A Weariness of Doubt, A Wariness of Certainty

- Chitra Gopalakrishnan


The glaucous moonscape that matches the wrinkled, watered silk patterns of the sky. The quiet scudding of clouds. The distant flickers of stars. The liquid song of breezes in the warm darkness that cool the flush of the day. These elements, together, with their faultless harmony, bring an inner calm, a serene peace, that erases the dissonance of the day from Reva’s mind.

It is the month of May. With her long, unruly, wavy, black hair, unevenly streaked with white, forming a curtain over her face, Reva waits alertly for the moon’s rays to turn into white diamond rays, for it to masquerade as dawn outside her window in her New Delhi home in the leafy neighbourhood of Hauz Khas.

Ankles crossed, with resolute deliberation, she seeks out this enchanted point in time, for the silvery glaze of the orb to diffuse between tree branches, for the soft crush of moonbeams underfoot.

In this small length of time, Reva lustily takes in her world, rather pulls it within her, as it comes; its moods, its textures, its dancing shadows, with their tugs of the wonderful just as she does their undefined expectations that cast a delicate, impalpable cover over her. She tends to this body-mind space, prolongs it. It is like she cannot get enough.

For Reva knows it will not always be like this.

Suddenly, quick and silent as could be, and without her choosing it to be so, her surroundings could turn dark, forbidding and depthless. The moon could become a grotesque monster, the stars could explode, winds and owls could begin to call from dead trees that loom close to her house just as the unearthly could strain at her windows and doors to get in. The safety of her space could vanish. Just like that.

Of late, it has been a teeter-totter of the seen and unseen for Reva. She loses herself without warning just as much she loses her sense of ‘here’. Before she knows it she is shaped differently. And, against her will, she has had to leave the knowable behind on the road, under the slip-slap of her sandals, to be forever lost in the dust.

Reva is a writer in her sixties. Tall with an unlined, appealing face, a delicate, aquiline nose and black-framed glasses that sit firmly on her nose, she has been advised by her best friend Tara to “talk to someone about the situations that go rogue on her rather than be torn asunder by her own internal dialogues that turn into echo chambers and before it is too late.”

To Tara’s astonishment and frustration, Reva discounts the help of a counsellor or a psychiatrist, whose services Tara wants her to avail, and opts instead for pranic healing that uses the body’s life force to heal the body energy. 

Pranic healer Preeti Kothari, a compact woman, probably ten years younger than Reva, with etched features, a lot of very soft black hair that frames her face and falls below her shoulder in waves and thoughtful dark brown eyes, sits at an office in Vasant Vihar, in the toniest part of this area.

Sparsely furnished yet elegant, her workspace has an east-facing window, a profusion of healthy green plants, a comfortable, supportive seating arrangement on the floor and nature-based artworks around her. Preeti’s certificates on energy healing hang on the wall, the air-conditioning is set to moderate coolness and her clean, beige mats on the floor add to the feeling of openness and quietude, something that calms Reva who is ready to take wing at the slightest feeling of uneasiness. There is also no burning incense, something Reva has dreaded before she came here for she is allergic to their perfumed vapors.

On a hot summer morning in June, with an exuberant sun in the sky, the air crisp with heat, birds singing on the trees and insects in the bushes, Reva sits cross-legged and very straight on a teal blue floor mattress with yellow cushions. Her shoulders squared, her hair firmly captive within a large black clip, a wistful expression behind her glasses, she begins to speak to Preeti, as she insists on being called, who sits facing her on another mattress leaner than Reva’s.

Reva’s throat makes way for language that needles its way to find a grammar for her wounds. Her curved lips moving, her laugh lines around her mouth deepening, she says in a low and soft voice, “I was once un-separated. My bones, flesh, heart, spleen and marrow had no space between and they knew just one truth. For an unaccompanied woman with no spouse, children or relatives, there was a sense of safety for me about this, however false.”

Eyebrows drawn, Reva’s black eyes dart to Preeti to see if her words  make sense and as her healer nods, she clears her throat and begins to speak  rapidly, biting her lips in nervousness, the corners of her mouth pointing downward, “Now there is a break within and I am in a place of separation like having been taken apart. It is as if there are two-halves of me, of my world, my impulses, one beckoning and the other taunting. Such simultaneity forces me to navigate competing forces and put my vulnerability on the outside.”

Preeti smiles in understanding. To Reva, it is agreeable as it is prejudiced in her favor. Finding immense reassurance in it, she continues, her posture more relaxed on the couch, “On some days, my being pounds with an excited rhythm, with a strange, crackling animation, with undefined expectations, with the possibilities of knowing things that are not within my world. Joy bubbles within my body, my mind, and in its struggle to be free it emerges as thoughts, light, frothy, expectant.”

With the sun glinting sideways, Preeti’s brown eyes turn to a shade of light caramel. Her gaze carries its usual solace and her being its quiet centeredness. It helps Reva ready herself to say more, the difficult part of her story. Her forehead furrows and a nerve twitches on her jaw as she tries to explain her situation, knowing she will have to make a rip in the veil that lies over her innermost being. The writer in her makes her not want to miss any detail, to say it correctly yet with a touch of élan minus the hysteria.

           “On other days, I am up against another part of me,” Reva says haltingly, “one that is familiar with energies that are dark, desolate, depleting and terrifying. They grow within and around me and take over my being with feelings of pain and inadequacy. They are slippery, off-balance, unreasonable feelings that empty out my life and isolate me in the extreme.”

Then getting on firmer ground, she says with certainty, “These energies, smiling and manic, show me the limits of my potential, my cosmos, and tell me that nothing is manageable or tolerable and the inexpressible, the unthinkable will become real. What is very scary for me is I become a person I don’t know with an energy that has so much brutality and hopelessness that I cannot begin to put it into words.”

Drained of emotion now, Reva speaks dully, her head bowed, “Preeti, I am divorced from my head that belongs to the air. My body is alien to me. I have lost my internal mechanisms and for me, there is no way of knowing when either of these feelings, these vexingly wayward phases, will surface or when the blurry line of what has been and what is will fade. I am joined by conflict and I seem to be feeding both the wolves, the good and bad. And what I am left with is a loss of my personhood, my innateness, my essential fibre.”

 As if overcome by the force of her tonal quivering, Reva’s hair escapes her clip and tumbles onto her neck, shoulders and waist and her spectacles slip in the tremor. Brushing her hair aside, setting her glasses on the bridge of her nose and staring impatiently at the light segments made by the sun on the landscape paintings around her, Reva whispers her thoughts, as if to herself, fragments of tense language.

“With my disturbed neurological connections, I have absorbed stress up to a certain point. But it has now flipped, passed a tipping point and fallen into a new state, putting me into an in-between life, one of permanent unease. My existence swings between fiery flare-ups of pain and joy, between fear and freedom, leaving me like a faulty fluorescent tube, flashing erratically, with no dramatic momentum towards resolution. I don’t dare to move forward or retreat.”

Now the sunlight streams through the deep blue cast of the summer sky and falls directly on Preeti’s face. Reva wonders what she will make of her now that she has let her into her high-strung world.

In a gentle, composed voice, Preeti says, “Reva, you have so admirably told me of your rapidly changing self. Without my needing to tell you, you yourself have a clear understanding of how your energy field or aura that surrounds your body, organs and individual cells is disturbed. While others may believe that what you describe is the nature of human emotions and everyone experiences it, I know you are struggling with it in the extreme. I know for you it must feel like chasing hurricanes and beating down wildfires.”

After a brief pause, yet using the same clear, light and pleasant tone, Preeti continues, “We will together, over the coming months, address your blockages, anxiety triggers and open up the natural channels of your being so that your mind, body, and spirit function optimally and in unison. This will work to reverse dysfunction through your natural ability to heal yourself. Your stagnant, disruptive energies will be minimized and a white universal energy will take its place.”

Then in a more contemplative voice, Preeti says, “But, in my opinion, your current condition has come with the intent of telling you a few things.”

This piques Reva’s writer curiosity and she is focussed on every word Preeti utters. Her lips pursed, her eyes half-closed behind her glasses, hands in her lap, fingers interlocked, she listens as Preeti speaks. hile it signals that your inner source of vibrancy is strong and can correct your visceral unease, the message is also that there will be always be twinning of joy and sorrow in your life as there will always be a degree of agitation and dread within, however much we address it through our sessions. Such angst comes with age, circumstances, isolation, rejection and stress and as much with the limited understanding of the true nature of the universe where time, space, good and evil, joy and sorrow hold no meaning. What I am really saying is that there is really no true order or symmetry that can be found in life at all times, something that could repair the present and the future. You may have believed it to be possible in your youth but life is telling you otherwise; that while hodgepodge and ambivalence are real and constant, perfection is a humane belief but never really possible.”

In spite of the content, Preeti’s voice continues to be warm and friendly and she smiles at Reva in encouragement. “You will on occasions have to bear the burden of a hundred things at once. Rather than discount or dislike the friction and effort, there is a need for you to accept it with as much equanimity you can muster and as much as you accept joy. Inner balance can only come with such an endeavor. By showing your muscle inside called guts. It comes with the understanding that you need the blackness of life for brilliant flashes to happen, to be visible. Resistance to this principle, on the other hand, will only bring dissonance.”

Preeti then walks over to Reva sits with her on her mattress and reaches for her. Her hand is tiny and soft in Reva’s.

Looking into Reva’s eyes with compassion and insight Preeti says to her, “A simple mantra to soothe the mind and rid it of anxiety, to handle the weariness of doubt and the wariness of certainty, is to remember this one thing. What counts as reality is always a question of perspective, parameters and interests. If you stop attaching importance to disruptions, they will not worry you. After all, it takes two ropes to tie the knot but only one to untie it. When one is released, the other falls too. Believe me, when you are able to do this the ‘now’, even if terribly disturbing, will truly become a good place to be.”

As Reva ponders over this, Preeti remains silent.

After a while, she says, “Reva, when you shared your story with me, your isolating pain and struggle for emotional survival, you connected with me and placed a bit of yourself into me. And, I, by listening to your feelings, converged with you and your feelings.”

Then looking into her eyes, Preeti says, “A thought has just struck me. If we women can tell our stories to one another, like this, we can become endurance guides for each other. And I truly hope that as a writer, you could share your story, once healed, and that of many others, as a measure of your generosity, so that multitudes of women can come home to themselves. For all you know, it will be a sort of catharsis for you, a resolution of sorts, the right journey at the right time.”


BIO: Chitra Gopalakrishnan, a New Delhi-based journalist and a social development communications consultant uses her ardor for writing, wing to wing, to break firewalls between nonfiction and fiction, narratology and psychoanalysis, marginalia and manuscript and tree-ism and capitalism.

Author website: www.chitragopalakrishnan.com

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