Orobind : the story of my good fight

What seems completely illogical to most, somehow appears a very simple thing for me to do, always. And this time around also it wasn’t any different. Moving out of Chai Point, just seemed the right thing for me to do though the route to arrive at this decision was anything but simple. It was a journey of self discovery, self realisation and almost of spiritual proportions.

Well, I have always been one of those guys who have questioned things – authority, order, processes, elders, teachers & more than anything else – the purpose of existence. Whenever the questions start overpowering my most convincing answers, I come to know something is missing in life and things need to be changed, the direction of life to be re-looked.

Somewhere towards the end of 2013, one of my colleagues at Chai Point met with an accident and passed away. He was a great guy and an inspiring personality. One of those figures who had the ability to influence people just by their personality and sheer energy. It was a complete shock to me. I didn’t know how to react. How was a leader supposed to react. As a person, it wasn’t for the first time I was going through this, I had seen my brother pass away in an accident 5 years back around the same time of the year. But it was as if a reminder of the finite nature of life. It forced me to re – think my purpose in life. Why did I exist, what I wanted to accomplish and what I had to accomplish before I leave the world. It was as if, during the last 2-3 years I had neglected these questions, ignored them and chose an easy life for myself. A life where I was blinded by making more money, bigger name, buying a big house and a big car. That’s what all my goals had come down to. But this was a jolt, as if something convulsed me out of a deep slumber and put me into a really uncomfortable position. For a few days I was walking in my office as a lost soul. I was a lost soul. Nights were sleepless and full of nightmares. My intensity at the gym increased dramatically partially because I used that as a recourse to tire myself to sleep. Didnt help. So finally I decided to take a weekend off and travel to Pondicherry. Why, because I loved beaches, thought it would be a good break and a friend was there. I wanted to meet her. Also I wanted to think and clearly articulate my purpose in life. I had decided that I wont stop digging deep unless I had successfully articulated my purpose. So I started walking alone around Auroville. Thinking and asking hard questions to myself. Thrashing all assumptions.

I started looking at the life of my heroes, the lives well lived, according to me : Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Sachin Tendulkar, Che, Nelson Mandela, Arnold, Dalai Lama.

A common pattern started emerging : they all had impacted lives of numerous people in their lifetime. They inspired & forced people to achieve the unachievable.

While a life wasted, according to me was the one which never transcends impact beyond 5-10 people in the first degree of connection (essentially family, few friends and few colleagues). Now nothing against or for any of them, its just my personal opinion which stemmed from deep within me.  And without being blindly following or rejecting what they had done, I had to chose my unique purpose in life. Finally after walking for ~ 12 kms, I was ready to articulate my purpose in life :

To build companies/products that impact people’s lives for good, by a factor of 10.

To be very honest – till that moment in my life, my goal in life (like any other middle class Indian man) was to be the richest person of the country. Shallow, I know. I wanted to be the guy who owns the biggest house, travels in swanky cars & is super loaded. This led me into thinking of all kinds of businesses from security systems to energy to airlines to IPL. Yes, dreams. “One day I will get that” type day dreams. Making me live under continuous duress and a race against time.

Anyhow, now, I was much clearer on what things to pursue in my life and what things to let go of & was happier as well. I also happened to visit the Sri Aurobindo ashram by chance. I had no intentions what so ever to visit the ashram, but, the auto driver who brought me to Pondicherry form Auroville prodded me to see the Ashram & when I got in I just entered into a trance. It was as if the trip would have been incomplete without paying a visit to the ashram. Just before leaving for the bus station, I decided to sit on a rock for a bit and enjoy the moonlight night at the beach road, as if to revisit my stay here over the weekend. It was a beautiful scene – a slightly turbulent sea and a full moon. Almost made me imagine myself of as a sailor going through a storm of my own. Storm of questions still unanswered, essentially – What should I be doing when I get back to Bangalore ? While meditating there, it was as if a voice came from inside me which said – “The path lies in front of you”. Now when I look back and connect the dots, I always knew the path, I just never saw it.

I came back to Bangalore, decided to pursue a project very close to my heart – to bring people with disabilities to main stream through jobs, infrastructure and education. But I was still living the same life pretty much. After a while, the unrest returned. The nightmares returned.

I had started reading works by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their teachings started resonating with me. I also started being extra critical of myself, of my surroundings & stripping away all unnecessary desires. Months went by, New Year’s was around. One of my friend’s friend threw a house party. Her’s was a house straight from a Karan Johar set. I had never been to a house like that before & never seen so many cars and dogs under one roof before. This was exactly the mansion I had dreamt of having, but something strange, really really strange happened there. Somewhere between the home theatre, pool tables, Ekta Kapoor’esque staircases & the bar, I grew super uncomfortable. When I imagined myself to be living in a house like that, made me feel really uncomfortable & almost suffocating. And next day I decided that I should always live in a simple home & let go of my obsession with mansions. Life became a little simpler.

The same day, I met a few other friends and was lucky enough (really?) to get a ride in a Merc. This was for the first time I was sitting in a car that I wanted to own, to show people that I had arrived. I was excited at first, but then that feeling of being uncomfortable returned. I started making comparisons with my little Chevy & I again realised that I felt much more happier and comfortable in my Beat than an extravagant car. Nothing against the car, nor the taste. But I wasnt made for it. I decided that I need to stick with a simple car, an SUV at best. Always. Again felt relieved and a tad happier.

Meanwhile, I had already started working towards my non profit venture and had started engaging with Enable India. It was a very humbling experience, my life would have been a complete waste if I died without doing anything for people with disabilities. This clearly had to be a core purpose of my life. Along with my entrepreneurial endeavours to create an impact on people’s lives. But the sad part was, what I was doing at that moment wasn’t in alignment with the above two goals. This, I only realise while connecting the dots, now.

Though everything from outside was going on fine in my life – great work, good life, good money, good physique but from inside I was torn. Time was flying by.

One night, I had a dream which I still believe was almost a divine intervention to shook me out of the slumber, yet again and act. An intervention to remind me that the time was limited. I woke up at 3 am in the night with tears in my eyes, shaking with fear and completely lost. I was alone & I didn’t know who to call and what to do. I called my friend in Mumbai, she didn’t take my call & disconnected. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. What if it was true, that the time was indeed limited.

Next day I walked into the office, still thinking about what had happened last night. Somewhere deep inside me I knew the path, I had to move out and work on my fitness idea, which was with me for the last 1 year, but I just kept talking me out of it and kept cajoling myself to prolong my stay at Chai Point.

I was now reading more extensively about Sri Aurobindo, which helped me make sense of what was going in my life. His philosophy about the journey of the soul and the goal to seek divine through being conscious, living the day to day life & yet being a yogi made complete sense to me. I also picked up Bhagawad Gita by Sri Paramhansa Yogananda. Reading first few pages only, from the great book, filled me with a feeling of blissfulness. One lesson that left a great impression on me was

Everyone fights their fight daily. The fight is between the right and the wrong; the maya and the dharma; the mind and the soul; the desires and self control.

I was confronted with questions again :

  • What was my purpose in life?
  • Why my soul has been sent to this earth?
  • What was its purpose.Was it serving its purpose?
  • How was I creating an impact on people around me, what would happen if I die, what would change?
  • What was maya and what was my dharma?

I was clearly fighting my fight and also clearly losing at it.

After thinking a lot, I realised that the true reason for me not moving out of Chai Point, was a fear of failure. Fear. I always thought I didn’t even know what that meant. I realised I was indeed afraid of letting go of the potential wealth that i might create at Chai Point in pursuit of something still uncertain with my fitness technology idea. I was driven by desire and greed to make money. It was my worst fear – to not to be able to make money and die poor.  There were times in 2009 when I was struggling in Mumbai, I used to question : am I destined to die poor or will I ever get rich(these were times when I constantly had < 100 Rs with me) ? After a lot of introspection I figured out that it was better to die poor : a person who made lots of money but gave all that away for good cause than someone who made a lot of money, lived an unhappy life, scrimped every penny & die a miser with lots of money lying unused in the bank. That would be so regretful at death bed , the realisation of what you could have done with all that money but you never did.

So, I knew that failure for me was not trying at all. If failure was the destiny of my soul, who was my ego to stop it from achieving it. My dharama (or Swadharma) was only to let my soul to be free on a path to achieve what it had to achieve. The path, was simple to build companies which impact people’s lives. The moment I agreed to this, I felt much more powerful. I clearly saw that sticking with Chai Point, was just Maya, my fear of letting go of wealth, my fears, I had to let it go. This lead to another learning : since the onward journey is almost spiritual for me, failure was not an option. Coming not from my ego but from my aspiration. A fierce aspiration which had manifested into my living being.

Next day, I had a conversation with Amuleek, someone whom I had always looked up to like a mentor. Like an elder brother I never had. Our conversations had always been man to man, no mincing of words. This time also, he understood. It was a shock for him, but he understood. We shook hands and it was done. The very next moment- I felt really, really happy & free. A feeling I had almost forgotten. Now the journey lied ahead, a fight to be fought and to be won.

Next day, I boarded the bus for Pondicherry again. I went to the ashram and it almost dawned to me that the venture had to be christened around Sri Aurobindo. Thus I started searching for various names around him and from his works : after failing with various permutations and combinations – I decided to check his wikipedia page – I found the name in the first 4 words. Orobind. I was elated. It was always in front of me (again), I just never saw it (again). Thus Orobind was born.

Since I was getting more influenced by his teachings and that of Bhagawad Gita, I decided that our culture and the brand positioning will be inspired from this great text. We as a company will always play a role of Krishna (the spirit or the coach – allegorically) to the Arjuna ( the user). We will always be there to create an impact and show the right way to the Arjuna aka user, but it is the user who has to fight the good fight. The fight will be between the mind and the body, fight between the fit and the unfit, fight with the person in the mirror.

Now, I know I might have created a lot of ripples in various communities. Some might even be worried with the reigns of the company being in the hands of a Co Founder, CEO who speaks more of spiritual aspects than business in the blogs. While some others might be getting wary on placing their bets on us as a company. To be very frank, I am unfazed, it is my dharma to fight this fight. Orobind is more than a venture for me, its my journey to achieve my purpose of life on this earth, to achieve my destiny.  And I will give it whatever it takes, whatever I have. It started as my good fight, but now I have other warrior also as my co founder in this fight. We both share the same passion and same vision. We will ensure that we are successful in creating tangible (not perceived) impact on the lives of our users.  Now, I oscillate between being a Arjuna most of the times and a Krishna at other times to lot of people.

As I wind this up, I sincerely urge all the readers of this post to identify their good fight & get in their battle field to fight that fight, because our time, indeed is limited.

Thanks !!

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