I completed 24 years of service in the insurance industry in 2008, and I had enjoyed these 24 years. I got my promotions in time, was paid well, lived in a company-given flat in a posh suburb of Mumbai, and enjoyed all the trappings that came along with my comfortable job. I enjoyed the positions I held and the respect I received in the corporate world. But I knew by then that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, even if I was one of the youngest managers in the company and not done moving up the corporate ladder. I was 48 years old and the vice president of a major insurance brokering company.
For many years, I spent my spare time working with voluntary groups involved in social and civic causes. These interactions kept me grounded and closer to reality. When I turned 40, I told myself I would quit my corporate sector job at 50 then do only what I really wanted to do. But I was lucky. When I turned 48, I was offered a job to head a non-profit organization. The head hunters believed that my experience with voluntary groups combined with my corporate sector experience made me a suitable candidate for the post. Without thinking twice, I agreed – it seemed to fit into my long-term plans and, even though it was two years early, it felt right.
|At a centre that United Way of Mumbai supports, |
offering classes to slum children
The two years to my turning 50 were life changing. I had a bonus two years' lead time to plan and work towards doing just what I had planned to do when turning 50. Now no two days were the same. At my new workplace, I found myself working with a bunch of well-trained social workers and, believe me, if you want to look and feel young, spend your time with young social workers. Friends I met after a long while mentioned how I did not look a year over 30, and I would mentally thank my new assignment and my colleagues for this. My office staff was in the social sector by choice, and their aspirations from life were so different from the more career-oriented young professionals I worked with in the corporate sector. Community impact, resource mobilization, campaigns supporting the girl child, fund raising for the cancer afflicted, microfinance programs for women’s self-help groups, how to stem farmer migration to cities due to failed crops – my world changed overnight and took on new meaning.
|With my young team of social workers|
|At the start of the |
Bangalore Marathon 2011
|With college-student volunteers|
Is destiny my companion, or is all this just a coincidence? I was running the marathons even before moving to the non-profit organization, but I did not know when I joined my new job that United Way of Mumbai had, just a few weeks before, been signed on as the official charity partner of the Mumbai Marathon. Now I was heading an organization that was mandated to create and implement a strategy to get as many non-profits, working on just about any cause – education, disability, tribal welfare, sports promotion, mental health awareness – to register with the marathon’s charity partner and use the marathon as a platform to raise funds. There I was until just a few years before raising funds for cancer-afflicted patients, and here I am now, spearheading efforts to facilitate fundraising for a humongous number of causes. In fact, I was now responsible for heading the largest philanthropic exchange in the country. I knew for sure I had an angel above looking after me!
|With my family at an awareness walk on the occasion of |
World Disability Day earlier this month
Life could not be better. My energy levels have increased, my family life has improved, and my circle of friends greatly diversified. I look better and am at peace with myself. I am in my 50s, and I thank god for it. I was fortunate enough to have been able to change tracks at a stage in life when one doesn’t really want to risk rocking a “steady boat.” Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained!
So I look forward to 2012 with anticipation and continue to set goals for myself as I do before every New Year. This time, it is learning how to swim and joining a piano class. Is there anything special about what I am doing? Hardly so. It is just a question of following your calling – the calling of your heart and mind!
What about you? What are you going to make happen in the coming year?