Only homeAt the turn of the century, I was in India and part of a successful company. I was working on a game-changing venture in the government sector, a challenging segment for the software industry. Along with the talented and hard-working owner of the company, I had given it my fullest commitment – blood, sweat and tears. I was proud (and still am) that it was serving society and profitable at the same time. This venture allowed me to experience success in my early-thirties. There was no end to my belief, ambition or efforts – these were thrilling, can-do-will-do times. At a particular juncture, we decided to be part of a prestigious national convention as a big bang opportunity. We were very excited!

I had a key role for this event: planning the look and feel of our stand and ensuring my team quickly customised our products and marketing collateral. Our aim was to deliver a high impact interaction with every visitor.

This was easier said than done. We were just weeks away from the event and there was an explosion of action. It was fun but absolute mayhem: day and night working, endless pizzas and burgers for sustenance, office desks and sofas for rest. During this period, my home was several miles away from office and there were no good hotels nearby. Luckily I had a good chauffeur (not a luxury in India) so after a tiring day at the office I would crash on the back seat of my car, head buzzing with ideas as I watched the evening sky on my way home. Soon the evenings turned into late nights and nights into dawns. After a fortnight of manic schedules my chauffeur just gave up. One night, he walked into my office at midnight and pleaded for me to leave but I had more work to finish. I apologised and thanked him for the hardship. I asked for my car keys and advised him to take a taxi home and to take the next day off.

I left office in the small hours and blasted music from the car stereo to keep me energised while driving. After an hour on the road, I took my normal exit and joined a dual carriageway. I remember noticing the usual sights and signs – home was just a few minutes away.  Suddenly I heard a horn. It was terrifyingly loud. I thought a truck driver must be eager to overtake but there was no truck behind me. Of course there wasn’t – I was on the wrong side of the road! I had dozed off, maybe for a few seconds, veered across the lanes and now sat on the opposite carriageway. Quickly returning to my lane I noticed a truck in rear view mirror. The driver, bless him, had avoided a head-on collision. His loud horn had woken me up.

I was shaken. After calming my nerves I reached home. That night and the following day I just slept through. I realised that despite my otherwise disciplined life, on this occasion I was arrogantly demanding more than my body was capable of.  It was pretentious to believe I could be super-human. It was wrong and my body had said enough is enough!

This incident had a deep impact on me.  Back at the office I changed the working hours for everyone. Despite the challenging deadline it worked out well and we were successful. We celebrated with our teams, including my chauffer.

I know this incident was an extreme one-off, a rude awakening, but it didn’t have to be that way. Over the years I have continued learning and making changes to my lifestyle. I started by paying proper attention to my body. I changed eating habits, controlled my minor vices, focussed on my life-work balance, got into regular exercise and ensure that I rest well – especially during challenging times. Now, I listen to my body signals with great respect and follow them faithfully. Occasionally I do falter but am more conscious now and bring myself quickly back to order.

Most of us will experience professional or personal stress at times in our lives. We will have to respond to demands of modern life and sometimes push ourselves to our limits. We will also have to deal with forces of nature beyond our control either by accepting or fighting them.  All of this is inevitable during our lives.

Despite all the adversities, we will continue to be inspired by our goals and work hard to achieve them. We will be eager to explore life and look forward to new dreams. We will pursue happiness and work towards building a secured future, individually and for our families and society. I am sure we will all have exciting stories to tell our near and dear ones in the warmth of our homes. However, in all the excitement and struggle, let us be mindful that to make those stories happen and to share that warmth, you must first look after your only home, gifted kindly by nature: your body. Please take good care of it.

For all the castles and mansions you may build, it remains the only place you have to live in!

Ani Kaprekar