I don’t know how long I stood there, perhaps ten minutes, being jostled by the crowd. Panic set in. I shook like a leaf. My ears rang. My heart thumped. Mom! I need you.
The fifth winner of our February 2020 Muse of the Month contest is Shweta Singh.
My mother always told me two things. One, that she would never leave me – as a child it was very reassuring – and two that I could do anything I put my mind to.
Now don’t go thinking that she was all goodie-good. No, no…. not at all. She had her bad moments too, like any mother. She would occasionally yell and once in a while I’d get whacked on the bums. Luckily that stopped when I turned thirteen. And many times, in utter frustration she would shout, ‘Oh My God! Why can’t you remember such a simple thing?’
See, that is my problem. I can’t recall information. No, not mundane things like what is the capital of Bolivia or what is (a+b)2. Hah! I bet not many can. My problem is that I can’t recall important things. Things that other people take for granted. Like what I ate for lunch – except when it’s yummy paneer; did I take my medicine – imagine not remembering this! Which local train do I catch to get home, important dates and meeting schedules, did I pack all the stuff I’ll need throughout the day? Pretty scary isn’t it?
So, in a nutshell I forget vital information which has a huge impact on my daily life and wellbeing.
It’s not that the information is not there. It is there in my head – most of the time – but I simply cannot retrieve it. It’s beyond frustrating! Think of it as a filing cabinet, with hundreds of drawers. I just don’t remember in which drawer I filed what information – yeah, yeah…..I know what you are thinking; how can she not remember? But believe me, it does happen. And that is why I even tried the trick of color coding them. But still nothing, nada…
Sometimes though I get lucky; if I think hard and long enough, I recollect where I had filed that particular piece of information and I can mentally walk to that drawer, open it and viola it’s there. Yay! I remembered, that’s such a relief. That is why repetition, over a period of time helps me memorize the right drawers. Regularly used information is easier to retrieve. Anything new is my enemy. Huh! Weird, isn’t it?
You see, I was born premature and have ‘Global Development Delay’.
That essentially meant that I lagged in everything. From turning-over, sitting, recognizing, standing, walking, talking as a child, stranger anxiety to understanding subjects like Math and having adult meaningful conversations. Phew! The actual list is far longer than this. Many a times I saw and still see girls talking and giggling; about guys, make-up, partying and drinking and sex. But I have no idea how to participate in these conversations. I find myself lacking.
Why! why did GOD make me like this?
At these times I feel excluded. Being ignored is worse than being pitied. Oh! How I have cried at their cruel behavior.
But now I’ve learnt the art of putting up a brave front.
Since it’s not a disease it cannot be cured – if it was, I would gladly pop a pill and be ok. It’s a condition and the best that can be done, is to manage it. It is my constant and life-long companion. Sigh! But the only way forward is to accept this and work on coping mechanisms, constantly.
I have known this all my life, but I think the true moment of epiphany happened in the third week of my vocational training. Till then it was off to school in a school bus – routine and comfortable. You see, I have only studied till intermediate.
Hey! Don’t judge, that’s all I could manage. It was pretty hard too.
Okay, so now the epiphany I was talking about. Well, it occurred the first time I was to step on the local train for the purpose of travelling, on a daily basis, with the understanding that I would be doing this alone henceforth. For the first week, mom showed me how to buy ticket, how to read the electronic train board at the station, which local train to get on and where to get off, etc. etc….. you get the drift, don’t you?
I tell you, it was all quite unnerving and daunting for me!
Anyways, mom would come to pick me up too and we would do the whole process in reverse, from college to home. Information overload!!! I was overwhelmed and exhausted by the time I got back home and this was just the first week.
The second week when I did it, mom just accompanied me, sort of like a silent observer. Lol, it felt like a practical exam. But, I passed. Halleluiah!
Disaster struck in the third week!
I was supposed to travel alone. Mom put me in the auto and I got down near the local train station. But even as I walked towards the station, I got confused. So many people – all rushing, shoving, pushing. Oh no! My heart skipped a beat and then kicked into a higher gear. Someone bumped into me and I almost lost my balance. By the time I righted myself, I forgot what I was supposed to do. Oh God! Help me.
I somehow stumbled into a nearby shop, away from the crowd. I needed to catch my breath.
Perhaps the kind shopkeeper realized I was not feeling well. He gave me a stool to sit on. After sometime when my breathing sort of normalized, I looked down at my hands. In their death-grip was my phone. I opened it, saw a picture of mom, smiling. I almost sobbed in relief at the familiar picture. Then with trembling hands, I called her and told her to come to me.
That half hour was the worst of my life. I felt sick. I was embarrassed and humiliated. Even though I didn’t cry my heart and mind were flooded with salty and bitter tears of disgust. I was eighteen and I couldn’t travel on my own. Uhhh! That was a bad day.
When mom came, she simply put her hands on my head and gently stroked my hair. I am safe. A tear slipped down, but she wiped it away and shook her head. Then she took my hands and walked me to the ticket counter. I did everything then. Sheesh! Couldn’t I have done this on my own. And that evening when I exited the training center, I wondered if she would be there. She was, and I hated myself for the relief I felt.
This incident made me realize I could not continue like this. I had to take a more active part in managing my own life. I knew I couldn’t remember things. I couldn’t survive in an office and the corporate culture. I couldn’t engage in adult conversations all the time. Mom and I had a lengthy discussion and we zeroed in on my current profession. Because there was one thing, I was good at.
And that is how The Story Whisperer was born. At 23, I Nanya Chaudhary a professional storyteller am its sole proprietor.
And might I add, I am pretty damn good at what I do. Just ask the kids! Interacting with kids is fun and easy. Uncomplicated. They match my mental level or I match theirs, doesn’t really matter, does it now? What really matters is that we enjoy each other’s company and the story. Add to that I can sing pretty well. So, all in all full entertainment for the kids. And pleased parents make for happy referrals. Ironic isn’t it? Someone who can’t remember small or big things, can remember story after story and song after song. Go figure. That’s why practice, routine and familiarity are my best friends.
But sometimes you have to ditch your best friends to discover your true self. So, once every year, for the past five years, I have been challenging my routine and familiarity. I have been challenging my mind. But most importantly I have been pushing myself, to prove that I can survive and thrive in unknown environments. Each year has seen me head to a different destination on my own; from local to national. A new city, new hotel, new routes, new people, new routine and every thing utterly unfamiliar. But I have my coping mechanisms.
Over the years mom and I have developed various techniques. Lists are the obvious ones. I have them in triplicates, just incase I lose or forget one of them. Lol. The others are acrostic poems and word associations. Everything is meticulously planned and put under these three heads. I can’t do impromptu yet, but may be one day I will get there too.
But this year I have really pushed myself. This time I am going to Dubai. Geez! Talk about being ambitious. As I stand at the entry gate of T2 Terminal of Mumbai Airport, I can see my mother’s big smile encouraging me as she waves. But I can also see the worry in her eyes. I smile to reassure her, but who am I kidding (neither of us apparently), because my heart is pounding like a hammer. Don’t worry mom, I promise I will come back to you in four days’ time. Utterly exhausted (for it takes a toll to be alert all the time) but supremely satisfied and yet again victorious over my biggest fear, of getting lost and never be able to return. To the one place I call home.
PS – I will not at all be surprised if my mom has an open-ticket booked for Dubai and a suitcase already packed. I laugh at the thought but I am humbled too. For I know it is as difficult for her as it for me.
Author’s Note: Global Developmental Delay is the term used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. This might include learning to walk or talk, movement skills, learning new things and interacting with others socially and emotionally. For some people, the delay in their development will be short term and can be overcome with additional support or therapy. In other cases, the delay may be more significant and the child will need ongoing support. This indicates they may also have a learning disability.
Editor’s note: It’s the new decade of the new millennium, and here’s a fresh theme for our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month. In 2020, we bring to you quotes feminist women achievers around the world – we hope to bring you some food for thought, and look forward to the same engaging short stories that are a hallmark of our Muse of the Month contests.
Here’s the woman for February 2020 – 38 year old tennis wiz Serena Williams has 39 Grand Slam titles under her belt. She has gone through much in her life, not the least of it was racism in a high profile game, making her the perfect pick for Black History Month as a black woman mover & shaker world over. She has since then worked her way to the top after injury, pregnancy, and childbirth too. In January 2020, she has won her first singles title since her maternity break, in the 2020 Auckland Open, showing that she is indeed one of the best.
The cue is this quote by her: “Whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.”
Shweta Singh wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: Unsplash
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