My Story: My Relatives Told Me, 'Kitchen Is Where I Belong'
“Like most parents even my parents had high ‘hopes’ from me. They wanted me to pursue Dentistry and so did I. But destiny had something else in store. In the very crucial year of 12th board exams my grandfather… whom I was very attached to, passed away. It was also the time the family was going through some financial turmoil and to add to this my very best friend happened to move away. All this affected my studies and my results. My relatives told me that I should focus on learning cooking skills rather than studying further as being a girl that waswhere I belonged in the future.
My confidence was shattered. I took up whatever came my way, which was Occupational Therapy, something I had never even heard of.
After compromising with my dreams, I entered college. There was a constant battle between my heart and mind for 5-6 years of my studies. While all my friends were enjoying themselves I used to be usually aloof, isolated, depressed and sleepy.
As if compromising with the career choice wasn’t bad enough when I started working, I realised that public awareness about the profession I had chosen was extremely poor. This depressed me all the more. I still craved for Dentistry. I was hoping that if finances permitted I would persuade my dreams. But deep down I knew this wouldn’t be happening.
When I saw my friends moving abroad for studies or for work I felt how lucky they were and how unlucky I was. It was during these testing times that I lost my childhood best friend (the only friend I had) in a train accident and that totally Shattered the already half broken me. There were times when I thought that life was over, nothing interested me anymore academically or even socially.
But I fought… I fought those battles of depression and anxiety with a determination that if destiny had chosen me for this field I would do justice to it… come what may. It created an unending urge to prove something to my own self and to those questioning my calibre, to prove that nothing is impossible even if it means walking alone.
In OT [Occupational Therapy] there is a branch of Paediatric, something I always had inclination towards. So, I started working in the field of Paediatric OT with special kids and that helped me heal my badly wounded heart.
I got married. Together with all the happiness that a loving and caring partner brings, it also bought along many responsibilities and duties as a daughter-in-law. Juggling between my professional life… that I had started to love… and married life wasn’t an easy task at all. But I was determined not to give up and even if I would my husband wouldn’t have allowed me do that. After going through testing times, life started settling down and I started my own clinic.
While working with these children I realised that besides having a special child with issues, what stressed the parents more were stigmas attached to it, the way these kids were looked down upon by the society, marital disharmony, unwanted sympathy that these kids were given, hunting for good schools… at times even changing cities, lack of resources in school and many such issues. It was a painful awareness that mere therapy wasn’t enough and I decided to step out of my comfortable A.C clinic into public domain… directly interacting with them about these issues. And unknowingly, this was shaping my directionless life.
I approached pre-primary and play schools to educate teachers about red flags to identify children with issues so that treatment could be started in the crucial years of development. But that didn’t come easy at all. The schools were resistant. They were denying the fact that they had any such kids. I used to travel each and every school irrespective of their medium of teaching or board. I used to wait out at times for hours to meet the authorities and often end up without meeting them. But these issues didn’t deter me. I still managed to squeeze in time from household work and clinic to reach out to schools , and giving awareness sessions without any charges.
I started to give free lectures for parents of many community organisations. Many people told me that I should focus more on my career and money, and what I was doing was a sheer waste of time and energy. But I simply wasn’t going to give up. For all my efforts an online blog SCROLLTHROUGH published a story about me ‘Meet The Real Life Aamir Khan’. News channels had good things to say about my efforts. Along with urban areas I also ventured into the interiors of Maharashtra where I took lectures for parents, nurses and special educators.
Finally, the day came when all my efforts made it worth it. I won the ‘100 WOMEN ACHIEVERS OF INDIA’ title, which was an initiative by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. I was invited for a Reception Lunch by the PRESIDENT OF INDIA Hon. Shri. Pranab Mukherjee in Rashtrapati Bhavan, along with other women achievers of India on 22nd January 2016. I was also invited as a special guest to witness the Republic Day Parade on 26th January at Rajpath.
7 years on… the struggle still continues. A lot still needs to be done, a lot of stigma still needs to be eradicated, an ocean is yet to be crossed. But today I am happy. That long lost smile is back. No one would believe that a girl who started her career in such depressing conditions is making headlines today in the same profession. Every time I make a child smile, I feel my friend is smiling at me. Every time a parent leaves the clinic satisfied, I feel I made a difference in somebody’s life.
What started as a small clinic is today catering to people from all over India and to Indians who come down from Canada, Germany and USA.
I have found a way to live life. The battle between the heart and mind still continues at times but only to add fuel to that burning desire to do something for these children.”