I close my eyes and I see it. The big blue mysterious ocean that my ancestors braved as they charted the unchartered terrains in the name of commerce. As a descendant of textile traders based in Singapore, I have fond memories of meeting customers and suppliers from all the seven seas. Between my parents and grandparents, I have roots in: India, Japan, Uganda, the UK, and of course, Singapore, where I was born. I myself have added Israel, Australia and China to that list. By the time I was born, air travel had replaced sea voyages – but the need to explore the world with a deep sense of wonderment and curiosity is something that runs in my blood.
As a child I wanted to be an astronaut. I dreamed of exploring the planets in our solar system. They – The Nine Celestial Beings – filled my dreams and captivated my imagination. They felt like old friends — far away, yet familiar. There was an indescribable wonderment in gazing up at the night sky, contemplating the big questions and knowing that the answers were somewhere out there.
Yet, there is a burden I carry. A burden that was thrust upon me well before I was born. A family legacy that was entrusted to me. To be born into a family of entrepreneurs is not merely about repeating what your ancestors did–but about continuously reinventing the family tradition with each succeeding generation. In March 2019, I started Mith Books.
In our modern world, the entrepreneurial journey may have changed–yet the destination has remained the same. My family was in textiles and I’m in books. Growing up, there were many teachings that my elders passed down to me. There is one story that is firmly imprinted in my mind and comes back to me over and over again.
As the Patriarch and the Head of the Family–my grandfather Ratilal Dada‘s seat was reserved for him and him alone. In a world where everyone is vying for the top position, he had a simple story to illustrate what that position truly meant.
“This seat,” he said. “Comes with a heavy burden. When you are strong enough to withstand its weight, this seat will belong to you.”
At the age of 32, the seat was passed down to me. It has been a burden unlike any other that I have ever known.
As time goes by, I grow to understand the various demands, the difficult decisions, the stress and the complete and utter loneliness of it all. When everyone around you comes to you for everything, where do you go?
Unlike many leaders I know, I am deeply sensitive. I am not even hardened enough to bury this depth of emotion somewhere. After all, I am a writer. If I cannot feel, I cannot write. And yet, here I am–with the weight of generations on my tiny untried shoulders. So many days I wake up and it’s all too much. If there is a fire, it is my job to put it out. If someone needs support, it is my job to give it to them. If something hasn’t been done right, it is my job to fix it. If there is a problem, everyone looks to me for a solution.
Leaders are not born. They are made. With each slap in the face that one learns to withstand, with each disgrace that one learns to bear with dignity, and with each time one learns to keep going when all they want to do is throw in the towel and disappear–leaders are made.
Leaders are not perfect. They are all deeply flawed in their own way–the legacy they leave behind a mixture of successes and perceived failures. And it all happens in the public eye for everyone to see and judge. And yet, we do not know the outcome of our actions till way down the line. We do not know the legacy that we leave behind till those whom we tried to impart it to are mature enough to understand the weight of what we tried to teach them.
With age comes a certain understanding–or perhaps for some not at all. I now believe that we neither come into this world empty-handed nor leave the same way. We are all legacies of those that have come before us and those whom we leave behind. Each and every single one of us is a continuation of a story that began well before we were born and that will continue long after we are gone.
Combining our shared human experiences through the magic and energy of the human experience and the planets of the night sky, I dedicate my writing to the human experience and the vastness of its potential.
You are me and I am you. Life is a grand gift. Savour it.