Learning to hustle

From a very young age, I was surrounded by the two biggest hustlers I know of in my very eventful life so far- my dad and my mom. Both of them were members of the hard working middle class and inheriting nothing from their ancestors, had to work hard to create all their wealth. Both of them had to start working from a very early age and didn’t get the fabulously expensive higher education we dream of. They had to cut short on many of their dreams to make sure that they were providing for their parents, brothers and sisters. Dad realised pretty early on that staying in Kerala will not generate the kind of income to sustain his family and create any kind of savings. So he moved up north to Bombay (what’s now called Mumbai) to try his luck in one of the biggest cities in India. This was when he had very little knowledge in English and none at all in Hindi (Bombay is a city that pretty much requires you to know hindi to survive). He found jobs at newspaper publication companies there, learning english and hindi (both of which he is proficient in now) and soon after found an opportunity to move to Dubai.

This was probably the biggest leap in my family’s story. Dad found work in Dubai and could make enough money to sustain his family in Kerala and to make some savings of his own. This is where my Mom comes to the picture. She had finished her bachelors degree and had started working in a company in Kerala. She got married to Dad and moved to Dubai with him and she found work there as well cause she saw no point in sitting at home and being a housewife when she was formally trained and could work as well, generating income for the household. Sadly, Mom’s father passed away shortly before her marriage and Mom being the only child, could not leave grandma alone in Kerala, so she bought her along to Dubai. This proved really important because even after mom gave birth to me and my brother, she could continue working while grandma took care of us. She cooked and cleaned and took care of us just like a mother would her children.

All this while, dad and mom continued to struggle and work hard, doing their very best, saving every penny to make sure to send some money to India every year. They were my power couple. They put in their expertise in their respective fields to amazing resuts. Dad, being a designer and Mom being an expert at sales and marketing knew how to create and sell. At the time, Mom’s company had just completed a rebrand and required all kinds of uniforms, stationary, safety equipment, banners and flex signs with the new company’s name and logo. Dad, being the designer he is, would design them all out and find a supplier to print them all and create them, and mom would sell them to her office. And in order to save every penny, instead of paying moving companies to ship the products from the warehouse to the office, Dad would do it himself in our car.

And by now you would be thinking of what a sad childhood we had, considering our parents are working all the time and they never made time for their children, but you couldn’t have been more wrong. On the contrary, I’ll argue that seeing our parents hustle like that has made us into much better individuals as a process. And we had so much fun! In a manner that I will make sure to carry on, Dad and Mom made matters of income and savings and financial status of our family transparent to their children. We were invited to see how much money they were making, how much their purchases cost, how much their rent was and how much was being sent to India every month. They would make sure to involve me and my brothers in the hustle as well. We would gladly jump to join Dad and Mom in transporting boxes of cargo from the warehouse to the office so that we could have some family time together in the car, enjoying a long drive, listening to music, laughing at jokes and telling stories. Dad would show me the design process of various artworks on his computer (the reason I could learn photoshop and bought a mac). He would take us into the warehouses where T-shirts were being screen printed to show how the process takes place. Me and my brother would help move the heavy boxes from the warehouse to the car and from the car to the office. We would stand and watch as stencils were applied to doors and flex banners were installed in the office. And at the end of the month, when mom would bring a fat check home for all the work that was done, we would be treated to a nice dinner and a beautiful evening with the family, proud of the hustle that was done.

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