‘My struggle lasted longer because I was trying to put up a brave fight. I wish I had cowered earlier, accepted that shit happens.’
Yes, yes. You read that right.
It’s still a mystery – this thing called life. It unfolds layer by layer, often
surprising the most awakened of us. Sometimes, it changes in seconds and at
times, it remains stagnant for years. And like it or not, there is no customized
plan for you.
Damned from the day you know that you were born for a reason, and the rest is
an interesting exploration of the same. We live our good times without much ado,
but when the tide rises, it’s time to bring out all the wisdom and courage one has
gathered over the years.
The one thing that has helped me keep my sanity during tough times is
acceptance that it’s not my day, week, year, or even decade.
In 2012, I went through one of the most difficult phases of my life as an adult,
during which I dealt with poor health and emotional, personal, financial and
social stress. Life seemed like a huge burden and everything sucked. Even though
this phase lasted for four years, it seemed to last forever then.
And, my struggle lasted longer because I was trying to put up a brave fight. I wish
I had cowered earlier, accepted that shit happens, and then I could have
wallowed in self-pity, did my whole “Why me?” song-and-dance routine, then
would have felt even more miserable and then some more… and then the healing
would have started.
Sometimes, being brave is more harmful in the long run because in times of crisis
no one can function at full capacity. Help is critical. I made the mistake of not
realizing that. My recovery took years more than it really needed to.
No one plans a divorce. Not me. In fact, I had no plan. No foresight. No vision.
Everything that I had ‘never’ planned just happened. In less than 24 hours, my
life turned around and never went back to what it was. Philosophically, that’s
usually the case. But when you are an ordinary mortal, that’s not how you see it.
You rave and rant, dramatize, victimise yourself, cry, panic, worry, lose
confidence – it just feels like one big hellhole. I did all of this and passed with
I had completely cocooned myself socially and my relationships suffered. I
refused to go out and meet people and the only humans I interacted with were
my lawyers – the ones hardened to the core by seeing so much of human
suffering and stupidity. In just two years, I lost touch with most of my friends in
Mumbai and refused to reach out to the ones I had in my hometown. I was a
private person and having my personal life sliced and diced would have killed
me. But some of them refused to give up on me and chased me until they found
me, and my sanity today is an ode to their love and persistence. They wrapped
me in comfort and care, and I felt loved even when it was difficult for me to love
myself. They heard me rave and rant even at 2.00 a.m. Today, these are the
people I have still kept very close to my heart.
Those two years, I lived in a pair of jeans and three T-shirts and maybe a couple
of pajamas. I could not afford anything more, nor did I feel the need for it. My
relatives were kind and gave me as much emotional support as they could.
Slowly, it just seemed like a routine. For everyone. But it is difficult to maintain
friendships when you are financially down and out.
You don’t want sympathy or pity. That hurts even more. I remember a time when
one well-meaning Aunty came home and said, “Beta, look at you. Why don’t you
step out? Take the kids for a movie or something.” It broke my heart. I did not
have those Rs. 2000 for a movie, nor the strength and the motivation.
One of the things I was extremely fond of was cooking. It was therapeutic. But it’s
hard to bake a cake when your heart is broken. The only ingredient that made it
sumptuous was love – and I didn’t feel any. There seemed no joy in either
cooking or eating. Everything just tasted the same. Now, of course, I cook every
weekend, and it puts a spring in my step every time.
I have two children. They are 17 and 13 today. They are the foundation of my
new life. I used to be a very hands-on mother, doing everything possible for
them. But today, they have been trained to be independent. I do miss pampering
them because of my hectic schedule, but they have never complained. The most
important thing that both of them let me know was that I mattered. Humans are
capable of a lot when they are appreciated, and my children genuinely celebrated
every personal and professional win I had. It made me feel like a super woman.
Till date, my name in their phones is saved as SuperMom. Touchwood a billion
And work had to happen. Suddenly, a simple housewife was thrown into this
heady world of laptop types, technology in a computer, deadlines, Evernote,
powerpoint presentations, document formatting, accelerators, VC funding,
startups, pitch decks, one-hour long client calls, content, press releases etc. Then
we graduated to establishing a company, registering it, calculating TDS, service
taxes and dealing with a CA, employee letters and invoices. And the best part –
since you are a single mother, you also do picks and drops, piano lessons, play
dates, kitty parties, basketball refereeing, worry about grades, lost water bottles,
groceries, social calls, keep up with old friends, understand custody case orders,
car maintenance and insurance, medical updates, that nagging cough your
daughter has, that meal your son skipped – 100K tabs open at a time.
I was always short of time. I always needed a helping hand. Maybe a couple of
them – every day! I would work on my laptop from just about anywhere – in the
garden outside the school, in the car, waiting areas of multiple clinics, basketball
matches, car service stations… all were self-designed coping mechanisms.
I remember once I was to do a Skype video call with a Dubai client. Very senior
and professional. I was to pitch my services to him. And I had categorically told
my mom and two kids that I should not be disturbed under any circumstances.
Since I work from home (my bedroom literally, which I share with my two young
kids) I needed complete privacy and quiet. Barely 10 minutes into the call, my seven-year-old opened the door of the room and wriggled on the floor towards
the washroom, right behind my chair. My table faces a wall, and when she was
wriggling, my chair rocked gently. The little one repeated those moves while on
her way back. My client thought it was an earthquake. But it didn’t stop here. My
mum trooped in and kind of waved a particular piece of lingerie, wanting to
know the rightful owner. That woman has integrity. All of it is very urgent, of
The second incident overwhelms me even today. I had to go through an
immediate surgery and there was a deadline for a project. I remember profusely
apologizing to the client, while holding my iPad, as I was being wheeled into
surgery, half drugged. I felt so helpless. Only if the client paid, could I afford the
surgery. Thank God for family and friends in times of need.
Working from home was, and still is quite a challenge. Privacy, connectivity and
focus are always an issue. I have stood in 45 degrees heat in my balcony for
hours on client calls just to get better connectivity. Ditto in the winter here. I
have been impolite to school moms waiting outside school gates while
aggressively pitching to a client. I have had to explain to clients why my calls
were happening from outside a courtroom in hushed tones. After a bad day in
court, to come home and have a client call like nothing happened will always
remain one of my biggest achievements. We have lost many clients because we
refused in-person meetings. It was very difficult to convince clients that we are
not just a bunch of bored housewives trying to do something. We mean business
– in the real world, not a game of monopoly.
Work-life balance is a complete myth. The stress comes from assuming that they
‘need’ to be balanced. They can’t be. My way of looking at it is a little simpler –
there will be days when work must take precedence over everything else. You
have real clients out there whose business gets impacted by what you deliver.
And then there is a stretch of days when you are just spending time at home,
socializing, doing movie nights or just getting wasted. So, in the long run, it’s
I would like to say that when you are going through a bad phase in life, it’s a good
idea to invest your energies in coping mechanisms rather than trying to
understand why. It helps in getting over a situation faster. Of course, some
reasonable amount of introspection is mandatory, so that you are smarter the
next time you go through a negative phase. But that can wait a bit.
Remember, when you are in the tunnel, you just keep going, blindly. Realization
and perspectives come better when you actually ‘see’ the light at the end of the
tunnel. And hindsight is always 6 by 6.
If you think you have had enough, please give up. Stay down. Renew. Recharge.
And then, get going.
Hell, yes. Do that.
Ritika Singh is the CEO and Founder of Kontent Factory. She wears many hats – a Content Writer, Blogger, Editor, Ghost Writer, Digital and Brand Strategist and an avid Entrepreneurship Evangelist.