By Gunveen Ahuja
I was born in a small town in Punjab, the land of five rivers, the food basin of the country.
Chandigarh is right in the middle of three states, geographically as well as culturally. It is a small town with a very high per capita income. Hence, it has a history of being rich but has people with a constrained mindset. My upbringing was happy but conservative. Thanks to my education, I had the opportunity to broaden my horizons and look beyond my immediate surroundings and beliefs.
In my late 20s, I moved to Mumbai, a melting pot of cultures and diversity, which was completely different from my hometown. I started working as a communications and culture trainer for Hero Mindmine Ltd. The sheer number and diversity of people I met and worked with grew exponentially, bringing about a drastic, and much-needed change in my mindset.
A few years later, I took up my first corporate role in a customer experience centre, where I built my early years of learning as a Training and Transactional Quality (T&TQ) expert, and then later in another organisation as a People Leader.
In 2008, I joined IBM as a customer experience leader, where I led a large and diverse team to success. I was with the company for three years and managed some great outcomes and mentored some great talent. I got mentored in people leadership skills under some very good leaders.
This was followed by a strong leadership stint at American Express and a short one at Flipkart e-commerce. I am now a senior leader with HSBC, handling a 1000-member contact centre (which happens to be one of their largest contact centres in the world), managing three markets and multiple products. The large and diverse team that I swear by is the reason for my success as a leader.
I have always been very sensitive and empathetic towards people whom I saw being discriminated against. My earliest memories of discrimination were the ones that were faced by the ‘hijra’ community. They survived by singing and dancing on auspicious occasions in Indian households. I had a limited understanding and used to wonder about their complicated appearance and their source of livelihood.
I could never understand the ridicule that they faced at the hands of our society when what was most needed was compassion and inclusivity. Yet, in complete contrast, they were and still are deemed to be lucky and their blessings are sought by all. The irony!
Excerpt from the book EQUALLY: Stories by Friends of the Queer World. Published by Rupa, the first of its kind anthology put together by Pride Circle is due to be released on 9 April 2021. Find more about the book here.