|Vikram aur Betaal
(Vikram and the Ghost is a series of twenty-five fascinating stories from Indian mythology,
each with an interesting life-lesson)
I have always been painfully sensitive of how I am perceived by the world. It’s one of the reasons I find it easier to live outside my home country. Being outside the motherland seems to bring with it the heady freedom of not having to follow society’s idea of what I should be at every stage of my life-cycle. Call it a then, devil of my own making, but when I think back, I can clearly see that I spent most of my teenage years knowing exactly what I wanted to do in life, yet was forever paralysed by the fear of “what will they say?”
I now ask myself who were this ‘they?’
Family? Yes, of course. I am a product of conditioning. The story goes, that my grandfather was a very rich man who lost his many acres of property—land that could have seen through many generations in comfort apparently—in a card game. As a result, he and his thirteen strong family of children moved to Bombay from a small village in Kerala. I grew up listening to stories of how my father and his siblings studied under the streetlights, bringing each other up in a small one-bedroom apartment, keenly feeling the absence of a responsible parent to provide for them. Success was thus equated with the power to generate enough money to buy all the comforts in life–that which they had lacked growing up. The various members of my father’s generation strove to become economically independent at the first possible happenstance. What fell by the wayside was the possibility for any of them to follow their passion.
I therefore also come from a second generation of thwarted artists. Everyone in my family writes. My father, his sisters—they have spent their life churning out words, but never attempted to follow that as a vocation. A combination of the family’s hardships in their formative years, the pain of being rich one day and losing everything the next, the horror of being very close to the breadline held each of them back in different ways. The insecurity of lack, was their own personal betaal which they have carried on their backs and unknowingly I believe, passed onto some of us in their next generation, spurring us on to try every which way to fill that need.
Interestingly though where I drew the line was when it came to my own personal life choices. My worst nightmare has always been to be trapped in a loveless union with someone who did not get me. It was an obsession, a compulsion that pushed me to keep looking till I finally found him. And here what ‘they’ said never really came into the picture. So my instinct tells me that I could well take a lesson out of my own past. Just like it was never about ‘just marriage’ but about finding that one person, for it could not be anyone else, so also with my professional life, it can only be that one thing that is really me.
In 2013 then I recommit myself to following my voice. All I have to do is become one with the words, focus on how they make me feel. I close my eyes. I leap. I trust.