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|by Dr. Manasi Dutt|
By any standard five years is a long stretch of time. Manjula was very much aware of this fact. It was five years since she had had her stroke, which left her professional life totally messed up and her body steeped with deep disabilities. When left in solitude and silence, Manjula pondered, ‘in five long years I should have been able to accept all the devastations stroke had caused in my life, gotten over it, leave that burden behind me and move on with my life’. Life still stretched out in front of her. In five long years she should have been able to pick up the pieces, accept the irrevocable loss and march down the life path.
The reality was far from that. She still remembered the days of her hospitalization following the stroke very vividly. When she closed her eyes, she could even smell the disinfectant alcohol smell of the hospital. She could see in her mind’s eye how flocks of doctors in their white coats floated around on the polished hospital floor, How the open ends of their white coats fluttered in the air, how they plunged their hands in their white-coat pockets, pulled out prescription pads with arrogant flourishes and wrote out prescriptions of various chemicals for their sick patients, without much care whether they were chemically poisoning the patient or not.
She stood in front of one and loved what she saw. Her short curly hair poked out from her scalp in every which direction. They entwined and curled with each other like a flock of girls busy playing hide-and-seek and hopscotch, with no time to disentangle themselves. The soft brown skin on her face was gently stretched out keeping creases and wrinkles to the minimum, imparting the face a content, peaceful expression. Her neck not too long, but creaseless and curved. Her deep brown eyes always twinkled with mischief, further down, jutting from her chest wall, like two flowers from a vase were her breasts, well shaped and well formed, resulting from using well fitting and well shaped brassieres since her adolescence. Her two tits looked forward like the two dark eyes of a baby. Further down her chest wall sloped down. She didn’t possess a narrow waist but had a well shaped abdominal wall. All in all Manjula loved her imperfect mirror image. That told her the truth that, her process of accepting herself had begun. She was down the right path.
Because that’s the way they have been created by Mother Nature. In the same way certain feelings are created in certain ways. You can’t make them move fast. Anger can sprint, laughter can run, but acceptance moves at a snail’s pace. It moves so slowly that sometimes we don’t even know that it’s moving. But, we human beings are intelligent creatures, we are aware, no matter how undesirable or how devastating a situation is, in our final account we have to accept it, otherwise like termites the lack of acceptance would eat away our souls and our souls would die. That’s why for the sake of self preservation we bring unpleasant matters to a closure and accept it.’ He lowered his eyes and rubbed his lips with his fingertips. ‘The other human feeling very close to the nature of acceptance is forgiveness. It, too, comes at a snail’s pace, but finally it does arrive, because we need it for self preservation. Otherwise, once again, our peace of mind would be ruined.’ Now he moved away his fingers from his lips and his straight talk came to an end.
This open ended answer from her trusted psychiatrist sent a shiver through Manjula’s body. She sent out a silent prayer, ‘Dear Divine Mother Durga, please don’t turn me into a Vietnam Veteran (VV) and make me suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even decades after the war, when they meet other veterans or in their dreams they can still smell the acrid putrid smell of the swamplands back in Vietnam, hear the blowing of wind bashing against the coconut fronds in Vietnam, hear the bullets swishing past their ears in Vietnam, see their Vietnamese enemies, men women and children, standing in the line of fire, with their eyes bulging out in fright. Days later when putrid smell emanated from the same spots in the swampland, the Vets could easily deduce that the stench was from the rotting flesh of the bulging eyed enemies.
So went on the saga and that’s what they recalled vividly decades after the war, a war that they didn’t want to fight, a war that they had to fight, because their Commander In Chief commanded so, a war that never won a glorious spot in the pages of the history books, a war that even their own countrymen didn’t appreciate. But, no matter what, the Veterans were left with their PTSD and nightmares to cope with. Manjula’s heart went out to the veterans. At least in her case she knew she didn’t have to struggle against many of the demons as the veterans did. Yes, she had high blood pressure. She took her medications religiously and kept her blood pressure under control, she took care of her diet, her weight was within normal range, she exercised regularly, and after that it was a draw of bad luck that she had the stroke. Now, once again, she is taking care of herself and trying to get over the devastation of the stroke. After leaving her psychiatrist’s office, after coming home, Manjula wondered, why does the feeling of acceptance have to move so slowly? Why does it move at a snail's pace?
Finally Manjula concentrated on herself. Her business of accepting the altered state of her life. A life devoid of the privilege of practicing medicine. Manjula had spent most of her adult-life in universities in different continents. Her basic medical degree was from India. Then following her husband Pallab’s footsteps she went to Berlin, West Germany. There she acquired a Medical Degree from the Free University. Later on the two of them together immigrated to Ontario, Canada, where she renewed her Medical Degree and worked as a Family Physician in the city of Queenston for thirty long years, till the stroke arrived in her life, when the final curtain of her medical profession fell and she had to retire.
Immediately she took on the challenge, sat down and wrote down a short story in the next few hours. When Manjula sent that story to a dear friend of hers in San Francisco by email, the friend’s prompt reply arrived bearing the note, ‘ekta apoorbo golpo.’ One excellent story. Immediately in a helpless cry Manjula E-mailed back, ‘what do I do with it now?’ Her friend answered back, ‘publish it.’ ‘But where?’ The friend answered back, ‘I know about one website that I like very much, which is also very popular among the East Indians residing in San Francisco’. The friend gave Manjula the name of the website and after editing the piece thoroughly Manjula sent it to that website. Lo and behold in three days the piece was published embellished with a beautiful picture of sundown. The title of the story was, ‘As the sun sets.’ The publication, and the picture to boot, transcended Manjula’s soul to the ninth cloud. Now she knew exactly which door had opened for her, the door of creative writing was wide open for her and through that open door Manjula entered the new world courageously, with her head held high and her shoulders braced back. From that moment on all she could think of were short stories, one after another, after another. Where was this flow of creativity coming from? Manjula wondered with astonishment. Later on, as she underwent an extensive test to determine her brain capacities, it was found, her left brain, the brain responsible for creativity, was totally spared. The doctor who interpreted the results informed Manjula with a beguiling smile, ‘Get into doing something creative. Your left brain being totally intact, in creative fields sky would be your limit.’
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