Kanchana’s father walked out on her family when she was eight months old. Her mother, Valli, brought her up with help from Kanchana’s grandmother. Tragedy struck again—Valli was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemo and radiation treatments. The grandmother became the single breadwinner for the family, working as a gardener. Kanchana studied hard, won a scholarship to a prestigious government engineering college. The scholarship includes a laptop which she couldn’t have afforded otherwise.
This is a speech I delivered in my Toastmasters a while back, pretending the audience to be my fellow alumni and students from my alma mater.
In 1978, a family of three arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 700 dollars to their names, and all their possessions in two suitcases. They knew one woman in the city, the one friend they had made in India when she was passing through and needed a place to rest in-between flights. Now they were relying on her to put them up for a night or two while they found housing. You could say they were naïve, you could call them foolhardy, but they had aspirations. The man was going to do his higher studies, and the woman and the one-and-a-half-year-old daughter tagged along.
Bharathy Bhaskar is a household name in Tamil Nadu. Her motivational talks draw thousands, and her YouTube videos are seen by millions. She is a celebrity and needs no introduction. Why would she agree to a webinar to inspire the students of an engineering college in Chennai? Therein lie some great leadership lessons – a lesson in modesty, a lesson in compassion, and a lesson in the spirit of giving back.
Annika, a Palo Alto High School student, invited me to talk to the students of SAKALA, Haiti about the jobs of the future. Sakala serves as Cite Soleil’s only youth community center, to develop children and young adults through athletics, agronomy, and education. Founded as a Pax Christi peacebuilding project, Sakala builds people of courage and character, to strengthen the families and communities of Cite Soleil. I could not deliver this presentation live due to internet issues but had fun putting this together for their use.
Starting with the tombstone inscription in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, “first Brahmin woman who came to America to become a doctor”, this tale of two countries and two females – Anandi-bai Joshee of India and her “adopted aunt” Theodocia Carpenter of America captures your attention and holds it until the very end.
If I were to characterize 2019, I would say that it was a year of mentoring. I interacted with some great mentees and was fortunate to play a small part in their aspiring lives. In the process, I gained a lot.