Gupta was my colleague when I was working in the Steel Plant. One day over a cup of coffee, he told me about this incident.
One night, he was travelling from his home town of Dharbanga in Bihar to Durgapur. At night when he woke up, he found that the train had had a breakdown and had stopped in a no man’s land. It was about midnight and was not clear when the breakdown had happened and when it will be attended to. There was no way of knowing where they were and how far they were from Durgapur. Gupta was supposed to attend duty the next day.
Since he was light on luggage and since it was unclear when they will attend to the breakdown, while other passengers decided to wait for the crew to arrive, Gupta decided to walk along the railway track in the direction of Durgapur.
“I was not sure where I was and how far I was from Durgapur. I did not know how much time it will take for me to reach my destination”, Gupta told me while taking a sip.
“I was looking at lot of uncertainties. But I couldn’t sit idle. So I just started walking and continued walking. I took it step by step, walked one step at a time but continued walking”, Gupta continued his story.
“Eventually at around 2.00 AM I came across a railway station that was familiar. I knew that from there if I walked at a decent pace, I could reach Durgapur by early morning in time for the duty. So I walked for another 5 hours and reached Durgapur at about 6.30 AM and reached home by 7.30. I was able to reach office, albeit a bit late, at about 9.00 AM. All is well that ends well”, said Gupta
I was fascinated with this story. “What did you make out of that experience?”, I asked.
“My walk of over 7 hours can be divided into two phases. In phase one, the first three hours or so, I walked in the general direction of Durgapur, hardly knowing how far I will have walk and unsure if I will be able to attend duty the next day. In this phase, I had to cope with the uncertainty and a lack of clarity in mind. Motivating myself to keep walking was tough in this phase. But I willed myself to take it one step at a time.”, Gupta paused for a sip of Java brew.
“Phase two started when I knew where I was in relation to my destination. I knew the effort required and had clarity about when I will reach my destination. That was one load off my mind. But still I had to walk for about five hours, one step after another, without succumbing to tiredness or falling to the temptation to give up and wait for the morning for a bus to take me to Durgapur”
Gupta finished his story. You could say that he was proud of himself.
This happens many a time in life. Lots of times we are having to work, move forward in face of significant uncertainties. For a student in Class X in India, it could be the preparation for the exams falling two years later and the associated uncertainties regarding her future. For a project manager it could be a project that is embroiled in so many issues (believe me, they do exist) with end nowhere in sight. Or it could be that one is stuck in a lousy job from which there seems to be no escape.
For 10 years of my life, I worked in a steel plant, staying away from home, working in a job that was not aligned with my interest or my potential or to my goals and aspirations, but not having courage to quit...
If you can imagine that, you know what I am talking about.
It is at times like these that Gupta’s advice becomes relevant. It is important that we keep that fire burning, that hunger unsated and those steps uninterrupted.
Whatever happens, one should move forward. Yesterday is history, our life is going to be made over a series of tomorrows.
So look forward and keep up those steps one at a time....