It was the first time I found myself in the midst of complete despair and sorrow, ever since I had recovered from my depression. I lay curled up on the floor, crying my heart out and hoping to tire myself into deep, everlasting slumber. It had returned with its paralyzing and poisonous black fog of hopelessness, and I didn’t think I could beat it this time.
At first, I thought I was just having a bad day. After all, my third cousin Pranita, who was only two years younger than me, had passed way in a drowning accident. I often feel the impact of tragic events such as this a little later than others. So I attributed this heaviness to grief. But it kept coming back, day after day.
I kept thinking of the days I spent at her house, helping out with whatever I could, consoling everybody.I recalled how people were a lot more interested in whether Pranita was taking a selfie when the accident happened and how exactly everything came about, as opposed to the pain her loved ones were going through. The newspapers and news channels were busy sensationalising everything as well, and every single time people made a mockery of this innocent girl’s death, I lost faith in humanity.
Her mother was very close to me, and she helped me out when I tried to kill myself because of my depression. She introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism, and whenever I met her, she was busy helping and praying for others’ welfare. Yet, this horrific tragedy had befallen her. Most philosophies and religions speak of Karma – that because of the law of cause and effect, whatever is happening in your life can be attributed to some of your past actions. What had this kind woman done to deserve this? And if awful things like this happened to good people like her, what lied in store for me? Why did good people suffer so much, while the callous and ugly flourish? Too many questions, no satisfactory answers.
So I continued to weep day after day, with no hope of anything good ever happening to me. If great people like Pranita’s mother could not be forgiven, there was no salvation for me. Perhaps there was no such thing as a higher power or Karma? Perhaps Camus was right about it being a random universe? I didn’t know. But I had lost hope. Forget about the divine, I didn’t even think that those around me could care.
However, life had to go on, and so, one morning, I was getting ready for work. However, I cut my finger with the sharp edge of a drawer, and the next hour was spent in trying to stop the bleeding. I had covered it with two band-aids, but it was still bleeding and I had to go to work with a bloody finger. As I stepped out of the elevator, Shubham – one of the boys who handles the packaging of our products – smiled and greeted me as usual. But he had noticed my finger.
“Oh, it was a small accident. It’ll be fine.”
“Did you go to the lab? They’ll put some ointment or spirit.” He seemed very concerned.
“I did, but they did not have proper bandages, and plus that ointment will cause that horrible burning sensation, so I’m good.” I hurried into the office, tired of answering his questions.
He continued to ask me about my cut throughout the day, and I kept refusing to go back to the lab. Others just let me be after I refused, but this fellow was quite persistent. Finally, he entered the office, armed with proper bandages and ointments. He and another office boy would not let me go before they had taken care of the wound, and all my attempts to avoid that were futile.
“Thank you. You didn’t have to go through so much trouble for me, you know.”
“No, no, that’s okay. We’re just happy that the cut is fine and that you are okay.” They beamed.
That’s when it hit me. That small act of kindness, selflessness. On most days, I would ignore these small gems, and focus on how suffering was ubiquitous, how life was unfair, how human beings were selfish and how belief in a higher power was a way to console oneself. But today, I chose to pay attention, and was rewarded for the same. Perhaps it was a very random universe indeed, but that also meant that good things could also happen to us. And if we chose so, we could make good things happen, and help each other through the unfairness of life. Maybe a higher power wasn’t necessary for one to lessen suffering.
The fog had started to fade, and I could see some light. For the first time in so long, something had filled me with hope. But I knew that it was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.