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Tag: Generosity

Share the credit generously – Lessons from my dad

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“That is what TTN has visualized.” I’d heard my dad say this so many times as I was growing up. TTN was TT Narasimhan, his boss – who relied heavily on my dad as his execution guy. In later years, my father took on the role of the CEO of two group companies and was left to call the shots in these and other businesses. Yet, in almost all public instances, my dad never did anything without indicating that he was only carrying out TTN’s vision. While not comfortable himself with any form of public praise, he was never failed to point out the contribution of TTN, when someone praised or credited him with any success. Even in the hierarchy and sycophancy-laden culture of India in the 70s, it was clear that it was something else that drove my dad.

I recall, once having a big argument (at least that’s how it seemed to me) with my dad, as to why he did not take credit for a lot of what were clearly his own ideas and doing. My dad gave me the indulgent smile he was wont to, when he felt I was being particularly childish or unreasonable. “Son, keep in mind, that all I’m able to do is because of the freedom and trust, not to mention the capital that TTN has provided. It’s in his name that we are borrowing money – that enables  us to do what we are doing.” He could see clearly that this did not cut much ice with me. “Even without all of that, there are two things to keep in mind son,” he continued. “It does take vision – not everyone can provide it. And giving credit to others does not take anything away from your own contribution.”

I can’t say that I was convinced that day. Several years later, when he had hired several PhDs in the research department of the pharmaceutical firm he was the CEO off, I saw this in action again. My dad had only graduated from high school, as his father’s death while he was still in 9th standard, and the family’s financial situation did not allow him to pursue a college degree. So here was a man, with no formal qualifications other than a high school diploma from a small town in  Tamil Nadu, who’d worked his way up from accounting apprentice through chief accountant to eventually CEO of two firms. “All credit has to go to our scientists for how well our firm is doing today,” was his constant refrain.

At my father’s funeral last year, many strangers came up to me and said “I was able to pursue college or go overseas only because of your dad.” So my dad’s exhortation to “Spread the credit” clearly had not undermined him in any way – his actions spoke loud enough.

This is a lesson that I’ve finally begun to appreciate and practice. Let me tell you about all that things that I’ve learned from Rajagopal….

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Be Generous – Lessons from my dad

As in my worst fears, the call came early in the morning, just before 3AM California time. When the phone rang the first time, I rejected the call, reckoning it was a colleague in India, who’d lost track of time. When the phone rang again within minutes, this time with caller ID showing another colleague’s name, I knew something was amiss.

“Sri, I am sorry to inform you your father has passed away!” At first, I was not sure I had heard right. My first thought strangely was for my colleague who had the unpleasant task of having to call me with bad news. I almost felt apologetic that I had put him in such a position. Maybe it was shock and I was not ready to hear that my father was no more.

Rushed calls to my travel agent, wondering what to tell the kids sleeping in the next room – the next thirty-six hours were a blur – neither Icelandic volcanoes spewing ash, nor delayed flights and uncooperative flight supervisors would get in the way of our making it back to India. The nearly two hour trip from the tarmac to my father’s home felt longer than the whole journey.

“Your father paid for me to go to college and then got me started on my Chartered Accountancy apprenticeship,” said the stranger, who’d come to the funeral. He looked to be about 40 years old. “Your dad was also the one who helped my brother go the United States,” he continued. There were nearly 150 people at home when I got in from the airport, most of them extended family and a good many folks that I didn’t know. Much of the afternoon, was spent recounting tales of how my father had helped someone buy a house, another furnish one and still another get a compound wall put in.

Second cousins who’d grown up in my house abounded and had their own tales of getting jobs with my dad’s help. I recall when I was a young teen, some relative admiring my father’s watch. I was aghast when my father removed it and insisted that the relative have the watch.

That evening I recall my sister and I arguing with my dad, that if he just gives away stuff, we’d probably not have anything – not that we knew what we had. My dad just laughed at first. Then when he saw how serious we were, he said “There’s great pleasure in giving – I’d say more so than even receiving.” My sister, ever the smart alec quickly retorted, “Then you’ll be happy to give and I will be happy to receive.”

It was only many years later that I learnt about my father’s journey to the city as an impoverished young man with three rupees in his pocket. While he became a successful man over the years, he never stopped giving regardless of his own financial status. His life itself was one critical lesson – “Be Generous”

My father Dr. K. Kuppuswamy passed away on the 24th of May 2011.

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