As he turned eighteen this past year, Rohan Kamble has truly coming of age, although his sudden maturity and clarity about his future have nothing to do with that number.
When he spoke to The Indian Express in 2016, Rohan was still toying with the idea of a hotel management degree and a job with the Taj group, where his father had died on the night of November 26, 2008. Earlier he’d considered, along with his father, a career in the armed forces but dropped the idea of Sainik School in order to continue living with his mother and younger brother. But this year, Rohan has not just started on his BCom degree alongside classes for the Company Secretaries Course, but says he is certain that what he really wants is to start a firm and be his own boss.
“I’ll take a job for a couple of years in order to pick up the experience, but the idea of being an entrepreneur and having my own firm is what drives me,” he says.
The widened perspective and new sharpness of vision have emerged from a year of meeting new people, making friends in cities across the country and travelling, on his own, without his mother chaperoning him, for the first time. And it all began when he, mother Shruti, 45, and younger brother Atharva, 11, met Bhisham Mansukhani, a travel journalist trapped in the Taj that night, at The Indian Express’s Stories of Strength event on November 26, 2016.
That meeting had been an emotional, cathartic one for Shruti who was meeting, for the first time in the eight years since the attack, somebody who was in the room where her husband Rajan lay after he took a bullet to his abdomen. Mansukhani later invited the family for a self-awareness workshop in Panchgani, where the Kambles had their first holiday in eight years. “It was unbelievable beautiful, the venue, the hills around, the weather,” says Atharva.
But it was Rohan who made the most of the opportunity. “I made friends there, other youngsters who had come for the self-realisation workshop, and later I travelled to Delhi and Indore to meet them. We’re all in touch, we’ve become good friends,” he says. At the event he also bumped into a woman who had a cushy job with a multinational that she then gave up to start her own venture, and she was a source of immense inspiration for him, Rohan says. From having gone nowhere since 2008 barring their maternal grandmother’s home in Karjat, 70 km from Mumbai, to exploring new locations with friends, it was a year of change and growth for the teenager. His Instagram handle is inspired by Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, and his account describes him as a dreamer, foodie, traveller and animal lover.
Atharva, who’s still undecided about his own career, has picked up video-gaming as a hobby. “I especially like those that involve shooting targets, because it helps improve my focus and concentration,” he says. Rohan dotes on his kid brother, egging him on to be “stylish like dad”, be brave and more outgoing.
“The kids are growing up fast, and I’m in a better place now emotionally than ever in the last nine years,” says Shruti. When the boys talk about buying a Jaguar or a BMW, she smiles indulgently. “If they work for it and they are able to afford luxuries, that will be a tribute to their own hard work despite the odds we faced,” she says.