Good Thing, Bad Thing, Who Knows?

  Published in Infinitithoughts – September 2018                     

My family moved to Charlotte five years ago from Pune, India. It was a herculean move that drained every ounce of my energy. I left behind a treasure trove of love and connections. Family I dearly loved and friends old and new who filled my life with laughter. The village I created for myself there was thriving. It was my silken cocoon. Breaking away from it bruised me all over. Yet, it had to happen. It was a move we had made for the future of our kids. Their happiness is more important than mine, I told myself.

At the turn of the millennium, my husband and I had along with scores of IT professionals immigrated to the US. Both kids were born in Chicago and had spent the first few years of their lives here. We moved to Pune when my daughter was eight and son was four. To them, America was home and nothing in India felt like their own. They lived as aliens in my homeland. Just as cruelly as I was yanked from the soil that I had sprouted from when we relocated to Charlotte, they had been forcibly transplanted into a foreign soil when we had moved earlier from Chicago to Pune. Except that they were saplings then, tender and supple. Even though they did not like it, they found a way to adapt. When we moved to back to the US, they blossomed but I, on the other hand, stood as an old oak would, rigid and resistant to the strong winds of change

For months, I would wake up every morning with a knot in my stomach, uneasy, unwilling to embrace the day. There was a dull ache I cannot describe, like a thin veil over my eyes that made my vision hazy. We bought a house, my dream home but even that did not lift the veil away. I hung on by a thread, the knowing that I had to get better for my kids. As a mother, I had always taken the role of being ‘Annapoorna’ (the Goddess of food) very seriously. What got me out of bed was a sense of duty to whip up healthy food for them. The cooking did not bother me but a messy kitchen and a sink full of dishes did. The cleaning overwhelmed me, and it is an area I struggle with to date. It is an aspect I cannot handle alone, and I missed all the house help I had in India. So, while putting out an array of dishes gave me transient moments of happiness, they were soon overcome with the misery of cleaning. I was in desperate need of an avenue that would take me back to a cozy bubble that was ‘me’.

The family though settled in easily; like a fish does to water. They were each in their own happy space. My daughter had her music and books, my son had tennis and Lego and my husband, golf. I was lost. Maybe, it was time to go back to work. I had a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and had worked in the industry for a bit before giving it up to be a stay at home mom. The thought of going back to pharma though only made the knotted feeling in my stomach grow tighter. The job and the industry repulsed me. I knew for certain I did not want to go back yet I could not fathom what I wanted. The resistance in my mind to the current situation reflected in my body too. I developed a series of food intolerances which in turn exacerbated the feeling of restlessness. The yearning to feel joyful and healthy again took me back in time to my childhood days. What was it that had brought me unencumbered joy then? Apart from the company of my friends, it was dancing and writing.  I had to get back to it.

As if the Universe heard my pleas, one of those days when I was hopelessly floating around, I came across a wonderful dance institute. The teacher was starting a new batch for adults. It was a sign. I joined and at turtle pace began to find my footing again. The dancing held the key to unlock my heart too. When we had moved I was so full of love and longing for my family and friends that I had shut my world to new friendships. No one could take the place of my old friends, I had decided. The class though brought back into my life the laughter and magic of genuine connections. My heart slowly opened wide to snugly fit in my new friendships alongside my old ones.

The writing took a while to take off. What could I write about, I wondered? Then, magically one morning I woke up with a poem imprinted strongly in my heart. It was a poem dedicated to two of my dear friends who were raising kids with special needs. These kids had always inspired me. They had an unfailing ability to enjoy simple moments in life like a gentle evening breeze, a plate of flavorful homemade food and a genuine smile. Moments that I, despite being a fully functioning adult, had trouble appreciating. These kids may have struggled with tasks that came easily to us but however hard times were, they never failed to open their arms for a hug. I aspired to have the clarity and appreciation for life that they did.

I penned the poem and that was the beginning of a journey that has since brought a lot of richness in my life. As I continued to write with the deep desire to discover what lay beneath the surface of those turbulent emotions at the abyss of our core, I made connections with readers all over the world. The veil then began to lift.  Writing was an anchor that grounded me. However choppy the waves around were, I understood if I held on I would be safe. Nothing was more comforting than a blank screen that I was free to create my art on. Somewhere along the way I discovered meditation too which brought back the much-needed airiness in my life.

When we moved to Charlotte, I thought I was being a martyr, sacrificing my happiness for the sake of my kids. Looking back, I see it was the best thing that happened to me. It pushed me to corners I would have never explored. And once I sifted through those dark turbulent emotions, I discovered buried treasure. The nagging unsettled feeling that I labeled as bad set me on an exciting voyage.

There is an old Sufi tale which goes like this. There was once a poor farmer who lived with his young son in a beautiful valley. Out of the blue, a fine-looking stallion walked into their farm one day. The envious neighbors proclaimed he was lucky as he could sell the stallion and earn a fortune. The humble farmer merely replied, “Good thing, Bad Thing – Who knows?” 

The next day the horse ran away. This time the neighbors hurried over to offer sympathy. “That’s too bad. You could have made so much money.” they said. The farmer’s plain reply, “Good Thing, Bad Thing – Who knows?”

The day after, the horse came back bringing along with it a few more horses. The neighbors once again lauded the good fortune of the farmer. Again, all the old man could utter, “Good thing, Bad Thing – Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer and his son were out grazing the horses, one of the horses kicked the young boy injuring him critically. The boy was crippled for life. The neighbors moaned, “Who will marry your lad now? This is very unfortunate.”

The farmer’s only reaction, “Good thing, Bad Thing – Who knows?” Soon a war broke out in the area and all the young strapping men in the vicinity were drafted to fight in the war. The farmer’s lame son was the only one spared. The only comfort the farmer offered his sobbing neighbors, “Good Thing, Bad Thing- Who Knows?” And so, life went on for the farmer.

Dire times often mask lessons that make us stronger. Our relocation to Charlotte taught me that. So now when things don’t go my way, I try not to think of it as bad. If I find myself battling a storm, I simply clutch on tight to my anchor and ride the waves whispering, “Good Thing, Bad Thing -Who Knows?”

-Vidya.

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