Fourteen years ago, when Annie Shiva fell in love, she was filled with hope. Then a first year sociology student at KNM Government College in Kanjiramkulam, Kerala, she decided to move in with her boyfriend and got married at 18, going against the wishes of her family.
But two years later, when her son was born, her husband abandoned them both, leaving Annie on the streets to fend for herself and her infant child.
“I was too naive back then. My son was just 8 months old. After my husband left, I reached out to my family for help and support but no one accepted us,” Annie tells The Better India.
Her journey since then has been filled with roadblocks, each of which she has countered with her fiery spirit and determination. Today, she works as a sub-inspector at Varkala police station and her story has become an inspiration to hundreds of women across the country.
Rising above all rejection
“I was in the third year of college and had to find shelter for at least two months to complete my exams. Finally, my grandmother let us stay with her. I would juggle my study time and sell curry powder and other items from door to door to make ends meet. Things were very hard, but I was not going to give up,” says the 32-year-old, who eventually found an independent rental space for herself and her son and moved out in a few months.
From selling curry powder and soaps to working as an insurance agent, Annie went through several jobs to survive. “Some days, even getting a single meal a day seemed like a luxury. I’ve helplessly watched my son cry out of hunger and go to sleep,” she says.
But as a single mother, more challenges awaited.
“First of all, getting a home for just me and my son was a challenge. Once I did, there were countless personal questions and gossip that followed. Then there is the unique sickness the society suffers from, where they assume that a woman living alone is either weak or easy. I have had to face countless inappropriate advances in my workspace and beyond, and have struggled to be taken seriously,” adds Annie.
‘Discovering my true self’
While on one hand, every bit of adversity fueled her courage, on the other, Annie learnt to cope with her difficulties by letting go. “I used to love my hair but decided to cut it all off. It made me feel comfortable in my skin and free from everything that was trying to oppress me. I felt stronger,” she says.
After a few years, the Kanjiramkulam native moved to Varkala with her son in search of better opportunities. There, too, she started with humble beginnings, selling lemonade and ice-cream. But eventually, on a distant relative’s suggestion, she decided to apply for examinations for the position of a constable and sub-inspector.
“My father always wanted me to be an IPS officer and when a relative told me about this exam, it seemed like life had given me another chance. I quit work to concentrate fully on preparing for the tests. I took a one month long crash course and studied for over 20 hours a day. Finally, in 2014, I gave the two exams,” says Annie, who soon received a call for appointment as a constable. The position of SI was still far from reach, as the state did not have many female SIs.
Appointed as a constable in 2016, she continued working in that position for almost three years, before the opportunity of becoming an SI came knocking at her door again. This time, too, Annie left no stone unturned to prepare and was finally posted as a sub-inspector in the Varkala police station on June 25, 2021.
“Every time life tried to pull me down, I worked 10 times harder to come out strong and tall. This was my small win but in a world crowded with negatives, I’m glad that it could be a source of strength and inspiration for so many people. Now I feel much better knowing that I have done it all alone and will be able to give my son a wholesome life,” she says.