Life is not always a bed of roses. Sometimes you work really hard only to find yourself sidelined. Sometimes you do not always get to choose what you want for yourself. But we do get to choose one thing, and that is, how we deal with life. As Babe Ruth put it “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up”.
Making Lemon Juice from Limes
Actor and comedian Robin Williams’ death left the world stunned as he chose to end his life on 11th August 2014. It was shocking for many who found it surprising that for someone who made a living by making people laugh had to resort to taking his own life. It is really unfortunate and sad, and as the world continues to speculate, even ridicule and troll endlessly on the internet about his life, we may probably never know what was going on inside his mind. But what incidents like this also make us realise is that the pressure of life is immense – the pressure to perform well, the pressure to survive, the pressure not to fail and be happy or the pressure to be the best that one can be.
Life is brief, and everyone everywhere is trying to do something concrete with their lives. Some fail while some succeed. Some cope while some don’t. The truth is that there are some things beyond our control in life too. Life has its own way of working out and sometimes we do not always get to choose what we want for ourselves. But we do get to choose how we deal with life.
Chen Zemin’s story is a reminder of this. Chen is the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire from China. But the interesting fact is that he never got to choose his profession. He was actually a ‘gadget guy’ who loved working with circuits and building radios, so he applied to study semiconductor electronics, but instead he was chosen by the state to be a surgeon. Chen became a good surgeon, but he found his day job boring. So in his free time he learnt how to cook dishes such as Sichuan pickles, kung pao chicken and, of course, dumplings. It was obvious that he was a great cook as his home-made New Year rice balls became famous amongst his friends and neighbours.
Then, Chen started to think of ways to turn his rice ball hobby into something bigger. The only problem with rice balls was that they could stay fresh for only one day. They had no shelf life. This is where Chen’s medical background came in handy. As a surgeon, Chen had to preserve things like organs or blood in a cold environment. He decided to apply this knowledge to his rice balls. He collected old mechanical parts from the hospital junk pile (remember, Chen’s first love was gadgets) and built a two stage freezer especially meant for preserving rice balls. The freezer chilled the rice balls in such a way that large ice crystals did not form in the filling and ruin the texture, allowing it to stay fresh and yummy.
When I first read Chen’s story, it made me realise that there are probably many of us like him who may not always get to choose what we want in our lives because of the circumstances around us. Nagaland’s unemployment problems lead many to resort to applying for any kind of decent job that one can secure. Civil service exams determine the kind of jobs we can acquire based on our performance, whether it’s IPS, IFS or IAS etc. Eventually, it boils down to how we choose to deal with the circumstances around us. Life takes us in different directions from what we sometimes want or expect. While some thrive and adapt, some also give up. But Chen did not, and this is why his story is significant. Chen’s story of success is not only about how he turns his cooking passion into a billion dollar business, but more importantly how he managed to do it with the knowledge and resources he had. Chen’s love for cooking, his medical expertise and his mechanical knowledge together led to the establishment of China’s largest frozen-food business. It is how he put the pieces of his life together, applied the knowledge that he had and directed it in the way that he wanted, to go on to do something greater than what he was already doing. Little did he know that his interests no matter how completely at odds they seemed with each other would one day help him connect the puzzles of his life together.
We cannot keep on waiting for that lucky break in life or go on blaming our circumstances for the way our lives have turned out. Yet, it is how we choose to approach our life from here that defines and differentiates our future from our past. Nagaland and India as a whole may be considered a third world country because of our colonial past, but that must not be the reason for us to keep on building excuses or attempt to justify our failures and weaknesses, rather it should motivate us to work all the more harder and push ourselves to become better. Use the education we receive, the skills and interests we have to find the right opportunities, upgrade our abilities and apply them in our lives. In this globalized world the limits are now endless, but our opportunities can only take us to how far we are willing to reach for them.
Twilley, Nicola. “What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?”. The New York Times. 25th July 2014.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org”.