Just two weeks ago, I didn’t even know Amit and his blog Fishing Buddha. Today, I’m fascinated by his beautiful story and can’t wait to connect more with him. That’s what I love about life, one day someone is a total stranger and the day after this same someone is a friend, a lover, a mentor or a business partner. Amit’s story really touched my heart and I hope it will touch yours too. ”Don’t be someone who searches, finds and then runs away.” – Paul Coelho
“And kids, then I got a job, a fancy car that I couldn’t afford, took a mortgage, and settled down.”
Hi, I am Amit and I have always been afraid of saying the above words. I came very close this time around and this is the story about how it all happened.
I began my blog, Fishing Buddha, as a challenge to myself in the July of last year when I was living without a computer. And that was the sole goal of this blog when it began. I wanted to see how long I could blog for without a computer. However, slowly it turned into something else. It took shape of a tiny crack in the walls around an intensely private and shy person. Slowly the cracks expanded and turned into a gaping hole into my personal philosophy, life and previously hidden observations about the world. As I met more people, and began receiving a tiny trickle of “thank you for writing this” emails, the crack grew further and finally the walls came down.
Today, almost a year later, I am a different person. Fishing Buddha was the final coat of paint to this new house I was building to move into. The paint is still drying and we’re not done yet. However, looking back at myself, I see a totally different Amit: a guy who was so eager to peer into the darkness but had forgotten to put batteries in his flashlight.
In short, I was trying to normalize. I was trying so very hard to fit in. I was eager to be accepted and be just like them whoever these ‘them’ were. All the years of travel – moving to new cities and countries – had taken its toll on me. I had begun to crave familiarity: a constant reference point of sorts that would remain still while everything else moved around me at a dizzying pace. I was that little kid on the teacups who was trying too hard to not move along with the cups. I should have realized that the real fun is in letting go and just moving around in every which way the cups take you.
But before I tell you about my present and the future, I want to give you a little background into why I insist on making my life’s story not normal. You see I never had a normal life.
I was born on April 29th, 1986 in Mumbai, India. At the time, my mom was 20 years old and my dad 25. My mom had only attended school till 10th grade, as it was not “women-like” to study more than their brothers. Today my younger sister is planning her PhD studies while I only have a master’s degree and I couldn’t be more proud of her. But things were different in India back then. My mom’s family meant well. However, they wanted to have a “normal” daughter and not risk standing out in the society. She married my dad in 1985 and out I came next year – you know, it was normal to have a grandchild within a year. Again nothing wrong, but just the way society functioned back then.
On the other side, my dad had just recently gotten his first job at a company. His monthly salary was whopping 700 Rupees a month ($12.5 at current rate). But he was happy and excited to begin a new life. My dad had lost his mother when he wasn’t even a year old in a household accident. His dad later committed suicide when he was a teenager and then his stepmother died too. He grew up in rural India and his childhood was tough from what he tells me – never complaining but just reminiscing. He, at sixteen, moved to the city of Pune and began his own barbershop. In India’s caste system, his caste occupation was barbering so, that was the “normal” and a necessary thing to do for survival. They cooked, studied and slept above in the shop’s loft. He went on to educate himself and his two half-brothers. He eventually went on to hold key leadership positions in many multi-national companies. His brothers went on to become a civil engineer and a businessman, respectively.
So, when he finally got married at 25, it was a positive inflection that had been long time coming. According to my mom, I spent the first few years of my life in “Chawls” and slept on a gunny-sack because we couldn’t afford a mattress. I do not remember much of it besides the small packets of raisins, which dad used to buy me before leaving for work everyday. That was my dad’s daily “latte” budget, so to speak.
But this is not a story of my or my family’s humble, impoverished beginnings. This is a story of rebelling against the normal expectations and standards. By 1999, we had a pretty privileged life and soon left for the shores of United Kingdom. Then came the sudden prosperity, the even more sudden loss of it, the long-distance relationship that eventually failed, the following serial-dating, the travels in Southeast Asia while living in Malaysia, arrival in the USA amid a foiled “liquid-bomb” terrorist plot in 2006, becoming a rocket-scientist by graduating as an Aerospace Engineer just because I was curious, getting my MBA and then, here we are today.
There were many things that happened in between – like my 12 different schools i.e. 12 shy, nervous first days at school and 12 sad, promising-to-never-lose-touch last days of school. But these are the main chapters and as you can see it is not a normal story. Although it all began in the pursuit of normalcy and fitting into the norms of the society, it has turned out to be a pretty whacky life so far. And I couldn’t be more proud. So, when I picture myself telling my kids or grandkids the story of my life, I want it to be exciting and riveting from the day I was born till the moment they ended up on my lap listening to this story. It’s very simple- I just want to tell one fucking awesome story with my life.
So, the part you all might have been waiting for. Are you even still reading at this point? If you are, then you are awesome and I promise to make it worth your while. If you have fallen asleep, then I thank you because you have just inspired me to create an even more exciting story with my life.
As I am done with my studies in the US, I have two options. I could get a job, stick around for 5-6 years to get my Green Card, and then just fall into the routine. Or do something “less-crowded”. In short, begging and pleading for a job sponsorship in the US would be me trying really hard to live a normal, expected life. The other option is more fun – I’m moving to Chile!
Wait, what, you say? Why Chile? I really quite don’t know. I have been fascinated, okay I lie, obsessed with Chile for quite some time now. Besides a geeky rocket-scientist, I am also a climber. I haven’t climbed in years because of my back problem and because I spent the last six years in the flat Florida. The mountain peaks of Patagonia, therefore, are too much to resist.
My fascination with Chile began when I went on a blind date with a Chilean girl last year. We only went on one date, but I was mesmerized by her description of the country. Also, I learned that it’s not Chi-li, but Chee-lay. So, one thing led to another and I applied for Start-Up Chile* with a silly idea. I got rejected, however, that was a catalyst that started a chain reaction. The more I learned about the country (I’ve watched/read almost every movie, book and documentary out there about Chile), the more it attracted me. It has gotten to a point, where I am now convinced that S. America and especially Chile is my next destination in life.
Recently, I was accepted as an English teaching volunteer for the English Opens Doors program, which is organized by the Chilean Ministry of Education. I will be teaching English until end of November. What after that? I don’t know yet but I am excited to find out! I am working on applying for Start-Up Chile again in 2013 with a friend.
Moving to Chile and putting everything on the line gives me a chance to practice what I have talked about on Fishing Buddha for a year. It gives me the sense of endless possibilities. If I had decided to go back home instead, then I knew exactly what I was going back to. Flying off to Chile, on the other hand, is a mystery. It is an exhilarating feeling of an adventure. And it is way better than choosing unhappiness over uncertainty.
I have already made many friends in Chile – from CEOs to rock-climbers. I cannot wait to meet these new characters in my life’s story in person. I cannot wait to learn more, experience more, make more mistakes and discover more about myself. These following months will help me forge a new skin. I will be chipping away at the layers of my comfort-zone every single day and I am sure, eventually, will break out of it again.
So what happens to Fishing Buddha now? In the long run, the vision for Fishing Buddha is a hub of sorts. From Fishing Buddha, I plan to sprout new projects. I have been working on two – OneCentence: encourage reading; and NomNomad: food and my goal of learning to cook in as many different languages as possible. I will keep you updated when I am ready to bring these new branches of the Fishing Buddha tree online.
So that’s my story (so far). There is much more to come and much more to be shared. Finally, thanks, Caroline for giving me this opportunity. This is the first time I have publicly talked about my Chilean plans. Some of my friends don’t even know yet, but they will now. Consider this as my declaration to the world.
Also, I cannot thank enough to the two people who made it to the end of this post Love you all and thanks for reading.
* Start-Up Chile is a program of the Chilean Government to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile.