Let me say this at the very beginning, life has been kind. Born in Rohtak, to an Army Officer father and an educationist mother, and as first girl child in the extended family in almost 7 generations, I was doted on by all my relatives. I had quite a privileged childhood – great schools, loving family, hobbies and opportunities galore.
Throughout the formative years though, the one thing that my parents insisted on was being independent. I can still recall a freezing day in Dec ‘99 when Dad made me change a flat tire, at 6 AM, on our way to Rohtang Pass. But as I grew older, I became aware that things were different for girls and women. Whether it was travelling for a sports event, hanging out with friends, or going to tuitions I learnt that girls were always monitored for their safety.
Graduation came with the usual pains. My PMT ranking wasn’t great. I enrolled in English Hons and got to work at the Times of India when I graduated. Afterwards, I left Chandigarh for a post-grad in journalism in Delhi. Soon after, I started working with the Indian Express as a lifestyle reporter and got to meet and interview the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Sachin Tendulkar and Serena Williams. But of course life didn’t stay that way.
I had not realized that society considered me—a young, independent, “unmarried” girl—a threat. I was given a choice by my parents: “leave your job (because who will marry you when you earn more than them?), study further or get married.” Padhai seemed like the easier way out, so I cleared the entrance for JNU and got another master’s degree in International Relations. I enjoyed it and went on to specialize in defence strategies in the Middle East.
By that time, the girl had met the boy, and both had decided to live happily ever after. The parents were agreeable too. There was only one tiny issue. The rest of the family wasn’t happy. So, what was the issue? Well, caste, of course. But we went ahead with the wedding.
Even after all these years, there are always murmurs: Why have you not changed your surname, you have become “insert caste/state joke”? Why can’t you teach in a college (NET qualification can be a curse, people!)? Why don’t you take more interest in the kitchen? Why do you work when your husband is somewhat famous? Why don’t you have children/Can you even have children?
From my journey so far, I’ve realized this: ¯. Lastly, don’t judge, because even the happiest person you know is struggling in their own ways.
I was born in Delhi to a disadvantaged family. Later, my father left us when I was 15. He was a stonemason and with his departure, I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I ended up flunking my 12th exams.
I was born and brought up in Chandigarh. Blessed with a flawless childhood, I enjoyed a lovely family, the finest of education and a sound social life. In school, I excelled in studies as well as extracurricular activities.
Before I share my story, I want us to remember that India largely resides in its villages and towns. There are a lot of people in our country who have a lot of potential, but they seldom get the opportunity to prove their worth.