Ah Life! It catches me off guard even as I sense the clock ticking towards the impending world of blankness. And as much as I am aware of everything, this feeling of things slipping out of my hands doesn’t really leave me in a comfortable zone you know. They say the more you know the better equipped you are to handle life as it comes. But that really does little to calm down the anxieties that have begun sowing seeds in my head ever since. Needless to say the same has been reflecting in my work.
I literally laughed my head off when my editor tried to motivate me into writing with a passion – about hope, about will power and about something inspirational. Yeah well right. And if that wasn’t enough, the expectations didn’t stop just there. “You know your column should run your readers through your life like say, the dairy of Anne Frank…” Well that had me in splits and I don’t know how long I continued giggling maniacally at my desk thereafter.
Anne Frank indeed! I stand nowhere near Anne Frank and whatever she was going through, neither can Retinitis Pigmentosa compare to the magnitude of the Holocaust. But then again, perhaps the poor girl did not have well wishers, casual acquaintances, friends coming upto her (or atleast not in the frequency I had them coming to me) and say – I know what you are going through, May God give you the strength to face it or Pray to God, Miracles do happen. Most of them do not even know what they were speaking about except for harbouring a hazy idea that I was going terminally blind.
You must be wondering why the sudden cynicism and bitterness. I will tell you why. I was infact quite patient and tolerant of the sympathies that came my way ( even basked in some of it quite truthfully speaking) until I was bombarded with a certain set of chain mails in the “prevent blindness week”. These mails, needless to say, came from so-called well meaning friends. Retinitis Pigmentosa is an inherited condition and there wasn’t much I could do to prevent it. Nor can I do much now except for hoping that the progress is slow. Hence the mails acted like salt on a raw wound. I know its very difficult for the others too. What do they say to me? Should they act normal? Show sympathy? Bawl loudly at my sight? Or act over normal, slap my back like a buddy and make me run ten laps? Most people around me, in short, are as uneasy about facing me as I am in responding to their concerns.
As a result, I have found myself spending more and more time with myself rather than others. I have become almost a social recluse and have solved the dilemma for all by just staying away. Of late infact, my only space of liberty- or reluctant liberty if you can call it that- has been this column in Fried Eye and that too because the editor had agreed to allowing me to be just me– no matter how cranky a mood I may be in.
Two years since I was diagnosed and not much has changed. I am still to come to terms in totality. That perhaps will take a lifetime to happen but I have to keep trying to get there; you know, just as everybody needs to come to terms with the fact that death is inevitable. Yes, I have seen people having difficulty in coming to terms with that too. Why, I just remembered how my cousin Vinni wept continuously for two days when she realised that we all have to die one day. She was in the fifth standard then. Now, at twenty four, she has accepted it but I still see her cringe when discussions on death creep up. Then there is Ruma di, whose husband had gone missing in war. She still wears the sindoor… Pratap Uncle passed away without a single chemo dose inspite of being diagnosed with cancer. He was sure his ailment was something else and would be cured with ayurveda.
And there is Sakeena, our maid, and her unfaithful husband- silly woman! Still waiting for his return…
To each one with his own story, his own inner demons, his own fears fears, his own faith. Some lose out midway, some are resilient and cope well. But I have to admit, that some of them are maybe doing a better job than me. I realise, no matter how extracting it might be, coping doesn’t require one to be totally robbed of his/her smile. There are many reasons to feel better; like I felt on the day when little Sanju my cousin studying in the seventh standard enthusiastically came up with a pamphlet of some wonder eye check up camp. Generally I would react violently to such attempts. But that day, ‘salt turned into sugar’ completely. It was strangely soothing to see him excitedly chatting away about why I should try it. More than his concern, it was his faith that his sister is going to get completely well, that moved me. Maybe I overreacted to those chain mails. Maybe some of them did come with such faith “attached” and I refused to see them in my irritation against the larger bulk of cursory forwards.
I do not know whether I am making any sense today or not, but this was something I had on my mind for quite a time and I needed to spill it out. I needed to let the human in me scream out its exasperation before breathing that sigh of relief that only comes once the venting has been done. I know I have been contradicting myself often. I have also let this column be my self consoling, self-counselling little space of both self pity and self control. Yes, maybe this is my way of coping with things and attempting to fit into the mainstream as soon as possible, for I do miss LIFE.
If there is anything that could connect me to the Anne Frank type of columnist my editor desires, it is that yearning to live life to the fullest- in whatever possible ways it may be available to me. Currently I am down in the dumps, ranting, railing, shoving myself deep down into what might perhaps turn out to be a self dug black hole. But I hope I don’t sit in there for too long. I am going to come back…soon.
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