- 16 Sep 2022
“My family never saw a difference between boys and girls — all our dreams were important. So when I pursued fashion designing, they encouraged me to chase after my dreams.
But during my course, Dadi’s health began declining. She said, ‘I want to see you get married.’ I was hesitant, but I wanted to make her happy. So, I convinced myself that I could get married and still have a career. But after my course ended and I got married, my in-laws said, ‘There’s no need for you to go out and work!’ I was taken aback. Growing up in the environment I did, and then being told, ‘You can’t work because you’re a girl,’ was a hard pill to swallow. I wanted to rebel, but soon enough, I had my son and had to take over the household responsibilities.
But I always wanted something more for myself. So, when my son turned 10, I decided he was old enough for me to restart my career. And while looking for options, I found a very basic dress designing course nearby. I knew I could help them make it better, so I began volunteering there as a teacher. Even though my in-laws were against it, I’d wake up at 5 a.m., finish the household chores and get to work by 9 a.m.
While there, I grew very attached to my students. I felt like I could teach them more than fashion—I wanted to empower them. So, to do more, I joined an NGO that worked with children. We gave kids a non-formal education. I still remember when I helped a 15-year-old write her first sentence — you should have seen how she celebrated! I’d even counsel kids on their careers — not wanting them to be held back like me. When they said, 'Madam, zhopad pati ke bachho ko koi job nahi deta', (nobody hires young adults who live in slums) it just made me work harder to prove them wrong. And today, I feel proud seeing one of them as a nurse, and another as a successful dancer!
Over the last decade, I’ve realised how important it is for children to learn outside the classroom, too — holistic education is essential. So, this year, when my NGO started working with Giving for Good’s ‘Sports for Excellence’ program, I was the first one to volunteer as a coach! We’ve worked with 150 students, teaching them football, and encouraging them to pursue it as a profession. We want the kids to know that their dreams are valid — and if sports is what they feel passionate about, then nothing can stop them! Especially the girls – I always tell them, ‘Log kuch bhi kahe, kisi ke kehne se rukna mat!’ (don't let the opinions of others stop you from being you). Now, Pinky, one of our players, is on the state team and aspires to play for India!
It’s been a decade since I restarted my career, and in that time, I’ve seen a change in my family, too. Today, girls give my example to go after their dreams. That’s why, I always say, ‘Beta jayega, toh beti bhi jayegi!’ (encourage your daughter as much as you'd encourage your son) Because if someone had stood up for me… maybe I wouldn’t have had to give up on my dream!”
Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Humans of Bombay.
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This story is exclusively covered by Humans of Bombay.