Pratiksha Tondwalkar used to work at a menial job at a Mumbai branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) following her husband’s death.
37 years on, she is now one of the lender’s top officials.
She began as a sweeper without having finished school.
But for the sake of her son, she studied and worked hard and now has been promoted to become the assistant general manager at SBI.
Tondwalkar was born in Pune in 1964 to poor parents who married her off to Sadashiv Kadu at the age of 16, before she could complete her class 10 exams.
Her spouse was based in Mumbai and worked as a book binder at SBI.
Life suddenly changed
A year later when her first son Vinayak was born, the family decided to travel to the village with the new-born son to thank their god.
However, during the trip Kadu met with an accident and died.
Tondwalkar was left widowed at the age of 20, with the daunting task of fending for herself and her son.
Her husband was supportive and encouraged her to appear for the banking exams.
They had two children, and her husband helped her raise them and took care of household chores.
However her in-laws did not support her so her husband decided to part ways with them to help his family.
She had to visit the SBI branch to collect the remaining dues of her husband.
Sweeper at her eventual employer
She desperately needed a job but lacked the required qualification.
She asked the bank to help with a job to secure her and her kid’s future.
Tondwalkar landed a part-time job as a sweeper at the bank.
She worked for two hours in the morning sweeping the branch premises, cleaning the washrooms and dusting the furniture, earning Rs 60-65 a month.
The rest of her time was spent at small menial jobs, sustaining life in Mumbai and taking care of her son.
However her stint at the bank as a sweeper helped her aspirations take shape.
She started asking around about how she could finish her class 10 exams.
She approached a few bank officials who agreed to support her, helping her fill the exam forms and even granted her a month’s leave to study.
However the need for books and study material got in her way.
Her relatives, friends and colleagues pitched in and got her the study material and helped her clear the class 10 exams with a score of 60 percent.
Going back to school
“I loved reading books and that came handy,” said Tondwalkar. “I made it a point to study every chapter and ask the most basic questions to everyone around. That paid off.”
She cleared the banking exams, after which she opted to join a night college in Mumbai’s Vikhroli using her savings.
She studied with the help of colleagues, passed the class 12 exams and went on to graduate in psychology in 1995..
That was when she was promoted as a clerk at the bank.
Clerk to trainee officer
“It was difficult for me, as a single mother, to beat all the odds and take a stand for myself, especially to study,” said Tondwalkar.
“Societal pressure is intimidating. I often had to choose between my son and my career, but I had to tell myself that I am doing it for him (Vinayak).”
In 2004, Tondwalkar was elevated to a trainee officer, then eventually she scaled the various officer grades before being promoted as an AGM in June.
Tondwalkar now has two years before she retires after an impressive and laudable 37-year stint with SBI.
But this isn’t the end of the road for her yet.
Tondwalkar completed a naturopathy course in 2021 and after retirement which she intends to put to use and serve the people.
As she put it, “If someone is in depression or is demotivated, my story should reach out and inspire them.”