Managing the Toughest Times in Life: Two Inspiring Stories

More often than not, we face a number of troubles in life. Sometimes, these pressures are daunting and we wonder how we managed such situations. Yet, it is always wise to learn from the successful experiences of some people. Two such real-world case-studies are discussed, without any reference to any person, to protect identities. Some common lessons are discussed in the article.


We often face very tough times in life. Common examples are the loss of a job, a sudden illness that requires several hundreds of thousands to treat, a drought, an earthquake and loss of property, a very serious accident resulting in disabilities and so on. Yet, when we hear the best of stories of how such people managed their lives and braved all odds, there are certainly some lessons for all of us. It turns out that these lessons are:

  • Never borrow money beyond the limits
  • Look for cheaper substitutes
  • Learn to be patient
  • Always be optimistic irrespective of outcomes and
  • Utilize every possible opportunity.

While one family is known to me for decades, the other is not. However, it relates to the close friend of my cousin, who knows the family very well. The lessons are similar in both cases.

Never borrow money beyond the limits

The first family pertains to a very hard-working family in a fairly big-sized district headquarters town of Tamil Nadu. The father was a clerk in a private company and it was badly mismanaged. It was closed and the man lost his job. The money given was hardly adequate to manage even for a few months. Even the PF amount took eighteen months to be settled. All this when the family had two sons studying in the ninth and eighth standard at the nearby Government school.

It was that this point in time that the mother decided to do something that she still does, in a slightly modified form. She took a jewel loan for ten thousand rupees and purchased an old movable cart from a local vendor. She used whatever little money she had to make snacks at home. These snacks were fried in oil and were slightly different from the ones available in the market. Her husband would help her push the cart and they would sell the snacks. The small profit was just about able to keep them alive. She depended on the monthly rations to keep pulling on and when her husband fell sick, she boldly took a decision to treat him only in the Government hospital. Some good people in the locality utilized the lady's services to cook in their houses and gave her some money.

The man died just after the first son completed his plus two examinations. Immediately thereafter, the mother fell sick and was hospitalized for a few months. The family was reduced to absolute poverty. Fortunately, a few friends helped the family and the lady recovered to resume her small catering business. The first son was admitted to do a course in Mechanical Engineering. He studied against all odds and won a fellowship to study in the USA. Today, he is a consultant at a leading IT company. The younger son also studied on merit and went on to become a microbiologist in New Zealand.

The sons had offered to take their mother abroad, but she still lives a very simple life. She is around eighty years today, but still manages to earn her bread by selling snacks from her home. She never borrowed money and is deeply religious. She spends a lot of time in the local temple. The lady under reference is a classic example of what it takes to live within one's means and brave all odds to survive.

Look for cheaper substitutes

The second true story pertains to a family in Vijayawada, a major town in Andra Pradesh. The head of the family was employed in an IT company, in Hyderabad, but when he turned forty-five, he lost his job. The wife and children were very supportive. They took the father to their native village, where they still had a small house. They lived there. The family had a brother who had land in that village. The elder daughter, then eighteen years old, offered to go for employment and was able to get an administrative job in a hospital in the neighbouring town. She totally immersed herself in the job and the Management duly promoted her as supervisor. She enrolled for a distance education course in commerce and then went on to complete a Master's Degree in Hospital Administration. Since there was no house rent, the family survived all odds.

The other child, a son, went on to do his diploma in Mechanical Engineering at Chennai and then took up a job with an MNC there. The family moved to Chennai. The father managed to get a BPO job for a small salary and they lived in a rented house, at a cheap price. The mother would manage whatever the children brought home. The girl was also able to find an alternative job in a Chennai hospital. The family braved the serious illness of the father of the man, who passed away after one year. Yet, they did not borrow much at any time and faced all problems cheerfully. During the toughest of times, the entire family never spent a big amount on anything - food, clothing or anything else. For example, they totally avoided non-vegetarian food. They wore very ordinary clothes. It does pay to save every small amount and put that into the bank, as we will always need money, given the very high rate of inflation today.

Learn to be patient

Only a few problems of both families have been highlighted above. The exact nature of problems was evermore complex. Yet, patience is one factor that is common to both. They were very honest and did not lose their patience. They were very patient and in each family, the mother played a vital role. This is exactly what should be the norm in any family that goes through tough problems. If one is patient, the problems will also vanish soon.

Always be optimistic irrespective of outcomes

When we are optimistic and have a positive attitude, many problems will appear as very ordinary problems. There is every evidence available today, on the power of being optimistic. The man or woman who is pessimistic would often not understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Those who are optimistic would find some avenue to be very productive and they would understand some opportunity for development. This always happens as a rule.

Utilize every possible opportunity

In each of the two cases, they first looked at the opportunity to survive and then develop. For example, since it was their own house, the rent component was zero. The cash on hand would have been not so good, and hence it is essential to merely look for some opportunity to survive, Once this is assured, the next is to look forward to some development or the other. The poor migrants from UP or Bihar, who land up in Kerala or Tamil Nadu, would first work in some hotel, where they would even clean plates. Then, when they have some money on their hands, they would look for some training opportunities to become cooks in some small hotel. Over a period of time, they become experts in preparing South Indian food. Their experiences are classic examples of people who first look for survival opportunities and then look for development opportunities.


The aforesaid discussions, based on two real-world case studies, do offer some good lessons in honesty and integrity, patience and mere survival instincts at crucial times. The entire range of experiences does offer a number of lessons for any person who would face tough times at any point in time.


Author: Umesh Chandra Bhatt27 Jul 2023 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

A good article with two inspiring real life stories. I also agree that patience and will to struggle are the two very important factors in our lives and people who can maintain these two factors can withstand the bad times in their lives.
Living with simplicity and within months means is a great attribute and I have seen some well to do people also living like minimalists and they do not get lured by materialistic things.

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