I'm Tav, a 29 year old from London. I enjoy working on large-scale social, economic and technological systems and have been pursuing the Espian vision since starting my first company 11 years ago.
This is a draft, pseudo auto-biography written in a simple Q&A style. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
- Are you happy to answer personal questions?
- Who are you?
- What's your name?
- No, really, what's your name?
- Who is Tav Ino/Espian?
- Do you suffer from schizophrenia?
- When is your birthday?
- Where were you born?
- Where have you lived?
- Have you had a privileged upbringing?
- Where did you go to school?
- What academic qualifications do you have?
- What languages do you know?
- What inspired the Espian vision?
- How do you get your ideas?
- Are you in a relationship?
- What's the story of the Wobbly Bridge?
- What are your deepest values?
- Have you ever lied?
- Have you ever stolen anything?
- Have you ever been disloyal?
- Are you a bigot?
- Are you gay?
- Are you violent?
- Are you a vegetarian?
- Have you taken drugs?
- Have you ever paid for sex?
- Have you been hustled?
- Do you have a criminal record?
- What do you have against the Vatican City?
- How much debt do you have?
- What jobs have you had?
- What is the worst invention ever?
- What have you done with your life?
- What do you want to do with rest of your life?
- What has been your most self-empowering moment yet?
- What inspires you?
- What has been the low point of your life?
- What has been your strangest experience so far?
- What problem have you struggled the most with?
- Why don't you read books?
- Who are you most thankful for?
- Is it true that you met with the Tamil Tigers? Are you one?
- What is so good about Nutella?
- How do you justify your large ecological footprint?
- What do you hope to achieve with this document?
- How does someone get in contact with you?
Are you happy to answer personal questions?
“Transparency is fundamental to trust”
Yes. I have nothing to hide and believe that transparency is fundamental to trust. Because it lets others understand where you are coming from and your motives are made clear.
The personal stuff is what matters. It's what drives people. What affects their thoughts. Their actions. One might give reasoning for actions, but it is all driven by something very personal.
For example, there was a time when I took a closed approach. Why? Not because I believed in it. But because I was pissed off. Pissed off at an ex-collaborator with whom I had disagreements of strategy. I didn't want him to benefit from my work if he didn't believe in it.
There was another time when I couldn't focus on my work for months. I was heart broken. When people mention heartache they fail to mention that it's not just a metaphor, your heart really aches!
Feeling connected. Falling in love. Being loved back. Not being loved back. Being warm and safe. The story of the heart defines us. And to be useful to society it is paramount that we first understand ourselves. Then by sharing, we let others do so too.
Who are you?
Entrepreneur. Musician. Engineer. Designer. Economist. Scientist. Architect. Inventor. Activist. Producer. Hacker. Poet. Spiritual leader. Anthropologist. Writer. I am none of these. Yet I find myself playing with a curious mix of it all. Symbiotic engineering.
What's your name?
No, really, what's your name?
It's just Tav. No surname. Like Madonna if you will. If you mean what's the name on my birth certificate, then it's Vageesan Sivapathasundaram. As you can probably imagine, many school exams were finished by the time I managed to fill in my name.
When my father kicked me out of the house he demanded that I never use his name. What he meant was that I shouldn't use his name to ask for help from other people.
“Being homeless at 17 gives you a certain outlook”
But being made homeless at 17 gives you a certain outlook. Having to sleep in a wet park doesn't endear you to the guy responsible. So I decided to take his wish rather literally and just abandoned my surname. Gave myself the name ‘Tav’ — a shortened form of an internet handle I'd been using, ta'veren:
“A person around whom the Wheel of Time weaves all surrounding life-threads, perhaps all life-threads, to form a Web of Destiny” [Jordan-1990].
I quite liked it because the meaning was rather similar to my birth name, Vageesan, which also means: creator, lord of knowledge, lord of speech, &c.
And as I would later find out from an excited Kabbalist at a party sometime, Tav is also a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It supposedly stands for truth [Ginsburgh] and represents the covenant between God and his people. Or maybe it just means a box.
Who is Tav Ino/Espian?
Saritah, an old housemate of mine, used to call me “Tavino”. So when sign-up forms insist on a surname, I give them “Ino”. It's not a part of my name. Just there to sate the surname requirements of silly websites.
Likewise with “Tav Espian”.
Do you suffer from schizophrenia?
Nope. At least no more than average. For example, when I was about 8, I used to have 3 imaginary friends who controlled the various forces of life. Sadly I haven't seen them since hitting puberty.
I did once conduct a related experiment though — spent a few months living multiple lives in parallel. I had keys to a number of different houses. Introduced different aspects of myself under different names. Isolated my behaviours into distinct characters.
“A gentle soul with a love for humanity”
This experiment — whilst it nearly pushed me over into insanity — helped me realise my true self. Because in all the personalities I took, a certain commonality was inescapable. A gentle soul with a love for humanity.
“If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman” — Socrates.
When is your birthday?
18th March 1982.
Where were you born?
In North Middlesex Hospital, Enfield, London, UK.
Where have you lived?
In London (UK) for most of my life:
- Finsbury Park
- Sudbury Hill
- Liverpool Street
With some temporary stay in:
- Notting Hill
- Swiss Cottage
In Sri Lanka for 3 years:
In Tamil Nadu (India) for 2 years:
In Berlin (Germany) for a year:
- Prenzlauer Berg
Have you had a privileged upbringing?
I've had a mixed upbringing. Growing up on a farm/jungle in Sri Lanka. Being a city boy in London. The quality of life I had growing up was reflective of the ups and downs in my father's life.
He would be unemployed at times and we would live in shitholes. He would also make more than £100k a year sometimes and we would live decently. Ups and downs.
I consider myself rather privileged to have had private schooling at Dulwich College. But this was only possible because of a scholarship and an assisted place. I appreciate it moreso because I've been at state schools and realise how shit they can be.
“Thankful for the various opportunities life has given me”
But I am even more thankful for the various opportunities life has given me. To have grown up under the influences of two different cultures. To have been born and brought up in London — in some ways, the centre of the world. To have experienced poverty and excess.
To have experienced death at an early age and thus been able to question the meaning of life. To have a loving mother. To have a cruel father. To not being incapacitated in some form. To have decent-enough looks. The Universe has been good to me.
And even the suffering I've experienced has been beneficial — a real education in the School of Life.
Where did you go to school?
I started at Heronsgate primary school in Greenwich. Then home schooled by my mother whilst living in India for 2 years before joining Broadwater primary school in Tooting. I also briefly attended Graveney's 6th form for A-level Math classes before joining Dulwich College in 1992.
I dropped out of Dulwich in early 2000 after Leeds University gave me an unconditional offer to do a degree in Philosophy and Economics. Unfortunately, whilst I accepted the offer, I never bothered to turn up. Sorry Leeds!
What academic qualifications do you have?
Nothing really. Unless you count GCSEs and A-levels — The Autodidactic School of Polymathy doesn't give out certifications yet.
I did 2 of my 12 GCSEs early at the age of 9 — in Mathematics and Tamil. Did the others at the usual age of 16. Got an A grade in all of them.
Did 8 A-levels in: Maths, Ancient History (AS), General Studies, Further Maths, French (AS), Physic, Chemistry and English. Got the grades AAABBNUX respectively. The last three were because I didn't bother turning up to the exams after I got the unconditional offer for university.
I also did my SATs for entrance to US universities and think I got a perfect score — maybe that was only in the Maths. My memory is sketchy on that one. Got fazed out when I realised that I couldn't afford the yearly 30k+ that MIT/Harvard wanted.
“Lost interest in academia by my mid-teens”
My childhood aspirations to do a PhD by the time I was 18 were gone as I lost interest in academia by my mid-teens. Academic qualifications seemed to simply be an exercise in memory rather than understanding.
An example would be my Ancient Hsistory exam. I hadn't attended classes, so my teachers predicted a D grade. The day before the exam I read a book on the topic. So when the results arrived and I'd gotten an A grade, the Classics department was rather surprised. Nothing more than short-term memory in action.
And whilst I've never experienced university, people often tell me it's different. This, however, doesn't correlate with my experiences as a teacher. I used to privately tutor undergraudate computer science students in my early twenties. And their university education seemed to be just as focused on memory and not on understanding.
What languages do you know?
“Lucky to be bilingual”
Despite my fantasies of being a polyglot, I am only fluent in two: English and Tamil. I am familiar with some very basic French and German. A certificate somewhere states that I should know some Japanese but I don't (at least not anymore).
The most fun I ever had learning a language so far has been Hindi. I was 14 and on holiday in South India for 3 months and convinced a North Indian gentleman to teach me for a mere £30.
The deal was that I could turn up at his house any time during the day and he would teach me. It turned out that he was just newly wed, and observing the flirting of adults was an interesting side-experience to the learning of Hindi and Sanskrit.
Unfortunately, like with Sinhalese and Latin, I can remember very little and will be surprised if I recognised even a few letters from the written script (Devanagari).
At some point though, I'd like to learn these languages properly — along with Russian, Chinese (Mandarin), Arabic, Greek and Spanish. I consider myself very lucky to be bilingual. If you have kids, teach them many languages before they reach the age of 5. It really helps.
What inspired the Espian vision?
The death of my grandmother [Palmer-2004]. To understand this, you need to go back to the start of my life. 25 days old. Beginning my jetset lifestyle. My mother and I were on the way to Sri Lanka.
Her father was dying back home. Lung cancer. When he passed away two months later, my grandmother was left all alone. So my mother decided to leave me there with her and returned to England.
And that is how I spent my first years growing up. Thinking that my grandmother was my mother. My mother eventually came back for me. And I met my parents for the first time a few months before my fourth birthday.
A year and a bit later, I had a little sister and we were about to emigrate to the USA. My father was going to Berkeley. But news came that my grandmother had fallen ill whilst visiting friends and family in India. Bone cancer.
I was rather adamant that we go to India. At least for me to go. Eventually my mother, sister and I went to India. My grandmother had her leg amputated. The cancer had stopped spreading. I nursed her back to health.
But then on October 20th 1988, she had a heart attack. My mother had been out shopping. I called for help from the neighbours. I prayed to the God of Death to spare her. But to no avail. Blood dripped from her nose. Her body was ice cold.
As the eldest grandson, I had to alight her funeral pyre. I refused. I wanted to freeze her and preserve her until death could be reversed. You have to do this everyone said. So I did.
A few days later I snapped. I was 6. This was my first experience of death. I had grown up under shell attacks in Sri Lanka and seen bloodied, mutilated war victims, but had never seen death directly. I couldn't understand why we lived. What is the point of life if all that you get at the end is death?
The family across the road were Christian. I asked them. I asked their priest. The neighbours to the right were Muslim. I asked them. I asked their imam. I asked the Jains. The Saivas. The Hindus. The Sikhs. The Buddhists.
I got similar answers. But none were satisfactory. Made me realise that there is very little difference in the real teachings of the various faiths. But I still didn't have an answer.
I wanted to go meditate in the mountains. Maybe I'll reach enlightenment like Buddha. Wander the wilderness like Jesus. My parents talked me out of this. So I kept on asking questions of any adult that would give me their time.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that life has no meaning. There is no ultimate truth or purpose. God lies within. And the only worthy goal in life is to be happy in the moment.
But then I looked around. We were living in a village in southern India. During the time following my grandma's death, the narcissicism of childhood had been replaced by an awareness of the world.
And everywhere I looked I saw needless suffering. I compared the life in India to life in England. The differences in the material quality of life. The wastefulness and excess where others barely survived. The differences in the spiritual quality of life. How, despite not having much, the poor seemed happier.
I was also able to see politicians in action. The ideals of democracy thrown aside as people were bribed into voting for specific parties. I tried to understand why people would destroy the chances of a collective better future for a slightly better today.
Eventually I came to the realisation that one's basic needs need to be met. One's family to not be starving. Otherwise people were willing to screw each other over for short term gain.
And if I were to be happy in my life and not be screwed over by others then I needed to ensure that others had their needs taken care of. And if everyone had the potential to be happy, then I could be happy.
And thus I discovered my life purpose. By adopting the entire world as my family. The Espian vision was born.
How do you get your ideas?
Most of my ideas are informed and inspired from experiences that life puts me through. And, quite often, they reach clarity as I am mid-speech discussing such situations. One example I'll elaborate here is Pedipeace.
It was inspired by events that took place during a March 2003 protest as War started in Iraq. As I was heading out to join some friends from school, I couldn't find my belt. There was a corded PC microphone on the table. I tried it out as a belt. It worked, but it looked rather silly so I took it off.
I caught up with my friends at Westminter. One of them had just been to Morocco. He had a present for me. A djellaba. I wore the robe over my t-shirt. A few hours later I had been adorned further.
My scarf was being used as a bandana to hold together a wreath of daffodils adorning my head. I was carrying a big stick — the leftovers of an anti-war placard. I had used it earlier to make some music on some traffic cones and beer bottles.
The protest continued as usual. The BBC interviewed me for looking strange. All in all, it had been a lovely afternoon walk with friends. Except for the shouting of “No War” constantly, it demonstrated how lovely London would be if it was pedestrianised.
What's the story of the Wobbly Bridge?
Time. 2am. Place. The wobbly (millennium) bridge.
After entertaining myself running around the trees, I pull myself up onto the wobbly bridge and gently skip along. My heart beats slightly faster as I see the river flow underneath me. The thrill of being so high. The thrill of falling.
Clumsily pull myself over the side, straddle a beam and sit. Watch the river flow. I lean back. Feel the aura of the full moon. The wind blows. So soft. But with a sharpness that makes me alert. Aware. Lyrics come to mind “London calling to the underworld… I live by the river!”
I get up to climb back over. I almost slip. Heart beats. Back on the wobbly. Start to skip along again. In front of me, a giant circle. A perfect circle. A circle of objects. I look around — no-one to be seen. A present from an anonymous stranger.
I delight in the find and start exploring. A mobile phone. A paintbrush. A block of wood. A pressure valve. A blue tin (labelled russian caviar). I look inside. Some round stones. Another block of wood. Too many objects to be mentioned here. The wind takes on a cold edge, but the present makes me very warm.
And in the middle of this perfect circle, at the exact middle of the bridge (both lengthways and sideways), a grey and white toy bunny with a fat blue alkaline battery. I ponder upon the present for a long time. Is there a clever message?
For some reason, the words “beautiful girl lovely dress” sample across my mind's ear. A cyclist zooms by. I call back at him. He stops. He turns. He approaches cautiously. I ask him what he thinks. Maybe a clock he says. Doesn't have anything interesting to say. I let him go.
I explore the present further. Time goes by. I feel inspired. Thoughts provoked. Another walks by. I wave. We speak. I can sense the samani in this creature. We will be good friends.
I bid the present goodbye, and decide to spend the remaining hours of the morning exploring the mind of this new found friend. And fun hours they were.
What are your deepest values?
“Truth, justice, honour, loyalty and love”
Truth, justice, honour, loyalty and love. Sure, they might be based on the Code of Thundera, but they are my deepest values. And whilst I occasionally slip up, I constantly strive to abide by them. This constant struggle is what makes life interesting.
And, although not a value, another major driving force of my life is best described in Fight Club: “This is your life and it is ending one minute at a time”. That is, life is short and one should make the best of it. Carpe diem!
Have you ever lied?
Yes, a handful of times. I'm also terrible at lying — you can see it from a mile off!
I do however have two habits which are far from my self-image as a Speaker of Truth. One is that I occasionally pretend to be ignorant and ask others to explain things to me. This can be useful to both get a feel for what the other person actually understands as well as a way to stroke their egos.
I don't actually see an issue with this — as far as I can see it is beneficial social lubrication. However I did once hear about Tony Blair getting lambasted for similar behaviour, so perhaps there is something sinister that I am missing?
The other habit of mine is related to what an old business partner of mine refers to as “concentric circles of bullshit”. It could probably be best understood by looking at how green.tv came into existence.
It started with the idea being pitched to UNEP, Greenpeace and a few others. This was before YouTube had become mainstream and they didn't really see the value of an online video channel dedicated to environmental issues. Or had even heard of podcasts.
They weren't happy to provide any resources, but were okay enough for their names to be used as partners. This was all it took for the concentric circles of bullshit to go into action!
It became easier to go round to a number of other organisations and say, “Hey, UNEP and Greenpeace are backing us, would you like to come on board?”. A Paragon of Truth would never have been happy with such half-truths but it proved effective.
By the time of launch, the circle had come back to the original parties who were now willing to provide a lot of support since so many others were on board!
One of the Directors of UNEP was even willing to claim to have been the visionary behind the idea in the first place and was more than happy to parade the accomplishment in front of other UN agencies.
Now it worked out really well for everyone involved in green.tv, but playing with such half-truths can sometimes have painful consequences. However, such hustling is unfortunately a necessary trait sometimes when building businesses. If anyone can tell me how to achieve the same results without it, I'd be happy to learn.
Have you ever stolen anything?
Sadly, yes. Five times.
The first time, I stole 50p from my mother's coat pocket. I was 9 and wanted to buy some cola bottles (they used to be just 1p each back then!). I felt guilty about this for weeks after and eventually confessed.
The second time, I helped some fellow homeless people pick up scraps of metal from a construction site. The metal got sold at a dodgy garage somewhere and paid for a warm night and a drink. Sorry construction company!
The third time, I had done some work for a guy. Did it exactly as he wanted. But he claimed it wasn't and refused to pay up. So I convinced him to give me the money as a loan and have sadly yet to repay it. Sorry John!
I shop-lifted some food from Tesco once when I was one of the billion odd living on less than $2 a day. So I paid for some of the items and walked out with several more in the bag.
The final time, I stole a passport sized photo of an ex-girlfriend after we split up. This is my confession.
Have you ever been disloyal?
Sadly, twice. Once for real and the other time in my head. Both, unsurprisingly, involved women.
The first time, a friend asked if his ex could stay at my place — they were going through a separation. Things went great for a while. She was extremely lovely and I enjoyed having her around the place.
But once she started making advances, my value system was challenged. Torn between my loyalty to my friend and my attraction to her, I am sorry to say that I ended up giving in and we ended up having a fling.
The second time, a friend and his girl of many years had broken up. It so happened that she was also the sister of another friend of mine. And so we ended up spending a fair bit of time together.
During this time I gradually fell for her. Thankfully I am pleased to say that I never acted on my feelings for her, but I am still not proud of having had those feelings in the first place.
Loyalty is very important to me and I am truly sorry for having let down my friends on those two occasions.
Are you a bigot?
“Much to be gained in life when one keeps an open mind”
Whilst I have no compunctions about political incorrectness and will tease the French and the Obese, I am not a bigot. It is hard to be so when you grow up in a truly diverse city like London.
As a further testament, my various lovers have come from a variety of religious and national backgrounds — Bolivia, England, Germany, Greece, India, Lithuania, New Zealand, Singapore, St. Lucia, Vietnam…
Ditto with my various flatmates/colleagues — Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Gambia, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, USA, &c.
In contrast my dear father is a homophobic racist. In fact, I would go as far to say that, in general, immigrants tend to be more bigoted than “natives”. Whilst unjustifiable, this is in some ways understandable — a reflection of their insecurity and vulnerability.
It's when it gets passed down to their children that I have a problem with it. For example, I was at my sister's 21st birthday. It was at a club down near Soho. And I was rather shocked as I walked in.
Why? Because with the exception of about 5 people, everyone else there was brown. Not that I'm complaining. Asian girls — like their South American counterparts — tend to be rather pleasant on the eyes.
But when many of these people were speaking to each other in Gujarati, Tamil, Hindi, &c., I began to wonder. And after speaking to a few of them, my doubts were confirmed. Most of these people rarely mixed with people outside of these groups.
Now, being part of an ethnic community is not a bad thing. I would say it's a great thing. But doing so to the exclusion of mixing with other groups is definitely harmful. Especially in the context of London where you have so much opportunity and no excuse.
Why? Because mixing with the same type of people doesn't help to broaden your mind. You need to be exposed to unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. That's essential to nurturing a healthy understanding of the world around you.
Some people might misinterpret this as being racist to my “own kind”. I've even been called coconut twice — brown on the outside, white on the inside. I'm neither white nor brown. I'm a multi-coloured kaleidoscope. A human being. An Espian.
I want to get past the useless social ghettos that repeatedly form. These serve no purpose except to create needless boundaries between otherwise loving beings. And, whilst rare, I've experienced bigotry from “natives” too.
The most surreal one was a pub in east London. I had popped in whilst waiting for a girlfriend. It was eerily filled with just white people. Even posh venues have a token coloured individual.
All eyes turned to me as I put my coat down and approached the bar. One of the barmaids intersected me and escorted me to the door. They were closing. Right. Now, again, I have nothing with people mixing with their “own”. Just don't do it exclusively! Say no to social ghettos.
Anyways, seeing the bigotry of others whilst growing up had been a good enough lesson in the pointlessness of it. There is so much to be gained in life when one keeps an open mind.
One advice I'd like to share is to not suspect bigotry of others. My father would interpret any insult or rejection as racial discrimination. My gay friends would express gay pride a bit too much to overcompensate for the oppression they felt others had towards them.
Sure, racism and oppression exist. There is a bigot on every street. But don't live in fear of it. Don't suspect it. Just be yourself. And if that is a true being with good intentions, others will sense that and react positively. No matter what.
As for the few that don't. So what? They are probably old and set in their ways. They will die off soon enough. Oh, that reminds me of another thing. Political fucking correctness.
I was on a train once. Befriended this guy sitting in the same carriage. We'd been having an hour long conversation when I asked him how life was as a cripple. He went berserk.
Now I hadn't meant to insult him in any way. That should have been clear from the tone of my voice. And he was a cripple. At least by any dictionary definition that I've seen. But, no. He was a disabled something or other.
What the fuck? It seems to me that some people deal with their shortcomings by hiding it behind fancy politically correct phrases. No, I'm not blind. I'm just visually impaired. What the fuck? Deal with reality. Shit happens. Just be yourself.
Are you gay?
No. However I have had two experiences relating to the issue. They took place just over a decade apart and what surprises me is how similar both scenarios were.
The first took place when I was 16. We were staying over at a family friend's house in India and sometime in the early hours of one morning I woke to find one of their sons sucking my cock.
My initial thought was to respond with physical violence, but given the matter of his teeth around my most delicate part, I instead controlled myself, withdrew Mister Helmet from his grasp and explained my lack of interest.
He took the rejection fairly well and went away. To this day I have no idea why he thought such behaviour would be okay. What baffles me even more is that a similar incident took place 10 years later!
This time it was a friend that I'd made at a party a few weeks prior. I had liked his energy and invited him to one of my house parties. He had ended up crashing in my room towards the end of the party.
It was not uncommon to go back to my room after a party and find people passed out. So I got into my bed and went to sleep. I gradually woke up a little while later to find him giving me a blowjob.
I couldn't believe that this was happening again. And perhaps because I was still drunk or perhaps because earlier that day I'd had a break up with two of the girls that I'd loved, but by that point I really didn't care.
So, this time, I let the guy suck me off. At one point he even moved around wanting me to reciprocate — I pushed him away and he seemed to get the hint. And once I'd ejaculated, he put his clothes back on and left.
Now, when I have recounted what had happened to others, some have suggested that I might therefore have bi-tendencies. Whilst this might be true, I have never fantasised about having sex with a guy or been turned on by it, so I fail to see how.
In fact, on that particular night, it really didn't matter that it was a guy. It could have just as well have been a Fleshlight sex toy for all I cared. Pure physical release and nothing more.
So there you go. I am certainly not homophobic but I have no desire for romantic or sexual relationships with guys either.
Are you violent?
If you ask everyone who knows me, they will attest that I am one of the calmest people you'll ever meet. But, like everyone, I've had my moments.
I don't appreciate violent environments, but I am also comfortable with dealing with violent individuals. As a consequence I've ended up in various minor fights over the years. However, in a few incidents I momentarily lost it and hit women.
One time I punched my little sister several times in the stomach. Unfortunately we weren't kids then. I had been staying with my family for a few weeks and my mother and sister were making each other quite miserable.
Unfortunately I intervened and it escalated to a point where I momentarily lost it. And to make things worse, years later, I repeated my shameful loss of control as an argument with a girlfriend heated up and I hit her.
I can say how she was the aggressor and how she almost destroyed years of my work, but truth is, I should have maintained control. Alas, there is no rewind button in life and even a momentary loss of control can't be excused.
At least to make up for my shame, I spent the night in Brixton police station and got given a caution. She had called the police and despite her not wanting to press any charges, it seems the police had to take the guy into custody.
Having called the police many times when my father was being excessively violent towards my mother, I was actually very appreciative of the police action in this case. However I wasn't too happy with the caution.
Now, a caution isn't a criminal conviction but I felt it to be unjust. She was clearly the aggressor and whilst I was also in the wrong, I felt the discrimination based on my sex to be thoroughly unfair.
And to make matters worse, it turns out that if I had simply refused to answer the questions in the police interview, then I would have walked away with no caution, but since I had been open and honest, I'd fucked myself.
Justice should be contextual and people should be encouraged to be open and honest. In any case, like others before me [Gandhi-1927], I am not a violent individual, but I have sadly had moments where I've lost control.
Are you a vegetarian?
I used to be. Fervently. For 8 years of my life. From August 1998 till December 2006. I had two rational reasons for my choice:
- By eating lower down the food chain, it is more efficient and a larger global population could be sustained.
- Life is beautiful. And our fellow creatures shouldn't live purely for our sake.
But, whilst I believe in the above, I also love the taste of meat and think that it is natural to be a meat-eater. So the real reason I gave up meat was because of a girl. She was a vegetarian.
She was my first love and though she had never asked me to give up meat, I did so willingly. And the fact that I never touched meat was a sign of my commitment to her.
But when we broke up in December 2006, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to stay being a vegetarian or go back to eating meat. So I flipped a coin and am now a meat-eater again.
Have you taken drugs?
Yes. I believe that one should experience as much of what life offers. And not suffering from an addictive personality (nicotine excepted), I have had the luxury of trying out various drugs.
“Hallucinogens helped with my understanding of myself and life”
My favourites have been LSD (Acid), MDMA and magic mushrooms. MDMA truly can be happiness in a packet. And never having had a bad trip, hallucinogens have truly helped with my understanding of myself and life around me.
Actually that not having had a bad trip thing isn't quite true. I was at a rave once tripping my balls off on acid when two girls decided to stalk me. The two witches as I saw them. It was a pleasant trip after I managed to get rid of them.
Drugs like cocaine generally have very little effect on me. They just give me a cold the next day. Some of the designer drugs have been fun — though their effects seem to diminish on repeat usage.
And, as for marijuana, whilst I've had many pleasant experiences on it, it is near the bottom of my drugs list — along with Ketamine. The reason for this is because dope makes you comfortable with not doing anything.
I spent a good six months of my life doing nothing but getting stoned every day. A friend of mine was a total pothead and he would start rolling the next joint by the time I was finishing smoking the last one. And I really don't enjoy not being productive.
Have you ever paid for sex?
No. But I have had a few interesting experiences with prostitutes.
Soho. Crack den
Have you been hustled?
Yes, four times.
The first time, I was trying to score some brown (powdered heroin) from a pair of street dealers. I gave one of them some cash and he owed me a fiver back. He claimed to not have any change and said he'd pop down to the local shop.
Do you have a criminal record?
What do you have against the Vatican City?
Let me be clear that I have nothing against the Vatican. It is the Vatican City that I have problems with. Specifically, the Gendarmeria — the police force.
To understand this, we need to go back to one summer night in 2005. I had gone to Rome for a day meeting. The meeting had gone well and my flight back was early the next morning. So instead of being cooped up in my hotel room, I decided to spend the night checking out Rome.
How much debt do you have?
I have lived most of my life assuming a gift economy of sorts. So my actual legal debt is a £14k loan to Halifax which never seems to go down. However, I owe just under £200k to friends and family.
The bulk of that is to the investors of my first company. The company went bankrupt around my 19th birthday and I decided that the honourable thing would be to assume their lost investment as debt owed to them from me personally.
Whilst this is no doubt a stupid stance to take as legally I owe them nothing and they knowingly took the risk, I felt that they invested because they believed in me and therefore it was my responsibility.
However I haven't felt the same sense of duty when dealing with large corporations and have walked away from an outstanding mobile phone bill with Vodafone and overdrafts with HSBC and Natwest. Sorry, I was poor.
Besides what I feel I owe to the investors of my first company, I also feel guilty for a minor debt of around €50 owed to an Indonesian restaurant. It came about whilst I was a starving artist in Berlin.
I didn't have any money, so I made a deal with the local Turkish and Indonesian restaurants — they'd feed me daily and when I got some money, I'd settle my debt. After a few months of this I eventually settled my debt and all was good.
I asked the Indonesian place if they'd continue the deal and they kindly agreed. These people were lovely. The owner, Surya, and his wife took great care of me. However, about a week or so later, tragedy struck.
An uncle of mine died and my mother paid for a flight so that I could get back for the funeral. Around the same time I was moving from one part of Berlin to another. And, amidst all the commotion, I completely forgot to pay them.
It wasn't intentional and I'd really like to see the debt paid.
What jobs have you had?
I have worked for myself (the Espian vision) most of my life. So have had little chance to have a “normal job”.
My first job was working for an uncle of mine in his post-office/corner-shop in Walthamstow. It was also the longest job I've had (a whole month!). I slept on the store floor and during occasional bouts of insomnia re-organised the shop and somehow managed to double the revenue.
My second longest job was as a street cleaner for Islington council. This was perhaps the best job I've had. I got to get up early in the morning. And work was finished by noon meaning that I had the whole day left.
Unfortunately, after 2 weeks, my ganger called me in and laid me off. I had been spending too much time cleaning each and every street. I was laid off for being a perfectionist. Heh.
Other jobs include being an art salesman, facilitator, etc. The funniest was being an extra for a Sky Sports rugby ad — imagine that, skinny me being portrayed as a rugby player — friends called up in disbelief after seeing the ad.
And, finally, there have been a dozen odd temp jobs which I occassionally tried for a day or two before walking out at the incompetency of those who were meant to be my managers.
What is the worst invention ever?
The wooshing sound of deadlines as they fly past.
What have you done with your life?
A lot of different things. Mainly centered around the Espian vision.
What do you want to do with rest of your life?
A lot. Some of the highlights include:
- Empowering people by creating a better social-economic infrastructure.
- Creating a decentralised social platform. Ampify.
- Crafting a multi-genre musical instrument that inspires people. Jintra.
- Building a city using social architecture and a global underground tube network. Zygote & Xetre.
- Creating a movie of epic proportions. Gaia.
- Travelling to Mars. Mangala.
- Utilising advances in molecular biology to enable a higher quality of life for all. Electrophyll & Geren.
- Nurturing the cultural and natural commons for the benefit of all. Espia.
- Having a daughter. Hiroko.
Most likely I'll die of something like lung cancer before most of this happens. So I also want to make the most of every moment that I am alive. Bringing pleasure to myself and as much of humanity as possible.
What has been your most self-empowering moment yet?
It took place sometime during the summer of 2004.
What inspires you?
What has been the low point of your life?
There have been many low points in my life. Not sure if I could select one as having been the lowest. But one that springs to mind took place in 2003.
It started with me fucking up a freelance work. I'd been asked to develop the new abctales.com — a website for writers from all around the world. It was a relatively straightforward task, but I decided to develop a lot of advanced functionality. I had felt abctales could be a key player in the emerging “Web 2.0” space.
But, in so doing, I ended up taking a lot longer than I had originally planned. I hadn't learnt the art of expectation management at this point. So, after a month, pretty much everyone was pissed off. Not least, the abctales.com community.
The guy who ran the thing and had believed in my abilities was tearing his hair out. The friends who had recommended me to him were fucking pissed off. Someone decided to steal the front tyre from the bike that I'd gotten from a skip. The bike that I'd been using since I couldn't pay for public transport.
The “landlord” wasn't too pleased at rent not being paid. Enough was enough he said. Please leave. And, oh, in the middle of all this, my relationship with a girlfriend took a turn for the worse.
So I gave my landlord my fancy phone in exchange for rent owed. He gave me the brick he owned. I packed up my belongings. As I did so, my laptop decided to die. Besides the phone and a bunch of clothes, it was all I had left.
As I left the space I had called home for the previous year, I felt more lost than when my father had kicked me out four years before. But I knew more people by then. So I made two phone calls.
I fare dodged and got myself to Greenwich, where a wonderful guy called John Lea fixed up my laptop and revived it. I am forever thankful for the kindness he showed.
Then I made my way up to somewhere near West Hamsptead, where another friend, Josef Davies-Coates, helped sort out a place for me to stay temporarily. I'd have to paint the walls but would be indoors. I accepted.
Not the worst place I've stayed, but it wasn't the best either. The flat had nothing besides floors and walls. No heating. One working power point and a tap which dribbled cold water.
Beggars can't be choosers, so I set myself up and got to work. I bought myself a box of cereal with the last pound I had left. I figured I could survive a bit with just water and bits of cereal.
Then I managed to contract a fever somehow. So I spent my time huddled up on the floor with a plastic bag stuffed with clothes as a pillow — getting up to paint the walls every so often.
Three days later the fever had gone and I was able to spend my time working again. I forget how exactly I got myself out of this one, but I am thankful to John and Josef. The kindness of strangers and friends is inspiring.
What has been your strangest experience so far?
I've been lucky to have had a lot of crazy, fun experiences in life. They mostly happened when I was least expecting them. And the strangest one took place one early spring morning.
My housemates and I had been out all night dancing away at The Key. We returned home at about 6 in the morning and not feeling sleepy, put on some music. One of my flatmates picked up the bongo and started playing.
Despite having danced for the previous 8 hours, I still felt an overflow of energy and kept on dancing. Not having had any drugs, my intake had been limited to alcohol and cigarettes.
Then, all of a sudden, I felt one of the most powerful orgasms I'd ever felt. It just took over me mid-dance. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. And, being a non-ejaculatory orgasm, took me a moment to realise what I'd just experienced.
I finally understood the Melveli (the Sufi Whirling Dervishes). I felt the connection to the Universe pulsate through me. I offered myself in service to the whole of creation.
What problem have you struggled the most with?
Double binds. Destiny.
Why don't you read books?
Let me be clear. Whilst I rarely read books, I do read. A lot. The reason I avoid books is for two simple reasons.
The first one is rather ego maniacal. I wanted to be able to claim my ideas as my own. It was a rather poor reaction to discovering Zeno's paradoxes [Aristotle] when I was a kid.
As a master of procrastination who spent a lot of his life thinking, I am comfortable claiming my ideas as my own. But as I've grown older, I've come to realise that nothing stands on its own.
Thus I came to realise that all my thoughts have in some way been inspired by the works and actions of others around me. Truth is not owned. It can only be discovered. I am merely a vessel for it to channel through.
The second reason is the one that still makes me avoid books. I noticed at a young age that “educated” people spoke in a rather funny language. They would use terms that only a select few would understand.
The terms gave them clarity and precision. But they became lost in it. Unable to communicate with most others. A great loss in my view. Because they have much to offer. So I have left it to others to read and simply question them to get an understanding for myself.
Who are you most thankful for?
My mother — Thamilarasi. She has sacrificed much of her life for me. She has always been caring, attentive and loving.
Even when she joked to my father that should he see a woman running down the street pulling out her hair in frustration, he should stop and look. For it might be her — tired of my never-ending questions. But, even then, she kept answering my thousands of “Whys?”.
She taught me the Arts. The Sciences. Mathematics. Music. History. Linguistics. Everything she knew she taught me. She encouraged me to have an open mind.
She even got beaten up several times by my father for supporting me. He broke her nose once because she'd paid £35 to put in my application for GCSE Maths. Doesn't seem like much now, but we were poor then and she'd starved herself for weeks to save up.
In some ways, my desire to change the world for the better was largely ingrained by my mother. She used to have dreams when she was pregnant with me. Dreams of a sage who would take her on travels across the Universe. Teach her mathematics. Show her how life could be.
These dreams convinced my mother that I was the one prophesised by our ancestors. The one who would save his people and make the world a better place. Whilst I've grown to take it all with a pinch of salt, I cannot deny that it affected me.
Thank you Amma.
Is it true that you met with the Tamil Tigers? Are you one?
Yes, I have met them. But, no, I am not affiliated with them.
To understand the context we need to go all the way back to the summer of 1998 — when my 16-year old self was on holiday in India. There I had fallen in love with this amazing girl, N-. She loved me back. Life was good.
But since I was in England and she was all the way over in India, I adopted a life of polyamory [Easton-1997]. My various girlfriends were (surprisingly) accepting that my heart belonged to this girl in India. And, energised by this love, I was able to throw myself into my work.
Then, during Christmas 2002, L- walked into my life. She was over on holiday from Greece. By 2006, she was in love with me. Life was very good! Most of us go through life never meeting someone who connects on all aspects — spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional — but here I'd managed to discover two!
But, by the end of 2006, things began to fall apart. Both N- and L- wanted me to commit to just one of them. Things were also fraught with N- as she also wanted me to give up various other things, e.g. cigarettes, mdma, &c. We'd been having a lot of arguments.
So, rather brashly, on December 1st, I broke off the relationship with N-. As fate would have it — the very same evening — L- broke off with me. I had gone from a high to a low in one day. Never having experienced rejection before didn't help.
Two weeks later, I turned up in Athens. It wasn't quite the surprise I'd intended — one of the side-effects of having public IRC logs which your lovers are aware of.
Things started well. L- was still “madly in love” with me. But then we decided to take a trip to Thessaloniki. Four days later, as we took the train back down to Athens, the relationship was fully over. She now “hated” me.
It was Christmas Day 2006. I picked up my stuff from her house. Checked myself into a hotel. And booked a flight to Berlin the next day. I did the only thing I could do — throw myself into my work.
But the Universe wasn't happy. I'd lost my energy. Even “Love's Cure” [Ovid] was of little help. I tried writing various cathartic letters [Tav-2007]. Nothing. The unusually high energy levels had been replaced by a boundless low.
I initiated the 2007 iteration of 24 weeks. Nothing. Work failed to offer the distraction that I needed. When your work is driven by your love of humanity, it needs to be anchored somehow.
So two weeks into 24 weeks, I abandoned my responsibilities and went to Barcelona. Not sure how, but it helped. A week later I returned revitalised. My energy wasn't back yet. But it wasn't in the negative either. I was able to breathe. To function.
I got back in touch with N-. My energy levels started to ramp up. But, in late 2007, N- got engaged. She was 25. Most of her friends had gotten married by 21. Her parents had gotten tired of her excuses.
N-'s mother had sacrificed a lot to bring up her children. N- wanted to make her happy. So she had agreed to the marriage. I was devastated. So, on December 2007, I turned up in Coimbatoire, India.
It was intense. N- claimed that she was happy to get married. Her husband-to-be, R-, loved her and she loved him. Then, one day, R- and some of his family (about 20 people) came to visit her family.
I felt like Jude when asked to give away his beloved Sue in marriage [Hardy-1895]. I managed to detach myself emotionally and be my usual self. R-'s family even became rather fond of me. Being charismatic has its downsides. And this was one.
That night, after everyone had left, N- broke down in tears. She didn't love R-. She still loved me. She had just been angry over the whole L- situation. And between that and making her mother happy, she had agreed to the marriage.
We talked with R-. Explained the situation to him. Asked him to call the wedding off. He refused. He was madly in love with N-. She told him that she didn't love him. He didn't care. She would come to love him after they got married he claimed. I was baffled.
She tried to call the wedding off. R- retaliated by claiming to commit suicide if she did any such thing. I talked with her parents and asked for her hand in marriage. They refused.
I reasoned. I argued. I pleaded. They would hear none of it. They didn't care that we loved each other. Culture stood in the way. If I married her then her parents claimed they would commit suicide.
I asked N- to come with me. Only after her mother passed away she said — till then she would do what her mother wanted. Even if that meant spending her life with someone she didn't love.
I couldn't understand it. The mother wanted her daughter to be happy and thus was making a decision that would make her daughter's life miserable. And the daughter was willing to have a miserable life in order to make her mother happy.
“Decided to disappear from this insane society and be a hermit”
So I decided to disappear from this insane society and be a hermit somewhere in the Himalayas. Unfortunately N- was able to figure out my intentions and made sure that I got on the flight back to London.
The flight, however, was a transit flight via Sri Lanka. So I just walked off the plane in Colombo. My mind was on auto-pilot. I headed north. A series of buses, military checkpoints and taxis later, I found myself walking through no-man's land. On the way to the Tamil-tiger controlled region of Sri Lanka (Tamil Ealam).
It had been an interesting journey in itself. Included a Buddhist monk I'd befriended who enlightened me to the current state of the civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government and the rebel Tamil Tigers (LTTE).
My British passport had let me off some of the heavy interrogation and body searches that some of my fellow travellers had been constantly subject to. But it had still been rather disconcerting having the private contents of my bag publically emptied for scrutiny at various checkpoints.
I had spoken in English all the way — paranoid of being mistaken for a Tamil Tiger sympathiser. An old lady thanked me in Tamil for helping carry some of her heavy bags of rice across no-man's land. I simply smiled back. We'd reached the Tamil Ealam immigration control.
A guy came out to greet me as I puffed away on a cigarette. What was I doing there? I wanted to visit my grandparents' house. Where was I from? London. Did I know any Tamil? I put on my strongest English Tamil accent and said “கொஞ்சம் கொஞ்சம்” (a little bit).
A while later he led me to an official handling the paperwork who asked me a question in Tamil. I stared back blankly. The other guy proceeded to explain that I didn't know a word of Tamil. I didn't bother correcting him.
What is so good about Nutella?
“Brown skin, brown skin, you know I love your brown skin!” [Arie-2001]
Nutella is simply orgasmic. Mixed with a diet of Fruit & Fibre, one could live quite healthily. And if Mr. Ferrero has a sexy heir, I would have gladly married her in exchange for a lifetime supply of Nutella…
How do you justify your large ecological footprint?
I don't. I just hope that the quality and positive nature of my work outweighs the damage caused by my excess footprint.
And as for using air travel, the dozens of Neem trees that I planted as a kid hopefully help offset that.
What do you hope to achieve with this document?
This is intended as a seed in the Valley of Hope. I would really appreciate similar seeds from everyone reading this. And, together, our seeds will hopefully flourish into beautiful Espia.
True power lies in the look in the eye of each and every one of us. And if we can imagine our desired future, there is no power in the 'Verse that can stop us. Together, we can create the worlds we want.
All thoughts, comments and criticisms are very welcome.
How does someone get in contact with you?
Face to face is best! I'm based in London. If that doesn't work for you, then I would love it if you could use the convey-and-notify approach [Celik-2007] and drop me a link on:
India.Arie, Motown, March 2001.
Aristotle, 350 BC.
Tantek Çelik, 2007.
Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, Greenery Press (CA), December 1997
Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi, 1927.
Gal Einai Institute (from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh).
Thomas Hardy, 1895.
Robert Jordan, Tor Fantasy, November 1990.
Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid), 5 BC.
Sean B. Palmer, March 2004.
Tav, February 2007.