As an 11-year-old going to school in Australia in a small, country town, I stood out.
I was the only child with dark brown hair, tanned skin and dark brown eyes. And I was the only child wearing an engagement ring.
Yes, at age 11, I was betrothed to a man who was nine years older than me and living overseas. I’m Indian, and if I was still living overseas and all of my friends were engaged, it probably wouldn’t have been such a big deal. But of course, I wasn’t and, well… it was!
I had so many restrictions placed on me. I couldn’t walk around the school and ‘hang’ like other kids did without an army of teachers sent to find out what I was doing, who I was talking to and if I was near any boys. I trained to be a gymnast and while I wasn’t going to win any gold medals, I was good. But when it came to the night of the main performance on stage with all the parents and friends there, I wasn’t allowed to perform because a ‘boy’ might see me.
I’m sure you can imagine what this does for your self-esteem. It’s hard enough for teenage girls to discover who they are and work out their own identity, but I had no chance. It was all dictated to me.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom (well, there was a lot of that, but let’s move on). Because at the age of 15-and-a-half, my gorgeous step-father – my Daddy – who raised me became aware of this situation, and he gave me the most powerful opportunity of my life: to choose my future. And choose I did.
I moved out of home at a young age, barely scraping through year 11, started work and soon after, I met a wonderful man whom I married some years later. We just celebrated 25 years of marriage. We have two beautiful sons, a daughter whom we adopted from India when she was a baby so she had a chance to choose her future and now two gorgeous grandsons. (I know, I’m too young to be a Nani!)
But here’s the thing. I did not let my past dictate my future.
I started my career, working harder than anyone as I had a lot to prove to the world. I had to prove to them that I was as good as the girl next to me, even though I didn’t hold the university degree she did.
We moved to Asia and I was hired by a new five-star hotel opening and became the executive assistant to the general manager. Sixty-one other candidates all had much better credentials than me, but I wanted that position, and when you come from a background like mine, you learn to fight for what you know is yours. I moved through the ranks quickly and after a few years, went on to work for one of the largest companies in Thailand, running 13 spa operations and overseeing 500-plus staff.
All from someone who was told she was ‘just’ an Indian girl with nothing of importance to say and no gifts to share with the world. All I was good for according to ‘them’, was to get married at 16 and have babies.
Well I showed them, didn’t I? And don’t get me wrong, my life hasn’t been all roses and chocolates (mind you I have been showered with many over the years). But life happens to all of us. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you are not enough and can’t do something. No one can do anything when they first try. Find a mentor and find a way.
We then moved to the Middle East and again, I proved everyone wrong. I opened a five-star destination spa in the middle of the desert, in a residential area, in a dead-end street. That shouldn’t be a problem now should it… Ha… Well it wasn’t, because I didn’t know the F word and still don’t! Failure was NOT an option.
After eight months of renovations, we opened a stunning Asian wellness sanctuary. After six months, we were fully booked with a six-week waiting list, featured in all the top media and even attracted a royal princess as a frequent client. We were then asked by a national airline to open my brand of spa for their 4,500 cabin crew and of course… we said YES!
Gosh, I have so much more to share. But in summary I want to say this:
Dig deep. Ask the right questions of the right people and PLEASE, go find your true purpose in life, as those gifts were only given to you and you are the only ones who can unwrap and share them with others. Look me up on social media and ask me anything you like. I would love to help you in any way I can.
Image via tumblr.com.
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