A degree in engineering from Bangalore University followed by two Masters’ degrees from top-notch US universities leading to a six-figure corporate job. When you have all of this, you have all it takes to be termed “successful”. Not when you are Monica Bhide.

Shaken by the experience of losing her best friend, she sat down to write her own obituary and realized that more than anything else she wanted to be known as a “writer who told stories of hope and inspiration.” This led her to throw in the towel on her decade long career in Corporate America in favour of becoming a writer. Sure enough there were a host of naysayers to whom her only response was, “it isn’t a choice, but a calling”. Today her body of highly acclaimed work has laid her critics to rest. This is her story of belief and passion.

Shaken by the experience of losing her best friend, she sat down to write her own obituary and realized that more than anything else she wanted to be known as a “writer who told stories of hope and inspiration.”

Picture a fifth grader being asked to write an essay about a spring morning. The last thing you expect is a write up about a war torn country with a mother crying over her dead son on the street. The teacher didn’t expect it too and true to the belief that a spring morning is supposed to be happy, marked a zero on the paper. Until the child walked up to the Vice Principal of the school, who marked the essay an A+ all right, but not before reminding the child that she had a powerful voice that she must use to voice diverse opinions.

Monica Bhide
Author Monica Bhide

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That is Monica Bhide for you. The fifth-grader who has grown up since, but the one thing that has remained unchanged is her powerful voice. One would think, for someone with such a vivid imagination and exceptional writing skills, her career as a writer would be cut out early. Not quite. “It’s been a hard road to get here,” she says.

Having left India when she was just six, her growing up years were spent in the Middle East. As a child of immigrant Indian parents, the focus on attending school regularly and getting good grades was a given. But so was her early love for food and stories, a concoction that she used to her advantage in later life. Her father used to travel a lot and his arrival back home was always an occasion for celebration, with stories about the food that he would bring back from different countries.

She recalls how much pride her parents took in her career progression and how many Indian parents would reach out to her in the States, wanting career advice for their daughters as they wanted them to “become like her”.

When she graduated from high school, she wanted to study journalism and even received a full scholarship to a University in California. Except that her father, with a mindset that is common to most migrants, felt that a technical degree would offer his daughter greater financial security and persuaded her likewise. Monica ended up studying engineering in Bangalore and followed it up with two Master’s degrees from the States, one in Information Systems Technology and the other in Industrial Systems Management, culminating in a thriving corporate career.

Her job with a consulting company, teaching project management and leadership skills, by her own admission “‘paid good money and got me to see the world”’. She recalls how much pride her parents took in her career progression and how many Indian parents would reach out to her in the States, wanting career advice for their daughters as they wanted them to “become like her”. While she continued to dish out helpful career tips, she secretly hoped that these girls would go on to follow their own calling instead of emulating her.

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Dare to Be, a series by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal brings us fearless women who gave wings to their dreams.

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