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But I don’t remember him: The making of a CEO

Five days ago, P. Sundararajan sprang forth like Brahma the Creator on a thousand-petalled lotus from the navel of Vishnu the Supreme Being. He emerged as Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. Even Brahma and Vishnu would be hard pressed to dive into the “Alphabet” (pun intended) soup and produce Sundar Pichai from P. Sundararajan.

How absolutely wonderful for a young lad to have his teachers say, years later, “but I don’t remember him”. Growing up most of us wished our teachers didn’t know us and didn’t remember the things we did and did not do. More recently, children wish this thing called e-mail had never been invented; this tentacled creature that allows teachers to tell parents in real-time what their offspring are up to – definitely not springing forth from the navel of Vishnu, but close enough.

P. Sundararajan’s idyllic childhood (and what little is known of it to his teachers) is one that every child should have. Notice that there has been no mention of a mother shuttling him from one after-school activity to another – Debate team, Math Counts, Forensics, piano lessons, and on and on – another alphabet soup that spells “MY child MUST excel” – no quotes around excel because that would mean MY child must WORD, EXCEL, POWERPOINT and ACCESS – sorry, couldn’t resist that one! But back to the point – his mother sounds ideal. And a father who spoke to his children about his work – not bitching about his boss or how he hated going in to work, but about what he did at work that made him valuable.

We are told that P. Sundararajan was quiet and shy. And obviously his teachers and parents left him alone. They didn’t try to figure out if he was an extrovert trapped in an introvert’s mind (or is it the other way around? I’m not sure). He was allowed to be what children these days long to be – just be themselves.

It is hard to fly under the radar when you have been accepted into IIT, the holy grail of engineering schools in India. But P. Sundararajan seems to have succeeded in that too, since his teachers did not remember that fact about him. Since the announcement, I’m sure the schools he attended in Madras (or Chennai, as it is called now) will have wait lists extending for miles. And all teachers will be tasked with producing a Sundar Pichai out of every P. Sundararajan in their classes. But I still maintain that the best thing that could have happened to the Google CEO in his childhood was to have teachers who were not trying to produce a Sundar Pichai.

The Stories We Tell; The Stories That Get Published

Anita Felliceli asks where are the stories about desi lives in America ? Why are so many stories still about the immigrant lives of parents in which the characters often go ‘back home’? What about the homes here?

I believe there are many authors writing these stories but that they are probably not getting published (my own experience). Publishers still want a single story, and are not willing to take too many chances.

Felliceli’s essay  is a important read in an ongoing conversation.

“Early Indian American writers were mostly not writing about second-generation children of programmers, engineers and doctors, or about motel owners or taxi cab drivers or small business owners. They were writing about the upper echelon of educated first generation Indians in America. What links their books is nostalgia and love for India, their own wistful version of what India was.

But why are our lives here less interesting than the lives our parents left behind? The value of any story should be more in how it’s told than in its plot, so there isn’t any reason to think that the lives of Indian Americans should be intrinsically less interesting than the lives of Indians in India.”

read rest here