President Murmu as a role model - Don’t let your personal tragedy define you

The office of the President of India has been graced by people with unique backgrounds, many of whom overcame seemingly unsurmountable odds. A generation of Indian youth were enamored by the technocrat turned president, APJ Abdul Kalam who rose from a rather humble background. The story of President Draupadi Murmu is no less inspiring.

Earlier this year, Indians were in awe when we heard news of a Dalit woman from the tribal hinterland was to be elected as the President. Ms. Murmu hadn’t been active in national politics and like many in India, I was intrigued to know more about the leader from Odisha who was to become the president of the largest democracy in the world.

I was fascinated as I began reading up on President Murmu and her background. She is a woman from a highly oppressed and backward ‘Dalit’ community from a tribal belt. Many of us in urban India accustomed to a cosmopolitan way of life, cannot comprehend the parochial, cast-based oppression that continues to permeate life in rural areas and the tribal belts of the country. Hats off to a person who overcame these odds to stand for public office, as an MLA and minister, and drew on her inner reserve of energy to run for the highest public office in the country.

President Murmu’s story is much more than that of the rise of a person from an oppressed community, which by itself is commendable. She demonstrated tremendous grit and resilience in overcoming personal tragedies to stay focused on public service.


She is a person who didn’t let her personal tragedies define the rest of her life. Her husband, two sons, mother, and a brother died between 2009 to 2015, all in a span of 7 years. Her first son, Laxman Murmu, died in 2009 at the age of 25. Her second son passed away in a road accident a few years later in 2012. 

Having lost our first-born son in a freak accident a decade ago, I cannot describe how incomprehensible the grief over loss of a child can be. One can only imagine the inner strength and resolve that Ms. Murmu drew on while moving forward after tragedies in personal life.

Some of us are singularly focused on chasing success and find it had to acknowledge how failures and setbacks are sometimes part of the life journey. In reality, overcoming such setbacks and moving on quickly and decisively after a setback is what makes us successful.  While researching for my book*, I thought deeply about the culture of Success Worship we see all around. This is especially true in this era of social media when we expect instant gratification when we see encounter a deluge of ‘Humble Brags’ from our connections that may begin to weigh in, especially when one is experiencing a few setbacks. 

If there is a lesson we can take from stories like that of President Murmu, it’s simple - While we count  on our successes, we shouldn’t not spend too much time fretting over the failures.



Mohan K

Mohan is a technology executive with a Fortune 500 multinational company. He is the author of the kindle book Diary of a Successful Loser: Looking beyond that Humble Brag 

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