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'My mom, my role model'
Wilma Lewis
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June 08, 2007

We asked you to share your parents' successful career stories with us. Here, Get Ahead reader Wilma Lewis tells the story of how her mother, Celine Nazareth, established a successful career for herself, and brought up two children single-handedly: 

When I was growing up, my family consisted of only three other members -- my mom, my grandmom, and my sister. I lost my dad at the age of six, and memories of him are now little more than a blur. I do recollect a few happy moments spent with him, but my sister does not even remember what he looked like -- she was only two when he passed away.

The face that will always be connected to my childhood, and one I will never fail to recall, is my mother's. She has been my mentor and my inspiration, and still is today. I grew up watching her struggle to make a career, and finally succeed.

My mother was just 28 years of age when she lost my dad. She had no financial support, and no qualifications or experience to take up a job -- just basic, minimal education in a regional language. She was a dutiful, simple housewife whose home was her world, when destiny decided to snatch her husband from her. With no savings and three other mouths to feed, she had to bury her sorrow and shock, and find the means to make a living.

Within a month of the tragedy that befell us, mother was out searching for a job in a city she hardly knew. Only a basic knowledge of English and lack of any qualifications proved to be major hurdles for her. From a much-protected environment she was thrown into a world where she had to handle everything alone. She was not familiar with the locality, and had a tough time locating employers' establishments. She travelled to far-off places on an empty stomach, and in the scorching heat, only to return disappointed.

Finally Mother managed to procure a job as a seamstress, where she was paid on a daily basis according to the amount of work she put in. Some days she would get around Rs 10, and on others there was hardly any money. All through this she rarely complained; I cannot recall a single day when she might have given in to frustration.

Feeling sorry for her, my father's friends decided to help her out, and managed to convince the organisation where he used to work to grant her a job. They offered her a job as a typist, on the condition that she should learn to speak English fluently. My mother took this up as a challenge, so great was her desire to succeed and provide a stable environment for her two little children. She started reading borrowed newspapers to improve her vocabulary, and practiced typing on a borrowed typewriter to improve her speed, so that there would be no complaints at the office.

Even after she got this job, life was not easy for Mother on the home front. My paternal grandmother was still finding it difficult to come to terms with the untimely death of her only child, and this was taking its toll on her health. She was constantly ill and medical expenses were mounting, but not once did my mom ever think of abandoning the old lady. Struggling with the household chores, a sick mother-in-law, meeting the emotional and financial needs of two small kids, learning a new language, and the stress of a new job -- my mother handled it all with a smile on her face, and a firm resolve to provide us with the best education.

People are always talking about changes in our society, but my family faced subtle social ostracism all through the time I was growing up. Since Mother was a widow, she was shunned from participating in any auspicious rituals, events or functions. I still remember those days when she would stand far away from the hub of any auspicious event, and we would be standing right behind her, seething with rage. Her silent glances told us that what is unjust and inhuman should be fought against, and so my sister and I resolved that for all the auspicious occasions to come in our lives, it would be our mother who would perform the rites and rituals. On my wedding day, I ensured that my mother performed all the rituals she was supposed to refrain from, despite a background of snide remarks and comments.

In great financial difficulty, she educated us when everyone from her family was discouraging her from doing so. Everyone was trying hard to plant the idea in her head that if she educated her daughters, they would ultimately contribute to their husbands' homes, and she would not receive any support. She knew I wanted to become a chartered accountant, and funding my education at the time wasn't easy -- my grandmother's health continued to deteriorate, and my sister had just started college herself -- but Mother still encouraged me to go ahead with my CA, and approached several people to get me into a firm so I could complete my apprenticeship.

She continued to motivate me to complete my CA, despite my failure more than once, and when I finally passed, it was through my mother's contacts that  I got a job in the field of software consultancy. Today, I am married with three professional qualifications, and in a foreign country doing what I like best. My sister too completed her post-graduation, and got into the same organisation -- she is a successful career woman in her own right. As for Mom, she is still working at the age of 57, as a personal assistant in a multinational corporation.

My mother molded our lives, and made us what we are today. She was a motivating and guiding force. We rose from nothing in life, and it is only because of my mother's desire to see us succeed in whatever endeavours we took up, that we did. She has taught us that manipulation and scheming gets one nowhere. It is hard work, honesty and sincerity that see us through in the long run; she has taught us to be honest with ourselves and others in everything we do, whether at work or in a relationship. 

We were always taught to walk the righteous path, though it may be strewn with thorns and setbacks, as success achieved the righteous way alone, is sweet and long-lasting. She always told us that it does not matter whether or not one earns a lot of money, but it is very important that one remain a good, understanding human being who reaches out to others.

My mother literally shaped our future -- she was the potter who molded the clay of her children's character. After God, it is my mom that my sister and I worship.

Do you have a story to tell about how one of your parents established a successful career for themselves? We invite our readers to share their parents' career stories with us, so youngsters may draw inspiration from them.

Mail your entries to us at, along with your parent's full name, his/ her age, area of work, contact details, and a scanned photograph of him/ her. We will feature the best stories on!

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