Who Took Away My Confidence?

Dear Tanvi,

Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces.



I felt a slight fluttering in my stomach. I drank some water.


At the age of 5 – Somewhere in a convent school in Patna

Mother looks at her daughter’s quiz answer sheet. 8/10. Match the following.

Question – Something to keep you dry in the rain

Answer written by the little girl: Ren cot.

It is marked wrong.

Mother: Beta, here you had to match the description in the left side with the options on the right side. Rain coat was not in the options. It was umbrella.

Little girl: Ma’am forgot to put ren cot. That is why I wrote it.

Mother: This was not Fill in the blanks. This was matching. Read the question properly.

Little girl: Maybe Ma’am does not have ren cot. Now she knows.

At the age of 9 – Same school in Patna

State level debate competition

And the winner is Tanvi Sinha….

The mother and the father are beaming, clicking pictures.

At the age of 11 – Same school in Patna

Teacher: Tanvi, we are recommending your name for representing our school at the Interschool Quiz competition, Manthan. It will be aired on local television after two weeks.

Girl: Ma’am! On  TV! If I don’t do well, everyone will make fun of me!

Teacher: Opportunity is knocking at your door. And you are saying no? You think we are asking all the students? We are asking only the toppers. You must go Tanvi. Prepare well. Give it your best shot.

The girl was terrified at the thought of failing on television. She backed out.

At the age of 13 – Junior high school in New York City

The teenager raises her hand to answer a question. She has just started talking. There is a giggle. Someone mocks her accent.

Teacher: Let her talk. Than Vee, go ahead.

The teenager becomes quiet.

It was not worth going through this humiliation. She decided never to raise her hand again.

At the age of 15- PTA Meeting. Creative writing class. High school in New York city

The father is dressed in a black suit and tie. Mother is wearing trousers and a blazer. They are at their formal best. They enter with  their gawky teenage daughter.

Teacher: Oh Tanvi is a gift! She is awesome. She has great story telling skills. She is logical with her thoughts, and articulates her thoughts very well. Her grammar is perfect. I just have one area of improvement for her.

Teenager replies meekly with a smile: Class participation!

Teacher: Yes! I would like you to participate more in the class discussions. You never say a word! And when I read your assignments, I am mesmerized. Imagine if you would say all of that in class!

Teenager: Yes. I know. I can write very well. But when I talk I feel conscious.

Teacher: Don’t be. With your intelligence, you cannot say anything wrong.

At the age of 23 – Mumbai at home

Click here to see the CA Final Results. Enter Registration number.


As tears streamed down her cheeks, she wondered.

I was never the beautiful one.

I was never the popular one.

All I was ever, was the intelligent one.

I am not even that anymore?

Who am I?

She passed the exam a year later.

At the age of 24.. At an official training. Banquet hall of a 5 star hotel

She is sitting in the last round table. She is not making any eye contact with the trainer, afraid he may ask a question.  At the same time she is nodding, pretending to listen.

This is so boring. He mugged up all this stuff! What if I had to be the trainer? Nah.. they would never ask me. Imagine if the training was about something I knew. Or something I was good at. Then I would be the star. But what am I  good at…… There has got to be something… Think…think. Yeah. Bollywood! If there was a Bollywood training I could totally take it… One session could be on songs. With a quiz. Guess the movie from the song. I could also do a session on Bollywood relationships. Guess – Who was Riya Sen’s grandmother…
Name three sister duos from Bollywood. Yeah… I would totally rock it.

Same age. A random office lunch

Someone made a joke. Everybody laughed. The woman barely listened. She is lost in her thoughts as always.

“Tanvi did not laugh.” – Guy 1.

“She did not understand the joke.” – Someone else

“Don’t talk like that. She will get angry.” – Someone else.

“Is she angry? I can’t tell! She is so expressionless!!! Tanvi make an angry face!”

He has a hearty laugh.

At the age of 26. She qualified as a CA 2 years ago. Working in a reputed firm. Year-end appraisal.

Four people are looking at her like hawks in a conference room. One by one they start talking. About how she has not achieved the goals. How she is good for nothing. How she is a big, miserable failure.

She listens. In the beginning she tries to defend herself. But then she gives up.  She wants them to stop talking. But no. They want to make sure it is CLEAR to her, point by point. Every word is a dagger. It pierces through her heart, her soul and her being.

Don’t start crying here. Be dignified. At least control yourself till you reach the washroom.

Present day.

Who took away her confidence?

Was it those bullying kids?

Was it failure in a professional exam which is known to be so difficult?

Was it people from work?

From a little girl who was confident even when she was wrong, she had grown up to be a nervous woman who felt she was wrong even when she was right. Who gave the right to every person to take away her confidence. Who trusted others’ belief of who she was, more than who she knew she was.


She read the email again.

Dear Tanvi,

Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces

Opportunity is knocking at your door. She remembered her elementary school teacher’s words.

With your intelligence, you would never say anything wrong. She remembered her high school teacher’s words.

Yes. She typed. Send.

Beyond the doors. Bangalore. March 9th, 2018

I reached the venue. A little nervous. A little unsure of myself. But super excited.

A woman with the sweetest face and the most contagious smile was talking.  She was not trying to inspire anyone. She was talking logically. She was talking about herself and her experiences. Smooth, natural flow of thought. She was just being herself. But the audience was mesmerized. And so was I.

Somebody asked her how come she is so positive all the time? Does she think about dark clouds?

“Why should I think of the dark clouds when I can think about the light clouds. This is me!” – She said flashing that beautiful, confident, ravishing smile matter-of-factly.

She was Dhanya Ravi.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. That one line uplifted my spirits.

This is me…..

 I am Tanvi. I  get nervous when I have to speak in public. My stomach hurts. My palms get sweaty. I tremble. This is me!

I say Umm and You know after every word. This is me!

I will roll my tongue over my teeth, while I am still talking to you to check if my lipstick has spread over my teeth. This is me!

I may mess up this discussion. But it is okay. This is me!

I had a great session. Enjoyed every moment of it. Loved talking to such accomplished women. The smiles, the nods, and the claps from the audience gave me a high.

Who gave me back my confidence?

Dhanya Ma’am, you have written in your profile, ‘All good things come in a small package.”

But let me tell you this Ma’am. You are not small.

You are bigger that our insecurities and our egos.

You are bigger than our inner demons and inner battles that we struggle with every day.

You are bigger than our shallow concerns and problems which actually do not matter, but we are too full of ourselves to believe it.

You are bigger than all of us who love feeling like victims, the moment the smallest thing goes wrong in life.

You are bigger than the people who try to make others feel small just so that they can feel big.

You are bigger than any person I have ever met in my life.

I love you Ma’am. You have made me wiser. In one day!  I have gained my confidence back after years.  I promise myself that I will never let anybody take away my confidence again.

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