To have your world come crashing down and to rise from the ashes takes time. It took me 17 years to reach a place where I can confidently say that I have taken control of my life after divorce.
From housewife to the divorced daughter of conservative parents to nationwide educational consultant has been a steep and difficult climb.
At 32, I was left on my own to figure life out. At 49, I have no time for a man.
After a messy divorce, I began studying again. Mine is a family of teachers and I was armed with an Early Child Care and Education diploma, not enough to set your life. So then I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education, MEd, a Diploma in School Leadership and Management and MA (Sociology) and I was ready to take on the world!
I started working in a school for children with special needs. We had an exhibition; a seemingly ordinary event, a major turning point for me. The head of an eminent chain of schools inaugurated the proceedings. I showed him around and two weeks later, he called asking if I’d be interested in heading their upcoming branch at Ahmedabad. I was so surprised, I thought he had the wrong person. Relocating was a big decision, but I decided to do it.
In Ahmedabad, we stayed in a hotel for a month and set up the first ever branch of that school in Gujarat. We started in 2007 with just ten children in the pre primary wing and in two years we had 1000 children and 50 teachers, spread over three centers. I was a hands-on Principal, looking into teacher management, academics, and everything else. I knew each child by name, his needs, and his parents. My mentors’ faith and trust boosted my confidence tremendously.
But the bee of female empowerment continued to buzz in my bonnet – mainly because of my own horrifying experiences as a helpless, under-qualified woman.
I took on the mantle to educate and empower as many young women as I could. Every afternoon after school, I would train the teachers in the subjects they had to appear for exams in, be it child psychology or special education or creative arts.
It was amusing that some husbands felt threatened. Also amusing – none of them objected to the fat pay packets their newly unshackled wives were bringing in. There was some name-calling, which I ignored. I remained resolute. I had moved on from being soft to becoming a woman who can take a stand. Whether they were married or single or divorced, I focused on getting them qualified and trained. Emancipation became a top priority.
And this transformation changed the way they interacted at home. They started speaking up: “I’ll come back home and then take care of housework.” One said, “I’ll keep my kid back at school and teach him there.” They opened bank accounts, which the school paid their salaries into. Many didn’t have an account before. Many husbands started supporting their wives, by taking care of the children, coming home early, picking up and dropping their wives from school, buying them vehicles. The women were able to present themselves better. Hidden talents came out. Husbands attended annual functions and discovered that their wives could earn the respect of 1500 parents; their estimation of their wives went up.
After nearly 15 years of extremely hard and deeply satisfying work, I took a break from schooling to join hands with the one man who was instrumental in changing my life. Who is my mentor, my friend, philosopher and guide. The credit for my stability I give him and him alone. HE TRUSTED ME! And that means a lot to me. I am now a part of his firm and we work together to set up schools on a project basis.
I miss taking care of my babies. I’ve missed out on their growing up, sharing their joys, their happiness, their pain. This pain I carry in my heart. I wanted to tell them so many times, but hold myself back for fear of disturbing their peaceful lives. It’s a sacrifice that I made and I continue to make. The cost is really heavy on my soul!
But I’m in a happy place now. Distance and separation has given me a better understanding of relationships. I value relationships more than I value money. I value my family. I take care of my parents. I take care of myself.
(As told to Madhuri Maitra)