Among the many books I have read in my lifetime, some books have left a lasting impression and continue to inspire me. Dr. V. Mohan’s book, Making Excellence a Habit is one such book that I have enjoyed reading and have been able to relate to it greatly. Probably because I can now understand better why Niky worked at a frenzied pace whenever she decided to take on a new project in her life. “The passionate individual’s boundless energy leads to hard work,” says Dr. Mohan in his book, “If a person is passionate, he would go far beyond the call of duty. Thereafter, time and place do not matter anymore. They are constantly pursuing their passion at every waking moment,” he puts it beautifully. And this was exactly the case with Niky when she started her masters at London School of Economics and Political Science.
Niky took to London like a duck to water. As is her nature, at LSE she involved herself in many activities and became a member of their LooseTV, producing programmes for them. While at LSE she received the Margot Naylor Scholarship for Women. It was here that the rudiments of her first fiction book grew in her mind. She stayed in a hostel and was able to take care of her blood sugars under the care of their National Health Service, a publicly funded healthcare system, where she was eligible for free insulin, sugar strips and consultations. That took care of her immediate medical needs. She was on insulin injections and frequent finger pricks for testing her sugars. But she was comfortable with the experience of monitoring her T1D. Also because she liked the place, made new friends and was happy doing what she liked.
But finance was a problem. We had arranged a bank loan for her but there were several other needs that had to be met which prodded her to look for various avenues to earn some money. Such was her motivation that she took on jobs which she herself would have never imagined she would end up doing. She used to tie sarees for women during marriage events, while in India she hadn’t even known how to tie a saree! She also took up an assignment as a court interpreter to interpret Tamil to English and our family had a good laugh when we came to know about this. Because her Tamil speaking skill was minimal as she had grown used to speaking in English at home since the time she was an infant in Calcutta and the school had complained they did not understand Tamil We were advised to train her to speak in English or Bengali and we chose the former. But for this, the poor girl had to travel long distances by suburban trains to go to court, but the money was good. She also helped those who needed editing and proofing, often times free and sometimes she undertook paid gigs. She worked on a paper for the Commonwealth too.
The masters was nearing completion and I remember she used to stay in the library at night working for her thesis. Simultaneously she helped another student do research and helped with writing his paper, almost like a guide. We were much concerned about all the work she was loading on to herself, but she waded through the eddying waters effortlessly, keeping her health status in good condition.
We believed that Niky would be able to put away the past trauma and move ahead toward a bright career in her field of choice. Little did we know that this interlude was just a brief reprieve and that she had to traverse a long journey of challenges which she would overcome, but that would impact her powerful mind in ways that would change her as a person!
After completing her masters at LSE she was eligible to stay in London and work for a year, to pay off her loans. She briefly worked in an Indian matrimonial site where her Indian female boss used to frequently taunt her for looking too Indian, outdated and like a nerd! Then there was this relative of ours in London who recommended her for another job with a friend’s company. When she went for the interview the head of that export- import company indicated that she needed to be ‘accommodative’ if she wanted to have a good career and tried to molest her. Since this was through a known person, Niky made some about her sugar being low and left in a hurry, not breathing a word to anyone! Of course, we were informed about it later.
At one point she got another job in a company that was working for the Commonwealth. This was again an Indian company with an office in Chennai. She was settling in and trying to look for a position as a journalist when one day she during lunch time, since everyone was out of office, she picked up the phone. At the other end was a woman, who was one of the directors of the company and did not want to accept the answer that the receptionist was away for lunch. This woman was furious and she spoke to the other directors, who were in fact her husband and other family members. Niky was asked to go to Chennai on transfer or leave the company. This was also the time when the crash of the Lehman Brothers led to a global financial crisis and understanding that getting a job offer in London was next to impossible she flew back to Chennai accepting their offer of transfer.
For her it was a huge disappointment because she believed she could stay in London and start writing a book, while working as a journalist in London. She still had a substantial amount of education loan to repay. But the sad truth is, when a girl has aspirations and the capabilities to achieve those aspirations and also has commendable values, what comes in the way is her gender and ethnicity. And if the girl also has to contend with a life-long autoimmune condition which demands her attention on a daily basis, all of these heap on to her stress and she drifts through life like a rudderless boat till such time that she is able to find herself and reach an understanding with herself!
The nature of a woman’s body is not much help either, with hormonal upheavals during various stages of her life adding on to the challenges she has to circumvent. Add to this the sensitivities of an enormously creative person and one can never comprehend the emotional impact of manacles that constantly seem to be pulling them back from attaining their goals. It is indeed an unfathomable struggle that bright young Indian women with disabilities have to put up if they were to persevere ceaselessly to fulfill their ambitions.
In Chennai, Niky started looking for other jobs and was placed in one of the big four consultancy firms with their corporate office in Mumbai. Her father accompanied her to Mumbai and found her a paying guest accommodation, on the eleventh floor of a building that was facing the sea and conveniently located to commute to work every day. Niky stayed with the prim and proper Mrs. Merchant and began settling down to living life as a Mumbaikar. Here our friend Geeta and her family offered us huge support and succor in times of need.
Note: In this series, I will be putting down facts and events that have happened to me as a matter of fact. Anything I say in these articles is based on my own understanding and experiences and not on any scientific research. I would also like to mention here that I would be drawing upon those experiences of my eventful life, which I believe are relevant to the discussion of the emergence of autoimmune conditions in my child, who we think is different from many other children. I will be trying to make it as relevant to parents of T1D children as possible, but with a plea not to infer anything, compare or follow any of the practices we as a family followed. Simply because, every family is different, every child is different and so are circumstances. The takeaway should be confined to the existence of various possibilities, opportunities and a positive approach toward creating a fulfilling life for your child.