Story of the First Lady of Germany, of extraordinary gestures, and friendships that transcend borders
There’s something truly uplifting about unexpected acts of kindness. Wouldn't you agree?
And it’s even more pertinent when these gestures come in the form of recognition. Recognition by extraordinary people – those who inspire you, and those who are constantly working to make the world a better place.
Such gestures of kindness leave you with a feeling of profound gratitude and a deep sense of joy at being surrounded by so much goodness, so much kindness, so much beauty. We just need to look around.
Last week, at the ‘Wundernova’ Summer Festival for women here in Berlin, Germany, I was touched by how these extraordinary gestures truly transcend borders. And this gesture came from none other than Elke Büdenbender, the ‘First Lady’ of Germany.
A judge by profession, Elke Büdenbender, the wife of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of Germany, is referred to as the First Lady of Germany. At the event, the First Lady reminded me of how appreciation and kindness go a long way in effecting change and bringing down the many barriers that define us.
The ‘Wundernova’ Summer Festival was an inspiring women’s meetup organised by my dear friend Angela de Giacomo, a successful career woman and a wonderful person. The event brought together women from all over Germany to network and learn from each other.
Ahead of the event, I had watched Angela – who is the investment manager at the Bissell Family Office and also advises many startups and firms across Asia – work painstakingly hard on every detail of this event over the past nine months or so.
Angela has always had a keen awareness of what’s needed to ensure the success of the women of today – both students and working women. This has been honed over the years through her many travels around the world, particularly to India where she travels frequently for her work.
On Angela’s every visit to India, ahead of this festival, I saw how much this event meant to her. She wanted to create the best experience possible for the women who would be participating in the event. That’s when we discussed that we’d try to invite the First Lady, Elke Büdenbender, to come for the event.
Quite serendipitously, over a year ago, I had first met the very inspiring Elke Büdenbender in Delhi when she was in India for an official visit. At the time, she had expressed an interest to meet women from different walks of life, and I was fortunate to receive an invite.
In my meeting with the German First Lady, I had come away inspired by her grace, wit, and wisdom.
Soon after our meeting in India, I had even traveled to Berlin; at the time, I had requested for another meeting with the First Lady and was again very fortunate to receive one.
Still, inviting the First Lady herself to be the Chief Guest for this event felt like we were dreaming too big. And yet, at the time, we had wondered: what’s the harm in dreaming big? Surely, the ask was big. It was ambitious. And bold. And hopeful. But it also felt right: not shying away from dreaming the seemingly impossible.
True enough, we were overwhelmed by gratitude when the First Lady accepted the invitation and graced the event as the Chief Guest. It was a gesture of extreme kindness, one that transcends borders and truly rare in the business world.
I also saw this as a recognition of Angela’s work in creating this wonderful platform for the women of Germany and her beautiful vision for all they can achieve when provided the right support, early on.
I was even more inspired, humbled, and grateful, when the First Lady shared her experiences of meeting with Indian women during her visit to India and, most humbling of all, about her experience with meeting me and being inspired. For someone with her status, she did not have to make such a personal gesture of appreciation for me or my work at all.
But she did. And at that moment, I realised once again the true power of appreciation, recognition, acknowledgment, kindness, and genuine empathy that great leaders always do so frequently and generously. Something about the authenticity with which she did that and how naturally she did it truly touched my heart and made the whole trip to Germany so beautiful for me.
It made me realise that at the next given opportunity, I too will be quicker and more generous with my appreciation and recognition of those who inspire and impress me.
After all, aren't these the very things that will bring about change. Isn’t that what’s required to ensure a more inclusive world. And yes, aren't we all, in the end, looking for just a little bit of appreciation, a little bit of love, and a little bit of faith – in both our personal and professional journeys?