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My transition from being a hotelier to a counselor was a spiritual journey for me. Being a giver, brought a feeling of inner peace and joy, as opposed to being a taker who in the end could end up becoming selfish.

By Azeem Bolar

I started my Hotel Management education back in 1987, from France and then London. A five-year course earned me several degrees (ABA, BBA, MA), specializing in Hotel Management. I received the much-required practical training in several countries, thus increasing my potential. The course was a rigorous one, with a combination of theoretical and practical tutoring that sought to make a true hotelier out of a raw individual.
In 1991, I returned to India, hoping to make it ‘big’ in the hotel industry. The impression given to me during the five-year course was that the profession I wanted to pursue was the best and that other professions were not equal in many ways. Little did I realize then that my thinking was heavily shaped by the teachings of the profession. The rigidity was so much a part of the ‘hospitality culture’ that the feelings of a human were literally swept under the carpet of the hotel lobby. I was so influenced by the ‘hospitality culture’, imbibed in those years of training, that I did not question this assumption.
As a child, I used to be very sensitive to the feelings of others. But, the growing up process veered me towards choosing a profession that was not really my cup of tea.
As an executive, I was literally taken aback when I noticed the transformation taking place within me. I had become a hardened individual due to the training I had received. The human within me was suppressed and in agony.
I opted to become a counselor, rather than continue as a hotelier. Frankly, initially I had no clue as to why I entered the field of counseling. Maybe it was to learn human behaviour. What I encountered was a whole new set of teachings. Here I was, very much a product cutout for the ‘hospitality sector’, an executive whose thinking was tutored to maximize profits and for whom human emotions were the last thing to ponder over. However, I gradually got attracted towards the noble profession that I had now chosen.
At Bangalore’s Banjara Academy, under the guidance of Dr. Ali Khwaja and his team of tutors specialized in different fields of psychotherapy, I found myself introspecting. (looking inwards). Ali’s words: “What are you feeling? Not what are you thinking”, remain embedded in my heart and mind for all times to come. Ali had and still does have a mesmerizing effect on my views.
I learnt that self-esteem is a very important aspect of an individual. I learnt that how a person feels and thinks about himself, can affect his mental framework and about how being non-judgmental plays an important role in accepting others. Training to become a counselor made me realize that unconditional acceptance is the primary tool in living in harmony with others and that contentment is very important in reaching a state of inner peace. I learnt, too, about the importance of empathy, the ability to put ourselves in other’s shoes, thus enabling us to understand the other person (this is different from the common practice of offering sympathy, which is to offer pity, thus making the already weak person crumble). As a counselor, I also learnt that assisting others assist themselves can give one great peace and joy. All of this, and much more, re-shaped my thinking about life.
We were taught the importance of being selfless. This is indeed one of the greatest learning from the counseling profession. Being a giver brought a feeling of inner peace and joy, as opposed to being a taker who in the end could end up becoming selfish, thus defeating the purpose of lending a helping hand.
Having started as a hotelier, eventually turning into a counsellor/ psychotherapist/ NLP practitioner, the learning was immense. I had indeed come a long way. So can you””and you can choose to become a counselor as well!
(The writer is based in Bangalore and can be reached at [email protected])