Don and Peggy

I have been a die hard Mad Men fan for the n number of years that it has been aired on television. And the last episode just nailed it for me. I experience a strong resonance every time I see Don and Peggy on screen.

Don and Peggy dancing to Sinatra’s, “I did it my way” in last Sunday’s episode; reminded me of a conversation I shared with JLutz, one of the partners at Boldtech, while I was working on Comcast in Philadelphia in June of 2008. We used to stay in downtown and each of the team members picked a hotel based on their reward preferences. I was loyal to Marriott and there were some Starwood and Hilton loyalists in the group. The hotels were quite close by; but separated by dark alleys; usually full of addicts and homeless people.

This fine evening I  was walking back with Jeff after a long day at work and somehow the conversation drifted to my parents and I was sharing with Jeff my upbringing back in India. He listened intently for a long time. We all know that I can blabber a lot if left uninterrupted. Finally when I was done and we were close to his hotel; he paused and said, “No wonder you walk through this alleys with no fear. You never ask any of your male colleagues to accompany you to your hotel lobby.  I have noticed that Shivam. And I have wondered where you get this confidence from. And then I see you the next day in front of Toni and I see the same fearless power asking questions; debating with people much older to her without any sign of discomfort. I can only wish my sons grow up to be half as fearless as you.” I did not know what to say. He continued, “But let me tell you this. I know the other people don’t ever ask; and neither will I. But I will stand here and watch you till you cross this alley and make it to the Marriott across the street. And that is part of my upbringing.”

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels

I did not look back to see if he did wait until I reached my hotel, but I have a strong feeling that he did.

The conversation fueled a new phase in my career. I took my fearlessness many steps further and stepped into roles I had never played before. He watched my steps, sometimes from the side sometimes challenging me in the middle of things. Many of our arguments lasted days and weeks until we just mutually agreed to disagree. He became my biggest challenge and also my biggest source of motivation on the project. And till date he continues to be my favorite boss.

To good times and great TV shows that fondly remind you of a life you have left behind.

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