"2 years. That's it. Then you'll have to settle down." This sounded more like a threat.
Finally, after a lot of discussion, debates, arguments and a whole lot of persuasion, I was allowed to work.
When I first stepped on to the Delhi station platform, it was a different feeling. Everything seemed different about this city... The air, the people, the roads, the buildings... everything.
Excitement, jitters, happiness, a but of fear - all kinds of feelings stirred in me. But the most prominent of them all was determination. I knew I was venturing into the unknown, all by myself.
My first day at office was the usual orientation program that was too go on for a week. I learned more every day, of the place I would work in, the kind of work I was required to do, training I needed to take etc etc. I met many people too.
The very first week took me in. One evening, after returning to the guest house, I realized that was not what I wanted to do. I had always wanted to get into journalism, since I knew what a career meant. I worked hard towards it and there I was, in a job I didn't want.
I weighed my options. To return was not one of them. I decided to stay put.
The first difficulty came in the form of house-hunting. It was a terrible experience. When two single girls go out to find a room for themselves, landlords ask all sort of questions. There were occasions when we were almost asked to get out!
Finally, we got a decent two-room set, which seemed okay for the while. Meanwhile, training had started at work.
Each day was a challenging one. And each day, I lost a bit of myself.
My confidence and morale were hit badly. Once we were asked to prepare a short speech.
Public speaking had always been my forte. I prepared all night and the next day and was all set. I started well too. But something happened in between. I stopped and broke down. Right there, in front of an audience of 20-odd people.
I. Broke. Down!
Never before had such a thing happened with me. As soon as I could, I rushed to the nearest phone booth. It was a small store that had the telephone instrument outside on a high stool. I called up my grandfather and cried. Right there, in the middle of the market. People stared at me as they walked past, but I was too absorbed to bother.
Dadaji asked me to return immediately. That night, I laid awake thinking if that was what I wanted to do. Barely 2 weeks and I had already given up. I just wasn't myself anymore. That confident girl who thought she could achieve anything she put her will to had been left behind somewhere.
I was shaken. With no friends around, it was difficult to talk about it. My colleagues were also my competitors, in a way. I could not give up so easily.
Dadaji called me the next morning and simply talked for a while. He didn't mention anything about the previous evening. He asked me about work and the place I was staying in. He, in fact, said to me that he will visit me in autumn.
That was it. Autumn. 4 months from then. He had said it.
He knew I could make it. His words told me that. I got what I needed most at the time. And my grandfather made it all sound so simple. He had done it again - instilled in me the strength and courage to move on.
I returned to work with a new vigor, a new force. This time, I was my own competitor. I had to prove myself wrong. I had to bring back the girl in me who willed her way to what she wanted.
Training went on for three long months. It was excruciating, to say the least. And to think that the real work hadn't even started.
It was Independence Day when we were to have our exit tests. Each of us were to get three attempts to clear it. If not, then that person would be sent to a refresher training.
Out of the 14 of us, my turn was one of the last.
As each one came out after their first attempt, dejection was written all across their faces. That unnerved me. You made just three mistakes and that attempt was gone.
But I knew I had just one attempt with me. Because if I didn't clear then, it would be all over for me. I would go back into my shell.
I barely heard when my name was called. I walked into the room quietly, and took my seat. The examiner ( I still remember his name!) asked if I was ready. I simply smiled.
The test started and went on for what seemed eternity. But wait, I was in for a surprise.
I was enjoying it! Yeah, I was!! I gave answers confidently and was almost speaking as if I had done it all my life!
After it got over, I walked over to get my score.
"You were good. In fact, pretty good. 100%. Yeah!"
I was too stunned to react. I walked out in a daze. When my colleagues saw me, they were sure I had failed too. A friend came up and raised her brows, silently asking me.
"100%." It registered as I said it. Among all the congratulations and hugs, one of the girls who was all fine till then looked at me spitefully and started crying. She was one of the first who couldn't clear the attempt and till others came out with the same result, she was fine.
I can never forget that look. That look had, in a way, spiked my happiness at that moment.
That was my first big examination when I stepped out in the corporate world and it taught me so much.
It taught me to fight on, despite all challenges.
It taught me to believe in myself.
And it gave me my first lesson of the big corporate world - "Tread carefully. Trust, but not blindly. Not everyone here is your friend. Most of them are your competitors. And the people who deserve your trust will come along on their own."
Blogdosts, through this series, I am attempting to share what I have learned in the past 8 years. I have broken down, then stood up, have trusted and have failed. It has been a bitter-sweet journey, which I am trying to bring to you all.
Will come back with the next part, next week. Till then, take care and stay precious :)