It was the year of 2017 that I found my way back into spirituality after over a decade of denying myself of it. My spiritual teacher helped me reconnect with the supreme creator and rebuild my inner self from scratch. I realized then that I was not religious but spiritual to a large extent. That was when I began believing in the power of people and the impact one can have on another person.
It was during such a phase of my life that I met Narmada. She was the same age as I was. Young and beautiful. She was from an influential family of politicians and belonged to the really rich and creamy layer of the society. She seemed to have it all.
I met her on a Saturday, in the month of February, 2018, when I had come over from Hyderabad to visit my parents in Vellore, and every time I was in Vellore, I made sure that I paid a visit to the goddess who led me on the path of righteousness, in her simple, yet pristine temple and spent time feeding the poor, the old and the abandoned while I was there. There were a lot more young people like me who volunteered regularly to help out on their free days.
I had reached the premises of the temple in the morning around nine and was eagerly waiting to meet my spiritual teacher to learn of the wonders of life. I sat beside his door along with other people who had poured in to seek his wisdom. That’s when I saw Narmada for the first time. She was sitting across from me, with her body slouched, dark circles under her eyes that were brimming with tears.
I wanted to smile at her but she never looked up. When our spiritual teacher summoned me to meet him, he told me to bring Narmada as well. Having never spoken to her, I went up to her hesitantly and told her that she had to come with me. We both sat in front of our teacher and got ready to share the happenings of our life and learn from him along with the others in the room. But he did not acknowledge our presence for a long time and almost after an hour, he asked us to wait outside so that he could finish attending to the rest of the people who had been waiting for a long time too. He asked us to hang out together until then and wait for him to call us.
Disappointed, we walked out together and introduced ourselves to each other. Having no choice whatsoever, Narmada and I spent what would be the life-changing following few hours together. Whilst she looked sullen, I was someone who was bursting with energy back then. After multiple attempts at starting a meaningful conversation with her, I finally asked her, “Are you okay? You don’t seem okay! Do you want to talk about what is bothering you?”
She looked at me and made eye contact with me for the first time that day. Her eyes flooded with tears and she broke down. I stood there silently, feeling clueless and helpless because I had no idea what to say to someone who was breaking down in front of me (I can be quite dumb sometimes). Trying to avoid the awkwardness that was starting to creep in, I finally blurted out that it was okay to let it all go and told her that she could talk when she was ready. She must have cried for nearly five minutes and finally wiped her face clean and said she was better then.
Bubbloo was watching this episode from a distance and walked up to us. Well, this was another guy of the same age as us. A fourth stage bone marrow cancer patient. But one could never tell at first glance because Bubbloo always sported a look of enthusiasm and joy that exuded from within him. He was the epitome of joy in that temple and loved by all. He asked if he could join us and I gladly obliged.
We three got to talking and Narmada finally opened up. She had been divorced a year ago and it had been so ugly as her ex-husband and his family had slandered her profusely for having a PCOS problem that was making it difficult for her to conceive easily and quickly (I wonder when such irrational and atrocious acts against women are going to stop). One thing had led to another and her ex-husband had decided that it was more important for him to prove his manliness rather than to love and accept his wife with all her flaws. He went ahead and filed for divorce and a month after it was finalized, he had remarried.
Narmada had lost her self-worth and self-esteem after that and she had begun living a life of self-blame for whatever had happened to her. Bubbloo and I consoled her and decided to divert her attention onto something else. We took her to the veranda of the temple and began playing board games like children. Although shy and distant at first, Narmada slowly began enjoying herself. The three of us had forgotten that we were grownups and that we had real-life problems to deal with.
When I looked at Bubbloo zealously playing, all I could see was a happy child who was living his life to the fullest! He reminded me that although life was short, it wasn’t too short. We all get many moments to cherish it and it was completely our choice to do so! I had never once seen Bubbloo look defeated. His spirits were always up and he always carried a hearty smile on his face. He was always optimistic and that day he taught me to move forward no matter what. Even when death stares at your face. Keep moving forward. He had me absolutely inspired to inspire others in my journey of life. I realized the perpetual pain and self-pity that I had carried for years within me, melting away at that moment.
As I was rolling the dice to get my blue coins out on the playing field, Narmada noticed the tattoo on my left hand as we were playing and got curious about it. She asked me what it said and I showed it to her for her to have a better view – an image of a butterfly followed by the words: “Peace. Inspiration. Faith. Grit. Ardour” followed by the image of a rose.
Curious as she was, she probed me on why I had chosen those words specifically. I looked her in the eye with my head held high, a proud smile on my face and told her, “These words define me, Narmada. This is who I am. I live in peace even when the world under my feet seems to be falling apart. I may not have monetary riches but the peace in heart at all times makes me the richest person I have ever known.
“I take inspiration from every person I meet and I aim to inspire many others. I believe every person has a lesson of inspiration to teach us and I want my life also to be like that for others. My faith in the almighty and myself never goes down even when everything around me seems to go dark. My faith sets me free when fear tries to bury me alive. And I fight for what I believe in and work towards it with immense determination. That shows my true grit. And I live a life of passion or ardour. I do things that I am passionate about and use that to create my own identity. Because, our birth and death are not decided by us. But what happens in between, is life and in that life, we can choose how we want to live. That will determine our identity.
“And ofcourse, the butterfly and the rose symbolizes two people I have loved deeply with all my heart even though one of them chose to leave this world when the god of death called upon him. I believe that he is the butterfly that pops out of nowhere to spread joy, vibrance and hope when life seems devoid of it. While another one was my best friend and the biggest love of my life who chose to give me a life of roses but walked away before it even began and left me with only the thorns. I have never stopped loving them despite all the hurt and pain. It just shows that I am human and I am capable of love more than I am capable of grief or hate. And that is what I believe in – Spreading Love”.
A wide grin spread on Narmada’s face and she hugged me tightly. We embraced each other feeling the shared joy of womanhood and went on to continue with our games, pulling Bubbloo’s leg and laughing our hearts out. At one particular moment, in the middle of all the laughter, I heard a voice inside me, telling me that it was time for me to leave and that my job was done. By then many other kids had also joined us and Narmada and Bubbloo were busy playing with them. I called out for her and told her, “Narmada, enjoy yourself. Learn from the guy who doesn’t know when death will call upon him and yet is adamant about living every moment to the fullest. Have peace, faith and grit. Go where your ardour lies. And be inspired to inspire others. Create your identity. Show your life that you truly deserve it. Life is a blessing. Be grateful for it. Take care”.
We had not met our spiritual teacher that day to learn something from him but the learning had indeed happened between us. And that was the last time I saw her or Bubbloo.
When I visited the temple after a couple of months, my spiritual teacher met me and said that he had deliberately chosen to let us hang out together rather than talking to us that day. I was surprised and asked him for the reason as we both had come that day wanting to speak with him. What he said next surprised me even further. “Manisha, the day before you met her, Narmada had called me and was crying over the phone saying that she had called to say goodbye. She was going to take her own life that night as she could not stand the pain her separation had caused her. She said that her life seemed worthless anymore and that she did not deserve to live. I only told her one thing. I told her to come see me the next day and then proceed with her plans. She waited so long so why not one more day.
“Since she respected me a lot, she obliged. But I knew that she needed much more than my sermon. She needed someone to show her the strength of a woman who had cheated death, faced heartbreak multiple times and yet learnt to embrace every moment of her life. She needed you that day, dear Manisha”.
My teacher went on to say, “But that day after meeting you, she called me up and told me that she wanted to live. She said had she not come here the next day, she would have committed the biggest mistake of her life. She said she wants to be happy and to create an identity for herself. And I could sense the hope and joy in her voice. Manisha, you have played a small yet significant role in saving another woman’s life. A woman you had never met or heard of before. A woman who needed to be shown the beauty of our biggest blessing – Life. And you did this without knowing you did what you did. I know you learnt a lot too that day and you are now inspired to inspire. Spread your joy around. Empower people. Because you never know who needs it. God bless you, my child”.
I sat in front of him with tears of joy streaming down my face. I felt uncontrolled joy and happiness spreading through every inch, nerve, cell and fiber of my body. I left the temple, feeling humbled and lucky to have been present there with Narmada that day. I felt my purpose of life beginning to take shape in front of me. I went back home thanking the universe and the Almighty for giving me a multitude of challenges and also the strength to rise above them all so that I could in my own little way, be inspired to inspire another soul to live.
I have not met Narmada or Bubbloo again but I happened to hear about them from my teacher recently. Bubbloo had gotten married to his longtime girlfriend and was happily kicking his cancer’s ass by living each day to the fullest with his lady love. And Narmada had met an amazing man who loved her for who she was. She had married him with the blessings of her family and now they were blessed with a baby boy. Narmada had gotten her happy beginning the day she thought would be her sad ending.
We never know who we might impact in our lives, knowingly or unknowingly. You never know who your Narmada could be or when you would be the Narmada in need. So why spread hate, negativity, jealousy and grief when we can spread positivity, joy, acceptance and love to everyone we meet in this journey of life. Let us inspire people around us, That is the least we can do as a society of humans. Let us be inspired to inspire and let our lives be a celebration of that always! This is Manisha Manoharan signing off. A fantabulous Women’s Day to you all! Let us celebrate every soul on this planet!