An entrepreneur has turned her back on a life of forced marriages to set up her own beauty salon. Nick Gullon hears how Fay Khatri has added a touch of glamour to other people’s lives

THREE decades ago, Fay Khatri’s life was completely different to how it is today.

She was forced into marriages, she was a prisoner in her own home, and she was bitten by her nan after being spotted walking home from school with a boy.

But now the 46-year-old has turned her life around after an emotional and often heart-breaking journey.

Fay was born in Kenya, but her father gave up on her and the rest of the family after just six months.

When she was six, her mother moved to Saudi Arabia, leaving her in the care of her nan – one of seven grandkids she was looking after.

But it wasn’t long before her mother was planning her first marriage - to a man she didn’t even know - when she was just 12-years-old.

“It happened so fast – my mum came once a year from Saudi to visit me and I was just excited to see her.

“The next thing I knew I was getting fitted for a wedding dress. As a child, I knew it wasn’t right, but there was nothing I can do about it.

“As a Muslim. when a girl hits puberty, she has to be married.”

The marriage didn’t work out and the couple got divorced. But at the age of 17, she was married again, this time to her cousin.

It lasted two months.

“I was a prisoner in my own home – the bedroom was locked, there was no food. He’d go out all day and I would just sit in a bed in the kitchen.

“I would talk through the kitchen window to my nan - it was my only way of communicating. It was horrible.

“Nobody was allowed to visit – so my mum said I can’t stay.”

Fay was married another three times in her younger years, including to 67-year-old man.

“Divorce brings shame on a family - not for a man but for a woman.

“I wasn’t happy – I knew it wasn’t what I wanted so I just tried to sabotage it.”

And that is exactly what Fay did. She ran away to Italy whilst her mum was on holiday.

It was there she happened to meet a man from Middlesbrough who would change her life forever.

They married in Kenya and eventually set up a new life in Teesside in 1997.

“When you are scared, you do things without thinking.

“Mum was gobsmacked but there was nothing she could do.”

Just over a decade later, the marriage came to an end.

“I had no family here and I had nowhere to go,” she said.

“I packed my bags, got in a car and just drove.”

What she does have is two ‘beautiful’ children – Adam, aged 14, and 11-year-old Tamara, and she is determined to give them a better life than she had.

“A child should be a child and be able to enjoy life,” says Fay.

“There are people who have suffered a lot worse than me, but I have escaped all that.

“As a Muslim from the Middle East, it is hard to fund your voice, but if you are determined enough to reach for your goals, it is achievable.”

Fay’s job in housing came to an end in July last year, and it was then when she decided to follow her dream of owning a beauty salon.

“I found a place in Middlesbrough and as soon as I saw it, I thought just go for it.

“I have built myself up to where I am today - it has been a long eight years.”

Fay has only recently decided to speak about her journey, but such a conversation with her own children is yet to take place.

“When the time is right, I will tell them.

“I say to my kids if you have a problem, talk to me. I didn’t have that with my mum – I don’t want it to be the same.”

As for Fay’s relationship with her mother, she says she speaks to her once a month.

“I just want to ring her one day and talk about life and nice things – I just want her to be a mum.

“She has been to England and she supports me, but religion prevents her from agreeing with what I am doing.”

Does she envisage a time when her mum will visit her successful salon?

“I don’t know,” says an emotional Fay.

“I would d like her to come - I am happy and I want her to see where I’ve got too, but that is going to be a struggle.

“I am not rich, but I have got a home and I have my children, so I can’t complain.”