In the year 2001, my school friend walked inside my IIT hostel looking for me. He had already graduated from T.S.Chanakya as a sailor and had landed with a plum job. He found me sleeping in the common room sofa with a bridge book in my hand. I was wearing worn-out clothes and I was unkempt and dirty. The look in my friend’s eyes was enough to tell me what he was thinking, “What is he doing with his life?” In his contempt and disdain he failed to notice a very important thing:
I was insanely happy.
In fact, I was delerious with happiness. I had been practising for my upcoming bridge tournament and had cracked some intricately complex bridge hands in the bridge book before falling asleep on the sofa. Unfortunately, my friend who had come to spend an evening with me was highly disappointed with what I was doing and left soon. I went back to my book.
Unknown to my friend, I had been traveling in trains without ticket all over the country for the past two years, playing in every major bridge tournament. My friend would have been further shocked to hear that I had not taken any job in the campus placement and I was aspiring to be a professional bridge player after graduation. Well, I did take a job after graduating though, in order to sustain myself. Then I went to Italy for a year. Why? Because Italy was one of the Meccas for bridge players. I played bridge everyday of my life in Italy, earned a lot of money in the tournaments, and came back.
In 2003, I was the youngest player playing in the quarterfinals of Winter Nationals held at Aurangabad. I had two reporters sitting on my either side reporting my every move.
Fast forward to year 2007. A CAT aspirant walked into a two room flat in Srinivaspuri searching for the office of a small website called www.totalgadha.com. He wanted to buy the printed copy of an ebook on number system published by the website. The student was surprised to see that the two founders, a guy and a girl, did not own even a bed or a table and that they were working on a desktop kept on the floor. The founders were Rati and I. We were sustaining TotalGadha and ourselves on my teacher’s salary then, and I couldn’t afford furniture at home. The student left without purchasing the book. But just like my friend, the student also failed to notice that the founders were insanely happy about what they were doing.
In fact, they were having a ball. They loved working on the website.
The story did not end there though. One year later, the student was amongst the first to join the classroom program of TotalGadha. And if you do not know it yet, today it is the costliest MBA prep program in the country. And it rocks.
It wasn’t always so rocking though. Here is a true story I narrated to my students on TotalGadha-
“When we started our first TathaGat center at Kailash Colony in Delhi in December, 2007, we intended to continue there for a couple of years. But, within a few months, we realized that we should be operating in Connaught Place (CP), the heart of Delhi and one of the costliest places in India. We did not realize how costly CP was until we started searching for an office space in April, 2008. Day after day, we traveled on foot from one building to another, trying to find a less expensive place for our center. We spoke with property brokers, office owners, shopkeepers, janitors and guards. Soon we realized that operating in CP was out of our budget. We had found a lot more empty places for rent in CP than what the property brokers knew about, but we were nowhere near our goal. One day, my partner and I traveled on foot in the middle circle of CP, entering every building and asking the guard or the owners if they had a small place for us to teach students. I do not remember how many kilometers we walked on foot that day but by the end of the day, we found that our dream was impossible. And then we gave up. We decided to open in CP once we had the money to afford it.
That night, after having meal in a restaurant, we went to have coffee at twenty-four seven at Satyam Cineplex, Nehru Place. We were sweaty, tired and full of dust. And we were dejected. When we reached our destination, we were already rejoicing in the car how we have saved some money by not opening at CP. When you know you are beaten and licked, your mind adapts fairly quickly to defeat. At that particular moment, the miracle we have been trying for the last 15 days happened. The moment our car stopped, my partner exclaimed in disbelief; right in front of our car was parked a gleaming new Carrera, a 2- 3 crore car from Porsche. I am not a car fan but partner is, and when he told me the price, I was also impressed. Then the owner of the car, a nondescript chap in simple jeans and a teeshirt, came, sat into the car, and drove away. But our surprise hadn’t ended still. The moment the Carrera started, lights from a car parked behind us turned on. There was an S-class Mercedes parked behind us, inside which were sitting 2-3 bodyguards of the Carrera’s owner. Imagine, a guy traveling in a car worth 2- 3 crores and his bodyguards traveling in a car worth 40- 60 lakh. We sat watching both the cars drive away slowly. The moment they were out of our sight, my partner and I exclaimed simultaneously, “Yaar, Kholte hain CP Center.” In a matter of minutes, a car had changed our attitude.
The rest is history. We doubled our efforts to find a center, and we decided not to stop till we found it. On April 26th, 2008, our first batch started at our new CP center.“
Well great! Why am I telling you this? Because our CP center’s rent was so high that it squeezed us dry four months later. That month, we did not take our salaries. My partner was buying even cigarettes on credit card. I was buying my ration on credit card. We were completely broke. But students were coming to learn from us. Gradually, we pulled through. But as again, throughout these tough times, not a soul amongst us cared. We never felt remotely miserable.
One and a half year ago, Rati popped a question to me “Should I quit working on my makeup blog?” She had started the blog one month earlier and she loved writing there. If she worked there, she would not be able to devote time to TotalGadha. I had my answer ready. Had it ready for years.
Go Where Your Passion Takes You.