Friday, July 29, 2016

Interview with a New Born

Fresh, Young, Enthusiastic, and ‘just out of Tummy’. The candidate in front of me was one of the brightest I had ever seen.

“So, tell me about yourself”, I said.

Well I’m less than a week old. New to this world. I’m keen to learn new things. Explore my potential and give it my best shot.

Something about your background?

My parents are well-settled, well-educated and my mom and dad tell me that I’m a really great kid. They say I’m the best thing that ever happened in their life. We are a happy regular middle class family with our values in place.

Hmm. Middle class huh? So engineer, doctor, lawyer etc. That’s your life plan?

Not all all. I’m lucky not to be among those who feel that their kids should be restricted to what their parents say they need to be. My parents have a clear mind-set that I can be whatever my heart desires.

What do you want to be then?

I don’t know, I’m still young. I want to see the world, explore possibilities. Try a few things. See what I like. See what I’m good at. Only then ill decide.

But this world is getting fast and competitive. You can’t take forever to decide. In fact there are kids at the age of 5, who are achieving great things these days.

Are you serious? That’s insane. Maybe a one-off case.
I’m pretty sure that I will do only what I enjoy doing as of now.  

I think you live in a very unrealistic world my friend.

Things have changed. From the moment you are born, there are set milestones for you, which is more like a race actually.

Within a year, you HAVE to walk and talk. Your toys aren’t going to be just soft cuddlies, but educational and scientifically designed.

This doesn’t seem right. I have my whole lifetime ahead of me to learn and pick up these skills. What’s the hurry? Ain’t I a child who need to simply enjoy my childhood innocence and absorb the happiness of the best years of my life.

Like I said, a lot has changed. In a way it was a good thing when parents expected just one thing from their kids. Engineer, Doctor, or simply handle the family business.

You mean to say it’s a bad thing, when my parents say I can be whatever I want to be?

It’s not a bad thing. It’s just that its more confusing and pressurising. Since the world is an open canvas for you. We expect you to be good at not one thing, but at everything. This way we ensure you can become anything you want.

But at what price? This seems lop-sided. Frankly, I didn’t expect things this way. Can we make a few changes in this rigid system and go back to what it used to be like, in the good old days?

Unfortunately no. But you are not alone. Your parents are going to sacrifice a lot for you. Your father will work harder to earn some more money so you can be financially secure. Your mother will sacrifice her professional life to be with you all the time, so she can take you to the best classes and ensure you come back home and practice all that you’ve learnt.

That’s sweet of them. But I’d rather spend time with them doing things we enjoy. Like going for a walk. A picnic at the beach. Playing games in the garden. I’d love to learn how to pick mangoes from trees and taste them right there. I’m going to tell them this in more ways than one.

Oh! Don’t be disappointed. Not only will you get that, but more. The only catch is they will all be educational trips. Every outing will be about learning new things, knowing the world’s facts and figures.

Wow. That is a completely different perspective to what I thought childhood was about.

Anyway, so what value are you going to add to our world?

That’s easy. I’m going to ensure my parents and me are a happy family.  A child is supposed to bring joy and a greater bonding. I’m going to ensure I do my best to give them all the love I have got for them.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Five years. Well haven’t thought much about it. But I guess by five, ill learn to walk, talk, run, know what I enjoy most, and have lots of toys, and friends to play with.

I laughed loudly and exclaimed. My dear child, you’ve got this all wrong.

By five you would be expected to master at least one sport. Have a vast vocabulary.  You have to be good at music and dramatics.
Some of us, will expect a bunch of medals, trophies too.
You have to be disciplined, well mannered and have good habits like waking up early, sleeping on time, eating well balanced meals, no junk and few more other things.

That’s a lot of expectations you have for a fresher like me.

And what’s with no junk? So when do I get to eat all that yummy stuff? I’m sure by the time I get older, I won’t be allowed all that anyway.

Well, you know what. I’m not getting a good feeling about this whole childhood thing. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to survive with all this pressure.

Oh c’mon. We aren’t going to give up so easily. We will take you to the best of the best child psychologists. We will pay top dollar to ensure you get the best treatment.

Treatment? For what? I’m just fine.

That’s what you think, my dear. Latest research shows a lot of children of your age, get serious mental illnesses like ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism etc.

ADHD. Whats that?

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

You got to be kidding me. If I make you do 4 things a day with no quality time for myself. I’m bound to get a bit irritated and lack attention. How much can you expect from someone my age.

I’m not saying it. A few tests you take, will.

And what about belief in your own upbringing, values and teachings. You guys don’t trust that?

I think this discussion is going nowhere.

Lets get this straight. If you jumped in the water, you’ve got to learn to swim.

But I didn’t jump in the water. You are throwing me in it.

I cant express much. I can cry, have mood swings, show you I’m disappointed in my own way, sometimes even confide in you and tell you that I’m not prepared to do something you are forcing me into.

Don’t label me as a bad child.

Don’t give up on me.

Don’t say I’m good for nothing.

I wont be able to take this pressure. I’m small. I need your hand. I need your smile. I don’t need to be told that I need to try harder.

I need a hug and be told that its ok. If you don’t like doing it, lets just go home and enjoy ourselves. Lets take a break today, just you and me. Tickle me. Make me laugh. Lets watch a fun movie together. Lets go shopping for goodies.

Don’t wake me up in the morning by screaming I’m late for something YOU are interested in. Kiss me on my cheeks. Draw the curtain slowly. Tell me it’s a wonderful day.

Treat me like a child. Give me time. I will live up to all YOUR expectations some day.

Wait a minute. You just said, your parents have no expectations from you. They want you to do whatever your heart desires.

Well like you said. I guess it was better when parents expected just one thing from their child. I guess in the whole process I’m the only hope of all their expectations.

~ ~ ~

Breaks down. Inconsolable.

Mother comes running and takes him to change his nappy, feed him, check if he’s feeling hot or cold.

Enjoy these few moments while they last, little one. In their eyes you may be a prince or a princess. But in today’s world, with great love, comes great expectations.

~ ~ ~

World best Dad. World best Mom. Its time we stop taking the compliment so seriously. We have nothing to prove to the world. But one day we will have to answer our children.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Footprints in her mind

Even before I unlock the door, my family knows I’m back from office because the 300 million olfactory receptors in my pet Labradors nose get activated even before my car drives into the garage, and the vigorous wagging of her tail, gives away my whereabouts.

Few feet behind her, is a now four-and-a-half year old Samaira, who’s understood this signal, and is waiting eagerly - not for me, but what my bag has inside for her.

Its almost become some sort of rule now, that I have to get something for her when I come home.

 Sometimes a chocolate, a box of crayons or a small toy. Many a times I have to get special orders, thanks to the heavily advertised products on cartoon channels.

I still recall hunting over 8 shops for a particular brand of soap that was offering a ‘free’ Cinderella pendant. 

Obviously, Samaira wasn’t interested in the soap.

 On occasions when I’ve forgotten to get anything, I fish out a five rupee coin from my pocket and tell her that I worked hard all day to get this for her. The trick used to work, till she realised that with five bucks you couldn’t really buy much.

 I think I went too far on one instance when I cusped both my palms together and told her I got some fresh air from the A/C of my office. Sadly, that one didn’t work.

 And before many of you will rightfully say I’m spoiling her, I'll simply take cover, and wait for the bullets to fly past, till I can give you an explanation.

 Guilty! Yes I am.

 But that’s what most fathers do, when the we feel we don’t spend enough time with our kids - We try and compensate by buying materialistic things. 

Much to the dismay of my wife, who tries hard to inculcate good values in her instead.

 - - - - 

A few days back, I got home something else.

 I got home - my work stress.

 I was having a bad day at work. Then I had to fight traffic to get home. Followed by a complaint call by a client.

 By the time I reached home I was so tired that I just walked passed both, a very surprised Tiara and Samaira, and without saying a word went to freshen up.

I ignored her while she tried asking me what I had got her. So much so, that even Swetal, my wife, was a bit alarmed.

 Then Samaira, came to me for a usual round of wrestling but I snapped back at her and asked her to leave me alone.

 My wife quickly bundled her up into the other room and I stomped out to have my dinner which was already served.

 By the time I was done, and a bit of my senses were calmed, Samaira was fast asleep in bed. I looked at her innocent face, and sensed her disappointment.

 Swetal, my wife told me that she kept asking for me while she was dozing off. The next morning I left early to work, much before she woke up.

 By noon, the pressure on the project cooled off, and soon I realized that it wasn’t as big a deal than I had made of it in my head.

 That evening, I went home with my usual gift.

 Luckily, I ‘did’ have the same wagging tail, and eager eyes looking at my bag when I walked in.

 But there was a definitely a slight hesitance in the air, and I realized that Samaira was checking, if I was still in a bad mood.

 I rushed in and hugged them both, and she giggled with joy on getting her present .


Knowingly, or unknowingly, we leave our footprints in the minds of our children. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Our actions, words, thoughts and deeds, impact their personalities.

 But more importantly how we behave with them shapes their relationships with ‘us’.

 How many times have we heard of people being close only to one parent, and sometimes to none. We too have made our choices, haven’t we? 

But if asked, what was that turning point, it’ll be hard for us to recollect the exact moment when we picked sides. 

As parents we try hard to ensure that our children love us both equally. We are careful not to argue in front of them. We work as a team to guide them to distinguish right from wrong. How many times have we heard that a child’s mind is like clay. Its time we realize that at this tender age, our actions will shape their world, and ‘ours too’. 

- - - -

 A few nights later, Samaira cuddled up to me, and timidly asked me. “Papa, are you still angry on me?”

 I hugged her tightly, and I said “Sorry boo, it wasn't your fault at all”.

 I think at that moment my growing girl understood a lot more than I wanted her to. 


Friday, May 20, 2016

Making Memories...

For two years, every morning we drove to school. Twenty minutes of ‘our time’.
Sometimes, we drove leisurely and sometimes, in a mad rush. Samaira, now in preschool, was quick to point out that I had jumped the red light and I did a bad thing (something she had learnt recently).

En route, we had intense discussions, right from what a metro train is, to ‘heated’ debates on whether the Minions liked bananas or papayas. On some days we sang funny versions of “Let it go” from the movie she loved- Frozen, and sometimes we played Name- Place-Animal-Thing.

Ironically, my favourite mornings were those when she simply took her princess print blanket and slept off. On those days, I would let her sleep it out, till the clock struck 8:30 am, while I would simply watch her sleep. After which I would tap her gently, and carry her all the way to the school gate while she continued to be half asleep.

“Bye Boooo!” I would yell at the top of my lungs, when she would reach the gate of the school building, as she smiled, and sometimes she slapped her forehead playfully with her palm, making it evident that she was embarrassed of my antics.

On the last day of school before the summer vacations set in, I dropped her, as usual to the gate and waited for her to turn around and say goodbye, and then it hit me that our daily routine would now be broken. 

What hit me even harder was that from the next semester on, her school timings would be from noon to evening and I wouldn’t be in a position to go everyday and drop her, because my office timing wouldn’t permit.

I quickly had the urge to click a picture, maybe take a video of us travelling in the car, or a selfie of us, maybe ask one of the parents at the gate photograph us walking. But I lost the moment as she disappeared into the hallways. 

She was gone and I didn’t even have a single memento of these wonderful moments we shared every day, for two whole years.

As I walked back to the car, I thought of the days when my father walked me, to my preschool. I clearly remember some moments, where a particular patch of the road was tiled, and I always jumped ‘in’ the large square tiles, trying not to to set a foot on the cemented crevices, some funny game I invented in my head.

On days we were early, we took slight detour and walked through a garden instead of the road. Those were my most cherished moments.

I have no photographs of those days but they are clearly etched in my memory, and many a times I recreate those memories using my own imagination. 


I smiled.

Having no pictures was a good thing!

With cameras in cell phones these days, every moment is ‘so defined’.

Right from how kids are born, to all activities in vacations, to clothes we didn’t buy (just wore in changing rooms), small events, a drive to a restaurant nearby, an impromptu meeting with a friend- We have a picture for everything, which defines each moment in HD Quality.


This summer we went for a short vacation, and hardly clicked any pictures. 

We came back with not a disc full of pictures, but a heart full of memories. 

Memories - that were open to imagination. 

Things we did, and places we saw, that could be tweaked, manipulated, and blown out of proportion using vague facts and our own versions of what happened.

To top it up, at the end of the vacation, we drew a picture of the parts she enjoyed the most.

___ ___ ___

Try this experiment....

In this age of social media, where sharing your pictures on popular image sites and apps, judge your social status- Do something different, and “click a picture from your heart”.

So the next time you see your child do something for a first time. That moment you want to treasure forever. Don’t reach out to your pocket for your camera, or cell phone.

Take your hand, shut your eyes and capture that moment in your heart.

That moment is what you will treasure forever.

A moment that you can change the brightness not of the lighting, but of the mood. Add filters of joy and happiness. Crop out the noise and maybe add a sound track of laughter. 

Finally, Tuck it down memory lane.

That moment doesn’t need to be judged by likes, but by love.
___ ___ ___

As for me, I can always tell my daughter about the adventures we had when I dropped her to school every day (Like the a day a tiger crossed our path :-p) . She might get bored of hearing them every time and might just shut me up, but since there will be no visual proof of them, I can always come up with a new story about those days to get her interested again.

The moments that I will treasure in my heart forever till my last day.

The moments I will see when I shut my eyes for the last time and say good bye to the world.

Moments beyond pages of photo albums, ahead of timelines on my facebook page, and larger than what any memory card can fit in.

How many such moments do you have?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Confessions of an Advertising DAD

First 7 Days. First 4 weeks. First Year. First 1000 days. First 5 years. Junior School. Check Point. Senior School. Boards. Graduation. Masters. Doctorate.

Your child’s milestones will pass by as fast as you read the above line.

If capturing the first time they smiled, first word, first time they walked, first day at school, first time on stage, and so many firsts weren’t enough, we have started adding more to the list these days.

Confession: As a father I savour these moments.  As an advertiser, me and my colleagues in our profession salivate.

We have realised that there is an opportunity to sell enthusiastic parents- a product, a brand, a service, and create a marketing opportunity at each of these stages.

And as parents we gladly succumb.

We make you preserve the umbilical cord to protect your child (from 100 plus unheard of diseases with a promise that we are researching many more) 

The nutritional milk additive for the first 1000 days.(Because we convinced you that after 1000 days any nutrition is not as effective)

The multivitamin drink, for height, weight and wait a minute – Brain health! 

(And we proved it by showing you a TV commercial comparing two flashy schools. In reality while one school was a normal school, the other one was a rural school, where the kids didn’t even get two proper square meals, and suddenly were given food and the nutritional drink)

And the grand milestone of 5 years. 

(This one was the hare out of the hat, that tricked everyone). 

Because a not so credible (almost mythological) research says that a child can learn maximum until that age. 

Someone please tell me if they have 'actually read' that particular research paper that makes the claim, and prove it’s credibility.

Let me tell you what it says...

“Many children in developing countries are exposed to multiple risks for poor development including poverty and poor health and nutrition. The children will subsequently do poorly in school”

So what we basically did was took a study of children below the poverty line and showed it to people above that line by miles, and convinced you that YOU should be worried about your child’s growth and nutrition.

This all started with many traps.

Things like luxury automobile branded prams, then designer cots and so on. 

The market is now flooded with these products because of the sheer market potential. 

But that doesn’t concern me. I’m all for parents who want to pamper their child with the best products money can buy. There is nothing unethical in that.

What concerns me is when parents make their “children” the victim of these marketing stunts.

A 1 year old child attending a school before he has learn to walk or talk!

A 2 year old child attending, a school after play school with quarterly fees equivalent to the amount that funded my entire education!

A 3 year old child who just learnt to write alphabets –Now also attending creative writing camps!

A 4 year old child visiting personality workshops!

A 5 year old child grasping Vedic mathematics!

And that’s not all, some children attending more than 3 of them a day besides school!!!

I’m not against any of these classes also. It’s good to keep children occupied. I’m not judging any parents either (after all they are my Target audience on my professional front). 

Each one to themselves and I respect all kinds of parenting styles.

If I consider myself as an involved father, this is just a small peek into another passion of my life- Creative Advertising and Marketing.

In our profession as advertisers and marketers there are a few things one should know.

One of the main tricks is Gap Analysis.

Gap Analysis is basically studying what’s available in the market within a particular domain and then finding the missing piece and placing your product or service there.

Let’s take some brands you may have used.

We all buy washing powders. Market research found that some people found the smell of clothes after washing with detergents very clinical. So there is a gap for a product that makes clothes smell good. Enter the launch of a liquid you insert in the washing machine, after clothes are washed so you can have better smelling clothes. 

But the real trick is in Branding. 

So we brand this liquid- Fabric softener. 

Because research said that no one will pay a heavy price to just have clothes smell good in a wardrobe, so you add the softening angle and 

Blockbuster product.

Now, playschool, preschool, junior school. 
But what about school for kids between 6 months and 1.5 years? Is there a Gap?

Now we know that it’s difficult for a teacher to manage such small kids. 
The product would simply fail, if children were bawling in the class all the time. 
So let mothers come to school with them. 

Viola again – Mother-Toddler Classes. 

Oh! You joined it? Thank you. 

Moving on…

The magic wand called Advertising.

A shoe that shapes your butt. 

A low calorie sweetener. 

A tea-powder that’s healthy. 

An all natural fruit juice. 

Confession: Just like that, we convinced you to join a All round development in Play-School with two types for you to choose from Montessori vs Playway Method. So we diverted your mind from whether you should send you child to playschool at all to chosing between the two methods. 

Making parents who chose not to send any- Unconcerned and Callous!

Again I’m not against it. 

I sent my own daughter to one, and I think the teachers there do a great job, and really take efforts to make your child more social.

But if parents are expecting their children to excel in academics and creativity there. I think there is a problem as a father. 

But as an advertiser I just won another account.

Turn the page to another chapter in Marketing. 

Cross-selling and Up-selling.

Cross-selling is when you go to buy a bed, and the salesman sells you a mattress and bed linen too.

Up-selling is when you walk in gingerly to a gym for a 1 month membership, but land up signing up for a Annual Gold Membership with a personal trainer, to use all the facilities. 

So we trap you to buy more products, or more expensive than what you walked in to buy.

Just like you wanted your child to simply stay occupied for an hour in some story telling class. 

But because the teacher told you that your child has potential in the subject, you signed up for speech and drama too and added the music classes just to make sure you are not leaving any stone unturned in the making of the superstar child’s future.

You think that was a rare one-in-a-million case, we think of it as a common way to make our millions.

One more section in marketing – AIDA
Attention (or Attraction)

The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, to interest him, then to convince him, so he will believe it. 

Did you know that the ice-cream you see in commercials, is actually potatoes? 

Real ice-cream would melt under the harsh lights!

The soap that the model bathes in is actually acrylic. 

A real one would be all slimy!

Remember the impressive dance teacher you see in the advertisements or brochures. 

That’s all you are going to see of them.

Or the one you met, with a great personality and elocution, who spent all of 30 minutes orienting you to the syllabus of their “internationally acclaimed course”. 

Her job is to simply meet eager parents and get them to pay the fees, sometimes humiliating them if they don't succumb- and giving them the feeling like if you don't send your child for this class, its like you don't care.

Remember the line...Jo biwi se kare pyaar, woh Prestige se kaise kare inkaar!

Most classes, who have a celebrity face, are being run by their students. (Some very talented ones - I agree) 

So your child attends those kinds of classes? 

Thanks again. 

Ill approach those institutions for a expansion plan and a advertising campaign in a few days.

These are just few examples.  

And if you think that you are smart and make informed choices, remember we are much ahead of the curve and are already plotting our next move for you to fall in.

We love you enthusiastic parents. You are what we call Baby Boomers generation, who think you’ll are different, privileged and demand better services, better products and feel that the world is going to change with your and your child's existence.

My intention is not against any particular class, any franchise or any chain of schools. I am no one to say which one your child should go to, how many they should attend and why!

My point is clear and I want to say just one thing… 

Now that you, dear parent, have seen the big, bad world...If I could give you your childhood back, what would you do?  

Would you go hopping from one class to another to learn something you are being pushed into because you once said that you liked doing it? 

Or would you simply live to laugh again? 

Sleep an extra one hour?

Climb a tree one branch higher just to see what the view is from there?

Dive into a river and enjoy the cool water?

Take a walk on the beach?

Listen to another story from your parents about their life?

Attempt to break one more mango from the tree and relish it?

There will be many years for them to learn how to dance, act, solve a jigsaw puzzle, learn an abacus, draw, paint, pronounce words correctly, solve an educational game and life’s many other skills.

Taking a cue from the one of the most successful and wealthiest singers in India- Jagjit Singh...

Ye daulat bhi le lo ye shohrat bhi le lo
Bhale chhin mujhse meri jawani
Magar mujhko lota de bachpan ka sawan
Woh kagaz ki kashti wo barish ka pani

Take a moment and give your child a hug, sit amongst nature and tell your kids about how your day went. Not just promise but take them for a picnic to a local park. It doesn’t always have to be a international exotic vacation. 

Because one day they ‘will’ graduate with a doctorate, and you would like him to thank YOU - Not his music class teacher.

Listen now. Or regret later. 

(Damn! Even my signoff sounds like a headline for a sale)

I know that a lot of parents are going to be absolutely disgusted with this article, and some will downright disagree with my school of thought. Apologies in Advance. I didnt mean to hurt you in any way. My intentions are in the right place.

If my colleagues in advertising and marketing guys get pissed off - Yes I agree, we also do a lot of other good work where we actually bring positive change and I definitely acknowledge and applaud your efforts there. 

But this was just to highlight the reality, so that little innocent kids don’t get caught in our crossfire. 

Cheers to more sales, awards, clients, accounts and case studies where we develop great work for great brands.

I’m no genius in advertising or marketing and I’m not the best father in the world too. 

Neither do I feel that our style of parenting is the best. 

BUT if you really want a child to manage a large business conglomerate by the day, dance and play a guitar at the office party, paint a masterpiece in his spare time, write a blockbuster book when on a vacation, speak at an award function with his phonics in place, and take official leave to participate in the Olympics. Who am I to stop you? 

_______________ x ________________________

But even if one child gets an extra moment with his mom and dad, an extra hug, or is told one more bedtime story - because of this blog- then a few of my sins will be washed away.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Tale of Two Races

This is a story of two runners - Father and Daughter.

One ran a short 21 km marathon, and the other a long 21 meter race.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

On 17th January 2016, Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, with minimal practice and almost out of form, I woke up early morning and prepared myself for my 3rd Half marathon. 

The crisp and chilly morning wind was a good sign and as we warmed up at the entrance gate, I could feel the excitement and nervousness in the air among almost 15,000 participants at the start line. 

I checked into my facebook account and dedicated my run to my daughter, Samaira.
Because nothing in the world drives inspires a parent more than their child.

As a parent- I know, that if a mountain had to be moved for their child, even the weakest person will become the mightiest.

I had promised her a day earlier I was going to get a medal for her and she innocently said,
“Run fast Papa, and come first”.

I promised her that I would run as fast as I could, knowing that she had no idea that no matter how fast or slow I run, I would get the medal, even if I crawled to the finish line.

These thoughts were quickly submerged by a load roar.

The race began.

Worli Sea Face.

Bandra Worli Sea Link up.

Bandra Worli Sea Link down.

Back to Worli Sea Face.

And then it happened…

I saw a young girl, in her pink pyjamas, wearing spectacles, maybe about 5 years.
She was standing with a plate of biscuits, quietly and almost hidden in the crowd and she waited patiently for runners to take one, if they wanted.

It was 6:30am on a Sunday, she could have chosen to catch some extra sleep if she wanted or make some excuse instead of standing on a road, but she chose to come there, bearing the cold, holding her goodies for people she had never seen, met or known before.

By the time I could manage to get my thoughts together, I had passed her by a few meters. I looked back and thought that just to encourage her actions, I should take a biscuit, tap her little head and say “Thank You’, but by the time I could finish the thought, I was already moving ahead, and it was like swimming against the current to go back and put my thought to action. For a moment I even felt like going back, but I didn’t, it would affect my timing, and I pushed ahead.

I didn't know I would regret that much later.

For the entire Haji Ali sea front that little girl kept crossing my thoughts. Until I reached Peddar road and saw many other children standing there handing out sweets, water and oranges. I tried to thank each one of them, and most of them looked upon me weirdly, and some acknowledged with a smile.

It’s no surprise that I could see my little daughter in that girl and that’s a common thing we parents do when we see cute kids, which also made me tear up a bit.

For those who know me well, would know that I'm quite a leaking tap in the eye department that way.

I managed to pull through Marine Drive and finally up to the finish line at VT, in a decent timing for the effort I had put. About seven minutes slower than my regular timing, but I was thrilled because I was expected to complete in much more time than I did in.

Nonetheless, I took my medal and was satisfied I kept my promise to Samaira.

I almost could visualize her running up to me and saying, “Wow Papa, you kept your promise”, and that thought kept me upbeat even while I was feeling a bit sore in the legs.

Victoriously I went home and kept the medal at the bedside and waited eagerly for Samaira to return from her Grandma’s.

The doorbell rang.

My heart skipped a beat.

She came running in the room.

I looked at her proudly.

Showed her the medal.

Her smile disappeared.

And she said… “but Papa, I wanted a Pink one, and a round one...not this.”
For second my heart broke.

And then we laughed.

She wore the medal and walked around the house for some time and finally returned it back and got back to her dolls and games.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

On January 28th January 2016, about ten days after the marathon, on a hot so called winter afternoon, Samaira prepped up for her sports day.

Eager parents dropped their kids at the gate and they rushed to their teachers and friends, sharing none of the emotions of their nervous and anxious parents.

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A year back, at the same ground, a timid, much younger Samaira stood at the start line and when the whistle went off, she ran hesitatingly and even though she picked up speed. She wasn't sure of what lied ahead and let other participants go ahead, and only after a few finished she went up to the finish line.

I will admit that my heart broke not to see her win, but the little one had no clue then of what was at the other end of the track.

We quickly made two assumptions that day.

One, she was not the sporty type, which was kind of ok.

Two, our daughter was more of the dainty type and would prefer to shine in a dance or fashion show rather than spoil her nail paint on a sports day.

So our expectations were not great.

But there is something that is yet to be told.

A day before the sports day, in a quiet moment, Samaira walked up to us and said- Mama Papa, tomorrow I promise you I will win in the sports day.

Understanding that she wasn't the quickest, we told her that no matter what, we would be proud of her and will always love her, whether she won or not.

Just before we left for the sports day, I asked my wife, Swetal, to take one of my older medals and keep it in her bag, which she did, but also told me that we should teach her what it is to lose.

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The principal declared the sports day open.

The announcer, who also happened to be Samaira’s class teacher, told us to cheer for the march past and to out utter surprise we saw that our little daughter had grown up, and was leading her class proudly with a board that said ‘Junior KG – B’.

She made our day again (life actually).

We clicked pictures in spite of being told not to.

It was a moment to remember.

Our little baby who could barely crawl a couple of years back - was leading her class.
Every kid in the school had so much charisma and panache in their walk. It was unimaginable for us parents, to achieve even half of their confidence, if we knew we had to run a race in the next few minutes.

My mind took me to the marathon start line. I recalled that not one of us was walking confidently and enjoying the moment. We were busy discussing our timing targets, pace plans, hydrating, some praying, and some frantically pacing up and down.

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After a couple of races, finally it was time for Samaira’s race.

My heart beat faster, but I hid it, and acted calm.

The whistle went off.

Within a few seconds, Samaira was at the finish line.

A volunteer was marking her hand and writing No.2 on it.

We were cheering at the top of our lungs.


Podium finish.

Silver Medal.

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 “I told you, I will win a medal” she screamed to us from far, while her principal laughed and looked back, while honored her with her shining new metal.

She had kept her promise.

At the end of the sports day, she saw me from a distance and I ran to me with her prized possession, I picked her up and threw her in the air.

She squealed and laughed.

She knew Papa would never let her fall.

But she didn’t know that he would always help her fly.

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Dear Samaira,

This month two medals came home.

Yours and Mine.

But there is a huge difference between the two.

My 21 kilometers was miniscule and too short a distance - Compared to your task of 21 meters, not in length - but in challenge.

You overcame more than me, because you learnt more.

Your hesitance transformed to confidence.

Your promise transformed to achievement.

 And that’s how you emerged a winner.

Life is like that.

There may be times that people may think that you can’t do certain things. But if you keep your confidence and passion alive, there is nothing that can stop you.

I lied to you about my medal.

I lied to you about my speed.

My medal was just about completing a race which I knew I could do.

You are too small now to know that, and I could easily manipulate you by just showing you my award with a make-believe story.

Your medal was an achievement of what no one thought you would achieve, but yes, all hoped you would.

It’s not just your win we celebrate; it’s the change in you that we are rejoicing about.

We know that you can’t win every race in life, and we don’t expect you to also. I couldn’t be more truthful than that but we are always there in case you feel you can’t even run.

Here’s a story…

There was a girl who stood early morning encouraging and handing out biscuits to runners, like me, whom she never knew, met, or seen in her life before, but she simply enjoyed the moment of helping others achieve their goal.

I selfishly was worried that I wouldn’t finish in my expected time and didn’t thank her for her gesture.

I know for sure, that this little girl will one day, run the Mumbai Marathon, and be cheered on by someone else.

I just hope that one day it’ll be a much older me, cheering on the sidelines, and she will take a biscuit from my tray.

Samaira, what I want to tell you is sometimes we are the runner, sometimes we are the one who cheers and wishes well.

Do both and do them with utmost sincerity and honesty and most importantly enjoy this inevitable race of life.

Always remember that in life, saying ‘Thank you’ is one of the most important things we should do and it costs nothing but means everything to the person who stands there for you.

Thank your teachers, your friends and your elders.

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There is one more thing I learnt.

The actions of parents matter more than words.

If my action inspired you even by a percent I will feel that I have done my role as a parent.

I am not taking away your spotlight. That’s yours only.

But you must know that we will always be there as an audience or spectator watching you, with our hearts racing, no matter what you set out to achieve in life. And we will pray and prepare you, so you can give your best.

We will cheer and clap the loudest when you win, and teach and encourage you the most when you don’t.

We know that if you put your mind to something, you will achieve your best.

And if nothing, remember your Mama and Papa will always have a prize in their bag ready for you,
- and that prize is Love.

And our Love can be whatever color and shape you want.