‘My Need For Expression Stems From Being An Avid Reader’ – Riddhi R Kalra, IIM Trichy – Best30 – Class Of 2019

“It is our choices that show us who we are, far more than our abilities”- J K Rowling

Hailing from a Sindhi family that resides in Chennai, I now realise that I have been guided by this notion of making a choice that we can live with, regardless of the circumstances. I’ve grown up hearing the stories of my affluent forefathers leaving Sindh (current day Pakistan) and their lavish lifestyle behind to buy themselves a chance to live another day, and they taught me things like the importance of being adaptable, having a sense of prudent spending, remembering to appreciate the present and having more than one source of income.

Currently, in my final year at IIM Trichy, I am amazed at how two years can change your world view. I was associated with content writing in various capacities since my school days, i.e around seven years, but writing about the life that lakhs of Indians dream about was one of my most cherished moments. I was part of the Student Team 3.1 of InsideIIM and I came to realise that my task was not merely enjoying writing or basking in the compliments I sometimes received on a good article, but to tell the truth. The highs with the lows, the cons with the pros. This task tends to be particularly questioned as I am a member of the External Relations Committee of IIM Trichy. I say this because of the negativity that is associated with all PR cells of this country. I take great pride in portraying the best side of my institute. It is a responsibility that few will understand as it is easier to judge what we do, but the truth is still absolute and I believe that it is essential to be told appropriately. Being a member of Persona (HR Club of IIMT) taught me patience and corporate communication in ways nothing before has since it was a domain I was passionate about, but IIMs, in general, have a slightly lower thrust in the field. Undeterred, I found ways to build networks via live projects with an SME, a prominent OEM manufacturer and have written a couple of cases for classroom discussion based on the same. An internship in House of Hiranandani in the HR domain made me understand that I was someone who might perhaps be suited for the field but that I was not to discount my various other options, given the fact that I am relationship oriented and intrinsic motivators drive my work.

Back home, I used to enjoy playing the guitar, and since I have a penchant for independence, I decided to earn my guitar coaching fee by tutoring school students in French.  Music is the second twin of the creativity that my writing is part of, since the feeling of playing is what has kept me going during the toughest of times. Teaching French was perhaps a tribute to one of the best teachers I had, who had a great deal of confidence in me. I am an avid reader and enjoy fiction, particularly fantasy and historical fiction.  My need for expression stems from this habit and has a significant influence on my manner of communication which has served me well all this time. Looking back, I think words have been my constant companion that was with me, and it is here that I would agree with the author I look up to the most, JK Rowling: “We have all the magic we need inside ourselves, in the form of words”

 

Name an instance where you wanted something and went out of your comfort zone to achieve it OR Tell us the biggest risk you have taken so far in your life.

In most Indian Business schools (except in the case of specialised schools/ courses), it is common knowledge that Human Resources has very few takers as a domain. The affirmation that HR was what I wanted to do came after my second year and perhaps this was why I did not make an attempt to get into a specialised school for HR. That being said, I found that it would take a lot of mental resilience to face setbacks. This meant that I could hardly find any alumni in the domain, (mine being a young institution), roles offered during placements were very rare, the club on campus had a hard time getting participation and courses floated were fewer and more generalised. What I really wanted, was one fair chance to learn something practical in the domain. Live Projects turned out to be my answer. I had to scout for contacts using my fathers’ AGM calendar, my friends’ HR contacts during their internship and cold call through LinkedIn. For someone who absolutely hated asking for contacts and favours from people I am not acquainted with, this was an uphill task for me. I would send email upon email every night, send reminders a couple of days later, and speak on call to ultimately be denied. A month later, Rane Group agreed to provide me with a three-month project. Eventually, I roped in a faculty mentor and learned Organization Justice, suggested a Fairness scorecard and am on my way to getting my first case on the same published in a leading international business publishing body. The biggest perk I would say is the fact that I overcame my inhibition to network and did so with confidence.

 

When was the last time someone relied on you? OR What did you do which was purely for someone else – a truly selfless act.

In the year 2016, I happened to meet a boy who was about 13 years old. This boy was the brother of a student my mother was tutoring for a while. Since I had enrolled in guitar classes as a hobby, I wanted to fund my own fees. I was already tutoring another student for French, but since my guitar fees had substantially increased, I was looking for another way to fund my fees. This boys’ mother had approached my mother to help him learn something for his upcoming test in English. My mom promptly put me forward. Before I began, his mother told me that I need not worry about teaching him everything, just something to help him attempt would do. The next day, while I was waiting to take his first class, my mother took me aside and told me, “Riddhi, this boy…he is special. He has a problem, a mental disorder. His sister confided in me that he does not have a lifespan beyond a few years, so they just want him to have a normal life.” Needless to say, I was shaken to the core, because here was someone relying on me to give that boy a small slice of childhood. I decided that I first had to keep my emotions in check. He had a blank expression on his face more than half the time I tried to help him learn five meanings. So I remembered the movie “Black” starring Amitabh Bachchan. I tried to get him to repeat syllables by breaking words into fragments. He seemed to remember a couple of words out of five, and his mother said with a smile that she counted that as progress enough. That was when I decided that I would not be charging him, if I had the courage to continue to teach this boy. Because of the lesson I was learning too- to value all the little things I had that I wasn’t appreciating enough.

 

What is the one thing you can claim to have some level of expertise or depth of knowledge in – it could be anything – a subject, a sport, a hobby, a venture, an initiative which has led you to do deep work in that field?

“Words are the most inexhaustible sources of magic, capable of inflicting harm and remedying it.”

Since six years now, I have been associated with content management in various capacities since my schooling. I was the youngest in my year to have the privilege to write the “From the Editors’ Desk” column in the Ewart School Magazine in 2012. In my under-graduation, I was associated with the Journal Committee for three years in the capacities of Sub-Editor, Joint-Editor and Editor. The main responsibility the committee had was to generate secondary research-based articles, review & edit and curate fillers and interviews. What seemed like an incredibly boring job to many was a cathartic experience for me and I truly felt like I belonged. The articles I wrote won Best Article Award twice in a row and led me to be the Editor of the Silver Jubilee Journal of the college. Over the years, I learned how to be better at editing, but also how to bring out the best from people by way of their writing. Sometimes, all people need is a push-most people have words held inside them already. On joining IIM Trichy, I had the privilege to be a member of the Student Team 3.1 of InsideIIM, which was such a blessing. I say this because it gave me free rein to channel my emotions into words that had the power of helping people and for the first time I truly understood what my writing meant to a lot of people. It is truly a touching experience when strangers came to me and said- “I loved what you wrote, it was beautifully honest”.

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