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Wisdom Stories Ep.18: Dr. Sabina Pillai​

Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage. 

Today as I look back at my life, from the vantage point of my senior years, I marvel at the appropriacy of how life unravels for all of us! When young, the bounty of physical energy allowed us to fulfil the demands of multiple roles. And it is from that vast reservoir of experiential learning and knowledge that we draw upon for our personal and professional growth.

Grow we must, has been my fundamental philosophy of life, such that just ‘being’ is not enough, but ‘becoming’ is of the essence!

I have had a roller coaster life with many highs and some challenges. My late parents were instrumental in giving me the confidence to look at life without wavering my eyes. That confidence has kept me in good stead as an achiever- as a broadcaster and newscaster for All India Radio and Doordarshan, a civil servant of the Batch of 1982, professor of English in a Delhi University college, author of books for Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, and a master trainer with corporates on Human Resource development and teacher development on effectiveness of teaching, training and assessing learning for leading companies, consultant with City and Guilds, UK, the leading global organisation in Vocational Education and Training (VET) on the one hand and a happy homemaker, wife and mother on the other! I draw a lot of my strength from my husband Ravi and sons, Akshar and Nikhil who are always there for me, cheering me on!

A period of doubt was when I resigned from the Civil Services to join as a teaching faculty in Delhi University. It was a turning point, as I discovered my love for teaching young minds and the ability to make a difference in many lives! Teaching, training, coaching and mentoring are areas of engagement that I feel I was born to! It is the zone where I am at my most authentic- my Zen Zone!

Today, apart from being a consultant and author, I run a successful club called TEBACC (The Eclectic Book, Art and Culture Club) which attracts like-minded people to come and have meaningful dialogues and conversations. COVID made me turn to gardening in a big way and it is now a source of joy.

Finding one’s mojo should be one’s primary focus in life for that is where one finds oneself the happiest! I am lucky that I have found mine!  It is in these senior years that I have found the self-actualisation that Maslow talks about in his hierarchy of needs, as it is in a way the pinnacle from where to take stock of what Life is all about! It is true that we all swim in the sea of knowledge , all our lives, but the ship of wisdom takes its own time in coming!

In the rough and tumble of our younger years, we were too busy to introspect, to really think about the BIG questions! Now is the time to become more introspective, more optimistic despite health setbacks, and more autonomous and accepting of life as it rolls out for you!

Thanks to WisdomCircle for inviting me to this cohort of seniors who believe NOW is the time when life is most meaningful, beyond the exigencies of formal employment and mandatory role playing. The three things in my playbook in this phase are that one must march to one’s own drum roll, have the ability to exercise choice and stay relevant, no matter what!

Dr. Sabina Pillai

Photo and Interview Credits: Saonli Sen Choudhury of WisdomCircle

Read more stories of inspirational seniors embarking on new journeys in their golden years on WisdomCircle

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