Tag Archives: Life Lessons

Remembering Dadu

This blog was written on the 11th of December, 2018, one year after my grandfather passed away. I’m posting it here as a reminder to me, in this new year, to be transparent, open and honest, all qualities Dadu lived by.

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Dadu – My North Star

My grandfather passed away on the 11thof December last year. He went to the hospital for a simple lung infection which turned out to not be so simple. It directly led to various other complications, and after a long and tough fight with critical illnesses, Dadu finally succumbed to God’s will. He was an incredible man, and I will miss him for the rest of my life.

It is often said that similar natures and qualities often skip a generation in families, and I feel that is quite true in my case. I believe there are many qualities Dadu embodied that have, admittedly in a highly diluted form, taken root in me. Whether that was due to nature or nurture is an eventually meaningless distinction, because while nature took its course through genetics, my formative years were significantly nurtured by Dadu as well.

His most admirable trait, in my view, was his steadfastness in pursuing the right course of action, however difficult it might be, and however lucrative its less virtuous alternative was. He always taught me that having a clear conscience at the end of the day was all we should aim for, and that if we do the right thing, then God will take care of the rest. His infinite faith in God, especially Lord Hanuman, was a constant source of comfort to him. He was always willing to help someone in trouble by giving to the utmost of his ability but wouldn’t lift a finger if he believed what he was being asked to do was wrong. He built his life on a bedrock of certain core values and did not deviate from them as far as my knowledge goes. Even when our family was going through financial troubles and Dadu was a struggling entrepreneur, he never compromised on his principles, though it would have been an easy way out of his troubles. I wonder whether I would be able to be so strong as to avoid the lure of the easy solution. I would like to be, and my desire to do so stems directly from what I saw Dadu do, time and time again.

He was an extremely humble man, a rarity nowadays. There were plenty of reasons for him to get an inflated sense of his own ego, but he refused to take himself and all the successes and achievements life showered upon him too seriously. All his failures were his alone, whereas all the credit of his achievements were shared by the people he worked with and God. His favorite line was ‘Yeh to bhagwan ki kripa aur sabki mehnat ka phal hai.’ His selflessness was extraordinary, his compassion towards other people limitless. Papa and I have no idea how much money is owed to the family from people who had borrowed from Dadu, because in many an instance, Dadu did not give it as a loan but rather as a gift to be used by the person in need to better his situation. His only hope was that the borrower would utilize it for his business or family matters to come out of a sticky situation. It is a testament to the respect people accord to him that after his passing, many people have come forward voluntarily and told us how much money they owe to Dadu, even though they know that if they kept to themselves, we would most probably have no idea about that transaction.

In A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes remarks that ‘They say Genius is the infinite capacity to take pains. It’s a bad definition, but it applies to detective work.’ If we accept this definition, because I do think it applies to being a patriarch, then Dadu was a genius in how to lead a family. He was always ready with advice, doled out with gentleness and humility. He was always overcautious, but never overbearing. I still remember him constantly advising me to take care of my health during the New York winters. It didn’t matter to him however many times I reassured him that I was taking all possible precautions, for him it was a part of his daily routine. Call Piyush, ask about college, tell him to take care of his health, wear a muffler, and drink warm water. His ability to care for someone was unparalleled in our family. For him, it was always the comfort of his family first, and he always kept himself last in priority, though I’d argue he didn’t count himself in his list of people to take care of. One of the senior people in our organization shared a story after Dadu’s passing about which I had no idea. He said that in all his years working with Dadu, the most stressed he saw Dadu was when I had a small operation done on my spine. He remembered Dadu’s words as “Kya ho gaya usko, itni kam umra mein itni takleef ho rahi hai, bhagwan sab theek kar de.” My reaction to this was perhaps a little unexpected. Instead of feeling loved and cared for, instead I got really angry, almost pissed off, that I had caused him unnecessary anguish. I somehow think that if he was in my position, he too would have felt similarly, which is why I feel my soul has been touched by Dadu.

I remember Papa and Papaji (my father in law) had gone to see him in the ICU during his last days. He was more concerned about why they were spending so much time in the hospital and instructed them to go home and rest because he was perfectly fine. I remember going to him and him asking about Saanvii. I said she was fine and was about to leave when he beckoned me closer. When I reached his side, he asked me to bend down, and then ruffled my hair affectionately. I looked up at him and he indicated that this was for Saanvii. I reached home pretty late at night and Saanvii had already slept, but I remember ruffling her hair again and again, willing Dadu’s ashirwad on to her. Sometimes it isn’t logic but emotion that wins. The last handwritten note he sent to us from the ICU simply said “I am fine. I am grateful to the doctors and nurses who are taking such good care of me. You all go home and rest.” Till the end, he expressed gratitude towards other people, and cared and worried about his family. To have such strength, such an endless supply of empathy and love… Its getting more and more difficult to find people like that nowadays. I’m afraid that this quality left earth with him.

I do not know how much happiness or pleasure I could give to him during his lifetime, but I am satisfied that at least I could give him a few years with his great grandchild. Saanvii was the apple of his eye. He doted on her in a way that no one else could. I feel sad that someone who could have imparted so much knowledge, values, kindness and empathy to Saanvii is no more. I also worry about Saanvii’s upbringing, and whether we will be able to give to her even a fraction of what Dadu gave to me and Pallavi. If only Saanvii had a few more years with Dadu.

If only all of us had a few more years with Dadu.

The world lost one of its luminaries, someone who abhorred the spotlight but couldn’t escape it because the light of his good deeds was not a flame but a conflagration. You can try to hide the smoke of a lamp, but a forest fire will not be contained. It is amazing to me how often he used to help people and organizations while keeping his name away from the public eye. He believed in doing the right thing for the right reasons, and that help rendered was a reward in itself. Many organizations have lost their largest private benefactor.

The vast majority of good things in me came from Dadu. The bad qualities I’ve picked up on my own. There will never be another like him. Dadu’s genius was in recognizing that it is far more important to be good than to be great. Many great men pass away into the afterlife every day, but good men come along only once in a while, so even Mother Earth must have shed a tear the day Dadu died. One of the best of humankind was no more. We lost a decent man who never wronged anyone, and achieved success in life without compromising with his conscience. His was the warship which my shabby dinghy followed. Now that the warship is no more, I am left alone, unmoored, with no one to follow and no where to go. The despair waits in the shadows to strike as soon as weakness rears its head, but Dadu didn’t teach us to be weak. He taught us to dust ourselves off and get up whenever we fell. He taught us to keep moving forward, relentlessly, undaunted by whatever life throws in our way. He taught us a lot, never by teaching, but by his actions, the way he lived his life, the way he treated people. My goal in life is to keep proving that honesty really IS the best policy, doing the right thing pays off, and that you don’t need to “lie/cheat/steal“ to get ahead in life. As I said before, if being good was more important to him than being great, that’s good enough justification for me to do the same.

You may have noticed that I’ve tried to not get too personal in writing my thoughts. There is, of course, a reason. His life was one which filled everyone around him with joy, and thus should be celebrated, not mourned. Since Dadu breathed his last, I haven’t shed a tear. I don’t intend to start now by getting too personal. My grief is mine, and mine alone.

Since I have probably failed in adequately expressing what Dadu meant to me and what a gentle, progressive, flawless diamond he truly was, I’ll let someone far more accomplished than me give it a shot.

ऊँच-नीच का भेद न माने, वही श्रेष्ठ ज्ञानी है,
दया-धर्म जिसमें हो, सबसे वही पूज्य प्राणी है।
क्षत्रिय वही, भरी हो जिसमें निर्भयता की आग,
सबसे श्रेष्ठ वही ब्राह्मण है, हो जिसमें तप-त्याग।

तेजस्वी सम्मान खोजते नहीं गोत्र बतला के,
पाते हैं जग में प्रशस्ति अपना करतब दिखला के।
हीन मूल की ओर देख जग गलत कहे या ठीक,
वीर खींच कर ही रहते हैं इतिहासों में लीक।

रश्मिरथी – रामधारी सिंह दिनकर

Why Marwari Men should be taxi Drivers

keep-calm-and-be-a-taxi-driver

Marwaris are well known as one of the premier business communities of India. Having traveled from Rajasthan and settled all over the country, they are present in sizable numbers in many cities of India and contribute greatly to the Indian economy. Largely family owned and usually working on conservative principles, Marwari companies have thrived due to their general suspicion of debt and complete control over even the smallest of expenditures, both traits almost ingrained in a Marwari.

I’m gonna talk about a third trait, and we’ll look at it in three different ways.

1. The “Corporate Culture” Shenanigans

In recent year, words such as “professionalism” and “corporate culture” have become buzz words for almost any decent sized organization. All companies was to work in a Corporate environment and follow international business practices. Marwari businesses are no exceptions to this trend, however many have made a major mistake in their adoption. While they have copied wholesale the systems and processes of the west, they have not adopted the mindset that allows those systems and processes to thrive.

One of the most egregious examples I can find of the utter failure to understand good corporate culture is the habit of working till late. I understand that people value hard work? however life, just like school, gives no marks on effort alone. It is the results that matter. Most Marwaris tend to work hard and equate working longer and harder with success. I find this view of business laughable. If such was the case, Mukesh Ambani would be a laborer in Burrabazaar, working from morning till night carrying loads on his head. Since that is not the case, then surely this understanding of long hours = success has a flaw somewhere?

2. The “I am my own boss” myth

Lets look at this situation from another perspective. In one of his widely successful books, Robert Kiyosaki talks about the cash flow quadrant. It talks about four types of people – Employees (E), Self Employed (S), Businessmen (B) and Investors (I). Instead of going into the details of the whole setup, lets just focus on the difference between “S” and “B”, or Self Employed and Businessman. Self Employed is someone who has to work to make money, and the moment he stops working is when he stops earning. Doctors, Lawyers etc usually fall in this category (unless they start their own hospitals or law firms). Businessmen, on the other hand, earn money whether they are working or not. Their business makes money regardless of whether they are in their offices or at a beach in bahamas wearing flip-flops and sipping cocktails (well, its Marwaris, so probably coconut water).

What I see is Marwari men considering it a badge of honor coming home long after office hours have been over. I can think up a few reasons for this. One, they believe it gains them sympathy from their family members (He works so hard!) and also earns their respect. Two, they genuinely are so enveloped in their work that they have cultivated no hobbies or interests, so feel restless and bored once home. Third, it is an insurance against failure. Lets say someone’s business doesn’t do well. What do you think the reaction will be? What the Marwari Man is hoping for is “His luck must be bad, because he works so hard, there was no lack of effort, thats for sure!” Fear of failure makes men work harder and harder, without stopping to think about whether their way of working is any smarter than before. Fourth, it is a signalling mechanism that they are successful (I’m doing well, so I’ve got so much work to do that I dont get enough time to do it all!)

3. The “Fear of Failure” fallacy

Finally, lets talk about the big picture. Why does a man want to be rich? So he can provide for his family, give them a good life, make sure they have all available opportunities to grow and excel in whatever they want to do, to live comfortably till his last years, gain a little name and fame amongst his peers, and then maybe leave something behind for his next generation and society. Lets take that as a decent working definition.

Now, why do we work? To make money, because money is what makes all of the above possible. But these are not all ‘standard of life’ values, these are also ‘quality of life’ values, and this is where the Marwari Man fails miserably. Money also what enables you to work a little less and relax a little more. Our aim should be to earn enough money so that we have to work less in the future, not more. In the case of the Marwari man, the more success they attain, the more workaholic they seem to become. Working at all hours of the day, and working till after office hours, are considered signs of hard work, success and a growing business by them, whereas in reality these are evidence of pathetic Time Management, if they even know what that means.

Summary, because I dont want to work too long on this.

To summarize, if you are a Marwari Man who believes working for longer hours makes you richer, more productive and more successful, I have the perfect job for you. Become a Taxi Driver. Their take home pay is directly related to how long they work, and thus provides exactly the occupation that aligns your philosophy with your level of success.

And to those who believe in working longer hours = better results in life, before you go to buy a taxi… Please guide me to the alternate universe Bill Gates is currently inhabiting where he gets a 100 hours every day to work, since surely a man as rich as he must work FAR longer than the normal Marwari Man.