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God, My Grandma & Granddaughter

Medium member since March 2020

How I discovered 3 incredible rules for writing, maybe for life.

Illustration by the Author

Like everybody else, I started writing in March. No, wait. It was April. I was born in April. Forty-five years ago in 1975.

I have been around, you know?
Like Frank Slade defending the Charlie in me, in my court.

I took my bows, when people clapped
And my curtain calls, for one response
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
My 100 fans, I thank you all.

— Tongue-in-cheek apologies to FreddieEv

On April 5, I wrote my first poem in Medium, inspired by Dr. Victor Frankl and my poor, dead father — a history teacher and headmaster. It was my masterpiece that I hoped nobody understood.

Like everybody else, like you my reader, I did my rounds. Agonizing over a drop-cap, staring at a blank screen, crumpling innumerable drafty sheets of virtual paper to lob into the imaginary hoop of my tiny, quarantined basketball court.

You know it all, don’t you?
Haven’t you too been a Medium member since March 2020.

But more than the blank screen of my computer and life, I agonized over the bummerest of a question in writing, that I faced —

Should I write what I believe in or should I believe
in what I write?

This is a story about how I answered that question for myself long ago.
I discovered three incredible rules for writing, and maybe life — that can help you to decide whether what you are writing (or doing) is what you should write (or do).

Let’s do this.

In 2007, I was interviewing for Siemens in Berlin. There were three people in the room. A kind, very old gentleman with a tie, a young woman in a black skirt, and a tall older man sitting away from us all in a dark corner of the room. I couldn’t see his face.

It was a surreal interview. I had started my own company, but here I was as well, interviewing for a job. For the love of God, the old man, and the young woman couldn’t make sense of how I could do both at the same time.

I was 30, studying for my MBA, and had just started a company called ONEBILLIONMINDS. It was a simple idea, a place where someone with a problem in science could connect with another person, just any ordinary person, anybody who could solve it.

In the world of business, you call this Open Innovation. Maybe even crowdsourcing. But hell, that is another story.

Polite barbs flew.

My insouciance and their growing exasperation at an individual who was running a company and yet, interviewing for a job! My pitch was — Listen I need the job and will do it for some time while pulling my act together.

It was unfair, I agree.

That is when Jean, pulled in his chair from the corner.

— Here is a question for you, Sanjukt. Imagine your Grandma is there
in this room, right now. Yes! She doesn’t understand the fancy things you are learning in your class about business and science. What we all call jargon. You have 2 minutes. Tell her about your startup. But there is one condition. If you use any jargon, that your Grandma wouldn’t understand, I will say *beep* and you got to stop. Now, please start. You have 2 minutes!

— I said …

— Good, you finished in 30 seconds. Now, imagine you have the biggest opportunity of your life. This room has Warren Buffet. He is keen to invest in your idea. You have 2 minutes again to present. Now there are no restrictions. You can use everything you have learned in your studies, and in your life so far to make the perfect pitch.

— I said …

— Sanjukt, will you go out for a drink with me?

Just like that, the interview was over.
Jean and I went out for a drink.

He made me an offer to run a Siemens company as the Chief Executive and turn it around from the deep crisis that it was in. I was just 30.

What just happened?

At that very moment, when I was presenting to Warren Buffet I knew I had killed the interview. I didn’t plan it. It was on sheer impulse that I just repeated what I told my grandma in the first 30 seconds.

I was weak with the joy of something in my heart, I know now is called an epiphany. For I got it. I was repeating what I told my grandma and screaming for 30 seconds, silently at the same time.

You guys are never going to get it. But Jean got it.

(I accepted the offer but eventually decided to continue running my company. Jean and I became friends. My company still exists, but that is another story for another time.)

1 —

The Grandma Rule — Write it if only your Grandma will get it. Dump it, if she wouldn’t. You have 2 minutes to tell her.

The second time, just tell it like it is.

If in life you need to ever do a reality check on what you are writing, or doing and whether you should, or you shouldn’t, just remember that you cannot be fancy with your grandma. If she will not get it, you are on the path to perdition.

Afterward, just remember — Tell it like it is. It doesn’t matter even if it is Warren Buffet or God (I am coming to it soon) in the room.

Tell it like it is
Don’t be ashamed to let your conscience be your guide
 — Aaron Neville

Now, that was simple.

2 —

The Granddaughter Rule — I will skip the story for this one, for reasons of brevity. This one is about Pride.

Imagine it is 40 years from now, another March, or perhaps another May. You are older now. Old enough to have a granddaughter. She is grown-up and all. She stumbles across what you have written, for you cannot hide words in our times. The internet will keep them, safe.

You show your granddaughter, what you wrote in 2020.
What would she say?

Write, but write in such a way that your grandchild is proud of you when she reads what you have written in your time. Perhaps then, she will write too.

Hmm. It is time now for my final rule.

3 —

The God Rule — For this, I have no story.

It is inspired by Jordan Peterson (who is never going to follow me, for he follows just 1 person — Medium Staff. )

Yeah, that’s right. Not God.

You may hate him. You may love him. I do. When people challenged him, and asked did he believe in God?

He said —

Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God? I act as if God exists.

But that is not my third rule. I have one, better. A rule of my own.
A rule I break from time to time like you all. But every time, every day I break my rule, I promise myself to not break it tomorrow. Here, my friends, my strangers then, is my third rule —

I write as if God exists.

For who would have the audacity to claim they act as if God exists.

Sanjukt Saha with apologies to Jordan Peterson

I know, I know. I just tried.


God, My Grandma & Granddaughter was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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