinforced my confidence in the path we have chosen at Morpheus Gang.

The event in itself was surreal, for me as i mentioned earlier. But the final few hours of the event were extra-ordinarily magical from what I perceived. It was endless exchange of energies, creating more and many more hugs. I am sure, it gave everyone an eternal hangover of love, like it did to me. And, my journey back home from Ahmedabad to Chandigarh via Delhi is what I call “my journey of realisations”! (More on that later!)

Here are some relevant links to know more about Startup Service:; Moved By Love:

Here’s a gem by Kanti Patel, that sums up the spirit of life!


A gentleman’s parting remarks, a lesson for all of us to behold!

I admire Rahul Dravid for what he is as a human being. As a cricketeer he’s perhaps among the very few who held the reference “A gentleman’s game” true till date. His simplicity, his focus and dedication are examples for many of us to refer to. 

I was just reading the transcript of his retirement statement and when i finished it struck to me that here’s a guy who’s lived his life through a certain discipline, a discipline of dedication, passion and truth. Something he’s said as his parting lines are ones that’s relevant not just to sportsmen, but all of us across various professions, countries and cultures. Something if all of us tried to our best of abilities, the world would definitely be a better place!

 My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.

I see you leave with sadness Rahul, but i’ll always be proud of the fact that a person such as you represented our country, India!


India Against Corruption: My experience of India’s belief in the cause

I have always believed that Life can be led in a very transparent, truthful manner; without indulging in “corruption”. I have stood for what I have believed in. Followed the rule book, questioned it if seemed redundant or not relevant (its obvious with the fast pace that things are changing).

I have seen lot many people (friends & family) race past me in life, by taking shortcuts of all sorts – bribe and get a driving license without even being physically present there, breaking traffic signals & bribing the cop to get away for cheap, or evade taxes. I believe that these are short cuts they have carved in their lives.

As kids my sister and I were not ‘told’ to follow certain principles or do things a certain way, but we have parents who led by example. So, there is a lot you learn without being taught and there is a lot you have to live up to – the standards are self-set, happens automatically.

My dad, a civil engineer quit his PWD job as he could not fit into the system of accepting bribes, he refused to give in & he was pressurised by people above and below in hierarchy. He quit to embrace a noble profession – teach. Towards the end of his career, he was put to quest again – where his promotion was withheld to being a Principal, coz he was not the one with the “right connections”. Even now, he took pre-mature retirement & did not give in. Now, he is a peaceful man working as a television actor & living a senior citizens life.

I have learnt a lot from my parents who have not given into corrupt methods & measures of the society. To the best extent possible, even I have lived my life following the same principles. I confess, that I have given in a couple of times – I cannot forgive myself for it. Perhaps, I was too beaten down by the corrupt system.


Image Courtesy: IndiaAgainstCorruption website

Sameer & I have often discussed in length that right now if there is anything that is hindering India’s growth & progress to becoming a super power is its rampant corruption. I strongly believe that if the Jan Lokpal Bill gets its due attention on the floor of the parliament, we will have a respectable citizen ombudsman in place that will check the degree of corrupt activities. This indeed does not mean eradication, but does mean inoculation. So, maybe 10 years from now my daughter can get her passport renewed without paying the clerk money to get it in her hands (this happened to Sameer and we had to pay as we were leaving for Kenya in two days on work – the passport office did not dispatch the document even though we were on tatkal mode, as they knew that this renewal was important for us).

On Wednesday, 17th August, 2011. It was day 2, Anna & his teammates were retained in Tihar Jail (by now, Anna had detained himself & was adamant that he will leave without any condition levied on his fast unto death protest). Sameer, Abhishek & I set out to contribute towards “our” cause for an hour to the Rally Ground, Sector 25 in Chandigarh. There was Section 144 in Chandigarh as was the case in rest of India. At the rally ground, the coordinator asked us if we’re ready to volunteer, we agreed.

We geared ourselves with posters of India against corruption, communication material, pasted stickers on our tee shirts & set out to spread the word. What I witnessed in the next 80 minutes was pure MAGIC! We stood with the posters held by our chests, smiling on the road dividers at a busy Sector 36 & 37 junction. We were 3, each took one divider & stood there spreading the word, asking people to participate by going to the Rally Ground.

The police patrol jeep followed us in less than 15 minutes. The cop started questioning us, asked us to disperse if not he’ll have to take action. Sameer & Abhishek were interacting with him. I did not stop to engage in talk, without wasting time, I continued to stand by the junction displaying the India Against Corruption poster. The police patrol jeep sped away after watching our activities for about 20 mins.

The reactions were varied:

  • Uncles, aunts, grandparents all waved at me, made eye contact and said “shabhash” good job. Some said, “good job. we are with anna”
  • Youngsters, college going kids, school kids – all of them cheered me in their own way. some smiled, some nodded, some waved, some showed thumbs up.
  • Rich, poor, people walking, ones in cars, those on bikes and even auto-rickshaws – all of them made eye contact. Acknowledged my message.
  • One uncle came up to me and said, “Good job beta. Keep it up. the entire nation is with anna & so am I”
  • Many people stopped to know more, some specifically asked if we were staging a protest or if there was some activity happening as they wanted to participate too.
  • A press photographer came a took our photos too 🙂
  • Three people asked me to go stand by the shade & spread the word (it was between 12 & 1:30noon that we were there, as it was lunch time and high traffic. This particular day was warm as it had rained a lot the previous night.)
  • A gentleman came by, stopped his car in front of me, approached me & said “You are doing a great job. I want to do something too. What can I do for you.” He went to the boot of his car, opened it. Picked up a bottle of “Slice Mango”, came to me and said “Please accept this, something that I can do from my side”. I refused initially, saying I was volunteering. But he pressed saying, “you are doing a great job, I am volunteering too & want to help in the cause”. I was moved & accepted the juice bottle. He had gone around the roundabout and offered Abhishek & Sameer a bottle each, this I got to know later.

Those 80 odd minutes, on the street, spreading awareness in a very silent / peaceful way was the most enriching time of my life. I have supported various causes, done street plays to spread awareness on issues/topics in the past. But this was different, very different. I was proud of what I was doing, super confident, never did my smile wane off – it was a proud smile actually. I also realized that what I stood there for mattered to each and every one who passed by. I saw integrity in their gestures, I saw resentment against the corrupt system, I saw faith in Anna Hazare, I saw positive hope & a confident attitude among people. The experience was a “high” of another sort.

When we got back to the Rally Ground we saw a few people who had taken information with us there. Later that evening, we saw many others we had interacted with participate in the candle march along with their friends. (grass-root level word of mouth in play).

I was proud, full of energy & glad that I am contributing to a cause I believe will change the face of India. Thanks Anna Hazare for knowingly or unknowingly evoking the confidence of standing up to ones own rights amongst us Indians!

I am traveling across 3 other cities in the next week & I will take time from work to raise my voice against corruption in support of Anna Hazare. I want to be a part of this historical movement, a change maker, someone who can proudly narrate stories of my growing up years – when I grow old.


Ismail, you are doing a great job!

Eid Mubarak, all of you! I’ve been wanting to write for sometime now, but guess I’ve been overloaded with emotions, questions and just too much confusion in my mind.

But, while I sat to watch television y’day (which is a rare thing for me to do), I saw this news report on how a black Eid was celebrated across the nation. I saw celebrities who follow the Islamic faith criticize the recent Mumbai attacks; I heard repeatedly that the Holy Quran does not promote harmful acts, bloodshed or terrorism. I read messages of solidarity, peace and brotherhood on the television screen.

All this only reinforced my faith, the faith of being Indian. Not that of any cast, creed, community, religion or economic strata of the society, but of simply being Indian!


One word unites us: this was an email Natasha sent me last week

Last week, I was in Delhi meeting up with a group of bright entrepreneurs at a popular café in Connaught Place. The café was bustling with life, with many youngsters, tourists and families. The youngsters keeping tables and processing orders wore a welcoming smile as they went about their tasks.

Among them, I noticed one youngster who stood silently, alone in a corner. Wore a sad face, which screamed out “I don’t want to be here, let me go home”. But, I guess he had no choice, but to professionally go about his duties of keeping tables and processing orders. His colleagues spoke to him casually and he responded mechanically. Each time he had to interact with a customer or a customer looked at him, he got very conscious. He stood there covering his hand not to reveal his name tag!

I kept watching him, as I went about my meeting. I so wanted to walk up to him and ask him if I could help him in any way, what his troubles were and perhaps give him a “Jaadu Ki Jappi”. But, I just could not muster enough courage.

Finally, before I left the café. I happened to visit the restroom and on my way out, I crossed paths with him. I smiled at him, but he looked away. I noticed that his name tag read – Ismail.

As I walked out of the café I had tears in my eyes. I so wanted to tell him that it was not his fault that a certain group of people want to cause harm and destruction in this world! Just because he has a name that is similar to those who caused harm and destruction, he does not become one of them! I just could not go back to doing it. I did not want to hurt him more, if at all.

I’ve read a few events of people blaming the Islamic community in India after that incident. I have read of one instance where an airhostess was yelled and verbally abused at because of her name. I’d like to apologize on behalf of all those who may have reacted in helpless anger, without realizing what they were doing.

I am thankful to all those friends of mine who have made me what I am, among other things – a true proud Indian. And to all my friends who follow the Islamic faith – I love you all as much or more than I did before. You’ll are great human beings, many peace loving, many more creative than the rest! Thank you for being a part of my life!