16 Nov Design Your Life
Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
– Khalil Gibran
– Khalil Gibran
The seeds of this book, and my career as an educator, were sown in Feb 2004 when I was a serving officer in the Indian Army. In a touching gesture, Tanya, the head girl of the Army School, Bareilly, had handed me a 12-foot-long scroll with a thank you note from 800 grateful students. I had accepted the gift to thunderous applause. “We used to walk with our heads bent when our friends from other schools teased us and said ‘Oh, you are from the Army School!’ Now we walk with the same heads held high and announce that we are indeed from the Army School. Sir, thank you for restoring our pride.”
This was eight months after I was made chairman of the Army School. “In addition to your regular duties, I want you to take over as the Chairman of the Army School, which is in bad shape. We need to do something about it,” Maj Gen SD Mahanti, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) had said as he briefed me following my transfer to Bareilly.
I was curious to know why matters had come to such a pass at the school.
“Five principals have come and gone in the last two years,” the GOC explained. “The school has been direction-less.”
I promised to do my best.
On the drive back home, I gave the matter some thought. “I worry for the future of my two children. I am so concerned about their career and education,” I reasoned. “How can I allow the careers of 2,000 children be neglected in this manner?”
I decided to assume ownership of the education of 2,000 students placed under my charge. A plan to reverse the situation began to take shape in my mind.
In the six months that followed, I took some tough decisions. The students were noticeably happier with the changes made as were the parents. I cannot say the same about the teachers who were too set in their old ways. The transformation attracted considerable coverage in the local media.
On that magical day when Tanya said, “Sir, may I ask you to please come up on the stage and accept a small token of our love for you?”
At the podium, as I held the scroll in my hand, my old life slipped away.
I saw a glimpse of the way ahead. I was done with my plans to climb higher up the military ladder. I would leave the army and dedicate my life to repaying the debt of gratitude I felt towards these wonderful children.
Other decisions followed.
I earned my BEd degree at the age of 54. It was time for the soldier in me to step aside and make room for the educator. Three cousins serving in the army shared my vision: Colonel Naval Kohli, Mr Anil Bhasin and Mr Salil Bhatia. Together, we set up an outdoor adventure and training camp off Kolad, near Mumbai.
In the last 21 years, I have interacted closely with over 2,500 students from a variety of economic, social and educational backgrounds in an outdoor camp environment. The exchanges have been informal but intense. In all these years, I have noted two rather significant challenges that confront students as they transition from college to profession:
1. The gap between what the students expect the corporate/work world to be and what it turns out to be in reality.
2. The gap between what the schools and colleges prepare students for and what the corporate/ work world is looking for.
I chat with on average 10-15 students on various social media platforms, including Facebook every evening. Many of these ‘old students’ are now in jobs, some of them are married, some are abroad. During these exchanges they have more often sought advice on issues broadly connected with the two gaps outlined above. While I do my bit to clear doubts, I realise there are hundreds of thousands who struggle without any help from any quarter with these issues.
The desire to help the wider community of students to navigate this dilemma motivated me to write this book. Towards the same end, I have designed a four-day residential College to Corporate Bootcamp that combines lessons from the army with modern psychometrics and experiential training to equip students to make the inevitable transition effortlessly.
The purpose of this book is to help students carve out their career paths, intelligently and rationally, taking conscious decisions, considering their strengths and passions. It is possible to make a career out of one’s uniqueness if only one knows how.
I hope this book is a light on that journey for many!