Women Thinking

English was my favourite subject. I always got the highest marks in English and my teachers fawned over me expecting me to make them proud someday.

I would wait for the English period all day, and it would go by in a flash. A strange sense of satisfaction overcame me when I saw my peers reading my poems on the soft boards in the gallery. The thunderous claps after I narrated my poems in the morning assembly filled me with a thrill that lingered throughout the day.

Now, I work as a banker, amidst numbers that elude me. But, I still fancy words. I still love reading and penning down my thoughts.

Our eyes that are so often busy keeping track of reality often forgets to nurture the dreams that they have always been seeing.

Though career choices today are bolder and more informed than they were a decade ago, the stigma of pursuing a dream against conventional options still exists, more so in a semi-urban or rural setting.

What we eventually end up doing in our life is often far from what we enjoyed or cherished in our adolescence.

We lose our dreams somewhere along the path, only to be haunted by them forever.

Once you are out of school, you are expected to decide “what you want to do with your life” and take the big leap.

In India, it is the norm rather than the exception where your family and friends play an active role in deciding your career and whether you should leave your hometown. They also probe into your inspiration trying to find out if you’re really sure about the next step or if this is you going “with the flow“.

Anytime you stray from the beaten path, people assume you are not driven enough, and that you get carried away by every other thing. In other words, “If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything” holds true.

But some of us do manage to hold on to our dreams, for as long as it takes. They can’t hear people who tell them to find a “safe option“; to land a cozy government job where they can “come home by five“; to look for comfort and security while deciding that one big idea which shall be the fulcrum of their lives. They just don’t give up on their idea.

It haunts them every day; morning after morning and it still feels fresh. They make their lives a story that they were meant to write, not one they were made to write. Remember,

if you do not do what you love, you will be forced to love what you do.

Walking down a boulevard of a broken dream is something that people from small towns can definitely relate to. And, this story rings especially true for small-town women. Women, by nature, are brought up drenched in expectations that don’t let them fly very far.

But, girls from small towns are making it big against all odds, paying homage to their humble roots.

Likewise, most young ladies, whether they live in metros or small towns, nurture rosy dreams about their future. Some women achieve their goals rather comfortably, while others may have to work hard for it. Each story has its distinct flavor and lessons.

And, this is their story.

Rupsha is a Bengali, domiciled in Sambalpur, Odisha. After schooling at the local Kendriya Vidyalaya, she enrolled for BCA at the prestigious BIITM in Bhubaneswar, the capital. By dint of her hard work, she got a first class. While she was looking around for a suitable placement, one of her professors told her about an upcoming all-India recruitment drive launched by Tata Consultancy Services.  She applied and later took the written test. Out of her batch, only five, including herself were able to crack it. Next, Rupsha appeared for a personal interview and cleared it in the first attempt.

The 21-year-old packed her bags and flew to Bangalore, her place of posting. And she never looked back. Seven years into her career, she appears satisfied, her dream realized.

You might ask: what is the big deal, huh?  After all, there are heaps of young women who have carved out successful careers like her. Well, she happens to be a small- town Indian woman. What difference does that make? Plenty. Small towns lag behind in terms of high-quality educational institutions and training centers.

They also lack abundant employment/career opportunities since businesses are on a smaller scale than in metros.  Not much scope for the youth to make high flying career plans. Still, many youngsters dare to nurture dreams of making it BIG.

Anandi Thapar, daughter of one of my school classmates-turned-industrialist, lives in Ludhiana. Her dream was somewhat off-beat. Fascinated by her mother’s culinary skills, she aspired to become a chef.

After finishing school the pretty lady determined to seek admission at the famed Cordon Bleu, London, considered the Mecca of gastronomical art.

People thought she was crazy. Doubtless, funds were ample, but hurdles were multiple:  English Proficiency test (IELTS), stiff competition, Visa restrictions et al. Unsurprisingly, she overcame them all. It was her Statement of Purpose, submitted with other documents that did the trick, Anandi recalls. Back in Ludhiana, she began working as a professional baker out of her residence in upmarket Ludhiana.

Her products are sold under the label: Love at First Bite. The USP!

Chocolate mud cakes. Also cupcakes, cookies, brownies, doughnuts and what have you. She opted for baking & confectionery, simply because, she loves it. It is her constant love and passion for baking that keeps her going.  Her venture has been featured on Zomato and already won her good organic reviews.

These instances prove that purposeful will-power, consistent hard work, and self confidence are all you need to succeed. If your mind is made up, nothing can deter you, not even distance.

Lemlila Sangtam, left Dimapur in Nagaland to pursue her higher studies in Delhi and Pune. She dreamt of becoming a bureaucrat. Armed with a Master’s degree in anthropology she returned home and sat for Nagaland’s civil services. And, she cleared it. She is currently a Sub-divisional Magistrate with an eight year service record.

Jayashree Dhillon , a Colonel’s  wife, settled down in Pune, post her husband’s retirement. Here, she plunged wholeheartedly into literary activities with likeminded women. The result of their efforts was Colour Me a Rainbow, a collection of short stories, published last year (Available on Amazon).

Ruby Siddiqui, a Lucknavi, is an achiever in her own right. The first journo in her khandaan , she single-mindedly chased her dream without any help. Beginning as a reporter she worked for various channels big and small to become the bureau chief of Focus TV a channel advocating women empowerment.

In her view, ” The size of your home-town doesn’t really matter; be sure to tap all the available resources and move ahead with determination“.

Sirf hausla buland hona hi kaafi  hai.”

Sairee Chahal is a classic example of a small town-woman-turned-achiever. The Muzaffarnagar girl, later a JNU alumnus, left home at 17, dabbled in various professions before launching her brainchild SHEROES, a women-only community platform with multiple communities and a helpline. To the small town woman aspirants Sairee’s advice: “Invest in yourself – personally and professionally. The world is changing fast, so keep picking up new skills! Travel and stay happy… “.

The Internet is a great level-er for women’s aspirations.

Geography matters less, today, and you can succeed from anywhere. In my case, I’m pretty proud of where I come from. It has shaped me, helped me connect the dots for other women.”

Lemlila says: “ Dream big… Be brave… Follow your heart but be practical. Always remember you are special”. God made you special. distinguished. “Believe that He has a plan for you”. Besides,  “adhere to time. Study really hard while you are at it”. Keep time to socialize so as to remain updated. Meditate and retrospect on your life; this will drive out all negative thoughts.  Above all “be honest in everything that you do.”

Finally, Jayashree has a few pragmatic suggestions: “It is most important to set goals, however small they may be, to achieve your dreams. Dream BIG, but to realize those dreams, consistent small steps have to be taken”.

…”There has to be a plan. Keep time for you…to think and plan”. “Read something inspiring/ motivational daily….even if it is just two pages every night.  Networking too helps. You never know which door will open to help you…”

Ford every stream,

Till you reach your dream,    

Follow each rainbow.

Remember the Mother Abbess’

advice to Maria in the Hollywood blockbuster Sound of Music.

What we become and make of our lives is quintessential because we only live once. What we do defines us and we only leave behind our legacy.

Striving to be the best in our chosen fields is the only way to move ahead, and to make the earth a better place.

Co-author: Ruchira Ghosh and Sneh Ratna Choudhary