Professor Vijay Mehrotra is an extraverted person in both his personal and professional life. Those who know him will have noticed that he likes to blur the lines between societal “categories” of people; he values the openness of interacting with people as people, not just as students, coworkers or friends but as all of these simultaneously.
Do you find this surprising? Then wait until you see the following things you probably didn’t yet know about Vijay Mehrotra:
- He briefly worked as a smuggler, while traveling around Asia after Grad school. Some Malaysian guys paid him a couple hundred bucks to smuggle luxury goods that were heavily taxed, like Nikon cameras, Sony Walkmans (what can we say; it was the late eighties) and Rolex watches. He smuggled these between Taiwan, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The job lasted 10 days.
- He helps run the postal service at Burning Man. He likes to think of himself as the Executive Director. The first time he went to Burning Man he brought 500 postcards with a picture of the previous year’s BM as his gift. They were so popular that the postal service took off from there. This will be his 8th year at Burning Man, and when people ask him to write their postcards for them his only question will be “prose or poetry?”
- He once took the Siberian Express from Beijing to Berlin. The experience left him utterly shocked at how much Russia there is, and how varied the landscape is. It took six days to get from Beijing to Moscow, and then another 30 hours to get to Berlin.
- He’s addicted to Scrabble. He played in-person for years and quit because it took up too much time. Now he plays online with people from around the world. He finds that the intermittent playing of the online format is more casual and doesn’t take up too much of his week.
- He and Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo!, were in their PhD program together. There were 11 guys on the PhD team at Stanford, and Jerry dropped out to found Yahoo!. The PhD group keeps in touch and now likes to joke about him as the underachiever of the bunch: “No, Jerry didn’t make it through school.”
- He loves the Giants. He goes to opening day every year with a group of former MBA students he has remained friends with, and every year he donates four Giants tickets to the MBA Challenge for Charity event. He gives the students the choice of taking all four tickets for themselves, or having him take three students. Every year, the students choose to have Vijay take them to the ballgame.
- He has been studying improvisational theater for years. He likes to bring improv instructors and colleagues to his classes to teach the students to solve problems creatively. He used to do this at his company, to teach the scientists stronger listening skills and increased access to their own creativity.
- He has run three half-marathons, and eight relay races of about 200 miles each, in teams of twelve. He says he runs slowly but regularly, which is the most important thing. It clears his head. He runs alone once a week, and with friends twice a week; for him there is both a social and a solitary aspect to it.
- He is a public story teller. He performs with a storytelling group in San Francisco called Fireside Storytelling, as well as with other groups in the Bay Area. They tell 1st person stories. He has told stories about Burning Man, friends of his who are in white collar prisons, and traveling around the world, among other things.
- He’d like to get a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing at some point in his life. The problem with this dream, as he sees it, is that “everybody wants to be a writer, but nobody wants to write – people just want to have written.” He says he doesn’t put enough time into writing to make it work, and being a writer (“doing anything, really”) takes sacrifice and dedication.