Learning over the crests & troughs – Sonia Chatterjee #InternationalWomensDay
The #InternationalWomensDay is around & here’s what Sonia Chatterjee, former banker-turned-mompreneur has to share the most inspirational bits with us. She lets us a peek into the kind of a roller coaster ride she’s had with her life. As a young, naive girl morphed into a career woman, nurturing memories of her mother & then being a doting mom herself.
My life has been more of paradoxical chances that led to opinionated choices.
When I was in my sixth standard, I absolutely loathed Chemistry. Nothing in Chemistry really made much of sense to me. To add to that my mother had been recently operated upon and was recovering in Kolkata for more than a couple of months. I had been missing her terribly. During one of the classes, I must have been in a world of my own while the teacher had finished writing an assignment on board. We were given five minutes to solve it. When I heard the teacher call out my name to explain the solution on board, I was scared and embarrassed. So my friend on the same bench had been noticing my absent-mindedness for sometime. Both of us ranked within the top 3. Yet without much ado, he subtly pushed his notebook towards me while carefully lifting mine. In a dazed state, I remember walking up to the classroom board and copying all the answers from his note.
Two things happened after this incident – I made a friend for life, someone I have consciously chosen to stay in touch with despite years and distance and I was dead determined to understand what was so complicated about Chemistry. In a couple of months, I was so involved in the subject that I grew to be in love with it. A highly knowledgeable and student friendly Chemistry Professor in my plus two turned out to be my role model in motivating me to pursue honors in Chemistry. The obsession with the subject went on till Masters level and would have culminated in a doctorate next hadn’t I decided to quit my project at one of India’s topmost institutes to work for a market research firm.
After working for a year there, I realized that the only way forward and upward was through a MBA. So at the age of 26 with very little savings (I had spent most of it on books and at restaurants), I convinced my due to retire in two years father to pay for my fees. Ironically, most of my friends were either settled or moving to the next level by then. In the 2nd year, the moment we were given an option to select subjects for specialization, I ended up with 8 marketing, 1 operations and 1 IT paper. I had successfully managed to throw out Finance was from my life or so I thought.
The year we were about to pass out was worst hit by recession. Most of the companies were opting out of placements in B-school. Students, irrespective of their specialization were queuing up for all feasible companies. The first company to arrive on day zero was India’s top private sector Bank. I had already cleared their previous levels . Along with nine of my batch-mates, I had been shortlisted for group discussion and interview. They had already earned the reputation for never having picked up a marketing major till then. I was so confident about them picking up one of my classmates that I ended up having one of the most relaxed and comfortable interviews ever. After-all, I had nothing to lose. Imagine my surprise when I was one of the two people offered a job in the Bank. This is how despite a severe lassitude towards Finance , I ended up becoming a Banker. I had no option but to face the situation heads on.
Embracing career & motherhood
When I started my tenure as a Branch Manager, there was very little I knew about managing team specially senior employees, handling the operation and sustainability of the branch. There is no learning better than a job learnt through experience. I did mistakes and got warnings. Eventually I learnt my lesson and picked up pieces and this is how I moved on to win many awards and accolades.
The 6 years that I stayed in Banking sector, I had switched three jobs and two cities. I went on maternity leave in my last assignment and never returned back. I had already lost my mother within five months of my marriage and being a motherless new mum was the toughest role that I have played till date. It was a conscious decision to be around my son, watch him grow and get back to the corporate world when we were both ready. I had decided on a sabbatical of a year to 15 months. We had already moved back for good to Kolkata to let our son grow amidst the love and affection of his grandparents.
When he was about to turn 18 months, I had planned to re-start my job hunt. Instead, I found myself writing and posting my thoughts more often on my Facebook wall. The consistent comments and appreciation on those posts made me start thinking if it was time to follow my dreams of being a solopreneur. I decided to take the plunge and on my son’s birthday month September, I launched soniasmusings.com as a tribute to my late mother and a gift to my son. At 36, I was expected to be settled in life, career and finances. Instead, I gave it up all to chase my passion for writing. Staring from the scratch, I can only tell you that this has been my most satisfying journey till date.
The quote from the movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ is what I live by and I intend to pass it on to my son – “You’ve got a dream. You’ve got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.” Like I keep telling my son Tuneer, it is never too late to restart if you find your purpose of waking up everyday.
The moment of my life – Reclaiming myself
There’s a small story to the above image that I would love to share.
Way back in 2009, I was in Khandala for a training session. 5 of us in that batch decided to take a weekend trip to Panchgani Iand Mahabaleshwar. Throughout my life, I had always been scared of heights. In Mahabaleshwar, while coming back from a temple, we had climbed up a cliff. The edge of the cliff had the most gorgeous view of the surrounding but one wrong step meant going downhill without any chance of survival. I’m not sure what overcame me but I made up my mind to let go of my inhibitions that moment. So with help of my friends, I reached the safe zone of the edge and stood there alone with my dupatta flying high in the air. That moment has been etched in my memory forever. I call it my moment of reclaiming myself. Every single time that I have hit rock bottom, I have thought of this moment and mustered the courage to fight back.
The original post is published at Sonia’s blog here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sonia Chatterjee is an ex banker turned blogger and writer. She blogs at
www.soniasmusings.com. From reviews of books, movies, restaurants to travel diaries, parenting guide & social issues to her personal journey, she
covers a range of categories through her writing. Sonia is a loving mom to a cute toddler, Tuneer & endures vibrant thoughts on the modern living. Kolkata is what she calls home now.