Monika Raina is a Kashmiri Pandit whose problems did not end with leaving Kashmir for their well-being during the exodus. But as the hurdles in her life continued, so did she!

Monika’s grandfather had to leave Kashmir during the exodus to save himself and his family from inhumane treatment at the hands of the rioters. It was difficult for his father to start his life from scratch in the Kushinagar district. Gradually, they settled down with a joint family. Monika’s immediate family consists of her father, Manoj Raina, who was a pharmacist, and her mother, Madhu Raina, who was a homemaker who stood by her husband’s every decision in her life. Her two younger siblings, Shivansh, who is preparing for the JEE in Delhi, and Mona Raina, who is a corporate lawyer at Hitachi.

Monika dreamt of being a doctor as a child. But in an unfortunate turn of events, when she was in 11th grade, merely a teenager, her mother left her for a heavenly abode. Life came crashing down on the Raina family, as the biggest support was no longer with them to hold their hands and guide them through their lives. This pushed Monika into a long-term depressive episode.

It was challenging for Monika to gather herself, but she did so for the sake of her younger siblings. The dream of becoming a doctor was now put on the back burner, and responsibility for the well-being of the family took the driving seat. She recalls that when her mother was no more, the family was being provided with food from somewhere else. This made her get a grip on herself, and she decided to never let her siblings face such hardships again. That was the first time she entered the kitchen, and since then, cooking has been therapeutic for her.

She learned to cook by herself, as she had no one to guide her. Only the hungry faces of her siblings helped her continue. Her mom always used to say that whenever you feel low, never look at those who have more than you; always look at those who have less than you and count your blessings. This has been the life mantra of Monika forever.

Now, Monika is married to her childhood best friend Siddharth and is the mother of Tarush Raina Roshan. She is also a homemaker who manages and runs a cloud kitchen on weekends, which serves Kashmiri cuisine. Professionally, she is also employed at a software firm as an HR.

When asked for her most memorable moment, Monika says that she has two of them. The first one is when her little brother Shivansh was born. As he was 14 years younger than her, she was like a second mother to him. The second one is when her son Tarush was born. Being the mother of a small child for the very first time brought a gush of emotions that was unexplainable. Marrying Siddharth is one of the happiest moments of her life. It was difficult for them to convince their parents of their marriage, as it was an inter-caste marriage. However, after all, love always wins. Monika remembers that her mom, in her last moments, asked her to always stay with Siddharth and never leave his hand because he would keep her happy. With a soft smile, she said, “Mothers know everything.”

Initially, she started as a fashion designer for an export house in Varanasi and then worked for some time at Myntra. Siddharth asked her to continue her studies, which she did, and completed her master's. He encouraged her to open a cloud kitchen because he knew how much she loved cooking.

Life was looking better when Monika lost her father too. Once again, depression had grabbed her in its ugly grip. This time, her only motivation to get up was what her father always taught her: “Education is important. It is what grows you well.” He knew what not being able to pursue a dream felt like, and he thus supported his kids with all their aspirations.

As a homage to her mother, Monika has set up an NGO named Yuva Abhuday with her close school friends, which helps underprivileged children with their studies. She has won an award for the same for her role as the Women President of the NGO.

Monika’s motto in life is very simple. It is to take care of herself along with others. Monika realized after going through such hardships that she should never forget that she exists too; she is also a human who has her own needs and importance. If she didn’t take care of herself, she wouldn’t be able to help her family either.

Now, when she looks back at her life, she realizes that life has taken from her, but it has given to her too. True, she doesn't understand why she had to lose her biggest support, but every time she is reminded of her mother’s words, she becomes grateful for how she traversed through life. Monika believes that her parents must be looking at her from wherever they are and smiling at her efforts and how she made mistakes but made sure to learn something from them.

A lot of people stood by her and pulled her out of her depressive episodes after she lost her mother. She wants to take this opportunity to thank them too. Her best friends are Siddharth, who is also her husband now, and Shreya; her siblings, Shivansh and Mona; Shivendra; Seema Didi Kuldeep Jiju; Toshu; Satyam; Shivam; and, of course, her little angel Tarush. All of them are her pillars of strength, and if it weren’t for them, Monika would have crumbled under the pressure. It is they who keep her strong and going