Kala Krishnan, of Mumbai, was 17 when she was told by the Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics that she secured the first rank in Commerce in Mumbai city. Suddenly, she was a star who was being interviewed by local newspapers.
Krishnan was a girl who knew exactly what she wanted at a very young age. She once told a reporter from the prestigious website dnaindia.com: “I want to follow in my father’s footsteps as a legal advisor and a corporate communication executive. ”
But Krishnan’s plan for her life is bigger than that.
“I want to have my own book,” she says, “a mix of fiction, self-help and philosophy. I want to open a publishing house to support young writers. I chose to study Commerce for my undergraduate degree because my country has too many talented writers. Commerce would give me a unique competitiveness in the job market.”
Kala Krishnan was born on Sept. 13, 1990, in Mumbai city, and her family originally came from southwestern India near the border of two states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. She grew up with her parents, L.N. Krishnan, a Chartered Accountant in Mumbai and Latha Krishnan, a yoga teacher.
Krishnan says her parents are often more like encouraging friends, and her family shaped her character, giving her confidence, self-motivation, ability to be reflective and her maturity.
While she was studying at the Narsee Monjee College, which has a reputation worldwide for being demanding academically and strict when it comes to discipline, she never lost the desire to write. Krishnan was a deputy editor of the school’s magazine and also wrote for financial websites.
She also insisted on taking a course at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam). The exam is grueling with more than half of those taking it – including finance professionals – failing it, according to the AICPA (The American Institute of CPAs). Krishnan was just 21 when she passed the exam and started working at Ernst & Young as an associate in the firm’s transaction advisory department.
After working as a financial professional for almost two years, she decided it was time to take the journey to a strange country. She talked with her father and uncle about making a big change in her career, studying abroad, pursuing her life-long love of writing. They showed nothing but support, giving her the strength and courage to explore and adventure.
Now a 24-year-old graduate student, Krishnan is studying public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, the top PR program in the United States. She has taken the first big step toward completing her plan.
Alone in Syracuse, she began to feel overmatched.
“When I got my place in Syracuse, I was frightened. “Krishnan says. “I wouldn’t go out of my house by myself, or at night. It is so quiet here. I worried that some dangerous things would happen.”
Over the summer, Krishnan made this entry in her blog: “Suddenly I had to manage my own home, cook, purchase kitchenware, clean rooms, take the trash out (something we never have to do in India). I thought, ‘I had come here to study and pursue my ambition. What I did not know was everything else would be as overwhelming as my graduate program and school life.’ ”
She also began missing her family, especially her grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He is hospitalized now, and Krishnan is sad and worried that, when she returns home to Mumbai, her grandfather might forget who she is.
As she spoke her face was flushed with sorrow. But she quickly smiled and reminded herself that she comes from a family that has always given her the strength, courage and direction she needs to face down her fears. She has always believed she would not just survive but excel despite the odds. She can channel the faith of her family and her character is replenished.
She refuses to compromise her interests because of a demanding study load. “I loved writing and communications from the beginning and I want to make sure I end up in a job that lets me do what I enjoy the most,” she says.
And now she is writing blogs for the Newhouse Insider Blog and joined a writing workshop and other interest groups, including the Toast Masters club, dance class, sports club, choir group, cultural group and spirituality class. She also looked for internship opportunities and headed out for movie nights.
And like any college student, she continues with her personal journey.
She is talkative and loves to share personal feelings. She says she has a tendency to “clean inner voices out. Once I feel something, I have to take it out so I can say exactly what I mean.” Krishnan admits to being sensitive, maybe too sensitive, at times. The actions of others get to her. It’s not surprising, then, that she can be quick-tempered.
So, in a room in her home is a large sheet of paper taped to a wall. On it is the cautionary words her father once spoke to her, “Always Respond; Don’t React.”
“I should deal with people in a slower pace,” she says. “I should be more patient.” No matter what Krishnan tried to do in her life, her family has always given her the direction she needs to face down her fears.
Like Krishnan, it has always been the way of international students to get out of their comfort zones, come to the United States and pursue their dreams and ambitions. They believe if they don’t at least try they will forever regret the decision. Life is a drama without a script. It is filled with surprises we don’t see coming.
But as Krishnan will tell you: isn’t that the point of life?