Girls these days are tagging each other to show support and share strength. But the following story traces through not just support and strength but courage to pursue dreams, outwitting challenges such as gender inequality, abuse and fate in itself.
As a child, Shreni’s eyes looked at how she can earn her parent’s trust in that she is an equal in her responsibilities towards her parents and strived to change their perspective that the end goal of a girl is not marriage. So, She tried to prove herself at every opportunity. She topped in her studies from school till her Graduation. She painted and found it as an opportunity to express her expressions and thoughts.
Shreni was a product developer at TIBCO. She had an aspiration to write GMAT & pursue studies from Indian School of Business and get into management. She started her GMAT preparation at edot academy and after a few months her parents decided to get her married. Her MBA dreams got shattered and she sacrificed her dream. She got married to a person in the USA.
“I wish I could have completed my dream. But not all things we wish come true, do they?’, she said.
The married life did not go well in the USA. She has faced domestic violence for many days. Her certificates and passport documents were kept with him.
She was thrown out of the home. Eventually she returned to India.
Around May 2016:
Shreni met Sai, GMAT trainer at edot academy. She explained the situation to Sai. She poured her heart out on the difficult marriage that she had been through. She said that she was going through a marriage annulment. She had no job. No friends. No contacts. More than that, she had no hope.
Sai suggested that she start preparation for GMAT and achieve her MBA dream.
Sai: “Stop crying. Let us take your dream and achieve that by end of year”
Shreni: “But Sai, I do not have the emotion and mental state. I must grieve”
Sai: “Grief is for the weak. The strong do not grieve. And you are a strong person?”
Shreni: “Those are just words Sai. I cannot study in the state that I am in now”.
Sai: “You must study majorly because you are in that state”.
Shreni gave her time and began to prepare for GMAT earnestly. Exam date was booked, a week before the deadline.
Around December 2016:
Shreni: ‘I have failed in the exam. I just scored a 660’, she was crying profusely.
Sai: “Do not worry. We will try again”
Shreni: “No I cannot do this. I am not ready for this mentally”
Sai: “What is this mental readiness? We must get busy doing things. The more we think of the past and failures, the lower we go”.
Shreni: “You do not understand Sai. My whole life is ruined. I am unable to show my face to my parents. I do not even have my exam certificates because he tore them apart during a fight”.
Shreni gained strength and started preparation. She attempted the GMAT again. She failed again. A score lower than her previous attempt. But this time, she stopped crying. She had stopped feeling anything. Her abusive marriage took a toll on her.
After the second attempt she visited Sai and said “I want to find my justice. I want to go to Delhi and pursue Civil Services. At the very least, I want to turn around the lives of women such as me.’
‘But what about the dream of an MBA?’ Sai asked.
‘I thank you for trusting me Sai and for pushing me beyond the limits. But I cannot try harder than this’, she replied.
The following week, she took all her savings and got on a train to Delhi. 12 hours into her journey though, she called Sai.
Sai: “What happened? I can only hear tears from the other end”
Sai: “‘What happened yaar? Please talk ! Is everything ok?’, I asked. But not a word came from her mouth”
Shreni: “I brought 2 lakh rupee in cash to pay for the coaching centre at Delhi. But someone just stole it and ran away. I am at a police station and they are looking for him in the CCTV’, she cried. Lightning never strikes the same place twice. But, misfortune does.
Sai had asked her to come back. She did come back. Sai suggested that “we postpone the dream of Civil Services and that she try for ISB instead. Because we did not have any option, we tried”.
Around March 2017:
ISB results came. She was rejected.
March 2017 – 2019:
Shreni had begun to grow over her hurts.She continued to assist Sai on his other ventures. In a key moment, she also travelled to Delhi and met up with a cabinet minister from the Ministry of Women and Child Development-. How she managed the appointment, how she convinced the minister to look into her delayed annulment case, how she found a pro-bono lawyer to accelerate her case is a fairy tale story by itself. But she did them all. And through that journey, she showed a steely resolve.
December 2018- January 2019
A resolve that only wronged people have. She was afraid of nothing, felt for nothing, and cared for nothing. From a girl who was like a plant, she became a fiery spirit with a single-minded devotion to get an annulment for the right reasons. Such was her dedication to setting things right that even our snail paced judiciary empathized with her. They sped up things.
2019 transformed her life in many ways. While she was in Jagriti Yatra, a call from the Ministry brought “hope” back to her life, a call that informed her about passport suspension. He was caught at the Airport and was put up in front of the Court of the Law. The judge settled the issue and granted annulment. A pro-bono High court lawyer, public prosecutor, advocate and police helped her through the process. She thanked them from her heart.
Shreni became the first Indian woman to put together a list of all women NRIs, who are victims of domestic abuse. ‘The number is anywhere between 300-400 people at least’, she said. She has decided to start a website with all the information and details about procedures to help those who are facing domestic violence and legal issues.
In her words, “Someone must do what is right. I have the opportunity to turn around people’s lives. I will do it. By the way, our judiciary is not as bad as we think it is. It is just that we do not trust it enough and do not have enough courage to follow up”.
Many friends came along to support her. And, on the verdict day in the Court of Law. After harrowing moments, the annulment appeal was accepted.
Now she is a free girl. You could see the relief in her eyes. It was as if a haunted past had left her. And that she felt pure again.
Shreni started her GMAT preparation. She has failed in the exam again.
Sai insisted her for one last attempt.
She stayed in Dilsukhnagar.She travelled to Gachibowli for GMAT coaching. She would tire herself out everyday. One of the days she was down with Dengue and got admitted to a hospital.
Shreni: “Maybe this dream is not for me Sai”.
Sai: “Maybe. But may not be too. Take rest for now”.
She rested. In a week, she was back to her preparation..
Shreni wrote the exam for the fifth time. She scored a 690. She worked on her application. She took a few interview tips from Sai. The call came. A stressful interview happened. An interview that ran deep into her work as a product developer, as an academy administrator, at the USA, with the ministry of social justice and as a person who has been through so much.
And on February 7, 2020, almost five horrific years of trouble later, she made her dream come true. ‘You are admitted into ISB’, the email said.
It was not just a dream come true. It was something more than that. It was a message that she sent out to people. A message that no matter how low life takes you, you can always and always fight your way out for your dreams. A message that no matter how weak circumstances make you feel at a point, the circumstances in itself will make you strong to turn you around. And no matter how hard misfortune strikes, you can build your own fortune through self-belief. And through that self-belief you can achieve the greatest of all dreams, highest of all rights, and the best of all that life has to offer.Through that belief, you come into the category of the most perfect and most inspiring humans to ever walk life. You become ‘Shreni’, her very name.
Misfortune breaks you. Suffering tortures you and takes away the ability to feel. But beyond a point, even misfortune gives up. Because you have to learn to smile beyond it and have grown to live for your dreams. Till the day that smile comes, hang on. It will all become better.
Shreni’s Message to women:
Be as strong as you can be.Because that’s the only way you got. Problems are opportunities, sometimes they give life a purpose. Always be kind, because you never know how hard life is with another person.
(Some of her paintings are in this link: https://fineartamerica.com/art/shreni)