When I look back, I realise that I haven’t ever had time or resources to think about or develop interests, hobbies or passions. My childhood had been so tempestuous that getting one square meal a day is what we as a family aspired for. All siblings have taken pain and strain with my widowed mother to grow up as responsible, self-made human beings. We had no hobbies or interests apart from studies and becoming independent to help the family survive. Children of our age pursued various passions, but we didn’t have the luxury of thinking out loud. Even through my youth and the current phase of life in the mid-fifties, I have had no such aspirations, wishlists or interests.
The prime years of my life went in setting up two institutions, KIIT & KISS, without any financial and political backing. I have made it brick by brick and only God and I know the effort that has gone into building these two Institutions which have acquired national recognition and global acclaim. The halcyon days when one tend to indulge in various interests, hobbies and extravagant wishes like biking, apparel collection, travel, adventure, and so on, I was struggling to expand and diversify our educational institutions and social work.
Recently, a friend of mine showed my old photo from 2013 of me wearing sunglasses and relaxing in the rocking chair of my rented apartment. At once, I was drawn back into the nostalgic lanes of that day when a wellwisher asked me, ‘ Samanta ji why don’t you like luxury being in a lap of luxury? I have never seen you wear anything other than your usual white shirt – blue denims. You never even wear sunglasses, even when you were riding your bike in 1990s’, he asked.
‘Try mine’, he said and before I could reply or say anything he fixed his sunglasses on my eyes. It definitely looked different because I wasn’t used to wearing sunglasses. The irony is that I wore shades in a shade.
‘You really look good. It enhances your smartness, Samanta ji. Feels like they were made for you. It suits you so well,’ he said and clicked a photo of me. I believed him and didn’t even feel like going to the mirror to check how I looked. Those were the days when phones had started having functionally good cameras, but not great ones like now. This photo was taken on a handy cam and he showed me the photo after clicking. I was also surprised to learn that reel, click and washing negative days were gone. That’s the day when I learnt that sunglasses suited me.
‘Smart looks or appealing handsomeness comes naturally. If one is internally good-natured and kind, one looks appealing. After all, beauty is deep. God has given me natural beauty. As long as God disposes, I will continue to shine and look good’, I said in the lighter vein but implying a deep meaning.
I told him that I have never worn glasses, not in any season, even when I was riding my bike, a Hero Honda Sleek for 300kms every day while setting up of KIIT & KISS and in its formative years. I didn’t even wear a helmet those days, as awareness on road safety 25 years back was almost negligible and the traffic not so scary like today.
For that matter, I would also like to share that I don’t wear a watch, ( This is a separate story which I will share later) or carry a handkerchief or wallet ever. People who know me, know that I don’t even wear formal shoes. I love to wear comfortable slippers and go for all my official proceedings in Chappals only. These days, on the insistence of my well-wishers, I wear half shoes in Delhi and abroad, so it doesn’t look indecent for meetings and official purposes. I have sneakers gifted by friends who say that’s best for morning walks. My friends and well-wishers gift me costly shirts and denim that I humbly accept. But I don’t buy it – neither do I have the time, nor an inclination to go shopping. Do you know that I don’t even tuck my shirt in ever? During winters when I wear a half coat, it appears that it’s tucked in, but it’s not. I love to remain like what I was in my past and not let present accomplishments or style take over. I love to lead a simple life and have no difference in what I practice and preach.
I thank God to have kept me away from these wordly inclinations. That’s how I can give back so selflessly to the Institutions and society without any personal agenda. I always believe one should lead a simple life and work hard to bring smiles in the faces of people because happiness comes from art of giving and not material pursuits which is ephemeral. My idea of life has always been one that does not give value to materialistic thoughts and possessions because of my strong belief in humility and knowledge, the two assets which help a man grow in life.