Mark Rego is no stranger to the public eye – especially in Bangalore, his hometown. He’s an avid quizmaster, a sought-after MC and the owner of a restaurant with great burgers, Peppa Zzing (With 14 more outlets in the works!).
He hasn’t just been living one dream – He’s been going at it with several of them.
One look at him and you’d think he’s done it all in a breeze – Few know that this is far from the truth. From leaving home at the age of 15 to beating fourth-stage Cancer, there is a clear story behind what he’s been able to achieve.
We sit down at Peppa Zzing, waiting for Mark to arrive. The waiter shows up to take our order – We can’t help but notice his friendly demeanour. When Mark does come in, he greets us with what we’ve always seen – an end-to-end smile plastered across his face (in his quiz shows, it’s almost cheeky)! We tell him that we’re quite impressed with the waiter. He smiles again and says, “Ah, he’s just doing this for fun! He’s actually studying to become a paramedic. People like him, y’know, you just want to help. So I’m trying, in whatever way I can, to do that.”
We were yet to ‘officially’ start our conversation, but this was our first insight into how much he really means it when he hints at helping people. “So, you’d like to know everything?”, he asks. We shrug to imply “Well, why not?”. He started right off at the beginning. Here’s his story.
It was around school that he discovered his first ‘dream’. Before his X grade exams, he, along with his family, went to the Taj hotel in Goa where his Uncle was the Executive Chef. To his surprise, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha walk in. A little while later, Mark was in conversation with them, and was starstruck! This one incident charted his path towards his very first dream. “I knew I had to join the hotel industry. I wanted to meet famous people!”- Little did he know then how he would get there.
After his X grade exams, he had an argument with his mother over what he describes as a ‘stupid, small incident!’. Impulsively, he left home on the 10th of April, 1984. He was 15 years old.
“I was a very stubborn child, and I couldn’t swallow my ego and come back home!”. He took refuge in the Bangalore East Railway station for a month, while he applied for jobs in the hotel industry through Ads before landing in a reputed hotel as a staff boy. It was only several years later that he would reconcile with his parents.
From that point on, there was no turning back. Working through strenuous circumstances, he finished his apprentice steward course, ranking no. 1 in Karnataka. He continued to impress his bosses, outperformed at every level, and rose. He found himself in several interesting situations as well – At one point, he had to serve Saddam Hussein in a restaurant on an international posting!
He then moved on to other endeavours – He ran one of Bangalore’s successful commercial complexes, worked with MTV as one of their first-generation VJs’, flourished as an MC, and continued to experience success in all his ventures. “Back then, MC-ing wasn’t even a career option. I loved that it was uncharted territory!”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all smooth-sailing. He experienced what could arguably be two of the darkest moments in his life. The first incident – He lost his second child to complications that were related to pre-mature birth. “This completely shattered me and my family. I had to take a break. I just left my line of work and started taking up work in Goa”.
The second incident was his bout with one of the deadliest of all human ailments – Colon Cancer.
In the middle of his MC-ing career, he was diagnosed with the disease and immediately treated for it. Unfortunately, the Cancer returned 2-3 years later with extreme complications – He was told that he had approached the fourth stage. “Everyone gave up hope, except me, my wife and my mother. I heard that I had 5 months to live, while I was lying on the hospital bed. I didn’t know what to think, and I had to step out of the hospital for a while.”
“I made a promise to God through all of this. If I survive through my surgery, I would do good work with the church and I would counsel kids dealing with a similar situation. Seeing them deal with such incidents would break my heart.” He kept his word – He completed a child counselling course and has, since then, continued to counsel children at the Kidwai institute, amongst leading other initiatives.
As he talks about this, we look for a hint of emotion. This couldn’t have been an easy time for him. Most even hesitate to share the details of such a situation. Yet, we found that he was able to talk about these incidents as comfortably as he was able to talk about all the good times.
Thankfully, we know the end to that part of his story – He survived and thrived! When asked how he dealt with what would have been such a big blow, he tapped his head, and said “It’s all in the mind. I had 3 years of Chemo, and I didn’t give up. I always did my shows. I continued to do what I loved, and I didn’t stop. I even went and MC’ed at a friend’s wedding right after my surgery, against my doctor’s advice. I stayed positive, and I simply didn’t stop.”
In listening to him, we couldn’t help but wonder how he’s gone ahead to achieve his dreams in several areas. Currently, his restaurant business is part of the family retirement plan. He also co-organises ‘the Red Brigade’, set up to assist women deal with molestation and rape cases. He headlines a professional cell that helps people deal with any issues related to licenses, or any governmental harassment they may face. How does he do it all?
“I always look for new opportunities, and I LOVE the uncharted path. It excites me. I always keep dreaming of new ideas, even now. That never changes in me”.
His message to all of you, the readers of this site? “Be the Change. Stop complaining about the system and doing nothing about it. Either shut up or DO something. Stand up for yourself and do what’s right.”