Pratiksha Tondwalkar is currently the Assistant General Manager (AGM) at the State Bank of India (SBI), a bank where she used to work as a sweeper.
At the age of 20, when she started a menial job at a Mumbai branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) following her husband’s death, little did Pratiksha Tondwalkar imagine that she would become one of the lender’s top officials 37 years later.
Tondwalkar started her career as a sweeper, not even having finished school. Determined to seek a better life for herself and her son, she studied and worked hard and now has been elevated to the post of assistant general manager at the country’s largest lender.
Pratiksha got married when she was just 17 years old and became a widow when she was 20. Because of her parent’s financial situation, she had been married off to Sadashiv Kadu before she could finish her class 10 exams. Sadashiv was employed by SBI as a bookbinder and was headquartered in Mumbai. When her first son Vinayak was born after a year, the family made the decision to visit the village with the infant in order to express gratitude to the Almighty. She had no idea that her life was about to change drastically. Kadu was killed in an accident while they were traveling.
“At that time, I had to visit the SBI branch to collect the remaining dues of my husband,” Tondwalkar told to media. “I knew I had to take up a job but I was not qualified. So, I asked the bank to help with a job so that I could survive.”
Tondwalkar’s story is of significance in India’s male-dominated banking sector. Women, often socially repressed, have had to traverse those extra miles to build their careers by going against societal norms while simultaneously having to take care of their families. Tondwalkar’s story was no different.
Her inability to obtain a suitable education made it difficult for her to find employment. Pratiksha started working as a sweeper at SBI to help support her family and finish her high school education.
She cleaned the restrooms, dusted the furniture, and swept the branch’s property for two hours in the morning, putting in around Rs. 60-65 per month. The balance of her time was spent caring for her son and working at other tiny, menial occupations to support her family in Mumbai. Quite unusually, though, working in the bank as a sweeper only spurred her aspirations.
“I knew I was not meant for this. I saw people working at the office and I knew I wanted to be one of them,” she said. Tondwalkar began asking around about how she could finish her class 10 exams. She approached a few bank officials who were more than willing to support her. They helped her fill out the exam forms and even granted her a month’s leave to study.
After clearing her exams, there was no looking back. Tondwalkar knew she had to clear the banking exams to lift herself out of her financial stress and secure a future for her son. Banking exams needed a minimum qualification of clearing class 12.
She eventually earned her degree and kept up her studies. After proving her dedication and devotion, she was promoted from sweeper to clerk, but this process did not stop there. Later, she was promoted to scale 4, then to CGM, and finally to AGM. Due to Pratiksha’s tenacity, dedication, and true diligence, the SBI also recognized her for her amazing achievements.
Pratiksha enrolled in the night college in Mumbai’s Vikhroli with the help of her money. She received help from her coworkers while studying, and in 1995, she graduated with a degree in psychology. She was then given a promotion to bank clerk.
Tondwalkar now has two years before she retires. Her perseverance, grit and determination during her 37-year stint with SBI paid off, but it’s not the end of the road for her.
Tondwalkar completed a naturopathy course in 2021 and after retirement, she wants to put that knowledge to use and serve the people.
“When I look back at my journey, it all seems impossible to me, but I am glad to have pulled it off,” Tondwalkar said, almost in tears. “If someone is in depression or is demotivated, my story should reach out and inspire them.”
Widowed at just 20 years of age, Pratiksha Tondwalkar of #Pune got job as Sweeper in #SBI Bank— Srikanth Matrubai (@SrikantMatrubai) July 1, 2022
She continued her studies while working & got elevated as clerk,Trainee Oficer, then as MMII, MM III , Scale IV, CGM & is now AGM
Sweeper to AGM. #inspiring#RealHero #BharatKeVeer pic.twitter.com/SeaNJTqtk7
Author Srikanth Matrubai shared the incredible story of Pratiksha Tondwalkar and termed it “inspiring”. One Twitter user wrote, “People like Pratiksha are my heroes who inspire us to believe that hard work and commitment are master of our destiny.”