Hope…

Legends talk of a woman, blessed by the Gods themselves, ‘the all gifted’. Created by Hephaestus, at Zeus’ behest,molded from the very earth- the epitome of femininity. Athena dressed her in a shimmery white gown , taught her art and endowed her with wisdom,strength and valor , Aphrodite blessed her with beauty and grace enough to entice the hearts of even the strongest of men, Charites gave her chains of gold and silver , charms to grace her lithe body and alabaster skin, the Horae gifted her a garland crown with green sprigs, red-gold autumn leaves and crystal snowflakes to adorn the cascade of her ebony hair. Hermes gifted her a crafty mind and taught her wiles to beguile the minds of mortals and Gods alike. And as she opened her eyes – darker than the darkest night, parted her crimson lips and drew her first breath, he gave her a name- “Pandora”.

She wanted for nothing for she had it all – the love of scholars and warriors alike,to enthrall her with tales long forgotten and to lay their swords and lives at her feet, the admiration of women who sought to hide the seeds of envy blossoming in their hearts. She was the warmth that one craved during winter nights, the breeze that soothed summer evenings, the vibrant hues of spring.She was everything any mortal would desire.

And yet, her heart was listless. A longing from deep within, for in their haste the Gods had forgotten the greatest gift of all- to be content,fulfilled and to know peace.And so she continued her quest to find that piece of her that would render her complete, driven to a frenzy in her pursuit for that which surrounded her and yet was beyond her grasp. Why was it that the mortals that thronged around her- imperfect creatures- could indulge in joy and pleasure, but she alone denied?

And then came that fateful day, when Zeus himself entrusted to her care a bejewelled jar, engraved with secrets and shrouded in mystery. To her many questions and her curious glances, He gave terse, cryptic replies- revealing only that it contained the greatest gifts to mankind. Driven by her inquisitiveness, her greed to know joy- for she knew with iron- clad certainty that happiness was the gift on which mankind thrived- she opened the jar, her hands trembling with anticipation. And in her blind pursuit of happiness- she doomed the whole of the mortal realm for aeons to come.

She watched helplessly, as if in a trance , as Salus escaped and man knew of fear that lies in wait, biding its time, poised to strike.Then fled Concordia, leaving the world bleak and the minds of men filled with poison. They were followed by Aequitas, Clementia, Libertas and Pax and the lands ravaged by war, men shackled in chains ,cruelty reigned , mercy and goodwill towards brethren long forgotten. Felicitas, Leatitia weren’t far behind- and in front of her very eyes, all that she craved, all that for which she had forsaken mankind, slipped away as if they never were. The most treacherous blow , however , came from Virtus, draining away her sense of self- her self worth, her pride smashed to smithereens. And yet, that final blow shook her out of her reverie, and before Spes could follow her sisters, she trapped her again with the confines of the jar.

And so goes the tale of Pandora-

“Of all good things that mortals lack,

Hope in the soul alone stays back”

But the Gods never were a trustworthy lot, and that leaves one to wonder if Hope is the promise of a new dawn or merely expectation designed to decieve?Is it the last of our blessings or the worst curse bestowed upon us?

The Snow Globe

Ever felt as though you were trapped in a snow globe? A pretty little world , with all the colours you can dream up… Where there is joy, peace and contentment… Whee you are you, no pretenses, no reason to prove yourself, no fear of falling short , of not being good enough.Someplace safe, where its just possible to be…To be free. A veritable utopia of books, art, sunshine and rainbows

But freedom always comes with a price.No matter how much you hide, no matter how sheltered you feel, no matter how carefully you build your haven, there is always a price. A price for freedom, a price for dreams and a price for happiness.

Because you see my snow globe is in someone else’s hands. If this were a fairy tale, I would call her a witch with a crooked nose, warts shrouded in a black cloak, cackling as she plotted new and devious ways of torture. But this is neither a fairy tale, nor is my puppeteer malevolent.There are no princes on white horses, noble knights to save the trapped princess, no one to champion my cause, no one to battle my dragons nor to come to my aid or offer solace.

Reality is never as simple. My jailor is not evil. It would have been far easier if she were. She has no malice towards me nor does she revel in my miseries. She is not sadistic. In fact she is nothing. She’s a shadow, that rustle of movement you see out of the corner of your eye, the last thing you remember as you awaken from a distressing dream. She simply is.

Sometimes she shakes the little snow globe. Its so pretty you see. Snowflakes dancing in the air.And then she shakes a little harder. The snow comes down faster, harder, sucking away at the warmth till all you can feel is the cold, and it chills you to the bone.There is no escape from it, nowhere to huddle for warmth or safety. The ground beneath your feet moves, little tremors at first and then the earth shakes so badly that you search in desperation for something to hold on to. Some constant, in a world that is rapidly becoming unfamiliar and scary.

Slowly everything dies around you , while you look on, helpless. The colours leach away, leaving nothing but a dull gray all around.You watch as your world you had so painstakingly built crumbles around you, unable to stop the inevitable sequence of events sure to follow, powerless, unable to even look away until you accept defeat, resigned to your fate and simply close your eyes, waiting for it to end.

You collapse just as your world did. Your spirit broken.You would expect to feel pain, anguish but even that is denied to you. All you feel, all you are capable of feeling is the numbness. It courses through you veins, much as the cold did.Your very life, your essence, your will to live trickling away to nothingness. You sit in the midst of the ruins, wondering where to start, or how, or even if its possible to rebuild everything you have lost. And if it would be worth it if you did.

And, the worst part, the truly horrifying part, is that even when you think its over, that the worst has passed and you have tided over, picked yourself up, is the fact that, you don’t know when or how, but you know in the deepest darkest corner of your heart that it will happen again. The happiness, the pain, the destruction and the helplessness at the hands of an entity older than time,far too powerful to defeat. That there is no escape from the snow globe.

The Circle

No one realises it- but its everywhere. From the vast reaches of the cosmos , the stars ,the planets and their moons, to the minuscule orbits of electrons.From every whorl, every eddy in a pond to the wine swirling in a glass. There’s nothing quite as perfect , unending, eternal or constant as an unbroken circle.Its almost enough to convince even a staunch atheist of a greater design , of divine creation.

The wheel of time, the cycle of seasons..even as it changes there’s a sense of constancy to it- reassuring to some but to me its horrifying.

You see, I often feel trapped in a loop of my own design, much like a guinea pig on its wheel- I try and try and even when i realise that i am not moving forward I cant stop; so i keep running.

I wake up every morning with a lot of difficulty; whats new about that I have been asked. No one likes early mornings.But I do, or at least i did. Now its a struggle. Twisting, turning, tired even after 6-7 hours of sleep, having to fight the sheer exhaustion to merely wake up and get up from bed.

Mundane things everyone takes for granted seem like herculean tasks- from brushing my teeth, to taking a bath, forcing myself to do some yoga…its as though I want to sprint but there are weights attached to my ankles…and on bad days, as though they are shackled to the floor.

And then the rational voice in my mind- the one that seems to be getting more and more feeble with each passing day- tells me that I am clinically depressed.That depressed people don’t care about their appearances or even hygiene. And somehow that spurs me on. I had stopped caring about my appearance long ago but to give in , to be a stereotype something deep inside me rebels against it. So I force myself to go through the motions. I cleanse, I moisturize, I apply foundation, lipstick, comb my hair out. No one quite understands why I would care about something so insignificant- my career is non-existent, I have managed to alienate my friends, my love life…well lets not go down that road.But, its overwhelming trying to tackle those- so i focus on something i have control over, something that keeps me grounded when i feel as though I have lost all sense of time and space, so cut off from the outside world that I have forgotten the last time that I had spoken to someone new… or someone old for that matter. Its distressing, feeling as though you are walking on air, like with every step you take , the very ground beneath your feet is getting washed away. For everything to be so surreal that you can’t be quite sure if its real or a waking dream or nightmare that has you trapped.

And then starts the ordeal.People consider a war difficult, but in a war, however gruesome , you know your enemy, you know why- the scariest is the strife in your own head- without knowing why or how; to have conflicting needs- to want something and to crave something diametrically opposite. Freud called it Id and Superego but where is my Ego that’s supposed to mediate?The battle rages on, till everything else fades away into nothingness and the only reality are the voices in your head- one pulling you one way and the other another. Amidst the clamor and the din, its impossible to hear your own voice, your thoughts, your needs and wants. The noise increases till it becomes a buzzing in your head, like static on TV.And all you can think of is to get to safety, someplace quiet where the din would die down, a haven where you would be safe, when you can finally hear our thoughts. And that’s what i endure every time I try to leave my apartment.

The days that i surrender to it, those are truly horrendous- guilt becomes an almost tangible physical force, like chains and the pain weighs upon my chest, and every breath becomes a struggle. Knowing that i failed , yet again , not just myself but everyone who cares about me, everyone who wonders why I couldn’t just make a little more effort, try just a little bit harder, who wonder why its so difficult when i have done the same umpteen times before- its all I can do to curl up in bed bury myself in blankets and try and forget the world.

I don’t know whats worse- the self-pity that makes me want to crawl under a rock and die or the self-loathing that makes me want to cut myself to ribbons and feel the excruciating pain. That’s the thing about pain- people say its bad or that they fear it but pain is like an old dear friend-there’s something akin to ecstasy in it, something sensual and real.. to be able to feel a little less burdened by guilt, a little more connected to reality and sometimes just to feel. It envelopes you in a warm embrace and in its arms you feel secure that it would never abandon you.

But when you are told repeatedly that its self-destructive , that you are a freak and it drives people away , you settle. If you cant feel then you submerge yourself in numbness – pretend you are floating, give in to the sense of detachment. You find solace in other things- that hit of nicotine reaching your lungs and then spreading through your veins, the lightheadedness or the slow warmth of alcohol- warming you from inside, comforting or when the pain becomes so intense that its physical when you feel as though even sobbing and all the tears in the world wouldn’t abate the pain, then it becomes oh so easy to just take a little pill, one that would make all your troubles disappear, lull you into oblivion for a few hours at least.There is respite in ignorance, after all it is said to be bliss.

The worst part though is that sliver of hope that never quite gets extinguished, like this tiny little flame that somehow escapes from the tempest- that whisper inside your head that says tomorrow will be better, that all you have to do is hold on just a little bit longer, that if you have got this far then you oughtn’t give up now. That treacherous little voice that you hate with every fibre of your being and yet want to believe fervently.The one that forces you to wake up the next morning and then repeat- again and again- the cycle unbroken.

You see that’s the truly terrifying part- the circle- eternal, never ending, constant- it seems nigh impossible to break free…

House of Mirrors

Have you ever been in a maze? A house of mirrors? Everywhere you look you see yourself..you search frantically for an exit, some way to escape but you just drive yourself further and further into it. There’s no sense of time or direction, you run and run and run but there’s nowhere to hide.All you want is to curl up somewhere, make yourself smaller but those accusing eyes, they are everywhere…

Welcome to my life… This is what its like.Constantly 24 * 7. I can see my reflection in them- some fairly normal, others grotesque. The logical part of my mind, the feeble little voice in the back of my head tells me that the images are distorted but how do i know which ones are real and which are not?

I see them everywhere I turn… The worst is to see them reflected in other peoples’ eyes. Some show a pitiful wretch, weak , needy, sad. Others show disgust- how could someone be so weak? So immersed in their own lives when there are people living through much worse? Scorn for someone who can’t even try to get better much akin to those begging in street corners.And some loathing- for someone who makes up excuses for everything.for not getting up on time, not completing work for disrupting everything.And then there are the ones indifferent- maybe they care and have no idea what to do to help or maybe it matters so little that it could be ignored. The worst are the ones with misery written all over them- grief and helplessness, of having to stand by and watch while I struggle to find my way back.

How does one break free? Pound at the glass walls, wail , shriek and howl for help? Only the echoes of your own cries in eerie silence for company. So you hit the walls and you hit them till they break… your hands bleeding from the shards as they cut through. But even that is a welcome relief- to be able to feel pain or at least anything other than the numbness. So I keep hitting, my hands cut to pieces, blood everywhere and still there’s no way out, nowhere to go.and the worst part of it all, the shards that litter the floor, glittering ominously – you see a thousand reflections in each blood stained piece.

You hope for reprieve… but you know what they say- break a mirror and seven years of bad luck awaits.

Trapped in a House of Mirrors…

A New Chapter… & New Demons

Medical school- of course, the same that her brother attended.”An Institute of National Importance” The trepidation was exhilarating. She would study medicine with the best minds of the country. While medical school isn’t exactly known for the looks of its students, she fell in with a clique of the smartest hottest girls in her class- popular, practically lusted after by classmates and seniors alike. It was a whole new world- guys had never held much interest for her; they were either too immature or just plain gross and she always had other things on her mind. But now, she started to acknowledge that maybe just maybe she was wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong, she was rather pretty- so much so that people refused to believe her when she said that she never considered herself beautiful. They always assumed it was either false modesty or that she was just fishing for attention. Being pretty had been good enough so far but she was oblivious about the rituals that “getting ready” entailed. She was told how she was too chubby, her hair too frizzy, her skin too blemished; that she had no sense of style, no idea how to be cool, her clothes were ugly and that noone really liked her.

It wouldnt have been as bad in hindsight, had she been a little more sure of herself, had he ” best friends” not been so popular, so beautiful and so intelligent. Maybe it would have been easier to ignore their jabs, to realise that they weren’t as angelic as the world considered them to be.

Studying was NOT cool- failing wasn’t cool either.You have to be nonchalant about your grades, not appear to put in too much effort but still top the class- then and only then were you “cool”. Going to movies, hanging around with guys, staying up late watching movies, even on the eve of the exam- now that was cool. Girls who sat and studied like their life depended on it- just plain sad.

Her insecurity only grew with each passing day. Was it just a mistake that she got admission here? Did she not have what it takes? Nothing made sense to her anymore. She would spend hours staring at the words in her books, she understood those but the context, the very sentences they built eluded her. She would read and reread and then read again and still not understand. So she started pushing herself harder, to not look dumb in front of her peers, her professors, to not disappoint her parents.

She woke at 6, studied for an hour, went to school at 8, came back by 5 and started studying again till 3 in the morning. She drove herself to exhaustion- she lost weight, her hair started falling out in clumps, she couldn’t stay awake in classes, she started to pick at her skin. It became so bad that the day before her midterms she couldn’t stand up from sheer exhaustion, she hadn’t eaten in 12 hours, hadn’t slept for longer.Her period had started over 2 weeks ago and showed no sign of letting up.She collapsed. She called her parents- told them she couldn’t anymore- nothing they hadn’t heard before but this time she was inconsolable.She was not prepared to give a test that she was sure to fail, not willing to admit to herself and the world that she was a failure. So she did the next best thing, she ran.

The Calm Before the Storm…

Harbingers…

Her life was perfect… Or as perfect as high school could get.Popular, teacher’s pet, over achiever- she was miles ahead of other kids her age. Math was her favorite… except that she was always considered a pretty little doll at home. Pretty but dumb. Her family used to tease her mercilessly. It didn’t matter that she always did well in class, it didn’t matter that she topped her tests…at home when it came to math, she messed up and was teased… how bad she was at calculations, how her brother was so much more better, how math was the only subject that actually gauged intelligence. She started believing that she did well only because she learnt by rote… She started obsessing over her studies.Gradually, inch by painful inch, her sense of self started to fade.

Everything was so effortless for brother-always the topper, never had to take time to read for a test, never bothered about his grades and yet out-shined everyone else.He was always better than her, and noone ever let her forget it. Better disposition, more intelligent, better read, more articulate- he never seemed to have to work to measure up to anyone’s standards. She was forever left wondering why she was never as good. Never good enough…

Then it started, the series of events that would determine the course of her life for the next 10 years. Everyone dismissed it normal, mundane- what high-schooler isn’t worried about grades, doing well, especially when the test would determine her career, especially when she had always been an over-achiever.

It started small- moments of anxiety during exams, thought block over the same math she had practised countless times, the fear of not measuring up, the fear of people finding out that she wasn’t nearly as smart as they thought she was.It wasn’t long before she started panicking before tests- she couldn’t think, anything she wrote came from a spinal level, it wsa as if her cerebral cortex had completely shut down, then came the palpitations, the tremors , the hyperventilation. But through it all ( and that might have been the worst part of her ordeal) she did well- worse in math in comparison to other subjects but still average. But that was never acceptable- not to herself nor her father. Her teachers couldn’t understand why she would make dumb mistakes during tests when she would easily out-perform her peers in class. Her parents thought she just wasn’t putting in the effort and she kept wondering how long it would be till people found out her secret.

And then started the obsession- she was so scared of failure that she couldn’t sleep the day before exams- constantly running through the same material over and over. People laughed it off – after all, it was normal for girls to be a little high-strung.And so it started, a seemingly insignificant little snowflake making it way down, slowly but steadily gathering momentum till it morphed into an avalanche that would take over her life…