In a quaint little town in Assam, there stands a bakery whose door chimes a bell every time it opens or closes. On winter nights, when the fog blankets the town, the light from the bakery shines through in a welcoming yellow glow. Residents flock to this petite café every season. Last time when I visited home, I dropped by to have a cup of hot coffee sprinkled with chocolate dust, just to warm my chilled bones. Given the ambience, it’s a beautiful place to relax (or for writers like me who are always running against time to meet a deadline, it’s a great place to write).
‘Tinkle’ went the bell as I entered the café. Light music, raucous laughter and subtle conversations welcomed me. The heady mixed smell of cocoa and baked food created quite a cosy effect that winter afternoon. I found myself a pretty corner by the window that overlooked the street. A winter sun hung, lazily casting its feeble rays on my table. I set my laptop on the table under the light of the setting sun, trying to make the most of the precious rays.
As I was plugging in my laptop, the owner came over. “Coffee with chocolate dust today?” she asked, cheerfully.
“Yes,” I replied, straightening up and smiling back at her.
I have been a regular customer for years and we had developed an unnamed relationship that crossed the threshold of just a commercial exchange.
“Running against a deadline?” she asked, turning to get my order.
“Almost,” I replied sheepishly, as I switched on my laptop.
Ruminating over the challenges
I was writing about ‘The challenges that a woman faces in her career after motherhood’ for a women’s magazine. The background of the café played subtly in my consciousness as I continued on my draft. The owner, Minoti, gave orders to the waiter to prepare my order. While she was at it, her youngest son, sitting at the counter completing his homework, called for her help. A little later her daughter came in from her karate classes and cried, “Mom, juice!”
Minoti looked up from the homework, hollered orders to someone in the kitchen and moved on to hug her daughter and from there went to her eldest son who was working out the accounts for the day on another table. ‘Tinkle’ the bell chimed occasionally as more people came in.
As the scene played through in the background, I could not help but wonder how she manages it all!
I sat there writing while the evening drew on quietly.
Pointing to a different perspective
As I sipped the third cup of coffee, Minoti came over to me and asked, “So, what is it you are writing about today?”
When I told her about my topic she asked, “Should not it be the perks of being a mother and an entrepreneur?”
“How?” I asked, curious.
“Let me tell you my story,” she offered.
“Ever since my teens I had always wanted to be a chocolatier. Following my passion I enrolled in a Bachelor of Culinary Arts course. I worked with some reputed hotels before I married. Then, life gave me the best three things of my life. Those brats.” She pointed affectionately at her children, who now simply hung around the café waiting to go home.
It started out as usual
“For a while, I put away my passion and dedicated my life to my children. But then, gradually I felt that I was losing my sense of identity. I wanted to get it back, but I did not know how. My hands were already full. My husband understood my dilemma and advised that now is the time when I should actually fulfill my lifelong desire of being an entrepreneur.
‘How?’ I wondered, while mechanically going about my chores.
He gave me an epiphany
One day, as I sat cleaning the table after dinner, my husband, who sensed my dilemma, said, ‘Because you are a mother, you have gained some extra qualities. You manage things better, you can multitask, you are alert, you are a walking-talking sticky note full of information, you are so many things that you were not earlier. You are capable of greater things now because motherhood has opened a new dimension in you that you never knew existed. These skills, along with your degree and work experience, are the perfect combination to be an entrepreneur. Use these skills and find your way out. Here, read this!’ he said, and gave me a magazine that had an article on mompreneurs.”
“What was in the article?” I asked.
“The article listed women who became successful entrepreneurs after motherhood. Every mompreneur had more than two kids and the businesses that they run is hands down successful. What each woman had to say was that it was all a matter of choice. Yes, it was tough, but motherhood had also blessed them with qualities that can help them make their dreams possible. Challenge or a blessing, once a woman makes up her mind, her life goes in that direction. Will you still write about ‘challenges’ that motherhood brings or will you rephrase it as ‘blessings’?”
She changed my mind
“Definitely blessings,” I told her, “if only I had the time.”
“Deadline is over?” she asked. “Yes and I have already sent it to the editors,” I told her.
‘Tinkle’ the doorbell sounded, as the last customer left and her husband walked in.
“Daddy,” the three children shrieked and ran towards the father with their day’s stories.
“Excuse me,” she said and went to greet her husband.
“Here comes my famous mompreneur,” I heard her husband say.
The café bustled with a joyful energy as the family reunited after the day. I packed my belongings and made my way discreetly to the counter. As I swiped my card, Minoti said, “Maybe the next time you write, write about this perception. Who knows, some more women might be inspired; and who knows, some men who believe in their wives will be encouraged to support them.”
“Sure,” I said.
‘Tinkle’, the doorbell rang as I stepped into the cold night air, determined that someday I would share her story.