“I got a call saying he’d been in an accident and had slipped into a coma”

“He was late from work one evening. I thought it was because of the rain until I got a call saying he’d been in an accident and had slipped into a coma. I felt this heaviness in my chest but kept telling myself it would be fine.

A few days later, I took my daughter Elixir to see him; she was barely 3. For the first time during his coma, he moved and even ate that day. I was so happy; after 16 days of barely eating, I ate properly. But right after, I got a call saying he had passed. It didn’t seem real, until I saw his body at the hospital. I cried as I held his hand and promised him that I’d raise Elixir well and make him proud.

But for the next 2 weeks, I couldn’t leave the house. I had no savings; my in-laws had taken it all away. I didn’t even know how to pay the bills. My parents asked me to move in with them, but I wanted to get through this on my own. I had started a small business dealing in exotic vegetables right before he passed; so I decided to put my all into growing that. The industry was male-dominated; distributors mocked me, ‘Even I’ll carry a baby from now, just so I can sell more.’ Neighbours shamed me for going out despite being a widow. I ignored them; I had a promise to keep to my husband.

I’d start work at 4 AM; no matter how quietly I’d wake up, Elixir would know and cling to me– she was scared I’d leave her. So I’d take her with me; we’d be home by 10 AM. She’d often say, ‘Let’s go to heaven to meet dad.’ I didn’t know what to say.

In the next few months, the supplier noticed that I was selling more than my dealer, so he offered to sell directly to me. I agreed, borrowed a loan from a friend and started going all around town in an auto, finding restaurants and supermarkets to sell to. If they were hesitant to buy, I’d tell them that they could return it to me. And that worked! ‘Queen of Mushrooms’, they’d call me. In a few months, sales skyrocketed and I had 15 men working under me. I set up an office and bought a car.

But I never compromised on my time with Elixir; I enrolled her in dance and sports classes. She’d won innumerable competitions by the age of 9! Around then, I remarried– we had a daughter, Aaliya. Unfortunately over the years, we realised we wanted different things and parted ways. We decided that Aaliya would stay with me.

Elixir’s 26 now, and Aaliya is 16; when Elixir isn’t away for work, the 3 of us spend our time watching shows and calling friends over, on Sundays, we brunch!

Still, I make sure to give myself my ‘me-time’; I garden, cook, and work out. I’m stronger today than I’ve ever been; I went from not knowing how to pay bills to running successful businesses! God may have taken away someone who believed I could do anything, but it taught me that I, Poornima, could be that person.”

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