Venture Forth | The Merchant of Stories

A journey becomes a venture when you prepare yourself to undertake risks. And what’s life without a little risk and challenges that can shove you forward towards your soul mission? You just need strong determination, a little faith and a belief in yourself to take the first step.

And then, you gather a little courage to take the next one. And a little hope for the next. And as you keep repeating the process, your confidence grows. Soon, you end up lighting the path towards growth. 

When author Dipa Sanatani took her first step in venturing towards her soul mission, she didn’t know what lay ahead. Yet, she decided to embrace the unknown with open arms. She wanted to meet with the infinite possibilities that life throws upon us once we care to venture into it.

And hence began her life’s greatest adventure. A journey that awakens the soul within as it goes along…  

Among other things, the book The Merchant of Stories encompasses the journey of an entrepreneur who believed in herself. And that belief made her break boundaries to reveal unexpected pathways. She has the faith rising strong within her that she has more to gain in the road ahead. She had seen her ancestors do the same long ago. She didn’t fear to do it herself.

When I read the book and got to know her journey, I was struck by the strength, courage and confidence she demonstrated all along her business journey. Being still a child at heart and just starting to have a taste of life’s journey, I find it all so overwhelming. The opportunities and challenges that life can throw–at the same time–can sometimes get too much to handle. I sure find myself breaking at times, too. 

And I know it wasn’t easy for her as well; however, it isn’t even that difficult when you have a heart that strong and a determination so powerful. Didn’t I always say Dipa Sanatani is a real inspiration? 

Well, I had to get a far deeper taste of that inspiration, that courage, that determination which kept her going. So, here I am with another interview with author Dipa Sanatani. And if you wish to have your dose of inspiration, don’t miss out on this powerful interview.

Sanchari: You have been away from home for twelve long years. Yet you feel like the tortoise that carries its home wherever it goes. In a situation where most of us feel homesick, what made you feel so differently?

Dipa: Oh, this story began a long time ago. No one really knows when it started. Our roots are inside us. They are not in the brick-and-mortar buildings found in the external world, but are weaved into the very fabric of our being. 

In 1901, my great-great grandfather Nagindas Dada decided to take his roots with him when he came to Singapore from Surat. But the journey didn’t stop there. We did business with traders from all over the world—from Asia to Europe to North America.

Why should my own personal journey be any different? If they can do it, I can do it, too.

Historical records show that maritime trade with Gujarat began in the 1st century CE. For as long as humans have existed, they have traded their wares, exchanged their ideas and philosophies and allowed themselves to be enriched by cultural exchanges in all its forms. 

Despite the fact that we don’t travel by ship anymore or are (currently) unable to travel anywhere at all—every time I close my eyes—I see it. The mysterious ocean that we crossed as we took on the risks that would allow us to embrace new opportunities. If we stay where we are, we stagnate and go nowhere.  

While travel is a strong theme in The Merchant of Stories, one of the things I’d like to touch on is that I haven’t simply travelled for leisure (although I have done a lot of that as well). I have undertaken ventures. What’s the difference, you might ask. I have moved to the countries I have seeking either business, educational or employment opportunities. This is an entirely different experience to travelling for leisure for a few days or even a few months. 

Dipa Sanatani in China–one of the five countries she’s lived in

A venture, by its very nature, is a risky undertaking. You’re leaving everything you know behind with the faith that there is far more to be gained by travelling to distant lands to ‘make your fortune’. As part of this risky undertaking, one inevitably grows and matures. My personal and professional growth is the natural result of leaving behind the tried-and-tested and embracing the unknown with open arms. 

Currently, due to the Coronavirus, most of us are severely limited in where we can physically go. But that does not mean that we cannot embark on new ventures. The internet is nothing new. Software like Zoom, Hangouts, Skype etc. has already existed for some time. Yet, in light of present circumstances, the online world has opened up in an unprecedented way. 

As for me, I’m currently running my business Mith Books from the four walls of my bedroom-cum-office. Although I have not physically travelled anywhere in months, I am still embarking on a venture—the venture of building a business from home with the backing of the internet as a powerful tool. 

In seeking new opportunities, I am doing what my ancestors once did. I do not fear ‘leaving home’ for my home is inside me and I simply have to take it with me wherever I go. 

Sanchari: Would you like to call yourself as that traveller who loves to discover new places and finds a home in every corner of the world?

Dipa: Risk management is at the heart of every venture. I do not believe that one can understand or form ties with a place in a few days or months. We can barely even get a taste of it! Travelling to escape the grind of our daily lives is a holiday—not a venture or an undertaking. 

There are places where I have ventured where I have felt a stronger connection and significantly more opportunities; and there are places where I have ventured where no matter how hard I try, there are limited upsides and the losses only accumulate. Some places are good for a certain period of time before one stagnates. Some places we return to time and time again. Some places we venture to for a season. The key is in figuring out which is which.  

When you first begin a venture, it has a limitless number of possible futures—some good and some bad. The good and bad outcomes are equally likely. I have discussed both scenarios in my book. The real question is—how will you save yourself if things go wrong? That requires the confidence to deal with risk and manage it—as opposed to avoid it. A lot of it might be temporarily painful—especially if you have to get yourself out of a sticky situation as quickly as possible. 

Right now, with the privilege of hindsight, I can say that there are places and cultures that are more suited to my lifestyle and general temperament; and there are places that don’t suit me at all. But I think until you give things a shot, you won’t know. I wholeheartedly believe in giving opportunities a shot. 

But no, I wouldn’t say that I have found a ‘home’ in every place I’ve been to. 

Author Dipa Sanatani during a work trip to Nagano

Sanchari: People usually like to have a detailed plan while going on a trip. Quite conversely, you love to travel unplanned. What drives you to make such impromptu plans while travelling? Don’t you feel afraid of the uncertainty that it involves?

Dipa: The heart of any venture is an unlimited number of possibilities. If we plan everything before we head out, then we already know our possibilities! 

Do I feel afraid? At times I do, and it turns out to be unjustified. At times, I haven’t felt fear—and I probably should have.

There is an equal chance of things going up or down. At the end of the day, you have to learn to manage and deal with either possibility. Confidence is born of exposing oneself to the unknown. Inertia and complacency sets in when one refuses to step outside one’s boundaries. 

In my belief, the only frontier that one needs to explore is the frontier of their own mind. If you think it can’t be done, then just wait—someone will do it and prove you wrong. If you think it can be done, then sooner or later, you will figure out a way to do it. Boundaries, barriers and unforeseen difficulties should never stop you from fulfilling your heart’s desire. 

Be brave and be courageous. Unexpected pathways will reveal themselves to you at the moment you least expect it. 

Dipa Sanatani on holiday in Ireland where she discovered a love for Celtic mythology

Sanchari: There was a time when you would sometimes miss out on your journey while aiming for the destination. Most of us still commit the same folly. But now you never miss your journey and enjoy every part of it as you travel along. What brought this change in you and how can we all invite this change in our life?

Dipa: We are all seeking some semblance of permanence in an impermanent world. We do this by clinging to people, places, a job, a certain way of life, a certain way of thinking or looking at the world etc. The list of things we can cling to is endless. We look for security and stability, but it somehow alludes us, no matter how hard we try. 

After taking a variety of risks over the years, I developed a sense of confidence I did not have before. In youth, one gets swept up in ideals and grows disillusioned when reality falls short. As I got older, I realised that taking risks is at the heart of personal growth and development. I realised that I will be fine no matter what calamity hits or what happens. 

I simply have to learn to deal with it and move on. 

Sanchari: Sometimes you feel homesick for the places that aren’t your home. So, do you think the famous quote “Home is where the heart is” works perfectly for you? 

Dipa: As a tortoise, I carry my home on my back! Thus, my home is always with me. I never feel ‘lost’ when I am abroad, although my natural wandering spirit means I am always ‘searching’. There is a restlessness at the heart of my being. It is born of curiosity. It is born of wanting to know what one is made of. It is born of seeking. 

All external journeys are ultimately internal journeys. They awaken the soul to the new possibilities that would not have been possible if one chooses to stay put. Which is why I think that in this age of Coronavirus one can continue to have adventures. It is a different kind of adventure than the one that we were previously accustomed to, but the opportunity to have one is still very much there.

All you have to do is explore the frontiers of your mind and reach for that pot of gold

Sanchari: Do you feel that somewhere down the line we are all travellers on this planet and our life is just a journey into the human experience?

Dipa: It depends on the choices you make. If you’ve lived your entire life playing by the rules and doing what is expected of you, then no—you probably won’t have had much of a journey other than the one that was prescribed to you by your parents and educators. There’s nothing wrong with living that life, but it wouldn’t have been much of a ‘venture’. 

Growth comes when you push the frontiers of your mind and create new possibilities. When I returned to Singapore, I had a hard time relating to many of my old ‘friends’. Although they don’t (or perhaps can’t) see themselves in that way; they have been sheltered from themselves, from danger, from chance and from risk. 

To them, my life was an adventure where everything had magically fallen into place. Some of them even lived vicariously through me. The moment I would ask them to come aboard with me or help me with something, they would miraculously disappear or tear me apart.

The world has no shortage of fair-weather folk.

I was fortunate that life presented me with other opportunities and options. The people who did choose to come aboard with me have been a treasure in themselves. They have grown. I have grown. We have grown together. They are the travellers, the explorers, the seekers. They refuse to die and will not give up. They embody the spirit of the phoenix I first chose as the logo for Mith Books. 

They know that the only frontier they have to overcome is the one in their own mind. Once we do that, unlimited opportunities will inevitably find us… and if that doesn’t happen, they know that they can always find a way to overcome the obstacles that dare to stand in their way. 

That—in a nutshell—is the journey

Dipa Sanatani back in Singapore after 12 years abroad.

16 thoughts on “Venture Forth | The Merchant of Stories

  1. Dipa is an amazing and fascinating woman, leader and entrepreneur. I am (arguably) her biggest fan… Although I know there are some contenders for the ‘biggest fan’ position.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Sanchari, what an amazing interview. Such great questions.

    It is nice to read Dipa’s ideas on risk… A true adventurer is always on the lookout for new opportunities.

    Liked by 2 people

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