No one can be sure if life and situations are a matter of free will or some greater plan at work. I however firmly believe in the existence of a force that plans for us - ahead of us and better than us! Thus, I accept and appreciate whatever I have been blessed with.
My thought process has allowed me to take the journey of life contended and happy. Most of the decisions I took in life were never planned or considered. I am happy to describe myself in the way my husband does - an emotional yet impulsive person! If I commit, I believe in delivering 100% with dedication.
My earliest memories are those of an old Delhi refugee colony with columned houses having arched shelves and ceilings with the wooden beams which stared us at night as we stared at them till falling asleep to Hindu mythologies or partition stories, of lost fortune and grandeur, narrated by my grandmother or an elderly aunt. Residents around were all prisoners of the sweet memories and partition agony and narrated to their children nostalgic stories of a lost land they could neither forget nor get over. The language they spoke was Urdu Punjabi and script they could read or write comfortably was Urdu English.
An invincible memory that always shackled my mental space is from a neighbour. Those days we saw many babas (soothsayers/astropalmists who roamed the streets and knocked the doors for a meal and to whom men and women thronged with questions. I heard my elderly neighbour stretch her palm to a baba, asking him to see if she had a line on her palm predicting that she will be a refugee in her own country of birth because of a partition dictated by someone they will never know.
Me and my two brothers were fortunate to have more family dote on us besides our parents. The subsidised housing in which we lived had been allotted to refugees who had migrated from Western Punjab of British or undivided India, now called Pakistan to Delhi, at the peak of partition riots in 1947.
This was 70’s and by now people had financially moved on. The narrative of night time stories was now changing to the multiple problems faced by the expanding middle class. We had successful doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers and businessmen amongst us. Some chose to leave and some were never mentally ready to move out of the safe heaven provided to rehabilitate them at partition decades ago. My father was keen to get out. An extremely industrious and loving human being, he had done extremely well for himself neatly balancing his two careers. A film buff, amateur singer who began his career as a film distributor and later couldn’t say no to a Govt job upon landing one. And we found ourselves in a South Delhi neighbourhood in a more competitive and well-educated environment. My mother had studied in Lady Shri Ram college and taught in a school. We were encouraged to read newspapers, quiz books and essay books. Literature somehow never found its way home.
And then there are scattered memories of school and college years followed by quick marriage and children. Despite doing well in academics I felt alienated and occasionally bullied in school and always thought may be because I was slightly an overweight kid. But later I realised it also stemmed from the fact that I was mild, reticent and complacent.
A happy homemaker and mother of two, life has been a blessing. Though life was smooth sailing personally, there was a kind of unrest I felt on seeing suffering around me. For someone who had never known abuse of any kind either as a child or a grown up, to know that there were hundreds of women and children going through this began to preoccupy my thoughts and time. I guess it was this unrest that led to the birth of my third baby in 2012 - the Aambra Foundation. www.aambrafoundation.org / www.aambrotsave.com
Towards the end of the same year, I found myself writing my book ‘31 Miles’. The process was more like simply putting my thoughts to paper. I had no idea whatsoever about printing or publishing or what the future had in store. Luckily, a publisher of great repute - Rupa Publishers, liked the concept and agreed to publish it. Seeing the book in my hand was an unforgettable experience. Like I had stated in my book that there was no beginning or an end in a circle, this completion of my book was the birth of a new beginning - LITERALLY!
While I was still in the midst of completing my book, the year 2015 saw the inception of Aambrotsave. With my only team member, family and friend - my daughter Jugnu, we decided to put together an event in one of the most prestigious venues in Delhi. Within a span of of three months, in mid-October, we had curated a two-day festival, in which over 100 internationally renowned authors, artists, painters, artisans and craftsmen participated. Delhi CSOI was packed with thousands of visitors who attended and enjoyed this festival. We received tremendous support from volunteers during the event and unbelievable media coverage in national newspapers and magazines.
Yet another milestone in the journey of my life has been the inception of the She Speaks series. On International Women’s Day, 2016, we invited inspiring women to share their stories of struggle and success at the University of Delhi, Hansraj College auditorium. She Speaks endeavours to motivate women and strives to bring justice to those suffering in silence. It initiates thought provoking discussions and meaningful dialogues for Women Empowerment. We have successfully completed five editions under the She Speaks umbrella with edition 6 coming up on March 8, 2018.
My book, 31 Miles, was officially released in November 2016. As a debut author, I was thrilled to see appreciation and recognition coming my way. I was also invited to speak about my book in New York and London besides Jaipur Literature Festival and many others. The book made its way to several newspapers and magazines of repute, which was indeed something to boost my confidence and get me into planning a sequel. Besides, a short novel in Hindi and several articles, I hope to continue this journey of life and make a difference to as many lives I can touch and put a smile on as many faces as I can. Like the famous quote goes, “If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you!”