I am so scared to hope! Is it likely that in a couple of months, I might be back in Bangalore? Is it likely that I might be back- to all that was familiar, all that was home? Is it likely that I can once again walk the streets freely, watching the setting sun, feeling the breeze against my face, smiling at passers by? I am too scared to hope!
For so long, I have been shut away. Like a prisoner who has resigned to his life in prison and does not dare to dream of freedom. Like a prisoner who can only cry when he is told that he will soon be free. I have missed so much. I have missed so many years of freedom. I have missed the company of people. I have missed feeling the outdoors. From my prison in Kerala, I can only watch the play of the seasons from behind the walls. I cannot run like how I used to, I cannot smell the roses, I cannot chase the butterflies, I cannot sing and dance. I have to be content watching it all from behind the walls.
It has been so long since I have dropped my defense, so long since I have lived free of fear. Life is so harsh here. Especially on women. Animals and women have no place in the scheme of life here; we are mere slaves. The women here are soft spoken and mellow on the outside, but their hearts are made of steel. Unlike urban women who create an impression of independence and strength, but are soft and vulnerable within. Women in these parts have resigned to the slavery. So they keep up an image of submissiveness, and find their own ways to safeguard their interests. Often manipulative ways. It is ingrained in them; it cannot be learned. After being treated with sensitivity and gentleness all through my life in Bangalore, it has been really hard coming to terms with the treatment meted out to women here. We deal with abuse on a daily basis- from the passers by, from the vendors, from the labourers, from colleagues, from neighbours. Of course, there are exceptions, but such encounters are lost in this ocean of brutality. All my energy is used up in freeing myself from the negativity meted out to me on a daily basis. Whatever little is left, is used to save myself from the harshness of the climate.
The climate is a calamity by itself. There are no dry days. All through the year, it is humid. Only the degree of humidity varies. Humidity is my greatest limitation. It makes me feel ill all the time; I can’t function normally. I feel like a youthful spirit trapped in an ageing body. My tolerance to exercise is zero. I hardly walk in Kerala. Simple household chores feel like a big burden. I struggle every day with migraine, restless leg syndrome, prickly heat, and sleepless nights. I manage only because of the AC in the bedroom and the AC in my car. The AC feels like a lifeline. It is not a commodity of luxury for me; it is a necessity for me here. This restricted pattern of life is not me. I am driven by movement; walking and running and hopping and playing is integral to my spirit.
Somehow, I have survived ten years of my life here. But as freedom becomes a possibility, I cannot bear to think of spending a single day here after my release is sanctioned. I do not know how I survived ten years. There is much that I have lost to these ten years. But I do know that I have grown- in ways I couldn’t have grown otherwise. But, growth cannot be a reason to extend your stay in prison, can it?
I promise to put to good use the lessons I learned here. I only want to go back to being what I truly am- a child. When I am not writing, when I am not teaching, when I am not mentoring, when I am not into the roles that were carved out from the experience of life, I want to be that naive child I have always been, with not a care in the world 🙂
Dearest Bangalore, I hope you are not far away…