At 25 years old, I could say that I lived a long life. It was not complete in any way. In truth, I suffered more than people twice my age and even dealt with poverty for the most part. But I’m here to tell you my success story.
I grew up in Jaipur, India. It was considered as one of the most affluent cities in the country, considering that’s where you could see some of the grandest palaces that many tourists loved. More importantly, UNESCO hailed it as one of the world heritage sites, which increased its attractive qualities.
Coming from Jaipur, people used to think that I belonged to a wealthy clan in India. I would laugh curtly as I shook my head no. The reality was that there were 11 of us in the family – excluding my mother and father, who worked as a grade-school teacher and a soldier, respectively. Their combined income would have been enough for an upper-middle-class family with one or two kids. But with almost a dozen of us depending on them, it undoubtedly placed us on the poverty line.
I could remember those days when my father would come home from work with three packets of instant noodles. Mother would cook that with a lot of water and add more salt not to be too bland. Then, we would eat that with rice for dinner. This was our situation more often than not.
Since I was the 11th child, all my clothes were hand-me-downs while growing up. My mother would give me the clothes that no longer fitted my sisters. Sometimes, she would alter the ones that my brothers outgrew and made me wear them, too.
Because of poverty, many of my sisters got married as soon as they reached 18. Our parents could no longer send them to a university, and they did not know how to do any job, so they got married off to men who at least came from middle-class families. Seeing how some of them were unhappy about the arrangement, though, I dreaded the day when my mother and father would tell me that I should marry someone instead of dreaming of a professional career.
I felt my parents gearing up to look for a potential husband for me when I had my 17th birthday. They would often converse in hushed tones, but I would hear my name now and then, which strengthened my suspicion about their plans. When they finally spoke openly, I said, “I know what you want me to do. I am not getting married at 18, though.”
“You will, and you should. We cannot afford to pay for any university, so it would be better if you tie the knot soon,” my mother replied.
The more my parents mentioned my wedding to someone they still had not found, the more I said no. They were cool about it at first, but when I refused to meet their candidate, my father gave me another option: leave the house.
Despite my heavy heart, I chose the latter option. My mother and siblings tried to persuade me to apologize and agree with everything, but I could never do that. I wanted to live before settling down and searching for a man that I should marry.
For weeks, I learned the meaning of couch surfing. I slept at any friend’s house that knew my issue and supported me. I also applied for a job at a fast-food restaurant to support myself. That was unheard of for a woman back then, but I did it because I had a bigger dream than becoming a housewife.
My pastor at church had a daughter in the United States. When she came home for the holidays, I got to tell her what happened to me. Before she returned, she told me that her company gave scholarships to people from abroad who would be willing to write for their publishing house.
Of course, I grabbed the opportunity in a heartbeat. When my visa got approved and released after a few months of waiting and praying, I let out a loud sigh of relief. I could finally start fulfilling my dreams.
Fast Forward To 2021
I have been living in the United States for 15 years now. I still work at the same publishing company that has paid for my tuition at the university and brought me to the country. I have published several books, which are all about my life experiences. I initially feared that I would not be able to do that, but I understood that it was doable and fulfilling if the words were from the heart.
I am married now, too. The marriage happened out of love, not out of necessity. I eventually repaired my relationship with my parents and even got them to visit me once annually. I did not do it to boast or anything – I just wanted them to see that it was possible. After all, if I did not have those experiences, I would not get paid to write about them.