And then something else occurred to me – from very personal experiences. The screens we live inside most of the time limit our experiences, our views and the possibility of magic and revelations in our lives.
We tend to find resonance amongst the inhabitants of the online world. We echo each others’ thoughts, ideas and justifications. We operate within narrow socio-economic comfort zones (take this test – it’s revealing!) And we miss out on so much of the real world out there.
So, Get Out There.
Every once in a while, try some of these, and more. With no specific goals or aims necessarily.
- Travel to the countryside. In a bus, or on a bike – cars distance you from what’s on the other side. Or at least, park and walk. Stop at a tea shop and make small talk with folks.
- Discover the wholesale markets for this, that, and the other thing in your town. Buy something – bargain hard.
- Head over to a weekly market – the haat or santhe – you can find. Chances are, there’s one in your city. A flea market, or a used goods one, is even better. BVK Iyengar Road in Bangalore is great for this on early Sunday mornings.
- Take a regular bus into town. Preferably during a non-rush hour, so you have the luxury of observing homes, buildings, commerce alongside the route from a vantage point that shorter vehicles do not provide you.
- Walk around your neighborhood – not one of those focused, exercise-or-errand-oriented walks – but a gentle paced one that gives you an opportunity to take everything in.
- Take a train to a faraway place the next time you travel.
- Take your car/bike to a local, non-brand garage for a small fix. I’m a regular, of course.
- Try buying not-from-a-large-format-grocery-store a couple of times.
This is where and how most of the country – scratch that – world lives. This is how they transact, buy, sell, communicate, commute and generally exist before aspirational goals take over and they live inside a narrower and narrower slice of life. This is where the bottom, and not-so-bottom of the pyramid is. And even the ones at the top who make their riches off them.
It is eye opening to see how things work here, and what people’s priorities are. You will invariably revisit a lot of assumptions you might have about folks being cost sensitive, or caring about extra revenue, or be surprised by the generosity of someone who just about gets by, or be confused by the seemingly pointless existence of umpteen shops selling the same things in the same place.
There’s much to learn, understand, experience and connect with.
Who are these people? Why do they do certain things (without judging them for it)? What drives them? What is all this for – in their eyes (you might soon revisit the same for yourself!)?
Try connecting with folks. Even make friends amongst them – it is amazing to stay connected with people from various professions, economic strata, with a variety of interests. The crazily rich, the hand-to-mouth poor, and many in between. It doesn’t take much – a short conversation, a couple of transactions, and familiarity.
Subjects like history, economics start becoming very interesting (in this context – The Land of Seven Rivers is a recommended read!) You start understanding and rationalizing actions and motivations before you jump to judge them. You get a glimpse into many lives, food-chains, and needs. You also appreciate what you have, both in material terms and those of the opportunity you have.
Purely cynically, it might provide you the next great idea, or help validate the current one. It might get you more firmly rooted to the ground, spend wisely, save costs or focus on revenue harder.
But again, it will make you wiser and more aware. And those are fertile conditions for serendipity to play its hand.