Sunday, January 29, 2017

The words of wisdom that transformed me

 I come from a lower middle class family. I spent the first 26 years of my life in a chawl in Mumbai. In view of the stringent financial situation at home I had to look after my college education myself. This I did by giving tuitions to a few school students in my building complex and also by taking up temporary jobs during summer vacations.

Mr.Palekar,  the Principal of the R.A Podar College of Commerce where I studied,  used to  help me by   ringing  up some old student of the college and request him to give me a temporary job. I worked as a Sales Assistant one year, a Bank Clerk another year. My last summer job as Accounts Assistant at Dharamsi MorarjeeChemicals, which was otherwise routine, was memorable because of a meeting I had with the sales manager — I remember his name was Shukla —on the last day of my stint at the company, which was to transform my life

As a temporary Accounts Assistant, my seat at a corner table was not far from the cabin of Mr.Shukla.  He  was  a smart young man always impeccably dressed, Sitting in the corner and watching him in action, I became his ardent fan. I decided that I must meet him before I leave the company to find out the secret of his success!

I am a pushy person by nature. On the last day of my job, I barged into his cabin and requested him to spare me a few minutes. Though he was initially annoyed at my insolence, when I told him who I was and that I was one of his admirers, he immediately relaxed and asked me to take my seat.

After giving him a brief background about myself, I told him about my plans to become an adman and sought his advice in the matter. Much to my surprise, he was categorical that advertising might not suit me and explained why. He felt that at that point of time  advertising was meant for people with social standing. My lower middle class background would keep me down in the ad world, even if I found a job.

He however, gave me two pieces of advice, the words of wisdom,  that  not only transformed my life but also gave a clear direction to where I was heading in my life.

Advice No. 1: Since you will be starting  a career in a couple of years, you must introspect and prepare a balance sheet of your plus points and minus points. Show this balance sheet to a few of your near and dear ones to add or eliminate some points. Having got a final list, you must make a sincere attempt to convert each one of the minus point to a plus point. It will take you a whole lifetime to do this but the efforts will be worthwhile.

Advice No. 2: Do not judge the success of a person based on how he lives or the amount of money he makes. He may have all the money in the world but in the process of accumulating that wealth and enjoying the pleasures that such wealth can provide, he would have missed out on important values in life — values pertaining to relationship with people.

To become a really successful person in life, start at being a good son, a good brother, a good friend, a good student, a good spouse, a good father, a good employee and eventually a good boss. In other words, you must be successful in every role that you are called upon to play in life.

He said that this also  would take a whole life time to achieve. But the goodwill that  you would have created will guarantee  greater happiness than all the money in the world could  buy. `Money can help you buy pleasures of life  but not happiness`, .he said.

Much against Mr.Shukla`s advice, I took up advertising as a career and made a name for myself as a Rural Marketing Specialist. To get over the negative point of my not having a social standing, I joined a social service organisation through which I not only made a legion of friends across the country but also became somebody  in my society- respected and loved by people who crossed my path. Though I did not accumulate big wealth, my bank of good will has been always overflowing. This has helped me experience the `joy of giving`- not just sharing my limited wealth but my talent, my time and my other resources in the service of the society.

I am happy to say that at 75  when I look back, I feel that I have led a very successful and  fulfilling life! .Celebrating my life all the way!

 (This article appeared in the January,2017 issue of `INFINITHOUGHTS` published by Ra..Ra..Mahatira
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Special Programme in memory of a Special Person

 It is time again to celebrate the memory of a dear departed soul. Exactly four years ago on 5th Januray 2013, Prabha my wife of forty years was snatched away by the dreaded crab disease at a very young age. She was only 61.  She was a multi talented person who started blossoming in life after the age of 40. Apart from being a wonderful housewife and a good mother she was interested in music, gardening. She was also active in social work. Above all she had created an identity for herself as an accomplished writer of stories in Tamil with two books of short stories to her credit. Though I was a dutiful husband for the first half of our married life it was in the second half that I truly fell in love with her. I had a ringside view of her evolution from a shy, introverted individual with low self esteem into a confident individual willing to take on any challenge coming her way and excelling in many fields of activities she was involved in. She was a keen learner and a good sport. She became the dream girl that I wanted to marry. I was really proud of her.

When she passed away many well meaning friends consoled me telling me that time is a great healer and that I will soon learn to forget and live without her. Living without her had become a reality but I decided not to forget her but celebrate her memory by undertaking activities which will keep her memory alive every moment of my life.  Apart from the decision to have my own space in running the home she loved so much, I started Prabha Rajan Talent Foundation (PRTF) to undertake activities to encourage women in the creative art of writing and also support talented girls in their creative pursuits.

PRTF which started four years ago has been encouraging talented women by conducting writing contests in association with leading Tamil magazines like Managayar Malar, Kalaimagal & Ladies Special and sponsoring books by budding women Tamil writers, published by Manimekalai Prasuram a leading publishing house based in Chennai. It has also been supporting young girls by sponsoring their school fees and offering them talent scholarships to pursue creative courses of their choice. Another PRTF project is the sponsorship of a Bala Gurukul in Prabha`s name managed by the Bombay based India Development Foundation at the Corporation school in Damodarapuram, Adyar.  The residents of the school are mostly street children who are given special tuitions in the evenings by qualified teachers under the programme.
This year PRTF decided to have a special programme to celebrate her memory. The function held on 31st December at Tag Centre and started with my 15 year old  granddaughter (and daughter of my second daughter Sowmya & Srinivasan), Uthara performing an hour of scintillating Carnatic music. The delighted audience had no doubts that the child will go places in the world of music.

This was followed by screening of two short films based on Prabha`s short stories which PRTF had commissioned. The first film was a 10 minute film based on a short story titled Nalu Parukkaikaha (For a Morsel of food),  with an all women cast and directed by young Shruthy Murthy, who passed out of Loyola college with a degree in Viscom last year. The second was a 45 minute film based on a novella (long story) titled ` Thayumanaval` the title story from  Prabha`s second book, was directed by experienced filmmaker Rajeshwari Anand; a Gold Medallist from Film Institute in Chennai and an old associate of Anugrah Madison Advertising.  Both the films were brilliantly executed by the two talented women.  I sincerely hope the films will help them realize their dream of getting an entry into the feature film industry in a big way. The audience simply loved both the films. It is a pity that Prabha was not there to see characters from her two stories coming alive on the screen. 

The grand finale for the evening was the distribution of prizes to winners of a novella contest in Tamil conducted by the popular women centric Tamil monthly called “Ladies Special”.


Though I am continuing to live with Prabha in my virtual world, I do miss her physical presence. I miss her admonishing  me for the things I did or didn`t do, miss the shouting matches that we used to have on silly issues, miss the enthusiasm and energy she displayed during festival days. Most important of all I miss her presence in the bed room where I could take for granted the minute to minute care that only a  life partner can provide when one is unwell . However the projects that I am involved with in her memory through PRTF help me continue to celebrate life, trying to spread happiness around to the best of my abilities- Hope that keeps my dear Prabha`s soul happy!