Life is never static. The canvas of life is variegated in color, in sound and in texture. I believe in embracing the diversity of life. Life has given me a palate extravagantly filled in with opportunities. I have had a caring and nurturing upbringing, joys of the guidance of parents and an older sibling, physical comforts, and an academic training of excellence, and yet life has thrown in its splashes of illness, disappointment, doubts, questions, trials and tribulations. My canvas of life wouldn’t be so alive, were it not for these diverse strains.
Growing up in India, I lived in plenty, but was always abreast with want, hunger, poverty, and the vicissitudes of being born into underprivileged circumstances. I can never forget how low want and hunger can bring a human being. I learnt about the advantages of education, but I also came face to face with illiteracy. The eyes of little girls who tagged on with their mothers to work for money instead of attending school haunt me, when I am in a class-full of students in my English class. I also travel back in time to a women’s college where I taught sophomore students, Indian writing in English. It is not hard for me to visualize a class of some 120 students, students from remote villages, whose only ambition in life was to graduate from college attempting to learn. Despite shortage of desks and dearth of amenities like books and writing paper, and oftentimes lack of basic needs like fans in the blazing summer heat. The ambition of those students gave me the impetus to forge ahead with my dreams of completing my PH.D in English Literature.
Besides hunger and want, I have faced illnesses, some personal and some of near and dear ones. My very close encounter with severe illness was when my grandfather was admitted to a cancer hospital. Some of those images still loom in my inner being, reminding me about the inevitability of human fate. Most of the patients who were in the same ward as my grandfather were terminal ill. A woman across from his bed who was on a heart-lung machine, or the women two beds away who had no hair on her head. The bed next to my grandfathers was that of a young boy, no more than 24 or 25. I always saw him cheerful and optimistic, and therefore was shocked beyond belief when I learned one morning that he had died from the spread of a brain tumor within a short span of two months. My aunt, whose father was ill and burnt black with radiation, never once showed any signs of frustration, reluctance or irritation. It was all the same to her, whether she was feeding her father, cleaning up after he soiled his clothes, or walking three miles to the hospital ward in plus hundred degrees temperatures. It is with reverence that I speak of my aunt, who nursed her father till he passed away from his cancer, her mother who died of a blood clot in her brain, and who ultimately herself passed away at the young age of 60 from a heart attack.
Perhaps one of the most difficult terrains of human life is one of human interrelationships. Everyday as I get ready for another day in school I remind myself that I have to deal with things calmly, that there will be incidents and situations to provoke my mind and sensibility to anger, but that I have to practice the mantra of shanti or peace. Through years of getting inflamed at harsh words, or blurting out in rage atwhat I conceived rudeness, I have learned to interpret fault lines in human emotions and how best I can prevent or repair the damage. For sometime now,I have been reading a book called “ Tongue Fu,” which is helping me view anger and manage it from a totally different perspective. I still have my weaker moments in school or in my personal interactions with my parents or near and dear ones where I manifest rashness, but I am glad I am quick to perceive and acknowledge my shortcoming.
Living alone, I have learned to appreciate the joys of family living. Moments which I would otherwise consider mundane, stand out as filled with the richness and warmth of caring. Oftentimes I talk to myself and come face to face with my strengths and weaknesses. I increasingly think of my life as quiet and reflective, but also one of growth and introspection. Acceptance helps me view the world through a different set of lenses. I am no longer someone deprived of a marriage or a husband but someone who joins, repairs, seals and improves.
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