Birthday Specials – Shivam Naman Sinha

My last blog was on the occasion of my wife Pooja’s birthday about 45 days ago. Just when I thought it would take some more time to get back to writing a blog, another special person’s birthday comes across. Today is Shivam Naman Sinha’s birthday.

There are some friends who you look up to as role models in certain aspects and want to emulate them. There are also some friends, whom you just feel like chilling around with and sharing all your joys and sorrows. Shivam belongs to the second category. Talking to him calms you down and makes you realize that it’s ok to screw up things and everyone else is also screwing up things. Life is not perfect at all and Shivam has the uncanny ability to accept it calmly, laugh it off and move on. I haven’t seen him cribbing or whining about spoilt milk. He’s had his share of raw deals and missed chances but he’s always laughed it off and come out stronger.

When I was just about to become a dad , everyone around was giving a lot of advice on how to do this, how to be that ideal dad etc but then I spoke to Shivam . Shivam being Shivam, he calmly explained to me the practical side of what you can’t be and some examples of how he has messed up in certain situations. It calmed my nerves and made me breathe easy.

Shivam works calmly under high-pressure when deadlines are approaching and it brings the best out of him. This has been his strength since college days. During our XLRI days, Shivam had multiple nick-names. One of it was “Undead” for his exceptional ability to be awake through the night and still be fresh during the day. He was equally adept at being the DJ for the in-house college parties just hours before an important presentation deadline and still create a great presentation.

The other great quality of him is his ability to completely switch off from work once he’s back home. He ensures he takes two vacations a year at the minimum to spend time with family. Small but significantly important things. In my friend’s circle, there is one set of friends who are only thinking about savings and investments. Shivam does his basic bit here but for him, enjoying the now is much more important than worrying about the future. Not worrying too much about the past or the future is a quality which very few people possess and Shivam has got this.

Amidst all the busy-ness of corporate life, Shivam still manages to ensure that he attends every outstation trip which our group of friends plan every year. Every year, there are one or two people in our group of eight who cant make it but for Shivam, the trips are an equally important priority. A chai-lover, Arsenal loyalist and an expert “candid photographer “, trips and hangouts with him are always fun. He has a regular collection of funny anecdotes which he repeats in every trip but you still can’t help laughing every time.

Shivam’s favorite quote is “ Attitude is matter”. In a world filled with people who invariably end up becoming part of the corporate rat-race, Shivam stands out as a refreshingly calm, level headed, “take-it-easy” personality who is always willing to help out. He may never have topped the class for his academic abilities, but for his sportive attitude, he will be right up the charts.

Shivam Naman Sinha – here’s wishing you a happy birthday. Hoping you wont change one bit in the years to come as well.

Cheers to lots of Chais , photographs, trips and “Siskaaris” (Even Google wont tell you what a siskaari is -you need to know Shivam to understand the meaning of this 😊)

P.S: I could have gone on and on about Shivam but it would go against his personality trait of less gyaan , more action and keeping things short and simple.

Super 30 : Super Sundays – weekly blog

When things aren’t going the way you like, what’s the easiest option? Quit and hope that things will improve and start afresh. Blame it on “external factors”. Blame all constraints.  Look at others around and if you see a “similar to me” example of things not working, then maybe console yourself saying I tried my best but couldn’t manage. Go with the “new flow” and hope that someday things will work better.

My blogs had taken off quite well in the last six odd months when I had taken a break from corporate. Every Friday morning, religiously, the blog would be sent out. The positive feedback received from all my well-wishers kept me going and by the end of six months, quite a lot of people wrote back to me saying my writing had improved tremendously from when I started.  Then I rejoined the corporate world back in July. The first couple of weeks, I still managed to send in blogs. But after that, I just couldn’t manage.

I leave from home by 8 :30 am and come back by 7 pm or later, which I think is the case with most of us working in the corporate world. There is outstation travel on need basis.  Weekends are free. Technically speaking, this should be no impediment to taking out a couple of hours in a week and doing something which you like – writing in my case. But life doesn’t exactly happen as you plan. I just couldn’t manage to type in those characters. I blamed it on everything happening around me – my work, the fact that we had a new born kid , household chores etc etc. I allowed this to be the new normal and was ok to not do something which I had started to enjoy and blamed the “situation “ for this. Ironically, just when my writing quality had started getting better, I couldn’t manage to write. I took the easier choice – when things get difficult, just quit or postpone. Nothing wrong with this approach but in my case, I was not feeling happy about it. I was feeling miserable deep inside that I was not able to do something which I loved. I hoped that the long weekend during Independence Day would re-invigorate me but then I was faced with the writer’s block. I typed in three sentences and shut my laptop. By the end of August, I had a strange creepy feeling that it was all over slowly. I hoped that I would get back to blogging but it just didn’t happen. My worst fear – “the situation will control you” instead of the other way around had come true.

A lot of my friends asked me why my blogs had stopped suddenly. I blamed it on work saying work had made it tough to focus on this. Faced with a difficult situation of managing multiple priorities, I chose the easy path – giving up instead of fighting it out. Until yesterday, when I saw Super 30 .

My first memory of Anand Kumar was in 2014, when he had come in as a guest speaker in the Mahindra Annual Sales Conference. I was an Area Sales Manager in those days. Until his session, a host of senior leaders had come in and delivered typical corporate presentations. Kumar had about 10 slides, mostly pictures and spoke in Hindi throughout. He was in tears when he spoke about how, despite coming from an economically weak background, he had got a seat in a prestigious foreign university, on the back of his research papers being published in international journals,  but due to lack of sponsors, he had to give up his dream of higher education. He had reached out to ministers and various sources but nothing worked. Money is everything. If you don’t have the money, then you are gone. The difference between Anand Kumar and a lot of other people who have quit their dreams when it didn’t seem to work out was the mental approach. Instead of giving up completely, Kumar started Ramanujan School of Mathematics, for IIT coaching. He spoke about how 2 students had enrolled in his first year in 1992. In 3 years, 500 students had enrolled. For 10 years, he was purely running this as a business until one day, he decided to start Super 30 (when he saw a poor student , who had come to his Ramanujan institute wanting to enroll in IIT coaching , but could not afford it). Every year, he would call for an entrance test for the underprivileged students and 30 under-privileged students from Bihar, would be given free IIT coaching, inclusive of food and accommodation at his centre. Kumar was determined that other deserving students should not suffer the same fate as him and he decided to enable them. If you are passionate about something and keep pursuing it, then the world will take notice some day.

In the first year, 18 out of 30 students made it to IIT. Children of rickshaw puller, masons, housemaids from Bihar had got through the IIT entrance. The first in their families. These students had ensured that their and their future generations lives would take a positive spin. From then on, there was no looking back for Kumar and Super 30 and he had a 90% + conversion consistently. In 3 of the years, all 30 had qualified.

Recognitions came in from across the world. Super 30 was in the Time Magazine “Best of Asia 2010”. Barack Obama’s special envoy – Rashad Husain, termed it “the best institute in the country”. Anand Kumar was awarded the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Shiksha Puraskar in November 2010, the highest award given by the Bihar state government in the field of education.

At the end of his presentation, Anand proudly mentioned that because of his success, a lot of corporates and the Government had approached him with donation /aid requests for Super 30 but he till date has not taken a single rupee from any of them. When he needed it, people had turned him down and now it was his turn. Kumar’s journey had his own challenges and he had endured a fair shar of smear campaigns in the media by competitors and death attacks. Kumar exhorted all of us not to “ give up on our dreams” come what may.

At the end of Kumar’s speech, many of us were in tears. Kumar only spoke for 30 minutes but had all of us spell-bound and motivated by the end of his speech. After the session, I ran outside and took a photo with this inspirational figure. This man was not as heard of as Bollywood stars or cricketers, but a photo with him was priceless.

When things are not going your way, you can still slug it out and keep fighting to pursue your dreams. Anand Kumar – you have made the country proud with what you have done. Hrithik Roshan and the makers of the movie “Super 30” might have taken a lot of cinematic liberties in bringing out his story to life, but to me, Anand Kumar will always be an inspiration – six years ago, he motivated us to achieve our dreams and now, he has again woken me up from my slumber and pushed me back to pursue the things I like and not get bogged down by “situations”.

I do not know if my blogs will continue in the same weekly frequency as before ( hoping to publish every Sunday) , or I will again go back to a state where I blame the situation. But for now, I am at peace that at least I have come back and written a blog after a few weeks gap and no prizes for guessing the inspiration behind this.

Long live Anand Kumar and Super 30.

Jai Hind