As a South Asian woman, I was expected to study, attend university and get married. My parents immigrated to Canada in the 1970s and like most newcomers to a foreign land, encouraged my sisters and me to learn about our culture, but also work hard to be successful.
The norm was to go to university and then get married very soon after, preferably to a Gujarati man, but our parents were open to other cultures too. I never felt forced to choose someone that they wanted for me. Even our educational choices remained in our hands. I wanted to pursue a journalism career and my parents encouraged it even though it wasn’t the norm for South Asian women at the time.
When I graduated from university and had a big, fat Indian wedding, life did feel pretty normal. So far I was following the “normal” South Asian path. Study, get a good job, get married and then eventually have kids. My life ended up veering far off course from this, but its transformed me as a woman.
In my twenties, I felt like everyone was getting married and that it was the thing to do. So instead of really asking the deep questions to determine if my partner was a good match for me, I felt pressured to get married from external forces, but also from myself to live up to the standard path that South Asian women should follow. When I look back, I realize I harmed myself by not following my deep intuition that something wasn’t right. I also lacked the maturity to determine what was right for me. It took me many years to accept that my marriage was a failure, despite trying many times. After my son was born, I felt more distant and asked myself if I could continue living this way in an unhappy relationship. That one decision changed the way I viewed partnerships, career, money, life and family.
Life is a series of ups and downs. The only way you can ever achieve anything is by failing. I’m not proud of the way I acted in the past, but it’s led me to the woman I am now. I am happy with who I am becoming. The work isn’t done yet.
My Dad (although he found it frustrating and difficult to be dealing with an emotional divorced daughter) was a real source of strength for me. Even though he often gave me tough love, he also encouraged me to keep moving forward saying, “This too shall pass” and to focus on God’s grace. Now I understand why he offered this advice since nothing in life stays the same. Bad moments eventually lead to good.
Change is gradual and is attained through various means. In my case that meant forcing myself out of the bed to get to the gym. Reading motivational books like Tony Robbins, listening to bhajans and attending meditation classes even if I was in an awful mood. Sometimes I felt life was getting better. But then I’d be hit with some new challenge. But each time, I was actually making baby steps forward. I just couldn’t see it at the time.
The most pivotal was getting married, moving to a new country and then getting divorced with a baby. I felt sorry for myself. I felt like I had bad luck. Now all those bad things actually helped me uncover the real Rina and embrace who I am. Also now because I am exuding a different energy, the right people come into my circle.
Time and patience are your best allies. You have to keep telling yourself that you’ll get through to the other side better than before and that life can’t possibly be this way forever. If you loose hope, then you get lost in your own muck and that quicksand is hard to emerge from. It’s taken me many years, but those who are closest to me and love me, have seen the change and see how my aura shines brightly now.
Even in dark times, creativity was my outlet. My sister and I launched an online platform called Zardozi, zardozimagazine.com for South Asian women around the globe. Creating Zardozi opened many doors for me, including getting a dream job at a luxury travel company and attending many fashion events in Europe and India. It’s also helped me learn valuable skills like brand partnerships, marketing, graphic design, video production and social media.
Each step I take leads me closer to who I am meant to be. I don’t know my final destination, but I know I want to be creative and use these skills to celebrate my culture and help others. But my biggest blessing and calling is being a mother. My son is my greatest joy and my talent and skills have emerged even more after birthing him. Recently I launched chandandradha.com, an Indian wellness brand for body and mind. The first product is the Sundara Face Mask inspired by a family recipe that helped smooth and soothes my skin when I was going through the divorce and had very bad wrinkles and acne! My goal is to partner with other like-minded brands, attend pop-up events and launch more products!
I cherish my alone time and my health. When I am feeding my body healthy food, proper rest, movement, thoughts and actions, I end up feeling far more aligned with my path. My values are appreciating the now and cherishing the moments instead of wallowing in worries. You might feel stuck. You might feel alone. You might feel like life is never going to get better. But it will and you’ll be so proud of yourself for staying focused and strong!