Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Inspirational Story

Not many people know this but I find the story of Mrs. Jyothi Reddy, a very inspirational story, much more than "The Persuit of Happyness". 

Sometime in the 1980s, a young woman labourer was toiling in the fields  under a harsh, southern sun for Rs 5 an hour. Seated on her haunches,  she lifted her head towards the sky as an aeroplane flew past. She wanted to be on the flight…

In 2012, she is the president-founder of recruiting firm Keys Software  Services, which boasts of a $5 million turnover. The company in Phoenix,  Arizona, sponsors H1 visas and supplies manpower to companies

Her rags to riches story is the stuff of  the great American dream. But Anil Jyothi Reddy’s journey from an  orphanage to the top of the world has been an arduous one.

  Crushed by poverty after her father lost his job as a teacher, her  parents decided to keep their son at home and leave their two daughters  in an orphanage. Jyothi’s sister ran back to her parents. But young  Jyothi — then barely nine — carried on.

“When I lived with  orphans I knew the pain of life,” Jyothi, 42, says in a telephonic  conversation from the US. It was a hard life, sleeping on floors without  blankets and eating meagre meals. “I wanted someone to hold me, share  my feelings when I did well at school or felt sad. Those hard feelings  stayed with me. I needed my mother when I was in pain. The worst part  was I had to pretend she was dead.”

Jyothi’s story is one of  determination — her unhappy childhood incessantly pushing her towards  seeking a better life. “These girls (from the orphanage) are hungry for  love and are filled with a desire for a better life,” says Vimla  Radharami, a former matron at one of the four Bala Sadan orphanages run  by the Andhra Pradesh government in Warangal.

Jyothi is now the  owner of a million-dollar company, has customised homes in the US and  India, owns a Toyota Camry (an earlier car was a BMW) and has “enough”  jewellery.

“Her years at the orphanage taught her how to grasp  reality. She always hunted for a way to make life better. The zone of  discomfort is the zone of learning,” reasons Uday Kumar, a  Visakhapattanam-based motivational speaker and co-author of No Condition  Is Permanent, a book on Jyothi’s life.

Jyothi attended a  government school while at the Bala Sadan orphanage. She also took a  vocational course while residing in the orphanage superintendent’s house  and helping out with their housework. It was here she realised the  power of a good job for a woman. But the dream at that age seemed  distant, especially after her parents married her off when she was 16 to  her jobless cousin.

After the birth of her two children, she  became an agricultural labourer, working at her father-in-law’s fields  and in other fields. In Mailaram village, agricultural workers still  remember her as friendly, keen to learn work, but often bemoaning her  fate. “She used to walk around with an umbrella,” recalls one labourer  with a laugh.

What came to her aid was a central government  scheme, the Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK), which sought to create awareness  among the young. She became an NYK volunteer and later started teaching.

“Jyothi was hardworking and developed leadership qualities here,” says  Mandala Parashu Ramulu, a former NYK colleague who now runs a  non-government organisation. “We would encourage villagers to pool in  money to build a bus shelter, for example,” he adds.

She worked  during the day and stitched petticoats at night to earn more. She  learnt typing and studied for a postgraduate degree from the Dr B.R.  Ambedkar Open University on weekends, after obtaining a BA from Kakatiya  Open University at Warangal. In 1992, she bagged a special teacher’s  job, earning Rs 398 a month.

She had to travel two hours to  reach her school, but Jyothi made the most of it by selling saris. “I  convinced my sister’s landlord to give me 10 saris and I got a profit of  Rs 10 from each sari I sold,” she says. “There were women on that train  gossiping or reading books but I did not waste time. I had to support  my children and I needed money.”

Her job as a teacher was  regularised and she was appointed a “girl development officer”. Her  salary shot up to Rs 18,000 — but Jyothi wanted more for her daughters  and herself.

The visit of a relative from the US prompted her  to try her luck in the West. She studied computers, got an American  visa, took long leave from her government job, placed her two daughters  in a Christian missionary hostel — and left for the US in 2000. The  daughters joined her later and are now married. Her husband lives in  Hyderabad and occasionally visits them.

Jyothi started by  working in gas stations and cleaning bathrooms in motels. She babysat  and loaded and unloaded goods, and finally landed herself a job in a New  Jersey cassette shop on a $420 salary.

One day an Indian  visiting the shop offered her a job in his brother’s recruiting firm in  South Carolina for $1,000 a month with free accommodation. Jyothi moved  on.

“It was a crucial time for me. I had to deal with Americans but did not know English very well,” she recounts.

Jyothi often turned to the Bible for help. “I picked up key sentences  from the Bible and repeated them. I’m a crazy learner, I love learning  new things. I believe God will save you if you work hard,” she says  simply. “That is the positive point about America. They don’t look down  on you; I love working in America.”

She excelled in her work,  picking up the trade. But a few ensuing hurdles — a company offered her a  job and then backtracked, forcing her to go back to babysitting and gas  station work — prompted her to start her own business.

The  idea hit her when she went to Mexico to get her visa stamped: “I knew  the ins and outs of the paperwork involved in getting the HI visa  stamped.” With her savings of $40,000, she opened an office in Phoenix  in 2001. “My first placement was a Gujarati boy — I fixed him in an IT  firm. And I was on a roll,” she says happily.

The only  dissenting note comes from her surviving parent — her mother. Recovering  from a lung infection in a Warangal hospital, Swaraspathi Reddy is  unwilling to accept her daughter’s tale of battling overwhelming odds.  “We also helped her but she does not admit that,” she maintains.

Defensive about abandoning her, she says: “Our condition was very bad  then. I too suffered, leaving my daughter behind and would cry for her.  But I never let my sons work or suffer even for a day.”

And therein hangs the tale.