Neera, a Deputy General Manager in a Navratna Oil and Gas PSU firm namely Bharat Petroleum Corporation limited, and now in the workspace for over 30 years is a firm believer of the mantra: ‘Narrative Matters’. The stories we tell ourselves form the very foundation of our belief system and have the potential to shape who we are. These stories affect not only our thoughts and actions in the short term but also our outlook on life and the way we live it in the long term. Neera says, “Show me a happy man who continuously says, I am not happy”.
In her 30 years of work experience, Neera has been faced with many work-related pressures, challenges, and unexpected situations. Her personal life has been thrown off gear numerous times as well with unexpected transfers, separation from family members, etc. Yet she sails on, weathering every storm and excelling at whatever she does. Her story to herself is always –Yes I can handle this; if not me who else can.
As a young LPG sales officer many years ago, Neera had to handle one of the worst domestic LPG accidents in India in her sales area in Antop Hill, Mumbai. The horrific accident left 48 people injured and 24 dead. In an official capacity, the best she could do was ensure that every victim gets relief payments in the form of insurance, but in a personal capacity, she went above and beyond by offering solace to every person affected by the tragedy.
As most of the victims were migrant workers with family in all parts of the country, creating enough documents for an insurance claim for each victim was a Herculean task. The majority of Neera’s next three months were spent at hospitals, collecting stories and details of dependents of the dead and injured, and corroborating that information with the local police station. A burn victim undergoes immense suffering and pain, and it takes an emotional toll on oneself to even see a burn patient, let alone handle them and ask for intimate details, and yet Neera had to do it all with a brave face.
10 years of Neera’s life were consumed by six repeated leg fractures that kept her confined at home in her college and early office days. Yet the narrative to herself that things will eventually work out and that every cloud has a silver lining helped her through this tough time. Her family often laughed at the big joke that Neera is getting fairer by staying at home and is getting loads of rest, while her friends slog it out in colleges and later at offices, so she is lucky to be breaking her leg again and again.
The deceased has many claimants for their insurance claims and it was heart-wrenching to see the mother and wife of a poor migrant labourer compete for the claim. Many life lessons were learned by her in this hard time. This nightmare came to an end after months of hard work, during which, the only thing that kept Neera going was the narrative to herself that she can make it happen and it is the least she can do for the people who suffered in this tragedy.
The power of the narrative created around a situation is something that Neera fully understood only when faced with a horrible personal tragedy. Her beautiful, smiling, loving and a relatively young mother was lost to a sudden cardiac arrest. Her rock of Gibraltar had moved. However the moment she changed her narrative to focus on the positive aspects of the otherwise grim situation everything started looking brighter.
She thanked God for gifting her mom to her for so many years of her life rather than lamenting that she was suddenly snatched away. She thanked God for a lovely life and the peaceful exit that her mother had. She chose to celebrate her mother’s life rather than mourn her death. It is then she realized that her narrative to herself is the thing that matters most.
Neera has won several accolades and awards for the amazing work she has done for her organisation in this 30-year long journey, and at the same time, has managed to successfully juggle the other balls of running a house, raising two children, and staying in touch with family and friends.
Her Mantra in life is – even if we do not control what the country or a community expects from us, or the situations we are faced with, what we can surely do is choose our narrative and take charge of our lives. No one has more power over our thoughts, actions, and well-being than us ourselves. Our narrative to ourselves matters, so let us all choose wisely.