HESP July 1, 2017

I reached out to learn more about the kind of pieces that would be included in the Harvard Extension School (HES) paper with the intent to write and share my personal story of getting to HES. The events that unfolded right after did not allow me the opportunity to write as intended.

My father, Mr. B.S. Baidwan, passed away last week. He had, approximately a year ago, learned about a heart issue he suffered from. Besides this, he was hale and hearty and exercised three or four times a week until the day of his passing. He was a lawyer and was wearing a suit, long black coat, pastel yellow turban (headgear worn by people who follow Sikhism) and a mustard tie. He was in the court’s library to research a case he was working on, when he collapsed.

The immediate thoughts that follow such events are often as simple and paradoxically complex as, why?

I, being the eldest child, took on the responsibility of ensuring that everything that followed with respect to the rites and rituals was as pious and simple as I’d imagine he would have desired. I drew strength from my mother and brother. As I’m sitting here and typing this, I wonder what it is that we desire from our lives. Why do we learn? Why do we indulge in intelligent discourse? Why did my father take on a Master of Laws program at the age of 57? Why did he want to spend the time that people often spend planning retirement in school; studying first for his post-graduate program and then for his Ontario Bar exam?

He took on his masters while he worked part time. He spent every spare minute available to him reading his textbooks. He worked extremely hard.

To add some context, my parents had moved to Canada to provide a better education to my younger brother and I. Before moving here, my father had an established career in Management in India. Thirty years ago, he had started his career at an entry-level position in the Accounts Department of a medium sized firm. During his time at the firm, he pursued a number of certifications and a Diploma in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. These endeavors and other pursuits enabled him to be continually promoted. At the time he left the firm, he was serving as the Chief Executive Officer.

During this period, he took on the mammoth challenge of taking responsibility for reviving Punjab Wireless (Punwire), which was a sick unit. Punwire supplied military-grade strategic electronics and avionics equipment to the Indian Army and Navy among other businesses before it shut down in 2001. My father took on the challenge of restarting this business and providing employment to 1,200 former employees. After a battle of nearly three years, as the result of his prowess in Business Process Improvement and Investment Management, the company saw a new dawn. Not only the employees but also their families rejoiced, as they once again had a hearth that was alive and thriving. Today, re-branded as Elcom the company continues its operations.

In addition to his work, he also contributed to the state of Punjab, its industry, and society. He represented the state’s industries while serving as a board member of the Punjab State Planning Board. He believed in rehabilitation of troubled youth, and helped this cause by serving on the Juvenile Justice Board of Mohali.

My father wasn’t someone who rested on his laurels. He had a law degree (needless to say in reviving sick units, which was his forte, he exercised his knowledge), and he used it while serving in the management teams of the companies he worked for while in India.

Going back to a few years ago, moving to Canada presented him with the opportunity to begin his law practice. He enrolled in University of Toronto’s Global Professional Master of Laws post-graduate program. It is also important to note the contribution of my mother as she stood by him, and she supported his ambitious goals. While at the University of Toronto, he was among the three people interviewed by the university. In his interview, he talked about his degree, saying, “This degree will open new avenues for my career progression. This is a unique program and enables you to enrich your knowledge and experience in tackling complex issues involving business, law and globalization.” Furthermore, his words on why he was pursuing his degree at the age of 57 while working part time were, “The sacrifice is worth it.”

My father believed that learning and growing is a lifelong endeavor; it gave him immense pleasure to do what he was doing. I take solace in the fact that he left us while pursuing his passion in his temple – the law library – learning until his very last moments.

I will not ask why he didn’t rest more and work less because I know the answer. He was happiest when he did what he loved, which was to learn, grow, and follow his passion.

Change is the only constant. My life’s changed as he’s no longer a physical part of it, but his indelible impressions remain. He taught me never to give in.

Ad Astra per Aspera.

He taught me to persevere and work hard. I remember my time at the University of Waterloo as an undergraduate. I had gotten an advanced admission into the second year of the Computer Engineering program. It wasn’t an easy program. When I felt challenged, I had asked my father why he encouraged me to pursue such an intensive program. He had simply said, because you can. He believed in me. He broke down big issues into smaller, less intimidating chunks and addressed them. Today, working as a Business Analyst, I often use this advice. When I mentioned taking up Harvard Business School’s course, HBX Core, he was thrilled that I was taking on a course to further my education. I learned to be proactive from him. When he took up a matter, he resolved to see it through, to the end.

He also taught me to love. I will always be Papa’s girl. And, I consider myself lucky to have my mother and brother by my side to love and support me.

I miss you, Papa.
Richi Baidwan

About the author:

I work as a Business Analyst designing holistic solutions for various standard and in-house software platforms at The Blackstone Group in New York City. I started my career as a BA at TD Bank Financial Group in Toronto. Having lived and worked in India, Canada, and the USA, I consider myself a global citizen. I enjoy indulging in Skydiving, Rock Climbing, Scuba Diving and Kathak (Indian classical dance).

 

 

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