Extraordinary #TakeCharge Stories Of Ordinary Women
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” - Nora Ephron
Truer words have never been spoken. Luckily, I have parents who told me that all the time while I was growing up, making mistakes and then kept wallowing in self-pity.
It's easy to play the victim. What's difficult is rising above the challenges that life throws at you and putting back all the pieces together in some cases.
It's tough for women to find people who motivate, appreciate and support us. More often than not, you will find society, family and friends telling us to 'accept' things the way they are because that's our 'destiny'. I disagree! If anyone can change your life, it's you.
In this piece, we're going to look at ordinary, everyday women who've managed to overcome life's 'banana peels' (as I like to call it) and are standing on their own two feet, still struggling in so many ways but much, much happier than they were about say 5-10 years ago.
Carol Pacheco - Everyone's favourite aunt, Sister, Daughter and a Happy, Independent, Strong Woman who loves her space.
Most people don't believe she's over 60. Most people also don't believe that she's still single and that too 'out of choice', which is a taboo in India.
“It's been about 37 years now that I've lived alone in Gujarat and there were times when I cried myself to sleep. I left Bombay in the 1970's to get away from a bad relationship. My then boyfriend was harassing me and I was fed up. So I left my job as a teacher and moved overnight to a different state.
Luckily, I had brothers in Gujarat who were my backbone and took care of me for a very short while, until I found a job.
Living alone suddenly, and that too in a strange city is no cakewalk. There were many nights I cried myself to sleep out of loneliness, but as the years went by, I absorbed myself in my work and life became better.
I bought a home for myself eventually, something I am very proud of and now in retrospect, leaving Bombay was the best decision I ever made. I have my privacy, my independence and a stable job. I also have relatives who love me and would do anything for me; what more does one want?”
What about marriage?
“Who needs marriage to validate themselves? I can’t imagine being married to someone and having to cook, clean and tolerate their tantrums. I have my own attitude and ego. I cook for myself, eat when I want to, go out when I want to and basically do whatever the hell I want.”
Do you miss having kids?
“My advice to the young women of today is - never give up your career, your life and your freedom for anyone. Be you!”
Cleodel Savkur - Daughter, Mother, Wife and now a Budding Entrepreneur.
“I was termed a rebel because I asked too many questions - to my teachers, to my father and everyone else,” says Cleodel Savkur nee Pereira.
She is the eldest child in a family of 5. Growing up, she was told that ‘Girls must not ask too many questions and they must generally be quiet and submissive.’ Also, she was led to believe that if she didn’t excel in the traditionally popular subjects like Math and Science, she was not ‘intelligent’.
“Dad was the only earning member of my family and resources were scarce. We had to share everything. There was hardly any money for us to participate in extracurricular activities. I remember having to drop out of Bharatnatyam classes because my dad couldn’t afford the fees. And he said that since I wasn’t doing well in the ‘important’ subjects, I had to start concentrating again and that dancing was a distraction.
Life was always a struggle for me. My siblings got things easily. I had to fight to even go to college. Dad didn’t allow me to join Sophia’s or Xavier's in Bombay because they were too far. I would be allowed to travel one station away and that’s it. So I joined a college nearby.”
The Taste Of Freedom
“College was the turning point of my life. I tasted freedom! I was like a caged bird set free. I met my best friend in college and we had a blast for the next five years. But then I wanted to study further and do my MBA. I cleared CET and got admission into Symbiosis but my father didn’t allow me to join.”
That was the last straw.
“I got myself a job and started working. I met my husband at work and got pregnant within a year of being married. Like most women, I gave up my job for my daughter.”
Cleodel went on to complete a course in fashion designing with the support of her mother-in-law, who was one of the most amazing women she knows. She took care of the kid while Cleodel attended classes. But then Cleo’s husband got transferred to Calcutta and they had to move. Within a few months, they were expecting their second child. However, Calcutta is where she conceived the idea of Mandi Store, meaning marketplace. It has a very vibrant culture of rural artisans and crafts.
“I discovered this gully in one of the marketplaces filled with local artists making and selling their wares and I would take my guests there to shop. I realized that they loved the stuff you get there. It’s authentic, colourful and handmade.”
Cleodel had to move yet again with her husband to Goa and which better place than that, to open her first store. Her stuff was sourced from the very same local artisans but for the first 45 days, no one walked into the store and Cleodel started doubting herself. Many people had already told her that this concept is old in Goa, which thrives on tourism anyway, and has many shops selling souvenirs.
“But Mandi doesn’t sell the regular stuff and so I held on.”
After 45 days, a few British tourists started trickling in and soon word spread that there was this small little place that sold unique stuff.
“I opened my shop in 2010 with 50,000 rupees and what a good investment it was. My mother-in-law encouraged me. She took care of my kids while I went to work. My second store opened in 2014. Since the concept was a marketplace, my stuff was placed in bullock carts, on egg racks and generally had a very ‘marketplace’ feel to it. People loved it and soon, I was doing well.
I realized that I could help my stuff reach the global markets if I went online and that’s how www.mandistore.com was born. My vision for Mandi is to take Indian crafts to the world. Sadly, my mother-in-law passed away and I miss her terribly. She would have been very happy to see my progress.
Some Challenges I Face:
“It was more difficult for a woman to get funded at that time. I had no mentors. There were schemes available only for women who wanted to open a beauty parlour and I thought to myself, what if I don’t want to open a parlour?
Managing the house, work and kids was another challenge and I still haven’t overcome it. It’s a daily struggle even now, but going online has made it slightly better. I also found a mentor in my family friend.
- Trust your gut, and don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it.
- All it takes is to talk to people and you will find a way. There is always someone who is willing to help.
- Remember, that no one can understand your vision except you.
- And most of all, perseverance matters.
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