Expanding my comfort zone and pacing myself: lessons from my first 10K

(Before you begin reading, you should know I have a YouTube channel where I vlog my life. I vlogged part of my run, and I’d appreciate it if you watched. I am excited to explore the creative opportunities that YouTube offers. If you enjoyed watching – please subscribe. For now, I hope you enjoy the blog.)

It is 4:34 PM, 27th March 2022 as I’ve started typing this. I am proud to have completed my first 10K yesterday; the Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3.

Going into this run, I was sure of 2 things:

  1. My lower body would curse me for signing up for this run a mere week ago, and
  2. I would cry after crossing the finish line

One of those things happened yesterday.

My right hip was stiff, my knees protested with every step as I climbed the stairs to my room, my calves had grown into bulls, and I had developed an angry-looking blister on the underside of my left foot.

Number 2 happened this morning. (Ha, number 2 happens every morning!)

I woke up at 7:07 AM, went to my balcony, plugged my earphones in, started listening to this euphoric electronic house track, exhaled about 30 seconds in, and felt a surge of emotion overwhelm me.

Before I knew it, tears had welled up. I let them roll slowly, eventually raising my right forefinger under my left eye to dab my face, and brought it to my tongue.

Surprisingly, it didn’t taste salty. “Good, I hydrated sufficiently last night.”, I thought to myself.

I then went on to unceremoniously perform number 2. I’ll spare you the finer details…but I will say it was the performance of a lifetime. I’m kidding, of course.

It was, however, the best performance of my day, so I’ll chalk it up as a win.

Emotions running high.

I’m not surprised I cried this morning – I’ve cried countless times these past few months. Most times in the car when listening to music (that’s when it hits me the hardest); sometimes when failing to dead-hang from the pull-up bar in my community; and there was the one time I vividly remember getting emotional after I’d finished performing lunges at Spartans, my boxing gym, whilst listening to Mall Grab’s ravey, yet nostalgic club-ready anthem.

I rushed to the washroom to ensure no one would spot me, and ask what was wrong.

I splashed water on my face, stared at myself in the mirror, mentally berated myself for letting my emotions get the better of me, and then walked out as if nothing had happened, hurriedly leaving the gym.

I’ve analysed why I cry in my journals. This is what the most insightful entry in Google Keep reveals:

Fun fact: The Lion King is my all-time favourite movie, with Human Traffic coming a close second. (Nice one, bruvva!)

Pay attention to, “I thought of The Lion King, and was probably overwhelmed by knowing the time has come to earn my rightful place in life. And that I’m only just getting started on my journey. It is both exciting and scary.”

To unravel this requires its own blog, and I want to focus on my run in this one.

But to sum up this ‘journey’…I got into a relationship in September 2021 and knew if I wanted to make time and care for someone I loved, I had to first ensure my life was in order.

(If you’re reading this, you’ve probably flown in an airplane.

A brilliant way of viewing the idea of self-care is by pondering on the phrase heard some 30,000 feet in the air,

“In the event of a sudden drop in pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Secure your own mask first before assisting others.”)

You cannot help anyone else unless you first help yourself.

Which is why I made a conscious decision to start taking care of myself, began fixing 8-year-old gym injuries, and proceeded to shoulder more responsibilities, and wrest control of my life; after the 2020 shitshow left me directionless.

I cannot gloss over the facts the woman I briefly dated asked we become exclusive, then cheated on me, broke up with me over text (coward!), and decided to up and leave the country after promising we had a future.

I rarely, if ever, wish ill on anyone, but I did not wish my ex-girlfriend the best in her future, either.

As much as I love connecting with people, want them to achieve their full potential, and want the best for everyone in general, I can cut people out of my life at the drop of a hat should they cross me.

And my ex wronged me. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Having said this, I was not seeking vengeance. But after that abrupt break-up, I decided to focus on improving myself with renewed vigour, and vowed to myself I would never put anyone else’s needs above mine.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

To this end, I’ve started prioritizing my health. You can read about it here:

Word to the wise: if you suffer from shoulder impingement, give dead hangs a try. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor; I just know my body.

Taking on the challenge of running my first 10K was right up my alley, and fit into my plan of pushing myself physically and mentally in order to grow.

A 10K is ideal for experienced runners who are seeking a greater challenge.

It is the kind of run anyone with moderate fitness levels should be able to complete with ease.

Funnily enough, I am not an experienced runner. The last time I’d run was in school (16 years ago, to be specific). And my knees aren’t in the best shape, either.

Understandably, on the eve of run, I was a nervous wreck. You can watch how I felt here.

Beware the spoiler: l filmed myself after finishing the run and edited it into the clip, and I felt fantastic.

On the flip side, my fitness levels have considerably improved ever since I started boxing, and implementing HIIT into my workout routine.

This is why I decided against introducing anything new into my routine, and didn’t run even once in the weeks leading up to D-Day. I decided to wake up, rock up, and run like I’d never run before…

26th March 2022: up and running at 4 AM.

I only managed to sleep for about 5 hours the previous night. Partly because of excitement, and partly because I’d worked out my arms to steady my nerves, which had the opposite effect of rejuvenating me.

After breaking bread with a peanut butter sandwich, banana, and mug of black coffee, I donned my bright yellow Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 t-shirt; and drove to the Expo site, which was only 20 minutes away.

The 10K was scheduled to start at 6:30 AM. I had received a lengthy email briefing on 21st March, in which runners were told to arrive one hour prior to their race, which meant I had to arrive at 5:30 AM.

I pulled up into the Mobility Parking at roughly 5:45 AM and was pleased to see a crowd of over a thousand strong people, walking towards the Mobility Plaza.

I started vlogging. I was restricted to using my phone’s front camera after my back camera seemed to have lost its focus after the events of a wedding I’d attended in Abu Dhabi.

So when I came across the Expo 2020 sculpture and wanted a photo, I asked a fellow 10K runner named Suraj to click one with his phone and send it to me over WhatsApp.

I wonder if I should have worn a darker shade of shorts as opposed to the neon orange. Shot by Suraj on 26th March 2022, close to the Mobility Parking, Dubai Expo 2020, Dubai.

I started chatting with Suraj and his friend, and he told me he was from Bombay – I love Bombay people – I find them interesting.

This wasn’t his first rodeo: he was an experienced runner. I asked him for tips, and he told me to find my rhythm, have fun, and remember to breathe.

Remember to breathe. Got it, Karan?

I thanked him for his tips. We’d arrived at the security gate, wished each other a good run, and said goodbye. I placed my Expo bag on the conveyor belt, walked through the metal detectors, and stepped foot into the Expo site for the first time since it opened.

It’s been 6 months since the remarkable Expo show. It has attracted millions of visitors – many of whom have come from around the world – and I somehow never made time to check it out.

I always thought I’d go…but in-between work, being a social butterfly, my fitness goals, and creative work…I never did.

That’s what 25 Dirhams got me.

On my way to the start line, I learned of the 3 Expo passes I’d received, I could only use the other two the same day (one pass counted against my entry). Which I was not too pleased about, because I was sure I’d be knackered afterward.

It didn’t matter; my thoughts were focused on the run. After dropping my bag at the Festival Garden, I passed by the stage where an MC was urging runners to take their place at the start line, his energetic voice ringing clear on this brilliant Saturday morning.

I was texting my best friend, who was getting snapped (she’s a model and actor) in the desert as the sun rose, and she told me to kill it. I appreciated her words.

I limbered up, focusing on my calves and hips. They are tight because of fat-pad impingement in my knees – a long-standing injury I’m only just starting to fix.

I got another photo clicked at the start line from someone named Tejes, who asked I click one of him in return; I happily obliged.

Courtesy Tejes, fellow 10K runner.

Formalities out of the way, I crossed the line and began to jog.

The clock had begun to tick. The tag I sported on my shirt served two purposes:

  1. It would record my finish time since the tag had a chip attached to it.
  2. It would help identify me in photos clicked by official Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 photographers.

On the path of truth.

Before I describe my run, I’d like to tell you about a Yugoslavian proverb that just came to mind, “Tell the truth, and run.” I read this in Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, an excellent book I recommend for anyone looking to break into the advertising industry, learn how to make great ads, or improve as a copywriter – which is what I used to do prior to what I’m doing now.

I’ve always been an honest guy; my parents raised me well, and I have a loving family. But I bring up the concept of truth because as I’ve started working towards becoming the best version of myself, I’ve had to kill a past self: one that indulged in pleasure, was lazy, and did not live up to his potential.

And as I’ve dug deep into what my core values are, I’ve realised honesty is paramount amongst them.

I want to live an honest life. And whilst I never lied to anyone, I used to lie to myself. Frequently.

I made promises but failed to honour them.

They were little things. Like telling myself, “Karan, you will not smoke a cigarette today.” Or, “Karan, you will not indulge in so-and-so vice today because you have to make it to work on time tomorrow.”

When I made these commitments to myself but didn’t follow through, my unwavering moral compass – my conscience – scolded me. I knew in my heart of hearts what I was doing was wrong, but didn’t take corrective action.

I watched myself repeating the same mistakes from the outside when I’d journal.

I hated failing, and felt frustrated.

Until one day, I’d had enough. I decided to be better. The aforementioned break-up also played a role in shaking me up.

As I’ve started walking the path of righteousness, I’ve met people who – either by virtue of their nature or the kind of communities they’re

a part of – have helped broaden my horizons, and experience new things.

So, as I started to pick up the pace on my run, I was not surprised to hear Dani – my boxing coach at Spartans Boxing Club – call my name in the distance.

I never would have run this 10K, let alone know about this if it weren’t for her.

She told me about it towards the end of February after one of our classes. And now, 1 month later, there I was, running alongside her and vlogging it.

The photographers captured a joyous moment: I’d pulled out my phone to shoot a quick clip when Dani spotted me vlogging. She came beside me, said she’d see me at the finish line, and went on her way.

Thoughts in motion.

Thoughts into action.

I decided against vlogging my run. With my back camera not working properly, I’d have to use my front camera. As handsome as I am, I didn’t want people watching my sweaty face for the majority of the vlog.

I marvelled at the grand architecture of the pavilions around me, thinking of the time, effort, and collaboration of numerous people it must have taken to construct them.

I continued to run.

I looked around, watching men and women running alongside me. Some older, some younger. I noticed one girl had switched to walking within the first 500 meters. She was recording herself, “Man, I can’t believe I’m tired already. I’m sweating so much, I should have…” her voice trailed off as I looked back, smiled at her, and continued running.

Over the next 500 meters, I slowed down, as I realized how much further I had to go. Considering my lack of preparation and stimulated state of mind, I estimated finishing in roughly an hour, which meant it wasn’t sustainable to continue at the pace I did. I started to slow, but not quite jog. It was somewhere in between. I had found my pace.

Suraj’s words resonated with me.

My breathing was steady. Now, all I needed were my tunes. I plugged in, and…

I continued to run.

I breezed past some people, who had stopped to take photos. I, of course, had no idea why they were running, but personally, I was there to run to my heart’s content, no matter how long I took to finish.

By this point, the electronic music had taken over, invigorating me with every step.

I had hit my stride.

I turned a corner. The sun was shining bright, bathing us in its joyous light.

It was a glorious day, and I was ecstatic I’d decided to take part.

I continued to run.

Around this point, I was sweating. Profusely. Up ahead and to my right, I noticed a table with water bottles on them. A friendly person was handing them out to runners as they passed.

I drifted to the side, and slowed down, right hand at the ready. Without missing a beat, the man at the table handed me a bottle. I thanked him, and

I continued to run.

I slowed down to open the bottle, take a few gulps, and assessed how my body felt.

My feet had started to get sore. My calves felt tight. I’d probably been running for about 4.5 km now, and the unwelcome thought of if I’d be able to complete this run crossed my mind.

I thought of that thought for a few seconds. And dissected it.

The reason why that thought came to my head is because my body was tired, and it told my brain I should stop running.

But it was just a thought. Must we pay attention to every thought that comes to our head?

Not really.

Must we act on the thoughts that come to us? Yes, but only if they’re good thoughts.

Thoughts that inspire us to enact positive change.

If our thoughts do us more harm than good, it is best

  1. We determine what led to the thought in the first place
  2. Become aware of how our body responds to the thought – do we feel stressed? Anxious? Angry?
  3. And consequently take corrective measures – which could include writing for yourself to identify negative thought patterns, and remedy them by any means necessary.

So I banished the thought of not being able to complete the run, and instead visualised how I’d feel after crossing the finish line. The pain in my legs slowly started to seem insignificant.

“Mind over matter, Karan.” I thought to myself, with a smile.

I continued to run.

I picked up the pace and slowed down when needed. I was mostly looking straight ahead, occasionally looking to my side to see someone overtake me with a burst of speed.

A few minutes later…I overtook them, as they had slowed down.

Selecting my next tune to soundtrack my run.

Thousands of people. Hailing from different countries. With varied economic backgrounds. Possessing different fitness levels.

There we were. On that sunny Saturday.

Running as fast as our bodies would allow. No matter where we came from – or at what stage of life we were in – we were united by a common goal that day: finishing a race.

How long it took us to finish was irrelevant.

We were going at our pace, putting our best foot forward.

Knowing this, a strong sense of love for all those runners started to develop within me.

I felt connected to everybody.

As these pure thoughts washed over me, I felt a surge of energy rush through my body, which emanated from my nether regions. (TMI? I’m nothing if not honest in my writing.)

I felt a chill in my forearms. I looked at them, noticing I’d got goosebumps. I stretched my arms backward and grinned in delight.

The time had come to unleash my secret weapon…

Runner’s high, calculated.

I knew there would come a point during my run when I would all-out sprint.

That would probably happen as I neared the finish line, but considering I was currently experiencing this powerful, electric energy coursing through my body, I decided to leverage it – and see how far I could push myself – coasting along pure energy, boosted by the perfect track.

I switched from Spotify to SoundCloud, typed the words ‘Janeret Equinoxe’, hit play, and felt the first notes of the energetic kick-drum vibrating in my ear canal.

I pushed my earphones in, creating as tight a vacuum as possible.

Janeret had introduced the bassline, and it teased me, goading me to pick up the pace.

Not yet, I thought to myself.

I was now a minute into this gorgeous track, and it continued building up to a bouncy crescendo.

Which is when I started to increase my speed. I put one foot in front of the other, trying to time each step with every clap in the track, going faster with every step.

God, I love house music.

I was 2 minutes in, and the opportune moment was nearly upon me. Any second now…

2:15. There was a moment’s pause before the drop. Until it dropped. Karan, we have lift-off!

I sprinted. With the sun bearing down on my sweaty face.

With the morning breeze welcoming me like an old friend.

Suddenly, I felt like I was 11 again, when I discovered I had pace. When I realized my skinny legs could generate raw power, and I could run. Fast.

I was beaming from ear to ear and felt as lithe as a gazelle and as free as a bird as I continued to run, leaving people in the dust.

I continued my all-out dash, my heels barely making contact with the ground before I felt them touching, faster this time.

I had reached an all-too-familiar state of euphoria. I’d also run about 200 meters.

My breathing was already laboured, and my heart was pumping wildly, moving oxygenated blood to my muscles and brain.

I started to slow down. And just like that, I returned to baseline speed…


Until I spotted people on the sidelines starting to cheer. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I looked at my watch – I had been running for about an hour.

A smattering of yellow and pink t-shirts lay ahead. Although my music had created a personal bubble of thoughts and emotions – there seemed to be a shift in excitement levels amongst the runners and onlookers – which pierced through this bubble.

Intrigued, I took out my earphones and listened to what the cheerleaders were saying over the megaphone.

They were saying something to the effect of, “Runners, you’re almost there!”

And then it hit me: I was nearing the finish line!

The end of a journey, or the start of a new one?

I tempered my pace, until I completely stopped in my tracks, about a kilometer away from completing my first 10K.

The clock continued to tick, but I didn’t care. I looked into the distance and exhaled.

Not out of breathlessness. I was awestruck.

Over the course of this hour, I didn’t stop running even once. Simultaneously, my mind had travelled to several places – which I chose not to write about.

Although I will mention one memory, which was brought back by listening to one upbeat house track as I ran.

It was the memory of the girl I liked. And how, when she left with no prior warning, I felt heartbreak.

Or something close to it. I’m not sure what it was. But I felt a strange sadness I had never felt before.

To get over her, like I mentioned earlier, I started focussing on myself. Oh, and I partied. Hard.

It was this gorgeous, summery house track that I listened to daily, which helped me get over her.

My comment resonated with a few – I wonder how this track touched them.

Whilst listening to ‘Tailwhip’ – Men I Trust (Lewii Edit) I thought back to where I was in the winter of 2021.

And how I loved someone unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, putting their needs above mine.

Sacrificing my growth to help them grow.

That will never happen again. Unless I find the right person.

As I stared at the runners up ahead, turning a corner, about to finish their 10K, I thought back to how far I’ve come since I started taking ownership of my life. When I decided to be better.

When I decided to become my best physical, mental, creative, and spiritual self.

“God, it’s been a ride.”

the thought came to me, seemingly out of nowhere.

And I smiled a wide smile. Probably the widest one over the course of these 10 kilometers.

I looked around, wide-eyed, in amazement. I was as happy as a sunflower on a midsummer’s day, and it showed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a photographer quickly raise his DSLR to capture my look of pure joy, as I surveyed the scene, turning to face the crowd of new runners, gearing up for their 3K.

I do not know if that man published that shot. If he did, I’d love to see it.

With that, I started running again. As I approached the finish line, I took out my earphones and vlogged as I crossed it.

I had just finished my first 10K! This was my first run since my early teenage years.

I didn’t train for this.

I have bad knees and a weak lower body. Which I’m fixing.

Let me repeat to myself: I finished my first 10K with that figurative weight on my shoulders.

And I finished it in an hour.

Not too shabby, Karan.

If that is how I performed with no preparation – to have fun and wing it – how would I do if I practiced?

If I fixed my lower body?

I’d kill it, that’s what would happen. I’d cut my time to under 50 minutes.

I’m positive.

Afterglow.

The run done and dusted, I stretched. Expansively. I knew the pain would come later, and I had to do my best to combat delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

I collected my finisher’s medal and hung out with Dani for a bit, who clicked some winning photos of me.

I then basked in the sun like a proud lion, waiting to collect my bag, which I’d dropped earlier at the Festival Garden.

It was there I got talking to a friendly Filipino called Johndel. He was an excellent listener; I was excited to tell him how I’d run my first 10K with no preparation, and how I’d expanded my comfort zone by taking part.

On his part, he told me how he’d been reading The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma, and enjoyed it.

I haven’t read it, and probably won’t, because I’ve been waking up no later than 5:30 ever since I decided to be better. It’s been paying off handsomely – I have more time for my goals.

Johndel also told me how he’d visited Armenia, his first holiday in far too long. It gave him a fresh perspective on life, helping him break out of his routine.

As someone who had developed tunnel vision around work and had forgotten to live in 2020, I could empathize.

We continued chatting until I had to leave. I collected my bag and headed to the nearest bus stop, which would drop me close to where my car was parked.

Whilst waiting for the bus, I struck up a conversation with a man, asking him how we’d find our results.

He directed me to a cool site where you can view the results of various sports competitions from around the world.

I excitedly typed the URL into my Google Pixel to establish how I’d done. Here are my results:

I am chuffed with this, considering I stopped for about 30 seconds in my final lap – and didn’t know I was running my final lap…

And with that, I headed to meet a friend, get work done, and make money.

Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.

Wesley Snipes

Apt quote to close. I ran my first 10K on 26th March 2022. And I finished it with my head held high.

On that day, thousands of people thronged the Expo 2020 Dubai site. People from different walks of life.

I do not know their names. Nor their reasons for running.

I think back to what Suraj said – how I shouldn’t let anyone else’s pace influence mine.

Improving myself will take time. But I must not fret – as long as I put my head down and work hard when no one’s watching – the results will speak for themselves.

I didn’t expect anything going into this run. My goal – at the risk of repeating myself – was to have fun.

But after reflecting on that momentous day, here are some takeaways:

  1. The journey to better myself will never end – there is constant room for improvement. I might as well buckle in, and enjoy the ride…emotions and tears be damned.
  2. Mind over matter: if I master my mind, I will master my life.
  3. The only person I will compete with is myself. “It’s you versus you, Karan.” That’s what I used to write in my MacBook Notes, aged 20, when I wanted to obstinately carve my path in advertising.

Nine years later, I’m finally living point #3. Now I’ve tasted blood, and know the sky is the limit if I apply myself, I’m hungry for more success in both, my personal and professional life.

Karan: 1. Gravity: 0.

Another blog published, another story told. I just sighed. It’s funny to think how many moons ago, I used to sit at my desk, and give up writing when I barely tried for 10 minutes.

Although, unlike before, I now have greater clarity of thought; more knowledge; more confidence; and crucially – experiences to draw from as I write.

I hope you gained something from my words. That is all I hope. To touch someone, or inspire.

If my words resonated with you, please get in touch, drop a comment, or better still – subscribe to my blog by email. You can do so by scrolling to the top and typing your email address.

I look forward to writing again. As always, I will catch you in the next one.

Work hard, play hard: 3 days in my life (and a special thanks to you, Ridhdhi)

The clock just struck 6:56 PM, and for once, I’m not blogging from my office.

I’m in my room, sat on my desk, and eager to get these words out so I can get a solid arm workout in, break a sweat, listen to some tunes, and get those endorphins flowing.

I cannot expect every blog to be as inspirational as the last. I’ve been telling a dear friend lately you cannot expect perfection from every job, but that doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to reach it.

It is high time I practiced what I preach.

And maybe, just maybe, there may be some beauty to be found in writing about the mundane…

The WhatsApp messages keep coming in as I type this; and they’re on the ‘Fam jam’ group and they pertain to two work-related issues from today.

It is tough to mentally unplug from work when you’re a business owner. Even more so when it’s a family business.

But this is what I signed up for, when I abandoned pursuing my dream of becoming a music vlogger.

It was a jolly good year, and the most creative (and hedonistic) year of my life; but I had to stop playing Peter Pan, shoulder responsibility, and become the man I was meant to be.

Please read about it by clicking the link below. I touch upon the perils of social media, the skills I have transferred from my old job as an advertising creative to my current job, and how I touched thousands of lives through electronic dance music.

Weekend warrior

Before I get into today (28th March 2022), I’d like to tell you about my weekend.

I completed my first 10K in an hour on Saturday, and I am chuffed with the effort.

Considering:

  1. My knees aren’t in the best shape
  2. I didn’t practice for this run
  3. I haven’t run in 16 years (the last time I did was in school)
  4. I didn’t know I was running my final lap

An hour is not too shabby! With preparation, I can bring that time down to 50 minutes. Easily.

Once a runner, always a runner, eh?

Caught in the moment.

After the run, the aforementioned dear friend told me she was done with her shoot (she’s an actor and a model) and asked if we could have breakfast. I was hungry, but smelly.

After a quick pit-stop at home to freshen up, I was raring to go.

Since I’ve been watching what I eat (I’m on a see-food diet. I see food and I eat it. Note to self: this dad joke does not work on paper!) and she does too, Subway was the perfect choice.

We spoke about many things, and the conversation flowed effortlessly, like water. She’s a new friend. Prior to this, we’d only met a handful of times, but she’s brought out the best in me, and I’ve helped her too, which I’m super happy about.

I love meeting new people. I love connecting with people. Two sides of the same coin.

And if I click with someone, I let them know how much they mean to me. Unconditionally.

It’s the Leo in me: we’re incredibly loyal, steadfast with our love, and generous with those we consider dear.

(Spoiler alert: this new friend played a telling role in inspiring me these past 3 days. And she’s played a crucial role in helping me rediscover my voice as a writer, and capabilities as a creative. To know more, read until the end.)

Right. So I’d chowed down on my footlong, and she’d grazed on her salad. With our tummies sated and hearts content, it was time to get going. We bade goodbye, and planned to hang another time.

I had to pick up a fabric roll from Naif, and deliver it to Al Quoz to get it fire-treated. We were going to manufacture acoustic baffles on Monday and ship them to Oman soon after, and it was critical I got the roll to the fire-treatment people in time.

Into my Rav 4 I go.

It was a long drive from Motor City. And my legs were crying for some much-needed R&R. Even though I’d had a hectic week, there is no rest for the weary.

After collecting the roll, I was off to Al Quoz. I was there earlier than expected.

The driver promised he would be, too.

He wasn’t.

I had to wait for half an hour. I was terse with him as he apologetically rolled up in his minivan.

Home. Sweet. Home.

Work done, I tried to sleep. It wasn’t forthcoming. I was still riding the euphoric wave of having smashed my first 10K.

I tidied my room, and continued reading Joshua Mezrich’s brilliant ‘How Death Becomes Life’. Notes from a transplant surgeon.

Before I knew it, the sun had set, and my mind needed rest. I fuelled up, and crashed. Hard.

Sunday. Fun day.

The day began with a choice. Do I get an ab workout in? Nah, I thought to myself.

My body had been put under enough stress yesterday. I instead had a healthy breakfast, and got my Rav 4, my pride and joy, a much-needed wash.

I headed in to the office afterwards, and attempted to get down to working on my post-10K run blog. It wasn’t to be.

I usually have my head in the right place when I sit down to write, but I couldn’t focus my thoughts into telling a compelling story.

A couple of hours had passed. And it was time to get Sterilac yogurt for lunch.

My dad insisted I get this brand.

I knew it was only available in select stores. He recommended one. Three stores later, and a not-so-fun adventure later, I’d given up and come home with Almarai.

I wolfed down lunch, and rushed back to the office to attempt to write. In the meantime, a friend wanted to catch up.

She’s a gem, and she’s been going through a tough time off-late, so I took out some time to Zoom, and inspire her to improve…

Experiences worth noting, not nothing.

I’m on the journey to become my best self. And people have been taking notice. They want to understand what drives me, what I’ve been doing differently, how I’ve seemingly been killing it at my life, and want to share some of my energy.

Without putting too fine a point on it, it’s bloody hard work. People are not privy to the behind-the-scenes. All they see is the final product: whether it’s an entertaining vlog, or an inspiring blog.

Which is why I’m learning to be more careful with my time than ever.

Be mindful of who I spend my time with; either physically or digitally. I’ve realized being a social butterfly isn’t easy.

I love people too damn much. And I want to help everyone out. But when you do that, you realise that you might not have enough time left over for yourself. To excel at work. Or succeed at your creative endeavours.

Thankfully, I’m old-school in more ways than one. When I want something done now, I call. I loathe texting.

Mostly because people respond to messages selectively, over-share, (guilty!) or are terrible texters.

As wonderful as it is to be in touch with friends the world over through WhatsApp, (insert your preferred comms platform of choice here) I’ve learnt from my past-life as a music vlogger that I place unnecessary importance on digital relationships.

Not anymore. From juggling conversations across Antibes to Dubai, from Los Angeles to New Delhi, and beyond; I now place responding to WhatsApp messages at the bottom of my priorities.

It takes time. And mental effort. For the first time (in a long-time) in my life, I’ve got goals. Which demand much from me.

Whilst it may sound selfish, I’ve learnt the hard way that if you do not put yourself first, you will not be able to help anyone else.

Of course – if there’s quick plans to be made, things that require immediate attention, or digital relationships that I feel are worth my while fostering – I will respond to you. On my time.

I love you. Don’t forget. But right now, I love me, first.

One digression later…

Right. Where were we? I’d Zoomed with my friend in Berlin; put a smile on her face, reminded her why she must soldier on with her musical journey, and I now had to get back to finishing my 10K blog.

Several hours and coffees later, I had to show my family (who were relaxing back home) my gorgeous mug for dinner.

In. And out. Both: the food and me. Back to my office desk. Getting those words out.


10:45 PM. And I still had loads to write. I was tempted to work late into the night and finish it, but if there’s anything the past few weeks have taught me, it’s that burning the candle at both ends is sheer stupidity.

Even though I’d got two blogs out and felt creatively satisfied, things at work were piling up. Big time.

The weekly work forecast was jam-packed, and I had to bring my A-game.

So I decided to call it a night, upload my 10K vlog, and head home to retire.

Karan, remember to live in the present.

Immediately after uploading my vlog, I was shocked to see it had been automatically converted to a YouTube Shorts.

Which meant it would pop up on people’s phones at random. Which, of course, is great to amass views. One of my best friends from school was stumped to learn his innocuous Honey Singh vlog had gained 14 million views.

Earning him over 18,000 subscribers in the process. I gave him the idea to capitalize on that, urging him to upload videos of properties in his portfolio to generate leads – he’s a fantastic real estate broker – so he did.

I trust this idea helped. Manav, you’re welcome.

Personally speaking, I did not want random eyeballs discovering my YouTube through Shorts, so I was freaking out about seeing my excited face talking back at me.

I will not disclose the biggest reason why I didn’t want the Shorts, but one of them is that I want my channel to grow organically.

As with all my creative endeavours, my YouTube is a labour of love.

I ask people to subscribe, but only if they want to. Only if they would like to support me as I discover the art of storytelling through video.

Anyway. There I was. At my work-desk. Freaking out.

I didn’t know who to turn to in that moment of madness, until the answer presented itself clear as day.

My new friend. Who I’d met on Saturday for breakfast. I am my truest self when I’m with her.

I can turn to her without being judged.

I feel comfortable sharing things I’ve never shared with anyone else.

And she turned up. I needed something confirmed, and she pulled through, when no-one else would have. What’s more, her words had the unusual effect of calming me down. I use the word ‘unusual’ because I’m fiercely independent, and can be as stubborn as a billy goat, rarely listening to people.

But because she’s someone I trust completely, I know she’s got my best interests at heart; so knowing she told me to calm down put me at ease.

Better still, she told me to stay in the present. And as I drove home, listening to this tune, I knew that is all we can do.

Live in the present. Not thinking about what may, or may not, happen tomorrow.

All we can do is give our best in the moment-to-moment, and trust that things will work out.

Which brings me to…today.


Manic Monday.

I woke up with my legs still smarting from Saturday’s 10K. Much to my chagrin but with the wisdom of hindsight, I decided to cancel tonight’s 8 PM HIIT boxing class I’d booked yesterday, because if I’d go, I knew my body would not thank me for it.

The first thing on my agenda was a meeting with our acoustic underlay supplier in their warehouse in JAFZA.

We’ve bagged the scope of undertaking acoustic works for The Marriott in the Jumeirah Village Circle, and I’m relieved to have secured this order.

The contract is worth around 750,000 Dirhams, and it will keep us afloat for the next 6 months.

Steady cash-flow is paramount to any business. Doubly more so because I still consider my family business a start-up that punches way above its weight.

We have a growth mindset in no small part thanks to my dad – who inspires me with his drive even as he nears 60.

My sister, who unfailingly lends a hand when I have surplus on my plate, and makes up for my weaknesses in Excel and accounting and finance.

And, of course, my two colleagues, who keep me on my toes. They’re hardworking. And loyal – I feel like my dad trusts people too easily, but the way things have progressed over the past 5 years – he seems to have picked the right pair.

Right. We had to determine the inventory situation in our supplier’s warehouse and confirm if they had enough stock to supply us for the next few months or so.

Although we’ve placed an order for 20,000 sq. m. of acoustic underlay, we’ve only supplied a partial quantity because the site is not ready for us to install.

Which is why we had to establish if our supplier would not run out of stock in the middle.

If they did, they would have to order more from Germany, and because of:

  1. Global freight prices skyrocketing;
  2. The Russia-Ukraine war, and subsequent increase of petrol prices;
  3. And COVID-19’s continued after-effects on the business world

Our supplier would hike their price. Which they would pass on to us. Which would affect our bottom line.

Which we cannot afford. Not in this market. But they gave us their word, on the condition we would collect the rest of our order over the next few months, and not wait until 2023.

This will be the second major project I will handle. I will admit, I royally screwed up on multiple occasions on my first, a 63-storey tower in Business Bay.

But I’m going into this project with experience, confidence, and most importantly, knowledge. I could have excused myself on the first, all variables considered.

On this one? No fuck-ups, Karan.

Before I left the warehouse, I shared a video of what I’d gotten up to with my new friend. I’m proud of my job. It’s honest work.

And if there’s one thing I will never forget from the first time I met my friend, it’s that she took an ardent interest in my job. That was 2020, and I was battling imposter phenomenon that year. So to have someone who gave a damn about what I did for a living that torrid year was refreshing, to say the least.

Time is money.

I won’t write about the rest of my day. But one episode of collecting an outstanding is worth recounting.

As assistant manager, I don many hats. I do a bit of everything: management, procurement, invoicing, operations, admin, social media, accounting (both receivables and payables), site-work.

And considering it’s been a mad few weeks at work, and I’ve been blogging, and I’ve been keeping on my fitness grind, and I’ve been maintaining an active social life, sometimes…it can all get a bit much.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve developed immense aggression. This is both a by-product of deciding to take ownership of my life; and rediscovering, and harnessing my raw, masculine energy.

Which is why I no longer have patience for mediocrity. Or stupidity.

Unfortunately, I experienced both when trying to collect a cheque this afternoon.

Here’s the backstory: we’d submitted an acoustic report for a hotel to a contractor.

We were supposed to get paid some 2600 Dirhams within 30 days.

We weren’t.

I called every few days. They never answered. I emailed their accounts team (it wasn’t worth my time going to their office to chase them) but to no avail. They were indifferent to my mails, occasionally responding with the generic Indian corporatese I despise with every fibre of my being, “Noted. Shall update.”

On occasion, it infuriated me we still hadn’t got our dues, but I had bigger cheques to claim, so this relatively paltry sum fell by the wayside. Before I knew it, 90 days had gone by with this back-and-forth.

I had had enough. I decided to cut out the middleman. And go straight to the decision-maker. Who in this case was the project manager.

It only took a few stern calls with a brusque tone (on my part), and sharply written mails (my time in advertising will continue to serve me well in the future) to start applying pressure on him.

Finally, they budged. A man-who-shall-not-be-named asked for our bank details last week, and mentioned he’d prepare our payment certificate, which I had to sign in order for them to release our long-overdue outstanding.

What worried me, however, was him mentioning this would be a PDC (post-dated cheque). Those were not our payment terms. Our payment was already late by 90 days…how much longer would they delay this by?!

Which is why I went into this encounter hostile. I was prepared for it to be delayed further, but it was the circumstances around collecting this payment that set me off.

I entered their office, and was redirected to another counter, where some clerk had no idea what was going on. I mentioned our company, and he dawdled towards the back of the office.

Realizing, and relishing my words have power.

The useless clerk returned, and still hadn’t communicated my company’s name to the right person.

Vexed, I opened the receipt book and pointed to our logo, and mentioned who had told me to come in.

He walked off. After far too long, the accountant came in. The guy who’d asked for our bank details. So he could prepare the payment certificate.

I took one look at it. And immediately spotted a typo in our company’s name.

I pointed it out to him. He didn’t understand. He robotically asked me to sign.

Idiotic accountant.

(God, everybody I meet seems to be meandering through life! Or is it me that’s got too much energy?)

I told him again. He finally understood. I then noticed when the payment certificate was dated for.

26th June 2022.

This payment was already 90 days late. A little over 2600 Dirhams. All this trouble was not worth my time.

I snapped.

“Stuart, (name changed) this payment certificate is dated for June. Which means this payment would be 6 months late. Are you joking?”

“No, sir, I’m not. This is my management’s decision.” came his robotic reply.

“Fair enough. Tell me, when you go to the supermarket to buy a bottle of milk, do you pay them 6 months later?”

“But this is not milk. What are you saying?” he asked, unintelligently.

“Exactly. This is a business. If we go by your logic, how is it fair to pay for FMCG’s on time, but not pay for an acoustic consultancy service on time. Do you know what the sole purpose of a business is? It is to make a fucking profit.”

I could tell he was more shocked than usual by my rude tone. As an accountant who’s been delaying other people’s payments, I’m sure Stuart had faced the wrath of many.

I know he’s been delaying other supplier’s payments because I had a chat in the lobby with a poor chap who was owed 63,000 Dirhams, and he’s been waiting for it for over 6 months.

But here, Stuart was defeated by my argument. Besides, I’d switched up my accent to add a bit of British flair (love you, Lancaster!) for dramatic effect, and he could tell I wasn’t your usual, meek Indian.

“I cannot do anything.”

“Yes, I know you can’t. You’re just following orders. But can you explain why you’ve made a mistake in our payment certificate? You asked us for our bank details. We sent them. You merely had to type our company’s name and print this out. You had one job, Stuart. Were you half-asleep when working? Or did you not have your coffee? And then, you try to justify a delay?! You delay a meagre sum of 2677 Dirhams for 90 days, periodically respond to emails, never answer your God damn phone, and then have the audacity to date this 3 months later? Preposterous!” I started to raise my voice.

My mask slipped off my mouth, he saw my angry jaw, and I spotted fear in his eyes. So I went for the jugular.

“Is this what you’re paid to do? Make elementary mistakes on payment certificates? You’ve wasted my time, and even if I accept this ridiculous delay, why on Earth should I excuse mediocrity?!” I bellowed.

He backed off, and said he would do something. Amidst hearing me shouting, two colleagues came over. One tried to pacify me. I told him I chose not to relax in this moment, and to mind his own business.

I noticed the drones in the back room shift with unease. I reckon they were probably even enjoying the drama.

Well, I won’t lie. I loved it. I loved using my command of the English language to make that grown man squirm.

I’ve only recently come to realize the power of my words. Off-late; I’ve used my words to inspire, make people cry with joy, help them tell their stories, and in a professional context, make money.

Of course, it’s not my words alone that are having an impact on people, and changing my life as I speak.

I’ve also been boxing for the past 3 months. I’ve always been a supremely confident guy (bordering on cocky, some may say). And boxing has caused my confidence levels to soar. I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, and I’m only going to get better with time.

My posture has improved drastically. I stand straight, with my shoulders back. I don’t merely walk; I strut.

Also, when you know you can knock someone out with a few punches if you wanted to…you tend to be more assertive with what you want.

I’d like to say this story will have a happy ending, but I doubt that will be the case. There’s only a slim chance our client will prepare a new current-dated cheque – there’s excessive bureaucracy with big companies – even to release a tiny sum of AED 2,600. Nevertheless, Stuart Little has asked me to come in the day after to collect the cheque, and I’m going to enjoy toying with him again….

Update – 31st March 2022. Being assertive paid off: I received a cheque dated for 2nd April. Which means I do not have to wait for 3 months more for this money. Admittedly, it is a small amount, but I will take it as win.

On finding someone who matches my vibe, and inspires me.

I ended my day by posting a story on my WhatsApp status, where I shared how I felt bogged down after the events that transpired when attempting to collect that cheque. But as I watched myself talking to the world, (rather my world – I’ve limited who can view my status) I didn’t like what I saw.

I saw a guy complaining. Moaning. Whining. And bitching. About how things didn’t go my way.

But things will rarely go your way. Such is life. It is a test. Of our mettle. And it is how we respond to life’s trials and tribulations that makes a world of difference.

I don’t want to put negative energy out into the world. As I’ve explained in my blog’s about section, I’ve chosen to play the hero in my life. And a hero doesn’t complain. He may occasionally take an arrow to the knee, but he marches on, resolutely.

So I deleted my vlog 20 minutes later. I rarely delete content I post online, because I publish with consideration.

But it’s what happened immediately after deleting my vlog that not only cheered me up, but caused me to rush home, and write. And write. And write.

I started typing this blog at 6:56 PM. It is 12:26 AM, and the colons continue to blink. I have not had dinner. And there’s no way I am going to work my arms out now. If I do, I will probably be up until 4 AM.

I thought of my new friend. Scratch that. I thought of my best friend. I wanted to know how her day went. I also felt like telling her about why I deleted my story.

I knew I could talk to her openly and tell her exactly how I felt, because she’s a great listener.

And that is important for someone like me, who loves to talk! Thank goodness I’m well-read: I know a little bit about everything. I draw from psychology, creativity, anthropology, the arts, biology, pharmacology, culture, philosophy, self-development, pop-culture, the human condition, and my own deep wealth of experiences, and numerous adventures.

So whenever I open my mouth to utter something, it mercifully isn’t complete horseshit. Most times.

But enough about me.

I am keen to share the story of how I met my best friend, who has inspired me in my creative renaissance to the point where I continued to post videos on my YouTube because she motivated me in her signature carefree,

and energetic way.

Remember how, earlier on in this blog, I mentioned how I used to place importance on digital relationships?

Well, that is me to a T. I value relationships; period.

Again, I write: I just love people too much, God damn it. I want to be there for everyone, all the time. And want to uncover the best in people.

But just as my network has expanded over the years through travel, my world has shrunk as I start to shoulder more responsibility.

There simply isn’t enough time in my day to adequately maintain strong relationships. As I’ve matured, I’ve become aware of this fact.

On my part, I put my best foot forward, and express myself sincerely.

Not everyone may like me or my energy, but they don’t need to.

No, wait, that’s not true. Most people like me. I’m a likeable person. (I’m also a lickable person, but you’ll have to verify that with one of my old flames…)

Jokes aside, once I’ve identified that someone wants the best for me purely out of the goodness of their heart, I will let them know I love that. And I will tell them I love them. And I will be there for them. To celebrate their victories. And give them company in their miseries.

Several years ago, when I didn’t have a plan for my life, and no goals, I would constantly think of my friends, and how I could add value to their lives.

I’d often use the phrase, “I’d take a bullet for you, xxxx!”

There was no need to get emotional.

Because as my friends have grown older, and they’re married, they can lean on their partners for support.

So, I’ve backed off. I trust by now my close friends know I’m there if they need me.

A chance meeting with

a beautiful soul.

It is perplexing how some people appear in your life at critical junctures.

I will forever marvel at this unexplained phenomenon.

The person in question is a friend of a friend, but I’d never known about her existence.

Until one winter day, I went to hang out with my friends, and she was there.

I remember how she carried herself with grace, was well-spoken; and like I mentioned earlier, exhibited a genuine interest in what I did for a living.

We didn’t see each other for 10 months after. And when I saw her again, I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend, which was strange, because I barely knew this girl.

Subsequently, we bumped into each other at parties, danced together to Bollywood music, and got to know each other over a glass (or three) of Merlot.

And we kept in touch. Over WhatsApp. Which is key. You see, although I’m not on social media anymore, this doesn’t mean I’m not a social butterfly.

My personality rang through by way of voice notes, and my words.

I’d also launched my YouTube around then, which she supported, wholeheartedly.

And at one point, there was an unexplainable sixth sense that pushed me to check in with my (then, still-fledgling) friend.

I shared this video. And texted, “Just in case you needed this. If not, keep your head down and continue getting that work done. (Insert bicep emoji here)”

What followed was 16 days of hard work. For both of us. It was a collaborative process, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I helped this new friend with a project that pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Personally, I was in my element once again. I used to come up with ideas, and write and edit scripts; and headlines for a living.

And helping this friend reminded me of how much I used to love doing this.

How I was excellent at this.

By helping a friend tell her story, I’ve been able to tell my own. Again, and again, and it will happen again.

Because now, after 4 years, I’ve finally found the courage to start publishing on my blog again. And now, I’ve hit my stride.

My mind is buzzing with ideas and I need only make time to get them on my blog.

I can’t quite place my finger on what it is about you that’s inspired me so greatly, Ridhdhi. Maybe it’s your vivaciousness. Maybe it’s your energy. Maybe it’s your bubbliness. Maybe it’s your infectious laugh. Maybe it’s your innocence. Maybe it’s your goodness. Or…”Maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.” (Sue me. It’s the perfect tagline, I couldn’t help but weave it in there. I’m sure you laughed out loud – I cracked up writing this.) Whatever it may be, thank you, once again, for bringing out the best in me. I love you.

As I’ve told you, I feel incredibly comfortable in your presence.

I feel like I can talk to you about anything in the world. And to be yourself around someone; to speak without judgement, laugh about silly things, share personal anecdotes, and grow alongside them is an indescribably precious thing indeed.

Welcome to the Sub Club, homie! Shot by yours truly on 26th March 2022, Subway, Motor City.

And that concludes yet another story on my blog! God, I feel elated to publish another one. I have definitely hit a purple patch in my writing.

But at this point, I know unleashing your creativity is neither good luck, nor is it something mysterious. It is work. Plain and simple.

And you’ve got to put in the hours. Like with anything you want to succeed at.

The next blog in my series will be about my first 10K. I look forward to sharing.

If you’ve enjoyed reading, I would love it if you subscribed to my blog by email.

You can scroll to the top, hit the button, and I bloody well hope I don’t need to tell you how to type your email in.

I promised myself I wouldn’t bring this up until I’ve built a habit of consistently publishing. Now that I have, I have no shame in doing so.

I appreciate you reading, and I will catch you in the next one.

I am raising the bar, and lowering it as I see fit.

It is 9:45 PM, 22nd March 2022 as I’ve begun typing this from my office. I just exhaled.

And again. I’m on top of the world, even if – just two hours ago – my family jewels were swinging gleefully in Dubai’s not-quite-summer, not-quite-winter evening breeze as I walked with purpose to collect my Expo 2020 Dubai: Run 3 goodie bag, because I didn’t have any underpants on.

Wait, what?!

I pause to laugh. Did you actually write that, Karan? I suppose explanations are in order, folks…

Before I get into the gory details of my family jewels, allow me to recap my day.

Although I’d set an alarm for 5:30 AM, I struggled to rouse myself because I’d worked out my arms yesterday late at night, and the task of going for a run to prep for my first upcoming 10K (and first ever public run) was daunting.

I switched off the alarm, and turned off the next four, set to ring within the next 10 minutes, and shut my groggy eyes.


I then awoke at 7:45, and rushed to the office to prepare for a meeting with my accountant who was coming in at 9:30.

Not the best start. And that, unfortunately, set the tone for the next 7 hours of my day.

Irrespective of how my week looks, I love getting a morning workout in, because that simultaneously leaves me feeling rejuvenated, and satisfied that I have taken another step towards becoming a stronger person than I was yesterday.

My morning workout could consist of:

  1. A 6:30 AM HIIT boxing, or an all-levels boxing class at Spartans Boxing Club, which I joined in January this year.
  2. An arm workout in front of my dresser, usually performed topless and in my boxers, because hey – I can’t be the only one who likes watching themself work out close to naked, right? My arm workout includes dips, curls (for the girls), push-ups, tricep extensions, a farmer’s walk, and a couple of simple, yet effective exercises involving resistance bands. I also use the resistance bands as part of rehabilitation for my left tricep, which I injured in 2019 but never got around to fixing. I then finish off by performing dead hangs on the bar in my community, which has been a godsend for my shoulders, and back. I used to suffer from a 7-year-old shoulder impingement injury in both my shoulders, until I saw a brilliant osteopath by the name of Kris Rai who recommended I dead hang. The benefits are many, and I will probably get into them in another blog.
  3. A leg workout involving squats, lunges, an elliptical run and some more rehab exercises involving pushing down on a foam roller to strengthen my quadriceps, to treat fat pad impingement in both my knees, which I injured in the gym in 2015.
  4. An ab workout – which I usually dread – that hits different parts of my core.

Although variety is undoubtedly the spice of life, I focus on a few exercises, aiming to perfect, and perform them everyday.

I feel a sense of calm when I execute the same motions repeatedly, and love as I gradually feel myself becoming stronger and growing into the healthy person I used to be. Conversely, when I find my routine gets too monotonous, I soothe my nerves and keep on keeping on by remembering the Zen Buddhist phrase, “Chop wood, carry water”.


Chaos, followed by order.

Right. Back to my day. Which was chaotic. I could not strike the big things off my to-do list because ad-hoc tasks kept popping up. I tried to bring some sense to matters by fully focusing on one job at a time, but to no avail.

Like I mentioned; I didn’t start my day right, so couldn’t give my all to each task. I got easily distracted and even made mistakes, further compounding the time taken to successfully finish each job.

But, all that was to change at 5:30 PM today. I had booked a strength and conditioning class at Spartans, and was raring to go. It had been over 1 week since I had set foot in the gym, and God, I missed it.

Prior to booking a class, I take stock of how my day is looking, and then go ahead and book. By way of this, I make a commitment to myself that I must show up, and hone my boxing skills, or improve my fitness levels. This means that I have to maximize productivity, and get my work done on time.

Simon was setting things up as I walked in, and he greeted me with his usual cheery and amicable self. I told him I was going to run my first 10K on Saturday, and he mentioned how completing it was a mental hurdle as opposed to physical. It was all in the head. I agreed. And couldn’t argue. After all, Simon said it! (I am an endless supply of dad jokes, sue me.)

Joining the class were Sam, a boxing coach at Spartans; Violette, who oversees things in the gym; and Sonal, who I hadn’t met before (I’m not sure if she is a member, or was in for a trial).

After Simon shared what gruelling circuits we’d be in for today, we stretched, and got down to working out to the best of our respective abilities…

The next 55 minutes proved instrumental in transforming my physical and mental state for the next 6 hours.

Because as I performed the exercises, I knew – without a reasonable doubt – that the only person I was competing with in that space was myself.

Nobody knows the extent of my injuries. Nobody knows what body part I’d worked out that day – or the day prior. Nobody knows if I’d had a physically exhausting day at a construction site. Or, conversely, a lethargic 7 hours spent working on my desk.

Nobody knows any of that. Except for me. Which is a sobering reality.

I know that I must work hard, yet smart. I know that I must push myself, whilst constrained by my body’s current limitations.

In sum: I know I must continually raise the bar, but lower it when needed.


As the session raged on, and I lunged forward on one knee, and lunged backward on the other; (to one of Whitney Houston’s most popular tracks – Simon has good taste) I stared at myself in the mirror, and noticed the lack of muscle on my quadriceps.

Whilst I previously would have looked at myself in repulsion, I now view myself with a healthy intrigue.

I briefly thought about how far I’ve come (I am now able to stand for long periods without pain in my knees, which is an achievement in and of itself) and how much further I have got to go.

There’s a long road ahead until I reach where I want to be physically, but it’s a journey worth undertaking – blood, sweat, and tears be damned.

And before I knew it, the class was over. I had become better. Over the course of 60-whirlwind-minutes.

Flying high at a HIIT boxing class on the weekend. I was a solo Spartan that morning. Shot by Dani on 20th February 2022, Spartans Boxing Club, Arjan, Dubailand.

No boxers at a boxing gym? Poetic.

With endorphins flowing, my mental state uplifted, and body buzzing with energy, I headed into the changing room to shower.

But upon hanging my change of clothes on the shower railing, I realized with dismay…I hadn’t brought a change of boxers. (My late start clearly still making me pay.)

There was no way I was going to wear the same pair I had just sweated buckets in. So I decided to go commando, and headed to Ibn Battuta Mall to collect my welcome pack for Saturday’s 10K.

Of course, nobody knew I went commando. And truth be told, it felt great.

I may or may not do this again…

Run Karan, run.

I learnt about the Expo Run 3 from Dani, a coach at Spartans Boxing Club who specializes in cardiovascular fitness. She also relishes punishing me with intense HIIT workouts, but you didn’t hear this from me.

She told me about the run in February. I could have chosen between the 3K, 5K, and 10K. But I delayed registering until last week, by which point only a slot for the 10K was available.

I signed up without hesitation, because I have decent fitness levels. But there’s the small matter of my knees not being in tip-top shape. Plus, I haven’t run in years.

Out of curiosity, I did some cursory research on Monday during my lunch-break to know what to expect when running a 10K for the first time.

I won’t lie; reading that people usually train for 3 – 4 weeks to prepare for a 10K gave me a slight jolt. Several articles confirmed this, giving me the butterflies.

But what put me at ease was learning that – as is usually the case – other people have faced the same dilemma in the past.

And what should they do but type their problem into the search bar, hoping for a solution that only good old Google can provide?

Yes, I fall into that bracket. You can have a hearty laugh. I sure did.

I was a decent short-distance runner in school (often finishing 3rd or 4th) but, if memory serves me correctly, I used to finish 6th or 7th in the long-distance runs.

Apart from the occasional jog, or less-than-occasional sprint, I haven’t run properly in over a decade. Mostly due to my knees.

But when I used to, I remember running with my earphones in until I experienced runner’s high. I loved that.

It remains to be seen how well I do on the day. What is crucial is not to get buoyed by the energy of the other runners, and run too fast, too soon, and exhaust myself.

I am not looking to set a PR. I should have fun, and enjoy the run. Go at my pace, and bear in mind that I will be running alongside those who have practised for this run for weeks, months, even.

As is the case: the only man I will attempt to best is myself. But all things considered, I will take it easy.

Here’s what I got for a 25 Dirham registration fee: the 3 Expo passes are welcome. I still haven’t been. Water will be provided on the course. Shot 22nd March 2022, Arjan, Dubailand.

I’m on the quest to become my best. Physically. Mentally. Creatively. Professionally. Spiritually.

Making the decision to join Spartans Boxing Club after a free trial, despite recovering from two long-term injuries in the form of my shoulders and knees, has been a boon.

I’ve always had a soft spot for contact sports (yes, that pun is as intentional just as the grass is green).

And I’m not quite sure why.

It might have been that one late night as I was on holiday in New Delhi, when I was 19 years young. I was lazily channel-surfing after a delightful dinner; Delhi’s fresh vegetables have nothing on the imported produce you get in Dubai.

I decided to check out what was going on in the world of sport. Until I stopped short, and my eyes started to widen. Slowly.

I had come across GSP absolutely mauling some poor nameless chap in The Octagon.

I do not remember the match, or its significance in that year’s UFC title championship.

All I remember is how he utterly dominated those few minutes. He stamped his authority on the judges’ scorecards, left the other guy bloody, and left an indelible mark on my impressionable teenage brain.

I’m not a violent guy. Far from it. But just as I’ve been endlessly striving to become the best version of myself, I’ve also been practicing an arcane ritual accessible only to men, which has not only made me more resilient, and eloquent, but highly emotional, creative, and aggressive too.

And I cannot think of a better avenue to channel raw, masculine energy than by practising a martial art. It humbles you. It disciplines you. It strengthens you.

I’ve been boxing for just under 3 months now. I even picked up a TFCC tear on my left wrist in the first month, which was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected given the circumstances.

But hindsight is a blessing, and in the time I couldn’t use my left wrist to its full ability, I built muscle in my lower body, which is something I must continue to focus on.

Every time I step into Spartans for a class, I push myself. I want to learn. I want to grow.

But boxing is both, one thing, and many things at the same time.

Boxing is a skill. Boxing is an art. Boxing is a sport. Boxing is self-defence. Boxing is a full-body workout. Boxing is a science.

And each time I don my gloves, I become acutely aware of how much I have to learn in this sphere.

It gets frustrating at times, I’ll admit. Then again, the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. (God, if there ever was a time to weave the perfect pop-cultural reference into my blog – that was it!)

I’ve accepted the fact that life is difficult, so the fact that life is difficult is irrelevant.

Ever since, I’ve been shouldering responsibility and expanding my comfort zone.

Funnily enough, when you decide to take matters into your own hands and journey into the unknown, you meet people.

People who seemingly magically waltz into your life. People who want the best for you. People who mentor you.

Like some of my coaches at Spartans. I’ve already mentioned Simon, who teaches the strength and conditioning class.

Simon has seriously great dad energy. By which I mean that he looks out for you. And pushes you to work harder. As described earlier, I like his taste in music. He also comes armed and ready with a great dad joke or two. (Or ten). And I, for one, am a massive advocate for an infallible dad joke.

Yet another coach I have come to greatly respect is Jalal, who joined recently. I had him saved as ‘Coach Jalal’ on my phone because that is how everybody referred to him as.

And it only took a couple of classes to see why. If there was anyone who’s earned the title of ‘Coach’, it’s him.

I keep it real. And I love people who do. Without pulling any punches, Jalal is a solid coach because he knows his shit. And gives a damn. Oh, and he does a decent moonwalk too.

That’s the first time I’ve cussed on my blog. I can’t quite brush aside the clichéd ‘there’s a first time for everything’, because it makes for the perfect segue as I conclude…

I’m going to run my first 10K in a few sleeps. On 26th March 2022. Is my body ready?

Hell, no! But just as I enrolled into a boxing gym on a whim, and found how it brought order to other areas of my life, I am sure this run will teach me a lesson or two on my journey of self-development.

So long as I take calculated risks on the grounds of the Expo 2020 Dubai, come Saturday morning.

Cheesing. Shot 22nd March 2022, Dubai.

I loved writing this blog – more so than usual. I hope you enjoyed reading. I am happy with the state of my writing and am excited to continue publishing. I will write about some of the positive effects boxing has had on my life in another blog. Until then, I will catch you in the next one.

When #DanSaidJes: unconditional love, and inspiring connections (part 1)

What a magnificent weekend! It is Sunday, 13th March 2022, 11:25 PM, as I’ve begun typing this. I’m in my office, and still riding a wave of euphoria, novelty, love, and surprise.

To say I have been looking forward to this wedding is putting it mildly.

I’ve been counting down to this date for several months, and decided to set a few goals at the outset. As history has taught me, having an upcoming event makes me work harder to achieve my goals.

I am somewhat satisfied with the progress I’ve made towards them, but this inspirational weekend also reinforced how much work remains before I get to where I want to be.

Which is why I’d like to thank you; Jesar and Daniel, for hosting your wedding in Abu Dhabi, sharing your love with us, and having me as part of your celebrations.

As cheesy as it sounds, I love love – it is a pure and incredibly powerful emotion – and one that, off-late, I’ve been giving myself healthy doses of. Love truly does conquer all. I also love functions that bring people together.

And your wedding delivered on both accounts, and how.

From witnessing friends reuniting after several years; to getting emotional at speeches (and making me tear up in the process) to connecting with new creative people (aka my favourite thing ever!) I am grateful to have experienced unconditional love, and uninhibited human connection these past 3 days.

I will elaborate on the events of this weekend in another blog. Stay tuned.

Until then, here are three memories that will not leave me in a hurry:

  1. I will never forget the vivid colours of the sky during magic hour. Just like me, it seemed like the clouds themselves had taken a leave of absence as the sun gradually set.
The gorgeous mandap. Shot 11th March 2022, Saadiyat Beach Club, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Completing this picturesque sight was the calming beach backdrop, the gentle sound of the waves as they lapped the shoreline, and the gorgeous mandap taking pride of place as I watched one of my oldest friends solemnly circle the sacrosanct flame. Priceless.

2. Receiving a trophy for hyping the ‘#DanSaidJes Party Squad’ WhatsApp group. Jesar – if that was an ad-hoc decision, wow, I am touched. If that was planned previously, that’s still excellent. I’m guessing it was the former. Either way, I loved it! I thrive on being the ultimate hype man and to have my efforts recognized like that was super. Big love, thank you.

3. This isn’t a memory as much as it is a bouncy, up-tempo Spanish EDM track, that is stuck in my head. (Appreciate the ID, Athena.) And you know what? I don’t mind it at all. Whilst I have outgrown my big-room house days – I now fiercely love underground house and techno – the role of dance music has always been to unite, and provide people with a cathartic release.

And based on the reactions from the yacht, Sangeet, and Reception, this tune collectively made us lose our marbles. That’s a win, in my book.

Big up, DJ DAD. He certainly knew what he was doing when he closed the wedding with this ravey, Carnaval-esque banger…

The transatlantic curse

To the US and Canada-bound crew, I trust you’re back safe and sound. (Update – just learnt that some guests tested positive for COVID-19. I hope it isn’t the latest variant, which can cause people to gain tremendous amounts of weight. It is quite annoying; it is called the om-nom-nom-ni-cron variant…

Yes, dad jokes are my specialty. Sorry, not sorry.)

Jokes aside, I hope you are able to acclimatize to your current time zone, and fast. Having flown in to the US several times (one trip included another unforgettable wedding in Hawaii) I know all too well how vexing dealing with jet lag is.

By the time you’ve adjusted to your local time zone, it is already time to fly back, and readjust.

I have two tips for you:

1. Get some sun to help reset your body’s circadian rhythm. Which will mean staying up during the day, even if your brain is telling you to sleep as per Gulf Standard Time (GST).

Suck it up peeps, life is difficult. (I’m only half-kidding. The sooner you accept this fact, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.)

2. Exercise. At night. If you’re the kind that feels sleepy after a workout, this works a charm! If you’re the kind that feels rejuvenated after a workout, like me…

…then God help you. May the Sandman pay you a visit ASAP, and cover your eyes with their magic dust.

Sri Lanka’s bountiful beaches beckon

Jesar, I trust you’re having a wonderful honeymoon in Sri Lanka. Although I’m sure Daniel’s got it planned to a T, I’ve visited in 2017 and have recommendations. If you’re looking to hang ten, Arugam Bay on the west coast has solid waves; Mirissa is home to whale-watching; and Hikkaduwa has a lovely beachside vibe.

View outside my Airbnb. 20th August 2017, Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka.

“The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will.”

Oh, Andy. From my early days in advertising to the on-going renaissance in my creative life, you continue to inspire from beyond the grave.

That’s about it from me. For now. I must make time to work on the second part of this blog, not to mention the #DanSaidJes wedding vlog. I am also considering to restart my Instagram-based t-shirt blog @teesonthestreets, thus ending my 2.5-year hiatus from social media.

Moving forward will be a tricky balancing act:

  • I’ve already got my hands full with my YouTube channel. Editing is a time-consuming process. More so when you’re learning from scratch, and despise releasing shoddy work.
  • The ideas for my blog are flowing freely. I’ve seemingly hit a purple patch in my writing. Most importantly, I’ve finally figured the secret to beat writer’s block…

Show up. And write. It’s not rocket science.

  • And after watching Susan’s vibrant UAE vlog, my mind ran abuzz with the possibilities of exploring TikTok. Susan, I love your vlog! Track choice was spot on. I’m not sure how much footage you shot and had to edit. Or did you shoot mini clips from TikTok itself? No idea how this works; but it was a fun watch, and succinctly summed up both, the wedding, and your trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I watched a few of your TikToks on my laptop and enjoyed them. If I download TikTok, you’ll be the first person I follow. I’m game to listen to someone talk about art, culture, and design.

So many projects. Not enough time. But that’s not your problem. It’s mine.

And it’s a good problem to have. To learn how to master your time, so you can have more time to do what makes you happy.

Which for me, is working on my creative endeavours.

Thank you all for coming down to Abu Dhabi, and for bringing your unique energy to make this weekend unforgettable. It was an absolute pleasure hanging with some of you. Have a strong week – I’ll catch you in the next blog.

Unravelling the curious case of @karangoesdancing

A story doesn’t have to appeal to the heart. It can also appeal to the spine.

And with two magic words…ay, no pressure.

That’s a handsome guy, extra hand notwithstanding. I clicked this on Sunday, 27th Feb 2022 on my way to Wadi Abadilah, Fujairah, with a vibrant and diverse crew.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s been a whirlwind week.

We’re into another weekend as I type this on Saturday, 5th March 2022, and I must get these words out now before life’s duties and responsibilities get in the way of my writing.

I’ve been itching to blog for months, but never seemed to find the words, or make the time.

But as any great writer knows, you must show up, even if your muse doesn’t.

The process must be trusted. The inspiration will flow. The words will come. The story will be told.

I’m in a good place in my life. I’m happy. But not content. There is much work to be done before I will be.

And once I get to that stage, I will set more goals, and work relentlessly towards achieving them.

If only I had this drive and determination a couple of years ago, I wonder where I’d be today.

That said; I don’t dwell on the past. I only learn from it. A wise man reviews history, analyses what they could have improved, and armed with that knowledge, boldly creates their future.

Which is why, in this two-part blog, I want to tell the story of the most creatively fulfilling year of my life (2018 – 2019) as an electronic dance music vlogger, and t-shirt blogger.

With the exception of a Twitter I barely use; I don’t have social media anymore. Although I use LinkedIn, I’m not lumping it along with the big three – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – because it is a different and necessary beast.

(I also loathe how it has aped Facebook’s UI, but that’s beside the point.)

Depending on who you ask, not being on social media may either be considered a cardinal sin or completely normal. What is worth examining, however, is your relationship with, and what you gain from it.

What follows is the unabridged tale of when I was building something greater than myself.

For the 1.5-minute-long version, watch my vlog.

If you like what you see, I would appreciate it if you subscribed to my channel.

Please let me know if you do so I can thank you.

I’ve only just started exploring YouTube and am excited by the myriad of creative opportunities it offers.

Life, in technicolour squares.

Having the time of my life at Mr. Scruff’s Boiler Room. Shot August 2018, Dekmantel Festival, Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam.

I can truthfully say I was using social media (esp. Instagram) as a means to an end – to gain employment. Which is not wrong. My heart was in the right place, but I lacked focus.

With the wisdom of hindsight, I can restart my second digital project (@teesonthestreets) this year, so long as I stay true to the core idea.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s get into the story of my first digital identity @karangoesdancing…

Let’s go dancing. I wanna go dancing with you, all night dancing.

My end goal was to secure a job covering underground electronic dance music across Europe. Either as a journalist, presenter, vlogger, or DJ. Although I already held a day job as an advertising copywriter, I had become disillusioned with the gig 3 years in. The reasons for my disillusionment? Several, but chief amongst them was that I didn’t see the point to my work, because I felt I wasn’t contributing anything of value to the world.

To reach my goal, I decided to hone my creative and social media skills through @karangoesdancing, where I would post Stories involving a mix of vlogs, photos, and blogs every day. All I did was change my existing handle (where I had some 300 followers) and start sharing content that was dance-music-focused.

Post with purpose, essentially.

I started experimenting with vlogs on Instagram in June 2018, making them for myself and noticed that people enjoyed watching. Note; I wasn’t strictly talking about music back then.

I merely went about my day, documented it, and had fun doing so.

After losing my job in advertising (mostly due to managerial changes, in part because my love for it had waned, and it showed) in September 2018, I decided to – with unconditional support from my parents – put all my eggs into the music vlogging basket.

My folks gave me a year to do as I deemed fit (known as a gap year in universities) and I was intrigued to see where this path would take me…

And this path certainly took me places! Some highlights:

1. Being asked to handle on-site social media creation for a boutique Burning Man-esque music festival called Magnetic Fields, held in a heritage 17th-century palace in Jaipur, India.

This photo is from 2017, my first time in these hallowed halls. 2018 – my second time at the festival – was the year I handled social media for them.
Magnetic Fields was my first proper music festival and it was there, under the stars – as I listened to Four Tet, spellbound – I decided to devote my life to music in some way.

2. I was invited to a panel discussion – organized by my favourite club, Analog Room – about preventing harassment on dancefloors. Related: read my blog which sparked this conversation across India, Europe, and the Middle East, which led to the invite.

Flanked by Pooja to my right, one of my best friends, and a measured techno artist. Shot January 2019, The Flip Side, Dubai.

3. Meeting, and befriending my favourite artists, some of whom shared nuggets of wisdom on leading a creative life. I also crossed paths with veterans from the music industry, who guided me on how to succeed in the business.

Hanging with Anastasia after her gig. She closed her set with a cheeky, and classic techno track. Shot October 2018, Analog Room, Dubai.

4. Winning 4 passes to Glitch Festival, and reuniting with rave-happy friends in gorgeous Malta, who came to party, no questions asked, in the summer of 2019.

Aleks, thank you for coming down to dance with me to Carl Cox. You’re a legend. And a half. I trust you’re killing the wildlife…photography, but of course! Fingers crossed your shots make it to National Geographic one day.
(PS – Yes, I know, that’s Peggy Gou on stage. This is our best photo from the festival.)
Shot August 2019, Glitch Festival, Malta.

Amy and Martina, I trust you guys are well and have accepted your new lives as overnight Boiler Room sensations. I still crack up about our reunion at 25:40 minutes into that solid set. Shot August 2019, Glitch Festival, Malta.

5. And last, but not least, connecting with people across the world through music.

I look back in gratitude at these magnificent experiences. And cannot believe what an extraordinary year that was.

…but I’d like to direct your attention as to why I started doing this in the first place.

I wanted to make a career of this, remember? And when you commodify yourself with an identity like @karangoesdancing, there comes a pressure to keep up appearances, especially on social media, where everybody seems to be having the time of their lives.

So, I chose to share,

but selectively.

Cherry-pick and publish highlights.

Things appeared rosy and hunky-dory on camera. But, for better or worse, (better, in my opinion) life is not a party.

There are highs, and lows.

That’s just the way life goes.

Whilst things seemed great digitally,

my physical life was in tatters.

My parents weren’t happy with my still-fledgling career choice. Besides, I wasn’t making any money doing this.

To remedy that, I started freelance writing. I was excellent at my job, so made enough to get by, but working freelance requires extreme dedication, and self-discipline. None of which I had at that time; I’ll admit. My food and living expenses (not to mention credit card bills) were also generously paid for by my loving parents.

I was doing what I loved but wasn’t working to a game plan. Whilst I had connected with key players in the music industry, I wasn’t sure how to leverage these connections into landing a job. And when I wasn’t creating content; I chose to party instead of work.

Common sense dictates you must have a mentor when you journey into the unknown. Especially in a field as hyper-competitive as music.

But what happens when you embark on

a journey by yourself, wanting nothing but to connect with and make people happy due to the naivete in your heart, yet also wanting to make it lucrative – thus going against your fundamental principles for doing something creative

– at the same time?

You overthink. And crash. And burn. Hard. And when you’re a self-professed hedonist, you turn to your vices. Which, for me, was unbridled pleasure.

Sexual gratification. I’d lose myself in lust for days at a time, but like a hamster running aimlessly on the hedonic treadmill, I’d return to my baseline level of happiness after reaching massive heights of ecstasy.

What’s worse is that I would repeat my mistakes, and like good old Pavlov’s dog himself, go through the same thought-stimulus-pleasure loop.

I don’t want to elucidate on this dark period, but of two things I am sure:

1. There is immense work to be done in the shadows, and on my Shadow, before I get to where I want to be. What’s encouraging is that the work began some time ago, and I’ve grown since.

2. Everything in nature is cyclical, and things are bound to improve. So long as we are conscious of our limitations, and make pushing past our comfort zones part of our daily routines.


Back to the story, then. Nobody knew what mental tug-of-war I was going through, yet I blissfully continued sharing Story after Story every day, creating ridiculous hype leading up to Glitch Festival – so when I was awarded 4 free festival passes, I was not surprised.

I’d organically grown my page from a paltry 300 something followers to a 1500-strong community in the span of 11 months.

The math worked out to about 110 new followers every month, which was decent, considering I wasn’t sharing any sponsored posts. I merely interacted with the global dance music community. I also viewed each person I connected with as a, well, person, and not a number.

Although I must say: this number included several bots. I’d be quick on the uptake to block them, but if memory serves me correctly, they would still count as part of your follower count. I do not remember.

People were following my journey every step of the way (the analytics didn’t lie) and were keen to hear my thoughts about this sonic festival on the sun-drenched shores of idyllic Malta.

And I was just as eager to tell that story, but couldn’t do so in good conscience upon my return from that significant trip because of a decision I had to make…

To do what is right, or what is difficult?

That is the question.

My year was up. I had to answer my parents – would I continue the music-vlogging shenanigans (and continue freelance writing on the side), or would I join the family acoustics business?

Frankly, I didn’t have to think long. I was done writing for brands. It was dull work, and I was not a self-starter. It was the same job I’d come to hate over the past few years, except this time I was on my own. No team to help.

I had to be the judge of my own work; which I’ll admit, has held me in good stead…

The music-vlogging was fun whilst it lasted. But I knew the party had to end at some point. Over the course of my vlogging efforts, I was offered one job in the music industry in Dubai, but I didn’t follow up when I should have.

So, I bit the bullet and joined my family business in September 2019. I decided to go off the grid by:

  1. Deactivating both my Instagram accounts @karangoesdancing and @teesonthestreets;
  2. Deactivating my Facebook;
  3. Turning off WhatsApp notifications, and archiving a bunch of chats so I wouldn’t be disturbed;
  4. And not responding to anyone, no matter what remaining platform (such as SoundCloud) they reached out to me from.

Many thought I had died, or worse. It was a selfish decision but had to be done. I had to give my all in this new field. On occasion, I felt the brunt of leaving people (including friends) in the dark, and it stung. But, I had to focus on the bigger picture. My goal was crystal-clear: I had to rise to the occasion of shouldering my family business.


I’d be lying if I said it was smooth sailing post my return from Malta. But, after a year and a half of impostor phenomenon, mistakes, stress, (coupled with the tempestuous time that was 2020 – hola, COVID-19!) I have somewhat found my feet in the esoteric (who am I kidding, this stuff isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be) field of acoustics.

Whilst I do not enjoy every part of my job, I feel satisfied from seeing a project through to completion. I also enjoy managing my team. But, this is no ordinary job, nor can I treat it as such.

This is my business. And I must treat it with the care and attention it deserves.

What I lack in technical know-how, I make up for with my interpersonal skills and resilient attitude: I get the job done, no matter what.

I’ve also belatedly realized that a career in advertising has given me three invaluable skills:

1. For one; I can communicate. Competently. Which already puts me head and shoulders above the masses in the construction industry. Where it seems like people cannot write a coherent email, or give a clear order to save their life…

2. Two; it has sharpened my thinking – the best creative is rooted in logic and insight. Which will no doubt play a vital role as I progress in my career, and deal with people from varying walks of life, and contrasting worldviews.

3. And three; I can sell. Effectively. I’ve recently begun taking an interest in our company’s social media page, and know that growing a business’ digital presence boils down to staying human, no matter how large you become, and utilizing the usual social media strategies – and some unusual ones, too…


I sometimes miss the halcyon days of vlogging about electronic music as @karangoesdancing. But, they’re just that – a time rooted in nostalgia.

It is okay to reminisce on occasion. Anything beyond does more harm than good.

I might return to that side of myself in the future but on a different platform.

Time will tell.

Electronic music is incredibly dear to me and has played a telling role during several moments in my life, shaping me into the man I am today.

Looking ahead, the story of my other digital side-project (@teesonthestreets) remains to be told, which deserves its own blog. Which I will publish. Soon.


If you’ve read this far, thank you. I appreciate it when people read my words, or listen to my story. If you got something from this blog, please get in touch, or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

I missed this. So much. Blogging, that is. I would love it if you subscribed to my blog, but I want to make it worth your while. I want you to gain value from my words. I want you to feel something each time you receive my thoughts in your inbox. I want to write words that resonate with you.

That is what I’ve always wanted. Which is why I won’t ask you to subscribe again. At least not until I’ve built a habit of publishing on a regular basis, and consistently producing work that I am happy with.

The last time I published was in December 2018. The only reason for not publishing since then is because I was scared to write. But now, as I rediscover my creative capabilities, I know that writing is not as tricky as I made it out to be in my head.

After all, I was paid to write. And when people pay you to do something, you must be doing something right, even – and especially – if you don’t recognise it yourself.

No matter what creative activity I pursue, writing will be my first love. I find it deeply cathartic, and view it as a medium where I can allow myself to be vulnerable.

You cannot hide with words.

And if you know me even slightly, you would know I’m a guy who doesn’t mince his words, and wears his heart on his sleeve.

Which makes perfect sense. Because when I write, I write from the heart and look to connect not only with myself but you, dear reader.

I look forward to sharing more stories with you. Catch you in the next blog.

My new life’s goal: stomp out sexual harassment on the dancefloor

This is the second post in a two-part series where I write about club culture and the vicious problem of sexual harassment on dancefloors. You can read the first part here.

 

In 5 years of clubbing, my focus was strictly on dancing.

 

 

31st December 2015

I remember the first time I felt the booming kick-drums of a dark, Berghain-esque techno track thumping in my chest, here in Dubai.

 

Deian Markov had just dropped Ben Klock’s classic ‘Subzero’, at the region’s best (and my favourite local) electronic music festival – Groove on the Grass – to devastating effect. I began to stomp with joy, like a man possessed.

 

3rd August 2018

I can never forget Aretha Franklin’s passionate voice washing over and purifying me at Dekmantel Festival, where Ricardo Villalobos was in fine form. I was one reveller amongst many in an exotic crowd at the Amsterdamse Bos.

 

I raised my hands to the heavens and began to clap in ecstasy. Looking around, I noticed many were doing the same.

 

 

18th October 2018

I was pounding my fists wildly to the squelchy, bass-heavy, TR-909 influenced acid in Analog Room. In the thick of this madness, A Guy Called Gerald and I exchanged a look. He flashed a toothy smile; of course, he was toying with me!

 

I paused to catch my breath and sip my water, shaking my head in delight.

 

 

IMG_20181019_033802.jpg

19th October 2018, 3:38 AM. I considered Gerald Simpson a legend, but he was a no-nonsense Mancunian just doing his job.

 

The only thing that mattered in all those moments was the music. I’d close my eyes and lose myself to a repetitive beat, feeling as free as a songbird. Having worked up a sweat on the dancefloor, I’d go home safe and sound. Anticipating the next glorious night.

 

As a man, I can have these cathartic experiences week in and week out. Without worrying about who’d grope me. Or wondering if my drink would get spiked. Not thinking about dressing up, or down. After all, there would be no thirsty pair of eyes wandering to my cleavage.

 

One fateful night, my world was turned upside down. It’s when my utterly naive perspective of nightclubs changed. What follows is the blow-by-blow account of when my eyes were opened to the horrors that women have to face on dancefloors.

 

 

Bucharest, Romania.
The night began how it always does. By breaking bread.

 

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21st August 2018, 9:16 PM. About to dig into some classic spaghetti bolognese cooked up by two cool dudes I met on my first night at The Midland Hostel. The birthday week I spent here will be one for the books.

 

My comrades for the night were taking far too long to leave the hostel – they wanted to get sufficiently drunk to save money at the club. Understandable. But as a rule of thumb, I always aim to reach the club early – I don’t drink, so it works nicely for me. This is because I want to catch the warm-up DJ in action.

 

After what seemed like ages, we headed out.

 

The night was still young. And we were looking to have fun. After all, we were celebrating my 25th year of life.

 

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22nd August 2018, 12:55 AM. Admiring the city by night while my friends stopped to rest.

We arrived at Control Club, an establishment that promised quality house and techno. At the door, I bumped into a jovial Lebanese group. Turns out they were from Dubai too and taking advantage of the Eid break.

 

Great minds think alike, eh?

 

The hours passed by quick. Before we knew it, it was 3 AM. My friends were tired (alcohol no doubt playing a role) and decided to call it a night.

 

As for me? I wasn’t going anywhere! It was my quarter-century, and I was celebrating it the only way I knew best; by dancing the night away.

 

The club was divided into two rooms, with a bar in each. There was a third bar in the lounge outside, which doubled as a smoking area.

 

I was in the main room, where a local DJ was providing the beats to my birthday.

 

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22nd August 2018, 3:24 AM. First time I saw someone DJ topless. A casual night in Bucharest, or so I thought…

I was looking for someone to talk to when I saw her. She seemed to be enjoying the music far too much, which was lovely. But what intrigued me was that she didn’t look Romanian.

 

“You’re not from here, are you?” I asked, with a massive smile and twinkle in my eye.

“I’m Scottish!” she beamed, as only someone from that magnificent country could.

“Who are you with?” I enquired, surprised to see a girl out on her own.

In response, she pulled a bespectacled, gangly dude towards her. I had earlier noticed him disinterestedly looking around the club.

 

My first thought was that he resembled Harry Potter.

 

So for the purposes of this story, I’ll call him Harry. His girlfriend: Kate.

 

“Nice to meet you, Harry and Kate. My name’s Karan. I’m from Dubai, and I’m so happy to be celebrating my 25th birthday in Bucharest!” I yelled, both to make myself heard over the music and out of sheer joy at finding some Scots.

“What are you doing all the way out here?” asked Kate, who seemed to be just as happy to meet me.

“What are you doing all the way out here?!” I playfully retorted.

 

With names exchanged, nothing more had to be said. I instantly felt a stronger connection to Kate, who was more exuberant than Harry. Her energy levels matched mine, and I loved it.

 

We danced away until, as these things usually go, the DJ played a track all three of us instantly recognised.

 

 

“Mate, this is my track! I fucking love this song!” I exclaimed to Kate.

 

Without thinking, I hoisted myself up on the table in front of the DJ. I told him it was my birthday and thanked him for playing this. He shook my hand and wished me happiness.

 

I began to dance freely. Out of the corner of my closed eyes, I noticed Kate recording me, and couldn’t care less. The entire room seemed to be buoyed by my excitement, and the energy levels noticeably increased.

 

Another guy wanted to share this marvellous moment. So he got up and stood beside me. I turned to him, half expecting a dance-off. Turns out, he was one of those types.

 

The kind that come to clubs to show they’re having a good time rather than actually having a good time.

 

He had his phone’s selfie camera open. Nevermind that it couldn’t capture his face in the club’s lighting. He needed a Snapchat/Instagram video to show his ‘friends’ and justify coming to the club.

 

“Oh, you poor, poor man. Why don’t you just enjoy the moment?” I asked myself rhetorically.

 

After shooting his 10-second video, he immediately stepped down. Or was that because he spotted the bouncer?

 

It may have been a bit of both. The burly Eastern European told me to get down. I tried telling him it was my birthday. He couldn’t understand me, so I got down as fast as my legs would allow.

 

I couldn’t afford to get thrown out of the club, not tonight of all nights!

 

I got down and hugged Kate and Harry, feeling on top of the world.

 

“Is this what the vibe at Sub Club is like?” I asked excitedly, as adrenaline flowed through my body.

 

“You know Subby?!” Kate responded, eyes popping.

 

Sub Club is a crown jewel in Glasgow’s nightlife, an institution with a 30-year history.

 

“Of course I do! I’ve always wanted to dance there!” I shouted delightfully.

 

Amidst all this excitement, Harry offered to buy a round of drinks.

 

I politely declined, asking for a water instead.

 

So he went to the bar, while we stayed behind on the dance floor.

 

This is when Kate was sexually harassed for the first time. It would happen later again tonight.

 

Before we go further, I’d like you to watch this short clip to get a feel of the club.

 

Please watch it. It will help immerse you in this story.

 

Kate was dancing a few feet away from me. Taking a moment to rest, I looked around, sipping my water.

 

Which is when I saw him staring in my direction.

 

He was standing alone in the corner of the dancefloor.

 

What struck me first was his unsteady posture. Then, his blank eyes. I could tell his head wasn’t in the right place.

 

I continued to observe. He didn’t seem to notice me.

 

I looked back at Kate. I turned to him.

 

He was raping her with a ravenous gaze.

 

“You can look as long as you don’t touch.” I thought, feeling protective towards Kate. 

 

He kept staring. Until something in his foggy mind clicked.

 

With a few long strides, he covered the distance between them.

 

I knew what was about to happen. So I hurriedly rushed forward.

 

Alas. I was too late.

 

He raised a greedy hand and felt Kate’s behind.

 

Alarmed, she turned. She saw me in the middle and pieced together what had just happened.

 

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I confronted him, angrily.

 

“I…I thought she was my friend.” came his meek reply.

 

“Bullshit! I saw the way you were looking at her! Who does that to a friend anyway?” I was livid.

 

“Karan, let it go.” Kate’s gentle Glaswegian lilt interrupted us.

 

“What do you mean?! You know what he did to you.” my anger giving way to confusion.

 

“It’s okay. It’s happened before. I don’t want Harry to know.” she said, defeatedly.

 

With that, Kate dragged me away before it was about to become physical.

 

“How is – how was that okay?!” I demanded to know, mere feet away from the perpetrator.

 

“You’ve seen Harry, he’s not one to fight. I’d rather just avoid him knowing, you know what I mean?” explained Kate.

 

“I’m not one to pick fights either, Kate. But I will fight for what’s right. And that wasn’t cool.”

 

“I know. But please just don’t tell him. I don’t want to ruin our holiday.” she finished.

 

Harry returned with two drinks, and we pretended as if nothing had happened.

 

I’d never experienced this over the past 5 years of clubbing. Probably because I was too focused on dancing.

 

It dawned on me that I was massively unaware of the numerous issues women have to endure each time they go out.

 

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22nd August 2018, 4:22 AM. I sampled the music in the smaller room but it wasn’t for me.

 

I turned to my friends, who were arguing. Harry wasn’t feeling the music, so he decided to step out for a smoke. He handed his drink to Kate and left the dancefloor.

 

Soon after, the music began to pick up again. So did the mood.

 

I looked at Kate, merrily swaying to the music with her eyes closed, holding two Jack and Cokes.

In that transcendent moment, I knew she was the happiest person in the room. She was incredibly sweet and reminded me of my friends from the UK.

We had only known each other for a few hours, yet bonded in a way only two strangers on the dancefloor could.

Clubs accelerate the process of getting to know people.

So I wondered…why Kate?

What had she done to be sexually harassed by that lecherous man?

Just because she seemed to be alone? What role did alcohol play in affecting that vicious man’s thought process?

Do men always prey on the friendliest women?

 

Just as I was processing all this, Kate was sexually harassed again. Twice, in the span of thirty minutes.

 

A clumsy man dressed in black suddenly sidled up to and started grinding against her.

 

She couldn’t do much to fend him off but move away, as her hands were occupied with two drinks.

 

He continued to awkwardly inch close.

 

I moved forward and pushed him away, poking him in his temple.

 

Righting himself, he looked me in my eyes.

 

“Are you crazy? What the fuck is wrong with you!” I bellowed.

 

I stood toe-to-toe with him. I could smell his breath, and it reeked of liquor.

 

The vulture tried to respond, but all it could manage was some intoxicated gibberish.

 

“What made you think you could do that to me?” asked Kate, too kindly for my liking.

 

This glassy-eyed creep could barely stand.

 

I knew we wouldn’t get anything out of him. We decided to leave and look for Harry in the lounge.

 

“Argh! What the fuck is wrong with men! Why are we like this?!” I shouted at the sky.

 

“Tonight’s been alright. I’ve seen worse.” said Kate, matter-of-factly.

 

“Are you okay?” I enquired, putting my arm around her shoulder.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine. I won’t let a few arseholes ruin my night. I’m Scottish, innit.” smiled Kate.

 

I gave her a tight squeeze, appreciating her effort to lighten the mood.

 

She wouldn’t say it. But her voice wasn’t deceiving me. Her night had been ruined.

 

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22nd August 2018, 5:15 AM. We eventually found Harry sitting by himself, having a smoke next to some lonely plants.

 

We left the club soon after to make the long but lovely walk back to our respective homes.

 

The time had finally come to part.

 

Even though I hadn’t connected with Harry as I had with Kate, his company was welcome.

 

I bade goodbye, wishing him the best.

 

I turned to Kate. We embraced, unsure as to when we’d see each other again.

 

“Katey. Mate. I’m gonna miss you so much!”

 

“I’ll miss you too. Come visit us in Glasgow! I’ll take you to Subby. It’s always a cracking night out!” she said, with a hearty grin.

 

“One day. Until then, take care of yourself. Try and stay out of trouble, can ya?” I teased her.

 

“Thank you so much for everything, tonight. I appreciate it.” she said, lowering her voice an octave.

 

And with that, we headed our separate ways.

 

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22nd August 2018, 7:23 AM. After raving in the dark all night, what could we do but squint by day?

 

I turned one final time to look back at them.

 

Kate looked back too. And gave me a flying kiss.

 

I cheerfully waved back with a peace sign. Then faced the road ahead of me, bathed in sunlight.

 

Bucharest’s streets were abuzz with activity. The capital’s workforce had stirred a while ago.

 

I walked and walked. Putting one foot in front of the other. I knew the way. But just as night had turned to day, the scenes were still raw in my mind.

 

I searched within myself for meaning. I knew that tonight would permanently stick with me, just as that first guy’s hand did to Kate.

 

Or how that second guy wouldn’t leave her alone.

 

Sexual harassment scared me. As a man, it will probably never physically scar me. But trust me when I say: it stung to watch my friend suffer from the uncontrolled sexual urges of my fellow men.

 

As I write this, DVS1’s piercing ‘Black Russian‘ plays on repeat.

 

I can see a million faceless women in my mind’s eye. And with each sharp clap in that track, I can feel another million wanton male hands laying claim to what is not theirs.

 

And I am filled with a white-hot rage.

 

What if tonight, instead of Kate, it was my sister?

 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to curb sexual harassment. If it doesn’t take place as blatantly as it did in this story, you can bet women are still being groped as they navigate through a rowdy dancefloor or milling crowd.

 

That said, here’s what you (as a man) can do to combat sexual harassment on the dancefloor.

 

First off, if you get a little too horny for your own good – for God’s sake, go easy on the drink, man.

 

  1. Keep checking with your female friends to see if they’re fine. It doesn’t hurt to ask because sometimes, women can keep mum about it.
  2. The above doesn’t just apply to your friends. When taking a break from dancing, look around and see how the women around you are doing.
  3. If you spot something ugly, step in. It doesn’t matter how much bigger the other guy is. Man up. You’d be surprised how many bigger guys I’ve taken on, armed with nothing but a level-head and street smarts. Sometimes, all it takes is a well-placed quip to diffuse a tense situation.
  4. Can’t do anything? Immediately raise the alarm. If security does not listen, speak to the promoter. If that falls on deaf ears too, speak to the DJ. Stop the party if you must. But don’t let that man get away. Because then he’ll do it again. And again. Giving him an arrogant air of invincibility.

 

 

Last but not least. Don’t be a creep.

 

Although if that’s just who you are, reading this probably won’t change your behaviour.

 

But you’d better believe that as long as the sun shines, I’ll do everything in my power to fight sexual harassment.

 

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22nd August 2018, 8:32 AM. The first rays of sun after the rave are the hottest. But they’re also the ones that build the most character.

Finding My Sense of Self On The Dancefloor

I want to make clubs safe spaces for women. We can work towards making this happen by starting conversations, which is why I wrote this blog. Please read, and let me know your thoughts. Share, if you feel like. With love, Karan.

Life. Camera. Karan.

Boiler Room. Berlin.

Those three words are probably my favourite phrase in club culture.

For the uninitiated, Boiler Room is a party that started in 2010 which broadcasts underground, mostly electronic musicians to the world.

It began when English DJ, radio host and presenter Thristian Richards got home from a night out.

He wasn’t ready to hit the sack just yet.

Here’s what happened. He had some rum, weed, and a pair of decks.

So he called his friend Blaise over, invited a few of their close friends and threw a party in an abandoned warehouse in London – in the boiler room.

Except.

They live-streamed it using Ustream, a company now owned by IBM.

Boiler Room came into existence as an intimate gathering of music and fun.

But it’s exploded over the past 8 years, capturing the imaginations and envy of millions of people around the world.

Why envy?

Because…

View original post 1,299 more words

Finding My Sense of Self On The Dancefloor

Boiler Room. Berlin.

Those three words are probably my favourite phrase in club culture.

For the uninitiated, Boiler Room is a party that started in 2010 which broadcasts underground, mostly electronic musicians to the world.

It began when English DJ, radio host and presenter Thristian Richards got home from a night out.

He wasn’t ready to hit the sack just yet.

Here’s what happened. He had some rum, weed, and a pair of decks.

So he called his friend Blaise over, invited a few of their close friends and threw a party in an abandoned warehouse in London – in the boiler room.

Except.

They live-streamed it using Ustream, a company now owned by IBM.

Boiler Room came into existence as an intimate gathering of music and fun.

But it’s exploded over the past 8 years, capturing the imaginations and envy of millions of people around the world.

Why envy?

Because everybody wants their 15-minutes of fame. Remember Andy Warhol’s declaration?

“In the future, everyone will be worldfamous for 15 minutes.”

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27th January 2017. My first Boiler Room. Their first Middle Eastern showcase. I partied with my best friend in a parking lot, grooving to Analog Room homeboy Nasrawi’s funky tunes, Nosaj Thing and Ryan Hemsworth.

He said that 51 years ago, in 1968. We’re almost in 2019.

The future is now. And it scares me.

We’re facing a host of major problems. I’ll name four: political unrest, poverty, lack of education and war.

Others, such as climate change, deforestation and pollution threaten our survival as a species on planet Earth as we know it.

Then, there’s one nagging problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Misogyny.

It’s everywhere. Sometimes, hiding in plain sight. It’s also a topic I can write about in detail in another blog.

For now, back to the Boiler Room. Where I saw something that shook me to my core.

Boiler Room is the epitome of cool. You could be dancing next to superstar DJ Carl Cox in a private villa in Ibiza, or sweating it out in an airplane-hangar in a forest outside Amsterdam.

Incidentally, I make an appearance in that second Boiler Room. If you love techno as much as me, then I highly recommend you watch the entire set.

Or, if you’d like to see an overexcited dude that refuses to grow up, wearing a pineapple-covered shirt and unabashedly supporting his favourite DJ, click here.

I insist you watch that 45-second clip, it’s the last minute of the same set.

Did you spot me? I’m in the bottom-left, shaking my head in disbelief. Wondering how I found myself there, raving to Charles Duff’s alias Matrixxman’s signature spellbinding acid.

Towards the end, Boiler Room host Michail Stangl aka Opium Hum proclaims that in 2025, this will be the set that inspires young producers to pick up electronic music production.

That’s precisely when I can’t contain my excitement any longer and cheer in delight.

When I look at myself, sweaty and smiling broadly on the dance floor, I see a person who’s found their place in the world.

Strange statement, you would think. But then, my first true nightclub experience was in Lancaster, a place that was instrumental in shaping me into the person I’ve become today.

Since then I’ve been on dancefloors in Dubai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, New York, London, Manchester, Paris, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Berlin, Yerevan, Plovdiv, Bucharest and more.

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4th August 2018. Day 2 of Dekmantel Festival. RBMA graduate Palms Trax (Jay Donaldson) delivered a feel-good set that capped off a wonderful day of music and new friends. How I wish I could go back to the time spent dancing on tables…

Dancefloors are strangely beautiful places.

They’re strange because you may see a person every weekend on the same spot for months, yet never speak.

If you do, it’s the customary “Hey! How’s it going?” before you can’t hear each other, and settle for speaking at the end of the night. Which usually doesn’t happen.

On the other hand, they’re beautiful because you might experience a life-changing revelation, meet your significant other or become life-long friends with someone that affects your worldview for the better.

Then again, if you’re a woman, there are some dancefloors you wish you’d never stepped foot on.

To show you what I mean, I’d like you to watch another Boiler Room clip. This one’s from Berlin, a city I will endeavour to move to.

Now while this does not contain explicit graphic content – it was painful for me to watch.

This is the clip in question.

Did you watch it? Please do. What I’m about to say won’t make sense if you don’t watch what happened.

Now. You would have noticed the girl in purple to the right of your screen, losing herself to the music.

And who should be behind her? A guy. Slyly placing an unwelcome hand on her hip.

She tells him to back off. He laughs mischievously, almost arrogantly. If you continue to watch for the next two minutes, you’ll notice he makes another unsolicited move, invading her personal space and trying to lay claim to her body.

As the beat slows down and shifts to a repetitive, somewhat sinister vocal sample, you can see the carnal thirst in his eyes. He leers at her like a piece of meat, breathing uncomfortably on the nape of her neck.

I can only imagine what’s going on in this predator’s head. And I fear what might have happened if they were on a deserted street at night, minus the safety that numbers can offer.

And this is only what was caught on camera.

Who knows what else occurred that night? Were there any other women tormented by a man that couldn’t keep his hands to himself?

I haven’t directed you to minute ’55 when the perpetrator first appears on the scene.

The girl in the purple dress engages him – as I would expect her to – she seems nice, dancing happily and having the time of her life.

But as you’ll continue to watch, the next few minutes paint a vile but true picture of club culture. An ugly picture that we often relegate to the shadows.

Sexual harassment and misogyny is pervasive and scary. It breeds in the dark, preying on all women; regardless of race, skin tone, body type and sexual orientation.

It can come from 6-foot tall gym rats or your average Joe.

And if we don’t solve this global problem, one night at a time, it will continue to scar women – some, who I know have been scarred for life.

I’ve spent countless nights on dancefloors. Not one of them has been uneventful.

Whether listening to a set that left me speechless, getting carried away with vices and partying for days on end – I wouldn’t change a thing.

That’s because, and I say this again: they’ve made me who I am.

Here are a few aspects of my life that have improved because of going to clubs:

  1. Time management whether at a festival or club, tough choices have to be made. Do you spend an hour dancing to DVS1’s dark, twisted techno or Dixon’s uplifting deep house?
  2. Leadership abilities – I’ve handled a ragtag bunch of characters on many a night out. This stuff is not a drill. As with any job, experience is the best teacher.
  3. Discipline – I don’t drink in clubs anymore. When I used to, I had to decide: do I drink one more G&T now and risk a hangover tomorrow? Similarly, I’ve now learnt when to cut my losses on a bad night and leave, rather than stay and hope it improves.
  4. Enjoying the moment – in a world full of notifications, being mindful of the present moment has often served me to great effect.
  5. Social skills – honing the art of conversation; reading body language; being kind and empathetic, and understanding personal space are just four things that come to mind.

However, I was taught the most important lesson this past summer in Bucharest.

This night took place on my 25th birthday, irrevocably affecting and consequently changing me. It gave me a mission. One I want to dedicate my life towards.

You can read about it in my next post, which will be a gonzo style account involving a Scottish couple and how we danced until the sun rose. Keep your eyes peeled.

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3rd August 2018. Day 1 of Dekmantel Festival. Life-lessons from the best: Matrixxman (Charles Duff) has been a massive inspiration. Hardworking, funny, humble and bold, every creative should take a leaf out of this brilliant dude’s book.

Counting the days until Dekmantel Festival

“I’m afraid it’s not looking good, Aziz.” said the good doctor, with a troubled look on his face.

“Wha-what do you mean, doc?” came the nervous reply.

“You haven’t got long.”

An awkward pause followed. The tension was palpable.

“How long do I have?” whimpered Aziz.

“10.” he said, with an air of finality.

“Ten? Ten what?! Years? Months? Weeks?” pleaded Aziz.

“10.”

“9…8…7…6…5…”

Have you heard this joke? I can’t seem to recall when or where I first did.

We know what’s coming for Aziz. And yet, as we hear the doctor counting down the seconds, we sense a nervous excitement in the air.

Hang on. That’s just me finding excitement in Aziz’s plight. Not you.

I tend to get overly excited about things.

For the past 7 months, I’ve been doing a daily countdown of my own. And there’s nothing macabre about what I’m looking forward to.

I’m ecstatic to say that in 2 weeks, I will be attending Dekmantel, my first international music festival!

I fell in love with music festivals last year, when I attended my first major one called Magnetic Fields. I will write about that experience another time. For now, read on to find out why I’m buzzing about Dekmantel!

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Meet Casper Tielrooij and Thomas Martojo.

Let me take you back to the basics and give you a background of the Dekmantel brand. Casper and Thomas were childhood friends who grew up in The Hague, The Netherlands’ third largest city. They had a burning passion for electronic music and took the train to Amsterdam every other weekend to explore the capital’s booming techno scene.

Over time, they started hosting parties, inviting close friends to spin tunes. What started out as intimate gigs in small clubs under the ‘Dekmantel’ name, became bigger as word began to spread.

Realising it wouldn’t be sustainable to stick to their preferred nightclubs, Thomas and Casper met the demands of an expanding crowd by moving to larger venues.

They launched their eponymous record label soon after, which turned out to be a winning move. Unsurprisingly, the Dudes from Den Haag had developed a keen ear and distinctive taste for dance music.

Following this, the next natural step in Dekmantel’s steady success story was to create their own festival – which they launched in the summer of 2013.

The first edition of Dekmantel Festival was held in the lush and scenic Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest).

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The Selectors Stage. I’m particularly excited to watch Lena Willikens perform. Her sets are equally trippy as they are dancey. Shot by Duncan Jacob.

Ever since then, this annual event – a spectacular showcase of the who’s who of electronic music – has called this magical setting its home. Incidentally, the Amsterdamse Bos is three times the size of New York’s Central Park, and the largest city park in Europe.

Complementing this picturesque location is Thomas and Casper’s belief in giving rising stars the chance to shine alongside well-established names. To put things in perspective, typical festival promoter logic is to book the biggest names to sell tickets.

But these guys? They would never do that. It goes against their ethos: which is to share good music, period.

They’ve gone against the grain, repeatedly exceeded expectations, and mastered the delicate balancing act of growing without losing their sense of identity.

Another fact I’m pleased to share is that Dekmantel Festival is capped at 10,000 attendees. Which might seem daunting, but this number represents a medium-sized festival. Enforcing this rule year in, year out ensures that the vibe is intimate yet incredible.

Controlled chaos, if you will.

As friends who went from ravers, to promoters, to record label owners, to festival founders, to selectors (they DJ as Dekmantel Soundsystem), the duo understand the elemental aspects of club and dance culture.

Pitchfork have dubbed it “the festival that might ruin other festivals”. Better still, others have declared it “your favorite DJ’s favorite music festival”.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I AM IN FOR A TREAT.

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Techno titan Jeff Mills conducting the Main Stage with élan. Shot by Bart Heemskerk.

This year’s edition will be held from 1 – 5 August. The first two days offer a curious medley of live electronic and jazz acts, with the remaining three (3 – 5 August) presenting an enviable lineup of dance music’s finest DJs. I’m attending the latter half of the programme.

It’s funny to think that at one point, I felt much like poor Aziz; anxious and stressed. And that’s because I didn’t know if I would be going.

To cut a long story short, I faced several hiccups when applying for my Schengen visa. When I finally received it,

I was ready to rediscover one of my favorite words in the English language: adventure.

ON A RELATED NOTE, I MADE AN INSTAGRAM STORY THE OTHER DAY, WHERE I TALKED ABOUT HOW EXCITED I AM FOR DEKMANTEL FESTIVAL TO KICK OFF. IF YOU TUNED IN, YOU’LL KNOW THAT ‘EXCITED’ IS UNDERSTATING IT.

I rarely use the ‘Stories’ feature. Mostly because I feel like I don’t have anything valuable to add to the colossal social media space.

Which is absurd, if you think about it. ‘Valuable’, especially when viewed through a social media lens, is relative.

Different strokes for different folks, eh?

Here’s an example. Check out this photo.

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Dekmantel’s Main Stage. I recently discovered my new favorite DJ and producer, Shanti Celeste. Stoked to know she’s one of the first to open the proceedings. Shot by Duncan Jacob.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

ALL I SEE IS SHEER UNADULTERATED BLISS. HERE’S WHY.

  1. Music. There’s an incredibly passionate artist on stage, and they’re pleased to provide the soundtrack to a beautiful, sunny day in Amsterdam. You can dance like no-one’s watching because everyone’s there for the same reason as you – to appreciate music.
  2. People. Oh God, this wonderful crowd. Teeming with energy. Hailing from all across the world. You meet a stranger on day 1 of the festival. By day 3, you’re swapping cool stories over a Lucky Strike. At the bar is a cute girl who wants to give you a hug. No, wait, she just wants your water. She gives you a hug anyway. Wide smiles plastered across lovely, happy faces, everywhere you look. The energy is infectious. And man, do I love it!
  3. Hedonism. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that Amsterdam has a thriving night-time culture. Without giving too much away, let’s leave it at this: I’ve always been a mischievous child, and love having a fucking good time.

Those are just three reasons justifying why I will travel to another country to attend a music festival. I could go on.

You may not see the sense in my behavior. My parents certainly don’t!

Or maybe you think I’ve lost my marbles. Most already do…so no surprises there.

The calm before the storm

IMG_20170821_055453

5:54 AM. 21 August 2017. Predawn photo outside my Airbnb in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka. Celebrating my 24th year of being alive alongside my best friend, Anmol.

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”

Warhol said it right.

I hope I’ve made my case for how excited I am for Dekmantel Festival.

If you’d like to board my hype train, follow my Instagram, (the link is not functional because I have paused my music vlogging for the foreseeable future – I’m not sure if I will return) where you can see my daily countdown in action. I also post the occasional Story, which is always a bonus; my mum says I’m devilishly handsome. Oh, mums! Aren’t they the best? What would we do without them.

More to the point, I wonder if in 3 weeks I’ll be questioning if there’s life after Dekmantel.

Only time will tell. Until then.

Here’s to good times, good music, good places, and good people.

radekmantel-sunset

Looking forward to an Amsterdam good time. Shot by Duncan Jacob. Cover photo by Bart Heemskerk.

Love, love, love.

I love

…the hedonism, vibe, and escapism that only a music festival can offer;

I love

the taste of a juicy, mouth-wateringly grilled burger with just the right amount of cheese;

I love

writing something that puts a smile on someone’s face, or better still, makes one think;

I love

the sense of achievement that comes after a physically and mentally gruelling trek;

I love

getting lost in a video game;

I love

people watching;

I love

an adrenaline rush;

I love

reading an unputdownable book;

I love

a glass of cold water after a long day;

I love

a good night’s sleep;

I love

an underdog story;

I love

Monopoly;

I love

to sit on the window seat of an airplane and watch as things get smaller;

I love

dunking chocolate chip cookies in warm milk;

I love

long hugs;

I love

dance music and club culture;

I love

fast cars and empty roads with no radars;

I love

plugging in my earphones and running until I experience a high;

I love

a simple life;

I love

making new friends;

I love

greeting cards;

I love

the English language;

I love

flirting;

I love

avocado on my Subway sandwich;

I love

admiring art in museums;

I love

road trips filled with laughs, good music and camaraderie;

I love

crow’s feet;

I love

novelty;

I love

vibrant colours that pop, crackle and snap;

I love

observing the night sky and watching the stars shine brightly;

I love

watching the sunrise after raving all night long;

I love

my family;

I love

Urban Dictionary;

I love

finding a coin on the street and claiming it as my own;

I love

cleanliness;

I love

a beautiful mess;

I love

a reunion with good friends;

I love

chocolate milk;

I love

planning my next getaway;

I love

making out with a cute girl;

I love

cracking all kinds of jokes, from side-splitting to downright rude;

I love

a sense of calm;

I love

yelling ‘boo’ at people as they turn a corner and cracking up at their shocked face;

I love

to spell a tricky word right the first time;

I love

dogs so very much and would love my own one day;

I love

being a clown and pulling silly faces;

I love

exchanging banter in a rowdy bar;

I love

watching my friends express themselves creatively;

I love

psychology and anthropology;

I love

when my car shimmers gloriously after a good wash;

I love

adventure;

I love

staying in hostels when I travel to new lands;

I love

discovering an unheard-of house or techno track that I can’t help but nod along to;

I love

finding an amusing Tinder profile and debating whether to use my rare ‘Super Like’;

I love

attractive design;

I love

having a fucking great time;

I love

being the center of attention;

I love

time spent by myself;

I love

tears of joy;

I love

bacon;

I love

dozing in a snug sleeping bag;

I love

Polaroid photographs;

I love

places that teem with energy;

I love

spontaneity;

I love

goosebumps;

I love

being reminded of a memory that I forgot about;

I love

integrity;

I love

the smell of my yellow Lacoste perfume which takes me back to Hawaii;

I love

Pokemon;

I love

feminism;

I love

smiles that extend all the way to the eyes;

I love

the flow state I get into as I think of what to write next;

I love

rhymes, idioms, metaphors, alliterations, punctuation, and grammar;

I love

the first shave with a new Gillette blade;

I love

that my mother painstakingly prepares a fruit salad for me every day;

I love

the contagiousness of positivity;

I love

staying up all night to get lucky;

I love

wearing funky tees and jeans;

I love

dressing up in a smart shirt;

I love

the English, South African, and French accents;

I love

long Skype calls with my mates;

I love

a spot of Karak chai;

I love

going into the deepest recesses of my mind;

I love

the immense potential that I still haven’t harnessed;

I love

being alive;

 

but what I love most, is to love.