Life is Beautiful

19th January 2011. I got a call from the doctor at Durgapur Hospital. My mother had been diagnosed with liver metastasis and two to three months was the maximum time we had. For the first time in my life, I cried in office, in front of my colleagues. I was at that time struggling to come to terms with my divorce but not once had I broken down publicly. This, I could not handle. The person I needed most then, was leaving me.

When it comes to the scary things in life, I have noticed, however much practical and smart we think we are, we are never prepared . That cancer, and subsequently death, would touch us, was beyond my comprehension. I always thought these are horrible things that happen all around but I am protected by a magical fireball and duly protected. Couldn’t believe my fears had crossed the boundary and was walking towards me.

As a single child, dealing with a terminally ill patient, the everyday torture of witnessing the suffering and waking up every morning with a fear that this could be that fateful day , coupled with the stress of handling an emotional father was tough no doubt but what was killing me inside was the fact that I was cheating my mother by not telling her that her time was limited. What if she had unfinished jobs or unfulfilled wishes ? What if she wanted to finish them, fulfill them ? I wanted to tell her.

My father was not okay with this. Understandably so. But I wanted to do it anyway. Selfish reasons maybe. I did not want to live the rest of my life with the regret that I had not given her a chance. I told her, trying my best to make it as easy for her as possible, her expression killing me inside. This one decision completely changed my perspective towards life.

We always take life for granted. Always thinking there’s so much time. Death is the only certainty in life. But an unknown certainty .What happens when that certainty becomes time bound? I realised my mom wanted to live. Not in terms of days or months or years, but in terms of traveling, eating, wearing beautiful sarees…so many unfulfilled wishes. Physically it was not possible to take her out because of her health conditions but I would get her everything she wanted to eat . Not particularly advisable at that stage but what more worse could happen, time was anyway limited.

I changed as a person. I learnt to take each day at a time. More compassionate. I stopped going to sleep angry or frustrated. You never know what tomorrow has in store for you. Make today beautiful. I started doing things that made me happy. I was a rebel child . I wanted to apologise to my mother but somehow could not. That regret I carry in my heart. So now I have made it a point to speak out to everyone who matters. I learnt it the hard way, but I guess it is the struggles and pain in life that actually shape you and I am proud of the person I am today. I appreciate life more now because I saw what life means when I saw my mother’s life become timebound . My mother was a fighter, she extended her time to eight months and left us on 1st September 2011.

Life is beautiful. If you’ve watched the 1997 movie by Roberto Benigni, you already know what I mean. If you haven’t, do watch it after reading my blog .

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Penchnama

Pench. Remember Mowgli ! Yes , that’s the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book”. My first visit to a jungle, Pench.

It was a sudden plan. I was excited no doubt , at the same time clueless about what to expect. And I was definitely not expecting to see the big cat !

I took the evening flight to Nagpur and spent the night there. Next morning after about two and a half hours drive on NH7 I was there, pinching myself silently to make sure it was not a dream. After a heavy lunch it was time to get ready for my first jungle safari! Woohoo !! At 2.30 pm I headed off , excited like a schoolgirl. Papers and permits cleared it was now time to wait for the gates to open. The first safari was from Turia gate, Madhya Pradesh.

As the gypsy went in , I looked around. Goosebumps! The driver and guide were constantly on the lookout for the big cat while i kept looking around, trying to capture the beauty of the jungle, filling in my lungs with the dust rising from the tyres on the dry tracks. Spotted deers, birds , langurs and wild dogs kept my shutter busy.

At the end of the Safari I realised everyone was excited about sighting “Collarwali Baghin” and when I heard she had been spotted moving around with her cubs, my heart skipped a beat.

With 7 litters and 26 cubs she was a supermom and ruling queen of Pench. The entire evening was spent listening to her stories and in my heart I knew our paths would cross soon.

Next morning the gates opened at 6am. The sun had not come up yet and there was a slight nip in the air. Pulling my jacket closer , today I started looking out for “Her”. After about an hour as I was trying to frame an Indian roller after a bio break, the guide came running to say that “calls” were happening somewhere close by and we need to rush there. Oh that adrenaline rush !! Soon my gypsy parked behind the Forest director’s vehicle and I quickly started adjusting my camera settings, the calls getting louder with every passing minute.

Camera set, I looked up and there, the sunrays on his face , was Collarwali’s cub. My first sighting of the big cat in the wild. On my first visit to the jungle. The jungle had showered me with her kindest blessings.

My hands were shaking. My palms were moist. My throat felt dry. As I focused on the cub, I saw her, Collarwali, through my lens . I can never find the right words to describe my feelings then. They are mine to be relived in solitude till my last day. She came out and walked past us , in all her grace and elegance, followed by her three cubs.

She walked ahead a little and turned back to check on her cubs, a mother in all her glory. I kept on clicking, trying to capture every possible moment but obviously most of them turned out to be blurred frames that spoke of overwhelming emotions. I saw her again as she crossed over to the other side awestruck once again at her grace and power.

I visited Pench again but did not get to see her . I know I am going back again, to see her , to feel that adrenaline rush, to smile and swallow that lump in my throat. Collarwali, she has records to her credit, 7 litters and 26 cubs, radio collared and monitored, but for me , she is not just a tigress, she is an emotion…

Peace of Mind

My divorce happened in 2012. Not that I had not expected this to happen, in fact most of the time during the twenty years of marriage divorce is all I could think of. But when reality hit, it seemed I was not prepared for it at all.

Apart from the emotional trauma and social stigma that automatically becomes a part of the process, marriage is also a habit. A habit that becomes part of you over the years. Getting out of any habit, good or bad, is difficult. And to top it I had just joined a reputed General Insurance broking firm as the Regional Head, a line of business beyond my acquired skill sets and experience. I had accepted this profile as a challenge , knowing it would require a change in perspective, mindset and dealing with a team which was not too happy to have me as their leader. A setback on the personal front meant the challenge just became more challenging than I had expected it to be.

The reasons for divorce are immaterial to be mentioned here but yes they were strong enough for me to take this decision. I had married against my parents’ wishes, it was a battle lost there. The ego hurt. I had let down my child, guilt killed me inside. I had to maintain a certain personality at work to get things done, so there was no time or opportunity for self pity or sadness. I would work like there’s no tomorrow, come back home, switch off the lights and lie in bed, completely blank. My daughter and I hardly talked. We lived like strangers in the house. After about three months I realised I needed help. I didn’t want to upset my parents anymore so talking to them was not an option. I went to a doctor. A general physician. He gave me the usual anti depressants and sleeping pills. This I knew was a short cut but I took that short cut. The medicines helped me forget the financial worries, the hurt ego, the stupid revengeful thoughts. They made me sleep peacefully for eight hours, refreshed to head out for work the next day.

This continued for about a month. As I was lying in bed one night, waiting for sleep to take over my thoughts, I realised I had allowed few chemicals to take over my life. This is not me. This is not the life I had planned for myself. I was even creating a distance with my daughter. I could not let this happen to me. I had no other option but to take control of my life. No one else could do that for me.

A new dawn. I felt good after a long long time. Dropped the remaining medicines in the waste paper basket and went off for work. After work I came back and searched for some meditation music on YouTube. Switched off the lights as usual but for a different reason. Plugged in the earphones and pressed the play button. Soothing music seeped in but the mind was restless. I could not concentrate. It continued for three four days but I did not give up. And finally one day something happened. As I closed my eyes, soaking in the calming meditation music , I saw myself in a white flowing robe. Sitting by the side of a beautiful blue lake, my eyes closed, a sense of happiness running through every part of my body

(Image : Google)

I opened my eyes, I realised I was crying. Crying, not because I was sad, but because I knew I had taken charge. “Aham Brahmasmi” .”I am”. I do not know any other than by myself. I am absorbed in myself and exist by myself.

(“I am She” inked in 2012)

There is no regret. No hard feelings. Because I have learnt to let go. Because if you don’t let go you’ll never be able to move ahead. Peace of mind is more important than any other emotion or feeling. And only you can bring that peace into your life…take charge of your life today!!…

Mind over matter

I was diagnosed with “early onset of arthritis “ at 40. The doctor was as much surprised as I was as i had always led a disciplined life and had been going to the gym religiously for the past three years. But there it was, the x-ray plate clearly showing what I did not want to see. Then started the usual course of pain killers and walking with knee caps.

After about six months the pain was under control but i still had difficulty in climbing stairs or walking at a stretch. That’s when I started yoga, specifically for arthritis. Progress was slow but i did not give up. After about one year I could walk without the knee caps and the painkillers had already stopped.

In 2016 I decided to go on a trek. I was scared of heights and i was not sure if my knees would support me. I was 48, not exactly the right age probably to think of going on a trek for the first time. But I wanted to do it anyway. A friend referred me to a wonderful lady who organises treks and i got in touch with her. I had two major apprehensions. How many days would I have to go without network because I would be leaving my daughter behind and i have claustrophobia, what if I feel claustrophobic inside the tent in the middle of the night ? I don’t remember her answers exactly but I was convinced enough to register myself for the trek.

16th October 2016. The team reached Dhundi (9317ft). I still couldn’t believe i had convinced myself to do this. About 200 metres into the trek and I wanted to give up. Inspite of all breathing exercises and kilometres of walking , I was gasping for air and my thigh muscles were already hurting. This was the time to let the mind take over . The body was giving up. I slowed down. Took a few deep breaths and started again. It didn’t seem all that difficult. The challenge began post lunch. The climb was steeper now. Deep breaths again and I told myself no stopping till you reach the base camp at Bakarthach (10,728ft). And yes I kept on chanting the Hanuman Chalisa, that’s always been a source of strength for me. Day 1 completed successfully. Now was the time to conquer another fear. The tents were up. They looked so pretty against the beautiful backdrop. Post dinner as I got in with my tentmates, I was almost looking forward to it . The temperature had gone down probably to 3 or 4 degrees centigrade and snuggling inside the sleeping bags felt cosy and warm.

At around 3am though we braved the chill to come out of our tents to watch the full moon across a crystal clear sky , shining moonbeams on ice capped mountains leaving us spellbound.

Day 2. It would be more difficult today. There was a morraine zone to be crossed. But today I had already trained my mind to be prepared for whatever lay ahead. The body had no other option but to listen. We had to turn back a little before Beas Kund due to lack of time. I stood there, at almost 11,000ft, proud of myself, proud of having overcome my fears. The downward journey was comparatively easier. For someone who was struggling to climb one stair at one point, this was no less than an expedition. Set your own goals and do what it takes to achieve them.

I have promised myself another trek in 2019, but till such time I shall keep on sharing my story with everyone who says age or health is a limitation to do anything. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. And yes, i did manage to call my daughter from one of the porter’s cellphone.

Trek organised by : Soma’s Camps

Feet on Street

I got married at 22 . I was studying medicine in North Bengal then , which I happily quit to become a full time housewife and mother . No, nobody forced me. It was my own decision to stay back home because I did not want to miss a single moment of motherhood. I did not want to miss my baby’s first burp, her first teeth, her first crawl, her first walk, her first word…nothing! But when she got into class 1,  I realised i had enough time now to do something . I decided to look for a job. I was not looking for a career, just a job that would keep me engaged and also get me some pocket money.

One morning as I was browsing through the job opportunities in the newspaper , I saw a walk in interview for a DSA(Direct Sales Agency) of a reputed multinational bank. I decided to walk in , but the moment I pushed the office door, I wanted to turn back and walk away. The reception was full of young college pass outs and here I was, a thirty year old, saree clad housewife, mother of a seven year old wanting to get a job . Something inside pushed me to stay back. I found a chair in the remotest corner and waited for my turn, realising I had nothing to lose even if I didn’t get the job. Which gave me a certain amount of confidence that I actually had an edge over these youngsters.

My happiness was short lived because soon the receptionist came up to me to ask me for my resume. What’s that !!??? My heart almost stopped beating. I could feel my palms sweating. Signs of nervousness, but no, I could not show her that, I had to keep my face straight. She looked at me and understood my situation. I don’t know what she told her boss but I was called in for the interview. Long story short, I got the job.

I joined office the next day and was told to tag along with three youngsters for training. On completion of that training I was on my own from the third day. Walking into unknown offices and walking up to unknown people to sell loans. On the streets from 10am to 5pm. I used to carry a lunch box but did not know where to sit down and have lunch. After a few days of going without lunch, I found that the steps of the metro station were an ideal place to sit down peacefully and have my lunch. I just had to ignore the curious passengers walking up and down.

I cracked my first case after a week. I was over the moon !! The gentleman gave me a cheque book to write out the emi . I did that quickly, all excited to report back to my boss about my achievement. I called him from my client’s office. No cell phones then. I was told i had calculated the emi all wrong and that I should not return to office without the cheques. I had tears running down my cheeks. I have also realised in life that if your intentions are right and your efforts are sincere, you’ll always overcome your hardships no matter what . Setbacks are temporary. And you’ll always have atleast one kind soul around to help you out. This client of mine was that kind soul. He took out another cheque book. No questions asked. Four years from that disaster I was heading the Eastern Regional office of a Third Party Administrator.

Do your best. Sincere efforts are always appreciated irrespective of the outcome. Every situation has the possibility of becoming a life changing opportunity. Don’t give up. You, and only you can change your life. Take charge today …

Rising from the ashes

It was on my mind for a long time to start a blog. But work and laziness and to a certain extent shyness kept me away from taking a decision. The words used to float around in my head but I could never pen them down. And then one fine morning it happened, the decision was taken, like all other decisions in my life .

I chose this day to announce my blog for a special reason. Today is my mother’s 7th death anniversary. I do not post anything sad or negative on social media because I believe in handling them on my own. So I’ll not be sad today, that’s not the intention. It’s her death, her struggle with cancer , her regrets that there was not enough time to do what she thought could be done later that changed me as a person. It made me love myself like I had never done, put myself first, I fell in love with life.

I know she would have been the happiest to see they way I am living today, so this blog is dedicated to her.

I have struggled through a bad marriage, depression, fought tooth and nail in a male dominated industry to make my place, spent sleeless nights worrying about financial responsibilities but in the end overcoming each situation with triumph. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Today I take things easy, do what the heart seeks, take responsibility for my actions and if by sharing my happiness here I can inspire a few lives, nothing like it.

So if you’re feeling a little low, wondering what to do next, or age is catching up, just take a deep breath and get up. Do what you want to do, it’ll not be easy, but trust me you’ll enjoy the bumpy roads . “Manzil toh mil hi jayegi, bhatakkar hi sahi, gumrah toh woh hai jo ghar se nikle hi nahi” ( you’ll reach your destination anyhow even if you’re lost, but you’ll be a lost soul definitely if you don’t step out of your home).

Why did i name my blog “Phoenix Stories ” ? In Greek mythology a Phoenix is a bird that regenarates or otherwise is born again from its ashes, symbolic of second chances and resilience. Similarly in life, bounce back everytime there’s a setback. Nothing is permanent and it only takes a mindset to change any situation. Take charge of your life today.

My thoughts and words may come across slightly scattered today because it’s more from the heart but with all your love and support I promise we’ll grow together beautifully.

PS : and this blog would not be complete without mentioning my daughter, my pillar of strength, my constant dose of happiness.

Pic Credits: Aayushi Lodha