Life Reboot II – ‘Challenge Is Opportunity’

They taught me an important lesson: steer clear of fair-weather friends. My ‘friends’ had done the math, they were by my side because I came from a rich family. The moment they saw the riches dwindling, they decided to move on. This is my story of riches to rags and the struggle for a turnaround. The change in our fortunes was so sudden that I was not at all equipped to cope with it. My father was in the construction business.

He was considered among the top names in the business. Our world came crashing when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. This sudden medical crisis drained us of all our savings. The after-care was no less taxing. My father became physically fit but wasn’t mentally strong enough to take on the rigours of the construction business. My younger brother and I had a tough time coming to terms with the situation.

To top it all, I had to prepare for my Class X Board exams. In the current circumstances, our futures looked bleak. To ensure that our schooling was not hampered, my mother had to pitch in. She was a housewife for as long as I could remember. She had quit her nurse’s job 15 years ago to raise us. But once again, she started work as a nurse, and this time she had to restart from right from the bottom of the rung and work her way up.

Meanwhile, we somehow managed to motivate my father to pick up the threads and resume his business. He did, and within three years, he was cheated of all his money. This time we had to sell our house and our car just to put food on the table. Those who are born poor have a fire burning in them that pushes them to earn riches, but those, who are born rich and suddenly lose it all, have a tough time trying hard to keep up their old lifestyle.

They have no idea of the struggles that come along with poverty. All our relatives and friends had disappeared. Rather than helping us, people made fun of our situation. Taunts about how we could not maintain our old lifestyle were something we were getting used to. This strengthened my resolve to become financially literate. The trials and tribulations of a teenager have no end. But in my situation, my teen years were abruptly cut short.

I started thinking like an adult, hoping that one day I could alleviate my family from the financial crisis. I finally completed my schooling and started my graduation in History (my passion), but often I would find myself in the library reading up pink papers and basic books on Economics. To move ahead, I had to be cautious. My younger brother and I did not have the luxury of taking wrong decisions when it came to our futures.

A friend introduced me to the concept of a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This tool helps you analyse your strengths and weaknesses and measure them against the opportunities, and threats that lie ahead. For all my major decisions, I used this tool and it turned my life around. My brother and I would have long discussions about which stream/ profession we should take up.

How much it will cost us and what would be the returns. Do we have enough savings or would we need a student loan? We worked everything out. My father wanted me to be a journalist. I finished my graduation and took up a professional course in journalism at a premier private media institute (with financial help from some relatives).

By the time I finished my course and started looking for jobs and internships, I discovered that jobs in journalism had dried up. I wasn’t prepared for this. I suddenly found myself desperately searching for jobs and finally landed myself in a small public relations firm. The salary was not much, but the job proved to be the solid foundation from where I could finally spread my wings.

Here I came across a senior colleague, who helped me with soft skills that are important in corporate life — body language, power dressing, voice modulation, diction, inflection, inculcating reading habits, building a good vocabulary, taking quick decision etc. I started keeping a pocket diary, where I would jot down my thoughts. I learnt to empathise with others and work in teams.

My mentor taught me to value my time and confidently ask for corresponding pay during appraisals. But the most important thing she taught me was to pass on the kindness to others that she had passed on to me. Today, just like her, I also mentor youngsters, who ask me for help. For three years now I have been working with one of India’s topmost luxury brands. I have sponsored my brother’s higher education and have managed to save a good amount of money.

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