“I have decided I will kill my son.” (I could feel my eyes popping out of their sockets. Calm, Amrita calm, I told myself. She really dotes on her mentally retarded son. She wouldn’t do anything drastic simply out of frustration). I steadied my voice and asked her, “Why would you say that?”
I will kill my son
“Doctor, I am 49 now, how many more years will I be around? Fifteen or twenty at the most. His father left us when he was five because he wanted a better life. If his own father couldn’t take it, how will anyone else? I cannot imagine leaving my kid all alone in the world like that. The day I turn seventy, I will kill my son and end my life, before I become incapable of taking care of him.”
Preeti said this with a shrug of resignation, but her moist eyes gave her away. (My heart went out to her. How much it must have pained her to decide that this was the only solution! Why did some people have such tough lives?)
Coincidentally (or maybe not!) the next appointment was Aasma, the mother of an autistic ten year old. I had been seeing Aasma since the last five years when she would come for her daughter. I had always admired the inner courage of this soft spoken lady. Now when I got to know her better as she came as a patient herself, my admiration turned to awe. Aasma had not been encouraged to study much thanks to a conservative background before marriage.
But when her daughter was diagnosed with autism at age four, she finished her graduation and went on to become a special educator. Her supportive husband always proudly talked of how she would manage her daughter’s various trips to the speech therapist, occupational therapist, special school and various doctor’s appointments along with her own studies. And now, she was studying to become an MBA! Amazed, I asked her what had inspired her.
I have an idea
“The more in came in contact with parents of such kids, the more I realized how blessed I was. My husband never once grumbled about spending so much on various therapies for my daughter. But I met so many parents who weren’t as lucky as me. That’s why I thought I would become a special educator and do something for these kids.”
“Why the MBA then?”
“This may seem silly to you doctor, but I worry a lot about what will happen to my daughter lest something happens to us. We have a close knit family and I am sure they will look after her. Also I believe that God-willing I will be able to make her independent enough to live a decent life. But God-forbid, should she need any help… So I have this idea. Umm… it seems a little too unrealistic now…”
I nodded encouragingly for her to open her heart out. She shifted uneasily in her chair and took a deep breath as if to suck in as much courage as she could, and went on, “I want to open something like an old age home for these kids who may outlive their parents. I know how it is to lie awake at nights, fighting a losing battle against unanswered questions like – what after me? If we like minded parents could all rally together, we may be able to put out each other’s misery. I know nothing about venture capital or risk management of a business. So I thought…” Woah!
Two stories, One learning
It’s true that the two mother’s stories and their predicaments were not exactly the same. But what had led to such diametrically opposite outlooks towards life? Would Preeti’s outlook have been slightly less bitter if she’d had the support of a kind spouse or sibling or parent? I don’t know.
But I do know now, why some people face such hardships. Only when you have truly suffered a pain, can you know what the other person is going through. And only when you truly know what they are going through, can you help them the best.