Good afternoon and KUT CHIBAI! Thank you for giving me this opportunity and the honour of being invited as a ‘Chief Guest’ today – the first of its kind for me!
I have no great wisdom or knowledge to share with you today. Therefore, I have decided to share with you three humble stories from my life and the lessons they have taught me – no big deal, just three stories and three learnings!
My first story is about ‘following your passion – daring to be different!’ After my tenth standard, my parents wanted me to become a doctor – I decided to become an engineer. After I completed my engineering, my parents wanted me to appear for the civil services exam – I opted for a career in the corporate sector. In fact, many people still ask me why I do not pursue a career in the civil services (and after I spend 3-4 odd mins trying to explain my work, they would conclude – Aw, company a natoh ham!).
So, why did I choose engineering? Maths was always my favorite subject since high school and given my interests in Maths and Science, I felt engineering was the natural next choice for me. Besides (on a lighter note), I thought engineering was manly and I probably did not have what it takes to be a good doctor. But, why not civil services? I was asked the same question during my IIM Bangalore interview. I told the panelists –
“The north-eastern states in general and my home state in particular have role models and people to look up to in almost all professions – be it politics, sports, bureaucracy, etc. However, we do not have anyone to look up to when it comes to the corporate sector. Hence, I would like to pursue a career in the sector and hopefully be a role model in my own small ways – doing something I love”.
Have I ever regretted my choices? No. In fact, when I look back today, I am glad I followed my heart and chose what I felt was right for me. I am sure, all of us would have at one point or the other, made a choice to follow our heart rather than something conventional or expected. And I am pretty sure, you would also have felt something different – happy that you atleast tried even where it didn’t work out!
After having worked in the corporate sector for close to 10 years now and having changed a few jobs along the way, I have also realized that in order to excel and live a fulfilled life, you really need to find a work you love. Pay packages, status and CTC do matter, but they don’t remain the top priority for too long. In the words of Steve Jobs “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle”.
I was recently posted this question by one of the editors of our monthly journals – “What do you think is the reason for the problems and challenges that have inflicted our community and what would you suggest to fix these problems?” We all know the list of reasons and suggestions could be almost endless. But I do believe that one thing our society needs today to elevate ourselves and regain our lost image and respect is this – people who can be role-models and torch-bearers in different fields.
For instance, due to the lack of people in fields like media, we have few or no representatives when the need for it arises. The same goes for many other professions. Opportunities will come given where India is headed in terms of economic growth and development – the Indian Super League, the Indian Look East Policy, etc. being classic examples. Our society needs people, who follow their hearts to do something they love, excel at them to become strong pillars of our society in different fields and make a difference for themselves and for the society!
My second story is about ‘desire – the desire to succeed in something’. The year was 1997 and as topper of my class at St. Mary’s H/S, Churachandpur, I was expected to make it to the top 10 or atleast the top 20 in the Class X Board examination (like my senior toppers in the school who managed to achieve the same feat). However, when the results came, I was devastated – I couldn’t make it to the list! I was so disappointed with myself that I even lost interest (although temporarily) in pursuing any further studies and couldn’t forgive myself for letting down my teachers, parents, siblings and many other well-wishers.
The disappointment and even anger (with myself) ignited a ‘strong desire’ in me to prove my capabilities to myself and my dear ones. The burning desire powered me to sustain the next two years of committed hard work in Shillong. I remember spending many sleepless nights at St. Edmund’s College hostel, literally burning the midnight oil every night (as hostel lights used to be switched off at 10 PM at that time) and sometimes even sacrificing the much-awaited home trips during the holidays. It all finally paid off at the end – I was able to secure a rank (5th rank) in the Class XII board examination and a year later, even a seat in IIT-Delhi.
How could I achieve something (in a much more competitive environment) which I couldn’t do so two years earlier? When I look back today, it was nothing but the ‘strong desire’ instigated in me (due to my failure two years back), to prove to myself and my dear ones – I can do it! Over the years, I have come to realize that ‘the starting point of all achievement indeed is desire and that the size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire’ as I saw the same play out equally in both my successes and failures – whether big or small.
It is as if there is a hidden power who sits in judgement to test and measure men’s desire for success. Only those who possess a strong desire and the persistence to pick themselves up defeat after defeat, to keep on trying, are finally rewarded while the rest fail to make their mark.
We all are born with that inner desire or spark. Its human nature to desire what we don’t have or what others do. We all have or atleast had that spark or burning desire to succeed, be someone and to achieve something, at one time or the other. However, they fade away over the years as we fail to nurture and keep them alive.
Due to the lack of opportunities back home, we are all forced to leave our home states to pursue higher studies and seek career opportunities in the big metros. Over the years, I have seen many brilliant and promising students who have come to the cities with a strong sense of purpose getting subsumed and lose that valuable spark in them over time.
The initial enthusiasm and the commitment slowly fade away as we gradually forget our humble roots and the sacrifices that have been made to put us there. Everyone who has gone through the experience would agree that the temptings of the new found freedom of city life is not easy to handle and it indeed takes a great deal of discipline not to be swayed by it.
I am not advocating here that one should deny themselves of new experiences. But, what is critical is to guard and protect that burning desire or spark within us from fading, like we would protect our priced possessions. We are all here in Chennai today because we had that desire and spark in us to achieve something. Let us be conscious of the spark inside us and constantly nourish that strong desire with which we initially set out from home. If we have somehow lost it along the way, let us today re-ignite and rekindle that spark, because that is our only ticket to the destination or the goal we have set out to achieve!
My third story is about ‘Giving back – how little things can make a big difference!’ When I landed in Shillong to pursue my 12th, I knew I wanted to pursue engineering but didn’t have a clue about the colleges nor the preparations. God sent me a guiding angel in the form of my cousin brother – Mangkhotinthang (who now works with the Indian Audit and Accounts Department at Imphal). He had the year earlier given the entrance exams himself and on hearing that I wanted to follow his footsteps volunteered to give me a crash course – and for the first time I heard and learnt about the IITs, Roorkee, etc.
He went a step further and asked me to enroll for a correspondence course with Brilliant Tutorials (as no coaching institutes were available in Shillong) as I need to start the preparation right away (and mostly importantly not after I have completed my 12th).
I remember a background narration in a movie I saw recently: “Life is made up of a series of moments or incidents, but only a few of them are critical – ending up shaping one’s destiny”. Well, this was one of such moment for me. When I look back, things could have turned out completely different for me if not for the right guidance which I received at that right moment!
This appreciation created in me an urge to share my experiences with the young students. I would grasp every available opportunity or invitation to visit schools, attend career counselling sessions and go an extra mile to help anyone who seek my inputs / suggestions. A couple of years back, we started “Techchapaz” – an association of few like-minded people to provide a platform for knowledge sharing and career guidance and also undertook several initiatives. We had some very fulfilling experiences – little things which indeed made big differences in people’s life.
We each have something we can share and some unique experiences. I am happy to see many of the KSO members here today already working in different professions and sectors as well as many who are still pursuing different dreams. We are most often busy, but let’s make some time and seek opportunities to share our experiences and learning, especially with the young students – our simple advice, suggestion or experience sharing has the potential to create a ‘critical moment’ in someone’s life.
KSO has a big role to play in this. I believe that the time has come for KSO to review its focus and role as a student organisation. This is also the common suggestion from the concerned elders and families during my stint as President of KSO Hyderabad and even now – to focus and organize more educational events, not just the sports and cultural events. Interestingly, many of them are ready to volunteer and spare their time and energy for any such initiatives. We at KSO Hyderabad are also thinking very hard on this and currently planning to undertake several initiatives starting this year.
With the prevalent use of internet and social media today, the time is also ripe for us to create a virtual formal platform to facilitate this on a larger scale. I urge the executive team as well as members of KSO, Chennai to consider undertaking similar initiatives and also play an active part to give this thinking a shape and life. Tiny drops of water make an ocean – our combined little efforts have the potential to make a big difference for our organisation and society!
My humble appeal to all today is this – let us challenge ourselves to dare to be different, follow our hearts to do something great and be the role-models our society need today; make a conscious effort to constantly keep that desire or spark in us alive and burning, to take us there; and finally, after having reached there, be willing to share and give back to make a difference for others!
In conclusion, as I was reflecting on the 3 incidents/stories to share today, I couldn’t help but wonder – how would the same speech go if I were to share an updated version several years down the line? Would it be filled with new experiences of someone who have followed his dreams or would it be more of disappointments for missed opportunities? Then, I am reminded of the saying “Life is a book and you are its author. You determine its plot and pace and you – only you – turn its pages”.
Recently, the script writers and directors of the famous TV series “How I met your mother” had to give in to the demands of the viewers and fans to give it a different ending from what was initially contemplated. Could we do the same with our life-stories? Yes, we can! The plot ahead and how our life-story unfolds is at our hands and it is up to us to make it a ‘bestseller’ and give it a very happy ending.
No doubt, it’s going to be much tougher than just changing a script, but better be the ‘hero’ or maybe even the ‘villain’ who leaves no stone unturned to win and see his desired outcome rather than be just a mere bystander, who as you would observe, usually gets killed in a typical South Indian movie fighting scene.
Thank you all very much again for having me here today!