I was born in a family of doctors and academicians. For my parents, education had to result in financial independence. I have an elder brother and a sister who is ten years younger to me. Three of us aimed at having good jobs and for that, we worked hard. If we asked for something, we got it, provided we keep showing good results. Naturally, we collected laurels wherever we went. I have degrees in B.A., LL.B., MBA and Fashion Designing. My mother used to be an active member of a well reputed club that works for social causes. While she was our tuition teacher at home, I was her script and speech writer for events!
During my graduation, we had a group of five friends. Nitesh and I developed a beautiful bond over time and decided to get married. For us, it was just love but for our families, it became a serious issue of caste, region, belief and color of skin. And unfortunately, nothing was similar between us. To add to that, he was younger to me! In 1998, I finished my studies and started working. We wanted to get married but not without our parents’ approval. We waited patiently and finally everyone agreed. In 2003, I got married to my best friend.
I believed that since it is a marriage that everyone agreed to, I would be accepted in his family and mine. A love marriage is a beautiful feeling but Nitesh and I were put in situations where we constantly had to prove to each other the beauty and sanctity of our relationship. We fought for reasons that weren’t ours. In his family, I was wrongly blamed for things I didn’t do. My intentions were questioned at every step. We were living far away from his family and it just added fuel to fire. From being a free-spirited girl, I slowly started doubting myself and questioned my identity. I wasn’t working and nothing could help me keep my mind away from the hardships. Amidst all this, I conceived. My state of mind was such that for three months, I didn’t see a doctor. I wanted it to be a secret for as long as I could. When I went back home to my parents, I told them and there was a wave of happiness that filled the room. When Nitesh came to know, he was delighted at the news of becoming a father. I was asked to stay home in my father’s care. But my internal struggles kept manifesting on my body, which became one of the reasons why I had a premature delivery.
I came back with my husband and with a child in my arms, it became more difficult for me to explain to anyone what I had been going through. His family did not welcome my son like the other children. The indifference was evident in their actions. I didn’t share my inner conflicts with anyone and somewhere I started to feel that I am not needed. A sense of detachment developed and then one day, it reached a point where I tried to end my life. Nitesh was in office but he just had an intuition that he should reach home quickly. He saw me in an unconscious state and took me to the hospital. In one miraculous moment, I was saved. God’s plans greatly differed from mine. There was a reason for me to live and I had to find it. This was my rebirth and it was my mother who raised me again. She said, “You have a son now. You should know that nobody else can take care of him like you. He needs you, his mother.” I looked at my son and resolved to never let him down.
I began a new life by first accepting and then acknowledging everything that had brought me to edge – relations, conversations and actions. I started being brave in the same situations that unsettled me. My parents and sister loved me unconditionally. As I was on the road to recovery, my father passed away in 2011. In my family, he was the one who called me every day. Sometimes, twice a day to ask what was I doing and what have I eaten. He was a wall between me and anyone who could affect me negatively. With his death, that wall came down and a deluge of bitterness engulfed me. I realized I was still disliked in my own family for my decision of marrying Nitesh and some elders wanted to cremate my father before I reached. My mother took a stand and everything happened when I arrived but my presence itself caused great agony to his extended family.
I was threatened to be beaten up by my relatives and things turned ugly. Under their influence, even my brother turned violent. It became the onus of my sister and I to take care of our mother and provide her with a comfortable and secure life. When we checked our father’s savings in the bank, we found only Rs 14,000 which was his pension credited for the month. It shocked us. We had lived such a privileged life that we couldn’t expect this. He was the most renowned cosmetic surgeon in the city. He had been cheated a few times by his relatives but we never knew to this extent. And to make things worse, they kept the Death Certificate of my father away from us, the only document that could get my mother some benefits and claims. My sister had just finished her studies and found a job to survive the harsh days that faced us. As the days passed, my mother, sister and I became each other’s strength. Three women who stood tall in the face of every adversity. But with all the degrees in my closet, I felt like I am yet to fulfil my purpose.
My mother always encouraged me to do something which helps women empower themselves. I saw a light in her eyes that inspired me but I was still wondering in which direction should I take the first step. In January 2015, I went home during my son’s winter break when she brought up the topic again and challenged me, “Can you do something to help others?” She had never said anything like this and it felt like I had been woken up from a deep slumber. Everything aligned in spur of the moment and I found my calling. The next day I went to get my NGO registered and ever since, I have not looked back.
I now help women become self-reliant. Like my parents taught us, I want education to result in their financial independence. We have such untapped potential in every woman that if we give them a chance, they can emerge victorious in whatever they do. I am amazed to see the number of talented individuals who are just waiting for the right platform and right exposure. When I see a woman who wants help, I don’t wait for her to ask, I extend my hand. My journey has taught me that nobody should feel so lonely that they want to give up on themselves. I just want to be there for any woman who finds herself standing on the edge.