Earning more, but secretly

Wagging tongues of neighbours should not disturb her family's status when a woman earns more than her husband. Usha behaves unpretentiously so nobody finds out the money she makes. This 30-year-old's spunk in zigzagging through a restrictive social system makes her a role model for millions of aspiring young girls in India.

Her father had 14 cows and 9 children; he raised his family from milking cows and selling milk. Usha was schooled up to Class 7, but stopped when her father died; six years later her mother passed away. Her elder siblings arranged her marriage to a factory worker five years ago. Her husband's take home salary is Rs 20,000 per month. Usha learnt to drive the scooter they bought after marriage. One day a neighbourhood girl asked her for scooter driving lessons. The girl subsequently got a licence. Next, her friend came to Usha, and soon word-of-mouth spread. So Usha started scooter training classes for women only. It's really creditable that she commands a rate of Rs 350 per hour, higher than professional training schools because she teaches with passion and engagement. Students spend up to Rs 7,000 over three months. Usha says with spectacular confidence that she'll continue to acquire 7 to 10 students every month.

Before marriage Usha was helping a reputed landscaping professional. She learnt gardening and has diversified into this profession. She's independently picked up customers whose lawns she manicures, hedges she trims, perennials and trees she nurtures, and garden beds she fills with seasonal flowers and vegetables. She manages her business with broken English, broken Hindi and an array of South Indian languages. Her strongest work tool is her discipline, with time commitment, precision and refinement. As I was curious, she confided that except for her husband, she keeps it a secret that she makes Rs 1 lakh per month. From this she spends about Rs 40,000 for petrol and garden labour, paying Rs 500 a day for superior skills, Rs 250 for basic labour. With no educational degree, Usha's ambition is that her two toddlers become an engineer and a doctor each. She wants them to be proud professionals, and not hide behind society's expectations, the way she's doing today.

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