#CelebrateingtheRainbow at the workplace – share your stories of Pride!
My mentor helped me break the glasses of playing safe, and taught me to walk on the splinters of wrong decisions, with pride!
My first and most memorable lesson about being a woman boss was learned from my mentor, Mrs Manju Pasad. This woman’s month, I am saluting the woman who changed my life 180 degrees with her five noteworthy lessons.
From diaper changing to resume filtering, I embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship. Being a boss would give me more time for my baby, my home, and me, the biggest illusion I had harboured. Who knew then, my enterprise would become my baby, my office – my home, and my work – my identity?
Helping me break the glasses of playing safe, and teaching me to walk on the splinters of wrong decisions, with pride, was Manju ma’am’s push to my career.
‘Risk hai toh ishq hai’, [if there is risk there is love] might have become famous after the Red Bull scam series, but my mentor made it evident through her everyday functioning.
Actions over words and leading over guiding were her mantras in the initial days of our partnership at Genius Academy. Our coaching class.
She taught me to say, ‘your coaching class’.
From parents to staff, from students to teachers, she kept emphasizing that Genius Academy was their institute, she was merely managing it. My second lesson was on managing a staff of thirty, better known as a joint family of thirty.
‘Education, although an industry for many, must never appear commercial. You are a guru and don’t adorn the robe of a professional coach. Your student is your income, but don’t treat him or her like a commodity. Add value to your interactions, softness to your strictness, and motherly warmth to your reprimanding. Remember you are a woman entrepreneur, the society expects you to be demure. Don’t get stamped upon, but don’t even let aggression rule your decisions. Quietly and firmly, take every step with caution.’
These were her words, once, when in leisure we were sipping our favourite adrak chai and munching crispy onion pakoras. Her words were in tandem with the flavours bursting on my tongue. Sharp. Crisp. Perfect!
My third lesson delivered was about being a teacher along with being an entrepreneur.
In the initial days of our partnership, she would dole out instruction manuals to me. Daily, send targets to be achieved, and pitfalls to be covered, and at the end of the day, make a list of jobs well done. She taught me to be my own boss.
I learned to pat as well as cane myself with my own parameters. Becoming my own yardstick, while raising the bar higher with each achievement, was her constant motivation to me.
Of all that, we as women of substance share today, the most commendable part of her is the space she made for me after she chose to step down. It isn’t easy listening to your junior, especially if she has not even experienced half the storms you have battled. But Manju ma’am trusted my vision, my decisions, and later, my instructions in running the institution.
Not all days are galore for an entrepreneur. When grey clouds loom low over you, you want to run away and duck under a rock. The pointing fingers, the mocking faces, and the accusing words make life a living hell. At such times, my mentor’s sane advice sailed me through.
‘Aparna, maintain your visage as that of a wounded lioness. Fierce, yet protective about her pride. The gaping wound on your self-respect, and the trail of blood running from your injured faith, must be an indication to your competitors that they better not provoke you or an onslaught is inevitable. Sometimes only a defensive roar is enough over an actual attack. Save yourself for better battles.’
The fourth lesson was laid before me as an experience, not as teaching, but I couldn’t have missed the learning.
How does this come so easily to her? Many times I wonder. The answers are evident. One has to only see skin deep.
Manju ma’am has been a cancer survivor. She has conducted lectures even on the days of her radiotherapy. Her commitment to her job is more than her commitment to herself. This doesn’t mean she has lost herself to growing a business.
She is a prolific poet and dabbles in writing Gujarati poems for her loved ones. The stage is her closest mate and she enjoys hosting family functions. Gardening is another facet that she nurtures, and finds solace in.
If all that was not enough to celebrate womanhood, she has raised two independent daughters. Major Jankhana Pasad, a pride of the Indian Army, and Hetvi Pasad, a software engineer currently working in Chicago. Her daughters are the perfect examples of a chip off the old block. Disciplined, hard-working, and committed, the girls have had a tough yet sensitive tutelage.
I recall an incident where I was at madam’s home for an informal meeting. Major Jankhana walks in with a tray of glasses to serve us. No air of being important. A glass spills, and she quickly sits down to wipe the floor.
One could have called for the house-help but no, she behaves like a daughter, a host when with family. Here came my second lesson of humility. How after reaching heights, a person should only look at the ground than the sky.
The fifth and I believe it’s not the final one was about being a parent. ‘Let your children imbibe your values naturally. Make them observers over blind followers. Reasoning, open-minded individuals over closed sobs.’
There is so much more, I wish to say, but being short and sweet retains and successfully conveys the essence of anything said or written. My journey with my mentor continues to explore new avenues and possibilities.
We have our share of disagreements, but we choose to look beyond our disputes and respect each other for the individuality that we bring to the table.
For those who say, women can only bitch, blither, and badmouth each other, here is an example of camaraderie best achieved at the workplace.
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.
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Aparna, residing in Mumbai, is a consulting homoeopath and edupreneur by day and loves to find comfort in books by twilight. Writing has allowed her to express without wagging her tongue. She has contributed to read more...
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