Don't Blame Your Stars
Don't Blame Your Stars15 mins 454 15 mins 454
Reflecting on his twenty-four years, Ankush has come a long way. A journey full of transformation, emotions, and more importantly bouncing back after the going got tough. It’s been a roller-coaster, with some variations of highs and lows coming at the right time, and some unexpected turns sending chills down the spine. A journey full of support and love, a journey carved out of some life changing decisions, to some regrets and grey areas.
June 24th, 1993,22:10 P.M, probably as told he dared to enter this confusing world. It was a Thursday evening and his parents say it’s a lucky day. Maybe they are right or maybe it’s just their unconditional love for him. It was a joint family and a first male child was born. As we can expect, being an eldest male child of the generation was a privilege. He was born in a lower middle-class family with only one earning hand but they say that he has been lucky for his family and its members. His uncle got a job on the same day that he was born, his dad started his now successful venture in his name, and they got their first car (second hand) Omni after his birth.
“ANKUSH” he announced. Their religious guru was always consulted even in the case of buying a car or starting a venture or finalising his name. Literal meaning of his name is to control, stop or full stop. It’s something used to stop an elephant. He said that Ankush could not be controlled by anyone but he will find it tough to control his own direction. To some extent his vision and interpretation makes sense to me now.
Amidst all those scenes of joy and positivity his mother noted an unusual thing. She noticed that his eyeballs were not black, rather they were white. Being a medical student she got worried as she could sense the waves of a forthcoming storm. Soon she raised an alarm but everyone stated that it was just the colour of the eye, and nothing else. He was almost forty days old and the doctor consulted said that he had congenital cataract and unless he was operated urgently he would lose his vision. Those were days when any operation was a big thing and for a family like us the cost was bigger. Suddenly the discussions within my family took a U turn,. They were left blank and felt helpless. They could not see me suffer but Rs. 25000 for every operation for a minimum count of four, was quite an uphill task. Somehow the landlord offered his assistance.
He was 40 days old when he was operated and within two more years artificial lenses were implanted. This was perhaps the first turning point. Suddenly the approach of his family changed. They went into a protective zone, a zone full of negativity and distrust. He was never pressurised to study. In fact, it was felt that he will not be able to study. Maybe that’s why he never had any parental pressure and he did reasonably well in academics.
Days went by and he entered a regular school. This was something different from his mother’s protected shell, a zone where he was not judged because of his medical condition. A zone where a teacher never stopped him from playing cricket just because she was afraid of his vision. Though again during those days, a protective shell was there but a vibe of respite was there when he used to enter his classroom.
So, the only adjustment he had to make was to sit in front and write from a lesser distance. A seriously bad handwriting was a by-product as well.
Talking about school and high school, their group of three friends was always together. From morning till evening tuitions, they reached high school exams which became his other turning point. He always wanted to join the judiciary as a child. With full confidence and the adjustments he made,he got decent scores in his board exams. As a result his wish was granted. He took exams and within the course of time he got selected in ILS Law College, Pune.
With loads of excitement and a strong expectation, Ankush went to become a judge with a red beacon.
At times, though Ankush regrets this decision. However, leaving Pune was the wisest one as this became the biggest transformation zone for him. An area where he realised his ability to bounce back and make anything happen. The days spent in Pune (roughly 6 months) were full of negativity, low confidence, inferiority complex and to say the least it was full of agony and apathy. The irony is he still calls them the best days of his life.
A boy whose only adjustment so far was sitting at the front bench had no idea how tough life could be if he was not independent or if he did not have such a supportive family or friends. He faced many problems. Adjusting to lights while crossing roads, managing travel routes, hostel accommodation, night clubs and what not. It was so daunting for him that he started running away and he ran so far that in December 2011 he came back to Delhi. Unaware of what next, amidst all uncertainties he ran back to his mom with shattered confidence and a cry for help. He lost his self-belief and started doubting himself on every frontier. An unplanned drop is not something he imagined even in a nightmare.
As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. He started from where he left; ‘his family and friends.’ The same mother, the same family understood the need of the hour and prepared him for the next year and many more that were coming. Friends were always supportive and slowly he trained himself with respect to issues he faced and issues that haunted him in college. Just to recall an instance, ordering food in places with a dim ambience and menu cards written in small font was a challenge. It was very awkward for him to ask for help because till that day he never realised that he was a special child. His sister used to take him to the restaurant and they used to practice ordering food in dim lights using torch and lens. There are a lot of small efforts like this which made him feel equal and helped him gain back his dignity. His two best friends who were already in college used to take him along to make sure he learned to adjust to ways in a group or at public gatherings. Slowly, with some adjustments he did all the things which he thought he would never be able to. He did them all, it was just that he found a different way to do them.
Forget crossing roads, he could now drive alone, even at night, do things of his own and take his own responsibility. Although driving could be a risky proposition, he enjoyed every bit of it and made sure he never complained. He knew his limitations and turned them into his strengths.
The day he started believing in luck was when the doctor told him about the PWD certificate and benefits he was entitled to. He was not happy to be labelled as a 'disabled' but when he saw his performance, he started calling myself 'differently abled'. He felt lucky to grow in a natural environment in school without any assistance or relaxations. This had made him a tough personality. His scores were anyway enough to get him selected to SRCC in general category, a whopping 96% in XII and the next person from DA was at 88%. Without comparing or defaming anyone, it was just his hard work, brilliance and the confidence with which he shaped himself. He topped the cut-off chart that year.
So in 2012 SRCC happened and it became a life changing experience. Although he was a little jittery and uncomfortable initially as images of his past experience haunted him, this proved to be a testing time. Within months he was comfortable, he started acknowledging the talent in him rather than to frown on his weaknesses. SRCC became the period of greatest development in his young life. It was not just books or exams; he saw himself going into extracurricular activities which he never used to do earlier or thought he could. He became a little extrovert and began socialising. Organising fests and convening conferences helped him push his limits beyond books.
He felt more content and independent. The scenarios were same, same road crossing, same traffic, same clubs but now his approach was different. Maybe because he had the cushion of family and friends nearby or maybe because he had become mature enough to understand the wonders of his abilities including his limitations. It’s all in the head and at least then, he was in a happy head space. This was the time he travelled independently, drove cars, arranged things on his own and successfully competed with anyone. He started living his life with dignity and respect rather than just sympathy.
He always wanted to be independent and drive cars, He was five years old and he mischievously took the car keys and jammed it into a wall. He has been always curious, and this habit made his wish to travel independently and drive cars come true. It sustained and grew further. Though he still did not test himself by living again in a hostel.
His academics in college had been just above average. A full semester back due to health issues and getting a distinction for two semesters continuously was a contrast. He could not sit for the most awaited event at SRCC, ‘final placements. Every time the chips went down, he bounced back higher. He never wanted to work straightaway after college, he wanted to take a break, maybe go on a trip and then start working.
KPMG it was, coincidently a job that matched his interest. His curious nature helped him understand the process and analytical mind helped to suggest measures. The consulting job offered travel for long periods, to different business locations and with different team members. He enjoyed boarding trains and flights, interacting with different people and finally leading his way to corporate world.
There were immense number of projects he worked on, some of them were a great learning. It would not be justified if his experience in KPMG is not given credit that shaped the flamboyant student into a sensible and responsible professional.
After approximately 1.5 years at KPMG where he got some sense of business, he wanted to explore his family business. (after all the business had his name). He went to his dad and started analysing what the processes were and how positive was the scope of their business. Eventually he decided to quit his job and join his family business.
They were manufacturers and exporters of handloom items and the biggest thing that motivated him was that he got to travel and obviously talk to foreign clients. Simultaneously it was challenging too. Working for yourself has its own satisfaction. Ensuring quality and efficiency is what Ankush took care of and it was a sea full of new learnings and applications.
This is the precisely the reason for his choice of MBA. He realised that apart from skills and knowledge, brand value, contacts and ideas help a vision grow. He saw his father working since he was born or maybe before that. The platform he had set up surely deserved a push and an MBA was a catalyst to it, if not the only way to achieve it. MBA helped him to apply practical skills to fulfil his business needs like better inventory management or a sound financial investment and help distinguish the business. He saw the processes at a very nascent stage, and he believed that they would mature with skills and passion.
From the time he has started understanding himself and the world, his biggest strength was to bounce back. He had failed once but throughout his life he has proved his failure wrong. He had bounced back and bounced back hard. It was always a case where his commitment and desire to achieve goals has been prominent. It’s not that he took up only those things in which he could do his best. He failed, and he failed badly. In fact, when he reached lock bottom confidence levels, he strove for betterment and made it close to certain that he proved his efforts worth it, without expecting any results.
It was class XII, he has been tagged as ‘Mr. Down to Earth’, and as they say 'your teachers judge you the best'. This was not him boasting about himself, but feedback that he received from others. It’s some writers like me who are so fascinated after knowing him for so long and being so close in him during all phases. His modesty and his sense of being grounded helped him maintain good relations with everyone.
I did not always praise him. A few concerns are that he is very frank and candid in his personal life, though equally diplomatic during work but this nature to say things on face contributes a little to less contacts. He is possessive, he doesn’t let anybody arrange his books, his bag, his laptop or anything for that matter. Even if it is his mother he does not like her not to bother him by touching things in his room.
Not being very soft spoken is always her concern, maybe the northern belt or his genes, but at this level he is expected to act like a professional, be soft spoken and polite. She says that a good composure, a soft voice and a calm head have a deep and long-lasting impact on everybody.
Then came the time to test his next fear, to settle in a hostel. It was a planned CAT attempt in 2017 and again he scored as good as a general category student, 98.9 percentile which was 10-15 points higher than what was asked. He cleared the interviews and joined the most prestigious B-School in the country. The batch of 2020 at IIM Ahmedabad added another life experience. He managed his fear of surviving in a hostel and he still stays there enjoying his 2nd year of MBA. He shall be going for a dual degree course this year at the University of Bocconi, Milan this year.
In the sense of business and struggles faced by his father and his uncle, they are his role models. From two square meals to the present setup, all has been achieved with some serious intent and efforts, from a scooter to cars, from table fan to AC, it’s all been their patience and perseverance.
When it comes to passion, Sachin Tendulkar is the name that reverberates in everyone’s ear, a prolific 24-year long career despite so many injuries is possible only when you are passionate and committed to your role and you love doing it. Movies also turns out to be role model or role defining, some movies are very close to your heart, they teach you things in 3 hours that you might not learn in 3 years. Listening to songs also creates such an aura, he could play songs 24*7.
It’s only been 24 years and life seem to be a blend of everything. Opportunities, lessons, testing ground. Positivity, despair etc all these things have made it possible for him to look beyond the past and say with pride that evolution has been constant. Whether we succeed or not, but learning is always inevitable.
And still if we feel defeated, just read these lines; “Deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall overcome some day” this is what he has learnt at 24 years of age. A hope for the best to come and zeal to bounce back. It might not be your day today, but just like everything changes, so do your stars. Till now It’s been a journey to remember and with a positive approach and excitement for the uncertainty he expects his next 24 years to be full of all these elements or maybe have a little extra to offer. After all the events, positive or traumatic that life unfolds in its own way, what we can do is to keep that positive string jingling in our minds and belief running in our veins.
From a frame of mind that made him feel worthless to the present positive frame of mind , he has come a long way. I shall not say that he has achieved a lot, or he has become someone. There are millions of people with so many motivating, thought provoking stories, but this personal connect with him inspires me in the rawest form. There have been so many legends, e.g.- Stephen Hawking, who have defied their limitations and produced such astounding performances in their respective field that the perceived ‘fault in our stars’ today, turns out to be a ‘specially blessed star.’
You just need to be a little wider eyed so that you can identify such talents and be sensitised for the cause. They say Karma compensates, likewise every person with a sense less has one sense more, and we call it ‘special ability’.They are around you, maybe just next to you, don’t be sympathetic or in fact don’t be empathetic, just be sensitised enough to accept that everyone is equal and have their own way of doing things, doing everything that you think a so called fully-abled person can do.
Just a quote I read somewhere-
‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So be kind. Always.!’
Leaving you with this and again, you are the hero of your own story, so at times be self-obsessed.