When you wake up


“Sleep my little baby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.”

~ Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book


Life is a riddle


“And this is the strangest of all paradoxes of the human adventure; we live inside all experience, but we are permitted to bear witness only to the outside. Such is the riddle of life and the story of the passing of our days.”

~ Howard Thurman




“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

~ Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Conversations on Living

Mediocre life

“What if I embrace my limitations and stop railing against them. Make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same. Accept that all I really want is a small, slow, simple life. A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. I think it is enough.”

Conversations on Living

What if I die tomorrow?

“What if I knew that I would die tomorrow?”

I asked myself when I watched the movie “The Walk” earlier last year.

“Would I be sad? Would I be disappointed? Or feel satisfied and happy?” I pondered.

The year 2015 was a year filled with deep introspection and reflection for me. Many of my life’s decisions in the past have had inspiration from movies. But this time this thought was also fuelled by two other incidents.

First, I reached forty in August.

Second, the acquittal of Salman Khan and Jayalalita.

I was happy about what I had accomplished with NalandaWay and hopeful about her future. I was happy in my relationships. But can I do better in life with what was left?

I was in a slum in Chennai when I learnt of Jayalalita’s acquittal. The slum had all the signatures of everything that is wrong with our politicians and governance. But its inmates were celebrating her acquittal by bursting crackers and distributing sweets. They did not care that she was corrupt and justice had been murdered. That she and every other criminal who run this country will never be punished for their misdeeds. The poor will always be living in a miserable urban hell and no one will do anything that would make their lives better.

Who am I judge the poor? I have never lived their lives. I don’t have to negotiate the corrupt police and politicians to survive everyday.

And people like Salman Khan will always escape the noose of justice. They will always go scot-free. They will never be punished.

I was disappointed. With my country. With my people. With myself, that my work with children will not even make a scratch in their lives who are sorrounded by these scavengers and looters. I was wasting my time. Perhaps I should get back to working for a corporation and atleast make money for myself. If things got worse, I will atleast have enough money to run away. Or should I kill them all? Become an extremist? I was angry.

I started reading Gandhi again. I met my mentors and asked for advice. I struggled to find sense.

“You are worrying from a place of arrogance,” a stranger told me. “What makes you think that you alone can end suffering? Do your thing. Do more of the same. We all have the key to a small part of a much larger puzzle. Let’s all come together to make a mosaic,” he said.

He made sense.

“What if I knew I will die but had to make everyday count?” The question looked different after this interaction.

I decided to write down a set of principles that I will follow for the rest of my life.

So this is my list;

– I will deal with every person with, patience, compassion and empathy.

– I will be speak and act against injustice without fear of retribution

– I will not manipulate, cheat, or be unethical in my dealings with anyone.

– I will consciously reduce consumption and reuse or recycle wherever possible.

– I will respect my body, and take good care of it.

– I will consciously look for beauty and goodness in every person, place, or thing even in the middle of overwhelming ugliness and vulgarity.

I told myself if I just continued to be usefull to children and lived with gratefulness, I will survive the madness.

Life is beautiful again. Death will not scare me. I will not let politicians and villains rob my optimism. And everyday is a gift and I will make it count.

In medias res

My day

“What does your typical day look like?” I asked an accomplished musician and composer.

“I compose and record in my studio, perform for the public, some days I just stay at home, sing along with my little girl and take care of her.”

Pay it forward

Purple hibiscus


It was a rainy evening, a little girl in school uniform, fully wet and drenched, walked into my office. She wanted my help to do a short film on ‘child abuse’. She was pursuing her 12th std at DAV Gopalapuram in Chennai. She would meet me and my colleagues for couple of weeks. She wore only school uniforms when she came to meet us.

Preethie went on to become the Horlicks Wiz kid that year.

She lost her mother in a freakish accident. Her father had deserted them many years earlier.

It was six years ago.

She could not join BITS Pilani after securing admission because her uncle who was now her care-taker refused for whimsical reasons. Using her mother’s savings she joined BE at Shastra University in Tanjore. She was a topper in academics and an excellent dancer but her uncle repeatedly threatened her to throw her out of his house if she continued dancing. He continued being emotionally abusive and unreasonable.

Preethie kept in touch with me through the troubled years. I was her mentor.

One day her uncle in a fit of mindless anger assaulted her. She was shattered. She had reached her breaking point and moved out of his house. She was only nineteen then.

What astonishes me till date is that Preethie has never even once cried or had a breakdown during her conversations with me. She always came across as a playful, optimistic, free-spirited and independent girl. We met regularly. She continued to drop into our office, joined us at office parties, did movie marathons, enjoyed pop corn and pizza. And discussed life sometimes.

“Can I call you dad?” she asked me a few years back.

I said yes.

After graduation she joined the marketing team of the much successful start-up, Freshdesk after turning down offers from TCS, Cognizant and Accenture.

I met her recently and gifted her the book “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new as viewed by a young girl.

“Do you miss your mom? Do you envy your friends whose parents are supportive of their dreams?” I asked her.

“Sometimes, but before I get psyched and pulled into a whirlpool of self-pity, I hit the gym and pump up the volume,” and she laughed out loud.


Settling down

Thota Vaikuntam2

“Before you even notice, you will have settled. You will enjoy your Monday morning coffee and think it’s just what you needed to start your day. You will visit the library every Tuesday, hoping to find some new escape in a new book, just to get away from your life. You will eat lunch with your best friend every Wednesday, order the usual at your favorite restaurant, you’re satisfied. On Thursday you go for a walk around your neighborhood to clear your mind, and look forward to tomorrow. On Friday evening you think you’ve made it, so you reward yourself with delivery pizza and an alright movie you’ve seen more than six times. Saturday, there’s still a day separating you from Monday, so you’re fine. Sunday, you dread, dread, until you go to bed. Then it’s the same old routine, slowly getting through life, thinking you enjoy it, when you could easily learn to enjoy something else. How do you know what you need to get through the day is just coffee? Maybe it’s just telling yourself, hey, I can do it, there’s more to look forward to. Instead of living your life through books why don’t you go on an adventure and take a risk like your favorite fictional character? How do you know that meal is really your favorite thing at a restaurant when you’ve never let yourself taste something else? Is looking forward to the end of the week your motivation to actually get through life? If it is, why, when you’re just living the same old shit week to week, nothing will change. You won’t change. You think you’re happy, but couldn’t you be happier?”

~ Isabel Cabrera | Art by Thota Vaikuntam




Elisa Talentino

“What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”

~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha | Art by Elisa Talentino




Zhang Wen (Menz)

“I think about dying, but i don’t want to die. Not even close. In fact, my problem is the complete opposite. I want to live, I want to escape. I feel trapped and bored and claustrophobic. There’s so much to see and so much to do but I somehow still find myself doing nothing at all. I’m still here, in this metaphorical bubble of existence and I can’t quite figure out what the hell I’m doing or how to get out of it.”

~ Matty Healy | Art by Zhang Wen (Menz)