Archive Page 2

The Rise and Rise of my Online Tutoring

I started online maths and Science tutoring back in 2012 in a moment of desperation, it was to reach a London student who had upcoming exams, a student that lived 5 mins walk away from where I lived in London. It isn’t that I couldn’t walk 5 mins, the problem was that I was tutoring a few hundred miles away in Yorkshire for several days. In that year I spent 72 days out of 365 tutoring away from London in Yorkshire, Hampshire etc., and I was struggling to actually keep up with my London students. Something had to change.

Since then over the last 4 years I have started tutoring more and more online. In the 2014-2015 school year 10% of my income was from Skype/Online tuition. This school year 2015-2016 I gained a ton more confidence in my tutoring business and my selling skills, I also started following advice from the very few online tutors I could find from The Tutor Pages Linkedin page forums. My increased confidence led to a very very important shift in mindset on the value of online tuition V face to face tuition. And this is:

Online tuition is as good (and in many ways better) than face to face tuition. Both for the student and for the tutor.

So instead of offering it as the ‘cheaper and less effective alternative’ I offer it as the main option and at exactly the same rate as face to face tuition. In the current 2015-2016 school year the income I gain from tutoring online is now 40% of my total tutoring income (online + face to face), and this proportion is still rising. My overall income is also rising. I have now hit a very important tipping point, and the benefits of online tuition have been phenomenal. For one, my income has increased as I am able to reach students practically anywhere in the country, and I can fill in the precious daytime hour slots that used to go empty. I save a lot of time that was spent previously travelling on trains to get to Yorkshire/Hampshire or internal commuting in London. The time that I save can instead now be used to tutor online. So now I save time, and with that time I can actually make more money…and I’m less tired from travelling, it is win-win! As a tutor these are the benefits I have found from tutoring online instead of face to face:

  • No need to commute
  • Time saved from commuting can be invested into tutoring
  • Online customers pay online ; payment is quick and efficient
  • The world is my market, not just a 5 mile radius from my postcode, I can reach a huge number of potential customers now
  • I can tutor from anywhere; cafes, my home, my mum’s home when I visit her..I’ve tutored from these different locations. With my 3G/4G (superfast mobile internet) I can tutor from any spot, even outdoors!

I tutor online using Skype, and I don’t use any special software. Sometimes I will use FaceTime if the student has a mac or an iPhone. Tutoring online has truly set me free from geographical restrictions, and my eventual aim is to move most of my tutoring online. I have spoken with other online tutors (it is easier to network online with online savvy tutors) and learnt many things, including an online Biology tutor who tutors 100% online from a cottage in Devon. I still like meeting families and going to homes so I will always do some home to home tuition.

And I don’t just tutor online, I also play gigs to people online who could have never seen me perform before due to being in other continents. I have been fortunate enough to already understand how video and audio work as I have been using this for years being in a band. The rise of faster internet speeds, better computers, more accessibility and adaptation of video calling (FaceTime etc.,) means online tuition is the future and there is no better time to do it than now.


Happy Diwali 2015! And staying in London

A massive happy Diwali 2015 to you from from London. For the last few years I have been going to India to celebrate Diwali. But this year I’m staying back in London. I’m sad not to be going to India because I do miss my extended family there and my cousins. The main reason for not going is that I no longer felt a family responsibility to take my mother and siblings to visit. Visiting India every year had become a ritual, in part to remember my dad and in part to try and connect to a sense of nostalgia and continuity to a previous life. But mostly it was there to support my mother who has a sense of freedom, independence and belonging when she goes back to India. As she is now able to go there on her own I don’t feel the responsibility to take her there as much as I used to. Although some of my family and cousins in India might disagree with that.

Diwali is a festival of lights, it is a festival to celebrate a new beginning and by worshipping the goddess Lakshmi it can also be about prosperity. And the last year has certainly bought all these things to me. My tutoring business is booming and I have been doing better on it than I have ever done before. In the last year I found new love, a new place to live, and have a new vigour and interest in teaching.

So here’s to the next year being even bigger and better. And next year I’ll hopefully be celebrating in India. Hope you have a great Diwali too.

Moving In to a New Flat – October 2014

A clean crisp white colour of paint, as I applied it in my brand new room it came to a new life. My sister was there too helping me along and making the job much faster. I could hear the traffic outside and it felt a bit surreal being into a flat away from family. It was like I was 18 all over again, and I had moved out of “home” once again. It felt like a re-birth in many ways. That first week of October was always exciting for me during my student years, straight after my birthday, a new university year would begin heralding a new start. And after 11 years this was indeed a new start all over again. Quite simply, my life entered a new phase once again and as a family me and my siblings headed out our own ways. My dad’s death was a big event in November 2005, he was a big influence in our family and to my mother. It is only now that I felt like we had finally dealt and moved on from the short term effects of his death, this short term had ended up lasting 9 years.

Regents Canal Hoxton

Regents Canal along Hoxton in Shoreditch

After moving out of the home I lived in for 7 years I was in a state of limbo for about a month living in a small flat in a cramped room full of boxes on one side and an air mattress on the other side, in which I slept on. Part of September 2014 was spent in New York, which is pretty good, but the rest of it was in this temporary state.

Moving into my new flat and shopping for extra household stuff, utensils and a bit of DIY was exciting. At first I was spending only just over half my time in the new flat in central London. I spent some time at my mother’s flat and some time at my girlfriend’s flat, and I now had three “homes”. I was still tutoring in Yorkshire and staying over there. There was a small period in which except for Yorkshire, which gave me a sense of having a constant, everything was brand new!

Old Street is vibrant and right next to the Silicon roundabout where many new digital start ups are coming up. It is a stimulating area to live in that is for sure. And while I haven’t got a hipster beard and skinny jeans (actually I do wear skinny jeans!), it does feel pretty cool to be living in Hoxton and Shoreditch. I live 5 minutes away from the beautiful canal area and go for peaceful walks there, which is an oasis of bliss, unless you are walking in the evenings and you are avoiding speeding cyclists. It has also made a huge difference to my tutoring and I can reach many students far easily from central. I have now fully got on board to living on my own again and in many ways it has been simply like taking over where I left off as a PhD student, but better.

Starting a New Romantic Relationship – August 2014

I have not updated this blog since February 2015. Where I have been? In short, I have been in a relationship, moved away from my family home, and my tutoring business has expanded a lot and has really kept me on my toes. The period covering August 2014 to now has seen some big changes in my personal life. The most important change for me was to take control of my love life and start dating. This is something I touched on briefly before.

2013 and 2014 were years of profound change for me in terms of many of my cultural belief systems and values. The way I look changed as well as I lost some weight, got a fashion makeover, quit refined sugar and upped my gym and running routine. On the inside, I went through a lot of introspection and thanks to some invaluable mentoring and guidance I started to have the courage to let go of some old cultural beliefs that were no longer relevant, and were holding me back massively in the world of dating.

I felt the burden of conforming to my Indian family expectation of getting an arranged marriage, and the way the dating rules are written in the rural part where my father grew up. His death in 2005 bought me closer to India and I went to India almost every year since. I was beginning to see where my dating beliefs were actually coming from, a small patch of land in rural India where my father, grandfather and previous generations grew up. I was finally able to see that these beliefs were implicit, and in 2013, I told all my family that I do not want to get arranged marriage.

I was finally set free to try online dating and when someone would suggest setting me up with a friend of theirs I was open to that. I met someone at a wedding in 2014 who later set me up with a friend. It was a nice date. I started going on first dates without any guilt! They were introductory meetings rather than dates as such, or somewhere in between maybe.

In August 2014 I got into a beautiful relationship. I experienced what it is like to spend special moments and share your life’s day to day moments with someone. I went on many dates, we gave each other gifts, and surprise gifts! I supported her through her many changes in life, and she supported me. We met each other’s families and I realised that dating is more than just two individuals coming together, it is their friends and family also getting to know each other. For me this was a culmination of a lot of my effort, letting go of many fears and jumping into the unknown. I was dating outside my culture, and in the way I wanted to. It is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me.

New York Trip – September 2014

I was avoiding going to America as a travel destination for quite some time yet I was always truly intrigued by it. A part of me thought that it is too similar to Europe, too far and expensive to make it a worthwhile tourism trip. On the other hand a part of me dreamt one day of finally going to the world’s largest power and see its big cities. I had heard so much about New York from friends and so in September last year I decided to go!

Atul Rana New York

A bike, shades and Brooklyn Bridge against the New York Manhattan skyline.

Multicultural 24 Hour City
I was staying in Manhattan and spent most of my time there, so in all fairness my experience is mostly of that part of New York. I was in Brooklyn for a little part so I missed out on Harlem and the Bronx. To make sense of New York, London was a natural reference at all times; both very big cities, multiethnic and with a similar business and social structure. The energy and pace of Manhattan is however way more than that of London. The buildings are bigger and there’s plenty of them too overpowering the view of the sky. There are more people packed per square mile there and they are moving fast.

Freedom Tower - New York

Freedom Tower – New York

New York is a very expensive place to live in, rents and property prices are more than that of London. A lot of people have no choice but to work two jobs, and there are far fewer holidays. New York really does not sleep. Even the vibe in Leicester Square London slows and comes to a halt in the middle of the night somewhat but Manhattan is still buzzing with activity any time of night. You could go to a restaurant, bar or wherever any time of the night.

This is helped in part by the 24 hours subway system, which makes travelling very convenient. I did find the subway system one of the dirtiest though (I’ve seen around 20 different subway systems in the world), trains were infrequent and the signs on where the lines were going were very confusing. I found New York dirtier than I expected. Not as dirty as some developing countries I’ve been too but for a developed city it should be cleaner.

So Familiar, you have seen it all on TV already!
Walking around in New York you feel this amazing amount for familiarity with it all, at times I felt I was walking around on a live movie set. The type of buildings, the yellow taxis, the accents and the feel of it has been so well and thoroughly documented that the whole city seems like you’ve already seen and lived it! I remember walking around and seeing a fire engine get out of its station, I thought I was in Ghostbusters! And then at times I felt I was on the set of Police Academy or Friends.

Online to real life friends and the pain of 9/11
I went to most of the major landmarks in New York. Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, High Line and I lived next to Union Square so I saw that regularly. I did miss out on the Statue of Liberty and Central Park however.

9/11 Memorial Sign

A sign by the 9/11 memorial.

I met up with friends old and new, including someone who I last saw when I was a teenager and saw him after 18 years. I met some other people who I’ve never seen before but befriended on social media from the music community and through my band DonkeyBox, this was really cool. Highlights included jamming with Carla in a guitar shop in Times Square and been shown around by Lauren on the Freedom Tower memorial.

It was September and there is still construction work going on in the area after the terrible 9/11 tragedy. While the memory of that event fades for the rest of the world, it was humbling to be at the site where the scars felt very fresh. The place is still silent around the memorial and construction work reminds us that a lot was taken away and is still being rebuilt.

I performed live music in New York!
Talking about music, it was my dream to one day perform in New York as a musician. On my last night there I turned up to an open mic night in East Village and at 1:30am I got to play on stage. I borrowed someone’s guitar and felt energised and alive for performing. I had done it! The open mic scene in New York is something else and I’ll write more about it later in a specific post.

New Yorkers
I found New Yorkers to be chatty and expressive and they will generally speak their minds especially in traffic (Western Europeans are quieter in that respect), I’ve grown up in places like India, Kenya, Libya etc., so I’m no stranger to varying cultures. At times there was a bluntness and directness that you usually hear in India. At other times there was politeness and reserve that you see in Europe. The whole variety is there. People in America are proud of where they come from (State/Region) and it is part of their identity more so than regional identity is here in the UK. It felt similar to state type identity in India. In Brooklyn I found myself walking in the Jewish quarter which was like a city in itself, it was pretty cool to learn about Jewish culture through that immersed walk. In London we also have areas in which eg a lot of Indian people live but the areas tend to be small pockets.

Food errrr
The food was dissapointing, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. A lot of it lacked natural flavour. Mexican and Chinese food is available in vast abundance, which was my favourite types of food there. My friend who works in the dairy industry told me that it was rare to find any cheese there with more than 20% cheese content! The rest is filler and cheap additive material. This is the only way it can be done to keep good cost low and feed a massive population. But the free market nature of processed food meant that most things there were tasteless and lifeless in a way you can’t explain, even for a fairly well priced restaurant. The portions were big that’s for sure and you would definitely not go hungry there! My favourite meals were from China Town.

All in all it was a cool thing to finally visit New York, I wouldn’t go back for tourism again but if I had to work there or go for business or music reasons I think I’d fit in very easily and I’d feel comfortable. New York has an open and welcoming energy.

How Giving Up Sugar Transformed Me Physically and Mentally

Don’t lose any more weight Atul, otherwise you will turn into a stick!

Said the gym peeps when I was there. Indeed my mother, and all the other mothers (my tutoring clients) are saying the same thing. Bless the mothers of the world! Back earlier this year around February 2014 I lost 10kgs of weight in about 3 months, and a further 5kgs in following 2 months. So a total of 15kgs in 5 months. I’ve had to change a t-shirt size (from medium to small), most of my old jackets are too baggy now, my face looks sleek and slim, I look more youthful like I 10 did years ago, my belly is practically all gone and I can wear sleek, close fitting clothes now. Not only that but I actually feel healthier, less sluggish and I sleep better!

before and after weight loss

2012 face Vs 2014 face

5 years ago when I left the world of full time work my face looked ballooned and I had a belly. My large face depressed me, and I was really not happy about my belly as I had never had one before, I was becoming a bigger shadow of my past. I was desperate to look like my older, healthier self. For the next few years I tried to lose this weight properly by running or doing cardio work at the gym. I was slowly accepting the fact that as I was progressing through my 30s, this weight gain was something totally out of my control and an inevitable fact of ageing.

But I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, I never did,  so for the last 3 years I have been doing weights in the gym. In the last year I started going to the gym twice a week (with free weights) and going for a run outside twice a week. My weight was only shifting marginally though. I even started eating a lot more healthy, I cut out fatty foods like cheese (stopped eating pizza altogether), cut down my alcohol consumption substantially and stopped drinking coffee. But none of it was really working fast enough. It looked like that I would have to exercise even harder and be even more disciplined at what I eat. And then, maybe in the next 2 or 3 years with great discipline and patience I may gradually get to my target of losing that belly and regaining my face.

But something quite magical happened in February, it all went in the space of 3 months, weight accumulated slowly over 10 years went so quickly that it shocked me, I had dreamt about this moment and when it came so suddenly I wasn’t really ready for all the emotional changes in my own self perception, and of others about me. What happened? How did I suddenly lose so much weight. It’s painfully simple. I quit sugar.

Yes, that means no chocolate, no cakes, cookies, no fruit juices, no Indian jalebis, no baklawa, no milkshakes, no sweet treats. All gone. The whole lot.

And by god that has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I have a sweet tooth and I like my sweet stuff! I would eat a bit of chocolate daily, and tutoring children I am always around cakes, brownies and other sweeties. At night just before bed I would get a sugar craving and I would have a few pieces of milk chocolate and After Eights. I could not eat a single meal without having fruit juice. I had juice 3 times a day.

But once I quit sugar and continued with my already disciplined workout regime, the weight loss was very fast indeed. I have now had to accept the new me, he has arrived suddenly and the last time I looked like that, it was 2004. Many memories from that year are also coming by. It has been a bit strange and depressing to lose the bulkier face of the last 6 years, it was my identity and there is a sense of loss. My pictures on social media are all practically out of sync with the new me. This is a quality problem to have. I am slimmer now, which is a look I was never happy about as a teenager and in my 20s. At times people have thought I am falling ill to have lost so much weight so quickly, and I wonder the same! As I was gaining weight through the years I threw away most of my old clothes as they were too tight when I got the belly. I held on to a few precious items though for memory sake mostly, and when I tried an old colourful gig shirt and it fitted perfectly…well, it really was amazing and I felt like I did all those years ago!

In 2013 I had a style makeover and bought new better fitting and stylish clothes. The combined effect of the weight loss and the new clothes together mean my physical appearance has changed dramatically in the last few months. And everyone has noticed.

These are my emotions as I have gone through such a quick weight change. A part of me wished that I was happy with my old body shape and didn’t need any changes in external appearance to feel better, but life is never as simple as that and inside feelings are often linked to outside appearances and outcomes. I will write more on the specific diet control on how I lost this weight so quickly in another blog post.

Moving Out After 7 Years

It’s just life and they are simply places. The places have no feeling or emotion, only we do. The places existed before we arrived there and will continue to do so when we’re gone….as if we were never there. No new occupant of the past place will sense the vacuum and no new place will sense the energy of the new occupant, only we do that.

This was one of most beautiful responses to my Facebook comment on the day I moved out of my old flat of 7 years. For as I left there was an eerie emptiness and an echo when I had one final look around. I felt like crying and was filled with sadness at leaving a place I spent more years than I’ve done at any other place in my life. That place saw me through so much and it also appeared on international TV through my turbulent and crazy journey of self change.

General desk mess in my old room.

General desk mess in my old room.

Me and my family had no choice really, our landlady had given us notice to move. Looking for a new place was an emotionally charged experience with resistance and inertia from all sides, including myself. It was the one move that signified the splitting apart of our closely knit family that has been together since my dad’s death 9 years ago. We have all our family in India and really what we have here is each other. Growing up as children we traveled to such amazing places as Yemen, India, Kenya, Libya and my parents kept going to Hungary and Romania. It was a nomadic lifestyle being a Third Culture Kid as part of a diplomatic family. Schools would change, friends would change, the weather would be different and we would be in an entirely different continent. So we had to stick together really!

We loved our old flat, it was in a beautiful setting and there really was no reason to move out. We packed reluctantly never deciding when to move or setting a move out date as such. As the pressure built up more and more we delayed our move as we couldn’t find a new place or simply didn’t look for it fast enough. Eventually our estate agent found us a place less than half the size of our flat, we had to take it up. We moved things over the course of 2 weeks and squashed things into a place where it is full of boxes and bags. My brother moved out and that meant there was slightly less stuff but it also meant that we were no longer all together living under one roof. It was the most stretched out, emotionally loaded and difficult move I have done all my life. I have moved more than 30 times in my life time and I was happy to stay put for 7 years this time. But breaking that inertia and moving has released the shackles. Life was on pause after my dad’s death and now we are flying apart into different directions where we should, slowly but surely. The notice to move out it seems has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.