Baptism of fire

Soon after I wrote the SSLC exam and while waiting for the results, I saw an ad in the Malayala Manorama newspaper.. It was by a priest from an Orthodox Church in Thiruvalla who was organizing a trip to North India and he advertised asking if anyone else would like to join his tour group. It costed about 200Rs, which I had.

I remember waiting for my mother to come from work, so I could get her permission and join the tour group. They were planning to visit Taj Mahal.. and by then I had already read every single book about Taj Mahal.. and I couldn’t believe I was finally going to see the place I had read so much about. If you are my age, then you probably read the Amarchithra katha series..there was an issue about Tajmahal and the Shajahan and Mumtaz love story ..that was published around the same time..

You know that  feeling..excitement..trepidations.. fear all mixed together and create a million butterflies fluttering in your belly?

My mother took one look at the ad and told me, ” you can’t go” Apparently she has heard from others about a human sacrifice group.. they take young girls and take them to far off places and do human sacrifice..(I have often wondered how creative my mother really was to have come up with such a brilliant response)

Sadly, all the butterflies in my bellies died rather quickly…. and it took a very long time before I saw Taj Mahal..

But that was not the point..The point was, I was never allowed to do anything.. My mother always had reasons and excuses why I shouldn’t do something. The way she raised me has always made me second guess everything I do in my life and am genuinely scared of every little thing. In a few days, I will be travelling to US and renting a car. I am terrified..of all the things that can go wrong.. driving on the wrong side of the road tops my list..getting lost is a close second.. And every single time, I have to give myself a prep talk.. you have done this so many times before, remember the first time you travelled alone?

That would be the first time, I took a bus from the medical college hostel, went to the train station in a rural remote area, stayed there until late in the evening (alone and hungry), got in to the ladies compartment and travelled all the way to Kottayam.. I didn’t speak a word of Kannada and very little English and I was this tiny village urchin wearing this cloak of courage over me and doing a simple thing like catching a night train home.. that trip  was my baptism of fire.. I draw strength from it even now.. If I could do it then and survive, I can do whatever I face now and survive..

It was for the same reason, I let Yaya travel around Europe on her own. She needs to know her own strength.. that every time she faces a tough time, she can look in to herself and tell herself.. I travelled alone in Europe at the age of 18.. I can do this..

8 thoughts on “Baptism of fire

  1. But as a mother all the things that can go wrong comes to my mind.

    To let my 7 year old go to school by himself which is within my community I shudder and think what if he is kidnapped.

    He tells me mommy I can go. I tell him. Yes you can dear but I cannot let you go.
    For now he says ok. And then when I am walking with him, he races with his friend.

    How do I handle this? I totally agree he should. Be able to go but what if someone kidnaps him? Which is also a possibility here in India !!!!!!

    Will love to hear your thoughts Sarah !

    • Revathi: Every child wants to have an opportunity to show that he is growing up to take charge of his own life. All your son wants to do is to show you that he can go to school on his own. Trust me when I tell you this, the day you let him do it and he proved himself, he will not ask again.. he will find new things to challenge himself. All three of my kids went through this. I had friends who helped me..they had an eye on my kids and watched them, while my children thought they were doing it all by themselves. Yaya’s best friend wanted to come to our house on her own and I and her mother and a friend who stayed mid way kept in contact over the phone..
      7 year old doesn’t understand road safety.. and you need to teach him and explain why he shouldn’t run. I used to play I spy with the kids as we walked to the school and that always made them stay close to me and not run.
      Btw, I grew up in India, fearing the pillarey piduthakkar coming to get me.. and never once saw one.. Yet kids have been taken from their bedrooms..or bus stops or from their front yard.. I have learned that I can either live in fear or teach my children to be safe..

  2. Sarah! Sarah!! Thank you for being candid!! I know you have traveled a lot, and will generally pack and go camping.. and now to say that you are afraid of getting lost!!

    Now, I am also terrified of getting lost. I do not go on road trips because of that. My daughter is my strength, so this time when she went on college tours, she was with me, but I felt that i could do this. Some of the fear left me.

    Just get a car with inbuilt GPS and you will be fine. Good Luck with your travels.

    • MS: I always have this battle raging inside me.. the one that is scared and the one that needs to overcome the fear.. My friends who grew up here have no fear. If I tell them let us go to the moon, they are out there with their bag, meanwhile I imagine all sorts of things..and then pack my bag and be there.
      I have a GPS, my car has its own GPS and my phone has both sygic and google map.. and still I get lost.. Most people have a map in their head.. I just don’t have it.. so I blindly follow the GPS and it usually goes where it wants to..not where I want to.

  3. I don’t know why that this post was so moving for me. It is so true and I have experienced it to some degree myself where some of my rough periods/challenging times brought the strength out of me and taught me how to tackle it. I gotta say be blessed that you are letting Yaya be her own person and allowing her to discover her own path in life and especially letting her tackle her own challenges so she can gain the skill to survive. Too many Asian parents are too overprotecting/overbearing nowadays and it kind of hinders a lot of the personal growth many can develop. Everything in life is a risk and there will always be worry/fear especially when doing something the first time. However with encouragement and support, I find people who go through this journey tend to be surprised and amazed on what they go through.

    I’m sure your U.S trip will be fine!! Obviously if you are unsure, you can always ask someone to help you out if you get stuck. Us Americans are genuine and helpful (most of the time at least haha) 🙂

    Taj Mahal is on my bucket list !! Need to do that all India trip in the future!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *