Choices

I’m young. Good context to start off. Just over 21 with a lot of craziness oozing out.

You’re young too. If you are not young or a really cool old person, you wouldn’t be reading this. What does being young mean to you?

To me it means being crazy, passionate, ambitious, outlandish and extremely optimistic. In the peak of all these I came across something that let me be all this. Mind you I was in a college that claimed to be one of the best in the country. You aren’t let be crazy there.

Coming back to something I came across as a rash, immature and stuck-up teenager – some well kept secret called AIESEC. Something that changes the lives of 13,000 young people every year. Something that boasts of extremely successful alumni across every sphere of life. Something that seemed like a cult – with a constant inner drive for progress. [These are in retrospect - I was never wise enough to have this power of judgement when 17 :)]. I dived into this, head first and soon was “Vice President”, “President”, leading people being younger than them, managing budgets, travelling the country all of that. In the 3 plus years I’ve probably interacted with over 3000 young people from all parts of this very big country and globe, learnt things about myself and my environment in the most unlikely situations; discovered and lived in one of the best cities in the world – Mumbai; learnt how businesses function; IMPLEMENTED such learnings; things no other 18-21 year old could have done (any claims against this are free to debate and discussion).

But these things are just superficial facts about this organization. I challenge you to find a place as democratic, forward thinking and ambitious where a 18 year old can do things 30 year olds only dream of. I Challenge you to find a better way to see, experience and meet the world at this age. I challenge you to find a better way to know yourself and what you are good at and love doing. It’s good I have put the facts in front of you. I’m sure those of you who have experienced what I’m talking about have a smile on your face. :)

I’m not patronizing flattering or preaching. If you know me well enough, you’d understand.

Today I have an opportunity to define the future of a few thousand youth. I have an opportunity to CHANGE a few things we have always talked about: Something called President of AIESEC India. This opportunity has made me positive about what I have done and learnt. There can be no better time to share this with you. I wish an AIESEC for you too. If not the organization itself, a chance to do similar things that taught me my lessons early in life.

Thanks for reading.

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Vindication?

I’m starting this by putting two random things into perspective. The first, open source technology. Pretty much unknown to the world a few years ago, but revolutionizing the way we do business today. It’s perhaps rained on the parade of traditional text-book business and capitalism. Second, crowdsourcing and community based development. A few years ago, companies wouldn’t trust anyone but a few men with grey hair in grey suits to define their strategy. Today they want all of us to tell them what to do.

What do these things teach us?

We’re living in a world that can only move ahead with collaboration, co-operation and unity. One which trusts people, and their ability to make choices. One that communicates better rather than withholding facts. One that is progressive rather than insecure. One that is inclusive rather than unnecessarily competitive. Maybe, this what world peace is about.

Im not talking about governments here; let them do what they are meant to– breed insecurity and contempt. They are actually supporting the cause of world peace by sitting within the walls of their parliament houses and engaging in debates. We can forget about them, they’re not going to change anything.

The success of open source technology, crowdsourcing and social media tell us how societies are becoming worthy of trust and mature enough to differentiate right from wrong. Perhaps, the only reason for this is because they’ve been given the choice of making a difference, being part of the crowd (#cloud) who want society to take one step ahead at a time. Hilariously enough, a few years ago, technology was thought of as a threat, an enemy that’s here to compete with humans for jobs. But the man-machine relationship has evolved to become more symbiotic than one based on fear. We need each other, even though the other is inanimate.

Google, facebook and twitter have completed the transformation from being bottlenecks and distractions to tools that make people quick, secure and efficient. THESE are actually changing the world. Traditional “social workers” working alone towards their individual causes are now clustered into movements with a VOICE and a strong base. The disheartened consumer is actually being heard online with all companies running to interact with their customers. These are the same companies that ban social media at workplaces, by the way. Parents who’ve ruined their vocal chords by yelling at kids to get off facebook are today, spending more time on facebook than their kids. (vindication, in its purest form)

This brings me to the power of this generation, our generation. The generation that has fought against redtape, slammed hypocrisy and dissolved the insecurity of the previous. We have a premium on our heads and our worth more now than ever. We need to realize this and move on. We are the ones that make societies progressive. And no, it’s not a myth. We are more powerful than we think we are. Choice and voice being our biggest weapons!

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Change II

My thoughts are like friends all over the world, custodians of those missing pieces of myself that I need to collect.

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And No, I didn’t just read Harry Potter.

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Probably, the worst part of the story is how I’m so clear about what I want. This abundance of clarity is probably working against me.  I know what new possibilities I’ll open my eyes to, and which ones I’ll shut out. My brain is inundated by an avalanche of thoughts and a cornucopia of choices. Life can’t be about brown paper, frooti or blunt pencils anymore. I have a constantly buzzing brain, flooded with  irrelevant thoughts like how to efficiently use time by carrying the right amount of change (coins, yes).

A new problem, at this juncture. The sudden need to give myself so much attention, so much time. When there’s so much internal unrest(the good type), isn’t it the better thing to do? To do things alone? Oh, Mumbai has people. Loads of them. It’s just like I’m giving individual attention to a long lost friend.  Like one of those friends you’ve loved so much but not spoken to ages. It keeps me happy and contributes to a relatively cheerful demeanor.

I think a lot of us confuse intelligence with wisdom and it’s this confusion that’s getting my by. “You’re not wise yet, Abhijit, you can afford to be stupid.” And thank god I have this voice at the back of my head, or I’d be forced to be pretentious, which is not quite my field of expertise. The road to wisdom is just like my daily walk from the door to the gate, with loads of crow droppings to evade. You should never get that spot on your back, just like you shouldn’t listen to “idiots” with “experience” and uncertified grey hair.  The road to wisdom is a lesson in holding on to your stand, in the face of unavoidable intervention. How can I put it? It’s like wanting to watch a 2D movie with 3D glasses on. You don’t need to; you lose out on the story while trying to look for graphical marvels!

The first post was romantic, with me awestruck and eyes wide open. But, this one’s from my late teenage in Mumbai. I’m hanging on to sweet sixteen but also want to grow up here! It’s like little subsets of evolution that I am going through that it’s getting harder to pen down. I want to remember why I came here, and how I want to leave this city.  I came here to leave.

It’s time to grow up.

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Change

Apprehensions often overwhelm a person on the edge of change. That kind of tangible change when you know some things are never going to come back. When people are going to turn into memories and you are just left lost in a wave of affection that tells you “You just HAVE to come back.”  The joy of knowing your apprehensions were false is completely worth all the pain they put you through.

I forgot to pack my bags. I forgot to respond to those numerous “goodbye, take care” messages. I forgot to listen to those last minute instructions (or directives) my Mother threw at me. I didn’t care. I was going to a city I’ve always wanted to live in. Those last sights and sound passed by as quickly as that favourite song I just HAD to listen to on the way to the airport. Images from another world greeted me and invited me to be part of it. I had made this choice. You’re never wise enough to make the right choice, but you’re always childish enough to question the choices you make. I loved the fact that I could make this choice. It would teach me all that the perfect parents couldn’t.  (Probably because I was a ridiculously stupid kid)

Everyone knows how the first chapter of the “change” book goes – new people, unsettlement, a soon-to-be empty pocket and all of that, but mine was different. That undying spirit for life, the passion to survive and the need to conquer time just shadowed everything else I thought I’d go through.

I quickly found myself becoming a Mumbaikar, letting go of all that happened to me in the past and all I’d gone through. I found myself getting attached to sights and sounds and people and expressions of people. They told the story of lessons learnt in one of the most ruthless cities in the world, but they wore these lessons with smiles.  Ambition was not to move higher in status or hierarchy but to overcome situation and circumstance that came down on them like a whip.

Amidst all of this, the monsoons came, and stole my thoughts. The monsoons in Mumbai are not the ‘poet’s monsoon’ – blooming flowers, paper-ships in puddles, ripples of joy; none of that bullshit. It was a reminder of the power of Mother Nature, and put the resilience of a Mumbaikar to test. It exaggerated the squalor that people live in, and made people question their purpose further. The trademark Mumbai smile became a frown, a genuine expression of concern.

Happiness came to me just like the monsoon, like a ceaseless torrent and without warning. It just took over my life and turned it upside down.  I didn’t know what to do with it except hold an umbrella over my head. I wanted it to be mine, and I would not share it because I had worked hard for it.  Just like either sides of a rain shower, the happiness seemed rosy at first but ultimately radiated a sense of foreboding. The city became a wasteland after the rains and symbolised the spiritual cleansing that the city and its millions of residents had to go through to get back in touch with themselves, and the city. Similarly, the beauty of Mumbai is how you forget you were happy ten minutes ago.

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