Mayuri and I met during our MBA at IIM Ahmedabad. 2 States, you’d ask? Yep, but without the family melodramas! In our 2nd year in B-school, we figured that to make a long-term commitment, we would have to make sacrifices as we go along.
As both of us were ambitious and career-oriented, we knew that life would be a roller coaster and we will need to adjust the gears up or down in order to enjoy the ride.
We got married immediately after graduating and what followed were 13 years of non-stop consulting and corporate careers; travels that took us to 5 continents and along the way, we were blessed with two children. I was on a career high as a senior management team member of a $1 billion company, while Mayuri had a successful career in Marketing. It was then that life presented us, through Mayuri’s career path at Nestlé, with an opportunity to expatriate to Switzerland for 3 years. It was my turn to walk the talk and take a back seat and support my wife and the family in the transition to Europe.
The decision to be the pillion rider came naturally to me; there was no ‘swallowing the male pride” involved. I grew up admiring the women in my life. My mother is my idol; how she effectively juggled 2 kids, a blind mother-in-law, a brother-in-law who was an addict, another brother-in-law who had a life crippling accident, a husband incapacitated with a stroke at 40, and still managed to have an uninterrupted career for nearly 40 years, is a wonder for me. Ever since I married Mayuri, I have known many more women, like my mother-in-law, who have juggled careers and family commitments. So what if I was a man? I don’t think being a man is about sitting in an all-male boardroom and lamenting the inadequacies of the system which doesn’t allow more women to break through the glass ceiling. I think being a man or a woman is simply about respect for everyone around you. I respect my wife and what she has achieved personally and professionally, how she has walked the tightrope and balanced her career aspirations, while also being there for our kids and me. Now that she had the opportunity to get global visibility in her company, I planned to back her all the way.
My decision to quit and take a break shocked some of my peers, but then that reaction was justified, as many of them would not have known that my wife was an accomplished executive. Also, there weren’t too many examples going around, at least in India, of men taking a backseat for their wives. Barring a couple of friends, who pulled my leg over my decision ‘to chill-out in life while my wife turned breadwinner’, most colleagues, including my boss and mentor, were supportive.
Related reading: Seven things that keep a relationship going
In retrospect, it was a great decision to move to central Europe for a few years.
Our kids have benefitted the most from this experience, as they have had an opportunity to go to a fantastic international school where they have friends from 40 different countries, learnt a new language (French) and skied in one of the most beautiful places on earth
As a family, we have travelled to 25 countries in the last 3 years, met beautiful people, learnt about many different cultures and history.
Professionally, it was a calculated risk. Having being a consultant most of my life, I knew that my skills would be handy in any consulting or corporate environment. Since we were living down the street from the HQ of a $100 billion company, I targeted Nestlé and within 4 months of the transition, landed a 6-month strategy assignment there. After joining the company, I figured that they were going through a massive transformation and that my background in shared services and outsourcing strategy was very relevant for them. After trying unsuccessfully to navigate through the HR labyrinth, I took another gamble, this time writing to the executive board member driving the transformation. A successful pitch meant that I joined Nestlé full-time in a services strategy role.
Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get! It helps if you find someone who enjoys chocolates as much as you do. And you know that she likes the dark ones, as much as you. Every now and then, you need to eat the milky ones and leave the dark ones for her to enjoy.