A school reunion 25 years in the making

What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

-Julian Barnes, The sense of an ending


A bus rumbled through a sleepy town, past rocky hillocks and green fields, past garish hand painted walls, past a greying sky pregnant with nostalgia and the chance of rain. Little did we know the rain were to play a cathartic role in our trip.

Oblivious to the varying landscape, inside the bus sat 23 stories bound together by the destination. Laughter and untold stories reverberated across every seat setting the stage for a magical weekend. 

It was my 25th year after I had left Rishi valley and here we were together travelling back in time to rediscover hundreds of memories walking the 350 acre campus. I had joined the school 34 years ago as a little boy. 

We had come together from destinations around the world to meet again and find ourselves. London, Hong Kong, California, New York, Abu Dhabi and from across India my batch mates had traversed and hopped aboard the bus at Bangalore. 

We never missed a beat. One hug and we were perfectly back in sync, back as little kids without pretense cloaked in an aura of trust and camaraderie. 

Rishi Valley School sits nestled as a valley between rocky hills and lush green trees. Over 80 years the school still retained its soul, choosing to stay untouched by technology or modernity. Rishi valley wears it austerity proudly and this serves as one of the greatest catalysts for students. 

We stared silently as the campus and the neighboring hills loomed through the windows. A 6 hour bus ride riddled with food breaks, pit stops and leg stretches had brought us now to the gate of our childhood. Grinning 40 somethings arriving at a campus that had once transformed and evolved each of us. 
RV as we called it fondly, was exactly as we remembered it. Each of us hopped off the bus, to be welcomed by the splendor of this picturesque campus. A gentle breeze ran across Neem leaves, past tamarind and eucalyptus trees. The wind scurried past and swung open metal doors that creaked, it shook yellow petals down onto the road into a beautiful carpet. The architecture stood simple and austere, hand in hand with the scenic campus amidst chirping birds. 

The caretaker Gopal walked out of the guest house timeless,exactly as we remembered him. De ja vu could have been his middle name as he near perfectly guessed each of our names and welcomed us back. We morphed into school kids in an instant as we nosedived into our school days. The reunion had shifted gears. 

Over the next 2 days we immersed ourselves in our school days reliving each moment. We walked to every corner of the campus, to our classrooms through the years, meeting teachers, visiting the hostels, the assembly. Having current students on campus made it even more real as we saw ourselves in them. 


We shared anecdotes at each location, reminding each other and shaking up forgotten events. We relished the food, sang songs together in the music room, danced old folk dances we were taught, climbed the hills and played sports too. A few woke up at the crack of dawn and jogged to the mouth of the valley and back and survived to tell the tale. It is amazing what the sound of birds, silence and the lack of wi fi can do for the mind. We were instantly refreshed wearing the grin of our school days proudly on display. 


On the last evening, we sat on the terrace together. The moon hid behind dark clouds as we peddled ghost stories and played songs from the eighties. The mood shifted with the weather and a magical connection wove its way across each of us. We were suddenly amongst friends, people we knew for over 3 decades, people we have grown up with. As the clouds parted and it rained heavily, something magical happened. 

We opened our hearts and shared our thoughts without fear of judgement. Amongst our oldest friends we rained our stories, we bared our soul and spoke of happiness, of trials and challenges. That evening we suddenly stood united as one unit. We felt lighter and realized that these are friends who will be there for each other no matter what. Within that paradigm shift, we suddenly wove a wonderful web of trust and connectivity that would now stay with us for the rest of our lives. 


We travelled back from school as one close knit family. I discovered so many little anecdotes and stories realizing how they have shaped who I am today. I left younger, clearer and recharged. I left school with a bunch of friends suddenly much more closer than I ever knew them. I left school discovering myself a lot more. I left school with a warm fuzzy feeling and a glow. There was an energy and positivity inwards that even days at a holiday retreat couldn’t bring alive. 

That’s what a school reunion does. Nostalgia is one helluva volatile catalyst of positivity!

Sketches in a Singapore coffee shop

While Travelling to Singapore, I did a few sketches at a Starbucks on orchard street. It was midnight and raining outside.

While I was sketching people around me, I suddenly realised that on each table sat groups of friends busy with their phones. They were hanging out but not conversing or acknowledging each other. Smiling into their devices wrapped in its glow they hardly looked up at each other. Then they paid the bill and left.

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Here’s another page that’s an ode to coffee!

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And here’s one more exploration from my monk series that’s an attempt to add more color to my illustrations and also attempt a much larger format. It explores the meaning of equanimity.

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I haven’t been documenting everyday moments much while exploring hand lettering or doodling funny animals or monks.

Note to self: carry sketch book around and explore interesting snippets of every day life on paper.

The magic of travel

You never know when you could find that moment, in the middle of a long flight, at a quaint coffee shop, standing in a vast field of flowers, sitting silently by a giggling brook, watching a sunset over the sea or walking through the clouds.

Suddenly, clarity sifts through and you have that epiphany, a wonderful aha that brings your life alive. That’s what travel does, it works as a catalyst and awakens the mind each time. It opens your eyes and expands the mind bringing back a better person each time you set off.

Here are some visuals that inspire and immortalize the concept of travel.

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my Bucket List of 50 and how to make one

bucket-list

This is my bucket list.

Though its a bucket list, I would really love to tick everything on this list in the next 5 years! I probably would add 50 more as the years go by on this wish list. 

A bucket list helps us to trigger and bring to life so many simple pleasures we may forget as we get caught up in day to day life. The list makes us look inwards and find what really will bring a smile to ourselves and sets in motion a chain of events that make them come alive.

Sometimes some of the wildest dreams come true when they are put out into the world. I had shared my list earlier and 2 items magically came alive because friends read them. One friend read kilimanjaro on the list and planned a trip and called me to join and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had penned that I wanted to fly a plane and never imagined that would come true during a holiday where another friend organised a jaw dropping ride through clouds with me at the controls.

Go ahead and write a bucket list now and share it with the world. It’s going to come alive!

1.Write and illustrate a children’s book

2.Climb Kilimanjaro

3.Do a series of large format paintings

4.Have an exhibition of my paintings

5.Write and direct a movie

6.Do a road trip through Italy with my wife and kids

7.Take a romantic vacation in Venice

8.Skydive

9.Take a month off and travel alone with a camera, a sketchbook and a backpack and publish a book on the experiences

10.Go to a U2 concert

11.Meet Bono

12.Meet Richard Branson and pick his brains on entrepreneurship

13.Run a full marathon

14.Learn to cook like a chef

15.Own a holiday home in Spain

16.Learn arabic and mandarin

17.Do a stand up comedy act

18.Learn pottery and glazing and have my own kiln at home

19.Own a Porsche Panamera

20.Snorkel in the great barrier reef 

21.Publish a book on “The world’s worst puns”

22.Have a six pack

23.Visit Disneyland with my kids

24.Fly a plane

25.Host a radio show

26.Write a motivational book

27.Speak to an audience of 1000 or more

28.Sponsor and educate 100 children through high school

29.Learn bonsai

30.Watch a football match final live with Barcelona playing

31.Watch a cricket world cup live with India playing

32.Meet Lionel Messi

33.Meet MS Dhoni

34.Watch an Opera

35.See Cirque de Soliel perform live

36.Do theatre and act in a play and design the stage and production

37.Launch my own line of furniture

38.Do the Serengeti safari

39.Travel to Cyprus

40.Do Vipassana meditation

41.Own a cafe

42.Visit Vegas

43.Learn to ski in the alps

44. Go white water rafting

45.Bungee jump

46.Lose 20 kilos

47.Meet Jack Canfield and attend his seminar

48.Attend a Tony Robbins seminar and meet him

49.Vist the Kyoto zen gardens

50.Do a boys bike trip in Ladakh with my best friends

Some links to help you make a bucketlist

ideas of other peoples lists listed by popularity

and 500 more ideas

the how of bucket lists

1000s of bucket list ideas here

step by step on how to make a bucket list

10 tricks for frequent travellers

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Even a simple day trip for business brings out the best in me. Travel is my introspection time, reading time, sketching time and learning time. I tend to shut out the world and immerse myself in me. A bubble envelops itself around me and I tune into my innermost thoughts. This is my kaizen space where I connect with my personal SWOT, where I do my internal housekeeping, reflect and fine tune my journey. This is the time where I check my map and calibrate the compass.

I tend to follow a pattern of simple habits so my mind is uncluttered on the journey. This is what I do.

1.Pack the day before
I ensure my bags are set early and everything is in place well before I have to leave. I also have a clear mental picture of what I will be wearing on the day.

2.Travel light
I make sure I have value engineered what leaves with me on the trip. Over past experience, I know what is needed and what isn’t. Most importantly, when I travel alone I never check in my baggage. I plan around my cabin baggage and never carry more.

3.The right luggage
I prefer soft luggage that doesn’t add excess weight. Always with wheels so I am not carrying it myself. I prefer day bags with many compartments and pockets so each place can have its designated items.

4.Repetition
Packing and placing every item I travel with in the same place in my bag helps to access everything easily. There’s a compartment for my passport and ticket, for the book I will read, chargers, money, lap top, etc etc.

5.Prepare for security check
This I find an underrated skill which can really help ease your mind and save time. I make sure all my metallic objects (watch, wallet, belts, phone etc) stay in my bag till after the check. I try and use a slip in shoe even for formal wear so I can weave in an out faster. All liquid items are always under 100ml.

6.Simple food and hydration
I try and completely avoid airline food on short flights and snack on fruit and drink a lot of water. Travel food used to leave me feeling bloated and sluggish.

7.The right music
When I am traveling I listen to lounge music on a high quality headphone with noise cancellation features. It helps me shut the world out and works as a wonderful catalyst for energizing my thoughts.

8.Mind mapping
When thoughts explode and ideas are bombarding me, I use the Mind Node app to capture my ideas. I find this the simplest and most effective way to keep my planning at the same speed of my thinking. I have 100s of mind maps on all kinds of subjects which then keeps my brain clutter free.

9. Books, the perfect companion
When I am traveling I carry books which are non fiction. My companion is a self help or business book centering around an area or issue which I am grappling. I also love scouring airports for new books. I buy faster than I can read and I know it’s an investment that can’t go bad.

10.immigration
Simple things like memorizing and remembering your passport number, issue and expiry date can save time at the airport or on a flight. At immigration counters my eyes search for sections which have 2 personnel managing one line. These lines move much faster and usually there’s always one such counter closer to the end. I also place my ticket within the concerned visa page so it’s easier for the officer to find it.

Besides these, some other ideas are to ensure my pockets are empty in the flight so I am comfortable. I carry gum always for overnight trips, do power maps if the flight is in the wee hours and I have meetings on arrival. I also pack based on how I unpack.

And now I can probably add blogging in my free time to that list!!

Finding myself at Kilimanjaro

One of the best things I carried in my backpack on my recent trip to Kilimanjaro was a sketchbook, a fine pen and a shading marker. Everyday as we trudged in to the campsite, I would scurry into my tent and retreat into a world of my thoughts trying to bring them alive visually.

Everything around me worked as catalysts- the air, the rain, the foliage, wind, clouds, my friends and the giant mountain that looked at me everyday.

More than all the pictures I took on the trip, it was the sketches that I treasured the most because they brought my thoughts alive.

Ticking off a bucket list

It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
-Sir Edmund Hillary

In an interesting case of serendipity, 2 years ago, I listed Kilimanjaro on my Bucket list of things to do for no specific rhyme or reason. A few months ago, the trip actually came alive as the universe listened and brought it to life. Before I knew it, some of my closest friends from school, from college and a very interesting mix of people from around the world made up our group of a dozen climbers.

Something about this group was magical.

“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”
-Friedrich Neitszche

Every single person in our group was unique in their personalities and together the bonhomie was infectious. Right from get go, there was laughter and camaraderie that permeated every conversation. There seemed to be an unsaid connection in every action. We seemed to know each other from a long time ago and set off like best friends on one mission. Maybe the purpose connected us or maybe the mountain just made us closer.

As the trip unfolded, we became a tighter unit- standing up for each other, helping, encouraging, laughing a lot, sharing food and looking out for each person. The outdoors have a wonderful way of helping us find ourselves and at the same time seeing people as they really are. The trek ended with best friends becoming even closer and new friends become like family.

Preparing for the climb

“Each fresh peak ascended teaches something.”
-Sir Martin Convay

All of us went through various preparation methods. I got myself a trainer and he worked on strengthening my core, my legs, shoulder and back and getting my overall strength in place. I jogged to build my stamina and did walks with 5 to 7 kilos in my backpack. Every weekend I would climb the steps of a 36 storey flat to get the calves in shape. I did this with a friend from Dubai, Bharat and we would time ourselves and see how we could improve our timing each time. The group had a whats app chat where we would motivate each other by sharing our preparation and exercise regimen.

Though the preparation helped a lot during the actual trek, finally it was about how strong we were mentally on the final summit day that got us to the top. Besides all that, that it was the amazing pacing and expertise that our guide Sarah Kingdom led us with through the days that also ensured we all made the summit.

The importance of a great guide

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”
-Greg Child)

A big part of getting things right on an adventure like this lies with how well we are guided in the journey. Sarah played a great part weeks before we even left. In our chat window, she would inquire about our progress every day, share quotes and helped build a bond amongst the group. Through the trip, she would ensure we set off on time and paced us through the day.

Thank you White Magic Adventure for the amazing coordination and organising of the trip.

http://www.whitemagicadventure.com

The trip of a lifetime

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

-John Muir

This adventure couldn’t have got any better! There was an amazing group, a daunting mountain peering through the clouds,  we trekked through rain, past brooks and giggling streams, saw inspiring climbers of all ages with the same focus, pitched tents amidst lakes and foothills and each of us made the summit. On the way down from the summit, heavy snowfall made our descent near impossible, snow over the gravel became ice and climbers kept falling and sliding like dominoes. That trek pushed our bodies to its limits and it was possibly the toughest thing I have ever done and for all of us it was our minds that redirected us back to our tents that day. We trekked 18 hours before we finally slept that night exhausted yet smiling over our personal victories that day.

The last day was the most beautiful part of the journey as we trekked downhill over 7 hours past hills, fields, flowers, foliage and a gentle rainforest. With new-found energy and exhilaration, the day was a abuzz with fresh thoughts and a cool breeze. As I walked, so much clarity about every aspect of my life unfolded in my mind. I felt so many knots untie themselves and ease away in those few hours. Clarity like the crystal clear streams that I walked past, changes in paradigm and a sense of calm.

Thank you Kilimanjaro for the adventure of a lifetime and helping me find myself!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

(Dr. Seuss)

 

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Vegas through my iphone

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I was in Vegas this week and here are some pictures of the city through my iphone.

Vegas has a vibrant energy of its own and weaves its dreams for anyone who visits. I loved the kitsch, the neon, the details in the architecture, the amazing sense of service across the city and the amazing shows by Cirque de Soliel. Each hotel is themed and inspired by elements of that theme. Venice, New York, Paris and a host of themes are reflected in the best hotels in Vegas. Each hotel is a self sufficient Eco system in itself with its casinos, shopping malls, pools, world class restaurants and facilities.

I was there for just 3 days and here are some pictures from the trip.

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A selection of some of my old sketches scanned from my sketchbooks.

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If thoughts were horses

 

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Doha Airport dinner

 

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The battle cry
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Almost Heaven, Uganda safari
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King Bruce and the spider
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Introspection on clouds
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Looking back
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The breakthrough at dawn
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Bengaluru airport, Reading time
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Coffee in Nairobi
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The train ride from Milan
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King Bruce remembers the spider
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Confronting my dragons
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With a little help from my friends
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The branch meeting
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I see angels
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Peer pressure
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I saw the sign
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The weekend game
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My thoughts are wild horses
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Valhalla

 

my Bucket List

bucket-list

This is my bucket list.

Though its a bucket list, I would really love to tick everything on this list in the next 5 years! I probably would add 50 more as the years go by on this wish list.

1.Write and illustrate a children’s book

2.Climb Kilimanjaro

3.Do a series of large format paintings

4.Have an exhibition of my paintings

5.Write and direct a movie

6.Do a road trip through Italy with my wife and kids

7.Take a romantic vacation in Venice

8.Skydive

9.Take a month off and travel alone with a camera, a sketchbook and a backpack and publish a book on the experiences

10.Go to a U2 concert

11.Meet Bono

12.Meet Richard Branson and pick his brains on entrepreneurship

13.Run a full marathon

14.Learn to cook like a chef

15.Own a holiday home in Spain

16.Learn arabic and mandarin

17.Do a stand up comedy act

18.Learn pottery and glazing and have my own kiln at home

19.Own a Porsche Panamera

20.Snorkel in the great barrier reef

21.Publish a book on “The world’s worst puns”

22.Have a six pack

23.Visit Disneyland with my kids

24.Fly a plane

25.Host a radio show

26.Write a motivational book

27.Speak to an audience of 1000 or more

28.Sponsor and educate 100 children through high school

29.Learn bonsai

30.Watch a football match final live with Barcelona playing

31.Watch a cricket world cup live with India playing

32.Meet Lionel Messi

33.Meet MS Dhoni

34.Watch an Opera

35.See Cirque de Soliel perform live

36.Do theatre and act in a play and design the stage and production

37.Launch my own line of furniture

38.Do the Serengeti safari

39.Travel to Cyprus

40.Do Vipassana meditation

41.Own a cafe

42.Visit Vegas

43.Learn to ski in the alps

44. Go white water rafting

45.Bungee jump

46.Lose 20 kilos

47.Meet Jack Canfield and attend his seminar

48.Attend a Tony Robbins seminar and meet him

49.Vist the Kyoto zen gardens

50.Do a boys bike trip in Ladakh with my best friends

Witnessing the bahrain protests

As I drove by from my meeting, I saw traffic slow down and hordes of police cars on the roads. A helicopter circled low and I noticed clouds of smoke from a distance.

The driver casually told me that this was normal and still a regular sighting especially on the weekends. Protestors burning rubber tyres and this had now moved into setting show rooms and other disruptions lately. I saw tear gas smoke also in the area as we drove by.

Life goes on in Bahrain but for sure business and every day life is affected slightly . It is a remarkable city with friendly people, a hospitable culture and a unique blend of modernity and tradition. I pray things get back to its usual vibrancy very quickly.

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