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Shubhi

Events & Employee Engagement Manager,

Ola

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“Some days when I look back at my life, I'm in awe of the courage that dictated every choice I made. College was the place where the heart of it truly set in. I was studying hotel management, which tied in beautifully with my personality - extroverted, out there, and good with people.

Over three years of college, I came into my own, and did everything possible—I made friends for life; I learnt how to ride a bike; I won the college pageant; and I even got myself suspended for something I never did! Every experience and every adventure shaped me into somebody who wasn’t afraid to take risks.

Just before graduation, I was offered a job at one of the best hotel chains in India. Of course, I took it. But once there, I found out that they wanted me for a five-year contract, and one of the stipulations was that I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation. I wasn’t okay with that.

"My would-be manager asked me, ‘You’re really going to let go of your career because of a party?’ I said, ‘I’ll work all my life, but I’ll never see these people again; I’ll never graduate again.’ So, I quit."

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As luck would have it, at that same graduation, I ended up landing a job at Taj. You know, life has a strange way of showing you where you’re meant to be. Because all of this was only the beginning. Although I enjoyed my time at Taj, there was something that kept nagging me, like a splinter stuck in my soul. I’d been a dancer and a performer all my life, something that I’d mistaken for being ‘just a hobby.’ But after working for two years, I had an epiphany… my love for dancing was far too big; it was my passion. So, I built up all my courage, and left Taj to form my own dancing troupe.

Back in the day, that was a monumental risk. Where I’m from, up north, dancing wasn’t perceived as an art form. It was seen as performers donning skimpy clothes and dancing in weddings and events. But in Bangalore, which is where I ended up, things were different. Dancing was an expression of your passion; it was about dexterity, skill, and emotion. It was an art.

Gradually, my passion for dance turned into a love for the stage, which led me all the way to Bombay—the city of dreams. Here, a friend I met through dance helped me land an audition for the film ‘Chak De! India’. I was selected as Gunjun Lakhani, who was a prominent character; and soon enough, our hockey training began.

"But two weeks before filming, when the script was finalised, I saw that Gunjan wasn’t mentioned anywhere. My heart broke. I asked myself, ‘Is it worth giving the next year and a half of my life to this film?’ I went to my director, and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’"

It might seem reckless, but it paid off. Because, if I hadn’t voiced my concerns, but still showed up for practice the next morning—like a good team player—my director would’ve never reworked the final script to give Gunjun a bigger part. And I would’ve never had all those memories… of the girls and me sneaking out in the middle of the night for ice cream; of partying in Australia until 7 am with Shah Rukh Khan; and of seeing my face on a huge billboard in Bandra.

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Sixteen years have passed, and today, I’m the woman who realised that only acting wasn’t going to be fulfilling enough for her, and has bravely forged ahead into the unknown corporate world at Ola. I’m also a Mom who’s single-handedly raising her son with all the love and patience in the world.

When I was younger, I used to wonder where my courage came from. And as I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that it’s not the absence of fear—it’s the triumph over it.

Because I do have days when I feel like I’m failing as a Mom when I walk into work, and days when I feel like I’m failing at work while trying to be the perfect mother. But on those days, I look back at my life, a life where I’ve never let fear dictate me, and I find the courage to triumph.”

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