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The Art of Showing up

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~ Vedashree Patankar and Deepa Soman

Radhika Bawa is performing on the piano at a Christmas Day concert at Sharan, an elder care facility in Vashi, Navi Mumbai. This is an annual show put up by the music teacher, Bela Peshattiwar. Radhika and her son play a piece, flawlessly and Radhika is all grace. She laughs as Deepa brings this up as a memory of her first time of meeting this woman. Bela ma’am has spoken of Radhika’s kindness and generosity when she first started her music home tutoring. Mother of a young child, Bela carried baby Lavanya to her students homes. Radhika says she signed up for piano lessons to encourage her son to doing music. I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t continue piano, she says a little wistful. Radhika’s attitude, professionalism and intent shine through.

This mother of three (two boys and a dog, she laughs), wife, thrice-over entrepreneur, marathon runner and painter, Learning Monday guest, Radhika Bawa wears many hats. Marshall Goldsmith will observe that she approaches all her roles as a professional, not as an amateur, intending to give her best to every activity, firstly, by showing up, no matter what.

Time Manager Radhika

How does Radhika manage her time and energy? How does she structure and utilise the day? Radhika gives a self assured smile and says, her structure has evolved over the years. From being hyper focused on her career to slowing down post birth of her second baby and starting on her entrepreneurship journey. She could not see herself in a 9-5 job, because she felt entrepreneurship was in her blood.  

Starting something on my own was always an overarching theme in life. 

~ Radhika Bawa

Insights India was her first foray into entrepreneurship, started with a former colleague at BNP Paribas Bank. “It was an organization that provided service quality training for all manner of organisations.” She divided her day with the first half dedicated to Insights India and the second half for her kids. She took a small break each week for piano lessons.

Discovering Art

Radhika loved arts and crafts as a child. “I was the over enthusiastic child in class who looked over to the art classes”. Painting had been put on the back burner as Radhika’s life and career took off after her MBA. Hidden but not forgotten, Radhika spoke of her interest to explore something in painting and art. While still at the bank, there was a time of low activity as the division was being hived off. We were at the bank but had a lot of time in hand. Serendipitously an ex-boss showed me an ad for a painting workshop being conducted at Cymroza Art Gallery. Radhika signed up for the workshop and discovered many media. She loved the workshop, the experience of painting with people, going to beaches and monuments to sketch and painting in those locations, “in the full view of passersby”

The workshop ignited a need and longing in Radhika to develop as an artist. Soon after, she and a cousin in the US, a proficient painter started a whatsapp group called “Watercolor Exchange”. They would select a common reference, and painted the same reference. After this which they would exchange notes and discuss the nuances, the differences between their respective styles.

The Journey to Developing as an Artist

In 2009, Radhika took on an art teacher, and painting officially became a part of her life. I don’t have a set time or a routine to paint, keeping it fluid, as long as I paint every week. This theme of consistency and passion governs her decisions. 

Radhika Bawa – Early artwork

Painting inspiration can be from anywhere, from photographs to just looking out the window seeing the difference between the morning and evening light. Observing the changes, the different patterns and colors. Always taking the art forward. 

~ Radhika Bawa

Her art evolved with the maturing of her understanding. From trying to replicate something that you have been influenced by to working with one technique and trying to perfect it. Radhika draws parallels between life and the evolution of her paintings. Earlier I would paint anything and everything – trying to see if any stuck. Just as in life one has to try many different things to figure out what you really want. Consistency and passion governs everything for Radhika.

Internal Motivation can wear off or dwindle  but if you have an accountability partner or external motivation then you tend to show up and do the thing you said you were going to do”.

~Radhika Bawa

During the lockdown a few friends asked Radhika to teach them watercolours. This informal group grew to a formal class. When she saw that her students found it hard to commit to art, to making it a part of their daily life, she started the concept of the Thursday Sketch Party. Soon she felt no reason to limit the group to her students, but opened it up to a motley group of over 40 professionals.

The Thursday Sketch Party is a WhatsApp group with working professionals – the only criteria is you should be passionate about sketching and willing to make it a part of your life. No forwards, no marketing – just sending sketches that you do over the week and then meet on Thursday evenings to sketch together. 

~Radhika Bawa

Radhika the Marathon Runner

Grit, the value of showing up and putting in the work are highlighted with Radhika’s journey as a marathon runner. Radhika took up running as a prompt from a friend. Aditya Bawa, Radhika’s husband and Radhika took up as a couple activity.

Besides the fitness aspects, one of the earliest benefits of running was the camaraderie and strengthening the bond with my husband. It has widened my circle of friends. My husband is a voracious reader, he would say okay, this protein improves the  running, let’s try it and we would test it out together. 

~Radhika Bawa

Dark Night of the Runner’s Soul

Radhika worked up the stamina to run half marathons. At her third half marathon, after completing the run, Radhika felt fatigued and uneasy. I plonked on the ground and puked. People all around started saying, if you can’t do long distance running give it up, why strain yourself?.  Radhika believed and lived this story in her head and almost gave up running all together. Her heart was not in it. For almost two years, she would go through the motions, she would run to give her husband company and that’s all.

In hindsight, Radhika says that was the most defeatist story she told herself. And this attitude started creeping into other aspects of her life, even with her painting she started slacking. Radhika noticed that while her husband and other friends had started graduating from half marathons to full ones, her running graph was sliding downwards. Radhika realised she was focused more on the results and outcomes rather than the journey of simply doing it It was one bad run, instead of giving up she could have focused on how she could improve on it. 

Disciplined Effort and Achievement

With great resolve and renewed mindset, Radhika started training for a full marathon. Why a full marathon? “The half marathon was the issue so I said let’s do a full marathon ” she says laughing. After telling herself for two years that it doesn’t matter, suddenly she realised that it mattered to her. And deeply so. She cared about running and wanted to run the full marathon for herself.  

Radhika started training. She put in the work, but within three months for the marathon, she injured herself. It hurt every time she ran. She took a break for a month. With just two months for the marathon she consulted doctor and fellow runner, Dr. Rohini Kelkar who gave her the push by saying “Just go out there and RUN” and Radhika did just that. She ran the full marathon in January.

Consistency, passion, and discipline feature as a recurring theme in Radhika’s life journey. She grew up trait around women in her family, all of who were determined achievers. Radhika’s mother’s journey in education, doing her Masters and her PhD after having two kids. From her paternal grandmother, a school headmistress, Radhika observed an impeccable work ethic. Her maternal grandmother has a zest for life at age 81. These strong women instilled the value of a positive attitude and staying the course. 

From Challenge to Opportunity

What keeps Radhika going? where does she get the inspiration? How does she spot opportunities? 

Inspiring stories are all around us, you simply  have to keep your eyes open and see them she says. Keep looking, with arms open to embrace the inspiration 

Radhika Bawa

How did the lockdown affect her passions? “I had a fracture so I couldn’t run for 3 months which was the start of the lockdown since then I have been running in the evenings “, Radhika says. Otherwise Radhika and Aditya engage in group fitness activities. Her art is thriving with Thursday sketch party. Radhika shows an ability to pivot and adapt to situations. She can most of it without lamenting about the lack of right circumstances.

And once you find the inspiration, start something because you find value in it and no what what the output is keep at it.

And don’t let the lack of immediate results bog you dow or dissuade you from doing what you enjoy.

Diligence over talent, talent is the starting point diligence is the actual race. 

Radhika Bawa

Radhika lessons on resilience, discipline, consistency and above all, grit. 

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