In The Face Of Adversity, She Found Life’s Biggest Opportunity [#ShortStory]

Posted: March 23, 2017

“It was presumed that she had no need to work for money like the others. It was immediately presumed she was working for ‘time pass’.”

Here is the fourth winner of our March 2017 Muse of the Month contest, Akshata Ram.

The cue for this month was from the movie English Vinglish, in which Sridevi has decided to give up on learning English after her husband speaks harshly to her. Her niece tells her then, that she cannot give up, and must go on!

In The Face Of Adversity, She Found Life’s Biggest Opportunity

Snigdha fidgeted with her dupatta as she wiped the beads of sweat on her forehead. Calm down she told herself for the umpteenth time, you can do this. Weren’t you managing a team of 20 with so much energy and gusto? A 4 year break doesn’t imply that you have lost it all. As much as tried to cheer herself up, that knot in her stomach stayed.

Sammy was watching her from a distance. It was Day One of the ‘Career Comeback Program’ at Goldman Sachs, the prestigious Investment Bank. She knew this feeling- she could vividly remember the day when she stood in the same place. The difference – she was less nervous, was in in control of her emotions, and walked in head held high.

However the events that transpired that day and the few days later had dealt her a severe blow. It was a lesson learnt and she has emerged stronger and wiser.

She knew what the lady biting her fingernails needed to hear and without a second thought she walked towards her. She sat down beside Snigdha and welcomed her to the organization. “Hello young lady it’s nice to meet you. I am Sammy. And I see by your ID you are Snigdha, who has joined us for the 12 week internship under the Career Comeback Program. What a joy! I have always been a strong advocate of Diversity not just in terms of gender but all forms. I think what a diverse set of mind brings to the table is amazing and an organization which truly wants to grow cannot ignore the power of diversity.”

Snigdha was drawn out of her worry zone as diversity was a topic close to her heart. She fondly recalled how she was an active proponent of diversity in her last job and worked on so many initiatives too. She started talking animatedly about the exciting initiatives she had led in her prior company.

Sammy got to know that this 30 something is a very bright girl, she had done her MBA from a reputed Tier 2 college in Mumbai and secured a job in the campus placement in the Finance division of an FMCG. She worked there for 4 years post which she switched to a Consulting Firm and moved to Bangalore as she tied the knot. 2 years and she was almost due for a promotion when she became pregnant and took a conscious decision of taking a career break to raise her son. Hers was a nuclear family- her parents faced health issues and would find it difficult to relocate from Mumbai to raise their grandson and her husband had lost his parents a few years ago in an accident.

Though she could have continued working and taken the help of nannies or daycare, she wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of either. Her hubby, dissuaded her from quitting as he knew she loved her job but it was her own decision. She had decided on a 2 year break but when that 2 turned to 4 she never realized. She enjoyed every moment reliving her childhood with Salil but her brain yearned for stimulation. It wasn’t just about the paycheck (though she missed that too terribly) but about going each day to do something she loved, something creative, making adult conversations and coming back home with a sense of fulfilment.

She decided to resume working and then she heard of this Career Comeback Program that was run by “WAVE- Be Bold for Change”- the brainchild of a woman who had taken a career break and realized the hurdles women face when they come back. Her own struggles had inspired her to create this platform for women who had taken a sabbatical from work and it was a huge success. They had tied up with many MNC’s who were on the lookout for women candidates with experience and this platform was ideal to connect the two.

“Do you have kids?” She asked Sammy, eyeing her well maintained figure with not an ounce of flesh bulging out. “Ah yes 2 naughty brats who keep me on my toes from dawn till night”.

“So did you, err, take a break? Or you continued working post childbirth?”

“I had taken a break for 5 years to raise them and when I got back I was in for a rude shock.”

Sammy was drawn back to that day 5 years back when all suited up, black heels, her hair firmly tied up in a high ponytail and clutching her prized possession, the ‘Kate Spade’ Designer handbag, she marched into the office of M&R Consulting.

Sammy was always a woman of steel. Some would call her overconfident and bossy, but she believed she spoke her mind fearlessly, questioned, challenged and that’s what people didn’t like. She had no doubt about her abilities. Her break did not render her brain dead. She had kept herself up breast with the latest developments by reading and taking online courses in subjects of her filed.

She was in for a rude shock when she realized the misogyny and suspicion laden attitude of people towards working moms and worse those who had taken a break. First of all knowing that her hubby was a renowned pediatrician in one of the leading hospitals – it was presumed that she had no need to work for money like the others. It was immediately presumed she was working for “time pass”.

The timings were very rigid- they worked for European clients and most calls were after 9. Being very efficient in planning her day well ahead, Sammy had decided she will complete the desk job, research and internal team meetings in the day and would leave by 7 which gives her time to reach home, have dinner with her boys, read them a quick story and tuck them into bed. Calls were usually after 10, she could log on and take them from the comfort of her home. Of course when days were stressful and they were in damage control or firefighting mode, she knew she had to be there on the ground.

This had been spelt out by her clearly in the interview with the Senior Partner but she was appalled by how her immediate boss and colleagues reacted. There was always this air of hostility, as if she was misusing the so called privileges doled out to her and however well she did her work, it was always shrugged off and never acknowledged.

She could take it no longer and set up a meeting with HR who assured her that she would take action but nothing changed. She decided to resign but gave it one last chance. She went to the Senior Partner and had a conversation that lasted 5 hours. After that she was transferred to a different role in a different office and that’s when things changed for the better. The team had many working moms and her boss was a Dad who was hands on and a feminist.

She was happy that she had persevered and had found success now. After that there was no looking back. She did extremely well in her new role and was promoted soon.

But a thought at the back of her mind kept gnawing her. She was lucky in more ways than others.

First of all her persistent nature and strong will coupled by support of her husband and friends made her stand strong and tall and she had taken the bold step of taking this matter to the HR and senior partner. As luck would have it, the partner who was a staunch supporter of diversity took serious steps in retaining her. But how many women were in as favorable a situation like her?

How many had the privilege of a supportive spouse or could toss the job a good bye in case the atrocities continued?

How many could be bold to open their mouth and talk against this injustice?

How many could even find the right job after a break- a job that suited their qualification, needs and was the right fit? Were organizations sensitizing their employees on what women with experience bring to the table and why you need to empathize rather than complain?

She found her answers with the birth of “Wave- Be Bold for Change”- it was a small and humble start but the growth was exponential. Today they were a staff of 70 members spread across 5 cities and tied up with 50 corporates.

Her phone beeped and she was drawn out of her reverie. She looked at Snigdha and held her hand.

“Don’t be afraid, have confidence in yourself. A break doesn’t make you brain dead. In fact it just peps you up and rejuvenates you to do better. Honestly. I am not promising you that everything will be rosy, you will have to face adversities. A project that requires you to stretch, balancing your time, days when the kiddo is not well and needs you but you need to be at work. Remember sis, for the bad days keep telling yourself this too shall pass. Make your allies. Get hubby on your side, make your team work. One day your son will look up to you with pride and say – that’s my Mumma who lived her dream and motivates me to chase mine. And more than your son, your husband, anyone – do it for yourself so that when you look at the mirror each day you feel a sense of pride in the woman you are.”

Snigdha was awe struck. Wow is she the HR or some motivational speaker, I already feel charged up. She smiled and shook Sammy’s hand firmly. “Just what I needed, thanks a lot. I feel better”, the butterflies had vanished.

Let’s go in, the welcome address is about to begin- Sammy said and they walked in, hand in hand.

The auditorium reverberated with the voice of the MC – “We would like to welcome Samaira Sharma the founder of “Wave- Be Bold for Change “- The Career Comeback Program is the brainwave of Samaira whom we are proud to be associated with for our 2nd Comeback Program. Let’s hear it for Sammy.”

Akshata Ram wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2017. Congratulations! 

Image source: shutterstock

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