It was Dec 31, 2015.
My first new year eve away from Hyderabad. I had moved to Bangalore only in August that year. Loneliness was not a concern at all, I had friends from all over the new city – already! I got various kinds of invitations for that evening; sit at home n play with kids, dance and drink at a pub, trek in the night to see glorious sun rays from a hill top!
I had declined them all.
It’s not best to end up in therapy as soon as you move to a new city, but I did exactly that. At NIMHANS, I came across as a bubbly, cheerful, full-of-life young woman, so much so that they said I’ve no problem, I needn’t come back. Only when we scratched deeper than the surface, sessions started, and continued for 3 months. At one point, they recommended medicine to me. I wasn’t sure.
I was looking for a second opinion. Desperately. Dr. R’s name was the most prominent one I heard. After trying hard for his appointment, I finally managed to get one on Dec 31st. I kept it.
On my way to the hospital, one part of me was hurting: Why do I’ve to sit in a doctor’s room and go through repeated torture, while the rest of the world is celebrating? Can’t it wait for this one day? Another part of me was adamant to get some sort of closure to my woes.
I walked into his room, exchanged pleasantries and soon handed him my notebook. He was startled, but I had my explanation ready.
“See, I was already made to tell my story/concerns a 100 times before. I can’t possibly tell such a complicated set of happenings, ALL in a flat 10 min. Even if I do, it’s hard for the other person to grasp it in such a short time. So, I did these sketches to communicate. Over 10 pages. I’ll wait outside or come back for the next session, but please do take your time to go through. No rush.”
He signaled me to stay back in the room. Absolute silence except the AC whirring as he read. “Before anything else, I’ve to congratulate you,” he said breaking the silence. I looked perplexed, as his extended hand waited. I shook his hand. May have also blurted a thank you. “Congratulations! This reads like a graphic novel, young lady. I didn’t come across anybody who could so creatively put forward the story that hurts them the most!”
Back then, I wasn’t a person who took compliments well. I wasn’t at all kind to myself. Despite that, what he said, and the way he said, helped my agitated mind to calm down. I was relaxed. I was momentarily proud too.
Over the next few months, as my sessions progressed, we bonded really well on the topic of creativity. I had postponed one session, and when he asked why, I showed him what I had learned over a week at Kerala Mural workshop. He was excited, and showed me his blog, which was all about traveling to places, with special focus on murals. For another session, I was delayed by at least 40 min, because his earlier session didn’t close on time. When I entered, I entered with a huge bag of blankets/bed sheets. He asked what it was all about. My evening plan was to attend the therapy session, and go to IIM-B for an all-night, open-air, classical dance/musical performance. He asked me to leave immediately, “These are important things! These artists don’t come everyday! Why did you waste time waiting for me?” He was more excited looking at the line-up of shows.
That night, I had watched a Koodiyattam performance for the first time, and it did un-knot many a threads in my head. (That’s a story for another day!)
“Do all things you’re doing and you won’t need me or anybody to help you. Arts are your therapy and will continue to be so. You don’t need to take medicine. You’re doing well,” was how he closed our sessions.
His words of kindness are what I’ve been carrying through ups and lows of life, in all these 6 years. But on that particular evening, I walked out of his room with such confidence and gait that if it was a Bollywood movie, the most inspirational BGM would have played in the background!
Folks congratulate you for many materialistic achievements in life, and occasionally, even for your creative work. When you’re down and out, when you are struggling to even write a sentence, when you’ve expressed something only in a desperate need to communicate, to get congratulated, that is something precious. It may not happen again. I’ll always treasure it.
I felt top of the world that evening, I feel top of the world as I write this.
(The following screenshot shows how I was grateful that evening, and how one of my FB friend teased me for writing what I wrote. I’m glad I don’t have to be cryptic about it any more.)