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Four Deaths And A New Lease Of Life

22/06/2016 8:31 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Silent Place

Over the last few years, I have lost my mother to cancer, my father to liver cirrhosis, my grandmother to Parkinson's disease and my grandfather to dementia. Some were ill for months, others for years. I immersed the ashes of my dad and grandmother in the same river-spots in Rishikesh and Delhi where I had earlier immersed my mother and grandpa respectively. I am 33 and still not married, and my house feels strangely empty now. Where it was once full of patients and nurses, my house now just has objects, most of which carry memories.

Seeing them suffer deep pain is one trauma, seeing them depart is another. I have undergone it four times.

Being a caregiver to chronically ill relatives for an extended period of time means coping with tricky situations that one has to find solutions for, along with managing the accompanying mental, physical and financial fatigue. Difficult situations often spring up without warning, and they need to be resolved urgently and resourcefully. We lack affordable institutionalized support-systems to take care of chronically ill people in India, necessitating care-taking to be done at home. Offices can only accommodate their employees' need for time off to a certain extent; one is lucky if one is allowed extended time away. In any case, it has become an increasingly tough marketplace post-2008 and extended leave can reduce the time to achieve KRAs.

Then there are the patients themselves. Chronically ill people can become difficult and self-centred at times, and one has to deal with changes in behaviour. Neurological illnesses such as Parkinson's can lead to hallucinations and incoherent communications, making it doubly difficult for caregivers to understand the patient's needs.

These situations also impact one's social life since medical appointments and other emergencies can take up all one's time. Friends may not always understand these exigencies. One makes compromises in one's own personal and professional life, even as one's peer group seems to move ahead. It can be frustrating.

To say that being a caregiver is not easy is an understatement. The worst part is seeing loved ones going through pain; while you may be building character and the ability to deal with tough situations, you are left with horrifying memories. Seeing them suffer deep pain is one trauma, seeing them depart is another. I have undergone it four times.

In those years, I started writing as a hobby to utilize more constructively whatever free time I got in between my caretaking duties.

In those years, I started writing as a hobby to utilize more constructively whatever free time I got in between my caretaking duties. Anyone who has tried writing would know how tough it is to crack business publication brands. I had an interest in topics as varied as business, politics, geopolitics, the evolution of society and so on. I thought this mix of topics was very relevant in the context where India is placed currently, both in terms of its economic trajectory and societal evolution. Writing is hard work, let me assure you. I had to research and deliberate on current topics in these areas, focusing on impacts, challenges and solutions so as to offer practical insights rather than just theoretical ones. I tried writing in a way that would grab the editors' attention, since they are flooded with drafts each day. But I kept persevering and kept a persistent and tenacious work ethic, even though this was just a hobby. It meant I had to read and understand new topics, which widened my own knowledge and understanding. Slowly the conversions started. I started with some small brands and they became the stepping-stone for me to crack larger names. So far, I have published articles on more than 65 unique topics in 35 publications across several countries of Asia, Europe and America, including a few notable brands. I have also written two books on business themes, which were taken up by leading British and German academic publishers. Some of my articles received positive feedback from important quarters such as the government and economists, and some have been cited by newspapers, university periodicals and government institutions. Thanks to my writings and relationships built with such institutions, I now also get invites to their conferences and forums. It makes me believe I must have written something worthwhile, and this inspires me to continue that drive. I also started a satirical comic series on Facebook, which is now clocking decent hits.

The drive to convert my drafts gave me a fighting spirit to keep steady after each death in my family left me bereft.

When I look back, I can attribute the spark to this to my years as a caregiver. These writings have not benefited me in terms of money or career growth - it is just a hobby. But this is a hobby which I built with perseverance, tenacity and determination. It helped keep my mind constructively occupied. It makes me think those years added something meaningful, despite the compromises I made. The drive to convert my drafts gave me a fighting spirit to keep steady after each death in my family left me bereft. My sister, brother in law, niece, and my aunts and uncles gave me immense strength and help during those tough years, and encouraged me in my hobby.

Our Indian society is evolving-in-transition. In a mindset obsessed with college brands and career growth, people are often judged on their professional rise rather than for qualities built up in times of trial such as resourcefulness, patience, the ability to tackle medical complications and personal grief. But I do hope my writing hobby helps justify the education my parents worked hard to give to me. There is no one-shoe-fits-all solution for these situations; each one of us has to find our own secret sauce. I hope we are all able to do just that!

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