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The road less traveled

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The road less traveled

RASHMI BANSAL is an Indian non-fiction writer and entrepreneur. In this exclusive interview, she shares the inspiration behind choosing the life of a writer over the path mapped out for her by her education and background with KASHISH KALWANI, and why the title of her first book, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, is still her mantra today.


Q: Welcome Rashmi! How are you doing?

RB: Wonderful! Happy to see you and to do this interview with you.

Q: I’m also happy. I have copies of two of your books right next to me! Could you share your personal journey and how you reached this stage?

RB: Okay, so you want me to summarize my entire life in three minutes? I would put it like this – there was a conventional path for me to follow, which was pretty easy and clear, but somehow I knew it was not the road for me. I went to the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and did an MBA, like so many other people, but then I decided to go back to my first love, which was writing. I chose to be a writer at the time when writing was not seen as a profession in India. In those days, books were synonymous with Jeffery Archer and Sidney Sheldon. There was no demand for Indian authors. But I knew that this was the place where I would be happy and be able to contribute something. I remember reading a line in a book called Odyssey, the story of John Scully (the CEO of Pepsi) and Steve Jobs. Jobs went to Scully in 1985 and persuaded him to leave Pepsi and join Apple, which was an unknown company back then. He basically said, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want the chance to change the world?”

This line stuck with me. I decided I didn’t want to spend my life selling detergent powder and credit cards. I would rather do something meaningful. I never thought I would change the world, but I thought that if I did something that comes naturally to me, that I enjoy, I would definitely contribute something to the world. I had clarity on what I didn’t want in my life, and then I put that aside. It was a journey. It didn’t happen in a day, but once I took the decision, it was easy and the right thing to do.



Q: You mentioned that you had clarity on what you didn’t want in life. Where does the clarity come from?

RB: I went to IIM with an open mind, and I also wanted to live away from my parents for two years. It was a fantastic place, where I met amazing people, but I didn’t connect with what they were teaching. I didn’t enjoy the subjects and I was unhappy with the prospects. In second year, we had certain courses that were quite unusual for a management institute.

One was called “Laboratory in Entrepreneurial Motivation,” which was offered by an entrepreneur, Sunil Handa. He told us, “Look, there are other options in life. You can start your own company; you can create your own path.” That was a message I needed to hear.

In another course, called “Exploring Roles and Identity,” we went to a beach resort near Valsad and spent five days sitting under the trees. We were asked to reflect and contemplate on our life and choices, and what hurdles were blocking us or holding us back. At the end of it, I realized I couldn’t go on doing things to please other people. I was a bright student in school, and my father was a scientist. Everybody in my colony chose a career in science. It was very clear what path I was supposed to take, but I realized I didn’t enjoy science and math. Though I was uncomfortable, I still wanted to please my father. Finally, I realized that I had to live life on my terms and for myself; I couldn’t keep putting put one foot in one boat and one in another. People advised me to write as a hobby, but I knew if I did that I would wither away. All my creative juices would be sucked out. That was my assessment. Finally I took a stand. Not everyone was happy and could understand why I did it, but many years later they came around and said, “You decided what was best for you and it was the right choice.”

Q: I’m sure it must have been tough.

RB: Actually, when I took the decision, I felt very light and free. That meant it was the right decision. Prior to that I had a dilemma, but once I decided I knew it was the right thing for me. People asked if it was difficult and I replied, “No, actually it would’ve been difficult to do the other thing.”

Q: I had a similar experience after class 12 when I was figuring out what courses I wanted to pursue in college.
I asked my spiritual guide, “How to know if I am choosing the right career?”
He gave a classic one-line answer: “Well, you’ll know if you’re in the wrong one.”

What you shared about feeling light and carefree really resonates with me.

In the moments when you were struggling, or when you felt so clear in the moment, how did you practice self-acceptance and compassion toward yourself? How did it connect with your inner needs at each moment?

RB: Actually, you identified a spiritual journey much earlier than I did. I was not aware of all these terms but I was very clear about one thing: Money is not so important to me. I’m not saying money is bad, but I don’t need a lot of money to be happy. My first job was with the Times of India before I started my own company publishing a youth magazine called JAM – Just Another Magazine. At every point I have looked for richness of experience rather than richness of bank balance. I found that if I pursued money then I had to compromise on the experience part. That’s been a guiding principle for me. Money does come – I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, or that I have issues with it – but the pursuit of money is not my main goal.

Q: How did your writing journey begin? When did you realize, “This is for me”?

RB: I started writing when I was a student at Sophia College in Mumbai. In my second year, just for fun, I wanted to see my name in the Times of India newspaper. So, I tried to get my articles published and they came back with rejection slips, not once, twice, or thrice, but a fourth and a fifth time. Then I said, “Am I really no good as a writer? Should I continue?” Something in me said, “Keep trying,” and my forty-first article was published. That was the start of my professional writing journey. I freelanced for many newspapers and magazines while I was a student, and after that I worked with the Times of India, where I had a unique job both as a writer and a manager.

Then I started my own magazine, to give a platform to young people so that they could express themselves, and not have to try forty times to get published! It became very popular, and then, at some point, I became more of a manager of other people’s writing, because as an editor and publisher I had to keep finding new writers and mentoring them, editing their work. Also, I felt that I was growing older, so I shouldn’t be writing for a student magazine.

I also went through a period of depression after my daughter was born. I didn’t know there was something called postpartum depression – today, we have much more information – and I started feeling, “I’m not good, I can’t do anything.” To come out of that, I had to discover myself as a writer, because I was not writing. I had started a magazine because I was a writer, but I was not writing much anymore.

So, I started freelancing for other newspapers, magazines, and online platforms, and I wrote for Business World for some years where I was a consulting editor. I could express myself. Writing is an important tool for me to connect with my inner being, even though I’m not always writing about personal things. The act of writing puts me in a state of flow, which is a higher state, where I am bigger than my “self.” I am accessing something that is not just me.



Sometimes I start with one idea, but then feel I’m being guided by a higher power. When I teach people to write in workshops, I tell them that they have to put in the effort, they need discipline, and they have to be open to being guided by something bigger than themselves.

It’s as if you’re receiving some kind of transmission. You have to tune in; it’s not just going to come automatically. The work has to be done, your hand has to type on the keyboard, but if it goes in a direction that is different from what you thought, let it flow that way, because that’s the magic of any art form. We connect with the higher power that I don’t want to put a name to. There is something bigger than me, which can even be called the Universal Mind.

Coming back to writing, it was important for me to regain my balance and my zest for life, and I remember meeting somebody who told me, “You should write a book.” I said, “No, I have nothing to write,” but just four years later, I published the book Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, which did very well.

Q: That’s wonderful!

RB: We all have a lot of hidden potential that sometimes we are unaware of.

Q: Thank you for sharing that. I really resonate with what you say about keeping going and being guided. When I relate this to my meditation practice, I failed terribly at first. I read an article where you said to stick to an idea till the very end. How do you stick to things till the very end? Youth want to have everything in the moment: Instant gratification, instant happiness, instant money. But these things take time, so I wish to know how you handled this.

RB: When you want to write a book, you may have a lot of different ideas, but you can’t write five at a time. You have to choose one and totally immerse yourself in it. The moment you do that, a lot of new doors open for you.

When I decided to write Follow Every Rainbow, I wanted to write a book about women entrepreneurs, and I had some criteria. My main criterion was that they should be women who had children and had brought up a family, because otherwise, in terms of availability and competence, I don’t think there is any difference between men and women. Women have this additional responsibility, and it doesn’t stop when children are six months or six years. My mom still worries about me, right? It’s a lifelong commitment. I felt it was the primary reason why many women cut back on their own ambitions and scaled back their dreams. Initially I found it difficult to locate women who had really grown businesses, but once I got into it, wherever I turned I started seeing women’s stories and I would approach them. I became a magnet for those stories, and I could do that because I was focused on that one book. If I had not been focused, then maybe I would not have noticed the same things. I think once you realize that, then you know the power of focus.

Everyone wants things quickly, but over time you realize that life is not a race. I think everyone today is going to have at least two or three careers in their lifetime, because most of us are living till ninety years of age and are we going to do the same thing our whole lives? Even if there are three or four different things we want to pursue, we don’t have to do all of them at the same time. We can keep a few things on hold for a little later in life. We constantly need to rejuvenate and reinvent ourselves.

I think reinvention is very important. Maybe in the past it wasn’t, as people did the same job and retired with an HMT watch, but now that doesn’t happen. So, we need to have different interests to keep us going, and I don’t think it’s ever too late to learn something new. In the Rainbow book, a few of the entrepreneurs started later in life. One was forty-nine. It’s all in the mind. If you think you can do it, you can. Maybe she spent the first half of her life devoted to her family, and when her children grew up, she said, “Okay, now it’s my time.”



Q: There was a line in Follow Every Rainbow where you wrote, “Tomorrow will hold the fragrance of feminine values of courage and transparency and grace,” and that really touched me. As a woman, in addition to the responsibility of having a family and children, it’s such a gift to be able to nurture, have your own principles and values, and go out to seize the world! Why do you think it is important to keep dreams alive?

RB: Because if you have no dreams, there is nothing to wake up to in the morning and aspire to. If you look at it in the larger context of the entire universe, there are millions of stars and galaxies, and if you zoom in on Kashish or Rashmi, we’re specks in a vast ocean and we’re meaningless. How does it matter whether we exist or not?

It only matters because of the stories we tell ourselves. We create and write our own stories. Now, we can choose to look at life as just life, with no meaning to it, or we can attach some meaning to it. We can find something that makes it worth a little more than routine things. It’s our choice as human beings. Maybe animals are much simpler, they just have their routine life. Sometimes I envy the dog with very simple needs and no complications, that doesn’t get upset and stay upset for three days! But human beings have a choice of the kind of life they want to lead, by the stories they tell themselves about who they are, what they are here for, and the way they want to live life.



Sometimes I envy the dog with very simple needs
and no complications, that doesn’t get upset
and stay upset for three days! But human beings have a choice
of the kind of life they want to lead,
by the stories they tell themselves about who they are,
what they are here for, and the way they want to live life.



Q: You’ve authored many books. Do you have a favorite or one you recommend everyone to read first?

RB: Yes, I like Connect the Dots. That’s the one closest to my heart.

Q: What are you currently reading?

RB: I just got a book from someone who used to work with me. It is called Susegad. Have you heard of the book Ikigai?

Q: Yes.

RB: It’s something like that about the Goan way of life. It’s written by Clyde D’Souza, who used to work with me at JAM. He sent the book to me yesterday.

Q: Nice! Who has been your biggest teacher and how did they impact your life?

RB: From a distance, I would say Steve Jobs. I never met him, but just by reading his book, watching a couple of videos, and following the path of his life, I felt quite inspired. Of course, it doesn’t mean I would like to always be like him, but I was definitely impacted by certain things, certain ways of thinking. In fact, the titles of the first two books I wrote were taken from a speech given by Steve Jobs.

Q: Wonderful! What is something you do for happiness?

RB: I like to travel. I like to go to a new place where I don’t know anyone or anything and walk around the city and observe people. Right now, it is not possible!



I think all the difficult moments, also when I was depressed,
made me much more empathetic.
I could write the book, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish,
because I had seen difficult times.
I could connect with people, understand them,
become a better listener, see a little below the surface.
Before that, I think I was quite full of myself,
and I had views that I don’t subscribe to anymore.
I became aware of the potential of the mind,
and I was drawn to different things.
I learned Reiki, and I did things I would never have done
if I had not been in a low phase of life.



Q: How do you celebrate success and how do you handle failure?

RB: Actually, I don’t know if I’ve really celebrated success that well – I should celebrate it more. I don’t feel an attachment because today it’s there and tomorrow it’s not. I have reached a stage where I can accept compliments, thank people, and feel that I deserve it, because at one point I was not in that frame of mind.

Failure, yes, I’ve had failure. I had to shut down my company in 2010 after fifteen years, because I felt that nobody would read a printed magazine in future. It became a loss-making enterprise, so it folded. That was really hard, because there were so many other people who had put their lives into it. It was almost like my first baby, and I am who I am today because of it. I wrote Stay Hungry Stay Foolish because I was an entrepreneur and I had been in touch with young people for so long as an editor of the magazine. I was able to write a book that was not preachy; basically focused on storytelling. So, it was integral to my life journey. Although it did not give me the financial returns I wanted, and it could not sustain me, if you ask me, “Would you go back and do something else?” the answer is no.

I think all the difficult moments, also when I was depressed, made me much more empathetic. I could write the book, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, because I had seen difficult times. I could connect with people, understand them, become a better listener, see a little below the surface. Before that, I think I was quite full of myself, and I had views that I don’t subscribe to anymore. I became aware of the potential of the mind, and I was drawn to different things. I learned Reiki, and I did things I would never have done if I had not been in a low phase of life.

When a low phase comes, I explore new things, and that is how I came to a spiritual path.



When a low phase comes,
I explore new things, and that is how I came
to a spiritual path.



Q: What is the essence of life for you, or is it something you’re figuring out?

RB: I think it keeps changing with time. Earlier, it was about creating my own path. Right now, it’s about looking inward and focusing on self-love and acceptance, which I still need to work on. Outer success is one thing, but to have that calm center, which is glowing with love, I don’t think I have reached that place yet. Outer success is meaningless until I have harmony within, and an endless encounter of self-love. Self-love can be depleted, so I still need to work on that. That’s the realization most people have as they grow older – while outward achievements are good, you also have to turn inward.

I want to do different kinds of writing. I started writing fiction during Covid because I wanted a challenge. I started writing short stories, and teaching other people how to write short stories, and I publish them weekly on my website www.rashmibansal.in. In fiction, you enter the inner world of the characters a lot more. In non-fiction, characters are defined mostly through the actions they take, but in fiction you get into the minds of the characters, and you know the contradictions that exist. To do that, I need to explore my own contradictions first.



Outer success is meaningless until I have harmony within,
and an endless encounter of self-love.
Self-love can be depleted, so I still need to work on that.

That’s the realization most people have as they
grow older – while outward achievements are good,
you also have to turn inward.


Q: Finally, is there any life mantra you’d like to share with our readers, aspiring writers, entrepreneurs, and those on a journey of self?

RB: “Stay hungry stay foolish.” It encapsulates everything, because you have a deep desire to keep growing, learning, and enhancing yourself. It applies to an entrepreneur, it applies to a company, and it applies to personal growth. Don’t be satisfied with everything you’ve learnt, seen, and done; that’s what keeps you going.

Foolish because today you may have a foolish dream – you may want to write a screenplay, or a for Netflix, but you don’t know how you are going to do it, you don’t have the answer, the path is not clear. You only know that you are foolish enough to believe it’s possible. Then, one step at a time, you move toward the goal. Don’t underestimate yourself and be open to learn and try new things.

I have written eleven books, and even if I write ten more, I want a new challenge. I want to go where people are. The audience on Netflix is 1000 times more than the audience for books, so I have to reinvent myself and my way of doing things.

Keep going on the path that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable, because that’s when you rise up and find in yourself some hidden shakti or power that you didn’t know existed. In short, “stay hungry stay foolish.” Don’t ever think, “I’m at the top of the mountain and it’s the end of my journey.”

Q: Thank you so much, Rashmi. I absolutely loved this. It was wonderful to connect with you.



Interviewed by KASHISH KALWANI
Illustrations by JASMEE MUDGAL



Rashmi-Bansal

Rashmi Bansal

Rashmi is a writer, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker. An author of ten bestselling books on entrepreneurship, Rashmi is the #1 business books author in India. Her books include Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, Connect the Dots, I Have a Dream, God’s Own Kitchen, Touch the Sky, and We Are Champions.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps closer to the end of life a time comes when gratitude replaces hunger and wisdom transforms foolishness?

  2. It is a nice to understand the view points shared by the writer Rashmi Bansal. This is the experience of the majority of intellectuals – men and women. I am sure it would be of great motivational value to several youngsters who are pursuing their professions under great stress. If we turn our minds to look in rather than look out, we can find solace and find solutions to our problems automatically. Fundamental is thought control.

  3. Спасибо за очень полезную статью! Как и Рашми Бансал мне интересны все стороны жизни, постоянно хочется узнавать что-то новое и я недавно начала писать рассказы, а ведь мне уже 68 лет. Эта статья – поддержка, помогающая не “катиться с горы”, а пытаться в любом возрасте “карабкаться вверх”. У меня тоже есть мечты и о новых путешествиях и о том, что какому-нибудь сценаристу понравится сюжет моего рассказа. Очищение и медитация помогают жить в этот сложный для всей нашей планеты период. Благодарю. Мой блог https://zen.yandex.ru/id/603096e8d3f55c16c54a9b12

  4. Thank you Rashmi, your clarity and search for being true to your innermost self in the complexity of being a woman, mother, artist, entrepreneur…. is amazing and inspiring. Thanks to Kashish for the interview.

  5. Loved the interview. It is so authentic and so interesting. Thanks for bringing it to us. Keep writing and keep following your dreams and keep inspiring!

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