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An Ode to a New Beginning

Surekha’s experiences helped her to stretch, explore, grow, and become!

Surekha smiling and holding a picture of herself before cleft surgery

Despite her cleft making her look different from the other women in her community, Surekha never paid much attention to her appearance. A resident of Rui Village, Nanded District, Maharashtra, Surekha’s world revolved around her husband and two daughters, and she devoted her life to nurturing and caring for her family. However, Surekha’s world crumbled when her husband decided to leave her for another woman.

This sense of abandonment struck deeply, unlike any other challenge she had faced before. In her childhood, the love and support from her family shielded her from feeling isolated or estranged due to her cleft. But the ache of her husband's departure brought a loneliness that seemed unbeatable.

Returning to her mother's house after the separation marked a turning point in her life. Surekha soon secured a job at a nearby food processing factory which not only provided a means of livelihood but also instilled a sense of self-reliance she had long yearned for. Although her confidence started to bloom, her untreated cleft, the primary reason for her husband disowning her, continued to cast shadows on her self-esteem.

Surekha smiling with her mother after cleft surgery
Found solace at her mother's place

A neighbor suggested that Surekha meet Smile Train partner Dr. Vitthal Lahane from Lahane Hospital in Latur. Surekha recalled, “I first shook my head in disbelief when Dr Lahane mentioned that my surgery will be supported free-of-cost by an organisation called Smile Train. This revelation felt like a second chance, an opportunity to heal the emotional scars that were dormant till my partner left me.”

Surekha brushing her hair at home after cleft surgery
A surgery in her 40s has completely changed her outlook towards life

Surekha now owns a small firm land and is independently raising her two daughters. She had mentioned, “My daughters are my biggest cheerleaders and the source of my encouragement. Regardless of my cleft, I was aways their beloved Aai (mother). But deep inside my heart, I feel more positive and complete as a mother now.”

Surekha smiling with her daughter after cleft surgery
Surekha smiling and holding herbs after cleft surgery
A selfless mother and proud breadwinner of the family

Surekha’s life, once flawed by feelings of abandonment and limitations, blossomed into a narrative of resilience and empowerment after her surgery, proving that even at the age of 40, new beginnings are always possible.

Surekha smiling and holding a picture of herself before cleft surgery
Surekha has left her past behind to embrace a new beginning