SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Friday, May 1, 2015

Helpless - a personal story



Feeling Helpless comes easily to me. I am the one standing in front of the ATM machine, frustrated and actually thinking the ATM hates me, because every time I swipe the card, it says…not recognized, insert again! 

It’s like a default feeling…

There was this time in high school. Its pouring in Chennai, one of those rare events that would make us all run indoors, instead of running out and enjoying it...typical madrasi, (It was still Madras to me, and the jobless Politicians had not yet gone on their name changing frenzy) …and I was returning from school...I could barely see…and had removed my glasses…so partially blind…drenched…walking from the bus stop to my home….I felt a painful grab….yayaaay…I yelled at this guy who had the gall to grab my breasts and just move on…while I stood petrified and helpless…my stomach churning with disgust and revulsion…I turned and walked back home…somehow feeling as if it was my fault…

My breasts you see grew faster than I would have liked them to and by the time I was 11years old, I had sizable ones as compared to my friends. I was the only girl in my gang with a bloated chest and hairy underarms who struggled to hide it in my swimming costume, while all my gang happily splashed about, chest less and hairless!

Here is another on my Helpless laundary list – Breast Feeding

No book, no person, nothing can capture what a woman goes through as she feeds her baby…
“The baby is not getting enough. You are not producing enough milk, because you eat so poorly”
“She is not sleeping well, look you just fed her and she is up for another feed”
“You know, I had no such problems, in fact I would always overflow” said my well wishers
So I started eating like a pig, in order to milk like the cow I was expected to be! Garlic boiled in Milk, even betel leaves by the dozen, did not help much by ways of solving my problem, nor must I say did the Breast pump. Yikes…let me out of here…Can I just do the bottle?

But then that comes with sterilization, hygiene and correct mix of formula…

 I actually inflicted myself with that torture a second time…even though the feeling that I always carried with me on that experience isone of sheer futility, that I had to sit in one place for hours together, with no guarantee that at the end of it we both would come out satisfied. The constant struggle to meet the baby’s hungry demands and my own sense of inadequacy played havoc within me...

The last time I ever felt helpless was when I heard the silence on the other end of the phone. My Mother had dropped the phone in midsentence…because she was unable to speak…because the pain was unbearable…and till that point I did not know how much she suffered.

In the summer of 2012 my Mother was diagnosed with 3rd stage colon cancer. She and we were looking at a death sentence. But my father, the incredible man he is, refused to allow himself or her to be pulled into the blackhole of despair. To such an extent that sitting in Bangalore I would get cheery replies to all my questions.
"Oh! She is doing Great!...Responding well…we are trying A, B, C &D therapies…Don’t worry…she is going to be fine…so I lived in my bubble and they put on a Brave act".

So when she dropped that phone ...this was around November… I listened…to that silence with a sinking heart…What am I doing here in Bangalore?

I took the Shathabdi the next morning…and I can tell you that is the best decision I took in my entire life…the one I am most proud of. I entered the house and saw her seated in the arm chair…

She raised her head and looked at me…and I saw the pain in her eyes…I seriously don’t know who felt more helpless at that minute…

But I moved closer to her and did something I have never done…my mom was a minimalist…frugal in the demonstration front, so the max I have done is kind of give  a half hug…you know…around the shoulders because, that’s how we were in my family…except for my Uncle…this Big man, who used to embarrass his mother to bits by giving her bear hugs…

But on that day…I actually put both my arms around my mother and hugged her to my chest. She was seated and her head just reached my chin…and I felt her being  pour  into me…all her pain and struggle for the past 6 months…seemed to flow into me…along with that my Mother’s strength…too flowed into me…My Mum , slayer of cockroaches, catcher of snakes, Brave Honest and Hardworking woman, passed on her inner self to me…

Silently leaning on me...she seemed to tell me…Its time…for you to be strong…time for you to take charge…time for you to be a Mother to me…and for once I knew I had the strength to support her. I felt strong and calm. Calm in the knowledge that I was there as long as she needed me to take care of her body and soul…

I said I love you ma…
Another first for me…

And for the next 2 months…I combed her hair…she hated that chemo would make her loose her hair…
I pressed her legs…I helped her bathe, get dressed…fed her…and spoke of everything under the sun…
And mostly allowed her to lean on my chest….like a child on a mother’s shoulder…but here our roles were reversed…
She passed away on January 5th 2013…and the last words she said to me where Sowmya…I have no regrets…

Now that my Husband is posted to Delhi…learning to use the ATM is like a Life skill I have to master…so coming from a space  calm and courage…now when I face the ATM machine  I smile at the camera…and sometimes even wink…