Run the day. Don’t let the day run you.

N.B. I’m currently not in the best of places mentally and find myself stuck in familiar negative (read: destructive) behavioural patterns. I’m also finding it tough to get out of this rut.

This is nothing new and I need not call an ambulance: I’ve walked this road multiple times before.

What’s different now is that for the first time (after a 6-year journey) I finally know myself.

Knowing yourself can be scary.

I know my strengths, vices, abilities, principles, and values.

Knowing yourself can be liberating.

I know who I am…but what I can do?

That remains to be seen, as always. The story’s the same; much work remains to be done.

Nothing’s changed from your Google Keep entries.

Karan, read this when all hope seems lost. And remember: he who has a why can bear any how.

The fighter’s manifesto

You have to find what’s yours in life.

Create a plan that works for you and not against you.

No matter where you are or what lies ahead, find a way to keep moving forward.

Take every step with intention, directed toward the goal.

When you get knocked down and everything feels out of your control, find a way to win the fight.

If you don’t fight for what you love, don’t cry for what you lost.

Quit the excuses. No one cares.

Run the day.

Don’t let the day run you.

Find. A. Way.

I’m 29, and I’m feeling fine. But I will be better.

I woke up this morning raring to visit my boxing gym and hit the weights.

I’m fighting my first public boxing match in 90 days, (26th November 2022 – mark your calendars!) and I must put in the work so I can win.

Even though a loss would teach me more than a victory…I’m a sore loser, and I want to savour the glorious moment when the referee raises my fist in the air.

Before I left home, however, my mom called me into her room, and asked me to sit on her bed.

“Uh-oh”, this must be serious, I thought.

I won’t get into the specifics, but here’s what I can share:

She said I was crying last night.

I was astonished. I had no idea I cried at home.

Yes – I cried at least 2 times yesterday – but it was with two of my best friends during the day; and it was because I felt grateful, and happy.

She passed by my room (which was locked) and heard me sobbing loudly.

What’s funny is I had no idea this happened.

I will put this strange incident down to rediscovering my zest for life.

Destroy, then rebuild.

Break ups are messy, and usually complicated. I know someone who is going through a rough patch because they broke up with someone they loved.

The best healer is time. I write from experience, because I unceremoniously got dumped by someone I gave all my love to.

Thankfully, we only dated briefly, which meant we didn’t exchange physical belongings.

Instead, what we shared as a couple were fleeting moments of happiness, intimacy, and – in this modern dating world – a digital trail that occasionally reminds me of her.

The person I know shared more with their former lover.

A roof. Possessions. Memories. A life.

Whilst it hurts to see someone I care about unable to find their feet as a newly single person, I realise I cannot help them until they help themselves.

And this is the single biggest lesson I have learnt over the past 9 months, when the girl I liked disrespected, cheated, and lied to me.

When we began dating, I knew I had to fix myself if I were to make space for someone else in my life.

Someone I gave a damn about. Someone I wanted to build a life with. Someone I wanted to discover new things with.

Which is why – seemingly out of nowhere – when I was smoking a cigarette in my building’s parking lot, the idea came to me:

Be better.

Be better.

Be better.

  1. I had physical ailments I had to heal.
  2. I had important relationships I had to rebuild.
  3. I had sinful addictions I had to curb.

So, what did I do? I put myself through hell.

I embraced pain.

I expanded my comfort zone.

And killed a Karan Sharma I hated.

To make room for a Karan Sharma I loved.

It’s been an educational journey. And it’s going to be a long one. The road to self-improvement never ends.

But, as I’ve experienced before, (as a former music vlogger) when you put yourself on a path which aligns with your authentic self, you meet magical people who bring out the best in you.

Death is inevitable. Which is why I want to leave my mark on this world.

I am keenly aware of my impending mortality. We are blessed with one life, and after murdering a self I disliked, I can now see – crystal clearly – what I must do to leave a positive impact before ol’ Grim Reaper pays me a visit.

And as I turned 29 on the 21st August, I could see Father Time in the distance; nodding at me in approval, urging me to continue doing what I do best:

Creating, living, loving, improving, and motivating.

My 29th birthday was memorable because I broke a tradition I’ve maintained since 2015.

For the past 7 years (excluding 2020 – looking at you…Big C) I’ve celebrated my birthday anywhere but Dubai.

  • 2015 was spent in India
  • 2016 was spent in Hawaii
  • 2017 was spent in Sri Lanka
  • 2018 was spent in Romania
  • 2019 was spent in Malta
  • 2020 – you already know
  • 2021 was spent in India

I will probably celebrate my 30th in a different part of the world. Time will tell…

Today marks the end of my birthday week.

And yesterday I met my best friend, who came bearing gifts that were not only thoughtful, but practical. They will come in handy for my White Collar boxing match.

Those are the kind of gifts that tug at my heartstrings. Unsurprisingly, I teared up when receiving them.

I love her. She’s a sweetheart. And one of the strongest women I know. I am grateful to have her in my life.

That is all, for now. Thank you for reading. I will leave you with some photos from my 29th birthday, which I celebrated with my friends – most of whom I’ve known for over 15 years. Precious.

And some from meeting my friends yesterday for a Japanese lunch.

Tasty Turkish dinner at the Grand Bazaar, City Centre Me’aisem.
Ramen for lunch with Samantha and Antony at Wokyo Noodle Bar – Al Safa. The priceless gifts included a Cold Roller ball, athletic tape, and balm for my palms. I have calluses now, because I lift weights and dead hang. Like a champion. 

15th August 2022. To be in love with the idea of being in love, and other scribbles. 10:44 PM

(This is how I journal in Google Keep. I mention the date, write a headline, opening time, do the journalling, and then sign off with closing time. I must write now – editing and structure be damned – else the duties and troubles of tomorrow will weigh me down, and I will not be able to express the way I’m feeling. I secretly hope no-one will read this blog. Because I’m feeling vulnerable. And I’m not the kind to share when I’m feeling down; I prefer to bear my burden by myself.)

God, it’s been a day. It is tough being a man. Yes, it is. Is it tough being a human; no matter whether you’re a man or woman? Also true. But it’s tougher being a man.

We’re expected to largely figure things out on our own. Make something of ourselves. Get a job. Find a mate. Start a family. Put a roof over their heads. Raise the damn family. Protect them.

And be the rock when things go south. Not The Rock. Although I’ll admit, it’d be cool being The Rock.

Man, why do I try being funny. I cringe every time I try to crack a joke in my writing.

(Note to self: do not try your hand at stand-up, no matter how tantalizing the idea of getting up on stage may seem.)

Ding-dong! My phone’s notification bell just went off. I check it, and Bumble tells me I’ve got a new bee in the hive.

She’s probably forgotten she’s matched with me before.

It’s a girl I matched with several years ago.

I think back to when we matched; we didn’t get past the messaging stage. She either ghosted me, or I deleted the app. What I do remember is I liked the way she looked, and she was an art-director.

I thought it was fitting, because I used to be a copywriter.

In conventional agencies, copywriters and art directors work together to make ads.

Naturally, I thought we’d make a baby. Or get married. At the very least.

I’m kidding. It’s not like I used any of those lines when chatting her up. I swear.

On this girl. Who I don’t like. At all.

(I actually don’t, just to clear the air. There’s another girl I like, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Read on to know more…)

I used to have an on/off relationship with this shitty dopamine-rollercoaster.

Now, I just don’t give a fuck. If I meet someone I vibe with, great. If not, also great.

I have no shortage of beautiful women in my life, and sex isn’t as appealing as it used to be.

I’ve been around the block. I had an unforgivable addiction to pleasure that I’ve finally tamed.

(This next sentence is graphic. Proceed with caution.)

I’ve had mind-blowing orgasms that have had me rolling my eyes to the back of my head, and had me exhaling in ecstasy afterwards. ‘Pure carnal pleasure’ is putting it mildly.

After that, I usually puff on a Marlboro light, and question if there’s more to life. Spoiler alert: there is.

When you’ve scaled peaks of pleasure as high as I have, you realize you must give purpose to your life.

Devote yourself to a mission. One which gives you a profound and personal sense of satisfaction.

Not happiness. Because happiness is fleeting.

Ideally, this mission should give back to your community in some form.

Happiness is overrated. Contentment? Now we’re talking.

I ask not for a lighter load, but broader shoulders.

I will not write about my troubles – because, again – I dislike being a negative Nancy.

And they seem trivial as I think about them now. Of course, they haven’t gone anywhere.

The problems are snoozing. So should I, because it’s 11:46 PM, and I’ve had a long day.

I was at a boxing class at 6:30 this AM. And another one at 6:45 this evening.

And I’ve got a Strength and Conditioning class at 5:30 PM tomorrow. It is a brutal class.

But I must put in the work. I’m fighting my first public fight in November.

Shitty photo, beautiful person. That’s my beloved boxing coach, Coach Jalal. He’s a gem. Clicked at Spartans Boxing Club, Arjan.

I keep saying this to myself, and telling the world, as if it will come to pass. And it will, subject to my boxing gym finding an opponent in my weight and experience class.

This is a White-Collar boxing event, which means the participants are white-collar professionals, with little to no experience in the ring.

The boxing gym offers free training to the fighters. In exchange, they have to sell tickets so the event is a success, and the gym makes a profit.

I initially had reservations about signing up, because the prospect of selling 20 tickets seemed more daunting than the intense training.

But after a hiatus of 3 years, I’ve reactivated my social media profiles. And I am confident in my ability to generate hype.

As I often tell myself; I am the ultimate hypebeast. I have this gift to get people behind me. Cheer me on in my endeavours.

In fact, being my biggest cheerleader has held me in good stead on my journey to be the best me I can be.

Even when no-one’s watching, so long as I’ve got my beauty sleep, I can motivate myself to finish a project, or put in the hours during training.

I haven’t started promoting my upcoming fight on the-necessary-but-evil social media platforms yet, but the few people I’ve told – even in passing – are keen to come, and support me.

I’m thankful for my circle. I’m grateful to have good people in my life. I was crying about it in my car last week on my sister’s birthday.

I wrote a few hundred words about how I felt…although I’m not sure if that blog will see the light of day.

I didn’t have the cojones to complete it, because I felt I came across too sappy.

Sappy? Ooh boy, you have no idea how sappy I can get! Screw it, let me tell you about the girl I mentioned earlier.

Love yourself boy,

or no one will.

Right. There’s this girl I like. (“Oh Sharma, not another one!” You can almost hear the collective groan of my friends as I declare my undying devotion to yet another woman.)

To be fair, I used to fall for every second girl who was reasonably attractive several years ago.

Thankfully, after my last breakup that saw me end up in the hospital – don’t ask, I let my vices get the better of me…

A sobering reminder of how I let myself go to the dogs. From one of my lowest points in 2021.

And the subsequent changes that took place, which included:

  1. 10 months of falling in love with myself;
  2. Rediscovering my self-worth;
  3. Discovering boxing;
  4. Building a life I’m proud of;
  5. Embracing my masculinity;
  6. And being wanted by women

I’ve finally developed a benchmark for what I seek in a partner. And that last point particularly earmarks how far I’ve grown since my breakup.

I never knew how much of a big deal it made to me. Wait, that’s not entirely true.

I always knew I’ve loved the attention from the fairer sex. Who doesn’t like an ego boost? Especially, as an Emirati girl told me this weekend…it’s clear as day I’m a proud Leo! And us Leos love the spotlight.

Let me take you back to 2014. I was consistently hitting the gym, and I looked hench.

I strutted into a fancy bar in Souq Al Bahar (an upmarket area next to the Burj Khalifa) to meet the boys on a Thursday night.

The second I walked in; I caught a girl who was shamelessly eye-raping me.

I had never felt more like a piece of meat in my life. And you know what?

I fucking loved it.

I knew she wanted nothing more than to go home with and ride me until the sun came up.

I didn’t give her the time of night, though. I enjoyed seeing her want me.

That was enough. Knowing I had that effect on her.

Ever since that Thursday night, I relish knowing women find me attractive.

I’m happiest if you put me on a dancefloor, which is my natural element. Add some banging house and techno to the mix…and you’ll find me snickering at the desperate attempts of women to woo me.

And me? I ruthlessly shoot down every single one of them.

”I don’t want to be your boy toy for the night, missy!”, I tell them with a cheeky grin.

Single, but not quite ready to mingle.

Although I know what I want in a partner…I’m also madly in love with being single.

It’s brilliant, being able to live life on your terms, with no one to answer to.

That said, if the right woman comes waltzing into my life, I’d love to tango with her.

It’s a funny place, this. What, you ask? The space me and this girl I like, are in.

I don’t think she likes me romantically, or views me as a prospective partner.

Me? I consider her to be my best friend. And I love her, platonically.

But…you’ll have to hold that thought. Allow me to wax lyrical for a few:

She is the most radiant woman I know. When she walks into a room, all eyes are on her.

And it’s not because of how attractive she is – on a related note – her sense of style would make Audrey Hepburn turn green with envy.

No, everyone’s eyes turn towards her because of her energy.

She’s got a bubbly, vivacious, childlike, contagious energy. I love it. I live for it.

At the same time, she carries herself with grace.

As if Cinderella herself advised her on how to be the belle of the ball.

I love her lilting voice, and her crisp North American/Indian accent.

The cherry on top of this gorgeous sundae is her impish laugh.

It rings clear in the air,

if you’d be oh-so-lucky to hear.

The way I’m writing about her, you’d think I’m madly in love. Or, I’ve gone barking mad.

Perhaps a bit of both? Bear with me, I’ll explain myself shortly.

Bottom-line: she’s a beautiful soul. I could sense she was pure the first time I met her, and I believe it was a serendipitous day we met.

I can be myself around her. And as energetic as she is, she brings an odd yet comforting sense of familiarity, and warmth when she’s around me.

It is effortless being with her. And that is rare, considering how cuckoo I can get, on occasion.

“Act normal, as that’s crazy enough.” This Dutch phrase describes me to a t.

This just can’t be summer love? L.O.V.E.

Oh JT, you beauty. If you think I’ve fallen head over heels for my best friend, think again.

I’m not 19 years old anymore. I’m a decade older. I just can’t fall in ‘love’ with someone so easily anymore.

Or demonstrate the worst kind of love: which is unrequited.

I’ll tell you what it is.

I’m in love with the idea of being in love.

I entertain the thought of having this special woman by my side. Knowing if I’ve had a tough day – much like today – I can be vulnerable just for a few moments with someone I trust, and who’s opinion I value.

And of course, enjoy the other things that lovers might take for granted: waking up by their side; cuddles; new experiences; being their rock and biggest supporter; growing as people; celebrating the good times and commiserating the bad ones.

But even if I – on the rare occasion – fantasize being with someone I may never end up with, I can’t disregard that earlier today, she shared something with me that was dear to her.

And at that moment, I wanted to be by her side. Just to put my arm around her, and ask if she was okay.

My day wasn’t the best. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.

Is this the price one must pay to be a man? To be a rock, even if you’re going through a rough time?

Or is this the truest definition of ‘love’ – even if it is completely platonic?

I have no idea. It’s late, and I must sleep.

I don’t know where this will go, and if I want it to go anywhere at all.

Maybe, just maybe, the smallest part of me wants sparks to fly.

But here’s what I know without a reasonable doubt: if a woman’s mere presence in your mind inspires you to write, even if she’s a few thousand kilometres away; you keep that woman close to your heart.

1:17 AM

”I’ve got my eyes on you. And I like what I see.”

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.