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Am I Doing This Right? Insights from Priyanka Chopra’s Mom in ‘The Parents I Met’

Ever wondered, “Am I getting this parenting gig right?” In Mansi Zaveri’s The Parents I Met, take a stroll through chats with successful parents, picking up timeless tips for navigating the tricky path of raising kids. This book is like a friendly guide, saying, “Hey, in the middle of life’s chaos, what matters most is your love and commitment to your kids.” It’s an easy read, full of stories and advice that any parent can relate to, giving you a bit of comfort and a lot of insights along the way.

 

The Parents I Met
The Parents I Met || Mansi Zaveri

 

***

Initially, I had arranged to speak with Dr Madhu Chopra via Zoom, but after our conversation, I knew I had to meet her in person. She never made her career, marriage or the proper upbringing of her children a lower priority simply because she became a mother.  

 

Despite her initial doubts about whether her parenting practices from nearly three decades ago would still be relevant, she welcomed me with open arms and was happy to talk. Friendly as always, she paused to ask her assistant Zarin for a green tea in Gujarati, all the while considering which chai flavour would best prepare her for this exchange. She then took a sip and said,

 

‘Mansi, what was important is that I didn’t back down—that gave me immense confidence. That confidence emanates power and brings me respect from my kids even to this day. If they respect you, it becomes easy.’  

 

She has fond memories of working night shifts at the army hospital, which were always a family affair because she had to bring her two children along, Priyanka and her brother Siddharth. ‘I turned it into a game by telling Priyanka, “Mom’s on night duty, baby’s on night duty,” as she carried her toy backpack and squealed with excitement. I didn’t fall into the trap of feeling guilty because my work gave me immense joy. The guilt crept in only once when she talked back to my father and that made me wonder, “Is it because I am working?” Even the fancy well-planned tiffins of other kids who had stay-at-home moms couldn’t make me feel guilty as I sent the same tiffins every day, like a paratha roll or jam sandwich. I taught her to not compare these tiffins or feel deprived. Parenting is not a day’s job. It starts the day your baby is conceived and continues forever.’ 

 

I asked her if Priyanka had ever asked, ‘Why can’t you sit at home or why do you need to work?’ and she said, ‘No. She didn’t know any other way and took this as normal.’ Family was a huge support, with both sets of parents and relatives chipping in at every stage.  

 

Dr Chopra continued, ‘Both kids used to tag along. If mom had night duty, baby had night duty. She would pack her little bag to carry to the hospital because she knew she had to keep herself busy while I was away on duty. You see, we didn’t give them choices that didn’t exist.’ 

 

Dr Chopra then unapologetically admitted, ‘I am a great parent.’ To see a parent be so self-assured was refreshing. Especially when parents today second guess most of their decisions.  

 

When Priyanka was preparing for Miss India, her entire family pooled their resources to buy her new footwear, wardrobe and cosmetics. No one ever questioned who she was or why she would want to compete in a Miss India pageant. Some parents hope their children will follow in their footsteps and go into business with them or pursue a similar line of work, but Priyanka knew at the tender age of three that she did not want to become a doctor because she did not like the smell of hospitals and did not want to leave her child at home.’  

 

She added, ‘When your path is different from your kids, there is no tantrum and shouting but there is a conversation. You convince me or I convince you.’ The one time that we did push our wishes on a child who was a topper in her academics and extracurriculars, was when we asked her to sing and dance both. When her grades dipped, I backed off, but being a committed, competitive learner, she persevered. Her habit of seeking perfection in everything that she did was most evident when she helped her younger brother Siddharth learn his speech on Chacha Nehru. She corrected his work and sat all night rehearsing with him till he didn’t even miss a single word. 

 

She continued, ‘I think this is the temperament that has got her here and is keeping her here. Ours was a democratic house, and questions and curiosity were rewarded promptly. When Priyanka was in kindergarten and questioned why her name was missing from the name plate outside her house, her father, Dr Ashok Chopra, got it changed the next day and added “Priyanka Chopra-UKG”.’ 

 

Dr Chopra went on to say, ‘Dinner table conversations were animated ones, where you could pour your heart out and no one would be judged. No one raised their voices or banged plates—it was not allowed in my household. Our kids never saw us yell, fight or be violent—it started and ended in the bedroom, but even that was a discussion.’  

 

‘I was heartbroken when I sent her to boarding school at seven years old after she had talked back to my dad,’ she confessed, ‘but the end result of that decision was a polished, responsible pre-teen who could even parent me. She became so disciplined, much better than I could have ever done. Each leap of faith was made with my family as a safety net.’  

 

When I asked her if she had had any indication that Priyanka was exceptional before she turned eighteen, she said, ‘I knew my child was focused and never frivolous. She would make the most of every opportunity that was presented to her. You cannot be a great parent if you don’t have a receptive child.’ 

 

When I asked her how she managed to instil such a sense of hunger and determination in her children despite their privileged upbringing, she told me that teaching them to say ‘no’ was crucial, as was making them work for what they want.  

 

She said, ‘Don’t be afraid to be that “bad parent”. The word “no” carried great weight in the Chopra household. One parent’s “no” would never be followed by a “yes” from the other. Their “whys”, however, were never shunned but addressed with discussions and explanations of the consequences early on. My children knew from day one that their every action had a consequence and that would be theirs alone.’  

***

Intrigued to know more?

Get your copy of The Parents I Met by Mansi Zaveri wherever books are sold.

Exploring Career 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0: Which Path Suits You?

Ever thought about how jobs used to be and how they are now? Abhijit Bhaduri’s ‘Career 3.0’ shows us the way careers are changing. It’s like going from having just one skill for a job to juggling three or more skills in different places. So let’s take a peek into this shift in the work world and find out which career path suits you best.

 

Career 3.0
Career 3.0 || Abhijit Bhaduri

***

Career 1.0: Monetizing a Single Skill in one Ecosystem

In Career 1.0, individuals are focused on monetizing a single skill that they have developed through training or experience. This may be a skill that they have formally studied or learned through on-the-job experience. Stable workplaces with relatively few changes offer opportunities for a person to continue pursuing a career with a single employer or doing the same work for different employers. Professional sports is a good example of Career 1.0 where a single skill is monetized in one ecosystem as the rules of a game don’t really change. A professional singer spends a lifetime using one skill in one ecosystem.

 

Career 2.0: Monetizing a Second Skill in Two Ecosystems

In Career 2.0, individuals are monetizing a second skill, in a distinctly different ecosystem. This second skill may be something that they have formally studied or trained in, or it may be a skill that they have developed through personal interests or hobbies. A college professor who writes a bestselling book or the CEO who serves on the board of a start-up is operating in a second ecosystem.

The skills gained in an ecosystem may not be useful to succeed in the second ecosystem. That is no different from the accountant who performs as a stand-up comedian on weekends or the coder who drives an Uber to make a few extra bucks. They are all using a second skill, in a new ecosystem in a Career 2.0 model. Earning money from a skill shows how much it is worth. Having another way to make money and growing it makes people feel good about their abilities. They can do both or choose one.

 

Career 3.0: Monetizing Three or More Skills in Different Ecosystems

In Career 3.0, individuals are monetizing three or more skills in different ecosystems. I once met an accountant who works for a large multinational corporation (MNC). He spends his weekends cooking for a restaurant in the neighbourhood whose customers love his curries and cakes. He also plays the keyboard and drums and used to play for a band when he was a student.
The band were so successful that for a while he thought of doing that fulltime. Laughing, he adds, ‘My problem is that I enjoy being an accountant as much as I enjoy being a chef and a musician. Why limit myself?’

 

Paychex, an American firm providing human resources services, found in a survey that 40 per cent of workers in the US have multiple jobs, and half of Gen Z workers are splitting their time between three or more employers. They call it ‘polyworking’. Meanwhile, 33 per cent of millennials are holding down three or more jobs, compared to 28 per cent of baby boomers and 23 per cent of Gen X professionals.

 

There are a few key characteristics that define Career 3.0:

Curiosity: Career 3.0 comes naturally to people who are curious. They will often experiment and learn something new just to be able to figure it out. They teach themselves by watching videos, listening to experts, finding apprenticeships and attending classes. Most of all the learning by being unafraid of failure. When an opportunity comes their way, they are often prepared to grab it. These are people who are comfortable with skills that are often seen to be at two ends of a spectrum—e.g., science and coding both demand logic and are polar opposites of fields like humanities and languages. Curious people often enjoy learning something even though there is no apparent use for it. Quiz contests often bring together people who are curious about everything from Greek mythology to astronomy to sports.

 

Adaptability: Monetizing multiple skills requires adaptability, as individuals may need to shift between different areas of work depending on the demands of each skill. Being comfortable with ambiguity and being flexible go together. An unpredictable world that is constantly evolving needs people who are comfortable with uncertainty. It is much like driving through thick fog. The driver navigates the road ahead one metre at a time.

 

Mindset: Career 3.0 needs the mindset of a VC who has to quickly figure out whether the idea being pitched is a big idea that has potential—an opportunity they must not miss, or if it is a passing fad. It often means that the VC has to place multiple bets knowing that the majority of the investments will fail but that the one that succeeds will more than make up for the rest. It needs the ability to take risks and walk on a path less travelled.

 

Overall, the three career archetypes—Career 1.0, Career 2.0, and Career 3.0—represent different approaches to monetizing skills and building a career. While each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks, the key is to find the right balance that works for an individual’s unique strengths and goals.

 

***

Get your copy of Career 3.0 by Abhijit Bhaduri wherever books are sold.

Curious about Career and Success? Ask These Books for Answers!

Explore a goldmine of wisdom with a diverse collection of books spanning career, management, and entrepreneurship. From leadership insights to personal growth and empathy’s role in a post-pandemic world, these reads offer a powerful perspective. Your path to success starts here!

 

Play to Transform
Play to Transform || Avinash Jhangiani

Play to Transform is a book that challenges the traditional mindset of business leaders and encourages them to tap into their inner child to accelerate transformation with purpose. The book argues that we are all born creative geniuses with an innate ability to empathize deeply with others, but somewhere along the way, we have lost touch with these qualities. In the post-pandemic world, leaders need to be more empathetic and agile than ever before, and a conscious shift in mindset is required to achieve this.

 

Unlocked
Unlocked || Gezim Gashi

Gezim Gashi recounts his extraordinary journey-from escaping the Kosovo genocide to becoming the first Albanian-Swede to launch a high school institute in the United States – Gezim lays out a path to personal success and fulfillment that is accessible to all, regardless of their background. With his mentorship, readers will be inspired to overcome obstacles and achieve their biggest goals.

 

Unfiltered
Unfiltered || Ana Lueneburger, Saurabh Mukherjea

 

A pioneering book, Unfiltered: The CEO and the Coach, for the first time, opens the doors that normally shield the confidential world of coaching conversations. The book, through its candour, helps readers fully grasp the life-changing impact that coaching can have. Conceived as a leadership development book, the authors share the narratives (both individual and mutual) of their partnership over the course of five years. The resultant narrative provides not just unique insights that executives and entrepreneurs will find useful for their own development but also deep insights into how, by understanding ourselves, we move towards mastery over the world at large.

 

Leading from the Back
Leading from the Back || Ravi Kant, Harry Paul, Ross Reck

Are you looking for a leadership model that is uncomplicated, easy to use and produces amazing results? If so, then Leading from the Back is for you! In it you will find everything you need to become a superstar leader. You will learn how to earn respect from your team members and help them in achieving the impossible. No more learning about numerous principles and laws of leadership. Just a three-part model that has an amazing track record of proven success.

Leading from the Back is a distillation of the collective experience and wisdom of Ravi Kant (former CEO, vice chairman, Tata Motors), Harry Paul (co-author of the bestseller FISH! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results) and Ross Reck (co-author of The Win-Win Negotiator).

 

The Secret of Leadership
The Secret of Leadership || Iyer Prakash

Bestselling author Prakash Iyer uses simple but powerful anecdotes and parables from all over the world to demonstrate what makes for effective personal and professional leadership. Iyer draws lessons from sources as diverse as his driver, a mother giraffe, Abraham Lincoln and footballers in the United Kingdom. He shows how an instinct to lead can be acquired even while flipping burgers at a fast-food chain. All of these stories come together in an explosive cocktail to unleash your inner leader.

 

Catalyst
Catalyst || Chandramouli Venkatesan

A good job, hard work, IQ, EQ, good communication skills-these are all ingredients for a successful life. The presence of these elements alone, however, does not guarantee success. To convert them into long-term success, you need certain stimuli which precipitate or accelerate your growth. This robustly effective book identifies the various catalysts that you can cultivate and how you can leverage them to propel yourself in your work and life.
Accessible, engaging and easy to follow, and written by someone who has experienced all this in real life and not in theory, Catalyst will arm you with the right tools to succeed at your work place and get the most out of every moment, every day.

 

The Habit of Winning
The Habit of Winning || Iyer Prakash

Do you feel like throwing in the towel, but want to be a great leader? Would you like to build an organization? Do you want your child to be the best she can be? If you answered yes to any of these questions, The Habit of Winning is the book for you. It is a book that will change the way you think, work and live, with stories about self-belief and perseverance, leadership and teamwork-stories that will ignite a new passion and a renewed sense of purpose in your mind.

 

The High Performance Entrepreneur
The High Performance Entrepreneur || Subroto Bagchi

In The High Performance Entrepreneur, Subroto Bagchi draws from his own experiences to offer guidance from the idea stage to the initial public offering level. This includes deciding when one is ready to launch an enterprise, selecting a team, defining the values and objectives of the company, writing the business plan, choosing the right investors, managing adversity and building the brand. Additionally, in an especially illuminating chapter, Bagchi recounts the systems and values which have brought Indian IT companies on a par with the best in the world. High-performance entrepreneurs create great wealth, for themselves as well as for others. They provide jobs, which are crucial for an expanding workforce, and drive innovation. More than a guide, this book will tap the entrepreneurial energy within you.

 

Design Your Thinking
Design Your Thinking || Pavan Soni

Pioneered by IDEO and Stanford d.school, design thinking is one such approach that draws inspiration from the realm of product design. However, it shouldn’t be narrowly associated with the world of start-ups and technology or thought of as something limited to product development. The method is increasingly being used in a wider context and can help us address a vast array of problems.

Design Your Thinking attempts to offer a practitioner’s perspective on how the tenets, methods and discipline of design thinking can be applied across a range of domains, including to everyday problems, and help us become expert problem-solvers through the use of the appropriate toolsets, skill sets and mindsets.

 

Let's Build A Company
Let’s Build A Company || Harpreet Grover, Vibhore Goyal

It started with a phone call from Harpreet’s mother introducing him to an uncle who wanted some help. Or maybe it started when Vibhore and Harpreet met as roommates in Room 143 at IIT Bombay. What remains true is that soon both had quit their jobs and launched CoCubes. From no money in their bank accounts for eight years after graduating to becoming dollar millionaires two years later in 2016, this is a tale of grit-of a company built in India by two Indian-middle-class-twenty-somethings-turned-entrepreneurs-written in the hope that you can avoid the mistakes they made and learn from what they did right.

This is that story-the story that you don’t always hear. But if you want to be an entrepreneur, and you prefer straight talk to sugar-coating, it’s one you should read.

 

How Come No One Told Me That
How Come No One Told Me That || Prakash Iyer

How Come No One Told Me That? divided into ten sections, exploring life lessons, ways of improving oneself, leadership and the importance of doing small things right, among other subjects. Through powerful anecdotes and charming essays, followed by practical, actionable advice, this book will help you make those minor adjustments to your professional and personal lives that can truly make you unstoppable.

 

Learn, Don't Study
Learn, Don’t Study || Pramath Raj Sinha

 

‘What should I study to best prepare me for success in today’s working world?’

This is the most common question one gets from young people (and their parents) who are transitioning from school to college education. They want to know which fields they should choose, which universities or programmes to attend, and which career track will give them the best chance to succeed.

In Learn, Don’t Study, drawing on his experiences of over twenty-five years in the field of education, Pramath Raj Sinha has put together the best and most practical advice available for youngsters who are facing some of the most important and challenging choices of their professional lives.

 

Build Don't Talk
Build Don’t Talk || Raj Shamani

 

School taught us specific subjects, like maths and history.
But we weren’t taught:
How to sell
Or how to build relationships
Or how to negotiate
Or how to take care of our mental health
Or how to network
Or how to deal with personal finance

These most important situations we face as adults were never discussed with us when we were students. We weren’t taught these skills in school, and this makes all the success stories we hear about seem out of reach; it makes us feel dumb. We aren’t dumb, we just don’t know how to work the system.

Your school taught you how to run in the race; it didn’t teach you how to win. And that’s what this book is for. To help you win the race. Packed with useful advice gleaned from his own journey as an entrepreneur and content creator, this book by Raj Shamani is a must-read.

COMING SOON

Career 3.0
Career 3.0 || Abhijit Bhaduri

Abhijit Bhaduri, a renowned expert on talent and leadership, shows you how to develop the six key skills that will make you future-ready and successful in Career 3.0. Whether you work for an organization, run your own business or do both, you will discover how to adapt to change, learn new skills, and lead with impact.

Career 3.0 is a guide that will help you stay relevant. The book is filled with inspiring stories that will challenge you to rethink your career vision, strategy and action. It will give you the tools and techniques to thrive in the new world of work and propel your career.

You may be surprised to find out that you already have a Career 3.0 mindset. Now you know what it is called.

Have You ‘Unlocked’ the Power of Saying Yes and No?

Dive into Unlocked: The Power of You by Gezim Gashi and explore the game-changing influence of our choices: saying “yes” and confidently saying “no.” Through personal experiences and reflections, Gashi unravels the dynamics of these choices, revealing how they shape our journey toward productivity, purpose, and fulfillment.

Read this exclusive excerpt for profound insights that can reshape how we navigate life’s endless decisions.

Unlocked
Unlocked || Gezim Gashi

“If you aren’t working on Saturdays and
Sundays, someone else will, and they
are going to take your seat.”
—DAVID FOSTER

***

I met David a few years ago at Universal Music Group in Los Angeles, where he did a master class for my students. He has long been an inspiration to me, and it was amazing to meet with him and watch him teach our students.

One of the things he said, something that I’ll never forget, is quoted above.

 

Unless we identify whatever it is that we want to do more than watching Netflix or checking our phone or sleeping in, we won’t have the energy and determination needed.

Once you find the thing that you will say yes to, always, it becomes easier to say no to everything else.

 

We make so many decisions every day. Whether to hit snooze, whether to send that email, whether to reach out and try again to schedule that meeting with the person who seems to be avoiding us. The power of yes, “Yes, I do want to do this thing more than anything else,” is the power that keeps us moving forward.

 

Yes unleashes our energy and our talents.
But it is the power of no that frees us to succeed. Without it, the work we do on Saturdays and Sundays may be taking us in the absolute wrong direction.

 

How many times have you watched people succeed at something only to realize it wasn’t really what they wanted? Become the greatest in their field and then fall into despair or self-sabotage?

 

How many times have you invested time and energy in attracting the attention of a person you later realized wasn’t someone you wanted in your life?

 

As many wise people have said before me, success isn’t just about working hard, but about working smart. Stephen R. Covey, the author of the monumental bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

 

It is true of our influence on other people, but even more importantly, it is true of our stewardship of our own lives.

There are so many ways we can allow our time and energy to be drained by unimportant tasks, bad habits and procrastination. Many people are outpaced while working long hours—they aren’t working on the right things, or they aren’t regularly recharging their energy and so they burn out.

 

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey introduced another life-changing idea: our success is determined largely by how well we care for the people who make us successful. For example, I know that I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for my family—they are the people who make everything I do worthwhile. If I had the choice of being at the Grammys or being with my family, my question would be, “Which would make my family happier?” And that isn’t self-sacrifice on my part—my happiness is my family’s happiness, and their happiness is mine. I can be 100 percent sure that they will want me to do what is best for me. That’s what will make them happy. So, success for me includes making time for my family, no matter what. When they need me, I’m there for them Similarly, I know that my body and mind are the instruments that enable me to live my best life. Sleeping at least seven hours a night doesn’t interfere with my work—it is the foundation of my work, just as Serena Williams eats nutritious food and employs the best practice techniques to
win championships.

 

Barack Obama had a closet full of identical blue suits so that he didn’t have to think about what to wear. Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans to work every day. Many accomplished people eat the same breakfast and lunch each day to remove yet another decision and series of tasks from their schedule.

 

The healthiest people make activity part of their daily routine.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear makes a powerful case for the impact of tiny changes, which he compares to the slightest adjustment in a flight path. Initially, the change is almost unnoticeable, which is why it’s easier to make. Within a brief time, however, when a change becomes a habit, the impact on your direction and destination is significant. And all habits are seeded in a yes and a no. Yes to one thing, no to everything else.

 

Clear and other researchers have found that it is very difficult to stop a bad habit but much easier to replace a bad habit with a positive one.

 

We say no to having a cigarette or eating that second pastry and yes to going out for a walk while we talk to a friend on the phone. If we deprive ourselves of pleasure, our mind and body will find a way to recalibrate—we want and need pleasure! But if we can replace one kind of pleasure with another, the new pleasure will become a positive habit quickly.

 

No to one thing, yes to another.
Yes to one thing, no to another.
We get more effective at life and all decisions when we think in terms of this couplet rather than about all the decisions we must make.

 

Sometimes this balancing act of yes and no is easy and clear. I know that partying until the early morning will cost me my energy and focus the next day; it might even leave me with a fuzzy head a day or two after that if I indulge too much. Being clear on my “yes” makes it easy—yes, I want to help other people identify and leverage their brilliance, which means I don’t have any days to waste.

 

Yes, I have to be sharp.
No, I’m not going to stay at that party past eleven.

***

Get your copy of Unlocked: The Power of You by Gezim Gashi wherever books are sold.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Gets Going: An Excerpt from ‘Millionaire Housewives’

Twelve stories of ordinary women who achieved extraordinary things out of sheer will and determination come together in Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal’s ‘Millionaire Housewives’, to inspire readers to achieve anything one wants to.
One such story is that of the well-known make-up artist Ambika Pillai. There is a monumental struggle that went behind the glitter and glamour of her life that we see today. Displaying unbridled courage when the going got tough, the story of Pillai is one to stay with us forever.
Here is an excerpt of her story from the book, ‘Millionaire Housewives’:
At the tender age of seventeen, my life took a decisive turn when a prospective groom came to see me. I didn’t even know his name. The one thing about him that impressed me though was his impeccable English. He had an MBA degree, was a gold medallist no less, and I gave up my world without any reservations to follow him to his. The excitement didn’t last long though. Despite his seemingly bright prospects, the reality check arrived as soon as I moved in with him to a tiny single-room apartment in Calcutta, a far cry from my sprawling home in Kerala. I was expected to wear a saree, be up at 5 a.m., cook, clean—things that I had never done before. I didn’t protest, refusing to let any of this affect me since I wanted to make my marriage work. I began to take many other things in my stride; being made to feel that I was not good enough on account of my lack of education was only one of them. I would have lived with all of this, but ours really wasn’t a marriage at all.
Not once in five years did we have a physical relationship. It was hard to explain this to my parents, who were convinced that my inability to bear a child meant there was something medically wrong with me. Trips to doctors, medical tests and even surgeries were my lot as I found it very hard to tell my parents the real issue with my marriage. I had to literally beg my husband to have a child and, thankfully, my daughter, Kavitha, was born after five years of marriage. If I had thought that a child would improve matters, I was living in a fool’s paradise as things started going from bad to worse.
Finally, with a two-year-old child in tow, I mustered up the courage to walk out of my seven-year-old marriage. I went back to my parents’ place. In retrospect, those seven years were one of the scariest times of my life. Kids should not get married as young as I did; at that age, you don’t even know your own mind, forget the other person’s. From wanting to be a happy housewife to coming back to my parental home in the throes of depression, I had come a long way. I had spent the last seven years of my life in a loveless relationship and had absolutely nothing to fall back on. If there was one thing I was grateful for, it was Kavitha. In fact, till this day, if anyone asks me if I regret my marriage, my answer is a vehement no, only on account of my daughter.
I just had no idea what I would do next. In my seven years of marriage, I hadn’t acquired any skills that could stand me in good stead. While my parents were supportive, my dad’s suggestion of letting him ‘look after’ my child and me financially didn’t go down well with me. With my other sisters married by then, I remember asking my father if I could help him with his cashew business—wanting to become the son he had never had. His answer, however, was a resounding ‘no’ as he felt it wasn’t a woman’s job. He couldn’t picture his daughter socializing with his many customers—a part and parcel of his cashew export business.
Never in my life had I felt like such a total loser. I wanted to stand on my own feet, but in the absence of any skills, I saw all doors closing in on me. In my desperation, I even came up with naive options like selling T-shirts on the beaches of Goa, where my lack of education would not be a deterrent. It was on one such day, when I was feeling totally dejected, that I saw an advertisement by Shahnaz Hussain in the local newspaper, inviting students for a hairstyling course in New Delhi. I made up my mind to join it. More than anything else, my decision was based on the fact that being a beautician didn’t require me to be a graduate. My father, of course, was devastated by the idea of me stepping out of the home turf. My mom tried to buy peace by explaining to my dad that at least I was choosing a ‘woman-oriented’ career and that I would be back home after finishing my course.
I landed in Delhi, a totally unknown city, with my daughter in my arms, utterly terrified of what the future held. I had never lived all by myself before or taken any independent decisions. Yet, here I was, fending for myself, looking for accommodations to rent. The problem was further compounded by the fact that I didn’t speak any Hindi. Irrespective of the many problems staring me in my face, I knew that there was no turning back now. I had to do this—more for my daughter than anyone else. While Delhi now feels like home, in those days I was a rank outsider. I remember people calling me ‘kali kaluti (dark complexioned)’. Of course, the saving grace was that since I didn’t know the language, I couldn’t quite understand what it meant. I somehow held on, and managed to finish two beauty courses.
Upon finishing my courses, although my parents were keen that I return home, I took up a job at a small two-seater parlour, which paid me Rs 2000 per month. I paid Rs 1000 as house rent and tried to stretch the balance to take care of my child. Money was something I never had to worry about in the past and these were trying times to say the least. While my father had paid for my courses, I was now determined to seek minimal financial help from him. I remember trying to save money from the measly Rs 1000 I had left after paying rent in order to buy a moped bike that would make commuting easier. Today, if one of my staff members tells me that they want to leave because they have a better offer, I never hold them back for I have witnessed the struggle for money first-hand.
The one bright spot of my life throughout this period remained my daughter, who was three years old by then and had just about started school. I remember telling Kavi stories of my own childhood—how I visited Disneyland when I was thirteen years old and how I would ensure that she did the same, although I had no clue how I would fulfil this promise.
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