I was chatting with my friend. Our conversation drifted to change on a personal level. I started telling him how my years of studying and living at the IIT Bombay changed me. I not only learned engineering subjects, but I also learned a lot about people and their diverse cultures -middle class Maharashtrians like mine, Tamils, Bengalis, Gujaratis, Andhraites, Kannadigas, UPites, Biharis, Rajasthanis, and Assamese and many others were all there. People from Africa and Gulf countries too were there. There were those who were born with a silver spoon in mouth and those who could afford education only because of scholarships. I had to change my thoughts about all these people and junk my prejudices. I changed and learned to become friends with people who were not ‘like us’.
Out of campus life and in a job, intellectual stimulation was much needed. Books provided that. Thrillers, real life stories, fiction, philosophy, humor -books were now those ‘not like us’friends. Books entertained, troubled, and challenged me. They made me reflect.They made me do stupid things. They had a huge and lasting effect on me.
At work, a shift from technical to sales meant that I had to learn to deal with people ambiguities instead of technical certainties. I had to learn to remember faces and names. I had to attempt face reading and reading pages upside down from across the table. I had to learn to summon all my faculties at 6 in the evening for tough sales negotiations after a day long wait and after having almost given up. I had learn to get a foot in door (literally and metaphorically) and win from there. I had to change.
A responsibility to manage a demerger of our unit and to set it up as an independent company came up and I plunged into it. Among other things, I had to figure out better ways of helping our people to develop themselves. I had to learn to talk to them, to ask questions to them for helping them to frame their goals and problems and help them to find solutions. I had to learn to be patient with them. A lot was at stake then.
I always liked the sound of drums. Learning to play drums meant that I had to develop specific reflexes and I had to learn to listen to music better. I had to change the type of music I was listening.
I always wanted to run. When I started running, it was not just about improving stamina. I had to learn to listen to my body, to let it do its work well and to respect it. I had to learn body sensing. I learned that finishing a run in good form and with happy face is so much important.
It is difficult to say what of the ‘original’ me still remains, but I am certain that without changing oneself it is impossible to learn anything important.
I know that we are still good friends after all this changing and learning!