When your world comes crashing down, you have a chance to do something you could not have done before, and that is - to rise up. There goes a famous saying in Hindi -आने वाले कल और बीते हुए कल के बीच उम्मीद होती है (There is only hope that stands between what happened in the past and what is destined to happen tomorrow), which led me to what I am today and what I aspire become in future. Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us and memories originate from what we go through in our lives.
Her Childhood – Beginning of ‘The Worst’
I was born and raised in a family of 6 members – my parents along with my 3 siblings. I lost my mother when I was 10, and if you are one of the few that has lost a parent so early in life, then you have gone through something that most of the people your age has not gone through. It was unsettling and harder with each passing day. Losing someone close at a young age is like losing part of yourself and it is hard to imagine coping without them. When my mother died, life got even harder for my father. It was up to my father to provide for himself and 4 young children. My father had a hard time which left him devastated thinking of taking care of his 4 children who were barely any old to look after themselves. However, getting through such a bleak period makes you stronger and builds stronger resilience we never thought would be possible.
Her Child Marriage – ‘Between suffering and hope?
Adolescent girls are more vulnerable to marriage, and they become even more susceptible when you are not taking the decision for yourself. Few years after my mother’s death, people in our neighborhood were the backdrop of the impending ‘इनके हाथ पीले करदो’ (get them married). Sooner did I realize, I was married off at the ripe age of 15. The constant struggle at my home had the optimist in me hope for a better life post marriage. I thought life could be brighter on the sunny side of the street, a new beginning and way of life. I got married to the youngest son of a well to do family within 2 days from the day they first met. But real life never plays out like an on-screen movie and as a child bride, there are many aspects which you are unaware of. However, I endured the terror and pain of a physical relationship with him. Little did I know that I would also be subjected to oppression and deal with an alcoholic person who would sip his poison till 2 AM and throw things here and there under the influence of alcohol. Needless to mention, he would expect me to clear the mess he created and would often react saying ‘Why else do you think have I got you here in my house?’ every time I strike back at him to make him realize that I am not his servant maid.
It was one morning when I woke up to hear his family say that I had the intention to take over the flat (house) from my in-laws. This did not stop here; they (in-laws) went ahead in provoking my husband of how mortified and ashamed they were of him because of not being able to “control” your wife. In no time, I was subjected to domestic violence, where he would get drunk and abuse me by slapping and beating relentlessly. Varying degrees of abuse, fighting extreme circumstances, and undergoing terrifying ordeal had kept me thinking of only one thing – to survive! I was pregnant with my first child, but the abuse continued, not knowing how to help myself to overcome what I was going through at that point.
I decided to put an end to this suffering when he slammed my head against the wall multiple times while I was pregnant with my second child. I registered a complaint against him. Post that, I managed to escape several attempts of him trying to harm me and my children. I gathered all my courage to move ahead in life and never give up, at least for the sake of my children.
Her Motherhood and struggle with living – ‘The worst is never permanent.’
Suffering changes you and becomes the fuel for something new. It teaches you to face challenges from agony and live through what you thought would destroy you. I used to walk miles in the streets of Navi Mumbai to find a roof to keep my children safe. Being a woman abandoned by her husband with 2 children, I was often perceived as a “helpless” woman who was thrown several atrocious offers by people who wanted to “help” me get out of misery.
Determination is the wake-up call to the human will and I said to myself - मैं हार नहीं मानूंगी (I refuse to give up). I promised myself that I would find a decent job to be able to feed my children. It was that moment between survival and hope which landed me with odd day jobs – making 500 rotis (flat wheat bread) at a mess, assisting a group of Bhangra dancers during events and many more. As we progressed, I managed to find a temporary shelter for us, only to realize how ‘worst’ can be transformed to ‘good’, if not ‘better’.
Her Challenges – There is a way to do it better, all you need to do is to find it.
I kept rolling the dice looking out for opportunities while accompanying the dancers during shoots and other events. But as one would say – in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity, I happened to meet a friend during one of the shoots and much to surprise, she asked me if she could introduce me to someone who performs stunts in movies. It did not take much time for me to give her a Thumbs Up, even though it left me wondering about any such job that pays you for doing stunts. ‘Try karne mein kya jaata hai, joh hoga dekha jayega’ (There is nothing wrong in trying, lets see what happens!)
Within no time, I went to Ladakh at the shoot location. The crew made me wear a fire body suit and lit it – my first take that literally set myself on fire. However, it did not go as expected, the wind blew awfully hard causing the flames to burn my face. I was immediately taken to the doctor for treatment. This made me cry to be honest and faced a lot of resistance from my kids and brother. They were not to be blamed for their forbearance, because that was purely out of concern and my safety. But I decided not to quit and embraced the struggle and kept working on many projects, fighting distractions, and constantly learning. This was the phase where I told myself – ‘The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.’
Her Career – Courage and Perseverance to create ‘Yourself’!
Throughout my stunt life, it was my inner battle and refusing to give up that helped me win the small daily fights in your everyday life; doing the hard work even if it seems painful and unbearable – each and every day. This was the beginning of a journey that I thought would never happen to me. This life from ‘good to better’ taught me courage, gave me motivation, and learned to push my limits. Every stunt session was a realization of my ability to deal with losses and defeats which invoked perseverance and courage, no matter how hurt I was. I feel pride in learning it all by myself on the job – be it sword fights, riding a bus, truck or a car, motorbike chase, horse riding, glass breaks, floor fighting anything and everything.
You learn to fight through adversity to create Yourself.
Her journey - from Women to S-HERO – Rising from the ashes
Just like the phoenix is known to be born from fire and rise from the ashes, I am grateful to have reached this far – to be able to rise up from the ashes and reborn to have a ‘new beginning’. I remember reading somewhere that - sometimes the worst thing that happens to you, the thing you think you cannot survive… it is the thing that makes you better than you used to be, which is absolutely true in my case.
My life bounced back to normal and began getting more work as a stunt woman. My new life helped me enroll my kids to a good school and give them what I was deprived of in my childhood. It was my journey from trying ‘to be the best from better.’ Suffering can lead to transformation and transformation - to a remarkable life.
Her Motivation – Her children inspire!
From the moment I held my children to free ourselves from the horrifying days of my unhappy marriage, I recognized the deep responsibility and pride with which I had been entrusted. My children were the glue that held everything together even when I felt that I would fall apart. They give me the motivation and makes it easier for me by looking after themselves when I juggle around morning and evening shifts. It is through them that I can get my source of inspiration to be the person striving to be my best, to be kind and unselfish, and above all, be a good mother.
Her Achievement – faith that led to triumph!
After going through a lot of ups and downs, it was a more like a dream to have the opportunity to work in the Cinema industry. In my stint as a stunt woman, I have performed stunts for prominent actors like Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu, Parineeti Chopra, Neha Dhupia, Mouni Roy, Sakshi Tanwar, Sneha Ullal to name a few, including leading actress in the south film industry. Some of the movies that I have worked in include Chennai Express, Corporate, Yuva, Dhe Dhana Dhan, Hasee toh Phasee, Jasbah, Ragini MMS, Singh Saab the great, Lamhaa, among others.
I was also fortunate to appear on several reality shows like Khatron ke Khiladi, India ke Jabaaz, Power Couple and India’s Got Talent and currently working for an upcoming web-series. Having come so far, it has made me realize that nothing can be done without hope and confidence; you are the window through which you see the world.
Her Ambition – there is still a long way to go!
When your get-up-and-go attitude drives you to succeed, you tend to become unstoppable. As the saying goes ‘Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose’ – I aspire to be known as the first woman stunt master in India and look forward to establishing a Training academy for emerging stunt directors in India, while upgrading my skills and knowledge in the filed I belong to. Above all, I want to continue on an upward career trajectory and succeed in my dual role – as a mother and a stunt professional.