Most of you might have read this.
Below is a Inaugural Speech for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program, Pune delivered by Chetan Bhagath.
Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak
to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college,
leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to
become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few
days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college
is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling
in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the
teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be
curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes
you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the
spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not
all the time.
Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year
old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make
them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A
story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for
birthday party several months in advance just for the day they will cut
their own birthday cake.
I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see
older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the
spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected,
aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs
the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how
to save the spark?
Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing –
to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard
To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve
and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is
possible for you. It isn’t any external measure – a certain cost to
company pay package, a particular car or house.
Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material
landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money
constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big
achievement. But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr.
Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and
not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better
iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do
it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes
them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting
better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can
improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you
will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get
better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you
can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.
Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which
we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of
nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.
I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give
you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before
successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental
peace are all in good order.
There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup.
There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not
enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.
You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon
or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those
races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon
kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first.
Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your
striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you
may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited
and alive, will start to die.
One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously.
One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One
student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga
practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote
has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my
relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my
writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism.
If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I
live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary
here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are
lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500
weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few
classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not
I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking
it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four
storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These
must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration,
unfairness and loneliness of purpose.
Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the
expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure.
Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out
stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need
to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to
when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill
themselves over low grades how silly is that? But that is how much
failure can hurt you. But it’s life. If challenges could always be
overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember – if you are
failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And
that’s where you want to be.
Disappointment’s cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you
ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is
especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you
deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose
the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as
I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took
me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement,
and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a
bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the
time involved movies take a long time to make even though they are
watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than
the end result at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a
side plan I had my third book to write and even something as simple as
pleasurable distractions in your life – friends, food, travel can help
you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration
is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.
Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is
how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful
faces, pedigree find it easier to make it not just in Bollywood, but
everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few
opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make
it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in
the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately
things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than
you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand
this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian
standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to
accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other
writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise.
It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I
think are more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill
Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you
grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all
kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you
still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize
you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel,
may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create
conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop
some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing
basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up
something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But
in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love
yourself first, and then others.
There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms – disappointment,
frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like
the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just
need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.
I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If
someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose
college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will
shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive,
not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I
hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as
we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is
something cool about saying – I come from the land of a billion sparks.
I just Loved it !