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My readers will agree with me when I say that life is all about facing challenges. I have always looked at life as an examination question paper. We are given the choice to select any five out of eight or ten questions because the examiner does not expect us to know the answers for all. It could even be a multiple-choice exam where we are given four answers and have to select the right one using our knowledge, intelligence or sheer guesswork.

In our lives too, we are faced with numerous situations for which we are supposed to find resolutions. The beauty is that our examiner (God) does not expect us to find solutions for every challenge we face. He only expects us to face them bravely for winning or losing is not the objective, learning is.

Having said this, I often find myself depressed and defeated by problems I cannot solve on my own. Many times, I feel I should take a helpline and talk about the problem with someone who can see it differently and perhaps give me a solution. In some situations, talking to your friend or guru helps but I discovered that most of my problems are ones I had created and therefore the resolutions were squarely my sole responsibility. I will share with you one such situation which will show how people like me tend to behave when they come face to face with problems that seem insurmountable.

Many years ago, I suffered from a nervous breakdown. It happened suddenly and I hardly saw it coming. It could be that the problem was building and I had ignored the signs. Most of us have this habit of allowing problems to grow, fester and become a disease before we are galvanised into action. I did something similar.

When I had a breakdown, I could not understand it. My mood would swing from happiness to melancholy as fast as a swinging pendulum. It was as if I had lost control over myself. I could see different people inside me taking over dominant roles as and when they wanted. You see, we all have one formal identity and personality most of the time because we can control our actions. When we lose control, we become many. I was a sad man, angry man, loving man, hateful man and so many others because of the breakdown. My family could hardly tolerate me for I had become unpredictable in my behaviour.

Initially, I put away my mood swings to pressure at home and work. Suddenly, I developed this feeling that people around me had turned bad. It seemed to me that everyone seemed intent to hurt me in one way or the other and that I had to be aggressive enough to fight them off. 

My family suggested that I see a good doctor and I obliged. The doctor prescribed some medicines and in the beginning, they seemed to work. But I would revert to my unpredictable behaviour when the effects of the medicine wore off.

I blamed my wife for causing the problem with her insensitive behaviour. I blamed my parents for their indifference. I blamed my children for their indiscipline and lack of responsibility. At work, I would blame my colleagues and subordinates. No one seemed to be cooperating with me and I was alone, all alone to do all the work and resolve multiple problems at home and in the office.

As my problem persisted and I was unable to resolve it on my own or get my family to provide solutions, I began to worry and started having panic attacks. Sometimes, I would feel my heart beating so loudly that I feared that it would break out of my body. Other times, I would feel so lethargic even to get out of my bed. My body would feel like it was so heavy that I could barely lift my hands.

One wise neighbour suggested to me to visit an astrologer. The astrologer read my horoscope and suggested it could be the work of Saturn. He told me that my Saturn has positioned itself in such a manner that I would continue to have problems for seven and a half years! This was the problem and I felt cheated by the planets. However, the good news was that I could lessen my problems by doing a regular ritual suggested by the astrologer.

A good friend and well-wisher recommended that I visit the Balaji temple in Rajasthan. When you are down and conquered by problems; when you cannot find out why you have a problem or how to resolve it, you enter the region of superstition. I was in such a position. I visited the temple and found to my horror that this was a special place where people with mental health problems were brought for divine cures.

The temple depressed me as soon as I entered. I could see mentally sick people from different parts of the country wandering around with stony eyes. Some were behaving strangely, rolling on the floor or talking aloud incoherently. I saw young boys and girls tearing their hair and wailing. It shook me to my very foundations. It dawned upon me that I was in a much better situation than most of these people. I told my wife that I cannot stand the sight and we must return home immediately.

Another well-wisher took me to an expert in stones. The expert believed that stones played a great role in our lives and explained how a specific problem can be solved with the help of a specific kind of stone. He listened to my problem and prescribed a particular stone which was very expensive. As I said, when you are not capable of resolving your problem, then you pay a very steep price to get solutions from others.

Our maidservant, sympathetic to my unending suffering brought her own medicine doctors home. The couple went about inspecting my house and told us that some evil spirit was causing my problem. They asked me whether the family living here prior to us were having problems. I then recalled that my friend and predecessor in this flat too had severe problems. He used to tell me that his stay here had been a nightmare. Could this be the reason, I wondered. The couple then sanctified the house with some rituals that involved nailing horseshoes on doors and windows to ward off evil spirits.

Suddenly I found myself becoming religious, god-fearing, spiritual and superstitious. Something inside was telling me that I will go mad if this continued and that it had to stop.

You see, how we fumble and flounder when we cannot logically explain our problems? I was adrift and the world around me was spinning. I had lost the power to take charge of my life and my life was now making me do things which I never believed in. I had lost my identity, sense of belonging and motivation to live.

A time came when I started getting disgusted with myself. What am I doing with my life? Why am I meekly submitting myself to my fate and destiny? If there is a God, surely he did not intend me to suffer. No God can expect a human being to understand him through witch doctors, magic, rituals and superstitious beliefs! These things were converting me from a vibrant human being to a vegetable!

So I took charge of myself. I told myself that it was me and me alone who had to clear the mess that I created. I discovered that life has no single purpose defined for all. I have to create a purpose or purposes and work for it. What if I cannot solve a few problems? I cannot fail; there is nothing called a failure for human beings. We all tend to make mistakes and even after realizing we keep repeating and repenting. So what? The more I realize my mistakes the more I will learn. This is evolution. We all have to progress from ignorance to knowledge; from darkness to light. Remaining trapped in ignorance and darkness and then praying to God for help is the stupidest thing we can do.

I recovered and reclaimed my lost life, my identity and purpose. I do not claim to have become a saint, but at least I am confident of resolving my petty problems. At least I can answer five out of ten questions about my life. The remaining, I can learn.

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