Geetanjali is a highly qualified and very successful Human Resource professional with a ring side view to the people problems at workplace.
She has played a global role with EIH and been the CHRO for The India Today Group, The Indian Express Group and Zee Media Corporation. Geetanjali has faced struggles herself and only found true success when she applied the principles taught by the Buddha 2700 years ago. She shares methods and techniques that can help any professional at any stage of their career identify and develop their true north, deal with ease with all manner of colleagues, and succeed professionally.
Her work is based on the best of techniques Buddha propounded, for a transformation in everyday life, surprisingly even more valid in the 21st century than when Buddha walked the Earth. These techniques and exercises have been validated almost entirely by modern psychology and neurology. Geetanjali has created bite sized rituals and lovingly culled out the essence of the Buddha’s hallmark Loving-Kindness meditation (Pali karuna-mitta). So the book works wonderfully, based as it is on ancient wisdom but suited to the current context.
Geetanjali works to help individuals create professional breakthroughs via personal growth. She also works with organizations on building teams that truly collaborate, engage with purpose and ultimately become more productive and profitable. She combines rich experiences and learning from her own life, her practice of Buddhism that has been transformational (she has been a practicing Buddhist since 2000). Having found success and fulfilment personally, she has sought to fulfil her promise to ‘Gautam’ in Buddha At Work to help others do so too.
Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently
I am a product of small town upbringing and grew up in places like Srinagar (J&K), Jullundur (Punjab), Chandigarh and Dalhousie before finally moving to Delhi around 17 years of age.
I think it is a very fine thing to grow up in small towns. The education tends to be very very good (without breaking the parents bank and costing the moon!) and at least in the times I was growing up, there were no distractions of any kind. No cable TV, no devices, no screens. Everything was very basic and a phone in working order was a luxury!
I grew up watching Doordarshan right from its striped screen (with that horrible monotonous endless beep) to a hugely Haryanvi Krishi Darshan. I knew more about ‘murgi paalan’ and ‘urea khaad’ at 7 years of age than I knew about my school books! Even today I feel tempted to show off my knowledge of dairy farming and basic agriculture. Including what to feed the ‘murgis’!
I was petrified of Maths and flunked it mostly throughout school and thereafter flunked all quantitative subjects in my MBA. Scared senseless by my father’s overwhelming aura and coddled totally by my doting mother. And my elder brother was the bane of my existence and pretty much the big headache of life for so many many years.
So life was pretty normal! It wasn’t sane in any way but it was normal!
My father was a very very avid reader with a huge collection of books and so I started flipping through and reading them right from a very young age. And very soon, reading became as natural as breathing air. It continues to dominate my life. I am a huge fan of fiction, suspense and murder mysteries and have a big library of my own. Like all avid readers, I buy and collect just a little more than I can read. But I hope that one day I will have read them all!
Since my father was a singularly successful IPS officer, he kept on hammering on my impressionable mind, that the Civil Services were the only career option I could pursue and when I flunked out, not once but twice, he gave up on me and our less than happy relationship took a turn for the worse for many years. Nonetheless, I have drawn very heavily on my father’s wisdom and his personality. Unconsciously perhaps but I have turned out quite like my dad J in many of my likes, dislikes and choices.
It took many many years and a whole lot of change in my outlook for my relationship with my father to become better and for the last 20 years of his life, we were good friends and even companions.
As luck would have it, my preparation and hard work in preparing for the Civil Services served me in clearing the admission test for XLRI. I am a Human Resource professional by default – I qualified for my MBA at XLRI Jamshedpur without knowing or understanding much about it. I only knew that the PM & IR program (for which I was accepted to XLRI) had a big component of Labour Laws. And as a Law student at Delhi University, I thought I knew the Labour Laws. But XLRI proved to me that I really didn’t.
I have been writing columns and articles for several years for The Economic Times, DnA, The Financial Express. However, not many people are aware that I researched and wrote my first book at the age of 22 while studying law at Delhi University. Careers in Law (Vision Books) was published in 1996 and Careers in Management (Vision Books) was published in 1998.
It was only in 2016 that I started working on my big book – Buddha At Work (Hachette India) and it has gone on to win readers hearts since its release in 2017.
Tell us about any current projects or initiatives you wish to promote
Buddha At Work found global acceptance on a rare scale. It is now available to readers in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (New Holland Publishing). It has been translated into Bulgarian by AMG Books and released in Bulgaria in 2018 December.
Manovikas Prakashan has completed the Marathi translation and intends to release the Marathi edition of Buddha At Work sometime in July-August 2019.
I have started work on the next two books in the Buddha series. Besides which, it is wonderful to be invited to large and various platforms in transnational corporations for motivational talks. To be invited by Josh Talks. To be invited to conduct workshops on the unique methods of Buddha At Work and watch the positive change it brings about in individuals. Readers write in to share their stories and experiences of how the techniques and exercises given in Buddha At Work are helping them to transform. The feedback I received after my ‘Conversations’, Talks and even trainings is that this world view is a positive change in the way corporates approach people and business. I am so very very grateful that I have been witness to the total transformation of my own life. To have applied each and every technique and method and watch my own life blossom out.
I have a consulting firm that works on diversity and inclusion, on leadership development, on wellness at work, on SQ, and on profitability. The cause of women in leadership and our peculiar challenges are close to my heart and I am invited to work with corporates on this. So many individuals and corporations invite me to talk to them about finding balance or purposefulness.
Every time I am invited as a Spiritual Speaker is particularly fulfilling for me. It is time that we make the huge shift from merely talking and understanding about the EQ (Emotional Quotient) as a key element in leadership and success, to knowing and growing the SQ (Spiritual Quotient at work).
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
Well, the biggest challenge to my mind has more to do with my own personality rather than obstacles outside of me.
People who know my life story may not agree with this – I have experienced many hardships in life. It is always easy to place the responsibility and blame outside of us. On problems, on situations and most definitely, on people and our relationships.
My biggest breakthrough (attributed entirely to my study and practice of Buddhism) is the shift, a revolutionary paradigm shift that my biggest challenges lay within me and my biggest struggle, therefore, is with myself. And so I have come to realise and accept that challenges are not a matter of blaming people or circumstances or situations.
The fact remains that our life acts as a mirror for our inner self. We may not be able to understand or to see this but this is the truth. In that mirror is reflected our inner self, our inner life.
This actually applies to all of us. We have the potential to be our own best friend (and some people actually are this!) and we are our own worst enemies.
I have been candid about my life experiences in Buddha At Work including the fact that I was pink slipped at my last professional assignment. Throughout 2015, even as I struggled to not fall into depression, I took on the mantle of becoming my own coach and my own guide. This was a testing time in a way. And my struggle was very much my own. I could not share what I was experiencing with my husband, with my young daughters or with people around me.
I am so so grateful that I had writing to turn to and I could create, craft a wonderful experience and opportunity from that.
I try to live with minimum regret and have consciously worked on lessening the regret that comes with hindsight. The residual regret that I do have is about not applying wisdom and patience to certain situations, to my own reactions. To not fly off the handle but to handle the situation itself. To hold back my own reaction until I am calm. When I am calm (as with anyone else) then a better response, a wiser response arises from my life. So you can call it Wisdom and Patience or Calmness.
Besides which there is a real and on going challenge that writers face. Writing is a solitary activity. It is also a voluntary activity, isn’t it? There is no one to force or compel and neither is there any structure. So for those who write, the work itself becomes challenging. The nature of work is such. It calls for more discipline and more effort without any external force or external motivation. The publishers or editors calls and emails don’t count really because most writers who have publishers and editors are good are pushing back timelines and extending it all.
While engaged in completing a writing project, it is easy to fall into a pattern of half-heartedness and of going with the mood. So writing is a challenge to help me bring out my best. To exert discipline and to create my own timelines and struggle to meet them.
Like most individual contributors, people who are hunched over their computers and lead a largely sedentary life, there is a challenge in keeping healthy and fit. It is a conscious effort to keep active. To seek out physical exercise and ensure that study and writing don’t take over the day.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
My greatest achievement has been and continue to be to work on myself. To become a better me each day. To learn from my mistakes without falling into bitterness or regret. To disrupt my less successful patterns and create health and happiness for myself. The reason I say myself (and not others here ) is because I firmly believe that it all begins with me. Not in a selfish and bad way but in a good and positive way.
The happier and more purposeful I am, the better are my relationships with my husband and the better mother I become. If I put myself last, it does not work in the long run. I know this from experience.
March 2019 I was selected to share some of my experiences with the listeners of Radio Nasha as one of Delhi’s Super Strees (women) and that is something I cherish as I am only one of a growing tribe. All women have the potential to be Super Strees.
As a wife, a daughter and most certainly as a mother, it is my natural tendency to put others first. When I do this for a prolonged time my health and happiness start to suffer. My work starts to suffer. Even my attempts to remain fit and active drop. And I become unhappy and irritated.
Like the emergency instructions in an aeroplane, it is important to put on the oxygen mask oneself first in order to be able to help others. So I work consciously to understand and revisit my priorities. To keep working, to keep purposeful and to remain centred in what I am doing. This really helps me.
A question I get asked all the time and practically by everyone I meet is ‘what is living in balance’? and of course, ‘how to strike a balance’? Most people ask this question in the context of work-life balance or how to create a balance between work and personal life. I have discovered that there no such thing as work-life balance in our country. Indians work the longest hours of any workforce in the world. No wonder there are over 56 million Indians suffering from depression and allied mental illnesses.
So clearly balance is a quest. What is practical is the learning the ability to be present in the moment. In the now. When I spend time with my children, I do it very consciously and leave my phone in another room. When I am working, I don’t keep checking my phone for its notifications. When I choose my phone time, I do so consciously and try to complete my calls, messages, whatever in one go while keeping track of the time. When I watch screen for a time, I keep my book and phone away. Balance is in the moment. Not in multitasking.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
Hmmmm….This is always a tough one. Maybe teaching at a University. Or acting in movies. Both are possible even now though.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
It is my belief that there are always multiple inspirations in life. We learn from many people around us. I have learnt focus from my younger daughter. My elder child exemplifies good sense and a large heart. From my father I learnt to love reading and books. Learning from my father, I have felt inspired to be emotionally more balanced though I have not succeeded as much in this area. I invariably have a fight between my heart and my head. From my mother I learnt the importance of appreciation and excellent hospitality. From my naani (my grandmother) I learnt (over time and not when she was around) the absolute importance of being grateful to God. My naani used to say all the time, “rab da shukar manao. Sara time rab da shukar manao”. From my nana I learnt the importance of self confidence and even courage. From my husband I have learnt the importance of cheerful responsibility and viewing things from a practical point of view. From my mentor Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, I have understood the importance of attitude and that it is the heart that is important. My Buddhist practice has been the biggest inspiration of them all.
I have learnt so very much from books I have read and a whole lot from films I have seen. I think every facet of life is a teacher, a guru, a coach and an inspiration. It only needs someone to receive or see the inspiration.
What does the future hold for you?
Good things I am sure. I clearly see the next two books in the Buddha series as also audio and video shows. I have an offer to script a movie for a prominent Bollywood company but it is resting on my back burner. I am keen to teach and even do a doctorate at this time.
I see myself as working harder to perfect my craft of writing and even sharing what I have learnt with others. I will continue to grow my coaching and speaking practice. The idea is to continually take my work to a wider audience. To share insights and ancient wisdom. To share the teachings of the Buddha in a manner relevant and useful in our everyday life.