What makes some folk succeed against all odds while others, in spite of privileges and family push, simply refuse to make something meaningful of their lives?
Exactly thirty-seven years ago, a girl was born in the small village of Deoli near Kota in Rajasthan. A very traditional Rajasthani family, where the senior women members of the family stayed veiled and education girls in co-education schools was unheard of, the very bright child was denied an opportunity to pursue science and sent to an arts school, which was the only girls’ school in the vicinity. For college, the women in the family were not allowed to step out of the home and lecturers were invited to come home and teach and try and inspire in this closed environment.
In spite of all these odds, the young lady was supported by the women in her family and also motivated by her Economics teacher to aspire for a career in the administrative services. While Kota is justifiably famous for IIT coaching, preparing for the UPSC exams needed her to travel to Delhi and go through rigorous preparation. To avoid any external contact, everything she needed, from clothes to soap was delivered from her Rajasthan home and she never stepped out to shop or entertain herself. And what could be seen as a just reward for her commitment, Rubal made it into the Indian Administrative Service in 2008.
From these beginnings, Rubal has had an astonishing career to the present day when she has been the very dynamic Additional Commissioner of the Pune Municipal Corporation and recently promoted as Commissioner and moving to Navi Mumbai. Prior to this, she had taken additional responsibility as Pune Smart City CEO and before her posting in Pune was the CEO of the Shirdi Trust and Jalgaon collector, where she has been credited for major transformations in the religious shrine of the Shirdi Sai Baba. Now happily settled with her tech-savvy husband Prakher and eight-year-old son Rishiv, Rubal Agarwal is on a career track that will continue to move upwards, a true testimony to the opportunities that still abound for talented and diligent young folks to make a mark in this country.
What makes some folk succeed against all odds while others, in spite of privileges and family push, simply refuse to make something meaningful of their lives? In a session with a few dozen new joiners in our own companies, somebody asked the question, “Where does the motivation to succeed come from?’’ In the days of our parents and grandparents, that motivation came from sheer necessity, to do something better than one’s own family background so that our parents and elders and of course our children can live a better life. Our own experience at Lighthouse Communities and our family foundation has been that the urban slum dweller still has that motivation and with some work in creating “agency” or the aspiration to dream and realise those dreams, thousands of young lives we touch every month are getting inspired to do exactly that.
“She is on a career track that will continue to move upwards, a true testimony to the opportunities that still abound for talented and diligent young folks to make a mark in this country”
The challenge comes in instilling inspiration into young folk who are born in small families, have the entitlements provided by doting parents and still find themselves shirking hard work and choose a path to work and succeed. It is so easy then to harangue against Indian education, rush to the US, UK or Australia after school and somehow try to fit into a place that provides an escape from the fiercely competitive environment in our own country. Young folks like my eighteen-year-old mentee in Chennai, Surya who was one of the toppers in the IIT entrance exams, finished at IIT Madras with flying colours and is now taking a one year break with a startup after securing his admission in IIM Ahmedabad, are an exception, while the larger mass seem to drift without purpose and end up pursuing either second rate academic careers or meaningless jobs which frustrate them even more. And with the onslaught of Covid-19 and too much of enforced studying and working from home, the tendency to become isolated, withdraw into a shell and pour out one’s frustrations in WhatsApp groups is the norm, a disturbing negative trend that needs to be nipped in the bud.
As we hopefully near the end of a traumatic pandemic, it may be good to find a true well-meaning mentor or corporate coach who can help us take a renewed look at our purpose and find pathways and means to fulfil our true potential. In corporate circles, we know that for every large change needing a hundred people, a leader will probably find five champions and fifty followers and will then have to deal with thirty sceptics and fifteen blockers. The solution for CEOs, parents and every group leader is to find ways to overcome the objections and fears of the sceptics, eliminate the blockers and progress to the goal.
It is probably in the fitness of things that Rubal, who is a shining example of agency, aspirations and hard work for success is the prime supporter in the Pune Municipal Corporation of our wonderful Lighthouse communities in Pune City Connect. She and visionary Commissioners like Kunal Kumar, Saurabh Rao and now Vikram Kumar have been a pillar of support for a mission that is now ready to scale nationally and impact a million youth and their families. Long may their kind flourish!