It’s about ME
Years are passing by. Years have passed by. And how very clearly, I can recall the finest & the minutest details about myself. In last 4 decades there has been such a deep & strong evolution for me, which astonishes me to a great extent.
I remember myself as a child & and the years of childhood, which never seemed to be loaded with any kind of a systematic plan, in general, without a dream, a vision, an ambition or a passion.
It was the 70’s and 80’s of the century gone by. It was a normal upbringing and had a very simplistic childhood. Although being brought up in a city like Calcutta, one of the metropolitan tags on the Indian map, I somehow always found my world too limited, too restricted. Especially the 70’s, were like, few hundred meters around me, which was all. That was my world.
A small rented house, joint family of 10, a couple of neighbors, a nearby school, a small adjacent Shiva temple, a little further Ram temple on the way to the school and a small lane adjacent to our building, for the post school hours to play around. This was all for the first 10 years of my childhood. I was a decent student & always did well to make my parents proud during these years. I still get ghost images of those days, an absolute carefree times, not even an effort to plan anything even for the next moment. Never knew what the destiny had stored in for me, from here.
The shifting to a newer bigger home, a high posh locality, in the early 80’s seems to me a very significant change which took place in my world. As like with everybody else, moving out and leaving behind the house, the school, the friends, was some task. I believe, it’s always like this. It’s never easy to get yourself detached, from what I always believed was my world for now and forever. It was a reluctant, a little uneasy shift.
But when I saw the new house, I would say, one of the most beautiful house I ever had, attached with a small terrace, in a complete new locality and absolutely peaceful compare to my previous experience of 10 years in a main road facing, 1st floor house. When I saw the new place for the first time, uneasiness which developed because of the shift started getting dissolved a bit. May be could not express or actually experience and understand the feeling that time. But looking back, can now fully understand what was going on within me. There was an acceptance. There was a liking. There was a feel of getting upgraded. A feel of luxury. An understanding of the growth family business has made which resulted in this shift. Somehow, the inner conflict got diluted a bit and started looking forward to some excitement in store. The school was just the next door, a big park few steps away, fantastic people to stay with as neighbors. No sooner could made friends with many of my age in the same building. I would term this, the 12 years, as one of the most exciting phases of my growing. Somehow, every moment is a memory I still cherish and remains a treasure in the pages of my life.
The medium of learning changed from Gujrati to English in the new school, though it being basically a school managed by Gujrati Trust, but all the subjects were taught in English, besides the first language, Gujrati. Thankfully, sooner could overcome & manage this change of learning medium and continued to be a decent student with decent results year by year. I can say, that these years, actually formed a foundation for my future. I was always with greatest of the buddies whether in school or at home, with diversified talents, interest, capabilities. Always was with friends & colleagues, who were all, I can say, somewhat serious about studying hard, scoring good, be successful as a student, join family business or find a way to earn through some various other, offered and available opportunities. None, can I remember who was not serious about his life. Of course wouldn’t have noticed such things at the time of passing through those times, but looking back, all of these seems so meaningful, so relative, so much so arranged and is making complete sense now.
But somehow even after the first 10 years at the new place, something was a-miss. I still can’t remember any such incident, a discussion, a pep talk, a serious thought provoking moment, which can point that I did carry some ambition in my life. A dream to fulfill. A vision to achieve. A Goal to strive for. A well-crafted path. Nothing. Absolutely Nothing.
And I do find it utterly surprising. No plans for life, for future till the age of 18 or 20. On the contrary, as we see today, there is a specific, a very clear view and understanding amongst the students of the age 13 & above. By the time they are 13 they are asked to choose their subject streams based on their interest, talent, capacity and future career prospects.
I do feel it quite strange for myself actually for not having enough future foresight to reach to a certain point in life. Yes, I do remember that to go for medicine or Engineering was the most sought after streams in those times. Based on good academic performance in STD X, I was encouraged and literally convinced successfully, by friends & family, to take up Science as my subject stream and eventually move in the direction of becoming an engineer someday. My dad, I remember, always used to tell me that become an engineer or a Doctor. Though never was he keen on our (me & my sisters’) day to day studies and academic progress, but he was always the first to put his hands on our year end results, would count the marks, and would say it’s not enough. Why so less or why the rank is 2nd & not 1st? So one thing was certain that he was very clear about what he wanted for & from his children, to perform & achieve.
But there was never ever any pressure to perform, or to prove; at least academically from any of the family members. Ultimately, the experience of keeping up in the Science stream proved to be sort of non-productive 4 years of my life. I kept on pursuing the same, even after when I couldn’t break through engineering entrances and eventually took up B.Sc. for the graduation.
Somehow, I was more inclined towards Management studies, Business administration. But once I decided to get into Science, I could never come out of it to pursue my interest towards the same. It’s not that, I was very keen to take up business studies that time, but few of my academic initiatives do point towards this interest at that time and un-excusably which was never put forward by me by way of strong demand or initiative. So no point in creating an excuse about that now. But one thing is for sure, that the study of Science, did teach me few beautiful aspects. It trained me with few wonderful virtues, which I strongly believe are rightfully justifiable to be attributed to my few years of studying Science. I developed a good habit of having a strong focus, intent listening and getting into the core of any problem. The why’s and how’s, established in me an inquisitiveness to go to the root of the problem, which keeps helping me even today to take me able decisions.
Once I was through the first 2 years of my studying in science, i.e. at the age of 20, somehow I feel the first real questions started breathing in my mind. May be that was the time I started getting a bit more serious about where was I heading in my life. I had no clue whatsoever. My close friends were already either into their family business or jobs. I could feel myself absolutely clueless. I could feel every moment of my life getting wasted. I was restless. As the college had afternoon hours, I couldn’t think of attending dad’s office too. And honestly for the few days which I attended, I could never generate any interest whatsoever to look forward to repeatedly go to office. I kept of generating many excuses of not attending office.
Somehow, I see those 2 years, as the years, where I must have started thinking SOMETHING. Though with no clear vision of where I needed to head, but surely that was the time I felt the most miserable as regarding what I would like to do in future. With few friends, I tried getting into something different and something other than our regular family business. We tried software marketing, Selling of Computer hardware & accessories, Stock market investments. But, as the destiny holds, nothing actually worked. Though apparently, getting into stocks looked attractive and source of good money, but eventually failed.
And now the time for one more shift. Bigger than the one before. The decision to leave Calcutta & move to Bombay. My family had already invested into a home and an office space in Bombay few years back. Once again, a strong inner resistance. An absolute reluctance in leaving the comfort zone, fantastic friends, a very comfortable & easy life, good academic background which also created an identity for me.
How could I leave everything which was so good, comfortable & every bit predictable? And of course Bombay was always known to be most dynamic place to work, build a career and at the same time one of the most expensive cities to live and manage lifestyle. And to come out of the simplicity of Calcutta and stepping to match up with the smarter Bombay-ites was always going to be a huge task. So as was obvious, it was a big NO to leave Calcutta, at least for me and my Dad. But eventually the stronger will, insistence & willingness of my grandfather & my mom, won. And we decided to come to Bombay.
During the process of Yes’s and No’s for Bombay, I still remember, that there was that small little phase, where I did realize it was very important for me & it was high time, to leave Calcutta behind. Though it was not an easily acceptable proposition for me & was every bit difficult to come to harmonious terms with my inner and outer conflict. But one thing was for sure, that I did realize it very strongly that it was my time to get detached from this comfort zone. This comfort zone was pulling me into the well of darkness. I could feel myself getting nowhere by staying in Calcutta. I also remember, telling my friends, that “I see dark clouds over us. We are too attached, obsessed & dependent over each other to really break out and achieve something big in our lives. And my going to Bombay would pave way for everybody to grow”. I do remember saying this and hopefully my friends would still remember this and agree.
Coming to Bombay, now it’s been more than 22 years, I can say, that what was missing during my early years in Calcutta was challenges and struggle. None of which I had ever experienced. Not much of expectations around, could never prompt or encourage me to rise to a level higher than what I was standing on. Here, in a completely new atmosphere, limited help from the people around me, limited resources, I had no option but to face the same and prove my worth. Dad was 47 at that time, and for him to leave behind a well-established business and to plunge into the highly competitive business in Bombay was not easy. That was one of the reasons of his NO, as well. All the well-known, successful big people of our industry were in Bombay and to try and create our own space on their occupied land was not going to be easy. The early years in Bombay gave me freedom to think and put in my ideas into action. I was never averted to hard work and these years gave me chance to travel a lot on business to every nook and corner of the country where our business prospects were the best. With God’s grace & some good karmas of the past, Dad’s experience & hard work, ably supported by my uncle at Calcutta office and of course with little initial supportive efforts from my end, resulted in the success of our business in Bombay in few years. And then after, have never looked back.
Its 22 years for us in Bombay, now known as Mumbai. We are still very much a joint family. Business has grown and so do we all have, as responsible human beings. The years have taken away few of our family pillars, but the support, love and care from all within the family & friends, keeps us going.
There is nothing actually I regret when I look back to the 3 phases (1970-1980; 1980-1992; 1992-today) of my life so far. But given a choice to re-live all these years, I may would like to change few of those times, moments, where I felt little lost. I would have pursued a parallel education in business management, which remained an unfulfilled dream. I would have spent more quality time with the people whom I lost on this journey.
To conclude with, I strongly believe, that it’s important to have an innocent childhood. It’s even more important to allow our children to think and craft their own ways. Let them experience what they would like to pursue. Failures doesn’t matter but the freedom from our side, to let them choose from available options & opportunities, may help them to minimize their regrets later, in their life.