If Life was an exam, what would it really measure: Money and Power, or Love and Pleasure?
Would it count the promotion letters or my children’s smiles?
Would it worry about the school projects or the tiny hands that went to grind?
Would it really pass me forward or would it fail me behind?
I muse these thoughts for no reason or rhyme
I laugh at life for trying to make me whine
Ha ha! I say, “You cannot be an exam for sure! For I have nowhere to go if I score”
“And nothing to lose if I don’t shore”
I stand here today just wanting to know more
Maybe you are a school, where we all went to learn
Some learnt less, some learnt more
Some made friends and some remained sore
We played hide n seek in classrooms meant to study
We left school when we thought we were ready
Just like a class you are one stage in my journey beyond
I will be happy to leave you when I am ready to move on
You do pose exams at me from my time to time
I pass some but fail many a prime
You let me stay in the same class for a little while more
To help me learn, to help me grow
So if I am growing old with you right now
It just means that there is something more left to be learnt
From Amma & Amu in November last year to Cheema Tutu in early part of this year, we have now evolved to a wide range of words, sentences, songs and expressions. In Yog’s growing vocabulary there are concoctions of Hindi, Telugu and English religiously spun together so that all stakeholders in the family are happy. While most of his good words have been picked around from home or school, there are hidden surprises like “Oh! Shit” and “Stupid” that leave us deeply embarrassed in front of friends and family.
I must admit that life is much easier now since Yog can express his needs and wants using simple words. I don’t have to play guessing games on whether he is hungry, thirsty, sleepy or in pain. Like everything else in life, there is a flip side to this expanding vocabulary. Yog has also figured out that words can be used for deception and getting around thins that he does not like to do. For example, when I am putting him to sleep, he will first ask to go to the bathroom. He knows I will immediately give into this one as I don’t want a bio-disaster on top of the bed. After 5 minutes of coming back into the bed, he will say, “Mama, Water!”. He knows he will not get water so late in the night, but he will still try his luck by faking a cough or crackling his breath. When there is nothing else left, he will call for Bamma (Grandmother) in his sweetest voice. Even a tough nut like me has to give in to this kind of emotional blackmail. So he is sent with his big blanket all the way to his Grandmothers room. After 10 minutes of cuddling and listening to stories in her bed, he will suddenly start missing his mother desperately again. He and his blanket is then rolled, packed and sent back to my room. After five minutes of hugging, kissing and pretending to be extremely sleepy, he will say, “”Mama, Chi Chi coming!!” (Mama, I want to go to bathroom)
Arghhhh!! By this time, I am out of energy and patience to help him go to sleep. I just close the door, shut the lights and go to sleep squeezing myself in the corner of the crowded bed. I have no idea what he does after that and when he manages to sleep on his own. Yeah! It was easier when he couldn’t speak, or rather when I could pretend that I didn’t understand his baby language. Now there is no getting around his clear, no negotiations allowed expression.
The other day as I was listening to his non stop blabber, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about how time flies. Less than a year ago he was still struggling to form his first words, and now… About six months back his most frequently used words were “Tutu happened” (something broke). Now the words highest on his speaking chart are “Kinda Padpoindi” (fell down in Telugu). I assume this is the most commonly used word because all through the day we have food, water, books, toys, bag, clothes and Yog falling down, all over the house, the car, the road and the school. From breaking things to merely making them fall, we have definitely progressed a little bit on Yogs development chart. I am just wondering if there will be anything that will be left solid and standing by the time Yog manages to move to more constructive vocabulary.
“If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go? “Amy Purdy, Ted Talks
This is a tedcast about Amy who lost both her legs to a blood infection when she was in her early twenties. In spite of the tragic loss she went on to win multiple snowboarding championships across the world, based on her sheer passion and determination. It wasn’t easy and she failed miserably many times but she refused to give up. All along she believed that she was in control of her own life as if she was the author of a book that she was writing about her life.
I had the opportunity to view this tedcast recently, and I was quite delighted to see it, mainly because I often think of my life as a book too (quite literally). My life tales are recorded as these small, numerous blogs that provide inspiration to me to seek more out of life. There is nothing extraordinary about Yogs first words or Toynas school chores, if you look at them on a day to day basis. But since I want to write about them, I seek the extraordinary elements in each of these small parts of life. I polish and shine the golden moments of life and put them out for display for my readers.
Post by post, one day at a time, I am writing the story of my life as I want to live it, as I want to remember it. Amy Purdy never wrote a real book, but she created her story in way that there will be many more, like me, writing about her. She created her own powerful story visualizing her life as a book. I want to create my life story by actually writing my life book.
10 years of being a working mother has taught me that:
- It is possible to get a quick nap in the middle of a tornado
- It is possible to complete school projects at 11 PM in the night
- It is possible to participate in conference calls and put kids to sleep at the same time
- It is possible to miss your maid more than you can ever miss your husband
More important than all of the above, I have learned that
- It is possible to believe in yourself
- It is possible to be completely responsible for another human being
- It is possible to experience miracles around you every single day, and
- It is possible to really live your childhood one more time
I thank my children for bringing this world of possibilities for me.
It was 10:30 in the night. My manager and I had just completed our individual set of meetings over the phone. We still had a few hours of work ahead of us before we could call it a night. Thankfully, the children had slept on time today, allowing me the luxury of focusing on work uninterrupted. We sat down on the living room couch to catch our breath and talk about something that had been playing on our minds for some days. The lego blocks were scattered on the carpet ahead of us and the room bore the tired look of having hosted children throughout the day. But that was obviously the last thing on our minds. Business was growing extremely well, expanding into international countries. We needed more hands on the ground. We were excited about the senior leaders joining us but sad at the same time for loosing those who were not able to continue with us.
We felt we had to make some structural changes in order to meet the growing demands of the business. We brainstormed a few ideas and finally narrowed down to bringing in regional focus to the business. We discussed the existing leaders and the regions which needed focus. Slowly a plan started forming in the mind. We quickly got in to a call with two senior most leaders – Ujwal and Rana. Ujwal lives just next door so he came in quickly and squatted down on the lego-filled carpet for the impromptu discussion. Rana listened in over the phone. As the meeting progressed, Ujwals mind raced to define the strategy and his hands subconsciously reached out to the lego blocks for concentration. We discussed the plan, double checked everyone’s acceptance to it and quickly concluded the meeting. It had all taken a quick 15 minutes and at the end of it, I was the new India CEO. Rana Pratap Singh the Middle East CEO and Ujwal Tripurari our new Latin America CEO. That was it! The mood was somber. This was a big structural change and we needed to plan the communication and execution for it. There were now even more action items to close before we could call it a night. We all returned to our desks. The lego blocks had just won a night out from their bag. They decided to happily sleep right there on the carpet.
Next morning, as the announcement went out, we started receiving notes on Congratulations. For the first few hours, I was in denial. I remarked to everyone, it’s just a new title. My role is still the same. I was doing pretty much most of it even before the title. So, in effect, nothing has changed. Slowly I realized that I had been honored with the new title because of the fact that I was already doubling into this role for some time now. Without asking for permission or waiting for approvals, I had already exceeded the boundaries of my past role and started stepping into the new role. It had meant stretching myself and sometimes being pushed around for lack of authority, but I had continued on. I could not have afforded to sit within the boundaries of my existing role. I had to keep my eyes just beyond the horizon.
I now realize that when the time came for the decision to be made, my name would have been the obvious choice. There was no need of promotion recommendations. There was no need of playing politics. My work from the last few months had already positioned me in the new role, even before the new role had been created. That night, sitting amidst the lego blocks, it was not only my life that had changed. Life of Rana, Ujwal and Pavan (my manager and my husband) had also changed. In spite of the enormity of the decision, none of us congratulated each other. None of us asked for celebrations. We all had been playing the new roles for some time already. Having a title affixed to the work, did not matter much to any of us.
I write this blog today to record my story of becoming the India CEO of KINDUZ. There is nothing exceptional about the story. It was a pure simple business decision. I hope this blog serves as a gentle reminder to me and to all those reporting to me that there is no room for favoritism, politics or boot licking in our organization. Anyone can move forward to the next big role by looking beyond the horizon. As I ready to move full time into my new role, I leave behind a void for the role that I was playing previously. If there are any takers for the role, please feel free to just step in.
P.S – This story would never be complete without thanking all those who have supported me in this journey.
I thank all my past managers for their faith in me – Jayalakshmi Chati, Balachandran Iyer, Jim Mondi, Paul Janis, Charlie Li, Murat Aksu, Govindrajan Muthukrishnan and last but not the least Pavan Kishore K Subramanya.
I thank my loving family for their love and advice in good times and bad – Pamila Roy (in the role of Matrix), Aartee Roy (Didi), Heeral, Savithri Kota (Amma), Radha Krishna Murthy Kota (Nanna) (also the financial pillar behind KINDUZ), Padmavathi (Ammama) and of course my darling husband.
Last but not the least, I thank my unreliable and fussy maids, who choose to serve me for some months at a time. Without their meager monthly contributions, I would never have reached this far.
Last night in a vain attempt to put three kids to sleep together, I decided to read them some stories. The first book that we read was an extremely abridged version of Cinderella. This is how it went:
“Cinderella: There is a ball in the castle. I want to go too.
First Step Sister: Oh! but you don’t have a dress to wear to the ball.
Second Step Sister: Oh! but you don’t have shoes to wear to the ball.
Step Mother (laughing): Ha ha!! You don’t even have a carriage to go to the ball.
Cinderella rushes up to her room crying. The Fairy Godmother visits Cinderella to check on her. ”
From here on, Yog wanted to pretend that he was Cinderella. So we played along.
Yog keeping his hands to his chest: Yog, ball!! (meaning Yog wants to go to the ball).
First Step Sister (Toyna): Oh! but you don’t have a dress to wear to the ball.
Second Step Sister (Sia): Oh! but you don’t have shoes to wear to the ball.
Step Mother (Me): Ha ha!! Cinderella you are Boy!
And we all burst out laughing.
Yog (rolling over with laughter, hugging himself): Yog, boy!!!
The year was 2008. The winter had just started to set in. The days were becoming shorter and the breeze was becoming colder. All summer months I had been itching to get on my cycle and be able to drive just a little further than the confines of the neighbourhood streets. One beautiful sunny day, I just decided to cycle down to work about 6 kms away. Till that day, I had never seen anyone in Hyderabad, apart from contract labourers, cycling to work. But that did not deter me for a moment. After all, what could possibly go wrong. I knew the traffic rules to be followed by cyclists and I was sure people would respect someone trying something new.
I packed my laptop in my backpack and slinged my lunch bag on the handle bar of the cycle. I used to cycle long distances during my college days in the beautiful city of Chandigarh. I thought cycling in Hyderabad would be pretty much the same. Well, I guess I should have planned a bit more. For starters, me knowing the traffic rules was not adequate. I was just one lone entity amidst hundreds of motorists on the road. It was therefore more important for the motorists to know the rules of the road when they are driving alongside cyclists. Alas, this is something which was completely missing in the highly educated, upper middle class IT society of Hyderabad. To add to it, none of the roads in those days, had decent walking tracks (footpaths) leave alone cycling tracks. Hence, I was forced to ride my slim cycle alongside the motorists, quite a few of whom considered me a big nuisance factor on the road.
After a long, risky ride, I finally managed to reach office. I sighed in relief at the end of the debacle, only to realize that the worst was yet to come. The security guard scanned me and my cycle as if I was an alien riding a space ship straight from another galaxy. He told me to wait at the gate as he went inside to speak to his supervisor. Soon I saw three of them peeping from the window of the office trying to make up their mind about something. The security guard appeared back with someone who seemed like he was in charge. This man politely told me that I could not take my cycle inside. I would have to park my cycle on the road before I could enter the premises. I was dumbfounded. It was now my turn to checkout my cycle in close detail to ensure that it did not have any signs that indicated it was an alien space craft. I couldn’t find anything remotely similar so I questioned him on this comment. Why should I park it outside? We have a big enough parking for cars and scooters. Why not park a cycle inside? He explained in simple term, “Madam ji, cars are parked in car parking. Scooters are parked in scooter parking. There is no parking space for cycles in the office. You will have to park it on the road.” I was now shocked beyond words. I did not have the time to argue with them. I told them politely to please consider a cycle as a two wheeler and allow me to park it in the two wheeler parking space. Maybe I seemed senior enough, or serious enough for them to accept this offer reluctantly. The security guard sighed and warned me that I was parking my cycle in the two wheeler zone at my own risk. If something happened to it, he would not be responsible. I shrugged my shoulders, sighed and proceeded with the parking. I was already late for the morning meeting. I would have to discuss this issue with the Operations team sometime later.
As it turned out, the Operations team was more interested in talking to me than I was. Even before my meeting had finished, my phone rang. It was someone from the Operations team wanting to speak to me urgently. He requested me to step out my meeting so I could meet him in his office. In my short working experience, I have learnt never to disobey the call of HR, Finance and Operations. I excused myself from the meeting and went to meet him. He politely told me that my cycle had created problems for the Operations team. A Senior Operations Manager had spotted the cycle parked amidst the scooters and he had considered it a big safety hazard. I would have to move my cycle out from there. What could I possibly say? I apologized for the inconvinience and promised him to remove the cycle. He sent an escort with me back to my desk, who supervised me to make sure I went to the parking without any delay, removed my cycle from the scooter parking and moved it out of the office on to the road. As I left my dear cycle, standing out on the road alone, my eyes welled up with tears. What kind of a world do we live in?
Fast forward to 2015, I read about the initiative Car Free Thursdays and the whole emphasis on walking or cycling to work. I have long since moved away from my fat salaried IT job, so I do not stay amongst the IT world to witness their reactions to Car Free Thursday. Over the weeks I saw pictures pouring in of people actually walking and cycling to work. In my heart, I was immensly glad. We need to have cycling as a part of our road culture. There should be cycle tracks built for cyclists. Like all European countries, cyclists should be given the right of the way in India as well. While I am sure that GHMC is already working on these plans, I have a lingering question for the top notch Corporates. Do you, atleast now, have parking spaces for cycles in your offices? Can you provide the same, if not better status to this simple, yet powerful machine?
While it is so good to see the positive change happening around the city, it came a little too late for me and my dear BSA cycle. Years of no use and lack of attention, slowly lead to its demise a while ago. I had to literally donate it to a kabadi wala some time back. As I end my post for today, I pray for all the beautiful cycles who roam free on the streets of Hyderabad now. May you never be shackled into oblivion again. Unlike me, may your riders have the courage to stand up for you and provide you the right place in our society.
Happy Car Free Thursday to everyone!