From overdosing on depression pills in a bid to end her life to earning fame and fortune, as the First Indian Zumba Master trainer, Sucheta Pal’s journey from the depths of despair to the height of success is one of raw passion and courage. Few know that this powerhouse of energy, credited with bringing about a dance and fitness revolution in India, is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer who started her career as a corporate warrior only to leave it midway to follow her heart’s calling. Persevering in the face of daunting challenges, both monetary and otherwise, to find her true calling in dance, her story is not just an inspiring account of how to live life your way but also a Wake Up Call for many.
It was while working on a business plan for her dream school as part of the course requirement, that she started feeling caught between the dilemmas of wanting to start a dance school while entrapped in a corporate job.
Struggling physically and emotionally to cope with this low phase in her life, Sucheta describes how she decided to enroll in a personality development course being conducted by an eminent psychologist. While she credits the session with creating a profound impact, the last day of the session ended up shaking her fragile world. She remembers the psychologist asking the participants “‘what is that one thing they want to do in life”’ and her own instinctive reply “I want to start a dance school." It was while working on a business plan for her dream school as part of the course requirement, that she started feeling caught between the dilemmas of wanting to start a dance school while entrapped in a corporate job.
The dilemma intensified further when towards the end of the session, the psychologist took Sucheta aside to tell her that he saw a lot of potential in her business plan and she should work towards it. Encouraging words but they turned toxic for her as she could not muster the courage to take the suggested path. Still in a fragile state of mind, and frustrated by the inability to take control of her life, she decided to end it all by overdosing on depression pills prescribed by her psychiatrist. Her full-throated laugh fills the room as she makes light of the situation by telling me that she learnt that night “never to try to kill oneself without being sure of the dosage of the pills.”
Armed with a newfound appreciation for everything in life, she took a vow never to go down the path of self-destruction again, she admits candidly.
It turns out that the pills were not strong enough to kill her, with the result that Sucheta ended up spending a painful night at home, alone, waiting for the elusive death. Come dawn, she mustered just about enough strength to call her sister and seek help, who rushed over in panic mode. Spending two days in the ICU with pipes sticking out of her body, brought about the inevitable moment of truth. She confesses then to finally awake to a sense of her blessings—-a loving family, home, food and all the material comforts, more than what is bestowed upon a vast majority of people in their entire lifetime. Armed with a newfound appreciation for everything in life, she took a vow never to go down the path of self-destruction again, she admits candidly.
Once on her feet, Sucheta returned to her corporate job albeit with the gnawing feeling that something was missing in her life. The breakpoint, she recalls came in a flash when she felt consumed by this overwhelming feeling of being held prisoner while standing in line for food at the office cafeteria. The imagery of food being served out of big buckets, and hundreds of people standing in single file with trays in their hand for their share of food conjured up such strong images of a prison camp that she felt this irresistible urge to get out. “It was as if I was in jail…that moment I realized that this was not my life and I wanted to do more. I wanted to do something I felt passionate about,” she says firmly.
The break point, she recalls came in a flash when she felt consumed by this overwhelming feeling of being held prisoner while standing in line for food at the office cafeteria.
Putting down her tray, Sucheta simply walked out of the office, certain in the knowledge that she needed to give up this life. With her sister’s unconditional words of support- “do what you want, I am here for you," ringing in her ears, she gathered the courage to seek temporary absence from work. Not just this, her sister was quick to follow it up with an offer that proved to be a lifesaver for Sucheta, for it gave her the time she needed to figure out the future course of her life. What she was required to do, was to help her sister run her leather accessory business—- a job that necessitated taking a train to the slums of Dharavi every day to supervise the karigars and ensure orders were completed and delivered on time, in return for a monthly allowance of Rs 5000 and accommodation, but most importantly, for a chance to follow her dreams.
Dare to Be, a series by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal brings us fearless women who gave wings to their dreams.