In the previous post, I started to narrate how I got involved in running HasGeek – financially and in terms of holding the company together in day-to-day matters. I must admit one more time that it is tough to write this series of blog posts and maintain objectivity since the issues involved in running the company and being in a spousal relationship with the co-founder are highly intricate.
By the time we finished executing Droidcon 2011, Kiran was burnt out. However, by then, it was time to start executing JSFoo Pune. I offered to run the event since I was going to be in Bombay and Pune during Dec 2011-Jan 2012. At that time too, I was ambivalent about my role and involvement in the company because I was still committed to my PhD. But I was also beginning to question the sustainability model of academia and the general direction of social sciences at a time of scarcity of resources. It was also clear to me that HasGeek was taking off in a somewhat big way. I now started to understand the business we were into, the thought process that had gone into the conceptualization of the idea and the possibilities that the future held.
Once again, there is always the temptation of giving up a slow moving project and jumping into something more fast paced. I also started living the very insecurities and perceptions I was studying with respect to possession and ownership of ‘property’ and ‘shareholdings’. Clearly, the value of something that Kiran created showed promise. Now it became a matter of ‘securing’ the company and the shares. Ambivalence never left me because I was still trying to decide where I was going to be and what I was going to do. Kiran, on his part, tried to get me more involved in the company so that I was not left out. I continued to participate in the company’s affairs, thinking that the company was a side project I could do along with my PhD and continue to feel hopeful whenever I was feeling stuck with the writing.
JSFoo Pune was a fairly successful event. I enjoyed running it despite the stresses and tensions because I was also teaching and writing at that time. In the next few months, I began participating in marketing events and started to get a flavour of raising money through sponsorships and participant ticket sales. I was managing accounts and books for the company and understanding the complex world of taxes. I was trying to coordinate with people to put into place internet at events, building an inventory of things required to run conference internet successfully and essentially, reduce some of the pain points involved in running events.
While I was doing many things, the dissatisfaction of not being able to do one thing in-depth and learning the ropes carefully was always there. As the year went on, I realized that it was not always possible for me to get into minute implementation details and that I had to leave the detailed execution to someone else so that I could focus on the bigger picture of holding the boat together. Simultaneously, I was always struggling with the question of what I was doing at HasGeek and how that tied into the big picture of my life, and the dreams and aspirations I had before I got involved in the company.
HasGeek remained a side project until the first four months between Jan and April. I was still focussed on making a career as a researcher and writer. However, the mistake I made during this period was to cut off from the life that I had, and build a community and affinity with the people and groups who Kiran was associated with. I had stopped running because of the change in my lifestyle and schedules. Cooking and baking became once in a while affairs, something I ideally should not have given up in order to retain my sanity. I stopped going to my PhD research centre because there was barely any time to go there. Besides, the centre was going through several changes. Going there made me feel depressed as I saw the space become more and more sterile. I briefly took a course in the post-colonial and pre-liberalization era in India’s history to understand the Indian economy. That was the only community I was briefly associated with. Going to the course made me constantly question the future of social sciences and where the world was headed towards.
I was also going through the painful process of questioning my established beliefs about capital, enterprise, possessions, security and speculation. At the same time, technology was more intricate than what I had understood it to be when I was researching e-governance and digitization of land records. The language of technology was overwhelming and at times, alienating. As much as I tried to understand things from a sociological perspective, I always felt like an outsider to this world. It felt important to grasp the language just in order to have a sane and interesting conversation with the groups we were working with. I did not know where to begin and what ropes I should pull at to get anywhere to start this process.
The first four months at the company were a period of adjustment to a new community, a new world, two new languages – one of technology and the other of startups – and dealing with the ambivalences of my past, present and future. While I was not running any major events between Feb and April, I felt a sense of burnout just with these adjustments and the constant self-questioning.
Perhaps this blog post – the flow and the words – also reflects the tensions and struggles which have not left me ever since. These tensions and struggles have always led me to question my place in the company and in the world:
What am I doing here?
Why am I here?
Why did I get involved in the first place?
Is this what I really want to do in my life?
[to be continued]