Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home
-Amazing Grace by John Newton
Our ancestors were not born into a life of material comforts the way we were. They toiled through hardships and unspeakable dangers to provide for their families who neither understood nor appreciated what it actually takes to make a living in this world.
I grew up on my great-granddad’s knee. By the time I was born, he was 80. As a child, I would help out in our family business Manaco Textiles on Arab Street. When he wasn’t tending to customers and suppliers, he would teach me about commerce. His stories were a mix of mythology and what is now termed in modern day lingo as ‘corporate strategy and culture’.
As I sat on his knee, he would tell me about the Goddess Lakshmi as the one who ruled over the realms of material abundance and prosperity. In our modern world, wealth is typically discussed in measurable terminology like revenue, cash flow, assets, growth and so on and so forth. But to him, the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi went beyond that.
In Hinduism, Lakshmi is the Goddess who leads to one’s goal. The eight goals are: spiritual enlightenment, food, knowledge, resources, progeny, abundance, patience, and success. When we invite Lakshmi into our home at the annual chopda pujan that takes place at Diwali–we are inviting all eight goals of material existence into the business.
Profitability is a goal for every business. That goes without saying. However, it cannot and should not be the only goal for any business.
Man simply cannot live by bread alone.
I’m at that point in my creative journey where writing for myself or for the sake of creating something holds very little appeal to me. I have come to view my work as an act of worship, devotion and dedication. My debut novel The Little Light was an ode to the Celestial Ones that fascinated mankind from the dawn of civilisation. My second book The Merchant of Stories paid homage to Mariamman The Rain Goddess. I dedicated those books to my granddad Ratilal and great-grandma Kamala respectively.
I didn’t write those books for myself–but rather to pay homage to the ones who came before me. They are the ones who went through those material hardships so that we could enjoy a life of modern comforts. As a kid, I was in awe of my great-grandad Manchharam Nagindas. After all, he came to this country with nothing and left this world having reached a fair few of his goals.
Although he passed away in his early 90s, I do not believe he left this world having reached all of his lakshmis. I have no doubt that there were things that weighed on his mind–decisions that few would truly understand.
There is a very particular image that comes to my mind when I think of the true blue entrepreneurs. They are simply dressed, don’t care much for decadence and yet are somehow surrounded by board members in fancy suits and expensive perfumes who are telling them how to run the company they started and all the things they are entitled to for really no reason at all.
Entitlement is a disease of the modern world.
Over the past one and a half years, the awe I once I felt for my great-grandad has slowly morphed into quiet empathy. I cannot even imagine what he must have gone through. The Singapore of his time was not the Singapore that is popularised in the media today. It was a fishing village and not a modern metropolis.
Having packed my bags and started from scratch in four different countries now–I understand how hard it is to uproot oneself and try and plant new roots–only to have them ripped out.
There are many things I want to say, but as a business owner, I have learnt to keep it inside–as leaders often do.
Yesterday marked 20 years since my great-granddad’s passing. He was never one for open displays of affection and truth be told, neither am I. So I would like to end this simply and succinctly.
“I remember you. I remember everything you taught me. And lastly, thank you.”