The Puppet Masters

Mahendra Phate is the kind of guy that makes things happen in the background.  As a senior staff member of the Bajaj Foundation, we had a lot of interactions with this Wardha native.  Mahendra runs the day-to-day operations of the foundation and was the point-man for many of our initiatives.

It was easy to see my father in Mahendra.  Both share a quiet, mischievous smile that indicate they’re up to no good, or more often than not, something very good.

The two men also have in common an aversion to the spotlight.  When our group was trying to interview the Bajaj staff for our website’s bio page, we were having a huge problem nailing down Mahendra for some time.  He was always busy and focused on macro through the management of the micro.  Often you can find Mahendra in the background of a scene, making a phone call in order to get something done and keep the chains moving.  My dad also prefers to pull strings away from the foreground like a puppet master, letting the good speak for itself and others take the credit.

Two years ago, my dad took on a new job in NYC as the Executive Director of Climate Nexus, a climate change advocacy group focused on changing the conversation in the United States.  Climate Nexus helps direct the focus of attention of the public by identifying tipping points in the ongoing climate change coverage and discourse.  Like Mahendra in Wardha, they’re getting things done.

Digging through some old notes on my computer, I found a nugget of wisdom from my father, copied from an email he sent in 2009:

No fear. With each step. Trust your mind and your body, as one. But you must do it with every action, every step. You have to focus, like a laser beam, on the immediate task at hand. And then the larger goal is achieved.

As we walk through life, we will come across examples of people who point their energy like a laser.  Mahendra and my father are bright examples of embodying that focused philosophy and I’m thankful to have had the chance to see my father in a new light because of my time in India.