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Rewriting My Happily Ever After is a soft, warm conversation that author Ranjani Rao has with her readers. She is telling her story as it is, sans filters, illusions, and repressed emotions.
Writing a fair and unbiased review of this book is going to be a challenge for me. But not in the way you would probably think. You see, I fell in love with the author. Exactly 73% into the book. Exactly on the last page of the third part of the book ‘Making It Work’ in the chapter ‘Choosing to surrender. Yup, that is exactly the place where I fell in love with the author. Now how can I write a fair, unbiased, evaluative review of her book without slipping into a mode of admiration and awe in between the lines?
A woman has been brave to bare her heart and soul into a collage of incidences and life experiences, so that we may find courage as she found hers. Her intention of writing and sharing the intimate details of her marriage, divorce, and single parenting difficulties clearly seem to offer the readers an insightful glimpse of the woes and wisdom of relationships, breakups, personal trials, and complications of being an adult in a society that is incorrigibly judgmental, critical and immature.
Rewriting My Happily Ever After is a soft, warm conversation that the author has with her readers. She is telling her story and about her life as it is. Sans filters, illusions, and repressed emotions. That is why it reaches the heart, touches its most delicate veins, and transforms the mind into higher understanding, greater acceptance, and a sense of deep gratitude for ‘what is’ rather than unhappily think about the ‘what ifs’ of life.
This book frankly can be considered as a manual for the lost and lonely. The women out there hiding the shame and stigma of being single, divorced, or rejected in love.
Why must one partner bear the brunt and ignominy of a failed relationship when it takes two to make it work or to make it worse? Why does our society put the entire burden of building, sustaining, and nourishing a relationship, especially a marital relationship on the woman? Why are men mostly (not all let me reiterate) given a free rein to accept, reject, or abuse a marital relationship? Why must the onus of proving abuse and misery lie heavily on the woman? I ask this last question in reference to the epic Ramayana where Sita had to prove her chastity and faithfulness.
Dr. Ranjani Rao comes across as a very sensitive, sensible, soft-spoken personable individual. That is why it breaks the heart to read about her trying and testing times in a marriage that could have theoretically worked out. Perhaps it’s just one of those stories where two people are individually wonderful in their separate and individual capacities but aren’t so when they are put together in a demanding relationship, especially an Indian marriage.
Writing her story for all of us readers may have had a cathartic effect on the author, but it is a bigger service for society at large. It explains and exposes the crux of most marriages. (Read Indian arranged marriages, although I have a theory about the difference between love marriages and arranged marriages, which may start off differently, but both eventually end up as an ‘arrangement’ and nothing more!)
What did this book do for me apart from making me fall in love with the author? Well, honestly it allowed me to see divorce from another perspective.
I am a product of divorced parents and a broken dysfunctional home. Witnessing my parents’ traumatic and acrimonious divorce at the impressionable age of 13 has left lifelong scars and emotional impairment. I suffer from trust issues, depression, and pessimistic world views. Nothing in the world can and will ever be the same since that day when my mother left my father and us children, to deal with adults who were hardly up for the task of looking after themselves, let alone us.
I bore the brunt of everyone suffering so much so that I almost lost my will to live and fight. But the very fact, that I am writing all this means that I triumphed, and that my resilience massively kicked in 4th gear and assisted me back to the weird world.
Reading about divorce from a woman who bore the brunt of a failed relationship, unhappy marriage, and yet gracefully exited it allowed me to see things from another perspective. Sometimes divorce is the best thing for all when staying together can hurt and harm in irreversible ways. Parting ways is better and best when done with grace, dignity, and maturity.
My parting words regarding the book is that this is a simply written book about a complicated personal life story.
This is Ranjani Rao’s story and she neither condemns, criticizes nor blames anyone in particular for the failure and trauma she experienced. She fought her way back to sanity and because of a safe childhood, she was able to rise from the waters of her grief and loss.
That is the most vital aspect in life- a stable, warm childhood so that as adults we can fight our fiercest fight and brave the bravest events in life. Children from a fractured and broken home frankly speaking, don’t have that. They take longer to rise, and sometimes not at all. The author may have been ‘cursed’ by a wrong alliance in marriage, but she had a safe spot in her maiden home, she had wonderful colleagues, and trustworthy friends. So many blessings all converged to ensure that although her married world broke, her loving universe remained untouched and unaltered. Hers is a beautiful story overall.
To you, the author, Ranjani Rao, I thank you for braving the experience and baring your heart to us. You have given us one more reason to keep being strong, brave, and gentle with ourselves in particular and with the world at large. Your story will touch and transform whom it has to touch and transform. More power to you, more power to you, woman!
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Image source: a still from the film Thappad, and book cover Amazon
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If you want to get back to work after a break, here’s the ultimate guide to return to work programs in India from tech, finance or health sectors - for women just like you!
Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend related to personal financial planning and she shared how she had had fleeting thoughts about joining work but she was apprehensive to take the plunge. She was unaware of return to work programs available in India.
She had taken a 3-year long career break due to child care and the disconnect from the job arena that she spoke about is something several women in the same situation will relate to.
More often than not, women take a break from their careers to devote time to their kids because we still do not have a strong eco-system in place that can support new mothers, even though things are gradually changing on this front.
A married woman has to wear a sari, sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, anklets, and so much more. What do these ornaments have to do with my love, respect, and commitment to my husband?
They: Are you married?
They: But You don’t look like it
Me: (in my Mind) Why should I?
Why is being married not enough for a woman, and she needs to look married too? I am tired of such comments in the nearly four years of being married.
I believe that anything that is forced is not right. I must have a choice. I am a living human, not a puppet. And I am not stopping anyone by not following any tradition. You are free to do whatever you like to do. But do not force others. It’s depressing.