Community Capital In The Capital Of Diamonds

Posted by Rohit Rajgarhia on May 16, 2019
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For the last year and a half, I have been soaking in and receiving in multiple ways from this priceless community. Below is an attempt to introduce myself to you online, through this extra-long post, and the context of this sharing is the circles which Parag bhai triggered, during my short visit to Surat to meet my sister.
So my sister and jeeju were totally confused. The object of confusion is that their brother came to meet them on a short 3 days trip, but now is scheduled to hold 4 ‘talks’, different places in the city. Where are you talking, what are you talking, and most importantly, how did you get the audience? Some questions in their head, and mine as much. :-D
My sister accompanied me for the first talk and in the concluding sharing circle she says that she has never heard me say many of these things, maybe because she never let me speak for so long without interrupting (well, to be honest, I am the more dominant one in house, who doesn’t let her talk much). That itself shows what an incredible privilege, opportunity and gift for me it was, to find noble friends who held space for my stories, ramblings, and confusions, with so much patience and love. I am feeling a bit like a celebrity suddenly. 😊 My Jeeju accompanied me for the Awakin talk, and it was probably his first hour-long meditation sit. So again, I am grateful to the space that was held, in which we all could meet each other and ourselves in this way.

If I have to pick one highlight from the trip, it has to be the raw mango, apple and peanut salad which Mita-ben had for us during lunch. Its taste ripples have gone far and wide! Now about the conversations, the first circle was with an incredibly motivated bunch of ladies, all volunteers for Jumbish, an initiative spreading love among poor school children. The second was with young college students, third with teachers at Fountainhead school and the last an Awakin talk. Early, I realized that I didn’t have much advice for anyone, so I should just stick to sharing my life story. The spotlight kept on shifting a bit depending upon context like education, career aspirations, family and service. Below is my attempt to recollect most of it.
Speaking to teachers at Fountainhead school was like an (undreamed) dream-come-true moment for my student-self. I joked as we started that for 25 years I kept listening to the teachers and now here we were in the auditorium, with me speaking and 100+ teachers quietly listening. As a token of gratitude, I shared small stories of teachers who had a significant impact on my life. Like the high-school teacher who was under the false impression that I was bunking school to study really hard for upcoming exams (I had perpetrated that lie at home and in school), while I would get to playing video games as soon as father left for office. In my absence one day, out of nowhere, she announces to the class that I am a sincere guy and would top the school one day. I was taken aback when I heard this later from the then topper (who was of course not very pleased with that incident). Till then, I was maybe a good student, but never even imagined that I could be the topper kinds, sort of a self-imposed glass ceiling. That day I thought, “she feels I can, so why do I feel I can’t”? Gradually, in a few years, I would be consistently topping all exams.
Another story was around the same time when a private maths tutor gave me a good scolding one day for just nodding my head without understanding what he was explaining. He had explained it to me twice already, and my mind said that it’s a straightforward topic, I will look like a fool if I asked again. He told me not to be afraid of saying “I didn’t understand, please explain again” any number of times. I took that lesson also close to my heart, in the form “keep questioning the solutions, if it doesn’t feel right to you even if you look like a fool.” It helped me a lot in studies and in life.
Since this is not a b-school admission statement of purpose, I can honestly say that my reason to study commerce and CA was not because I had some inner passion for it. My dad was a CA. I wanted to challenge the notion that all bright kids study science, lesser ones commerce, and the least ones arts. And, most importantly, jealousy as when I wrote standard X, my sister wrote XII, and for the first time, got more marks than me, secured admission to a prestigious commerce college and whole family attention was on her. So at the minimum, I wanted to achieve the same, to reclaim the ‘lost respect.’ :-D As I reflect on it, right from childhood, I was wiring myself to derive pleasure and satisfaction from winning in competition, and pain from losing in competition. I guess that was the dominant mindset for me, as I was performing well in CA exams, and then in b-school, and then in investment banking. Seeing anyone less successful would strengthen my self-esteem and anyone bit more successful would fan my envy and greed that I should also achieve this. Accordingly, I will keep adjusting my social circles. As I become the banker/consultant types, old ‘average’ friends feel less appealing, as I become a sophisticated modern self-made man, old parents start appearing less interesting, and so on!
When I went to study B.Com. at India’s best university. I was again low on confidence, back home I was the topper kinds, but here others were toppers from bigger states, had more marks than me. Life was operating very linearly for me (more marks -> more intelligent). Over time, much to my surprise, I performed much better than my peers when we all thought I was not studying enough and running much behind. This was a phase of 3-4 years when I kept doing my bit, didn’t expect much from myself, but surprising results were great. Further down the line, I had started creating deep expectations from myself. From just ‘doing my bit’, ‘fear of mediocrity’ had now become my driving force. And it brought with itself its allies- high invisible stress, poor health, deteriorating relationships. I had to delay the CA (Chartered Accountancy) final exam due to it, and later also, I couldn’t perform as per my expectation. I was really disappointed, and that further increased as I was not able to secure the kind of jobs I was looking for. Then came a point when I faced consecutive rejections from many companies whom I had never thought I would have to apply in the first place. I settled with a job which I felt was not at all befitting my qualifications. I felt like whole 5 years of hard work had gone down the drain, and I would have to rethink my career path. It was my first real rendezvous with what suffering feels like.
Then as I was wondering what next, a friend suggested me to write CAT (which is the MBA entrance exam in India). I just went and casually wrote it, and the big shock was when the results came, I got a really high score, and post some interviews, I was admitted into IIM Bangalore, which is among top 2-3 b-schools in India. These two episodes through CA and MBA made me realize that we can not assure outcomes despite our best efforts. On one hand, I really wanted something and worked hard for it, but results were not as per expectation and on other hand, I got something almost as a gift, without any effort. So this idea of maintaining inner balance despite external results started attracting me.
During this time, as I was struggling with career questions, health questions, etc., I found refuge in a friend, and we were spending a lot of time together. In no time, I had developed much affection (read attachment) towards her, and remember once saying that our relationship is like a constant for me, and having this one constant gives me enough strength to navigate all other variables like career, family, etc. Now it doesn’t seem surprising, that so much attachment (probably due to my own low self-worth) made way for suffering again as that friendship ended with much turbulence as fast as it had grown. In my mind, I used to blame her for my misery and held her responsible for the trouble. A little bit of wisdom later, I can clearly see, that this idea of seeking constants is itself such a flawed one in this life of impermanence where everything is changing. Creating identity around a relationship, around your job, or even around service, is like preparing ground for suffering. I can also see that unless we understand our own suffering, our relationships will likely be transactional not transformational, a medium of escape and at best a poor expression of love. That’s also okay, but the possibility is so much more!
I performed well at b-school and secured employment in one of the leading investment banks of the country. Initially, it was a great learning experience professionally, working the infamous 100-hour weeks. I was in the thick of action, helping large internet companies of India raise tens/hundreds of millions of dollars. Our work would be front-page material in all newspapers. The movers and shakers! All top CEOs want you on speed dial and vice versa. I remember once in the first year of my job, I found myself in a board room, exploring a sale worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and both sides (with their array of advisers), and the CEO who is an expert in the industry for 25 years, goes “Rohit, can you tell us how do we proceed from here?” Inside, I was like, “you are the CEO from 25 years, I just graduated from school few months ago.” Luckily, I was able to cook up some logical, jargon-laded talk and all nodded in agreement, and we moved on (that deal didn’t come through). This just is an example to show the power that comes along with stuff like this.
It feels like a big inner breakthrough came when I sat a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Till then, ‘meaning of life’, ‘happiness and sadness’ was just limited to an occasional late evening drunk conversation with friends. One year into investment banking, I was doing some work-related research when I stumbled upon an online course on Buddhism and Modern Psychology. I dropped the course after a few videos (well they were asking for an assignment to move ahead) but ended up signing for a meditation retreat. I was hoping it to be a relaxing time, but once there, I realized that this is tough business, and the folks here are trying to help you get ‘enlightened’. Nevertheless, I completed those 10 days with much difficulty but felt deeply shaken (in a good way). One of the insights was the source of all our emotions is inside, and the outside events just act as a trigger, and all feelings mental and physical are transient. The sense of self got weakened a bit, the image I used to have of Rohit Rajgarhia, an entity, became less rigid. Few months after the retreat, in a relaxed conversation, my manager asked me how my experience of the retreat was. I told him that I am someone who valued whatever education I was receiving for 25 years in my life a lot (B.Com, then CA, then MBA and some other things on the side). But these 10 days, seem to be more valuable and useful education for my life than all of those 25 years of combined. It helped me shift from a problem-solving mindset to an observation mindset, from a sense of doer-ship to just happening/unfolding.
Gradually, many questions about the work started occupying me. Why am I doing this? During b-school, it was common to hear placement pitches from folks who have had long careers in investment banking “I do it for the kick out of doing big deals” “I do it for the powerful connections” and as one senior executive once plainly said when I asked what kept him motivated for 25 years “I do it for the money”. And then a senior person in the firm, a good friend of mine, as I was walking by, calls me. It was the annual bonus day and we had all just received our letters. He calls me and says, “Rohit you know, whether it’s a great year, good year or bad year, I always feel sad on this day”. I was astonished, I moved closer to him and asked, “why?” (and mind you that was a ‘great year’) and he goes, “You know, whatever I receive, the mind always feels that this year, I deserved more”! Woah, that just blew me away.
What is the impact of my work? We were helping in rapid expansion of technology businesses. I saw that technology was a potent thing, but the way we were using it, left a lot to be desired. It had become such an inseparable part of lives, that now living a day without one’s phone would be very difficult. It wakes me up, takes me to office, tells me what to eat, tells me what to buy, tells me who to date, tells me when to sleep, and even reminds me to drink water. I would find myself mindlessly scrolling the infinite feed on Facebook and Linkedin, but to what effect? I would always leave feeling restless and less satisfied with my own life. And the push notifications make me feel that I could only be a fool to let go of this personalized/ instant discount/expires in 3mins offer. In my childhood, we used to have 1 pair of shoes for school and 1 pair of shoes for everywhere else; now an app is telling me that owning at least 8 pairs in different cuts, colors and occasions is standard. I want to travel to a friend’s wedding just for 2 days, but I need this big suitcase because it’s standard to change clothes and shoes 3 times a day. And I was thinking why so much complication? Earlier, maybe I used to eat out once a week, but with instant food delivery, it is much higher now. In my own life, I was experiencing that more money and more stuff did not mean more happiness, more meaning, but may be quite the opposite. Back in the day, after CA I used to feel if only my salary was 30% higher and job profile little bit better, that should be it; post MBA, I was earning many times over, still hard to say if there was any major improvement in quality of life. Some problems like relationships remained the same, while the face of some problems changed like from low self-worth to high ego about one’s work. Internet had the promise of being a great decentralization tool creating more opportunities for the marginalized, but seems like we have figured out how to use it to centralize power and wealth in the hands of few, often at the cost of rapidly driving consumerism, and ‘convenience’.
In a small, impromptu late-night bonus circle with some friends, we were discussing some new business models and use-cases that for-profit technology companies have been leveraging. An AI which can be your companion in loneliness(movie Her anyone?); a platform for extra-marital dating (this attracted most attention :-D ); an app in India, which feels that financially rich are not treated well it our country, and they should have more privileges and wants to make them feel more proud by exclusive invites, offers, etc. (within few months of launching, all VCs are lining up and they have raised ~150mn dollars). Back in the day, one still had to be socially skillful to attract girls and win dates, but now even relationships have been transactionalized through dating apps, but research suggests it may not be good for us. Young parents (including in my family) pushing phones with cartoon videos so that the infants will eat silently and quickly, ignorant of the long-term consequences. No wonder we are becoming less and less equipped to deal with relationships and in this mindset of on-demand, 1-click fulfillment, our patience capital is eroding fast. I am reminded of Yuval Harari saying it’s more important than ever before to ‘know thyself’, otherwise some tech organization now has the capability to know you better and manipulate you for its objectives. Increasingly, there have been innumerable questions on Facebook design principles on the negative effect it has on childrens’ brains and we have seen the founder of Linkedin say that all social networks are built of one of 7 deadly sins. We see enough designs for the vices and deadly sins, but through ServiceSpace, I am convinced that we need more designs to amplify virtues.
So if I felt that driving consumption and shallow connections is not good for society, so was it fair for me to benefit personally from doing that? Secondly, as my definition of truth broadened, feeling one thing but doing something opposite felt like lying. How so often have we heard people saying they are not enjoying their work, want to quit, but how many actually do it? I felt either I should stop complaining or I should quit. Second option was easier. Thirdly, as my resolve to be in truth deepened, I found it difficult to make extravagant/larger-than-life investment pitches, wherein a client CEO would see a powerpoint presentation and half-jokingly say “oh, I have been running this company for so long, but I didn’t know it was so amazing.”. And I guess this is not about investment banking, but the nature of sales and marketing itself, or at an even more basic level tendency of our minds- we always are pitching ourselves, our ideas, our projects, our vision, etc. We always have a tendency to showcase a better picture than reality. Next, if I pitch hard and get a high valuation for my client, it is considered a success, but inside I am feeling am I not short-changing the other person? Eventually, isn’t this a 0-sum game? Is that all there is to business? Last, I felt that time is the only resource which I have, so what was the monetary value for which I should be okay with selling it? And I had no excel model to calculate that. Any amount didn’t seem worth it.
In the teacher’s circle in this context, we also reflected on education and values. Back in my b-school, our old finance professor used to say that you guys will become bankers and bankers are the biggest daylight robbers of our age. Not long ago, we saw smart folks like me contributing to a global crisis. May be it all starts really small- like 10-20% lying on the resume being an acceptable standard, like being a topper and yet cheating in exams to remain in that spot, like many times in known and unknown ways I myself cheat on a daily basis. Many a CEOs and global icons, were accused in the #metoo movement. Is the purpose of ‘education’ just to make us job ready? Or should education have something more to do with human values? An illiterate who lives a life of honesty and integrity vs. an ivy league founder who created a multi-billion $ company through fraud, or one involved in cases of sexual misconduct? It’s a question which each teacher, parent and individual ought to be asking. What can we do?
So as someone rightly pointed out, with the privilege of not needing to support my family financially, and the security of fancy academic degrees, I left that job. At this point, I should also disclaim that I don’t mean to pass judgment on anyone. I know I am part of the problem. First of all, I am not even sure, how much of it is inherent vice in a person, and how much is shaped by powerful forces of systems (like competition in schools, like competition in the market, like shareholder wealth maximization principle) and culture around us. Second, we all are somewhere in between in the spectrum of complete devil to god. So its safer for me to not judge people which my brain tells are on my left because if I do that I invite judgment from people to my right and it doesn’t feel good, and it doesn’t serve much purpose. That’s why I feel inspired toward the goal of reducing my harm in the world. I am not sure if I can do much good (if it happens then great), but even reducing my violence footprint seems like a worthy goal.
After a break of 6 months, mostly in yoga, meditation, and time with family, I felt pulled to the purpose and team of a non-profit organization, which supports online retail fundraising for many grassroot NGOs. There was a lot of satisfaction that my work is more meaningful for society. The opportunity to be more authentic, to be more empathetic, to be able to speak one’s mind is something I found a lot of value in, as opposed to a tightly driven corporate culture. Gradually as I started understanding the ‘development sector’, many of my assumptions also came to test- while I got some answers, many more questions opened up.
First funny one was around money and service- How do we put a salary tag to anyone’s service intention- how do I say I deserve more than the janitor or less than the ceo? Will we borrow hierarchy of compensation as followed in most corporates – or could there be more radical principles? Can I sitting in a comfortable office and with a comfortable salary, understand what poverty means and design solutions to remove it (I don’t mean to say that it’s not possible to empathize without going through exact same problem, but may be due to my low exposure, I felt a need to step-up.)? If I feel relatively underpaid in this organization, will I raise my voice and win myself a sharp increase- and if I get that will that be a win for me or a loss (through again getting caught up in the motivation of money)? Will I still serve if I don’t get any money - will it change my motivation to serve? With such questions in mind, a few months into the organization, I reverse negotiated and converted from a paid employee to a full-time volunteer and continued like that for the rest of my time there.
My interactions in ServiceSpace helped me find articulation for many other important questions around social change. Some of them being inner change vs outer change, place for scale in service, money (power) vs. love and redistribution vs. sarvodaya (total upliftment) . If I am losing patience with my colleagues who are ‘skilled’, can the system I design really address the needs of the poor, the ‘unskilled’, working with whom arguably would need much more patience? How to balance scale aspiration with service in the moment- if I am always thinking of next 10 poor, can I ever be serving fully to the one in front of me, or I will do it in haste? If I can just serve 1 person by committing my whole life, will I still do it? If to scale fast, I have to push my colleagues to an extent that they find the work a burden, is that an acceptable way for the greater good? If I make the cause seem very urgent, then people tend to donate more; if we tend to glorify the impact then people may give more (give 1000rs and change a child’s life- advertisements of this sort are aplenty in the development space), but am I being with truth? Am I not short-changing the donor if I am increasing his ego? If my main motive is to collect donation from you, can I be interested in your welfare? 1lakh rupees from a businessman who earned his wealth from environmentally harmful business vs. 100rs from a rickshaw puller who skips his night meal because he wants to contribute- what management metrics will track this and what do we optimize for? My own experience and through SSp stories, I felt love was a more powerful resource for change than money, and love is not a zero-sum game. If I have your love, then all other resources like money can flow from that (but one more interesting thought, that if I have your love, maybe we won’t even need anything else. We all intuitively know that couples who eat street-food with love are wealthier than those who eat 5-star food with less love). So my focus started shifting there. Holding these questions has led me to step aside from my role there, while at a higher level I continue to be aligned with the mission of promoting giving culture. (My mind tends to fall into activism, where I have to remind myself that that’s not the game I want to play, giftivism speaks to a deeper part of me.) I must emphasize, that I continue to be inspired and moved by work all my folks are doing there. While I talk from a closer experience of 1 organization, such questions are applicable to almost all social organizations today. So for me, it is not about right or wrong, but being true to what I resonate with.
I had already given away most of my savings from investment banking, so once I converted to a volunteer, I exhausted my left-over savings in a few months. I simplified my life, reducing expenses wherever I could. For my last month in Bangalore, a friend offered me stay at his house, which I hesitantly took. So that was the next experiment in receiving. Another couple friend got me along in a (door-door fully covered) 2-days holiday, we lived very simply but(/hence) it was one of the best vacations. And no surprise, both were friends met through Servicespace. Folks who were junior and reported to me at work, would take me out for meals and open their homes. And some awkward cases where an old friend would casually offer me to come to their home and I would say, yes let’s go now I am ready because I didn’t have any set place for the night. :-D It was of course, more difficult than the all the giving which I had done. Important to clarify that I was not going around ‘pitching’ my ‘situation’. Rarely would I ask first to anyone, hardly anyone at my workplace knew about my money experiments.
One unintended consequence of this volunteering was my father got highly disappointed with me for few days because he felt that this whole thing was a skillful scheme to avoid marriage (now imagine who wants to marry a Marwari guy, who doesn’t earn anything :-D). But for me, another unintended consequence was the way I see my relationship with my father. So like most parents, he supported me financially for first 25 years of my life. He is used to handing me cash whenever I am about to return to college. When I started earning, especially in investment banking time, he would still continue this practice. Well, part of this is Marwari kachho-pakko dynamics (black money/white money) (all the gujjus in the room went cracking :-D ). It is important to disclaim that for the most part, he has been an upright and honest person that too in a profession of CA, where its easy to generate a lot of income by compromising on ethics, and he is considered among most upright professionals in the city. However, a more signficant part is just his desire to give to me. Now that I was earning much more than him, at least in my mind, I would feel, that I earn enough, no longer need money from you. Sometimes I would take grudgingly, but sometimes I would refuse. Now, as I had parted with all my savings, now when he gave money, I could see much more value in that money. This sense of inter-dependence and gratitude was there again. In fact, the whole receiving thing deeply increased my sense of gratitude for the smallest of gifts.
Talking about gratitude, I am also now starting to come to terms with how privileged I really am. And how it is just in our eyes. For the most part of my life, I would attribute all my successes to my inherent intelligence, and all my failures to my bad luck. And the mindset had become to see, what more can I get. I just kept living with my blinkers, looking at people who have more, and thinking that I don’t have enough. As I gradually come out of the mindset of scarcity, I see how much I have. I see that there are so many who have much less. Back when I would always travel in flights, I would always complain about the less leg space and that I don’t earn enough to fly business class, and then as I downgraded myself to Ac coaches in trains, and last 1 month, I have been traveling in sleeper class trains. Recently, I found myself in an unreserved general coach for a 5-hour train journey, where the coach was carrying people 5 times its capacity. It was North India summers, 40 degrees Celsius+ and I was standing and started feeling dizzy. That’s the way of life for the majority of Indians, so now I see the privilege in whatever I can afford. When I do some fasting experiment for love, or when I choose to skip a meal despite feeling very hungry and gift a meal from that money instead, I realize what a privilege it is to have any food to eat. When I spend 10days in solitary retreat, then I realize that having any other human being around you to talk is such a privilege and I should be mindful whether I use it or abuse it. When I go through some self-proclaimed near-death experience (jumping off a 20metre cliff into the ocean and struggling to return to the shore), then I realize that just having this breath coming-in and going-out is such a HUGE privilege. I have many such moments, but the challenge is that I forget it after some time. I guess we all do and fall back into the old tendency of wanting more and more. So I hope I can remain mindful of all the gifts I have received and keep letting it flow.
As I quit my high paying investment banking job, and then quit the non-profit job, to try out full-time volunteering, mostly staying away from home, I have heard this phrase “Charity begins at Home” many-a-times. Some suggest that I am helping the society but not spending time with family, some suggest that I am not earning any money and rather dependent on my father when I should have been buying cars and expensive holidays for them, and by not giving enough time to family. Towards that my admission was, that I am living as things are unfolding. At first when I felt that service was important for me, I found it easier to be kind to strangers, than to people closest to me. Not that I was running away from my family, but I see the pitfalls of trying to ‘fix things’ without enough internal balance. For me, charity at home is a more mature milestone in the journey of service which I am trying to tune into now. I can not predict how things will shape up, but if no kind act is ever wasted, I feel in the long term we all will benefit. So last few months after leaving the NGO, I have just been back to more time with family, more time on my health and yoga practices, reconnecting with old pals and relatives, meditation, little bit of volunteering opportunities as and when they arise. I know there is value in gifting cars and vacations to parents, but I am hoping that we all will be collectively richer in multiple forms of capital.
Then a student asked, “For a large section of the population, basic financial needs are also not met. So isn’t money important for them?” What came to me was – Yes, it is great if those who have excess financial resources share with those who don’t. However, we shouldn’t strip them of their intrinsic ability to live happily with what they have. An example of a recent story from a friend - a blind person visited their office for a guest speakership session. Through the event, he was jovial and pumped up, and it triggered my friend to impulsively approach him and ask “how come you are so happy?” she asked and immediately contorted on what has she asked. She saw that her mental model said, no vision means you can’t be happy. So I wonder if it’s our biased view, or our attachment to material things and body, etc., which makes us afraid of not having those, and hence an opinion that one without those can’t be happy (easier said than practiced for me too). And with similar colored lenses, we keep throwing ‘solutions’ which may not have been required in the first place. A funny thought experiment which came to me was to imagine rich folks like Bezos and Zuckerberg watching over our gathering (lol, which they might as well have been doing it through the apps) and they would feel, “Good Lord! How poor these people are, so many crammed in 1 hall, no one owns any private islands, any jets, oh, they suffer so much, how can they live happily?” I won’t feel good if someone snatches away my right of being happy just with what I have in the moment.
Parag bhai nudged me in a few circles to discuss my aim in life. Now I am still somewhat at a loss about this question. I doubt whether I had any aim when I was studying, or working or whatever. It is hard to discern, whether it was a real motivation to do that, or be something or I was just doing because ain’t we all have to do something? Not that I was deeply in flow in it at any moment. If I didn’t have a definite aim earlier, I guess I am only further away from it now. I don’t know what aim is worthy enough for me (not in an egoic way, but more in a way of questioning what will come of it?). If everyone has aims, almost always our aims keep clashing with each other, creating suffering. If I have tight aims, then anyone supportive toward my aim becomes a friend, and rest are either redundant or even adversaries. So I guess my aim is just to be peaceful, and try to spread peace in small ways around me. I am not against planning and aims, which I also do, but I have felt its important to explore one’s motivation being doing and detach from the results.
To conclude, let me just say that in this exploration, at every moment, I have felt incredibly blessed and rich. Many people suggest to me that it’s a great sacrifice, that it would have taken a lot of courage and willpower. I don’t think its willpower. I don’t even have enough will power to wake-up early in the morning, and many days it is tough to rise before 9am. In all these choices, I felt I have received more than I gave-up, so probably it’s not sacrifice. Neither I have much courage, although it does feel there is less unexamined fear than before. I feel grateful and rich, and I don’t think its totally my doing, it feels like an accident and so in that sense, like Nipun-bhai says, it feels like an unearned grace!
It was a big gift to hear some responses. One aunt jokingly shares “sadhu bahut acche lagte hai, par dusro ke ghar me hi acche lagte hai” (we love monks, but we love monks in others’ houses) reflecting on the ‘worldly’ expectations which parents start building around their children. Many said they can better empathize with their children’s confusions and choices through my stories. At the Awakin talk, one mother shared that her son works at Facebook in the US, and he struggles with same questions about work and societal impact, and she could feel that it was not me but him speaking. (that really moved me!). Some also rightly reminded me of my parents’ role in accepting my ‘alternative’ choices. A teacher messaged saying that the stories were reminiscent of her Gita lessons. One said that recently he had read the concept of ‘Joy of Missing Out’ (JOMO) (as opposed to our old ally FOMO) and in my story, he could find a real-life example.
Super thanks to all who held space for me in the circles, all who helped with coordination and to all the readers, especially if you reached here till the end then you have a lot of patience capital. 😊

Thank you and much love!

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