Our First Earnings

Oishi got a summer job as math tutor in a tutoring center – her dream job. After a month, when she got her first paycheck, she opened a bank account and was awarded a debit card with a Visa sign. This made her other dream come true – she will now be able to buy surprise gifts for me from Amazon for Mother’s Day.

Sure enough, a few days later a small package was left on my kitchen counter – a very pretty necklace. “Mama, I knew you wanted to buy a 16″ gold necklace for sometime now. I cannot afford gold, so I got gold color and the length is adjustable to 16″. Also, look, the stones are known as CZ. I did a lot of research on them. They look like diamonds, don’t they?” Then she emailed me a link on Cubic Zirconia. With blurry eyes, I wore the necklace. Seizing that perfect moment, she asked, “Can I please take you out to dinner? Nothing fancy. Just dhosa.” All my lectures on how she should save money seemed to have little effect then. So we went, and Oishi proudly gave her debit card and signed her first receipt at a restaurant.

Many, many years ago, my first earnings came in the form of scholarship money after I started my engineering program. Before going home for my first summer vacation, I decided to spend the money on Ma and Baba. However, the thought of giving jewelry to Ma never crossed my mind. There were so many things Ma needed to improve the quality of her life and jewelry was certainly not one of them. So I settled for a tortilla maker; it was not an electric one because those were not available then, but rather a cast iron one, which I carried home from Kolkata. “Ma, won’t this make your life a little easier? Now you can make the roti and poori much faster and won’t have to spend so much time in the hot and sultry kitchen.” Ma’s eyes beamed. “Yes, it definitely would,” Ma replied proudly.

I bought a utilitarian gift for Ma while Oishi bought a fancy gift for me. Surprisingly, both were extremely fitting with our mothers’ needs. We adjusted the form of our gifts as time and space changed. But we remained true to our primal desire of making the people we love happy.

Necklace from first paycheck
Necklace from first paycheck

Sharmistha’s Book

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Sharmistha Das

Sharmistha Das, an Indian immigrant engineer and entrepreneur, is the author of "From Hindustan Cables Limited - Journey of a Small-Town Indian Immigrant Woman". Every South Asian woman who has immigrated to America will identify with the adventurous journey of Sharmistha Das. Born in a small rural company town of Hindustan Cables Limited in Bengal, India, Sharmistha grew up with her brother, mother and father in a simple home without running water or furniture, but with a great amount of love. Supported by her parents, she left her hometown for Kolkata and became the first female engineer from her community. After her marriage, she moved to Bangkok, Thailand and finally to America, the land of opportunity and heartache. While working and bringing up her daughter, she got her Masters in Business Administration and started her own business. Unthinkable for a girl from Hindustan Cables, she got divorced in 2012 and adapted to a new life as a single woman and as a single mother. Sharmistha’s story will inspire any women to dare to live her dreams.

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