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My mentor has helped me overcome self-doubt and shown me support when no one did! Here is my #MentoringStory about KB, who said 'Hi' to me first and changed my life!
My mentor has helped me overcome self-doubt and shown me support when no one did! Here is my #MentoringStory about KB, who said ‘Hi’ to me first and changed my life!
‘Hey, who’s that working on the computer?’ I paid no heed and kept typing furiously. This time the voice was nearer. I looked up at last.
‘YOU…YOU! I am going hoarse calling out to you.’
I sat there. Stunned!
‘Our new Research Executive,’ the Office Manager filled her. The lady looked at me and stated, ‘Ahh. I was wondering why an Aunty is using our computer.’ She smiled at me.
I examined myself. A yellow cotton sari. Long, untrimmed hair. Stained nails. Totally unfit in this sector!
It was my first day in the corporate setup. Hailing from the development sector, I was clueless about what to wear and how to carry myself. My English was rusty and functional. I was ‘just a grassroots level worker’ amidst the gorgeous, well-maintained, formally dressed colleagues.
Learning qualitative research at an age when most girls were already established, my confidence levels plummeted down. Every day I came home, depressed and disgruntled.
But it was about to change.
One day, I was lost at work when a fruity, prolonged ‘Hiiiii….’ broke into my thoughts. I did not look up, for I knew it was not directed at me.
‘Hey there…. What’s your name?’ This time, I looked up and observed.
Short, petite and beautiful, she was draped in an orange silk sari. Her blouse was a deep green. A big black bindi shone on her broad, fair forehead. And she gave me the brightest of all smiles. Rising from the chair, I introduced myself.
‘Oh, I have heard about you. Come, dear, let’s sit here and have chai.’ The Office Assistant served us freshly brewed chai. She told me about her nature of work, her travels and how she balances everything.
I sat there, listening to her, and appreciating each and every detail of hers. That evening, when I returned home, I was happy. Finally, I found someone I can relate with.
Kaushiki Bose is a senior researcher in the field of qualitative research. Focused group discussions, high-profile interviews, and ethnography are her forte. KB as we fondly call her was always the popular choice of all our clients. Some would even insist on hiring KB and no one else.
Regarding work, she was and still is the best. But there were other qualities which made her endearing. Her love for saris was well-known. Every day she arrived in the choicest of silks, looking her best. With a smile plastered on her face, she had a nice word for everyone in the office.
No one ever felt ignored.
KB made my transition from the development sector into the corporate easy. She was like an iron pressing down upon me, gradually smoothening the creases and wrinkles.
I will always remember my first group discussion. KB was conducting the session on the outskirts of Kolkata. The Boss sent me with her so that I observe her techniques and learn. I was, by then, well past many training sessions. But yet to be offered an opportunity to moderate a group on my own.
Halfway through the session, KB complained of uneasiness. She signalled me to take over. Anxiety took over. My legs shook. My voice trembled.
KB motioned me to begin. Every time I posed a question to the respondents, I looked at KB to gauge her reaction. She smiled back. Reassured, I continued. My confidence rocketed. I lost track of time.
When I finished, I looked up to find that KB had left. I realized that it had been possible because of her guidance and faith in me. I have often thought about that day. Was it deliberate on her part? Maybe! She knew that the exposure would pave my path.
KB was my guide.
An enabler in that chapter of my life.
An expert, she knew each and every theory and its implementation. She would discuss the transcripts, and point out major findings, which I would note down. One of my best presentations was prepared under her guidance.
She was the pillar I could lean against and even hide. A few months down the line, a lapse in a document was noted. The entire team congregated to identify the person who had committed it.
I became the scapegoat, despite the fact, there were many who had worked on it. There was nothing I could do.
But an orotund voice announced, ‘Have you finished? Now let me share my two cents with you.’ That was no one but KB. Bold and fearless, she always took up cudgels against any wrongdoing and never hesitated. I have seen how people revered and respected her.
Decades older than me and with two grown-up boys, KB ended up mothering me. She took me under her wing, teaching me not only research, but also finesse. She showed me the kind of outfits I should wear to client meetings. The saris I should drape. Haircuts that suited me and the stylists I could afford.
Probably it’s KB that I emulate whenever I wear a sari, a contrast blouse and a huge bindi. When I travelled for projects, she gave me tips on packing and saving laundry charges. Comfort and style go hand-in-hand, were her words to me.
KB was and still is my therapist. I was, then, a newly-married woman finding it extremely difficult to adjust to my in-laws. I would often arrive late or be too groggy to work.
On those days, she would take me to her home under the pretext of working on a presentation, feed me a sumptuous lunch and even allow me to catch a power nap. In her, I found the warmth that I have always found in my grandmother and mother.
Kaushiki was and still is my mentor. A strong believer in reincarnation, I feel we have a Karmic connection and hence this inexplicable, deep bond.
This Women’s month, may we all raise a toast to more such Kaushikis who stands like a pillar to their young protégés.
Image source: author and shinseehophotos, free on CanvaPro
Sreemati Sen, a Masters in Social Work (MSW) From Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She is a Development Professional, specialised in Psychiatric care of Differently Abled Children. That hasn’t stopped her from exploring other fields. Years read more...
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