Thursday, June 13, 2013

Operation Vijay: The School of the Gentlemen Cadets

I guess it was 'V Mamu' (maternal uncle) who instilled it in us. And the 'pukka' School of the 'Gentleman Cadets',  that we grew up with.

The 'Vijay-I' spirit. My baby cousin bro- 'Kaps' and I - your beloved niece and nephew - grew up on your shoulders. All those years you were single and working at the world's best airports.. flying around exotic locations with your crested shirts. We grew up watching those 747-jets take off on the runway, of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. Where you worked at one of India's top airlines -- and where you retired from eventually. 'Kaps' went to become 'Head Boy' of one of India's top boys' schools, eventually graduating from Harvard.

I entered the squadron of the 'Elite' Air Force warriors - in one of Delhi's most competitive schools, which rarely took 'Non-Air Force' students.. nailing the NTSE, MENSA, fighting stand-offish but GL Indian guys for Ivy league dreams and getting those two Masters degrees.. Still not feeling it's enough. You were one of the first people who bragged about my first Financial Times article, when I was 24 years old in London. Showing the print-out to all the 'Uncles and Aunties' in Doon Valley, "Look where my niece has been published". I still remember that day with smile..and the rest of the family trying to quell your excitement.

I was also blessed with three of the MOST 'Gentleman Cadet' bosses.. B, D and the late Andrew, three 'pukka', but liberal Brits, who launched my life and career for over 2 years on Oxford Street in London  (across Selfridges, where I bought my 'Filofax' for Dad, with my first salary). All of you epitomized that 'Public school', Graham Greene spirit -- and now lead two top global microfinance and clean technology firms, working in China and Africa. Dear Andrew -- bless him-- would sit reading his 'blasted email' and tell me to "Finish that FT article NOW, Leah - and please go home early.." His never-ending banter about cricket-clubs and intolerance of British snobbery, continue to inspire even today.  B was a former-McKinsey consultant and head of the elite Oxford St. Consulting firm, where he gave me my first job. He hired me on the spot, seeing my passion for management consulting, Digital Tech and the Benz, who were one of their big clients at the time :) He weaned and led me through the maze of consulting for over 2 years, sending me on those umpteen trips to 'the Benz's' Milton Keynes-Head Office, knowing how much I loved the 'bl..y Deutsch AG' (Aktien Gesselschaft). 

DG was even more aristocratic but strangely approachable - the head of the Financial Times's Digital Tech section. He gave me my first big break in the Financial Times -- pushing me to strive higher, for over the 2 years that I worked 12-hour days, in dark London. You believed in a raw and driven Indian girl, who preferred eating fish and chips in crusty newspapers and talking about Graham Greene, in the land that took her country's Kohinoor diamond. Than chase after a silleeh husband :) I detested the and loved the Brits at the same time :) And both of you continue to inspire, support and give me references even today :)

The same culture of the 'Gentlemen Cadets' we grew up with in our ancestral home in Doon Valley - the IMA - India Military Academy continued with your voice. I remember the morning walks along Doon School and Welhams -- by our ancestral home's lychee orchards.. you telling us to, "Say Hi to the Gentlemen Cadets, kids", taking their strolls outside the IMA. The Himalayas looking on..above us.

I guess we had to be it. Along with Dad-- another self-made voice-- it was YOU who told us to live upto the family spirit. The Aviators.

Both of our us had the same goal.. which kind of seeped into our bones.. to be the best of the best. Even today, you tell me to stick on. Fight it out. Don't settle for the second best.
Last night, we talked about BRAHMOS and the INS 'Viraat', the Indian Navy carrier. You told me, 'Write about it beta, for your Dad'..sitting all that way, apparently 'retired' in Doon Valley, but still Flying High. 
Thank you for instilling the 'Vijay-i' spirit in us. We won't let you down.

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