Uncommon Learnings of Common People

A curation of life lessons from 10 Indian states

Project FUEL

With all the experiences that life has in store for us, we come out of it a little wiser than before, with a lesson in hand. This is what a life lesson is, learning our life taught us. The lesson can come in one sudden experience, or gradually with introspection, and in hindsight, over months and years. But the fact remains that it is what we learn all by ourselves. And this piece of wisdom can help other people in your life if you share it with them. Understanding wisdom through the lens of life lessons is significant because it eliminates the creation of stereotypes and transcends cultural context. As Mary Lou Kownacki rightly said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.”
Uncommon Learnings of Common People is such an initiative to bring forth stories of people from ten states of India, along with the lessons they learnt from their life experiences.

Akshay Kapoor by Project FUELProject FUEL


Life is unexpected, so you have to feel every emotion and you have to live every moment. -  Akshay Kapoor, 24  

"In October 2016, I was at a terrace party with a friend, who happened to be my business partner, neighbour, college batchmate and we were also together in Make A Difference. We were standing in still water and he was holding a pole. He suddenly started shivering and fell in the water. We took him out immediately and gave him CPR. He was shifted to ICU on a ventilator. He passed away after 6 days and I was there. I was there through each hospital visit for 6 days and police station visits every time. And he died 2 days after his 22nd birthday. I remember I did something sweet for him and his last message was, "I love you, Akshay bruh. Thanks." And when this happened. My perspective on life changed. Life is too short to think twice before doing something. You can literally go at any moment. So why think twice? Just do what you feel is right."

Mohika Mudgal by Project FUELProject FUEL


Truth heals, not only wounds but also entire experiences. - Mohika Mudgal, 21  

"I did not have a single bone of truth in my body. My spine was a stack of black and white lies. I always got my way with it so life was okay. It isn’t an issue if only you know the truth, right? It wasn’t until I met my step-mom, and then my life became a Pixar movie. Imagine a rebellious 15-year-old with anger laced blood and a pout on the dining table. Maa is my healer. I hurt her so much in the initial years of us meeting and yet she kept filling my life with meaning and love. I was a child with serious self-respect and moral issues. She always had my back, always rooting for me, cheering me up even on days I wouldn’t look at her. And eventually, I saw it. I saw the world how she sees it and just a glimpse of it was enough for the guilt of my actions to creep over me. She made me see the good in people. She showed me what my core entails and encouraged me to build myself with care. Just her bustling around me had such a positive impact on my perspective. It had always been like that, but it took me a sloth’s walk to figure it out. Today, I breathe in gratitude. She is the art teacher who shows her children the power of colours, on paper and in people. My mother is my best friend. My life lesson is honesty. Truth heals, not only wounds but also entire experiences. I was clay in a rather wonderful potter’s hand. There is no pain that a spoonful of love cannot heal."

Mohd. Rafiq Ahanger by Project FUELProject FUEL

Jammu and Kashmir

Only your achievement can keep you alive. It keeps you alive even after you die. If you don’t achieve anything, you are as good as dead. -  Mohd. Rafiq Ahanger, 43  

"I come from a family of blacksmiths. I went to school till grade 8th, but didn’t like to study. Instead, I would spend my time tinkering over one thing or the other. I believe when you put your heart into something, it talks back to you. When I notice something which can create problems, I try to observe them and then solve it in other ways. Most of the innovations that I conceptualised and created are to solve these problems that many people face. We must invent something for the world, else your life is in vain."

Poornima Sukumar by Project FUELProject FUEL


You are a pool of moonburst, filled with stardust! -  Poornima Sukumar, 28    

"Travel and art are the two things that have taught me so much that I wish for the leaves to rustle and fall on you, for the first beam of the soft sunrise to wake you up, as you listen to the waves kissing on the shore...the synergy of this to flow through your veins and fill your heart with love. Travel and see as much as you can. Do what you love, never regret. There is beauty in every little corner, observe! Kindness will never be too little, smile at strangers. Feed the cute little stray dog a pack of biscuits, buy flowers for your maid, ask a lonely watchman how he is? ...for life is in all these little beautiful things you surround yourself with."

Namrata Sachdev by Project FUELProject FUEL


We are the collectors of the sediments from the experiences that flow through and around us. - Namrata Sachdev, 43   

"Almost everyone has used a sieve at some point of time or the other. The liquid flows through and the sediment remains. Most people have a grouse, gripe, pain or burden they carry with themselves. They often live their lives from a place of anger, embitterment, judgment, distrust, worthlessness etc. etc. The very nature of life is such that it is full of all kinds of experiences, like the liquid that flows through the sieve. What we seldom grasp is that 'we' are the sieves, the reservoirs, the collectors of the sediments from the experiences that flow through and around us. It is not the people, the experiences or the situations that are to blame, it is what we have held back from each of them. So ask yourself: What am I the reservoir of? Does it enrich or embitter my life? Can I un-reservoir myself? And if not, then can I be the reservoir for all things good and empowering? My life took unexpected and unpleasant turns from the age of 16. I had plenty of people to blame until I came across the concept of forgiveness despite the anger. Needless to say, I fought a bitter battle against the idea and am glad to say that I lost. Life is the greatest teacher there ever is, it shields you even as it lashes at you."

Jaytirth Ahya by Project FUELProject FUEL


Make awesome mistakes. -  Jaytirth Ahya, 30  

"Post-college, my first idea in the start-up space was to open a gambling startup. This is because my intention was to make a lot of money. So I went to my dad and asked him to help me fund this. He agreed but suggested I first consult a lawyer about this considering it was not a mainstream career choice idea. I dialled on a call directory to get contact details of lawyers. The one who responded back was a fresh one. I was perhaps his first client. The document he sent me cheered the gambling startup idea stating it was possible to make this happen. In a small subtext font size, he had written at the bottom that the only condition was the startup has to be registered in Sikkim or Singapore. I didn't even see it. But when my dad did, he refused to fund the startup.

As an act to prove myself, I decided to get VC funding. So I invested a lot of time studying how people invest, what do they look for amongst other things. My first VC meeting was set up with a guy who turned out to be a local goon. Although he said he loved the idea, he never picked my call after it. I realised slowly, my startup idea wasn't happening. No one would take the risk and invest in it. So it basically looked like I wasted my time. I wasted my nights and missed classes for apparently nothing. But I was wrong.

What I overlooked was, the experience I was earning. The support I was getting and the networks I was building. The more the mistakes I made at this age, the lesser I lost and the more I learnt. It all had an effect because I started making mistakes a bit early in my life, I guess.

A few years later though, my first job was in an angel investment company. The only reason they selected me was that I knew so much about investments. So, making mistakes is important to grow and to learn."

B. Hari Prasad by Project FUELProject FUEL

Tamil Nadu

Revelling in a relationship happens when it is devoid of definition. - B. Hari Prasad, 28  

"During 2018, I was deeply drawn to a woman. A couple of months later we discovered the feeling to be mutual. We spoke for a while and decided to see each other. Shortly after we decided that though, she did not feel comfortable getting into a romantic relationship and wanted us to remain as two people who like each other and maybe later become friends. I consented, only for a short time. Slowly I started making advances towards her. She humoured, requested and warned me; but I pushed and pushed. I admired her and wanted her to be a part of my life. I didn't realise then that a romantic connection was not necessary for that. I pushed too far, and she had had enough. She could have been many things to me, but I stuck to the definition of a 'woman as a partner' and made mistakes. Today, I stand having lost her forever.
More than a year later, I learnt the lesson, rather learning it still - Go with the flow, feel other; never define your relationship, with whoever it is."

Mathangi Srinivasan by Project FUELProject FUEL


The simple tiny things in life are what help you make peace with any situation in life. -  Mathangi Srinivasan, 29    

"When I took a break from my corporate life after 7 years, I thought to be happy during the break, I needed to travel 10 countries, learn a new language and keep myself so busy to be happy as I will be unemployed but I found that often these fancy things are not what helps us make peace with our life rather it is in the appreciation of simple things/joys like cooking, reading, enjoying sunlight and nature all things small and often taken for granted. To be happy, we need to find the joys in our immediate surroundings, things at home."

Geeta Devi (2017/2017)Project FUEL


All is well as long as you are self-sustaining. - Geeta Devi, 50  

"I didn’t get a chance to study. For as long as I can remember, I have always been working. Before my marriage, I was taking care of the cattle in my maternal home. After marriage, I was doing the same. The situation is still unchanged, though now my daughter helps me. But there has never been a moment of peace or relaxation.

"Life has become comparatively easy in Saur. Earlier, we would trek up to the top of the mountain to collect grass. We would stay there collecting grass from 8 in the morning till 8 in the night. We would get so hungry throughout the day. Now it is easier to collect grass from the nearby areas. Even the road is closer to the village. All the basic necessities are available. There is electricity and water at home."

Bhairav Nath Shukla by Project FUELProject FUEL

Uttar Pradesh

Resolve all conflicts before you go. - Bhairav Nath Shukla 

"Shri Ram Sagar Mishr was a Sanskrit scholar of his times. He was the eldest of six brothers and was closest to the youngest one. Years ago an ugly argument between the two brothers led to a wall to partition the house. In his final days, Mishr walked to the Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan in Varanasi, which is one of the three guesthouses in the city where people check in to die. He asked to keep room no. 3 reserved for him. He was sure he would pass away on the 16th day from his arrival. On the 14th day, he said, “Ask my estranged brother of 40 years to come to see me. This bitterness makes my heart heavy. I am anxious to resolve every conflict.

A letter was sent out. On the 16th day when the youngest brother arrived, Mishr held his hand and asked to bring down the wall dividing the house. He asked his brother for forgiveness. Both brothers wept and mid-sentence, Mishr stopped speaking. His face became calm. He was gone in a moment.

I have seen this story replay in many forms over the years. People carry so much baggage, unnecessarily, all through their life only wanting to drop it at the very end of their journey. The trick lies not in not having conflicts but in resolving them as soon as one can."

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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