Cacti in my soul

Amrinder Bajaj

ABOUT six months back, an intriguing (pen) friendship developed between a stranger and me that began by his appreciation of a book I had authored. His wife had presented it to him while he was on dialysis, awaiting a kidney transplant. He vowed that it was the funniest book he had read and wanted to send me a laptop as a token of appreciation! He also wanted an autographed copy of my book when he came to India some time later in the month.

I replied: ‘The greatest reward that a writer longs for is appreciation of her work. As you have supplied that in ample measure, I am more than willing to autograph your copy when you come to Delhi. No need to be so extravagant.’ But he insisted on sending me a present as the book had made his ‘dialysis bearable’. For that, he wanted my address, which, of course, I did not give. Not that he was a stalker or something like that, for a doctor I knew had rung up to ask if she could give my email address to a sweet patient of hers who had become an ardent fan of mine. I agreed.

Soon we began to correspond on a regular basis. I was amazed at the positivity he radiated despite a number of diseases wracking his body. Pain and rounds of hospitals had become an integral part of his life, but he did not lose the zest for living.

I wrote: ‘I cannot believe that God can be so cruel to give one person so much to bear.’ He replied: ‘He has not been cruel to me. I am the lucky one. He has surrounded me with a caring family — a loving younger brother, an amazingly fantastic wife, sons and daughters who dote on me, not to forget, friends like you.’

This set me wondering, and I musingly sent him another epistle: A happy marriage and loving relationships are indeed a blessing. For me the reverse is true — good health but emotional unhappiness. Perhaps this too was for a reason. I honed my writing skills on heartaches and wove pearls of poetry around the grain of sand lodged in the oyster of my existence.

What hurts most is that though the soil of my soul was fertile and receptive, not for me were golden fields and lush orchards. All that the farmers of life sowed on it were thorny cacti. I have now learnt to love what I have and revel in the ephemeral blooming of these prickly inhabitants.

I realised that you expose your vulnerability to people and they poke needles in your flesh. I have learnt the hard way, not to let my hurt and sensitivity surface. It is only to my diary that I reveal my true self. On her uncomplaining pages, I pour out my angst so that superficially I remain my usual witty self — laughing and making others laugh.

Someone has rightly said:

Kabhi kisi ko mukamal jahan nahin milta/Kahin zameen toh kahi aasman nahi milta

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