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“I don’t live for others. The witch, remember? I’m the witch. The witch lives for pleasure… and there’s no… pleasure… in my life anymore. There’s no joy. Nothing.”
Can your past self save your future self?
This happened in September last year.
I went through a major traumatic event, and despite the staunch and unwavering support of my partner and my sister and my friends, I struggled to come out of it, struggled to find my centre again. I was thrown off-kilter, off-balance, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find that balance again.
One night, when my husband and son slept, I decided this was it. I decided there was no point in living on. The clawing agony tearing apart my body and my mind was too much to bear. I decided this was enough.
Quietly I got up from the bed, opened the glass door that led to the balcony and stepped up to the railing. Fingers clutching the balustrade, I peered over the railing and looked at the ground, twelve floors below.
I put one foot on the lower railing and hoisted myself up further. Half my body was above the railing’s level. I could easily topple over, with a gentle nudge to myself.
“It’s not difficult,” said my voice from inside my brain. “You’ll float down gently… like a feather.”
An image of a white feather floating down on the shifting breeze conjured itself before my eyes. Languid, unhurried. With all the time in the world.
“Oh no, you won’t.” This was a new voice. Someone else.
It came from my mind. But who was this?
“You’re not stupid, are you? You know you’re 60 kg, which is hardly the weight of a feather,” she continued. “Don’t you remember your ninth standard science lessons? Gravitational force and the mass of bodies and everything? Don’t you remember?”
“Uh… you’re talking to me about ninth standard science right now? Now? When I’m jumping off the balcony?”
“Sure,” she quipped. “You’re an educated woman. These are the things your mind thinks about.”
I wasn’t amused. It wasn’t funny.
“Don’t do it.” She said. “Don’t. Your husband and child are asleep right there. Imagine their faces if they woke up to this. To your body down below.”
“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I’m not a martyr. I don’t live for others. The witch, remember? I’m the witch. The witch lives for pleasure… and there’s no… pleasure… in my life anymore. There’s no joy. Nothing.”
“But … there’s your book.”
She sensed my resolve wavering.
“Yes, there’s your book, right? Do you want to go without seeing it? Do you want to go without seeing the cover—and your name on the cover? Don’t you want to hold it in your hands?” She was smart, this one.
I do. I want to see it. To hold it.
“Then that is pleasure, isn’t it?”
Yes. It is.
Slowly I put my feet back on the ground. Then I sank to the floor completely. Leaning against the wall, I sat on the floor of my balcony and wept for a long time.
And then, instead of being just a voice in my mind, she came and sat beside me. She was me. Me, when I was 30 years old. When I had been writing the last few chapters of my book.
She looked at me. “Hey. Don’t you remember what you wrote in your book? About survivors being the ones who get to tell their own stories?”
Yes, I remembered. This was indeed what I had written. I had told myself at one point in my own book, that if I had killed myself I’d never have seen the day that I inked my victory onto the pages of life. I had told myself that it is survivors who get to tell their own stories.
Did I want other people to tell my story for me?
No, I didn’t. If I was going to tell my story—and many other stories—I was going to have to live.
I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the wall. Propped my left elbow on my knee, with my open palm and spread-out fingers covering my forehead and eyes like a muzzle.
Perhaps I wept a little more. Perhaps I dozed off for a bit.
Finally, I got up, brushed the dust off my clothes and went back past the glass door into my bedroom. Quietly lay back on the bed.
As I drifted off to sleep I marvelled at the strangeness of it all—how my past self saved the life of my future self.
(Like Harry Potter and Hermione – although it was their future selves who saved their past selves.)
Almost as if I travelled through time.
Now, I can decidedly state that I don’t need a rescuer. I rescued my own self.
First published here.
If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
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Zehra Naqvi is a journalist who has been writing for a decade on gender, literature
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