The Inspiration to Keep Going
I was the head of Human Resources for an international hospitality group, and I started getting to know a wonderful human being: someone who was new to the job. As a banquet sales assistant, her tasks included taking up banquet bookings and making sure the entire process was seamless and delightful for the end user. Let’s call this woman Maria. Maria used to tell me her story of coming from a low-income background, and her aspirations to be different and to break the income barrier. By then, I was evolving into a feminist even though I was male. I didn’t have any gender stereotypes by the time I was in my mid-career.
Maria used to share her aspirations, and I was not sure how I would help her channel her path by then. I thought that she could do well as part of the HR team, and I once joked with her that we didn’t have any vacancy and we were rigid when it came to hiring people in HR who were from a non-HR background. A few months went by and we had a new executive chef join us. His behavior towards women was not desirable. His intention was to flirt, crack cheap jokes, and harass women employees. I brought this to the attention of my general manager, and nothing happened. One day, he tried to act smart with Maria and I saw her taking a half-day leave and sobbing while she was exiting the building. The next day, I found out that the chef had spread some wrong information about her behavior with a customer, and she was asked to quit by the management.
She came to my office straight after resignation and said, “Sir, I do not mind resigning, although I know it is not my mistake. But I cannot stay unemployed, as you know my background. I will do any job.” I asked her to wait while I started dialing the numbers of HR managers at other hotels in the city. One after the other, people told me that there was no vacancy. Finally, at one hotel, I was informed that there was an opportunity for an attendant for a jewelry store on the the hotel premises. I thought it would not suit her. I invited Maria into my office again and told her that I regretted that there was no vacancy anywhere, barring a job as a jewelry salesgirl, which was not good enough for her. She looked at me for a few moments and said, “I will take it, sir.” She went for the interview the next day and was selected. I got to hear from her often on the phone, and although the pay was less, she was happy that she was working.
After a few weeks, I got a call from her; she was excited. One of the managers of that hotel was impressed watching her work and had offered her the same job she had at my hotel! I was happy hearing that and wished her luck. She got busy subsequently, and I ended up moving from the city. We were barely in touch for at least a couple of years after this moment.
Three years went by, and one day, while sitting in my office in another city, I got a call from an unknown number. I picked it up, and it was Maria. She asked me to guess what kind of work she was doing. As a blind guess, I said, “Are you in HR?” and she yelled in excitement, “Yes!” She added, “I am in HR because of you.”
I was not expecting this at all. Then she explained, “You used to hear me out and inspire me by just listening, without judgement, and you didn’t have a bias towards the female gender. I am trying not to be opinionated towards men, and I listen to all while trying to uplift people.”
Apparently, she also found another role model: another woman, who was the HR manager of the new Hotel Maria was working in. Maria saw her as an inspirational leader and was encouraged to talk to her. She remembered her discussion with me about being part of the Human Resources team, and she asked the manager if there was an opportunity in HR. There was, in another city, and Maria gladly took that up.
I am inspired by Maria’s sheer will and perseverance to do something wonderful in life. I was just a small channel for her to facilitate her dream and sustain her ambitions. Now a larger set of people are touched by her ingenuity, compassion, and courage.
Sandeep Kulshrestha is an educator and a former corporate employee who loves positive affirmations and rejoices in writing poetry. Sandeep is inspired by life’s stories in which people with indomitable will face all odds with perseverance and sacrifices, and emerge successful. He loves to write gratitude notes and is keen on learning Spanish. He lives and works in Hyderabad, India.