October 2, 2022

Monali Bharadwaj – A fighter, a mum and strong soul

Monali Bharadwaj is an inspiring woman to have battled many challenges in life. Professionally Monali is a television and advertising film producer. She is also a cancer fighter, has been a single parent, and has had life throw unexpected situations that has made her sail through various journeys.

Her daughter even witnessed her mum’s marriage and here with Mums and stories Monali shares her journey, a very sensitive and inspiring one. Read on to find out a narrative where this mum bares her soul.

“My childhood was fun; I grew up with my paternal grandparents in a tea estate in Assam. My dad was in the police force and mum was housewife. My dad was my hero and mum is still a pillar of strength. I have seen her going through all the pain in her life but she still manages to smile and she is an epitome of energy. As a child I was shy, introvert and would not speak up at all. I was bullied by elders always, and I used to behave like someone who would love to get into my own shell whenever needed. It was comforting.

But now I think that I have spent my most beautiful days our village with all my uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends. ‘Childhood was amazing’ if I could sum that in one line.

I went to stay with my parents when I was in 6th standard. It was a whole new experience for me, since dad was in a transferable job, we would move to other state in every 6 months. Assam was under turmoil at that time. Dad was never home for any occasion, festivals or family functions. My mum was the one who used to manage us all alone. Apart from cooking, cleaning and feeding she used to get time for herself to sing, or read. I still wonder how she managed that.

So my mum is my superwoman who is 50+ now, lives with 16 dogs in Assam after my father died in 2006.

Yes, I had a second marriage. but I was in a live in relationship for three years with a ’MAN’ who had realized that if he marries a divorcee, the SOCIETY won’t accept him, so he left us and got married to someone without even bothering to tell me!

I got married at the age of 21; by 24 I had Ruhi in my life. Life was beautiful till 2006, then everything started to fall apart. Dad died, compatibility issues raised in our relationship, So we decided to get separated. We had a mutual divorce and I didn’t claim any alimony from my ex-husband. I had no idea about divorce, money and other technical stuffs related to divorce. I decided to come to Delhi and joined one of my friend’s office. Till my divorce I was a HOUSEWIFE, I had no idea how to lead a single life with a 2 and half year old baby.

One fine day I decided to move to Bombay, but I was completely clueless about what would I do in this big city. I am very impulsive by nature and I didn’t think twice. I spoke to a friend in Bombay and asked if I could stay with them for few days.

With Rs3000 in my hand I came to Bombay with a suitcase of clothes and Ruhi, she was almost three years by then. Next thing was to find a job. I was always fascinated by TV,

Through a friend I managed to connect with a production house. I met a top director and without experience I still looked and hoped for a job. After 15 days the accounts department told me that my job was satisfactory and they would pay me 8000 per month.

I was happy and at the same time I was worried. for 15 days I had managed someone to take care of Ruhi, but what would I do if I have to go to the shoots every day?

Questions like who would take care of her, who would feed her, because my job as an assistant director demanded minimum 12-15 hours every day. The real battle began as I knew I could not afford one full time maid to take care of daughter.

So I made a plan and discussed with my flat mates. The deal was, I will do all the household chores like cooking, washing, cleaning and in return their house help would have to take care of Ruhi when I am at work. So after lots of arguments and discussions finally everyone agreed.

I would finish everything by morning 5-5:30 and get ready for my shoot. All day Ruhi stayed with the maid. She fed Ruhi and made her sleep and she would leave. It was heart wrenching to see my daughter sleeping alone in mattress on the floor. I had to be tough, there was no options left for me.

One day I still remember, I dared to call up my ex and asked for some help, but it didn’t work out. I was demoralized but couldn’t give up.

I decided not give up, not to beg, not to look back…. I literally kept a stone in my heart and moved on. I used to work 15-16 hrs a day, to save 10 Rs. I used to walk 10 kms a day, so that at the end of month I could save at least 3000 Rs. My daughter’s body was full of infections, hair was full of lice, but I ignored everything.

My motto was to save some money and give her a better life. I used to skip meals, so that I could save. At one point my body weight was only 38 kgs. After slogging for 6-7 months, I could save some 30 k in my account. I never took any financial help from my mum as well.

I used to buy rice for 10rs, cook it in a pressure cooker, keep it in the fridge, next day morning again I would use that refrigerated rice, coz it becomes more in quantity and we could eat “Pet bharke” .

Time flies, and hard work pays off, I along with Ruhi decided to move to a studio apartment. I somehow managed to get a house help from Assam by then. So we went to a new home, Ruhi started going to a pre school near by my house. My worked continued, my salary increased and life was little better and most importantly I was no more a shy woman.

Bombay is and will be my teacher. This city has given me everything. It transformed me to an independent woman. I owe a lot to this place and I can say that my heart belongs here.

In 2010 I met a man, and decided to date. He took me to his home in Assam, we decided to stay together before getting married. In between many things happened, and I broke up with him. By this time I had lost my job and everything that I had done professionally.

I was back to zero, again I hunted for a job, I got one luckily. Now my daughter was 9 yrs old and mature enough to understand me. I again started to slog. This time life was tougher, Ruhi was in an international school, house was bigger, had two dogs to take care of. No maid again, but my daughter was managing a lot of things herself. We used to communicate via sticky notes. She would get up in the morning, get ready for school, bite one biscuit and walk to school. When she left I was always asleep and when I came back from office, she would be asleep. -This is how we spent 6-8 months. It was august end 2014.

One day I was getting ready for office and I felt a little lump near by my underarm. I ignored and left for office. I had begun to have this mild fever all the time and I would pop one tablet and go to sleep. After 15-20 days, by the time it was September, i was speaking to a friend of mine, I told her about the lump, and she told me to go to a doctor immediately. I rushed to see a doctor and the positive result came after lots of tests and biopsy by end of September.

I started taking chemos, radiations, my appetite was gone for ever, I became thin again. but I didn’t lose hope. I followed whatever my doctor had asked me to do. In the middle of the chemo’s I met my husband Abhijit Das, who is a rock star!

After 15 days of knowing each other we decided to get married. So we were married last year after I was convinced I won’t die.

I have no memories with my daughter.. I just realized when I am writing this experience of mine -I have been an unlucky mum. I could not see my child growing up, and she is already grown up. She is 12 yrs and studies in 6th standard.

When I had earlier explained to my daughter about my cancer, she had no clue about it and I think was just confused.

My advice to other mums would be – our kids are the biggest strength, we women are magicians, we create magic every day, if you go through cancer or any turmoil in life just talk to the family members, kids understand everything about their mums. They became so mature when their mums go through the rough patches of life.

Life has led me to be under different roles and I have also been the Mumbai and Guwahati mascot for Pinkathon. I could never think of running at all, but when I finished my first 3 km in 14 minutes, I was happy.

At this juncture I can say that cancer has changed the way I used to look into my life.

Now I realize I have got a new life.”

Mums and stories wishes this incredible brave mum a lot of good memories and milestones to be achieved in life

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