By | Papa CJ | Comedian • Executive Coach • Author • Oxford MBA • HBR Writer • papacj.com • WIT of the Week newsletter on LinkedIn, papacj.substack.com & papacj.medium.com • I uplift others & help them be the best version of themselves
Even today, exactly three years after I wrote this note, every single word of it holds true. Except of course today I celebrate the 18th anniversary 😉
Today I celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of my 21st birthday. And I do so with an immense sense of gratitude. For I have lived a truly wonderful life.
I have grown up in Calcutta, which in my belief is one of the nicest cities in the world for a child to grow up in. The warmth and simplicity of the people in the city makes for a great childhood. And it gives you a sense of grounding that is difficult to shake off. I know no other city that has a heart like Calcutta does. No matter where in the world I travel or stay, Calcutta will always be the place that I call home.
I have spent nine years in a boarding school in the mountains breathing fresh air, drinking clean water and living countless interesting and fun experiences. I have played sport for my school, been on exchange, acted in plays, been school captain, learnt to play a musical instrument, learnt carpentry, clay modeling and even tried my hands (and feet) at Kathak! I have formed great friendships. Some of these friends still bring great joy to my life and there are some who I am grateful for not having seen in the last twenty years 😉
I have spent years of my life struggling to get on my feet and become financially independent. I have known what it is like to not walk into a coffee shop in the UK for an entire year because I couldn’t afford a cup of coffee in there. I have known what it is like to wait for a bus at 3am in the morning for over an hour in sub zero temperatures because I didn’t have the money to pay for a taxi. I’ve known what it is like to eat one meal and travel eight hours every day for an entire year when starting my comedy career. As with all struggles I have placed great value on these experiences after having been through them and not while actually living them! Nonetheless I am grateful for them for they have taught me to appreciate and value what I have today.
I have had the privilege, and yes it is a privilege, of making thousands of people laugh. Of seeing them throw away every care in the world, even if it is for only a little while, and just be happy. And they have chosen to share that happy moment with me. And I am grateful to them for that.
I have people in my life who have put faith in my work and invited me to perform for them at special occasions in their lives. I have performed at comedy shows, corporate shows, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even baby showers! My audiences have ranged from the age of two to ninety. I have performed on a plane, in a bus, on a boat, on a train, at comedy clubs, theatres, universities, hospitals, palaces and even at a police station! I’ve had a gun pointed at me before a show and knives pointed at me after a show. I’ve managed to get away alive and write this note! I’ve worked with some lovely and extremely funny people in many countries all over the world and I have not only learned a lot from the talents they have but have also had the privilege of sharing a stage and a nightcap with them.
I have had an 86 year old woman walk up to me and say, “Thank you so much beta, I haven’t laughed so much in 30 years”. I’ve had someone walk up to me and say, “If you don’t mind my saying, you are not like a celebrity at all, you are just like us”. I don’t think even she realised what a big compliment that was for me. And on countless occasions in India and abroad, I’ve had people come up to me after shows and tell me that I make them feel proud to be Indian. All these words have given great meaning to my work.
On the fifteenth anniversary of my 21st birthday I have known what it is like to consider chopping off one grey hair from my left sideburn (which incidentally I haven’t done…yet). I have also known what it is like to have to loosen my belt buckle by one notch when I sit down for a meal (which incidentally I have done many, many times).
I have friends who are like brothers and friends who are like sisters and friends who would have been like sisters had certain other wonderful experiences not been shared with them ;). I wrote the line above only for the joke but the fact is that I have never felt the need to say that ‘this friend is like my brother’ because the value of friendship in itself is high enough. I have friends who stick by me through thick and thin and who share their lives and the lives of their adorable children with me. Whether or not they would give their lives for me, there are those whom I would give my life for. And that means more to me because it shows how they have made me feel about our friendship and the place they hold in my heart.
I have an extended family that is full of such wonderful, wonderful people. People who I love not just because I am related to them but also because they are fantastic human beings with hearts that are larger than the size of recent scams in India. I have a family that is full of ‘rocks’ – rocks that stick by you in hard times and rocks that go in your drink in good times. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters…the love and strength I get from them is invaluable. No Mastercard advertisement could ever be created that shows how priceless they are to me. I was privileged to have two grandmothers whose emotional wisdom I can only hope to possess one day.
I have parents who I pray, that if we Hindu’s are right are about rebirth, are my parents in every lifetime. There isn’t a minute in my entire life when they have put themselves before me – from the larger things in life to putting the best piece of chicken on my plate. As a family we didn’t have much growing up but not once, not once, did I ever feel that I lacked anything. Ever. What was missing in finance (not that I ever knew it) was more than compensated for by love. And they gave me the greatest gift ever, their time. They do that even now and I continue to value that gift everyday.
I have truly led a wonderful life that I can only but be grateful for. I was born on International Women’s Day and over the course of my life I’ve had the privilege of meeting, spending time and sharing experiences with some amazing women. Their compassion, strength and ability to hold it all together while overcoming great challenges have inspired me.
I have known what it is like to love selflessly with all my heart until there is nothing more left to give. I have known what it is like to be loved in the same way. I have also known what it is like to lose that love. I am not sad for it but grateful that I was able to have a few years in my life when I could feel the way I felt then. For it taught me what great strength can be drawn from love. It taught me the vastness and potential of the heart to keep loving and giving even when you think the tank is empty. Not a car has been made that has the fuel efficiency of the heart! It can not only give without receiving but can also get great joy and fulfillment from it as well.
Over the course of my life, I have learnt that it a lot more fun to give than it is to receive. Whether it is a gift, a laugh, or love.
To all the people who have been in my life in any capacity at all, I thank you. Your presence in whatever capacity it has been has shaped my human experience. And therefore my life has been enriched thanks to you. For that reason today, I celebrate YOU.
Republished with permission and originally published at Papa CJ’s LinkedIn