If there is a leader in me its because..there are certain circumstances and people who made me into a leader.
We don’t realize our potential till situation demands it..we don’t realize our abilities till someone points out to us.
The environment in my school for the last 2 months has been so exciting..a new building for the Sr wing...where besides making them enjoy the learning phases of their curriculum...we are aiming at grooming effective leaders who can lead themselves and empower themselves so much that they can lead others and the country thereby.
It is a déjà vu kind of feeling and it gives me a great high to see my young leaders taking the reins of leadership.
The teaching team that we have in Silver Oaks are true leaders who lead themselves first.
In all this leadership tempo...I suddenly realized that it is an inherent need inside me to lead myself , others and enable others to lead themselves thats making me take all these initiatives.
I have this strong need inside me to acknowledge and salute to all those who empowered me to see my own abilities and all those situations that brought out the leadership potential in me.
God: who led me and made me feel that He is with me.
My Mom & Dad: who gave me unconditional love and made me feel special at all times. I was never a great achiever in my school but they gave me unconditional love.
My Sister: who allowed me to enjoy all the limelight while making her own ground.
My Husband: who brought me up from the age of 18.(he fights with my mother that he mothered me more than her) he made me study and do my BA BEd MA MEd with such perseverance that I did it to please him. But for him, I would not have found my calling in this field of education. He led me to where I am now.
In 1982: Mrs Jayal wife of Air Commodore Jayal who was commanding Airforce Station, Ambala ( it was the ‘hot’ place where airforce is concerned ...then. The latest fighter aircrafts ‘Jaguars’ were stationed there.) I was a young bride of 18 who barely knew anything about the world.She wanted me to participate in a fashion show ‘brides of India’ to be presented for the visiting French Air Chief and his wife.
Having gone from conservative Andhra family..airforce life was a different world for me. To have been asked by an AOC’s wife to take part in a show and that too for the French Air Chief was indeed the first opportunity that made me look at myself in a new light.
1985: Madh Islands Bombay: I was offered my first teaching job in the Airforce School. Teaching the pre-primary with no formal training or qualifications was a challenging situation that made me understand that i can do something other than partying.
1987 Sarsawa Saharanpur : I was asked to be a part of organizing ladies clubs and events. But the best part was when I had to join the group of singers who were singing in party during C-In C’s visit. (C in C means, Commander in Chief ).Until then i didn’t know that I have a singer in me...
Que Sera que sera whatever shal be wil be...
I have a dream..
Una paloma blanca..I am just a bird in the sky...
I started singing since then.
I thank Wg Cdr Rohit Roy and his wife Margaret for making me into a singer.
Srilanka: with the IPKF went my dear husband for 6 long months to Srilanka.those were not the days of cell phones or mails, moreover it was a war zone he went to.
Despite the turbulent months with bad news coming from Srilanka every now and then, I emerged as a stronger person who could deal with my own fears on the safety of my husband.
1990: Sarsawa Saharanpur UP: sudden demise of Wg Cdr CM Rao, ( a very dear friend who was commanding helicopter squadron there) in an aircrash in Rohtang Pass ( Himachal) made me grow out of the ‘fear of death’ that I had.
1991: New Delhi
We were cosily living in airforce camps till then with no security fears.Delhi being Delhi..with official accommodation a scarcity we hired a nice duplex house in Munirka Vihar opposite JNU campus. I learnt to be independent and self sufficient from then. The first time I learnt to deal with my own fears and deal with a problem situation was when my 6 yr old daughter missed the auto from her KV in RK puram and walked 5 kms on a highway to reach home. Only I know what anxiety and tension I went through till I saw her safe 4 hours later.
1992:Being in Western Air Command. The premier command of the IAF and living in Subroto Park in old independent bungalows with3 of us supported by 3 servant quarters was a high in itself.
While working in Airforce School during the day and meeting the bigwigs of IAF during the parties was a great exposure.
Air Marshal Kulkarni & Mrs Kulkarni: They made the deepest impact in our personal and social lives. Seeing their lifestyle we learnt how to balance the fluorescent life of airforce yet stand on our values and convictions. We were like a family.
We moved with them to National Defence College in ’92 september. If Airforce is one great exposure, NDC was a university of learning. Senior Officers from different Indian Services and 20 different Foreign countries come to do a course here every year.
The exposure and experience of meeting senior officers from armed forces and civil services from India and other countries, was like living in the world of who’s who. Listening to lectures of celebrities like, PV Narasimha Rao, LK Advani,Dr Manmohan Singh,Kapil Sibal,Ambassadors and ministers of various countries was like opening a new world for me.
The word ‘embassy’ is literally taboo if you are in Services, because meeting foreigners is not the done thing.But being in NDC, we were invited to embassies of different countries and the parties there were more windows to the world.
Calling on the ‘President’ every March and having tea with them in the Mughal Gardens and take a picture with the ‘First Couple’-all such experiences added to my confidence. It was then that I learnt that President or PM, Defence minister or a Foreign Minister-they are just like us with normal human disposition..only that they have leadership qualities. These interactions helped me overcome my fear of ‘big people’ and I will not get intimidated even if I have to have a conversation with Obama or UN Secretary General.
Air Marshal Jaya Kumar & Mrs Lakshmi Jaya Kumar: He was the deputy Chief of Air Staff and she had a great motherly affection for me. She asked me if I could spare a week to take care of an Airforce exhibition in Santushti Shopping arcade.
For those who do not know about santushti: It was started by Airforce wives welfare organization. It is an exclusive shopping arcade for diplomats and visiting dignitaries to our country. All designers from Rohit Bal Ritu Beri to Ritu Kumar had a boutique there. The whole place is designed by Satish Gujral(former PM IK Gujral’s brother) who is a well known landscapist.
It was like entering into a fairytale land for me. I handled the handicrafts exhibition for a week and realized that I am not a good sales person. I cannot sell or sweet talk people into doing anything that I don’t believe in.
Mrs Srilata Katre: Wife of Late Air Chief Marshal Katre whose concept was made into Santushti has her own boutique called ‘Padakkam’ where only south Indian exclusive silks and jewellery were sold. She approached me during the exhibition days and asked me to take care of her boutique. I was stumped because I am not good at selling and my basic profession is teaching. I conveyed the same to her. She would not take no for an answer.
I ended up taking a sabbatical from my teaching career and turned out to be a good manager of a designer boutique in Santushti. My first client was Air Chief Marshal Suri who wanted to buy a surprise gift for his wife. And then the Singaporean PM who was the Guest of Honor for Republic Day that year. Brazilian President to Hillary Clinton along with Chelsea- I saw them all and interacted with them all. Thanks to NDC, neither their Commandos nor the CIA who came along with these VIPs could intimidate me.
Sharmila Tagore to Shahrukh Khan everybody used to stroll in and enjoy the exclusivity of that complex.
South Africa: Nelson Mandela was free and the friendly relations between India and S Africa were restarted. As a beginner, India wanted to organize a trade expo in Johannesberg. My boss Mrs Katre was actively involved with ITPO and worked as their chief whip for a long time. She was asked to be one of the organizers of this trade fair at Jo’berg and also have her own exhibition there.
I was her right and left arm in all that and the two of us flew to South Africa stayed for 2 months in a self contained apartment and managed most of the show. At 64, she used to make her driver sit in the rear seat because he could not match her speed. He was there only for parking. And she had plans for the next 10 years minimum.
Most of my traits to lead, to take initiative and a zeal for life –I learnt from her.
In my 45 years of life, I have many more people and situations that enabled me to realize my potential as a leader.
So..to be continued!