Empowering Women

Vidhi’s Story of Strength and Survival


Rachna Gahilote Bisht, the narrator of this story is a close friend of Vidhi Duggal and she has been a witness to Vidhi’s life journey for over 16 years. She has seen Vidhi evolve from a young, happy-go-lucky girl into a resilient and strong woman, who has faced numerous challenges with determination and grace.

Team Nari thanks Rachna for sharing this with us which covers so many aspects of Vidhi’s life – dealing with a tragedy, raising her son singlehandedly, making ends meet, handling societal pressures and judgements, and so many more things.

The story, as narrated, is a tribute to Vidhi’s courage and the uncelebrated strength of many women like her.

As we move on a fast pace journey called life, it is important to notice people around us who have stood tall and braved challenging situations with time. Today I share with you the story of Vidhi Duggal who like many other started her married life in 2003, looking forward to years of happiness filled with love, care and togetherness.

Only daughter among five brothers in a joint family, she was married to Rajan at the age of 23. She had graduated from Delhi University and was working with a construction company. The husband was running an import export business, as she started her life in the new surrounding learning about new ways from her mother-in-law. Things looked good. Soon after in December 2004 she gave birth to a boy. People in the family were happy and so were her sisters-in-law who were long married with grown up children.

Vidhi was too young and the difference in the age between the daughter of her sister-in-law and her was just about 6-7 years. Vidhi was a young, happy-go-lucky girl who respected the elders and was always open to guidance and support from the family she was now a part of.

One fine day when she woke up, she saw her husband a little unwell. As they lived in Sarita Vihar in Delhi, Apollo was the obvious option being the closet hospital. Tests were conducted and the doctors suspected something serious. Little did Vidhi know what was about to hit her. Rajan, at the age of 33, was detected with lymph node cancer. He was immediately admitted in Apollo, treatment started but instead of showing signs of improvement they saw him slipping. Within 15 days of cancer detection, Rajan was gone.

With Viraj just about 3.5 years old, Rajan had crossed the rainbow into a different world. And here, the world came shattering down for Vidhi. Family, friends and acquaintances gathered and lamented on the sudden loss. Viraj was too young to be a part of the cremation. He was sent to Vidhi’s parents’ house as the body of Rajan was brought home for the last time.

People were deciding the fate of Vidhi and her son. Decisions were being taken for her at a time when Vidhi was grieving and was not in a mental state where she could comprehend what was right for her. The emotional pressure was too much for her. Every time she would step out of her house with Viraj, he would turn around as they crossed Apollo hospital and ask, “When will Daddy return. Take me there. I want to see him.” Little did he know that it was not possible to see him again. Some people told them to sell off the flat in Sarita Vihar and take up a cheaper place in Freedom Fighter Enclave. The money saved by selling one and buying another could be put in as Fixed Deposit in the bank and used in time of emergency.

Seeing merit in it and more because Vidhi wanted to avoid the difficult conversation with Viraj she agreed to the proposition. The flat in Sarita Vihar was sold and a three-bedroom apartment was bought in the name of her mother-in-law. But the amount was deposited again in the name of her mother-in-law. There was nothing that was shared with Vidhi. Initially everyone thought it was fine as mother-in-law required security but then what about Vidhi.

No one thought of her, how she would look after a toddler. Most people had presumed that she would soon get married as she was all of 27 then. But then Vidhi was sure that she would dedicate her entire life to the boy and the family.

And from here, the long journey of struggles started for Vidhi. As harsh reality struck, she now required to pay school fees and manage household expenses. Her mother-in-law was old, and so pursuing her full-time job was no more a possibility with a 3-year-old child at home. Thinking that working in the same school might be a good option, she took Nursery Teachers Training. As it was from a private institute, the course fee was too high. Vidhi spent all her savings to enroll in the NTT course. On compassionate ground she was given admin work in the school where her son was studying. With merely Rs 8,000 as stipend in 2009, she made a fresh start.

I remember meeting Vidhi for the first time at my son’s birthday party when she stood next to me saying, “This is the first time, I have stepped out of my house for a function after my husband’s passing away. My mother-in-law does not like it, but the boy feels very lonely in the new surrounding as we have shifted our residence. I want him to have a normal life.” It has been over 16-years that we have stood for each other and together seen the ups and downs in life.



From a distance, I saw her struggle as a single mom who was not just looking after her son but also an old mother-in-law who was finding ways to cope with the death of her doctor husband and the young son. As Vidhi would be trying to make ends meet as the only bread earner in a family of three, the mother-in-law would be moving around the street from one kirtan mandali to another thinking it would give her some peace on mind. Her two daughters who were happily married and settled in upper middle-class families were more or less limited in their personal space.

Meanwhile, Vidhi was finding it difficult to manage the home in the little money she was drawing from the school. Fully aware of the long journey up ahead she decided to educate herself. She took admission in B.Ed. and completed it while staying in Rohtak at her maternal grandparent’s home, as it was a mandatory requirement for teaching. Thereafter she shifted from admin work to teaching KG students in the same school. She was happy that her son was studying in a reputed private school and the bigger solace was that she could monitor him throughout.

Viraj, in his growing years saw her cousins move in Mercedes, travel by air, get holidays while he was getting none. As children in school would talk of their ventures during summer and winter holidays, he would just be a silent listener.

Children can be very harsh, one incident which I remember and would like to narrate here, once in between the class the children started mocking at Viraj, “We never see your father. You don’t have a father to come for the annual day and PTM.” This was too much of a humiliation for the young boy who was then in class 4. He found his own way to avenge the insult, turning around he said, “I don’t have a father so he cannot come, what about you. You have a father, but still he never finds time to come over and see you in school.” It resulted in a fist fight between the two groups.

Is it not important for us as grown-ups to teach our children that family does not always consist of mother father and children. It can be single parent family. Should we not be living in a world where definition of family has changed. Why are we so nosy? Can we not teach our children to look at others and their situation with empathy?

Time passed as usual it happens, but was some misunderstanding with the management and Vidhi had to leave the school and look for a new job. As there were not much savings behind her it was difficult to manage the gap period between the two job switch overs, but she would never give up. She joined another public school which was roughly 40 km away, but here the pay was better. She needed the money for coaching, as Viraj was now moving to senior school, and the expenses were increasing, and so were the kitchen expenses as well as medical bills of mother-in-law.

I still recall our talks when she would ask me, “Is it not correct to use stainless steel plates for eating? I am asked by my relatives, Why can’t you serve food in crockery, is it too difficult to buy? Why can you not keep a nurse for the mother-in-law. Why does Viraj not wear branded stuff.” For her all this was luxury. Strange are the ways where people question you for how you live but do not come forward to empathise in the situation and be your strength.

The boy passed his 10th board with 79 percent aggregate. A proud moment for all of us. He took humanities and completed his 12th securing 81 per cent in CBSE board examination. Today, Viraj is pursuing graduation in political science. Alongside he is also learning gaming. Today the mother-in-law is 91 years old battling Alzheimer’s for the past 6 years.

Vidhi’s father could not stand the loss of his son-in-law. His health was greatly impacted. He breathed his last in 2022. Vidhi’s mother is a cancer survivor. Currently Vidhi is looking after both her mother and her mother-in-law. Life has not been easy for her but facing the situation with grit and determination has been her way of dealing with it.

We applaud the courage in Vidhi who is able to not just make a life for herself and her son, but at the same time render support to others. She has been a pillar of strength who stood for other women in the family against all odds. We salute the Nari Shakti and recognise the courage of women whose life story has gone unnoticed. They are an inspiration for many others who are struggling or facing a similar situation in some other part of the world.

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