C.P. Krishnan Nair, Chairman, Leela Group
I have always carved my own path, even as a child. I grew up in a small rural town in Kannur, Kerala, and had to walk four miles to reach school. The caste system was prevalent back then, and two different paths had been paved - a shorter route for the upper caste and a longer, meandering trail for the underprivileged. I recall taking the shorter route. Every morning, as I walked to school, an upper caste man would order me to take the trail for members of a lower caste. When I went home and told my mother, she asked me a simple question: "What do you believe, Krishna?" And then she advised me to walk on the path I choose…fearlessly. Despite several reprimands, I continued to take the shorter route. If others found it objectionable, I said that perhaps they should change their course. It was my first act of civil disobedience.
Soon, word got around, first within my community and then to my school principal, who quickly appointed me monitor of my class. Just a few years later, I was asked to start the first student union. It was my first experience in community organising, and ultimately helped me commit to something greater than myself - fighting for our country's freedom.
Today, whenever someone asks me to help them make the right decision, I advise them to follow their beliefs without fear. It's been my source of inspiration and guidance over the years.