On this site, you will find my creative entrepreneurship journey, unfolding in real time through the stories I share. But it’s not just my story. The Merchant of Stories is also a space for you to discover your own. After all, even if we all come from different places and backgrounds, the human experience is a universal one. We all experience the same ups and downs, the same rhythm of life, the same connection to this vast world.
I grew up on Arab Street, in Singapore’s historic Kampong Glam area. My ancestors first came to Singapore in 1901 as textile merchants. I grew up on my great-grandfather’s knee. By the time I was born, Manchharam Papa was 80. As a child, I would help out in our family business Manaco Textiles on Arab Street. When great-grandad wasn’t tending to customers and suppliers, he would teach me about commerce. His stories were a mix of mythology and what is now termed in modern day lingo as ‘corporate strategy and culture’.
As I sat on his knee, he would tell me about the Goddess Lakshmi as the one who ruled over the realms of material abundance and prosperity. In our modern world, wealth is typically discussed in measurable terminology like revenue, cash flow, assets, growth and so on and so forth. But to him, the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi went beyond that. My great-grandmother’s name was Kamala–one of the epithets of the Goddess Lakshmi. Her name pays homage to the lotus flower.
In muddy or clear waters, may you forever bloom unstained. –Kamala, A Tribute to the Matriarch
In Hinduism, Lakshmi is the Goddess who leads to one’s goal. The eight goals of material existence are: spiritual enlightenment, food, knowledge, resources, progeny, abundance, patience, and success. When we invite Lakshmi into our home at the annual chopda pujan that takes place at Diwali–we invite all eight goals of material existence into the business.
Profitability is a goal for every business. That goes without saying. However, it cannot and should not be the only goal for any business.
Man simply cannot live by bread alone.
The Sanatani Family Legacy
I’m at that point in my creative journey where writing for myself or for the sake of creating something holds very little appeal to me. I have come to view my work as an act of worship, devotion and dedication. My debut novel The Little Light was an ode to the Nine Celestial Beings that fascinated mankind from the dawn of civilisation. My second book The Merchant of Stories paid homage to Mariamman The Rain Goddess.
As a child, I was captivated by the stars and by the planets that occupied a space bigger than our own; and yet somehow seemed to watch over us. As I grew older, I discovered the old-world religions. What were their experiences? What was their connection to the world around them? As a writer, I seek to answer these questions for myself — not only to understand their implications for my own life, but also for the lives of those who cross my path.
As I share my stories and travels with you, it is my sincere hope that we’ll discover both the depth and diversity of the human experience; and also the universal threads that tie us all together. That no matter how far apart we may be, no matter how different our cultures, religions and upbringings are, we are all on the same journey. May we grow together as we explore this common ground and find our connection to one another on this great adventure called life.