Confronting My Own Demons
Mandatory Coat Check At The Holiday Party
It first hit me as a feeling, unarticulated, but immediate. It took me weeks to articulate the feeling to myself. But I started reacting to it immediately. I started looking for the person who put me through the coat check. Who did it? Some time in January I blamed Berger: Berger masterminded the mandatory coat check. Then I decided, Berger could not have done it alone. Maybe Pollak was part of it as well. At the Texas debate watch in Caputo's presence I started thinking maybe it was not the two guys. It is always Caputo who calls the shots. At Tonic for the Texas Ohio returns watch, I saw the same white guy security guard. So it was Caputo. I tried to be understanding, all that data on violence on women, the data on violent crime in this city itself.
It took me full three months and a mystery woman (Satyagraha, Day 1) to realize a mandatory coat check is a routine, boring thing bars do for events where many people show up. I clearly misunderstood. And by a wide, wide margin.
If I had not misunderstood I would have reacted differently to Elizabeth at the Holiday party, at the December Baby party, the Planned Parenthood event, also when I showed up for the Texas debate watch.
There are two facts. One, I clearly misunderstood. Two, why did I misunderstand. Both facts are important. You don't get to dismiss the second.
The civil war in Nepal started after I left Nepal in 1996 and lasted a full decade. I did not have anything to do with it, I have not been there physically. But I have been there every day. My mind has been there. A part of me has been living in that war zone every day. My entire time in New York City, I have played a very active role in trying to bring that war to an end. All that violence is going to occupy a part of your mind. It does not feel normal at all. You are not at peace. Once in a while you will get spasms of unease.
Only a few months back my Harvard grad brother-in-law, married to my youngest sister - they live in the city - lost his father to a vicious murder back in Nepal. The police think at least five people must have been involved. I have not seen my family go through a more intense emotional turmoil. My mother was bed ridden for days.
I would not feel safe going to Nepal right now.
My reaction to Benazir's death was intense, personal, emotional. Faraway events impact me: they are not far away to my mind. I was 23 when I landed in America. (Nobody Quite Like Benazir)
Violent crime in New York City is for real. Fear of that violent crime is for real. My people live in many of those crime zones. (My Third World People Don't Get To Vote In This City)
The day 9/11 happened, I was in a small town in Kentucky. The locals called the cops on me. That was not the last such experience.
When in Nepal, I was politicking right out of high school. I was politicking at the national level. I got to know this guy called Mirza, barely. More like we knew of each other, met in person a few times. But he was extremely good friends with some people who I was very good friends with. He was a MP. He was also Dawood's top guy in Nepal. Dawood ran - runs - Mumbai's underworld from Dubai and Karachi. His Hindu rival Chhota Rajan ran his business from Bangkok. A year into America I learned Mirza had been mowed down. They pushed 42 bullets into his body. They could not afford the news he was "still alive" so they did a thorough job. I was never mafia, but I got to know this guy. He was quite a celebrated politician, gave great speeches at mass meetings.
In Texas some cowboys emptied their guns into my truck. It felt like being under machine gun fire. The closest bullets hit perhaps 15 feet from me.
In Kentucky I got detained once for 35 hours over something this or that email. They let me out at midnight. It was in another town.
Towards the end of my Class 10 year in Kathmandu, some classmates from a rival dorm came to beat some of us up at the city buspark when we were on our way home for the most important vacation of the year, us out of Kathmandu boys. In how the school authorities reacted to that incident, I woke to the social gravity of prejudice and racism for the first time in my life. It was 1989. It was a slow waking up that took years, gave me major career hits. The number two guy in class went on to Harvard to Goldman. I was number one before that bus park incident.
I once got into a major road accident in upstate New York: ice in early spring, early morning. I counted. The difference between life and death is three seconds: 1001, 1002, 1003. I did not get a scratch, but when you get lucky like that, you don't try your luck a second time.
I once drove overnight through a hurricane, I followed it up the east coast. The rainfall was horizontal.
I am a Third World guy. I think about deaths on a daily basis, deaths to stupid violence, petty disease. My tech startup is not a guy saying okay, bye bye to politics, let's go make some money to buy fancy cars. Internet access is the voting right for this century. The Internet is what will bridge the wide gulf between the first and third worlds. This is the Internet Century. I don't have the option to say bye bye politics. But I also have the compulsion to do other things.
Weak Social Muscles: What Do I Mean
A few weeks back, I was at an Obama event at the Irish Rogue. I was there for four hours. The first two hours, I had a hard time connecting. I would go for 30 seconds with someone, maybe a minute, then I necessarily had to walk away, go be by myself. After two hours I left and went outside. Then came back.
Two more hours and I was finally into small talk, small banter, small jokes. But by then most people had already left.
I know I have it, it is in there, but intense 2.0 work for Nepal, Obama, and my startup has left me with weak social muscles.
Lesson: a rich social, emotional life is necessary to a rich 2.0 life. There is no 2.0 without 5.0.
Web 5.0: Face Time
I am bigger on personal space than anyone I ever met. It is like, there is India and its communal culture and arranged marriages. There is America and its individualism. I am beyond America. And that has implications. I feel like every white guy who has tried to hook me up with the Queen has cost me a few months of my life.
But the mystery woman has proven me wrong. I can't do it on my own. A relationship is not just something between two individuals. It perhaps takes a village, or a few close friends. Just don't start with white guys! They have been part of the pain in Kathmandu and Kentucky. I get a little irrational.
They say to be happy in life you have to find two things: love and work.
When Hillary showed up on the scene in 1992, it was news that she did not stay home to bake cookies. Career women don't have a long history.
But that was 1992. Today it is 2008. The question I am asking is this. Would it be possible to imagine two high voltage careers and one happy relationship? Has never been done before.
The way it could work is if (1) there were an intense soulmate recognition, (2) there were numerous channels of communication open, (3) there would be zero tolerance for the slightest hint of racism or sexism in the relationship, (4) a detached, pragmatic separation between the personal and the social, political on race and gender, (5) and a total celebration of work: work is worship.
Yellow Roses To Keep
This photo, this is what I looked like when I showed up in NYC summer of 2005.