I sat myself down on a plastic chair I had picked up from the pile of other plastic chairs. I said to the lady seated nearby if I could sit next to her. She gestured with a smile that I was welcome to do so. She was a slim, short haired bespectacled lady. At first glance I had concluded this, a woman who had her child late in life, career minded, a deep love for intellectual pursuits, vainless, contented and confident. I was not wrong by any count, but what I did not take into consideration was her passion and never fear to die attitude.
We sat there and chatted a little bit here and there. She had a lap top in her lap, naturally, where else right? And slowly the conversation turned into what she was working on. Her background was in food technology, she retired early because she wanted to spend more time with her son (who was happily playing soccer with my son and a few other boys). But retirement led her to contributing her energy and mind into helping poorer Thai communities. Having fallen in love with a small province up North, she volunteered to help them improve their surroundings. A chat with the head villager there (who happened to be a lady) led her to discover that waste management (or better said 'mismanagement') was a big problem they were facing. "But my specialty is in food technology." she informed the head village. "I cannot help you with waste management. I know nothing of this."
With a heavy heart she left and went back home. "But I did not feel good about this." she told me. "I thought about it, and told myself, I will learn and read about waste management." One year of research led to her coming up with a possible solution. Her efforts led her to turning waste into eco fertiliser. She motivated the villagers there to turn their waste into fertilisers, which she then bought from them. The problem was, what to do with all the fertilisers bought? She made contact with a few people and soon ended up receiving orders for her fertiliser from Malaysia. Her waste management project was given a national award by the Thai government for innovative project, I believe it was an OTOP award. What a retirement!
But did she stop there? No, she did not.
She pointed to her lap top as her eyes crinkled when she smiled, "This one is my coconut syrup project." She claspsed her hands together gently and continued, "I love coconut. And decided that I wanted to develop a product derived from coconut." Another adventure began, from the use of coconut nectar she began fiddling in her laboratory to end up with a product called 'coconut syrup'. She submitted this invention to the national science institute along with other inventions competing for the same grant. Her invention won the number one position and she was granted the grant. No pun intended.
With this grant money she will be starting a small factory producing coconut syrup. "Tomorrow, I am flying to Taiwan. I will be talking about my coconut syrup and have a little booth there. A 2 by 2 metre booth. I am bringing along a dried coconut tree with me. I hope that I can bring it through customs." She laughed a little wildly here, thinking of how she was going to drag that thing through customs. "If not, I just throw it away!" again that laugh.
"Are you going alone?" I asked her. She said, "Yes, alone in a new country. This will be a lot of fun for me. I like travelling." Alone? I wondered out loud to myself.
She pointed to the screen and showed me a poster she had designed own her own with the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. It looked extremely professional and beautifully laid out. I was a bit shocked at how resourceful this unassuming woman was. "You did everything here?" She pointed to the little smiling coconut mascot and whispered, "I designed this cartoon too. You want to see?" Yes, as they say proof is in the jpeg file...err...pudding? Lo and behold, there it was, her little jpeg file.
This woman put me to shame. What kind of a retirement was this? It was a whole darned career she was carving out late in her life. "The labels too. Of my coconut syrup. I design them too." Oh well blow me away. And there it was a picture of all these coconut syrup bottles with her label on it, and not to forget the coconut mascot.
"How do did you manage to do all of this?" I asked her outright and very desperate to know. She looked at me, then turned nonchalantly back to her computer and said, "I don't learn. I just do. You have to just do."
That resounded in my mind the whole day through. Me with my need to learn everything and understand everything before I embarked on any darned thing. And here was this lady, who just did.
Sigh. That's the trick. Nike knew it all along. Shared it with the rest of the world. And only now, I really, really get it.
What a woman.
Do check out her website. Now this one, she told, she did not create. But she does not like the design one bit and is getting it changed. I am sharing the link here with you just in case you don't believe me. Chiwadi, that's the name of her company. It means 'Good Life'. Coconut syrup is sweet, but it's sweetness can be taken by those suffering from diabetes and has been proven good for cholesterol. I am soooo following this woman, Sarapee. I am going to be seeing her every Sunday at my son's soccer practice. Will keep you posted on her progress.
She inspired me. And you know what, here's a secret, I am just going to do it. Yup, yup.
Smooches for you,