h2>Dating : Tap a Tale
In 2016, I was working for a brand strategy firm and I happened to touch upon the realms of brand study, consumer research and a tad bit of behavior studies but what left me hanging off the hook was the urge to live someone’s life, to know their journey & to acknowledge their struggles. It is the path of empathising that makes humans a lot more resilient to what’s happening in their own lives. Ever since then, I have been fetching for ways to build stronger connections with fellow humans. It is not as easy for most to open their lives up to an absolute stranger, but very recently I happened to attend a story telling evening in Mumbai and that opened up a new window for me. Listening to people narrate their life incidents is therapeutic, isn’t that what we all look for? Don’t we all look for someone to attentively hear us out?
Storytelling, it is the act of immersing self in someone else’s world, soaking in their energies and parking ours aside, putting their lives before ours & catering to their needs before fuelling our desires. It is possibly the first step towards being a tad bit selfless, I did have my own set of concerns when I was considering the possibilities of storytelling as a way of empathising. While I was caught up in weighing these concerns, my current work place threw an assignment at me which seemed like an answer to most of my questions. We were asked to visit the chaotic, hustling & unorganised K R Market in Bangalore. The task was to have heart felt conversations & collect a bunch of human stories. I really was pumped up to set my concerns free and know whether story telling is worth building on or not.
I have lived all my life in Mumbai, my life hasn’t been a lavish one, but it has undoubtedly been a comforting one. My parents have always taught me to value everything & everyone around me, my father has had a rough childhood. He lost his father at a very young age; he has sold peanuts outside movie theatres & worked at smaller food stalls to earn a living. He has struggled his way through to provide us with a comforting lifestyle, a decent education and still manages to be the pillar that holds all our dreams tight. I barely seem to acknowledge, I always crib about him not showing enough interest in my field of interest, I never seem to appreciate his presence. Today, I heard Lalita talk about her days and I thought of rectifying my approach towards my beloved father (mother as well).
Lalita is in her late 30’s, is dressed in a saree, likes to pin some jasmine flowers to her hair and walk around with a chirpy soul. “I might look happy & cheerful but if I start narrating my story, you might tear up” I was all up for it, I had heard so many of my father’s stories that the benchmark of pain was set high up. “I am just like any other woman here, just that I took certain decisions which really tore my life apart” I was starting to wonder what could it possibly be, by now I was preparing myself to listen while also forming a set of potential question which will help nudging her further. “I was young, carefree and in love. It was all so happy & gay that within months of knowing each other, we thought of getting married. I barely knew him as a person, but I thought what we had was special.” Having grown up in the millennial era, old school romance doesn’t seem relatable but does seem desirable. Some part of me wanted to sit in the garden & hold hands with my boyfriend, some part of me wanted to write him letters but for all I knew, the millennial in him might just cringe.
“One fine day after thinking a lot, we decided to get married. Exactly a week of us being married, I get to know that he was already married to some other woman and I was his second wife. Just like that, in the middle of being dreamy, my life crashed.” By now, I was losing track of all my pondering thoughts. I had started to visualise her narrative; I was her in her story. While a part of me was confused on how to react seeing my husband being married to someone else, the other part of me was boiling in anger. “No matter how strong a bond is, second is always second. I was not his first wife and that left me hanging with nothing. With time, he stopped visiting me, spending time with me, he started physically abusing me & I had no hopes of leading a happy life.” It suddenly occurred to me that all the thoughts I was building on had no relevance to her story. It is challenging, to be at that spot, see the narrative not go as per your prediction & scrap away all my premises. But it is equally so enriching, I was no longer Shraddha, I was stepping into Lalita’s world, the kind of world I had never witnessed for real. “I gave birth to two girls; Satya & Kavita, they are my only hope. My husband does nothing, he is home all day & all night. I am the one who provides for everyone’s needs including his alcoholic indulgences.” She was almost tearing up by now and I couldn’t stop myself from comforting her by caressing her back, “When I was a little girl, I had a life of everyone’s dreams. My father splurged all his money on my siblings & I, but we were always busy dreaming of being in love, getting married and everything else that actually never held any significance in real life. I was so distracted & unfocused that I quit schooling at the age of 10” I was suddenly taken back to my days of not knowing how fruitful education was, my father used to lock up the living room since I had become a television addict & was distancing away from books. As ridiculous as it sounds now, I did dream of getting married to my then crush. I was switching between being myself & Lalita, all at once. The beauty is in the act of self-reflection, empathising becomes a lot easier when you start finding patterns of evolution, and I was starting to find mine with Lalita’s.
“Today, I am not sure of why I am still with this man and managing his life while all he does is treat me like a slave. I always think that it was my decision to fall in love so leading a life with him becomes my responsibility as well. My girls are my only hope, they are young now & all I can hope is for them to not fall in love.” Now that is the thing about emotions, experiences have a strong influence on the kind of inclination one builds towards a certain emotion. Lalita has always looked for solace in love, dependency in that state, she weighs responsibilities against self-interest. The current generation is all about self-validation, we barely associate with the act of praising our partner. Lalita has been sustaining a broken marriage for years together just out of obligation. I am no good to decide whether or not it is okay to put someone else before your own self, but I was starting to learn to set aside my biases, I was in Lalita’s world. “Muthu is my best friend; she is the one I share all my life happenings with. We listen to each other; she had asked me to not marry this man, but I didn’t listen to her. Guess that is why I am being punished” it was safe to say that no matter how far humans progress, we all look forward to having that single source of being grounded, just like Lalita found hers in Muthu.
“Today, my life is all about getting to the market at 2am, fighting with the wholesalers and struggling to sell the flowers with my sisters till 10am. There are days when none of my stock gets sold, all I can do is go to the temple and give away all of it. Despite the worst of conditions that I have seen, I give flowers to the temple twice every week. I sell one lotus from Rs.10, I give 100 lotuses to the temple every week i.e. flowers worth Rs.1000. I could easily save the same and buy something for the house or girls, but I have some faith in my God and I never refrain from offering whatever I can” Lalita’s source of dependency had transitioned from being her husband to the almighty. Though she worked all her energies to be the best possible mother for her girls, most of her hopes were still tied onto religion. “I will know that I have done something in my life when I manage to build a house for my mother and get my girls admitted in a well known college” I could sense my eyes swelling up, Lalita still dreamt of being the apparent ‘man’ of the family. There was this sudden urge of holding her and letting her know that everything is going to be fine soon but I didn’t find myself worthy enough to be stating that. I was an alien in her world who had walked in just to listen to her and walk out, she was the one to see something in me and let everything out.
While I was lost in every word that Lalita spoke at that very moment, I couldn’t stop myself from drawing patterns of struggle between her & my father’s life. I have been the Satya/Kavita in my father’s life at some point, but never did he fail me just like Lalita hasn’t. Someday, at some point, I hope to be what Lalita dreams of her girls to be, to my father.
Hope you had a good read 🙂