War widows chase their dreams at IIM-C

Indrani Dutta

They are set to take the plunge into corporate world

Despite tragedy in their lives, they want to take their life forward

They are taking 6-month programme in business management at IIM-C

KOLKATA: It is not for them to wallow in self-pity or eke out a living anyhow. The spark may have been in them all the while and it perhaps took a tragedy to ignite the fire in their belly.

They are war widows who are taking a six-month course at the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta. They are set to take a plunge into the corporate world. Not necessarily for the good life it promises. For many of them, it would mean carrying the torch their husbands handed over to them before laying down their lives.

But the Shalinis and the Rameshwaris are not the only ones on the Joka campus of the IIM. Along with them are 52 Army personnel — some veterans of the 1971 war, some disabled after the Kargil war. But all are united in their resolution of taking their life forward.

Confident of success

Says Shalini Chowdhury who lost her husband a counter-insurgency operation in Jammu and Kashmir in February 2007: “I learnt from my husband not to be a coward, to hold your own and to take your life forward. That is just what I am trying to do now.” She is confident of striking it big in the corporate world. “I will head a global marketing outfit one day,” she told The Hindu.

Shalini was a teacher at her husband’s place of positing, but she always wanted to pursue a career in marketing. A month after her husband died, she joined the Bangalore-based Tyco International as the head of marketing, a job that eventually took her to the Singapore headquarters. She quit her job to join the six-month postgraduate certificate programme in business management at the IIM-C.

The courses for officers of the Indian Armed Forces are sponsored by the Directorate General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence.

Echoing Shalini’s sentiments is batchmate Rameshwari Chauhan, whose husband died while fighting militants in Jammu and Kashmir in June 2006. But her dreams are somewhat different. She wants to join a non-governmental organisation and eventually float one for tackling the issues of children and senior citizens.

“My husband and I adopted a girl although we had our own child. My husband also sponsored two children at the SOS village. I want to do something that will make my children look up to me,” she says.

The batch pursuing the IIM residential course includes war veterans: Brigadier A.K. Khosla, who received his commission in 1971 just 10 days before the India-Pakistan war broke out; Lt. Colonel Satish Mallik, who lost a leg in a landmine blast in the Kargil war; and Kushal Roy, who was injured in a grenade attack in a counter-insurgency operation.

According to IIM sources, the management institute decided to run this programme for the second year after noticing the zealous dedication and enthusiasm of the first batch. Eminent faculty members cover this curriculum, the sources said. “They have practical management experience in the forces, now they learn the finer nuances of management so as to effectively channel their experience in the corporate sector.”

Corporates keen

The corporates too seem to be keen on recruiting the men and women in khaki. “Last year almost 80 per cent of the students got their placements on the campus itself. About 20 per cent of the recruiters were overseas companies. Their core values of loyalty, integrity, hard work and focussed approach, coupled with newly acquired management skills, are making them winners in the boardrooms too,” said a source at the IIM.

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