My life as I had known it for fifty-eight years came to an abrupt end when I had a stroke. Stroke is a stealthy disease, it comes on padded steps like a professional thief, without letting anybody know about its arrival and then it steals body parts. In my case it stole half of my body. My body was broken in half, right down the midline. Starting at the midpoint at the top of my forehead, then the break line went south, touched the tip of my nose, down the middle of my chin, then down the midline of my chest, between my breasts, down the midline of my abdomen, on the way grazing my belly button, then down to the midpoint of my crotch. The left side of my body, my left leg, my left arm and the left side of my torso were left limp and still from paralysis.
From a healthy active human being I turned into a disabled inactive person. Such a dramatic change happened as fast as the fall of a raindrop. The tectonic plates inside my body shifted, the resulting earthquake broke my body in half. The shock and grief of loss seemed to be endless and unbearable. There was nothing but the dark clouds of depression and despair all around me, I drowned into those clouds, they wrapped me snugly. I felt desolate.
After being discharged from the hospital, on returning home I crawled under the comforter. There I discovered my very own man- made cave and I turned into a cave-man, or, to be exact, a cave-woman. I loved the darkness underneath the comforter where I didn't have to face the world. Neither did I have to face my disappointments, the rejections of life and the failures of my broken body. I rested comfortably in my cave, dark, silent, warm and lonely. But my loved ones, who spent a lot of time with me, had a different goal. At the beginning, their plan was well hidden, completely unknown to me. I was totally in the dark about what they were up to, but, the truth my family tried to conceal was so gigantic that there was no closet in the house big enough to hold it. Soon enough I became aware of the truth that my loved ones had tried to hide, but had failed dismally. One morning my husband Pallab told me 'I'm in a hurry, can you, please, make your own breakfast?' 'Of course I can' I answered in a crisp tone, making toast and coffee how hard can that be? That evening our daughter Mala told me 'mom, I have opened up two cans of chickpeas and chopped up two onions can you please cook some Indian-style chickpeas for me?' I was always delighted when Mala wanted to eat something home-cooked. 'Of course I shall cook that for you' I answered enthusiastically. From the living room our son Raj chirped loudly 'coming Friday there is a Dance show in Toronto I shall be doing the lighting and stage management are you interested in going?' I chirped back 'how can I not go when you're doing the lighting and stage management'?
Inside my cave with my eyes tightly squeezed shut, but my mind wide awake and my brain cells highly active, I understood what my loved ones were up to, they gave me different messages in different voices, in different words, but their goals were the same. They told me loud and clear, that life was waiting for me in taking care of myself, in taking care of my loved ones and in joining the world at large, in attending shows in Toronto. They were all determined to pull me out from my comforter-cave and put me right in the middle where the hustle and bustle of life-bazaar was underway. They had made up their minds that I had to play my role in the drama of life going on in the world outside my cave. That I had to take charge of my life, take charge of my loved ones as much as I could and on the top of that, I had to step out in the world at large to mingle with the rest of the humanity and play my role in the drama of life as God had allotted for me. My family members gave me the message loud and clear, that I had no choice but to walk down the path of my life that God had created for me. If I chose not to walk that path, then, not only my own life would come to an end, but also the life-path God had created for me would go to waste. God creates each human being uniquely, each human has a unique finger-print, unique foot-print, even unique eye print; our life paths are also equally unique each person's look is unique. That is how much God loves each human being. If I lingered in my self-made cave, then all of God's unique love for me would go to waste. For my life, I could not let that happen. Under the comforter I squirmed and I gave my body a good shake. I let my body know in no uncertain terms what lies in store for it. Namely, walking down a beautifully created life-path, created uniquely for me. I let my body and soul plunge headlong in deep meditation to gather all the energy I would need for such a long journey. My family members wished me good luck.
I responded energetically to the calls of my loved ones. Because I knew they had nothing but my welfare in their hearts. I went to the show in Toronto, I made my own breakfast, and in the evening I cooked the chickpeas for Mala. My loved ones started calling me more often and I had to crawl out of my cave more frequently. At the beginning that getting out of the cave was nothing but a pain in the neck. My stiff and painful left knee complained loudly, the creaking was ear-shattering, but with practice it became easier, my knee loosened. Down the road I didn't find the cave that enticing either. It was too dark, in that deep darkness I could barely see my own hands, the way it is during a snow storm. As if I faced a snow storm in the cave. Or, in the darkness, was it a storm of coal dust? Just the thought gave me the creeps. In the darkness it was too lonely, it was too hot. It was too silent. I started crawling out more and more often.
Then something strange happened. Waves of feelings started flowing in my cave. Just the way breeze from Lake Erie blows into my cottage, in the same way waves from the ocean that was in front of the cave started to lap in. A wave of courage came and whispered in my ears, 'go out and walk the path of your life. Don't let it go to waste'. People don't walk only with legs and feet, we do our walking with our determination and our strength of mind as well. These words made perfect sense to me. Certainly, I can go down the path of my life with my strength of mind and my determination. My mother had always told me, instead of making you tall and beautiful, like a model, the Almighty has blessed you with an abundance of strength of mind and determination. As I thought of it, my genetically strong mind raised its head and hissed like a King Cobra.
At the same moment, my brilliant brain started talking to me. You know, the usual smart alec monologue the brain does. A part of my brain had been destroyed by the bleeding of stroke but the rest of my brain was still there and that intact part, that was functioning perfectly, told me in a loud tone 'I shall grant you everything you need to carry on with your life. I can grant you any amount of desires and dreams you need, aspirations and enthusiasm, drive and guts, courage and gumption. You will not lack anything emotionally or spiritually to carry on with your life. As my brain uttered these words my chest puffed up with pride and courage. I realized how highly equipped I was to walk down the path of life, created uniquely for me. In utter excitement my heart missed a beat. My breathing quickened, my pulse heightened. In a few moments as my thinking my heart rate and my pulse rate calmed down, I reached the realization that I had to fulfill God's dream. I decided to do just that, to walk the path of life, my very own life path and nobody else's, the path of the unique me.
A few days later I did something extraordinarily courageous. I marched to the front door and opened the door. As I poked my head out and a blast of cool autumn air brushed past my face. I was not at all frightened. I welcomed the cool tingling on my face, then I took notice of a neighbor walking his dog. My courageous right hand lifted up and I waved at him 'how's Elizabeth doing?' I asked him in a loud tone. Elizabeth was his wife and had been a patient of mine for many years. A mammoth hydrangea bloom poked out its head on the sidewalk and caught my sight. The bloom was a mixture of pink and blue obviously the flower couldn't make up its mind between the two magnificent colors so it decided to have both the colors on its head. Should I go out and pluck the flower, I asked myself or should I run back to my cave? Where it was dark and warm and familiar, and where no cool autumn wind blew. Fear chained my feet to the door but another part of me cried out loud, be courageous go out and pluck the flower put it in a vase, you won't see a flower like this in another whole year, till the arrival of next spring. That thought made my feet feel itchy, gradually the shackles of fear dissolved away my hand stretched out all by itself and plucked the flower, my feet returned to the front door but they refused to hurry back to the cave, I stood at the front door.
On his way back my neighbor walking the dog asked me how are you doing?' With a smile I answered 'fine'. At that moment I came face to face with the realization, while I crawled in the cave discarding the outside world, the outside world had not discarded me the outside world remembered me, had kept itself informed about me. That was why the neighbor had asked me how I was doing. I shouted back 'how are you doing?' After waiting a few moments I shouted out again, 'how is your dog doing?' Now all of a sudden I wanted to know everything about him, the outside world beckoned me. At that moment I realized that I had arrived back in life, right in the midst of life, where the heart of life throbbed, where life-events bubbled. Now nobody had to call me anymore, from now on I would call them. For me this was the hardest step following my stroke. It was so easy to become a cave-woman and dwell inside the cave, it really took a whole lot of courage and gumption to 'step outside the box' to get back to life, to discard the comfort zone. The hydrangea bloom was already in the vase, I placed the vase on my bedside table, so that with a sidelong glance I could see it from my cave. I knew what the result would be. Without lifting a finger, the hydrangea bunch would pull me out of my cave and drag me to the front door.
Only after that did Mala and Raj cease to shout in unison, 'mom, get out of bed and get a life'. I emerged from my cave and bowed to my children, my heart laden with gratitude. 'Thanks to you guys, I have arrived in life'. They asked in unison, 'You mean, we don't have to remind you anymore to get a life?' 'No, you don't.' My reply was crisp. I stood in the midst of the bazaar of life and enjoyed every moment of it. Now I had reached my destination. Now I was all ready to haggle as every buyer does in life'bazaar. My family knew that I had always been a good haggler. I could bring down the price of a basket of fruits to half of its asking price. Now I was back to my old game with renewed energy. The shopkeeper looked at me with frowned brows and said, 'Today I wouldn't get mad at you for haggling, because I know you had been sick for a long time'. I flashed a big smile of satisfaction at him. Oh, how great it is to be back in the midst of life-bazaar. With a sly smile and a wink the shop-keeper handed me the basket of fruits. Today I decided not to reap the benefit of my haggling. I handed the full price to the shop-keeper. Now we smiled in unison, like a duet made of smiles.