That Ghost In The Cupboard

 

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Yet another suicide by a brilliant young man studying at a premier institute. I will no longer ask, why. Life has taught me enough to write the answer to that one. Because we are human. No animal would commit suicide.

At so many stages in life, at so many points of decision making, the dream of escaping it all easily appears: like a tantalizing mirage. If only, if only…It is that precise moment which one has to survive. Perhaps the faces of your loved ones will appear to caution against the decision. Or it could be a determined voice from within which stubbornly says: “I will not give up.” The survival instinct will definitely kick in, and one reaches for a way out. The instinct to destroy is unfortunately strong too; and it will resist that friend or help that is a call away.

One of the most ignored areas, at least in our country, is mental health. Depression, nervous disorders, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies- all are whitewashed into one heading: Needs Rest.

Some deny it actively, some mock at it aggressively, some escape into parties and alcohol, some become detached and cocooned, some pretend it is a ghost in the cupboard and occasionally face it in their privacy, and some kill themselves.

**

If there is anything which has helped me face different apparitions of intolerable pain (which sits within me and mocks that  I am better off dead at times), it has been a fierce determination to crawl out of darkness every time. I reach out for my quotes of Vivekananda and try to fill my mind with thoughts of power and service. Typically I visit Missionary sisters and try to talk to the poor and disabled that they serve so selflessly. When I see a five year old orphan child suffering from HIV, and who cheers up on getting a chocolate, I feel that my troubles are so pitiful and meaningless. Truly has Vivekananda said that the way out of your own troubles is to serve someone who suffers more than you. When “I ” become too much for me, I visit a hospital. By the time I return, the ” I ” is usually replaced by a sense of immense gratitude for the good health that I take for granted.

My mother often tells me that tears are a way to getting closer to Him. It shakes you out of whatever ennui and makes you go down on your knees, seeking help. And help has always, always, always come.

If I could tell something to the bright student sitting in some top institute, depressed and angry at himself and the world, it is this:

Stop thinking of yourself for the next half an hour. Get out as fast as you can from your room.  Go to the nearest hospital, or any place of pain and tears and helplessness. Please help by volunteering there: buy someone medicine, help a mother carry her sick child, read a prescription to an old man.  Visit an orphanage. By the time you return, my dear friend, you would have so much power within you that you will live for another day. Whether you choose to live that day well, will be a blessed option left to you.

The way out of your own apparently interminable darkness is the light you will be kindling in another unfortunate’s life. I do not know why it works every time, but it always works for me. Maybe by giving another a bit of your life energy, you have shooed off the ghost in the cupboard for yet another day. For the time being, it is a battle worth having won.

***

Warming Sunshine

When we start , the Arctic chill has coloured the fog an opaque white. The drive is long and the cold intense. But she is smiling. When the debate gets over, and I tell her that she had spoken well, she smiles again. Every one is excellent. The eight toppers had come after clearing a  rough total of two hundred and forty schools, each representing their respective branch levels, where they had stood first among thirty schools, to compete at the regionals. She does not make it into the top three, and being a biased mother, of course, I  am really irritated at the end results.

As we return, the sky is clear. She enjoys her tiffin, and wonders on the board practicals that had begun. She wishes aloud that her optics  and electricity experiments would work out fine.

” Are you not disappointed? ” I ask casually. I had literally pushed her out of a warm bed at an unearthly hour for this round of competition.

” Well, to be truthful, I prefer losing to better competitors. Not really at the top of the cloud, but  I had a lot of fun, you know!” She smiles.

Suddenly the car passes by three  very young girl children, carrying firewood on their heads. They are in rags in that bitter cold. Their mother is loading more firewood on her own head.

My daughter stops smiling.

” My sister’s age…” She murmurs.

” And that…”, I tell her, ” is the reality that you have to change by your work. Science and debates and life are meaningless if not for that resolution.”

She nods her head.” I will  continue to teach  Science to needy students,” she says. ” I will do it, irrespective of the place I join.”

This time, the sky clears in my mind.

I look out at the sunshine and smile.

***

 

 

 

Flower and Bread

 ” Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.

It may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of pain from thy hand. 

I fear lest the day end before I am aware,  and the time of offering go by.

Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower in thy service and pluck it while there is time.”

Tagore, Gitanjali

So many times, I have felt, that the Divine is honoring me with a touch of pain from His hand. It happens when one becomes a part of a chain of positive events, doing one’s bit, however tiny it might be. It could be reaching out to one trafficked girl, one helpless child bride, one suffering woman or man, and  after doing it, one feels blessed.

Khalil Gibran in his Prophet wrote,

“Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine…”

I wonder, how many of us  are aware of the power that we are blessed with- in whatever roles we might be doing- To do good.

In all the exceptional souls I have had the fortune of meeting, I have found a sense of purpose and a sense of self confidence. They loved doing whatever they were doing. They were doing it  like a tiny flower being used for His service.As if they were baking bread, with lots of love.

And then I usually remember Tagore and Gibran.

With awe.

Monologues about Him

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1.

I asked the Light within:

How is it that when one focuses on some thing pure

Every other incident links to it,

Every person you meet,

Every conversation, every insight

Every piece of paper

Takes you further in that path

Of service?

Serendipity

Synchronicity

Sweet Grace

The light answered:

Because , the dust on His feet

Walks as fast as Him.

*****

2.

Once upon a time,

I was a scared person

Scared of being judged

Scared of harsh words

Scared of ironical eyebrows

Scared of being less than

Scared of being more than

Scared of offending

Scared of defending

Scared of my own dreams

Interval

Then I understood

That I needed only one approval

His.

Ever since I learnt that

I am no longer scared,

Because

He never judges

He never frightens

He never frowns

He never expects

He never denounces

He is

Just

Himself

Love incarnate

Laughter

Kindness

Wisdom

Compassion

Beauty

I just offered him my fears

He offered me Himself.

When the Greatest of the Greatest

Walks with you in his multiple forms

No fear

No fear

No fear, anymore.

****************