Mr Rastogikar was a bulky man, with a round face, a little rough look, a few darker spots gifted by chicken pox, a french cut beard and a receding hairline.

 

He looked like someone who had experienced life widely. He looked like someone who was never ‘provided’ anything easy and had to ‘earn’ everything by himself. In other words, his life would have been a story of struggles.

 

He was a bank manager who was also a land broker. We were looking to invest inland. He had a proposal for land in Jejuri about 60 km from Pune. Since the papers were clean, the rates reasonable, and our budget, we decided to visit the land for a first-hand feel. We were travelling together to Jejuri in our trustworthy Innova.

 

Even though he had taken casual leave from his office for this trip, he was in constant touch with his colleagues. I marvelled at his clear instructions, his numerous follow-up calls to various people, his jolly bantering with a few and his tough voice with others. This was the first time we were meeting and in a few phone calls that I overheard, I was impressed. He sounded like a go-getter who never gives up.

 

He sounded like a person who likes to get things ‘done. I thought dealing with him will be interesting.

 

“All done,” he said loudly, looked at me, smiled as if he was saying a silent apology. His smile also told me he did not mind having me as a silent observer to his work. I was curious to know him more closely.

 

I cleared my throat. Then we had a dialogue that taught me a very very important lesson in excellence.

 

Me: “Are you from Pune?”

 

Mr. Rastogikar: “No. I am from the village Kuchtokar in Ahmednagar district.”

 

Me: Silence.

 

Mr Rastogikar: “There were barely 1000 people in our village. I was the first graduate from my village. My father was the poorest in that poor drought-affected village.”

 

Mr Rastogikar chuckled to himself as if he had just remembered a personal joke.

 

Mr Rastogikar: “You know what? People speak about ‘born with a silver spoon’. I was born in a house with ‘no spoon’. No other utensils either.” Hahaha.

 

It was clear Mr Rastogikar had pride in his beginning and in the journey that he had travelled so far.

 

Me: “Being a bank manager means you must have studied well. How did you manage that?”

 

Mr Rastogikar: “In our village school was till 5th standard. The secondary school was in the next village 5 km away. My parents used to work as labourers on the headman’s farm. I had permission to sit there in the school, observe the children studying, and also to write exams.
Teachers never ‘taught’ me. However, my studies were literally free. The village headman Jyotiram was a good human being.

 

 He gave me a book to write and a few books of his child to read. His child was one year senior to me. His last year’s books were given to me.”

 

He was silent now with a lost look in his eyes. It seemed he was back in his village, in the school, with the leftover books.

 

My driver Baba asked, “Sir, should we stop for tea?”.

 

“After 15 minutes” I answered. I wanted to know the rest of the story too.

 

I kept silent and waited for him to pick up the thread and continue.

 

Mr Rastogikar: “I was a very fast learner. I studied well. I was the first in class.” With pride, he added, “Always”.

 

Incredulous, I asked, “Always?”.

 

With a gentle nod of his head, with a delight that he had me impressed, he repeated, “Always !!!”

 

Mr Rastogikar: “I have always scored 100% in all mathematics exams.”

 

Me: “Wow !!! This is really something incredible. Throughout your school days?”

 

Mr Rastogikar: (with the ‘smile of the century’ pasted on his face) “Throughout my education. All through my post-graduation too”.

 

Me: “100%? Throughout? Not only school but also high school, graduation and post-graduation? This is something I have never heard of.”

 

Mr Rastogikar was absolutely delighted with the impact his ‘In mathematics – 100% always’ had on me. I was smiling and shaking my head with disbelief. He burst out laughing.

 

Mr Rastogikar: “I used to challenge my teachers – Cut a single mark if you can !!!”

 

Me: “What ? !!!!”

 

Mr Rastogikar: “Since I came from a poor family a teacher in college did not like me. He threatened me he will fail me. I challenged him, forget about failing me, I challenge you to cut one mark if you can.”

 

I was stunned. Our tea stop had come. Mr Rastogikar went to the washroom. I was a-washed with shame.

 

To date, I was thinking I had a passion for excellence. I stood exposed. Here is Mr Rastogikar. How confident he must have been, how thorough he must have been, how amazing his presentation must have been to say ‘I challenge you to cut one mark if you can’. Wah wah! Kya Baat hai!

 

While it might sound a little arrogant to some, to me it was self-confidence and excellence. To me, it was ‘I know I am good and nobody can threaten me and create fear’. It was about, ‘I will help myself so much, no one will be able to harm me. It was ‘my performance will speak volumes about me.’

 

It was about ‘I will master my subjects’. It was about ‘I will not depend on others’ largesse for my survival. I will not depend on others’ pity for my development. I will take charge of my life.’

 

Since that day I have stopped wishing people ‘Take care. It sounds so soft. I have started wishing people ‘Take charge’.

 

It sounds so much Rastogikar. That’s the way he has lived his life. This is the way I too want to live my life.

 

So my darling friends, ‘Take C (h) a r (g) e’ and let’s live a remarkable life.

 

 

 

With love, prayers and exceptional wishes,

 

 

Change your thoughts. Change your life

 

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