Why Lataji Didn’t Respond To People Who Made Fun Of Her At Work

Lataji and I stopped working together a long time back but her words remained with me. She was the closest I had to a mentor.

When I first started working, I was full of starry eyed ideals of equality and professionalism. I thought that everyone who was working was doing it for the same reason; to do the best they could in the field they chose. I was sure that everyone would be treated equally and that all ideas would be judged purely on their merit, that personal equations would not affect professional equations… boy, was I wrong!

I met mansplainers who would make me want to pull my teeth out. I met credit hogs. I met the hard workers who never stood up for themselves. I met the colleagues who survived by doing the bare minimum to keep their job, and I met the time wasters who did nothing yet always seemed busy. All of them ended up teaching me a lot.

But the most important lesson I learnt was from an older colleague. We all called her Lataji.

Now Lataji had started working late in life. Though she was older than most of us, she was still in a relatively junior post. She never explained her situation to us, and I never questioned her.

I saw that often people would make fun of her age or her lack of work experience, but most of the time Lataji wouldn’t say anything. It would bother me the way she quietly put up with everything.

I was at the age where I felt every injustice needs to be fought loudly and publicly.

One day when a younger colleague passed a rude remark I couldn’t take it any longer, and asked Lataji why she never responded or why she never complained.

This is what she said:

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“That’s what most of them want. I concentrate on doing my work. The comments they pass do not reduce or increase my salary. If I start responding to each of them then I will lose my peace of mind and my work may get affected, so I ignore them. These are the people who comment on everyone and everything.

In life you will always meet some people who are like crabs, they just want to pull every one down. You will also meet people who are always complaining and think the world owes them everything. You can’t change these people, if you engage with them you end up like them. Learn to choose your battles wisely. Fight for what is important to you and not because someone else wants to. If someone is pushing for a fight just sidestep them and let them fall flat on their face. It doesn’t mean you are weak. The strongest people are those who know when to hold on and when to let go. Every battle is not fought by every individual; no one can right the wrongs of this world.

If you start fighting every battle you won’t have any energy for the really important ones and more importantly you will never win.”

Lataji was the closest thing I had to a mentor. She was a person who taught me a lot through her actions, by warning me of the pitfalls I might face and by reminding me that only I could define my success and only I could define the path I had to take to achieve it. She went on to achieve many things, breaking barriers in her own way and carving her own path.

Lataji and I stopped working together a long time back but her words remained with me. “Choose your battles wisely. Fight when it is important for you and not because someone else is itching to.”

There are so many times I have managed to sidestep unnecessary battles without losing an iota of my strength….the strength I need for the battles I must win.

Editor’s Note: For IWD 2023, we’re publishing #MentoringStories in both fiction and non-fiction, for the IWD2023 theme #EmbraceEquity. See all mentoring stories here.

Image source: a still from the film How Old Are You

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About the Author

Asfiya Rahman

Asfiya Rahman, a management graduate, is a teacher by occupation and a writer by inclination. She has published many short stories in different publications and is the author of the sports drama trilogy Wild, Wild read more...

19 Posts | 22,820 Views

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