Saturday, August 4, 2012

Recap of my US Trip

Back in Delhi now taking solace from the powerful monsoon flooding the land outside of my room.  There are massive power cuts in North India, smells emanating from the wet trash which line the streets and animals running in all directions. I’m well aware that at this moment I can be sitting with my friends in my favorite brunch spot in Brooklyn washing down a scrumptious Greek omelet with ice cold mimosas, yet I’m so happy to be back in India, back home.  When I share this, most people say that I’m being fake or somewhat suppressing the truth but the reality is that there is nowhere else in the world that I would rather be living than in India. And the interesting thing is that the more productive and fun my US trips are, the more true this statement is for me.  Guess the trips to the US just show me that my US community is not going anywhere and it is my time to be in India now doing exactly what I’m doing.
The US trip was really incredible. 5 days in my childhood hometown of Huntington Beach, California, one week in my 20’s hometown of New York City and then a few days in Philadelphia for the MLS All-Star game.  In my typical obsessive compulsive way, I planned every minute of every day of the trip to ensure I was able spend quality time with personal and professional contacts. I ran myself ragged at times, but looking back I would not have done it any other way. 

In California, I drove for the first time in over a year traversing through Los Angeles attending professional soccer matches, meeting with agencies and speaking with clubs about the India opportunity.  The highlight of the California portion of my trip was the Welcome Home party my parents threw where my Indian, school friends and professional communities all came together to celebrate life in my parents beautiful backyard.  The other highlight was attending a Chivas USA match at the beautiful Home Depot Center. Each time I step foot on that complex I get goose bumps and wish that I could transport the entire Indian soccer industry to Carson, CA to experience the magic of the place and how far soccer in the US has come over the last 20 years.  

New York City is like no other city in the world.  When I’m there, my mind stops, my heart guides my legs  all over the city from morning to night. Oh and my mouth never shuts up. During the week I accomplished so much more than I thought I would including visiting the FCBarcelona Camp in Randalls Island, spending time with the entire Major League Soccer office, meeting with various agencies, NGOs and investment companies about the Indian soccer opportunity. 

In Philadelphia, it was all about the elevator pitch. Given the tight schedule, it was almost impossible to set up proper sit down meetings with most of the people on my target list so I mastered the technique of saying hello, sharing personal updates, specifying the exact area of Indian soccer I wanted to discuss and establishing realistic next steps in the short time I had with each person.  It was certainly an exhausting and exhilarating experience and never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would be attending the MLS All-Star game as a guest of MLS and be known as the individual representing Indian football community. The funny places our hearts take us…

Now I’m back home recovering from jet lag, getting used to being in this old (but new) environment and following up on each of the conversations I had in the US.  Since it is impossible for me to write about the entire trip, I’ve listed out the major insights I took from my 2.5 weeks abroad:
  • Driving a car is like riding a bike, once you learn you never really forget
  • There is a big difference in my relationship with people who have visited me in India and those who haven’t – it just makes such a impact when people can picture my life over here
  • There are few things better than watching a close friend of yours living his dream and being recognized for his efforts (got to see my college friend Dan Kennedy start for Chivas USA and the MLS All-Star team in Los Angeles and Philadelphia respectively)
  • It’s pretty cool to be in a room full of Indian doctors and engineers and be considered the most successful of the group
  • A clear aspirational destination for Indian footballers is PDL, NASL or MLS and the more I discuss this, the more it is becoming a reality
  • New York City is one of the best cities in the world – this is a fact which cannot be denied
  • There is much that the Indian soccer market can learn from the slow and sustainable growth model that the US employed
  • No matter how much I get frustrated with the process of acquiring them, I can’t beat the feeling of giving a gift to someone which I brought from another country
  • Long good byes to people you know you will see again soon are dramatic and pointless
  • Miracles are produced when you are unreasonable
  • I am blessed that 3 years ago I chose to move to one of the largest counties in the world to support the growth of the most popular sport in the world 
Okay, enough with the trip and my flowery insights. Back to the grind in India. Some exciting things ahead for me both personally and professionally which I’ll be sharing soon.  And, seriously, who wouldn't want to come back to this scene outside of your office on your first day back...

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