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DARKNESS TO LIGHT
By Neel Anil Panicker
As the Master of Ceremonies (MC) announced the winner of the COACHING TIME Best Faculty Award 2017, thunderous rounds of applause swept through the audience as every single person was up on his or feet, clapping, cheering lustily, quite a few even, especially among the women, shedding more than a tear.
These were no ordinary tears; instead they were tears of joy, tears of supreme happiness and a silent prayer in honour and recognition of the insurmountable spirit displayed by one of their own, one who with her actions had become an inspirational beacon of hope for all.
Daintily adjusting the folds of her exquisitely ornate gold embroidered Kancheevaram silk saree, Dr Lavanya got up from her chair in the corner third row and worked her way towards stage acknowledging the compliments that came her way.
Joining his colleagues and co-workers in expressing their extreme happiness was Mohandas Pai, the Director of ‘Coaching Time’ who too stood up, his hands clapping in chorus with the rapturous crowd.
Amidst thunderous ear deafening applause Sr Lavanya acceded to the request of the MC to speak a few words.
First of all I request you all to kindly sit down. It makes me feel a wee bit awkward to receive so much love and attention from my dear colleagues, well wishers, respectful Director Sir__ all who have known me in the past decade or so to ten years.
If an outsider were to inadvertently gate crash into this evening’s conference, he would assume me to be a hot shot Bollywood celebrity, in town for one or the other charity event.
Speaking of charity, I will say that charity begins at home.
And here I must thank, besides my dear parents, my dear colleagues without whose unstinted support and encouragement I wouldn’t have been here, standing before all of you, holding in my hands this glittering trophy that has my name engraved on it, acknowledging and honouring me with the award for the BEST FACULTY- VERBAL 2017.
And now I must get on with the task at hand, a promise that Pai Sir had extracted from me.
It was a promise that I will tell my story from every single stage, that I will narrate at every opportune moment and occasion the story of my life, that is my life battling cancer.
So here it is, the no holds barred, bare boned story of my life.
My name is Lavanya. I had a surname. But life and circumstances have forced nee enabled me to drop my surname.
I was born a boy, the only child of typical middle class Maharashtrian parents who were both bank employees.
Life was blissful as I grew up into my teens but sometime around when I had crossed seventeen I realised I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
When, after much hesitation and quite a lot of trepidation, I disclosed my fears to my parents they were devastated. Quite understandably so. I mean who wouldn’t? Their only child, bright and cheerful, a crowd puller, was now telling them, literally out of the blue that he was a she. That their only offspring, that too a son, the much sought after male homosapien, was a daughter.
Barring the initial shock, my mother, as all mothers are wont to, took it in her chin and embraced me. She had a daughter now instead of what she believed earlier to be a son. Just a switch of genders.
But my father was made differently. He felt insulted, cheated, humiliated, his elephantine male ego couldn’t the fathom the idea of fathering a boy who had now cruelly turned into a girl.
He ranted and raved, threw things around, began binge drinking and chain smoking, and when one day my mother suggested that it was time to heed the doctor’s advice and help initiate the medical process that would transform my body from male into female he put his foot down. He simply refused to sign the consent form, refused to put his signature on the medical form without which no hospital or doctor could carry out the medical interventions my body so very urgently needed.
And when my mother questioned him over this reluctance, he slapped her and threw us, both mother and I out of the house, our house that parents had jointly built.
The next day and the week after we stayed at a relative’s place and the months following that we moved into a single room rented accommodation.
The day we moved in was when we received the court notice. My father had filed for divorce.
Our cup of woes filleth over.
I will cut short the horrific days and nights and the several years that followed thereafter, suffice to say it took all of ten years, five ‘eight-hour-long’ surgeries and a ten lakh rupees bank loan to help me transform fully from a boy to girl.
In between my mother worked at the bank, toiled as an independent single mother, bravely fighting the not so veiled barbs and insults and slights of a highly myopic misogynistic society to enable me pick up a graduate degree and a prized MBA thereafter.
She died last year, a happy and contented soul, ever in live with life, ever a fighter, ever positive and left me with her message of peace and love. A true fighter she was and made me one too.
My mother was stronger than I ever could be.
I remember she never ever dropping that smile off her face, never ever saying or feeling one bit of despondency, never ever indulging in self pity or wallowing in the deep bottomless well of despair and negativity.
Friends who have visit my house have seen my bookshelf chock o block with self help books and autobiographies of great men and women.
In one of the walls is a huge white board imprinted with the words, “Trauma is about being stuck. Sometimes a holding pattern becomes habitual, causing tension and ill health. We understand our lives backward, but must live them forward”.
These are the words of the great 20th century Danish philosopher Soren Kiregaard, considered the ‘Father of Existentialism’ on whose works I have done Doctorate.
Thanks to my in depth research into his teachings and philosophies was I able understand the concept of choice that besets every human being and thereby lead myself from pitch black darkness into blinding light.
It was he who helped me move from my earlier stage of dreadful existence to another beautiful stage, an act of will, a leap of choice.
I slowly moved from apathy to sympathetic antipathy to finally antipathetic sympathy.
I realised it’s not the traumas and setbacks that come our way that defeat us, that hold us back, that lead us to failures. I realised that is it is our own mental blocks towards them, our own deep rooted self serving narrow mindsets and attitudes towards these temporary but all so natural mishaps that beset every human being on this planet that we need to smash, come out of, and overcome. And that’s what I did. I smashed and broke through all these artificial walls to carve my own space on this Earth.
And that’s the message that I want give all.
I am no doctor but today I help heal minds, heal human minds caught in a time warp, a vicious self defeating circle of bigotry, obscurantism, patriarchy and gender subjugation.
This beautiful award and recognition will always stay embedded in my heart for ever, for it shows your love and respect for both of us, my mother and me__for my mother Lalitha, and for me, Vanya.
And that, my dear friends and colleagues, is my story, Lavanya’s story, the story of a girl who was once a boy but will always remain a human being, and strive to be a good one. Thanks You and God bless all of you.”
#NEELANILPANCIKER FICTION #SHORT STORY #REENA’S EXPLORATION CHALLENGE#WEEK 15 #1323words