The Changing Constant
Que Sera Sera…
The trio screamed, jumping up & down on the king-sized bed. It was an unearthly hour to be throwing a racket. “Get a grip!” I chided, “What will the neighbors think? The Aroma household has gone nuts at 2:00 am?” My rebuke fell on deaf ears. Instead, I got pulled in the hullabaloo. A few awkward huddles and hugs later, the atmosphere began to mellow down. The four of us sank back onto the bed. As did the reality. Time flies. And sometimes the flying time brings strange tidings. It was a bizarre emotion like no other I had experienced before… how often is one overwhelmed by an uplifting joy and a sinking heart at the same time?
I was amongst the first ones to welcome her. She was as soft and pretty as a doll can be. My feelings were identical to that of any new Papa. Then when baby Misha was only a few weeks old, I left for the US on an extended solicitation trip for the struggling Cybage. By the time I returned in triumph, Misha was all of five months old. The long absence made me a complete stranger in her baby eyes. Yet it took only a few fleeting moments for her to come giggling, burping, and cuddling into my arms. The realization dawned rapidly—there is a higher purpose to my being than mere personal triumphs.
Ritu resumed her evening dental practice when Misha was a few months old. We didn’t want our girl to be raised by paid help, rather be nurtured with lots of love and tender care. So the grandparental evenings now belonged to Misha. Their apartment was tiny, but their hearts large. Spending time with Nana-Nani was an integral part of her babyhood, a soothing attachment that persisted through her growing years.
Then when Misha turned three, Aneesh arrived. We had to be careful now—an older sibling shouldn’t undergo trauma because of the new arrival. So their mother quit her job to devote herself full-time to both of them. The apprehensions were ill-founded. Misha made for a doting sister from the word go, passionately crazy and protective of her little brother. To date, she firmly believes that she is Aneesh’s second mommy!
The first outside-the-family friends in her life were her chauffeuring Uncle and devoted Bua (our driver and maid respectively, who affectionately continue to hover around with the same designations). As Misha’s stature inched ahead, her troupe of friends expanded at an accelerating pace. Her bonds were so strong that we ended up making life-long friends with many parents of her inner circle.
Then as our girl raced into her teenage years, we realized that our academically-blessed child also has a natural flair for the performing arts. We encouraged her to explore her innate gifts. From debates and theatre to compering shows, from Indian classical singing and western pop to playing the synthesizer—her room became a museum of trophies and accolades. But it was not the immense talent, rather a grounded grace that made her very popular in school amongst her classmates, seniors, juniors and teachers. The recognition culminated with the crowning title of vice head-girl and best all-round student of St. Mary’s School in her passing-out year.
When Misha entered junior college, it was a year when most of her school friends parted ways. Her focus now shifted towards bolstering relationships with the extended family, specifically all the cousins and the layers of generation around them. A myriad of meaningful gestures defined Misha—composing a touching piano recital for her Dada who wasn’t keeping too well, a melodious song to elevate the spirits of her 3-year old niece, a dazzling dance number to pep up her cousin’s wedding, a special poem recital on her Nana’s birthday, a surprise flower decoration at her parent’s anniversary amongst several others. And it’s in this last phase before Misha bids goodbye to her childhood that this blog has come up…
Today is March 31, 2014. Our Misha turned ‘18’ a few hours ago. It has been four days since we were jumping on the bed at 2:00 am. That’s when we received the acceptance email—Misha is going to Pomona for her undergrad (In 2013, Pomona was ranked as the 2nd best college in the US by Forbes and 4th best liberal arts college by US News). What a burst of great pride! And a moment of heart-wrenching sadness! How do you let go of something so beautiful after having shared such an amazing journey?
The journey we traverse while parenting a child has a stark similarity to the way a relationship unfolds between an employer and an employee. It is imperative for a successful organization to continuously adapt and change in the way it looks and treats its employees through different stages of its evolvement.
Stage 1: The first time when our new-born plays in our arms, the feeling resonates well with the first ray of enlightenment for an entrepreneur. Once a new businessman has tasted the initial fruit of success, realization dawns that it is no longer only about the shareholder wealth creation; there is a standing obligation towards employees who make it all possible.
Stage 2: When a toddler is nurtured by her grandparents (instead of outside help), we are giving her more than the materialistic comforts. Similarly, once a start-up is past the survival phase, org growth can no longer be the sole mission. Sure all employees appreciate financial windfalls, but that’s no substitute for the focus and time every employee expects from the management.
Stage 3: Kindergarten tots crave for equal distribution of parental love and attention—all siblings need to be treated fairly and equally. Likewise, as the employee count starts building en masse, an organization needs to focus on building parities. At this stage, the relative fairness between employees in terms of roles/remunerations assumes greater significance.
Stage 4: When our primary-school kid’s world starts ballooning beyond the family, the parents should strive to become a part of her expanding world. Analogically, once an organization has entered a rapid multiplying phase, it needs to get involved beyond the mainstream workforce—from the peripheral blue-collar workers to the families behind all the employees.
Stage 5: Pre-teens is a confusing phase in a youngster’s life; any encouragement to explore their hidden talents works as a constructive diversion. The situation is akin to that of a large company where it is easy for an employee to get lost without encouragement. This is the time when an organization needs to provide visible growth paths and forums beyond the core role responsibilities.
Stage 6: The teenager presents the final molding phase of a child into a young adult. This is the stretch where the young adult needs to learn about the responsibilities towards the extended family and society. When an organization has entered its final mature phase, the employees become partners and should play an inclusive role of giving back to the organization and colleagues.
I finished authoring the above blog about three days back. Composing and then looking back over & over at this narration felt emotionally gratifying. Misha is very important to me, as is the business world. The satisfaction of weaving a cross-over story between these two important entities made my chest swell with pride.
Then something startling transpired. The swelling of my chest kept tapering after each parsing. But the heart inside my chest kept sinking further and further! Soon, the angel of my story is going to fly away. So where does that leave my swelling pride after having failed to hold on? Something seems messed up here, something has gone terribly wrong in my narration.
The humbling realization came yesterday when I marveled at the innocent excitement in my daughter’s eyes on the eve of her big birthday. You see, I got so busy compartmentalizing life vs. business lessons that I ended up corrupting the very soul of the above story to suit my plot! This fairytale should never have been texted from the experienced pen of a CEO, rather pictured from the innocent eyes of a child…
When Mishu arrived in this world, her life had undergone a massive change—the concept of “life” itself was new to her! Yet she came cuddling into a stranger’s arms. Then as the years rolled by, the recipients of her affection kept expanding from her mom and dad to her grandparents, brother, driver, maid, friends, teachers, junior, seniors, cousins, niece/nephews, uncle/aunts, and so on… Her life kept undergoing rapid disruptive changes, but she continued to stay the same. She LOVED everyone who crossed her path, there was no discrimination in her approach—it was always a pure emotion of selfless love!
No organization should customize its behavioral style towards employees because of changing times. For the times change, the bonds shouldn’t. All the ‘six’ ingredients governing an employer’s relationship towards its employees need to be nurtured in parallel… be it the obligation, focus, fairness, involvement, encouragement, or partnership! An organization shouldn’t waste a life-time before realizing that an individual is BIGGER than its brick & mortar identity—big enough that if and when the time comes, it should be prepared to step aside and let the person fly free.
Of course, it’s not easy for an organization to shed that ego and let it go. It’s incredibly hard to let go of someone who once giggled, burped, and cuddled in your arms…