Song Of The Open Road

The Open Road

Walt Whitman

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of reception, neither preference or denial;
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not

The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger,
laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back
They pass—I also pass—anything passes—none can be interdicted;
None but are accepted—none but are dear to me.

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings, and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I think you are latent with unseen existences—you are so dear to me.

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d facades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has been near you, I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and  now would
impart the
same secretly to me;
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled your impassive surfaces,  and the
thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road—the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel! O public road! do you say to me, Do not leave me?
Do you say, Venture not? If you leave me, you are lost?
Do you say, I am already prepared—I am well-beaten and undenied—adhere to  me?

O public road! I say back, I am not afraid to leave you—yet I love you;
You express me better than I can express myself;
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all great poems also;
I think I could stop here myself, and do miracles;
(My judgments, thoughts, I henceforth try by the open air, the road;)
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me  shall like
I think whoever I see must be happy.

From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold  me.

I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought;
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me, I would do  the same to

I will recruit for myself and you as I go;
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.

Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear, it would not amaze me;
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d, it would not astonish me.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.

Here a great personal deed has room;
A great deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law, and mocks all authority and all argument

Here is the test of wisdom;
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it, to another not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the Soul.

Now I reexamine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds, and
landscape and flowing currents.

Here is realization;
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him;
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.

Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?

Here is adhesiveness—it is not previously fashion’d—it is apropos;
Do you know what it is, as you pass, to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

Here is the efflux of the Soul;
The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through embower’d gates, ever provoking
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the darkness, why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me, the sun-light expands my blood?
Why, when they leave me, do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under, but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees, and always drop fruit as I
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver, as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman, drawing his seine by the shore, as I walk by, and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman’s or man’s good-will? What gives them to be free to

The efflux of the Soul is happiness—here is happiness;
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times;
Now it flows unto us—we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character;
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman;
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of
than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.

Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old;
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments;
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

The earth never tires;
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first—Nature is rude and incomprehensible

Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine things, well envelop’d;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Allons! we must not stop here!
However sweet these laid-up stores—however convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain
However shelter’d this port, and however calm these waters, we must not anchor here;
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, we are permitted to receive it but a

Allons! the inducements shall be greater;
We will sail pathless and wild seas;
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements!
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests!

The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial waits no longer.

Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance;
None may come to the trial, till he or she bring courage and health.

Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself;
Only those may come, who come in sweet and determin’d bodies;
No diseas’d person—no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.

I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes;
We convince by our presence.

Listen! I will be honest with you;
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes;
These are the days that must happen to you:

You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d—you hardly settle yourself to
satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you;
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only answer with passionate kisses of
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

Allons! after the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong to them!
They too are on the road! they are the swift and majestic men; they are the greatest

Over that which hinder’d them—over that which retarded—passing impediments large or small,

Committers of crimes, committers of many beautiful virtues,
Enjoyers of calms of seas, and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habitués of many distant countries, habitués of far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of children, bearers of

Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years—the curious years, each emerging from
which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely, their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth—Journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.

Allons! to that which is endless, as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you—however long, but it
waits for you;
To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it—enjoying all without labor or
the feast, yet not abstracting one particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste
of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them—to gather the love
out of
their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many roads—as roads for traveling souls.

The Soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as the soul;
The body has just as great a work as the soul, and parts away at last for the journeys of

All parts away for the progress of souls;
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments,—all that was or is apparent upon this
any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of Souls along the grand

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all
progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.

Allons! whoever you are! come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though
been built for you.

Allons! out of the dark confinement!
It is useless to protest—I know all, and expose it.

Behold, through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession;
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of rail-roads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bed-room, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,
Speaking of anything else, but never of itself.

Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? nature?
Now understand me well—It is provided in the essence of things, that from any fruition of
no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle—I nourish active rebellion;
He going with me must go well arm’d;
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well.

Allons! be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge

Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

On Life, Death and Happiness

If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, who would I want to spend today with? Where I would I want to be today?

I don’t feel invincible any longer. I don’t feel like I have the rest of my life ahead of me. In fact, it’s like my best days are behind me. Half my life is done. I know I don’t have the choices I used to have — I can’t reinvent myself again, and I’m resigned to the fact that there are things I thought I could do that I will never do.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting to die. I don’t want to fill the next 36 years with the minutiae of a consumerist lifestyle. I don’t want to spend every month working to buy something — all the things I “should” own.

I want to feel alive. I want to be happy. I want to have purpose.

And when I die, I want to die satisfied that I lived till the very last moment. On my own terms. Bearing the consequences of my actions and choices.

Remembering Diptosh

He didn’t hire me. I ended up with him because I got hired but nobody seemed to know where I fit. It wasn’t the organization’s fault — I wasn’t the fluffy, soft-features sort, I didn’t have the beat experience of a hard-nosed reporter, and I was too experienced (old at 25?) to be on the city desk.

From the day I joined journalism in July 2001 I had been a particular kind of editor’s dream. I was a good enough writer/storyteller that I could be parachuted in to pretty much any situation and be relied upon to come back with an interesting take — not just the facts, but also flavor. And I wrote with a certain flair.

In my first few weeks on the job, I covered an an event at a school, a speech by Lalu Prasad Yadav, and interviewed a former Indian ambassador for a light hearted column in the local edition of the Hindustan Times.

By the time I met Diptosh in 2005 at CNN-IBN, I had been lucky enough to find bosses who knew how to put me to good use on a daily basis. They helped me hone my writing skills. They had taught me how to spot THE story. How to persevere. I had been to Kashmir and Nepal. I was a regular member on big story, election and budget coverage teams, and often played the role of the person who stitches it all together. And I would churn out a front-page anchor story (usually about tech) frequently enough to be of value. I was the bright young sub-editor/writer. I was popular and full of myself — an affliction that doesn’t seem to go away :)

Diptosh, the wonderful human being that he was, taught me something very different. He taught me how to fail gracefully.

I am a small town kid with a chip on my shoulder and a need to prove myself. I know I’m intelligent and usually have an over-inflated sense of self. The first time my wife met me, she dismissed me almost immediately as an extraordinarily arrogant person.

Diptosh taught me how to let my guard down. How it was okay to ask for, and receive help. How it was good to surround myself with super-bright people, but also what it took to work with people whose intelligence isn’t immediately apparent. He taught me how not to be a feudal boss. He taught me how to spar with a smile. He taught me the value of the right question and the correct insight, not just in search of a story, but in the lives we live and the relationships we build. He taught me to see the best in others.

He taught me how to be a better human being, if only by seeing me as one.

I’m willing to bet that everyone whose life he touched has anecdotes they want to share, and moments they want to hold close. I have mine. He will be remembered.

Review: Rajdeep Sardesai’s Book On The Elections

An election that changed India – a cliche trotted out after every general election is doing the rounds again. It is perhaps more accurate to say that a profound change has been kickstarted by these election results. For the first time in Indian history a right wing government with an absolute majority has five, perhaps ten, years to drive their agenda. India has married the right. For better and for worse, in sickness and in health…

Rajdeep tells the fascinating story of the rise of the people who hold the fate of this country in their hands. He is honest and sincere. His opinions are balanced with a healthy dose of soul searching evident in what we read. It is an important story – no matter what your politics.

I should explicitly state my politics here: I am a middle of the road, wishy washy liberal on social issues and a centrist on economic issues (I support ease of business but don’t think we should abolish all elements of the welfare state and I support universal healthcare). Generally, I find it easy to agree with Rajdeep’s worldview.

I was surprised to find that this book makes me uncomfortable in parts – in his telling of the story of Modi and Rahul Gandhi (clearly not versus) one emerges as scarily able and the other as scarily incapable. He is fair to both, and hard on both. There is sympathy for both and a clear articulation of the expectations both have to live up to. Most importantly the book challenges and clarifies long held perspectives on Modi, his motivations and his ambitions.

In his analysis of both, he is harder on Gandhi – who he sees as a 9-to-5 politician who is disconnected and perhaps more worryingly disinterested. Modi needs a strong opposition to make sure he keeps working hard, and doing what’s right. It is the lack of an opposition today, and Rajdeep’s indictment of Rahul Gandhi as a weak, ineffectual leader that should serve as a wake up call for the Congress.

In many ways this book is also about Rajdeep and his journey. From the newsman at the Times of India to the first of the second generation of news entrepreneurs, to being amongst the first of those who exited the news channel he created. Unlike Raghav Bahl he never became a businessman. He was, and is, a newsman. Driven by a need to hold the powerful to a higher standard of probity and performance. And this increasingly in the face of charges of bias from both the left and the right. And that perhaps is his greatest challenge in the years ahead. Rajdeep likes being liked, and the next few years will require him to do his job in an increasingly hostile environment- ala New York 2014.

We need him and his ilk. The opposition is asleep, and when awake flailing about with no ideas and a tired vision of two Indias. At the India Economic Summit last week, the BJP ministers and big business were high fiving each other. The only notes of discord were struck by the WEF’s own global shapers and young global leaders who kept bringing up the notion of purpose driven organisations and sustainable development. And then there was Aruna Roy – forever tainted by her role in Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council – who took on the dogma of the right with her characteristic flair. There was no sign of an alternate political discourse from anyone in the Congress.

Rajdeep is a democrat – who believes in elections, who respects (not reveres) elected leaders, and who is willing to ask the hard questions.

More importantly, this book shows he is willing to explore his own biases and prejudices.

And he’s never boring.

Disclaimer: I worked at CNN IBN between 2005 and 2007. I haven’t met him since.

Five Reasons Why Marketers Ignore Social Media At Their Own Peril

This was written for the DNA and appeared on Nov 3, 2014

Social Media isn’t just another channel. It’s a marker of human evolution. The impact of technology on us as a species is best seen in how our relationships, our attitudes, and our mores are changing. A“viral video” isn’t just a super-popular video; it’s a shared experience, an opportunity to re-enforce notions of self and identity. A like on a Facebook page isn’t just armchair activism; it’s validation — the largest driver of self-esteem.

The biggest challenge for us as marketers, employers, corporations, and societies, is to understand this new human being. This person whom many older people see as fickle, entitled, with no long term goals andplans, and with little respect for experience or institutions.

If you as a marketer are using social/digitalmedia for short- term gains: reach, fans, likes, and shares — you’re missing the forest for the trees, focusing on outputs, instead of outcomes.

Use it to test ideas and assumptions, not just gather data about everybody who “likes” your brand page, or follows you on a channel. Use it to build a narrative for your brand, not only for short-term campaigns that try and sell your latest and greatest product. Use it to understand this brave new world that’s already upon us, and not just think there are too many places for people to complain now.

The brands that understand this are already ahead of their competition. Without breaking non-disclosure/handshake agreements, I can safely say that some of the world’s largest brands are running projects to rebuild audience segmentation, category insights, product testing, go to market strategies, and customer loyalty programs. And that’s just the CMO.

It is not in the interest of the agency that makes all its margins of TV commercials to come to you with a digital firststrategy. You — the brand manager, the CMO, the CEO reading this article — has to drive that change. Or you will become irrelevant.

Ten Social, Digital, Mobile Commandments

Number One:
The CEO needs to be on Twitter. The CMO needs to be on Twitter. And they have to tweet everyday.

Number Two:
Stop thinking everybody has to love you. Deal with the hate, learn from the rants, and ignore the trolls.

Number Three:
Choose Instant Messaging groups over email. Everytime.

Number Four:
Be personal, but don’t get personal. Ever.

Number Five:
A press release isn’t a blog post. It isn’t a Facebook post. And it shouldn’t be the only tweet on the subject.

Number Six:
You have a camera on your phone. Use it. Images speak more than 140 characters.

Number Seven:
If you’re social when the going’s good, it’ll be easier to deal with a crisis.

Number Eight:
Don’t count followers and fans, build relationships.

Number Nine:
Talk about things you care about, not about the things you want people to care about.

Number Ten:
Have fun. Nobody wants to be social with a bore.