Memoir / Essays: Those days….

Madhu Jaiswal

 

I as a child was a docile and introvert person who used to confine herself in a shell. It was way tough for me to express myself and speak out with others what was going inside my head. Girls of my age used to drool on so many things in their teenage days and here I had none to share my feelings with. I was skinny and dark who felt ugly and useless. Being an average person, I wasn’t up to the mark on any scale. Be it studies, looks or other skill and co-curricular activities. It was tough and kind of suffocating for me, but I had none in whom I could confide and share what I felt. Although I had few friends in my class, but they too were just like me, dull and unnoticeable.

I used to find respite in painting and reading. Painting was a liberation for my heart. The zigzag sketches and colors of my paintings, somehow deployed the inner me. Nature allured my heart and mind and I could easily depict those things via the stroke of my paintbrush and vibrant colors. Myriad thoughts invaded my heart and mind, I used to connect them with the rising and settling down sun. The beauty of dusk, the azure skies, the singing of birds. All these were my expressions of joy when I felt solace. Often I used to gaze at the starlit sky counting the stars and trying to configure a story, contemplating about them in my mind. Other thing that I liked was reading. It let the inner me dream and decipher a new world where no-one was there to judge me or let me feel inferior because of my looks or ability. I was an avid reader and would read and try to grasp things that I couldn’t understand sometimes.

Quite later in my life I realized that I had inferiority complex during my teenage days. That was the reason why I used to hide myself behind others. Having zero confidence, it felt as if I was good for nothing.

I used to be in awe of those who took part in various competitions and co-curricular activities in school and emerge winners. I couldn’t even stand up and answer properly in class. Whenever my class teacher tried to send my name for quiz competition, I would be blank and fumbled for words in front of others even when I knew the answers. Same happened if I dared enough to take part in debate, although in my mind I could recite the whole thing quite aptly. The words would just get stuck in my mouth, my heart beat raced and I felt humiliated as others laughed and hooted behind. Every day, I dragged myself to complete my task with zero enthusiasm and no motive. I barely existed for others in class.

 

That day two years back, when our social group visited the girl's orphanage for celebrating Christmas in December, it all came back rushing to my mind. There I found a dark-skinned, timid girl standing in a corner. Her big eyes lit up when the song played on the music system as we sang Christmas carols and most of the girls joined. She just stood there watching everyone dancing and enjoying with eager eyes. Our eyes met and I insisted her to join others saying,

“Tumhara naam kya hai? Aao agey aake tum bhi perform karo sabke sath.” (What’s your name? Come to the front, perform with all others in the group.)

“Nhi madam, mujhe ye sab nhi aata.” (No Madam, I can’t do all this). She replied, bashfully.

Somehow, I could feel that she wished to do all the things what others were doing.

I held her hand and let her towards the girls in the center of the room where others were dancing on the beat of the song.

“We wish you a Merry Christmas!” Holding her hand, I sang along.

“Chalo abhi sabko karna hoga, koi bahana nhi chalega” (Come on, everybody has to do it.) I said, with a steadfast voice.

At first, she resisted. Then gradually she picked up as we all cheered her with our clapping and whistles. As the music changed to a fast dance number, she danced enthusiastically, making most of the moment.

We were literally in awe when she danced her heart out. Though all the girls there were not very talented, but it felt heartening to see the little angels enjoying, especially Tia.

Yes, that was her name. Her eyes shone with brilliance when we all applauded her, and she grinned ear to ear, red with all the appreciation.

I said, “abhi kitna acha perform ki aur nakhre kar rhi thi ki mujhe nhi aata.”

(Just now you were performing so nicely, why then did you say that you couldn’t do it?)

She was like, “mujhe laga mai kharab karungi to sab hasenge mujhpe.(I thought I would perform poorly, and everyone would laugh at me.)

I saw in her a mirror image of my own childhood. She was unaware of her skills, having no confidence in herself. A gentle push and she was in. A bit of appreciation and cheering did the much-needed magic.

As I reflect back on the days when I was a loner myself, it pains me to think how things are around us. We all are bound by our limitations, our self-made prejudices regarding the way a person should be. God created this beautiful world. Aren’t all creations of lord beautiful in their own way?  Only we impose infringements on them, and those create shackles that impede their growth.

In a class-divided society, we think we need to fit in to be the perfect one! But why do we need to be perfect? Why can’t people accept us the way we are? All these thoughts used to ransack my mind and it felt suffocating.

The situation never changes, it’s our mindset that we need to incur change upon. For me it proved correct. When I was at my lowest, a few true friends showed up and their acceptance of me uplifted my soul. The motivation of doing better paved my path towards a better tomorrow. I don’t say that it completely changed my world, but yes, it did make a significant change in my attitude and my perception towards life.

A bit of appreciation and acceptance goes a long way. I learned that lesson long back but it comes handy all the way to breathe a new lease of life again. Tia's happy and glowing face reflected that Midas touch of a compassionate heart which would be her guiding light….

 

Bio: Madhu Jaiswal is a bilingual poet and social worker hailing from Kolkata, India. She is associated with The Impish Lass Publishing House, Mumbai in the capacity of an executive editor. She has 7 anthologies as an editor to her credit. Her creative contributions have been published in various national and international anthologies and she often gets featured in prestigious e-zines. Her poetry was recently featured in the prestigious anthology Aatish 2 alongside various stalwarts. Also she bagged third prize in Beyond Black Sakhi Annual Poetry Awards 2019. She is attached to a social group named Share A Smile and volunteers for social cause and upliftment of destitute individuals.


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