Tina Sapra: A Woman can have it all and More!!

Our childhood and the way we are raised have a significant impact on our lives. Our upbringing and our environment pave the way for our future. Tina Sapra’s life is a testimony to this. As she says, children know what they see. So when she saw her parents professionally inclined with their individual careers somewhere, she was inspired. A doctor mother and an engineer father sowed the seeds of ambition and aspiration in the young Tina, which bore fruit to make her become her own person and touch the pinnacle of success.

Not only that, but our childhood experiences also play a vital role in shaping our personalities. Unknowingly as children, we imbibe several things which influence us. If we look at Tina’s life, we see that her career choice resulted from a critical childhood experience. When she was only 11 years old, she was afflicted with gallbladder stones which altered her life in many ways. As a child, it meant that throughout her childhood, she was deprived of all the goodies children like to eat, like cakes, pastries, chocolates and French fries. Children love attending birthday parties and holidays, where food is a major attraction, but this wasn’t the case with Tina. Unlike the other children around her, she had to be on a diet of soups and salads. But like they say, every cloud has a silver lining. This experience influenced her decision to take on nutrition as a career option. This strict regime probably led to the disciplined eating she has followed all her life and inspired others to do.

The inspiration to be a nutritionist also came to her while she was doing her pre-med in the US. While studying there, she realized that most doctors don’t have extensive knowledge about the diet for their patients post-surgery. They just put a lot of restrictions on the food, which sometimes are unnecessary. That was why she had to eat what she did as a child after her surgery, as the doctors around her didn’t know what diet to prescribe. And whatever restrictions she followed were actually not required. Her pre-med professor busted that myth for her.

As we grow, we all have dreams and ambitions. As children and young adults, we want to follow our hearts and do various things. However, we can’t do it alone and need the support and encouragement of our loved ones. Without this support, it is tough to go far.  Tina has always been fortunate to have had her parents’ support, who have inspired and given her the freedom to follow her dreams. So when she wanted to take up nutrition as a career option, they were happy to let her do that. They supported her in every possible way. This meant she could do what she wanted and carve an identity. This fact reinforces that if children can have a say in the decisions regarding their careers and are allowed to do what they want, they can flourish in life. We all need those wings to fly; Tina’s parents gave her those.

But then, life does have a way of levelling out things for us and throwing challenges which are sometimes unique to us. This is what happened with Tina. While she was in her 2nd year of college, she fell in love with Sanjay and decided to marry him. This meant that when other girls her age were leading a footloose and fancy-free life, Tina had to shoulder the responsibility of married life along with all its trappings. And if that wasn’t enough, she got pregnant and had her daughter by the time she got into the 3rd year. These two developments changed her life completely. She was a young girl, still in college and now had the responsibility of a family and a baby. It was pretty overwhelming. But once again, her family, which now included her husband, in-laws, and her parents, stepped in to save the day for her. Though young himself Sanjay played a pivotal role in encouraging and supporting her; a role that he continues to play.

Tina was in the US when she started work. Though things tended to get chaotic on the home front, the work front was quite regimented and disciplined. She had a lot on her plate, but what helped was the fact that her working hours were fixed, and she had the weekends to herself, meaning she could devote time to her family.

Since she married when she was very young, she learnt early on that one has to balance different aspects of one’s life, which can be pretty challenging. So though she had every possible support from her family, she still had much to manage. Living in the US, where there is no house- help trained her to strike a balance in life. So while cooking, cleaning, and looking after her baby, she also found time to study and later work. Though it was tough, the determined woman carried on. Not only that, she went on to do her Master’s and her internship as well.

They always say that life loves throwing lemons at us, but then we must see what we do with them.

By now, Tina had three children and coupled with her work; it was a lot. Her plate was full with no scope for anything else. But the powers that be thought otherwise. They decided that Tina could do with another challenge. And so, at this juncture, the family decided to relocate to India, presenting a completely different set of difficulties to everyone in the family but to Tina in particular.

The move meant her career had to take a backseat while she helped her children and the family adjust to a new environment. It took her almost a year to figure out things for herself.

After a year, Tina got a break with Fortis Hospital and joined them as their nutrition expert. Though the job was good, it had several challenges. To begin with, she had to get used to the Indian corporate work culture, which was in complete contrast to the American culture. Working in India meant there were no fixed working hours, no weekends, and one had to be available all the time. The fact that she had three small children who were still adjusting to the transition made life very hectic. She was utterly bogged down with work and had no breathing space. Though the work was rewarding, and she loved it and was ok to accept the work culture, she soon realized that she would have to sacrifice her family life for work, which she wasn’t prepared to do. Her children were in their formative years, and she felt she had to be there for them, and her work would not let her do that. 

And that was when she decided to take a drastic step and set up her clinic, as she felt that having her venture would give her the flexibility to be with her family when required. Thus, Dr Diet, her clinic, which provides diet and nutrition-related counselling to people to help them change their lifestyles and ways of living for a healthy life, was born.

Though having her setup gave her a lot of flexibility, it wasn’t an easy road. She had to work very hard to make a name for herself. But she did that and today is amongst the well-known nutritionists in the city.

While Tina was part of the corporate setup in the US and later in India, she faced challenges related to her gender and age. Men, she says, always believe that they know more than a woman, and if that woman happens to be young, then there is no stopping them. However, according to her, one can deal with these challenges with a positive attitude. The starting point is mastery over your area of work and confidence in your abilities. Once these are in place, there is no way that you cannot make a place for yourself. And in the end, people will value and appreciate you for your work; when that happens, all negatives are overshadowed.

When Tina looks back and reflects on her life, she feels that her most significant successes have been her children and Dr Diet.

She is incredibly proud that her children have turned out to be focused, sorted and grounded individuals who know their minds. They have chosen their paths, which she feels is a big thing today when many children are unsure about what they want to do in life. She takes a lot of pride in acknowledging that she has had a role to play in this. They have seen her stay focused on her path no matter what and work hard to reach where she has. This, she feels, has kept them grounded.

Like her parents, she has also been a great role model for her children. Her disciplined lifestyle and strong work ethic have rubbed themselves on them, and they don’t hesitate to work as hard as possible in their chosen fields.

In her professional life, Dr Diet is her biggest success. Starting from her dining table, she has reached a stage where she has three clinics now. Not only is she good at her work, but she is also able to build strong and long-lasting relationships with her clients, which gives her a big high. Her clients believe in her and come back to her whenever they need help with their diet-related issues. Tina loves her work and wakes up every day excited about it and looking forward to it.

Her mantra in life is that one must do what one loves to do because then work won’t seem like a task or a chore. And when that happens, you will put your heart and soul into it, and success will follow. So she tells her children to follow this.

Since she loves her work, there has never been a day when she has felt demotivated or not wanted to go to work. She is always ready to take on new challenges. She only feels dejected when she cannot help clients and see them struggle, but not being the kind to give up, she eventually finds a way to help them out. 

Tina has built a well-known brand but doesn’t want to stop at just three clinics. She is highly ambitious and wants to do much more. She wants to open a health centre, a slimming centre and many other things. But she realizes she can’t do it alone and wants her daughters to join her and take this forward.

Eventually, she sees herself on a beach, retired and relaxing, sipping virgin pina coladas and virgin margaritas ( with no salt or sugar!! Once a Nutritionist, always a nutritionist!!)

Life has taught her two vital things. First, one must follow one’s passion and do what one loves, and success will follow. She feels that one must not follow success and not do things just because others are doing them. According to her, one must not ape others blindly. It isn’t necessary that what works for one person will also work for others. To be successful and happy in life, one must do what one wants to do.

Apart from that, Tina also believes that one must set clear-cut and realistic goals in life and then work hard towards achieving them. According to her, there is no substitute for hard work, and one must never shy away from it.

She has instilled these learnings in her children and taught some excellent habits to instil discipline in them, like sleeping early, waking up early, making their bed, and regularly exercising.

A positive person, she believes one must not lose patience if one is going through a bad phase in life. One should wait it out and believe that This, too, shall pass.

When one becomes successful, a lot of people start judging the person. Everyone has an opinion on the person and their success. Though they say you should not judge a person’s story by the chapter you walked in on, most of us do that. It is unfair, but it is true.

And when it is a successful woman, the scenario changes further. The lens through which a successful woman is viewed becomes a twofold one. First, she is judged because she is successful and then because she is a woman. So it’s like a double whammy.

Tina also feels that people react differently to a person’s success, whether a man or a woman. While some people are supportive, many others look for an opportunity to bring the person down, and she has encountered both kinds. She feels that the supportive ones applaud and appreciate you while others judge you and attribute your success to plain luck. They don’t know how much hard work has gone into the success one has achieved. 

But she feels that she has been lucky to have had good people.

She believes that successful women and men are treated in different ways by society.

Society, she feels, gives a lot of flak to women who have both a career and a family and thinks that a successful woman is a compromised woman as far as her family life is concerned. It believes that a woman cannot strike a balance between the two, and most of the time, she should sacrifice a good career opportunity for her family. She is judged and frowned upon if she doesn’t do that.

Also Read: Time for Multiple Careers

Tina had to do that in her life, but fortunately, her career never suffered because of that. She feels that the general belief is that men are successful because they are born to be, while women have to compromise to be successful.

On being asked why people nowadays are switching gears and changing careers in their thirties and forties, she feels there could be several reasons for this.

According to her, the most important reason is that some people were doing things they had never wanted to do. Their initial choice of careers wasn’t a choice but more of a compulsion, which had been forced upon them by their families, society or even by false hopes of making money. Since they didn’t enjoy what they were doing, after a while, these people lost all motivation and didn’t want to do it any longer. 

She also feels that, at times, people put so much effort into something that they eventually burn out and want to do something different. They realize they have always had a passion they couldn’t pursue earlier, so now they want to follow it and, therefore, switch careers.

Sometimes it is also because something a person started didn’t do well, so now they want to do something different. For example, she has a friend who switched to teaching from investment banking and is now doing very well and loving it.

A woman who has been super successful in her life, Tina gives her two bits to today’s young girls.

She advises them to make something of their lives without wasting time and opportunity. She also suggests they follow their passion, do what they like, and not ape others. She feels every girl must have a role model who can inspire her, but you can’t copy that person blindly. You can’t do what they are doing if you don’t like that work. So find your passion and follow it.

Also, according to her, one must not run after material things and work only to make money. So while money is vital, it cannot take you far in life if you don’t like what you do.

She also feels it is necessary to have aspirations in life. Girls need to be ambitious and focus on their goals. Even if you are married to a rich guy, you need to carve your identity and not be their shadow. Being in the limelight is essential because you will have created a place for yourself and will feel good about yourself. Moreover, those around you, like your parents, partner/spouse and children, will be proud of you. According to her, you teach by example, and when you are successful, your children will also look up to you and want to follow your example. When people who matter take pride in you, you will take pride in yourself. 

On being asked why some girls just want to get married and not work, she feels that that has to do with their background. She thinks that girls who generally come from business families and have seen their mothers only socializing and not having ambitions are the ones who don’t want to work. It’s what they see, what they know. They don’t know anything different.

However, those from a professional background with mothers having careers will never do that.

She also feels that there could be exceptions where girls have seen their parents put in a lot of hard work but have not done very well. In that case, they may think that not working could be a better option.

However, she feels girls should be independent and not want to live off someone else. Even though families may not like the girls to work, girls themselves should take a call and do something towards their independence.

She feels that a woman can have it all and more in life. In fact, she can have more than a man can ever have, but for that to happen, apart from everything else, a woman must be financially independent and not depend on anyone for their needs. Life is too uncertain, and you never know when that one person you depend upon may be taken away, and then you will be left nowhere.

She says that many women who have never worked or have given up their careers don’t know what to do when adversity strikes. Many women give up their careers for their children, which she thinks is not a good idea because, eventually, the children for whom they may have sacrificed careers will go away, and then life will become empty. Also, unfortunate happenings like a divorce or death may strike at any time, and the women may not have anything to fall back upon. Therefore every woman needs to be financially independent.

She advises young girls to get married only once they are economically independent. They should not waste their time but make something out of their lives. Every girl must have an identity and her own money. A woman should not have to ask anyone for money, and nobody should be able to question her. That, according to her, should be the greatest motivation for any woman to work.

So if any of us are looking for a role model in life, there can be no one better than Tina Sapra.

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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