My Security Boots

Indu Atrey (+Video)


Born 24 years after my parents’ wedding, I am a miracle child. I was raised in a wealthy and educated family in India and got married on December 10, 2001. I wore glittery wedding shoes that day—a far cry from the thick-soled, steel-toed boots I wear now. 

In my culture’s dowry system, the bride’s family transfers gold, cash, property and durable goods to the groom’s family as a condition of marriage. It is illegal in India, but it is still prevalent due to tradition and societal pressure. My parents gave large amounts of gold and silver, a new car, and cash to the family of the man I married. They also paid for our wedding where we had 4,000 guests. 

Despite all that my parents had already given, my husband’s family expected more even after  the wedding. This payment of gifts and cash went on for 18 years, and it left my father and mother financially and emotionally drained.

A few years after we were married, my husband’s job required him to move to Calgary, Canada.  I was hopeful about new opportunities for our family.

Then, in January 2015, my father fell down a staircase and broke his hip. He went through expensive major surgery and stayed in the hospital for a month. I asked my husband if we could go to India to help my parents through this crisis. He refused. I asked again. In the end, my three kids and I went to India on our own. I was still nursing my youngest child. It was really hard to take care of the children and help my parents as well, but I did it with my mother’s help. We are strong women. 

Two and a half years later, I returned to Calgary with my kids because it is a better place for their future. Although my father recovered from the surgery, he fell into depression when he saw the failing marriage and family life of his only daughter. He passed away on August 29, 2017. My husband did not allow me to attend my father ‘s funeral. 

On Remembrance Day, 2018, my husband abandoned us. We were living in a furnished apartment. When he left, we were without any financial support. We were evicted and had nowhere to go. Eventually, I was able to find a job and rent a house. For many months, my children and I slept on the floor of that house until I could afford mattresses. Each month, I was slowly able to collect furniture and other necessities, such as pots and a dining table. 

In 2018, I also began volunteering at CIWA, a non-profit organization for immigrant women and later became a client, achieving a security licence from a CIWA course. That course changed my life. As a security guard, I have to take charge. I wear my powerful security boots that I bought from Mister Safety Shoes, a store in Calgary. They give me confidence and height in a male-dominated field. To me, these boots represent my success and my ability to work alongside men at night time and create my own path. 

I had not always dreamed of being a security guard wearing heavy boots, but the job allows me to work odd hours and study during the day. I have always had a passion for art and made it a hobby, usually creating mandala and henna designs. In 2021, I enrolled at the Alberta University of the Arts to obtain my bachelor’s degree in print media.

Despite some hard times, my kids and I are now living a happy life together.

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