Stepping out of a black hole

I didn’t understand what was going on. I was just constantly tired. I’d seen many doctors. In India and in Canada. All I could tell them was, I am tired. I don’t feel like getting out of bed, I don’t feel like working out. I don’t feel like doing any of the things I enjoyed doing. I hated everyone. I was going through everyday as if my soul was within some other container and I was watching it as the nightmare unfolded.

My dad had been sick for a while. Although medically, it was his heart, his kidneys, his diabetes, his nerves, his blood that were the problems, he had actually been killing himself slowly over the last 20 years, from depression. He’s been pushing all his organs to their limits, in an attempt to see how bad it can get. And he was my best friend.

My business, which defined my identity, wasn’t doing so hot either. Toxic partners, toxic employees, very talented but jaded employees, lack of focus and lack of direction was killing my business. I wasn’t sure when I was going to be paid and I wasn’t sure how to steer the business out of the downward spiral while there were avoidable and unavoidable roadblocks at every step. I worked harder and harder until I just could not.

Personal life was in shambles. Both my boyfriend and I had jumped headfirst into starting our own businesses, without much savings or experience and it was ravaging us. The stress outlined and filled our lives and in a hopeless attempt for self-preservation we tore each other apart. I stayed up past 3am every night, drinking and eating whatever I could lay my eyes on. Scooping peanut butter out of the jar and swirling the spoon in the nutella jar and polishing it off. Guzzling a bottle of wine, followed by more than a few drinks of whiskey, until I could not pour myself a drink any more.

I came back from India, after 2 months of my father, mom and me fighting for his life, leaving him in a state of unimaginable physical and mental pain that we all knew was definitely worse than keeping him alive, and fully knowing that I would not see him any more. Came into work to find 10$ in our company bank account. We had lots of bills to keep the product humming. And the lights turned on. And 7 people to pay. I didn’t have answers for them. I had let everyone down and that’s who I was. Also, so alone.

I was a broken person. Fast forward to after my dad’s death – the single and unanimous biggest loss of my life, business loans from sharks, and then the ongoing pandemic. Business started to look up, our team changed and grew, I got a puppy and in spite of resisting to the idea for a few years, I agreed to try out some happy pills that the doctor prescribed.

It was a sunny day and we were driving down the highway along the water and suddenly a fond memory of us enjoying a drive washed over. I had maintained for the last few years that I didn’t believe long drives, but only in a destination. But the green trees, the shimmering water, the wind in my face, felt so fresh! It had been a few years since I felt anything like that. It had been a few years since I had spoken to some friends and not been extremely aggravated. It had been many years since I had laughed – so much so that I could not recognize the sound of my laughter anymore and it sounded like cacophony.

I understand now that it will take a much longer time to recover but I also see it is possible. I am still tired, some days unable to get out of the couch. Too tired to talk. Reminding myself to focus when I drive. But, I am able to think with clarity some days, able to enjoy a good meal and attend a get together and not abhor it. I can walk my dog and enjoy music, I can laugh and be surprised at the intensity of my own laughter. This is a work in progress.

Desi Lifestyle: WHO DAT!

After a challenging spell of 3 years, I was looking to keep myself busier with things other than watching tv, drinking wine and wallowing in self-pity so what better than to start a new business! Desi Lifestyle is brand that combines a few of my passions – technology, business, photography and of course charity, with a generous sprinkling of nostalgia. I want to inspire people to get in touch with their hearts and recognize privilege. To start off, we’ll be selling T-Shirts designed by yours truly and 100% of profits will be donated towards education of children.

The best way to ensure a better life for the next generation is via women empowerment and education of children. You know what they say about giving fish and fishing – yeah, a lot of research backs that up. So, if you’re reading this – go ahead, check out the website, wear your heart on your sleeve (actually, chest) and start giving back!


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Dealing with death.

My father passed away over a year ago and although I’m no expert in death, I have learned a lot about having your most dearest person leave you and how you can never be ready. I want to tell you how it goes.

The first couple weeks went by quickly, in disbelief (although I thought I was fully prepared). Making lists of things that needed done. Lists of things that changed. And lists of things that you could never do again, like hear his voice. Questions that could never be answered, like, what do you think of this new business idea or this new biriyani place. The next few months dragged on as the chores got done and reality sunk in. Every memory, date, thought, food, music, small and big, corroded me down just a little more. Nothing had ever come close to the hopeless melancholy that leeched in and recoloured my soul. I started challenging time to prove it’s healing powers. That forgotten friend, that hobby I quit, time does heal, right? It’s unbelievable how long it takes to accept how everlasting death is, though. Everyday ends with the crumbling awareness that I won’t hear from him, again, today, or tomorrow.

The next year, I counted each month, surprised how I survived 3 months without talking to my dad, 4 months without discussing that random new philosophy I’m adopting, 5 months without sharing my fears, 6 months without cracking a joke at him, 7 months without fighting with him, 8 months without sharing that new whiskey I found, 9 months without telling him that business was doing better, 10 months without getting his opinion on my life’s next steps! Jealous on Fathers day, feigning indifference in his birthday. Afraid how my mother is surviving this.  And after a year passed by, I realized all the research I has scoured saying that you “get over the death of a close one” within a year, is a complete lie. I listen to his favourite songs and cry in the shower. Sometimes I take an extra drink of whiskey and imagine his guilty pride smiling down at me. Other times I wish he visits my dreams. At times of desperation, I hope he haunts me.

I look around and see so many deaths. Such an ubiquitous affair and yet, the world doles out much indifference.  20 die in mass shooting. 200 die in earthquake. 2000 kids die of starvation. While I stuff my face and read the news, gawking at the numbers and how it’s politicized. The broken families, left irreparable. Hearts that will now bleed, forever, never be whole again.

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Old and battered and yet, fighting the war!

It’s been 7 years, 3 major pivots, 50% of founders leaving and countless broken dreams, sleepless nights, greyed hair later, here we are.

 

There have been many battles along the way, a lot of them that we’ve lost (my favourite co-founder left last year, we made some changes and had a year quarter that had no growth etc). But the war is yet to be won or lost. And don’t be fooled, we’re still running forward, inching forward at least, with guns blazing!

 

Is this an appropriate time to use “Some people move on, but not us” meme?

Good Bye, beloved best friend!

My Father is fat;

My Father is dark;

My Father is old;

But I love him so because

He has eyes of diamond

And a heart of gold.

— Composed by 6 year old me, acknowledged life long.

 

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How much can you fit “under the rug”?

I read a lot about sexism and if you’re reading my blog, either you do too, or you know that I do.

Being a woman, it is impossible to fight every situation that you feel is unfair and you end up pushing them under the rug, one by one by one by one. Often double guessing if it’s your fault or shortcoming. Often being gaslighted. Constantly questioned. Treated as a backup. As clutter where no one really knows where or how you fit in. Underrated. And you start adjusting, feeling helpless, lonely, defeated. Afraid that speaking out will brand you a nagging female, a problem person, who can’t deal on their own, who over-reacts, misreads… bring a deluge of questions about what exactly happened and arguments of how I may be over-reacting. So you just shut up and let the toxicity eat away at you. Live daily, angry at those who deny sexism. Cheated by the world leaders who can’t do any better. Wondering if there is any point in fighting for it. In being ambitious? In working hard? In believing that we’ll see equality in  this lifetime? Or at least… meaningful positive changes.

 

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Can we stop talking about marriage and babies?

Rarely do I come across non-professional interactions where I do not get asked about marriage and my preference for having babies.

 

I get it. You are married or want to get married. Good job, you love someone so much that you want to tie them down legally. And you want or have had a baby and it’s the most amazing thing and you want me to experience it first hand because it’s SO special… well… please share your feelings of accomplishment and glow with every other living organism that also produces off springs.

 

Thank you.

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Cut Shit Out

We all have some folks in our circle who we meet and are social with but we don’t quite trust.

  1. Maybe an ex-lover who is clingy and lonely and you know is bad news
  2. An employee who talks smack behind your back
  3. A friend with a huge insatiable ego
  4. A creepy fellow in your social circle who makes crude remarks or advances
  5. A colleague who just wants to take you down
  6. A buddy who is full of drama because of their own selfishness
  7. A “friend” who is full of lies and dishonesty
  8. Someone who is simply negative of everything
  9. Super Jealous cousin secretly wishing you no good
  10. etc…

If you nodded to any of the above, do yourself the BIGGEST favour you can. Cut them out. It might seem ruthless, unsocial, rude, but the upsides are too high. Trust me.

After a really shitty and resentful personal and professional 2015, I (almost accidentally) started getting rid of these folks and my only regret is, why didn’t I do this earlier.

The TOP thing to happen: It was liberating. Liberated of having to be civil with folks I deeply disagree with. A sense of peace, happiness and lack of negativity is just icing.

And most importantly – It was AS awesome for my personal life, as was for my professional one. If someone is being a douche more than serving any real purpose, cut them out.

And do it today.

The Best Startup lessons that you will probably ignore (Until it’s kinda late)

I mean.. who am I to be giving out advice – but after 4 years of startup life, we have learned a few things… the hard way. We have made these mistakes, more than once and right now, are our biggest regrets.

  • Listen to customers: So simple. Yet, we fail to do it. Customer interviews with scripted questions (how much would  you pay, how much of a pain is this, how many times do you do  this every week) and pre-set metrics (if less than 70% users say they want it, we scrap it; if less than 50% say it’s a strong pain we scrap it;) should be the starting point. Even if you start with 10. If you can’t find 10 prospective customers to interview, then your target market is too small anyway. There’s no bigger dirtier lie than “build it and they will come”. They will not. We almost killed ours. Twice. Don’t kill your startup. You will be left with a useless piece of expensive software that you and your friends think is super cool. Trust me on this one.
  • Keep your burn low: Even simpler! Don’t travel if you don’t have to. Don’t pay for the booth which you can ill-afford, don’t pay through your nose for the one “game changer star” employee – they won’t change anything except your runway, use hacks where you can, use free data even if it’s a few extra lines of code, cheap hosting whatever you can find. If you must spend money, let it be used for employee motivation and celebration.
  • Take the tough decision: You need to fire your friend. A founding employee. You need to tell your co-founder to show up at work on time. Or that he’s being too egoistic and irrational. Or tell an employee you can’t give him vacation time. Or tell your investors how you failed and you want to pivot.. again. Don’t deliberate and cringe and withdraw. These talks are difficult for everyone and you only get slightly better with practice, but everyone is better off if you just get it out asap. Do it. Once you do it, you will have wished you had done it much earlier. Every. Damn. Time.

listening to your customers

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International Women’s Day

On this day, I would love to make a pledge and encourage all of you to take the same pledge.

Engaging in gifts, wishes, women’s awards, motivational workshops, quotas… has this connotation of the weaker sex – that women need to be taken care of. Let’s get to the root of the problem. Let’s try our best to challenge people, even when it seems rude. Let’s challenge our friends – girl friends and boy friends alike, let’s challenge our colleagues, our parents, cousins, neighbours and our leaders, for biased behavior. Let’s challenge ourselves – when we are being too critical, when we are taking something for granted, when we are using gender biased language, when we are laughing at gender biased jokes, when we are enjoying gender biased super hero movies or music – let us challenge ourselves, and imagine a world where these biases would not exist. Imagine a world where centuries of reinforcement didn’t exist that women are bad drivers, men are emotionless, being called a pussy equates to weakness, that mothers are better caretakers than fathers. Let’s challenge the bias and strife for equality.

 

parityPledge