This is the story of the grit of an ordinary woman who becomes special when she faces all the challenges life has thrown at her successfully and carving a niche for herself in the big vast world. Born in a lower-middle-class family, her mother was a homemaker and her father was running a bookbinding shop. Life was simple and happy. She was an only child. Her mommy was the center of her existence. She had always motivated her little daughter to study and inculcated in her the value of education as she was growing. She went to a government school and had studied in Bengali medium as she was born and brought up in a small town in West Bengal. She was good at her studies. Luckily, she got into a government-run engineering college because that is the only option she could manage given the financial strains her family had. Her college fee was only Rs. 250 per semester, which she managed by taking tuitions.
As she was celebrating her first step to better education and a better life, her mother who was keeping unwell for some time now was diagnosed with deadly kidney disease. She used to go to college by local bus which used to take 2..2.5 hours one way. After spending almost 4 to 5 hours every day, she used to take tuition to support her educational expenses. But then she was made tougher than the tough times thrown at her by life.
As her first semester in college started, her mom’s condition started worsening. As I was listening to her story, I could feel shivers down my spine, thinking about her situation. On one hand, she is seeing her best friend, her support system, her lifeline going away and on the other hand, she is taking baby steps towards her goal of becoming an engineer. As everyone was celebrating the new year on 1 January 2010, she was deep in a sea of tears and grief as her mother had left for her heavenly abode. Her first-semester exam was to start on 4th January. She was in no mental frame to appear for her exams. But as they say, some people come into life as angels. One of her lecturers in college, Ms. Dipta Sen suggested that she write her exams. She has not prepared at all but followed her mentor’s advice. Everyone in her extended family and neighborhood was aghast at her decision. But she was to make the dreams of her mother a reality and education is the only way. She went ahead and wrote her exams. Her emotions and heart were punctured when her relatives started calling her shameless, heartless, useless girl. But she stayed strong and decided to walk ahead with her head held high on the path her mom has guided her. Her father also went against her and connived with his extended family. A young girl in her teens now has to support herself and her father financially (his business is almost down to zero), manage the household, and study for her dream degree. It was tough, very tough but then she was a diamond, who was being polished by the challenges of life. She managed to pass with good grades and become a mechanical engineer. Not only this, she got placed in a mid-size company in Chennai. She thought, now better days are here! But it was not so. The company has lied to everyone and it was not possible to continue in the job. With no family to fall back on, she made an emotional decision to marry a colleague with whom she became close.
Life was not easy for her after marriage too. Anyway, she sailed through the challenges successfully and is now the founder of an enterprise that did a business of 1.20cr this year.
Let us welcome Ms. Sshutanu Majumdar to our series about empowered women and know how she has overcome all the odds.
Neerja: Welcome to the blog, Sshutanu! Your journey of struggle and rise to heading an enterprise with a turnover of 73 lakhs this year and giving employment to around 10 people is remarkable. We would like the world to know about it and be motivated.
Sshutanu: Thanks Neerja! Yeah, it has been tough, but now when I look back, I understand that it is important to know how to flex with the punches in life. Life is never easy and we don’t always get to live our life the way we want to, but it is how we respond to the curve thrown at us that makes us who we are. I am a very ordinary woman and very fragile at times. If I can achieve and change the course of my life, anyone can.
Neerja: After the coveted degree and becoming a mechanical engineer, getting duped in a completely unknown city, how did you manage things afterward.
Sshutanu: Oh, those days were tough. After I lost my job, I found myself at crossroads – whether to go back or stay here and explore options. I stayed back on the strength of my knowledge, degree, and capacity to bounce back. I was getting small jobs with low payments but somehow I could manage to survive. There was no job satisfaction and I was feeling exploited too. I was slipping into depression when a colleague with whom I have become close supported me and we decided to get married. I did not inform my father about it.
Neerja: It has been a very bold decision. Getting married to someone you barely know for a year and without anyone from your own clan. Why did you not ask your father to come and bless you both?
Sshutanu: I contemplated a lot about calling them. But I decided against it as their behaviour after my mom’s death was very heartbreaking. After my mother, I have always supported my father financially even for his mobile charging. He used to call me only to ask for money. My father and extended family have always judged my every action after mom’s death. All this creates lots of negativity and I didn’t want any on this happy occasion.
Neerja – Don’t you think, it would be more appropriate to forgive your dad and extended family and let them be part of your happiness.
Sshutanu – It was difficult considering the kind of treatment I had got from them. Besides judging me for every act of mine, they were always blaming me for my mom’s death. Why would I kill my angel? And when I used to send money to my father even though I was in so much financial trouble. They used to call me characterless as in their understanding, how can I earn so much money to support myself and my father. They have called me all kinds of names, which I can not even mention. Now tell me, was I wrong in not inviting them to my biggest moment of life.
Neerja – Oh, I am so sorry to make you recall such bad memories, which are better to be forgotten. So how was life after marriage?
Sshutanu: I think I am God’s child and He still wants to test me. My tests were far from over. And this was not what I dreamt about life after marriage. It’s like entering into another chakravyuh. My husband lost his job soon and was heavily under debt. No place to stay, no food, no money, no family support, and pregnancy. I felt totally trapped. With no option of a job, I started taking English tuition. As I was good in studies and my English language was always excellent. This was my “aha” moment. Within a month, I had 20 students and enough money to pay rent and have food to fill my stomach. Slowly, by word of mouth, my English coaching classes became very popular and I had a good number of students and earnings have become good. With the money, I paid my husband’s debt of around 7 Lakhs and passed the certificate of TESOL.
As I was getting settled in my coaching business, the Corona hit and I was getting panicky about losing all my students.
Neerja: Corona restrictions have really jeopardized everyone’s life. How did you handle that situation?
Sshutanu: It was May 30th, 2020, I was Scrolling on FB and saw an advertisement from my mentor Siddharth Rajsekhar about how to take a coaching business online. Though my classes were going great but as I have paid debts and invested in my certifications, I did not have enough money to do this course. An old childhood friend came to my rescue and lent me 10k and I enrolled in this course.
That is what changed my life. I have learned the power of digital marketing and a systematic approach to business.
I started running advertisements with Rs. 800 and was a one-woman army. Now I have 10 people who work with me.
Neerja: That is a great achievement. You have truly utilized the power of digital marketing. So, with this could you be able to sustain your classes by taking them online? Your old students came back to this new format?
Sshutanu: Yeah, many have come online but after my FB advertisement, I had enough students to sustain my life. Slowly, corporate inquiries started trickling in. I am proud to say that I have been associated with many big corporate houses to teach their employees English who have come from non – English speaking countries like Japan or Korea, etc.
Neerja: This is so good to hear. It must have been a great sense of achievement after all the struggle?
Sshutanu Yeah , it feels great to have a satisfying job, enough to eat, and a comfortable home.
Neerja: How has been your married life?
Sshutanu: It was tough. The financial problems were huge and I had to take the brunt. The best thing which I gained from my marriage is my daughter. As I become financially stronger, I command greater respect and control in household affairs. Every woman must work to become financially independent.
Neerja: I would like you to summarize your life’s learning.
Sshutanu: I believe the power is within and this power is to be unleashed. Try to live a meaningful life. The biggest investment is “INVEST IN YOURSELF”. It pays to upgrade skills.
Believe in yourself no matter what the situation is. Make a name for yourself with your work and dedication.
Neerja: What is your view are the steps to success?
Sshutanu: Success has three steps. First, you will face rejection, Second people will make fun of you, then they will try to stop you. Finally, they will admire you.
Neerja: Any message of motivation to our readers?
Sshutanu: Just to motivate you all. I would like to share a glimpse of my work –
In the last year, I have been able to make 1.20cr+ revenue sitting at my home in the digital coaching business.
I have been awarded South India Women Achievers Award in 2020.
Recently I have been featured in JOSH TALK.
I have started my digital marketing agency with the thought to help other women entrepreneurs to launch their businesses digitally. Many more projects are in the pipeline.
Sshutanu’s message to all of us who think, it’s very difficult to achieve something is – “Work hard until you can make your struggle an inspirational story to others.”
Wishing her more success and a bright and happy future, we said goodbye to Sshutanu Majumdar, an empowered woman of today!