Many thanks, Paul Da
(This is my entry for Chicken Soup for the Indian Entrepreneur's Soul. I wish to get my story published in Chicken Soup for the Indian Entrepreneurs Soul in association with BlogAdda.com )
It was on a hot July afternoon in 2004 that I landed in Mumbai from Delhi, a fresh MBA graduate. I remembered the phone call that I had received a week back from my cousin Parthajeet. I called him Paul Da.
“Leave Delhi,” he persuaded. “Start your career in Mumbai. You will like it here more than Delhi.”
I had demurred. Delhi was where I had spent two years as a student and somehow a chord had struck with the city. Besides, the college was still arranging for campus placements.
“Ignore those campus placements and the meager salaries offered,” Paul da persisted. “Mumbai is where your future is.”
Thus arose the big dilemma – Mumbai or Delhi, a debate which till date never fails to garner sentiments from supporters of the respective cities.
I kept on deferring my decision but Paul Da would not leave me alone. “Are you coming on not?” would be his line of attack. For the life of me, I could not decide what should be my future path. I did not even know what to expect of a job. All I knew was that I needed some kind of security. I could not jump in blindly; I was too risk-averse a person to take such a step.
“Live with us,” Paul Da would say. “Get a good job and then you can move into your own place.”
I was still unsure. And then Ma stepped in. She had all the faith in the world in Paul Da, having seen him cope with his father’s demise at a young age and supporting his family all alone. Do as he says, was her ultimatum. Finally, I picked up my phone.
“I am coming to Mumbai, Paul da.”
I still remember the day vividly when I had reached Paul Da’s place from the railway station. I had just lodged the luggage on the floor when Paul Da handed me a copy of that day’s newspaper.
“Start searching for jobs,” he said briskly.
I was quite taken aback and my aunt (Paul Da’s mom) rushed in apologetically. “Let the girl rest a bit. She can search for jobs from tomorrow.”
“No,” Paul Da was firm. “She will have to earn her place in Mumbai. She has to start now.”
And thus started my struggle in the City Where Dreams Come True. Except, I did not have any dreams then. I did not know what my strengths were, although I was fully aware of my many weaknesses. Paul Da seemed to be a mind-reader as well.
“What do you really want in life?” he prodded me. “What are you happy doing? What is your USP? Think hard.”
I thought hard and introspected on my life. What was it that made me happy? I loved writing and travelling, but I had a degree in Marketing, not journalism. Was there any way the twains can meet?
Apparently, it did. After two months of doing a job which was essentially a door-to-door sales activity across Mumbai, I came across a market research profile in a leading firm through my sister-in-law. Those two months of direct sales, prior to the market research job, was the hardest period of my life. Every time I paused outside a door to ring the bell, I would be assailed by thoughts of “Is this why I had been called to Mumbai ? For this kind of door-to-door job, with an MBA degree?” I would trudge home wearily and avoid looking at Paul Da. He was aware of what I was going through in my so-called job and yet he would not allow me to take a single day off. I blamed him for my predicament.
And then the market research job happened. Paul Da seemed least bothered with it. I was a bit hurt to see his indifferent attitude. I did not know then that he was a quiet appreciator. He would push me to the extreme, provoke me to take steps outside of my comfort zone, and that way, led me to achieve something for which I had the capability but was unaware of.
Months passed, I moved out of Paul Da’s house and got my own place, but unbeknownst to me he continued to observe my career trajectory. After I had spent two years with the company, Paul Da asked me if I wanted to explore more or I was okay with slipping into complacency. This time, I took his advice seriously. By that time, I had an inkling of his uncanny market sensitivity. In a few months, I had resigned my place at the company and taken up a much more challenging role with a prominent MNC real estate firm. This was a move which saw me pack up my bags and travel to my heart’s content all over the country, noting down the developments in each city. At last, the twains had met truly.
Today, I am a very content person. I have a doting husband and a son, who happened to me along the way. I know where I stand in my present company and my own strengths. Every time I reach a rough phase I remember my initial two months in Mumbai and tell myself that if I could live through that, then I could manage my present deterrence as well. But sometimes I wonder how life would have been if I had stayed back in Delhi, with all my confusion and rudderless existence. Would I have been able to realize the factors that brought me happiness? Who would have pushed me to my limits to understand what actually lay underneath me - my potentialities?
I realize today that before I had come to know myself and where my interests lay, it was Paul Da who had known them. He had been quietly but firmly guiding me to the places where he understood that I would be happy. He also knew that he risked getting misunderstood, as his ways were not too subtle, but that was a risk he was willing to take to see me reach my destination.
I don’t live in Mumbai any longer, but the city did fulfill my dreams. It laid a firm foundation for my career path and livened up my interests. Paul Da was correct about that. I came to know later that he was behind many of my other cousins relocating to Mumbai. Today, all of them are successful in their own spheres in Mumbai. I am sure they would have never reached these heights had they been elsewhere. But I wonder if they would attribute their successes to Paul Da.
Paul Da always believed in the power of oneself. He is a successful entrepreneur and an innovator today. His quiet personality belies his strong ambition. But to me he will always remain my most fervent well-wisher. In present times, it is unthinkable to have someone look over your career and your interests so selflessly. I wish I could imbibe his never-say-die spirit and leadership skills. May he achieve all that he desires in life and more. Here’s to good karma!