03 May 2012

Past is not Future....

Let me tell you the story of my brother, Mony. (Click Here to see other stories in the blog about Mony)
He is the third of us four brothers. I am the eldest, followed by my next bro who was born one year after I was born.
Mony was born 6 years after I was born. The youngest of us brothers, Mahesh was born 5 years after Mony was born.
Growing up as the third brother in our family was not easy. First of all, by the time he was born, both me and my next brother had become about 5-6 years and had become a team. And by the time he was five, we were about 10 and had 'Grown Up'.
Add to it the fact that in the locality where we lived, most of our friends were of our age and Mony kind of did not have a group of friends that we had. In addition, my parents (especially my father) were not very educated and had a kind of hands off approach to parenting. The modern parenting concepts of bonding, demonstrated love and affection and family communication was not much prevalent in Kerala during our time. 
In addition, both me and my next brother excelled in different sports, including Badminton, table tennis and Cricket. My next bro had a lot of trophies in the shelf to illustrate his excellence. Mony on the other hand did not have many accomplishments to show to his credit.
Also, our last brother, in his childhood had a set of illnesses, which made our parents to pay special attention to him. And I was also suffering thru my childhood through Asthma and demanded significant time and attention from my parents. 
So Mony had to content with two elder brothers, who were 5 years elder to him, and a younger brother who was 5 years younger to him. My mother had special affection for me because I was the eldest son and for Mahesh, who was her youngest son. Parents had special attention to me and my youngest brother because we were both sick.
As if this was not enough, during the time we were growing up in Kerala, almost all of our education was done in Malayalam, which was the local language. None of us four children knew English and we underwent significant inferiority complex since all our cousins who were living in other cities and states in India were educated in English and could effortlessly and flawlessly communicate in English. Every time my cousins came to our place and till the time they lift, you could sense a miasma of inferiority complex enveloping our house like a dark cloud. 
Elder two of us could escape this cloud by going out and playing with other friends. In addition we, having been born in Kerala, possessed some special skills like tree climbing, stone throwing etc which our city bred cousins could only watch with envy. That kind of evened out the inferiority complex as it were. 
That was not possible for Mony since we did not have in our family many kids of his age. 
There was only one cousin who was Mony's age. But that kid was brilliant, topping in almost all the exams that he participated in, coming out first in many competitions....
In the family, Mony was always being compared with this brilliant cousin. It was hard on a sensitive boy who had two aggressive, successful elder brothers and who had a sick younger brother on whom much of parental affection was focused. Add to it the fact that he couldn't communicate in english and had a cousin of his age known in the family for his brilliance....
Sure recipe for developing inferiority complex and low self-esteem. 
Low self-esteem was what Mony excelled at during his childhood. He avoided contacts with others, he will go and lock himself up in his room when his cousins came a-visiting and sadly for him, he did not have any peers or elders in the family who could understand the stress that he was going through.
This reflected in his physique. He was all skin and bones, with sad, scared eyes and avoiding personal contact where possible. His grades in the school were all poor to average. This was again unfortunate since I during my early school days had built up some kind of reputation for 'brilliance'. I was the darling of the teachers in my early school days, and let me tell you, where I come from, having successful elder brothers, english speaking cousins and a sick younger brother on whom parents focused their attention, do not help your self-esteem.
Some time into his 10th or 11th year, things started to change for Mony. He started to evolve. Break the cocoon as it were.
Both me and next brother had completed our schooling with high scores and had joined Engineering Colleges. We were staying in the college hostels and coming home only during the holidays. While I was not a keen observer of people, I couldn't help notice a new focus in Mony's eyes. Probably the fact that both his elder brothers had joined Engineering College had given him a focus, a goal that he can strive to achieve. 
It is also possible that the absence of two elder brothers at home gave Mony time to reflect on his strengths instead of constantly comparing his weaknesses with his brother's strengths. I presume that in our absence, Mony was able think about 'What could be' instead of 'What is not'. Also, having seen me and my brother going through a systematic process of studying to achieve the goal of getting into Engineering College, gave Mony not only a goal to focus on, but also the knowledge of the process of achieving that goal. 
Anyways, Mony started to evolve.
Once the evolution began, the progress was dramatic. He developed new friends, he started playing Badminton and to his surprise he found that he excelled in it. His health improved, his physic became stronger, he grew taller and evolved into a more confident individual.
And he studied hard. Very hard.
He had a renewed energy. He started going out and interacting with the world.
And he spent a lot of time studying.
In Kerala, to get into a good Engineering College, you had to get a score of 90% or above in your Class 12 exams. In his Class 12, Mony had put in a lot of effort.
I still remember the day the results were announced. I had been to the town and Mony told me to look up the results of the exam.
"What is the minimum percentage of score above which I should look for your name?" I asked him.
"I guess you should look above 95%" he told me confidently.
So I went and looked in the scoreboard. His name was not in the 'above 95%' list, nor was it in the 'above 90%' list. As I started looking at the list with extreme despondency, I found to my dismay his name in the 'above 75%' group. Mony had scored around 75.5% marks.
It was devastating. What had happened was that in the year that Mony wrote the exam, there was a major scandal in the evaluation of 'Pre-degree' (Class 12) marks. There was massive corruption and those who did very poorly came out with extremely high marks. The dramatic example was that of a boy called Manoj, who had scored Zero marks in Physics, Zero Marks in Chemistry and 8 Marks in Mathematics got his marks modified to 150 Marks in Physics, 150 Marks in Chemistry and 128 Marks in Mathematics leading to total marks of 428 out of maximum of 450. This case came to be known as '0+0+8=428' case. There was major mismanagement in the evaluation process and Mony, like many other brilliant children' was the victim of this gross negligence.
It was like adding insult to injury.
Mony joined graduation in Physics in a nearby college. In India, if you join graduate programs after class 12, you are almost considered a failure. Mony had to carry the additional burden of being compared with two elder brothers, both of whom were Engineers.
It was as tough as it can get, if you see what I mean.
There is only one thing that differentiates successful guys from failures. It is the habit of perseverance, the habit of not giving up, of 'stick-to-it-iveness'. Mony had this in plenty. He was determined to get into Engineering. In the first year of his graduation, he studied hard and appeared for the State Engineering Entrance Exam the next year and he managed to get admission into Engineering college.
That was first of his many, many future successes.
He came out of Engineering with flying colours and was one of the few guys from his college who cleared GATE, which is an National Exam for admission to Post Graduate Programs in Engineering in various leading Engineering College in India. Mony was the only student from his college who got admission to the prestigious IIT Kanpur, which is like the MIT of India.
They say that fortune favors the brave. Around the time he graduated from IIT, the country and world entered a phase of massive economic growth (I am talking of 90s) and there was sky-high demand for qualified Engineers.
Armed with post-graduation in engineering from IIT, Mony was as highly qualified an Engineer as they come.
Years of tough childhood had given Mony a level of Maturity and Patience that are seldom seen in people of his age. He was very calm, even-tempered in his dealings with people and could always take a 'High Level' view in every interactions with people. These are the qualities that carry you up in your career.
He joined a Multi National company in Bangalore as a software engineer in 1995. From there he got the H1B and moved to US. In the US, he joined and served about 4-5 years there. Around 2007, he left Amazon and joined a Silicon Valley Startup as its CTO (Chief Technology Officer). The company couldn't survive the 2009 downturn and folded due to non-availability of funding.
Since then he has been working as Technology Consultant in US. Over the last three years, he had developed an enviable list of Clientale.
As I write this, he and his wife are setting up a Technology Startup in Silicon Valley. And their consulting work continues to do well....
This has been a long story. What is the moral?
The first message is that your past do not determine your future. Your future is the result of the actions that you take TODAY. The past can only give you some guidance and self-awareness. The fact that you failed in the past do not mean that you will fail in future. You will fail in future only if you do not take corrective actions NOW.
Second, have faith in your abilities. You are much better than you think you are. Like Ellen Degeneres said "A man uses only 10% of his abilities. Imagine the potential if he uses his remaining 50%".
Third, simplify your life. Have simple, clear goals. Mony had a simple, clear goal of getting into Engineering. And he managed it.
Fourth, have faith in divine power. God do not make mistakes. You are god's creation. He doesn't waste his effort. He created you with a special purpose. Your job is to find that purpose and follow that dream.
Well done Mony. You make me proud...

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