What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up?


This post has been at the back of my mind for a long time and every now and then something triggers off the thought. The LBC topic and What I Do/Did For A Living, got one of my readers to talk to me on the phone and that conversation again revived the idea and here goes.

During my corporate avatar when interviewing candidates for employment with us, I would not miss asking this question to try and find quite what kind of changes had taken place in the candidate and also to get some understanding about her power of imagination.

Naturally, I have asked myself the same question to get an insight into my own progress in life and today, I will share that answer and try and explain my current attitude towards, success and ambition about which I have written other posts.

My friends however had clear ideas like wanting to become doctors, engineers, soldiers, government officials etc. They worked towards achieving those goals with single minded devotion and would be puzzled by my own indifference to those laudable goals. They did not have access to my inner thoughts. I could not have articulated those thoughts then even if I had wanted to. I was just that different.

No, I did not want to become a fireman or a cop or a bus driver. What I wanted to do when I grew up most was to get out of my father’s control. To enable that, I was willing to do anything to earn some money to keep body and soul together and in the process have some fun too. I did that by wheeling and dealing and enjoyed those days with like minded kindred souls.

My father had other ideas however and despite getting out of his home, tried to tie me down to employment where he could indirectly control me. That I eventually was able to get free from under that situation and become a reasonably stable and productive citizen was due entirely to circumstances over which I had little control. I call that grace. That is why I have consistently maintained that in my life, I was just in the right place at the right time and events kept overtaking me.

Now, just imagine some interviewer asking me the same question that I used to ask. What could I have answered? Had I been honest, would I have been selected?

Pravin, how does that sound to you?

What I Do (Did) For A Living

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Conrad The Old Fossil. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Rohit,Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!


When strangers meet me for the first time, as I am sure that all my readers experience, I am inevitably asked “What do you do?” Depending on the mood I am in and the importance/receptivity of the enquirer, I answer with one of the following;

A bugger all.

I am a retired hippie.

I sponge off on my son.

I am squandering my inherited fortune.

I vegetate.

Another question that was never asked when I was younger but which now seems to be quite common, is “How are you doing?” I inevitably answer that I stopped doing a long time ago.

You can therefore understand how difficult I find it to write on this very intriguing topic chosen uncharacteristically by our venerable Old Fossil.

Without sounding facetious, I do not believe that I ever did anything for a living. I have blogged about how events kept overtaking me and I just flowed along. I suspect that I just lived a life and the making a living happened as a by product.

Just to give you an idea about the veracity of that paragraph, I take you to my earlier posts:



Skepticism Vs Disbelief.

The post on Ambition unfortunately does not show the image which I had put in which was this Michael Speller’s sculpture.

Having said all that, I continue to live my life.  Taking everything as it comes and by and large enjoy myself doing exactly that.  The making a living still happens but that is incidental to my just being alive.

Another “Success” Story.

My recent bereavement has brought many old friends back into my life with their regrets and condolences. Some strange stories and developments with which I was out of touch, have now come to my knowledge. I intend sharing some of them here and the first one was about My Young Friend (MYF) which was my last post. The next one, shared here is no less intriguing.

My not so young friend (MNYF) is the son of a good friend from South India. I have known the family since 1968, when I first met the MNYF’s grand father at a mutual friend’s place. They are reasonably wealthy and come from a business community. This particular family is into many lucrative trading and manufacturing businesses each being looked after by one member of a joint family.

The community is a small one but disproportionately influential due to its economic clout. Individuals within the community are fiercely competitive and breaking up of families due to differences of opinion between siblings is very common.

Another significant trait of the community is that, despite being very modern in their business methods and paying a great deal of attention and respect to higher education to both girls and boys of the community, they are endogamous like almost all Indian castes and sub castes are. It is quite common that cousins marry each other. In fact, this is a preferred choice unless there is no cousin of suitable age.

My MNYF was a jewel among the community. A highly accomplished student, he won many awards and scholarships and ended up with post graduate qualification in Commerce and Management from the USA. He was however constrained to get married before he went to the USA for higher studies and as usual, was married off to his cousin, a no less accomplished lass who was a graduate and involved in her family’s business as well.

On his return to India, MNYF joined the family business- a new company started to manufacture precision components for a 100% export oriented unit, set up primarily to be run by him. All was well for the first three years till he set up the business and made it a successful going concern.

This is when the problems started. His family started interfering in the business, its investment decisions and the direction that it should take. His wife in the meanwhile, started comparing him with her brothers who were doing much better than he was and started goading him to expand the business and become comparable to her brothers, perhaps even get bigger! All this was in the mid nineties, when I knew what was going on, as I used to visit the family quite often and we were in regular touch through greetings, invitations to family functions etc and the occasional telephone call.

In 1996, MNYF decided to drop out of the rat race. He informed his father and uncles that he was no longer interested in running the business, nor being part of the total business and since he was entitled to a share of the family fortunes, he asked for a fair settlement so that he could start something on his own without the family interfering. His wife left him and went to live with her parents and got back to her activities there and took their only child, a son with her.

After much blood letting, chest thumping and what have you, a mutually acceptable settlement was arrived at and MNYF disappeared from view. This was in late 1996 and till March 1998, no one knew where he was or what he was doing.

In March, 1998, he landed up at his ancestral home and informed the family that he was pursuing further studies and that no one should try and look for him or do anything. The family had no choice and agreed. He also asked his wife for a divorce which she gladly gave him. He again dropped out of sight from mid 1999. That is when I lost contact with him as well as the family, as I moved back to Pune by late 1999.

He landed up three weeks ago to pay his respects and condolences to me and brought me up to date with his family and himself. He is now a teacher in a boarding school up in one of our hill stations. The school gives family accommodation for the teaching staff and he has been there since 2001 after he acquired post graduate qualification in education. He has married again, and this came as a surprise to me, to another cousin, who is also a teacher by inclination and training. The wife teaches in a local girls’ school. They have a daughter and a son, both studying in the same schools where they teach.

When I asked him what prompted him to drop everything and take this path, he bluntly said that he just could not handle the highly competitive atmosphere within his family as well as the family of his in laws and the constant nagging of his ex wife to better their lot. He says that now that he is doing something that he likes, he is not constrained by the claustrophobic atmosphere of his family. He maintains that since his success as a teacher, his relations with his family has improved and though they think that he is a lunatic, he and his wife are happy to be far away from the family and enjoy visiting them during the vacations. He hopes that his children will grow up to be different from the usual in his community and believes that he will encourage them to study humanities or fine arts, rather than the usual Engineering, Medicine. Management etc. He insisted that he had no regrets and was in fact happy to have done what he did.

After he left, I was musing. He had one great advantage that most young people do not have. A start up fund of substantial size to provide a cushion to experiment and decide on a career that will be satisfying. Would he have done what he did, if he had not had access to that? If he had decided to become what his ex wife wanted him to become, would he be as vibrant and happy as he is today?

I got no answers to the questions. I spoke to his father later and told him that I was very happy to have had the visit from his son. I expected the father to take off into a diatribe, and was surprised at his resignation with the developments.



I had expressed my bewilderment with the very casual use of the word “love” in an earlier post. I had asked, in all seriousness, how a man can say, “ I love my wife” and after five minutes say “I love Masala Dosa” with the same intensity.

Another word like that in a different league altogether, but equally as casually used to describe all kinds of things is “Success”. I always insist on anyone using this word in any communication to me, to clearly define what exactly is meant and in what context it is used.

Let me illustrate.

I have two friends. The three of us were classmates in school and have continued to be friends for all these years.

One is a very wealthy entrepreneur who has just about every possible material comfort and status symbol that money can buy. He comes from a small farming family whose two other brothers are still farmers just about reaching what can be called a border line upper middle class level of life styles. My friend has nothing to do with his brothers and shuns them for having treated him very shabbily when he did not want to be a farmer and wanted to partition the property to take his share to start his business. Subsequent to his success, the brothers of course tried to get back into his good books, but my friend would have nothing of it. The schism, is supposed to be the cause of the death of both of his parents at untimely ages.

This friend has a son and a daughter. The son has joined the father’s business after completing his studies, which included an MBA from an American University. The daughter is married into another wealthy business family and is apparently comfortably settled.

The other friend was the most studious of the three of us and went on to become a Professor. He has got a PhD and is considered to be an excellent teacher with a very loyal student and peer following. Like most teachers, he has not made a great deal of money but is reasonably comfortable in his retirement with his pension and income from savings. His two sons, both in the USA subsidize his standard of living and therefore he has no financial problems.

I am retired from a lifetime of professional management and consulting, besides being a mentor to a number of young managers and entrepreneurs. I have a son who lives with us after his divorce from his wife of five years. He is also recovering from a failed entrepreneurial venture, and is now in regular employment paying off the debts that he had accumulated in his attempt at entrepreneurship. My primary occupation is to provide care to my wife who is semi invalid. I have a reasonably good life style though not anywhere near what my other two friends can afford.

My first friend has had two open-heart surgeries and is slightly handicapped due to a stroke. The other friend has been to the USA on three occasions and has returned to India a disappointed man, as he does not want to live there, and his two sons, do not want to return to India. He and his wife have just moved into a cooperative home project for senior citizens.

From among the three of us, who do you think is a success? Why?