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Ranjani Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: ‘Rewriting My Happily Ever After — A Memoir of Divorce and Discovery’

Ranjani Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: ‘Rewriting My Happily Ever After — A Memoir of Divorce and Discovery’

  • A poignant story of a brave woman that reflects the moral tenacity of thousands of frail young women who make it despite all odds.

Ranjani Rao is a research scientist, who grew up in India, got married in her early twenties and came to the U.S. with her husband. She pursued her doctorate in Maryland, lived in the Baltimore/DC area, and for some time in California and then returned to Hyderabad, India. Her marriage suffered and she left her home with her daughter. In her memoir, “Rewriting My Happily Ever After,” she narrates her journey of living alone with a child in India without the title of “Mrs. so and so.” 

From the way the book is constructed, it appears that Ranjani is an avid reader, a keen observer and has a flair for documenting facts. Her book is written in a slant of a “self-help” genre. But at 275 pages, it details a rich narrative about a bright, academically driven young girl from India trying to find a footing in a domestic setting abroad. The young Ranjani chanting Vishnu Sahasranama, puffing chapatis in her mother’s kitchen, lighting a lamp at a makeshift altar, cooking one-pot meals of lemon rice, eating samosa and chai with friends, going for a holiday in Goa could be any Indian girl brought up in sanctity of a middle-class household. On the other hand, there are not many who have the courage to leave an unhappy marriage with a suitcase and a young child. 

Ranjani took that bold step. She left. She had a safety net of sorts. A good job, an understanding employer, and supportive parents. But for a woman to live alone in India is not easy. She bravely navigated her situation, caring for her daughter Shreya, finding a maid to stay with her after school, and building a social support system. Keeping probing eyes at bay. She was lonely, she was depressed, she was angry, she was vulnerable, she was afraid. 

Ranjani spares the readers her mental anguish but describes how she overcomes big and small life issues with an inherent positive attitude. She met some good people, she helped those she came in contact with. A man who bought her first dining table on a hand cart. A coworker with a dental abscess, underprivileged children who showed interest in studies. She helped set up a daycare for coworkers’ children at work. 

I loved the author’s amma (mother) who named her after Goddess Parvati. Amma, a byproduct of an unhappy marriage, had a very pragmatic view of life. She stood by her daughter through her temporary infertility. And was against anyone living in marital discord. She was only concerned about Ranjini’s day-to-day wellbeing. Very uncharacteristic of most Indian women who cannot think of stepping outside the proverbial Lakshman Rekha. 

The most poignant fact I gleaned from the book was that Ranjani took time to file for divorce because she was not sure if her daughter would opt to stay with her father rather than her. He was an indifferent spouse but a doting father. She was happy to share custody with her estranged husband but did not want to lose her. Ranjani tried to reconcile with her husband for six months but finally filed for divorce. Exchanged her mangalsutra (a symbol of marriage) for a diamond necklace, bought a new car (a stickshift Vento, brave!) and took possession of her apartment in a high rise from her savings. Set up consultancy work and finally donned the mantle of an independent self-sufficient person. 

Not defined by her marital status but by her ability to be safe. Breathe freely. Indulge in simple pleasures. Ice Cream at Baskin Robbins, a late evening concert at Qutub Shahi Tomb, night shopping at Charminar, or a trip to the Chilkur ‘Visa Balaji” temple. Ranjani managed to find her way home like Santiago from the Alchemist but my heart grieves for so many women who have lived in situations of domestic abuse for centuries. If they leave, their journey is fraught with unimaginable peril. 

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The moral tenacity of thousands of frail young women who make it despite all odds is laudable. Even when they make it, they are not fully accepted in their homes and society. Society needs to invest in empowering women so that they can be safe on their own if they have to. Let us infuse them with courage. Thanks for writing this book Ranjini.

Rewriting My Happily Ever After
By Ranjani Rao
Story Artisan Press (October 2021)

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published many poems, movie reviews, book critiques, essays and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

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  • I agree women were taken for granted abused. Not any more
    Nowadays before marriage girls put conditions terms and e
    Walk out even before tiring the knot

    In this tug of war kids are affected
    I feel sorry for kids from broken homes. Think well before marriage or be ready to compromise if necessary

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