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This 40-Year-Old Mom Became An Entrepreneur, Thanks To Her Driving Lessons

By Sujatha Jain:

A shiver ran down my spine as a rogue bead of sweat trickled down my forehead and stood poised to fall off my brow. This was my Ethan Hunt moment. I was on course to accomplish a mission that I had hitherto pretty much written off as impossible. “Who am I kidding? I’m forty years old. I’m a mommy,” I said to myself, as I saw how white my knuckles looked as my fingers clutched the steering wheel of my car. It was my first driving lesson. Yes, it’s true. I had never driven a car before!

I glanced furtively at Sneha, my driving instructor and her rock solid presence restored my confidence. “You cannot drive unless you put the key in the ignition, Sujatha,” she reminded me. I smiled sheepishly at my forgetfulness and dutifully followed her instructions. This was nothing like ‘Need For Speed’ that I had aced years ago. As the engine revved up, panic struck again and images from my life flashed in front of my eyes. I saw myself at my MBA graduation ceremony, then on my first day of work in human resources, the day I fell head over heels in love, the day I got married to the love of my life, the day I became a mother, the day I quit my job and started my first business.

As a mom-trepreneur, life seemed quite crazy at times. I juggled power point presentations, phone calls and video conferencing with nappy changes and dairy production (read feed) schedules – everything neatly finding its space and time on carefully prepared excel sheets. Though I must admit that sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed and wondered if my dreams of being a big-shot human resource professional working from a cushy office in a big corporate house had slowly  drowned under the cries of my ‘beautiful’ (read awfully cranky and colicky) baby. You’ve got to admit, there is a certain job security when you work for a big organisation. But being my own woman had its own perks and my freedom was addictive. It was around this time that I chanced upon something Oprah Winfrey said, “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

This made me realise that I could be more than just a part-time mom (in my parlance, someone who does not spend 8 hours in an office). I started focusing on my other talents, things I was very good at – for instance, public speaking. I saw a newspaper ad for a radio jockeying course one day and decided to try my hand at the training course. My teacher/mentor, as I was to discover was also an established RJ with one of the more popular radio stations in Mumbai. I had hit pay dirt! So not only did I get a lowdown on the intricacies of a Radio Jockey’s job, but also a step by step prep session for the role, which I did bag eventually.  So as it turned out, I had managed to get the cake and could stuff my face with it too, as it was a flexible part-time role allowing me ample time for baby banter and HR Skype calls too.

While I reveled in the love of my listeners and worked hard to impress them with my playlists and scripts, I also had to make sure my sonny boy was eating his daal-khichdi, wearing extremely clean diapers and not hanging upside down from the window grill – while enjoying the company of a cellphone-toting helper who was spicing up her life with the latest twist in the ‘K’ series. The icing on this extremely busy and colourful cake was the arrival of my pretty princess, exactly when my son was three and a half years old.  But don’t forget, I was a pro-Mom by then. Apart from a short 2-month break to recoup my energy, I was raring to get back into the big world that had the promise of fulfilling all my dreams – as I realised that you can be a good mother and still do all that you aspire to, with the right kind of support from family (and a well-paid help). I had also realised by then, that there’s no one perfect way to be this great mom – because each situation is unique, each mom has different skill sets and challenges and most certainly different children!

While my life experiences had been varied and exciting none of this had prepared me for what lay ahead – a narrow Bandra bylane covered by a canopy of interconnected branches of trees that grew on both sides of the road – a road I was supposed to drive on. “Take a deep breath,” said Sneha gently. I think she sensed my fear. “This car is also your baby,” she said. That flicked a switch somewhere. Suddenly my mommy instincts kicked in. The tigress inside woke up as I felt determined to protect my baby from reckless drivers, lane-cutting rickshaw-wallahs, potholes and road bumps. Determined, I put the key in the ignition again making the car purr like a loving kitten. As Sneha gave instructions, I put the car in gear and finally moved forward.

In the next few days, as I slowly began to drive in the lanes near my house, the inner child inside me couldn’t stop jumping up and down with joy. I was brimming with youthful energy and hope and I had never felt younger! I realised that, yeah, age was just a number.  I had always been independent but had never felt so untethered. The proudest moment for me was when I took my entire family for a drive to Chowpatty to have some lip-smacking ice-cream.

On another occasion, I learnt a great life lesson when I made a wrong turn and drove on for more than 2 kilometres just to realise that I was lost. Well, all I did then was to drive back to where I began and reassessed where I was headed, and bingo, I reached my destination in less than 3 minutes. Well, since we don’t have a GPS for wherever we are headed out to in life, remembering where you came from, can help you find where you’re going!

When I learnt how to drive, I felt empowered. It wasn’t as though I disliked my drivers, but I always wanted to do things on my own. A bit like how I didn’t dislike my job but wanted to run my own business. That’ when I felt inspired once again to give entrepreneurship a chance. As I executed a perfect U-turn near ‘shirtless wonder’ Salman Khan’s home (sorry patidev), I realised I was ready for a U-turn in my life – that I was ready to be a mom-trepreneur again. My experience learning how to drive encouraged me to get behind the steering wheel of my second entrepreneurial adventure, a collaborative workspace in Santacruz. As I welcome creative freelancers, funded start-ups and agencies to set their offices at Workbay, I say a little prayer and silently thank the universe.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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