Who is Rajan?
I am a woman of many hidden talents and I feel very few people really know the real me. My trials and tribulations. My strengths and weaknesses.
What are your hobbies?
I love gardening and generally DIY projects. In lockdown, I’ve started my own vegetable patch and completely transformed a playhouse. I love hair and makeup which was one of my all-time loves.
Who are your role models?
My dad as he is the kindest, selfless and forgiving man I know. I am inspired by strong women such as Michelle Obama. I loved Lady Diana. She was a kind loving mum and despite being in the Royal family she was very connected with everyone. Very charitable and genuine.
What is your day job?
I was a makeup artist and also a property developer (only starting out and on a small scale at the moment). If I’m not transforming clients its houses! I love it.
What is your favourite song?
I am really going to show my age here but it is an old school Asha Bhosle & Kishore Kumar song called Yeh Vaada Raha
You had an arranged marriage at 20 years old can you tell me about that.
It was in the 1990s. It was the most harrowing experience of my life. Being forced to marry a stranger. There was not much freedom of choice back then. I am still trying to heal from parts of that experience. We were worlds apart. Lots of things happened behind closed doors. I suffer PTSD as a result. I have recently started speaking and sharing elements about the arranged marriage in the hope to help others.
Your ex-husband lived a separate life to you. How did that make you feel?
He lived a very separate life to me as he worked 365 days a year. I was more a family girl, not really into making money. I wanted a house and a garden and that was it I was happy.
You stated that you were forced into lots of things that have scarred you. Can you touch on a little bit about what happened?
Yes, as I had said no to him told him very clearly my parents were forcing me he still ahead when he knew I did not agree to the arrangement. I was only 20. I had never slept with anyone before and to experience something so intimate with someone I did not want to be with and then going through that intimacy for 14 years with someone I wanted to run a million miles from left me very very scarred. I was also pregnant at the age of 20 and that chapter was pretty horrific and sadly something I cannot go into detail about. It still haunts me to this day. So I have a lot of nightmares and flashbacks and it affects my current relationship and ability to be intimate.
You were mentally and physically exhausted and took an overdose at 23. What was running through your mind?
That I cannot live like this anymore. The pain and suffering in silence is eating away at me. I have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. The only escape is putting an end to my pain for good. It was sheer desperation. I did not want to hurt my parents and couldn’t bear to see that.
You have three daughters how hard was it to raise them in such a toxic environment?
I had 2 daughters with the person I had an arranged marriage with. It was very very difficult. To be honest we were both civil to each other. He worked most of the time. I pretty much was on my own trying to give the girls the very best in life. I used to have to support the girls on my own financially. I lived in a 1 bedroom flat above a shop and I also worked 7 days a week. I had an office job then I would work in their supermarket. I bought myself a house after 10 years. It was just to society and paper it was a marriage. When I got my own house I started sleeping with the girls. It was towards the end of the marriage it became toxic as we used to argue a lot and fight so I knew then I had to get out as I could no longer paint a happy picture any more.
How did you finally leave your marriage?
I could see my girls were starting to be treated unfairly. The family made it very clear they wanted boys. I knew deep down that long term they would always be held back in life. Not given freedom and choices. I had learned to live with that but I wanted more for them in life. I started changing as a person, becoming much stronger and independent. I wanted to be free and not be controlled anymore. I was pretty much single in terms of the dynamics. I knew I had to formalise it.
How did this decision impact your mental health?
It took a real toll. There was a lot of animosity and anger towards me. A lot of hate. I fell into a major depression. I went onto anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. I could barely function on a day to day basis. The girls would go to stay with their dad every other weekend and I would go out with friends and try to distract myself from the absolute misery. On the outside, I looked like I was loving life but I was actually struggling to exist with a 3-year-old and 8-year-old. My weight plummeted and I was a size 0. The divorce was bitter and nasty. The girls really got caught in the midst of it all. They loved their dad and were very confused. I was the bad guy for turning everyone’s life upside down. I still live with a lot of guilt. At the time I had very little support as mental health is to this day misunderstood. Our community does not know what to do and how to help. A lot of education and awareness is needed.
You have remarried and found love can you tell me about that?
When I was depressed I attracted a lot of negative people into my life. Negative relationships. However, as soon as I decided I wanted to be a single girl and love life. I radiated strength and beauty. Our meeting was down to fate. All the dating get-togethers and me trying. This was a random day before New Year’s Eve. We spoke briefly about what was good to do for New Year’s Eve. He took my number and said he would let me know anything was happening in his town. I was from Coventry and he was from Birmingham. I didn’t remember him as it was just a brief meeting. We both ended up going to the temple and I prayed for happiness. Ironically when we spoke again he told me his name was Happy as his name is Harpreet so people called him Happy or Huppy. I was not interested in dating as id been hurt by a guy that was nothing but toxic. He said fine let’s be friends as I seemed like a nice girl. I told him I was divorced with 2 girls and he was completely shocked. He thought we were the same age. He still pursued the friendship as he said he could see I was someone with a kind personality and morals. He was fed up of dating and having fun and did not mind seeing how things go. We became the best of friends. He slowly came into the girl’s lives. He had nothing but respect and admiration. He said he wished he met me earlier and I would be the kind of girl he would like to marry. I never in a million years thought we would end up together.
Was there a lot of stigma around your husband being younger?
Yes, there was at the time. I was very scared of what people would think and say. However, his family were completely loving and welcoming and never made an issue of the age difference and neither did he. To look at we looked the same age, I would always be asked for ID all the time and we would laugh. So slowly I also did not care what people thought. Happiness and love have no boundaries and he taught me that. Now no one bats an eyelid. They can see we are very happy and it’s only if people pry and ask do they make an issue of the age difference.
Being divorced did you feel labelled?
Yes still to this day. People do stereotype you. At the time of the divorce, I was very much looked down on as no one in my family was divorced. Nowadays it is more common. It still has a stigma but times are changing.
Your daughter is supermodel Neelam Gill how did she get into modelling and how did you feel about it?
It was down to her drive and passion. She was very tall and slim from say around 12/13. People used to always ask if she was a model. She was around 5ft 9. At 14 she then did her research of the top modelling agency in London and asked me to take her. There were no Asians I knew of and I thought they would send us packing. They took a Polaroid and asked us to come back. They signed her up and it started from there. She did not have much work due to the distance and her studies. She got her break when she was 18. I was extremely proud and also nervous for her.
I loved the L’Oreal campaign you both did together how did this happen?
L’Oreal contacted Neelam and said they wanted to feature her mum in a campaign. To share our journey and promote self-worth. I was so so nervous and a part of me did not want to do it as I was nervous as it was my first time. I also was so over the moon as it was a once in a lifetime experience. I knew I had to overcome my fears.
You are very proud of your daughters, aren’t you?
All my girls are very strong, intelligent, unique and individual. So proud of how they’ve turned out.
How is your life different now?
I am now 50 and I’ve learned that my life was a journey of many chapters. I am in a much happier place. I have been with my husband for 12 years, married for 10. I have slowly coming to peace with my past and learning to heal. I still am on a waiting list for therapy for my PTSD as I cannot sleep due to flashbacks when I sleep. I have a nice house with a loving family. Nothing in life is perfect and it always has its ups and downs. However, it should have more ups than downs and its ok to reach out if you need help. Social media has helped me connect with people that can relate to my past experiences. It’s to show you can overcome life’s hurdles.
If anyone was in your position now from your past experience what would you say to them?
It’s your life, you must take charge. It’s not easy when you have to go against loved ones but you must follow your heart. Do not be scared. Your gut instinct is normally right. Without love life is empty. Even if you’re on your own do things that make you happy.
What is next for Rajan?
To live my life without regret. 50 is the new 21! I want to travel, transform my home into my dream home. Work with so amazing new clients and carry on transforming and make all women feel they are beautiful and amazing