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Failure is an opportunity

Qualities required to achieve success are punctuality, integrity, professional competence and good health report Vandana Ramnani

education Updated: Jul 07, 2010 10:10 IST
Vandana Ramnani
Vandana Ramnani
Hindustan Times

I was born in 1932 in a remote village in Kerala, which didn’t have any good high school. Therefore, most of my early education was done while staying with my sister and my brother-in-law, who used to take an interest in my studies. Being mostly left alone, I used to enjoy building mud houses, bridges and roadways out in the compound, which probably was an expression of the engineering instincts in me. I had to walk one-and-half km each way to school and a particularly fond memory I have is of watching steam engine-run trains come and go at a railway station on the way.

My humble upbringing taught me to value things in life.

Professional highs
Within a few years of joining the Indian Railways Service of Engineers (IRSE), I faced one of my biggest challenges when I was entrusted the task of restoring Rameshwaram’s Pamban bridge, where 126 spans out of 146 spans were washed away by a tidal wave in December 1963. Two bridge piers were also toppled.

It was initially estimated that the restoration would take six months, but we completed the work in just 46 days. I was then just 32 years old and the stupendous task was possible because of engineering innovation, teamwork and the ability to take risks.

Greatest influence
My greatest influence was undoubtedly my elder sister. I completed my schooling staying at her house and she, along with my brother-in-law, took care of my studies. In fact, she treated me as her son. Unfortunately, she passed away last year and that has left a big void in my life.

As a professional, I have always held the late G. P. Warrier, former chairman, Railway Board, as a role model. I had the good fortune to work under him and observe his leadership qualities.

My work
I have always believed that rather than spending additional hours in office, it is important to utilise the scheduled working hours in the best possible way.

I am never late at work in the morning and I generally leave for home by 5.30 pm. However, during these working hours, I dedicate myself completely to my work.
That apart, I prioritise my work and schedule it accordingly.

Work-life balance
I always try my best to give adequate time to my family. As mentioned earlier, I don’t work till late evenings and try to spend quality time with my family members after work. I thoroughly enjoy a leisurely walk with my wife in the evenings after returning from work.

I also take time out to read books on spiritual discourses.

Dealing with failure
I have been in professional life for more than 56 years now. Having been involved in executing extremely complex engineering projects such as the Konkan Railways and now the Delhi Metro, both ups and downs have been a constant companion.

While I see success as a recognition of my effort and hard work, I see failures as an opportunity to improve myself and learn new things. Therefore, failures do not really depress me or dent my enthusiasm; rather, these provide me with another opportunity to make a mark.

Advice to youngsters
There are many qualities in today’s youth that are admirable, especially their competitiveness, tenacity and zeal to succeed. However, I feel concerned about an all-round erosion of moral values.

I believe that there are four basic qualities for a successful life - punctuality, integrity and good morals, professional competence and good health. The future of India will be in good hands if these qualities are assiduously nurtured by the youth of our nation.

As told to Vandana Ramnani

First Published: Jul 06, 2010 15:17 IST