“He’s not a bad person, he’s just too weak”, she stares softly into the distance while talking about the husband who deserted her over 15 years back.
She is a beautician-on-call. A very passionate one. Every minute she spends around people is filled with ways with which she can add value to their lives – by doing her job as a free-lance beautician and makeup artist, but not only that. She becomes a part of your lives, like a sister or a mother or a friend. She counsels you on your diet, lifestyle, shares tips on how to get rid aches and pains and how to increase your stamina. You might even find her in your kitchen fixing a smoothie for you.
That’s Meenakshi – woman, incredible.
What is more incredible is her journey. Sheer tough stuff. It’s the story of a woman who went through the most insurmountable odds that were strewn in her path right from the time she got married. With a three-year professional training in Nursing, Meenakshi was the twenty-something starry-eyed bride when she tied the knot with a close relative whom she was betrothed to since childhood in 1997. Life looked good – here she was in a new city, Bangalore with her husband, all set to start a new life. He was a mechanic, hailed by his peers as one of the best. In a year’s time, their first child, a daughter arrived. Things were looking good. Within a few months, she discovered that she was pregnant again. Her husband and his family eagerly looked forward to the birth of a son. But, much to their dismay, it was another daughter.
That is when Meenakshi’s world started falling apart. Her husband wandered out of her life – he could not bear of the stress of his family chastising him for fathering two girls. And she was left pretty much alone, with two little babies, not having form of income or any other support in any form. The first few months were more or less a painful blur – she hoped he’d come back and the bad dream would be over. But, that did not happen. She heard from his friends that he had also quit his job and had hit the bottle.
“I had to pull myself together and set my life back on the path for the sake of my daughters.”
She went from hospital to hospital searching for jobs. She got one at K.K. Hospital in Yellahanka. It was a six hour duty per day, the shifts changed every week. The most challenging was the 12-hour night shift. But, Meenakshi had no option. She grabbed it. After all, it was a princely-monthly salary of Rs 1500/-.
“I could now afford to pay my house rent of Rs 150/- and also buy food and clothes for ourselves.”
But how does a young mother with two little babies arrange for a baby-sitter to take care of the kids when she is out working?
“I did not”, she smiles hiding noticeable waves of pain, “I would just lock my children up, leave enough biscuits by their side and leave.” Her elder daughter was two and half years old and the younger one, nine months – all by themselves as their mother resolved not to give up on life.
It was not easy. The long bus ride, the strenuous duty, difficult conditions.
All while the two little babies remained home, all by themselves.
Meanwhile, the husband came back one day. Only to rant and vent his anger. He stayed for a day or two and then wandered off again. This was now to become a pattern for next nine years.
They say that God and fortune also support those who fight out life’s battles bravely. Meenakshi wanted to do more with her life. Now she was with Nightingale Geriatric care, as a nurse on home-calls. Every spare moment she had, she invested in learning tailoring, knitting, and beauty services.
“I remember I had knitted a sweater for a make-up artist, Asha Panjabi. She suggested that I change my field – there was a lot of scope in the area of beauty services.”
She became her assistant and learnt the ropes. There was no looking back. Soon, her mentor shifted to Baroda and assigned all her regular clients to Meenakshi. Exciting times were here.
Her daughters were now 7 and 6 years old respectively. They were now confident ‘lock-and-key’ kids who stayed at home by themselves till their mother came home. Sometimes, that would be late in the evenings.
Meenakshi had now enlisted on Just-Dial and was getting new clients. A typical day for her would be doing a shift as a nurse, and beyond that, going to clients’ houses on beauty-service calls.
She was passionate, diligent and completely invested in what she was doing. A waxing was not a chore of removing hair from a client’s arms – it was a mission to ensure that her arms were left shining and new. A facial was not just a routine of applying creams and scrubs – it was a quest to make the client’s face smooth and spotless. That was the way Meenakshi chose to work.
It wasn’t easy, though. Her neighbours would say,
“Where does she disappear in the nights? She is definitely upto something bad. That is why her husband left her!”
“How can she just leave her children and go?”
“Where is she getting all that money from to send her children to a good school?”
She just decided to ignore all the gossip and kept moving ahead with her head held high.
Her husband was a raging alcoholic by now. Meenakshi felt sorry for him and decided to help him out. She put him in rehabilitation, fully paid for by her. He stayed there for nine months. Then, he just escaped one day.
She has no idea where her husband is, and has decided to forget worrying for him. Her in-laws, who’d ignored her for all these years now contact her frequently to her to ask for money. But, she has decided to shut that chapter out entirely.
Meenakshi has completed her Pro-makeup Artist course. She is not only a highly-respected home-service beautician, she also gets orders for make-up for weddings, stage-shows and television. Her daughters are 16 and 17, and doing extremely well in their studies. The elder one wants to become and engineer and is working very hard towards it. The younger one is also interested in preparing herself for corporate jobs. Meenakshi has good savings in recurring deposits, and fixed deposits to take care of their future. She has recently bought a car and drives it herself.
“My only dream is that my girls do very well in life. Let them show the world that girls can do better than boys only if they want to.”
Meenakshi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
An hour after this blogpost was published, Meenakshi called to tell me that her elder daughter has cleared the IIT JEE mains for NITK, Surathkal.