That was another time…another life. Growing up in the warm cocoon of the protected world that only parents can build for their children. The city was the same, but it seemed to acquire newer colours as time ticked by. As we grew up, it let us into alleys of life that were unfamiliar, but strangely exciting. There was that desire to break free from the reins of control and taste the exhilaration of freedom and independence. It was a carefree world where struggle and responsibility were alien. Life seemed to overflow with youthful happiness. Amidst all the excitement, exhilaration and warm companionship of people who were in the same phase as me, there was no room for unhappiness. I was in love with myself and with the whole world.
I thought this was happiness.
A different time…a new city. I had outgrown the purposeless flights of adolescence. I loved this new city and its people, albeit in a different way. Here, the streets always brimmed with people. People who walked fast…people en route to their work…people who had dreams to chase and goals to achieve…people who had no time to bother about the passers-by. There was something totally infectious about this pace and spirit. Nothing was ever still; everything seemed to move all the time, but it all moved in synchrony.
I found myself gradually blending into this ocean of people. Sometimes, I felt a part of them by the way little things in my life were borrowed from the routine of their life. Like the way I rushed to work in the mornings, grabbed a croissant and coffee, and devoured it even as I walked. I learnt to run with my coffee, fish out the card from my bag and swipe even as my hands were full. I learnt to run down the stairs and hop in just as the doors of the train slammed shut. In the train, I could sit down and sip my coffee…leaf through the newspaper or read the book I had been reading…or even dab in a little make-up without having people stare at me!
And sometimes I felt connected to them by the perspectives and attitudes I was unknowingly borrowing from them. I had begun to think…dream…define personal and professional goals. I was on my feet all the time. There was always so much to explore and experience. The city had so much life…so much character. More importantly, I loved my sense of productivity. For the first time, I felt I had wings.
In the evenings, when I walked across the bridge, I would glance at the river…and the beautiful city that was built around it. It seemed to suddenly mirror my own life. It made me feel good about my life…it made me fall in love with my life…every single day. Life was full of zeal and optimism…happiness uncorrupted by the negative sentiments of those who surrounded me. For they too seemed happy with who they were. Back then, I thought this was happiness.
The jolt finally came. This time, it was a small town…a new set of people. Adversity struck. Without warning, life revealed its true colors- the harsher side that I never knew existed. I was unprepared. Like quicksand, the circumstances sucked me in. They never abated, they just deepened and worsened. They never gave me the opportunity to recover or even make sense of what was happening. Life snatched away from me those simplest of joys that I had always taken for granted until then. And it was only then, when the very ground on which I stood, was taken off from under my feet, leaving me hanging in the air, that I understood what the real problems in life are and what life truly encompasses.
The sadists and opportunists struck; I was the perfect victim. They were like scavengers…like vultures that hover around a dying man, for they smell death. I was sinking, and when I looked up, it was to see faces lit up by the possibility of my drowning. Perhaps that was the moment I woke up. Until then, I had been in denial, and the denial had at some point, given way to a numbness that could only be called meaningless existence. It hadn’t been easy to stand up…to stop pining for myself…to take the first step forward. I stopped thinking or feeling for myself. The emotions had consumed me. I redefined my goals. I started from scratch. During the day, I chased my goals, oblivious to my predicament. At night, I was so exhausted I would sleep even before I hit the bed. I learnt to retort to the scavengers by raising my standards even higher. There was never the time to think of the deep mess I was in. Never the time to see if I was sinking or floating. There were moments when my heart beat so fast that I thought I would collapse from fear, but I never really acknowledged my fears.
And then, there came a miracle. At the worst of times, when I expected a hand on my shoulder, a hand that would hold mine, it never happened. At a time when I had already learnt acceptance and was anyway too preoccupied to ask for miracles, there came this miracle. A miracle that made me pause in my steps and sit down, for I suddenly realized how exhausted, overworked and depleted I was. I suddenly realized the magnitude of the burden I was carrying on my shoulders. I suddenly saw myself in new light, and felt overwhelmed. Then the tears started coz not a soul knew the intensity of the moments that had been entirely mine. And now, this miracle made me look back at those moments and finally feel their pain. And thus I learnt that it is only this moment- when you construct happiness on top of all the pain you endured, that defines true happiness.