Kintsugi Lessons From Gangubai Kathiawadi

Kintsugi Lessons From Gangubai Kathiawadi

“What’s Kintsugi?” When Lulu, my parrot, heard my question he hopped closer to me.

“What’s on your mind, man?”

“What’s Kintsugi? Why did you ask that? Does that have a dirty meaning?”

Lulu, my Parrot

“Oh, no! That’s the Japanese art. I was surprised why you were thinking about Kintsugi.”

“I read the word in this book,” I pointed to the book on my table.

“Let me not answer it the straight way, I will go round and about.”

“That’s quintessential Lulu!”

“Shut up! Ok, Let me put it this way – you break a piece of pottery. You want to mend it, so you apply adhesive but the piece does not look the same. So, you paint the cracks with golden colours and actually beautify the piece. That’s Kintsugi for you.”

“Oh, I thought it was a food item, something like Maggi! It rhymes with Maggi.”

“If you go deeper in your heart, instead of stomach, you will understand Kintsugi well.”

“What’s that?”

“There are people whose lives are shattered by an impact – it could be unpleasant and unfortunate event. Maybe it was forced on her. Like ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’.”

“What about her?”

“Her husband betrayed her and forced her in to prostitution. Gangubai ‘ruled’ the area but never forced any girl in prostitution. She was a born leader, and she worked for the betterment of sex workers and their children. Gangubai even approached Nehru to take her work further. She was highly respected lady in her area.”

“Oh Wow! There are hundreds or probably thousands of girls who are forced in prostitution. Gangubai stitched back her broken life. Is that what you mean? Is that a metaphor for Kintsugi?”

“You got it right. Sometimes people make wrong decision, probably morally wrong decision. And then regret it. They decide to make amends. Like Suresh Hundre.”

“What about Suresh Hundre? Who is he?”

“He was one of the founders of Polyhydron Pvt. Ltd. He was advised to under-invoice a machinery while importing. Hundre fell prey to it, and landed in big trouble as the Government agencies caught him red handed. Hundre resolved that he will run his company with highest ethical standards thereafter. And he did. Extremely exacting are his standards. It’s a model company which is studied by many management consultants and students.”

“That’s inspiring. I can’t imagine how sad, bad and mad Gangubai must have felt when her husband sold her to a brothel. That was the result of her eloping with him. She trusted him and he destroyed her life. She would have felt utterly helpless!”

“True. And Hundre must have regretted his short sighted and morally compromised decision of making false declaration. He must have realized that he had fallen in the eyes of his near-and-dear ones. And in the society. Loss of face. A self-imposed blot on his character.”

“What makes such people get up and start running again? For me, these are mind boggling stories. Unbelievable!”

“That’s Kintsugi for you. They took their bearings again, and steadied their ship. Their lives were broken, but they repaired and made them worthy of emulation and praise again. Like repairing the broken pottery pieces with golden glue. Their life was not same again, but it was beautiful nevertheless. Their bad circumstances are visible to all, not hidden from public eyes and are like golden cracks. Hundre’s story is on Polyhydron’s website!”

“Yes, but the real question is how did they make the transition from the pit to the top of the hill? Not everyone can do it.”

“It takes determination. They did not accept they were ‘bad’ characters, and relied on reviving their innate good self. The journey must have been very difficult, but nothing comes easily when people rise like a phoenix.”


“Yup! Otherwise, no one would make a film on Gangubai and no management guru would study Suresh Hundre and Polyhydron. Looking back, there is so much drama when you compress the story. And sorry for saying this again, what drives them?”

“My understanding is that it is the power of deep regret, and deep remorse. Their decisions landed them in the terrible situation. Sanity returns to thinking when you experience deep regret and remorse, and then look at the situation from an ‘observer’s eyes’. That requires moving from feelings to reason. Going to ‘Adult’ if you wish to use the Transactional Analysis language.”

“Hmmm …..”

“Life always poses two choices – either to continue to suffer whatever the situation brings to you, or to act on the situation and leave a positive mark. This is why it reminds me of Kintsugi. Throw away the broken pottery or join the broken pieces with the life-positive thinking to make the life a beautiful piece again. I know this is all easy said than done, yet that sums it up well, in my opinion.”

“You put it so well.”

“Now you have a choice. Suffer the situation you are in, or act on it to leave your mark. And don’t tell me you are too old for it.” Lulu fluttered his wings and perched on my shoulders. “Do you get me?” he asked.

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”