of the week!!
When you set out on a journey, you generally get on board with the aim of embarking at the final destination. And then we hear people say that ‘the journey is always more important than the destination’. True that – but is it practically always possible? What if you actually want to reach the destination but circumstances force you to jump out mid way and switch lanes?
‘Agar tum sachche dil se kise cheezo ko chaahte ho toh puri qaynaat tumhe use milaane mein lag jaati hai’
There are things you may not want to talk about. But certain eyebrows are always raised and your decisions always questioned. They may not confront you – but behind you they would always gossip.
I quit my first venture. The team gave birth to Theek Kar Do, we nurtured it, raised it only to be forced to leave it mid-way just when the journey had started. I abandoned my baby. I am not sure if I ever wanted to write about it – atleast not for public consumption.
The exit was questioned by many. TKD (as we fondly called it) was loved by the media and we did have some good media friends. So they wanted to cover the exit then. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t prepared to talk about it then – maybe not even now. But then when someone you respect and admire asks you to write about it – you just cannot deny it.
Before you read ahead, just to clarify this piece is not about the actual happenings which led to my exit but about how as an individual I went through the entire thing.
Things were bad in the venture time and again but what made it worse is the indifferent tuning I had with my co-founder. We were rarely on the same page but initially that worked well most of the times for us. But with time things started moving from bad to worse. Not that we did not try to sit down and talk it out and resolve things across the table but eventually that is just what we were doing most of the times and the business as such was suffering. Practically, it made sense to split the business – but emotionally none of us wanted to do that.
It was late August when I was almost convinced that it’s almost time for me to bid adieu to the venture. You do not want to abandon your kid but you cannot even watch it struggling in front of you just because its parents are having a tiff. A single parent would probably do a better job.
But still I decided to hang in there hoping against hope that the tide would change. This was the third time in the last few months that I had decided to move out – this time it was on a slightly serious note. Inside, I still had not come to terms with it that this was the only solution left if not the best.
This was something I could not build up courage to talk to anyone about. I was shuffling – almost every day. Life was swinging like a pendulum between practicality and my emotions. Apart from my really close two friends, nobody knew of my intention to exit.
And then we had one more of those arguments which was like a nail on the coffin. We split on a very bad note. My co-founder dropped in an email to split. I literally cried and was inconsolable for a while. This is not how I wished things to end. This was September end – the starts towards the end.
Quitting the venture is very similar to coming out of a healthy relationship. Both of you have put in a lot of efforts to be together, spent a lot of time with each other, made compromises but still did everything under the sun to make it work. But then destiny plays a different game. You have to split and carry a baggage full of memories. At one end you do not want to dump them and at the other end the baggage just happens to weigh you down in your personal life.
We still had to work out the formalities of the exit. Unfortunately, all these discussions happened over emails being exchanged. We could not stand each other; probably we did not want to face each other. Our colleagues were not aware of the back room happenings and unfortunately were caught in the cross-fire.
The entire month of October I did not go to office. Work was suffering but I had no option either. Life did come to a standstill. I – an educated middle-class Indian who is apparently only supposed to do a white-collared job, had quit the cushy corporate job to run his own business – is now sitting at home ‘unemployed’. I began hating a lot of things in life. My social media timeline was bombarded with sad posts. My friends and former colleagues thought it was because of heartbreak in a relationship. It was indeed heartbreak – just that the reason was something else which was still not publically known. I started being anti-social, underground, and aloof and all those devdas kind of terms which you may want to attach to me.
It is really really difficult to move out from something which you strongly believe in – something for which you have fought with half the world and now you have to surrender just when you were going to turn the tables and begun winning the battle.
Extracts from my resignation email:
“After a journey of several months where we built a company, a name, a brand from scratch, I have decided to move on in my professional life….
…I want to take this opportunity to thank each one of you for bringing in all the awesomeness at TKD. In my short stint at TKD I got to do a lot of things I had never thought of, met so many people and cherish the moments I spent working for building the TKD brand. It is amazing when people recognize and laud the efforts that we had all put in to make what TKD stands for – from being on TV to talking at events, with people loving your brand name and logo to customers appreciating the efforts we put in, with being covered by leading Indian newspapers and magazines to seeing your company adverts on buses and ricks – it has been an enriching journey. Unfortunately, I had to leave the dream mid way. Professionally, I am not sure where I stand today and what lies ahead for me but on a personal front, I think I am way richer than ever. Thanks for being with me in the journey. I am not sure if I will come close to experiencing even a part of this curve ever again. This year will remain etched in my memory for several years to come.
I am sure you all will make me proud someday by taking TKD to the heights we had envisioned.”
Staying at home 24/7 was a torture. Fortunately, my parents do not stay in Mumbai. That’s when I decided to make my annual visit to my parents.
Just before boarding the flight I made a status update.
Yes, I was running away from reality. I needed a break. Needed some time away from the hustle of Mumbai.
With my exit, even some of my colleagues called it quits. I felt bad about it but then things were not in my hand. They felt betrayed with my exit. My friends abused me. But they could not reach me immediately. Did I let the people around me down? Just this thought made me panic and sadness creeped in once again.
My parents stay abroad and keep insisting I should shift back to the city. But this time I just hoped that was not going to be a point of conversation. But, I was wrong. That was the only point of conversation. They never enquired on why I had to leave Theek Kar Do but just kept insisting on me taking up a proper job. I felt all the more irritated and was succumbing to my emotions on a daily basis. I felt jailed for those two long weeks. I had gone thinking I would be able to get rid of the clutter from my mind but the trip ended up chewing my brain all the more. I needed some free air.
I came back to Mumbai and starting exploring and working with another organization to keep myself busy. But emotionally I was draining everyday. And your only companions are those sad bollywood songs. Trust me it cannot get worse than this.
But it did get. I had a fight with my best friend. He was irritated with work, me with life. That was like the lowest point post quitting the venture. The entire support system had come crashing down. I felt like running away to an unknown territory where nobody knew me and start life from scratch. I kept social media at bay to the extent that I deactivated whatsapp as well.
The usual goofy, fun loving, chilled out Hardik was sulking all over. Once I could fake my smile but now the sadness was all over me. Whatever the situation had been in all these 24 years of my life, my social life, my food and sleep was never affected. Random people would come and ask me after seeing my drowsy facial expressions.
Now a three-edged sword was hanging on top of me – my venture which I exited, parents who did not understand what I wanted from life and a friend whom I could not express my emotions to.
I started staying awake all night for several nights at a stretch thinking what the hell I am going to do now. The question lingered for a very long time. And things do change but at its own time. But I switched the gear and decided to take control of my life all over again. And that’s the reason that after almost 6 months I am in a position to talk about it without being adversely affected by it.
To a huge extent I am what I am because of TKD – it was my identity which I had lost with the exit. And finding yourself in this city of 12 million individuals is no mean feat.
I don’t think I regret quitting it, but I feel sad many a times and cry in the dark – could I have done something different to stay along and watch it grow and be independent?
How I pulled myself out of it, what I learnt from the entire episode and where am I today probably makes for another post – some other day. Writing this post has taken me on the ride once again – need to sit down and introspect all over again – but this time I know I am not going to break down.