Five things Bawaji taught me about life and business

Five things Bawaji taught me about life and business

5 minute read

“Walkeshwar na Pathra”.

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This was my Bawaji’s – maternal grandfather’s – favourite phrase. It was his term to refute exaggeration. If I told him that the other children in my school called me fat he’d say, “Walkeshwar na Pathra” and if I told him as a wise six year old that our dog, ‘Red’ (more on that later) didn’t really want to go for a walk he’d also say, “Walkeshwar na Pathra”.

Bawaji passed away a few months ago this year. Even though he had been sick for a really long time and didn’t recognise or respond to any of us anymore, the first time I heard the news, the words “Walkeshwar na Pathra” silently formed in my mind. I was distraught that I’d never hear him say his signature phrase again.

Being the first grandchild, I was lucky to have had his undivided attention for seven glorious years until my cousin Delna came into the world. I was his ‘Kallu’. He’d pick me up from school if I forgot to get down at the right stop and we’d go have a packet of Potato Shells, just the two of us. And, even though he hated grating coconuts, he’d grumble and grate one for me so that Mamaiji could make me her signature red curry. Sigh! The pleasures of being the first grand-child!

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While Bawaji was hale and hearty for my wedding, his health began to decline drastically after that. As a result, I never got to show him my passion for Parsi food and what I’ve managed to achieve with Bawi Bride. This year in August, as the Bawi Bride Kitchen turned two and as the Irani Gathas rolled around, I reflected on all the good times I had with Bawaji. I realised that even though he’s not here anymore, he did teach me some great things about life and about running a business and the best way to honour his memory would be to share them with you.

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Dream hard. Work harder. 

My Mamaiji was also a caterer and used to send almost 50 tiffins on a daily basis from her tiny one room kitchen. Just as #BawaPapu and #BawaGroom help me today, Bawaji used to help Mamaiji. Rain or shine, he’d lift bags of 30kg rice or heavy tins of oil home and spend the evening helping Mamaiji fulfill her dream of making people happy through food. Listening to mum tell me these stories fills me with a passion to dream hard and work even harder to make those dreams come true.

Live the story you tell

I never had a puppy or dog as a child. But, someone had gifted me a red plastic dog and I loved it like it was real and would feed him and take him for regular walks. Since ‘Red’ lived at Bawaji’s home, Bawaji too would dutifully come on a walk with the dog and listen to my stories about Red while nodding enthusiastically. When I turned six, I told him about a friend who had teased me about my dog and told me how I shouldn’t walk it because it wasn’t even real. Bawaji gently bent down and asked me, “Do you believe that Red is real?” I slowly nodded yes. He told me then that there would always be people who don’t want to believe in your story. What mattered was that you did and that you weren’t afraid to live the story you told.

Give people things they actually need

Many parents today talk about the wealth or the house they will leave behind for their children but will refuse to fund that same child’s dream startup. Bawaji wasn’t like that. When mum and me moved to NZ and he saw us struggling he gave us what we needed then itself. He taught me to help people in tangible ways like feeding old people lunch instead of splurging excessively on a birthday and importantly to give people things they actually need when they need it. In work, this has meant I’ve helped my staff complete their Aadhar card application form or taken the time to teach someone English. While it’s easy to just give more money, tangible help offered, both in business and in life is always valued much more.

Buy that fish

Mamaiji and Bawaji didn’t have much to spare after taking care of their three children. Mamaiji used to sew all her childrens’ clothes to save some pennies while Bawaji often worked overtime. While Mamaiji wisely watched her pennies, her one weakness was her love for fish. She could never resist the call of the fish monger and his prawns or walk past a basket of fresh pomfret in the market. Bawaji told her that she didn’t have to. If you want it really bad, then just buy that fish he’d tell her! I’ve learnt not to deprive my intuition in a similar fashion. After getting married, I wanted to start a blog so I just started. I always wanted to have my own business so I saved up for the initial capital and then just ‘bought that fish’. Somehow your gut knows what ‘fish’ is really good for you and you’re not benefitting anyone by ignoring your gut.

Call it like it is

And finally, don’t be afraid to call it like it is and say ‘Walkeshwar na Pathra’. In the short term you may feel that your honesty backfires on you. A client may say they’ll clear payment and then not pay, an employee may tell tall tales about his experience and actually turn out to be unemployable or someone may come up and tell you your dream isn’t good enough. So long as you are honest to yourself, never ever be afraid to say, ‘Walkeshwar na Pathra’.

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