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    My City Life: Rupal Kantaria

    The socio-economic diversity pioneer on slowly learning to move out of the fast lane and why London is the land of opportunity

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    Where in London do you live and work?

    I was born in Greater London and live not far away. I work in Baker Street and before that I worked in Covent Garden, although I spent a number of years working at client sites in the City and also in cities abroad, including Rome, Düsseldorf and Eindhoven.


    What’s your earliest memory of London, or what was your first impression of the city?

    I wish I could say I remember it for its incredible theatre or museums, but with parents who were busy trying to earn a living and look after extended family we didn’t do much of those things as children. As I got older I remember coming into London with my friends, to Camden on the weekends to explore the markets and to Leicester Square. Truthfully I had no idea of how much London had to offer and I’m still discovering. That’s the amazing thing about London – it’s always changing and growing.


    What makes London special to you?

    London has been the land of opportunity for our family. My father came to London from East Africa in 1969 with £5 in his pocket and didn’t know a single soul. My mother came over in 1971 when they were married. London gave them, and us, so many opportunities – to create businesses, to have a British education, to work and to learn, giving us and our children experiences we would never have dreamed of. Now we are grateful for the opportunity to give back to British society.

    Coming from parts of the world where corruption is rife, being able to rely on a ‘just system’ in all its facets makes London hugely special. London has also allowed us to retain our Indian heritage, to be proud of it, while not feeling like any less of a Londoner. In my experience so far, that is really unique. I have strong roots and connections with India but am also fully integrated in British society.

     

    How would you describe London in three words?

    Diverse, vibrant, resilient.

    What’s your usual morning ritual and how has that changed in the past year?

    I read The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma in December 2020 and it changed my life. I started waking early and discovered the absolute magic of the morning hours. As Rumi said: ‘The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.’ I have followed a meditation path for many years and during lockdown I finally felt I was able to make headway in committing to a longer daily routine.


    What do you do to keep a good work-life balance?

    This is not something that comes naturally to me! Not so much because of my paid work but I have a tendency to pack too many things into my life. If I see a gap, I fill it. My husband is naturally more balanced so he has slowed me down, as have my children and the wisdom of my father who regularly tells me I need to move out of the fast lane. I am a big believer in the power of environment; surrounding yourself with people who you aspire to be like and charting your own path. Apart from LinkedIn and WhatsApp, I rarely use social media. That’s definitely been a positive for me.


    What activities, habits or rituals have you found help you to maintain good mental health through challenging times?

    I am amazed at how powerful breathing is. It sounds like such a “hippy” thing to say, and indeed so simple, but as we slow down the breath, the thoughts calm down and we instantly feel a sense of calm. It isn’t something that can be described but rather experienced.

    I often hear people say “I can’t meditate, my mind won’t slow down”. I’ve been trying for over 25 years and I can tell you it’s a daily struggle. But like anything in life, it takes constant effort and slowly, over the years, the progress is there. 

     

    Are there any resources that you use, and would recommend, to help keep a positive state of mind?

    Self-Realization Fellowship. I would be lost without it.


    What do you like to do to relax?

    I have had to actively work to force myself to slow down, calm down and to even identify what it is that does relax me. Certainly I find being in nature very powerful. Likewise, listening to classical music, Indian ‘Bhajans’ and, of course, meditation. I seem to be getting better at this as I get older.


    What’s the best book you’ve read in the past six months?

    Man’s Eternal Quest by Paramahansa Yogananda.


    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

    Nothing is impossible, unless you think it is.


    What thought always puts you in a good mood?

    My son Shivam – he has the ability to light up any heart.


    Rupal is a partner at global management consultancy Oliver Wyman. She works primarily in the Oliver Wyman Forum: a diverse community of private, public and third sector influencers engaging together to co-create ideas and practically test solutions to shared global challenges. Rupal also co-leads Oliver Wyman’s UK Social Impact team, serves as a strategic advisor at the 30% Club, as a board trustee for The Lullaby Trust and on the government-commissioned City of London Social Mobility Taskforce. She has co-founded two social mission movements: Mission INCLUDE, driving inclusive culture at corporates and Gen Give, igniting the social conscience in families.

     

    The Royal Exchange is partnering with Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest to encourage conversations about mental health, wellbeing and community spirit. For further information on Mind in the City, its support services – a range of innovative and collaborative services to support people’s mental and physical wellbeing, resilience and recovery – and how you can get involved with campaigning, fundraising or volunteering, please visit: mindchwf.org.uk

    Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest is part of the national Mind network, which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing difficulties, visit mind.org.uk to access information about a broad range of topics and services, designed to help you overcome the challenges of this difficult time