10 gifts my father left behind for us

 

My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

-Clarence Budington Kelland

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Exactly a year ago, My father left us, leaving behind a treasure trove of memories. He didn’t leave behind a vacuum for the family, instead he filled our minds with warm thoughts of his positive aura. As a family, we traded funny stories of how he made us laugh and wove his magic around people. Each of us felt blessed that he walked besides us and touched our lives forever.

Looking back, I realized he never lectured us or told us how to behave, he showed us by example and left us simple life lessons to follow. His biggest legacy were these ideas we imbibed as we watched him conduct himself. It struck me how much his actions have moulded our personalities distinctly over the years.

Here are 10 life lessons, my father left behind for us. These serve as stepping stones for us today and were his greatest gift to us and his grandchildren. 

1.Humor and laughter solves most problems

My father had an amazing sense of humor and diffused most problems and situations with laughter. He showed us the power of laughter and how infectious it can be. He could make anyone laugh and used it well to even convert frowns on any face.

He would recite stories from the past that made people hang on every detail, he could pun on everything and his comic timing would win hearts everywhere he went. In a crowded space, we knew we would find him at the epicenter of the laughter and giggles.

2.Treat everyone equally

He always showed us to treat every single person with respect and love, regardless of religion, status or race. He would connect with every single person on their level, making them comfortable and he made them feel unique. We would see him walk with his arms around the shoulder of people on the streets, remembering the name of everybody he met even after years. Each person felt he was their best friend and they always felt heard in his company. We saw and learnt never to ever talk down to anyone, instead to respect and understand their situations. We learnt by watching him, to listen intently without prejudice or judgment and that everyone was equal. The concepts of discrimination, status or economic divisions remained alien to each of us.

3.Stay a child always

Vappa was a child to his very last day. His childlike curiosity, his eagerness to learn, his hunger for new experiences and perennial innocence enveloped him and he wore it proudly like a unique cloak. He stayed more excited than any child I knew when he visited new places, or travelled and met new people. His face would change into a little child as his eyes would light up brightly soaking in everything around him. Every time Sachin or Kohli were belting sixes my phone would ring with him screaming on the other end “Are you watching this?!!”.

Every birthday party and gift was received with unbounded enthusiasm which he would be extremely expressive about. This quality allowed him to connect with his grandkids like best friends. Children everywhere would flock around him as he would enamor them with his magic tricks and jokes. He taught us to renounce adult cynicism for childlike glee.

4.Never lose connection 

He never lost touch with anyone he met. From childhood buddies, to college friends and hundreds of people he met over the decades, he stayed in touch with each and every one of them. He would call them regularly, and make it a point to meet all of them wherever he travelled. Whats app was God’s gift for him and it allowed him to stay connected with everyone even more easily. Every day without fail his “Good Morning” forwards and jokes would happily ping themselves into 100s of phones and make people smile during their day. He taught us to value our circle of friends that we make along the way and that it took no effort to stay connected and make each one feel loved.

5.The family is everything 

Beyond the 1000s of people that became his circle of influence, for him his family was everything. And this he regularly expressed to us and made each of us know we were way beyond everyone else. He would shamelessly talk about our little victories and bore his friends with our achievements. He ensured we all met regularly and hung out as a family. Every holiday was made special and he would dote on each and everyone of us and pamper the grandchildren rotten. He ensured we in turn were all best friends and we would stick around each other come what may. Our childhood was peppered with unforgettable holidays and constant occasions and surprise parties. Along with my mother, he taught us that family was everything.

6.Know the universe conspires for you

It may have been written in books and self help gurus may scream about it on world forums, but my Dad knew it before everyone else. Regardless of any situation or crisis that was knocking, he always knew that good things were going to happen and the world was always conspiring to make him succeed. And the universe always complied to his unrelenting belief. In the middle of hopeless situations, a door would always magically open, or a burst of silver lining that would miraculously appear through the darkest of life’s storm clouds. And with his trademark mischievous smile, he would embrace this good fortune with an “I have been expecting you” glint. We learnt that when you believe good things happen, they magically do. We learnt that hope invites good fortune and luck stalks strong belief in positivity.

7.Ask and ye shall receive

Vappa never felt awkward to ask. He would show us just for fun the things he could get done just by asking. So many times, when we would feel silly or shy, he would walk up confidently to anyone and disarm them with a smile and just ask. It could be an upgrade on a flight or a hotel, it could be a better seat, or an extra batch of toiletries in a hotel or even an audience with heads of states. He would ask and 8 out of 10 times, he would get what he wanted. We learnt that it doesn’t matter what people think, just ask.

Recently, when I heard Jack Canfield say the very same concept on stage at a training session I attended, I thought to myself with a grin that I have learnt this a long time ago from a master trainer.

8.Whatever you do, put your everything into it

Everything my father did, he did it with extreme passion and high energy. He would put his soul into it. From decorating a home, to creating a garden, to organizing weddings, to helping people or hosting events. Every network he was part of, he would leave his indefatigable energy as a mark. He would want to do his best and pour everything into what was at hand. No half measures was his motto and he went about life soaked in this electrifying high octane energy infecting everyone around him. We learnt to put our very best once we took on a challenge. We watched him and learnt to channel high energy into whatever we did too.

9.Touch lives along the way

The biggest asset you can leave behind for your children is goodwill. He touched so many lives just being himself. Thousands of people flocked to pay their last respects from the wee hours of the morning. I watched as people from all walks of life came by, with a lump in their throat, sharing stories and recounting how much he meant to them. We were amazed as each person would share how close he was, and say that he would keep in touch, and recount all the things he had done for them. Everyone of them pledged their love and support for their family and said they would be there for anything we ever needed. The outpouring of love and positivity made us realize how much he had done for so many people and just how loved he was. It taught us the value of doing things without expecting anything in return and how that grows exponentially as goodwill for generations to come.

10.Celebrate life. Have no regrets

His last few days, he was in and out of the hospital and we all spent time by his side. He laughed and smiled his way through every visit. We would laugh and tease him about his flirting with the nurses and he would laugh mischievously. He held my hand through each talk and he kept telling me about how he has no regrets with his wonderful and blessed life. He shared how he had a life he always dreamt of and a family he was so proud of.

He went ahead and bought his dream car a month before his last days, he stopped enroute to hospital to buy my mother a diamond necklace and celebrated his birthday with a cake just 2 weeks before he left us -making sure all the hospital staff was part of the celebrations. Even the day before he left us forever, he was cracking his trademark jokes and smiled with the same childlike glee in his eyes.

And the universe conspired yet again and took him without suffering nor leaving him bedridden or dependent on anyone. He left and taught us to celebrate his absence, not stay sad or mourn him. He left with a smile, knowing his legacy would live on through his children and his grand children.

Thank you for your lessons. Thank you for the unending reasons to smile while remembering you.

A beautiful story about karma

what goes around, comes around

 

I love stories that expound the philosophy of Karma, stories that embody the spirit of “what goes around comes around”. Even better when it happens instantly or within our lifetime.

The landlord for our older Mumbai office was a wonderful human being and had an aura of goodness surrounding him. On one of my conversations to him he recounted a beautiful story about his life which impacted me deeply.

He lived in a flat in Mumbai and like many apartments the complex had a society of which he was the association president. In this society there was a young man who was a party addict. He would come back at 3 am often after clubbing, drunk, boisterous and wake many of the people in the apartments with the din. After much nuisance, the association met and decided that after a warning, they should ask him to leave. It was unanimous.

My landlord was worried for this young lad even though he didn’t know him and would stay up every night watching from his window till he would come home. Upon spotting the party animal arriving, he would tip toe down whisper to him to keep silence and escort him to his flat and ensure the night passed without incident. This happened for nights on end tirelessly till one day, the young man felt guilty that this old man would be waiting up for him.

After weeks, gradually he started coming home earlier and then finally sobered up just because of the guilt of having a stranger stay awake to ensure he would be okay. He came home and thanked the landlord for everything and said he had changed his life just with his perseverance and care. He said he was going abroad to pursue his higher education and had decided to get serious about his life and do something with it. They hugged and my landlord thought he would never hear of him again.

5 years later, the landlords son who was a computer engineer left for Canada for a dream job in a software company. Leaving the proud family, he set off to a new beginning. Reaching Canada, the company who hired him realised there was some error in the hire and felt he was of the wrong profile. They politely told him the job offer was revoked and he could go back and they would reimburse the ticket. The son was shattered and didnt know what to do. He felt ashamed to inform the family and let everyone back home know of the situation. He decided to go and spend as much time praying and sitting at the mosque. For days, this was his routine.

One day, an old man who would frequent the mosque approached him and sat beside him. He asked him what was wrong, because he could tell from his face that there was something not in order. He said he often wondered what a young man like him was spending all his days here looking distraught. The landlord’s son recounted his tale and his misfortune and the old man listened intently. At the end of the sharing, he mentioned that he knew a friend’s son who has a software company and he could try and arrange a meeting quickly or at least get some advice and direction for the boy.

A few days later, the landlord’s son walked into a large plush software company office. The receptionist led him into the CEOs room for a quick meeting. As he sat down, the CEO started the interview without missing a beat. As he asked him questions, he asked about his hometown. Since they were both from mumbai, for polite conversation he asked where he stayed, and then which colony and where and each time exclaimed “I am also from there”. Till they realised they lived in the same flat. When asked what the name of his father was and just as the young man answered, the CEO jumped up from his seat, swung around the table and hugged him tight. He told him that his father was the reason behind who he is today. The confused son looked stunned as he was hired immediately without batting an eyelid. The CEO was the party going youth from the colony who his father had stayed awake for.

The young man was hired instantly and over the years proved his mettle and worthiness. Today, he is the vice president of the company and an extremely successful individual. All this because long ago, his father stayed awake for a stranger to make sure he didn’t get into trouble! That for me was a simple live example of the personification of Karma.

I loved that story and it got me thinking that the biggest asset we can give our kids beyond wealth and riches is a legacy of goodwill by touching hundreds of lives.

4 mentors who changed my life

 

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

Bob Proctor

When I look back today, the biggest catalysts in my life have been the mentors I had the opportunity to be influenced and inspired by along the way. At every important milestone, I have been blessed with individuals who have left their mark and navigated the journey for me.

I strongly feel each of us need to seek out people who become catalysts in our lives and bring out the best in us.

Who are mentors?

A classic mentor is an individual who will be straight with you, wish the best for you and also be able to see within us that which we can’t see ourselves and uncork that inner magnificence.

Mentors usually carry upon their shoulders wisdom, experience, integrity, warmth, a unique gift of listening, vision and a generous nature of giving and enabling. Seek out people who have inspired you and are a benchmark of the values you desire.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

This is an ode to my mentors and the life lessons they gifted me.

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“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”
Galileo Galilei

My grandfather, A A Rahim

My late grandfather will always be a towering personality in my memories.

I have grow up seeing him in the epicenter of people and adulation and being a role model for excellence and ambition. From a small town in kerala, he went on to work with three generations of the Gandhi family. He became a cabinet minister with the foreign ministry portfolio and then a governor. His philanthropic work included being involved in building hospitals, educational institutions and mosques in the town and he is still remembered as one of the greatest political leaders years after he is no more.

I always remember our joint family house with the front door always open buzzing with a constant stream of well wishers and positive energy. He was a man known as an astute leader, an individual with the highest integrity and values, a politician with immense diplomatic skills and someone even his enemies respected. He was larger than life and still is.

He lived his life with the highest of ideals and scaled heights nobody ever dreamt about. Yet he did this on his terms and conditions and with no regrets or compromises.

As a child, I would cherish the alone time with him in the middle of his busy schedule. I would hop in whenever in I could on drives or sit in his room and seek advise and counsel or just watch how he conducted himself.

His words of encouragement and life lessons built the earliest seeds of leadership in my mind. He would expound on having an aim in life, about thinking big, the importance of fitness, knowing what true friendship is and about growing with your principles and values intact.

He walked the talk in enacting the principles of giving and sharing wealth with the needy. Even today, years after he’s no more, I always bump into someone who will share a story about how his actions touched their lives.

A story involving him that left the biggest mark in my life is regarding a race. When I was 15, I had a math tutor, who would come home in the holidays for tuition. In one conversation, the tutor learnt that I was a runner and he shared that he was also a coach for a local school. He invited me to race against his best runners and I confidently took up the challenge and reached the neighborhood school to prove my mettle.

The race was against 3 of his finest runners and we lined up at the 100 meter track with crowds from the school cheering. I put in my finest performance and raced ahead of the pack with ease. When I turned back to the group, I witnessed the scary sight of a screaming tutor running at the boys in anger with a cane and beating his fastest athlete repeatedly. After a shocking caning marathon and a barrage of verbal abuse, he turned and challenged me to yet another race with the boys.

It was the worst experience of my life and in that moment I decided to lose and save the boys another hiding. I finished last and made sure it didn’t look like I lost purposely. The tutor raced over and patted the boys proudly and I said the fastest goodbye ever.

When I reached home, I scurried into my grandfathers room wanting to recount every part of the incident. I ended with the story of what a hero I was and how I lost purposely. I thought he would be glowing with pride at my emotional intelligence at such a young age. To my shock and surprise, he asked me if I realised what I did wrong in this situation. I scratched my head and couldn’t think of anything.

He waited, paused and softly said, “I am so proud of you but do you also realise that you have just reaffirmed to the strange tutor that the way of the stick works and now, he will never stop doing that ever again!”

That was a big life lesson in reading situations, seeing the grey shades, about deeper thinking and behavioral patterns and about never being superficial and naive again.

My grandfathers influence will always stay within me just as his goodwill and aura still shines bright generations on wherever I go and meet people who once knew him.

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“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

My principal, Mary Roy

Mary Roy forged within me an ironclad set of values and virtues. She was a catalyst that ignited a fireball of energy and purpose into my life when I was just 16. I am still fueled and charged by this momentum from my high school years. Mrs.Roy taught me the unflinching support of truth and instilled in me an unwavering form of integrity. She handed me courage to stand for what I believed was right and taught me to hold my ground no matter what.

Mrs Roy empowered students with responsibility and treated us and spoke to us like young adults. She taught me the importance of a well rounded education and that its never only about marks and studies.

Every experience was a life lesson and the 2 years under her tutelage and mentorship, allowed me to grab responsibility and carry on my shoulders that which I never thought possible.

At such a young age, she was definitive and clear and clearly stated to me that I was a leader who would one day make the country proud. She told me that great things waited for me as life would unfold. She stood and announced it to the world and that became the self fulfilling prophecy I wanted to live my whole life by. She had set a benchmark for me to live my following years by.

My inner confidence was spurred by her belief in me and I set off from school armed with her vision for me. I left with a strong conscience and an overflowing sense of self confidence ready to take on any challenge in the world.

 

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
Robert Frost

My first Boss, Sunil Handa

When I was just 22, I started working with Mr.Sunil Handa. I had just finished design school and I had graduated with a gnawing need to understand management and business principles.

I had heard about the corporate legend that Mr.Handa was and he was reputed to be a very tough taskmaster. At the time, I thought this would be the perfect training ground to evolve from just a designer into a businessperson.

Sunilbhai (as everyone calls him with respect and love) was all that and more. He was tough, set high benchmarks and expectations for me and taught me every nuance of business. I met him for my interview and shared that I wanted to use the experience over 4 years to learn hands on every aspect of business. I explained what I seemed what an apprenticeship and not a job.

The experience was any young man’s dream. He showered responsibility on me and paced me like no one had ever before. He made me believe I could do colossal tasks with quarter the time and enjoy my work as a challenge.

He would push me to the limits where I blossomed. Nudge me across the cliff and taught me flight. Combined with responsibility, there was always an unsaid belief in my delivering to his expectations and I never failed. I would seek out work outside my comfort zone and he would throw them my way. Negotiating, finance, running machinery, traveling across the country on short notice, creating dealer network, buying tools and hands on selling – I did it all and I loved every moment.

Over the years, we formed a bond stronger than a parent and he always told me that he believed that great things would happen to me and he was just being a catalyst. He sent me to one of the best business schools in the world and ensured I translated everything I learnt to reality by launching a division for the company and growing it alone as a profit center.

By the time I was prepared to take wings myself, he left in me values and had instilled a navigation system for life. Without realizing, I carried away the ability to be focused, think long term, benchmark internationally, grow talent from the roots, value the joy of work and be meticulous and resolute in any endeavor.

In my mind, no challenge would be too large anymore. Sunilbhai is still my father figure and the one who reminds me of long term goals and nudges me to the next milestone and gets me thinking bigger each time we meet.

 

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
Aristotle

My coach, Rajesh Nagjee

Rajesh knocked on the front door of my life in a chance meeting at a training and the journey has never been the same since. When he met me, our organisation was like a hostel room, a group of friends doing our stuff not caring about the world. We lived in the office, workaholics, disorganised and caught up with our selfish motives and artistic expression. From there, waking us up and instilling a code of professionalism and finding for us a calling that more than just self expression. He taught us to look inside and pointed out our distinct strength-to use our creative abilities and marry business acumen to enable our clients businesses to grow.

Through repeated sessions both individual and with the company, we grew from strength to strength. Even as the organisation broke geographical boundaries and rapidly expanded while deeply serving our clients, I found an amazing work life balance and what is more important a clear command of my calling. Over our interactions, I found a chief definitive aim and a laser focus on my life purpose. I found a perfect zone which married my passion, my talent and automatically created a market need for my clients.

He nudged me to discover by myself that I was passionate beyond a cure to assist entrepreneurs to succeed. I realised that my strength was being a catalyst for the growth of home grown brands, to assist start ups and SMEs to rapidly grow. For this, I devoted myself and the organisation to the science of using innovation and help businesses differentiate themselves. To help clients emotionally connect with their customers and potential customers and to be able to deliver this on a consistent basis around the world. With the company and my team, he helped to evolve pillars that became my core and galvanise us into action. All this while ensuring, we spent the least time on work and strike a perfect balance. We learnt to have fun, be playful and make our clients our best friends.

An ongoing coaching and mentoring relation taught me the science of listening, of growth, of systems, cash flows, relationships, people skills and a million other lessons which permeated into parenting, life goals, vision board, self actualisation, goal setting, time management and endless other insights across all parameters.

On our company’s 10 year anniversary Rajesh awarded me a title publicly which I today operate from and have made it my self fulfilling prophecy. He bestowed upon me the title “Zen monk in a suit” and that has today become me.

 

Besides my mentors, there are individuals who influence you in so many ways. My parents, my wife, my brother and sister and my children who teach me a new way of seeing the world each day, my friends and my core team at office, the books I read, my mastermind and idols whose lives I model.

I feel the universe conspires to ensure my success by sending people into my life at intervals and important milestones!

 

Serendipity: touching lives!

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I was at a networking event recently and I sat next to a marketing head from an interior company. The lady looked extremely familiar and I just couldn’t seem to place her. I usually pride myself on being having a great memory with people I meet and I just couldn’t discover her from any rolodex in my mind!

I finally gave up and I introduced myself to her. Her eyes widened and she exclaimed loudly “Wow, it’s you, it’s you!” I sat there surprised, amused and a little shocked and racked my head again for clues. She again said that I had changed her life and thanked me profusely. Suddenly, I remembered her.

She was a prospective client I had met months ago for a design project. After the briefing meeting, she had mentioned in passing that she had been trying so many ways to lose weight and hadn’t got anywhere. When i reached office I had mailed her a link to my blog where I had shared my learnings and struggle with weight loss and what I had discovered in that journey.

https://sajithansar.com/2013/07/05/how-i-lost-20-kilos/

She was ecstatic when she met me again and told me she had lost nearly 30 pounds of weight inspired by the blog. She thanked me over and over again and couldn’t stop telling everyone around the room about the transformation due to my blog.

I left feeling wonderful and inspired. The fact that my words could at least impact one person felt unbelievable. She also shared with me that what inspired her the most was the authentic and honest manner in which I shared my experience and that resonated with her the most.

This chance meeting was a great learning and inspiration to keep sharing experiences which could in some way impact someone somewhere without us
realizing.

I couldn’t recognize her because she had lost 30 pounds!!!