Humbled by a child!

“I’d rather have a nice dad than a successful one.” I was just so pleased when I heard these words from my nephew, Aditya Seshadri, a boy barely out of his teens when he spoke them (his father is a nice man and does alright).

Children are often wise beyond their years. Or so we think, because we constantly underestimate them. I have often thought this especially since I have a nephew who is constantly surprising, even humbling me. Today, I present the story of Aditya Seshadri – the third in my series of watching the next generation mature into people you can be proud of*.

As a student in school, Aditya often worried us because he showed little interest in studies. Fortunately for him, we are not a family who believes in pressurising a child into realising any dreams we may have for them. In any event, Aditya was never a person who you could pressurise into doing anything.

Through his school years, on examination results day, we’d just look at him with our hearts in our mouth and ask, “did you pass?” And when he nodded, we’d breathe a sigh of relief. Not because it was important to us (well, it was…a little), but more because we didn’t want any child of ours to face the humiliation of so called failure, imposed by an increasingly ridiculous and high-performance demanding materialistic world.

For ten straight years, the family would go through the ritual of asking Aditya “did you pass?” I am laughing as I write this but I can assure you it wasn’t funny then. Especially when it came to the all-important final year of school examinations – the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE).

Imagine then our total surprise and delight when we discovered that Aditya had not only passed but actually topped the school or board in one paper on Environmental Science. The details are fuzzy and I may have got my facts wrong (his mother, too, can’t remember proving that it really wasn’t that important to us). But you get the point, right? Aditya did well in subjects that interested him. Some years later he told me, “I don’t like the education system of mug and spit.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about the Aditya phenomenon in his book Antifragile when he says, “What I was given to study in school I have forgotten; what I decided to read on my own, I still remember” (p.247).

Taleb gets it. Post school, Aditya went onto doing well in areas that interested him. The advertisements he created for some competition in Jai Hind, the Mumbai college he attended, should speak for themselves. Here they are…

Harmony Ad Campaign - subject 02

Harmony 01

A creative spark had been set off. On graduation, Aditya entered the advertising industry through an internship and then full-time job with Network Advertising (he is now with Grey Digital).

It was merely a few months post his joining Network when he and a colleague, Prachi More, won the Young Spikes competition and were sent to Singapore to compete in the final round. We were over the moon, I can tell you:)

What’s all this got to do with a story titled Humbled by a child, you ask? Nothing much. Except that it helps to know a person to understand a story fully. So, I am just sketching a word portrait here of Aditya before I describe why I feel so humbled by a child.

In 2002, when Aditya was just sixteen, my mother was diagnosed with multiple medical problems. You can read that story in an earlier post, Angels with a stethoscope.

Right through college, Aditya would readily sit with my mother when I had to run errands or go for a meeting. I have overheard him on several occasions telling a friend he can’t come somewhere because he has to take care of his grandmother.

Not just that. Both grandmother and grandson were champions. There were days when I would get a call from Aditya simply saying, “Where are you?” Just those words. Nothing more said. But those three little words would always alert me that I was needed back home. When I reached home inevitably my mother would look at me and immediately rush to the wash room to finally assuage the nausea she had been feeling. She always waited for me to reach so as to avoid alarming or troubling her grandson. And her grandson would always just ask me where I was and not alarm me!

We lost my mother on April 21, 2009. The day she died, Aditya’s parents came to me and said “Aditya wants to perform all the after-death rituals”. You see, they knew that I didn’t believe in it. I remember they were a little hesitant in talking to me probably because they knew my views.

But when a child is saying that he wants to do it, what could I possibly say? So, of course, I nodded my assent. I suspect my mother worked on him a little on those occasions when they were together and so, Aditya probably knew that she was sentimental about her grandson performing the last rites. He was honouring her wishes.

The child sat through 4 days of ceremonies. What’s more, he even paid for all of it from his earnings.

I am sure my mother was doing the bhangra* up there right through the 4 days, just like she did when the nurse came out of the operating theatre on December 28, 1986 to announce that she had a grandson.

Post Script: Just in case anyone is mistaken that my mother wanted sons, I want to say that she always wanted only daughters and she got her wish there too – she had Aditya’s mother and yours truly:)

#Parenting #Parenthood #Success #Successfactors

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Featured Image Credit: Aditya Seshadri at his sister’s wedding.

*Bhangra – the name of a popular song and dance routine in Punjab, India.

*Related links to series on watching the next generation mature into people you can be proud of:

Lata Subramanian – Amar Wala’s story: The Good Son and his Secret Trial

Lata Subramanian – Rahul Trada’s story: Price of Admission

Lata Subramanian – Angels with a stethoscope


Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. 

Campaign India. September 14, 2010 –,mindshare-network-advertising-team-are-the-winners-in-the-young-spikes-competition.aspx


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