10 gifts my father left behind for us


My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

-Clarence Budington Kelland


Exactly a year ago, My father left us, leaving behind a treasure trove of memories. He didn’t leave behind a vacuum for the family, instead he filled our minds with warm thoughts of his positive aura. As a family, we traded funny stories of how he made us laugh and wove his magic around people. Each of us felt blessed that he walked besides us and touched our lives forever.

Looking back, I realized he never lectured us or told us how to behave, he showed us by example and left us simple life lessons to follow. His biggest legacy were these ideas we imbibed as we watched him conduct himself. It struck me how much his actions have moulded our personalities distinctly over the years.

Here are 10 life lessons, my father left behind for us. These serve as stepping stones for us today and were his greatest gift to us and his grandchildren. 

1.Humor and laughter solves most problems

My father had an amazing sense of humor and diffused most problems and situations with laughter. He showed us the power of laughter and how infectious it can be. He could make anyone laugh and used it well to even convert frowns on any face.

He would recite stories from the past that made people hang on every detail, he could pun on everything and his comic timing would win hearts everywhere he went. In a crowded space, we knew we would find him at the epicenter of the laughter and giggles.

2.Treat everyone equally

He always showed us to treat every single person with respect and love, regardless of religion, status or race. He would connect with every single person on their level, making them comfortable and he made them feel unique. We would see him walk with his arms around the shoulder of people on the streets, remembering the name of everybody he met even after years. Each person felt he was their best friend and they always felt heard in his company. We saw and learnt never to ever talk down to anyone, instead to respect and understand their situations. We learnt by watching him, to listen intently without prejudice or judgment and that everyone was equal. The concepts of discrimination, status or economic divisions remained alien to each of us.

3.Stay a child always

Vappa was a child to his very last day. His childlike curiosity, his eagerness to learn, his hunger for new experiences and perennial innocence enveloped him and he wore it proudly like a unique cloak. He stayed more excited than any child I knew when he visited new places, or travelled and met new people. His face would change into a little child as his eyes would light up brightly soaking in everything around him. Every time Sachin or Kohli were belting sixes my phone would ring with him screaming on the other end “Are you watching this?!!”.

Every birthday party and gift was received with unbounded enthusiasm which he would be extremely expressive about. This quality allowed him to connect with his grandkids like best friends. Children everywhere would flock around him as he would enamor them with his magic tricks and jokes. He taught us to renounce adult cynicism for childlike glee.

4.Never lose connection 

He never lost touch with anyone he met. From childhood buddies, to college friends and hundreds of people he met over the decades, he stayed in touch with each and every one of them. He would call them regularly, and make it a point to meet all of them wherever he travelled. Whats app was God’s gift for him and it allowed him to stay connected with everyone even more easily. Every day without fail his “Good Morning” forwards and jokes would happily ping themselves into 100s of phones and make people smile during their day. He taught us to value our circle of friends that we make along the way and that it took no effort to stay connected and make each one feel loved.

5.The family is everything 

Beyond the 1000s of people that became his circle of influence, for him his family was everything. And this he regularly expressed to us and made each of us know we were way beyond everyone else. He would shamelessly talk about our little victories and bore his friends with our achievements. He ensured we all met regularly and hung out as a family. Every holiday was made special and he would dote on each and everyone of us and pamper the grandchildren rotten. He ensured we in turn were all best friends and we would stick around each other come what may. Our childhood was peppered with unforgettable holidays and constant occasions and surprise parties. Along with my mother, he taught us that family was everything.

6.Know the universe conspires for you

It may have been written in books and self help gurus may scream about it on world forums, but my Dad knew it before everyone else. Regardless of any situation or crisis that was knocking, he always knew that good things were going to happen and the world was always conspiring to make him succeed. And the universe always complied to his unrelenting belief. In the middle of hopeless situations, a door would always magically open, or a burst of silver lining that would miraculously appear through the darkest of life’s storm clouds. And with his trademark mischievous smile, he would embrace this good fortune with an “I have been expecting you” glint. We learnt that when you believe good things happen, they magically do. We learnt that hope invites good fortune and luck stalks strong belief in positivity.

7.Ask and ye shall receive

Vappa never felt awkward to ask. He would show us just for fun the things he could get done just by asking. So many times, when we would feel silly or shy, he would walk up confidently to anyone and disarm them with a smile and just ask. It could be an upgrade on a flight or a hotel, it could be a better seat, or an extra batch of toiletries in a hotel or even an audience with heads of states. He would ask and 8 out of 10 times, he would get what he wanted. We learnt that it doesn’t matter what people think, just ask.

Recently, when I heard Jack Canfield say the very same concept on stage at a training session I attended, I thought to myself with a grin that I have learnt this a long time ago from a master trainer.

8.Whatever you do, put your everything into it

Everything my father did, he did it with extreme passion and high energy. He would put his soul into it. From decorating a home, to creating a garden, to organizing weddings, to helping people or hosting events. Every network he was part of, he would leave his indefatigable energy as a mark. He would want to do his best and pour everything into what was at hand. No half measures was his motto and he went about life soaked in this electrifying high octane energy infecting everyone around him. We learnt to put our very best once we took on a challenge. We watched him and learnt to channel high energy into whatever we did too.

9.Touch lives along the way

The biggest asset you can leave behind for your children is goodwill. He touched so many lives just being himself. Thousands of people flocked to pay their last respects from the wee hours of the morning. I watched as people from all walks of life came by, with a lump in their throat, sharing stories and recounting how much he meant to them. We were amazed as each person would share how close he was, and say that he would keep in touch, and recount all the things he had done for them. Everyone of them pledged their love and support for their family and said they would be there for anything we ever needed. The outpouring of love and positivity made us realize how much he had done for so many people and just how loved he was. It taught us the value of doing things without expecting anything in return and how that grows exponentially as goodwill for generations to come.

10.Celebrate life. Have no regrets

His last few days, he was in and out of the hospital and we all spent time by his side. He laughed and smiled his way through every visit. We would laugh and tease him about his flirting with the nurses and he would laugh mischievously. He held my hand through each talk and he kept telling me about how he has no regrets with his wonderful and blessed life. He shared how he had a life he always dreamt of and a family he was so proud of.

He went ahead and bought his dream car a month before his last days, he stopped enroute to hospital to buy my mother a diamond necklace and celebrated his birthday with a cake just 2 weeks before he left us -making sure all the hospital staff was part of the celebrations. Even the day before he left us forever, he was cracking his trademark jokes and smiled with the same childlike glee in his eyes.

And the universe conspired yet again and took him without suffering nor leaving him bedridden or dependent on anyone. He left and taught us to celebrate his absence, not stay sad or mourn him. He left with a smile, knowing his legacy would live on through his children and his grand children.

Thank you for your lessons. Thank you for the unending reasons to smile while remembering you.

5 ideas to make a life changing vision board 


Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. 

Jonathan Swift

A vision board is a tool that has time and again helped me create a road map and clarify my own picture of where I want to be in the future and become a catalyst to achieve the dreams. I have scoured articles and books to know more about the effectiveness of a vision board. I have changed and tinkered with my goals and pictures over and over and what I want with my vision has organically evolved each time I created a new board. 

When I look back at all the road maps I set out for myself it’s amazing how different each one is and how easily I have floated towards achieving them soon after I made them. My initial vision boards were skewed towards material aspects and studded with manifestation of only wealth. Eventually there’s been a journey towards balance, health, family, happiness, work excellence, laurels and charity. Balance of work life and everyday happiness became the primary goal of achievement eventually. 

I have made and remade many vision maps and boards and found some that worked and many more that didn’t. Here’s 5 secrets on making a vision board that’s transformational. 

1. Know what you want


It is so important to know what you want for yourself. Close your eyes, project to the future and ask yourself what you really want. Then ask yourself what do I want this for? What will this give me? Why  is that goal is part of your dream? 

Make a list of your asks and categorize them once they pass your questions. Ensure every aspect of your vision resonates deep down within. 
This is an opportunity to truly introspect your ideal life 5 and 10 years later and have a crystal clear idea of what it looks like. 
2.Transport yourself to the future and live the moment 


What I learnt over the years and through discussions and reading is that the more clear you are of your vision the higher the possibility of achieving it. It’s important to be able to close your eyes and see yourself in an already achieved state. 

Be able to see the surrounding, smell the ambience, feel the textures, hear the sounds and play the movie in your head of yourself being there. For example if you are visualizing your dream home, every detail should be accessible in your mind. The walls, the furniture, the sounds, smell and the moments. See your emotions when you have achieved your vision, interact with the dream and it will increase the confidence in arriving at the destination. 

Even writing your dreams from an already achieved state  and with specifics helps accentuate the clarity of the vision. For example instead of saying “I want to publish a book by 2018” write down “By June 31st 2018, I have published my book titled ‘start up failures’ and 100,000 copies have been sold in the first year”. 

3.Create detailed visual boards across sections

Make vision boards for each category of your life and populate them with pictures of your dream. I have a few sections which I have evolved over time. 

Health, family time, travel, office and work, awards and accolades, hobbies, friends, dream home, dream office, dream clients and team, money, investments, friends and mentors, spirituality, toys and gadgets (car, brands, clothes, electronics etc). 

Creating vision boards across these categories have helped getting clarity under each section and makes sure the vision is complete. Involving the family and getting their buy in also helps cement these visions and enlist them as catalysts. 

It helps further to get yourself in as many pictures of the vision board. For example, if it’s a dream home or a car, go to the house and get a picture in front of the porch or seated inside your dream car doing a test drive. 
To make these vision boards, varied tools can be used. The easiest is to do the old scrap book method of cutting pictures and pasting on a board. Otherwise, Pinterest can be an amazing tool, PowerPoint or keynote your vision board. Once they are done, make them into a poster you can place somewhere that you can see every day is the best method to help actualising the dreams. Maybe on your bathroom mirror or as a poster in your office or bedroom. 

4.Make action steps for each board to achieve the same 


Often we make the mistake of making a vision board and expecting it to work magically for us. Detailing action steps to achieving some of these hairy audacious goals goes a long way in making them come true and giving it steps to reality. 

For example, if your vision is to write a book, your action steps would be:

a.finalise subjects in the next 3 months

b.start writing and keep aside an hour every weekend towards this from December 

c.Find an editor to work with

d. Attend the literary festival and find a mentor 
This should be applied across as many categories with tangible steps to achieve your 5 or 10 year vision board in bite size chunks. The trick is to dream without boundaries and make them big hairy audacious goals and then to break them down into practical steps to get there. 

5.Rewire your deep rooted relation  with success and prepare for receiving 


The biggest stumbling block to achieving success and our dreams are our deep rooted relation with the concept of success and money. We are all brought up with phrases we hear in our youth from family and friends. “Rich people are corrupt”, “you can’t be successful without hard work”, “money is evil” and many more thoughts and advice that slow us down without us realizing them. 
It’s important to work on being ready internally for the success that will come and prepare ourselves to embrace the future.  Our self fulfilling prophecy is engineered deep in the mind and every preparation will fail if we don’t believe or desire success within. 

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

-Henry David Thoreau

Connected minds 

Once in a while, I let the monk get away from his solitude and mediate with others. The energy of connected silence i find visually and emotionally uplifting. 
In life too, we come across people who suddenly cross our paths, where you can immediately sense their aura, their positive energy and shared intent. Suddenly, there’s a connection like you knew them from a lifetime ago. People always carry their energy around them and this speaks way before they even utter a word.   


Everyone meditates differently 

Meditation is best defined as a state where the mind is silent, completely still and without distraction.  The mind is clear, relaxed, and focused inward. We aspire to achieve a state where the mind is silent and no longer distracts. 

Every individual will have their own process to get to this state of being. It’s not necessary to attain the state of inner clarity only through traditional methods.  Some may find it being lost in a pure state of bliss within their craft, or work, or music, at a concert or the opera, sitting by a brook, trekking or as a whirling Sufi dervish. It’s about switching off into a zone where every external distraction switches off one by one till you are left in a state of pure balance. 

For me this state is when I sketch. I find myself at peace and being able to blank every bit of information that wants to catch my mind. I find myself enveloped in a place of complete inner focus and stillness. 
This sketch is both my moment of being completely still and also depicting how each individual has their own mediation process. 

Where everyday is a vacation


Imagine a life where everyday is a vacation. Where every single day we wake up smiling with a hop in our step.

What are things we do on a holiday? Slow down, hear the birds, feel the wind on our face, let go of all stress, do the things we love, spend quality time with our loved ones. We only do the things we love, we indulge ourselves, we breathe easier, we listen to ourselves, we laze in bed, eat slowly, sip on our coffee and relish the flavor, we watch strangers and soak in cultures. We are inspired easily, we laugh more and grin through the day.

Why can’t we do this everyday in our lives. Why can’t this become our constant state of being? A heightened awareness, doing what we love, smiling and in our zone. When we realize what we love, pursue excellence in our passion and then become so good that the world wants your talent, we enter a zone.
This zone allows us to indulge everyday doing we are passionate about, getting better everyday and honing out talent further and further. A laser focus on our competence and love for our own craft allows us to revel in the joy of what we love every day.

Combined with a life balance where we have enough time for ourselves and the people we love. Quality and quantity time with our families, friends and well wishers, touching lives each day and inspiring others yet being inspired easily. When we devote time for ourselves meditating in our pursuit for self knowledge and equanimity. When we learn to be authentic, don’t judge and be affected by situations and reactions. Imagine what a vacation life would be.

Sketches inspired by the zen gardens of kyoto

I have now begun sketching the monks set within zen gardens. Many years ago I had visited Kyoto and I guess the impact still remains.

The experience as I wandered through the gardens soaking in the effect of calm that permeates the space was spellbinding. Kyoto gardens was on my bucket list for the longest time and I am glad I could actually go for a day.









The monks are back

My sketchbook is filled with monks now. It is fast evolving into my own meditation space. I blank my mind completely and let the pen do its work letting things evolve on their own. Finding kanji for values which resonate with me is exciting. The pictures tend to depict these values and then I seek the kanji.

I am loving the meditative process of drawing meditating monks in front of mountains. 🙂




When it rained

Dubai gets just a few days of rain every year and it becomes a momentous occasion. Radio stations bring out their romantic playlists across languages, social media posts of raindrops and wet roads jostle for attention and every one is smiling. What’s app groups remind everyone that it’s magical and encourage people to head away from the office for tea or coffee.

Cloud formations visit a city that is used to clear skies and there’s a wonderful nip in the air. There’s a sense of celebration because everyone knows there’s not too many days like this.

I wonder when friends and relatives from other parts of the world see our posts of raindrops and clouds, do they wonder as they look at their rain drenched windows, what the big deal is.

Hear are some wonderful moments from my camera yesterday as this day of blessing passed by during a dubai winter. And yes, the day was magical!








What I left behind when technology came calling!


When you look at technology over the years, my childhood seems like centuries away. When you stop for a moment to breathe and reflect its unbelievable how we contended with difficulties earlier.

Everything around from my computer to my smartphone, my email, calendar, design and management software, my apps and my social media seem to become my lifeline now. When my phone drains and blacks out of battery, I panic and feel naked and stranded. Life comes to a screeching halt!

Looking back its amazing how we managed and how wonderful everything was. When I reflect back, suddenly I realize the joy of little things and the immense pleasure around the simplest of acts.

I remember as a little child sitting in my grand mothers house in a village in kerala. Our estate caretaker had this radio he would tune into in the evening as the power would black out. Sitting by the old bulky radio in the candle light, he would place his ear close to the speaker, eyes squinted behind his soda thick glasses. We would hear the crackle of voices fading in and out and disappearing to static again. I remember the joy of suddenly hearing a song magically emerge into the darkness of the room and create a new dimension of myriad emotions for all of us.

I remember the first LP at home and every record we had. Sholay and Nazia hussain’s “Disco Dewaane” were my favorites and Qurbani came in a close second. When I had fever, my father would play Sholay and as the hissing sounds that accompanied the silence receded and the songs would play, I was magically healed.

I remember being surrounded by audio tapes and growing up to slowly buy my own. I had distinct memories of learning to create selections and record my own from old tapes. I would record over old tapes and put my favourites as compilations listing them in the cover. My chest would swell with pride when cousins and friends complimented the mix and the efforts I had made to put the songs together. I still remember every song to date.

My memory is etched with clarity on the first VHS tapes at home; Gandhi, Annie, a selection of Tom and Jerry and 3 Hindi titles. Then when television beamed into our home, weekend lunch was a picnic in front of the TV and Spider-Man would swing into our living room.

Photography, the excitement of walking upto the studio days after you gave it for processing and fighting over seeing the pics with my brother and sister.

I still clearly remember writing letters. Sitting down and finding the right paper and making sure my writing was in straight lines. Finding good looking stamps and adding illustrations to my pages. At one point I was churning almost 4 letters a day and receiving 2 a day from friends. I remember waiting excitedly for the postman in the afternoon and brimming with eagerness. The joy of receiving letters!

Then there’s phone numbers. I would know each one by heart and I didn’t need to know more than 20 at most.

Today, in contrast I have over 10,000 songs stored in my iphone, iPod, old flash drives and back up. I get bored of my playlists in a day. I can access radio stations anywhere in the world and any genre and I don’t know what to listen to. I get confused what song to play in my car often. I have over 1000 movie titles and television series collections, my kids have every movie and serials thinkable. My smartphone has close to 3500 numbers and most times I forget my office number. I am taking over 3000 pictures every month and hardly printing any. I receive 100s of emails everyday and send at least 50. My friends are in my pocket and I can knock on their door at the other end of the world when I want. I receive 100s of messages as sms, what’s app and over my social media. I tweet, blog and update my status periodically. I read and devour articles and research and data.

Strange times. Maybe it’s time to stop and breathe and bring back the simplicity and joy into all these everyday tasks. Within the sea of data and excess, find an oasis of magic in the simple simple things. Maybe it’s time for frequent technology detox and cherish the romance of limited availability all over again.



The wisdom of getting rich and 5 untold secrets


I find it fascinating meeting successful people and understanding what makes them who they are, absorbing their secrets to success, seeking inspiration and lessons. Over my  interactions with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I see extremely intelligent and innovative people struggle financially, dropouts become billionaires and billionaires become unhappy and unfulfilled. Then there’s a rare species that gets it all perfectly balanced.

A few questions I have often asked myself are:

“How do some individuals become so rich? What do they do different? “

How come certain people suddenly rocket across the business stratosphere? What suddenly shifts?”

“Why do some people who come across as inspirations turn out to be a facade of optimism as you peel away the layers? ”

“Why do so many achievers speak of regretting that they didn’t stop and smell the coffee along the journey?”

It’s interesting that how much money you make, how much you retain with you, how smart you are, how rich you are and how happy you stay is not always linked nor proportional to each other.

Having read so many books, research documents and discussed with mentors and role models, I have begun to comprehend some interesting home truths. They are so simple and staring us in the face. As I tried experimenting and began to feel the impact of the wisdom and found paradigm shifts in business and life.

The 5 important secrets are:

1.Resetting the financial thermostat


Each of us have a relation with success and money. This evolves as a mix of genetics, experiences, things we have heard, preconditioning and internal decisions we made along the way. We often hear phrases like “you can’t make money without losing your ethics”, “dirty money” “money only brings unhappiness” and many more phrases and notions that condition our minds against it.

Deep rooted inhibitions with finance often create a love hate relation with money. Our grandparents and parents have views that stay rooted after generations. This festers like an old wound and leaves a scar.

I ran my business for years without thinking of money and as a creative person feeling that money is not a good thing. I discovered that my expenses would get covered because that was my desire but the cup would never overflow.

The simple rule is that money comes to those who love and desire it without contempt. When money is not a dirty word and welcomed with a red carpet, she visits and stays. When you long to be with money without cringing and when it’s not desired just for the material benefits of money, she appears.

This is the one simple first secret of every book on success and money. The intense desire for it. It’s as simple as that. If you intensely desire money and welcome it with open arms, money comes.

The starting point of all achievement is desire.

-Napoleon Hill

2.knowing what you want and having a map


Imagine you are on a road trip and you want to drive to a nearby town and decide to get there without a map. You then decide you won’t ask for directions or follow the signs and don’t even know what the town is called. You set off and make a journey and you do reach somewhere, but with no reference point how far away you are and where you are. You are never going to reach and needless to say you would never know how far you are from where you want to be.

It’s the same with visions and goals. You need to know where you are going. One of the simplest secrets successful people share is that they knew what they wanted and where they were going. Writing down your plans like you already achieved them triggers actions without you realizing. Making a vision board and seeing it every day increases the chances of fulfilling them even further.

When you know where you are going, every crisis and issue become deviations, you just need a side lane to get back to the main highway of your goals.

The same rule eluded me. My vision was to do great work, work with good people, have a chic office and a cool car. All the wishes were granted very soon and then growth stagnated because I hadn’t reset my map not broadened my vision.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
–Steve Jobs

3 . The magic of saving

The simplest rule of money is to increase your income, reduce your expenses and make sure theres a lot in between both. Then you got to keep it that away and widen this gap year on year. Ideally the expense shouldn’t grow more than inflation and the income should grow exponentially.

Having the discipline to force yourself to save needs a mindset change. How often I have caught myself saying that I had less expenses when I had less money. The secret is to spend much lesser than we make.

The joy of seeing money as investments and not just a means to spend more needs a mindset change which creates paradigm shifts. Having your rental income cover your regular expenses and your investment interest pay your luxury EMIs is a big high.

The day it dawned on me that cash is the king in business and the oxygen that keeps it going, I sensed a remarkable turnaround in strategy and direction. There are so many nooks and corners and hidden recesses where unnecessary expenses stay hidden without realizing as I moved along. I call it the spring cleaning of unwanted expenses and this needs to be done every 3 months.

Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.
–Will Rogers

4.Learning to give

One of the most important secrets of wealth sharing as I read, spoke and understood is the ability to give. To share our wealth knowing that it comes back to you even more. As we move to an abundance mentality away from scarcity, the mind programs itself to know that as we give, more will take its place.

Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Buffet are all well known philanthropists. In a letter to his son, Rocketfeller wrote, “…in the beginning of getting money, away back in my childhood, I began giving it away, and continued increasing the gifts as the income increased…”

For it is in giving that we receive.
-St. Francis of Assisi

5 . Enjoying the ride

When I converse with people who inspire me, I often ask them if there are any regrets along the way. The pattern of the answers is always the same “I wish I had watched my kids grow up” “I wish I had taken more holidays” “I wish I had more time for myself” “I didn’t spend enough time with my wife” “There’s a million things I didn’t do because I was busy making money”.

Everything you make becomes worth it when every day is lived like its your last day. What is money if you can’t enjoy it with the ones you love, if you don’t have time for yourself and for finding yourself too on the journey. I believe you get richer with experiences. As you get rich, your life needs to get richer too.

Early enough we need to decide that the pursuit of wealth doesn’t have to be devoid of soul, that the journey will be a celebration and not a struggle.

I needed a major mindset shift from my 90 hour weeks I proudly practiced in the initial years of business. Waking up and deciding that I want to enjoy the ride and never regret a moment helped to change the way I enjoyed the journey. The trick was to focus on things I am best at and termed “play” and finding other people or outsourcing tasks which was “work”.

It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.

–George Lorimer



Try out these simple ideas and see the effect!