My personal journey

Looking back, my journey has been intense and challenging. There is so much I would like to say, but let me try and give you specific inputs that have a connection with wealth – ideas that I hope resonates with you.

Shaping up

Having been shaped and reshaped by key people in my life, I was very curious whether the wisely wealthy too were helped on their way by role models and mentors. Turns out, they were, and that’s why the book has a complete chapter devoted to exploring those influences.

Meanwhile, here are the people who influenced me and my views on wealth.

My Father

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.

My Uncle

Actually, Mr K V Ramachandran was my great aunt's son. He grew up in conditions worse than ours – his family depended on daily anna daanam to survive. The manner in which he overcame odds and rose to the top made him my biggest role model.

At an early age, he became another member of the large household – simply put, my grandmother took him under his wing, as she did with every needy person in the extended family. She pushed him to study, which he did along with being a supplier in a hotel. Eventually, he began working in the hotel owned by my maternal grandfather. When that got sold to my paternal family, he worked under the new management consisting of my grandfather and father. After his intermediate exams, my grandmother helped him to secure a position as a clerical assistant to a scion of an industrial family. He held that position till retirement, cycling 30kms to his office and back, every single day. He prospered and shared his prosperity with the entire family. He became the banyan under which all of us felt a little safer. He made an effort to settle all of us into good jobs. He was the reason I got my government job in 1989. Before that, he paid for my college fees. He was particularly affectionate towards me because he felt my mother deserved special care and support. He was virtually my godfather. All these years later, I tear up just thinking of him. Apart from my parents, his is the only picture I keep in my room.

He believed that the purpose of money is to be of service, which is why he shied away from the lavish lifestyle that was his due. The manner in which he gave cemented my conclusion that my giving should be planned and sustainable.

A musical cause

Growing up in a family that strictly adhered to cultural norms, it was natural for me to feel at home in a Carnatic concert. This natural comfort became a roaring passion thanks to my granduncle Mr Padmanabhan. An epitome of knowledge and hard work, he also had an in-depth understanding of Carnatic music.

In the darkest of days, a well-rendered raagam can lift me up into a place where the sun always shines. I have been told that music doesn’t have this effect on everybody. Maybe it should. Maybe everybody deserves to feel the ecstasy of music the way I do. So, just like I wanted to share the concept of Wise Wealth with the whole world, I felt the need to share my passion and joy for Carnatic music.

That’s why, when we founded the Ekatvam Trust, the promotion of Carnatic music – especially the promotion of lesser-known, talented artists – became its primary cause. Our ultimate ambition is to provide a musical platform that operates 24*7. For now, I am overjoyed that the Ekatvam Holi Music Fest has become an annual event in south India’s musical calendar.

I look forward to a time when parents will consider the pursuit of classical music to be on par with a career in engineering or medicine. I vouch to work towards that vision.

Caring for the Elderly

Additionally, I am very keen to contribute to the cause of quality Elderly care. Ekatvam has begun taking tentative steps in this direction. We have begun building an elderly care facility in Kerala. More, much more, needs to be done and will be done.


Teeing off

I teed off for the first time in 2005 and haven’t looked back since. Other than the sheer joy one experiences in developing one’s golfing skills and spending time in calming settings, golf can also influence one’s outlooks and leadership skills. Like meditation, it enables me to focus on the present moment. No matter how lousy my previous attempt was, I know I can still swing the game in my favour. I just stay humble and positive, and keep swinging my iron. It is little wonder that the sport attracts those who have achieved excellence in their respective fields. And it is little wonder that the indefatigable writer P G Wodehouse has said, "To find a man’s true character, play golf with him."

Considering how much the game has enriched me, I feel compelled to give back. For the past couple of years, I have become one of the sponsors of the Bangolfers Invitational Tournament – the tournament raises funds to financially support caddies and maintenance staff in golf courses. I hope this is just the beginning of a long and joyful association with the sport I love above all else.