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The story of grit, courage and determination of a young village belle who overcame her inhibitions and the oppressive society norms to carve a niche for herself. The story affirms our belief that nothing is impossible in this world if you have the blazing desire to achieve it. The main protagonist of the story is Sunita Sahu who with an unflinching support of her husband Pushpendra Sahu, weaves an impressive success story.

Truly an inspiration to the womenfolk!

Sunita Sahu was born in 1977 in an obscure town of Sarsai, Uttar Pradesh. The people of Sarsai are famous for their resolute tenacity and chutzpah. Ditto for Sunita and her family.

Despite their modest lifestyle, Sunita’s parents dreamed big for their children. It is rightly said, “All great things begin with a vision”. Envisaging a bright future for them, her father relocated to Rath where Sunita was enrolled at a renowned school. Life settled into a routine. Soon Sunita reached High School. Much to the chagrin of her parents, Sunita’s affinity with academics was limited. For someone with a creative bent of mind, she was naturally inclined towards art and craft.

After passing grade 10th in 1994, she was married to Pushpendra Sahu, a business man from Sagar. Fantasizing an idyllic life ahead, Sunita stepped into matrimony with a dream in her eyes. Along with her and her husband, her new abode had 2 other family members-her husbands’ elder brother (jeth) and his wife (jethani). Life was nothing but a bed of roses, Sunita thanked her stars for being blessed with such a loving life partner. She fancied good fortune ahead oblivious to looming challenges that future had in store for her.

As life established itself into a customary routine, Sunita sensed the changing demeanor of neighbouring people. Their once friendly disposition swapped itself with a queer frostiness. Time and again, their remarks would be laced with profanities suggestive of demeaning Sunita for her lack of education and inadept household skills. Sunita strived hard, her constant endeavors steered towards evoking an applause from people. She would long for a hint of approval, trying to seek their validation in trivial matters. Impassive to Sunita’s efforts, people continued with their verbal assault. It was too much for Sunita to endure, enough of this insult; she decided to confide in her husband. Pushpendra was appalled to learn about the derogatory episodes. Reaching a quick resolution, he announced that they were relocating to Mauranipur, their hometown.

Once at Mauranipur, the warmth of Sunita’s in-laws bolstered her lost confidence and she embraced life with voluptuous enthusiasm. Pushpendra ventured into business, he opened a cassette shop. Sunita got busy with household chores, taking care of her in-laws with pious dedication. Somehow, a niggling thought kept inundating her mind like a deep-seated vexation. Her heart still hurt with the criticism that she suffered at the hands of those people. She wanted to prove them detractors wrong, she wanted to achieve something big in life!




One year into wedlock, in 1995, Sunita expressed a desire to pursue her education. She enrolled in school again and passed grades 11th & 12th. After long, she felt elated, proud of herself. Little did she know that future awaited her with bigger things, this being her first humble leap towards a grand jump she was about to take.

Time passed and life settled into a routine. 3 years into her marriage, Sunita and Pushpendra still did not have a child. There were whispers in the society, a sense of insecurity again creeped in. The couple was advised to undergo a treatment which they could not afford. Sunita felt suffocated, unable to focus. She desperately needed an outlet, something that could revive her dampened spirit. This time she found her solace in imparting education to kids, she started with tutoring kids from the neighborhood and also began her stitching classes. Her work took off to a flying start. Stitching classes were a big hit. She was flooded with work so much that she had to wrap up her tutoring to dedicate her time and energy full-time to stitching classes.

 

One year into this, her aspirations grew bigger. She desired to pursue B.A. and took admission in a local college. With stitching classes, college and household work, life was a roller-coaster ride for Sunita. And, she enjoyed every bit of it.

She thrived in a backward society where she donned a ghunghat (veil to cover one’s face) every time she was near her father-in-law. More so, there was no provision to talk to her father-in-law directly. She had to tap the thali (metal plate) with a spoon to grab his attention. She also attended college in the daytime, proving that she was well ahead of times.

A perfect example of orthodox as well as modern values blended beautifully.

 

With Pushpendra’s business flourishing fast, they were finally stable financially. With the support of her family, Sunita decided to go ahead with her pregnancy treatment. One to two years down the line, the treatment did not bear any fruit which left Sunita very disheartened.

This time she wanted to explore, venture into something greater. She was desperately seeking a channel for her craftsmanship-a beautician course where she could put her ingenuity to best use. This time, it took nerves of steel to convince her husband and in-laws who were skeptical to the idea from the very beginning. The thought of allowing Sunita to venture into a superficial world of cosmetology did not go too well with their traditional outlook.

It was almost 6 years since their marriage and Sunita still could not talk her father-in-law directly. They still depended on the thali-spoon communication method.

After some arguments and conflicts of opinion, Sunita could finally mould the situation in her favor.

 

Sunita now had beauty-parlour training added to her daily timetable of housework, college and pregnancy-treatment schedule. With other family members and distant relatives expressing disgust over Sunita’s venture into beauty business, these were turbulent times for the entire family. What kept Sunita afloat was her optimism and the staunch support of her husband and In-Laws.

Her next step was to get a proper certification at a training centre at Bhopal. To be able to qualify for the same, she had to get a basic training at her hometown.

Her mother-in-law got her enrolled in a better institute at Mauranipur to upgrade her skills. She was a good student; creative in her art and always open to learning new techniques. Soon she started getting clients from home, it began with a paltry sum of 50-100/-initially but it was her first earning.

She felt on top of the world.




She seemed to be in the best phase of her life, rejoicing every moment of her hard-earned success. However, this moment of happiness had to be short lived.

Due to some differences Sunita left the beauty parlor. She stormed out, trying to fathom the situation, realizing little that this was the pivotal point of her life! As always, Pushpendra assured Sunita by promising to get her enrolled in one of the best institutes. Like a kid, Sunita was floored by his words and challenged herself to brace life with an unbeaten enthusiasm.

True to his words, Pushpendra got Sunita enrolled at the Bhopal training institute. Life in the big city came with its own challenges which she overcame with her courage and steely determination. One of the major hurdles that Sunita faced at Bhopal was the English language. She had a nightmarish time for the first few days when she did not understand a word of what was being taught. After much persuasion, she could finally convince the institute to hire a trainer to teach her in Hindi. Soon she completed her training.

The year was 2005, Sunita and Pushpendra still did not have any kids. There was a sense of failure and dejection in the subconscious state of her mind. Pushpendra, well aware of this fact, supported Sunita whole-heartedly lest she feel depressed.

Back from Bhopal, she opened a beauty parlour with much fanfare. As the word spread, Sunita started getting assignments of waxing, hair-cutting from local friends and relatives. Still, there were some strict rules to be followed, some guidelines to be adhered to. She promised her family that she would only be taking local assignments, which meant that she could not offer her services outside Mauranipur.

Sunita’s foray into entrepreneurship began on a modest note, little did she know that it was going to be a life changing decision! Sunita’s major support was her friend Anjali who helped flourish her business. Being a resourceful person, Anjali publicised for Sunita and got her new clients. Slowly but steadily the business started taking shape.

Sunita’s major breakthrough came from one of Anjali’s friends. She was travelling from abroad to attend a function in Mahuranipaur. Anjali marketed for Sunita and clinched the deal for her. Sunita put her heart and soul into her art. The results were outstanding. The word spread like fire and Sunita became an overnight star. Even though she did not charge much for the make-up, Sunita was happy for her first big-break.




Her business took off to a steady start with regular clients. She got her first wedding assignment in Mauranipur - this big scale event earned her recognition and many accolades. Sunita had arrived. She was an entrepreneur now. Soon, it was wedding bells for her friend Anjali, she relied on no one but Sunita for her make-up. The only hitch was that Sunita was bound by her promise of not taking any assignments out of Mauranipur. Ironically, this wedding was taking place outside her restricted boundary.

It was time for some cajoling and coaxing.  It took her many days to convince her husband and in-laws. They finally relented because Anjali and her family were well-known in their circle. With this assignment, Sunita became a household name. She was an established entrepreneur now. In the meantime, Pushpendra switched over to mobile business and was doing very well in his field.

Sunita upgraded herself by undergoing a skin-treatment certification at a renowned institute at Delhi. It was another feather in her cap; with this certification her business grew manifolds. In between she completed her M.A. and B.ED. too. She also kept herself updated on latest make-up trends by undergoing frequent trainings.

Money was no constraint. After many years of laborious work, the couple was in a steady income bracket. They could focus on the big hurdle now- the pregnancy treatment that demanded lot of money was affordable for them.

They started with a treatment at Gwalior which required travelling to Gwalior frequently. Some months into the treatment, they got the heartbreaking news that Sunita did not benefit from the treatment and will not be able to bear any children.

Not to accept defeat easily, the couple decided to try a more advanced and expensive IVF treatment at Agra. Two years into this treatment, they were heartbroken to know that the results had turned out to be negative.

The year was 2008, it was 14 years since their marriage. Sunita still could not come to terms with her handicap, she still hoped against the hope. 2 years after the IVF treatment at Agra, Sunita tried with a more advanced IVF treatment at Indore.

Soon, Sunita’s optimism bore fruit when the doctors announced that she was pregnant. However, her happiness was short-lived as the baby had a hole in heart. Despite repeated warnings from the doctor, she carried on with her pregnancy. Unfortunately, some complications arose and she had to abort the child.

At this time, her in-laws were severely against any treatment dreading that she might contract some illness as a result of the harsh treatment. Life carried on. She still had an unfulfilled desire that haunted her day and night. During these testing times, one of their friends suggested that they visit Vaishno Devi shrine to get some peace to their disturbed mind. The ambiance of the place left them enamored, they decided to visit the shrine to 2-3 times a year.

During one of these visits, Sunita was so disheartened that she cried her heart out for 2 hours in front of Vaishno Devi. And then the miracle happened, as luck would have it, Sunita conceived normally without any treatment.




Unable to control their emotions, Sunita and Pushpendra broke the news to the doctors in Indore. Their first reaction was of utter shock and disbelief. In fact, the doctors called them to Indore suspecting some other complication. As if Gods had showered their choicest blessings on the couple, the doctors could not explain this miracle in medical terms.

Sunita gave birth to a healthy girl through normal delivery. She was aptly named Astha (belief). The birth of the daughter bestowed upon them luck and prosperity, their business grew by leaps and bounds.

Sunita became adept in latest techniques of make-up such as airbrushing and new methodologies. So much that Pushpendra wrapped up his mobile business to help Sunita manage her ever growing business. Sunita had become a household name in the neighbouring towns too. Life seemed to be going beautifully at every end. As always, good things in her life were mostly short-term.

They were again struck by a lightning bolt when Astha was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. Repeated visits to doctors entailed that there was little hope for her. Devastated, they saw a doctor in Mumbai who gave them a ray of hope. Astha was not suffering from the severe form of Down’s syndrome, just that she was delayed in her development. His advice was like a silver lining on dark clouds for Sunita and Pushpendra. He coached them to train Astha so that she would lead an independent life. It helped Astha manage her daily routine without any assistance and worked wonders for her confidence. Down the years, the couple were blessed with a baby boy, whom they named Vishwas.

Everything in life seems to be in place now. Their business is skyrocketing and children are doing well in their respective fields. They are a big happy family under one roof!

Their story is what success-stories are made of, not by stroke of luck but with sheer determination and faith.




Shanu Pande

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