She waited outside the hospital ward with a hope that her relative will bail her out of the situation. That man stepped out of the room after meeting her husband who was lying unconscious on the hospital bed.
He looked at her with pity and asked the twenty five year old woman, who had no degree or formal education and was a mother of two kids, “Doctors have given up hope on his recovery. If your husband dies, how do you plan to raise your children and run the show? How do you plan to live?”. *
She hoped for help but instead she heard questions from him. This was the last thing she had expected from him. Her heart stopped thumping for a millisecond. She went cold. She responded, “As a helpless and uneducated woman, I would feed poison to my children and kill myself.” ! *
* ( * ) translated from Kannada to English
She came back home, but instead did something radical. She took two critical decisions and told herself, “My children would never be motherless and no matter what, my daughters will receive a formal education and get a job for themselves. I will raise them to be strong and independent women.”*
Fortune was on her side. Soon her husband recovered from the medical ailment and reunited with the his wife and family.
Her decision didn’t change. Rather it began the story of how motherhood and choices of a strong woman changed the lives of four generations. She instilled love and encouraged her daughters to develop passion to ‘learn something new everyday’.
Today, this lady is 75 years old and she is none other than my grandmother. She is the charming elderly woman in the photograph below.
As years passed by, her older daughter, my mother went on to graduate with a B.Com degree, who also established a unique preschool in an era when early childhood formal education was discouraged among common Indian households, even in the urban. She bypassed many social stigmas. She ignored the loose designations given to her by people around her — some called her a ‘glorified butt cleaner’. Yet she went on to accomplish her mission of introducing formal early childhood education to children from 6 months onward. The mission led to educating over 2000 children during her stint as a teacher and an early childhood educator.
My aunt, the younger daughter in this story completed her engineering with scholarship, traveled to the USA and turned into a serial entrepreneur, establishing two successful technology companies. She moved back to India and is now settled as a successful venture capitalist.
I learnt three lessons from this.
I would leave the lesson that inspired me most to the end of this chapter.
The first lesson is Strength. Strength never comes to a person naturally. It is just like a muscle that is built over time, comes with practice and is better established under pressure. This came down in abundance to my generation.
The second lesson is Grit. This characteristic is portrayed in the way my previous generation received their education. It was not easy. My mother and aunt traveled almost 20 kilometers to reach their school, during a period when public transport was minimal, limited and of low frequency. They made most out of the limited resources they had. They went on to respect their choices and execute them with determination, courage and love; the choices that revolved around family, education and career.
I call the third lesson ‘Being the fulcrum’. This is not just for self-evolution but is of great when I am required to collaborate with teams. This quality helped me stick around with teams and grow with the imperfections that existed. It was applicable with teams at work, a random organization or my family. The element that makes this possible is love.
My older generations have been the fulcrum in my life. And. I hope to be the fulcrum for my future generations in all realms of their life.
My grandmother, mother and aunt have lived their lives, applying these lessons.
Out of all this, I see that one needs to be willing to learn in perpetuity — all through one’s life.