By Tejinder Kaur Sethi
I belong to a middle-class Sikh family living in Kalyan, a central suburb of Mumbai. Right from childhood, I have seen my parents spiritually connected with utmost faith in Waheguruji (God). I have seen my father reciting daily prayers and have witnessed a complete transformation in his life. It made me believe in miracles.
I too was blessed to have experienced such a miracle.
The incident happened in 1995 when I was working as a senior developer in Mumbai. Most of my colleagues had found their fortunes in the US. While I was not keen to move out of India, the financial situation at home pushed me to explore the option.
In October that year, I came across a full-page advertisement by Blue Star in The Times of India seeking an experienced programmer in two countries. The requirement perfectly matched my experience, so I applied with my first option of location being Singapore and second USA.
I was called for an in-person interview at the Blue Star office in Mumbai. I cleared the technical and functional interviews, and was asked to wait for one final round of discussion. It was noon and I was asked to come back after lunch.
I had applied for only half-day leave at my workplace and had to inform my office that I needed full-day leave. I called my office using the phone booth (in those days, the only way to communicate was by using the ₹1 coin phone booth).
I was still on the phone when the beep sound alerted me that the call would soon get disconnected. While I was struggling with my wallet to find another coin to extend my call, a young woman standing behind me tapped my back and offered me her ₹1 coin. I took it gratefully, extended my phone call, completed my conversation, and went back to the Blue Star office for my final interview.
I later realised I had forgotten to repay the girl her ₹1. I will refer to her as ‘angel’ in this story. That ₹1 coin helped me complete my phone conversation and established my first connect with my angel.
The final interview was meant to evaluate my emotional quotient and readiness for relocation to a new country. When asked why I had selected Singapore as my first option, I naively said that it was because my cousin lived there and because it’s closer home.
Every response of mine clearly indicated that I needed strong emotional support in a foreign land and any decision of my life would be influenced by my parents. I later felt that my answers did not meet the interviewer’s expectations.
While I waited in the lobby for the results, I was told I was selected but the location of the job offered to me was Bangalore. Many years later, I reflected on my interview and realised he was a good interviewer and was right in his analysis on my emotional readiness for the job abroad.
But at the time, I was disappointed to have closely missed getting a job that would have helped address my financial needs. I did my math with the Bangalore offer, factoring the cost of relocating, accommodation and so on, and did not find it good enough.
While I was thinking about all of this, I saw the same angel at the lobby. I approached her and thanked her for her help. It turned out she was an employee at Blue Star. I narrated my situation to her. She advised me to try on my own for a job in Singapore. I asked her if she could give me any contact there; she asked me to wait. She went back to her desk and returned with a post-it with the address of AIT Software Services.
Coincidentally, in those days, my cousin in Singapore had been repeatedly urging me to come for a holiday to visit her and also explore jobs there. Given the financial state of my family, I did not even have the money to buy an air ticket for Singapore.
My cousin and brother-in-law offered me a deal: they would pay for the ticket and if I ended up getting a job, I could repay the ticket money; else they would just bear the loss. I did not like taking favours from anyone, and was not willing to consider the offer. Then, one of my uncles shared a different perspective of the situation: “You never know, God may be creating a path for you, do not think of it as a favour.” I took their offer.
While my visa and ticket were in process, I had my resume updated with DTP software at a cost of ₹100 (too expensive for me in those days). I sent my resume and the address and fax number of AIT Software to my cousin via Speed Post. I chose to do this on Guru Nanak Jayanti day in November, offering my prayers to God to guide me on this journey.
My brother-in-law received my resume in one week and he faxed my resume to AIT Software along with his contact number.
Getting leave approved on my current job was also not easy even though I had requested for a month’s leave without pay. Somewhere, I had a strange feeling that I would be away from India for longer than 30 days. It was like a subtle intuition that also left me very nervous. With no prior experience of staying away from home, my parents and siblings, I went through a gamut of difficult emotions.
I landed in Singapore on the night of December 26, 1995. On our way home from Changi Airport, my brother-in-law told me that he had received a call from AIT Software two days earlier. They wanted me to come in for a face-to-face discussion. He told them I was travelling from India to Singapore on 26th.
All through the drive, he reminded me at least five times to be early the next day and meet the AIT Software team. I was casual about it, and said, “Let me take two days to enjoy the city.” But being a Singapore resident and an IT professional, he understood well the criticality of the opportunity and insisted I meet them right away.
He prepared me mentally and emotionally to be ready take up a new job assignment at short notice. (Mentally, this was something I was not completely prepared for.)
I met the AIT Software team the next day, and the meeting was extremely positive. They mentioned they had an immediate opportunity with Deutsche Bank and enquired about my readiness to join at short notice. I was taken aback but I reminded myself of my financial need and my brother-in-law’s guidance, and agreed.
The magic of the ₹1 coin and the angel in my life was unfolding.
My interview with Deutsche Bank was fixed for January 4, 1996. The technical interview went very well, and hope surrounded me as I travelled back home by metro train from their office in Tanjong Pagar to my cousin’s home in Lakeside. Throughout the journey, I felt I was surrounded by positive energy. When I reached home, my cousin welcomed me with joy and congratulations. I had got the job.
Within a week, AIT had arranged for my temporary work permit, and on January 15, I started working as an analyst programmer with Deutsche Bank Singapore.
The angel who gave me the ₹1 coin was the channel from God to help me rise above my financial difficulties. I did not have her phone number, but she has been in my prayers every day all these years for having touched my life and turned my family’s circumstances around. The job experience in Singapore influenced and shaped my career going forward.
God’s miracles continue. Today, I am director at Capgemini, a French multinational corporation with 270,000 employees in over 50 countries.
First published in eShe’s December 2020 issue