EXCLUSIVE | Minol Ajekar, Puravankara Limited: The year of self-discovery [Year-Ender 2020]

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Minol Ajekar, Head – Corporate Communication, CSR & Business Operations at Puravankara Limited, is an experienced marketer who has worked in the financial sector in Australia.

In this exclusive piece, she writes about how she rediscovered herself during the lockdown, how the pandemic taught us that we all ‘cared more than we knew’, about how this year has changed our priorities, the lessons she learned in 2020, and more. Read on.

‘Ihope the world continues to embrace empathy and kindness unabashedly’. I recently read a book by Caryn Sullivan and came across this line that said “In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter, or we can be better.” I believe this line encompasses a collective attitude that we nurtured during the pandemic. To be better, became our rescue star and empathy – our tool for survival. And the word ‘unprecedented’ became the most overused word in history!

The world metamorphosed into one giant community, who then became cheerleaders for each other. When the UK got its first vaccination, the whole world cheered. Common people sought uncommon results. Some were fruitful, rest were learnings. However, in the long history of collaborations, the period of the pandemic will remain the most effective of them all.

What has driven home for all of us is that our homes are where we all feel safe and protected… ‘Makaan’ which was constantly overshadowed by its more popular cousins, ‘roti’ and ‘kapda’ – finally got its due: Minol Ajekar  

The unpredictability of 2020 saw disruptive innovations arise in the most obscure places, starting from the spaces we created for our WFH desks and hacks for video conferencing. Everybody went digital in a blink of an eye, 75 year-olds were ‘Zooming’ for the grandkid’s birthday. This change was nurtured and not shunned – which is a quality that should be imbibed as a life value!

Breaking the boundaries

Although technological prowess led several sectors like manufacturing and real estate into hyper-acceleration, a traditional sector like real estate still largely depends upon human interaction – so how we keep cultures and office networks alive but ensure ‘physical distancing but social proximity’.

To overcome a fundamental challenge of communication with not just the customers but the rest of the organization, real estate as an industry went through a sea change of its own. For example, “Work from Home” was unheard of, but human nature prevailed, we adapted, and we embraced. This can be described in Thomas A. Edison’s words, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

Co-dependency on communities

In an otherwise limited situation, hope is the silver lining. The pandemic was a fast teacher, albeit harsh at many times. We saw kitchen novices, baking gourmet banana bread, all egged on by their virtual communities. Online communities mushroomed overnight- which for people who live alone was a boon, from kitchen gardening to home workouts. A shared global tragedy brought people together in common grief and common strength to survive and thrive.

On a personal note, I was surprised to discover that I am an excellent cook, provided I try. I bowled myself over with a five-course meal cooked in less than two hours. I see this as a self-discovery that made me reassess myself. A journey that reacquainted me with myself, something I stopped doing ages ago, which was refreshing.

The lockdown was also a valuable opportunity for shared responsibilities, especially amongst spouses, and young parents. According to the IANS-CVoter COVID tracker survey, ‘Nearly 60% of men aged between 25 and 45 years have taken an active part in household chores during the pandemic’.

This with the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment – “A homemaker contributes to the economic condition of the family and the economy of the nation, the Supreme Court emphasized, adding that fixing notional income for contributions of homemakers in motor accident cases is a step towards social equality” It took a pandemic and centuries of unpaid labour to be recognized as a contribution to the nation’s economy.

These new working conditions have been inclusive of new mothers, who continued on their professional journey without the guilt of missing out on quality time with

their young ones. This added element of Inclusivity, which was a surprising by-product of WFH – a practice that over the years people denied would ever

work. For the differently-abled, WFH will bring many into the fold of the working and we may see a thriving diverse working populace in the next five years.

What has driven home for all of us is that our homes are where we all feel safe and protected. Our internal research shows that people are making home-buying decisions in 2020 because of the pandemic. ‘Makaan’ which was constantly overshadowed by its more popular cousins, ‘roti’ and ‘kapda’ – finally got its due.

Being real in the virtual world

Going forward, kindness and empathy is not something we should ‘practice’, but it should become our second nature. Though the virtual world tried to keep us all connected through ‘Zoom’ parties and tech-savvy environments, it made us realize that true joy is from relationships and connections in the real offline world.

We saw renowned musicians giving violins concerts from their balconies, people singing songs to each other- all echoing similar sentiments – ‘we are all in this together’. Even jaded me had fun playing ‘housie’ on video calls with families. These are the tiny things that kept us grounded as we took a moment to stop and ‘smell the roses’.  Most of us, to borrow from BeeGees were just trying to ‘Stay Alive’ and what I found out is, that vulnerability gave me strength.

For me, the recognition that I could depend on myself and my networks for support, both material and mental was reassuring. This has been attested by several of my friends and colleagues – we all discovered that we ‘cared’ more than we knew.

Going forward, kindness and empathy is not something
we should ‘practice’, but it should become second
nature. These two values should be the foundation of
the new world order: Minol Ajekar

Looking beyond the pandemic

Inclusion due to hybrid working models will bring diversity to all aspects of our lives. Diversity is a harbinger to success, as seen globally. Some of the world’s most successful countries have been shaped through the ideas and contributions of immigrants. An immigrant couple in Germany developed the leading vaccine against COVID19. Countries such as America, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany are a testimony of the new thinking, knowledge, and experience that diversity and more importantly inclusion, bring along with it.

Going forward, kindness and empathy is not something we should ‘practice’, but it should become second nature. These two values should be the foundation of the new world order. A learning experience should never be forgotten but lessons should be passed on to the generations to come. We know now that we adapt swiftly, why not adapt to be nurturing and accommodative, and KIND. Now that is a kind of evolution, we can truly look forward to.

We talk in 2021 battle-weary but determined and confident that ‘we shall overcome’. Collective wisdom and cohesive living will propel humanity forward. Onwards and upwards my friends, with renewed hope and kindness!

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