I am a Valley boy. My path to Silicon Valley takes a familiar trajectory – born and raised in India, post-graduate degree in the US , a cushy job in an enviable Silicon Valley company, a loving family, a house in the burbs, a large circle of friends from a similar background. The typical immigrant success story.
I would say we are a lucky bunch. We came of age just as India woke up to globalization. A time when information technology created a vast boom in jobs. Add to that an immigrant friendly western nation that welcomed us. A perfect deck of cards dealt to us and we seized it.True, we worked hard, but no harder than our dads and moms did in their generation. And we reap a life that makes our parents envious and proud.
Yet, the human psyche is a funny thing. Our lucky life has been taken for granted. Wandering around our social get-togethers and listening to the conversations, I hear familiar threads of conversations – the cost of living, costly housing, costly private schools for kindergartners, envy at the friend who has hit the jackpot in a startup, the weariness of running a two income household. We are all very rich compared to 99% of Indians, yet overhearing us talk, I think we never feel that way.
I met the Upakriti folks when Googling for non-profits focused on children in India. I connected with them over lunch.The first thing that struck me was how different the conversation was. No talk of the next million or the next hot startup. Neither was there any familiar lament on the cost of living. They only worried about how they could help more children in India effectively.
They had busy lives, families to support, yet they managed to run a non-profit in their spare time, and that too for almost a decade! The conversation was fascinating. The issues seemed familiar to a software engineer – scaling issues, quality control and future plans. Yet, the impact was real, it affected real children who now were off the streets, had clothes to wear, food to eat and books to read. Like Valley-ites they worried, but worried whether they were doing enough, whether they could be helping more, whether they could refine their message to get more help. All they asked me was what ideas I had.
I came away from the lunch feeling different. It wasn’t just a feeling of guilt that I hadn’t done enough. But a composite set of emotions – gratitude at how lucky I have been, humility to behold how much Upakriti has done and a small zeal to make a difference in the lives of others.
Nowadays, I try to take the bigger picture. Try to stop getting irritated about traffic or meetings. I try to be more grateful. And I try to help. Help children not lucky to have been born like me. But children who are lucky that organizations like Upakriti exist.
So my advice to my own son as he grows up would be – Be grateful and be of help to others. Thanks to Upakriti for helping me realize that.