Accept your reality to get through an unwanted, yet unavoidable, phase

Accept and make peace with your reality. That’s when you can endure a phase you never wanted but still have to go through.
Rajratnam and Gupta: Picture Courtesy – Internet

A recent story in The New York Times caught my attention. It was written by an Indian, Anita Raghavan. And featured another Indian – the former McKinsey & Co boss, Rajat Gupta. The story talked about Gupta’s term in prison, alongside one-time friend and business partner Raj Rajaratnam – both men are convicted on charges of insider trading and are serving time at the Federal Medical Center Devens, in Ayer, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston, with 1000 other inmates. Raghavan seems to have pieced together information from a former Devens inmate, David Morgan, on Gupta’s time in prison. According to Morgan, reports Raghavan, Gupta seems to have accepted his imprisonment as “destiny”.

It is definitely a fall from grace for the former Harvard Business School graduate and old-timer at McKinsey & Co, Rajat Gupta. I remember, in 1994, when I was with India’s premier business magazine Business Today (from the India Today stable), Gupta was on its cover. It was I think for the first time that an Indian was making it to a global CEO’s position. My editor, Anand P Raman, told me what a proud moment it was for India, for Business Today and for us journalists to be featuring an Indian management great! I was young, just 27, back then. And I decided to myself that if ever I took up a corporate role (which I eventually did), I would want to emulate Gupta’s success. In fact, my erstwhile consulting Firm’s stated goal was to be an Indian McKinsey and this was in large measure influenced by Gupta’s leadership of McKinsey & Co over the period 1994~2000. It is incredible that the poster boy of management consulting and global corporate leadership is serving term in a prison in the US, to say the least.  According to Raghavan, “In prison, it is Mr. Gupta’s family that has kept him going. At the camp, he pasted family photos on the bottom panel of the bunk (bed) above him. “Hey, David, look at what we have to be grateful for,” Mr. Morgan remembered Mr. Gupta saying. “‘When I go to bed, I see them, and when I wake up, I see them.’”
Gupta’s story presents us with the opportunity to understand the true nature of Life. What goes up comes down. And what’s down sure goes up. This is the way Life plays out for each of us. Our stories may differ, our contexts may be unique, but the broad theme is impermanence – of time, people, events, things, relationships and of our Life itself. Everything and every phase in Life shall pass. And what the Cosmic Design has in store for you shall play out – unfailingly whether you like it or not, whether you accept it or not. When you don’t accept what is happening and resist the Life you have, you suffer. But with acceptance, as in Gupta’s case, as he has confessed to Morgan, while you can’t change your reality, you can at least endure it.

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“If there ever is a good time – it is now!”

This is the only Life you have! So, live it fully, doing whatever you love doing!

Yesterday, we met a young (in their late 20s) and very inspiring couple – Resham Gellatly and Zach Marks. They both are from the United States of America and are currently traveling in India – researching on the chaiwallahs of India for a forthcoming book they are writing. To do this project, they have kicked stable, well-paying jobs in the US and have simply taking the “plunge” and “dived deep” into India. They have already met with thousands of chaiwallahs, having covered 15 Indian states in the last four months and propose to meet several thousand more, covering the rest of India, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, by April 2014. Zach’s given up his consulting career (for now) with McKinsey & Co, while Resham’s paused her psychiatry research, in order for them to do this very offbeat, very, very demanding project! They are funding their project themselves – so they are walking a tightrope with their budgets all the time. This means they have to depend on people connecting them to people who are willing to host them as they move from place to place, hopping on to buses and trains. The key for them is to meet as many chaiwallahs as possible – and to understand their stories and lives, and through them, discover India!

Why chaiwallahs? “In a country with tremendous diversity, chaiwallahsare a constant presence, from the deserts of Rajasthan to the seaside megacity of Mumbai, everywhere bringing together people from different backgrounds at their stands. The same way that cab drivers tell the story of New York, we think chaiwallahs can tell the story of India. We have met some incredibly compelling characters – from a Delhi chaiwallah who sells books he has written and self-published at his stall, to a Bollywood spot boy who has been serving chai to the stars for 40 years, to a local politician in rural Odisha who uses the tea kettle as her party symbol,” explains Zach.

A chaiwallah, Zach and Resham
Picture Courtesy: Internet/DNA India
And Resham reveals that the decision to “take on this project and actually get down to doing it” was not very difficult: “We live only once. We realized that Zach’s McKinsey job, or for that matter any other corporate opportunity, would always be there. As would my psychiatry research. We reckoned that if we waited for longer to do what we believed in, and were excited about doing, we will have more responsibilities to deal with. Like a family, kids, demanding careers and such. We said if there ever is a good time, it is now – and that was it!”
There is this very positive aura around Resham and Zach. It is the kind of feeling that you get when you meet people who are genuinely happy with their lives. And that energy, while it’s rare, is infectious. Resham (she has an India connection – her mother is from Punjab) is from Hawaii and Zach’s from Philadelphia. But they didn’t meet in the US. They met, in fact, in New Delhi in 2010-11, while on Fullbright-Nehru Fellowships. Even as their love for each other blossomed, their fascination for Indian chaiwallahs grew. Important, they decided to go wherever their inner joy, their bliss, takes them – together! Listening to them, I was reminded about what Joseph Campbell (1904~1987), the American mythologist and author, had profoundly said: “Follow your bliss and doors will open where only walls existed – and you alone will be able to see those doors.” Resham and Zach are truly following their bliss. And, indeed, doors are opening for them! Resham sums it up beautifully: “We have discovered how kind and caring people in India are. They have opened their homes and hearts to us. Many of our hosts are rank strangers and yet without their generous support our project will not be possible!” Ask Zach, what next, when they eventually get back to picking up their American Life and careers in New York, and he replies: “We honestly don’t know. We are waiting to explore whatever awaits us or comes our way!”

The Zach and Resham story is a beautiful inspiration. It is also a gentle reminder to you and me to never postpone living the Life that you really want to live! Even as you finish reading this, your Life clock has ticked away some of your precious seconds. And you have just so much less time left. If you think too much about a bucket list, it just may become too long and the bucket heavy! So, the best way is to live is start doing whatever you love doing right away! As Resham said – “if there ever is a good time, it is now”!

You can look up Resham and Zach on http://www.chaiwallahsofindia.com