“I can finally say I’ve made my mark in the maximum city!”

"I grew up in a small village in West Bengal where people grow rice paddies for a living. Pitaji aur mere panchon bhai kheti karte the. I always wanted to do something different, but had to drop out of school after the 8th and help Pitaji on the farm; money was tight.

Around that time, my friend took me to a workshop where they made silver ornaments. There, he taught me how to make a chain. I wanted to pursue it further, so I trained under him for 3 years; at 19, I came to Mumbai, without a single Rupee to my name, to learn the art of jewelry making.

After wandering for a week, I found a job at a jewelry workshop in Zaveri Bazaar; I lived and worked there. I still remember my first night– it was dark and scorching, there were no windows. I missed home terribly, but I knew I had a purpose– to give my family a better life. The first 10 days were tough– I wasn’t used to the local lingo and was often made to do menial tasks. But I picked up the work in a few weeks and made enough to get by. A year later, I met Sunder ji. He was a jewelry contractor and wanted me to work with him–I agreed. I earned 4000 Rs a month–I’d save every penny to send back home.

6 years flew by; I was finally ready to settle down. So when Maa wrote to me saying she’d found someone for me, I was ecstatic! Her name was Archana; when I met her for the first time, I made 2 gold bangles for her from my savings–she couldn’t stop blushing!

I brought Archana to Mumbai a year later; she was so content with our small chawl. A year later, we were blessed with a daughter. Archana is more educated than me, so she made sure we sent her to an English-medium school. But our responsibilities increased as we had 2 more daughters.

The next few years were hard. In 2010, when there was an economic slump, my wages were slashed. Sunder ji saw I was struggling to make ends meet–that’s when he asked me to join Reliance Jewels. Without a thought, I said yes. At times I’d work until 2 in the morning– I wanted to prove my mettle. Slowly I carved my own niche. All my hard work paid off; my income stabilised and our girls didn’t have to quit school.

But I couldn’t have done this without Archana. I hadn’t given her a single gift in years; once our money problems were over, I made her a gold necklace. To date, she wears the same necklace with pride.

It’s been 10 years here, and now, I lead a team of 40 artisans. I’ve bought my father a shop, and my brothers tools for their farms. An 8th pass who used to live in dark workshops now owns a house in a skyscraper in Malad! When I first came to Mumbai, I used to think ‘How will I ever survive here?’ And after all ups and downs, I can finally say I’ve made my mark in the maximum city!”

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