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Real Women. Real Stories - In conversation with Pratima Chettri

Where most people who have worked in the corporate sector for 10 years would choose to remain there, Pratima Chettri decided to leave to follow her passion. She wanted to be able to touch and inspire human lives and she’s using music to do it. We had the chance to speak to her about the role music plays in her and her family’s life, her experience as a working mom and her health journey.

1. Tell us a little bit about your personal and professional life.

I am 47 and living in Gurgaon with the husband and 2 kids. Originally, I belong to a beautiful town called Kalimpong in Darjeeling, West Bengal. I came to Delhi, what seems like a long time ago, to continue my education in college and decided to settle down here permanently.

Professionally, I had started my career in a corporate firm, and I stayed there for over a decade. Eventually, I left because I realised that I wanted to do something where I truly touched people’s lives. It had to be something different, and I didn’t have that opportunity in the corporate world.

It seemed like the obvious choice for me was to open a restaurant or something similar because I studied hotel management. However, I opened a music school called Chant O’ Chords Music Academy and very soon I realised that I had taken the right decision. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing music inspire young minds in so many ways and as a result I found this entrepreneurial career extremely fulfilling.

2. What is it like being a working mother with two kids?

There is a difference between being a working mom who is a “going-to-office” mom and a “having-a-business” mom. I have experienced it both ways.

When you are the first type of working mom, you have the luxury of stepping out of the office and closing that door for the day. I remember feeling very comfortable when it came to balancing my home life and work life. I used to leave work at 6pm, reach home at 7pm and till the next morning I was solely focused on being at home, with the family.

Now that I am an entrepreneur mom, it becomes slightly difficult to juggle the two sides because there no strict timings anymore. You get calls and you keep thinking about the business. It makes it very easy for the lines between office and home to get blurred.

3. How do you make sure you stay healthy?

I really enjoy going for a walk everyday but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel lazy. It’s definitely an off-and-on thing where sometimes I feel like quitting. But I think what pushes me to continue is the fact that I am a very conscious person. It makes me very happy when I fit into clothes from my college days, and I do. I get a sense of accomplishment wearing these clothes from over 10 years back, even after having two kids.

As a family, we ensure that our diet is healthy. We use only certain products to make a complete meal that includes proteins, fibres etc.

4. Have you started facing any perimenopausal symptoms? If so, what are they and how do you manage them?

Recently, I have developed problems with sleeping. To be honest, I am not sure if that is one of the symptoms or if it’s a result of the lockdown. I mean we are using our phones and laptops excessively and till very late at night. Regardless, there are nights when I find myself tossing and turning till two or three in the morning. Sometimes even later. I don’t know what the reason is. The only way in which I have tried to manage it is by forcing myself to sleep, by trying to count backwards from 100 or focusing on my breathing. Other than that, I have not faced any symptoms so far.

5. Do you think there is enough accessible information about menopause?

Nowadays, thanks to Google, I would say there is no dearth of information about anything and more importantly, it is all readily available. I also get a lot of information about this through casual conversations with my friends who are either similar in age or slightly older to me. Even though there is so much information, you can never be sure about what is reliable and true and what isn’t. So, what I believe is that even if you are using Google to check your symptoms you must go to the doctor. Only they can tell you what it really is.

6. Your teenage daughter has dedicated her life to her music career. What advice do you have for mothers whose daughters may want to enter a similar field of creative and performing arts?

Regardless, if it is a daughter or a son, if your child knows what they want to do that is the best place to be in. If they are taking responsibility of choosing what they want to do in life, it could be music or law or anything, then that is the best possible thing for them. Because, more than anything, a parent’s first priority is their child’s happiness, and they will be happy for a lifetime if they are able to turn their passion into their career.

My advice to other mothers would be to not rush their children towards choosing a career path. Let them take their time to understand what they feel is best for them. There will be times where you will struggle but at the end your children will know what they want.

7. From a very young age you have had a love for music that continues even today. Do you think that women who are 40 and above should have a creative outlet?

Yes, of course they should! Life moves at such a fast pace that we all forgot who we were and what we used to like as people. Our only goals were about money and career and so many other materialistic things. But I think this pandemic reminded us of all the things we miss doing, that we used to do when we were younger. There are people who always wanted to learn how to play the guitar or soccer. I am a strong believer in following your passions. It’s never too late to do something, to learn something.

8. If you could give one message to working mothers, what would it be?

Love yourself.

As mothers, we can very easily forget about this simple thing and about ourselves. As soon as we have a child, instinctively, we put ourselves in the backseat. We have so many roles to play and so many gears to change. We always strive for the best in every role. There is also a guilt factor involved that if I do something then my child will think of me in a certain way. As a result, you’re doing your best for everyone except you. Everybody else gets your 100% except you.

The way I think is that there is nothing to feel guilty about. You are the mother, and you need to be in the driver’s seat, not in the backseat. While juggling different roles you should not ignore your mental and physical health. I find that maintaining your upkeep is very important. Not doing so, I think can drag you down. At the end of the day, if you are going to take care of people you love, you need to take care of yourself first.

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