From waiting tables to leading Leos

  • strictly business
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jul 31, 2017-

The son of a landless Biratnagar restaurant proprietor, Chand Babu Iraki struggled to complete school and find work as a youth.  

Today, he works for Ncell and in July 2017 he became the first Muslim country-wide president for Leo Clubs, the youth division of Lions Clubs International, the service organisation.

Peter Gill caught up with Iraki to discuss his struggles and the role Leo has played in his life. Excerpts:

Tell us about your background.

I’ve been working since I was a kid. My father ran a restaurant, and I helped out there.  When I was in class seven, because my parents couldn’t afford my schooling, my father introduced me to a man who had a medical hall.

After school each day I would go work there, from 8 to 12 each night. In the morning, I’d get up early to go to madrassa, since my parents wanted me to learn the Koran.

 Madrassa would end at eight, and then I’d go to regular school at nine.  

I didn’t have a uniform. My father bought me new clothes just once per year, at Eid.  When they got holes, my mother would patch them.

When I was studying in class 11 or 12, I got an offer for a part-time job at a computer institute, where I recruited students on a commission basis.  I would walk around Biratnagar and Indian towns nearby in the sun, with my bag, working as a salesman.

 Slowly, I earned money and my lifestyle changed.  I had pocket money, and bought glasses, shoes.  I also enrolled in a basic computer software course, and did a course on computer hardware.  

I realised I was good at computers.  I earned enough money to study through BBA. 

When did you join LEO?

From the beginning, I liked social work.  I had heard of Leo, Lion’s, Jaycees, Rotary.

When a friend who was a Leo took me to a meeting in 2004-5, I joined.  I liked it—the activities, the new friendships.  

I was broadening my horizon, learning about my capabilities.  I realised I have skills in public relations, and I really like making new friendships.  

Eventually, I became the president of my Leo club.  Later, I became regional coordinator, and had the opportunity to visit Bangladesh for a Leo summit.  

Then I became district president, for A1, and now, from July, I am Nepal’s first multiple-district president. 

Tell us about your experience with Leo.

We are non-political, non-profit organization.  We don’t favor any caste, ethnicity, or gender.  

We are supported by Lions, and we work under them. My sponsoring Lion’s Club is the Biratnagar club, which is Nepal’s first Lions Club.  

It was started by the late Matrika Prasad Koiralaji, who learned about Lionism when he served in the US [as Nepal’s United Nations representative in the 1960s], and upon his return he started the club here.

Leo doesn’t do huge projects, we do small projects because many of us are students who don’t have a lot of money.

So we run service programs, awareness programs, and leadership development programs. 

The main thing with Leois,we try to develop ourselves, by doing what we can on our own.As you know, so many people study for a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, and then they can’t get a job.  

In order to get a job, you need experience and you need to be able to speak well during an interview.  

How do you get experience? Leo clubs provide experience. We build up our members’ confidence so they have no doubt they can do their best.  

How did you come to work for Ncell?

I probably did 40-50 job interviews.  At first I was nervous.The first time someone said, “Tell me about yourself,” I didn’t know what to say.  

When they asked for a CV, I’d give a resume.  And when they asked for a resume, I’d give my biodata.  

After failing at many interviews, I was feeling down.  But after a while, I noticed patterns and I could predict what questions they would ask.  

“Tell me about yourself. What are your qualifications?” That sort of thing.  So then it became easier.  I learned from my mistakes.  I realised I needed to take classes, or ask for advice from my seniors.  

One should never be embarrassed to ask for advice.  As long as you are embarrassed, you’ll never progress. 

Finally, in September 2009, I joined Ncell. From that time, my lifestyle began to change, because I had a handsome salary at a multinational company.  With my salary I was able to build a house for me and my parents.  

What effect has being a Leo had on you, personally?

If I were to sum it up in one line, it would be ‘personality development.’

If you want to lead in Leo, you can go ahead.  No one gives you your role.  You can be the coordinator for a program, and then you just take responsibility and do it yourself.

 So whoever is capable, they can take leadership.

I make fewer mistakes now because I’ve had the chance to interact with educated people in Lions, including professors, doctors, people who have good government jobs.  

They share their experiences.  So you have lower chances of making mistakes yourself.  

What did you learn from your struggles?

You need to make a goal for yourself.  And then you need to think, ‘How do I reach that goal?’ There are ups and downs.  Maybe you fail ten times, but the eleventh time you succeed.  

You need commitment—too many people give up too early.  Never lose hope.  

My parents always told me, ‘Never do wrong work.

Wrong work might give you a short-term benefit, but the benefit can never be long term.’ My parents also helped me so much, they boosted me up.  My mother always gave me good advice.

Another thing I’ve learned is job satisfaction is very important.  Money motivates, and of course money is important for daily life, but motivation needs to come from within. 

How does it feel to be the first Muslim in your position?

I’m really happy.  I had to struggle a lot from the beginning to get to where I am now.

This idea that Muslims are uneducated, or are backward, or don’t have leadership qualities—people can see this is incorrect.  

They can see that Muslims can do anything if they are given the chance. 

Published: 31-07-2017 08:49

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