The Fellowship Experience – Beyond the Work

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In the 1999 cult movie, “Being John Malkovich”, the main protagonist essayed by John Cusack, discovers a portal into the mind of John Malkovich, a celebrated actor who plays himself. Once inside the portal, Cusack has access to all of Malkovich’s thoughts and you can imagine the hilarious twists and turns that ensue. One of the most intriguing scenes in the movie is when Malkovich enters the portal himself.

Just like Malkovich, living life as an Acumen fellow, has given me the opportunity to visit a portal………my own!! This is an unexpected benefit, as I accepted the fellowship with an objective to explore the world of social enterprises and also to utilize the skills I have acquired for a greater good.

Prior to the fellowship, I lived life at a frenetic pace. My blackberry was an extension of my mind and body and I juggled the demands of a successful career, marriage and fatherhood. I moved so fast, that I never really took time out of my day or week or month to critically think about my life. I wasn’t unhappy, but felt emptiness. I knew that I had to change something and the fellowship was a great opportunity to experiment.

I now live alone in a small town in India devoid of television, internet access and social interactions. Don’t pity me. This self-imposed isolation has given me the time to think about my life, future and the role that I want to play in society.  I have had the time to think about details such as my prejudices, hypocrisies, bad habits and weaknesses in behavior and thought. The challenge, as adults are as stubborn as mules, is to use the knowledge gained (which is half the battle) from introspection to improve myself.

You might have noticed that words like, “my” and “I” appear often in previous paragraphs. Yes, this is, and has been a selfish journey. And it has come at a cost. My wife and 3 year old daughter have lived without me for 8 months and it has been tougher than expected. Buckets of tears have been shed. Earlier this week, my daughter Kavya, found an expired drivers license of mine and the photo reminded her of her missing daddy. This reminder then triggered an episode of non-stop sobbing that lasted a whole day.

With a few months left to go in India, I eagerly look forward to being reunited with my family and sincerely hope that the investment I have made in myself will yield a positive return on our lives. I also intend to rearrange my professional priorities in such a way that I help build a better, more equitable society with a greater sense of purpose and vigor.

You probably don’t have to spend a year in a foreign country or away from family to enter your own portal. However, if you are naturally confused, hard-headed and slow to understand stuff, much like myself, I highly recommend it!

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6 Responses to “The Fellowship Experience – Beyond the Work”

  1. joannaharries Says:

    Karthik, what a thoughtful post, and expressed in such an authentic and honest manner. I have also had to do a lot of soul searching this year, and yet am grateful for the time to reflect and to rebuild a stronger and truer sense of myself. A tough, but inevitable outcome of an immersion experience I think. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Suraj Says:

    Karthik,

    This is such a genuine post! I really enjoyed reading it and many thanks for writing it! I would just like to add that you might still be hoping, but having known you for a while now, I am SURE that this investment you have made in yourself WILL yield a POSITIVE return on MANY MANY lives!

  3. kjanakiraman Says:

    Thanks Joanna and Suraj for your comments. Please read this blog entry by Pico Iyer when you have a few moments
    http://happydays.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/the-joy-of-less/?em

  4. Rema Nair Says:

    Karthik,what you are doing now is commendable. We are all very proud of you.To think of uplifting the poor & downtrodden in whatever way possible is very noble. At the prime of your life ,you are devoting your time & energy for a great cause.This will be a source of inspiration for Kavya when she grows up.
    I am reminded of a quote ‘”The higher nature includes the need for a meaningful work ,for creativity,for responsibility ,for being fair&just ,for doing what is worthwhile & for preferring to do it well.”-Abraham Maslow
    May God bless you! Rema aunty

  5. Rakesh Nair Says:

    KJ, very well written and I really enjoyed reading it. I can identify with your thoughts, the part of introspection. I beleive we all go through moments of introspection, some more than others, but seldom few act on it, especially at a certain point & age in your life, this demands great sacrifice, emotional, physical, mental & financial investment and you did & so did your family, which is commendable.

    I look forward to some interesting conversations on your return, I will invite Mr.Glen also, he has been enquiring about you a lot, hope you still remember him:-)

  6. Karthik Says:

    Thanks. I have lots of stories, too many to write down and some are unprintable…….I do remember Mr.Glen, but strangely do not miss him as much as I thought I would.

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