Continued from Betrayal (II)

 Chandini kept thinking about Vasudha all day. She was impatient to finish up at work and write another mail to her. Vasudha’s reply to her last mail was fresh in her mind. Chandni had detected the beginning of a all or none panic in her. It seemed she was determined to banish herself from the internet before cutting herself off from all her friends. She had sounded as if she had already initiated the shut down process.

Chandni knew she had to keep communication flowing or her window with Vasudha would shut down with a bang. It would be very difficult to communicate with her if that happened. Once she got home, she did not tarry. Murmuring another prayer, she began typing.

 My Dear Vasudha,

I won’t say I was surprised to read your mail. I had considered the possibility of you reacting the way you have done. Though I am not surprised, I am very saddened. Let me share a memory with you… something that happened when I was barely eight years old.

My mother and I had gone to attend the wedding of my aunt, one of my mother’s younger sisters. The household was in an uproar, as was mandatory in those simpler times. With the entire family gearing up for the event for all of three months, the excitement had reached a crescendo. A group of neighbourhood women had been cleaning grains, hand pounding spices and making pickles and preserves to last the entire festivities period of ten- twelve days when the house would be bursting at the seams with over a hundred (close) family members on the premises. Honestly, I wonder how everyone managed to take a bath (to say nothing of other ablutions) with only three bathrooms in the house..! Sheer Voodoo..!

There was none of that nonsense about professional mehndi (henna) artists finishing off the entire family in about two hours flat and leaving a flood of inadequately adorned female palms in their wake. Nor had they heard of monstrosities called mehndi cones. The era was when you still used a stone slab for grinding your masala. Labor- saving hadn’t yet become the obsession it has now.

I tell you all this because I want you to know that mehndi applying wasn’t a painless process. From sieving the dried and hand pounded mehndi powder through fine muslin many times, to adding often inexplicable ingredients to it and then beating it by hand for over an hour to produce the gossamer- thin threads of divinely aromatic mehndi strands was a work of pure magic. It was art. It was out of this world. It makes me draw in my breath is sheer ecstasy as I write this.Betrayal- (III)

Once the paste was ready, the mehndi expert women of the family would sit down and painstakingly decorate each palm with patterns so intricate and fine as to shame a spider’s web. AND… they did it all with the help of match- sticks sharpened thin.

What I am saying is, the labor that went into doing one palm was enormous.

I was eight, as I said. With a great deal of wheedling on my part, I finally got one of my mother’s cousins to agree to doing one of my tiny little palms. I fussed over the pattern I wanted and after two hours (read a leap year) of trying to sit still, I was the proud owner of a finely adorned palm. I was delirious with happiness.

Then of course the fly went bungling into the ointment… as it always does. My mom was very miffed about something. She stormed into the room I was prancing around in and I bumped into her. Fairly or unfairly, she scolded me roundly… venting her spleen on the first hapless bystander that she came upon. In a fit of resentment, with a desire to do something to make her feel bad, I went and washed off my palm. Then I plonked down in the middle of the room, unshed tears brimming in my eyes. I was smart enough to notice, however, that my mother had got the point. She left the room, feeling guilty. I exulted within and maintained a sad facade without. Oh yes, I was a cunning little devil.

I wasn’t aware that the aunt who was getting married had observed the whole drama. She called me to her and said, “You wanted to punish your mother for something she did wrong. But did you once think how your action would hurt the lady who worked so hard to create a mehndi pattern on your palm? You have shown her that her effort wasn’t worthy of respect in your eyes. You have insulted her generosity and affection. You need to apologize to her.”

I apologized with all my heart. I realized that in order to make a statement of pain, I had inadvertently hurt someone who did not deserve it. All I had managed to do was to create one more hurt person than there was already. I was eight years old and perhaps didn’t know any better.

You’ve been hurt grievously, it is true. You cannot, however, throw all your friends out of your life. You don’t need to make that kind of statement of pain. Your withdrawal will hurt all those who care for you and hold you in sincere affection. You cannot, and must not, deny them a chance to stand beside you in support and love. Give them a chance to be real friends to you. Let them lift you in whatever way they can. I know you will heed my words. I know it.

I know your desire to shut down comes from a place of vulnerability. Perhaps you feel people will think less of you because of what has happened. Perhaps you think they will wonder how an intelligent and smart girl like you could permit such a thing to happen. In your cruelest moments of self- flagellation, you probably imagine them making fun of your pain, mocking you with unkind words.

But they aren’t.

Nobody has gone through life untouched by some kind of betrayal. It leaves nobody untouched. Its icy finger has run down all spines at sometime or the other. Just as there is no family where death has not left his calling card, so also there is no heart undepleted by a feeling of betrayal.

Let other people tell you haw they dealt with it. Let them share with you the thoughts and insights that kept them afloat when they felt they would go under any minute. Let them also share the lessons they learned and how they emerged stronger than they were before. I cannot believe that any human heart is closed to the need for hope. We all need to see a light; darkness is alien to our nature. Let another person hold the light for you until you feel strong enough to carry your own torch. Let the spirit of another light up your inner being. Let people share in your pain. Let them show you that you are not alone. Just… let them BE with you.

Meanwhile, take care of yourself. I know you love the river. Go for a walk along her banks. Fly a kite with the neighborhood kids. Breathe. LIVE.

With all my love,


To be continued… here



Picture from the internet.