Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New Year Message

It’s that time again… when another year drifts into the shadows we call memory, and a new one takes it place, pregnant with hope and expectation. It’s tempting to use a sporting metaphor, reflecting my life and my work, and talk about a “new season, new innings” but I’ll avoid the clichés because for me this New Year is not really the beginning of something new but life flowing seamlessly from one day to the next… not a gushing torrent in the mountains but closer to a river gently flowing towards the sea.

So where does one start this whole annual process of summarising the year gone past and peering into the looking-glass for the year ahead? I don’t know really. What is different today from a year ago?

Many of you know me as a man in a hurry… wanting to be successful at work, wanting to make a difference to people’s lives, wanting to change the world, wanting to find happiness… someone who wants it all, on his own terms and wants it now. I have also struggled with geography, happy everywhere, but with no real sense of belonging to any place… happy with my Indian identity but not so happy with the concept of a nation-state, not happy with the absence of choices, not so happy that an individual and cultural identity could translate to geographic shackles… to an absence of choice.

I think what has really changed over the last year is the sense of calm that I feel, the lack of doubt, a feeling that somewhere, somehow I have grown up a little bit. I feel much more able to reconcile myself to the fact that you cannot change everything at the same time, and that you cannot have everything at the same time. I know that while some people call this process the birth or pragmatism. Others call it the death of idealism. I call it neither.

This process has just been about finding happiness in what one has. I do not believe that in the process I have lost idealism, that I have sold out, that I am walking away from all I have ever said about the role that an individual can play. I have not chosen to accept the world as it is, the flaws in our individual societies, the prejudices in our minds. I have not come to terms with the inequities of basic needs and opportunity based on any number of man-made criteria, from geographic to that of privilege. And I am not saying I cannot change that so let me just make money for myself and be successful at work.

Last year I spoke about the courage of conviction, about the courage to follow your dreams. I wished “that u are true to yourselves, to what you believe in, what you really want, and what would really make you happy, and that you have the courage to follow your personal truths, your individual destinies rather than taking the safe option”. I believe that over the last year I have done that. I believe it took courage to give up a safe, well paying job and join a start-up that was uncertain and that paid very, very little. It also took courage to stick by the job because I loved it, rather than pursue opportunities that would have allowed me to return to Europe, a continent that I miss tremendously.

Globosport has been the best job I have ever had, and the satisfaction of doing something you love every single day, and doing it well, is something few people experience. Today when I see our little company and see all that we have achieved, and how we have grown, it fills me with pride and happiness, and as I gradually return to financial stability I am happy that I hade the courage to follow my heart.

I know that a love of sports and a desire to make a difference to society seem poles apart, with no real meeting ground other than the force fits of charity sports events. I would never head that way since I would like to make a difference that is more meaningful, and carries more honesty and conviction, that isn’t just an easy option and a way of making my conscience feel better. So here I am stuck with two things that seem very different, yet both integral to who I am and who I want to be, and determined to approach both with honesty and conviction, and make a success of both.

The calm and happiness in my mind comes from having learnt over the last year that it serves no purpose to try and be all things to all people, to do several things half-heartedly and not do your best in anything. I have learnt that one day at a 100% is worth more than several days of half-hearted work, lacking conviction, faith and persistence.
I feel good because I know that I will try to make a difference to society and to those less fortunate and privileged than me. I know that when I do so, it will not be about doing a little bit here and there, but an effort with highest possible chance of success that my abilities (limited though they may be) can create.

I do not know when it will happen. But I know that this is not lip service. This is not about putting something off for the distant future… a distant future that will never come to pass. I know that I will not find happiness without having done this because this is a part of who I am, this is a part of who I want to be.
I have known for a long, long time that sports gives me happiness, and that making a difference to people gives me happiness, and that my life would feel incomplete if both of these did not play a big role in my life. To pursue both at the same time may mean a lack of success (on the scale I aspire to) in either.
I have followed my heart and pursued my dreams in sports, and so far it has been a success, and it has made me happier than any job I have ever done. More than anything else, this is what gives me the courage and conviction that I will do the same to try and contribute towards what I see as a fairer society, and that I will find happiness in the process. But until that time, I will continue to find happiness in what I am doing, and will continue to do so until I feel that I am no longer able to demonstrate the same passion for what I do, that my work will not be at 100%, that I am going through the motions rather than following my convictions.

Before I end, I must touch upon the most important decision of all this last year, the decision to marry Akhila. I will not bore you with why or how I love her or since when or any such thing. But I do know that one July morning in Rome, I woke in the home of my friends Ignazio and Jenny, and I knew that I wanted to ask her to marry me. It was like an epiphany as I suddenly realised that there was no reason to wait, that there are questions that may never have perfect answers and that it is not about perfection but about acceptance and about finding happiness together… and as the doubts and questions disappeared like wisps of cloud in the summer sun, I felt truly happy and at peace with myself.

The date for the wedding is set for August 22nd in Bangalore, with the festivities starting on August 17th. A second reception is scheduled for my hometown of Shillong a few days later. If you receive this mail, it means that you have a role to play in my life and that it would make me happy to have you there. Of course, there will be formal invitations that you will receive closer to the wedding, but especially for those living outside India, I just wanted to give you enough time to plan your visit.

Hoping to meet you next year and until then all the best for the year ahead. And if the opportunity comes up to do something you really love, go ahead and jump at it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

With loads of love,
The Blah
December 31st 2003.

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