I come from a small village called Khaga in Uttar Pradesh. We are four sisters and I am the eldest. My father was a successful businessman but destiny had different plans and there came a time when we lost everything. He started working as an accountant and we lived modestly. Irrespective of our financial condition, he ensured that we study and lead a life that prepares us to move in all social circles. He had a friend who wanted his son to get married to me but when the time came, they did not honor their commitment, saying that I carry the same genes as my parents and might give birth to a daughter again. It shook us, I couldn’t believe that things like this could happen. But it was just the beginning.
Another proposal came through my aunt. Pradeep seemed to be a nice man and I got married to him in 1988. I had my first child, Himanshu, in 1989. While I took care of everyone in the house, my urge to learn was such that I kept doing certificate courses to know more about just anything.
In 1992, my daughter Reema was born. After delivery, I developed a fever that couldn’t be diagnosed. After 3 months, Pradeep forced me to go back to my parent’s home. I insisted on staying back as we lived in a district where I could avail some medical treatment. My village had nothing. But he asked me to call my father and take me away with the kids. He didn’t give any reason. While packing my clothes, it felt so humiliating that I took my documents with me and promised myself, “when I feel alright, I will do something that will help me stand on my own feet.”
My father came and took me home. I was diagnosed with typhoid and had started showing all symptoms of tuberculosis. The treatment was for nine months and even a medicine costing Rs 20 weighed heavy on my pocket. I wanted to work and bear my expenses but being so frail and feeding a child, I couldn’t step out of the house. Seeing the willingness to work, my father brought me a spinning wheel, a ‘charkha’. Every night, after getting my children to sleep, I started spinning yarn. My mother also joined me and we used to make enough to send it to the local Gandhi Ashram and earned Rs 800 a month. We also started stitching and altering clothes.
One day, my father’s friend visited us and that became the turning point in my life.
He had just returned from a wedding and told us that in big cities, brides take appointments in beauty parlors or they call someone home to help them get ready for their big day. We had never heard something like this before and in the village, it was beyond our imagination. He asked me to join a beauty parlor course. Though I liked the idea, I feared that my father would never approve of this. But when I told him, he enquired about the best training center in the closest town that charged Rs 4000 a month and asked me to join it. It was surprising how a father of four daughters, living in a village, could think and do so much. I used to travel for 3 hours for a 1-hour course, still on medication. My day started at dawn and upon returning, I went door to door, giving free services to women in the village to sharpen my skill until dark.
Within a month, I opened the first ever beauty parlor in the village with one revolving chair, a wooden plank and a mirror on the wall. It became such a big affair that the mayor inaugurated it!
With clients for my parlor and rising orders for stitching, I started employing girls and homemakers, and gave them a share of earnings. With a food and nutrition certificate course, I also started making jams and jellies. My entire family helped me in the ventures. Then I joined a cooking and baking class. My confidence had soared so much that I used to come back and the same day, teach other girls what I had learned. I wanted to work so much that I never had to depend on anyone else.
The news of my accomplishments reached Pradeep. He started visiting us again and asked me to come back. In my heart, somewhere I was doing it for him. As a wife, I thought it is my duty to make him proud but as my efforts were gaining momentum, I wanted to establish as a professional. He said he will take our daughter with him. I didn’t doubt his intentions and sent Reema away. She was just 1.5 years old. After one week, I received a legal notice which accused me of theft and malice. To prove myself innocent and have the custody of Reema, I fought my case and on the day the judgement was to be passed in my favor, Pradeep brought her to the court and pleaded me to live with him. Emotionally vulnerable, I made the grave mistake of going back.
I left whatever I had started to be a full-time homemaker. Seeing that I was not making money anymore, Pradeep forced me to go back to my parents and look after the parlor. He started to misbehave and mistreat me. On a cold December day when I wasn’t well, he sent me back to Khaga only with my son. Now I was shuttling between two towns, to supervise my work and see my daughter. My life was completely disturbed. One day, I was so fed up that I screamed to my husband that I can’t go on like this. He stopped meeting me and kept Reema with him. I immersed myself in work, came to Prayagraj with my son and never looked back.
In 2007, I was told that my daughter was so unwell that she could die any day. We rushed to get her and saw that she was reduced to a skeleton, stinking of medicines, had turned into a color that didn’t look human. I closed my eyes, remembered the Goddess and spoke to her, “Devi has many faces. This is also an avatar of the Goddess and I bow to you”. I brought her back and from that day, both my children are with me.
I kept working hard and from that one parlor in the village, today I own a luxury salon, make up studio, home décor store and an apartment. From going door to door for work, now I drive around in a big car. Reema has her own salon and Himanshu is helping me take care of the business. I have met some great people in my journey who stood by me. My parents have always had my back and I can never thank my father enough for everything that he has done.
He always says, “Hop on the back of every horse that brings opportunity and success. It may not take you to your destination but it can take you closer to it.”
And believe me, I have not missed any ride, including the gallops!