Anil Jyothi talks about her journey from leading an inconsequential life in a small hamlet near Warangal to becoming the CEO of a software company

Even with her parents alive, Anil Jyothi was made to feel like an orphan after being sent off to live in a government hostel. “My father lied to the superintendent that I was an orphan. I used to blame him; but now I know that he was just a victim of poverty,” says Jyothi. Jyothi smiles and recalls her days at the hostel, walking barefoot everyday, she tells us that she only dreamt of shoes and socks, a privilege bestowed upon the convent girls that she used to watch everyday. “I wanted a sophisticated life. There was a road-side hotel near our hostel; I longed to eat Puri and idli from there. For six years I kept longing. The food given to us in the hostel was infested with bugs,” says Jyothi.

Jyothi studied till standard X, but was married off to a distant cousin. Being vocal in a family where women were expected to ‘bear it all' landed her in trouble on more than a few occasions. Married life brought her more pain than pleasure; constantly harassed and beaten up by her husband and mother-in-law, Jyothi found herself mother to two daughters by the time she was 17. Jyothi recalls having to starve her months-old older child, because she realised she was already pregnant with her second child. Jyothi says that she felt like she was stuck in a rut. But this yearning for change always lingered within her. “Naa gundelo edo cheyyali ane tapane undedi (I had a zeal and passion to achieve something),” she says. She laughs and tells us, she really wanted to eat that Puri.

The grey clouds of bad luck slowly shifted base and with relentless effort, Jyothi landed a job as an adult education teacher in a mandal near Hanamakonda. Jyothi mentions that her family was not pleased, but she fought against them and worked hard and taught dalit members of the village how to sign their own names. With this, Jyoti landed a one-year job in Hanamakonda as a National service volunteer. Her husband rubbished her progress and demanded that she not take up on the offer. She recalls, “He told me that if I set foot out of the house, I needn't come back. I packed a few kitchen items, took my younger one on the hips and held the older daughter's hand and walked out. I thought that was my one-way ticket to freedom.” Her husband however joined her a short while after.

A chance meeting with her cousin from the USA, sparked interest in Jyothi to go overseas and build a life for herself. She learnt software programming and after repeated rejections, she found success. From being unable to afford three square meals a day, today Anil Jyothi Dudipala is CEO to Key Software Solutions based in Phoenix, a NATA co-ordinator in Arizona and FORCE National Advisory Committee convenor. With a glass of water, she also offers advice, “You cannot expect others to come and help you. You have to make it happen for yourself.” Jyothi's personal history keeps her on her feet, “My past in a way pushed me to make the best out of myself,” she says.