This is a story about Mr Rajan whom I met on a plane journey to Bangalore.
Mr Rajan is who you want to be. He is Harvard educated, doctorate from Kellogg, worked for all top-notch firms and is currently a VP at one of the biggest companies in India. The fact that he was traveling ‘cattle class’ with us itself was surprising.
He then told me about his friend Ashok. Ashok and Mr Rajan went to IIT Bombay and graduated in 1971. Ashok stood at the top of the class, gold medalist, scholarship and all that. He was voted by his peers to be the one who was most likely to make his first million by the age of thirty.
Ashok and Mr Rajan both got accepted into Harvard’s prestigious business programme. ‘Ashok had an immense fascination for cars,’ Mr Rajan told me. Both worked really hard but it was tough for most students to match up to Ashok’stalent. As graduation approached, Ashok was hot property and every company was vying to swoop him. Mr Rajan got placed in a top investment firm and Ashok went to work for a little known computer company named after a fruit.
Those were days before Facebook and Mr Rajan and Ashok lost touch. They hadn’t met or seen each other for years. Mr Rajan told me he had recently come down to India for work and was chauffeured in the fancy company car. Kolkata being Kolkata, his car broke down and was taken to this upmarket garage. It was lunch time and most of the staff was out for lunch. A lone mechanic was disturbed but he seemed more than happy to help. As he finished his work, the mechanic caught a glimpse of the man inside the Mercedes.
‘Rajan?’ the mechanic said. Mr Rajan couldn’t believe his eyes.
It was Ashok.
After working very briefly for Apple, Ashok realized that his true calling was something to do with cars. He decided to come back to India and developed some major component for car engines. He sold this for a bomb and opened this garage. He personally repairs cars that come in, aided by all his mechanics and he said that not a single day has gone by when he felt he had ‘worked’.
As we were about to land, he recommended I see this little known movie called About Schmidt. He said he feels the same way the lead character felt.I managed to watch About Schmidt that very night. It starts with Schmidt’s last day at work. He is sixty and has just retired. He was the VP of a very prestigious company. He suddenly looks back at his life and wonders how he got stuck in the usual rut and not once thought what he really wanted. He had graduated from Harvard, got hired, got married andwondered why he didn’t take just one day out of all these days to think what he really wanted and work towards it.
As he was leaving, Mr Rajan said, ‘I’m sixty and I’m very rich and at a very high position in a very big company. Looking back I can say I’ve achieved everything that everyone else wanted me to achieve.’
And you know what his parting words were?
‘I’ve not lived a life I wanted to live. I’ve lived a life that society and may parents wanted me to leave. I’m sixty and I realize how life has suddenly gone by. Dont let that happen to you.
Life is too short and make sure you do what you believe in. Whatever that may be.’
The story was originally shared by Varun Agarwal.