Positive Chronicles - Triumph over tragedy
by Aalif Surti
Blessings in disguise
I am falling off the cliff. The moment I think I will hit the ground, I wake up. It was just a dream. A month later. I am really falling off the cliff, with a paraglider. I apply the brakes too late and the glider pulls me forward as my legs frantically try to match its 25-km/hour speed. My left ankle snaps. In my 16 years of participating in adventure sports, this was the first major accident. Yet I remained calm and in control.
Ten years ago, my reaction would have been different. My girlfriend had confessed that she was with me only because I was a ‘good catch’. She left me because I was leaving home for her, which did not fit her scheme. I began to feel that everyone was selfish and every action motivated by a ulterior motive.
I sought refuge in the Himalayas. There I was invited to lead a month-long mountaineering camp near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. The three-day climb to the camp at a height of 10,000 feet was tough. Overweight and listless, I wanted to give up from time to time. The thought of being in the mountains for a month propelled me on.
Over that month, escorting trekkers across the seven-kilometre snow-filled pass built up my physical and mental strength, melting away excess weight and emotional baggage. Quiet periods provided opportunities to explore body, mind and soul. I visited Dharamsala to climb the Dhauladhars and ended up meditating in the Dalai Lama’s temple.
My perspective had changed. I took my fractured ankle as a sign to slow down. For years I had been exploring mountains and jungles all over the world. This accident gave me an opportunity to practise spiritual teachings and experiment with alternative healing systems.
The swelling in my ankle persisted for two years and a limp developed. My relationships were not working, and mind-over-body systems were not enough. I found the answer in reiki grandmaster Paula Horan’s 21-day bodywork course. Deep tissue healing miraculously reduced the swelling. Within a year, I was able to completely heal the swelling and the limp.
Training in rebirthing and emotional release made me realise that my problem was not only physical. I had long hesitated giving up my radiology career to practise and teach holistic healing. My relationships didn’t work because I feared taking responsibility. Releasing these emotions opened up my mind and body. At the end of an intense retreat, I felt I had dropped years of emotional baggage and physical blocks. Now, relationships are flourishing and I am able to say ‘no’ when I do not want to do something. The neediness has gone. Ten years seem to have dropped from my face as I go deeper within myself.
From rigidity to flexibility and from bondage to freedom—it has been an amazing journey. Life has come full circle: from working on body through mind (NLP, hypnosis, reiki) to healing mind through body (deep tissue work, rebirthing, emotional release). Ancient wisdom holds true for me—body and mind are one. Ultimately, this accident was a call for awakening.
—Dr Nithin Nayak, Pune
Lives well lived
As I dictate this letter (I am bed-ridden and unable to write), my life flashes before me. I am the youngest of three handicapped sisters. We suffered from a degenerative muscular dystrophy that affected our motor nerves, making movements slow. Yet our parents envisioned us as independent members of society and provided us with the best possible education.
After finishing school in 1975, my oldest sister Sheela declared her resolve to go to college. She would often return with bleeding knees from stumbling while trying to board the bus. Yet she never gave up attending college and went on to do her MA from Delhi University. Her courage inspired my sister, Leela, and I. Leela was denied admission in a women’s college due to her handicap. Sheela picked the fight for Leela’s rights. Soon, many Delhi colleges offered Leela a seat and she stood first in her Philosophy (Honours) examinations.
In 1964, my father was posted to Washington DC, USA. Our stay there widened our outlook. When it was time to return, Sheela announced her resolve to stay back and have a go at living independently. She did a PhD in Special Education and found employment as a psychologist. She learnt driving and wrote: “My driving licence has given me more pride than my PhD. I am finally mobile.”
Sheela lived in the US for 35 years. In an interview to Doordarshan in 1984 she said: “Handicapped people need to express their needs and make their own decisions.” She drew strength from the Bhagavad Gita’s message of nishkama karma (desireless action). After our return, I joined a British organisation as receptionist. Leela taught children at home. Sheela visited us each year and always told us not to bother about what we could not do but concentrate on what we could use, especially our brains! In 1986, I underwent eye surgery and went into depression. I quit my job. I couldn’t walk unaided. I fractured my foot and during the operation, was wrongly administered anaesthesia that left me paralysed waist downwards.
After mother’s death in 1992, we moved in with our brother’s family. One day, Leela went out on her motorised wheelchair and found a friend who introduced us to a Buddhist organisation, Bharat Soka Gakkai. The compassion of its members and the act of praying together helped us pick the threads of our lives. Leela and I started teaching children in our colony. Our lives began to open up.
My Buddhist practice helped me overcome Leela’s death in 1996. The message of Buddhist scriptures is—suffer what you have to suffer; enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both joy and suffering as facts of life. I learnt to accept the inevitability of death.
In 1998, Sheela passed away. Her last words to me were: “Be positive.” In the last few years, my life has become a round of hospitals, doctors and medicines. The only sustaining factor is love, faith and acceptance and gratitude for all we have. Last August, I lost my father too. The dignity with which he bore his sickness taught me that reserves of the human sprit are unfathomable.
Those closest to me are gone. Yet I believe I still have a mission to fulfil. My heart fills with gratitude at each new dawn. This life is but one chapter in the soul’s journey through eternity.
—Sushma Kapur, New Delhi
Subject: courage - 14 May 2007
for Sushma kapur i think u r a very brave person and people like you are a inspiration..i too have faced tragedies in my life but i am not brave like you..i really appreciate ur Courage.
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