I did not ask Why Me? I am a brave woman. My story.

Anchal Sharma, Social Activist and Cancer Survivor

I will explain every reason why you should Never-Ever give up in life, no matter what you’re going through. And I will explain this through my life’s story.

As a little girl, I imagined a smooth sailing life with my family and friends. Little did I know that I was God’s “chosen one”, entrusted to experience more than I could have ever imagined myself to be capable of.

I am Anchal Sharma and this is my story.

Initial Days

We were a family of six people (my parents, two brothers and two sisters) living in a single room house that was inherited from our grandfather. My father was an auto rickshaw driver, so for a very long time we were barely able to make our ends meet. In a hope to improve the family’s financial condition my father sold off his auto rickshaw and invested in a van with which he would pick and drop kids from the nearby school.

Anchal Sharma (in blue dress) with her parents and siblings. Anchal’s father was an auto rickshaw driver and her mother worked at a Delhi-based export house where her job was to cut threads.

But as luck would have it, he lost that job due to an unfair reason. Just as one sees in movies, my father’s job loss led him to alcoholism to the point of no return. He would return home inebriated and beat up my mother for anything and everything.

With an alcoholic husband and four kids to feed, my mother put her foot down and decided to work. She took charge of the situation and started working in a factory for a very small amount of money. Every mother is God’s reflection to her children, and so was my mother. Her job was to cut threads in an export house based in Delhi. It often required her to stand all day and cut as many threads as possible. She worked hard and often got extra money as bonus.

But the stars were not in our favour, and one day my mother lost her job. There were days when we would starve all day, on some days we were lucky enough to manage chapattis with red chilies to satiate our hunger.

Circumstances forced me and my brother to leave school in class 8th and 9th respectively and search for jobs. My brother joined a garage as a mechanic and I started working as a receptionist at a stock market trading firm for a salary of Rs. 4000.

First Job

But the money wasn’t good enough to sustain the family, hence I had to switch my job to an export house where I worked as a sampler. This job gave me some exposure and I met a lot of helpful and influential people at work. Through these interactions, I came to know that the real estate offered good opportunity to earn better. I switched my job, once again.

The real estate business demanded more time and effort. I would start my day at 7:30 AM, travel to Gurgaon from Delhi in public transport busses and spend eight hours standing outside the building of real estate firm to close business deals. My efforts paid off and I started making decent money, only until fate intervened! I was cheated by the company’s broker and he siphoned off my incentives of around two lakh fifty thousand rupees.

Shattered yet determined, I joined another real estate brokerage firm as a receptionist. I may have demoted myself at this point, but I respected my job and never stopped working hard and learning more. The owner of the company acknowledged my hard work and hired me as a broker on profit share basis. This was the first time in my life when things were falling into place for us and I was able to finally move my family out of that crowded single room house to a rented apartment in Saket, New Delhi.

Sister’s Murder

Things were starting to take shape until June 2006, when I got my younger sister married off to the man she loved against my family’s will. But as luck would have it, her husband’s love for her fizzled out soon after the marriage. Before my sister could realize how much she was hated by her own husband, she was murdered.  

Anchal’s sister married against her family’s wishes. She was soon murdered by her husband.

Yes, you heard it right. It was like everything in our lives had sworn to never fall into a proper place. Life dragged us on a threshold of yet another sad chapter. My sister’s husband murdered her in November 2006, barely five months after the wedding.

As my family had already disowned her at the time of her marriage as they were strongly against it, I took it upon myself to fight for her justice. It was a torture, both mental and physical, to run around seeking punishment for my sister’s murderer, but the fighter that I had become by now, I never gave up. I got open threat calls and messages, I was warned and promised consequences if I didn’t back off from the case. But I didn’t stop and got my sister’s murderer convicted, and imprisoned for life.

My Marriage

My sister’s demise had a deep impact on my family, they had the typical worries, ‘Who will marry Anchal, now that we are scarred for life?’ Needless to say, the relatives constantly made comments on my life and future, they brainwashed my family into believing that I was deemed to die unmarried because of the social stigma due to my sister’s death.

In haste, and under a lot of pressure, I was married off to a handicapped man from Jharsa village in Gurgaon. My relatives and society had convinced my family that due to our recent past, no normal person would marry me.

Anchal was hurriedly married off to a handicapped man from Jharsa (Gurgaon) against her wishes. Her husband was abusive and kept demanding dowry. Anchal later on divorced this man.

Despite being physically challenged, the man and his family were extremely demanding and greedy. They asked for a car in dowry, among many other things, and we gave in to all their demands.

After marriage, my in-laws had their eyes only on my money as I was earning a decent money by this time. However, a lot of my earnings were used in my sister’s court case, which my husband and his family were strictly against.

When I refused to give them more money, my husband resorted to physical abuse. My poor family, petrified of the thought of having a divorced daughter at home just after the murder of another daughter, forced me to stick it out with my husband and adjust.

One day the physical abuse exceeded to the point that I became unconscious. This is when I gave up on everything that was holding me back and filed for a divorce. In 2008, I was a free woman again.

Demolition of home sweet home

I got back to my regular life and decided to build a house for the family on a small piece of land I had bought. The happiness I experienced while constructing that house was unimaginable for a person like me. It was too good to be true.

And indeed, it was a bubble!

Anchal’s dream home was demolished by MCD right in front of her eyes. She had used all her life’s savings in the construction.

As if fate hadn’t had enough of me, the house was demolished by MCD right in front of my eyes and the property was sealed. All my savings were blown in the air with that demolition and I was broke once again.

I was back to square one.

But wait, the universe wasn’t satisfied yet, so it threw another blow at me immediately thereafter. My mother was diagnosed with cabbage worm in her brain that paralyzed her right hand for a couple of months.

Her treatment took two and a half years. During her treatment, my elder brother got married but that too didn’t turn up well.

My sister-in-law ill-treated and tortured my mother constantly, due to which my mother, who was already weak and brutally tormented by life’s circumstances, had to be hospitalized several times. Eventually, my brother had to get a divorce from her wife.

Then came the year 2015, a new year and newer challenges for me. My father hadn’t been keeping well and I could constantly hear him coughing. This went on for a long time until one day when we were on a visit to our grandmother’s house, he fell terribly sick with high temperature and heavy coughing.

I had become so distant with my father due to his alcoholism, irresponsible behaviour, domestic violence etc. that I completely ignored the fact that he too is a human, and like all of us, he also needs care, after all, he was getting old.

We took him to a doctor and found that he was suffering from tuberculosis. It took him more than a year to recover and lead a normal life again.

While I was busy picking up the pieces for my family, my body was struggling to cope up with the stress internally and then came a point where it could not take it anymore.

Battle with Cancer

I had just finished my birthday celebrations when I noticed a lump in my breast. I got a little nervous and did not share this with anyone. This lump created a swelling in my arms due to which I had to halt all kinds of sports, including tennis, which I used to play regularly.

Anchal Sharma was diagnosed with third stage cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy sessions for its cure.

In order treat the problem, I starting taking homeopathy medicines but the pain worsened, and slowly I started giving up on my regular lifestyle activities.

But, a dear friend, who noticed that I was strongly bothered by something, asked me to open to up. After some prodding, I confided in her.

She instantly got me an appointment in a hospital, where few tests brought out the shocking news to me. I was afraid. I got diagnosed with third stage of breast cancer.

This is the time when even the protagonist gives up in most stories, right? I mean, how much can a hero take, after all? So I thought to myself, “But I am yet to live my life. This can’t be it.”

And it wasn’t. I must add that the chemo therapies and endless surgeries were extremely daunting, but I held on to hope and tried to live a normal life.

I used to dress up even for my chemo sessions, because why not? It was a difficult journey but I refused to live through it with fear.

It was during this time when one day I was stuck at a traffic signal, and I noticed a bunch of kids begging. I refused to give them money and instead offered them some food. The kids agreed and I took them to a restaurant. Due to the social stigma, some of the guests at that restaurant left after seeing these kids dining at the same place as them.

Disgusted, I sat down with the poor kids and talked to them about their life and how they survive.

Meals Of Happiness (MOH)

That afternoon inspired me to do something for these kids, and I started an NGO by the name of Meals Of Happiness (MOH).

Anchal with the slum kids. Her NGO Meals Of Happiness (MOH) feeds slum kids.

Initially, I used to cook meals at home with my mother’s help and distribute it to slums kids. Soon people noticed my persistence in helping these kids and offered support in the form of money or volunteering. I realized that the magnitude of hunger was too big to be taken care of from my home’s kitchen.

It was at this point that I officially started my NGO, registered with the government, and began seeking donations from people. In just a couple of months, I was able to feed over 200 kids on a daily basis.

Till date, MOH has successfully accomplished meal distribution to over lakh people. On several occasions, MOH has raised funds for medical needs of people living in slums and has also helped poor girls get married.

Today, I am grateful to God for every hurdle that life threw in my way. My circumstances transformed me into the woman I am today. I care for the society and wish to eradicate hunger and malnourishment among the slum kids.

I have a purpose, and it is this purpose that makes me stronger by the day.

I knew I had no time to ask God, “why me?”, and I also knew that I had a family to feed and sustain, so I knocked every door of opportunity that came my way and made the most of it.

We often get so exhausted in our own miseries and in questioning God over privilege and luck that we do not realize how much mettle we have inside ourselves to cope up with life’s difficulties. I focused on my potential, on my substance, because that is all I had control over. I couldn’t control luck, chance or my circumstances, but I had complete control over what I was willing to protect myself and my dear ones.

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