A tale of two interviews

Last week there were two interviews that everyone was talking about – one was a 65 year old former CEO of Indian origin of one of the largest global Food companies of our time and another is a 32 year old British pop Icon.

While one got so much backlash for the things she said the world is all agog with support for the other. Reading Nooyi’s interview was like speaking to my own 70 year old Indian father. We do not ask for a raise, we do the right thing first and then work out how to fix our mistakes, or maybe the word will forget about it. It told me how much culture influences so many of our decisions irrespective of where we end up. There is only so much education, exposure or geography can do to change who you are. In this case I’d say even Nooyi’s daughters would not agree with her, that is testimony to how far women have travelled since the time of Nooyi’s time.

Why women? The whole Indian mindset of asking for something is cringeworthy isn’t limited to work places. Yesterday as we went golu hopping the kids were served food – someone asked the kids if they wanted a second helping and wasn’t prepared to have them say ‘yes’ it took her a minute to realize they’d said they wanted more. We do not ask for more money, food, attention or space, we make do. This begins as children when parents do not ask for more for themselves, they also do not encourage asking for more as kids grow up, we build on the virtues of being content. Be happy with what you have.

In fact Nooyi’s next answer is pretty revealing in how culturally she is steeped in the Indian way of not wanting more. ‘Whatever they give me is much more than I would have ever had’ she says which is how many of us viewed our job raises. I remember a time I got a raise that I had not anticipated, it was huge jump from where I’d been my immediate response was why? I don’t deserve it. I had a fantastic boss that time and she said ‘Don’t every say that. You deserve every bit of it. Just say Thank you and enjoy it!’ I still don’t think I could ever feel like I deserved money that I got. That said, I have learned to negotiate for myself over time mentored by some capable and strong men and women during my career but I still cringe every time I do it.

Now let’s come to the other interview, one of this reluctant British pop star, a woman that shot to fame so young that she was still a child. Someone I had been in awe of as much for her poise as her talent, so when the stories of her troubled childhood and life came out, I felt such empathy for her and lives such as hers. As a famous but reclusive adult her interview is peppered with the choicest of swear words, coping mechanisms and the pain of broken relationships while trying to raise a young child. It’s interesting how the the articles focus on her failings and her humanness while matter-of-factly alluding to her success and riches. I could absolutely relate to her struggles in relationships or when she refers to the innocent questions of her young child. Her struggles spoke to mine.

We forgive human failings far more easily than we do human strength isn’t it? Then again I have to remind myself that under all of this is a huge PR machinery spinning and and fixing to get things right. One to sell her book and another to sell her album.

There’s always something they are selling when we hear from these names we have once heard from.

I’ll be watching to see how the book and the album do but it was an interesting turn of events to see how two women can evoke such deep reactions.

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