As a young boy, one day I was walking to my house when I noticed a mason working outside a house a little away from mine. I stopped a couple of feet away from him and watched him at work. He was bending some iron rods into small rectangles. The mason looked up, saw me and said rather kindly, “Babu, would you mind moving away a bit more?” I was a curious fellow but rather stubborn as well. I asked him, “I am so far, why should I move away?” He said “OK” and with one swift bend, he turned the iron rod in my direction. The rod came and scraped my leg. I paid the price for not listening but yelling out my first gaali was not as much fun as taking to heels when he got up to hit me.
Some may find them cliché’d but there is a deep insight in any idiom or saying. I know many Telugu Saamethalu and I occasionally shock people by quoting one.
While travelling in a Mumbai local between Victoria Terminal and Virar with a briefcase between my legs and an instrument bag on my shoulder, I would use the long journey to study for my MBA entrance examination.
Nothing could distract me from my preparation because for me, cracking the entrance examination was paramount. The frustration of not being able to take a month off as the examination date drew near left me with no other choice. I studied on the crowded train, while waiting to deliver my sales pitch, while eating … I used whatever time I could find or ‘make’ to read. No excuses, only creative solutions to meet a larger goal.
When I was growing up, there was a boy in my neighbourhood who was much loved and pampered and given the best that his family could afford. The parents were extremely nice and everyone in the community liked them. The father was a government employee, and the family had all sorts of dreams for the boy. I used to think how lucky he was and was sure he would go far. The family, however, moved away and I lost touch with them. Many years later, I met the father, who now looked distraught and heartbroken. Apparently, the boy had fallen into bad company when he was in his teens. He had grown uncontrollable and rebellious, and dropped out of school. In a tragic twist to the story, a few years later the boy was arrested as the prime accused in the kidnapping and murder of a rich friend.
All that potential and all those opportunities misused; a life utterly wasted!
Remember, many start life’s journey well, but the key is to finish well. One wrong choice can set us on a path of destruction. And then, it is not easy to turn around.
Once I was moaning to my mentor about how inadequate I felt. There I was in a sales job, without a college degree, whereas my classmates were well on their way to earning engineering and medical degrees, or studying whatever it was that they wanted to. He said, ‘Look at it this way. By the time they get into the workplace you’ll be ahead of them. And later, when you do succeed in getting a degree, with the practical experience that you already have, you’ll easily catch up with them and probably even race ahead of them at work. Don’t let the lack of a degree right now hold you back. Just go and be the best you can be.’
What an admirable piece of advice it turned out to be!
At Mumbai airport, I once bumped into someone who was sitting quietly in a corner, lost in thought. I introduced myself and told him how much I respected all that he had been doing for the country. Two years later, he became the President of India and I thought of that fortuitous meeting for he is the only President of a country that I had ever met—Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
As a child, I was obsessed with sports’ commentary. Later, thanks to a friendly radio announcer I got initiated to the wonderful world of broadcasting. In addition to the magic of making my voice heard on the radio and reaching many people, I realized that my dream of becoming a commentator was closer than I thought possible. At the time, Mr Ravi Varma was the Sports’ Officer in All India Radio, Hyderabad. I was acquainted with him and he had occasionally regaled some of us with his own on-air gaffes and mentioned how he had covered them up with some ingenious verbal callisthenics. As I had made no secret of my keen interest in going on air, he asked me to audition for them. I was to record a few minutes of a game—any game—and submit it to the radio station. I borrowed a tape recorder and taped my live commentary of a volleyball game. It did the trick and I was in!