Madhavi was a young girl of marriageable age, working as a junior officer in a bank. Like most girls of her age, she dreamt of marriage, of a prince charming taking her by hand into his heart and home. Her parents too were on the lookout for a good match for her.
Soon, a suitable boy and his family were invited home to meet Madhavi, the boy liked her instantly and the marriage was fixed. Before she knew it, she became Mrs krishnaMurthy.
Madhavi was a perfectionist.
She wanted to be the perfect woman.
Perfect in every role, particularly in her new role as wife and daughter in law.
She finished all household chores, cooked breakfast and lunch, made two rounds of tea and one round of coffee for everyone before she would leave for work. By the time she reached office, she would already be tired. She had a good reputation at work and her boss depended on her for many things.
As days went by, work at home increased with guests coming frequently. Catering to their needs in addition to the rest of the work, started taking its toll. She was well regarded in her work place but her tiredness affected her work. She made mistakes which were increasing in frequency. She would often be late for work, which didn't go unnoticed either.
By the time she returned home, plenty of work awaited her. She would be dead tired by the time she attended to all that and went to bed, leading to frequent arguments with her husband. Thus life started becoming more and more busy for Madhavi.
Then the children came, one after the other with hardly any time to recover in between. Chid births were difficult and the children, even more so with their incessant demands on her time and seeking attention constantly.
Life became one mad rush! From one chore to another!Madhavi tried very hard to do everything at home without seeking help, but it was a Herculean task. She tried not to complain but the anxiety to finish everything on time proved too much for her. She had to multi task and while doing one thing, her mind would already be on 4 other things, trying her best to manage the time available most efficiently. Her attention gradually started getting dissipated. Her mind refused to stay still even for a moment.
Then one day, Madhavi's childhood friend, Rama, came to visit her. She had lost touch with Madhavi over the years but suddenly rediscovered her through a mutual friend. Madhavi was elated to see her.
After the introductions and conversation, , when they were alone, Rama asked , "what is the matter Madhavi! You look tired and restless all the time. So different from what I remember of you! Is anything the matter?"
"Not really", Madhavi replied, "Probably it is just me! I am not able to manage my responsibilities well enough", she replied sadly.
Then the story came out little by little about how she was under constant stress about managing her duties at work and home. Tears started streaming down Madhavi's cheeks.
"Hush"! said Rama,holding Madhavi in a tight embrace till she calmed down.
"I don't know what to do Rama! It feels like I am in a whirlpool and unable to escape. The more I try to extricate myself and escape, the more I get sucked into it. I shouldn't be feeling like this", she lamented.
"You have taken upon yourself, the work of half a dozen people Madhavi. No wonder you feel overwhelmed. It is ok to seek help when you need it. I am sure everybody will chip in if only they know how it is affecting you", Rama said. "Moreover", she continued, "everyone needs some me-time, when one can relax, or do something different that one enjoys doing. Maybe pursue a hobby. You were such an avid reader in your younger days. Why don't you start reading again? That will help you escape from the real world into that of the book. What say?", Rama said cheerfully trying to lighten the mood.
Madhavi's face lit up for a fleeting moment. Then she said, "as it is, I find it difficult to complete all my chores. Where will I find the additional time for myself?", she said doubtfully.
"I am sure Krishna won't mind helping out. Moreover, the short break will do you good and you will be able to manage your work better. Promise me that you will try it at least", Rama said.
Madhavi nodded her head uncertainly.
So the next day, in the afternoon, when everybody was resting, she picked up an old novel that she had read a long time back and started to read it again.
She was hardly through the first sentence when her mind startedwandering.
The children would be home from school soon. She still had to make a snack for them. Krishna hadn't come for lunch this afternoon. Maybe he was busy in some meeting. He could have informed at least. Now all the food was lying on the table and would get spoilt. How she hated food being thrown away!
Amma would soon be asking g for her coffee. Must finish reading quickly and get back to work! With that thought, she brought herself back to the book.
She tried to focus on the book again. But, try as she might, she could not concentrate on the story. After a few more futile attempts, she gave up.
After the day's work was done, she went over what happened in the afternoon.
It was scary that she couldn't get through a single paragraph even. "What was happening to her? How could she escape from this predicament?", she wondered.
The next day was Sunday. Anya, the neighbor's daughter strolled in casually. "Hello aunty", she said. She was about 7 and like all children of her age, was fond of stories.
"Aunty! Will you tell me a story?", she asked with an expectant look on her face.
"I don't know any Anya", said Madhavi, a trifle exasperated.
"Ok then shall I tell you one?" Said Anya eagerly.
"Ok", Madhavi said half heartedly.
"Once upon a time", began Anya and then told Madhavi the story of charming princes and lovely ladies, the wicked step mother and the enchanted woods, of boons and curses and magic potions. Listening to her Madhavi was transported into a magical world, escaping momentarily from the reality of life into a wonderful make-believe world. As she listened to Anya's story, she herself became a child at heart. By the time Anya finished her story, Madhavi felt happy and free as she had not felt in a long time.
"Do you want to see my story book aunty"? Anya asked, showing Madhavi the book she was carrying.
Madhavi nodded her head absently. Then she looked at the book with colorful pictures and minimal text. She asked Anya on an impulse, if she could keep the book for a day or two. "Ok aunty", said Anya as she ran back to her home when she heard her grandpa calling her.
Thereafter, Madhavi would start reading the children's story books and escape into their world, forgetting the pressures of work. This helped her to gradually regain her ability to concentrate and read books without a problem. It affected the way she approached the rest of her work too. She could focus better and both the quality of work and the time spent on it improved. And for anything that she could not handle, she sought help from others, like Rama had suggested.
Madhavi felt grateful to Rama for understanding her problem and offering the right solution at the right time.
"For the times when situations start to overwhelm, one must have an escape plan in place", thought Madhavi, glad that she managed to return to normalcy from a point of near nervous breakdown!