A BOAT OF HOPE

I didn’t have a bad day. In fact, it was a nice day, having fun with my cousins and friends. Why then, I see clouds all around? Is it a dream, I’m seeing?

I saw darkness hovering around me and I screamed in my thoughts, “Ah…where am I? Why can’t I see myself?” The dark clouds all around me made my vision obscure as the bright light that I was seeing a minute ago almost faded away.

Then an intense sorrow pierced through my spines, my flesh, and my bones. The dark despair within me made me walk through the hidden lanes of my life. I felt ashamed of myself. I hated myself. The rotten scent of my sinfulness broke me into pieces. I saw a defiant me, standing and asking questions about my own creation… as I found myself to be a weak, neglected and a rejected piece of morsel thrown on a pile of garbage.

A gripping fear and a distressing agony engulfed me when I saw the raging sea waves approaching me and I just tried to duck down my head to let it pass but I could not do. I tried again and again but all my efforts seem to be in vain.

I realized my inability to rescue my own self. I understood I needed someone else to bring salvation, and restore me from this chaos.

Lo and behold! I soon saw a boat glimmering in the middle of the sea.

I had lost all my hope but a ray of hope sparked within me when I saw the boat. That boat, to me, seemed like a piece of leaf for an ant floating away in the water. That boat reminded me of my God, the Saviour Himself and I remembered His assurances, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for YOU are with me; YOUR rod [to protect] and YOUR staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.”

I could not feel whether I swam through the waves or not but somehow, I reached that boat and found myself on it, cruising through the waves, going beyond the clouds of darkness.

This may not be a dream that I saw in my sleep, but I have seen it many times in my life and still see it even today. I’ve walked in close proximity to death. My life has never been easy but the good thing is, I always found myself being consoled and reassured with the promise of that small boat of hope at every dark situation of my life.

I know, God has been and will be the boat of hope all through my life, even during this pandemic situation… till I enter eternity after my death.

KEEPER, REVEALER OR LEAKER – WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Way back during 479 BCE – 465 BCE, there reigned a queen by the name Esther in the Persian Empire. Esther was the Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus, also identified as Xerxes I. The period during which Esther was made queen, was a turbulent phase for the Jews and hence Queen Esther decided to keep her nationality a ‘secret’. In course of time, Queen Esther went on to reveal a ‘secret’ plot made to annihilate Jews in the Kingdom of Susa (in the Persian Empire), to which the king heeded and thus a great disaster was prevented.

This is a slice of history involving keeping and revealing secrets!

When you and I ponder over keeping secrets or revealing them, do we keep the common good in mind or are we self-centered to decide on the basis of what good would it do merely to us? Well, unlike Queen Esther you and I may or may not get to impact history. But, our keeping or revealing secrets may impact the handful of lives surrounding us.

As a Counsellor, I am made privy to a lot of things. And so, as some common practice principles, I have the following lines written in my Counselling Room:

“What you say to me stays with me, except –

If you are trying to harm someone.

If someone is trying to harm you.

If you are trying to harm yourself.”

This instills confidence in people and builds up trust over time.

It is not too hard to spill the beans on others. But, being a confidante is not too easy.

There are times when you are made a party to some sensational information and your stomach is churning within, to let it out.

There are times when you yourself are under too much emotional strain and just cannot bear the load of another ‘secret.’

There are times when you are full to the brim of confidential stories from all around you, and just need to let some out before you can stuff in more.

In all such times, remember to muse on the impact it would create on others.

The wise king Solomon wrote, “…the one who has understanding holds their tongue.  A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

There are times however, when secrets if kept hidden, would do more harm than good. Such times call for the exercise of prudent discretion and courage in divulging closely guarded facts.

The Bible says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Keeping secrets speak of confidentiality and trustworthiness in a person. Revealing secrets if the situation so demands, speaks of wisdom.

Leaking secrets speaks of betrayal.

SECRETS: DO THEY REALLY HURT?

We All Have Stories We’ll Never Tell.

I don’t know who said this, but whoever did, couldn’t have said it better. The average person has at least one such secret that they’d rather take to the grave than tell someone else. We all lie, we all do wrong, and we all keep secrets, ours or others. No one is spared from this behavioral flaw. Yet, we have scriptures, reams and moral tales telling us to tell the truth, rather than keep secrets and not to create a mountain of lies to hide them. But the question is – Do secrets hurt? Or rather, do ALL secrets hurt?

Let’s first understand what a secret is. The dictionary meaning of a secret is –

Something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.

But secrets are kept for different reasons –

  1. Commercial Secrets – Like Coca Cola’s recipe! In legal parlance, they’re also called ‘trade secrets’, because they give the owner an edge over the competition, and are the basis of their product’s/service’s success. Such secrets are required to be maintained for obvious commercial benefits. Because of their commercial nature, such secrets are outside the purview of discussions on secret keeping.
  2. Secrets that Hurt – Some parents don’t tell their children about a coming divorce, to protect them from the agony of watching their parents separate. Some family members do not reveal facts about their health to the rest of the family, or certain people in the family, to avoid causing pain. Some do not divulge facts about an affair so that the marriage or relationship stays intact. Such secrets, if revealed, hurt others and may destroy relationships, and are thus kept under wraps.
  3. Secrets of Others – These are not our own, but belong to others, possibly a friend, family member, or an acquaintance and we are forced to keep quiet about them either because of loyalty or because they are not ours to reveal. Either way we are the ones who suffer along with the ones who’s secrets they are.
  4. Little Secrets – These harmless little things, like a crush, a small indulgence you have, a tête-à-tête with a nice neighbour, or harmless gossip, they’re all a part of our lives. We keep them a secret because revealing them, though may not harm others, may cause discomfiture. Like how you lied about not drinking at a friend’s place to your parents? Yes, we all do that.

Recent research, reported in The Atlantic, suggests that keeping secrets adds on to the stress we already have in our urban, modern lives. This article discusses how the harm in secret keeping does not really lie in lying to hide it from others, but in how frequently it weighs on our conscience and causes us mental stress. To quote Slepian, who has researched extensively on this topic and who’s research the above article is about,

Just because the goal of the secret is to hide it, that doesn’t mean the secret is only happening during the brief moments of when you need to hide it…

That means, according to the research, when we keep a secret, it weighs every now and then on our mind, pinches us that we’re wrong, and causes the release of stress hormones, which in the long run, are harmful for our health. No wonder high stress jobs like those of Politicians, CEO’s, Police Officers, cause health issues! My point is not to generalize here but to observe the fact that a job where you have to not only  deal with crisis situations on a day to day basis, but also frequently withhold information, keep secrets and lie inventively, causes stress.

You can try it on yourself if you don’t believe me. Hide something from someone and lie about it, one day. Then tell a different lie about it to someone else the next day. And on the next to next day,  create yet another lie, this time conveyed to a third person. Carry this on for a few days, and then recollect all the lies connected to that one secret you wanted to hide. Can’t do it, right? Gets confusing and frustrating doesn’t it? Can you feel the stress one simple lie causes to you? Those researchers may have a point afterall!

And yet we keep secrets? Why?

I believe that it is because we all think that there are some secrets that need to be kept, because revealing them will only lead to unwanted chaos. 

Consider these examples –

A Man who had a fleeting affair with another woman  (not a physical one, but one with deep attachment) eventually realized that he was wronging his wife. He swore never to do it again, but keeps the affair a secret, for fear of harming his relationship and hurting his wife… Is he wrong to keep it a secret?

I plan a dinner with my gal-pals, and lie to my MIL, who loves a party of any kind, that she can’t come along because I have to go nurse a lonely friend. I lie because my friends and I need some time off from our families and because I know I won’t be able let my hair down with my MIL around. She’s my MIL after all…. Am I wrong in hiding this fact?  

My friend is going through a very painful period where she has found out that she can never be a mother. I keep it a secret from the rest of my friend group, on her request, because she does not want it revealed to everybody yet…. Am I wrong in hiding her secret?

I’m sure most of you will say ‘yes’ to the first and ‘no’ to the latter scenarios. Well, my answer is ‘no’ to all three. I believe that if a secret kept can save heartache in a relationship, prevent lasting wrong, prevent a broken home, a broken marriage, or a broken person, then it should be kept a secret. Of course, that excludes life and death situations or gross violations of human rights and morality.

I’ll bring to my aid that famous quote in the Mahabharata:

By telling an untruth for saving a life, one is not touched by sin.

There are times when a simple lie, for example one told to a child, that the needle won’t hurt, can soothe, can help, can keep someone happy. When I was practicing, I had to work on a lawsuit concerning the partition of ancestral property between the heirs. In the course of the lawsuit, it was discovered by our opponent’s side that one of the heirs on our side was adopted. The adopted boy didn’t know this fact. It led to a great rift in the already warring family and caused great pain to the parents of the adopted boy. He eventually left the family, even though the law makes no distinction between adopted and real children. Did the truth bring any good here?

Keeping a secret, therefore, is not a flaw necessarily. Whether it should be kept is dependent upon a person’s outlook, habits, the situation in which the secret originates and the reasons why it must be maintained. My point is that when we keep a secret, we need to ask ourselves a question, “Am I going to do everlasting or great harm to someone else, or to myself, by keeping it?” If your conscience answers in the affirmative, you should reveal it. The human mind and the way human moral principles have evolved, have ensured that its hardwired into our minds that lying is wrong, keeping secrets is wrong and that truth is supreme.

Pradita Kapahi, 2017

The Pradita Chronicles.

IT’S NOT HEART BREAK, IT’S MEMORY!!!

Bollywood movie “Mann” is my all time favorite movie. In this movie Actress Manisha Koirala just after making friendship with her Hero, recites a very powerful dialogue to the Actor Aamir Khan (Mr. Perfection) which I am quoting as under:

“Vishwas jitna aasaan hai,

usse todna usse bhi aasaan hai,

magar mushkil hai uss vishwas ko nibhana.

Aur Sacha Insaan wo hai jo uss vishwas ko tode nehi, balki nibhaye”.

We usually test the love stories on the basis of past experiences and learning. Most of  the love stories fall apart. Most from today’s generation have reversed from the true meaning of love. For us LOVE has become “Catch & Hatch” policy. The result of which is ‘HEART BREAKS’.

Our story had a fantastic beginning when I fell in love years back. For me it was like flying in the sky and having the ultimate joy in my life. I was addicted to be with her 24 x 7, which is never ever possible even for married couples. I counted my family, career, education, society and everything including my own self secondary because of her. But today when I look back I can say, “That was all an INFATUATION.”

Like the above phrase from the movie, in the beginning we both earned each other’s ‘vishwas’ (faith) so easily in less than couple of weeks and that ‘vishwas’ was also broken within a few months. Really it’s so true, our ‘vishwas’ was created and was broken within a span of weeks, but to maintain that ‘vishwas’ I struggled for 3 complete years.

In love relationship, once faith is broken nothing more remains except one thing – ‘Heart Break’. A broken heart never makes noise but gives a lot of pain. Heartbreaks leave back only one question – ‘WHY’ and this ‘why’ makes life miserable. Our dreams become grisly nightmares. It becomes too difficult for us to trust anyone, mostly to our own self. Every time, every single step we take we face fear or doubt – “Will my past be repeated again?????”

This fear and pain took me even to the dark lanes of suicide. But on 14th Mar 2011, in a local train,  around 7 PM, when I was just about to give-up my life for the sake of ‘Infatuation’, I heard a sweet tender voice telling me, “My son, don’t give-up your life, just give-it back to ME and see what I’m going to do with it!” And I knew Whose voice was that? That was the voice of MY GOD, MY CREATOR WHO LOVES ME.

Today, I can say my heart was broken because of my fault. I didn’t wait for the right time. When God creates us in our mother’s womb, He plans everything for us and allows all that to happen at His appointed time. Our life is well-tuned by God. But if we try to do something with our own ideas we will be left behind with just “Heartbreaks” and “Pain”.

It’s not the heart break which causes pain but it’s the person & the memory which we leave behind us. As Mrs. Khristina Jacob said in her last article, “There is always a light at the end of the tunnel”, today we may be travelling through the darkest tunnel of life but believe there is light at the end. So, HOPE for the BEST, rest everything else in HIS hand for HIS time. Just WAIT!!!!!

Sometimes we must Hurt in order to Grow, 

Sometimes we must Lose in order to Gain,

Sometimes we must Fail in order to Pass.”

LET GO OF HIM!

(Picture Source: http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com)

Last week I shared my story of what Valentine’s Day reminds of me. It reminds me of a particular Valentine’s Day when I proposed a guy I had a huge crush on since 3-4 years. It also reminds me of all the crazy things I did to get his attention. It reminds of those silly teenaged days when everything lovey dovey in Bollywood looks like a reality.

Yes, I placed my heart in his hands telling him very genuinely what I felt for him. I told him that I really liked him. I knew we were going to be away from then on. He was going away to another country for his engineering and I was going to another city. But still I felt the need to at least tell him what I felt for him. As soon as I did that, I realized that he started to avoid me. He was the son of our close family friends, so there were multiple occasions where we had to encounter each other. And it broke me to see how easily he managed to ignore me. 20 days later, I decided that I needed an answer. If he has to say a NO, he has to say it. So, I asked him and he said a NO. Surprisingly, it gave me a bit of satisfaction because I felt that now I can really move on. For the past 3 years, I had spent my nights wondering whether he liked me or not and now I had an answer. I felt rejected but I also felt relieved.

I got into an engineering college and a hostel life. And it was a whole new world after the protective environment of the school. But the rejection that I had just gone through affected my confidence a great deal. As I started to get used to college and hostel life, things started to get better. As I saw that there were other guys who expressed interest in me, it gave a boost to my confidence.

He had gone to another country for higher education and this affected me too. While in college I started to hate him with a determination to get even better education than him. I made up my mind to be MIT post graduate after my engineering. I did not realize it then that he was the motivation behind my craze to go study in the US. I started to prepare for GRE. In my final year, I started to like another guy – Kapil. He was sweet and funny and he really loved me.

We came out of college; my relationship with Kapil grew strong. I got a job in Bangalore and he was working in Mumbai. Everything was going well, but I was still hell bent on doing my masters in US. Kapil did not want to leave India. And that was the only reason of multiple fights between me and him. I knew if I had to take GRE and leave India – it would mean leaving Kapil too. While going through this, I got a chance to go to US for 3 months. And in those 3 months, I felt so terribly lonely and horrible that I hated that place.

So, now the situation was – I wanted to study in US because I wanted to prove something to the guy who rejected me. I hated US. I wanted to be with Kapil but I knew he did not want to leave India. And to add to all this – my parents were eagerly looking for a match for me. My life was messed up totally. It was one of those times in my life when I felt nobody really understood me.

Life has different ways of coming for a rescue. I got introduced to “Landmark Education” which has a series of courses that help your give up your past and create a brand new future. I did these series of courses and it transformed my thinking and my life.

I could so clearly see now why I want to go study abroad and with this stubborn attitude if I really do go abroad, I would end up too messed up and too frustrated. I realized that I had to let that guy go. I had to let go of my hatred towards him. If you love someone and you get rejected, the solution is not to hate him but to be indifferent to him. I eventually did everything I could to let him go from my life so that I could embrace a brand new life with Kapil. What followed this was an amazing journey of marriage with Kapil!

PICKING UP THE FALLEN REINS AND MOVING FORWARD

She kept checking her mobile for a missed call or a message every five minutes, even though the ringing volume was adjusted to the maximum. How can seven years of love wither away so easily? It has been a year to the day they “broke up” and she had spent each day of this year hoping for a call or message from him… hoping that he would miss her… that he would come back to her… that happy days would be back again.

In her heart of hearts she knows it’s best if he doesn’t come back. She is the topper in her Engineering College, while he had just managed to scrap pass. She is fairly good looking, while he stood no match before her. She has a lustrous career before her, while he spends his days in idleness. Oh! How violently had he reacted when she had gently reminded him of the beauty of their relationship and urged him to build up his career! She had even gone to the extent of saving all her pocket money to get him enrolled in a reputed University only to realize later that she had been fooled.

As she looks back at the lies spoken, the physical and verbal abuses hurled at her time and again, the false assurances and the vagaries of his behavior, she feels utterly cheated. Tears roll down at any unannounced moment. Her career has taken a toll. Her health has broken down. Grappling with depression and suicidal thoughts, she feels there is no hope left…no reason why she should live. “Why did God allow this to happen in my life?”, she asks.

But, she has decided that she won’t let the rest of her life be ruined. She would pick up the strings and head for a new start amidst the flowing tears and burning heartache.

The accounts of a broken relationship may be different. But, the emotional trauma holds true for all. When the illusion fades away, the pain becomes even more evident. The wounds appear fresh every day till an effective balm is someday applied. Forgiveness erases the bitterness and what remains is just a memory.