Contest or no contest the thought refused to go away, I idly googled for information and International Women's Day website said
“International Women's Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.”The difficulty was that I personally didn’t know anybody who matched this description and just as suddenly it hit me how blind I was. I was searching far and wide for inspiration when one of my closest friend’s life-story was something which always touched me.
We were a group of eight in college and Chaitra and I were part of this big noisy party. As years passed the numbers dwindled and it became a smaller group of 5. Chaitra and I were the only ones who took English literature and so it was not so strange that we became very firm friends by the end of our college-days.
Immediately after college she found a job in an educational centre and soon found a vacancy for me in the same place and our friendship only became stronger. She was a very good-looking girl, looked years younger & one could always find boys hanging around wherever she went. But she was much more than a pretty face; even in the early days of college she was determined to make something out of her life. But a bit confused, I felt or else why would she have gotten out of one broken relationship to jump straight into another. I didn’t approve at all but stood by her when she had to take the extreme decision to go against her parents’ fierce disapproval and marry the boy. I remember shaking in my boots when she dragged me to her parents’ house after her wedding as she couldn’t face them alone. Her mother broke down and demanded why I as her best friend couldn’t have advised her against the relationship. I felt terribly guilty then as I too felt my friend who had everything going for her could have waited for better things.
Everything which had to go wrong went haywire after marriage. Her father-in-law who was a strong support passed away, her parents refused to forgive her for going against their wishes and she found herself pregnant earlier than she planned. She had a terrible delivery and swore she was never going to put herself thru that ordeal again. All her dreams of climbing the corporate ladder fell thru when she was forced to leave her job after her child was born. Her mother-in-law made her life miserable and to top it she had put on so much weight after the delivery that her self-esteem fell. Imagine almost 80kgs on a 5’2 frame…….she once told me in tears how she hated looking at herself in the mirror. It was a hopeless situation, I remember thinking.
Once the initial shock of being confronted with one bad thing or the other passed, she grimly charted out a stringent plan. She was determined not to let circumstances over-whelm her. Her 1st objective was to lose weight; she joined a gym and under the guidance of a trainer exercised single-mindedly and ate all the right food. She lost all the pregnancy fat and achieved her objective in just 6 months flat and never slipped again. Next she looked for a job and found one after a lot of effort[nobody was keen to hire a new mother you see] and stuck thru it even though it was not what she was looking for as she needed the experience it offered.
Meanwhile the situation at her in-laws place where she stayed with her husband was deteriorating from bad to worse. She received absolutely no support from anybody and her husband had his own constraints. The biggest blow was when they were asked to leave the parents home and told to manage on their own when they didn’t have the means to do so. Her husband who part-managed the family business till then was suddenly out in the cold.
I can only imagine what my friend must have gone thru. She by nature is a private person and did not make friends very easily. She never let me know anything[I’m here in Dubai remember] and filled me in only when I went home for vacation. Not that I would have been of much help but atleast I could have lent her some support.
She was shattered but didn’t break; they moved into a small house near her parents house[by now her parents were on speaking terms with her] and she entrusted her son to her mother for the time she was away at work. Her parents were not very happy about it and shouldered the responsibility reluctantly . Chaitra knew about her parents reservations but couldn’t afford to let her pride talk so she pretended not to notice…..atleast her son was in the hands of somebody she could trust.
The next few years brought many life-defining moments both happy and sad and she took them all in her stride. She worked hard and learnt from her mistakes. Breaking away from the family proved to be a blessing in disguise. Her husband who had a casual attitude towards life woke up to his responsibilities; what’s more, recognized her for the woman she was and provided her with all support.
Now I marvel when I look at her. She is a poised and confident woman; nobody believes it when she says she has a 9yr old son. She stood by her mother when she underwent an open heart surgery and helps her father out financially. She is her parents’ strongest support, an irony really as all their life her parents were pinning all their hopes and aspirations on their son and sidelining her. As of now she is working for Dell as their ‘Regional Sales Manager’ and has 45 employees reporting to her. Need I say anything more???? And oh she won the 'Best employee of the year' 2 times consecutively.
I am so proud of her, my heart sort of swells when I think of her and always remember her when I need motivation. In the end I didn’t have to go far at all to find a woman who inspired me….she was there all the while, just within my little world’s reach.
This world is filled with amazing women like Chaitra who is somebody’s mother, daughter or wife. I am so glad she is my very good friend.