Life changing events. 

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Waking up in India

On July 3rd I decided I’d go to India. On the morning of July 6th, I found myself waking up to the heavy rains of monsoon in Mumbai, India.

Often, there’s a little voice in our heads that tells us to do something. My usual reaction is to listen and understand where it’s coming from. It was this little voice that had been telling me to go to India.

In the first four days of my trip, I was more physically uncomfortable than I had been in the past six years of my life. Everything from the weather, pollution, food, and traveling had taken a toll on my health.

It was a healthy dose of reality that not everyone has the quality of life I do.
After the initial shock, my body adapted to the environment. Although I never felt 100% comfortable, it became more bearable with time.

There are a few things I distinctly remember from the trip:

  • A shock of not being a minority when I noticed the sheer amount of people that looked like me.

  • Being humbled by the fact that I’m the son of a farmer who lived in a small village in Gujarat.

  • The realization that the standard of living truly is different in a developed country.

  • Great technological products transcend borders because people don’t change. (cultural nuances do)

  • Nature is timeless.

  • I’m only here for another 70 years.

  • More people than I thought don’t have access to clean drinking water/air, shelter, food, and a stable internet connection. These people aren’t just ‘one of the numbers’ in the statistics.

These things seem obvious when reading but there was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that went through me as I experienced them. I’m very privileged, and it’s too easy to forget that.

The socioeconomic differences in class are very apparent in India. I find this is due to the large population, it causes both the wealthy and the poor, at any given moment, to be on the same street. You’ll see every type of vehicle on most roads: BMWs, horse carriages, rickshaws, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and mopeds.

Something that shocked me was the rate of technology adoption amongst the population despite differences in socioeconomic classes. Almost everyone I saw had a smartphone of some sort on them. Now, whether they know how to use the full functionality of it or not is a different story.

Natives were using Google maps, Uber, Facebook, and WhatsApp. These apps were on the home screens of most of the people I saw. Technology companies have genuinely changed peoples lives. It's even more apparent in a developing country than it is here.

A question I kept asking myself while I was there is, what’s the difference between growing up in America and India?

The most noticeable differences are the culture, the weather, and the unequal distribution of opportunity. This isn’t to say that a motivated individual in India is incapable of moving up the socioeconomic hierarchy. It’s just significantly more difficult than that same individual in the US. Although, this comparison is apples to oranges it was an interesting thought experiment to go through.

After taking time to reflect on the trip, there’s no one major takeaway that I can point to. I didn’t 'move a mountain', 'find God', or 'find myself'. I was attempting to experience each moment as thoroughly as I could. Popular culture often over-romanticizes travel.

To me, this trip was a reminder that there’s a world that exists outside of mine.

Providing a catalyst

Every week I’ll share key insights from a conversation I had learned a lot from in a series called, Providing a Catalyst.

I had countless conversations on this trip, but here's one worth noting:

I had this conversation at the airport in Leh, Ladakh on my way back to Delhi. The guy behind me in line at the check-in counter was in his mid-20s, an SF native who moved there from Australia, he was on a sabbatical after having worked at a startup in the Artificial Intelligence space. He was there for a meditation retreat.

I asked him what's the one lesson you took away from this trip?

He told me it was to remember that there are very few things in his control and a lot that there isn't. He spends most of his time worrying about the things that aren't when in reality he should be focused on the things that are.

The present moment is one of them.

I asked him about his meditation practice and he told me, "just inhale and exhale."

This conversation left an imprint on me. I think of the words he said when things aren't going my way. It was a friendly reminder from a stranger in a small military airport. I plan to re-connect with him in SF, next time I'm there.

Lighting a match

I hope these articles inspire you to do something or learn something new.

My Updates:

The first half of July was spent traveling. (15 days, 11 flights, 7 cities)

I'm back in Seattle, after spending 3 days in Newark.

As many of you may know, I'm working on a project with a friend in Seattle. After spending a month in product discovery mode, we've discovered a problem we'd like to focus our energy towards. Now it's time to execute and solve that problem.


Do you know anyone who deals with a lot of data in their day to day?

Possibly a data scientist, machine learning engineer, or in a role that employs artificial intelligence.

If so, I'd love to talk to them.

Thank you for signing up and reading this edition of Activation Energy.

- Abhi Vyas

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