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Never forgetting where I came from

Am grateful for all I have been blessed with. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.

27 years ago, on 11th March, I obtained a Central Railway identity card that helped me travel in suburban trains in Mumbai. At that time, I could only afford 2nd class travel.

This year on 11th March I posted this news on LinkedIn. As of 25th March about 506,000 people had seen it, about 5900 had interacted and over 300 commented on it.

I didn’t post for the statistics. I didn’t post for people to shower praises (and some criticism too). And I didn’t want this to become a forum for discussing politics or politicians. The post touched a chord somewhere and that’s the only way I can describe it and in doing that I think I achieved my objective.

When I look at that ID card, I am reminded of all the struggles and the strife. My main commute was between Dadar Railway station, the closest station to where I lived and Vikhroli Railway station the closest to where I worked. The walk from home was the longest. It didn’t matter if it was summer or monsoon, I had to make this trek every day. In summer my clothes were usually drenched in my own sweat, when walking to the station.

At the station it was difficult to reach the platform. Getting into the second class compartment was a challenge. Thankfully I was going in the wrong direction of peak crowds but even then, we were packed like sardines in a can. I remember trying to stand near the doorway to catch some of the breeze. Getting a seat was impossible. Pickpocketing was rampant and I had to guard my wallet. It is here that I learnt to place my wallet in the front pocket and not my back pocket. This is a practice with me even today.

Getting down at Vikhroli station was easier as most of the crowds had gone by then. The walk to work was a challenge since I had to ascend a steep incline to reach the main road. The clothes that had dried during the train ride would get damp again. The office had air-conditioning which was a blessing.

I still remember the greatest street food being served just outside these stations. Vikhroli station had a vendor that made bhajiyas (if you don’t know what that is please Google it). I am sorry, he made the world’s BEST bhajiyas. I remember the onion and the potato ones. They were mouthwatering. Outside Dadar Railway station there was the proverbial vada-pav and there was Ussacha Ras (sugar cane juice). On Ranade Road I remember buying Khari Biscuit (again the best in the world) and also browsing second hand bookstores that were there a plenty.

The point is, the travel kept me grounded and helped heal my otherwise damaged ego. After all I had an American education and yet was struggling to make ends meet. I made the wrong choices and I learnt from my mistakes.

Today the mistakes don’t matter, the lessons I learnt do. I travel in luxury compared to when I couldn’t afford a cab. All that I learnt makes me aware of the needs of those who continue to struggle. It helps me be human in what is often considered a heartless role. The most important lesson for me was that I held on to my values and eventually life brought me to SAGE. Here I get to practice what I believe in, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to help others achieve their objectives. I won’t say I can change lives, but I can surely influence them positively.

The ID Card is my connect with a past that made me what I am. It will always be a symbol of hope for me. It reminds me of all that I am capable of, even in the harshest of times. It reminds me that every tough time will pass, and that I am made tough enough to pass through it.

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