Small town girl with BIG ambitions


I grew up in a small town called Patna, the capital city of Bihar, India. To give you an idea of where I grew up, let me give you some background. Even though Bihar enjoyed tremendous wealth and knowledge centuries ago, it is now famous as one of the most poorest, backward and lawless states of India. May be that explains why I have tendency to break rules – you will understand when you meet me ;)

I spent 16 years of my life growing up in Patna, where as a girl I was treated as a second class citizen by the society. Thankfully for me, my parents treated me as the Indian Princess I am today! They never once made me feel that I was inferior to boys or that my options were limited.  In many ways, they brought me up as their son.

The Lucky Break

When I was 16 and had completed by high school (up to Sophomore Year equivalent to US system), I had my eyes set on one of the most prestigious schools in Delhi to complete Intermediate College (Junior and Senior Year). I was itching to get out of Bihar and live in a “real” city. Delhi was as BIG as it could get for me in the year 2000. But fate had something else in store for me. “Just for fun” I had applied to United World College, started by Nelson Mandela & Queen Noor – an international boarding school with 13 locations in the world and students from over 150 countries. It has an International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is similar to AP curriculum. Turned out I had topped the selection process amongst the 2000 Indian applicants and was offered a full scholarship to United World College in Singapore! That’s where I was confronted by my pre-conceived notions and prejudices  regarding people from different countries, races, and religions. It was an eye-opening and life-altering experience for me.

I Believe I can Fly

Since then, it has been a whirlwind journey for me. I came to US on full merit scholarship in 2002 to complete my Bachelors.  I had two options in front of me : Engineer vs Doctor. I didn’t like either of them, so against my family’s wishes, I jumped into Economics. I was offered my first job at Citigroup in 2006 and I was bedazzled by my wall street prospects…which  started to look bleak in 2008, when Lehman and Bear Stearn came tumbling down. However, I was lucky enough to move to an European bank, where I still work currently, and I couldn’t be happier. There is a silver lining in every dark cloud.

Breaking Barriers

That’s how I define my love marriage! Most of you are aware of the famous arranged marriages in India. Well mine was no arranged marriage but was so off the ball park for my family and society that it was a fight just to get married! In July 2010, I married my boyfriend of 4 years who is from Senegal (West African) and a practicing Muslim. As an Indian & a Hindu girl,  from a conservative small-town society, I was doing the unthinkable – marrying a black AND a Muslim man! What did I tell you about my tendency to go against the norms!

Duke CCMBA – purrrrfect fit

Given my fairly international background and my penchant for going against the norms, I knew I wasn’t going to be satisfied by a traditional 2-year MBA program. I came upon Duke’s CCMBA program advertisement on one of the financial sites. I spent a year researching the program and talking to alumni. Like a true Libran, I weighed my pros and cons for a year before I took the plunge.  Duke CCMBA – it’s challenging, it’s unique, it’s ambitious, it’s international, and it’s the perfect global stage for a small-town girl like me to make the world her oyster. I am very much looking forward to meeting you and learning from all of you!

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Dan McCleary

Hi Geshu,
Thanks for sharing your great story. I'm the regional director for India (though based in Durham), and I look forward to seeing you at the Delhi residency. I'm sure you will be valuable to help your classmates under the culture of India. Take care, Dan

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