On her own
At 47, Annu Kalra recounts her journey as an artist, motivational speaker, wellness consultant and a single mother
By OLM Desk
The one role in life that I have found most gratifying has been of a mother. Nothing compares to the expanse and depth of a mother’s role. From gentle nurturer to fierce protector in minutes; flitting from myriad emotions of anxiety to pride to frustration to awe within seconds, laughing and crying in the same breath; the emotional investment in being a mother is humongous. And for a single mother with the added role of being sole provider, the investment is doubled, but then so are the rewards.
Becoming responsible for little people is no mean task, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or one who is away at work. And then someday they stop being little people. They become fully grown adults, who pleasantly surprise you with their insights and view of life, out there making their mark in the world; giving you space and a chance to reflect on the times gone by and bask in a warm inner glow. Saksham, my elder son, is 25 and works in Bangalore. Samarth, the younger one, at 22, is an intern at an architectural firm and is in his final year in Architecture College.
Back to the past
My own journey of self discovery has resulted in my discovering alternate occupations. After 10-odd years in advertising and media in various agencies like Contract, LeoBurnett, Ambience and Vaishnavi, post my divorce I moved to Sahara as a Communication Consultant almost 10 years back. When the organisation hit a rough patch sometime back, the reduced workload for my profile made more time available to me. Not only did I do courses on Digital Marketing, Analytics to enhance my capacity as a 360 degree Communication Professional, I also pursued my earlier hobby of painting with greater fervour.
In February 2015 I managed to hold my first solo exhibition, Aavirbhav, at the Arpana Caur Art Gallery. It was received rather well. I even received a Build India Award from an NGO Bharat Nirman for my contribution to art. Currently my medium is Acrylic on Canvas and my subject is Divine energies and manifestations. I even write on the subject, interpreting traditional wisdom and mythological stories in the current context.
A gallery of my paintings ‘Mystic Art Gallery’ and my blog posts ‘Musings’ can both be found on my website www. annukalra.com. I created and also manage the website myself. For the website of a fashion wear brand for kids, Chiquitita by Payal Bahl, I write a blog ‘Innocently Yours’.
My understanding and sharing on various issues has resulted in my becoming a Wellness Consultant and Transformation Coach. Training and Mentoring, conducting workshops was a role I had always enjoyed greatly and even completed a ‘Train the trainer Course’ from XLRI. Having dealt with almost every aspect of life myself, I’m able to help people make better decisions, be motivated, overcome feelings of frustration, helplessness, or lack of confidence; help them manage personal relationships; help them develop practical life skills and discover meditation techniques; help and support them manage themselves effectively! I am currently working on a book to enable and facilitate this further.
I recall there were trying times during my divorce despite my being financially sound, emotionally strong and also having the support of many friends and family. But I have come to appreciate, through repeated experiences, that challenges represent opportunities for growth, teaching valuable lessons and enhancing our own potential. When the kids were still in school and I had taken seriously ill, my son had to take me to the hospital and admit me, not an experience I will wish on any young boy! However we both came out of it stronger and better. He learnt managing crises at a young age and I became more conscientious about my health; and learnt first hand the downside of pushing oneself too much.
As the primary bread winner of the family for many years I handled my finances myself. I have always been transparent with my children about my financial situation and openly discussed financial priorities. I accessed and accepted help in the form of advice, loans as well as gifts from family and friends, especially when I was building my own home. Besides the home, my main investment has been in our life, in terms of living decently, getting the kids a solid basic education, exposing them to various aspects of life through pursuing music, fine dining, theatre and travel. Though I haven’t exactly scrounged, I have been quite particular about not depleting assets. When I had sold our house many years back, I had kept that money aside to buy a new place, not dipping into it for my day-to-day expenses; even having to work in a different city without my kids for a while, just so I don’t eat into it.
Whether it is about spending or saving, eating or exercising, working late or dinner with kids, life constantly requires us to make choices. While some activities will lead to monetary benefits, others to emotional or spiritual gratification. We each have to find our own unique balance given the circumstances. That too we have to constantly keep calibrating because the outside circumstances are dynamic. The ability, however, to manage it all comes from within and nurturing and harnessing that internal source has to be an ongoing process. So my advice to everybody is to make some time for their own self to discover that source. Meditate, find a creative pursuit, a volunteer activity, go for a run, anything that nurtures your soul, helps you find your balance. And above all, support those who you can in whichever way you can. Not only will it enriches your own life, but it will also create circumstances where you will receive the support you require. I have received help from quarters I least expected. Yes, there have been instances of betrayal by those I trusted, but at a deeper level I trusted life and it sure vindicated my faith. I continue to be in a good place despite all the challenges.
Wonder’s by working women
- Managing self is really what life comes down to
- Each one of us has to find our unique balance given our individual temperament and situation
- Have your own independent source of income for financial independence for a woman
- Homemakers should be involved with family finances and expand their roles
- Financial independence is not enough if there isn’t adequate emotional resilience
Annu Kalra is based in Delhi and is a Communications professional, artist and wellness professional, is a single mother to two grown up sons
This story was first published in Empower, March 2016