The pug gingerly makes its way through the living room and parks itself at our feet. This distinctly seems like the one from the Vodafone commercial. Given that we are about to meet one of the biggest names in Indian advertising, it’s only natural to think of stuff related to ads. As we roll our eyes across the room, we see endless books on art that sit pretty with ceramic Toby jugs. The paintings on the walls are particularly impressive. The denizens come across as true connoisseurs of art.
As we glance at pictures of a girl, whose face transforms across frames, Sandeep Goyal walks in an all-black outfit and informs us, “That’s my daughter, Carol. All of us love art.” Then, he points in the direction of the photographs to tell us when and where each one was clicked. “That’s three generations together,” showing us a family portrait with his parents and daughter. “They just dote on Carol! And unlike most kids these days, she talks to both my parents and Tanya’s parents; regularly from New York.”
Both Sandeep and Tanya grew up in different parts of Punjab in simple middle class families, before they moved base to pursue their higher education. Sandeep went to Faculty of Management Studies in Delhi; Tanya pursued her MBA from Punjabi University. The two got married in April 1987.
At the time, Sandeep was an account executive with HTA, now known as JWT, and Tanya was with Grindlays Bank. But before Carol was born, Tanya set up a home office and turned headhunter. That’s how Mogae Consulting came into being. “Running my own executive search firm out of home allowed me to manage my schedule and ensure Carol was always taken care of.” What she didn’t plan for was her daughter getting trained alongside. “As a little girl, Carol would often pick up the phone, grab a writing pad and pen, and start speaking to herself, and say “shhhh, main meeting kar rahi hoon,” Tanya laughs.
Despite having a single child, Sandeep and Tanya claim they never obsessed over anything. In fact, they have a healthy disregard for over-obsessive parents and their fuss over their kids not doing “well enough.” Sandeep says, he visited her school just once, during her admission process. And that was not just because he was super busy building his company. “Tanya was taking care of that part and it was more than enough,” says Sandeep. “We just wanted her to be confident and have a mind of her own,” adds Tanya.
In Class 12, when it seemed certain that Carol would go to the US for further studies, she decided to pursue law. “When it comes to career choices, kids are best left to themselves. But we ensured she wasn’t pampered or spoilt — she stayed at the Symbiosis hostel and always took the Shivneri bus to Pune,” says Sandeep. Tanya is quick to elaborate, “We have taken her on luxurious vacations across the world, as well as travelled by trains in India. People are surprised when we tell them, but we travel by train quite often. After graduating from Symbiosis last year, Carol went on to pursue her Masters in Art, Law and Business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London and New York. “Most of her classmates joined large firms but she wanted to specialise in art,” says Sandeep as he proudly shows a calendar with pictures shot by her from across the world. “She is a good photographer, we make this calendar every year with photographs shot by her.”
While having that kind of unflinching family support is certainly a privilege, how kids take to that kind of freedom is determined by what they see growing up. Tanya recalls Carol asking if she could taste some wine as a teenager. Despite the couple being teetotallers, the bar was always stocked, as they played host on several occasions. “When she asked, I offered it to her. She had one sip and she did not like it one bit,” recalls Tanya with a laugh. And till date Carol continues to be a teetotaller, although Sandeep occasionally ribs his daughter urging her to indulge at least socially. “Carol has never hesitated to ask for something and we have never hesitated to give. We wanted her to go through every experience and then decide for herself,” says Sandeep. “Every experience teaches you something and this is what will help her always,” Tanya concludes.
Dealing with a single kid, have you been accused of being indulgent?
Sandeep: Far from it! We think you should just let kids be, and they’ll figure out what they want to do.
Tanya, since you were the one in charge of Carol, what were your expectations from her?
Tanya: While academics was important, I wanted her to be a confident and independent young lady. Our advice as parents was simple — just do well in life.
Sandeep, what was your justification for not attending parent-teacher association meetings?
Sandeep: Saving Carol the embarrassment of a father walking in with a pony tail. It would have been difficult to explain it to the other kids!
How did you sensitise your child to your work?
Sandeep: Tanya did most of that. When Carol was very young, around 7-8, Tanya told her that dad’s job is to work hard so that we all can live well. Therefore, Monday-Friday is when he will be busy and he will spend the weekend with you. In my opinion, kids get used to it if you are straight.
Do you recall any behaviour imitation when Carol was growing up?
Tanya: Children are like plasticine. They shape up based on how you mould them. They imbibe everything you teach and even what you don’t. Carol once said, “I did it since I had seen you doing it.”
What did you teach her that your parents taught you?
Sandeep: The value systems ingrained by my parents had just two things — hard work and more hard work. I do not remember a year, when I did not top the class. And if I did not, my parents were well within their right to ask why. But those times were different and that approach would certainly have not worked with Carol. Once she was old enough, she took most of the decisions relating to her academics and what she wanted to do in life.
How has a greater prevalence of technology made parenting different? Did you take extra care to limit her exposure?
Sandeep: The way to handle that was to keep her occupied elsewhere. We read a lot and never watched television barring news or some sports programmes. As a result, she is a voracious reader.
Were there any limits on the luxuries, which are otherwise readily available to kids of affluent parents?
Tanya: At the law college in Pune, she was in a hostel. When she had to come home, she would take the Shivneri (the state transport bus service). The only perk was having the driver pick her up
Sandeep: When other kids in the hostel had a car or a two wheeler, Tanya was very clear that Carol would get only a bicycle! That’s what she had for five years.