Accidental Entrepreneur: Foundation & Community
Welcome to my 3rd weekly article on Community.
The community that I grew up with in Puloly, Sri Lanka gave me the opportunity to develop skills in communication, planning and project execution that allowed me to become successful later on in Silicon Valley.
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My goal is to be able empower folks to go after their goals and reach their full potential!
“கற்றார்முன் கற்ற செலச்சொல்லித் தாம்கற்ற
மிக்காருள் மிக்க கொளல்”
— திருக்குறள் (724)
“Leaders (Ministers) should agreeably set forth their acquirements before the learned and acquire more (knowledge) from their superiors (in learning).”
— Thirukkural (724)
Where I’m From
“I am from hot days in the sun
From climbing trees, dirt,
From cooking feasts
I am from dosa, roti,
I am from nature
From mangos, trees,
From biking with friends
I am from war
From bombs, disaster,
I am from tigers
I am from hard work
From School, tutor,
I am from heartbreak
Heart attack, death,
I am from brown photo albums
Taken a lifetime before mine.
Taken before my flower blossomed
On the family tree.”
— poem composed by my daughter Raghavi Kantharuban when she was 12 years old
“It takes a village to raise a child”. Since I heard this African proverb, it resonated well with my early life and upbringings. I was born and brought up in a small village called Puloly in the Northern tip of Sri Lanka. The name Puloly was given since the village had many poets (Pulavar) and their voice or sound was heard around the village. Puloly had everything for a person to grow into a well accomplished person. It had rules, educational institutions, spiritual places, farming lands, a few small factories, extracurricular activities such as sports, fields and more.
Community: We were brought up with respect for elders and customs. Normally, it revolved around a religious temple or library as there were adult groups and youth groups with specific tasks. Normally adults took care of the building maintenance along with overall customs that were conducted during events and festivals. Youth group carried out any physical work as well as fun activities. I remember being selected as leader of “The Youth Organization” at the age of sixteen and having to organize and raise funds to celebrate a festival. At that age, it took courage and organizational skills to flawlessly execute the event. It took quite a bit of mediation and negotiation to execute the event successfully, especially dealing with both younger as well as older people . Those taught me leadership skills, money + time management, and interpersonal skills. I still remember a few situations where I had to stand up for what was right against a few older people. That wasn’t easy in a community where we were expected to blindly respect elders.
Extracurricular Activities: As a community, we played many games together. Some of them were seasonal and others were year long. To name some games, we played cricket, volleyball, and some traditional games like kiliththaddu (கிளித்தட்டு), kiddi (கிட்டி), Marbles, etc. Others played card games as my interest was in physical games such as Cricket and Volleyball. I played from a very young age along with my middle brother who was a very good cricket player in our region. I was selected as captain in our village team (Bension Cricket Club) and we won a few championships during my time. We brought people from many different backgrounds and ages together. Two of the members, Sunthi and Ratha, both had not played much cricket prior to that time and they were very interesting and funny/tough guys from our village. Unfortunately Sunthi passed away later due to some unfortunate medical conditions and Ratha died of an unfortunate event in France. Again, it gave me a great opportunity to learn how to manage a team and execute orders to win. I am still proud of that achievement and that cricket club invited me as chief guest for their tournament two years ago where I could see the custom still going strong.
Charitable Activity: Many of the activities revolved around physical charitable functions. For example, there is a water tank which provides water for irrigation and animals as well as a good place for youngsters to learn to swim. Over time, the tank became shallow due to the sand that came with running water. We organized the youths to clean the tank and remove excess sand. During that time, one of the older well wishers gave us some money and we bought very tasty food (Kottu Roti) for all the volunteers even though people didn’t approve of us buying such food. There were a few people who complained about it but we defended the action with an agreement from the donor.
Togetherness: While Puloly was a reasonably small place and far away from the capital, we enjoyed life as if we had everything. When there was a wedding, even when my family was not on the attendance list, I, along with a few others, were invited to come and decorate the hall. We did that and had a lot of fun, sometimes working overnight. Annually, we had a festival in our local temple and had thousands of pilgrims as well as visitors come. As a welcome center at the entrance of the temple, we erected a hut (Watershed — தண்ணீர் பந்தல்)for people to rest and get various drinks for free. All these activities are done as a community with a team and volunteers.
“I am from those hot days….” as my daughter described my life during my childhood, it brings back great memories. I told her that even though the weather was hot and humid, it felt pleasant and beautiful. Those learnings on teamwork, communication, planning and executing projects with minimum resources and finally winning with all odds against us, had prepared me for the entrepreneur life in Silicon Valley. I am so thankful for all these experiences and more, which shaped my future and definitely my success.