Thursday, June 28, 2007

Emerging from the Dark Tunnel....

Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you are made up of.

I have known this girl called Sanjeevini for more than 3 years now. She was my colleague in my previous company in Bangalore. A kind of natural chemistry in between brought us close. Being in the same project or on the same floor was merely coincidental.

She came across as sweet, docile, friendly and nice. She was most of all that. As days passed, we got closer and she began to share with me all, that she had buried deep inside her chest. I have always thought that a common pain, a common sorrow or a common cause of distress binds people stronger than common happiness, or common hobbies and interests.

There was so much bottled up inside her.
An ache, a yearning, a longing to be loved has been a faithful companion to her since her childhood to this day.
She had an elder brother who was her parents’ favourite. He was dominative, rude and very uncaring.
A brother who would beat her up when they played with other children in their neighbourhood. A brother who threatened to kill her if she spoke to this guy she had befriended in college.
He fought against her decision to take up engineering because he declared she was not intelligent enough for it. He refused to help her with the GRE entrance exam (which both had planned to take up), since she was his competitor and she might do better than him.

Now that both of them have come of age, both are getting marriage proposals. The family prefers a girl from a middle class family. Recently when she received a proposal from a rich guy, her brother fought against it. Since he was going to marry a girl from the middle class, she should not marry a rich guy!!!

This was not all. There have been many incidents of unrequited love in her life. Whenever she loved, she did so very quietly. Her tranquil surface did not betray the turbulence within. These men blissfully unaware of her feelings would one day leave towards their destinations, without even saying goodbye; and she would live with a bleeding heart for months and years after that.
If she did not express her feelings how in the world would a man know how she felt?

She was not happy with her job either. Neither were the appraisals good, nor the salary hikes, nor any opportunities to go abroad. The nature of work was also hopeless. Her colleagues were political and the boss was partial.

I don’t blame her fate entirely. Even God helps those who help themselves.
She wants to be loved but will not express her love. One moment, she wants to break free from that family which has always given her nothing except pain. But the next moment, she says she cannot leave everything and come to me like that. After all it was her family. One moment she wants to quit her job and the next moment, she can’t, because she does not have anything good on her resume to market herself. She is convinced that she will never find true love and will never get married. This way, she has constructed a wall around herself and at the same time struggling to break free from it. She is weak, needs help but she is too egoistic to admit that she needs it.

How many times has she used my shoulder to cry on and how much I have tried to show her the silver lining behind the dark clouds!

When I tried to introduce her to a friend of mine who I believed would motivate her, help her or at least give her company, she called me up asking me to mind my business. She said, “I don’t need anyone. I am happy the way I am. I don’t need the support of strange people”.

She would yell at me on phone and the next day she would call me up to say,”I have no one in this world except you”.

I have had to be most patient with her, not letting my ego come in between us, empathizing with her all the time and supporting her in whatever little ways I can.

My recent visit to her place in Hyderabad completely changed my way of looking at her predicament.

I got to meet her parents. After a round of sight seeing, we went to a sari shop since she wanted to buy me a Kanchipuram sari. After a little bit of dilly dallying, I picked a sari for myself. Although it was not planned earlier, her mother ended up picking one for herself.

All of us came out of the shop and there, for the first time in my life, I saw a woman in the ugliest of forms possible. It was my friend Sanju. She started yelling at her mother for picking a sari without her consent. She was screaming because her mother had the audacity to spend her daughter’s money without her consent. All the people around us on the street had stopped and tuned to look at us. She shouted at the taxi driver. Once inside the taxi, she did not stop. She abused her mother continuously till we reached home and that too in a language the driver could understand. She was in tears throughout this ugly episode.

The next day, we went for another round of sight seeing. And once again I saw her in that ugly form. It was after the Char Minar and after the Birla temple. I tried to cross the road hastily and she exploded. In a pitch that could be heard a hundred meters away, she shouted and yelled as if possessed by some evil spirit. All the feminine grace, dignity, elegance, poise and etiquette that adorn a woman abandoned her at that moment. After five minutes of abusing me, she declared she did not want to go anywhere with me. I could go to hell or wherever I wished all alone. She stopped a taxi, got into it and sped away. How could she do this without even worrying about my safety? What if I had lost directions in a strange unsafe city?

An angry mind cannot think clearly. Therefore for a few days after that episode, I refrained from thinking about her. But now as I write this, I pity her.

Time does not necessarily heal. Sometimes when life inflicts upon you one wound after another, these wounds accumulate beneath the surface and conspire to spread an infection throughout the body, mind and soul.
A slight bruise on that surface and you erupt like a volcano. All the lava bottled up inside comes oozing out, burning you and everything around you.

Even after the humongous effort I had made all these years to support her, to console her, she had lost it. She had lost the battle of life. She had succumbed to her injuries. She had allowed her problems in life to make her a bitter, quarrelsome, vehement, abusive person ready to pour out venom at the drop of a hat. The harsh realities of her life had got the better of her. The sweetness she had when I had met her for the first time had been lost somewhere. The fragrance had been carried away by the winds.
Now, the flower has withered. All that remains is a bunch of thorns.

All of us grow up believing that good begets good and evil begets evil. When that belief is shattered, we stand disillusioned. We feel betrayed. We feel that life has not kept her promise.
When her goodness did not bear fruits and life was so cruel instead, for no apparent sin of hers, she became a rebel without a cause, seeking revenge from life, seeking revenge from people around her.

I am forced to look back at my own life in retrospection. My life was not very smooth either. As far as I can travel backwards in the memory lane, my life has been no less than a struggle. A conservative family, a suspicious father, a mother who had no say in any matters, created an atmosphere that often caused suffocation. My aunt and her family made unrelenting efforts to cause rifts in relationships. There always was a silence that was uncomfortable.

I could not procure a seat in engineering. I started doubting my abilities. I had to settle down for a BSc. I was consumed in self pity. My parents as if to seek vengeance had curbed all my freedom. No watching television, no visiting friends, no participating in extra curricular activities. Due to such unnatural pressures, I became adamant and over assertive. Oppression only made me defensive. I became a rebel and wore an armour to protect myself from all the cruel people out to get me. The manifestation of all these made me a dominative person. I was able to impress people and make friends but could not sustain them. Friends started drifting away for no fault of mine (seemingly). I was lonely.

I turned into a cynic, which could be clearly seen in my poems and writings. I loved tragic endings in movies. Mukesh was my favourite singer for years. I had almost turned into a masochist, enjoying my own pain.

But I did not stop looking up at the sky. I believed that someday it would start raining. For ten years, I was on my knees, with my arms stretched. I kept the dream alive. I kept the hope alive.
Before I finished college, I got a job.
One day, I broke free from all the fetters and set out to discover LIFE.

It was not roses and roses overnight. But the thorns started disappearing. Slowly but certainly, autumn passed and spring arrived. The conflicting forces within began to retreat. Life has been reasonably good. I am at peace with life and at peace with myself.
There still is a yearning. The thirst for love is yet to be quenched. But everyone cannot have everything in life. I am happy for whatever I have today. I am content enough to declare that LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. Thanks to life and thanks to people around me.

Today when I recollect those moments when I lost my composure, yelled and screamed angrily at people and their unfair ways, I feel that the struggle that you see outside is a struggle within yourself.
What you perceive the world to be is a reflection of what you are.

Both I and Sanju have a similar past. Both of us traversed the same path for a long time and then stopped for a while where the path forked into two. She chose one path and I chose the other, not knowing that the two paths lead to two different worlds.
I shudder at the thought of what would have happened if I had chosen the path that my friend has chosen.

We both came into this world and soon entered a dark tunnel. After years of groping for direction and hoping to see light, we emerged from the dark tunnel. But when we came out we were two completely contrasting personalities. Did the tunnel treat us differently or did we treat the tunnel differently?

Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you are made up of.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thinking Aloud.......He came. He saw. He conquered.

“He came. He saw. He conquered.”

These were the words used to describe Alexander, the Great as we all know. The greek warrior who was a student of Aristotle and the king of Macedonia. He set out to conquer the world at a very young age. He was the monarch who possessed the largest area of earth. But not many know that he died very young. At an age of 33.

In today’s world, there are no warriors, there is no knight in shining armour and no swords flashing. But these words can still be used to describe almost anyone. Since this is a forum of communication, I shall talk about public speaking. When you are at the lectern, about to deliver a speech, you are out to conquer.

Every spectator in the audience is looking at you expectantly. A 100 pairs of eyes are fixed at you. There is a loaded silence. When you start talking, they are mesmerized. You charm them, sweep them off their feet. When you have finished, all of them rise to give you a standing ovation. There is a thunderous applause reverberating throughout the auditorium. And that’s when you feel you have conquered them. When all of them surround you to congratulate you or ask you for a copy of your draft, you feel you have conquered. You can ever hear a background music.

It is not easy to become a speaker so effective. It requires a lot of knowledge, spontaneity, confidence, passion and practice. But that’s the kind of speaker I dream of becoming. It is a bigger dream than a promotion or a salary hike. Why….I don’t even dream of a promotion. But everyday, I dream of becoming a speaker so effective that one day when I have finished speaking, everyone will say “she came, she saw and she conquered”.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thinking Aloud......The list of millionaires

A table topic in Toastmasters
“Every morning I wake up and pick up the Forbes magazine. If I don’t find my name in the list of millionaires, I go to work.”

Not really…………..
I for one don’t look forward to being on the list of millionaires. I don’t know if they are as happy, as content as I am.

Everyday, life presents before me a menu from which I may choose. There is more food on the table than I can assimilate. I have so many colourful clothes to wear. I have all the accessories that I want. There are shopping malls mushrooming in every corner of the city. The very presence of material abundance is a feast to the senses. I am blessed to live in the lovely city of Bangalore.

I am keeping good health. It has been a few years since I visited a doctor. Touchwood.

I listen to music everyday. I have friends with whom I have engaging conversations to my heart’s content and no enemies.

I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with life.

I wonder……I don’t wonder. I am sure those millionaires are not as blessed as happy as I am.
Therefore, I don’t eagerly look forward to being on that list. Thanks to life and thanks to people around me.