Aug 17, 1997 – New Delhi Station
At about 10.30 or 11 am, Paschim Express arrived at the New Delhi Station from Mumbai. From one of the coaches, Krishnan and I alighted and there was a beaming Sardar to receive us, our very dear friend Rajinder. We had just gone through our bankruptcy a year back when we shut down both our businesses. There were no bankruptcy laws in India in 1996 so we just exited the businesses with 18 lakhs as loss.
Rs. 18 Lakhs (1.8 million) isn’t a big amount these days, but at that time, without a steady income and no bank balance to speak of on either side of the family, it was dire straits. 1996 was a trying period for several people. We realised this much later as we were also one of those who lost everything that year.
Bankruptcy and Reaching Delhi
Our life has been a roller coaster and very much like a movie 😁. In 1996, we escaped from some of our disgruntled creditors because of a friendly tip. The brunt of their wrath was dealt with by Krishnan’s parents and Nachi (Krishnan’s brother). The train ticket bought by a customer of the book shop couldn’t be used and we decided to reach Hyderabad in the same taxi.
My parents went to the railway station to pick us up and Dad started crying when he didn’t see us. Amma managed to console him somehow and they reached home. They kept trying my mother-in-law’s phone but she couldn’t answer as there were a bunch of people surrounding her.
There was a massive traffic jam due a major road accident on the highway between Chennai and Hyderabad. We got delayed but reached home in the evening several hours after we were supposed to. I will never forget the look on Appa’s face when he saw that we were fine. I have seen my dad cry only twice – once when we were leaving Dehu Road and his Mama who was dad’s mentor and benefactor came to say good bye. Appa was in tears. The next time was on May 26, 1996 when he saw Krishnan and me entering the house.
We tried to find jobs in Hyderabad, but nothing worked out and we then made efforts in Mumbai. I did get an opportunity to work with a computer training centre but it was short-lived. Krishnan very narrowly missed getting his role back in L’oreal and that led to a lot of dejection for both of us. Can never forget that train ride back to Raji Mani’s place in Vashi when Krishnan and I both thought of jumping into the sea at the same time and just be done with the pain….. Thankfully we didn’t and lived to tell the tale.
While in Mumbai we met with an old friend of ours and he offered me a job in Delhi. We decided to take up the offer and landed in Delhi on Aug 17, 1997.
1997 to 2002 – First steps out of Bankruptcy
The way we got our first rented apartment is also very movie like … one of my colleagues and now a very dear friend took us to her home just to introduce us to her parents. When we mentioned to Atrey Uncle that we were looking for a rented accommodation, he just went out for a few minutes and got us a key. It was a one bedroom apartment, belonging to his colleague.
We went and met the gentleman who also happened to be a Sardar (I love this community and there will never be an India without them). He agreed to give us the apartment without any advance and a very nominal rent …. besides Atrey Uncle being his colleague, his reasoning was “aap Madrasi ho, tang nahin karoge” (you are South Indians, so you won’t create any trouble). Well, we didn’t create any trouble then nor later !!
Our climb out of the bankruptcy was slow and steady … with some consulting assignments that Krishnan did and my job. For the first couple of years, we just tried to put one foot in front of the other, which meant, paying the monthly interest on unsecured loans that we had taken from friends and family.
One fine day, for some strange reason, I just told Krishnan that I am fed up of living every day thinking about the interest payments. That set us thinking and we asked ourselves a different question – how do we maximise our earnings?.
100 ideas were jotted down, from the bizarre to the relevant and the possible. Finally we implemented one of the ideas which was for Krishnan to do his Advanced Management Program from IIM Ahmedabad.
2001 – The Year that Changed everything
Krishnan completed his MEP (Management Education Program) from IIM Ahmedabad in March 2000. I joined Spectramind in March 2001 and Krishnan got the opportunity to work with a USAID funded project in Nov 2001. Everything changed with these two jobs !!!
By Aug 2002 we had repaid most of our borrowings and had paid the down payment for the house where we live in right now. Things turned around and slowly we not only got out of our financial hole, but managed to build a small retirement kitty.
Bankruptcy Prompted ShikshaDaan
When we were going through that period of financial doom, so many people helped us ! Some of course were friends and family but so many strangers like Atrey Uncle and Aunty, his colleague etc also helped. Atrey Uncle and Aunty are family, I can’t call them strangers ever but when we met them in 1997, we were strangers. We decided right then that once we were out of our difficulties, we need to give back to the community and keep paying forward.
That’s how ShikshaDaan was setup in 2012, 15 years after we set foot in Delhi.
Several of our friends, colleagues and family members keep asking us why we love Delhi NCR so much and wouldn’t we consider relocating to the South. The answer is “no” every time because Delhi NCR is where our fortunes changed …. for me, its the only city on Earth where I feel at home. As the flight lands and Delhi comes into view, I always smile, its almost an automatic reaction. I don’t have to think or force a smile.
Delhi has its warts, the biggest being its CM, but its our Karma Bhoomi and we love it. Technically we don’t live in Delhi, we live in Haryana but its the same .. the vibe, the pollution, the beautiful people and the history. Cannot live anywhere else.
Happy 25th anniversary to Krishnan and I on finding our home and here’s to the next 25 years of new adventures and fun.