Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My story for the 'Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul'

Indeed…it's never too late to mend

No matter what one says of feminine liberation in our society, it's always dead difficult for any woman to follow her heart. Almost all of us would want to change our lives in one way or the other. Few; however are actually able to garner that necessary grit and self-determination. And if you are a woman, it's not simple, not at all.

This is the quest of that woman who dared to make a difference to her life when most tend to give up to the monotony and accept their fate with an uneasy resilience. Farhana Khatri, today at the age of 45, perhaps best represents the belief that 'it's never too late to mend'. Compliment her on anything under the sun and it will be gracefully passed on to her Allah. However, deep beneath you sense a satisfaction she feels for herself. She may be better off today, but hasn't let the memories of those bad times fade away.

"I still remember those days, sitting at home, in the afternoons, with nothing to do in that silence. Even a crow on the window would disturb me. I did nothing but pray all day and expect God to listen to me. After all, if the Almighty listens to everyone, why wouldn't he listen to me as well?" she asks. Family problems and personal dissatisfaction pooled in and the tension took a toll on her body as well, the signs of which were evident everyday. She suffered from thyroid and even suffered occasional fits.

Though a good student all her childhood; Farhana had to bid goodbye to her studies when she was married off at an early age. Circumstances perhaps would have been much easier had the financial problems were taken care off. "My late husband always tried his level best to make things comfortable for our family. He always did whatever he could. Irrespective of what he achieved or didn't achieve, he was a great human being," she remembers of her late husband, who passed away almost three years back.

Today the major breadwinner of her family, the inner calling to make a difference to her life came at the age of 38 when she decided to get back to studies. "I knew I had to do something of my life. I decided to pursue a course in journalism in KC College. What made it all the more difficult was the poor financial condition of the family. In such a condition, a 38 year old woman spending money for education was seen useless," explains Farhana. However, she knew that was perhaps the only way to break the chain of depression.

So much, she even sold off her jewellery to gather fees for her course. "I still remember that day, when I sold off my gold. I came out of the store with that money and just stood there for a while, thinking whether I have done the right thing. What if it's just a silly move?" she says, her eyes still thinking deep of that moment, as is she relives her past every moment she speaks of it. "A lot of flak came in from relatives and others as well. 'What is this woman up to at this age?' they would remark. I used to come home at nine after college and a deadline of nine in the evening was a big deal," she remembers.

However, that one decision turned the tables around. It was almost like she was re-born in a new world that was open to almost anything that she wanted. "Every small thing was a struggle, especially the projects. The kids today are so techno savvy, using the Internet, etc, of which I knew nothing. I used to buy books from the roadside for my research, manually write all my projects, with cut outs of pictures. I submitted fat journals while other kids gave slick printouts. I was charmed by my teachers, their talks of crime, politics, cinema and global affairs. There was so much to learn. The more I went to college, the more I realized how petty things were in the four corners of my home," she says of those days.

Time would justify that hard work done with utmost sincerity never goes waste. And Farhana made sure the saying holds good once again. "Memory was a big problem. I realized that at that age, I simply couldn't memorize even a single paragraph. I always prayed to at least 'pass'. However, by God's grace, I stood first in class. My children were very happy when they saw their mom enter home with a trophy in her hand," laughs Farhana.

Before she graduated she found a job. She did full justice to it and all her bosses' would vouch for it. She didn't know to operate a computer but learned it pressing every key like a toddler who learns to walk with every jittery step he takes. When her husband expired, her relatives expected her to sit at home for four and a half months and pray for his soul. "You can't expect the breadwinner of the family to do that, can you? Even Islam would support me. On the 11 th day after my husband's death, I was back on my desk," she remembers proudly.

Today, working as a special correspondent and page editor for a newspaper, Farhana has come a long way. At an age where most women cut down on their work, this one takes it up with an easy smile. "I never complain today is because I have come from the have-nots. I have seen worse times in my life, times when I had nothing to do, didn't have a job, didn't have a purpose in life. Things are a lot better now. I am happiest at my desk," she says. "When I see small kids running on traffic signals selling newspapers trying to make a living with every penny they earn, what should we complain about? Till the time you have work and are able to work, you have no right to complain whatsoever."

Many people asked her if she would want to get married again and start off with a new phase. However, she claims to have different ideas. "Today, I live life as per my terms. I have no plans whatsoever to get married. You have only one husband in a life. If at all ever I need a companion, I will think about it, but on my terms," she explains insisting everyone to search for their happiness amidst themselves. "No person other than you can provide for your happiness. It has to come from within. He can be your companion to share things in life, happy and sad, but you can't hold him responsible for what you don't have in your life," she says.

Life is a jig saw puzzle of emotions and everyone has their own share of tight rope walk. It's important to discover yourself as an individual and the dimensions of life change forever. And it doesn't matter if you think you are late, after all, it's never too late to mend. "As Frederick Perl puts it, ' I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful'"


Sal said...

Wow, i didn't know all this about farhana, now that she's my colleague at filmfare. quite insightful.

Vicks said...

Far is a ROCKSTAR!

Purvi said...

Farhana was a classmate at K.C. College - we did the Journalism course together! I am SO excited and happy to have found her here on your blog - it's been ages and yet I remember her very well. I'd love to get back in touch with her, would you please be kind enough to pass on her email id may be? Thanks much! ~Purvi Gajjar