October, 1993. "Papa, can't we stay here forever?" Dad: "Well, we have to go back to our country and you will get to enjoy many things over there; our family, your friends, studies, cricket & so much more!"
28 October, 1993. "This is the final call for all passengers at Heathrow Airport for boarding their flight for New Delhi at gate number 2."
May, 1994. Mom: "After coming from New Delhi, where will our kids study here? It's a desert all around!" Dad: "We need to search for some good CBSE school as the Convent schools have courses in regional medium. We'll explore Bhuj this Saturday."
Saturday, May, 1994. Dad: "Kendriya Vidyalaya, that's going to be their school as it's a national body and offers good studies affiliated to CBSE. Plus, they'll get to mingle with diverse minds and that will allow them to learn faster in this diverse society."
1994 - 1997 (VI - VIII)
Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1, Air Force Station, Bhuj, Kutch
1996 - 1997 (VIII)
Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1, Hathibarkala, Dehradun
1997 - 1997 (IX)
Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1, Air Force Station, Bhuj, Kutch
1997 - 2001 (IX - XII Science)
Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1, Sector 30, Gandhinagar, Gujarat
April 2000. Mr.Chaudhary (Physics Sir, House in-charge, known for his 'aaaainn'!): "Our House is Tagore House, named after India's poet & Nobel Laurette Rabindranath Tagore. Among all of you XII students who would like to be the House Leader?" Silence. "Come on? Arif? You?" Me: Gulp ..."Sir, ME???" Sir: "Aaaainn? Yes, why not? Life gives you few opportunities to lead, would you not like to?" Me: With a little thought "Yes Sir, Okay I will! Thank you very much for considering me. I will make sure we evolve as a great team and score high."
Mid-April 2000. Me: "My fellow Tagorians, I feel very happy seeing all of you assemble here for our first House meeting. As we know the annual activities have been rolled out by PK Gupta Sir. Today we need to discuss what are our strengths, capabilities and talents within. My close friends Shaunak, Rakesh and Prashant who are actually more talented than me will be leading Raman, Ashoka and Shivaji House but my dream is to make Tagore House the best house and come what may, I assure you that I will always stand by you. Tagore House has never come No.1 is the last 5 years but we will start fresh, with a new positive mind to conquer competitions one-by-one and will keep giving our best without comparing ourselves. Whether we win, come second or lose, we will stick together as one good family. The 'House Leader' is just a title given to me, otherwise I am just like you - one more Tagorian. You can come to me anytime for any suggestion, ideas, problems, etc as I will listen to you well. So, are you all with me?" Tagorians: "Yes." Me: "I can't hear! Are you all going to give your best for Tagore House so that we become No.1?" Tagorians: "YESSSSSS!" Me: "That's great! We'll start by coming to your classes from next week onward to collect names for the first competition one week from now. Ride back to your homes safely. Thank you and Good bye."
August 2000. Me: "Tagorians, as you all heard in the assembly results, we are number 3 right now. We need to do better than Ashoka House to come second and from there we'll go head-on with Raman House for the No.1 position. I know our Unit-tests are round the corner but one win can give us the edge as other House participants may focus more on exam preparations."
September 2000. Me: "Hi, IX class! Those in Tagore House please raise their hands for participating in the Debate competition. We still have not received any names yet." Blank eyes staring at me. "No one? Come on! We are number 2 now, you can come to me in case anyone of you decides to participate."
Gupta Sir: "Arif, we haven't received any name from Tagore House!" Me: "Sir, no one from IX, X, XI, XII Arts, XII Science stood up. I'll let you now by tomorrow morning for sure".
Next Day, September 2000. Arvind (Benchmate, Shivaji House) "So Arif, who's coming from Tagore House?" Me: "Don't know buddy, we are still searching. Just one day to go for the Debate competition and no one wants to come up despite us having a lead. It pains me but hopefully something good will come up. We need to win this badly to topple Perci's (Prashant, Classmate, Raman House Leader) army!"
|K.V. No.1, Sector 30, Gandhinagar, XII-Science Class Photo, 2001|
Debate Day, 9.00am, September 2000 Chemistry Lecture going on. To Self (in mind): "No one came up and Ashoka House will be eager to come back to No.2. They have their best debate participants fielded for this competition. Who can do it for us? Someone has to be there as we can't have no one from House and forfeit our points just like that. That will be suicidal. I'm not a good stage speaker otherwise I would have. But, Can I? How is it to stand on the stage and give a debate to 1000 eyes looking at you? Scary! Before this, I have read only one news-piece in the morning assembly that too looking down in the paper, not ahead and my legs were shaking like resonating rods. Thank God we have full trousers in XII! Apart from this my previous extempore experience was also not good as in nervousness I spoke too fast and came third."
Looking outside the window. "What is it in that one Kite up there that I see everyday way above the pigeons and sparrows and why does it circle round and round? Could the Kite have ever felt scared while taking it's first flight above all the other birds? Even if she was scared, she must have attempted. Perhaps, I too should attempt and participate in the debate. Even if I crash, I will get to see the sky from above for some moments. That's it, I will. I will for my Tagore House"
Debate Day, 12:00pm, September 2000. Gupta Sir: "And now from Tagore House, we have Master Arif Khan."
The Debate. This was the defining moment in my life. Although it was a debate, I went unprepared and stood up without a script. I chose to talk impromptu on 'How India will become a Superpower?' (despite not doing well in my previous extempore). I went on stage, stood firm, took a deep breath, looked straight in the eyes and began to talk like I would to any single person in front of me. No extra effort was made, just some simple English with honest thoughts.
...The next I remember is thunderous applause. I've never experienced such a rain of claps ever before, not even in India's matches on TV. My Tagorians ran up to me an lifted me and they said 'You've done it ARIFFFF!' YOU'VE DONE ITTT!!' (Note: I actually have tears in my eyes while I write this).
September 2, 2000, Morning Assembly. Gupta Sir "So, the debate results have come and any guesses who has come first?" I looked up to see if I can spot the same Kite. It was circling above us as if to say "Well done, you overcame your fear." Suddenly from the stage... "This was not difficult at all, it's ARIF from Tagore House!" announced Gupta Sir. Immediately, pats came on my back from behind, left and right; eyes looking at me in glory and smiles conveying congrats. I went up to the stage to collect my Prize and Certificate amidst another round of thunderous applause. On way back to my line, I thanked Allah and my parents in a silent prayer.
|English Debate - First Prize, 2001|
Ten Years passed.
September 1 and 2, 2011. Went home on Eid vacation to Gandhinagar, where my Dad was once again transferred after 10 years. Got up at 6:30am and went to do what I love the most - Cycling! Now, Gandhinagar with it's wide roads and dense green cover is a paradise for any cyclist. It's a city divided into 30 sectors and we live in Sector 19. I cycled around Sector 19 and suddenly decided to cycle all the way to Sector 30 to my old school just for fun! I went to the school and as it was a holiday. I could meet only a maali (gardener) who told me "School will open tomorrow." I cycled back and decided to come back again. The next day I came all dressed up to actually be a part of the assembly as I wanted to once again live my school days. I met the Principal, Vice Principal and some Teachers. Gupta Sir was one among them who after a little clue recognized me. It was a great feeling! The Principal Mr. Jagdish Prasad asked me "Can you come tomorrow at around 7:20am? It would be good if you can give a speech from the assembly so that students first get to know you and perhaps afterwards we can have some class visits." "Okay!, that's fine with me." was my instant reply.
|K.V.No.1, Sector 30, Gandhinagar - Main Entrance, 2011|
The Principal, Vice Principal, all Teachers and above all 2000+ bright eyes - All looking at me in complete silence. Once again I stood on this stage unprepared (on purpose as that brings out the best out of me) and I looked up for the Kite and told myself in a flash of a second "Mak, this is it! Just tell your story."
|K.V.No.1, Sector 30, Gandhinagar - School Building, 2011|
September 3, 2011, 7:45am.
(Note: I spoke impromptu hence I may not be able to cover the actual speech word-by-word as I spoke in school but I will try to write as close as possible to the actual speech so that the essence is covered well.)
A very warm Good morning to each one of you here! I feel very happy to see you all in front of me. (A Pause). I am Arif Khan. I was a student of this school who passed out in 2001. It's a strange coincidence that I am once again standing on the very same stage after 10 years but this time not to compete but just to share, share my story. I love this school very much and have so many good memories associated with it. I came cycling to our school day before yesterday early morning and I met the maali who told me that the school will open on September 2. I came yesterday and met your Principal Sir, Vice-Principal and a few other teachers. I am thankful to them and very humbled that they invited me to come today and give you a small talk. Thank you Sir, Ma'am! (looking at the Principal, Vice-Principal). I also met PK Gupta Sir (everyone looked behind to him, appeared like a school of fishes turning their direction in one go, very beautiful!) who after a little guess could recognize me. (He smiled back at me). I came to know that many teachers who taught me have moved to different places but as I stand here and look around from this stage, I can see my IX, X Physics teacher A. Nair Ma'am! Hi Ma'am! (She smiled happily) And next to her I also see, ammm, I don't remember her name but she taught us Sanskrit, Hi Ma'am! (She gave a great smile back to me). And, I think the rest are new teachers but nevertheless Hi to everyone!
So, who am I and why am I standing here? Like I told you, I am an alumni of this school and passed 10 years ago from XII Science. From the day I left school, it's been a journey of ups and downs and today I have come here to share my story. When I sat in your place 10 years back and some accomplished alumni used to come after a healthy 30-40 years of experience to address us, I always had a few questions in my mind - How did that guy reach where he is today? What did he do in his early years? What choices did he make? Was he passionate about something? (Money, position, geography somehow never were my way of judging someones' success).
Although it's very important to invite highly successful alumni to inspire you all, I believe it's equally important for all of you to meet someone who is in between this journey and still has a long way to go. You should also try to learn 'How to get there?' rather than merely knowing the final destination as otherwise, the gap looks so big that and many of us would think 'How will we ever reach there?' Right? (Silence) Don't worry, it's normal human thinking process, even I thought like this when I was a student. So, what I'm going to do in the next 20 minutes as I'm on the clock here is take you through my journey till now and then give you some pointers to be successful in your careers based on my experience. You all have to act like a sponge and absorb as much as you can from this occasion. Makes sense? (I didn't hear a strong Yes but could see the eagerness in the eyes of the students).
Let's go back to the year 2000. I was a pretty normal student, not any Rank 1 or 2 but loved Biology like crazy. I was passionate about Biology as it provided me answers about life which fascinates me till this very day. I remember when we came to class XII, almost everyone in my class had made up their mind what they wanted to do after school. It was a no-brainer; either a Doctor or an Engineer. How simple! (saw some smiles). I still had not made up my mind as I wanted to give some time in learning (not reciting!) and going through all the subjects - Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, English. Becoming a Doctor was out of question as I was never in the toppers' league and mid-way I decided that I don't even want to become an Engineer as I was not strong in Maths, although scored decent in Boards. In our society, it is a common trend that coming Rank 1, 2 or 3 means to become a Doctor or an Engineer. But, have have you ever wondered what do the Rank 5, 7, 11, and 16 students become? Each one of you are special then whether you are Rank 1, 3, 5, 7, or 16 - it doesn't make a difference as ultimately only those succeed who give their best at whatever comes along their way.
Coming back; like in any other house my Mother too wanted me to become an Engineer. Upon learning my decision, there was an earthquake back home! "What will you do then???" asked my Mother.I didn't have any definite answer but that night I told my Papa that look, would you like your son to become an average engineer among the crowd or would you like him to do something which he is passionate about and can possibly excel in? My Papa was silent (perhaps to control the tense situation at home) but I could see a nod in my favor. (I knew it was a silent 'Yes, go for it Arif, go for it' types). I decided to work hard in all my subjects, especially Biology and also started exploring exhaustively on the internet for other better opportunities. At my time, many students still did not use the internet much as it was school to tuition to tuition to home for them. Where was the time? While I studied with full concentration in my class (always thought my teacher's were enough to score nineties), went home completed the assignments, studied, did internet research and discussed wth my Papa, played cricket, cycled, came back and studied again. (Tuitions were never a part of my life and I never missed not attending them as I always was the explorer kind who would dig deep in the internet to hunt for answers).
The Board exams took place and I applied for a Bachelor in Science course in Botany (Hons.) at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in summer, 2001. I went to a new city and lived in a hostel and like any other regular guy, I was excited about the new place, hostel and our University. Within a month, we had our first internal practical exams and to my horror - I flunked! I scored only 6 out of 36 and this torn me from within. I had no answer as to why it happened but knew that it has happened and this is a big shock for someone who came into this line 'by choice'. What could have been more disappointing? I vowed to myself that I will not let this break me and will start from scratch without any past baggage. I will work extremely hard and make it happen for me, my parents. I came first in First Year, first in Second Year and First along with a Gold Medal in Third Year B.Sc. Botany and also stood first among the entire Faculty of Science comprising of B.Sc. Chemistry, Physics, Zoology, Mathematics,..... (could not say all the subjects as by this time there was a thunderous applause. By the way there were rumors that Amitabh Bachchan would come for our MSU Convocation but he couldn't!).
After this, I went on to do my Masters' in Biochemistry in the same MS University and here Science taught me 'discipline'. Science is not just science in books, it's all about questioning the things around, judging the facts, experimentation and monitoring everything in a systematic way. I came up with 'Manage Your Science' idea which is still hangs on the wall of my Physiology Lab. It was here that I came up with my 3P's, i.e. Plan > Prepare > Perform. Whatever you want to achieve, you need to first plan for it well. It's important to know how will you reach your goal? Once you have figured that out, you need to prepare and I believe this is the most important part which may ignore. If you have planned well, you simply can't ignore preparing towards it and directly jumping off for results. No! You always need to ensure that your preparations are up to the mark as once your start, you would not like to waste time adjusting back with the preparations. If you do this well, reaching your goal will become easy. And finally, you need to pump in hard work and remain focussed so that you start to perform. Mid-way, I realized that I had some different interests and once again started exploring new paths.
After M.Sc., I got through Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai and did my MBA Pharmaceuticals Management from there. I learnt after 2 years that MBA per say doesn't teach you any thing completely new, it just gives a structure to your thoughts and allows you to sharpen your decision making skills to do well in the corporate world. It's just about some top-level common sense, that's all. I picked up the basics of Marketing from here and polished my communication skills. I won the Alembic Award for Academic Excellence for 'Marketing Strategy'. It was here where I explored the internet more than ever before and during our last Trimester exams, I would spend 50% time building my website - maktion. Among all six trimesters, I got my maximum A's in trimester VI!
After passing out in 2008, I worked with IMS Health, a Multi-National Company in the Healthcare Consulting space with a presence in more than 100 countries. I was looking after the various Business Lines and I got some good cross-functional project exposure. All this while, Marketing was my forte. I finally figured out that I want to be a Marketer in my life who would make honest, extremely creative and convincing campaigns. I achieved a lot here, became a Six Sigma Green Belt professional for a big project and even won the Quarter 1 Excellence Award 2011 for my marketing efforts of our new product launch by President, Asia Pacific. (Claps again).
And just last week, this Biologist joined the TATA Consultancy Services in Digital Marketing at Mumbai! (TCS is India's No. 1 IT Services, business services and outsourcing company) Digital Marketing is something which excites me a lot as I see the web as the future and Marketing is in my blood. (Claps again).
Hah! (took a breath and looked 180 degree once again) So why did I tell you all this here? To eat your time? "Nohhhh!"' came the answer (felt happy to hear). I told you my story so that each one of you who has some dream can realize it to make it a reality. We have only one life and we should at least make one effort to realize our dream no matter how much it deviates from the common trend. What fun if you are not an Outlier? (in a good way). I want to tell you that becoming a Doctor or an Engineer is a good thing but not THE only thing one can become. Everyone has different interests, skills and tastes and one needs to identify where he fits the best. The sooner you realize, the greater the chances that you can do thorough research on the career options available and accordingly prepare yourself. At the end, it doesn't matter what line you come from. What matters is how much are you willing to stretch to give your best? Whatever you choose, have only one aim - I GOT TO BE THE BEST IN THIS! Success will follow. So, do you all dream and I'm not talking about the dream which ends after hearing the morning alarm! (Lots of giggling). There's no harm in dreaming. As a kid, I always wanted to become an astronaut but somehow couldn't but that's alright. Now, I will call some students who dream? Anyone? Raise your hands. (A young boy from Class VII raised his hand) Yeah, come up here on stage (the boy ran excitedly towards the stage).
Me: Hi! What's your name?
He: Abhishek (Note: I need some KV student to confirm if this was his name?)
Me: So, what's your dream Abhishek?
He: I want to become an aeronautical engineer.
Me: Wow! That's great. So, do you know how will you reach there?
He: A little. I can go to Hindustan Aeronautics.
Me: Well, you can apply for at IIST or ISRO which will be a great platform to start.
He: Thank you! (smiles)
Me: Study Physics and Maths very well and read about space on the internet. Good luck Abhishek! (he ran back). (Wanted to call two more students but there was not much time, so decided to continue ahead).
Okay! Now, I will try to wrap up this talk by giving you some Pointers for Success. Are you all awake? "YESSSS!" came the reply. Good! Once you all grow and hopefully do well, you will need to remember these things to succeed in life:
- Integrity - Always be honest to yourself, to your family, to your company, to your country. There should be no compromise on this at all. Good companies can make out who is honest and who is not and many consider it as the No.1 factor for employing someone new.
- Passion - You need to do your job passionately. The more passionate you are, the more fun it will become for you to work and you will adjust to the work environment even better.
- Thinking - Always question why something is like this?, that? even though it is written in words in your textbook. It's a way to cultivate your mind, to sharpen it for the real world so that when you go out there tomorrow, you are able to think standing on your two feet and take the best decisions. It's like a habit, work on it.
- Discipline - Irrespective of the line you choose, you always need to be disciplined. Discipline is not just for the Armed Forces or to stand in a line, it's something that should come from within. Be systematic and methodological towards solving a problem.
- Cleanliness - Good hygiene is necessary for healthy working and when you will enter the real world, everyone will look up to you so what impression you give of yourself is important. Plus, good habits will differentiate you. I see that the school has become much cleaner and I'm very happy on this. Take his habit to wherever you go from here.
- Never give up! And finally, the most important thing in life is to first dream, then work hard to realize it and even if something goes wrong mid-way you will never lose faith in yourself. Just, never give up. Never!
I will be coming to meet some of you in your classes to share more on how to choose your career and answer whatever questions you have.
God bless. Thank you!
APPLAUSE. APPLAUSE. APPLAUSE. (the ChakDe song ran in my mind!)
|K.V.No.1, Sector 30, Gandhinagar - Morning Assembly, 2011|
|K.V.No.1, Sector 30, Gandhinagar - Morning Assembly, 2011|
Once the speech got over, I went to Standard XII Science (Computers), Standard XII + XI Arts, Standard XII Science (Biology) and conversed with the students one-on-one (approx. 1 hour or more per class) on:
- What would they like to become and why?
- Are they aware of all the available options in case they don't want to become the common 2.
- What's the right way to plan out ones' career? (Courses, Source of Information, Eligibility, Timing, Preparation, Next steps, Way ahead, etc)
- Discussed the important factors for success by clustering students' answers and arranging in order of importance: Integrity (no compromise here) > Passion (infuse as much as you can) > Doing Something New (shows innovative spirit, good companies will always appreciate) > Serving the Society (very good intention) > Reputation (if you do well, after 2-3 years people will start knowing you) > Family Responsibilities (assuming for first 4-5 years you don't marry) > Money (if the rest factors are on track, money will come, should never be No.1 consideration).
- Ended up the conversation by saying "You all will be going through the following stages - becoming aware of the opportunities, understanding what's best for you, preparing well towards it, performing to your best ability and finally you will start to achieve. But, does this stop here? No! There is still one final link in this cycle and that is to give back to where you went up from. Never forget your school. Once you become something in life, do come back to share your experience and hopefully inspire some more minds. That will complete this cycle and trust me, you will feel very happy.
I could not go to the other students' classes but they came running to me during recess, breaks or wherever they could spot me to ask their questions. I remained in the school without breakfast or lunch till 2:30pm till the very last student went.
As I walked out towards the car outside, I once again turned back at the big school building and looked up to see if the Kite was there? The Kite was not there, but I guess she somewhere became a part of me ever since that day in 2000 I looked out of my class window to see her circling above. Who says Biology is not interesting? The Kite inspired me. She changed my life! Perhaps, this quote sums it up:
Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it. - Winston Churchill
My experience has motivated me to drive this campaign ahead. As a concerned citizen of this country, I believe Indian can become a Superpower if we all promote educational diversity so that students can realize their dreams. This way our country will get the best minds not only for the common 2 but across all streams who will contribute and come with breakthrough innovation in their respective spheres. We need better lawyers, better police, better railway staff, better psychologists, better city planners, etc. Collectively, this will allow India's performance to spiral up and be hopefully one day be looked upon by every country with even more trust and respect.
You may now ask:
|'Koshish to karo' - Arif|
Who will do it? - It's a start, anyone can join this journey. Anyone who can motivate and convince on the spot!
Can it happen? - Koshish toh karo. I've always believed we should try and give our best before thinking of the result.
Any profit? - This is not for any monetary gain or societal praise. It's a silent but genuine effort for a better India.
How to start? - Given an opportunity, I would like to visit as many schools as possible and talk to students. Marketing has taught me to listen well to pick insights. After that, I will try to conduct student interviews to know their difficulties in deciding, reasons, pressures, options, preparations, etc and all this will be periodically posted in a special section on maktion for others to cross learn.
I would be happy to receive some ideas and feedback on this campaign from you! You can mail your ideas by clicking here, or joining maktion on Facebook by clicking here, or by directly conversing with me on Twitter @arifkhan7
Ending this experience on an apt proverb:
Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it's going to spend its life believing it's an idiot. - Albert Einstein
Come, join me in this journey by bringing in your experience and expertise to cultivate minds and allow the fishes to do what they are best at - swim!