I wonder how I can sing, what makes me hop, and what makes me fly, and then I break down — it’s only 20 months back since I lost my lifelong partner of 47 years. The wound still oozes.
Contrary to conventional belief, the multitude of my personality has come to my rescue in more ways than one. If Musk could make four disconnected companies tick simultaneously; electric cars, Space X, Twitter (‘X’) and xAI, so can I, the measly me. Is our capacity only limited by our imagination?
My Bridge games with steep peaks and valleys; writing and reading, where I spend countless hours provide fodders for the slow thinking part of my brain — the brain Daniel Kahneman identifies in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow; and painting family members — a tough one for me — is the grout that cements the gaps.
When I attempt to go deeper to learn more than I am capable of, it is a total immersion — better than meditation. These endeavors not only help me get better but are chiseling out a different me.
Then again I start slipping, and a gust of wind gets me airborne again. And I look forward to the new intoxicating experiences and start bouncing and singing again. That is the image of a grasshopper, that I have. Can I fully acquire it’s personality? Or am I being illusionary?
Illusionary personality is not necessarily bad. Back in school, I was horrible at math, and my dad would snap at me “You are simply dumb”. Yet I managed to consistently get the highest grades in math. In engineering school, the most difficult subject I first faced was mechanical drawing — sketching perspective views of objects from their top and side views. I lacked the imagination required, till almost the semester-end. Each year there was a subject outside my league, theory of relativity, electromagnetic theory, non-linear theory, and on and on. Yet I ranked number two rank in the graduating class, in the highly competitive four-year college, in India.
The saga continued when I became an engineer. I remember the fear of getting assigned advanced design projects, which I struggled with. I did not know where to begin, but was very good at analyzing the designs to discover problems with them. Yet I graduated with a 4.0 GPA at UCLA, and secured two patents while working.
After my less-than-ceremonious exit from my startup when the dot.com bubble burst, I threw myself into learning competitive bridge, resumed oil painting after 30 years, and started writing and publishing.
My writing career started when my article got accepted by HuffPost, thanks to my good friend Vivek Wadhwa. My sisters would well remember how horrible I was in English, back in school days. Yet now my columns are read by thousands of people including esteemed board members. One of my articles even got picked by a magazine, and I was paid $100. That $100 gave me as much joy as taking my company public, did.
I started playing competitive bridge after turning 60. After playing for a decade, even now, when I enter the hall where the bridge competition is taking place, my heart pounds like when I used to enter the examination hall. Yet I have won three US National championships.
At times it seems I have the aspirations but lack capabilities. Each time, I hope to learn before the real me gets revealed.
I am no genius for sure as I always was in a close companionship of people brighter than myself — my older sister first and then my late husband. He graduated at the top of his class at the prestigious IIT of India. Why do women tend to marry men who are more accomplished than them?
Despite lacking innate capabilities, identifying my problem/s, and devising methodology to get around my natural ineptnesses; are the genius in me. I am not there yet, but I keep chiseling away, uncovering how I work.
‘Learning how to learn’ is not taught in schools; neither in MBA programs nor in getting Ph.Ds. But that is what is needed to succeed. In the West, we have an undue attachment to ‘success’. In my Hindu culture, success is an outcome, effort is the mantra.
Dealing with my aggression and competitive thirst has required self-devised strategies, and that is also my genius. My culture did not give me the tools for that. Maybe because that is evolutionary?
The highly competitive bridge has been perfect for my soul. Bridge also taught me, that the harder the competition, the better you get.
That was also my marriage with Naren. We were tough life partners. But that is how we accomplished a lot, individually and as a couple.
The strength of my character is overcoming obstacles and eventualities of life, with courageous persistence and hard work.
With the ebb and flow of life, I still desire to catch the wind and re-launch myself in a bigger and better way.
To continue the journey alone with vigor, I need the grasshopper in me.
My future self gets excited by John Keats’ 1816 sonnet
The Poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead