Pune, Maharashtra, India, 4 August 2019, 2300 hours:
What is a dream? What is a goal? What is the co-relation between education, upbringing, vision and values at work? What is a strategy, a roadmap? और success की परिभाषा क्या है? (What is the intrinsic meaning of success?) These are big questions for big people, as we say in certain parts of India.
Last week, childhood friends, Ameen Shaikh and Abhishek Kaushal (also my Co-Founders at The Mountain Walker), travelled from Pune to their hometown Shimla by air and then bus, dragging a heavy suitcase full of books and fulfilled one important goal and one dream that I had held since the 1980s when I first started writing (they were – and are still – unaware).
The goal they fulfilled was to establish our first office, and that in Shimla. The office had already been leased and setup by our youngest team member, Abhinav Kaushal, with help from our newest colleague, Sanjay Mehta. Last week Ameen and Abhishek joined the team to help in establishing the branch, meeting local government officials for registration, collaborating with partners, exploring further collaboration opportunities and working as a functional team in our own office. It’s taken three years, but I took a few minutes to enjoy the milestone in seclusion back here in Pune: it was a matter of pride that the team had achieved the entire project on its own and has us up and running.
The dream they fulfilled was a different matter and deeply significant to me as an individual. I started writing in 1982, as a 11-year-old, inspired by the many stories I heard from my mother and father and aunts and uncles, and also by the many stories I read. Of particular significance were three books that my Pishi (aunt, Alekha Mukherjee – later Alekha Shaikh) presented to me on my 8th birthday in Shimla in 1979: Bundle Bear’s Boat, Sinbad the Sailor and Sleepytime Stories. Back home in Bombay, I read these over and over again. Over the subsequent years, Pishi and her husband (who was also one of my mentors), Dr Shaikh Abdul Jabbar, bought me several books on every visit to Shimla.
The books – including those first three – were all purchased at the iconic Minerva Book House on Mall Road, Shimla. It is my favourite book shop in the whole, wide world. (In fact, even today, I visit Minerva on every trip, making it a point to meet Rajendra Agarwal and his son Rahul, though they do not know the significance they have in my life). Mr Agarwal – a family friend of Pishi and Jabbar uncle – has been running this quaint book shop since 1972. They also publish niche books on local history and information. They are knowledgeable, hospitable, great conversationalists, and a treasure trove of local history. As a young, lower middle class boy, I had dared to dream that one day, maybe, I would be able to publish books which would be available for sale at Minerva.
Last week, Ameen met Rahul Agarwal and with his gracious support, I am proud to say that The Mountain Walker’s first title, ShaikhSpear in Himachal, is now available at Minerva Book House – and has made it to the display showcase! This is the first book store in the country to stock the book (it’s already available on Amazon, on our website and on Kindle).
The Mountain Walker has just started on the most difficult leg of its journey so far: to get to profitability on the back of quality products. But I will attempt to answer the question: Success की परिभाषा क्या है?
It is to stay on the path with single-minded focus – no matter how hard – and keep the faith that you can do it with the help of your friends and family and the world.
Thank you dear readers, well-wishers, and supporters.