It was Saturday night. The phone rang. My friend was on the line.
‘How is it possible for me to get back to this marriage, after all that he has done? It is a question of my integrity. He expects me to get back with him, considering the picture he has painted of me to my children? How will my children ever respect me again? He expects me to forgive him, considering the humiliation I have suffered on account of him? What respect will my parents, my relatives and our family friends have for me? I can never forgive him for this. Everybody wants us to get back together, but how? For the kids, they say. But am I not a person too? Don’t I have a right to my life? What about my feelings? Why is nobody seeing that? ‘
These were my friend’s words to me as she talked to me about the current predicament that had destroyed her peace.
I was aware of her suffering. And I was aware that this suffering was chronic. She had endured this for years now. Her husband had always failed to see her emotional needs. They remained unfulfilled. These unfulfilled emotional needs had thereby governed her attitude to life.
On Sunday, my friend sent me a voice recording of her conversation with her daughter.
‘So what have you guys decided, Ma?’
‘About what, baby?’, my friend asked her.
‘About the separation. I don’t want you guys to separate, Ma!’
‘Listen, baby. You don’t think about all this now. Your exams are round the corner. You concentrate on that. When you come home for vacation, we will all sit together and discuss about this.’
‘How can I not think about it, Ma? When people take such stupid decisions, how can I not think about it?’
The child had started crying.
I listened to the entire conversation, including the child’s conversation with her dad. There was only one question that the child was struggling with:
‘What about my feelings? Why is nobody thinking about me? Why is nobody understanding me?‘
I was devastated after listening to that conversation.
The subsequent week, my friend’s parents had come over to meet me.
‘She is our daughter. And while we do understand that it is difficult for a woman to put up with such psychological assaults, she is equally responsible for these issues. All along, her solution to all the problems in her life was escapism. Her life style, her friends circle, and the current predicament, is as much the outcome of her flawed ways, as her husband’s flawed behaviour.’
These were her father’s words. He added:
‘I have long given up on my daughter. She does not know the value of relationships. Her relationship with her parents and with her own children are very shallow. She lives in the belief that she is wise, but in truth, she is a fool. Being proficient in your job or being technology savvy have very little to do with the wisdom of life. I wonder when she will understand this. Has she ever thought about our sorrow as parents? There has not been one gesture on her part that has ever made us feel that she has any concern for us. Her mother is only an unpaid servant in her house. Not once, will she sit down with her mother and have a conversation. Not once has she called me and asked me about my well-being. Our simplicity is no longer acceptable to her. It no longer matches her status.’
I sighed. These parents were also struggling with the same feelings-
‘What about us? Why doesn’t our daughter understand us?‘
After they left, I sat down at my desk. As I ruminated on the issue, my eyes fell on the DVDs that I had piled up on the table. I scanned through them. I stopped when I came across the poster of ‘Sneham‘. On an impulse, I decided to wathc the film all over again.
Sneham, written by T.A.Razak, who passed away recently. Director Kamal had written a long column on his memories of T.A.Razak. I started watching the film.
Sneham is the story of Padmanabhan Nair, who is compelled to take up the role of a father to his younger siblings, on account of the untimely death of his father. Padmanabhan Nair manages the household to the best of his abilities and caters to the emotional and financial needs of his siblings. His deep reverence for his father forms the basis for the meaning he derives from this role. He keeps to himself his struggles and hardships. The siblings fail to understand the hardships and sacrifices that have gone into this journey, and refuse to acknowledge this. They choose their own paths and devalue the merit of their older brother. Despite Padmanabhan Nair’s shock and hurt at the insensitivity of his siblings, he accepts their inability to understand or value his feelings. This acceptance enables him to move on, despite the fact that his altruism causes him to sacrifice the very woman he had loved and intended to marry.
As his siblings desert him, he shifts his attention to the invalid Manikutty who is his neighbour and who is paralyzed and bed bound. Manikutty has no expectations of life; she regards herself as worthless and her physical dependence on her mother causes her much sorrow. Manikutty liberates her pain in her paintings and creative pursuits. She lets the world come in through the window of the room that she is confined to. The window is her window to the beautiful perceptions of a world that is denied to her- the breeze, the rain, the sunshine, the darkness, the light of lamps in the darkness, the thiruvathira songs that come floating in the silence of the night…
Manikutty’s fragile world is sustained solely by her mother for they have no family to fall back on. One night, her mother succumbs to an acute abdominal pain and dies. Manikutty’s world is shattered.
I started crying as I watched this part of the film. I paused the film. I always cry when I watch this segment of the film. Those helpless and lonely moments that are lurking in the darkness, waiting to throw us off balance, while we go about our lives, unsuspecting.
We spend all our lives, complaining about not being understood. We believe that others are responsible for our misery because they do not understand us and do not value our feelings. It is only when life snatches those elements of our lives that we have always taken for granted that we learn to appreciate the abundance in our lives.
Lohithadas once said:
‘Life will not warn you. It will not ask you if you can swim. It will just throw you into the sea…without warning. You will cry and scream, but nobody will rescue you. And then, you will learn to swim in the sea. For that is the only choice you have! You will swim and survive, or you will drown.‘
You cannot question the unfairness of life. You cannot expect life to understand you. You have no choice but to embrace all that life metes out to you.
I think once this understanding seeps into us, we become more accepting of life and of people. And that acceptance often moulds us into individuals who have immense potential at resilience. And resilience is a far superior trait in the art of survival, than is intellect or logic.
‘It is not the strongest of species that survive, but the most resilient- the ones most capable of change.‘