Finding Myself

Introducing to you a single mother and a survivor, Sakhy Francis.

This is the un-imaginable story of Sakhy Francis, a small-town girl from South India who lived in a bubble arranged for her. Growing up in a cocoon, she never had any purpose for life or was never shown the world beyond her shell. Sakhy never knew she could have dreams of her own. 

As she came out of her pod, she had to face the real world unprepared. While navigating the murky waters by herself, some people constantly reminded her, ‘you will never make it.’ Yet, she gradually learned that she had the power to make her own choices in life. Eventually, she decided to take control of her life, make her choices, and build her future. Sakhy held on to her dignity and conviction and never listened to naysayers. 

Life took Sakhy through some rough spins. Tests after tests, trials after trials, she battled her way to make a life for herself. She suffered through an unfathomable amount of pain, encountering a revolving door of struggles. It is beyond anything one can grasp. Through it all Sakhy’s resilience, courage, and identity remained unbroken. Find out what determination and perseverance can take you in life. Sakhy is a true survivor.

Presenting the riveting true story, the implausible tale of endurance, losses and successes, tribulations, and hope. We are in a lengthy conversation with Sakhy Francis from Vancouver, Canada.

A conversation with Chippy & Sakhy Francis,
Administrative Professional, Vancouver, Canada. 

CKC ———How are you? How is life? 
SPGood. Lots of challenges, lots of happiness. Lots of activities & actions and thoughts & tasks to deal with. Overall life is good.
CKCLast time we met was in 2012, just before you migrated to Canada.
SPOh! Lots have happened before and after that. I am glad we are having this chat. I am here to share my story of life, not my professional journey.  
CKCWhere would you like to start? 
SPIt starts where I was born. Earliest I can remember is my school days in Kerala, South India. My dad passed away a few weeks before my third birthday. Every first day of school was a challenge and every time I had to do a self-introduction, it was dreadful. Those were the saddest days of my life when I had to stand in front of the whole class and say, ’I am Sakhy, my mother is a housewife and my father passed away.’  School days, I was shy and I believe I lived in a bubble made for me by someone. 
CKCI am sorry you had to go through this at such a tender age. 
SPIt was like a nightmare. It’s also because I missed him a lot. And another fact was I didn’t want that to define me. But those days, I didn’t know I could do that, I was always labeled the ‘the girl whose father passed away when she was three.’ For the same reason, I also got much love from my family and all the people who knew my father. He was a social person and everyone loved him and everyone always said the best about him, so I was missing him a lot and that made me sad as well.
CKCAfter school, where did Sakhy land up?
SPMy life up till now revolved around my home, my school, my family, my school friends and church. It was a small bubble that I was allowed to live in. I enjoyed it. I never knew anything more than this bubble. My life was managed by my family and I just went with the flow. I didn’t know what I wanted, I loved Math and had good grades, so I majored in Mathematics.

After grade 10, two years of Pre University, it was similar to grade 11 and 12. My first time away from home, a huge college, living in a hostel, making friends, having roommates my age, slowly, I started to know myself. These were the first time I was on my own, a little bit of independence I felt to be myself, this time away gave me a feeling that I could do things on my own. Growing up, I was never allowed to do anything, so it was my freedom to be me, when in college.
CKCHow did you evolve as a person?
SPCollege gave me a lot of confidence. I started to talk to people. Gave me the courage to face people, manage situations and it took the fear out of me. I discovered I had leadership qualities. There are leaders who stand up and lead but I am the one who lives with the people and leads and moves them. You won’t see me in front but I am around everyone. 

It was a push from my friends that time that led me to contest the Pre University Representative election in college. That time I thought to myself, ‘I don’t have any talents.’ I was sure I was not going to win but my speech during the ‘meet the candidate’ challenge changed my outlook as a person for myself and my fellow mates, I won the election with a great margin. I have never spoken to a crowd of 10 people let alone a packed venue of thousands of girls. It was nerve-racking. This win helped me to discover more of my capabilities as a person. First time in my life I felt proud of my achievement. 

I started sharing with others and talking about my thoughts and feelings, emotions instead of keeping them bottled up. These two years gave me an opportunity to know myself and to be myself. This was an ice breaker in my life for me to start from where I was. It was my start to know me. Mine was a women’s college, it was better for me at that time. I like it because I got the experience but I didn’t want to do it later. 
CKCSo time for undergraduate studies.
SPYes, after 12th grade, I moved back home and enrolled in a university closer. It was a challenge however, the new campus gave me exposure to a different world. You come from a women’s college to a male-dominated campus. Initial days the treatment towards freshers was cold and rough but I was not scared, and during that period slowly I got to know myself more.

Again, like pre-university, I didn’t know what I wanted to learn, so I was not focused at all. I love Math, so I did B.Sc Mathematics nothing was planned. I also enrolled in a computer course along with my studies. When I graduated, I had a B.Sc Mathematics degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Applications (PGDCA) to my credit. The computer course was something new and, when I got the opportunity, I took it. That was a good asset later on in life.
CKCWhat next did you start to look for a job now or planned for post graduation?
SP Now that you asked, I liked to be around people. I didn’t have anything particular other than people skills. I never had any aspirations for the future, for myself and I never knew I could aspire. Growing up I never even thought I would go to work, I was trained to be thinking that ‘I will be a wife, a homemaker, child bearer’ and I didn’t have any complaints. I thought that was perfect. My family was overprotective, that was good and also bad at the same time. It took me a while to understand, I was just going with the flow. I was still in a bubble. I never had any dream or aspiration, my life was all my family, home and that was it. 

Education-wise even though I was not focused I was kind of gathering some which were good for the future. During this time, I never had any ambition or a feeling that I have to work. Simply because at home all I could hear from everyone was, ‘we are waiting for you to grow up and get you married off.’ So this was implanted in my head that you are going to get married and that’s all about it.
CKCEducation was NOT important, marriage was the main agenda. Were there not many women who worked in your home?
SPYes, I heard this in my family. The only person who worked was my grandma, she was a teacher. My mother used to say that she never liked her mother going to work. The person I looked up to was my grandma, she is the strongest person I have ever seen. The capacity she had to run the family and go to work, she was the strongest person as a homemaker and a teacher, she would do what she liked to do and nothing would stop her from what she wanted. So, even though I didn’t have any ambition, one thing I always wanted was her strength and power, and to be something like her.
CKCSo now this means someone is finding you a groom. 
SPYes. After graduation, time to get married. So before that happened I thought I would go visit a family in Bangalore, stay with them, and have a few great months before any marriage or something like that happened. So I went to learn cooking, learn the ways of being a homemaker. 

During this visit, one of my uncle’s friends visited and he casually asked, ‘what are you doing?’ I said, ‘all set, I have my degree and now a computer certificate, nothing ahead of me, I am just enjoying life. Going with the flow.’  He said, ‘Our company is hiring. Are you interested?’ I was slow in understanding what a job meant to me, ‘that means I can stay here’, I thought to myself. I accepted the offer, went for the interview and I got the job. Now the question is how would I convince my family back home. I could not convince but was told, ‘it will be good to have a job until we find a good proposal for you.’ That’s how I landed my first job. 
CKC ———So you never aspired to work, now you have a job.  
SPYes, and within six months my marriage was fixed. Jojo was a South Indian whose family was settled in Bangalore. Ours was an arranged marriage. Goes without saying. He worked on the ship for a firm based in the US, which means he would be stationed abroad for six months and would be home for two months and again back to work and on and on.

In 2001 I started my life as a married woman. At 21, I don’t think I was ready to take up the responsibilities of marriage. If you are starting a life together it is different. Jojo was never there. It was hard initially and then going with the flow, I accepted this as normal. Once I got married the feeling I had was that even though I had the independence and could do anything I wanted I didn’t have a marriage.
CKCWhy do you say that?
SPYou have to remember Chippy, I have never done anything in my life on my own. From buying necessary items to anything you say, I have never done that in my life. Everything was done for me, I never had to do anything. The bubble I lived in was dangerous. I didn’t even know where rice came from. I was shielded and was protected so much that I didn’t even have to go anywhere to buy anything. Even with the job I had, I was dropped off and picked up. Protected for what? I still don’t know.

My husband left two weeks after marriage. He left the car and said now on you take care of everything here. The funny fact is I have never done grocery shopping in my life, that much cocooned was my life and I just was not equipped to take care of myself and now I am responsible for a new family and I have to learn and do all by myself. I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do, I didn’t even have a driver’s license, he said, ‘there is the car, there is the house and I will come in six months.’
CKCHow was married life?
SPNothing like what I was told or heard of. I had all the liberty, freedom, and independence but I was not able to become me. I set up the house, made the house a home. Jojo was a good man, a good person, a good human, he was also someone who called once a week to catch up on things. We talk for half an hour or an hour. I would talk about what’s happening, what I did, my job and it was always just talking, and he would ask me, ‘did you buy that? Did you do that?’ When he visits, he would stay for two weeks or a maximum, a month and leave. This was the pattern for over a year. We were married, however, we were never with each other, it was not a good feeling. It was a challenge.
CKCDid you have any expectations in marriage?
SPI did not have any expectations but I thought these things are not hard to get. I wanted a large family with loads of members and to be a part of that family. I was married but I felt alone as Jojo was never around. I was not able to be part of anything. The constant questions and male gaze from people gave me chills. It is hard to explain. Remember in our marriage I had all the freedom but did not know how to use it. I did not have the strength to do things on my own. I felt lonely all those days. I wanted to have a marriage where my Jojo was with me, a marriage where we did everything together as a couple. I didn’t have that. I missed it.  
CKCWhat about your job? 
SPI continued to work. But there was this constant whining from some people, ‘how much do you make? Is it worth doing the job?’ Everyday I had to hear that you make only Rs 5000 and you have to spend Rs 4000 to make Rs 5000, it’s all true but that work made me feel I had a purpose. There were times where I felt like I was useless. I wanted to work because that was the only thing that made me, me. 

Six months after our wedding I had to quit my job. I quit the job for many reasons. First, no one wanted me to go for a job. Second, ‘you will be moving to Us in a couple of months and then why should you work’. When you were married to a guy in the US, everyone had an expectation and started asking Jojo on his short visits ‘when are you taking her?’ We both had to make that connection first with each other right ! Before we plan something right? There was so much gap in our relationship. I don’t know if I can call it a relationship, it is difficult to figure out a name for what we were going through those days. 
CKCDid you make it to the US?
SPThe problem was in his job he cannot take his spouse with him but I can go visit for a longer time but not stay with him. Jojo made arrangements for me to visit and stay in the US. I went for the interview at the US Embassy and the first thing they wanted to know was,’you are educated, you are young, what is the guarantee that you would come back to India?’ My initial response was ‘what? I’m going to come back. I don’t understand why you are asking me that.` I didn’t even like that question and I felt that was kind of an insult to me. How would you prove you will come back? I still don’t know how to answer that.
CKCVisa status?
SPI was not sad that I didn’t get the visa, but when I came home I saw my mom and everyone else were sad. For everyone it was an easy visa. ‘How come you didn’t get it?’ They rejected me and I didn’t care but because of that visa process I had to quit my job. When I came home everyone was disappointed and sad. That’s when I realised that was a big deal. Now returning home to Bangalore, I have no job, no purpose. That’s when I looked around. 
CKCWhere to now ?
SPI lived close to a College so I enquired and later enrolled for post graduation in Human Resources.  The reason. I wanted to study. That was my other option and only option. Jojo was very supportive. He would say yes to everything I want, never a no from him. Maybe this was his way of compensating for him not being there for me. 

So I joined, my classes started and right that time I also learnt I am pregnant. There were objections to me going to college and hesitation from many in and around family and relatives and certain people. But I was determined, ‘I am going to continue no matter what.’ The amount of stress that I underwent this time was unwanted and should never have happened.
Now we have been married for three years and I am dealing with everything alone. By the time I got pregnant I realised the fact that no one is standing up for me and I realised I have to do this on my own and I started to stand up for myself. I had that courage and I decided I will do this for myself. So I continued my studies.
CKCYour husband is supportive. 
SPJojo would give me the independence and leave. I have to face everything on my own. Nobody wanted me to study, nobody wanted me to do anything at all, people in general wanted me in the house and put the flowers in a vase and dress up and go for social events and smile and be merry. We were not like a normal couple, I had no husband to walk with, he was never there and maybe if he was there I would have felt comfortable and more at peace but as a married woman who was ‘single’ that’s when I realised that’s not me. I was sad doing all those things alone. I didn’t know where to go, what to do. 

I still remember some were betting on me saying, ‘I don’t think she will complete her studies, let her try.’  That was challenging for me and so I am more determined to do it. Thank you to all those who never supported me, that gave me the fuel to build on myself.
CKCSo you definitely graduated. 
SPMy morning sickness was getting worse day by day as my pregnancy progressed. I sat on the front row so that I could rush to the restroom each time I had to vomit. I continued the first year but was not able to write the exam as my daughter was due and then I came back after delivery and started second year. This time I hired someone to look after my baby when I went to class, so now that was a problem. ‘Why do you have to study? Take care of your kid, stop wasting time? Be a good mother.’ I did write my first year’s exam and completed it and then finished the second year and graduated in 2004.
CKCDetermined. Now do you have a plan? 
SPIt’s a journey where you always felt this is not something that I am or I want. That’s when the question you asked ‘what did you want to be in life?’ come in. I never had one. Never. For me other people were making or planning my life, I thought that it was okay to go with the flow. I thought that’s how it was meant to work. But I realised, even though very late, that’s not how it works. If it works that way it’s not going to make me happy. And it’s not just about my happiness, it’s literally how I felt. ‘I felt useless. No purpose.’ I decided to work again, so I applied for jobs. I worked small jobs here and there, admin jobs, H.R. jobs, in Bangalore. That’s when Jojo and I planned to get away from all these.
CKCWhat did you want to get away from? 
SPTo be a young girl, young person out here with her husband working abroad, that’s very challenging to live in our society. I don’t know how to explain it. The feeling itself, the way people look at you, how people think about you, forget about your family, the whole system is different. The way people look at you is different. And it’s not good. ‘Husbandless wife. Is there something wrong in the relationship? Are they divorced? Is she available?’ 

Many factors. Didn’t let me live. I never had any dream of a life I wanted, so how can I say it was not how I wanted, no, it was not that. Even now some people will ask me why did you make that choice to move away. I don’t know how to describe it. When you are alone with your husband not around, it’s not a good feeling. I could not tolerate it. It’s not because you don’t have a guy next to you it’s not that, It’s a different attitude from where people looked at you. I don’t think anyone other than those who have gone through it will really understand what I am talking about, the feeling that we have to go through. No one wants to listen to you. 

For me that was hurting me like anything. It’s so hard to explain. For me these are times I wish someone understood me. Even if you told someone no one would understand me. In my situation I think I did the right thing by not telling anyone because nobody would understand and if you say anything you are bad, you are imagining things, you are just making things up. 
CKCWhen you say how you are looked at. Is it by people around you, or people you work with? 
SPNo exceptions. That’s how I felt. If I say something I am blamed. There was a situation where I complained and I even asked my husband to come back.  I explained to him my situation and even though I asked him for that, that was not the reason I wanted him to come back. I wanted that identity inorder to live in this society. Otherwise the society was suffocating me. 
CKCDid you reach out to anyone?
SPI didn’t reach out to anyone, not my mother, my brother, or my friends. I didn’t reach out because at that time I don’t think they could have helped me. But when I was not in a good phase I reached out to a friend but she didn’t want to take me in for a day or two to support me, so that kind of made me realise a lot about my friendship and also not to reach out to anybody else as well. The whole thing is messed up. 
CKCWhat did you do?
SPI had a discussion with Jojo and he was agreeable to my idea. So I moved out with our daughter to a different locality in Bangalore and I didn’t want to not see anyone anymore. That was a quiet life. During this time I wanted to find a permanent solution for us. The only solution I found within my limits was maybe go somewhere else. That’s how I started to think about places to immigrate. That’s when the picture of Canada popped up. I spoke to Jojo and he was all in for it and in 2005 we planned to apply as a family to migrate to Canada. 

Initially I applied when Rhea was younger, when she was one and a half. We applied together as a family, I convinced him saying maybe when we relocate I won’t have to deal with all the societal pressure and dramas, so we could live our lives together as a family once and for all. That was our initial plan. As always, it was not received well and every time from here on, there was always someone or the other blocking our path. 

This was the beginning of when I started going against the flow. I started saying NO said I said NO to many. Nothing could now make me change my mind. Nothing could stop me, I have decided. I have to do something to keep my sanity and I didn’t decide this overnight.
CKC ———Did Jojo relocate to India and did things turn out good?
SPOh! how I wish that happened. All together the days we lived together were less, if you count the days it will be less than a year. We did not have that connection. Sometimes I am like, I did not have my dad and my marriage also did not work out, things happen. Jojo is a good man, good heart and good person. Never mind if it’s good or bad. If you do not have your husband near you and no one on your side it is worse than bad. I cannot hate him nor love him. When I talk about him, he is a very nice person. I would not call ours a relationship. And this situation made my life not liveable. The time I decided it was not working out was after years of trying. 

The moment I realised people were starting to take control of my life, me and my daughter.  When I say control. The moment you have a kid, it’s all about the kid. You are not important. ‘What about me now?’ Whatever you may be, it does not matter to others. It’s not that I don’t love my kid but I realised I won’t be there for my kid if I lived that life. So I had to do something for me and my kid. When my kid was there, I felt everyone around started to pamper her and spoil her and I started to sense that I was losing my position as a mother over my daughter and my life. That’s not going to help me or her.

My husband was supportive of me and everything I do, but he was never there, never present and never around. Never. 
So we decided to separate and see how things go. There came a point I got so strong, people said ‘how can you leave what you have and lead a life on your own, you won’t even survive out here’. There was no support for me from anyone, family or friends, I was in a battle and I am all alone in this battle. Because of my decision to leave and live a separate life. 

If I had to live another six months, it came to a point where I would lose myself completely. I am a mother, I love my daughter but if you are not useful enough it’s different. This separation from Jojo was also amicable. He was all okay with it and he didn’t even object or deny or even try to say we will work it out. He was very supportive. If I say I want to stay on my own then he is okay, if I said we will migrate to Canada, he is okay. What I want to do, I can do that. Isn’t he nice? Yes. But what about me as a person! All this time my husband was supporting me with whatever I decided. He was never there for me but he was open to everything. It was confusing and making things more and more complicated for me.

For some people when I complain or when I am not happy they never understand, for them it is ‘you have all the freedom and you have a good house, you have everything, so what is there to complain about?’ No one would understand. Anybody who thinks that I made a wrong choice in life, I made a bad decision in my life, it may not be the right choice for you, but, it was the best decision for me.
CKCYou were always alone in this relationship but now you are on your own. Up until this you were the most loved person, big expectation  but you wrecked it all by the one decision to put yourself first and take care of yourself first. Isn’t that what everyone said?
SPWorst part is I was the role model for everyone until I decided to put myself first. That’s when you realise all these stories and riddles, ‘when you are good everyone likes you. When you are not up to others’ expectations you are not good.’ It was hard. Hard to go through with it.  It was hard but I had that strength. It’s just my prayers, nothing else. It is not my credit. I always believed in my prayer and my faith. That helped me to go through this. Even now.
CKCHow was your life during your separation and being a single mother?
SPWhen Rhea was ready for Lower Kindergarten (LKG), we moved to Kerala. I was not able to afford Bangalore at that time. I bought a place in Kerala to be closer to a place I know and can afford. Some people were angry that I moved into their locality because they didn’t want to associate with me because I make my own choices and live by my code and it’s a bad example for their kids. When my daughter Rhea was ready for kindergarten I used that time to complete my Bachelor of Education (B.Ed degree).

I didn’t want to do an office job anymore because that made me work longer hours. Now that I am settled and on my own with my daughter, I want to work somewhere where I can be closer to my child and be there for her when she needs me. I didn’t want to be away from her for too long, so that’s when my choice for teaching came up. I was never a great student and never thought I would be a teacher in a million dreams but it was the most feasible choice and plausibility to be closer to what our life will be. I got the job right after my studies, in a school close to my home and my daughter was also now studying there, life was all set, as I hoped for for both of us. 
CKCDid you pursue your plan to migrate to Canada during these times?
SPGod is planning things in his times. When Rhea was one and a half years old, I started applying and nothing was working. I was told to apply as a student, go as a visitor, but I didn’t want to do either and also leave my girl out there and go. I wanted us to go together. If it is Permanent Residency we can go together then we will go together, otherwise I didn’t want to do that. The whole point was to be with my daughter and be with her as family and make a life of our own. Every time my agents would call and say, there is a visitor visa, worker visa, study visa, I was always NO. I will only go if it is a Permanent Resident Permit. I have done enough damage to myself and I don’t want to pass on those same damages to my child. 

I decided to move to another country when I felt nothing was going according to my plan. I was not applying for Canada anymore. But the agency, they always keep renewing my application, updating my status, and applying for my PR process. They had all my docs now. They will call me and inform me they have applied and I will just let that happen. They kept applying whenever the time was up and it went on in the background. I was not in any way now looking to move away, I just bought a house, have a job and life for my daughter is also set. So going to Canada may not be an option now,  life was almost set for us.
CKCSo you have finally set yourself up as a working mother, single parent and a life of your own in South India.
SPBecause I made my own decisions, set a life on my terms for myself and my child and I am living a good life now. Yet it was not accepted by many. Life didn’t let me down when I started to live on my own terms. Many people did not agree with my choices. Every time something goes wrong in my life or a situation where I am stuck, there are many who will happily remind me ‘I told you so.’ Those moments never cease to end. 
CKCDuring your separation was Jojo a part of your life? 
SPWe have been separated now for three years and our lives were separate as well. That’s when Jojo decided to come back to India for good.
CKCI wish it had happened earlier. Maybe things would have been different for you.
SPTrue. But reality is different. When he relocated, and started to live a “normal life” he started to realise what was happening. That’s when he started to reach out to me again. One day he called me and told me, ‘believe me, now I know what you went through.’ I am happy he understood but my life totally changed because of this. I won’t take it in one sentence. The other thing he told me was, ‘you lost your father when you were young and he was not there to support you. And I didn’t do my duty as a husband either and it is haunting me now. I need to do something for you now’.

I told him because you said this, it’s not going to change me overnight and I am not saying anything now, but it might change me. Not right now,  don’t keep your expectations high. His parents wanted him to move forward in life and for him he said, ‘I will not do that until I see, you are okay and I will not commit until I see you are okay in life.’ He was a good man but it did not work out for us then. He never wanted any conflicts, he was agreeable to anything I say but he was never there for me. 
CKCA person who was never there for you now wants to be back in your life. 
SPHe reached out and he was like I am there for you now. I told him, ‘you say that and you disappear,’ as he was never there for me before. I used to tease him, ‘here comes I miss you.’ He will tell a million times a day, ‘I miss you.’ I didn’t know what was missing. I cannot say he never liked me or loved me but there was no connection. Maybe someone else must judge what was missing. I don’t know.

He didn’t know I was 9 years younger than him. On the second day after marriage he said, ‘I did not know you were 21.’ Like him I was told this is your man and I think he was also told this is your woman and we tied the knot and our life didn’t have any plans for us to be together. That was the problem. I went with the flow and he was a wind that blew at times and left me and came back only when he chose to.
CKCSo was there a chance for reconciliation?
SPIn 2011, Jojo was in Cochin. His cruise ship was out of commission and he was staying in Cochin alone for many months. That time, he was in his apartment doing nothing and he started to think, and rethink about his life and about me and Rhea. One day he called and asked me, ‘do you mind if I call you?’ I told him straight away, ‘Jojo, I don’t mind talking but keep in mind I don’t want you to have any hopes that we will get back together or that I may come back after talking for a day. I am not saying it will never happen, but I don’t want you to keep that hope and talk to me.’ He said he just wants to be in touch and do right by me. During these months, he would call me everyday. He also wanted to make sure if he had a chance with me again. I may have thought about it, there was a chance. 

But again, this is something I have never shared with anyone. For everyone he was good, I am bad because I left him. Nobody knows what was inside. This is the time he said he was haunted by what happened to me and us as a family.  So he asked can you tell me where you want me to go? What do I do now? He started opening up and we had a great connection during these times. For the first time we made some plans for ourselves even though we were separated. 
CKCSo you had a relationship with your husband for the first time. 
SPYes. Before this whenever we were on the phone or when he came when I shared my feelings or my situation he never understood. But this time it was different. I have never told this to anyone and I don’t think anyone knows this part where we had this connection for a long time after our separation period. People said and still believe, ‘I didn’t want Jojo’.

After talking to him I don’t have any unanswered questions or unfinished business, we cleared everything that was between us. That didn’t mean we would end up living together. He understood what was happening in my life when he used to not be there for me and for me him understanding this fact was like a burden lifted away from me. He listened and he knew what I was going through. We had a great connection during this time. This is when he said, ‘I think I am going to leave, because living here after knowing what you had to deal with,’ he said, ‘I don’t want to live close to you because that will make me more sad that I did wrong by you and was never there for you.’  He wanted to go somewhere but he said, ‘I don’t want to go back to the ship because that’s what ruined my life.’ 
CKCHe moved away?
SPHe moved to Bombay and he was looking for a job and finally found a position and started working. We used to talk everyday and it was a good feeling for both of us. He had an expectation that I would consider moving back with him and start a life afresh. I never said no or yes. We had the best six months ever in our entire relationship.

He started sending me gifts, cards, presents for Rhea, and continued calling everyday. He started sending me packages, then I told him we only agreed to talk. I told him not to have any expectations. He kept sending me all sorts of things and maybe this was his way of coping with his guilt of not being there for me and he always showered us both with gifts and more cards for me. He started calling daily three or more times and still kept sending packages, clothes for Rhea, games for her and random things all the time. 

I don’t know what made him do this, and he started calling me, without a break. I did get a bit worried as he called so many times a day, I told him to slow down. He said okay, ‘I will only call once a day.’ 
CKCHe continued to call.
SPSo one day while in school I saw a call from Jojo. I was teaching and could not answer the call. Then I am getting this call from an unknown number from Bombay. I was in my class and could not attend the call. I missed the call, I was thinking why is he calling me now, he knew I was teaching. So I was mad, I dialed the number and before he could say anything, I said in a very strong temper, ‘why are you calling me at this time, I am working, I am in class?’ 

A total stranger on the other side said, ‘Ma’m, I am calling from the hospital, your number was the last number dialed from this phone and we are trying to reach next of kin. This person met with an accident. I am afraid to say he passed away.’

Chippy I don’t have words to explain my state of mind. I could not even cry in front of anyone, because I am the bad person who left him and he died. That was one of the hardest times. It took me a while to get over this. 
CKCIn your mind you too had dreams to get back together and start a new life. You were both finally making things work for each other. 
SPAll true but no one knew we were close and we had these six months where we were in daily conversations about our lives and daily activities and Rhea. No one knows.

I went to the funeral. I am there, I want to cry in my loudest voice and feel my Jojo but I cannot cry. This was a statement I heard from everyone, ‘she didn’t want him, then why is she sad?’ Don’t I not have a right to be sad? People were rude that way. It was here on when things started to spiral in my life again.
CKCHow did things turn out for you now? You did have a life of your own there and a job and life is set. 
SPYes. So I thought. My life was set and things were all going back to normal and this incident changed the course of everything that I built up towards. Somewhere I felt I am not going to make it here. Like always God works in mysterious ways. Jojo passed away in early November 2011. Around the last week of November I received a call from the Canadian Agency, ‘Your visa is approved. Congratulations.’ 

It was something I never expected. I was debating within myself, should I go or not. Then I thought to myself, it’s going to get really hard if I have to go through this alone again and live here. I better move. Now I have an opportunity, my Rhea will also have a new life. I said to myself, ‘make plans for yourself and your kids’ life will be fine if you take care of yourself.’
CKCYou are in a trauma now. Did you talk to anyone or reach out for help? You just went through something devastating.
SPJojo and I had six months together. We were closer than ever and it made a big difference in both our lives. He knew that and I know that. Because we had that six months of conversation and a real relationship, I never had any unfinished feelings with him. I was devastated when he passed away, the issue for me was I could not share with anyone what I was feeling, going through and how we bonded during those six months.  I was severely saddened. Anyone or nobody would understand what my pain was, it was the hardest thing I had to go through.

Those six months were the time we got to know each other. These are things which we cannot plan. God was planning things for me but why did he make it so hard for me? I don’t know. I decided and said, ‘I am leaving’. My kid is seven years old now. I knew the first year would be difficult.  

When I started I was the shyest person. Now, no one could think what I have become. Anyone who knew me, it was a shock for them. It was like ‘Sakhy was making a choice for herself and it was selfish. Is she for real?’

For me, I was not fighting with anyone but I was just making my own choices. Except it was a shock to many just because nobody thought I am a person who can survive on my own. People were talking to me directly, ‘You will come back soon. You won’t be able to live on your own. You will not survive. In a year or less, you will be here. It is hard with a child. How will you go for a job? ‘Whatever you decide, what did the child do?’ 

My father died and my mother was a widow at the age of 25 and she was told she had to live for the kids from here on, no life of her own. It did not help her. So I saw that I made choices because that was the best for me and my kid. If you ask me how I did this? I don’t know. 
CKC ———Canada is a beautiful country but the road to being in a secure settled phase is a long process. How did you do it? 
SPEven though the  trauma was still with me, the struggle that I had to go through in the initial period of my settling in Canada kept me going and overcome that. I had two options. First I thought I will stick to teaching and get into that path but if I did that course it’s one year and there is no guarantee I will find a job. Then I was told I had another option. I was eligible to do a Canadian Government funded course called Advanced Office Administration Course, I completed this in six months. The whole course and my stay and my child care for Rhea was all supported and funded by the government. This was specifically for the immigrants. 

I didn’t get a job right the next day I passed out, it was a couple of months after I was offered. I would apply left and right, I get called for an interview but never get selected because of lack of experience. One day I was sitting in the library and thinking, ‘God if I don’t find a job in the next three months, I will run out of money and I would have to go back to India.’ I didn’t know what to do. I used to drop Rhea at school and go to the library, read, find leads and start applying for jobs. I was in tears due to the uncertainty and then the call came from the school I just did my course. “Are you still looking for work?” So that’s my life. 

The day I didn’t know what was ahead for me I got the call. Somehow my life was planned for me. An invisible hand guiding me and my course in life. God’s grace they hired me as a temporary employee as a Program Coordinator for the same course I did.  For me it was perfect because now even after I finish my tenure I can now show a Canadian experience in my resume. Once you have a job here, it is easy to find the next. 
CKCSo gradually you made it, life is again in order. 
SPI moved on and relocated with a very simple life, away from everybody and I didn’t even connect with very many people. My life was set, my job was secured, my girl goes to school, I bought an apartment, and my life was going in a routine for years. In 2017, Rhea was in grade 7 and I am thinking, ‘finally, I am set.’ 

My life was Rhea, work, my small circle of friends and life was good. I have to pick my girl up after school and I am thinking that when she is in grade 8 I am going to finally have more time for myself and I will have a breather to have a coffee after work. And then I found a new job, and my girl is now in grade 8, ‘wow, now I am going to have some time for myself.’ 

Rhea started school and things were going good. Then I started getting this tiredness, unexplainable tiredness. It’s a feeling where I felt something was pulling me down. Maybe I didn’t explain well to the doctor but I never had to ever go to a doctor for any illness. I was in good health all these while. All of a sudden, I am seeing myself going to the doctors every other week. I said, ‘I don’t feel good.’ That’s all I was able to explain. There were no symptoms other than I was feeling low. 

One of my doctors even though it was a mid-life crisis or that I am depressed. ‘I am at the best time of my life and I cannot be depressed’. I kept going to the doctor and in the beginning the lethargy was now and then, but then a month later I was tired all the time. By the start of summer that year I could not stand up to put on the kettle and make a cup of tea. I will switch on the kettle and sit down, I could not stand for even one minute. Unexplainable tiredness. The doctor gave me Tylenol to relieve my pain. I went back and told my doc, when I have Tylenol my pain is gone but it’s still there.
CKCWhat’s going on? What about at work? 
SPAs a mom, it keeps you going. I went to work, at work I am sitting and working, I kept going. When at work I just forget about my pain. I would pick my girl after school and life was going on but I was not okay at all. 

In the early stage I would cook as usual but then I started cooking less and ordering in more. It was work, my girl and come back, order in and sleep. I was really not able to cook anymore. I was not expecting anything, I just felt tired. Doctor said nothing but I said to myself, ‘it has to be something.’  My doctor finally asked me to get a CT Scan. Let’s say, ‘I am tired and I cannot make tea and my CT is requested and my appointment for the same is in another month or two. So what would I do all that while.’  So I thought it will be a break for me and I will go home and do a check up as well. 

So I decided to go to visit my home in Kerala as it was summer vacation for Rhea. I thought I should also use this time to do a thorough check up on my health. Nothing was diagnosed yet and I also did not think more, just a routine health check. 

I landed and went directly to the hospital from the airport. I didn’t want to panic my mother, so did not mention anything about my visit to the hospital. Everyone in my family thinks I am there for the vacation with my girl.  At the hospital, first thing they told me was ‘You have a fever.’ So that’s when I realised I had fever all throughout these times, I was taking Tylenol to comfort my pain and uneasiness and it suppressed my fever.  So the next two weeks I was in and out of the hospital for more tests and finally I did a biopsy and the diagnosis was Lymphoma. A cancer of the lymphatic system.
CKCThis is brutal. How did you take it?
SPHow did I take it! Now I have to fight my cancer out of the system. I am the only one for my daughter. I called work and told my situation, they approved my sick leave and I stayed back for the next six months for the treatment. 

Chippy, while I was fighting cancer, that was not my major fight. After two months my girl has classes, what will I do with her? My mind was going into a panic mode. Before my treatment started, I was pretty thin and frail and many people thought and predicted that I would not survive. So as the treatment was going on I felt I am losing control of my life again and also my daughter’s fate being decided by strangers, as many around me were making decisions for and about what to do with my girl. My girl. Without even thinking or asking me. 

Some people would ask me to plan my daughters life if I die. I would tell them,’do you realise what you are talking to me about?’ So I said, if something happens you talk about it and do whatever, ‘I am alive and now I will make the right choices for my daughter. Look, now I am not planning to die.’ This was a challenge for me. From every side some people were still haunting me with statements like,’she decided to leave her husband, this is her punishment and she will definitely die.’ 

Some people started giving suggestions, ‘let’s place Rhea in a boarding school’. I am still alive and fighting everyday to get better and here people from everywhere are writing eulogy for me and deciding my daughter’s fate after my death. It was challenging. 

While I was struggling from back home in Canada, a dear friend of mine called, ‘hey, I tried calling you, where are you?’ Then I told her this is my situation and I am going to be in India for six months. Her first response was, ‘what do you do with Rhea?’ I told her, I am thinking, praying and planning. Then she goes,’send her here to me. I will take care of her.’ 

I asked Rhea, ‘what do you want to do?’ She said, ‘Mom, I would love to stay here and near you but at the same time I wish to go to school back home’. She is a strong child and when I first told her that it was cancer, she said, ‘Mom, it’s okay, we can take care. We have survived all these and we will overcome this too. You have your mom and brother now here, so you stay and get better and come home soon.’ Sometimes I feel she is more mature than me. 

Until that call I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling a sort of relief and I told my friend, you think about it for a week and then I will call you after a week and you tell me. By then the decision on Rhea’s future was becoming a heated debate, ‘we have to send her to boarding.’  So I called my friend after 4 days and she said, ‘I already told you, you send her and I will take care of Rhea.’ She has known Rhea since we moved to Canada and she is my great friend. She saved me from a huge dilemma. She did not even hesitate, this is what friendship is, I am thankful to her forever. 

I had to put it quite bluntly to some people who were offended by my decision, so I told them, ‘yes, it’s cancer and it’s treatable, I am not going to die in a day or six months and even if it is the worst I will not die tomorrow. Rhea has her life back there and she cannot miss class and I want her to live her life.’ 

There were eye rolls from many people and some people even still judge me for my choices. We have to do what is right for us and we know what is right for our children. And if you have the strength and your will is strong you will be able to do anything for your child. With the help of good people around you, be it family and friends. In two days I sent Rhea to Canada and my friend picked her up from the airport. I continued my treatment and once the chemo started things started getting better for me. The treatment was doing wonders for me.
CKCHow long did you stay away from Rhea?
SPAfter she left I had to continue my treatment for 4 more months, during this time we spoke everyday before and after school. I would wait for her call and it was she who got me through the hard times.

My mom and I got to bond more and I became closer and this was a blessing for me and my mom to speak, open up and be there for each other. It was a hard time but as a family, we got closer, My mom, my brother and me. It was a good phase. They saw me through the tough times and they helped me survive through the hard times. I am happy because of that. 

My last treatment was on 13 December 2018 and my doctor was initially hesitant for me to leave immediately after the treatment, he wanted me to wait for a few more weeks, but I had to go, my daughter was there I could not be away from her anymore. I booked my tickets and flew back. I am all clear now. 
CKCMore than cancer you were fighting a battle on so many fronts. 
SPFor me when I was fighting with my cancer, it was not cancer that I was fighting more, that was nothing to me, when I say nothing to me, it was not what I was fighting for, I realised when people find this happiness, when I was in my mode, own my own, where I was in control of my life and my choices no one appreciates that, no one liked it.  Even when I moved to Canada there were some who said, ‘she is going with a seven year old, we will see how long she will stay, she will be back soon’. It went on and on. 

Chippy, when I was sick, it is an eye opener, people can do this, I am not blaming anyone but this is what I saw in my life, no one truly supports you if you make all the choices in your life on your own. This is something I experienced. 

Other than that, when I got sick, you won’t believe this, many people were happy, because ‘I did wrong, I deserve this’. For me during that time to take that, that’s where I said it’s just God. It was not my thinking, people said that to my face. Not people who are strangers but people who I thought would support me at my darkest hours. They did support me but they wanted to make sure I was told about this because of my bad decisions in life. If God started punishing us just like how they say, 
CKCwe would all be dead.
SPExactly. Dealing with these sorts of things was harder than my disease at that time. 

My immediate family, like my mother and brother, started to trust me on my decisions and what I did, that was huge for me. Without their support through this phase I would have gone mad. Even during my hardest times I have never given up. I’m in touch with Jojo’s family and we have a good connection now. Our immediate circle was good but the bigger circle was hard to deal with.

When people need space just give them the space. I was losing hair and I was frail and when you undergo cancer treatment people respond differently. People wanted to see me and I said no and no one would understand. Then they started to call and would tell me, ‘it’s okay, we are praying for you, we feel sad for you, what will you do with Rhea if anything happens?’ So I stopped answering the calls and then people would ask why I am not responding and I would start explaining and then one day I said to myself, ‘why am I explaining to anyone what I am doing and why. Let them think whatever they want.’ 

I rented an apartment and my mom and myself moved in, we switched off the phone and we would just have our time. I bonded with my mother during this time and it is something that I cherish. 
CKCAlmost 10 years in Canada. You have always held a job and made your life for yourself again.
SPI have had different jobs over the years. I am working for the provincial government as an Administrative Assistant. It is a very nice setup, good people and great team, and peaceful. I am set and it is all good. It’s harder initially. If you put in the work in the beginning you will not have to worry about anything later. Once you are settled here, you will never want to move away from here.
CKCYou are a fighter.
SPMy life started pushing me one step after the other. It’s not something that I ever planned. Life made me take every step. I believe everything was planned ahead of me. If I would think about what I would do tomorrow, then I would know I will have days ahead like these again and I will face them again if I have to. But I was never stuck before and I know I will not be in the future. The next day there will be something.
CKCHave you ever thought about remarriage?
SPI was busy raising a kid. I am not looking for anyone but I am not saying if I find someone I will never think about a life with that person. I always wanted to be around people, family and have a big family. But look what I was denied. Somebody said to me, ‘what you wish the most you will be denied’. Which is so true, I never wanted to live alone like this. This is not what I wanted. I never wanted that. I always wanted to live with a family. I never wanted to be a person who wanted to live on my own. I was not. I was forced to.
CKCYou have plenty of friends who stand by you.
SPI have friends from all parts of the world. I cherish my friends and I am grateful for the good and soulful friendship I have and had in my life. I have lost friends, gained friends during my trials in life. Some friends who you thought are your good friends never stood by you and some asked the wrong question and did not respect your needs and only stayed to figure out if my hair has started to shed, if I will die or what happened between Jojo and me. My life, I learned that friendship is precious and when you know who your good friend is, ‘keep them closer.’
CKCYou are happy now.
SPYes, I am. Am settled, happy and all good. Life is good, Rhea is growing up and slowly becoming independent. She is a strong girl and I am proud of her. It is not easy for kids, the transition. She moved here when she was seven years, initially her accent was an issue, there were racial tensions, overall, it was a tough journey and my daughter says, ‘every year it gets better. It’s good.’ She is in grade 12, working part time as a soccer coach for a kids team, she is driving now, and that means I have my me time and I can travel a lot. 
CKCWhat’s in the future?
SPFrom where I started I never thought I would even go to work. Look at where I am. Sometimes when I go to work I say to myself, ‘where am I!’ I would like to do my small little things. It’s always good to have something new to try, so I want to learn to ski, travel more around Canada and learn some new crafts. No big plans, no big dreams, just peace. Take life as it comes, taking it easy. I believe in my prayer and the only strength you can depend on is prayer. 
CKCThankyou Sakhy for sharing your journey so far. I know you have endured a lot in life and I wish only the best and only the best for you in future.  I cannot thank you enough for this conversation. It will make a difference to many who are looking to find inspiration when going through tough times in life.
SPI am sharing my account because I want to make a difference in another person’s life. Just one if I can help, means a lot to me. People who know me see me as a calm person and sometimes perceive me as a strong person, but I have had so many ups and downs in my life. These trails in my life have made me stronger and better as a human being. Sharing my story has been so reassuring for me. I feel happy. Thank you, Chippy.
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20 thoughts on “Finding Myself

    • Thank you Imen.
      We will share your support to Sakhy.🤗
      I agree with you, her strength during these trials and tests in life was unbelievable. 👐

    • Totally agree with you Praveen.🤗
      There is so much we can learn from life of Sakhy, she is truly inspiring ❤
      Thank you for your support.

  1. The greatest friend of me. The one who knows me more than anyone else in this world. Proud to be a part of your life. Move on dear….Love you loads❤️

    • 💗Thank you Raji.
      It’s amazing to have good friends, and great life long friendship.
      Thank you for your support. 👐

  2. Sakhy, you’re a strong and courageous person, an inspiration to many. I feel sad you had to go through this but know that you’re not alone. Your friendship means so much to me.

  3. Hi Chippy ,
    First of all , want to let u know you are a good writer and interviewer. I thought it will take time for me to read the whole thing but I cannot stop till finished reading .
    Sakhy’s story can be made into a movie but the ending has to wait . Her life stories can inspire a lot of women to stand up for themselves . She shows us with prayers , determination and perseverance our life can be change to what we want it to be .

    • Thank you Dolly. It’s really true. SAKHY has definitely made an impact in all our lives. Her story is real and that makes it hard for her and she has made it, pushed through and moved forward in life. We all have a lot of lessons to take from her life.

      Appreciate your kind words. I will let Sakhy know.


  4. Sakhy is a wonderful human being, she is very well balanced intelligently and emotionally. Even if she is going through her struggles, she does the best to support the person who is in need. All my prayers to you dear Sakhy.
    Interview was very well organized and respectful, had a good journey.

    • Thank you Bobby.
      I am glad you know her and yes, Sakhy is indeed a very giving person.
      I will pass the message on to her.
      Thankyou for your support and wishes. 💗

  5. Lucky to have Sakhy as my lifetime friend -a real,strong ,loyal and lovely friend. Openmind of Sakhy make me feel comfortable to be open with of Sakhy hold a power to inspire me in every hard situation of my life. GOD BLESS YOU SAKHY.
    Chippy, congratulations for presenting such motivational life stories.

    • 👐Thank you Mruthula. We are glad you found inspiration and have had a good conversation with Sakhy. And a big thank you for your support. 💗

  6. Wonderful write up about such inspirational life story. As a close friend Sakhy has always been there for us even when she is going through so much life struggles. Even at times when life gets so busy and everyone’s priorities change, Sakhy kept our small bestie group together. I don’t know how you do it and I’m such a big fan of you Sakhy.I’m so proud of you and keep going strong. Chippy, thanks so much for depicting our best friend’s story in such a beautiful way.You clearly are a gifted writer.

    • Thank you Thushara.
      Definitely, Sakhy is a fighter.
      Am glad you are her good friend.
      Keep the friendship growing stronger and stronger.

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