Revisit the past – only if you must; more to see how far you have come and never to brood over what could have been.
Today is special for two reasons – it marks 20 years of entrepreneurship for Vaani and me; and it is also the second anniversary of my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal’s (Westland) launch.
It was on August 1, 1996, that Vaani and I set up imagequity+, Asia’s first Reputation Management Company, in our small apartment on Second Main Road, R.A.Puram, near the Kaliappa Hospitals (now Billroth) in Chennai. We set it up with all our love, passion and vigor – in the 50th year of Indian Independence even as Rahman’s Vande Mataram tugged at our heart strings – to be the consulting Firm from India for the world. We grew fast and grew well in the first 5~7 years of our existence. And then we made mistakes. Strategic ones. That changed the course our Firm – and our lives – took, forever.
It is almost 9 years since that Firm went bankrupt. I remember how, four years ago, I sat on the ground in a makeshift office (where we had moved, unable to sustain operating costs following our business going bust), and personally shredded display boards and signages of the Firm’s Purpose, Vision and Values. In the journey of the last 20 years as an entrepreneur, that was the most numbing moment for me personally. I was literally, and figuratively, presiding over the funeral of a Firm that we had birthed with Purpose, with Vision and with integrity. Even so, despite the catharsis, we feel no bitterness in us. Yes, there is great pain – owing to the physical demands that a bankruptcy places on your Life – cashlessness, worklessness, cluelessness and lightlessness in a dark, seemingly endless, tunnel. But there is no aftertaste – no regret, no heartache, no sense of loss, grief or suffering.
I believe our non-suffering state has been achieved by treating this period of material loss and acute physical strain, as one of awakening and evolving. And this is the spirit of my Book as well. I wrote it through the darkest phase of our Life. I wrote it because I first wanted to share with my children how you journey through Life, how you flow with Life, as it happens. At their insistence I took an edited manuscript to Westland’s Gautam Padmanabhan who put it to review and vote with his editorial board. Karthik Venkatesh, a key member of that board, gave me infinite support and direction as we prepared, over the summer of that year, to release it on August 1, 2014.
Fall Like A Rose Petal, even as I wrote it, and even now, continues to be a spiritual journey. My story has no beginning. And it has no end that I can see. Yes, someday in the future, Vaani and I hope, the physicality of our bankruptcy will end and we will eventually become debt-free. But I don’t think we can ever repay the debt of gratitude that we owe our 179 Angels, our creditors, who came forward and selflessly supported us and to whom we still owe money. So, this journey will continue as a means of continuously evolving, hopefully paying it forward by way of being as compassionate with others in need as the Universe has been with us.
Dates, anniversaries and wishes of what could have been don’t make sense to me anymore. They are but ways of reminding yourself that this is where you are in Life – having traveled from where you once were! At least, that’s how I have learnt to look at Life. I realize that merely clinging on to the start of my entrepreneurial journey, this day, 20 years ago, will keep me chained to the past; a past that is dead. Instead, I am eternally grateful for my past – for, without the experience of being an entrepreneur, without leading, winning and getting whatever I wanted, without making mistakes, without stumbling, falling, going bust and broke, without pennilessless and worklessness, I may have never discovered the power of reflection, resilience and resourcefulness. I may have never written my Book – which has connected me to hundreds of people who have found the lessons I have shared very useful to cope with their own Life situations. Without turning an author, I may have never been delivering Talks and curating events that inspire happiness. I may have never taken to writing this Blog – which to me, is a truly immersive, therapeutic, daily experience! Without the Life I have had, I may not have been the person that I am today – perfectly at peace with myself in my beautiful, bountiful, yet apparently imperfect, world!