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The moments that matter

The moments that matter

It’s 8.30 p.m. on a school night. 

Gy has finished her dinner,brushed her teeth and headed off to her room. An hour earlier she’d prepped everything for school the next morning- her uniform was all laid out and her bags were packed, pencils sharpened to their point.

Wiping the kitchen counter down, I pause for a second and cock my ear to listen for the sound of the light switch being turned off. Not hearing the click, I head quietly to her room and look in. There she is, seated on the bed, her blankets next to her in disarray and her back propped against a pillow as she reads her book borrowed from the library: J.K. Rowling- the wizard behind Harry Potter.
Standing there, I debate between telling her to go to sleep and finishing my chores and then make my decision. Heading to my room, I pick up my copy of Thrive and head back to her room. Nudging her on the shoulder, I ask her to scoot over and with a delighted and surprised expression, she complies. Deftly, she places a pillow for my back and then snuggles up to me, her back resting on my shoulder and we both sit and read in silence for the next 15 minutes.

As the smell of little girl and love wafts over my senses I sigh and rest my head on hers and comment, ‘I like this. We should do this often.’

‘I agree’, she nods and goes back to her book.

Watching the curve of her cheek, I see how she has grown up- from a tiny, chubby bundle to this confident, smart kid who has her wits about her, almost all the time. Choking back a sigh, my lips instead say, ‘I am going to miss you so much when you are all grown up.’

Turning and hugging me, she replies with, ‘That’s many many many years away, Amma. Let’s not worry about the future. This is the present. Let’s enjoy these moments. We will think about the future when it becomes the present.’

Yet again, I’m struck by how we appear to switch roles almost seamlessly- she comforting me, while I plod on through life wondering if my actions are the right ones, if I’ll ever be the mother she deserves.

As her head droops a little from the exhaustion of a long day, I close my book and hers too, gently settling her on the pillows, tucking the blanket under her to make sure she’s warm. 

And it warms my heart immensely to affirm that these moments- the quiet, unobtrusive, simple, heartwarming ones- these are the moments that really matter.

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Healing the cracks

Healing the cracks

I have a lot to be thankful for with this thing called blogging and one of the best parts is the way people reach out to one another, healing the cracks in relationships, closing the gaps in their fractured spirit, sparking the survivor instinct and making a beautiful item out of a broken one, an art known as Kintsukuroi.

If you’ve read my story as a survivor of depression here, you’d know that it is a topic that touches a chord with many people. It is also a frighteningly rampant occurrence across the world today, sparing nobody, not even kids.


Soon after the results of the school examinations were declared here in May 2015, I logged in to see the terribly tragic news of a child who had jumped to her death from the tenth floor of her apartment building. While the world and social media launched into the typical tirade against rigid expectations, rigorous parenting, mounting pressures and everything wrong with the education system, I only felt an emptiness. There was a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that couldn’t imagine what that child must have gone through in the moments before she took the plunge, a decision that would end her existence forever, the last decision she would ever take before Death took its victim from the broken concrete.

If we were wrong to have pushed our kids into academia fifteen years ago, today we are wrong for pushing them into too many vocational, after-school activities. There really is no win-win situation. Nobody treads the middle path anymore. It’s almost as if being average is not all right, not by any margin. So what do we do?

We teach our children to be strong, to come to us without fear of consequences and to confide their deepest fears without worry of reprimand. We tell them that it’s okay to fail and mean that from the bottom of our hearts. We comfort them and hug them when they don’t feel like talking about it. 

 And it’s hard, this thing called parenting. So, reading about other survivors and the methods they use can help us. Late last night, a friend sent me this picture and asked me to share it with any survivors of depression or sexual abuse. 

Kintsukoroi

It was a picture of a broken vessel put back together using shards of gold, to show that there is something beautiful, even in the cracks. Kintsukuroi, a Japanese art form, fixes broken pottery by sealing the cracks with gold. By doing so, we acknowledge the pain of the past with the hope of the future. It doesn’t get more Zen than this.

We are all like that.

We are all broken- by our experiences, our failures, our sadness, our depression and our abuse. It doesn’t really matter what we do to feel this way because the world only gets more demanding as the days go by. But we can choose not to stay broken. We can fill those cracks with the touch of love, therapy, kindness, compassion from our parents, peers and our online connections.

It’s not going to be eternal- this existence. The least we can do is make every step worth taking. By doing so, we may just make our children’s lives a little more fulfilling. At least, I hope so.

~~~



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Together through a crisis

Together through a crisis

Every time someone asks you to recall something memorable that happened to you, it is assumed that you will recall something pleasurable, because it’s the good things that we try and retain. Interestingly, though, some of my most powerful memories of togetherness have been a mixture of sadness and happiness. Why is that so? Is it because we try to look for the good even in the negative? Or are we grateful for the moments of pain that eventually led to pleasure?  

 I am reminded today of an incident, which happened back in 2005. We had just moved into an independent house in a quiet, residential location in North Bangalore. The house was tucked away at the end of a cul-de-sac and the previous tenants sang praises about the many years they had spent there.

Three days after moving in, I was busy setting up the house, arranging furniture, putting up curtains and lining my kitchen shelves with paper to arrange all my crockery. The time must have been around 5:45 in the evening. I heard a sound from upstairs and paused since I was the only one at home, what with V being at work. I shrugged, thinking it was my imagination. Five seconds later, I heard a pounding on the terrace door which led directly into the house and I froze in shock. It took me a whole minute to realise that someone was trying to break in. Warily, I inched forward towards the staircase and looked up to see that someone was trying to break the door open with a crowbar and had already managed to lift the base of the door by an inch.

Terrified, I ran to grab my phone and dialled V’s number. Words refused to form and when he picked up the phone he knew something was wrong. In shock, he urged me to get out of the house, yell my head off and rush to the neighbour’s house for help, while he dialled the cops, even as he raced to get to me as quickly as he could.

Panic had gripped me so tight that I could only scream continuously. In record time, V was there, having rushed through traffic. He ran into the house, grabbed me and hugged me tight as I sobbed against his chest in a mixture of fear and relief flooding through me. In the meanwhile, the neighbours had raised the alarm and scared the miscreants away.

An hour later, as I sipped on a cup of tea V had made for me, he looked at me and said, ‘I think we should move.’ 

In response, I told him that I felt better now and that we had just moved in, so let’s give it some time. Then, he said and did something I will never forget. He reached out for my hand, looked me in the eye and declared, “We are in this together. I cannot go to work everyday and think about the possibility of coming back and not seeing your face. I need a home with you, not a house.”

In that moment, I knew for sure that we were meant for each other, together and forever. Would I ever want to find myself in that situation again? I can honestly say ‘No’. But it is in the rawness of those moments that our humanity, our optimism and faith emerges and we know, trust and value the relationships we hold dear to our hearts. With him by my side, I can be sure that facing life’s struggles become easier.

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My Story as a Survivor of Depression & Bipolar Disorder

My Story as a Survivor of Depression & Bipolar Disorder

It seems strange that  I should write about this now, 13 years after it happened. I am not even sure where to begin, since the situation presented itself most unexpectedly. So, perhaps the best place to start is right in the middle of it.

An October day in 2001 dawned like any other and my tired eyes opened to switch off the ringing alarm at my bedside table. The bright display blinked the time, 4:30 a.m., in unforgiving neon. Almost mechanically, I went through the motions of getting ready for work, finishing my morning chores and cleaning the house before setting off for work at 5:30 a.m. This was within six months of being married, so I had all the new-found energy of a young bride. Or so I believed.

The rigorous routine was hacking away at my physical stamina, my mental preparedness and my overall peace of mind, but my stubborn brain refused to give in to the needs of the body. I ploughed away at work, did all the housework and started shunning family and friends who called me up to speak to me. That was the beginning of the silent and deadly Depression and Bipolar disorder that would govern my life for the next year.

It was only when my mom visited me that month that she realised that something was wrong. On a trip to the local jewelry store, I started hallucinating about a person following us and whispered to my mom that people were out to harm my family.

Over the next few days, this progressed to manic episodes where I picked up a souvenir and flung it across the room, threw a chair against a wall subsequently breaking it and left the house in the middle of the night, looking for a mythical person whom I held responsible for all my troubles.

Without ado, my husband,parents and in-laws agreed that help was what I needed and I began a round of medication, psychiatric counseling and therapy to bring me back from the abyss of Manic-Depression. As difficult as it was to answer probing questions and veiled queries by strangers and family alike, my parents and husband did not shy away from the truth. All through the nine months that was my pain, I had the best people stand by my side. At the end, it was a rebirth of the most spiritual kind.

See this photo of us? That was taken a couple of months before my ordeal began.
This one was taken last October.

What’s the difference, you ask? I mean, I am smiling in both photos, after all.

The difference is this: I am stronger now. My journey through the fire of Depression has honed my senses, made me more tolerant, taught me to judge less and love more. In effect, both photographs show that I am happy. But the Happiness in the second one comes from the heart of love which surpasses all obstacles.

Would I go back and change that entire period of my Depression? NO! Both the personas are me: The me from 2001 and the me from today. We exist because we enable each other. She AND I are twin faces of the same coin. Without her, I would not exist today.

Life has been a very fascinating journey over the last thirty-odd years and there are some moments that emerge more triumphant than the others. I count my Depressive episode as one of my triumphs, an achievement that I can proudly wear today after having been through the furnace, so to speak.

Why did I choose to share my story today, after so many years of being silent? In my heart, I believe that the time is now right for the world to deal with Depression in a kinder way. I hope that people will be more tolerant of those suffering from mental illness than they were a decade ago. Most of all, though, I pray that should my daughter or any child go through anything similar in the future, she can reach out to me for help without feeling that it is wrong to do so. If this post can encourage more people to share their stories of pain and unhappiness without the fear of being judged, then that is a positive step in the right direction.

Remember, who you are today AND who you were a decade ago may be two different people, but they are both you. Nothing should keep you from celebrating both with equal fervour; not society, not public opinion, not criticism and definitely no guilt.

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

*UPDATE*

(September 2015): Deepa Padmanabhan, freelance journalist, wrote about my struggle with Depression and how writing helped me come to terms with it in this piece in Live Mint.

(November 2015): I was interviewed by the White Swan Foundation for Mental Health who ran this interview with me after this piece was shared multiple times on social media. Read the interview here.

~~~

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