Fired by fierce passion and never-say- die attitude made simple next-door girls, achievers. They are gutsy and spunky. Maya profiles three such women, a dog trainer who broke the glass ceiling and take up a career despite rebukes; a Chemistry teacher who tried her hand in fashion designing without formal training and a spunky doctor making her mark in the big bad world of politics. Here are three more inspiring stories of young achievers, as second part on women as engines of social change. They are role models in their own rights. A report exclusively in Different Truths.
Let me introduce you friends to three fascinating women, who listened to their inner calls, well in time and responded to it with full zeal. Their passion has, after initial menace of adverse winds, blossomed to give them the much cherished fruition, satisfaction. They had the courage and spunk to be different and moves on despite ridicule and oppositions to be accepted as achievers.
Rupal: A Woman Dog Trainer
Meet Rupal Chopra (RC). She is a dog trainer. Let’s find out how she blossomed into one.
She says, “I believe in dog! The journey from working in a kitchen furniture industry-a family owned business, to being a certified ‘Canine Trainer & Behaviourist’ has been a roller coaster ride for me. My love for dogs started 11 years back with my first pet, Zorro, a double coated black German Shepherd. He changed the way I used to think and feel about animals and from there I started feeding strays, making temporary shelters for them in winters and rainy seasons. The love that they gave me in return can’t be explained. It’s true that a dog is the only thing on the earth that loves you more than he loves itself.”
MK: What on earth gave you the rather fanciful idea to be a dog trainer?
RC: Guess few things are destined and have to happen. I believe I didn’t choose this profession but it chose me!” Rupal beams and smiles.
RC: Well here’s my story. A couple of years back I decided to take a break from work and go to Lonavala, a camp site, for this exciting course in canine care, which came across to me randomly while surfing on the net . I went there to have some fun with dogs and learn a little more about pets. Frankly admitting though, I had never thought of coming so far in this field. The experience, the learning and the feel of working with dogs is beyond words. From theory sessions to live training with dogs, everything has been worth doing. On my last day at the training, when everyone was busy showcasing their training skills and performing task to win the title of being ‘the best team of trainers’, I was a busy in a corner with a 3-year-old brown Labrador dog named: Helga, who was well trained. My mentor told me that she never fetched for anyone. I decided there and then that this training and study would only make sense to me if I was able to convince Helga to fetch for me. And after 20-30 minutes of trust-building-session with her, surprisingly she did finally fetch for me! That moment gave me the confidence that yes I could do this.
She adds, “I still remember the words of the renowned lady from Pune Kennel Club, who presented me the certificate, “You definitely deserve more than this certificate, you actually care for them". From then till date, there's been no looking back. Every step I take is new and that gives me the courage to move on. My mentors convinced me to take it further as there weren’t enough trainers in and around Delhi with these skills. With all the excitement in my heart and the budding confidence to shoulder the task I loved, I decided to train dogs and handle their problems, in Delhi.”
MK: But getting on ground zero and making a career in canine field was certainly not a cakewalk, I suppose?
RC: Years ago, when we would visualise a dog trainer, an image of a stout man with an aggressive personality would come to our minds. Actually this is what most of us have seen.It was hard to make people understand that it was your body-language that mattered and not the body-type and me, being a young, soft-spoken, petite could still handle this. Many times I had to ask people to allow me to work on their pets, as my work, I assured them, would speak more than my words. I remember, one of my clients once asked me out of curiosity, ‘You are from such a good background, have a perfect profession, then why do you do this? I am sure you don’t need money’.”
MK: And how did you react to that? It must have been an embarrassing situation?
RC: I smiled and said it gave me something which money could never hope to!”
MK: Did your family members accept easily what you had chosen to be your career? I mean, you had been chosen by the career?
RC: Not only clients, I had to convince my family to get started with it. We all know Indian culture and its codes of conduct, the society pressures. So it wasn’t and isn’t still easy for me to convince that this job is more than worth doing. There were people who made fun of this profession and then there were people who would do the comparisons while some chose to be silent. A few though were really happy and excited to see it happening. Fortunately, my family has been very supportive throughout, especially my husband, without whom I could have never done this. Actually, the scenario of pet training and trainers have changed over the years. We just need to educate people and create more awareness about it.
MK: What was the initial urge that ushered you into this?
RC: I still remember to have hired a local trainer, who used to train other dogs as well in my society 10 years back, to train Zorro. Like every other trainer, he used to come and take him out for 40-45 min. session. We never got a chance to see what he trained and how. After a few classes, I observed that Zorro never wanted to go out with him; his body language would change every time he saw the trainer. Like most of us would, I was apprehensive to ask the trainer why my dog showed reluctance. I even thought that it might be a good sign that Zorro was just being trained to be obedient. One day, Zorro came back panting and limping, didn’t
have his food properly and didn’t want to go out of the house even to play. That day I realised he was not happy with his sessions. I realised that wasn’t how I wished to have him trained. I saw sadness in his eyes, which I never wanted to see again. It was better to have an untrained dog than to have a sad dog in my house. I had lost my trust in trainers and their stale training methods. Even today, I see lots of trainers on roads using sticks and choker chains to train dogs. Once I even saw a dog walker walking with his hand crossed at the back and the dog was carrying his stick in his mouth on the road. It’s sad to see how people have found ways to make money by torturing these loving pooches.
MK: Who do you owe the maternal instinct you seem to have developed for dogs?
RC: Thanks to my mentor Shirin Merchant and Junaid Merchant for introducing us to this wonderful world of canine care and showing us that there are far better ways to train an animal. And it’s because of them, I have regained my trust in dog training so much so that I am a trainer myself today. We have been trained to use positive reinforcement and reward based method to train dogs. With this kind of training, I hope, am dead sure rather that dog/pets training will have a different picture in India very soon.
MK: Do you think even those who proudly own dogs, need a few lessons?
RC: Perhaps yes. As a trainer/ behaviourist, it’s my responsibility not only to train pets but also to educate the pets’ owners about the importance of basic obedience training, to help them in handling pets’ behavioural issues thus making their life easier, more comfortable and wonderful.
MK: Your biggest motivation comes from?
RC: My biggest motivation has been and is going to be my furry students. It gives me immense pleasure to watch them wagging and jumping and licking my face to welcome me in their homes. The sense of satisfaction that I get from helping and serving dogs through training them and their families/ owners is incredible. I have had the opportunity to trains breeds like pit bull, Labrador, German shepherds, indie, cocker spaniels, Lhasa, beagles, bulldog, golden retriever, pug etc. It’s strange but it’s true, it’s easy to train a dog but it’s difficult to train a human on how to handle a dog (with a wink). Lot of people think that this profession has to do with animals only. But it’s a ‘service’ profession where we are working primarily with people who happen to have dogs.
MK: What means do you employ to spread a word about the good work you are doing?
RC: Thanks to platforms like Facebook, magazines, Twitter through which we can impart the knowledge and create awareness about dog friendly techniques. Apart from taking up in house training, I have a page on Facebook: Rupal Canine Club: RCC, through which I handle queries related to pets, give consultations on pups, tips on training. I use the page as a means to spread awareness about strays’ adoption purpose, impart knowledge on dog development, body language, breed characteristics, etc. Unfortunately, we do not have degrees offered in dog training at our major universities in India. Undoubtedly, a formal education in behavioural, psychology/ ethology/ veterinary sciences will be very useful for individuals interested in these professions.
MK: Any hiccups on the way?
RC: Though it’s been rough sometimes but it has given me strength to fight the odds in the society and do what I feel is worth doing. Working with these most adorable creatures has made me stronger, inspired me overtime and made me a better person today. I believe that I have just started and I still have a long way to go. I have a dream to build an Angels’ Home (as I would name it) on a lush green spacious land for animals where we could have house services like hospitals, shelter home, and a well-equipped training ground for our friends. I think I have found my peace in them and would do whatever it takes to help them! We should never doubt our capabilities. If we can think of doing it, then we can do it!
MK: Would you like to give some message?
RC: My message to people: Our prime purpose in this life is to help animals. I have a request too: if you can’t help them please don’t hurt them at least.
Neeta: An Accidental Ace Fashion Designer On my list of women of essence there comes next Neeta Sharma (NS), who runs a boutique and is a fashion designer, who would like to keep away from limelight. To her, it’s her passion, her life. More than for the material gains the glamorous profession brings, she works for her personal satisfaction. When she isn’t at her studio, she is a fish out of water. She has sailed through tides smooth and turbulent and reaped a rich harvest of experience and worldly wisdom on the way. With great reluctance she agrees for the interview.
MK: Tell us about your family background, Neeta.
NS: I was born and brought up in a typical orthodox family. I used to be a shy, introvert and a very timid girl who had inhibitions regarding almost everything. I used to be very simple. A Science student I was very studious. I did nourish some dreams, however, in my heart. My family was bewildered to know that I opted for love marriage. My family didn’t accept my marriage. I worked as a Chemistry teacher for quite some time before I married. Fashion designing was a field pretty alien to me. It was purely a happenstance, though I did have a world of interest in it, and beautiful dresses always made my heart skip a beat. I could never have thought of this as a career option because of the family environment, at my parents’ home. A designer in my hubby’s company was on leave and he was supposed to send a few important emails. He was naturally ruffled. Without his prior consent, I designed and mailed the same. I was pleasantly surprised as my designs got selected right away! My hubby got the order he expected to. Here, began my journey. I did a course in Fashion Designing and there’s been no looking back since that day. Having worked for quite some time in my hubby’s company, I opened my very first studio, in Alwar. I candidly accept not having made much money but I can really boast having earned a lot of love and respect from my clients. I wouldn’t have managed really to come so far without my hubby’s support. Things really got pretty smooth once I had that unconditional support from your spouse. My father-in- law has been by torchbearer too throughout this wonderful journey of somehow being able to leave a stamp behind. I have had my wells of positive energy from my mother, whose faith in my potential never wavered whatever be the situation.
MK: What’s the current status? I mean where do you find yourself?
NS: I have started designing for particular modelling shows and VIP clients. I have also begun making samples for the established brands. I have currently been manufacturing women’s apparels in Jaipur. I’m also for working for Mumbai though I have no studio there. I design apparels for clients, who work in Bollywood, the Mumbai film industry. There’re clients who would have nothing but what I design. I love to take pains for them. Kavya, with Salman Khan in the pic, is one such client of mine. She is a TV anchor, who gets all her apparels designed by me. A few have such blind faith in my expertise in the field that they don’t even tell me what they want! They rather leave it to me to decide what suits their personality the best – not only the designing part but the fabric as well. I love to do justice up to what limit I can.
MK: What do you think about gender equality and what’s women’s role in ensuring it?
NS: Women have been strong enough to work efficiently on both fronts i.e. personal and professional. The more exposure they have in the outer world, the more social equality and gender equality it leads to.
Nagalakshmi: A Doctor Makes her Mark in Politics
Let’s meet Nagalakshmi Chowdhry (NLC), an esteemed member of Dental Council of India (DCI), nominated by the Karnataka Government. Twice has she stood for elections in DCI for Executive Committee member’s Post. She did become a member of the Oral Health policy, a member of Doctor Cell Congress, and the Vice President of Mahila Congress. Her husband is a renowned Implantologist. As she addressed for the first time in favour of the Chief Minister, protesting against the BJP MP, the crowd cheered her up averring that they saw Indira Gandhi in her!
MK: Tell us about your voyage and all the ups and downs you have sailed through being a woman playing conspicuously well in the arena called politics.
NLC: Leadership can’t really be taught. It can only be learned. From school days, leadership qualities were budding within me. I used to participate in school level elections, which continued even during graduation and in post-graduation days. After completing my post-graduation, I pursued teaching and I was loved by everyone for being an unbiased guide and a staunch believer in the potential of my students. I have even won the best teacher award and I am proud to affirm that my students are my strength and my pride too. I teach at HKE Dental College, Gulbarga.
MK: How have you evolved as a person?
NLC: When this wonderful journey was going on I became the Member of Dental Council of India (DCI), nominated by Karnataka Government, which made me even more confident as a woman. For me, the most beautiful accessory a woman can adorn herself with, is self-confidence. As we know passion is the oxygen to human soul, so I have been nourished by my passion to serve my students, in particular, and the society at large, in general. My passion is my strength. As a woman I am bold, intellectual, erudite, fixated on my goal.
These be the traits that hurled me into politics. In my opinion politics is one of the toughest professions for the fair sex. The mental equilibrium while sailing in two boats simultaneously is indeed the toughest challenge. A woman has to balance family and career. To my mind one who has been successful in her family life, can definitely manage any profession well.
MK: Tell us about your family life.
NLC: I have been the first doctor from my village. Mine has been the first inter-caste wedding in my family. My father did not clip my wings. He allowed me to fly! He’s been my role model so far and will continue to be stationed at the same pedestal of reverence as long as I breathe. Today, I want to live his dreams, as he used to be a socialist too. I stand in humility owing him for the pains he took in my upbringing and making me what I’m today.
I’m honest, humble, diligent, and most integrated as a person. I believe in goal orientation, hard-work and above all positive energy that keeps me going. I lost my dad ten years back but I speak to him every day. He dwells within me, as my biggest strength.
MK: Has being a woman ever made you feel weak at knees?
NLC: As a woman, you undergo mockery, breakdowns, hurting comparisons and what not! You, however, have to rise again and again, put your feet back in the saddle for the horse-ride called life. You have to emerge again and again out of your own ashes of failures like a phoenix. My small steps towards my goal make me strong. That tiny voice inside me, urges me to move on, whispering I can! When I mingle with crowd, they find me. I can easily connect to people and their feelings. I have seen poverty and the way of life in the far flung rural pockets, where I still love to spend at least a quarter of my year, on annual basis. Their lifestyle is very different. When I go to my grandma’s place, I don’t miss to visit my friends. I lost one due to cancer (she is in sombre silence for a while).
MK: Who else would you like to express your gratitude to?
NLC: Yes, my mentor, Dr Parmeshwar Ji, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President and Home Minister, who always had faith in my leadership, acknowledging that I was someone who really wanted to work from the grassroots. My teacher and my mentor, Dr Nagrathna, HoD, department of Pedodontics, RRDC, proudly sees in me the spark that would go a long way to enkindle many hearts. That’s where my foundation and support lies!
MK: Did you have political family background?
NLC: No. Women well-educated, well-settled, going smooth with career, belonging to well-off families, rarely enter politics, unless their parents are MLAs, MPs or something like that. Women share half of the population still hardly a handful in politics. But, if you really have social service as your diving force or you want to bring change, then politics is just the right walk of life for you!
MK: How do you feel when people see some great women personalities in you like Indira Gandhi?
NLC: I feel elated but I know who I am. I would more like to be who I am. I am still to learn a lot, a long way to go indeed. I never want to be taken as a VIP. I want to be one amongst all other women around. I believe in growing together. I believe love and humanity to be greater than any other religion. I have a student who calls me ‘Ammi’. I’m proud of this! My students are as dear to me, as my own sons.”
MK: Do you believe women to be the engines of social change?
NLC: By all means I do!”
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