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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

“You begin to value a journey only after you have walked the path yourself.”

It is easy to pass judgment on people or their Life journeys. But we can never value their journeys unless we have walked the path ourselves.

I read Bishwanath Ghosh’s weekly column, ‘Writer’s Block’, in The Hindu’s Melange section regularly. This past Saturday Bishwanath had written about how he has learnt to appreciate Amitav Ghosh’s writing much better now that he (Bishwanath) too is a writer. He reflects on owning Amitav Ghosh’s Dancing in Cambodia and other Essays for 16 years now but tells us how he ended up reading it only last week after meeting the author at the launch of the final book in his Ibis trilogy. Bishwanath concluded his column thus: “You begin to value a journey only after you have walked the path yourself.”

I can’t agree more with Bishwanath’s view. I have confessed to learning this lesson and respecting this perspective in my Book “Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money” (Westland, August 2014) too.

The lead page of my Businessworld story in 1993
Way back in 1993, while working for Businessworld magazine as their Principal Correspondent in Bengaluru, I had written an elaborate story on how Vijay Mallya’s business empire was debt-ridden and that he was broke and cash-strapped. (Interestingly, even at this time, media reports suggest that Mallya’s business group’s present condition appears to be the same!) I remember waiting in Mallya’s UB Group headquarters (where the present day UB City is located) for 15 hours at a stretch because he was trying to avoid the interview. I even slept on the couch in his private lounge refusing to leave despite his EA’s insistence. This was to be the interview of my journalistic career and I was not going to give up! Finally, I managed to get Mallya’s time and his version of why his businesses were struggling. We ran the story, titling it ‘An Acquired Hangover’ and showing a completely sloshed Mallya at his Kunigal stud farm. Our photographer Deepak Pawar had counted the number of mugs of beer that Mallya had drunk in the three hours we spent interviewing him: 16! He had waited for the very end of the interview to get his shot to ‘fit’ the story’s central theme: that it was a series of reckless acquisitions that had landed Mallya in this mess.

I have nothing to say about Mallya’s business decisions then or now, about his cash problems then or now. Not anymore. All I feel is, irrespective of what caused his crisis, or mine, the pain is the same. Every single day through my Firm’s bankruptcy, and even now, I have regretted the way we led that story asking, critically, sarcastically, logically, pointedly, argumentatively, “Why is Vijay Mallya at a loss for cash?” I am not even saying the story was good or bad. All I am saying is I now know what it means to be strapped for cash. And I now know what it means when every aspect of your Life is scrutinized, dissected, opined upon and judged – only because you don’t have money and you have to repay people that you have borrowed from.

The last few years, that have been acutely financially-challenged for us, have taught me that we must respect everyone for who they are, the way they are. Their lives may not conform to ours, their stories may not be something we can relate to, their choices and decisions may not be what we can agree on, but we can at least not judge them. Even if we do so unwittingly, subconsciously. If you have been there, done that, offer a perspective – when asked for it. Else, don’t advice, don’t opine, don’t assume and surely, don’t judge!  

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