The Void7 mins 178 7 mins 178
She blew air it seemed nice
The inflated balloon started flying
She became blind to everything and only blew air
The balloon soared into the sky
She got tired of blowing and the balloon got too big she also realized she could not do anything else apart from blowing air.
I met Kishore at my friend Nandu’s party we exchanged pleasantries. Kishore purchased goods from our foundry. A few days later I and Kishore were having a conversation at the foundry. Our conversation was always restricted to business. Kishore mentioned that he was Nandu’s neighbor. Out of the blue, he asked me how I and Nandu became friends and dropped a bombshell that “Nandu’s wife Neelam was a menace”.
I always used to see Neelam happy and had no insight that she had a “Hyde” personality. Kishore said (I managed to hide my surprise) “Neelam does not allow him to watch TV in peace, she keeps complaining about the volume. I was lost I could not imagine that I knew only the Jekyll of Neelam and me was oblivious to her Hyde part. I am a curious person and wanted to know more about the Hyde part. Like a lightning, it struck in my grey matter that this may not be a Jekyll and Hyde problem but a different one.
Neelam was not alone I realized it was a pattern. She was intelligent and a nice person someone who had a lot of capability to do many more things apart from her housework. Like many others, she would have sacrificed her dreams and passions when Ganesh was born. Ganesh would have been a cynosure of her eyes. She would have taken great pains to ensure Ganesh had a good education, health and time. I could imagine her ferrying around Ganesh on an Activa from School to home and then to various classes, extra classes, etc. She had company amongst Ganesh’s friends’ mothers. They were not worried about sadak, bijli, paani, Cricket, Football or many other things but only about their family, home and hearth.
Neelam was happy only when Nandu and Ganesh were happy. She forgot the early morning lonely rises, pains, late nights. Nandu and Ganesh expected nothing less than perfection. She learned to cook new dishes for them. Their clothes Tiffin boxes and keys had to be at the right places at the right time. If the app to measure steps had been used by Neelam she would have realized in all these years she may have walked till Kashmir and come back! She had some good time during festivals Nandu always bought her good sarees and other dresses after a few years the festivals turned to chores rather than a time to celebrate. Her friends most of whom were Ganesh’s friends’ mothers had a few chats and outings but most of them were comparison sessions. My daughter did this, my Son got this award, we went to Singapore, and we bought this and that.
Neelam liked painting after marriage she painted occasionally but after a couple of years, she stopped painting completely. Neelam was sensing something was amiss but was not able to get it. She was not totally blind to her passions and dreams. The embers once in a while turned hot and touched her. When she spoke to her parents they reminded her that they loved her a lot and had ensured she got a great education. She was their darling and was capable of doing many things apart from home keeping. She was an MBA graduate who not only had got good marks but was also active in projects and assignments. Her professors expected her to lead a company. Occasionally she bumped into her old friends who told her she had changed a lot she was no longer the bubbly enthusiastic girl they knew. She kept reminding herself that it was her duty to be a selfless mother. She was getting good at blowing air and kept the embers cold. Nandu was doing well at his work. Ganesh got good marks and was developing well. This made her blow more air and keep the embers cold.
Ganesh entered high school, Neelam noticed the cracks. He did not like the Activa rides, he wanted to Cycle with his friends. Neelam was worried about the traffic and risk to his body. Ganesh was adamant he cared more about what his peers said and he had to impress the girls. He got a funky hair cut; his cycle had the devil’s photo. Gue Chevara smiled from his tees. His Tees made statements that Neelam could not understand but she knew she did not like them.
Nandu got a new Bike, he and his friends had enough of business and work. They rediscovered their neurotransmitters especially Serotonin. Nandu and Ganesh started resembling each other. It was difficult to tell who copied whose hairstyle. They exchanged their Tees and Bikes. Nandu’s workouts at the Gym and his visits to the spiritual Guru made him look and feel younger.
Neelam's sense about something amiss became stronger; she started to notice the grey hair, the slightly protruding body. She feared Nandu’s eyes were wandering around. She cried a lot. None of her friends could provide her any solace they all seemed to be in the same boat and she seemed lost.
One night she dreamed she was young and was flying she felt light and happy, she soared great heights on a balloon which she was herself was inflating. The balloon soared higher and higher as she inflated it more and more. The air started to tell her that it did not like to be trapped forever in the balloon. The balloon told her it was getting too heavy and was being stretched beyond its capacity. But she kept blowing air as she liked it so much. At last the balloon could take no more air and it went phut! She felt heavy and started the great fall. The fall never stopped it went on forever into a thing which she had begun to sense a long time ago she continued to fall into the VOID.
I felt sad; a life so precious should have not stopped doing all things apart from raising a kid. Raising a kid and family is important but not at the cost of the self. Neelam could have kept her ambers hot and not abandon her dreams and passions totally. She could have let the embers burn less when Ganesh and Nandu needed her most and heat them up when they needed them the least. When Ganesh wanted to be independent she would also be fire up the ambers and fly out to her dreams and passions instead of falling into the Void. She never realized she had an option and a choice to also keep her dreams and passions alive.
I am an optimist, Neelam is smart and capable. Nandu is a caring person. I spoke to her and Nandu about my thoughts and Kishore’s conversation. Neelam cried a lot on Nandu’s shoulders. Nandu also had a couple of tears. I felt happy to see the tears they signaled better days.
We three discussed her culinary skills. She would not only make tasty dishes but was always experimenting and she ensuring that her dishes looked as good as they were tasty. Nandu realized that he was the best person to get her out of the Void. Nandu encouraged her to join him at the Gym and the sessions with his Guru. Neelam started getting back her Mojo slowly.
The last time I spoke with her she had taken some courses on cooking (Nandu had to push her into it). She began a catering joint from her home. She dreamed of having a bigger place and a catering school in the near future. She also went back to her MBA college to teach. She took special sessions on entrepreneurship and skill development. Ganesh was about to finish his medical school his friends came home often to get tasty food. She started painting again. Meanwhile, Nandu got a new flashy car a two-seater and used to take Neelam on long drives. Neelam was getting out of the VOID.
I have a confession to make, we all kill or ignore our dreams and passions. In school, I had won the first prize in an anti-smoking Poetry Inter school competition. I wrote about my thoughts regularly. I was active in debates. With a focus on work career and family, I stopped writing. Some of my friends told me to write, I always told them it is not my cup of tea. Thanks to the insight from Neelam I also hit the rubber and put pen to paper. I have relit the ambers of imagination.
We all should avoid the VOID.