When my heart bled…

Posted: September 10, 2008 in Batuku jeevuda!!, Pondering....
Tags: , , , ,

Call me obdurate, hard-hearted, compassionless, but I always thought, that crying is the defense of the feeble minded. I was of the opinion that (and I may be wrong), people who break down at the slightest whiff of saddening air only do so to grab attention or in self-pity. Under no circumstances is shedding of tears an option for me to vent my grief. This gene, I believe, has been passed down to me from my mother, a very strong woman. It usually takes a lot to ruffle my lachrymal apparatus. As far as I can vividly recall, instances in my life when I came close to crumbling under the pressure of dejection are so few, that I can count them on my fingers. And instances when I actually caved are even fewer and there was always a very strong reason behind it. But there are also times when you are only consumed by a sense of gloom clubbed with compassion, but it doesn’t actually crack the pot of tears waiting to be broken. The pathos of the situation just gives you a doleful muse and leaves you pensive. You don’t shed a tear but silently ponder over situations life sometimes bares you to. Life shows you how it can cruelly play around with your emotions and remind you how helpless you can be when it does that. Believe me, I’ve been there! This is to tell you how it feels to be caught in such a spot. These were no life altering incidents and might even sound trivial to many, but they are certainly something that I will never forget. They will always linger on, in a dark corner of my otherwise empty head.

It was a cold December morning and I was up early, to study for an exam that afternoon (not something I do very often!). My mother was already up as usual, finished her early morning puja and kitchen purging and was preparing for a new day. I was in my room trying hard to pull my slothful self out of bed. When I finally did, I trudged over to the balcony to feel the morning chill. I was admiring the rising sun and the morning buzz as I shivered in the winter zephyr. I turned around to get back in when, from a distance, I heard a woman wailing. It was a long, forlorn cry that struck me hard. I looked over to see who it was and why she was crying. I noticed that she was with her maimed husband who was pushing himself on a flat trolley as she walked next to him. They were almost naked, with only a few inches of clothes to hide their shame. They were desperately wailing, sobbing and crying out for a piece of cloth. Now, such a sight is not in the least unusual, if you’re living in India. You practically grow up with beggars all around. But something about this hapless couple was very unusually rueful. And there I was, draped in a warm cuddly razaai watching these two unclad people who were in a desperate need for it. It was heart-wrenching to hear their sobs. My eyes almost welled. As I contemplated on giving them some clothes, I turned around to see my mother holding a small bundle of old and unused sarees. As her lips mumbled a silent shlokam, she gestured towards them. I was so terribly moved. I ran into my room, grabbed a bunch of unused clothes and wrapped them up in the razaai I had draped around me. I took the two bundles and ran out to give them to the helpless couple. As the woman clutched the bundles, I saw a look of heart-felt gratitude on her squalid face. She showered blessings on me as she took them. But the joy of having helped a person in need didn’t last long. Their cries haunted me. Their sorrow echoed in my head and killed my concentration as I sat through the examination that afternoon. I was so disturbed by them for some unfathomable reason, that I couldn’t sleep for the next two nights. Sometimes I still hear their voices and sense their destitution, even today. I hope they’re doing well. I really, really hope so.

While that got me thinking for about two days and occasionally afterwards, this incident had me for a week. Hailing from an orthodox family and hence being slightly religious, I used to visit the near by temple in my locality every Saturday. For a long time, I noticed this old lady who begged at the gates along with a few others. She was a regular, like I was. I would give her something every time I went to the temple and she would bless me in gratitude, like all beggars do. We wouldn’t talk or greet each other, a smile is all we shared. One saturday she didn’t show up. I thought she was probably taking a day off. She didn’t show up the next week either, or the next week or the week after that. Her continued absence bothered me. I asked one of the other regular beggars if he had seen that old lady. He nonchalantly replied – “She died about a month ago.” A sudden chill and a rude shock! I was not prepared to hear that. While I usually sang out loud like a mad man on the loose as I walked, that evening I walked the whole distance back home in mournful silence. I couldn’t eat or sleep that night. I mourned that old lady’s death for a week after that, with sleepless nights. I didn’t visit that temple for more than two months afterwards. I felt no kinship with that woman, but I still mourned her death. Strange, but true.

This was way before the previous two incidents. January 26, 2001 – a major earthquake rocks Gujarat. All major news channels did a commendable job in covering the misery of the people and increasing their TRP ratings. I wonder if news channels will ever realize their ‘social responsibility’. Anyway, a national news channel was covering a collapsed school in central Ahmedabad. The surviving children were being taken to the nearest hospital. One video showed a 12 year old girl on a stretcher, with broken limbs. She was evidently more worried about her missing father than herself as she wailed “Mera baapu! Mera baapu!“. I don’t know if she ever found her father . I don’t even know if she herself survived the injuries she suffered, although I hope she did. I was at the dinner table when I saw that depressing video and, needless to say, not a morsel went in after watching it.  Her face is still vivid in my memory and her cries still haunt me. I know, this sounds ridiculous to some, but it’s true, that’s how ridiculously emotional I can get sometimes.

December 26, 2004 – the sea breached its frontiers with land and wreaked havoc. The town of Nagapttinam, TN was the worst hit in India. Again, the new channels celebrated their ever-growing TRP ratings, with their respective coverages. But Barkha Dutt is one journalist I’ve always looked up to and admired her for her professionalism in reporting, be it the Kargil conflict, the military coup in Pakistan or the Boxing Day Tsunami. Her coverage never lacked the professional character that many reporters are sadly famished of. She covered the tsunami in the same spirit. But she’s human after all – she broke down on camera when she visited a make-shift relief center. And one cannot blame her for it – there were mothers looking for children, children pining for their parents, some looking for entire families. It could not get worse, the death toll and the number of missing kept rising by the minute. In any case, Barkha Dutt’s report on the relief-centers was gripping. After watching the report, I fervently looked for the smallest of opportunities to volunteer in the camps in the affected areas. I finally found one with Red Cross, Hyderabad. The center was looking for volunteers and I gave in my name through someone I knew. I was to board one of the special trains to Chennai in a couple of days, when suddenly, I got a call from RC. They said they already had enough volunteers and didn’t need more. I was heart-broken. I tried persuading them into letting me go, but they had already decided not to. Every time I watched the visuals of the devastation after that day, I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. I would be overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. The thought that I didn’t do what I could, gnawed at my conscience.

These incidents did not affect my life in any manner, but still remain fresh in my memory.  They always will. These were times when life reminded me that I am human and that I am susceptible.

On a closing note, here’s a music track that is often voted ‘the saddest classical composition ever’ – Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’.

PS: Now try reading the post with the track playing in the background! But don’t cry, please.

  1. rads says:

    Lovely post. The tears that come on demand, and for ourselves somehow always are valued less than when they shed for others. Not that our heartbreak is of any less importance, but it takes a certain level of humanity to feel the intensity for the rest.

    I believe personal tears are a sign of weakness. *sigh.

    Thanks rads! Well, personal tears are probably best shed when alone. I don’t really believe in sharing my deepest sorrows. I’m best left alone at times like that. Sorrow spreads like joy does and I don’t like inflicting it on someone by sharing it. Although, I’m willing to share someone else’s grief. But again, this is just my opinion and people might differ on it.

  2. buddy says:

    It takes a lot to cry for others…

    Hey! I ‘did not’ cry! X-( But thanks anyway. 😀

  3. Srividya says:

    Touching kaka! Really touching … keep the writing going kaka … u r getting better n better! 🙂

    Thanks kaka!! I will, I will! You keep visiting and I’ll keep writing! 🙂

  4. maxdavinci says:

    I hate u man! I really do. Esp when you mix words so well that the images start dancing in my head.

    U write well, but then I hate you for writing so well. You’ve killed my afternoon and the visuals have jumped out of the screen and doing the samba in my head!

    PS: I really hate u

    Thanks for hating me! I’m glad I could make you hate me so much! 😉

  5. Apple says:

    Lovely post Karthik…
    Mee post chaduvuthunte 2001 Gujarat incident appudu oka photo gurthosthondi…Newspaper front page lo vesaaru…oka koolipoyina school building sidhilaala kinda nundi oka chinna papa cheyyi matrame bayataki kanipisthondi…and that particular photo haunts me all thru this life

    Thanks Keerti garu! I guess everybody has their plaintive muse, that picture was yours. 🙂 I know what picture you’re talking about. Nenu kooda choosa.

  6. Adithya says:

    Though I don’t get that emotional and remember all the misery I see, I do chant a prayer and wish good for them. I can’t be without doing it.

    And yes, you write amazingly well!! As amazing as the person you are!

    Thank you! But believe me, I’m not close to being the angel I project myself to be. I have a satanic streak too. 😉

  7. Chutney says:

    Brilliance. I will have to think a little bit more in order to comment, I still have a hangover from your post.

    Thanks a lot and don’t think so much. Chill! It’ll pass. It must be the music video! 😛

  8. Sravya says:

    😦 Touching post.

    Thank you!

  9. Vats says:

    Dude….. damn ya!! *sniff* *sniff*

    Cry! Cry more! You deserve to cry! Need a handkerchief?

  10. 10yearslate says:

    For me, it was when I saw a girl being handed over by a father to the mother after a weekend custody access.

    The handover was at the local park. The dad was struggling to hold it all in, the child was clinging to dad and crying her heart out, the mother was stony faced.

    I went home crying in my heart for that child, for that father, for that mother.

    I rushed in, gathered my wife and my child in my arms and silently held them close to me.

    I empathise with you sir! I know how you must have felt when you saw the little girl cling on to her father refusing to let go of him. I hope no one ever faces a situation like that. The pangs of separation dig really deep into one’s heart!

  11. nikhil says:

    Damn !!! I regret reading this post at work. Only I know, how much I struggled to hold back my tears, sitting at my office desk. Given the tear-tank I am, I would have felt much better reading it in my room, all by my self.

    Ok,after all this,I accept that even your heart bleeds… LOL 🙂

    🙂 It’s ok nik! Hold those tears! And thanks for the acknowledgement! 😉

  12. crakpot says:

    Hmm. Some things truly stay in your memory for a long time. Sometimes its good that these feelings stay with us cuz they always remind us of how fortunate we are to have what we do. Sadness and pain come in all forms and how we manage it is entirely upto us. It is good that you have the strength to carry on in life no matter how hard situations get. Your strength is truly a virtue! (I am starting to sound like a fortuneteller now, right?)

    Crying might sometimes be the only form of venting, so it doesn’t always show a person’s weakness!

    Another story that has been in my mind for a long time is that of Aarushi. Her murder case is still being shown on news channels and now it has sadly turned out into a north Indian entertainment crime story!

    Yea, I guess sometimes crying is the only way to spout grief and I admit I’ve been there too. But in general it’s hard for me to break a tear and this is how I thought I could justify it, but I guess I was wrong. And yea the Aarushi murder case has been sensationalised beyond redemption. The poor girl’s family’s agony is unimaginable.

  13. Shruti says:

    Beautifully written!!!! Very touching..

    Only thing I would disagree with is about crying shows a person’s weakness. People like me regain their strength to overcome tough times once they vent out their sad feelings by crying… 🙂

    I believe crying is just an expression and everyone is innately different in expressing themselves..

    Thanks and yea, I guess crying to vent sorrow is an entirely personal choice and what I’ve expressed is just an opinion. I’ve also clarified saying I might be wrong. So there, I’ve only exercised my right to free speech! 😛 Thanks again and welcome to my blog! 🙂

  14. Some times, I think, life is so cruel. The Gujarat incident, Tsunami…my god…really bad. More cruel were Tamil channels on how they could make politics out of it.

    You bet, life is cruel! About the channels, I guess all channels have been guilty of politicizing the natural disasters. Real journalism has lost it’s purpose

  15. Ashavaree says:

    You know as I read your post, I cannot help but notice that you address multiple themes. One being the expression of emotion , the kind that seems to flow out of your eyes; and second , a totally unrelated theme, TRP ratings and strategies of media houses to increase them.
    Firstly, Karthik, I can look at your first point both ways, one that it’s a personal feeling, and sometimes people just vent out their emotions by choosing to cry. It helps some people, it really does, and for them its not a weakness, but rather strength. And we should be allowed to use that if need be. On the flip side, I know of families that teach their kids never to cry in public because they fear others may view the expression of emotion as a sign of weakness or a loss of overall character. I once read a book by Adams and Whitehead called “The Dynasty” ( a book on you know which Indian political dynasty), where Mrs. Gandhi taught her kids never to cry in public. And I feel its too much pressure for a kid to take. SO these things depend from family to family, people to people, and culture to culture. And for me I feel I need to cry at times, and stay phlegmatic during others, depending on situation.
    Secondly, totally unrelated, your mention of how media houses will use strategies to increase TRPs. You know I feel strongly about these things. During my last visit to India, I was flabbergasted at how different channels (news) were using emotional strategies to puncture the core of human essence just to increase the TRPs. I mean whatever happened to journalism dude!! My dad has been a journalist and is now sorry to see the state of affairs. Last month we had this event of a total solar eclipse, and instead of projecting it as an astronomic event, they had started showing ways to counter the effects of a malevolent sun on mere mortals….
    Anyways, I hope we can have much discussion over this, but I must say well written, thoughtful entries Karthik. I just hope the present Indian generation thinks the way some of us do.

    Thanks a lot Asha, your analysis is superb and I admit I was being slightly opinionated about the crying part. And I totally agree with you on TV channels going for broke for better TRP ratings at the expense of the spirit of journalism and its responsibility. It is indeed deplorable. The media is turning into a mosaic of tabloids rather than a source of news on which an entire nation relies. Sensationalism is the order of today’s journalism. Sad!

  16. kk05zz says:

    Annaya…great post really touched me and couple of droplets came off from my eyes…sorry for that!!

    🙂 Thanks! It’s ok to shed a tear, I guess.

  17. Srikanth says:

    I came here from your comment on Pavan’s blog(Seema Sastry)
    I expected a funny blog. But, found a different perspective of you. I donot know you, dont know what you do etc… but you know, different dimensions of the same person.

    Neverthless, there was moisture in my eyes.

    I can do funny too! 😛 I hope you weren’t disappointed to find a grim post when you were expecting a post that tickled your funny bone! 🙂 Do come back, though!

  18. maami says:

    ‘Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts’-Keats

    But sometimes the sweetness of the song is lost in the gloom that envelopes the thoughts, don’t you think? 🙂

  19. maami says:

    True, but that’s what poets say to alleviate the weight of gloom; wise men of arts and philosophers will also add that suffering ennobles.

    But I think it is said to help tide through the misery, to plod on. For the truly wretched like the ones you describe what can be of solace?
    What else but to soldier on rather than dwell upon the pathos of it all?

    There are those who break down at moments of happiness-is it because happiness is so fleeting for some of us?

    Aah the comfort of philosophy and the arts! Unbeatable! May be that’s what man invented them for, to keep his mind off the misery, as you said, to help him tide through the misery (love that phrase!)! And those who break tear in moments of joy probably do so to make up for the tears they didn’t shed during the blues (coz I sometimes do!)! 😛 And yea, even your comments sound so incredibly poetic maami! “What else but to soldier on rather than dwell upon the pathos of it all?” – Waah! Waah! Subhan Allah! Beautiful, I say! And Welcome back! 🙂

  20. Priya says:

    Crying is not all that bad when it means your parents scold the other sibling 😉
    Very well written post and the choice of song even more poignant! I just got done reading Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A thousand splendid sons’ and it hit me really hard, no matter how much we tend to empathize, I think most of us are unfortunate/fortunate enough to live in a very safe cocoon.
    And I better not get started on the news channels and their hunger for ratings…unscrupulous lot.

    Thank you and LOL @ crying so that parents scold the other sibling! Yea, I guess u’re right! Both of Khaled Husseini’s books are gripping!

  21. RukmaniRam says:

    As a child I was told never to cry, that it was a sign of weakness (pretty much the on the same lines as your opening sentences).. but I don’t think so. It is an expression of feeling, and it is there for a reason.

    That apart, damn you for asking me to play the music while reading, not that it made me cry though (because I already knew what was going on), but I can listen and read at the same time, and you made me so grossly aware of my shortcoming!!

    LOL 😀 Thank you! Always a pleasure! And yea, the opening sentence and the following ramble about crying was just an opinion! I also clarified saying I might be wrong.

  22. Great post.

    I used to have 0 compassion or empathy. None, nada, zilch. I was always a live and let live guy and been into things like patriotism and helping others, but I just couldn’t be moved my much. Never did someone else’s sorrow mean anything to me. I can safely blame my Quarter Life Crisis for my eventual wussification. When I watched Swades about a year ago, the scene where the kid hands Shahrukh the earthen cup with water mad my eyes well up.

    Firstly, thank you! And yea, I’ve been a stone-heart for the longest time and I still am, perhaps. But sometimes, little things that happen around us can melt the hardest of rocks known! There was no reason for me to be moved by these incidents, but I still was, for some unknown reason. LOL @ “wussification”. God! That scene from Swades had me too. We need to punch Ashutosh Gowariker for making it so cruelly realistic! 😛

  23. som says:

    man i did the same mistake as nikhil of reading this post at work(could’nt help it) and believe me its tough to hold back emotions after reading it :(. Touching post man, keep up the good work of writing.

    Thanks a lot! I think, it’s ok to let go at times, regardless of where you are! 🙂

  24. pipa says:

    Thank you so much for giving the meaning of “‘Marugela raa’. It is ‘marugu’+’ela’. Marugu meaning veil or a screen used to block one’s view, ‘ela’ means ‘why’. The line translates to ‘Why is there a veil between you and me, O Raghava?’

    All my life I have heard these words without knowing the meaning. Now thanks to this one thing — I feel my yucky day has become good already.

    Came here via maami’s

    The pleasure is all mine! 🙂

  25. shadow says:

    Hi..It’s me again..Your blog is heart touching,and even the back ground score made it more…But it sounds good when sensibility makes practicality.Here i go with a website ,where my cousin sister runs an organisation non-voluntarily.
    Visit : http://www.premaalayam.net/
    Contribute and make ur emotions into a structured image……….Shadow

  26. haishadow says:

    Mistaken here in the prev comment…it is voluntary organistion set wid service motto.

  27. […] about this? It shows what an angel you mother is” Santa […]

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