What is your favorite childhood memory?
Having an open, unstructured environment. I compare this with my boys who are 12 and 5….their lives are far too structured. They practice hockey along with myriad other activities. The best part of my early years was the unstructured childhood.
Is this a function of changing time or parenting styles or both?
I would say it is a combination of both. My father was an Army officer and he wanted me to excel in studies. As long as I did that he let me plan out the finer details of my life. Play was spontaneous. We just showed up on the field, selected two teams from the kids there and began our game. I see with the lives of my children, we parents take it upon ourselves to plan out all the details…..including the team, the strategy and everything else.
What can we do to remedy the loss of spontaneity?
Our expectations for our children are superseded by our desire to excel in the world. It’s very much about trying to keep up with the Joneses….rather than the notion that this is a safe environment for you to be nourished, to absorb from it, to grow and fail. We need to find the balance between some structure and control.
What brought you most fun as a child?
Tinkering with things brought me the most fun.
We built a pinhole camera by putting a lens in a shoebox and allowing the light come in. This simple DIY lesson from our Physics book taught us reflection and refraction. I would say that tinkering was the most fun for me.
My friend and I built a toffee machine when I was 14 or so. It was a coin operated machine that spat out little peppermint disks when you added a coin. We used a bicycle spoke and a motor, which had to be timed just right to release the peppermint exactly at the moment when the falling coin completed the circuit. Neither of us had seen a slot machine before but this invention won the (Uttar Pradesh) State level competition and was displayed at the fair. I remember explaining its working to kids at the fair…..we added bulbs at the top and covered them with red and green paper for some dramatic effect. It was here that I learned that the right name for the machine was a slot machine or vending machine.
What is the best investment your parents made in you/for you?
My dad was an army man and we moved a lot. I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandmother who was a Sanskrit teacher and she recited the entire Ramayana and Mahabharata to me. She personalized these epics for me. So I would say that the time with my grandmother.
What did it teach you about applying these principles to life?
The value of humility was instilled in me. It also taught me that life ebbs and flows. Whether you are dealing with work, personal, family, good times or rough patches - humility is a great virtue. These epics formed the basis of my thought that would later shape me as a person.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I was going to follow my dad in the Army. I was mesmerized by my Dad’s war stories of valiant heroes. Then one day when I was 17 or 18 yrs. old, I happened upon my very first copy of Popular Mechanics. I was amazed that you could tell a machine what to do and it did it. This was the turning point in my life.
Was Dad disappointed?
Yes. He was disappointed that I was not going to be joining the army. He is 83 years old and has gotten over that and we are best friends now.
What is your Dad’s relationship with your children?
My kids have a great relationship with their grandparents. My dad was the epitome of discipline and very strict with me, so his patience with grandchildren is truly mind boggling to me. His moustache was the ultimate symbol of his stature. I am amazed that today his grandchildren can pull his moustache and that is okay with him.
What is your relationship with your Mother like?
My mom taught me the importance of seeing the best in people. This has been the bedrock of my ability to recognize and nurture talent. Some of my leadership strengths are rooted in my ability to see the best in people. My mother taught me that, as much as you are a child of your environment, so is your environment molded by your thoughts and actions.
Losing people is my biggest fear. I worry that I have not created an environment where people can flourish. Seeing the best in people is the key to creating the environment that can bring out the best in people. Someone told me once that the best work environments are those where people are so inspired by the cause that would happily volunteer their time and efforts; getting paid is a nice perk.
Who was your favorite superhero then. Why?
Superman…….I really was into comics. I loved the fact that he was indestructible.
Who is your superhero now? Why?
My grandmother. She used simple tools to make enormous change in the lives of those around her. She used education to become a phenomenal human being.
What is the one thing your children have learned from you?
The world wasn’t made for instant gratification. Good things take time, energy and effort. What you put in is what you will reap. Recognition will come later. Just be certain that you are adding value. Doing things for the sake of recognition is the wrong motivation.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
Creating talent and getting people to challenge their own thinking. Solving for many dynamic variables.
How do you hope to leave a better world for the future?
By teaching the basics about integrity and humility. Investing in education and helping children today recognize the importance to never stop learning in all environments. Strive to make things better for the greater good is its own best reward.
What is one experience you would like to gift to a child?
Education as it is the basis of any and all being. The ability to listen to share not just basic math and science but the basic principles of how to contribute to society.