Rahul Anand, Vice President – Marketing was top talent not just in the Big Retail Firm he was working with in Mumbai, but in the entire sector. His name was synonymous with Blockbuster Sales, Brand Rise, Quarterly Growth and more than anything, his no-nonsense attitude.
His team and peers in the company would practice what they wanted to say to Rahul, before coming over to his corner office. Often, the CEO would take him to Board Meetings, when he sensed the Board would be aggressive. Such was the respect and the reputation Rahul had built for himself in the last 17 years, during which he had only worked for this company. Grapevine also suggested he was next in line for the top job.
Straight out of IIT Delhi, armed with an Engineering Degree in Chemical Engineering, Rahul had the conviction and the vision to step into a Management Degree from the top rated Indian Institute, back in the early 90’s, when studying Management was not the typical choice for an Engineer.
He was happily married to Radhika, a childhood sweetheart from Delhi. Radhika was an achiever in her own ways. She was the eldest of three siblings and had de-facto responsibility of supporting her middle class family in her growing years. Radhika had to take up private tuitions for kids in her neighbourhood to support her College Education and started off with a modest job, right after her graduation to support her Father’s rather meagre earnings in his Clerical role at a popular Cricket Academy.
It is infact, at this Cricket Academy that Rahul had met with Radhika. Rahul with dreamy eyes, wanted to pursue cricketing as his career, and Radhika would come to hand over lunch to her Father and also help him with his Computer skills. Young love blossomed. Rahul being the flamboyant and outgoing guy that he was, professed his love for Radhika, rather soon and as destiny would have it, Radhika stood by him through his years of education, which took him away from Delhi and far from her.
She used the time to save up money and help her younger brothers pursue their careers. And some for her own upcoming wedding with Rahul. And marry they did, both in their mid-twenties.
Since the time they were married, Rahul was always the provider, taking care of not just the household necessities, but also the dreams they saw together. For the foreign vacations, for getting their two lovely kids into the best School in town and other niceties of life. Radhika played her role as the Homemaker, in charge of what’s most important in life – bringing up kids well, instilling values in them, supporting her family through thick and thin, sometimes at the cost of her health, and at other times leaving her personal goals behind.
Whenever Radhika tried to pursue her career post marriage, something came up – the pregnancies, ‘kids needing attention’ and the fact that Rahul was so ably earning for the family, which he would point to, once in a while and would ask her to be the “Queen”. Yet at other times, he would remark, saying “you’d probably find a job, but may not be worth your while”.
While Rahul was at the peak of his career, something fundamental was changing in the sector – for the first time in History, Retail Sales was slowly but surely, moving online.
Initially, everyone at Rahul’s office including himself, thought of this as a “passing fad”. However, the wrinkles on everyone’s faces were growing more prominent, as the Sales trends showed otherwise. The footfall went down, and what looked like the downfall of their empire had begun. What used to work very well, so far, simply didn’t work any longer.
Something had to be done, and the Organisation was looking to Rahul, to deliver on this challenge and steer them through this turmoil. And Rahul was earnestly doing all he could, putting in all he learnt and deploying his full expertise on the challenge.
The Board of Directors, was however not willing to give the company more time to adjust to the headwinds. They figured the Company needed “Marketing Mavericks” in t-shirts and Jeans, and it was time the Old Guard in “Suits” make way. They were pressing in hard, to the point the CEO had to relent and fire Rahul.
Rahul didn’t take this lying down and immediately started to engage with his network. After all, he knew everyone worth knowing in the sector. He was pretty sure he’d be inundated with offers, better than the previous one, and perhaps this would help him leap to be CEO.
However, the word travelled faster in this well-knit network, and all he could get from his erstwhile friends is ‘sympathy’. They were all fighting their own demons at the moment.
He searched far and wide for a ‘suitable’ offer, that wouldn’t come. He couldn’t take up ‘anything’, that would severely dent something he valued – his pride.
A year passed by, and the pressure started to show on the finances. First on the lifestyle, then on the savings. The EMI’s for their flat, the cars and the rest were huge and what was so manageable, all these years, suddenly was gobbling up the accumulated wealth. The family had to do away with a property in Delhi they had bought a decade ago, and now were beginning to dip into their nest egg.
While the times were taking a toll on the entire family, Radhika was the most affected one. Not because she was in love with the wealth or because she couldn’t live without the luxuries they had got used to. But because Rahul was down. She wanted to do her bit for the family, which she always did.
Radhika met a few of her friends and unexpectedly, found herself a job with her neighbour’s company. Their neighbor, Vikas Khanna was a wealthy entrepreneur himself and was looking for someone who could help him as his Executive Assistant for a few months, during the time his current colleague was on maternity leave. The role had a lot of multi-tasking, just what she was so good at, it had excitement and more importantly it had the money to keep the family afloat.
Radhika almost accepted the offer, but as an afterthought, said she will discuss with Rahul and get back to him. Vikas agreed. Rahul was his friend, golf partner and drinks buddy after all. They knew each other’s family well.
When Radhika discussed this over dinner, Rahul wasn’t as pleased as he was trying to portray himself to be. It bothered him deep inside that his wife will now work for his friend – his equal. He had to however keep this within himself, lest his modern, equal rights image would get tarnished. He said something nice to pep Radhika up to the tune of “it’s now her turn to fend for the family”, and that is all Radhika wanted to do.
She took up the responsibility, and how. Vikas was very pleased with how little hand-holding she needed to fit into this all-important role. He would often joke about the fact that he can now play golf endlessly, as she’s adept enough to look after the show.
Radhika was earning enough to run the household, but not enough to pay for all the EMI’s. They had to do something about it. The writing on the wall was to sell their beautiful villa and extra cars, and rent an apartment instead. It would help them clear the loan and get them free from the shackles of this big EMI.
Rahul’s belief was shaken and his pride broken, by the time they said good-bye to their erstwhile neighbours and moved in to their new rented home. The harder he would fight, the harder he would get beaten down. He had two options, really. To bow down and learn; OR to keep fighting the circumstance.
There is a lesson behind every adversity. And the sooner one learns from it, the faster the difficulty would disappear, it dawned to him.
He stopped fighting and looked around thoughtfully, at what was happening in life. In this ‘Eureka’ moment, Rahul figured his kids were growing up fine, they went to the same school as before; the household was running smoothly, thanks to Radhika, and he had spare time in hand. For the first time in a long while, he felt this sense of deep gratitude – towards God, to his Parents, to his wife and kids, and towards life, for teaching him this invaluable lesson.
He started playing more Golf than before, not to impress his clients or to win business, but for the love of the game. His game became the talk-of-the-club and he was sponsored to play on the PGA Circuits. He started winning a few games and the moolah was back, along with honours and titles. Strangely, this didn’t bring in pride on Rahul’s face, it brought in something better – humility!
Ninja is the pen name of Niranjan Rao Reddyshetty, who is a Dreamer and a Writer. He writes poems, songs and stories when they dawn upon him. He spends time with his family and runs his startup, the rest of the time.