KALPANA SWAMY for SLOW CONTENT
“When life throws lemon at you; make lemonade!”
Life has given me lemons more than once, extremely sour ones. But I fought back every time and made my way through. I am Kalpana Swamy and this is my story.
I am a single child of working parents and have always led a very independent life. As a child, my mother dragged me to every cultural event and enrolled me in every talent class including drawing, classical singing and dancing. My routine was packed with school, sports, extra-curricular activities and evening classes. My mother always said one thing, “teaching you everything is my responsibility, learning is up to you!”
After completing my PG in advertising and marketing management, I decided to move to Mumbai as I always felt connected to the city. Although I had a decent campus placement through college in Delhi, I consciously chose to leave that and come to the city of dreams. I did not have any campus recommendation for jobs in Mumbai and had to find my own way. And so, the struggle began. Struggle doesn’t always mean sleeping on railway platforms and not having food for days. I found travelling in local trains in peak hours the biggest struggle.
Differentiating between Chembur and Churchgate and then taking the right train on my own was a struggle!
I had applied for just a few jobs when I got a call. I wasn’t sure of my luck, but still went hopefully for the interview and realized the role required me to sell products door to door. Well, I was an MBA equivalent, how could I do door-to-door marketing, while my other class fellows had already kick started their rightful careers. That was the first lemon and I accepted the challenge! Yes, the profile did not suit my qualification and it was nothing cerebral, but in one month, I learnt a lot about the city of Mumbai and I will be eternally grateful for that. After I quit that job, I started searching for relevant positions and soon got a call from a legitimate Advertising / PR agency. The interview went off well and the MD asked me to join on a particular day. I reached office early that morning and within seconds, the MD handed over the keys to me saying that she was rushing for an urgent meeting and I had to look after the office. Yes, you heard it right, it was the first day of my first job in my career!
Nevertheless, I managed to get along through the day and when the lady came back in the evening, within ten minutes she blasted at me saying I wasn’t fit to even be the peon of the company and I was fired! Yes, you heard it right, it was the first day of my first job in my career!
Losing the job didn’t hurt me as much as the humiliation did. I came back to my cousin’s house in a cab, crying all the way. By the time I reached home I had composed myself and was ready to put a brave face. I thought I made the biggest mistake by not taking up the Delhi job and that I should go back to my hometown Jabalpur.
My patience finally paid off and my career kicked off and how! It was a wonderful journey. There had been hurdles, but still, life was beautiful. Working in the creative field also brought perks of glamour. While most of my friends were cribbing about their boring desk jobs, I had already shaken hands and rubbed shoulders with the best in the worlds of glamour and corporates. When everything was progressing well, another lemon…
My parents wanted me to get married and found a suitable alliance in the middle east. Since the discussions between the families had already happened, I was asked to leave my job. I quit my job reluctantly and left Mumbai only for Mr. Suitable to decide that this marriage was not suitable for him after all and there I was, left with no job, no Mumbai and now no marriage as well. My parents insisted I stayed back in Jabalpur for a few months before starting my job search again, as I had been away from home for almost 5 years by then. I agreed, but their main motive was to find Mr. Perfect and get me married off before I decided to restart my wanderlust of independence.
During that time, I got a wonderful opportunity to attend a month long workshop organized by National School of Drama, Delhi in Jabalpur and it was one of the most enthralling experiences of my life. It was around then that I finally met the man of my dreams. My happiness knew no bounds when I realized I would be going back to my city of dreams.
Immediately after my wedding I met the MD of my previous company and was pleasantly surprised to get my job back smoothly. One week prior to my joining, we got confirmation of my pregnancy. We were excited and nervous, but ready to be parents. My job was on hold, so this time the lemon came gift wrapped!!
Speed breakers ahead
My pregnancy was smooth and we became proud parents of a beautiful angel. After a few months, settling the baby to routine and finding a perfect nanny for her, I thought I was ready to join back the enchanting world of communications. The talks resumed and I restarted from where I left. It was already two years of sabbatical and while I was happy to have got my job back, my peers and even juniors had started moving up the ladder. Life always comes in a perfect shade of grey. In my head I was pragmatic and knew corporate world does not wait for anyone, but in my heart I was finding it difficult to report to those who once used to report in to me, moreover the new mother in me was feeling guilty too. I guess that happens with every woman who tries hard to maintain work life balance. I refused to make my story a sob story, so with all odds, grit and determination, I moved ahead and carved my own niche in the industry with the best employers.
Happily, ever after?
Finally, when things seemed to have settled well after these many years, I spelt it out too soon. My husband got a job in Malaysia. For the first two years, he stayed alone and I was holding the fort in Mumbai, with my leadership role in my job, a growing child, an ailing mother in law and everything else possible. We soon realized that our daughter needed both her parents and finally I decided to join him in Kuala Lumpur. My job search in Malaysia took time, my baby on the other hand, quickly got admission in a reputed international school. If I waited any further to move base, my little girl would lose her seat. So, it was decided I put a stop to my promising career, pack my bags and shift base to Kuala Lumpur. This time lemon I was thrown into a tub full of lemons!!
Malaysia is a beautiful country and for the first time in the ten years of my marriage I was played the role of a housewife. Cooking all three meals for the family, doing household chores and everything domestic. I enjoyed it fora few weeks, it was nice and relaxing, but soon the four walls started closing in on my independent personality. Not having my own designation started affecting me emotionally. The hunt for a job continued in vain and that’s when one fine day, I took refuge in my pen.
My parents have been my great inspiration. My mother retired from a bank job and then started learning classical music, so I thought if she can do it, what stops me? My father started singing on stage after his retirement from a government job, if he can do it, what stops me? Now was the time to renew all that I learnt in my childhood.
I started writing poetry again. Social media is at its best right now, so I decided to make the most of it. I created my own microsite. My love for music helped me review and critically examine songs from yesteryears so I started writing articles for leading online magazines of music and lifestyle in India and Malaysia. Seeing my writing work, I was invited by a veteran music journalist and author, to be part of a unique collaborative book on a classic film. I established my connection with like-minded friends in Kuala Lumpur and was invited to participate in Open Mic with my poetry and singing and the ball was set rolling.
Today after two years in Malaysia and technically being jobless, I am a published author, an established poet with Mic Originals and a few other reputed platforms, a performing artist in Open Mics on an international stage and a home chef. And this is just the beginning!
While the onus of failure lies completely on a person’s outlook, success never comes alone. One cannot disregard the encouragement and opportunities people are given to climb the ladder of success. I am utterly grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped me rise from the ashes as a phoenix. I will be turning 40 in a few months’ time and can proudly say life begins at 40!
So next time, life throws a lemon at you, catch it well, think out of the box and create your own recipe of success!