OVER-ACHIEVERS: Unlike many of the senior leaders of the Congress who became cabinet ministers, the majority of the BJP team have humble beginnings.
Finance Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman started life as a salesgirl. She was smart enough to take advantage of every opportunity that knocked on her door. It was the late Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister in the Modi cabinet, who recognised her talent and recruited her as a member of the National Women Commission.
By Anjala Farahath
I was smart enough to go through any door that opened”.
Wonder whose words those were? That was the wisdom of Joan Rivers, an American writer, comedian, actress, and producer. I begin this article with this quote because just like Joan Rivers, the honorable lady that we’re going to talk about, Nirmala Sitharaman, is where she is because of her ability to grasp every opportunity that came her way.
Rivers rose to fame with her appearance on The Tonight Show and then went on to become the first woman to host a late-night network television talk show.
Something similar happened with Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister. She climbed up the ladder of politics after she met Sushma Swaraj at a school in Hyderabad. Little did she know that a simple meeting with Sushma Swaraj would mark her entry into the world of bureaucracy and politics.
Who Is Nirmala Sitharaman?
Many know her as the only woman, after Indira Gandhi, to hold the position of the Defence Minister of India. She’s also known for being the first full-time female Finance Minister of India. But, not many know that she belonged to a non-political family in Chennai. Her father, Narayanan Sitharaman, was employed in the Indian Railways and her mother, K. Savitri, was a housewife. She graduated from Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Tiruchirapalli, and went on to pursue a Masters degree in Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. During the course of her study, she said that she always had an inclination towards the subject of globalization and its impact on the developing countries. But, for a student who studies at JNU, there’s no escape from politics and perhaps that’s when her interest in politics grew.
Sitharaman, The Salesgirl
While studying at JNU, Sitharaman met her husband, Parakala Prabhakar. Noticeably, her journey took a turn after meeting Prabhakar. After their marriage, when they shifted to London for Prabhakar’s Ph.D. at London School of Economics, Sitharaman took up a job of a salesgirl, at Habitat, a store that specializes in home decor.
She was so good at her job that she was even awarded a bottle of champagne for her exceptional performance in the Christmas season. While sales were one of the fields that she ventured into, she also served as an Assistant Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association in the United Kingdom. Additionally, she had a brief stint at BBC World Service, and she also had her share of experience as a Senior Manager (R&D) at Price Waterhouse in the UK. Going by her career graph, it’s evident that Sitharaman didn’t want to stop and settle in her career. She started from scratch, as a salesgirl, but the only way to go for her was up. That’s the kind of determination and perseverance that we should all inculcate in our lives, don’t you think?
From Heading An Educational Institution To Joining Politics
In 1991, when Sitharaman and Prabhakar returned to India, she established a school in Hyderabad. This is when she got in touch with BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj was so impressed with her outspoken views, stoic and graceful personality, and knowledge, that she was soon appointed as a member of the National Women’s Commission. She successfully completed her three-year tenure in the NWC (2003-2005), after which she joined BJP. Although her husband is the son of a renowned Congress politician, she chose to join hands with BJP.
Her stern articulation paved her path to becoming the BJP spokesperson in 2010. This was the political milestone that marked the beginning of many such endeavors that awaited her. In 2014, after Narendra Modi won the elections, she was appointed a ministerial position in the cabinet. She took charge as the Minister of State for Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Today, Nirmala Sitharaman is the first (full-time) woman Finance Minister of India.
Her fierce outlook and undeterred political stance have gained her recognition in the party as well as among the fellow Indians. She has shown the world that being a woman doesn’t mean that you need to add a ceiling to the sky. However, she believes in treading the water carefully, as there’s never a sure-shot way to success.
In her own words, here’s some advice to prep you up, “The best advice I ever received? Always choose the middle path and try to maintain equanimity. In other words, never go to any extreme – don’t be too suppliant because you will lose your dignity nor be too overconfident and aggressive or you will eventually lose your ground. Remain balanced. That way you can never fall too far.”
That was the story of Nirmala Sitharaman, the woman who started from the scratch, just like you and me, but believed in herself and her caliber to achieve the heights that she has today.
So, do you think your incredible story is yet to be written? Tell us about the successful and brave women in your lives and let’s celebrate their achievements together. On that note, let’s all learn to appreciate where we are in our journey, even if it’s not where we intended to be. Because every season serves a purpose.