iMahal Interview Series: Rahul Roy
August 22, 2002

iMahal:  You want them to not define success purely in terms of money.

Roy:  When I think about a successful person, especially one who inspires me with his success, I think of my teacher back in Kanpur.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee

I returned to India a while back to receive an award. When I was there I met all my old buddies and I visited my old teacher. As soon as I saw him again, I could see the signs of success in his face. He was truly happy and fulfilled. He had just finished building his own house. This is a big deal for a teacher in India; they make very little money. It was actually a problem for his wife's father, who wanted her to marry someone else who could make more money. But my teacher made a solemn promise to build her a house within 15 years. He lived up to his promise and he was ecstatic about it. He had to work hard to do it. He had to expand the size of his school from 5 to 100 students. He had to increase the hours per day that he worked so that he slept less each night. But his house got built and his sons are now in college studying engineering and medicine. His happiness was just dripping from every pore of his body. It was wonderful to see someone who meant so much to me to be so happy. To me this teacher of mine is more successful than Bill Gates.

He also told me that of his 100 students he has 20 who can't pay for the education. The other 80 pay and he gives them all equal treatment. This means that he has to work the extra long hours to work with the poorer students outside of the necessary hours he spends with all the paying students.

This teacher will always be my hero. We have a saying in India, "If you meet your teacher and God at the same time, who do you bow to first? Your teacher, because if your teacher didn't tell you about God, how would you know?"

My teacher continues to do good works. He told me he was expanding both his school to teach more poor students and his home to coach more poor students. I immediately wrote him a check to help and told him I will write bigger checks every year in the future.

This is the kind of financial charity I like to do. I don't typically give a lot to the Red Cross or the United Way. My personal connections give me much better opportunities for philanthropy. Like Mother Teresa said, "Charity starts at home."

first job
Silicon Valley



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