“Face Your Fear And Conquer It- Life’s Biggest Lesson From My Mother” – Akshata Ramesh
People often laud me for being a CA rank holder, gold medalist, a popular blogger, a career woman who relentlessly pursues her goal to get to the top and all this while being a mum to a toddler. Though there are a few role models I admire and try to emulate, one person who has constantly held the numero uno spot is my mother.
No, she is not highly qualified, nor is she an acclaimed writer, dancer, singer or sports person. She did not retire as the CEO of a company or was seen on Page 3 of a local daily. The way she takes on each day and challenge that life throws at her, with sheer grit and determination is what amazes me and eggs me on.
Married at the age of 21, much against her wishes as she wanted to work, stand on her own feet and get a taste of the outside world. But my grandparents who were educated and working would rather be at peace and absolve themselves of the responsibility of a girl child. So while her brother went overseas to pursue an MBA, she tied the knot and settled into family life.
After marriage, she worked for a brief period when she got to know that she was expecting. After I was born she quit her government job.If I think of it, having a government job with social security and post-retirement benefits is something that people swooned over and wouldn’t just turn their backs on. However, she had decided she wanted to be a stay at home mom and be there for her kid. About 2 years later my little brother was born. The first few years, I am sure we kept her damn busy. Once we were older and started schooling, she started tuition classes in the complex. My dad encouraged her and supported her efforts.
It was a huge hit and soon she had 3 batches and hired 2 assistant teachers to help her. She always believed in putting in her best in whatever venture she embarked on, giving it her 100% and the results were promising. Sometimes it took longer but the sun always shone bright, as she says- maybe it’s hidden behind a cloud- but I am certain it will find its way out one day. That day always came.
As we grew up there was a particularly tough period in our life. I wouldn’t want to get into the specifics, this is when I was 18 and my brother was 16. We were living with our maternal grandparents at Mangalore and the financial condition wasn’t very comfortable. With 2 growing children who were in college and my grandparents had retired and depended on their pension, we lived on a shoestring budget.
This was in early 2000. The BPO industry had just emerged in India and was slowly making its mark felt by employing scores of youngsters and giving them a decent salary, much more than what they could hope to earn with their qualification and close to zero experience. But was this a place for a 40-year-old woman who had no experience in the corporate world, had done a basic computer course where they teach you MS Word, asks you to make a ppt and some basic excel formula which will disapparate from your mind the moment you step out from the computer class?
She was fluent in English , a much needed skill in this industry and a confident , mature person but working amongst people more than half your age, where your job involves using the computer continuously and trying to sell a product to someone across the globe where following his/her accent is a hurricane task and then trying to convince them that you are not Sunita in India but Sera in Indiana and giving them solid reasons about how their life will be better off if they just buy the product- is definitely not an easy task!
Mother always recalls the first day when she walked over along with the bunch of new trainees in her batch to hit the floor. After almost a month of rigorous training in hard selling, accent training, being coached about maintaining your calm as sometimes these foreigners acted crazy and may resort to abuse but you cannot report, it was time to go live. She vividly described how scared she was internally, her palms had become clammy, the throat was parched and though she appeared unfazed on the exterior, there was a fierce tsunami unleashed within.
She took the first call- it was much harder than she expected. The accent of the customer was almost indecipherable, she had to request the person to repeat themselves, and she couldn’t make the sale. A few calls later she was getting better and by the end of the first week, she had already made one sale. She was not a star performer but she was good at her job. Looking at her gave hope to many young girls and boys around. If a lady of my mother’s age can do it, why not I?
At the time of being hired and many times later in her career her decision to join this industry was probed. A woman in her 40’s, who has never worked in corporates, would she be able to adjust to night shifts? The pressure of numbers, making sales, the need to talk constantly with headphones which are stuck to your ears like glue and are taken off only when you go to relieve yourself or take a break, working with people who were so young, some of them younger than her kids and taking orders from a boss who was probably a few years older than her daughter- would she able to sustain?
These questions were always asked, her abilities doubted just because it was presumed that her personal attributes will make her a failure. Not a woman to bow down, she listened calmly, put forward her point of view and proved them all wrong by her sheer hard work and perseverance. It’s not that she never felt scared, or doubted if she will do well. She had all those fears like any normal mortal would, but she chose not to feed them further. Rather face them head on and conquer them. She did not succeed at all times, she failed, but persisted in her efforts and saw the results eventually.
With her job, our financial condition improved. She could take us out on Sundays for a movie and to the famous restaurant where I savoured my all-time favourite Chinese cuisine. These little things in life which cheer you up as a college going girl- Mom fulfilled those wishes. I fondly remember she is the one who bought a mobile phone for her dad, herself, my brother when he left home to move to Bangalore for pursuing his studies and finally one for me when I graduated.
After a few years, my brother and I had qualified and were working. “With an engineer son and Chartered Accountant daughter, why do you need to work in such a strenuous job?”.” My kids are busy with their jobs, studies and own life. What will I do sitting at home the whole day? How unproductive would that be? I know I can ask them for money and they won’t say no plus I do have my savings but I would rather earn my own money as long as I can. The empowering feeling of working and earning my own money is something I wouldn’t want to give up unless circumstances necessitate it.”
I remember when I was studying for my CA final exams and was attending a coaching class which started at 7 in the morning. She was the one who without sleeping a wink the whole night (as she worked in a BPO at that time) would come home at 5 in the morning, cook breakfast and lunch for me, drop me on the scooter to the class as I did not drive and getting a bus or auto at that hour was a mammoth task. Only after she had dropped me off, would she get some sleep. The day I became a CA I hugged her tightly and I could see such tears of joy and exuberance her eyes. It was much more happiness than I had felt for myself.
Can you imagine studying and writing exams at the age of 50? I surely would find it extremely tough to get back to books and write an exam after a gap of so many years. Mother took up the Montessori course and successfully completed it while she continued to work night shifts. I still can’t fathom how she multi-tasked between her job, attending classes, studying for exams, handling household chores. She did so well in her class that she was offered a job of a trainer post course completion.
As I thought about how her life has unfolded, I knew however tired her body is, the soul is rejuvenated and she wouldn’t stop working – for that’s what keeps her spirit alive. Not that we agree on everything but one of the biggest life lessons I have learnt from her is nothing is impossible, face your fears and conquer them.
The other day at my workplace, we had a session with senior women leaders, Coffee Corners as we call it and one of the essential skills in moving up the ladder is agility is what a lady with close to 20 years of experience mentioned. “How agile you are, and how easily can you adapt yourself to a new working environment, and make an impact”. And I could think of Mom. Without as much of an education or corporate experience as any of us seated in that room, in terms of agility and adaptability she had beaten us all. I knew that and I smiled making a note of “agility” in my diary.
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