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She wanted to yell, “I am not even engaged yet and I have zero interest in any kind of romance.” But this would have fallen on deaf ears.
In 2019 our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry.
The writing cue for August 2019 is this quote from the poem Stanzas by Emily Bronte, whose 201st birth anniversary just went by – she was born on 30th July 1818.
“I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading;
It vexes me to choose another guide:”
The first winner of our August 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Khoobi Gangdev Shah.
Stepping out from the office, Kiara struggled to open her umbrella, getting drenched in the rain in the process. The damned umbrella just wouldn’t open up!
Kiara’s frustrated sigh seemed to have worked on the umbrella because it finally gave her some much-needed refuge. Shielding her head and her belongings, she started walking towards the bus stop. The evening bus might be here any minute and she was not in a mood to miss it.
Walking home wasn’t an option because really, who wants to walk in the rain?
“I could try”, she thought.
But the next second, she realized that was not looking forward to an evening of sneezing and coughing after walking in the rain. Although today’s meetings had done nothing for her, she couldn’t afford to lose hope for tomorrow’s meetings.
It was quite surprising that even in the 21st century, her business plan was viewed through the lens of her gender. She knew she had a solid business plan, which included multiple contingency plans should things not go exactly as Plan A suggested. She had worked day and night, without any help to finally have a satisfactory plan in hand. She didn’t stop working on it until she felt it was good. Although her father and her mentor from her previous workplace had given it an A, she wanted an A+.
When she met with the officer from the first bank, he laughed at her outright. Didn’t even pretend to read the plan or hide his misogynistic thinking. He had no qualms stating that a woman of her age would never be trusted with anyone else’s money.
“What if you spend it shopping?”
“What if you lose it?”
“What if you get married in the next year and end up shutting down shop?”
These were just some of the absurd things the officer had said to her. She’d considered talking to the branch manager or someone higher up, but who had the time for needless arguments when she needed to focus on her next meeting.
Right before stepping into the second meeting of her day, she gave herself a mental pep talk:
“Just because two people think my business plan is bad, doesn’t necessarily mean its bad. This is my most ambitious project and I will not be disheartened by ignorant people who cannot grapple with the fact that a woman can run her own business. I will simply picture such people in their underwear and laugh internally because I need the funding!”
This lengthy mantra seemed to have worked because at least at the second meeting, she didn’t end up wasting time trying to explain her life plan and her business plan both together. She simply said thank you, got up and left.
And this brings us to the bus stop Kiara is trying to get to in the rain. Tomorrow looked like it was going to be even harder, but hey, who doesn’t love a good challenge that requires one to bounce from bank to bank?
As the alarm woke her up the next day, she was hoping and praying that the incessant rains would take some pity on her and stop already!
“Wow,” she thought, “the stars are not aligned in my favor for the second day in a row.” Gazing out into the pouring rain, she realized, “I have zero motivation today. Nada, zip, zilch, none at all. How am I going to pitch my idea if I can’t be bothered to get dressed and go out?”
These thoughts kept circling around in her head and there seemed to be no end in sight for the downward spiral. She was still gazing out into the street when she saw a group of young kids excitedly running to get to school. They had little raincoats on and couldn’t care less if their shoes and socks were wet. They did not feel the cold. All they felt was the excitement of going to school, learning something new and meeting their friends. And if a group of 8 and 9-year-olds could muster up that much enthusiasm, so could a 28-year-old!
She had three meetings scheduled for the day. The first meeting seemed to be an action replay, a word-by-word replay, and expression-by-expression replay of yesterday. The same shitty questions, the same judgmental opinions about how she could possibly not balance a new business and married life. She wanted to yell, “I am not even engaged yet and I have zero interest in any kind of romance.” But this would have fallen on deaf ears. Because we might have the most advanced technology governing our lives, but what can you do about outdated mindsets? A factory reset perhaps?
The second meeting was a little hopeful. At least this guy was more willing to look at her business plan and maybe call about a second meeting?
Heading out of the second meeting, she was exhausted. The physical exhaustion was nothing compared to how mentally exhausted she was with the mindset of the people she had met today. All she could do was pity the women in the lives of these men; they would never see the light of the day or probably ever experience any sort of happiness or joy when their male members lived in the 17th century.
She checked her phone. It was almost 5 pm.
“Should I cancel the last meeting?” she thought to herself.
She was debating this in her mind when her phone rang. It was the bank where her third meeting was to take place in another half an hour.
She had set up this appointment a few months in advance and had even sent over a copy of her business plan. She was quite realistic about the fact that no one she sent this plan to would read it before the meeting. However, the person on the other line of the phone gave her quite a shock.
“Am I speaking to Kiara?”, the male voice said.
“Yes. How can I help you?”
“I was just checking to see if you will still be arriving for your meeting at the bank at 5.30 pm?”
“Absolutely, I am headed to the bank now and I will be there right on time.”
“That sounds good. Please ask for Roshan once you get here.”
“Sure. Thanks for calling.”
Well, now she couldn’t cancel the meeting even if she wanted to. She headed to the third bank, with zero expectations from the meeting.
She reached the bank and asked for Roshan. Next thing she knew, she was ushered into the conference room.
“Wow, these people are fancy. None of the other banks even bothered to ask if I wanted a glass of water.”
With this thought, she stepped foot inside and was greeted with the sight of two people sitting on one end of the table. She was asked to take a seat across them.
What ensued was the conversation Kiara had absolutely not expected. These people had actually gone through the business plan. Although they did have some reservations about her plan, it was more about her work experience than her ability to work as a woman. In fact, the questions exclusively focused on the plan, and for that, she was incredibly thankful. She couldn’t take another round of needless questioning about her love life, relationships, etc.
And then, she heard the magic words from across the table,
“All right, we are ready to offer you the loan. However, we do have certain conditions that need to be met, since you are a fairly new player in the market.”
As they listed the conditions, Kiara was ecstatic. It had taken her months to get here, and after the fiasco of the previous day and the disastrous meetings, she had found a place that saw value on her skills and business plan. And she had been granted the loan, without a single question about getting engaged, marrying or about how she would manage her home and work. Now that was truly the miracle!
She shook hands of both the executives seated across her, promised to get in touch within a week with the relevant documents and headed out. Roshan, the person who had called her to confirm the meeting, congratulated her with a smile and a “You deserved it!”
That day, she didn’t mind walking home in the rain. Maybe she would even jump in a few puddles like she had seen those kids do in the morning! Charting her path had come with a set of struggles, but the jumping in the puddles with joy part of her journey was worth it.
Khoobi Gangdev Shah wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: Shutterstock
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