I noticed a bead of sweat trickle down my dad’s brows as he rummaged through the drawer for his motorbike’s keys. It was a rare sight. I was 4 years old and we were getting late for my admission test scheduled at the most prestigious school in town.
After some more frantic searching, he gave up, ‘Can you walk the distance?’ he asked. I nodded, maybe, not sure of what lay in store. What followed was a frenetic walk, along the dusty track, brushing past the wild thicket, and negotiating a maze of idiosyncratic pebbles.
Worried, my dad looked at my flushed face, when we reached. ‘Are you ok?’
I nodded calmly and grabbed a pencil with my podgy fingers, ready to tackle what was next.
Lesson learnt: Obstacles will come. Work them out and move on to tackle the next.
My mom wiped the fog from the face of her wristwatch. It was just 4:00 am and here she was, 3 kids in tow, ages 7 , 5, and 3, at the railway station. It was quite an unearthly hour at Rae Bareilly, a sleepy town which, I guess moved slower than the train that had chugged us in. Not able to squeeze in all of us on a rickshaw, she requested an unknown ‘bhai-sahab’ to take me on his. I was 5.
Lost for over 30 minutes, circling the town with an unknown ‘uncle’, my mind worked at a mad pace to figure out a solution. I asked to be taken back to the station, where, as I had hazarded, was my mom, still waiting, realizing the chaos, she had, unwittingly, created.
Lesson learnt: The solutions are out there. It takes a clear mind to reach them.
It was a gory sight. Slightly bloated and grey, the 2 bodies were people, so real and yet, so unnatural. I had never seen death at point blank range. At 19, I was old, one can never be old enough to handle this. I was a river resort, helping escort back, the lifeless remains of my classmates who had drowned in a river in spate. I was numb. An unknown force had wrenched my being, leaving me bereft of any emotion for days to come.
Lesson learnt: Life is finite. Love it. Every moment.
The swagger told the tale. A young graduate engineer with a coveted job, I was set to conquer the world. As I surveyed my kingdom: the 280 meters long assembly line that spewed vehicles every 10 minutes, the thrill to command those 120 men manning it was heady. I approached a worker who seemed to be dithering.
‘I am sure you can mount those tyres faster’, I ventured.
He raised his head slowly and drawled ‘That’s the best I can do, sir. Why don’t you do it once and show me how to make it faster?’
As I grappled with those monstrous fittings, panting and tripping, I could picture how I looked with my foot in my mouth.
Lesson learnt: Leaders learn the rules of the game. Inside Out.
One day, I found out that the brain indeed, had 2 sides. While my logical brain told me that daring to marry my sweetheart would mean locking horns with my family, my affective brain would not listen. My friends counseled, over those unending cups of coffee and ‘by-two’ cigarettes. But, the inevitable was to happen. It was a difficult journey….we made it happen.
Lesson learnt: You can have what you want. You just need to want it badly.
It was the usual breakfast rush. My wife struggled to open the bottle of jam. Exasperated after few tries, she shoved it towards me. I flicked it open and passed it on to my daughter who had been waiting patiently for it. Her eyes sparkling with wonderment, she exclaimed, ‘My pappa is so strong’. This proclamation was to be repeated during playtime with her friends later that day! Few days later, it was the biscuit tin that acted up. This was a tough one! I was almost going to save the tussle for later, whereupon, from the corner of my eye, I noticed her looking with anxious anticipation. I could not bear to let her down.
Lesson learnt: You cannot rest on laurels. You are being watched. All the time.
Life teaches. And I continue learning. I often don’t like my report card. Sometimes, I quietly destroy it. But I shall continue to treasure every bit of the learning.