“One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through, and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” – Brene Brown
This is one of my favorite quotes, and I can’t think of a more apt quote for Dr. Ranjani Rao’s ‘Rewriting My Happily Ever After- a memoir of divorce and discovery.’
Dr. Ranjani is a scientist, a writer, a yoga practitioner, and an inspiration. Her book is a moving memoir of the aftermath of divorce and her efforts to rebuild her life in a society that is blinded by prejudices.
We cheer for the women who have summoned the courage to walk out of a toxic relationship. But what happens to them afterward? What are the financial implications? How does a single woman who is also a single parent find a place for herself; both literally and figuratively? What are the support systems she can depend on? How does she evolve from being co-dependent in a relationship, to being fiercely independent while ensuring normalcy for her only child? How does she grapple with financial security, after-school care arrangements, and more importantly her mental health?
There are no direct answers in this book- the process is a slow evolution, as the author experiments and figures out what works for her. This journey is eye-opening and evocative.
The book begins with the author getting married at the age of twenty-two and flying off to the US with her husband, to begin a new life. In this next phase of her life, she deals with the challenges life throws at her- an aloof husband, her struggle with infertility, and her efforts to earn a Ph.D. and secure employment. Over time, she gets both a baby and the title of Dr. The cracks in her marriage worsen over the years, and when the family returns to India, she is compelled to separate. She leaves her husband’s house along with her eight-year-old.
From the time of her separation to her divorce, the author discusses her journey and her attempts to rediscover her lost zest for life through work, writing, music, walking, and seeking solace in meditation and prayer.
What I liked about this book:
Its honest, blunt, and courageous. The two things that stood out for me are, a mother’s love for her daughter- be it Ranjani’s mother’s for her daughter or Ranjani’s love for her daughter. The second thing worth mentioning is the way the book highlights biases prevalent in society. It doesn’t matter how accomplished a woman is- she could be a Ph.D. holder or a renowned scientist or both, but society evaluates her worth on the basis of her being someone’s wife or someone’s mother. Her achievements pale in comparison to these pedestals, and it is heart-breaking.
There is sensitivity and maturity in the author’s words. A quiet dignity in narrating a story filled with turmoil. There is no blatant finger-pointing at her ex-partner.
We were both right, but not right for each other.
The style of the book is simple and free-flowing but written with clarity.
I thought about the ancient Chinese practice of binding a girls’ feet so that they remain tiny. My feet were free, my spirit was not. It was caught, constrained, and silenced.
She pinpoints the joy in simple acts, acts that we consider insignificant or take for granted.
My mother taught me how to light the lamp. Life gave me a reason to do it. And in the process, it made me whole.
Despite being about a serious topic, the book abounds with hope, that is reflected in the author’s narrative.
Faith is a funny thing. It holds out the option of surrender when everything else has failed.
A lesson that I learned after reading this book is this- if you know of someone who is going through a messy separation or a divorce- don’t ask them questions like what happened? Can you fix this? Can you try again? Instead, ask them questions like: Can I help you in any way? Do you need assistance in finding a place to stay? Do you want help in finding a support group?
The book is divided into sections Falling, Starting over, Making it work, Reconfiguring life, and Soaring, making it a comfortable read. You travel with the author through each section, and at the end of the book are left cheering loudly for her- because she has learned to LIVE all over again.
Kudos to the author for penning this book- it must not have been easy sharing this with the world, but now this book will become another woman’s survival guide.