“What are you studying, beta?”
I hate when people disturb me. I hate it the most when I am reading or studying. So, with a dash of anger, I looked at the old person sitting next to me, in that second class coach of that train, which I had boarded from Mumbai and would take me to Ahmadabad. After a failed attempt to crack CAT 2015, a couple of failed attempts to start my own company and 3 months of intense preparation (or maybe, just preparation), I had managed to (somehow) get an interview call from IIM A (nothing to be happy about, I screwed it up big time). I was happy as hell; But there was a problem: my interview was scheduled at IIM A campus, that too on the very first day of the interview season and I wasn’t prepared for it at all. I had decided that I would prepare for my 8 hour train journey to Ahmedabad and crack the interview (well, I couldn’t do the both) and I had started reading my notes, then as I said before, the old person sitting next to me asked me the above question (and also managed to anger me).
“Nothing Sir (his formal clothes, white hairs, and big specs suggested me to address him Sir), I have an interview tomorrow, so preparing for that”.
“No Sir, I have got a call from IIM A. MBA interview”.
As he had got my eyes out of my notes, I took a casual look at all the people sitting in that boggy. The old person (let’s call him X), was sitting to my right and had a very pleasant yet authoritative voice. His wife and 10-year-old niece (he introduced them to me after some time) were sitting on the opposite couch and a fat, typical Gujrati looking man (call him Y) was sitting to their right. And to my left, there was another old man, who was 70 something, but his french beard and ponytail made him look 10 year’s younger (let’s call him Z. And sorry, I am an engineer, so I always stick with XYZ).
X was asking me random questions, and they were frustrating me. After some time, Y and Z also jumped into the conversation.
If anybody had told me, that 8-hour journey (actually just a few hours of that conversation) will change my whole perspective to look towards life, then I would have said that Mr Trump will win US elections (and both the things eventually happened).
Mr X had worked in a production company for 20 years and then started his own workshop after that. I told him about my aspiration to do an MBA from a reputed B-school and then start my own venture.
X: “Beta, It’s good that you want to learn further and are ready to take effort’s towards it. A person should learn as much as he can. But you should work for a few years before starting your own company. You should avoid taking such a huge risk”.
Y: “Sorry to say uncle, but I don’t think that is necessary. See, I am just 30 years old and I run my own textile mill. And I neither have any work experience nor any fancy degree (he is a commerce graduate). Abhishek (oh yeah, that’s my name), take as many risks as you can and feel the rush of this 21st century”.
For next hour, X and Y had an intense discussion about the right time to start a company, value of experience and mostly, the lifestyle of today’s generation.
Y: “Sir, with due respect, I would like to say that your generation is very risk averse. My dad (who is a very wealthy trader) wasn’t ready to invest in textiles. It took me 4 months to convince him. On the other hand, I take risks worth crores on daily basis.”
X: “You might be right, beta, but our generation has always maintained a healthy work-life balance. We would work only for a fixed hours of time and devote the remaining time for our families. You see, in the end, it’s your family that matters the most(this sentence has reserved a fixed position inside my mind). But today, our children are ashamed of us (ouch).”
At this point, Mr Z, who was also running a company (so basically, it was buggy filled with entrepreneurs), jumped into the conversation.
Z: “I guess Mr X is right. When I used to wear a dhoti and kurta, and my son, who works in an MNC, would not even allow me to come near his office. But, since I have changed my attire and grown a french beard and ponytail, my son takes me to all his office parties. You know, I don’t like these attire or beard, but I do it just for the sake of spending some time with my son”.
I remembered the time when I had not allowed my dad to come to an event in my college and I realised how he must have felt. I made a promise to myself, that I will try to involve my parents more in my life.
Y and Z got down at Surat (an intermediate station), but the conversation between me and Mr X continued for the entire journey. He told me some interesting stories of how he started his own company and ran it successfully for more than 20 years.
X: “The most important thing you should remember while running a company is: your company works because of your employees. You should always find the right people to do a job and make sure that they don’t leave you. If you hire people just cause you know them or they are good friends of you, then your company will definitely fail.”
My two startup attempts flashed in front of my eyes and I realised that I couldn’t find a proper team for any of them.
X: “Also, your primary target should not be to earn money, It should be to solve a problem. If you manage to find a prominent problem, the money will follow. But earn only as much as you require to live a good life, but not a luxurious one. Luxury cripples you. Earn enough to buy a car, but not so much to buy a Ferrari or BMW. In the end, you shall use a car to travel, and not as a status symbol.”
When I told him about many of my failures, he smiled and said: “See, the aim of life is to struggle. And everyone has to do that. All of us face failures. But the winner is the one who accepts those failures, learns from them and then work hard to achieve the success. Though success gives you a sense of satisfaction, but a failure makes you stronger. Actually, a failure prepares you for a success.”
I tried my best to learn as much as I can from Mr X, but finally, that journey came to an end. We reached Ahmedabad and all of a sudden, it was a time to say goodbye.
X: “Don’t panic, even if your interview goes bad (how did he manage to predict that?), you have an entire life to live. Work hard, never give up, help others and spend some time with your family. This is an ultimate way to achieve success. It took me 40 years to understand it.”
The interview went bad. It was a terrible one. Perhaps, I should have prepared for it in my journey. But, then I’d have missed so much of wisdom and knowledge.
It took Mr X 40 years to understand the ultimate way to success, but he selflessly taught it to me within a journey of merely 8 hours.
“What are you studying, beta?”