Widowhood is still considered as a ‘disqualification’ for a woman in India. Traditionally, it strips a woman almost every joy of living.
Navi Mumbai based 44 years old Rachna Trivedi, however, is one of those changing faces of Indian society who defied this tradition.
She did not cow down in the face of the adversity her husband’s unexpected death brought in. Within a span of almost five years after the unfortunate loss, she has emerged as a successful entrepreneur from a simple homemaker. Her children find in her a vibrant, strong woman who always lives with her chin up.
A life every Indian woman dreams of
Marriage Over Career
Rachna hails from a family of mostly government officials in Madhya Pradesh. She was a typical Indian middle class girl, with not so clear picture about her life in her mind, especially in terms of building a career. She graduated with honours in Biology and thought of becoming a doctor. However, when that did not happen she pursued a degree in LLB just to follow in her elder sibling’s footsteps. Before she could think of registering and practicing as a lawyer, marriage took place to Kanpur based Asim Kumar Trivedi, a young captain in the merchant navy. However, Rachna, like many young girls of her times, was still trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. Her inner calling was for fashion designing as she was always artistically inclined. She appeared for the entrance test of NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) and cleared it too. But she overrode the invitation to join classes in NIFT to sail with her husband.
“The chapter of building my career got closed there”, says Rachna.
The Bolt Out Of The Blue
Life continued with the bliss of two children arriving on her horizon one after another – a son and a daughter. Rachna was a happy homemaker until her husband fell ill in 2012 and passed away soon.
“After performing the 13 days’ long last rites of Asim at my in-laws’ place in Kanpur, on the 15th day the first thing that I did was I came back to my home that Asim and I had set up in Navi Mumbai. My children needed to go back to their school. I also realised the ‘sympathy’ pouring in, notwithstanding how genuine it was, was not doing any good to boost my confidence to deal with the situation. Rather it was weakening me further. Secondly I also realised the idea of moving in to my parents or in-laws’ place could not be a practical solution in the long run. I decided to take charge of my life on my own. But the question was how? I had no job experience. Neither did I have much savings to depend upon with the responsibility of raising two kids” recounts Rachna.
Asim’s company offered a job. But the salary was not much as Rachna did not have any professional experience. Secondly it was difficult for her to go to the company and work in a lower position where her husband worked in a higher rank. She also needed to look after the children – who were then just in 5th and 2nd grade.
“Perhaps God planned it all, much before I could think of it,” says Rachna.
A few years before Asim died, he had invested in a small T Shirt manufacturing unit. He had purchased a couple of second-hand knitting and other allied machines along with some raw material to make T-shirts at the cost of around one and a half lakh. His vision was to develop it as a side business that Rachna might be able to look after once the children grew up a little more. Till then he entrusted to it someone else to utilize it to generate some business, but without much success.
Rachna, completely a novice in the T-shirt making business decided to do something with it.
The Birth Of An Entrepreneur And A New-age Woman
First few months went in learning and understanding how the machines work, the preparation and specifications of yarn, how the panels of cloth are knitted with it and how pieces of T-shirts are stitched. “I knew nothing about all these. I also didn’t know how to do marketing, how to talk and answer the queries of potential buyers,” says Rachna. The company Asim worked for gave her an order to supply 100 T-shirts for its employees. It was a goodwill gesture on their part to support their deceased employee’s wife and family. A few more random small orders later Rachna realized she was not making any profit. On the contrary she ended up spending money from whatever little family savings she had. Secondly the manufacturing unit was far from her home. Commuting there every day by her two-wheeler and constant monitoring the production was also proving to be tedious. In 2013 she rented a small space and moved the unit of 4 machines nearer home, to be able to take care of home, children and business seamlessly. She formed a private limited company in the name of A. K Enterprise and made some samples. She also got some orders to make boiler suits for the ship workers in the shipping company where her husband worked.
With the help of a few contacts Rachna managed to get her first professional order. She supplied 140 T-shirts to a wholesaler and her total earning was about 27 thousand rupees. It was a no profit no loss deal. However it started the ball rolling. Today her company with 8 employees and 14 machines supplies 2500 to 3500 pieces of T-shirts per month to both local whole sellers and a few brands such as Gotit, Rig Anthony, Amstead, 9Fine in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Pune. She outsources additional job work to other smaller production units and thus help them earn too. She also helps a few needy women living near her unit earn around 1500 rupees per month by outsourcing the work of buttoning and hemming to them. In 2016, in the third year of her company’s operation, it clocked a gross turnover of 33 lakhs. In near future, Rachna is planning to start producing her own brand of T-shirts.
“In these years after I lost my husband, I actually got to know the world. My area of business is totally male dominated. I found there are all sorts of people. There are some who try to take advantage of a single woman struggling to find her foothold in a strange world whereas there are people who are helpful and supportive. One needs to know where to draw the line, keep composed, be open to learning and have courage. People gradually understand that and respect you for who you are,” advises Rachna.
Along with business, Rachna also tries to remain her own self, enjoying life to the fullest. She likes to dress up fashionably, listen to music, paint and dance, participate in social welfare activities and cultural programs, spend good time with friends, and go for a ride on her two-wheeler along with her children.
“Being an entrepreneur, I need to keep myself presentable and reasonably well-groomed. I also feel confident and good about myself when I use little make up. After my husband’s death I have seen the unsaid disapproval and questioning in people’s eyes when I started conducting myself normally, as I used to be when he was around. But I have overcome my hesitation. I did not allow any self-doubt or sense of guilt to pin me down. Life is dynamic. It moves on. I am an individual too and there is nothing wrong in having one’s own liking of things in life,” asserts Rachna.
Conclusion – Turn the tide
A much confident Rachna reiterates her self-belief and doing her best in dealing with her responsibilities as a mother. Her advice to other women who face situation like her is – “While you love your deceased husband forever in your heart, mourning and living in self-denial, or killing your true self is not the way to show your respect for him or to move on. If you have confidence and live happily, it will help your children to be the same and move on in life with a positive spirit. Besides. you can become productive and contribute to the society and the economy at large”
“As long as you know you have done nothing wrong, one should not bother what the world says at your back. My husband always used to say this. Today I believe the same and advise my children the same.”
Photo Courtesy: Somma Banerjjee & Rachna Trivedi