Warrior, not a survivor

Think of Bollywood’s version of rural India. I am sure at least one of your images involved surplus passengers on the top of a bus, if I’m wrong, then you haven’t actually seen a Bollywood movie featuring a rural Indian village. Having said this I assure you that majority of people, from India itself, reading this post would have never actually seen, or traveled, in a bus with actual people on the top of a bus.

Courtesy of a FMCG management training program that lead me to one of the most remote areas of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most notorious state to do business in, I experienced first hand some of the most bizarre things I can recall. I have seen people de-board a bus from comfortable seats, through open windows and climb onto rooftops of buses. More to the point, I’ve shared seats with such fellow passengers. For the life of me, I cannot relate to a desire that would motivate a sane individual to leave a perfectly good seat on the bus, for a rooftop on a scorching sunny day!

To make things worse, I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I probably will have to do business with such people as part of my training. This almost put the fear of death into me.

Things weren’t better when I took a bike, the “personalized” mode of transport, to work. You want to take a wild guess at who my fellow traffic buddies were? Buffaloes! Yes, they were there when you sip tea at a stall, or when you’re stuck at a roundabout figuring out which way is where. And the most irritating bit is when you look back at the buffalo’s handler for answers to redirect the cattle causing mayhem. What do you get in return? A look of absolute cluelessness! That dude is lost! He’s busy daydreaming about driving a Maruti 800!

I read a quote recently, it read “I have been fighting since I was a child; I’m not a survivor, I’m a fu*king warrior”, and it got me thinking.

I guess some backdrop is in order. I grew up in an environment where everyone was given an equal opportunity and appreciated for the efforts put up. According to me, it was a kindergarten life. Did I realize its effect on me and my lifestyle? Nope. My father on the other hand, saw everything coming as clear as day! So what did he do? When he saw the right time he lifted me from the VIP seats in the arena, and put me in the backstage cage with the lion in it!

So what he did was plan for majority of my formative years in environments that would teach me modesty, humility (no where close to showing humility yet), discipline and perseverance. When many of my friends we flying to sophisticated schools, all over USA and Europe, to pursue under graduation, I was shipped of to a state government school in Tamil Nadu, India. Okay, so I missed the “glamour” on my first try. Second attempt, post graduation education, this time I wont miss for sure! What happened? When half my batch mates from under graduation went again to sophisticated schools to pursue post graduation, I was shipped to a government B-school in New Delhi. Now, while my friends from school are working for firms like Google, Facebook and Tesla in the firm’s respective headquarters; I, on the other hand, sell products you’ll probably never buy to stores you’ll never go to at streets you’ll never walk on!

Before some of you turn over to judge my “rough” life, although I haven’t exactly had it rough, the past few years have been nothing like I had in mind. It’s been far from what I saw acceptable. But I say with absolute certainty, this is the best that has happened to me! Had everything panned out as planned, I’d have turned out to be one shallow individual. I cannot begin to thank my stars for not making me “that guy”!

So what have I understood among all this craziness? I’d like to narrow it down to 2 imperative lessons. First, it has never done anyone harm in being modest. If anything, it gives you infinite room to learn and improve yourself, whilst allowing you to deliver as per expectations. For me personally, it is key step to getting to humility. Given the situation you’re put in, you almost don’t have an option, but to be as modest as possible; and you experience first hand the benefits. For starters, you appreciate the value of telling yourself to shut up from time-to-time and just absorb whatever there is to learn from a given situation. Secondly, the importance of being thrown way out of your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of. Let alone the learning, what about your existing skill that you’ve never used till date? How’d you feel if you had bars of gold buried beneath your kitchen? Throw yourself out of your comfort zone, and you’ll blow yourself away. You have this innate ability to adapt and make the most of what you have. Although I said “2 imperative lessons”, I’d like to add one more — Experience. Even if slogging all this out were to add peanuts to my resume, I love the experience I’ve had so far. The people I’ve met, the difference I’ve made to people in my team, The memories I’ve made for myself and left with them.

This blog has been going far too long, I’ll dedicate one specifically for the “lessons” learnt.

I’d be ready to bet anyone that an episode such as this, will make you come out much stronger than when you went into it. “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”. I can only imagine the learning opportunity still ahead.

Who’d have though a guy used to being driven around in a Lexus, in downtown Dubai, wouldn’t mind sharing traffic chats with buffaloes. At the end of all this, I can proudly look myself in the mirror and say, “I’m a warrior! Throw anything at me, and I’ll set it straight for you”.