For the most part, my father was away during my childhood, taking care of agricultural land outside Palakkad. Because he was a trusting man, he got cheated out of his share of the family wealth. This made him, and by extension us, financially dependent on his brothers. One of my earliest memories regarding money is to be kept waiting for the agreed upon monthly payment outside the hotel that my uncles ran. Often, I was asked to return in a week. Due to such experiences, I swore at an early age that I won’t be at the mercy of others.
What my father lacked in financial prudence, he made up for with his empathy. I saw him work hard on behalf of others and try to help as many people as he could. His goodness never left him. I wanted that in myself. But, I decided, I would give with discretion and without running out of money. Giving must be planned.
My maternal grandmother
My grandmother was no less than an RBI governor when it came to planning budgets. She took care of a family of 20 people who depended on her acumen. She was always on top of the situation and acutely aware of the needs of her children and grandchildren. She settled people into jobs and marital lives, she planned and executed financial projects and stretched the rupee to make all of us as comfortable as she could. She was a born leader and inspired me to be one.
She also cast the veto vote regarding my career path. I wanted to study physics, but she was convinced that studying economics was vital for my success. Nobody questioned her views in the family and I was no different. In a way, everything I became, I owe it to her.