Akshay constantly in our thoughts notwithstanding, days approaching the end of every month are particularly difficult to cope with. Ten months since Akshay, people across our beautiful country are all set to celebrate Maha Navami and Vijay Dashami. Both days represent the victory of good over evil. Growing up with my mother’s stories, it is ‘Goddess Power’ right through Navratri when we pray to Saraswati for knowledge, Lakshmi for prosperity and Durga for strength. On the ninth day, it is believed that Durga slayed the wicked demon Mahishasura. The tenth day of Dusshera is celebrated as Vijayadashmi. This was the day Prince Ram killed the invincible Daitya King Ravana. In fact it is also believed that the war between Ram and Ravana’s armies went on for these 10 days and Ravana’s army was finally defeated by Ram’s on Vijaydashami (the tenth day of victory).
A different, spiritual interpretation of victory over evil also urges us to ‘go inwards,’ into our own minds and hearts, to try and slay our ‘inner demons’. Introspection to be able to reign in anger, hate, jealousy, greed and so on, while holding on to the power of positivity and teaching ourselves to be kinder, more loving, more generous and courageous.
How tough a call this is, I am sure we all know. And yet, somewhere deep within, we also know this is the right way forward. Since losing Akshay- our brave, loving, bright and beautiful child, we have been confronted with one challenge after another. The latest is Girish’s shocking ‘silent’ heart attack followed by angioplasty last month. The doctors were stumped that he felt no symptoms and yet, had a myocardial infraction(MI) that damaged part of his heart’s left ventricle. With no history of hypertension or diabetes and being an extremely fit person, this came out of the blue. I cannot help but feel, that grief and pain over Akshay’s loss has taken its toll, on a stoic father. Girish’s health scare came soon after my mother fell and broke her right wrist and Girish’s mother was hospitalised with a mild stroke. Thankfully, all three are recovering, each at their own pace. Something that makes me thank God for small mercies.
Through this most difficult year in our lives, an unseen power has kept us afloat. Something has definitely been giving us not only courage, but also resilience. No matter how late or how little we sleep, we wake up each new day with a little more confidence that we will not be broken by life’s events. Maybe it is hope eternal, maybe blind faith, or maybe Akshay’s invisible support tells us the days ahead will be better?
There is also reaffirmation of tremendous goodness around us. So many people, who in different ways are reaching out to share our emotional burdens, strengthen our shoulders with timely physical help, and just being there to listen, when we feel low and alone. Can’t thank our wonderful circle of well-wishers enough. We are also meeting and connecting with people who, complete strangers until recently, have become extended family in a short span of time. Groups and organisations have reached out to honour those who gave their all in the service of the motherland. Knowing what other families have braved, long before us, seeing their smiles, having their support…. I cannot find words to describe how much all this has meant to us.
Despite the empathy and support, in being honest about the emotions I feel within myself, not everything is good. The grief, pain, some anger….low moods bordering on depression…..I see them all in myself and also around me. Images of Akshay fighting…..falling…. alone…. dying….., for trying to uphold all that is good in this world……they come back to haunt a thinking mind, again and again and again. Breaking down when I have my own space…..somehow feeling better after a good long cry…regaining the strength to tackle each new day…..all this still continues to happen. Sometimes I feel like reaching out to a ‘grief counselor’ but the dark clouds of heart ache can miraculously shift in a way that the world starts to look quite bright for a while.
Makes me think that moving forward on the path of life is akin to walking the tightrope over a deep abyss. One needs to consciously look ahead, draw stability and strength from within and at the same time, learn from the experiences of others who successfully managed the balancing act. Falling into the abyss will help none. But walking the tight rope to stay on the right path will have a positive cascading effect on many.
Through a very busy period, I made time to read a very interesting book. ‘Rudravan’ by gifted author Rahul Rajan. It is such a compelling read on the intriguing power play in the constant fight between good and evil. Through tracing the entire lifetime of Ravan, Rahul takes us far beyond just the famous Ramayana war that pitches Ram against Ravan.
The character of Vibhishan is particularly well etched in the book. For someone like me who grew up hearing the proverb ‘Ghar ka bhedi Lanka dhaye’ (the insider who knew the secrets brought down Lanka’), an uncomplimentary reference to Vibhishan who helped the ‘enemy camp’ of Ram, this book gave a very different and clear perspective on why Vibhishan did what he did. How he had always upheld ‘dharma’ right since his childhood and did not waver from the right path at any time throughout his life. Not even for the sake of supporting a brother he loved dearly. A brother who was all powerful, and who by his ‘tapas’ was granted boons of invincibility from the great Gods Brahma and Shiva. Ravan however became egoistic when he knew he was invincible and imprisoned most of the Devas who challenged him. Contrary to popular belief, Ravan chose the wrong path to ensure he became immortal. Even before abducting and confining Sita, he had set out for Vedavati, who immolated herself because she was unwilling to be his. At his height of glory and power, there was no reason to believe Ravan could be killed by anyone. Not by God nor Demon. Least of all by a ‘Manav’ (man) called Ram. Vibhishan had the courage to disagree with and confront his more powerful brother but when Ravan refused to listen, he switched sides. Hence, he did the right thing.
This tribute in the Indian Military Academy Journal this year is so well written in remembering and honouring Akshay’s life and sacrifice. The heart stops on reading it.
Akshay too did the right thing, irrespective of the consequences. Women, children and unarmed men were hostages to ‘bad uncles’, as Naina calls them. She talks a lot these days and when she overhears our conversations, she asks questions. She draws her own conclusions too. ‘My papa fought with bad people because they came with guns. My papa was very brave. But why did bad people hurt my papa? Why did he go so far away? I miss him so much. I wish he comes back’….. These are the questions and thoughts every little child in Naina’s place must be asking. Why did their papa have to go away into the sky and become a star…..?
I can’t help but draw parallels to the stories we grew up on and what is continuing to happen today. Do we, as individuals and families, have the courage to choose the right path? No matter what the consequences?
How often do we as parents blame others when our kids walk the wrong path? Look at what is happening around us – from petty crimes to murders and terrorism. And more often than not, families cry foul when their child is held responsible for a crime he confesses to! In the Kashmir valley, when venom is spread to turn people against their own, because they chose unity in diversity over Jehad and Sharia, isn’t it the height of evil? Army officer Ummer Fayyaz was abducted and killed by his own while on leave, attending his sister’s wedding. BSF soldier Rameez Ahmed Parrey was on leave in his home, when terrorists entered and shot him dead this week. A few months ago, DSP Mohammed Ayub was stripped and stoned to death for doing his duty – frisking ‘worshipers’ to ensure weapons did not enter the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar. Feroz Ahmed Dar and 5 other policemen were killed by terrorists while safeguarding a Bank Van carrying people’s money. They were all doing their duty. The list goes on and on. No longer can these heinous and most depraved acts of violence aimed at our countrymen, at their own brethren, be accepted or justified. This is definitely not the right path.
What Akshay stood for speaks through his poetry. As his mother, I so often wonder…. how did he think and feel so deeply……with such clarity and acceptance……at such a young age? Did he really have that half smile we all saw on the day he left us? The dreams, though numerous, haven’t been traumatizing. More than once, I have dreams of him fighting that fateful day, with focused energy, calm courage and amazing confidence. But last week, it was a different dream. He was up early, in his blue-grey night-suit, and as I walked towards the kitchen to make tea, he looked up from reading the newspaper and said, ‘Interesting. When the path is right, winning or losing is no longer important. Not having regrets is important.’
I am still trying to understand if this is somehow a message for me decipher. I am also filled with love and wonder at how perfectly Akshay fits this description from the Gita: Qualities and duties of a warrior: bravery, radiance, resoluteness, expertise, generosity, determination not to desert the battlefield.
May each of us be able to walk our tight rope the best we possibly can. May we have the courage to not waver from the right path. May we never fall into the abyss of despondency. May we always have the patience and faith to believe in the victory of good over evil.
On behalf of our family, I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very happy Dusshera and Deepavali. May the festival of lights light up your lives with joy and peace.
Love and God bless,
P.S. Here are some rare gems from the Gita that I feel like sharing with you.
It is one’s duty to fight a righteous war.
Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind. It was by this work that Janaka attained perfection. Others too have followed this path.
There is nothing in the three worlds, for me to gain Arjuna, nor is there anything I do not have. I continue to act but I am not driven by need of my own.
When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.
Creation is only the projection into form that which already exists.
Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; Nor in future shall any of us cease to be.
P.P.S. All you mythology/ fantasy buffs, do read ‘Rudravan’. I was lucky to be gifted an autographed copy by the author himself. Thank you Rahul Rajan.