Parveen P Mahtani

The Desert Rose

Parveen means desert rose. And true to her name, she blossomed despite adversities.

Parveen was born into a Muslim family in Mumbai, India. Like many conservative families, girls are raised to finally marry a boy and be a homemaker. Even if they are to work, it could be part time jobs, or art, or stitching. Her father got into a business venture with a foreign partner. That business did not do well and there were legal problems. While dealing with the lawyers at the tender age of 18, she thought to herself, “Why am I taking the advice of others? I should be able to analyze the facts and take a decision myself.” That is when she decided to study law.

Coming from a traditional family, when she disclosed that she wanted to study law, she was told that it is a profession for males and that she would never excel in it. She was told that all she would achieve was standing outside court stamping documents that needed to be notarized. Every time she was told that she could not achieve her goal, it made her channelize the negative energy into a positive inspiration to prove what a determined soul can achieve. She went on to study law and get a gold medal across all law colleges in Mumbai.

She thereafter fell in love with a Hindu boy. In India, an inter caste marriage was a taboo. She was told that she would not inherit anything if she married him. Once again, the inspiration to channelize the negative energy into a positive result led her to marry her soulmate and have two beautiful children with him.

In India, a working woman is either generally perceived as a single or divorced woman, or a woman that neglects her family. Alternatively, if she is working, she must be at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. She was determined to prove all of the above wrong. To top it all, she was a Muslim working mother. So the challenges were threefold. Further, unfortunately, when a woman gets married, she is written off at work. The perception is that she has responsibilities and will get pregnant soon and therefore she is deprived of getting good transactions and positions. Soon thereafter, once you have a child, she is further written off since it is perceived that you cannot manage a child and work. Once you have a second child, you are completely written off! She decided to prove all these theories wrong.

When Parveen had her first child, she was in two minds to take time off. Her mother told her that she had not raised and educated her to become a homemaker like her, where she waits the whole day for the children to come home. She told her that she would come home to supervise the children so that her daughter could fulfill her dreams and achieve her potential.

Parveen’s ever-supportive husband had a difficult childhood where he had lost his father at a very young age. He had seen his mother struggle with six children. He encouraged Parveen to work, stating that “God forbid, should anything happen to me, you should be able to bring up the family in the same manner as they are used to living.”

Parveen therefore, went on to work with some of India’s best companies, leading their legal departments. She now heads the legal department of Tata Housing in India. She is also one of the youngest women directors in a reputed company. She has also been featured in ICCA 2016 among the top 100 in-house legal counsels in the country. All this has been achieved at below the age of 40.

Everytime she was told that she would fail, she made up her mind to prove that not only would she achieve it, she would excel. Parveen now looks at her daughter and tells her that the last man that she should depend on, is her father.

Parveen’s message to all fathers is to encourage all their daughters to be educated and independent. Her message to all husbands is to encourage and support their wives to be independent. Women are daughters, sisters and mothers. They have the ability to make and raise a family. Let us all support a girl child to make this world a better place.

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