Don’t be afraid to make unconventional choices – they’re what make you ‘you’!
Written by: Nisha Shah
From being judged in a conservative Odia society for being unconventional to making her own choices and following her heart, Debashri’s story is nothing less than inspiring!
“I grew up in a conversative Odia society where girls were taught –– 'Women can't.' But, as the youngest of 3 girls, I’d always speak up, which earned me the title of 'rebel'! But Mummy and Papa let me be me. Papa would say, ‘Don't let anyone stop you. Follow your heart!’
This gave me the power to dream. So, when I had to choose a career, I took up Architecture–I’d always been a creative person! While studying, I discovered my love for construction sites. Meeting new people and building something together—it felt incredible. But after graduation, when I asked to be put on the field, I was told, 'Sites aren’t for girls.’
Angered, but not discouraged, I kept asking—and finally, I was given an on-site role. But I had more biases to fight. Labourers didn’t listen to me and my male team members excluded me from meetings. This went on for 4 years. I was frustrated, but I kept pushing—that was the only way I’d break the glass ceiling. And finally, at 26, I was entrusted with constructing a guesthouse.
And I finished that 6 month project within 4.5 months—it was my chance to prove myself! But you know what my actual win was? After that, my company started deploying more girls on the site!
After that, I got bigger projects––I’d stay on-site till 4am and still be back at 9am; that’s how 8 years went by in a jiffy. And one day my boss came up to me and said, ‘Why are you still here?’ I was taken aback. But what he told me next, changed my entire perspective. He said, ‘You’re meant for bigger things.’
That’s when I decided to pursue my higher studies in the US at 31. And when I returned to India, I was hungry to explore –– and explore, I did!
I was offered a job by Tata Projects––to construct a hotel. It was a huge project; but what was most exciting was that it was going to be an all-women’s team! I was thrilled—on the first day, I remember thinking, ‘What wonders can a team of 28 women do?’
I got my answer as the next few months unfolded and my team surpassed all my expectations. I still remember, once, my team stayed on-site and worked nonstop for 30 hours, because they were determined to finish a task.
And working side-by-side, we became each other’s pillars. When my 3-year-old son fell ill, I was torn between my professional and personal life. Seeing my dilemma, my team said, ‘Aap usse yahaan le aao, hum dekh lenge.’ They made a bed for him and while I’d be busy in meetings, they’d care for him. In those moments, I realised we were a dream team!
Looking back at everything I’ve achieved, I think 24-year-old Debashree would be proud! And she’d be prouder of the fact that this project has far surpassed the mere 2% employment rate of women in this industry. ‘Ab koi ladki ko prove nahi karna padega ki woh bhi iss field mein kaam kar sakti hai!’
Now that we’ve constructed a hotel, I dream of an all-women’s team conquering newer sites, like maybe another Sea Link? ‘Just tell us yeh nahi ho sakta, aur hum kar ke dikhayenge!’”
HOB, with Tata Projects, celebrates the spirit of strong women!
Being India’s biggest storytelling platform, Humans of Bombay is all about bringing you extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Today, we bring you this inspiring story of a woman who has followed her heart, not caring what society said, that led her to become the woman she is today! If you’d like to read more such stories, check out our book and dive into the diverse tales of a country with billion beating hearts!