Memoir / Essays: Finding My Purpose

 Anupama Dalmia

It was 3 PM.

As I tried to manoeuvre my way through the cramped spaces between the traffic maze, an inexplicable anxiety began to crawl on my skin. It gripped my feet, leaving me at odds with my own self. While I was trying to move swiftly as I was already running late, my bottom refused to budge. The sweltering heat metamorphosed into the rivulets of sweat trickling down my forehead. The ear-splitting honking of the vehicles propelled me soon towards the footpath next to a Pani Puri vendor who looked at me with expectant eyes. On some other day, I would have been that customer who would have given him his peak sales for the day. But at that moment, food was the last thing on my mind. My stomach was already feeling heavy with the burden of my decision. A decision that I had taken with the right intentions suddenly looked at me in the face and sneered, “What makes you think you can do this?”

I paused and took a deep breath. The automobile emissions made way inside my system, making me realise this was not really the spot where I could be indulging in some serious contemplation. I kept taking long strides towards my destination and before I knew it, I had reached a desolate by-lane. It suddenly went all quiet. I could hardly see people around. It was then that I decided to face my apprehension. It was my choice to resign from a lucrative and steady corporate job to pursue my creative interests professionally and work on the ground for a social cause. I volunteered to get involved with an NGO working on the rehabilitation of human trafficking survivors and in a few minutes from then, I would be in the midst of these survivors who had been rescued from an abominable world of trauma and anguish. What would I tell them? That it would all be fine? I sounded so hollow to my own ears. What was I thinking? That I could be a messiah who could change the wrongdoings of the world? But looking back was not an option anymore. I had been trained by the organization and had travelled to a different city for this event. Not turning up would do more damage to their hopes than turning up and screwing it up, I thought.

I decided to go with the flow of the brook I was in, which soon landed me in front of a shabby looking and somewhat dilapidated building. Strangely, my concern seemed to be slipping away as I began soaking in the atmosphere of the place. This was the same world where I resided. Yet, the milieu was so unfamiliar. There was a steep staircase which I had to take to reach the room from where I could hear some murmurs. From inside, the structure seemed to be well-maintained as opposed to the tattered guise outside, as if trying to put up a façade to keep the blissfully oblivious humans further at bay. The door creaked open for me and a lady in a cherry pink plain kurta and a white salwar ushered me in. I figured she was one of the key local contact points from the organization and she briefed me in a matter-of-fact way about what I was expected to do. I think she had sensed from my body language that I was a nervous wreck at that point.

 “Stop thinking of yourself as their rescuer and it will become much easier to empathize and support them.” She advised me, and her words have stayed with me even to this day.

I scanned the room. My eyes vigorously kept moving from one girl to another. Different age groups. Different backgrounds. Different life experiences. But their belligerent destiny had brought them together under the same roof. For a moment, I could smell the stink of my privilege. It could be me too! I was fortunate to be on the other side. And that was the moment when I was no more the same person. Something changed within me instantly, as if someone had switched on a light within my soul that was lying untouched all my life. The thought that our cocoon is an illusion struck me like a thunderbolt. I re-aligned my purpose in life. I was no more intending to contribute to the society by being here. I wanted to do this for myself. To be better. To find value in my being. To grow to be someone I can sleep with at peace.

I closed my eyes and awakened to the touch of a hand clasping my palms. My gaze was stuck at that smile. I did not notice anything else. Not even the eyes. She asked my name. I responded. She talked. I listened. She told me clearly that she had no interest in reuniting with her parents because they were the ones who had traded her for attractive moolah. Her story was horrifying and excruciating and I tried hard to hold back my tears because after all, I had to show that I was strong enough to be able to counsel and guide her. My naivety soon got the better of me when I noticed the glint of hope under those fluttering eyelashes. Hope for a better future. Hope for respect. Hope to be able to make the most of this second chance that she had got. She neither was seeking any fake assurances nor did she need a revolutionary saviour. We hugged. We cried together. I had entered the place thinking I was going to touch a life, but what transpired was actually the other way round.

Sympathy comes from a place of supremacy whereas empathy comes from a place of love and understanding. The former pities the visible imbalance whereas the latter pushes you to look within.


Bio: Anupama Dalmia is an award-winning blogger, author, serial entrepreneur with three ventures, social influencer, creative writing mentor and choreographer. She is the recipient of Karamveer Chakra (Silver), a Global Civilian Honour presented by International Confederation of NGOs in association with the United Nations. She is a Sheroes Champion where she motivates a community of 15 million women and is also an Amazon approved Influencer. She has been featured among the top bloggers and influencers of India on multiple platforms and is the only Indian who has been nominated in the category of "Digital Transformation" by Global Digital Women, a Berlin based International network of female digital pioneers at the Digital Women Leader Awards 2020. Recently, she was conferred with the Sarojini Naidu International Award for Women 2020. 

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