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Management Concepts Learned From My Dad   
    Photo of Don Sutaria
A Belated Tribute to My Dad, Phiroz Sutaria   

Cat's In The Cradle
(by Harry Chapin; American Singer/Songwriter)

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home Dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw?", I said "Not today
I got a lot to do," he said, "That's ok."
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him."

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?"

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then.


As another Father's Day rolls around on Sunday, June 17, 2012, I have finally put the pencil to the paper and wrote this little tribute. Harry Chapin's song, Cat's In The Cradle, always touches me, because you were so unlike the Dad sung in this song! Dad, I know you are in heaven! Please spend a couple of minutes to read this heartfelt note. I know it is so late! You departed for the Abode of the Gods in June, 1993, but in my heart you rest enshrined.

I have learned so many things from you, beyond the weighty management textbooks! If there were only a few words to pick to describe you, it would be: Courage, Faith, and Presence.

You did not preach these virtues but just practiced them, with courage leading the pack! You knew that values were caught, not taught! Your examples were the best sermons!


Courage is also known as bravery and fortitude. It is simply the ability and disciplined way to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation, moral or physical. Simply defined, courage is standing up for yourself in the face of danger or what some may believe frightening. It is the opposite of cowardice. You personified it and gave it special meaning.

We went to purchase Flex shoes at a shoe store when I was about 10 years old. The salesman did not come to help us for almost an hour! You waited patiently for an hour and requested help again and again. The owner of the shop told you that he did not think we could afford Flex shoes and in an insulting manner told you to leave. You pounced on him in mellow tones, showed him the money, and told him in the strongest possible way not to ever insult your family. Of course, we went to a nearby store and bought just the right pair of Flex shoes for me! It made me really proud!

I went to St. Michael's Catholic School in Bombay, India. Books were so expensive that you were allowed to read them only once a week in class during the library period, lasting only 45 minutes. Books could not be taken out of the class or checked out for reading them at home! When I was 8 years old I liked to read a lot. You went and saw the school principal, Reverend Father Saul Dharmai, who made a special exception because of your courage and insistence! I was the only kid in school who was allowed to check out and read one book per week! That was such a triumph of courage!

Dad worked at an electric power station. Once there was a fire in one of the transformers. You single-handedly fought it and extinguished it, in spite of burns on your hands caused by hot transformer oil. This prevented the city of Bombay from suffering a big blackout. You received a promotion and citation for this act of valor, and in my eyes you were truly a great hero!

Schools like St. Michael's in Bombay were very autocratic during my growing-up days. Once you went to talk to the Reverend Monsignor George Fernandes of St. Michael's Catholic School where I went, about the possibility of starting a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), similar to the ones in UK and USA. They berated you and laughed you off, telling you that the business of educating children belonged to educators and schools, and not to parents. You gently pursued this concept many times in spite of discouragements, and lo and behold, a Parent Teacher Advisory Board was formed eventually, the forerunner of a PTA.

In 1956, when I was 16 years old, I could not get admitted to the college of my first choice (on the first day of admissions) Elphinstone College (a college under University of Bombay, India, akin to Harvard). I had A+ credentials but the competition was fierce. You had the courage to ask for an audience with the dean, Mr. N. L. Ahmed, who was known to eat people alive! Strangely enough, Dean Ahmed asked us to wait patiently for one more day because I was on the waiting list.

I knew we were poor and lived in a two-room rented apartment without a kitchen, but with a shared bathroom. We had no radio, no bicycle, or a telephone. However, you spent courageously on educational expenses, in spite of your meager savings, accumulated through years of very frugal living. It takes a lot of courage and a strong belief in education to pay fully for 7 years of my college education, to obtain two engineering degrees, when I was between the ages of 16 and 23.


Your favorite saying was "I like to be in tune with nature," reflecting your deep spirituality. You liked long walks in the wilderness and along the seashore.

You made us observe at least three minutes of silence, and prayed fervently for the family, especially at the beach, when the sun was setting in all its glory, over the Arabian Sea.

I distinctly remember that you asked us to be quiet and meditate on God's glory when the Angeles bell rang at noon at the nearby Catholic Church, or the Muslim muezzin called the faithful to prayer at the neighborhood Mosque, or the Hindu priest sang devotional songs at the temple within earshot. In spite of being a devoted Parsee Zoroastrian, you had such love and respect for all religions.

You always had faith in us, and I saw you proud and rejoicing when my brother or sister or I scored some modest achievements in schools and colleges, and on the playing fields.

Presence (I'll be there for you)

During all critical occasions and events in my life, Dad was always physically present.

Around age 7, you promised to teach me how to ride a real two-wheel bicycle, which was to be rented for only two hours, because we were very poor. Due to some very special circumstances at work, you had put in a double shift of sixteen hours, without sleep! You had just arrived around 9:00am and I pounced on you to keep your promise. Mom would have liked you to pick another day. However, although you were dog tired, you kept your word. You taught me to ride the bicycle successfully by running behind me for two hours, grabbing the bicycle seat, and stabilizing my learning process. I shall never forget that time!

When I took the major high school exam, SSC (Secondary School Certificate), at age 15-1/2, you accompanied me for four full days to the examination center, taking public transportation with me, and staying there. Oh, it was so comforting!

At age 16, when I applied to Elphinstone College to be admitted, in Bombay, India, you stood with me in line, virtually all day, without any complaints.

I shall never forget the long train trip you took to drop me off at Walchand College of Engineering, in Sangli, India. I was 19 and had never lived away from home on a college campus.

At age 23, you and our family came to the departure port in Bombay, India, on August 15, 1963, to wave me goodbye, on a ship which took me to The United States of America.

When I was 36, you and Mom visited me in the USA, in spite of both of you being in ill health, to celebrate the first birthday of your first grandson, Norman.

Dad, I nor my brother and sister would be where we are today if we did not have you! You did a lot for all three of us, in different ways and at different times!

I am so glad you were my Dad! For this, I remember you and give thanks to God today, on Father's Day!

Can I recite a little poem?

My Father
(by Ann Landers)

My father when I was four years old:
My daddy can do anything.
When I was five years old:
My daddy knows a whole lot.
When I was six years old:
My dad is smarter than your dad.
When I was eight years old:
My dad doesn't know exactly everything.
When I was ten years old:
In the olden days, when my dad grew up, things were sure different.
When I was twelve years old:
Oh, well, naturally, Dad doesn't know anything about that. He is too old to remember his childhood.
When I was fourteen years old:
Don't pay any attention to my dad. He is so old-fashioned.
When I was twenty-one years old:
Him? My Lord, he's hopelessly out of date.
When I was twenty-five years old:
Dad knows about it, but then he should, because he has been around so long.
When I was thirty years old:
Maybe we should ask Dad what he thinks. After all, he's had a lot of experience.
When I was thirty-five years old:
I'm not doing a single thing until I talk to Dad.
When I was forty years old:
I wonder how Dad would have handled it. He was so wise.
When I was fifty years old:
I'd give anything if Dad were here now so I could talk this over with him. Too bad I didn't appreciate how smart he was. I could have learned a lot from him.

I love you Dad!

(Phiroz Sutaria suffered a mild stroke in Bombay, India, in January 1993, and lost the ability to speak. The last time I saw him was in April 1993. He died peacefully at home, at age 87, in June, 1993, surrounded by his loved ones. May his soul rest in peace.)


Don Sutaria, also known as "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).

Find me on LinkedIn Don Sutaria, M.S., I.E. (Prof.)   
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