Bold and Beautiful, by Vidya Anandam                                     

I am from India.  In my mother tongue, there is a proverb “Are all the digits in our hand identical?” I think there cannot be a better expression for celebrating differences. We know everyone of us are different in some way or other. Some are  explicit differences while some others are invisible- It may be a learning difficulty, IQ deficiency or a psychological disorder. In my case it is childlessness. I think, people with invisible differences are worse affected than those with visible differences. Because in case of a visible difference, physical abilities of the person alone are affected. As far as  invisible differences are concerned, the inner abilities of the person affected are challenged. Man is a creature of mind. (In Sanskrit –  the language in which our scriptures are written, both  the words for Man and Mind are said to be originated from same root word.) So, in my opinion, if his mind loses power his ego becomes damaged. He loses the will power required to overcome his disability or even remains unconscious as to whether he has the will power or not. Phase 1: It started at the end of the first year of marriage. The time granted by our society for having a child ended. (9 months for pregnancy +  a 3 months grace time) Let me first explain something about my character. I am basically affectionate, caring, fun loving, spiritually inclined, bold and strong person with profound sense of humor.. But Bold and strong?  I suspect now whether I have been really strong. Generally, in my society childless people (particularly women) are treated mercilessly. They are constantly irked by heartless judgments. As I had written to Meg earlier in a comment, being childless is not only a disability, it is also a sin. Childless woman are considered to be inauspicious (Fortunately, people in my close circle are kind- hearted and well educated. But the larger society and extended family are not). It is all in the woman’s hands to get rid of the sin. Until she manages to bear a child she has to cry her eyes out all the time. If she doesn’t cry, people readily judge that she is not sincerely trying to get rid of the sin. Can you believe this? As I am ‘bold and strong’ I have never cried.  I believe in the saying “ If we cry for a minute we lose 60 seconds of time granted for smiling” Being a non-crier, I had to face a lot of embarrassing questions like: Are you not bothered about getting a child of your own?  How come you stay unaffected? Are you not aware of medical processes? Every time I faced a question I would boil with rage but restrained myself from reacting since I was ‘strong’. I took medicines for a long time, but in vein. Society (extended family) would have been more understanding and sympathetic during my failures had I cried at least once. But I always hate sympathy. Before I continue, I have to mention a few words about my husband. I have got a gem of a person. He has never complained a word about  the losses he had to face .  Apart from the monetary losses, he also had  to go through a lot of embarrassments, same questions (slightly altered  to suit to a man) and judgments for which he could have blamed me. (Normally men do so in our society) But he has never done so.  Instead, he has been the source of all the solace I needed, cheered me in distress, inspired me to laugh amidst all disappointments and pains. It is another reason for my ability to tolerate all the agonies without crying. Phase 2: My ‘strength  and boldness’ faced a tough time. The Second Phase means the stage where we stopped treatment and stood empty handed,  literally empty handed, with no savings, a lot of dislocations and yet with no child. Life, for me, seemed to be stagnant and empty. That emptiness cannot be described in words. Only childless people can realize it. I began to question myself: Am I really bold and strong?  Does abstaining from crying really amount to courage?  Unfortunately I got a “NO”. I was shocked by that “NO” and I did not accept that “NO”. What is courage/ strength? The plain answer is THE ABILITY TO ACCEPT TRUTH.  Could I accept the truth as such? No, It was harder to face the truth.  For me, life itself seemed to be a total failure. I thought I had failed as a wife- by failing to bear a child for my ever loving husband. You will laugh if I share a strange feeling I had at that time. What would you feeI when you see cockroaches hidden  in your bathroom/ kitchen  have suddenly multiplied in number? Angry? Worried? Irritated?  Felt sick? But I used to feel jealous- jealous of them for their ability to reproduce! Nature has bestowed a power on them which I have been denied by God.

Phase 3: Phase 3 started out of emptiness and ended in restart of stagnant life. We decided to adopt. At once that emptiness vanished. Life filled itself with imaginations and dreams – all about the prospective new arrival. Who will it be? Has he/she born already?  Is this baby  awaiting our hugs and kisses just as we are doing for him/her?  At this juncture a sudden awakening came to me.   Even if we adopt, we are not going to be normal parents. I am going to get the child just like a ready-made dress / a ready to eat tinned food.  What will be the reaction of the extended family?  That question made me nervous.  Of course a professional counselor at the adoption agency had instructed us that we should put every truth before that child at an earliest possible opportunity and we had decided to adhere it without fail.  But even after telling him/her that truth, preparing it to face that truth, managing its mental strives after that……  ha! I was tired even to think of the ordeal.  I was so much worried about the extended family that for some time I even thought of winding up everything from our present residence as soon as getting the child and moving to an entirely strange place. This worry was not an open one but was reclining at my subconscious mind. But then I started reading Meg’s blog.  All my questions had answers there. All those answers put new questions too….  The first and the foremost one was: Vidya, Have you ever had the real courage to accept your difference?  I got “NO, NO, NO….” 1) I am different; and 2) I had been deceiving myself all the way from phase 1 that I was strong and bold. Merely being ‘a non crier’ is far from being a strong person. How can I say I am bold and strong  if I cannot accept the truth?  Next the question faced me: How can I become really bold? The best way to overcome fear of cold water is to jump into it. I put myself into awkward situations which I had been trying to avoid until then. (I was avoiding meeting the extended family until then. I was reluctant to attend social functions for quite some time just for fearing of facing questions.  At first it seemed to be hard. Soon, it became a  pleasant experience as my heart became as light as a feather.  Interestingly as I began to face the society with bolder and stronger attitude, it became more and more friendly and  more understanding. As I learned to say ‘I haven’t got a child’ with less pain, sympathy turned into respect as though by magic. ALL BECAUSE OF TRUTH AND  THE READINESS TO ACCEPT  IT.   There is nothing simpler than truth, purer than truth, more lovable than truth, more comfortable than truth, and especially NOTHING IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN TRUTH.  I am sure, that is why in the ‘ In the Eye of The Beholder’ Meg has admired my beauty even without seeing me. PHASE 4:  Every time I face questions I have to collect my strength to accept the truth. Though I can’t claim that I have mastered it as Meg does, I can say I have come a long way in the continuous process. I will soon excel in PHASE 5: CELEBRATING the difference.  In fact I have started it already. Had I got children normally and immediately after marriage, I would not have realized what a precious gift God has given me (i.e.) My Husband. I would not have enjoyed the depth of his character- his generosity, broad mindedness and unconditional love for me. I suppose the history of mankind itself is full of differences and challenges and can be described  as a never-ending  journey towards perfection.

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