Measure of a Man

Imagine being born several thousand years ago, in a world where you have to hunt for food, climb trees, live in caves. And you ‘re part of a tribe whose population fluctuates even with small changes in weather. A social animal as you are, you have a ‘community’. A group. A heirarchy. Superiority. And inferiority. The criteria for individual worth is brutal strength. The strongest man is the ‘best’, the most ‘successful’. He is respected and admired by others, and enjoys a high ‘status’.

This criteria for individual worth has changed rapidly with time. It used to be strength, then it became power, religious command, artistic skills, scientific skills, and money.

I often wonder how setting plays such a huge role in the way we look at history. How would individuals have fared if they were born in different times? Imagine Bill Gates being born in pre-historic era. Forget microchips and Windows, there’d not even be enough bows and arrows for hunting. Not an extra-ordinarily strong person himself, Bill would have to struggle to climb trees and find food. Let’s now imagine a Shakespeare or a Ghalib being born in a time where there were no alphabets, no script, no language. Literary talents would be irrelevant when expression itself is so primitive. There must be lots of Ghalibs and Shakespeares we just don’t know about.

The fact that you should be born at the right time at the right place, for things to click, is obvious. What is not obvious is whether the criteria we use to ‘judge’ and ‘compare’ individuals is justified. One of the most striking features of the modern world is its unprecendented emphasis on individual comparison – be through school-tests, sports, financial markets, science or art. Individuals are supposed to derive their sense of self-esteem, superiority or inferiority – as the case may be- from these yardsticks. And people treat each other based on the ‘status’ thus acquired.

But a person who fails a mathematics test might still be a good singer, just as a poor farmer in an Indian village might have done exceedingly well in a B-school. Countries, communities, abilities, all play such a big role. There exist talents we don’t even know yet. But in spite of that, we compare individuals, almost attach price-tags on them, term some as heroes and dismiss others as worthless…

A Message to Treasure

One of my role-models in life is the principal of my school. I studied at the Spring Dale Senior School, Amritsar. And our principal is a brilliant lady who virtually transformed garage classes in to one of the best schools in Punjab (if you ask me, one of the best in the world!). Without digressing in to how much I admire her vision and qualities, I have to share a message she sent me a few days ago. It is an answer to queries from a student to a teacher. The teacher’s response came from the vision, experience and wisdom of several successful years. I have to share this brilliant message, and also my commitment to live by the ideas of my teacher.

Mrs. Manveen Sandhu

Dear Saurabh,
Thank you for such a lovely mail. …

Let me share a few important things that I learnt in the last 20 years.

The road to success is actually paved with small obstacles that need to be overcome on a day to day basis. If not sorted they get magnetically bonded to form a big boulder that obstructs your passage beyond redemption.

Dream big but think small.

When you set your target on small goals even the bigger mission starts falling in place.

Whenever you are undecided about a task think-Does this harm me or anyone else? If not- do it. Don’t ask-Does it benefit me or not?

And the last golden rule:
Essentially you are alone in this world. Never have expectations from anyone else but yourself. Everything is transient. Change is the only constant. What you want today you might outgrow tomorrow but don’t deny yourself today because only then shall you outgrow tomorrow.

To come into the real world rather than the philosophical one. Money is very important. Earn it the right way- it will always be enough. Earn it the wrong way- it will never be enough. First earn it and invest it, then spend it and share it. If you use it wisely you shall be its master but if you squander it you will always be its slave. So part one “Earn it and invest it” should be your plan one where in you provide for yourself and your family. The second part that will probably come 20 years later “Spend it and share it” will be your time for philanthropy and social responsibility. Yes, it is better not to depend on external avenues because you will have to do what you are asked to do and not what you want to do.

Keep in touch constantly.
With lots of love and best wishes

Precious words, which I will always treasure…