Keeping the faith

Posted by Ranjana Pandey, New Delhi


Devika had locked herself in – not down. Some years ago…. hard to recall when the trend crept in on us.

It became more and more difficult for her to step out of the house, go to the local shops, family gatherings or a simple walk in the park opposite. Just two years ago, she had made a long complicated journey with the family. And now, she preferred to dim the lights, lie in bed, not engage with anybody.

Her growing anxiety translated into a physical reaction – wanting to run to the toilet every few minutes. She was bordering on dysfunctional.

Her anxiety about any change, any change at all, doubled, trebled and blew out of proportion. Consulting doctors and psychologists did not get us anywhere, except we began medication for thyroid! It was reassuring to hear the specialists give me leave to step back. As a mother, I felt compelled to keep trying to take her towards her full potential. There were so many stubborn blocks that D put up. “Let her be” they all advised. Let her be. She is 40 now.

She could not overcome her problems to even say goodbye to a dear Uncle when he passed away unexpectedly. It just gave her more anxiety. She felt deep compassion for the family – deep concern for her Aunty , spoke to her on the phone expanding on her deep philosophy of acceptance of the inevitable. But could not bring herself to step beyond her Laxman Rekha. It hurt me. Depressed me. Frustrated me.

Devika is very intelligent and creative. To deal with her unexpressed fears and anxieties she has created rituals. Fueled by TV serials, these have become more and more elaborate – fasts, pooja, prasad, bhajan, arti – which had no room in our home earlier.

She has created her own version, her own favorite Gods, a mix of  Buddhism, Dragon, symbols, judo / karate symbols and gestures. Sounds alike shlokas. Sprinkling of prasad. Haze of incense. So there is a morning pooja and a bedtime pooja. All this helps her to deal with her fears.

I worked for months finding home-based activities for her (thinking that if Mohammad cannot go to the mountain, the mountain shall come to him). Dance teacher, graphic design lessons, clay work – 3 things she enjoys. She had just about got into the flow of this 5-day routine around her 40th birthday. I was feeling very jubilant that I had not given up and stepped back – then the lock down came and brought a stop to it all.

All her rituals were not powerful enough to dispel the new fear of Corona– an invisible beast, made real by animators as a multi crowned creature which haunted her overactive imagination. She tried to grasp it and actually went under – she slept mostly all day, blustered through the night and depleted the large bottle of sanitizer and Dettol in days….

We were confused too. There was so much happening, so fast. This unseen invasive creature-virus had taken over our lives. To make matters worse, I came down with an unspecified fever and self-isolated myself. She was naturally very affected by this turn of events. “What now? Where do I hide? What will save me? Will my world turn upside down????”

The daily news on TV added to it all. We did not miss an opportunity to bring calm back into the vortex of her fears.

For the rest of her family, the lockdown was actually a wonderful reprieve from the unnecessary, daily stress of activity. We embraced the quiet, the peace, the spring in full bloom, the togetherness, the turning to each other, and the intimacy.

Now we were all home. Doing what she did. STAY at HOME. Devika’s chosen lifestyle was being pushed by Prime minister Modi, no less!!! It was a mantra for all. What a victory! We congratulated Devika for showing us the way!

I must say that concretising the enemy and clanging thalis, ringing bells and lighting candles empowered her. She went for it very enthusiastically. Technology and her precious phone streamed to her all day and much of every night!

Her dance teacher happily decided to give her online classes and Devika, was delighted. She could look at this lovely young man – up close (on the screen) even give him heartfelt complements unabashedly– “Oye Bharat- you are too cool. Looking good eh?!” Bharat too felt safe. We moved from WhatsApp video to Skype and now finally to Zoom and it works like magic.

Devika and Nunchaku 🙂

Of course, it finally dawned on me, how daft I had been! The camera is her “thing” she had dabbled in film making (her family is involved in film making). This is the perfect window of opportunity for her. Besides, we are all there with time and leisure to give her that continuity and support in her new enterprise – training/sharing videos of cooking, Nunchaku wielding (with her special brand of humour- she is such a ham), block printing and so on…

Who knows where this lockdown opportunity will take her? To her own YouTube channel? Maybe she will contribute video training modules to Jan Madhyam, an NGO which nurtured her two abiding interests – painting and cooking. Why not?

The journey has just begun…

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