I wait for this moment to arrive every day.
And sometimes, after reading through the words of your story, I simply look away from my screen. I can feel my hands going cold. I clutch them in my lap and wonder how you lived through that experience in your life. I admire your courage – because I know – really know how intensely painful it must have been for you to get down to writing it. Like me, you too may have hesitated before making your final decision – should it go as an anonymous story or should I put my name out there for the world to see it? Should I really click on the ‘send’ button? Will it be worth my while?
I know you know this. It is not just about getting your story published on this platform. It is revealing the intensity of your pain. Your story, like mine, is about opening up your innermost fears and secrets. You are, like me, scared of being judged, of being ridiculed or of what others may think of you. But then, like me, you too follow your intuition and click on that send button. And then you, like me, realize that this is not about others at all. You are, like me, sharing for yourself and it is perfectly fine to be selfish.
Then, like me, you too realize that you are now ready to outgrow the fears that have haunted you for years. And now is the time to feel peace after getting your bottled up feelings out in the open like that.
As an editor, I can feel all this. I respect your story. I know that pain is an extremely personal concept. Only I can understand the depth and the intensity of my pain. I may hate myself for the irrational fears that plague me – but my fears are very real to me.
And like you, I struggle to overcome them too. I spend a lot of time searching for just the right image for your story and then by the time I upload it – I will take it down again. No – I will say to myself – your story deserves a more appropriate image. I will arch my eyebrows – if my editor-in-chief even plays around with my editor’s note. I don’t like it - not one bit. This is an extremely personal connection between you and me. I know she understands this well enough. She, my editor-in-chief is a good soul indeed. She gives me my space, though I often feel I have wrested this out of her. But it's fine – I knew it was helping you – and that was good enough for me. But I still struggle with the captions – and my editor-in-chief sets that right perfectly for me every time.
Yes, you matter to me. Your experience matters to me. The pain that sears through your soul matters to me. How you choose to tell that story is completely up to you. I don't mind if you started your paragraph in one place and ended it somewhere else. This is your space. This is your story. The length of your story does not matter to me. The confusion in your write-up does not matter to me. I care a damn if your story has no closure. I respect the story of your life. No problem is too trivial for me. No pain too intense. Because I know- in all probability – you must have broken down just writing through that kind of pain. And I respect that.
I’ve been through my own share of pain in my life too – like all of you out there – so I am able to connect to you immediately. But what I did not realize until a couple of months ago was that – in helping you come to terms with your experience – I had somehow ended up becoming a stronger person. And that is why I wanted to thank you all for allowing me to help you – because unknowingly you all had ended up helping me too.
You tell me a part of your life – so I guess it is fair enough for you to expect me to reveal a part of my life to you.
I come from a joint family. We are four brothers and five sisters in all. Two and a half decades later, sadly, we are seeing the gradual disintegration of our family. The mental and emotional barriers are in place. The physical barriers will happen in time. It is a reality that all of us are forced to accept.
Yet, my father, now the head of the family, wanted to cleanse the negative vibrations that throbbed in our family. He is deeply spiritual. There were no solutions in sight. Such conflicts could not be wished away either. He organized for a 7 day Srimad Bhagavad discourse in our home and insisted that the entire family attend it.
We lived in different parts of the world. Not all of were keen on going there. The tension was palpable. We hesitated. But we went. All of us. A few discussions, a few sessions of discourses, a few more discussions, a little goading... a little cajoling... and all of us were a part of the garba.
The music was rhythmic, the chants soothing, holding one another’s hands and simply connecting with one another. The warmth, the bliss and the peace flowed into our lives. None of us had any regrets after that. The time, the money, the distance, the effort and the intention – of everyone involved – had been worth it. We had come closer together as a family and we could all feel it.
No, the problems did not get solved. No, nobody changed. But we had become stronger and better as human beings because we tried to understand the struggles of our parents and our siblings. And that was enough for all of us.
And then that call came. The bubble of bliss burst. The senior most member of my marital home was sick. And for the first time in over two and a half decades, I took a stand for myself. I asked my spouse to go there alone. Somehow, some instinct was warning me. I had never been welcome in that house. And now at 53 years of age, I did not have the mental and emotional strength to face another bout of accusations again.
My spouse agreed with me. He returned a week later after things became normal. We continued to ignore the web of lies, secrecy and suspicions. We had got used to it in so many years. We just did what was necessary, out of duty and out of respect for our seniors, maintained our silence – and our peace and walked out with our dignity intact – every single time.
A week later, things worsened, we rushed back at different times to be there in their hour of need – and my spouse was the only one by his bedside when he breathed his last. All hell broke loose after that.
I continue to relive those moments even today. We could never ever live up to their expectations – never – no matter how hard we tried, how much we spent, or how many different dishes I cooked for them. I was and will always remain the villain in that family – and now my spouse and my 28-year-old son too were dragged into that mess.
All three of us were blamed for his demise.
My son and my spouse kept their cool for as long as they could. I could sense that they were finding it difficult to put up with all this nonsense – but they did it for me – and because it was also the need of the hour. Luckily, my son was soon out of the picture because he had to return to fulfil his work requirements. My spouse and I had no such option.
Things took an extremely ugly turn on the last day just before we were leaving at 5.30 in the morning – I literally put my hand across my spouse’s mouth to prevent him from losing his temper. He, in being true to his nature, recovered his sense of self-control very quickly.
Silence had proved to be our saviour that day. Yet again.
No. The story does not end there. The issue is not yet resolved. There was a complete breakdown in communication for two months. Tentative feelers are coming in from the other end. We do respond but have been through enough lies and deceit. Our peace is prime to us now.
I broke down on the way to the airport itself. Those were the only tears I shed. Sadly, I was tired of crying too. I called my Ma first. She broke down when she heard my voice. My father waited till the night and wanted to speak to my spouse first. My sister and brother-in-law came the very next day – with enough food to last us for a couple of days – and ample fruits and veggies to last me a week. My brother said, “Don’t worry – this will never happen in our bond.”
I felt blessed to have so many people around me at that time. The words stuck in our hearts and in our mouths. The pain was too raw – too intense – I could not get over the sight of my husband breaking down out of anger and hurt – I slept every single day – out of sheer exhaustion. Then I sought out other moral lifelines – I would even visit my favourite websites to get more support. Somehow through all this - I could sense a higher force protecting me.
I was enveloped by a strange sense of peace even amidst this kind of turmoil. The quotes that I came across, the stories that I read – all seemed to be giving me what I needed the most. And then a slow smile spread across my face.
I realized that I was getting the support that I was looking for – when I needed it the most – from all of you too. And that was enough for me.
He was there. She was there – high up there – looking after me and you – why did I even need to worry. He had put me through a problem – But he had also given me several moral lifelines to cope with it all.
That was hell. And I could live through it all only because I had shared my problems with my loved ones all through my life. That was me and I had to be me. But in sharing with them, I get the benefit of diverse perspectives. I am able to view my challenges in the right dimensions. I get the strength to accept people the way they are. I then realize- again – that I can never change anyone else except myself. This forces me to accept reality.
My sister yelled at me last week for thinking of myself in such a lowly manner. She beat some sense into me that day. Two days back, my father explained things to me in such a simple manner – that everything suddenly fell in place in my heart. My Ma, being her usual practical self – asked me how many chants I had downloaded and mastered in this span of time. My brother listened to me and said, “That’s life – we all have to deal with it.” And I got the courage to move ahead with my life – again, yes - yet again.
I want you all to find that kind of a peaceful emotional space in your lives. I want you all to be in that kind of a peaceful emotional space - always. It is not easy. Like you, I too struggled to get there – and will continue to struggle through my life till my dying day with other problems maybe – but that is a journey worth making.
Life, as I know it, is never about how successful or how rich or how intelligent we are. It is more about how many lives we have been able to touch with our words, our deeds and our gestures. It does not matter whether you are a writer or a reader or an editor here. We all need one another’s support to plod on through our lives.
Until yesterday I was just a reader or an editor – but I was able to show you the truth in a brusque/kind/blunt manner – which means I care for you.
Today, I write to you as an editor. I am in an extremely peaceful space now. I want to enable you all to make that journey to that sacred inner peaceful space. I am there – always to help you make that journey. It will prove to be worth your while. That much I promise you.