Sushila12 mins 20.3K 12 mins 20.3K
Sushila Mishra is the daughter of Tarun Kumar Tripathi, a school teacher from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh who was known for is magnanimous nature and liberal outlook towards life. Her beautiful childhood in Phoolpur, the township where she lived all her life is witness to many memories that she thinks of now and sheds a tear or two sometimes. Why? Well, she doesn’t live in Kanpur anymore; she is married to Jatin Mishra, a banker with the United Bank of India, who is currently posted in Vadodara, Gujarat. Sushila had to come to this new city of Vadodara, after marriage leaving her beloved Phoolpur town behind. Initially she had difficulty in adjusting to the life in this city. The language was different, so were the customs and the food habbit of the local Gujaratis. But gradually, she adapted to the life of Vadodara, and with the little Anshul coming into her life, she felt her life was complete.
However, after few years, she started feeling a deep vacuum inside. With Jatin in his office and her son in pre-school, Sushila felt terribly alone in the house. She would finish all the household chores of the day by 10.30 am in the morning itself and would just sit and idle around the house for the rest of the day.
She would sit by the window and think of her childhood days, she found a lot of comfort in reminiscing those good old days. Sometime it would be the school days that she would fondly recall, sometimes her escapades from college with her friends to watch movies and sometimes she would think of the lovely cakes that she would bake at times and surprise her folks each time with a different flavor of cake.
Sushila had learnt to bake cakes from her grandmother and right from her childhood, she loved baking yummy cream cakes for friends and family members.
Fate so had it that Sushila was married off to a rich and conservative family through the age old, tried and tested “arranged marriage” way. The ‘rich’ part was what her family was proud about, it was the ‘conservative’ part that bothered both her and her parents. Often she would complain to her parents that she is finding life difficult with a rigid and orthodox family, but every time she would be made to understand that it’s always the woman who needed to compromise and adjust and mould herself as per the requirement of her in-laws. She always desired to work and had an M.A in Home Science as well, but with the consistent resistance from her in-laws it became very difficult to pursue her dreams of making it big in the outside world. And then arrived her son, within 2 years of marriage. With a little child by her side, her own desire of making it big slowly dimmed as she realized the practicality of it all. Her mother-in-law emphasized that there was absolutely no need of thinking anything other than raising her son, the ‘chiraag’ (heir) of the family, thereby further pushing her dreams to the corner and sealing them permanently. Even Jatin was relieved that finally his wife was not talking about ‘working’ anymore.
On one such sedate afternoon, Sushila stepped out of her house and rang the doorbell of her neighbor, Shilpa. She knew Shilpa ever since she came into this building, which is for the last one and a half years, but her interaction with her was limited to ‘hi's’ and ‘hello's’. Also, she didn't know much about Shilpa other than the fact that she was a housewife and that she must be very social as Sushila has noticed lot of women coming to her house. As she couldn't follow Gujarati, she couldn't understand what they spoke but noticed women coming and going from her house.
She chatted with Shilpa and slowly developed a good friendship with her. She came to know that those women who came to her house were her buyers. Shilpa makes homemade spices which has a huge demand amongst her loyal customer base. She makes all kinds of masalas, pickles, chatnis and dry Gujarati snacks like Dhokla, fafda, khandvi, khakhra, etc.
Sushila was amazed at Shilpa’s business sense. A typical Gujarati women that she was, with no more than 8th standard school knowledge (she was married off at the age of 16), Shilpa through her culinary skills and sharp business acumen won the hearts of her buyers, also earned money!
Sushila was very inspired by this. She told Shilpa that she too wishes to do something on her own as she believes that she is capable of doing much more in life.
"Of course you can Sushila Ben (Ben means sister in Gujarati)”, said Shilpa. “If I can, even you can. Go home today and think of a food item, preferably some snack type item, which you can make well. Don’t worry about buyers, these women who buy masalas and snacks from me, I will tell them to taste yours as well. If they like it, well! Your business starts. How does it sound?" Shilpa gave ear o ear smile at Sushila. Her smile had an infectious cheerful streak to it. Sushila smiled back. Her heart was palpitating, she was having butterflies in her stomach, but at the same time, she felt empowered, jubilant. She knew what she was about to plunge into was just “so right”.
Sushila kept on thinking about it for the following couple of days. Since her childhood she has never really made any snack items on a regular basis as such. Just then she remembered the one thing that her grandmother had taught her, one that she has treasured as a skill all her life. She always used to make it during the vacations together with her mother and elder sister. Cake! Yes, cake it was that she could really bake well. Whoever ate Sushila's handmade Cake, always appreciated it to no end. There it was. She has found her “food item”
That night after dinner, while Jatin was at his newspaper, reading the rest of the bits that he couldn’t manage during the day, she asked Jatin.
"Jatin, you remember when you had come to see me at our Kanpur house, we had prepared all snack items at home. There were homemade samosas, jalebis, and cakes. Your mother had said that she liked those cakes a lot. You remember?" Sushila asked Jatin while recollecting the whole event herself. There was a glint in her eyes and a thrill in her voice. What was it that she was trying to come to, only she knew.
Jatin was slightly taken aback by the sudden mention of this incident. He said, "Yes I remember, but how come you ask me this now?"
"No no, you remember the taste of the food, you liked it?"
"It's been so many years Sushila, and more over I didn't go there to eat, it must have been good. What's the matter?" Jatin was quite confused by her questions.
"That day I had made Cake all by myself. Rinku didi was busy doing something else and amma was also making other stuff. I managed the cake all by myself. I remember, it had come out really well."
Jatin was flabbergasted. What is she talking about?
With the new excitement and thrill of an entrepreneurial venture ahead, Sushila chuckled at Jatin's confused face and said, "Nothing, I will bake that cake for you and Anshul tomorrow".
Saying this, she went off to sleep like a child, for whom the world now held lot of hope and opportunities.
Sushila had made the cake the following day. Whether Jatin felt its sweetness is not known, her new customers, recommended by Shilpa Ben, whom she sold one piece each for free the following day, thoroughly liked it.
She had always been appreciated for her baking skills, but it mostly came from close quarters, this was the first time that she was experiencing such profound appreciation from someone outside her family, these initial words of encouragement only made her resolve stronger. She decided, she would take up the baking business seriously.
She started making different types of cakes on customers' demand. Sometimes customers would want a very different type of cake, she being new to this would feel a little daunted. But the next moment, her Shilpa Ben would tell her to buck up and find out online. Shilpa told her that YouTube videos are very helpful in learning new types of items. Sushila, armed with the knowledge of baking almost 20 to 30 different types of cakes was slowly becoming a confident entrepreneur, eager to explore and learn more.
Gradually, she started getting 4-5 daily orders for full sized cakes. Sometimes for 1 kg, sometimes 2 kg and even 2.5 kg, her demand only increased by the day. Her customers, who once tasted her cake, would only take it from her. This was both a pride and a huge responsibility on her. Initially her buyers were the ones who took snacks from Shilpa Ben, but gradually, her buyer base increased. The orders started pouring in so much, that she would need to go out and deliver it herself to the customer's house. She was thoroughly enjoying this phase, her dream of making it big in her own was now a reality.
Everyday she would get up and plan her day well in advance so that her basic household duties were not neglected. She would meticulously work all day long and carefully finish all the work before Jatin arrived from office.
As soon as Jatin and Anshul left, she would plunge into her baking world. The white of the soft maida, the baking powder and the cream, the flavours and the design that she would render to each of them would give her the much craved creative satisfaction. Baking cake was like poetry to her, like a painting that she enjoyed doing bit by bit, dot by dot. She loved it from the core of her heart, she nurtured it with all her passion and held this new identity extremely dear to her.
Amidst all of this, Sushila would feel the chills whenever she thought of Jatin and her in-laws, she would uickly brush the thought aside and concentrate on her work, however she knew that one day she had to face it. When would that be? She knew not.
Jatin was blissfully unaware about her entrepreneurial activities. Well, Sushila had broached the topic of taking up Bakery as a serious profession to her husband few months back and Jatin had vehemently opposed then.
“I earn so much, what is the need of you going out in the sun everyday for delivering cakes from door-to-door? Aren't you ashamed of doing it? We are the Mishras' of Kanpur, our women don’t go door to door selling food. I don’t understand what made you think so, making a ‘tamasha’ (mockery) of our family name out in the open.” He had roared.
Sushila had tried to reason it out with her husband that day.
“How am I doing any harm to anyone by doing what I love to do, I am only baking cakes, and if that brings some money home, its your money also. It's our money.” Sushila had managed to say these words with a quavering voice. She was too feeble infront of Jatin.
Jatin had not spoken to her for a couple of days after that and fearing the worst, Sushila had briefly considered giving up her business. It was Shilpa Ben who once again came to her rescue. She made her realize that this business was her “strength” not her weakness and that instead of giving up on it she should rather start thinking about making it bigger.
After a lot of persuasion by her loyal customers and Shilpa Ben, Sushila finally decided that she would open her own full-fledged Bakery Service. Soon enough she started working around it. With utmost vigour and fearlessness, she roared ahead. She constantly kept telling herself that she wasn’t doing anything wrong, she is just doing what she lives to do and that is her basic right. After deciding on everything, she braced herself for the toughest part – to announce it to her husband and her in-laws.
Without beating around the bush, she did it in one go. Told her husband at the dinner table and called her in-laws the following day. Her husband has been ballistic ever since.
Sushila was determined today. She had thought about it many times for the past 3-4 days. She knew exactly what she needed to do now and would do it come what may.
Today, before leaving for work, her husband had declared to her that he doesn’t want to hear about the bakery business anymore from her.
Its 6.30 pm now. Her son is still out in the field playing with fellow kids of the building. Jatin arrived at home at sharp 6.45 pm. Sushila was ready for the war of words. This time she won’t let it happen, she won’t let her hard work of so many months go in waste at the altar of fake ego and family name.
She took his laptop bag from him, went inside the kitchen, brought the tea for him and sat on the sofa opposite him. Staring sharply at him, she said, “Jatin, I had something to tell you, no no, don’t interrupt me while I am saying this. You can always let me know what you feel once I finish. So, as I have already told you, I am going to start my bakery business no matter what. This is what I like and enjoy the most – baking and I have the right to do what I love, don’t I?”
Jatin was aghast at her brazenness. She continued.
“If you or your parents have any problem with this, well, I will move out of this house with my son, as I am confident that I can support both him and myself with my income from this business. You can do whatever is in your might to jeopardize my business, but remember this, I have found my true calling, the place where I belong and NOTHING can stop me now. I have always supported you in all your professional hurdles, been a part of your career climb, beena solid support through your thick and then. If you cannot do that for me, the least you can is to just let me be. I hope I have made myself clear. You can tell me now what you wish to say.”
So saying, she gestured at Jatin to speak.
Their son barged into the room and squealed, “papaaa…papa, what did you bring for me today?”
Jatin was speechless, staring at Sushila dumbfounded. He slowly took the child onto his lap and went inside the other room.
Sushila was so filled with so many emotions. For days, she rehearsed these lines, she wasn’t sure if she could tell it finally or not. Well, she did. Tears welled up the corners of her eyes, tears of joy. In her mind, she was basking in the glory of her first victory. She knew, she had many more battles to conquer.