To be a “somebody” in any field is rough, let alone becoming a pioneer in a society which in its own ways tries to anchor women down. On top of this to overcome clinical depression, the language barrier and the know-how of a different country and yet break the boundaries, set the standard and become a pioneer in not one but two different aspects of a field, carry out many other jobs and doing everything with grace seems like a story doesn’t it?
Well, all of the above is true and is not fiction. This story is of Mannsi Agrawal and the journey that she has been through. Mannsi Agrawal today, is a distinguished toastmaster, a corporate trainer as well as gives workshops in colleges too, a theatre artist, a stand-up comedian and admin of a Facebook group “Kathmandu Moms” which has 10,200 members, Nepal’s first baby photographer and food photographer.
This journey however was not short and definitely not easy. Let me take you a little back in her story, born to a modern unit family in Calcutta, Mannsi has always been the sharp kid in the block. From being a record breaking swimmer at school to receiving gold medal at graduation in economics majors, she had always been on the top. She has always been competitive and full of high spirits. She was just 21 when without her knowledge her marriage was arranged by her father. Now this “soon to be her husband” was a guy she had never seen and his family, even the father had little knowledge of. The marriage was done and she was sent off to the husband’s home: Nepal. Imagine being not only in a different house but a completely different country; the struggle, the pain, the language barrier and knowing literally no one in this place; this was her new reality. She was now in a conservative family which was a complete opposite of her family. She was the most popular girl in her group and her school/college. A person excelling in everything, outspoken strong women. This new reality was what pushed her more and more towards depression and suicidal thoughts; such reality was truly harsh for anyone to swallow.
What happens is thoughts that never came before start to occupy your mind and then starts to circle around you creating a negative atmosphere for yourself, a vicious circle! She though had accomplished so much and excelled in so much felt that it was “she” who was the problem, “she” who had shortcomings and this pushed her even more to the dark side. Now being the kind who finds it hard to express their feelings she bottled up feelings and kept it to herself. The atmosphere around the house was suffocating her as she was being told what to do and what not to do; a thing that had never happened before. This is was frustrating. She got ill and was diagnosed with jaundice which kept her in bed for 4 months; right after that, typhoid was diagnosed and she again had to rest. However beautifully decorated, a cage will always be a cage. She had to go somewhere, anywhere.
THE HARDEST BATTLE IS AGAINST YOURSELF.
This particular moment in time was one of the turning point in her life. Her uncle, Ashwini Agrawal who had taken her to a Kathmandu toastmasters meeting changed the dynamics of her life. She talked on a table topic, where you get spontaneous topic and have to speak in it for certain minutes. She was awarded for her speaking which was such a happening thing at that moment. She went to another toastmasters meeting and again the same happened and this continued and she had won many awards. It made her realise that I am not completely useless as they say, I might not be good at certain things but presenting self and public speaking; I am certainly good at. After a while, she joined Kathmandu toastmasters and was now practicing, editing, re-writing, taking mentorship and doing everything that she can do craft a beautiful speech. This had elevated her spirits in every positive manner and she loved it. Now, everything started to take shape up. Yes, it took time but things were now falling in the right places at the right time. She battled with her depression for 3 years and came strong than ever. Toastmasters’ was one of the reasons that helped her win the battle against depression. The other was the change of her location. She and her husband started their lives from the scratch and not being in the atmosphere where you are dictated and getting to do what you choose liberates you in a way that is exhilarating and inspiring to self. Initially, the financial problem was there but they managed to get through it. She then, was also working as a marketing manager at city centre and was making decent money to support her and fund her interests. She left the job after a while to start an event management company which turned out to be a disaster in just 4 months of its inception. It was for the better it seems.
She then got introduced to Archana Sarda, a brilliant contemporary play-writer. She then too like Mannsi was struggling on what to do; Sarda was suggested to continue play-writing by Mannsi and Mannsi amazing presence made her a theatre artist. This is the time when “Pink and Grey” was born. Her theatre journey had begun here. She at that time was doing toastmasters and was focused on being a distinguished toastmaster, which she did after completing 40 projects and founding Himalaya Toastmasters Club.
IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO LEARN MORE; NO ONE CAN STOP YOU.
She had connected with Shaili Basnet (one of the member of “Seven Summits Women”) through toastmasters club and upon seeing that she was doing stand-up comedies she was intrigued by the idea. Though the first three went down the river, the following started to shape up and she got better sooner than later. The other turning point was here to come as she was about to have her first child; Surya. She had thought to herself that she wants to take amazing pictures of her child. She attended a workshop by Kirtan Tamrakar, a baby photographer based in Sydney. A two day workshop is not enough to learn anything but was enough to show Mannsi a different world. She then took her baby’s photo once every month for seven months. Gradually, she was getting better and better. Soon after that, her friends wanted her to click photos of their kids and so she did. The social media served as boon to Mannsi as seeing her photographs the friend’s friend and their friends started ringing her up and were asking would she take their child’s photographs do and how much will it cost them. Till this point, she had done without any charge but now she figured she might do this professionally too. This gave birth to Cherry Orchard Photography which has been running strong for 2 years and she has successfully shot 150 families. She had learned everything from starch, talent was not the reason she has been a successful pioneer and the camera definitely isn’t. It is the person behind the camera that does all the work and it depends heavily upon the person and their skill set.
GREAT STOVES DON’T MAKE GREAT FOOD.
Hard work is the answer and hard work has always been the answer for Mannsi. From preparing the speeches for toastmasters meeting to learning theatre to capturing amazing photographs; everything has taken a lot of patience, hard work and learning. Soon she started off as a food photographer and has already worked with big names such as Shangri la and Jagadamba foods. She advises everyone not to take anything for granted and stresses that we all need to work harder, strive for better and achieve bigger both individually and collectively. The blame game needs to stop and taking responsibility should be incorporated by every individual in their lives. She says so as her life has been a culmination of hard work and hard work is like inertia it will keep you moving.
HARD WORK BEATS TALENT WHEN TALENT DOESN’T WORK HARD.
Despite having depression, the language barrier, a lack of emotional support and confidence at first she has proved that with enough hard work, strong will and determination one can actually break any barriers and move both upward and forward in their life. It takes your mindset to change your life. You can either choose to remain where you are or choose to rise above your own mindset and take over the world.
THE HEIGHTS BY GREAT MEN REACHED AND KEPT, WERE NOT ATTAINED BY SUDDEN FLIGHT. BUT THEY, WHILE THEIR COMPANION SLEPT, WERE TOILING UPWARD IN THE NIGHT
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Written by Sagar, The Octopi