The strongest women you will meet are those who have, like Sita, walked through the fire repeatedly and emerged softer, kinder, and more purposeful each time.
My world began the day my son was born. When I saw his tiny little face in my arms, when I smelled his head and counted his fingers and toes, I knew that I would fight a thousand wars for this little baby.
So, I did.
For most of the years between 1999 – 2008, I was the product of traditional societal values. At the time, and even today, Indian women are still expected to “live” a certain way. This means there are rules for everything— dressing, behavior, falling in love, getting married, becoming a parent, and it goes on. There is an unspoken code of ethics, and if you so much as do a tiny thing that is different, you get labeled a misfit.
I was different not by virtue of my own shortcomings but because of my circumstances. My marriage to my first husband featured more hospital visits than anywhere else. My in-laws at the time had long given up on hopes of his survival. There were days when hanging in there made little sense to me too. I was paying bills I could not afford. I was juggling night shifts at work. The marriage was tumultuous.
There was no in-between— in the beginning of the relationship, living with him meant opening my heart and skin to wounds. Many would ask me why I chose to stay on. I would still look at my son’s face— my son, who was only a child at the time— and say, “I wanted him to have a father who’d show up.”
And through it all, I could only think of trying to help him because I needed us to be a home. He, my son, and me. It took me years to unlearn that home is not what you marry into. It is, instead, what keeps you safe.
My first husband passed away in the hospital on 17th January,2008. I remember my brother calling me up to tell me, “Your son deserves a life outside of the clinical universe he’s been growing up in.” And somewhere, after all those years of abuse, fear, and insecurity, I looked at him and thought, “No more. I’m going to be his mom and dad. I’m going to be all the parent he ever needs.”
You have to remember; this was a time when society was already pitted against me. My in-laws had made me sign documents that effectively banished me from any financial stability I could have had in that marriage. Society had made up its mind that I, the only person in my first husband’s whole family who had wanted him alive, had somehow done everything wrong. But even with so much darkness, I had people I could turn to. I had my son, my parents, and friends, and among my friends, I had someone who would go on to become my shelter.
When I remarried the same year in November, my guest list featured only thirty-five people. All my extended relatives, and my husband’s too, boycotted us because, in the eyes of the world, he was giving up his chance at a good life by settling down with someone with so much baggage. But. My husband— he is someone who has come through for me each time. Even then, even with his fears— we had a decade’s age gap between us, I was a woman with a “past,” and most of all, that past involved a child. Why was he doing this? What could he possibly gain?
The world has a very strange perception of love. The greatest love stories we read and cry over speak of passion, angst, and defying the odds. Yet, when people are brave enough to do it in real life, so many of us resent them. We’re shocked at their audacity— how could they go against what our culture embodies? It’s funny because culture doesn’t need to portray the ugly stuff that keeps two hearts who love each other separated. Instead, it could be the good things.
It could be all about the aesthetic, the sweet traditions of marriage and partnership, the coming together of a family for the right reasons, finally.
When I settled with my son and husband into a home, I had no money and little support. Under these circumstances, I bought my first house, a tiny little place where we had the balcony refurbished so my son could have his room.
It was a struggle then and for years afterward. Every year, I switched jobs for modest salary hikes to keep adding something to my family’s income. I wanted my son to have a normal, happy childhood. He’d lost so much of it already— but no more.
Things turned around for a while when I landed a high-profile role at Accenture. But again, circumstances hit me, and I had to quit at the peak of my career and of course, look for alternatives. For months, I got nothing because people couldn’t understand why someone who “had a twenty-four lakh p.a. salary” was willing to downgrade to a receptionist role. They didn’t realize that I couldn’t choose my circumstances.
I refused to give up.
And one day, I found something that opened up the world of Ghostwriting to me. I barely earned anything when I began, but it made me happy. I was born with words in my blood, and this was a chance for me to put them on paper and make something for my family too. Slowly, things started getting better financially, but the years had exhausted me physically. I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and a time came when I could no longer write— forget writing, so much as lifting a teacup made my hands ache.
And all this while, I was observing books written by me, marketed by my clients hit the top 100 in the Amazon US store.
I am not a quitter, so I learnt the world of marketing on Amazon. And although this opened up new avenues for me, I can’t say all of them were easy. I lost a lot of money while learning to become a businesswoman. Imagine… an author that treats her craft as a business because it helps with the finances of the family!
Once again, I didn’t let the so called circumstances put me down. Each loss pushed me to learn harder and do better for the men in my life who loved and believed so hard in me and for all the women out there who’ve ever felt “What if I can’t?”
The first time I saw my book in the USA today bestselling list, I had all sorts of feelings – including goosebumps.
Today I am at that golden place. I am still judged for what I write, but I don’t care. If you’re still with me, you’d realize that I never cared.
Yes, I write steamy romance novels for a living, and I earn six figures (USD) – just through indie publishing.
My books have been translated into foreign languages (Italian and German), and various audiobook publishers have bought rights of some of my books. It’s a mighty proud feeling.
From nothing to here. From being sort of homeless to owning two houses in Gurgaon. From having to sell our only car to owning two luxury cars. The journey has been amazing. Full of learning and unlearning.
Trust me; you can. When you want something badly enough, the laws of the universe itself will conspire to make it impossible for you not to get there.
You’ll stumble and fall a thousand times on the way. Even when you get to the destination, it’s not going to be candy and sunshine. There’ll be warm days, and there’ll be cold ones too. But is it worth it? Oh my God, yes. It is worth it because you learn to fall back on yourself. Because you see that you, with the fire, passion, and grit in your heart, you’re making the life you only dreamed you could have. In fairytales, they don’t tell you what happens after the “ever after.” I’ll tell you.
You still work your butt off every day. Sometimes twenty hours. You struggle with doubt, and then, your husband and son remind you that you’re the woman who got back on her feet each time and manifested the life you’re now living. Ever after is a work in progress.
For me, it is in knowing the little sureties. That my son will marry one day, and I will become a fab (read HOT) grandma after. That I have a beautiful, loving man to grow old with. That I can travel sometimes and enjoy quiet sunrises and fiery sunsets and know life has, even with all the lessons, taught me to be kind.
Every woman is born with a sword sheathed against her heart, and once you find the courage to wield it, you don’t turn back. I became a warrior because of my circumstances. I choose to be one because it is now part of my identity.
This write-up is by Ruchi Kalra
Ruchi loves cooking and trying out new recipes. She enjoys scrolling and spending a lot of time on online shopping platforms (even when she hasto buy nothing). She loves creating vision boards for herself and updating them periodically, because she believes that this helps her manifest the life of her dreams.