Selfie with Rohan Bopanna

Today, for the first time in my life, I got mobbed for autographs.  By young, bright-eyed women at the Grace Hopper Conference, just after my panel discussion on ‘Finding Your Voice’.  It was surreal.

My friend, Viji  Venkatesan had invited me to speak on the panel. And, I grabbed the opportunity. It’s always fun to address young people and share from one’s journey in life – the wins, the failures, the people who inspired you, the people who made you cry. Not only does it give you a chance to recall the beautiful moments, you also get a chance to pick the bad bosses by the scruff of their necks and bash them in public! All in all, it is very fulfilling.

My co-panelists were a beautiful doctor who practices tele-medicine, a kick-ass woman CEO and Rohan Bopanna, the tennis champ. We spoke about how we found our voices, how we coped with failure, what led to the decisions we took and the lessons we learnt. The 200 odd audience was amazing – so involved, so participative. And, before we knew it, the coordinator was spotted waving furiously from the wings, telling us that time was over.

As we stepped off the stage, I noticed a sizeable group of our young audience rushing towards us.

For Rohan’s autograph, I assumed.

And, then the most unimaginable happened! Ten to twelve of them descended upon me.

I just loved your answers.

I have become your fan.

I want to read your books.

You are amazing.

Bits of paper, reversed brochures, note pads were thrust in my direction.

Can I have your autograph?

I was shocked beyond belief.

Why would anyone want my autograph? How ridiculous is this?

I complied, giggling with embarrassment. Some huddled behind me and took selfies. It was just overwhelming.

The organizers watched helplessly as this continued by the side of the stage.

Hey, can we ask you to move outside please? The next panel is about to start.

My little group and I stepped out into the corridor. The adulation continued –

You were so funny!

I am not happy with my job, what advice do you have for me?

What made you successful?

How did you summon the courage to chuck your corporate job and start writing?

Can I get your number? I promise I won’t stalk you.

Phew! I was so touched, so humbled.

What a day!