My grandparents were keen that I stay at home when it came to college. I guess having been away from the family in boarding school since I was seven, they wanted me close by at least now. With Papa getting posted to a new place every three years, my parents had sent me to Lawrence School, Sanawar, to ensure I got a steady education — but when you’re still in short pants and used to your mama holding your chin to comb your hair, all that registers is that you were being left alone in this unfamiliar place, not the thought behind the deed. But now, I was glad I had been in boarding school, for not only had it taught me to cope when I was away from home but also the value of home itself. And staying with my grandparents gave me the best of both worlds — the palatial home in Chandigarh where papaji and maaji pampered me, while chacha would sneak me in through the back door when I returned home late. Papaji would keep wondering when I studied, since he slept early: “Padhe bina itne achche number aate hai, to padh ke kitna achcha kar sakte ho.” But I was enjoying my freedom too much to listen to him — parties, playing tennis and hanging out with my friends.
Papa had cut a not so good deal — he had persuaded me to study science in school, hoping I would be inspired to look at engineering thereafter. But I had agreed only on the condition that I would be free to choose my subjects after school. How his face fell when I told him I wanted to study humanities — “Baba, it’s not for serious students”. Finally, we settled on commerce in college and I don’t know if I was lucky or the others were unlucky but I made it to IIM Ahmedabad. The two years at IIM were wonderful and, before I knew it, it was time to graduate. That was 1982.
Back then, Labdhi [Bhandari] Sir was almost like a god to us and when he said Asian Paints was a great company for me to work, I went in happily. Mama wasn’t so convinced when she came to Agra to help me settle down at my first posting. “Baba, exactly what do you do?” she asked, almost naïvely. I earnestly expl