Why You Should Speak To Strangers: Praveen Wadalkar (Transcript)

Full text of entrepreneur Praveen Wadalkar’s talk: Why you should speak to strangers at TEDxIESMCRC conference.

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Praveen Wadalkar – Co-Founder & CEO at Techizer & True-life Storytelling Coach

I think there is something common between your mom and my mom.

I remember, as a child, whenever I used to go out alone, my mom used to call me, ‘Praveen, come here. Listen carefully. You are traveling alone, make sure son, you don’t speak to strangers. Don’t trust them.’

I would have died with this belief, until I decided to become a solo traveler. Now just because I’ve traveled solo, that doesn’t mean that I don’t work in my life.

I run an IT company. I founded this company six years ago. But then I realized, even if you are doing the world’s most creative job but if you are doing it again and again every day, it is still monotonous; and monotony kills.

So, to kill the monotony in my life, I decided to become a solo traveler. But my solo travel is interesting. I have some simple rules for my solo travel. Example; if I’m traveling in India, I spend only 300 rupees per day, which includes my stay, travel, food, everything. So I’m hungry, I sit down and I cook. If I’m tired, I just lie down.

And whenever I’m ready to move, there is always someone to pick me up. Absolutely free. Now, to me, this is absolute comfort.

But there is something else I do, to make my solo trip more interesting, more special. I play a game with strangers; because in this kind of solo trips, you meet strangers. I have given name to this game, and the name of the game is ‘game of trust.’

Because in solo trips, sometimes you meet some strangers. And when you meet them, your heart, your body, your soul will scream the words of your mother, ‘Don’t trust this stranger.’ But in this game, I have to do exactly opposite; I have to trust.

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I played this game 24 times in my life. Let me share three episodes with you today.

Let me take you to Shantiniketan, eastern part of India. I was going there from Kolkata, took a train, and I was sitting in the train, enjoying my tea, and suddenly someone came from behind, tapped my shoulder, “Hey, where are you going?”

I said, “I’m going to Shantiniketan.”

He said, “Don’t go to Shantiniketan. Go to Sriniketan.”

I said, “I never heard this place.”

He said, “There’s some festival going on there.”

I said, “Okay, I will see.” And then he disappeared.

I reached the station. I was outside the station and I noticed someone shouting, “Excuse me, I’m going to Sriniketan. Will you come with me?”

Now in my solo trip, anything offered free gets automatic precedence or everything. I decided to sit with him.

Then we exchanged some views and thoughts, and then we reached Sriniketan. And I notice this is extremely remote area. And he said, “Praveen, where are you staying tonight?”

I said, “I have no idea. I’m a solo traveler.”

And then he said, “Are you married?”

And for a moment I thought, ‘Is this a follow-up question or a connected or standalone question?’

Then he started pitching his tent, and then he said, “Praveen, I don’t mind sharing my tent with you.”

And I was standing there like a fool. I said, “Praveen, come on, he has fooled you right from the train. He has misguided you. You have a bag. You have gadgets. You have laptop. What if he does something wrong with that? Oh, wait a minute, what if he did something wrong with me? Is that the reason he asked me, are you married or not married?’

And my heart, my body, my soul started this screaming the words of my mother, ‘Don’t trust this stranger.’ And very next moment, I decided to trust because I was playing the trust game. I decided to stay with him.

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So, what happened next? I will tell you, wait.

Let me take you to another place, Gokarna, near Goa; beautiful place. It was around 10 p.m. raining very heavily; too dark. And I was struggling for the stay, wherever I was going, they were saying, “Are you traveling alone? We don’t give stay to those people who travel alone.”

Surprisingly, beyond my understanding. I’m traveling alone, not with a girl. Come on. And then I reached one guesthouse; four rooms on the top, all four were locked. One uncle was sitting down, wearing white color shirt. I assume he’s the owner of the guesthouse.

And before he say ‘no’ to me, I said, “Uncle, why they are not giving stay to those who are travelling alone?”

And he said, “Just few days ago, person like you checked in in one guesthouse and committed suicide. Police came and they cancelled the license of that guesthouse.”

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