Saturday, November 13, 2010

The gregarious loner

It's the itch again. The uneasiness of the comfort zone. The discomfort of the routine. The predictability of normalcy.
He leaves before dawn in his old car, filling the tires with nitrogen to help them weather the long tough road ahead. He fills his heart and mind with emptiness for the same reason before he sets off.
Fifteen days, 2100 kilometers. He doesn't know where he's going to spend a single night, he doesn't know what he's going to do when he gets there, he doesn't even know where 'there' is. Of the places he sees, most are not even on the map. On any map. The people he meets are four or five degrees of separation away from his friends. "Friends" is an optimistic best he has close acquaintances. Nobody knows his innermost thoughts or desires, nobody knows how he likes his coffee or what he wears to sleep. He thrives on what sociologists call 'weak ties' - people who know people who know people who know him.
He captures sights and sounds on his camera that have never been captured before. He talks to master craftsmen of long-lost arts and traditions, who don't realize that theirs is a dying breed. He plants trees, feeds orphans, rescues suicidal farmers and plays with tiger cubs.
He has interacted with more people than most, yet counts nobody as his own. It is impossible to classify him using any personality theory or typology. He is a contradiction and a paradox, a mystery that should be left unsolved.

This is mostly a true portrait of a friend of mine. As you grow older, you meet fewer and fewer interesting people, mostly because your definition of 'interesting' has evolved with time. Like a drug, you need higher and higher doses of 'cool' for someone to qualify as interesting. With an open mind and a wondering heart though, interesting is to be found everywhere.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Moving beyond jugaad

So I've been back in India for about ten months now. Many others in many other forums have written about their experiences and revelations so I'll focus on just one epiphany I've had. All the hype around India's energy and growth? All true. It's not just restricted to the 'service sector' or to the outsourcing types either. It's true, exciting, entrepreneurial growth, from the ground up. Business sections in libraries and bookstores will yield books written about India's famous 'jugaad' - or creative solutions from atypical sources. Whether it's the makeshift shelter in a water-pipe or the famous washing-machine used to churn lassi, examples of jugaad abound. However, Indian entrepreneurs are moving beyond the current implications of jugaad - temporary, unreliable, cheap, makeshift solutions which are creative, no doubt, but nevertheless, difficult to scale. With our newfound business savvy and global mindset, not to mention our innate flexibility combined with creative problem solving, examples of true entrepreneurship are everywhere. In areas as diverse as tackling social issues like poverty, waste management, road safety, healthcare and education, creative geniuses are combining jugaad-like inspired solutions with business-school-inspired implementation plans. This I believe, is the true secret to India's future success.