….but what is my story TODAY? – By Dr. Surabhi Dhingra

Yet another day when I was sitting to resolve a complaint that had been received from a woman-about 23 years of age. She was on the verge of breakdown but trying very hard to stay composed. And my mind wandered off to “what must be her story TODAY”?

We all live our stories. The story has characters that are either thrusted on us –like the family that we are born into or get married into or those we choose, like the friends and colleagues with whom we bond. Either ways, we play a drama over our lifetime- a life full of an expectation like a hunky-dory fairy tale but usually full of twists and turns, happiness and tragedy or may be just plain boring. The complex of our relationship determines the quality of life we lead.

The initial phase of education and even early marriage is often something one goes through like a rut-possibly because there are lesser decisions one takes mindfully. It takes a certain kind of maturity and experience to come around to think when one gets a breather. I wonder if that the reason why so much is written about “women over 40”? After having spent years building a career and a family is the time when women sit back to introspect.

It was also a phase when everything seemed to be going wrong for me. There was a lockdown, uncertainty due to the pandemic, extra burden on the home front, and work increased manifolds. It was also the time when I lost my closest friend and confidant. The depression spiraled. Symptoms like getting up sweating at 3:00AM, being lethargic throughout the day, breaking down for no reason had started to set in. These were signals that definitely required intervention. As organically happens, one blames someone else for a problem one faces, makes a story in one’s head, repeats it to oneself enough number of times so as to make it a cause of depression. I can’t play a victim for the rest of my life in my story. That’s just not me – my inner self told me.

Fighter that I am, I picked up the threads, reached out to a counselor to understand how to handle myself better. Yes, I do proudly take the credit that at least I understand that I am the only person I can change. Help also poured in from the overdose of webinars that became accessible from around the world. Better understanding of psychology, physiology, chakras, techniques of self-healing became a routine and I slowly moved out of the phase with a better understanding of life and handling myself in the odds that life throws. Was it as easy as it sounds? No. It takes determination and mindful planning to process the information of what are the pain-points and how to heal them. The bottom line that I picked from my therapist was  “what is my story TODAY”? This is a question, if answered well, sails one through a lot of uncomfortable situations.

This is precisely why, sitting in front of that newly married girl, who has mustered the courage to reach out to her HR Head and to us (PoSH Committee- prevention of sexual harassment) in turn. She shared how she had fought her way to study engineering. She had fought her way to be allowed to work. She was working extra hard to earn some respect at her male-dominated workplace. But now…now this incident where she was taken to look into a client’s complaint in Mumbai. The excitement of a first flight, a first hotel stay was all shattered.  We were all discussing whether we should report the incident to the police and get the CCTV footage from the hotel in Mumbai. She kept her composure and repeatedly said that her life and dreams would come to an end if the police was called in. The harasser- her boss’s boss, was refusing to give in. He claimed to have lost his phone and refused to admit to any of the allegations she had made against him.  One threat from a policeman and the harasser would have given in. But one call to the police and she knew the life she dreamt of would come to a standstill forever. The in-laws and husband would have ended up blaming her for seeking unnecessary attention and would have grabbed the golden opportunity of ensuring she stayed athome.

If this girl went to my therapist and was advised to ask herself- “what is my story TODAY”?, what would she have said… If she is not allowed to work henceforth, how would her story change, what would be the impact on her life and that of a daughter she would have ever borne?

Just as I was lost in my thoughts, she softly asked me “have you watched the Bollywood movie ‘Queen’”? Before I could answer, she said with a strong facial expression of self-determination and pride “I am Queen!”

About the Author:

Dr Surabhi Dhingra

Dr Surabhi Dhingra did her Bachelor’s from Lady Shriram College followed by Master’s, MPhil. And Ph.D from Delhi School of Economics. She is also a qualified lawyer.
She has been in the teaching profession for 25 years.

She co-founded POSHCA, an NGO empaneled with Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt of India. The NGO works mainly on the prevention of sexual harassment at workplace. She has conducted workshops throughout India and Myanmar for Industry Bodies, Hospitals, Educational institutions, Corporates, State-level workshops etc. towards this noble objective.

Dr Dhingra also helps Government and Corporates in handling complaints as an External Counsel.

She was recognized by the Government of Haryana for her contributions towards society by the Hon’ble Chief Minister in 2017.

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