'Who will marry you?' is one of the most common questions that almost every girl gets to hear at least once in her lifetime. This question becomes even more unbearable for girls who have gone through a tragedy or are born with any kind of disability.
Shatabdi Awasthi, a paralympic athlete, faced a lot of ridicule when she met with an accident in 2006, while she was preparing for armed forces recruitment.
“I got an injury in my spinal cord and lost the sensation. While the treatment was going on, I was told that improvements will take place gradually. My relatives used to tell my parents that it would have been better if she died. Who will marry her now?,” she said at the We The Women (WTW) festival in Jaipur on March 4.
Awasthi did go through a tough time, but she was determined to not give up. It was her dream to join the armed forces. It shattered the day she got to know that she has to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
Since she could not sit, she would lie down and study. In 2010, she got selected as a probationary officer at the State Bank of India (SBI). Nevertheless, her aspiration for joining the army kept pushing her, and she finally became the first paralympics athlete from Rajasthan.
A resident of Sawai Madhopur, Awasthi has won several medals, including a silver medal at the international level.
At the WTW forum, she was honoured with the Hope Empower Rise (H.E.R) award by superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter Shweta Bachchan, a columnist, author, and former model.
Self-love is a journey, emphasised Sakshi Sindwani, a fashion content creator, who shared the stage with Awasthi. She realised the importance of self-love long after she came out of depression, the reason for which was a lot of bullying at school. It further led her to an eating disorder and she gained a lot of weight.
“I was bullied in school, and it took me so many years to come out of it. In the later stage, I heard comments like ladki patli sundar honi chahiye, tabhi shadi hogi. So, my family members would have diet conversations during dinner which I would ignore because I was content with myself. I accepted my body the way it was,” she said.
Today, Sindwani runs an Instagram page with more than five lakh followers and inspires people with different forms of content. She is not body-positive, but body-neutral now.
“Education doesn't make you body-positive, awareness does. Accept your body the way it is. Be who you are, but never forget to work on yourself,” she said.
Another woman who shared the stage with Awasthi and Sindwani was Sanjana Rishi, an Indian-American entrepreneur, who wore a pantsuit for her wedding and was criticised for the same. She didn’t want to wear a 10 kg lehenga.
“I wasn't setting out to accomplish anything. Seeing a bride in coat-pant, I was called an anti-Indian, someone who was defaming the Indian culture. I was even asked to go to Pakistan,” she quipped.
She also spoke about the glorification of women bouncing back post-delivery.
“Getting into shape post-delivery is quite glorified and this bounce-back culture is toxic. As a woman, you are also told to be so controlled. We all have gone through that. However, when it comes to my daughter, I want her to know and explore the body types and the ideologies people have, and understand herself and her choices better.”
Loving oneself and breaking stereotypes is a must for women in a male-dominated world. That is how they lead their path towards their ambitions in life, concluded the three women on the panel.