HYDERABAD: We have often heard that women cannot have it all. In many cases, that is often true. But unknown to us, we are surrounded by inspiring women who persevered in their quest to find their identity. In this piece, we tell the stories of four women who juggled studies, domestic responsibilities and jobs, and never gave up on their dream to do something for themselves. Women are often discouraged to work after they bear children because of the societal expectations to be the perfect mother. But times are changing, and more and more of them are subverting rules to become financially independent. If you think that you cannot grow or learn after a certain age or life event, these ladies can change your mind.
‘Found my calling in spirituality’
I was always an entrepreneur at heart. Even while I was pursuing my degree in business administration, I started a small business of selling handbags in my hostel. After I was selected to pursue MBA in ICFAI Hyderabad, I used to sell snacks among my friends for some pocket money.
My best laid plans came undone after my father met with an accident. For the past five years now, he has been in a coma. He was admitted in a hospital in Indore and I started shuttling between the two cities. My sisters were married and I had to help my mother take care of him.
I took permission from the college management and continued this way till I completed my course. I took up a job in a startup in Hyderabad after this as I needed as much financial help as possible. But the company paid the new recruits only half of what they had promised.
Another company later, I got the chance to work for a real estate company. I closed a big deal for them and got a fat commission of Rs 5 lakh. In the meantime, my mother’s health too broke down and I had to shift to Indore to take care of her.
However, throughout my struggles, I developed an interest in astrology and spirituality. That gave me the confidence to start my own counselling service. Today, I am a tarot card reader, spiritual healer, numerologist and counsellor. I love doing this and I earn much more than I ever had before. I got married too. I am happy that I never gave up.
— Divya Jain, tarot card reader
‘Took turns to feed baby, write exams’
I was working as a software professional when I got married. I was in Hyderabad while my husband was posted in Bengaluru. After I became pregnant with my first child, we were apprehensive about travelling and other activities. So I took a break of five years and devoted myself to looking after my child. But I had always wanted to pursue a masters degree and restart my career. That is why I enrolled myself for an MBA programme in JNTU Anantapur, which is my husband’s native place.
I became pregnant again after the first semester, and I took permission from the college management to cut me some slack on attendance. My mother was taking care of my older child in Hyderabad. I used to go to college to write exams and attend important lectures. After the birth of my second child, I could not write the first semester exams in second year.
So I took both first and second semester exams simultaneously. My mother was my pillar of support throughout, and she used to look after both the children. Whenever I would get a break, I would feed my infant and resume writing my papers. All my hard work bore fruit and I topped the class with 81 percent. Meanwhile, my friend referred my CV to her company, and I am working as an HR assistant in an e-commerce giant since 2019.
— Shantala Dhanapuram, HR assistant
‘Never stopped learning’
I come from a village and got married at 18. However, my father was a school headmaster who always encouraged me to study. After coming to Hyderabad after my marriage, I started teaching Telugu in a primary school. I gave birth to my daughter around this time.With the help of my husband, we set up our own brand of notebooks and started selling them through two shops. But soon the competition became fierce and I did not see much profit in the field. That is when I decided to pursue BA in public administration from BR Ambedkar Open University. My son too was born now, and I was allotting my time to the shops, children and studies. I topped my class in BA, and also pursued an MA in the same subject.
By now, I had developed a keen interest in law and took admission in Padala Rama Reddi Law College to pursue LLB. After receiving my license, I started my law practice and I am a well-known lawyer in the city today. I take up both criminal and civil cases.
I was elected as a bar council member of the high court and Lok Adalat. I am happy that my thirst for learning stood by my side all these years and I could fulfill my duties towards my family too. It fills me with pride when my daughter says that I inspire her.
—KV Padmaja, lawyer
‘My students’ joy is my reward’
I was working as a web developer when I got married. I continued working after marriage, but suffered a miscarriage while trying to conceive. Understandably, my in-laws were alarmed and did not want me to work after that. However, I continued working and became pregnant again. The doctor advised complete bed rest for me, and luckily, my company allowed me to work from home. But I used to struggle to manage a kid and job, and after my second child was born, I gave up working completely.
As my children grew up, I started noticing that they sometimes thought less of me because I was not working. I too wanted to be financially independent. So after a gap of 10 years, I put up my profile on the internet. I was nervous because I knew that it had been a long work break.
My job came from an unexpected quarter. I have a friend who is a special educator and her stories always inspired me. When she suggested that I too could be one, I pursued a course in remedial therapy. I also completed a certificate course from the Dyslexia Association of Telangana. After that, I applied for the role of a special educator in St. Andrews School. They asked me for a BEd degree and I pursued the course from BR Ambedkar Open University. I love my job as a special educator and I work with children who have learning disabilities like dyslexia and ADHD.
— Lakshmi Devi Dudala, special educator