coffee date #29 with rishi shah
bio major, future doc!, director of operations for The Signal, professional clapper/drumming god, a Peanut Butter whiskey lover, no-longer-a-pong-champ, ping pong king (no longer one as of 4/14/22), that-person-who-has-777-messages
me: strawberry acai refresher | rishi: iced coffee
location: starbucks, new jersey
Rishi Shah is quite an interesting character. He wears an intimidating/funny looking fluffy jacket, moves at an extremely slow pace at all times, has a Gujarati-speaking level of friendship with the Dunkin Donuts’ employees in Ewing, and has Uncle glasses that occasionally make an appearance.
Rishi Shah is also sensitive and vulnerable. He’s quirky, compassionate, finds joy in the little things, and is incredibly hardworking (he is Mr. DOO after all). Most importantly, as an extremely opinionated human being, he stands up for people and things he cares about.
Recall the time when I met coffee date #27 along with the 10 other ‘random people’ who came into our apartment that day. Rishi Shah was also one of those 10 people. The first few times I met him, he was eerily quiet, yet notably observant. It’s easy to misread people like Rishi Shah because many (including me) may believe that he’s arrogant, untrustworthy, or cold. But once you actually get to know him, Rishi Shah is a pretty centered, sensitive, frat-boy type of guy.
- Finding a philosophical connection through religion
I love how religion is often brought up during many of coffee dates. Being someone who isn’t that religious, it’s intriguing to listen to the various ways religion has impacted my coffee dates. The best part is that every single one of them practices religion for an entirely different reason.
“I’m Hindu with more focus on the philosophy and how to be a good person. I think the cultural practices are important, but I think understanding why you’re doing it and how you can apply that into being a better person is the most important thing to takeaway.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
Rishi described that even though his parents are not super religious, he took it upon himself to read the scriptures and learn more about Hinduism. As he learned more, he realized that the philosophical aspects of Hinduism are what he related to and connected with the most.
Many of our Hindu gods are in the form of animals – the most popularly known ones being Ganesha (an elephant) and Hanuman (a monkey). Therefore, growing up, it was difficult for me to connect with such ‘fairytale-like’ stories of Hindu gods because it was so unreal. Rishi, though, scrapped the idea of finding God only in those animals or deities. Instead, he believes that “God is everywhere, in everyone and everything.” With this outlook comes a unique sense of appreciation and gratitude for people, things, and the world he’s living in.
“I don’t want to pray to an idol. I want to pray to a God that’s around me, so I think of the fact that God is in me, the people around me, and the stuff around me.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
- Controlling the narrative
Rishi and I both do not believe in the idea of identifying ourselves with just one profession. Life is simply too grand and exhilarating to confine ourselves to just one thing. Thus, after his medical career, Rishi wants to take up investigative journalism (explains why he’s Mr. DOO for the university’s newspaper).
Journalism, or more specifically investigative journalism, for Rishi is about having the ability to portray information that isn’t necessarily seen or available to the general public.
“Whoever controls the narrative, controls everything.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
He explained the concept of controlling the narrative with this simple example:
If someone is writing a piece on the number of COVID cases on a college campus, then that person controls the narrative by determining who they are choosing to interview. If they interview someone that claims “Holy shit, there are 50 new COVID cases! Masks need to be mandated again” then people reading the article will also believe that 50 new COVID cases is insane. On the other hand, if they interview someone that states “Oh there’s only 50 new cases? That’s not bad at all” then people will believe that COVID is finally under control.
Rishi also described journalism as “putting a puzzle together.” Investigative journalism is neutral and unbiased. Therefore, all perspectives must be included in the article. This means that it’s the journalist’s job to piece together the varying perspectives and offer a neutral depiction of the situation at hand, so that the general public can make a decision for themselves. Writing and conveying such information is powerful and impactful.
“The only power people have is when they have an impact you.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
- Is karma actually a thing? Or is it a way for the rest of us to sit back and relax?
I do believe in karma. I know many people who believe in karma. However, Rishi Shah made a great point. Believing in karma means we’re essentially saying “Yes, they’re terrible people but I will not take action. I will just sit and let some higher power punish them.”
“Do bad people get what they deserve?” – Rishi Shah, 2022
As mentioned before, being the bold and genuine human he is, Rishi does not believe in sitting around and waiting for one to be punished. Instead, he believes in taking action in a simple 2-step process:
- Control the narrative
Confrontation puts the ball in the other person’s court. You did your job by telling them what they’re doing is wrong. Now it’s up to them to change those actions.
When confrontation fails, move on to step 2. There’s a very thin line between controlling the narrative and gossiping. Controlling the narrative involves telling your perspective to people who are also impacted by the situation. Gossiping, on the other hand, is telling everyone everything with the sole intention of bad mouthing the other person.
- Setting bad expectations to prepare for what’s to come
“If I go in with bad expectations, then the worst thing that can happen is meeting my expectations.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
To many over-thinkers and anxious folks, people say to think of the worst-case scenario because, oftentimes, the worst-case scenario never truly occurs. This is because when we do prepare our brains for the worst-case, everything else that happens seems to be better than what we expected. Though it sounds pessimistic, having this outlook can not only help us appreciate things more, but it also prevents us from becoming significantly disappointed.
“If you believe everything happens for a reason, everything that happens will seem meant to be no matter how bad it is.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
- The internal and external battle of being a ‘good’ person
I’ve had the conversation of ‘is it possible to always be a good person?’ with coffee dates #25 and #27. The conclusion at the end of both of these conversations was that no, we cannot always be ‘good’ people because being ‘good’ is so subjective.
“Being a good person is extremely underrated nowadays. If you continue to do the right thing, you can rest easy knowing that at least you’re a good person.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
For Rishi, being ‘good’ is not necessarily subjective – it’s more about the way one justifies their own actions. Internally, we all somewhat have an aligned moral code. In other words, we all have a common understanding of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong.’ Therefore, being ‘good’ just means following ones moral code and, instead of justifying your wrongdoings, own up to them.
“You can justify your actions however you want, but I think deep down everyone knows whether they’re doing the right or wrong thing. You can do something wrong and think that you’re a good person. You find a way to justify even if it’s blatantly wrong.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
- Men and the Gym
Conversations around body image often only include women – as they should because society has continuously signaled to women that their worth is based solely on their bodies and appearances. However, I think it’s easy to forget that many men also struggle with similar issues.
Justin Baldoni, popularly known as Rafael from Jane the Virgin, speaks openly about his discomfort and anxiety around having to maintain a 6-pack body on and off screen and the significant amount distress that created for him. 6-pack abs are somehow attributed as being ‘manly’ and ‘masculine,’ causing many young boys, similar to girls, to fall into the trap of thinking that they must give their external appearance a lot of value. Boys are also taught to never express such insecurities out loud because being expressive and insecure is deemed as ‘weak’ or even ‘girly’.
The gym, for this reason, can be a toxic environment for many. Rishi talked about how the idea of working out is a lot more important to some people than it is for others. He stated that there is a small subset of people who base their entire personalities off of the gym, working out, and their physical appearance.
- Truest, most authentic you
I ask every one of my coffee dates what they envision their truest, most authentic selves to be. All of them make it clear that they are actively on the path to becoming that ideal self, but are not yet there.
“I’m at a point where I am happy with who I am.” – Rishi Shah, 2022
Rishi Shah, on the other hand, was by far the only coffee date that answered this question claiming that he is already at this point. His ideal self is someone who is surrounded by precious, genuine, wholesome souls. 🥺
“Be with people who appreciate you.” – Rishi Shah, 2022