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Archive for the ‘Catharsis’ Category

I wrote this way back on the 9th of June 2017 while Anand was recovering at home from his surgery, but forgot to post it. A good meory to end the year with…

‘Every so often I feel like writing a blog titled ‘Boring is nice”! Specially on days when the kind of events associated with having a special needs person in my life tend to overwhelm me. Undoubtedly, this past month has been extra tough but as is almost always the case, something happens to warm my heart and give me just the push I need to go on.

Because Anand’s got something. And oodles of it – that even most brilliant people lack. And that something is sensitivity and a keen awareness of what is going on around him. Granted that his limitations don’t always allow for accurate interpretations or responses that are helpful but at other times he comes in with flying colours. And it makes me so proud of him. Over and over again, through the years he has demonstrated this sensitivity and appreciation in everyday situations. Spontaneously saying “what a lovely meal!” (Just daal and rice really), to complimenting his ‘Ajji’ on how beautiful she looked in her pale yellow saree with the blue border, to his anxious “what happened” when he realises I am sad, to rushing to get the phone for his ‘Ajoba’…. Just small, everyday actions that oil the wheels of the daily grind.

Last week, I added something to these warm memories.

I was watching Anand lying in painkiller induced slumber on his hospital bed. With his successful operation behind us, my mind turned to an incident of the week before. We had been waiting our turn in a crowded medicine OPD to get Anand’s fitness certificate clearing him for surgery. A seat became vacant and I was relieved to have him sitting down given his pain. I stood leaning against one of the walls from where I could see him. A little later, an old lady in a nine yard saree, quite likely from a nearby village, emerged from one of the consulting rooms. A pronounced limp underlined her distress. As quickly as I registered that, so did Anand. And he was up… offering her his seat. Many able-bodied seated folks in the room – but they did not respond. Anand limped over to where I was standing and leaned against me and the wall for support. Thankfully, a young lady saw him limping over to me and then sheepishly offered him her seat, but that came later.

recuperating

His quick response despite his own condition made me proud. There is much that he can’t do. But it is moments like this that remind me of what he can…. And does….

That’s my boy!

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Anand's 35th at CMHCC

The cool of the night breeze wafting through the window

That finally leads me to slumber…

That’s what it’s all about.

 

The desperation till the sound of your first cry.

The warmth of your tiny shrivelled form when I first held you.

The beating of my heart as you nursed at my breast.

The fear as you convulsed in the delirium of high fevers.

 

That’s what it’s all about.

 

The pride when you finally took that first step.

The anxiety of leaving you in the care of another.

The trepidation as I left for work each morning.

The thrill of your embrace as you greeted me when I returned.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

The guilt of not fighting for your inheritance.

The dignity of independence as I cared for you alone.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

The pleasure in hearing a giggle escape you.

The anger that wells up when you smash anything in sight.

The helplessness of being unable to protect you.

The hope that rises when others hold out a steadying hand.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

The smile I force to my lips and my eyes.

The heart that’s crying within.

The tenderness as I watch you curled up, fast asleep.

The apprehension as I ponder over what lies ahead.

 

The sweet contentment of knowing I did the best I could.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

Note: I did my best. But I cannot help but question – Has it been enough? Anand is 35 years old today. As his environment becomes increasingly restricted, my thoughts turn to the many other children whose environments are very restricted too. Not because of the special needs that, much to my sorrow, necessitate it in Anand’s case; but because we haven’t been able to give them what they should have, and is their right – by way of enriched and supportive learning environments.

My work allows me to reach a few children and hopefully make some small difference in their lives. While it does not take away the pain of my inability to change Anand’s life; it does give me an additional sense of purpose. Through them, perhaps I can also reach some small corner of Anand’s life.

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Memories

Memories are funny things… they spring up… uninvited. Some fleeting…. Others haunting…

Some turn up in my dreams and dissolve as I gradually wake. Yet others follow my every waking moment…

Happy memories, sad memories… Memories of moments of ecstasy, of disbelief, of humiliation, of contentment, of abandonment, of belonging, of failure, of success… Memories of tender moments, memories of being shut out. Memories of moments of togetherness, of loneliness, of pride, of guilt, of shame, of shared fears, of relief and respite …

Memories of moments filled with laughter and discoveries stolen from a seemingly endless void… Memories of moments of solace and comfort stolen from a different uphill climb…

And all these memories blending in…

…all leading to what makes me… me.

 

The memories aren’t in places visited or people met… not even in illuminating interactions lasting through days and nights…

The memories rest in the tranquil calm of companionable silence, in glances that speak volumes, a touch here and there as life flows on. The memories are in the dreams of a future, and in the truth of what is past.

The memories endure in the music that plays in my heart. That’s where the memories come from… and that is where they remain.

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A moment… one moment. That’s all it took.

early morning sun filtering through the palms at Rankala

6th April 2014 – Rankala

The day started pleasantly enough. A beautiful sunrise filtering through the palm trees across the small road between Avi’s flat and the Rankala Talao.

A couple of hours later, I was lying by the side of the road enroute to Sindhudurg; simultaneously marvelling at being alive, yet pitifully aware of my vulnerability and not just because of the immobility caused by my injuries but by a gathering mob. A mob that attempted to push through their ideas of what should be done.

What had that young man been thinking as he sped on his motorbike on the empty highway and crashed into us?!!!

That split second changed everything. And it’s ripples spread to every corner of my being…. Personal, professional, social.

Every so often one comes to a fork and has to take a decision. I’ve had many such moments too, and taken decisions that have altered the course of my life. And I have not regretted them, not even when some of them turned out to be the cause of much pain and distress later on.

But this was not that kind of moment. This was not one of those times when I could consider my options and then decide. Here, the reflection came later…

As I lay immobile and flat on my back slowly recovering in the months that followed; as I gradually learned to walk again, I saw things happen that I could no longer influence even a little bit. And I paused to contemplate…. Plenty of scope for that between each excruciating step as I regained most of my earlier mobility!

on the walker

First Success – standing up

So much was happening that I didn’t like, so much going on in ways that I disagreed with. And despite the many joys and successes, the awareness of being ‘not in control’ grew. The reflection of those first few months and the first year of recovery inched me even further toward detachment, toward ‘vanaprasthashram’. It gave me the power to act on my convictions and retreat. It gave me the strength to reorient my priorities. It enabled me to renew my focus on ‘the children’ and draw both joy and meaning in life.

It gave me the strength to reclaim my body and soul.

And I still look out a window or two and find beauty in a sunrise… and a sunset.

through Anand's window early morning 6Apr2016

Through Anand’s window, this morning 6th April 2017

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Contentment

No extreme highs; no extreme lows… just an all pervading sense of contentment, and the accompanying tranquility. This by no means is to say that all my challenges have disappeared or that I don’t experience the occasional frustrations.

Yet, as I move into a phase of life when my overall feeling is one of serenity, I return from time to time to a question that I have asked myself many times through my life… Does contentment keep me from striving, from achieving?

It’s a pattern that has existed all my life. I recognize what I need and should be getting, yet have typically never demanded it. I have not hankered for status or position, but it did not keep me from commitment and diligently working hard to ensure a job well done.

I remember my mother telling me often as she recalled her experiences as a young mother that she would have to come and see if I had woken up and needed to be fed, because I would not cry but would suck patiently on my thumb awaiting someone to come attend to me. But then is that not dangerous? To not have an instinct for survival? To not be able to ask for basic needs to be met assuring one’s essential well-being?

Didn’t this tendency mean I made mistakes in my life? Of course…Plenty of them! Do I regret those mistakes? In the larger scheme of life as I see it… NO!

Behind every ‘mistake’, choice and action was whole-hearted commitment. I held nothing back. And so I learned from every single ‘mistake’.

But then I think about the many children I have met and continue to meet. What happens if they are unendingly acquisitive and ride rough shod over any one in their path? On the other hand, if they are ‘content’, will they give up ‘the search’? Will they miss out on success because they lack the urge to ‘achieve’? Will being satisfied with what they have, keep them from asserting what is their right?

So what’s the line between insatiability and complacency? And how can we ‘teach’ children to differentiate between the two?

And how can we enable them to be truly content?

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Despair

I wrote this almost exactly 10 years ago… and 5 years had passed relating to the events that were the ‘inspiration’ for the story below. Not much has changed in this decade and a half….. The possibility of self-injury always looms overhead…

29th September, ’01

DESPAIR

The sounds of the kids calling his name drew her to the window. “Harsha, don’t.” they yelled. “Your mother will scream”. She could see them now, hovering around him, but keeping a safe distance as he flung his chappals and his ball over the wall, his face set and stormy. He kicked at his bike and twisted its fender. “Where does he get this strength from?” she wondered. His puny frame did not suggest such might.

What was it this time? She ran through all the possibilities. They hadn’t changed much over the years. He would have told a tall tale and they would have made fun of him. He would not understand what they said, but guess that he was being ridiculed. And he would lash out. Lash out at what was dearest to him. She knew she would have bruises to show for it tomorrow. Her heart was heavy as she raced down the stairs, wanting to gather him to her. Wanting to kiss him and make the hurt go away. It had been so easy when he was a little baby. Every one thought he was so cute, and tiny with that ever ready grin on his face. He was so easy to love then. Nobody expected him to do anything then. It was enough that he WAS.

But that was then. Now he was just a messed up, funny looking man-child, as short as other 12 year olds, but with a half-grown beard. People were uncomfortable around him. Most kids didn’t want to play with him and when they did it was because he brought the bat and the ball or shared his bike or brought them home to play with his LEGO. She hated them then, for using her dear child. Yet she never drove them away, because she was not enough for him. He needed them – they were his playmates.

She’d reached ground level now and was still running. She had to get to him before he did himself any harm. She worried about that. “ Maushi, see what Harsha’s done to his bike”. He’s even thrown away his chappals, and is ripping off the basket”. That basket meant a lot to him. He’d had Geetutai help him get it and had proudly brought home the groceries. Okay so it was just bread and milk, but it was one errand taken care of. He pushed her away as she reached him. The little monsters were still complaining about all his misdeeds. She knew they expected her to let him have it. Well, that was one satisfaction she wasn’t going to give them. Trying to shield herself from the blows that were now directed at her, she pulled him towards herself and headed back to the stairs. He was weeping bitterly now, some of the anger spent.

She wept too.

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Here are some critical things I’ve learned over the years as a single parent of a ‘child’ with special needs compounded by bipolar….  [I just had a rather disastrous reminder about almost all of these at one shot today – Dasara 2011] hence the post….]

1. Don’t make too many plans, or commitments. Your situation will always be unpredictable.

2. Balance between letting the mess be and cleaning it up. A pleasant / aesthetic home reduces stress.

3. Don’t worry about proving you can do everything alone. No one is entirely independent anyway…

4. Enjoy your work, but don’t  get caught up in career ambitions and occupying positions

5. Don’t flog yourself because you couldn’t participate in every meaningful [socially constructive] activity / philosophical discussion] activity going on around you.

6. Accept that you can’t satisfy everyone and try to focus on the priority of the moment.

7. Use a support system whenever it is available and offered.

8. Do a few things to suit your convenience, meeting your needs. People may not pay attention to your specific requests,  so be proactive…

9. Indulge in a hobby whenever you get a chance [reading , listening to music, gardening… whatever… something that lets you be with yourself and at peace]

10. Take a nap, get some rest… when you can, no matter what time of day or night it is. (And ignore pontificating about how inappropriate it is to sleep at ‘teeni sanza’ etc!)

11. Indulge yourself every once in a while… More often than not, you have to provide your own TLC.

12. Dress up special, specially on hard days. [When you get a look at yourself in the mirror, it’ll be easier to smile]. A lovely sari, a pretty flower won’t change your situation, but will make the day lighter.

13. Ignore stares from people on the road [or elsewhere] or look at you disapprovingly as you firmly [though gently] restrain your distraught  ‘child’ from danger, or stepping on people’s toes [literally and figuratively].

14. Recognize that some ‘isolation’ is inevitable. Those who really care will come back [and those who don’t..perhaps weren’t meant to be around forever…]

15. Soak in every moment of pleasure that comes your way… there’s no guarantee of when the next special one will come..

16. Don’t let other people tell you how you should feel…It’s not the end of the world if you need a good cry. It’s okay if you feel the need to be taken care of… but don’t expect it to happen.

I am acutely aware that there are many people in a much worse situation than I am in… not that it makes it easier… but it does make me feel grateful that I can do at least some of the above for myself. I’ve come across many a tip that’s helped me through a bad day in the most unexpected places, so sharing my strategies is my way of reaching out and hoping that I can return the favour… I am still on this journey… and there’s a long way till the end.

Depending on your specific situation, some of this will be possible, some won’t… you’ll probably have other pet coping strategies…. so do what you can to take care of yourself and then….

Get on with it!

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