#50over50: Nandita Lakshmanan
The subject of my current article barely passes the criteria for being over 50 but the latest conversation is fresh on my mind and I decided to write about her!
Friendships come from the most unexpected quarters. Sometimes, you have to just grab the opportunity when a good one comes by. About three years ago, we were hosting INK Salon along with CoWorks and we had two young high-school students as our co-hosts. I worked closely with both of them and was proud of the way they managed on the day of the event. After the event, I met Nandita whose son was one of the co-hosts. The one word that leaps to mind when you meet Nandita is 'Graciousness.' In her trademark saree – be it freshly pressed cotton or silk and her waist-long hair let loose, she does not quite walk but lightly glides on earth. As we exchanged pleasantries, we discovered that our places of work were closeby and we decided to meet. I somehow knew that we would be friends.
A few days later, we met and got to know each other professionally and over the years, I got to treasure my personal friendship with her as well. As a Public Relations professional, she has had a great journey.
This year marks her 25th year in Bangalore. She moved from Delhi to Bangalore as a Public Relations professional and helped many technology companies which were at the early stages of start-up. Be it Sun Microsystems or Infosys, she played a part in their initial footing into India. A young, single, vivacious, hard-working Nandita made Bangalore her home from the moment she set her foot in the city. After working for global PR firms for a few years, she decided to start her own company in the year 2000 and woke up one day with the word 'The PRactice' as a name for the company and that has been her baby even today. What started with Rs 35,000 of savings is a 80-person-plus company based on a foundation of long-term relationships and old-fashioned financial principles like running a no-debt enterprise that she learned from her father-in-law. She is a great listener and is very clear about what she can or can not do. Whether there is a business benefit for her or not, she always engages in a conversation that can be a win/win solution to everyone.
What I truly admire is the way Nandita can be attached and detached at the same time. During her early years in Bangalore, she met Sharan, a larger-than-life personality who became her best friend and life partner and they have a son Aryaman. Over the years, she had the courage to have tough conversations and have a mutually agreeable separation from Sharan. A year-and-a-half after their divorce, Sharan was diagnosed with cancer and she remained his best friend till his demise. Be it a business partner who lets her down or a life partner with a changed status, she never talks ill of anyone. She lost three of the most important men in her life - her father, father-in-law and ex-husband within a few months of one another. This could have unhinged anyone but it is her ability to build an inner strength that allowed her to not just recoup but restore herself in a much more profound way.
We were recently chatting about personal cope-up mechanisms that one needs to develop to remain sane in this world. Nandita said that her mindset to close each day as though it was the last day without expecting anything from the next day, is what keeps her grounded and content. Be it a relationship with her mother, son or a colleague, she keeps a close watch on every detail and yet keeps her distance to give the other person space to make their own decisions. When her son’s class teachers stress over some grade or other, she can be the polar opposite of a tiger mom telling the teachers to let him be. It is this ability to detach herself from the small stuff that enables her to see the big picture. Married or single, busy mom or empty nester, business leader or life coach – nothing changes in her routine or her expectation of herself. She said that when you lose so many people you love at once and yet you go on, it gives you a different perspective on life.
I completely understand what Nandita is talking about and her perspective gave a new insight for me. I was very close to my father and could not imagine a world without him. When he passed away, I could not imagine living without him. And yet, in a very strange way, I felt that I have grown up in unimaginable ways. For the first time, I stopped being the new kid on the block and stepped into doing what I wanted to do. I felt that I owed it to him to live my life to the fullest. Each loss moves us forward in new ways IF we know how to handle it. The ability to close each day as though it is the last is a great principle to hang on to! And my friendship with Nandita moves along with many more insights coming my way.