By Ranak Mann
It was about three years ago; I was visiting a reputed hospital when I happened to have a chance encounter with a long-lost friend. But the person I saw in front of me was a far cry from the girl I remembered. She looked tired and a little flustered when I went up to her to say hello. I enquired about her studies in the UK and she told me she had returned home to Delhi for good.
My project ‘Colour Talks’ was in its initial stages of uncovering stories with emotional complexities. I was looking for stories of survival, and linking the psychology of what a colour could mean to a person, when I decided to contact her.
She was surprised to hear from me. And very apprehensive. Anyone would be, when they find someone knocking on their door to talk about something that had happened years ago. She refused the first two times I requested for an interview but a week later she called. Her first question was, how did I know that she underwent an experience that had been kept within the family? I let out my secret. I saw her waiting opposite a well-known psychiatrist’s cabin. Here’s our conversation:
Me: Long hair suits you.
Her: I like it too. I always wanted to wear mogra flowers like my mother, which is why I grew my hair long.
So, like I told you, I saw you at the hospital three years ago. Have things become better since then?
They have. I mean, it took a while, but it did get better. I give myself a lot of the credit for it. Depression can be crippling but the support system matters. How about I tell you why I landed into a clinically depressed state of mind?
I had an abortion. I was young, I was stupid, but yes, I landed myself in an unhealthy situation.
How did it all start?
After school, I wanted to go abroad and study, come what may. My parents were not in favour of it. They wished for me to go overseas after I got an undergraduate degree in India but I was very headstrong. I wanted to just go out and experience life.
I managed to convince my parents and I went to London. It was lonely for a while but I fit in eventually, not with the right crowd, though. Everything was in my reach, freedom, alcohol, parties and of course no supervision. I got introduced to a handsome guy. We were friends for some time before things headed towards a relationship. A very toxic relationship; there’s no need to go into the details of it but we conceived due to our stupidity. Just for record, we used protection but somehow it did not work.
How old were you when this happened?
The abortion led to depression?
Not only the abortion but also the fact that I lost control over my life. Studying and living abroad when you’re young requires self-discipline. No one is looking out for you. You are your own protector and I felt I let myself down. It was an early pregnancy and two pills took care of it but it was a messy aftermath. He was nice about it but went his way after the abortion. The experience changed me. I know it was not a full-formed embryo but the thought of what it could have become saddens me.
I do not expect everyone to understand how it hit your mental health.
True, but my mother did. She had an abortion too when she discovered she had conceived for the fourth time. She was with me when I was heavily bleeding and puking. We tried to cheer ourselves up rather than get sucked into the morbidity of the situation. My father was another pillar of strength and so were my two siblings. They all landed up in London when I told them the truth. Each of them wished to be there and not let me go through it alone. Sometimes life hits you in the face and you either choose to cry about it or learn a lesson and march forward.
You continued staying in London?
I returned home with my family. We collectively worked on my healing. The psychiatrist was helpful but it was the constant efforts of my family that made it a smooth journey. I came to India on a gap year, and resumed my studies after the year finished.
How did it feel to return to college?
It felt bittersweet, I had come back as a changed person. It matured me. I wish no one has to go through such an experience to grow but I did. There were times when I would think of what life would have been like if I was not as privileged as I am. What if I actually had the baby?
A big IF that all is.
Yeah. One may think it’s absurd to commemorate an early pregnancy abortion every year.
I have grown a mogra plant in the backyard of our home. My mother had proposed the idea of planting it. If circumstances around us did not let us have a child – mind you it was our decision and it was not forced upon us – I think an early pregnancy abortion is a better option than bringing a child into a world of uncertainties. However, everyone grieves in his or her own manner. My mother and I thought we’d give it a chance to survive symbolically and that is what the mogra plant means to us. It’s cathartic.
What colour would you like to choose for your story?
Colour me grey. Life is coloured in shades of it.
Ranak Mann studies creative writing at Srishti Institute, Bengaluru. Follow his Colour Talks series here.