March 2016 By Jamuna Rangachari Problems exist. However, it is our capacity to face them and overcome them that give us the keys to life, and make us the person we are meant to be, says Jamuna Rangachari When I was pregnant with my first child and started having the first bout of labour pains, I fell into a deep panic. “How much more pain will be there? Will my body be torn apart?” I kept repeating to my husband and mother-in-law like a parrot. The thought of a whole human body, even if it was that of a baby, coming out of my body, made me totally irrational. “If labour was all that painful, nobody would ever have a second child, Jamuna,” my mother-in-law clasped my hand and told me. She then bid me farewell to the hospital, asking me to chant a mantra and remember that all would be well. The process of chanting switched my mind from worry and helped me a great deal. Ravi Valluri from Secunderabad, an employee of Indian Railways, was a chronic alcoholic and also addicted to smoking. His friends and family tried their best to make him combat these addictions but to no avail. Things came to a climax when he collapsed at Saharanpur in 1992 during the course of an inspection, and was literally loaded on a truck and carted to the civil hospital. He was lying on the stretcher, unable to help himself without any support. Diagnosis revealed excessive drinking and smoking. It was only his wife and mother who kept praying for his well-being. “I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, in 1986. I was 34 years of age, studying for a PhD at McGill University, Canada,” says Harmala Gupta, now in Delhi. At that time, she was married and had a four-year-old son. In one moment it seemed as if everything was going to be snatched away from her. From a life that seemed perfect, she now needed to grapple with a terrible situation. She did not know whether she could lead a life with cancer, or overcome it, as no cure had been found for it yet and most of all, what lay ahead in the journey of life for her. In the beginning is the problem. Of all sizes and shapes. And no one is exempt from them, no matter how rich, famous, beautiful or intelligent they may be. It is the one thing that all human beings have in common. What distinguishes us, though, is how we handle these problems. If we ignore or suppress the problem, it grows silently into the night. If we react in anger, pain, self-pity or fear, again the problem grows prodigiously. Indeed all these reactions are manure for the problem, especially fear and worry. The more we fret and fume, the greater the problems appear, and the more we shrink. The smaller we feel, the more difficult it is to gather the courage and strength to face it. Our fear and worry are in inverse proportion to the steps we take to handle the problem. The more we act, the less we worry and the more we feel in control over it. However, if for whatever reason we are unable to find the capacity to act, then our worry spirals up. In my case the fear and worry arose because I was entering into the unknown. Fortunately, my mother-in-law’s suggestion of mantra chanting gave my frantic mind something to do and helped me rechannelise my fear energy. In Ravi’s case, the fear and worry had a deeper reason. As all addicts know and as psychologists endorse, addiction cannot be combatted at the level of the conscious mind. Innumerable times, the addict will vow to turn over a new leaf, and innumerable times he will fail. The addiction has seeped deep into his subconscious and the conscious mind has no power over it. The individual is not in control over his addiction. he is enslaved to it. As the chilling credo goes: Man takes drink, drink takes drink, drink takes man. The more helpless Ravi felt about his problem, and the more ashamed and guilty he felt about it, the more addicted he became. For Harmala too, the worry was legitimate. She was facing cancer, one of the most fearful of modern scourges; moreover a form of cancer without a known cure. Indeed, all forms of diseases with the label ‘incurable’ generate deep levels of fear and anxiety in the patient. Jaishree Kannan had just turned 47 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Almost mechanically, and in a state of deep anxiety, she underwent her first surgery and a round of chemotherapy. A similar thing happened to Arvind Sanghvi from Pune. Up to the age of 30, he was a young man full of verve and enthusiasm. Suddenly, in 1993, it was a feat to walk for even a small distance. No one was able define his ailment clearly. Every time a different body part seemed to give way. He had no bladder and bowel control. It was all the more frustrating as he had two small kids when it all began. From 1993 to 1995, he was totally paralyzed and unable to perform any physical activity. Attending to business needs was a farfetched dream. When an ailment strikes, the challenge is for the entire family, not just the person undergoing it. “When I first received the news of my dear wife’s terminal cancer in 2008, the emperor of all maladies, I was shattered. My world came crashing down around me,” says Anand Tendolkar from Mumbai. Lipi Banerjee’s son was born in 1996 after a complex surgery, because her water had drained from her womb. “He had a raised band across his head. We were told that it would subside eventually and it did flatten after nine months.” Other problems began cropping up. Kunall, her son, almost never slept. His energy level was exhausting. His behaviour was extremely erratic. He would cry incessantly for up to 45 minutes. “We even feared for his life as he used to choke while crying incessantly,” she says. Not knowing what to do, she just kept praying and looking for guidance. The journey of life So how do we combat the fear and worry that stops us from getting to grips with the problem? Perhaps one way is to see its true purpose in our lives. All gurus and scriptures tell us that the purpose of life is to grow. Problems are the curriculum of life. We are here on Planet Earth to take off from wherever we left in the last lifetime, and to grow in strength, capability, intelligence, wisdom, love, compassion, confidence, and so on. We are meant to fully realise our whole and perfect selves. Problems are the indicators of where we still have to make progress. Are we careless about our diet and habits? An illness may arise to cure us of it. Are we selfish or quick tempered? Relationship issues may crop up to help us resolve it. Once we recognise the true place of problems in our lives, it will be easier for us to accept them. Moreover, when they present themselves, we will constantly look at where we have gone wrong, instead of blaming others or God. This is an important step in moving from victimhood to victorhood. But life, too, comes to our aid. For one thing, there is the grace of God. Nothing comes to us unless we have the strength to tackle it. If we can trust in this knowledge, it will give us the grit to combat our problem. After all, if God has faith in us, why should we not? Most of all, we must trust that we are now embarked on a journey which may be harrowing at the moment, but which will eventually yield precious gifts that will unfold our lives unimaginably. A journey in which life itself will guide us. Ravi’s wife’s and mother’s ardent prayers to the Divine did not go unnoticed. Sometime in November 2003, he participated in the Part 1 course of the Art of Living at Jaipur. On completion of the course, he rang up his mother. He could feel the happiness in her voice when her son spoke to her, sober, on a Sunday evening. Unfortunately, he still continued his drinking. He did not attend any follow-ups and was reluctant to attend the Part 2 course. The reason was his inability to carry his bottle of liquor and cigarettes to the venue. Once, in an inebriated state, he started quarrelling with cops posted at the residence of the former CM of AP, Dr YS Reddy. He was taken to a gated community for rehabilitation by his family doctor and wife. As he tended to be extremely violent, he had to be put into a cell with iron bars. It was at this time that he became extremely scared, and started praying with fervour. After a while, his wife and father took him to a liver specialist in Hyderabad. The doctor wondered how he was still alive despite his abuse of the liver. His answer was that he practised short Kriya everyday (despite alcohol), drank plenty of buttermilk and took Liv 52. She smiled wryly, and acknowledged that Sudarshan Kriya had immense therapeutic values, and asked him to stop drinking at least now. For Harmala, after the initial shock and denial, came acceptance but a great deal of sadness. “I was fortunate that I was in a country (Canada) where cancer did not carry a stigma, where everyone spoke about it quite openly and where supportive care was available. It gave me a chance to gather information, share my emotions with others similarly placed, and get practical assistance, ranging from a wig to breathing and relaxation classes,” she says. Her family too was completely with her, and they faced it as a team, making recovery that much easier. In the case of Arvind, after three years of endless rounds to various doctors and hospitals, his affliction was diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis in 1995. He was so depressed that he even started having thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, his wife gave him tremendous support and her encouragement enabled him to cope with life. In Lipi’s case, her husband’s transferrable job made it difficult to diagnose her son. Eventually, Kunall was finally diagnosed with ADHD at the age of four in 2000. It was a step forward but there still were obstacles. The required drug, methylphenidate, was not availabl
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