Soaring the Sky From Humble Beginnings – Story of Madhu Priya!
Some stories are meant to be told, and Madhu Priya’s story is one such story that has taken the internet by storm. Madhu Priya hails from a humble family of Vegetable Vendors. Her journey to the top is a story of every middle-class household in India who works every day to reach their destination and carve their story success. We speak to Madhu Priya about her inspiring story of braving through class discrimination and making her parents proud. Read the conversation below.
Q. Although, you have gone viral. Tell us a little about yourself.
Ans. I live in Hosur, Chennai. My parents are vegetable vendors and we were not very well off when I was a kid. But, my mother was adamant that she will send her kids to a convent school, and she did. Then, I kept on studying, I went to Ethiraj College in Chennai where I did my graduation in English. Later, I did my Masters’s in social work. Now I work as an HR in a startup. I have an older sister, but she took a break from her studies after marriage. Thus, she completed her master’s quite late. This is how I became the first postgraduate in my family.
The path that she had to take was a difficult path, however, Madhu has no regrets whatsoever from the choices she has made. She says she was happy to choose herself and her family above others.
Q. Your journey has been full of will and power, but when it is time to make the right decisions it is harder to make them. How did you make the right decision at the right time?
Ans. Actually, my decisions are based on how they would reflect on me and my family. Here, I live with my parents. I was sure I wanted to English literature, one major decision of mine, which my parents were completely okay with and motivated me to do it. However, one such incident where I had to make a difficult decision was when Google came to my college to select a Google Ambassador. There was an aptitude test and a written test, which I passed. I got selected into the Top 2 from some 600 students who had applied. Everyone was excited, my teachers, my HOD (Head of the Department), and my friends. However, I turned down the opportunity because they told me I had to go to Hyderabad for an induction.
At that moment, I didn’t want to give my parents another financial burden and turned it down. Because all I could think of was how they would be able to manage it. I chose myself. And, I told myself that one day I’ll be at a better place. I did think later maybe I should have given in, and we could have given in, but I made a decision and I don’t regret it.
Q. Has there been a conscious decision of not letting others know about your financial condition? Was it because of childhood?
Ans. It is mostly because of the school I went to, right. People, there were super-rich and everything they used to talk about, be it their trips abroad or the car they bought. Firstly, it was not right to show off someone else’s wealth, it was technically their parents’. So I just did not want any conversations around me about what my parents did and all. That is what they wanted as well. I was very proud of my parents, I was happy and grateful that they let me to a school where I could see the other side of the world. I actually, didn’t even know that I came from the middle class for a long time.
Madhu did not think she would go viral when she put up her journey on LinkedIn. However, either that way or not she would have taken motivating people and helping people seriously.
Q. As you have said in other interviews of yours that it was a video that went viral and then you have been covered by different pages and publications since then. Did you expect this to happen? How did you feel when this happened?
Ans. I still don’t know why the post went viral because I had just written the post simply as a personal achievement. It was not aimed at anything but just to share what I felt. But, it went viral and I guess people could relate to the story and resonate with it on some level. I was interested in social work since college. I used to teach people to speak English and more. I have always helped people and worked to help people in getting an education, as that was what helped me climb the ladder in life and I help people with that. I have crowdsourced fees for people who could not afford fees. But, this virality has brought organization into my social work. My thing is I always wanted to help society back and this is my way of doing it.
Now, with social media, it has become easier for me to work and achieve what I want to. People reach out to me and the network has helped me do this better. Yes, social media has a divide, and there are good and bad to it. Social media could either be used as a weapon or a shield.
Q. Children themselves start discriminating against and becoming cold towards others. Where do you think this stems from? How do we change this as a society?
Ans. I would say it is both. Children usually imitate their immediate parents. Parents have the most influence on their children. Like, if the parents condemn children when they do wrong or disrespect people which they pick from society, then the child would not do it again. But, as even the parents discriminate, they do not teach their children how to not do it. The onus is on the parents. The other thing is society. Are they mingling with people from different backgrounds. They live in their own circles that they do not even have the opportunity to look below them. One thing that I always teach my child is to respect and treat people well, that is the basic.
Q. As a woman, to achieve all that you have would have been more harder for you than for a man, tell us about how you handled that?
Ans. Luckily, my family did not discriminate against gender. They supported me in whatever I wanted to do. They let me study what I wished to. However, this discrimination is there outside of the home, in society, at workplaces, where people just put you down because you are a woman. However, the first place I worked was very progressive. They let me work in the factory as an HR. It was a good experience there. Organisations have inherent sexism in their place. The promotions come easy to the men. They always fear what if the woman employee leaves because of maternity or other family issues. But, now I always stand up against such comments. Once in my previous office, my manager would always critique me in a very rude way. Then, one day, I told him that he can tell me in a nice way. And, his behavior towards me had completely changed and he spoke better. And, I guess that’s how it works. Now, as an HR, I do make sure that I get to hire more women employees, and also stand up for my rights.
Q. Who has been your inspiration in this journey?
Ans. My inspiration has always been my mom. She was the one who was adamant enough to send us to one of the best schools. Although she is a school dropout, I have learned a lot from her and from how she managed the vegetable shop. Her management skills, the stories she used to tell have all made me what I am today. Even if I feel low, I always go to my mom for her opinions. She gives me her perspective, whether I take them into account or not, she always tells me what she feels. And, when she feels low she talks to me. This way I immediately feel better as well.
On her concluding thoughts, to all the women out there who are struggling their own, Madhu says would just say hang in there. Once you grow past this there will be a bank of experience for you to fall back on. While all of us can crib about what went wrong, Madhu chose to take the harder path. She worked through her challenges and emerged successfully. She keeps on emphasising the importance of education in one’s life. That’s the weapon she chose for herself.