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We are recognizing women role models at WICA. If you are a woman working in corporate or know of any, here’s chance to NOMINATE! (Last Date – 15th July 2019)
Here’s a final piece of advice. Don’t ask for the moon… reach out for it. And if you believe in yourself, you will get there. March along determinedly towards your goals. Let the light in you shine through
Ami had reached her wit’s end. She was from IIM-A! She had skills… enviable ones at that. She had accepted her two-month internship in a prestigious organization like ML Corporation in their Marketing department hoping to learn, contribute and grow. But with a boss like Mr. Biswas she knew it was never going to happen. He only had eyes for the other two interns – Neha and Amrita. All they did was look tall and pretty while agreeing with whatever Mr. Biswas said!
To this trio, she didn’t exist. To them, she was the ugly and invisible “Amavasya” …meaning “No moon”. The nickname was a reference to her dark skin while also being an unfortunate amalgamation of her first name Ami and last name Vasya. If the nightmarish teasing at school wasn’t enough, she had to face it now at work as well!
Mean nicknames she could still deal with. What’s in a name anyway?! It was the biasedness of her boss towards the other interns that bothered her more. There was only one way she could stand out – she had to come up with a brilliant strategy!
Ami knew the company had been going through a difficult time of late, posting losses last quarter. So she set out gathering information from the company website, annual reports, presentations etc. She met other employees across locations for their insights. She also made a trip to the Aurangabad plant to understand the challenges and future plans for the company. After a month of research and analysis, she submitted a detailed Project Report to her boss. It only got buried under the many files on his desk. He didn’t even turn a single page!
It was getting unbearable for Ami. And then suddenly one day, things began to look up. It was the day that the Business Head, Mr. Agarwal announced a company-wide Innovation Challenge. Any individual or team could submit an idea that would re-imagine a significant process in the business that would take the company into the future. The participants who submitted the winning entries would become a part of the Incubation Cell where they would see their project to fruition under the guidance of experienced professionals led by Mr. Agarwal himself.
Ami felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe there was still a chance for her to showcase her skills. In fact she already had a head start with her Project Report. Excited, she immediately went to her boss’s cabin, hoping that maybe, just this one time, he would praise her for being proactive. But it appeared that her boss already had an idea and was discussing it animatedly with the other two interns.
Ami spoke hesitatingly, “Sir. I just wanted to discuss an idea with you for the Innovation challenge. “
Mr. Biswas responded, “Amavasya… don’t ask for the moon! Ha Ha Ha! Get it? Come on…that’s funny! Don’t stress yourself with the Innovation challenge. We will tell you exactly what to do. After all those Excel sheets need to be created by someone right?! So you’ll be our little helper. Ok? Now go. We have some important things to discuss. “
Ami walked out of the room feeling dejected. Mr. Biswas didn’t even want to discuss his idea with her. She walked to her workspace and placed her head on the table. She took a deep breath and just when she began to well up, she felt a hand on her right shoulder.
She looked up to see a silhouette of a woman who had long flowy golden hair, a gown that twinkled and she held a wand! Her Fairy Godmother! She quickly wiped away the tears. That’s when she realized that it was just Mrs. Sharma – Sr. Manager –Operations at the Aurangabad Plant. She was wearing a shimmery salwar kameez with a long gold coloured dupatta, and was holding a pen. Fairy Godmother indeed! Since when did she believe in fairy tales?!
Mrs. Sharma spoke tenderly, “Ami, you had left this pen behind when you had come down to the plant last month. I was busy. That’s why I couldn’t give it to you sooner. Hope you are doing ok? Why are you so sad?”
“I have an idea for the Innovation Challenge. But my boss has no faith in me. I don’t know what to do,” replied Ami.
Mrs. Sharma patted Ami and said, “Hmmm. With all the research you have carried out and the tough questions that you have been asking…I would like to think you are already half the way there. The Project Report that you showed me had great promise. Just refine it and work on the numbers. I know you can do it. Why don’t you just work on your project after work hours?”
Ami was overwhelmed by Mrs. Sharma’s faith in her. She suddenly began to feel that all was not lost. “Mr. Biswas usually leaves by around 7 pm. I could sit after that and finish my project.”
“That sounds like a plan. Just remember that the last office cab leaves at 10 pm. Don’t sit beyond that. It’s not safe to travel alone at night.”
“Sure. Thank you so much Mrs. Sharma.”
Every day for the next few weeks, Ami woke up with a strong sense of purpose that brought a spring in her footsteps. During the day, she would try and finish the mundane work that Mr. Biswas would assign to her and during any spare time she would have, she would carry out her own research. Later when most of the office had left for the day, she would research some more. She would often call Mrs. Sharma who would patiently guide her. She worked at home as well. Long days and long nights… a lot of hard work but Ami loved it!
This went on for 2 weeks. There were only 2 more weeks left till the deadline and incidentally the end of her internship. One night, Ami had just finished up typing her synopsis of the project. She added a tentative title. She was very confident that if the company entered the new untapped market segment that she had discovered its fortunes would change. She pressed ‘print’ on her laptop. She wanted to take the synopsis home to read.
Suddenly she realized that it was just 2 minutes to 10 pm. She did not want to miss the last cab. She ran out of office. It was only when Ami reached home that she slapped her forehead hard. She had forgotten to collect the synopsis from the printer! She reached office an hour early the next day and almost ran towards the printer. There was no paper! She looked everywhere…but couldn’t find it. The house-keeping personnel were just getting to work. Someone had got her Project Synopsis!
She was mentally kicking herself for her stupidity when she got an email from the Business Head. It was addressed to all the employees in the company. He wanted the team that had worked on “Project Poornima” to present their proposal at the next Town hall meeting. He thought that even though the challenge deadline was sometime away, because of the immediate relevance of the project, he wanted to know more right away.
Ami froze in her seat. Not only had Mr. Agarwal got her note… he had been impressed by it! But there was a problem… how was she to prepare her presentation for the Town hall that was just 4 days away? Then, as she saw her boss’s angry gaze on her, she realized she had another problem at hand.
“Project Poornima! Bah! It’s you isn’t it! I told you not to go after the moon! But that’s just what you did didn’t you?!” The other interns just stood there with big smiles on their faces enjoying the lashing Ami was getting from her boss.
“I don’t know what you have done and who has helped you in this project that for some bizarre reason has been appreciated so much by big boss. But you went behind my back! So to set it right, you are going to hand over the project to me. I will present it. In fact, I will add Neha and Amrita’s names too. You don’t deserve any credit. That will teach you a lesson! Did you understand Amavasya?” Mr. Biswas hollered.
When Ami didn’t say anything, Mr. Biswas took her silence as meek acceptance of his punishment and stormed off.
Neha and Amrita also followed. She heard Neha remark, “Poornima, my foot!”
Ami knew she had to meet Mrs. Sharma immediately. She needed her advice. She ran to where she usually sat. But she couldn’t find her. Then the receptionist told her, “Oh! Mrs. Sharma has gone back to Aurangabad. She had only been stationed in Mumbai for 1 month for an urgent project. She left a note for you. “
With a long sigh, Ami opened the note.
I have been very impressed with your passion for your work and your work ethics. Your hard work will take you very far in your career. Best of luck for the presentation!
Here’s a final piece of advice. Don’t ask for the moon… reach out for it. And if you believe in yourself, you will get there. March along determinedly towards your goals. Let the light in you shine through. Never give up on yourself.
Tears were rolling down Ami’s cheeks as she finished reading the note. She looked up and knew that there was only one thing left to be done. She was going to put her heart and soul into the presentation! Over the weekend, she also prepared an alternate proposal and tried to make it as impressive as possible to submit to her boss.
Mr. Biswas just accepted the file with a grunt. Fortunately he did not suspect even once that Ami would stand up to him. Neha and Amrita also ignored her as usual which suited her just fine. It just gave her more time to prepare for her presentation. She would sneak off to the washroom every chance she got to practise. She was happy to fend off a few nasty remarks about her bowels, as long as her secret was safe.
The D-Day had arrived. Everyone had gathered at the canteen for the Town Hall. She could see her boss pacing up and down, preparing for the presentation. She knew that she had to beat him to the stage. She knew that she was taking a big risk and she would face hell from Mr. Biswas afterwards….but she also knew it was going to be worth it. She heard Mr. Agarwal announce, “Let’s invite on stage, the team with the brilliant proposal.” She touched the note from Mrs. Sharma in her pocket and took a deep breath.
Ami walked swiftly up to the stage. She got on and began loudly, “Project Poornima: From Darkness to Light”. Mr. Agarwal looked up at Ami and smiled. She could see that many faces in the audience showed surprise. But there were some who were smiling. She knew that 3 faces would have scowls. She could hear someone tearing papers in the distance. She smiled. It must be Mr. Biswas…who knew the proposal in his hand would be of no use now.
After 10 minutes, there was thunderous applause as she finished. Mr. Agarwal came up to her and patted her on her back. “Good job. Is your name Poornima?” he asked.
“Oh No! My name is Ami. My team had nicknamed me Amavasya. I guess I named my project Poornima to prove a point.”
“I am sure that after today, no one will dare call you names. We are very proud you, Ami.”
As Ami got off the stage she realized that all said and done, her career may just have got off to a fairy tale beginning!
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the February 2018 Muse of the Month, but not among the top 5 winners.
Image source: pxhere
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