Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cursed Life -- Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Anjali didn't act like a normal two-year old girl.  She made virtually no eye contact, no smile nor any normal human interaction with anyone.  Anjali started to have more tantrums and had trouble speaking.  Shwetha was clearly worried about her child, so she and Kathir took her to the doctor to see what the problem was.  The doctor referred them to an evaluation team of behavioral specialists.  When they took Anjali there to get diagnosed, Kathir and Anjali got the shock of their lives -- Anjali was diagnosed with a severe case of Autism!

Shwetha wept uncontrollably upon hearing the news; Kathir was in shock and was dead silent.  This was a the beginning of dark days to come and they both knew it.  After they went home, Shwetha kept repeating "My baby, my poor Anju.  She's suffering so much!" over and over.  Kathir was still speechless, totally numb.  The happy-go-lucky look that he once had completely disappeared from his face.  His world never looked darker than it did that day.  Shwetha, unable to bear Kathir's silence, shook him repeatedly to get him to talk.  Finally, he turned his head slowly and looked at her.

"We have to help her, Kathir.  We have to do everything we can for her." said Shwetha, her voice full of worry and her eyes full of tears.  Kathir weakly nodded his head agreement.  He was feeling weak and in no mood for a conversation.

Their days were filled with overwhelming stress.  Anjali's tantrums were getting worse, and she started to become a lot more violent. She was always restless, always causing some sort of chaos, and looking after her was a major hassle.  Anjali's disease made her violent, made her senses go all out of whack, and completely hindered her ability to speak.

Since Anjali couldn't communicate with her mouth, she had to use her hands and legs.  She would pull Shwetha's hair hard, kick her or scratch her violently to communicate what she wanted.  Shwetha would cry in pain but accept the suffering for Anjali's sake.  Kathir couldn't stand to see his wife in pain, so he would angrily pry his daughter off with all his might and screaming in her face to let go of Shwetha.  But to his dismay, Shwetha would only shove him away.

"What the hell are you doing?" asked Kathir in exasperation.

"Don't you dare touch her!  She's my daughter -- she can do whatever she wants to me.  I'll sacrifice anything for her".  There was a fiery conviction in her eyes, even through all the tears.

"What, I'm supposed to silently watch while that little brat scratches up and bullies my wife?!?!"

"YES! And if you can't sacrifice for your own child, then you're not even a man!"

Kathir could say nothing.  Shwetha might as well taken a knife and stabbed him -- it would have been less painful.  She directed all her anger and frustration at him, but showed infinite patience toward her child, no matter how difficult she was.  Kathir understood Shwetha's pain, so he fully supported her.  His sense of duty to his wife kept him going.  Still, he couldn't help but resent being her verbal punching bag.  He would often absorb Anjali's blows during her usual tantrums to shield Shwetha, but right afterward would snap at her and say "So, am I man enough now?!?!" sarcastically, much to Shwetha's chagrin.

Upon seeing Anjali's behaviors, many of Shwetha and Kathir's friends, neighbors and even some family members started to distance themselves from them.  The same people who pressured them into having children were now nowhere to be seen.  Nobody wanted to go near the people with the "special child".  The couple were really feeling isolated at this point.

Their days of punishment would continue.  The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years.  Anjali's nonstop barrage of  tantrums and behavioral episodes would continue on a daily basis, causing much emotional trauma to her parents.  Each of Anjali's violent tantrums and panic attacks was a harsh pounding thrust onto her parents, each one more painful than the last. Kathir and Shwetha were worn out, edgier and more nervous day by day.  Their bodies and minds were full of scars caused by their daughter.  Shwetha continued to vent out on Kathir -- it was her only outlet. Kathir, on the other hand, didn't have the heart to go off on his already weak wife -- alcohol was his only outlet; it didn't make his problems go away, but at least it dulled the pain temporarily.

A deep rift was starting to form between the couple now.  Shwetha focused all her attention on Anjali, leaving Kathir all alone.  She would only talk to him to give instructions or vent.  One day Kathir finally reached his breaking point.  Anjali's panic attacks were worse than ever.  At this point, all he wanted was out!  But he last thing he wanted was to be separated from Shwetha.  Besides, if you're a divorcee, the Indian community tends to treat you like you have some sort of disease... especially in a conservative city like Chennai. His pain was worse than ever, so he went to the local bar and drank more than ever.  Finally, after much intoxication, he took an auto to the beach.

It was present day.  As an intoxicated Kathir sat on the sands and  reflected on his painful past, he finally came to a big decision.  He slowly got up and heaved a big sigh.  There was now an eerie calm in his face, a look of a man resigned to his fate.  He slowly walked closer and closer into the waters.  With each step, the water level reached higher.... and the end came closer and closer.

Click here for Part 3

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cursed Life -- Part 1

It was a cool winter evening in Marina Beach.  Several people were heading back home, but there was one man who sat there motionless, staring at the water.  He was Kathir, a successful software engineer. He had it all -- a wife, a child, a nice flat in Triplicane, a calm and comfortable life... or so it seemed.  As he stared at the waters of the Bay of Bengal, there was a look of sorrow and pain in his face.  The day was cooling down, but there was still a deep raging fire inside his heart.  No one else noticed this except an old fisherman nearby. Even from a distance, he could sense Kathir's torment -- he could sense something bad was about to happen.  As Kathir continued to gaze, his life flashed before his eyes.

It was six years from the present day.  Kathir and Shwetha were a newly married couple, and their family and well-wishers were congratulating them and wishing them well on their marriage.  Shwetha's parents were more relieved than happy that their daughter was "finally married off after all these years".  For years, she and her parents were feeling the pressure from the constant barrage of interrogative questioning of their relatives and friends.  That only made her feel older, even though she was only born 24 years ago.  Kathir and Shwetha, the newlyweds,  were doing the usual round of visits to all the relatives houses.  Everywhere they went, they got the "In nine months, I hope you'll come back as three" routine from everyone.  Kathir was a little peeved about hearing that over and over.  Once he and Shwetha returned to their flat, he confronted her about this.

"Shwetha, why do your relatives pressure us so damn much?"

"What do you mean?"

"What's with the whole 'come back in 9 months with a baby' routine?  Why can't they just wish us well and let us live our lives as we choose?"

Shwetha was clearly irritated at this point.  "Look, I don't appreciate you talking that way about my family!  They only mean well, and if you can't take what they say in the right sense, then kindly don't talk to me anymore, ok?!?!".  There was a angry glare in her eyes -- Kathir sensed it, and slowly walked backwards in fear.

"Hey, hey, relax.  I'm sorry, I was only saying that they were putting too much pressure on us, that's all."  There was a short, uncomfortable pause.  "Intha chinna vishyathukku ellam yaen ivvalavu kovam varuthu [Why do you get so mad over little things like this]?".

"I wasn't angry, I just don't like anyone talking ill about my family, that's all".  There was a clear defensiveness in her tone, so Kathir decided not to argue with her anymore.  Kathir and Shwetha were total polar opposites.  She was very traditional and conservative; Kathir was free-spirited and adventurous.  He was also a bit mischievous and immature; she was was very mature and responsible.

More than 18 months had passed, and the couple went to many places together and engaged in many fun activities, mainly due to Kathir championing their R&R activities.  Shwetha was a rather high-strung girl, so Kathir did his best to keep her as relaxed as possible.  They both seemed happy, and all seemed well....until that one day.

"Kathir, I need to talk to you about something", said Shwetha, clearly looking worried.

"Sure, what's on your mind?"

"It's been almost two years, and we still don't have a baby yet.  Our neighbors and relatives are all always bringing up the topic.  I'm getting worried.  What if we never have a child?  I'm scared!"

Kathir was exasperated and even a bit upset. "Oh god! Why are you so worried about this?  It will happen at its own pace, just let nature take it's course.  Besides, who cares what they say  -- don't they have anything better to do than to just gossip all the time?!?!"

"You just don't understand, do you?!  All I've ever wanted was to be married and be a mother like any normal woman.  All my college friends are married and have kids already.  I'm still lagging way behind."

"Oh for god's sake Shwetha, this isn't a race to see who gets pregnant first.  Why do you get all worked up over stupid shit like this, Shwetha?!?!".  At this point, Shwetha was starting to break out into tears.  Upon seeing this, Kathir quickly consoled her to prevent more waterworks. "Hey, hey.  Sorry dear, I didn't know it meant so much to you.[short pause] Alright, let's do it.... we'll try really hard for a baby this time" .

Shwetha was completely happy for the first time in her life.  She was finally going to get what she always wanted.  She and Kathir would try for several months, and finally succeed. Little Anjali Kathiresan was born a year later, much to everyone's joy and relief.

Shwetha showered the baby with all the love and affection in her being, as did everyone else.  Anjali was the center of attention, always surrounded by someone to play with her or feed her in a timely fashion.  But, after nearly two years since her birth, Shwetha had noticed something terribly wrong with Anjali, something that would change all their lives forever!

Click here for Part II