I have been writing almost every single day for past eight months, yet I am nowhere close to where I want to be as a writer. I know that the secret of a successful writer is just being unsuccessful for a long time. However, for better or for worse, this strategy is almost indistinguishable from a complete failure. Yes, good things take time and patience. Regardless, do you know how difficult it is to have restraint in the face of adversity? 

I do not know. I still do not know many things. 

When I was younger, I always wished that everything in life came with an infallible ‘how to do it’ manual. How to deal with the unexpected, how to overcome a loss, and of course, how to be successful. 

Being a scientist has forced me to look at everything through black and white tinted glasses. In my wish list of manuals to survive the experience we call ‘life’ I also once wanted a ‘how to write without failing’ manual. Coincidentally that is when Dipa Sanatani revealed her second book The Merchant of Stories. It is the kind of book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. 

Sanatani’s book made me realize that life is as much art as it is science. In addition, it also made me understand that most things in life are subjective. 

Each of those 214 pages in The Merchant of Stories expresses Sanatani’s bare soul, honest thoughts and hard-earned lessons. This book is like no other I have read before. If I had to pick just one element that stood out the most in the book, it was Sanatani’s voice – so authentic, so fresh, and so courageous. Her artistic storytelling ability made even this non-fiction book sound so much more intimate and heartwarming. 


The Author’s Journey

Sanatani’s burning desire to find more about her ancestral history and her own story led her on a voyage of self-discovery. Through the journey, she rediscovered not only the old photographs buried under the bed in her old bedroom–but she also salvaged a part of herself that she thought she had once lost in the fast-paced world.

Though the loss of her great-grandfather and grandfather suffocated Sanatani with nostalgia and grief–the agony did not stop her from growing. Born and brought up on Arab Street in Singapore, Sanatani travelled all around the world to find bits and pieces that wove together to make her whole again. 

The pages of The Merchant of Stories bear testimony to the author’s culture, her heritage, and her becoming. Through her artistic poetry and magic of her imagination, she parses her liberating yet excruciating transformation from her old life to a new one. The book shows the success of a struggling artist, the journey of a traveller rediscovering life, and the becoming of an entrepreneur. 

In the book, you will find the story of an intern who wrote for newspapers and later went on to become the author of The Little Light. And in her journey of becoming, you will find a reflection of your story and mine. 


The Entrepreneur’s Journey

I used to think I am a little too apprehensive over my amateurish writing because I am scared. Yes, fear is half the equation. The other half is arrogance. I may have been suffering from what professionals called the Hemmingway Syndrome–obsessing over perfectionism and crippling my creativity. Sanatani’s book cleared that for me. 

Sanatani taught me success is not the result. It is the journey–-be it perfect or imperfect. Her simple yet powerful words made me understand that in order to achieve what you want; you will have to look adversity in the eye without flinching and get past your ego–only to look back and find hardship recoil at the sight of your determination.   

My main take-away from ‘The Merchant of Stories’ is, “When life gives you lemons, you do not just make lemonade; you even make a lemon tart with the leftover zest.” That is what differentiates successful people from the average – successful people never give up on their dreams.

In Sanatani’s words, “No matter how much we plan things—or not plan anything at all—life’s plans will always take precedence over our own. When we come into this world, we are not promised fortune, fame, a happy family or really anything at all. All we get is the journey.”

About the Author


One thought on “What Separates the Successful from the Average? Lessons from The Merchant of Stories

  1. Great book. In addition to Dipa’s writing journey, it also tells the story of an entrepreneur. I highly recommend this to everyone who wants to succeed in their life and is afraid to get started. Dipa is a brave person and very courageous and bold.

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