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July 2014. I had quit my home for some family reasons and was living in a friend’s home. I was later convinced by my grandparents to stay with them. An irritating aunt, not having my own space, you know, staying in somebody’s home is so difficult. Forget about the room, I didn’t have my own bed, I was sleeping on the floor at grandpa’s room. I had to wait to take bath in the queue until everybody finishes, my cousins were intentionally making me wait to run late to my office. I had to eat leftover on some of the days if my aunt was in bad mood. They denied taking any money from me since it is a matter of the family’s reputation and it looks bad on them. But they did every possible thing to irritate me. My cousin was stealing my clothes and wearing them in front of me as nothing happened. I could not even ask her that it was mine. I could not focus on my studies so I was carrying the books to the office to study during lunch breaks. During the weekends I was going to some of my friend’s places but after some time even their parent’s were not so welcoming me. They wanted their space and I was intervening too much in their home. I really don’t blame anyone of them coz I clearly know I am poking to their privacy. I was helpless not knowing where to stay. I had a handful of real friends but as the time kept passing they started their life with their spouses got busier with kids so the priority was not as same as we were in schools and colleges. So I could not blame them either. I started feeling very lonely. I badly wanted to move on to a rented place or a paying guest but my granny was very scared to let me go alone to live a full-on an independent life. I then started to go to libraries and spend my weekends.

I continuously had family issues going on between my family members and I felt like it was a dead end. I had no belief in marriages since my parents were mutually separated and I had never seen happy marriages around me. To me, it was all like marriages are meant for compromises, adjustments, sacrifices and literally a life inside the kitchen. I had seen many ladies suffering silently behind the bathrooms and crying in the kitchens which were scaring me a lot. It was pretty clear to me, marriage was not at all in the mind and I’d rather join an orphanage or a spiritual centre but totally a big no to husband or kids. I neither had any boyfriends. I felt my life was so meaningless. Nobody liked me. Granny is old and she will leave me anytime soon. Neither family nor friends were available all the time. Hobbies were no more interesting. Work-life was monotonous. Continuous irritation from an aunt, cousins, no place to stay, I had a very boring life.

Things got worse, my grandma fell sick. I had just finished my First Semester exams of Masters, came home and dozed off since I had not slept properly for a couple of weeks to study and work simultaneously. My aunt woke me up saying granny was not well and we need to take her to hospital. The moment ambulance siren was on, my heart started to beat very fast and fear absorbed all the space around all of us. Once she got admitted to the hospital, the doctor said it was Cerebellum Hemorrhage. I do not know what technically it meant, but all I understood was there will be blood leaking in different parts of the nerves in the brain and it cannot be operated. You can operate one or two Hemorrhages but its like flat tire for a car. You cannot keep patching the whole tire. You need to replace a new one. But we cannot replace a whole brain. The more bleeding it occurs, every part of the brain will be damaged. If the part of the brain that controls vision is attacked, she will lose her vision and so on. Her memories will be damaged, sensory nerves can be damaged. Anything could happen. She could survive for 10 years or for two months. There was no guarantee. It is common in most of the senior citizens. There were no medicines as well. Sometimes in the mid of the night, she was screaming badly due to pain. I felt like the whole world was collapsing. It was a devastating situation when my dad left us. But it was my grandparents who kept us going. Now when she is about to leave me, I had no purpose in life. I started to feel lonely with fear now. I decided I need to take care of her and keep her happy as long as she is with me. Although my mom, uncle, aunt the whole family was with her, I was the most loved girl in her life. I quit my job without a second thought and stayed back with her taking care of her day and night. Few months passed and with the kind of quality time we spent together, she showed very fast growth in her health and started to eat with her hands, walk slowly, make some chapatis help my aunt in the kitchen. I got some hopes but I had not told anyone that I had quit my job.

The problem started from there. I told them I would be working from home pretending to be working. Granny told me she is fine and started to insist to go to work and not waste time for her sake. I didn’t know what to do. I started leaving home at 9, stay in a friend’s place, come back home by 6. Sometimes I was going to the libraries or sit blank in a park nearby. With my savings, I managed for a couple of months.

I was homeless. I was jobless. No family. No support. Loneliness. No purpose in my life.

If I had told I had no job, they would have treated me in a very bad way insulting in all possible ways. I kept applying to jobs everywhere but got rejected most of the times.

I felt suicidal.

Every attempts in my life kept failing.

Pressure for marriage from my granny.

No money. No job.

One fine day, I got a job and I was quite relieved. I picked up my new hobby, a long time pending passion, Photography. Ever since my childhood, I had the craze of owning a camera. I had no idea what this DSLR, mirror, mirrorless, aperture, focal length all meant. I just wanted to to take pictures. and loved the click-click sound the shutter makes. I loved photography for that shutter sound.

Everything was normalising slowly but I had big fights with my mom which was never-ending. I was into depression a lot ever since my dad left. You know, if you have been through the depression you would understand this. It’s like a hole where you keep trying to come out, the attempt fails, you get deeper inside the hole and it is more difficult for next attempt. It doesn’t let you get out of it that easily. Every small reason will push you to get deeper inside. You will find excuses, take reasons to be in that dark zone and you will feel the pleasure in hurting yourself, crying will make you feel better. Staying alone becomes a habit. Although I had not addicted to alcohol or drugs, everything was attractive to me and given a chance I would have probably got into those addictions. I must be thankful to all my friends for literally not letting me to that stuff. I was volunteering into many social services, spending time with friends, visiting cousins, engaging in dancing, painting, trekking, adventure sports, photography. I was keeping myself busy but there was something that was missing. I was finding happiness but I was not peaceful. There was some noise echoing in my mind very often. There were two continuous voices fighting between the good and the bad. Although I was engaging in many things, I was not sleeping peacefully. I was feeling that incompleteness which I could not figure out what was that’s really bothering me.

Things were so difficult for me to sort. I was tired of fighting between all these thoughts every single day. I felt like giving up. I finally thought I’d end up my life. In the past, I had tried to hang to a fan, cut my hand, hit to a vehicle and everything had failed. So this time I planned to jump from a cliff or something where it is a remote area and there will be no way to second thoughts.

I don’t know, I had dual thoughts.

If I die, I didn’t want people to judge me I’m a coward to end life. At the same time, my other mind was telling how does it matter? I would not be there to witness it. So how does it matter people judging me? They are anyways doing it now also. Nobody to help and the world was so cruel around me. Hopelessness, helplessness had pushed me to finally think I am ending my life for my own reasons and it really doesn’t matter who cares. I anyways had nobody to care or my life was important to anyone except my granny. She was going to die soon. It was pretty clear to me, I am not ending life because of others. Not that I was alone. I felt my life was meaningless. I really didn’t care about people or their opinion. But in the corner of the mind, I had this kind of fluctuating thoughts which could not be ignored too. So I said to myself, I am going to my dad by putting an end to all this pain and suffering.

I didn’t want my granny to get into the shock of hearing my death and wanted her to live as long as she could. But then I felt like I am making excuses to postpone to die. This time it was final. I am going somewhere far away, to a remote place and ending it all. I had even written a death note and kept it in my backpack.

But where to go?

I had heard somewhere by someone vaguely about an orphanage with an old home near Udupi, a remote village away from the city and that flashed my mind to go there. Since it is a very remote area I thought I will fix that place in the mind. I had some savings thinking I will donate all the money to them and then end the life.

I told my aunt, granny, that there is a team outing from our office to Madikeri and I am going. Since I have travelled a lot of times for photography with my cousins, photography friends and groups, outing with office colleagues, it was believable to all of them. But somehow granny had a strong instinct not to send me this time. She kept asking a lot of details I managed to lie her for the very first time. I had a lot of guilt for lying first time in my life but I felt it doesn’t matter as am going to end it all. I hugged her like it was the last time I am going to see her. While I was packing my bag, I took my doll which my dad had given me. I took dad’s sweater, granny’s photograph, her saree a few more things that were very memorable things to me.

I left for the office casually and said I’d be directly leaving after working hours on Friday and come back on Monday morning. I then called up the orphanage’s office and booked an appointment with the main person saying I am coming from Bangalore and had something related to education opportunities for children there, I want to help. He asked me a lot of questions thinking I am from any of the NGO’s etc. I said I am an individual volunteer doing a lot of blood donation campaigns and other social services with own interests. Since there are a lot of scams with NGO these days I am not interested to be associated with any of them. I heard from someone your orphanage seems to be genuine and I want to be of some help.

He then said okay and suggested the route to his centre. He asked me to get down at a certain place, take an auto and not to pay more than 80RS. He told me to suggest his name and strictly have been instructed not to get extra money.

My office got over and I had booked for a private bus ticket to Udupi. This was the first time I used an online portal to book a ticket which I had never done before. I have travelled a lot if Govt buses and trains but not much on the private buses. So I was a bit lethargic about timings. I had never drunk a glass of water alone before and I was hesitant to have my dinner.

The driver called me an hour before and he didn’t communicate well, he disconnected the call. Although I’m a Bangalorean for 30 damn years, even today I am confused with certain roads and area I cannot just map the route in the mind. If anyone asks me the route, I get very confused. I had never roamed anywhere beyond my college or school much so I hardly know any places in Bangalore apart from Lalbagh!!

With all the difficulties I managed to find the bus stop that was just two roads away, I went to the office and got to know the bus had left. That’s when I realised unlike KSRTC, they maintain strict timing and we need to before the schedule. I started to panic and struggled to carry my heavily packed luggage. I felt like I am leaving everything and everyone behind so I had carried all the things that I was obsessed with. So I had carried quite a lot of things in the bag!

Seeing me sweating and the worry of losing the bus, and a bit of my Kannada accent, the office guy thought I am a native Mangalorean and have come here for a typical job. So he thought I am going back to my home for a weekend. He arranged an alternate vehicle and made me board the bus at the Main Bus Stop.

This specific part of the experience brought in lot of courage and was the biggest step of my life to do something out of my comfort zone. Once I boarded the bus, I started to feel very hungry. I had nothing carried to eat and was hesitant to get down and buy the food either. So I remained hungry thinking on lot of things.

I cannot forget that night which taught me the very first experience of life lessons. I couldn’t sleep for a minute worrying who would come, what could happen to me if I sleep off, will someone snatch my belongings and I end up without money? How can I come back home? Oh, I am not coming back home. Let the thief take it. What if someone kidnaps me? We all have been seeing rape and murder stories in the news channels with all scary liners and representations which made me feel every man on the road looked like a rapist. How do I stay safe? Did I make a mistake by coming alone? A thousand questions started flowing in the mind that night. I had a basic touchscreen phone with no internet. I was not a very mobile addict. I had to save battery so I didn’t listen to any music either. I had carried a diary and a pencil. I started to scribble my thoughts, did some sketches, kept on staring at the roadsides, letting the cool breeze in. As and when the tolls arrived or any signals dropped, a lot of roadside sellers were coming and trying to sell one or the other things. Seeing them, a lot of vehicles around, some music playing on the bus, I kind of felt relaxed. Some of my anxiety thoughts cooled down and I started to enjoy my first ever solo trip.

Whenever we travel in any means, be it bus, trains, flights, we tend to sleep off the moment we board. We don’t even get to feel scared when we go in a group or with anyone. But when you travel alone, it’s a different story altogether. I don’t know about boys much, but as a girl, it will make a difference. I, coming from an orthodox conservative family taking some big steps like quitting home, travelling alone was indeed a milestone in terms of being bold and strong.

In between the journey, I had dozed off but mostly I was awake and alert. I couldn’t sleep well thinking I must have carried some light pillows or a pair of socks or a blanket since it was extremely cold. I managed to cover a with a shawl and mind was soaking in the journey. More than the destination or places, its always the journey I have always loved. That particular night, made me think about myself, protecting myself. My mind and body was so well coordinated, even a pinch of noise woke me up and kept telling to be safe and alert.

When the ghats arrived it was raining, the greenery was looking like dark shadows in the night which was kind of scary and for the first time, I was scared of rain and the greens. Nature is so beautiful when mother earth is calm. It is extremely scary when there is a disaster. I was thinking about how life could be both good and bad. Fair and unfair. Rich and the poor. Beautiful mountains and volcanoes, Beaches and tsunamis.

It was somewhere around 4-ish when I reached the destination. I didn’t know what to do that early in the morning. It was very dark surrounding and an open area with no buildings around. Extreme cold and there were about two shops and were closed. It was very scary and when I turned around there were two men and one auto quite far from where I was standing. They both were smoking and the red-lit cigarette was the only highlighting in the dark. Both of them were staring at me since I was all alone and I started to shiver.

One thing I had learnt from the past, no matter how scared you are, don’t show it on your face. I had read some articles where they had interviewed some rapists on what makes them decide whom to choose. Few reasons were like

  • They will choose over a girl/woman wearing saree/skirt than a girl in jeans. It is easily accessible to them.
  • The one with long hair is more targeted since they get more grip on them. Often short hair is not preferred.
  • The one with things like umbrella, anything in their hands is not targeted and girls with empty hands are targeted more.
  • They watch you from a far distance to understand body language. Whether you are glued to the phone and not aware of your surroundings, whether you are bold or scared can be easily guessed with a few minutes of observation.
  • If you scream or shout loudly, they leave you and run away immediately and your voice could be your weapon if everything fails.

All these flashed my mind when I saw those two men(auto drivers) with cigarettes in their hands. I made up my mind not to show the fear on my face, took a deep breath and walked straight towards them.

I gave a confident smile and asked ” Anna how to go to Thekkatte Spoorthidhama? I was told by Keshav sir that autos are the only means and I reached a little early than expected. You seem to be an auto driver and will you please help me?” One thing I observed was the moment I got down the bus they were staring at me, but the moment I was walking towards them they immediately threw the cigarette away and cleared the smoke from their mouth preparing to talk to me. The moment I said anna (brother) their face expression totally changed like a respectable way and told “Illa sister ivaga tumba bega bandidira, ivaga navu badige hogalla, 6.30 agbeku, innond swalpa hottalle bakery open agatte bekandre ondu tea bun tinni, hasivagiratte nimge long journey madi” Meaning they don’t take rides till 6.30 and the nearby snacks shop opens in a couple of minutes, you can have some snacks and tea, you must be hungry after a long journey. You see, they saw that the bus was from Bangalore, I was dressed up like a typical city girl in jeans and a t-shirt, jacket and carrying my bags. So they took a pretty good guess about me!

That’s when I realised not everything that they show in the media is true. Some strangers can be good people too. All auto drivers should not be judged wrong. They addressed me as sister and welcomed me to the new city offering some tea!

I was little relieved but didnt feel like completely trusting them but started talking about the town, the orphanage and local stuffs asking for some information.

To my luck few autos came in soon and one driver was ready to come on the same route that I wanted. Since it is a remote place they deny coming that they need to come back without passengers and it is a loss for them.

It was around 5.30 and I took the auto and started to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The greenery farmlands, birds chirping, chilling cold, farmers walking towards the fields for work, women carrying babies and walking around, cows, sheeps blocking our way.

We crossed a bridge and under that was a railway track. I had forgotten the reason I had come for. That moment I thought that could be the right place to jump from. IT was totally a remote area and there was nobody to stop me too. I thought I will fix that place.

But as we kept going towards the place I was once again taken back to the beautiful nature around and started to feel the breeze and the wind hitting on my face continuously made me feel little relaxed.

I got down from the auto and turned to see that big gate with the very welcoming board ” Welcome to Spoorthi” I thanked the auto uncle and he asked me if he needs to wait to get back again. I said I will be staying till evening there so he can go back. When I looked at the gate I felt quite positive and the watchman asked who I was. When I told my name he immediately said good morning mam, sir has already told me that you are coming, please come this way and took me to the office. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt but everyone looked at me like the typical girl from the city. I was hardly a few kilometres from the city but the girls from there looked totally different.

There was nobody at the office and he called Keshav Sir and he made some quick arrangements and told office open at 9.30 and I can freshen up and take some rest in the room for some time.

He took me to the girl’s hostel and asked me to get in and he stayed at the door since men were restricted from beyond the place. I was looking around to see the surroundings and entered the room.

Often life teaches us a lesson when we are going in a wrong track. They say universe will be manifesting to our questions, gives us hints, answers to our questions. The problem is we do not observe things carefully to understand what’s happening around us. We only run behind what’s on other’s plate and not see our’s.

I realised how egoistic I was and how blessed to have many things around me. That particular day, with all the instances happened the moment I entered that room changed the entire perception towards my life and how silly of me to think of suicide.

When I entered the room, I realised it was a big hall like you see in marriage convention centres or like jails that they show in the movies. A lot of bed and pillows were neatly folded and kept with some gaps in between. There was a big slab to keep the belongings and no door for it. So it was not even a wardrobe or a cupboard and just an open slab to keep the belongings. I went near that to keep my bag and it was old clothes stuffed inside handmade bags and tied knot so that they dont fall off.

It was the first tight slap on my ego by the life echoing in the mind, thinking I had a much better life. I felt speechless seeing the way girls are living there. Since I was very tired I made myself some space and lied down for a while to rest and quickly dozed off. I had quite a deep sleep without worrying about anything. After some time I heard a group of girls talking to each other on the other side of the window saying that there is a girl(me) inside their room and has occupied one of the girl’s place. She(I) has come as a new joiner and is going to stay here forever.

The girl whom I had occupied her space was crying already that I have taken over and she had to fight to get it back. Hearing their conversation I got up from that place and came out to talk to them. Soon I came everyone got scared and ran out of fear. The girl who was crying stood for a moment stared at me and gave a dirty look that I had taken her place and when I tried to say a Hi, she ran away. I found it silly and went back to the place, took my clothes and went to take a shower.

It was a second slap for my ego seeing the toilets! It was looking like a public toilet that we see at the pilgrimages with no proper, very old buckets and no proper taps. You had to carry some water from a pipe and take it inside to bathe. Forget about the shower, there was not even hot water available. For a moment I felt really bad for these kids staying there for not having even basic facilities. But I couldn’t blame either. They are having a roof, getting funds for running the orphanage and with the cost of one luxury meal, they all could have at least 10 children’s porridge. So they all lived a very minimalist life. I’m never a person to wash my face in cold water and taking a cold shower is nearly impossible! Not that I’m totally a luxury person but when it comes to certain things it is a little hard on me to adjust. Especially with a cold shower. You know, we all enjoy the rain dance in resorts, swimming pools, water sports. We have only purified waters or mineral water bottles and don’t even look at tap waters to drink. But the other side of the world is struggling really hard. I’m not telling that we need to completely give up on the luxuries we have, but at least we can be thankful for our blessing that we have access to a lot of things that many don’t have.

With all the struggles I managed to take shower and came out, the office guy took me to walk around to places inside the place. There were some gardens managed by the children. They grow their own food. I learnt that kids who are not interested in mainstream studies are put into vocational training like driving, gardening etc. Girls will be married to good families and are sent with a decent farewell. Children who are interested in studies are sent to higher education or any govt colleges. There were no additional coaching facilities provided. I walked towards another hall where there was a Diaz for some events and seating capacity of a pretty decent crowd. I saw some old ladies sitting and tying flowers and small girls helping them. They grow the flowers in the garden, make some garlands out of it, boys take it to the city, sell them and the money earned is used to run the home. They had multiple such sources of income where children are taught to be self-reliant. Seeing them I was feeling so happy that even an underaged kid like 7-year-old girl earns money out of flowers is paying her expenses at this place and studying in a govt school and she seemed to be a topper in her school. She was happily telling herself to me and all the ladies were praising that girl.

From there I came back to the room thinking I will rest for a while but there was one door which I had not seen. I had almost covered the area but few places were pending. That door was very curious to me and I went there which was like a mini open area(half terrace with shelter).

It was the third slap to my ego. There were huge lines of clothes hanged to dry after washing nearby. It was all branded! Jockey. VIP. You name it and there were all. Different sizes, colours. But, it was all torn. Often we donate clothes to the ashrams and few people come on the vehicles near our homes to collect. I have donated many times too. My mom always told me not to donate torn or too old ones. If you are not wearing or is not in good condition, do not donate them. It should always be wearable. Imagine the one who is going to wear, how do they feel? Honestly, that was the first time I felt really bad to see the worst clothes that were hanging and children are wearing them!! I have never donated them but I felt really bad to see someone in that way. That picture is still sitting in my mind very strongly. I went touched them and felt how blessed I am. I mean I am earning, my cousin was stealing my dresses and why was I even sad in my life? While I could do a greater help to people like these, while children are happy wearing these dresses, what am I even worried in life? Every single dress there taught me a very big lesson that day. Although I cannot pen down in detail, I hope you can understand what kind of thoughts there was running in the mind.

I came down and there were a small group of children gathered. One small kid wearing a blue and blue shirt and shorts(school uniform) holding a bag in one hand and crying with the other hand. A little elder kid was crying too, but strong enough to control his tears and consoling his younger brother. All other kids have surrounded him and trying to console both of them. I went nearby, sat down to his height, waved my hand on his head and asked what happened. I don’t remember now in detail, but he was missing him mom(was no more) and cursing his dad that he got married to another lady and abandoned these two kids to this home. My eyes got filled with tears and I said to myself not all dads are bad and all moms are a goddess. That kid was too young to understand what I was going through my mind and I tried to console him but they all ran away while the warden arrived. Those two kids hugged each other and the elder brother said that he is there with him and they walked slowly to their rooms. It was mostly a 4 year and a 6-year kid old seeing their appearance.

Then I walked towards the playing area and was a tombstone, I read the name and the person was the founder of this home. I left my slippers aside, went nearby I walked around that, touching it and talking to myself. I really don’t know how strange it could be, few kids were staring at me from far distance and running away. A little farther, there was a swing in the playing area and I sat down on the swing and kept staring at the tombstone. I was looking at the home one side and staring at the founder’s tomb and thinking how noble that person could be. How thankful these kids are every day for providing a shelter. Although it was not very luxurious, at least it was safe, providing food, shelter to many. Like I said instead of providing luxury thing to one kid, with the same cost they are providing minimal support to many. Cost-cutting and offering a lot of help. I talked to myself about how my dad struggled all his life to keep us happy. How my mom struggled after my dad passed away. We had a lot of fights now, I had quit my home but they are definitely the reason for my upbringing, providing education, giving us a better life.

All my life I was thinking my dad didn’t love me coz he wanted a baby boy and when the girl baby was born he had not come to the hospital to see me. Rather he wanted to sell me off to some family in Dubai. He always prioritised my brother over me not getting anything(at least I thought so) But few months before he died, he confessed me saying it was true he hated me as girl child but he had definitely given the best he could afford. I had the best bicycle, new clothes, we had a cordless phone while having landline was identified as being an aristocrat in those days. We have a refrigerator, washing machine, Picture in picture Television and all the latest gadgets that were coming to the market. We had a house to stay and he had made our lives as secure as possible that he could. All these flashed my mind. My parents have done both good and bad to me.

So what matters is what we look at it like we want. You look all problems, you see only problems. You see the blessings, you see blessings. I started feeling that hell and heavens were in our mythology that it’s an outer world where we go after our death. But now in the present times, its all in our minds. you are in heaven if you are happy. You are in the hell if you are not happy.

If that person had not built this home, nothing mattered to any of us. But it had definitely created an impact on kids that are living there. We often see so many scams in the NGO’s. Why? Coz they don’t have to owe any questions to anybody. If they die, nobody to ask. So often children go through human trafficking, organ selling scams, harassment etc. But seeing this orphanage I felt this must be a genuine one.

While I sat there for a very long time for almost an hour, I had all my life-changing thinking. Although I never believed in the existence of God, I felt what is God doing to these kids. Who is to be blamed. What was happening in my life? Granny is going to die soon. I have nobody with me to live for. But sitting there and seeing things around me, I felt I don’t need anyone to live for. I can live for others. I can offer help when I can have strength in me. I am volunteering blood camps arranging at emergencies. Scribing for blind kids. So the smile I see in them is more addictive than enjoying any office outings we go to. The sign of relief in the families outside operation theatres when I arrange blood is more blessing.

I saw how granny was recovering. While I saw her only crying in the midnight, I thought how grandpa held her in his arms and making her feel warm and better. Although my aunt didn’t like me, she was still doing many good things to me and granny which I hadn’t noticed. My cousin was taking my clothes coz she couldn’t afford. Or maybe she had her problems that could not be expressed. I was in their home and of course, their privacy was disturbed. So I must not blame them. I can take shower in the odd times and don’t have to wait in the queue. I can eat out and not depend on food at home. Like I was spending time in libraries, I can actually enjoy my weekends reading good books. Going out for photography was making me feel good that I had not noticed. I was getting a good response from my friends for clicking good pictures. Most of my friends were married and I had an opportunity to live an independent life. All I wanted was a room for myself where it would have happened once I move out. I realised I am staying for the sake of my grandparents so I need to sacrifice one thing to get another thing. I had come home before 9 or my uncle would lock the gate. I managed to convince my aunt to open the gate once he sleeps. You see, I started to find solutions to my problems and everything started looking very small and doable. I was jobless, homeless but I was strong enough to face it. The problem was I had just not realised myself how strong I was until someone said me. And this time it was a self realisation and that’s what is called as maturity. Understanding that small things are key to happiness and running behind things will not fetch anything.

What made me think was, I am nowhere better than these kids. I have my own problems to face. We do not want to compare that we are better than others. Coz next time we see someone better than us. it makes us feel low again. In our previous generation, society had made it a tradition. According to them, studying leads to a better job and a better job is better money and you are happy. Buying a property or a car or gold is what life goals are about. Cousins are studying well, so you study well too. Someone settles in another country so he or she is happy. They validate things with no moral grounds. I am not telling all parents are the same, but referring to only ones who are. Many families upbringing is this way and we are not happy because we are taught to be so. Seeing someone’s happiness or pain and judging our own’s life. You are either better or worst than others. We never bother what we really feel inside us. We hardly question what we need than what we want. What makes us happy. You know not just happy, what makes us excited, crazy and live life to the fullest. Thanks to the next generation, they dont give a damn to any of these. They are chasing their dreams.

With all these kind of thoughts, I felt there is no point comparing with my life and my family or friends who are better than me. I don’t want to compare with these kids to feel I am better. I realised that day, that moment, we all have our own life to live. In our ways. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like someone, move on. What’s the point sticking or hanging to same old problem and waste time? You don’t like your parents, move on. You don’t like your spouse, move on. Be practical. Stop worrying about their lives after you leave. If they also think practical and end the pain in an easier way, both of you don’t get hurt. If they really love you, they don’t hurt you. Simple as that. Everything has got a limit to bear. At least I am not alone to suffer, there are people like me. Everyone is dealing with their problems and the best thing we can do is to appreciate good thing people do. There are a lot of people to criticise and few to recognise.

My thoughts kept growing like this and the office boy came to me running. “Akka, Saar bandidare banni”. So I took a deep breath and walked with him. I met him and honestly I went there with nothing in my mind. The fact was I wanted to end my life and donate all the money. But with all the thoughts running behind I didnt know what to talk. He asked me for the second time. I had to cut my thoughts down and talk to him. I said “Sir, I came here with some idea in mind, but after seeing here my decision is changed. This is the best morning I had in my life. I want to do something for the children living here”

He smiled and said they go to near by governement school and this is not a training centre. So in terms of education what can you do? I had seen the projector earlier and told I can get some videos done and send you through Courier. You can use them as additional training materials. He was convinced and told you can talk to my wife and collect all details that you want related to what kind of topics that children needs, what job opportunities can I support etc. I met his wife and she was very happy to hear it, She was very excited to see me saying youngsters like you coming forward to offer help is pretty rare. you are hardly 23 and girls in this age will be thinking for marriage, family and their own life. You have come here standing in front of us and offering some help. No matter big or small, the heart to offer help itself shows what kind of a person you are. God will definitely bless you with a lot of strength. It is definitely going to make an impact on children’s life. She then said students are mostly from Kannada medium and English videos, explainers of Science/math concepts in Kannada, and work from home opportunities are all they can consider. To my surprise, there was quite a huge requirement that I blankly asked for!

I later realised there was already a company called Byju’s doing something similar but was more like a business. I wanted to do for free of cost. I thought of coming back home and do a proper planning gathering my friends and see what can be done.

That sir then asked me to join for the breakfast and also told me not just for the volunteering, you are welcome to join us over weekends, independence day or any festivals. Whenever you have off from work you can join us.

It was another big hall for dining and everybody were going in line to sit. The same group of girls were behind me hesitating and willing to talk to me. I walked towards them and they already got the information that I have come to volunteer! I went to that girl smiling, pinching her cheek with affection and told I am not taking over your bed or your space, I am not 10th standard student either, I came here casually. She was so happy to hear that and smiled at me asking sorry.

Keshav sir looking at me told the chef to offer me some rice since I come from a city and might not be comfortable eating the porridge. I told I continuously work for NGO’s, was an active volunteer in college with NSS and I am used to all kind of tough life so I dont disrespect the food. I am happy to eat with these children.

The food was rice porridge with barely less salt and too pale to taste. It was somewhat good but being used to junk food at restaurants you cannot eat that on a daily basis.

The girl who was jealous of me few hours ago now came with a happy face telling Akka, it is very difficult to eat this with out the pickle but the chef offers only once and they dont give you twice. We can understand you cannot eat this, so please take my pickle and she immediately dropped to my plate before I could even think. The same girl who thought I have taken over her place is now offering me a mango piece and I just didnt know how to react. I smiled holding my emotions towards her coz she deserved more love than sympathy.

Bidding goodbye to the home, Spoorthi dhama, it had definitely given me the Spoorthi(motivation). I decided to take a walk from there to the main road.

I crossed the end of that road and I was clueless. What next?

I came here to end my life. Now where do I go?

I cannot go back home.

I felt that all my thoughts were waiting at the gate and now hitting me badly soon I came out of that place.

I started walking slowly with a heavy heart and dual thoughts in the mind.

I was having a continuous battle between life and death.

I don’t know if you have experienced this if you have a destination in mind you confidently walk. When there is no destination, you wander and do not know which direction to step. I stood in the mid of this road and was blank for almost an hour. I took my camera out and started to click some pictures

I then thought about that bridge I saw and decided to walk there. Some dogs chased me, cows followed me, I was feeling thirsty and wanted to use a washroom, there were one or two houese near by and with some hesitation I asked if I can use washroom and there were no bathrooms! It was all open area that are used!

It was crazy day. I hardly had started my day with few hours and lot of things changed magically.

It was raining suddenly and there was a hot sun. I had to safeguard my camera and my things. I enjoyed the rain but started to cry suddenly in pain. I was literally all alone in some of the roads and I was like a mad girl walking wandering here and there not knowing what to do.

I sat down under a tree for some time. Cried, dozed off and woke up when it rained again. It was somewhere about 7-8 km from the main road. It hardly took 10-15 mins when I came by auto and while I was walking back to the road journey seemed to be never-ending.

I was taking some pictures and kept walking to see where that bridge was. There was a bus stand and a few ladies were waiting for the bus. Seeing me walking with all luggage she asked where I was going. I just didn’t know to answer. Should I say to end my life? Should I say I am motivated to pursue new things like helping children? I smiled and said towards the main road and then to Udupi. Even now, I still don’t know what made me said that. I waiting for some time and she said it might take a longer time for the bus to arrive. I said it’s okay and I will walk. She told me it’s very far and to wait there. I smiled and started to walk.

I walked and walked and got so tired. Finally the bridge was visible. I went and stood there staring at the rails. I felt like jumping. I read my death note again. I took all the things like the doll, pictures. I felt it was too filmy and kept it back in the bag. I sat down for a while thinking about the children. It was one just orphanage and imagined how many such are there in India. What can I do for them? I need investment. I need to start a company for that to make more money and then contribute. I need support system. Alone with all the struggles what can be done? I had no place to go. Granny was going to die. I stood back again and started to stare at the rails.

Jump or not.

Jump or not.

It kept on ringing in the mind.

I remembered my dad’s words. Once he said life is very challenging and with the kind of pain you have been through, you will have a tough future until for sometime. You need to reach the other end of the tunnel somehow. The journey will be frustrating. But once you reach the shore, you will be blessed in life. Till then you will feel like giving up. You will feel like ending your life, but promise me, you will be a bold person not giving up.

But again that didnt work to motivate me.

Jump or not.

Jump or not.

I just kept thinking.

I wanted a chance to live. There was no goal or motivation. No person to be with. Do I have to wait for those magic to happen? A prince will come in a white horse to save me? There was not even a donkey around. It was a totally remote area.

Yeah that’s exactly how I laughed about myself. No horse nor donkey.

My voice started to echo again. “You are overacting Shru. Shut up and get back home. You have assignments to finish. Granny will be waiting for you. Besides you really don’t have guts to jump. You are just self-victimising and making a stupid decision. Enough of this drama and go do something in life and make your dad proud. You don’t have guts to die, but you are damn strong to face life. You will anyways die one or the other day. For now, go do something that your people are proud of. You have friends. Well-wishers. If not, earn some people in life. Help. Donate. Spread smile. Spread Happiness”

That one small moment of a funny thought, a whole hearted smile changed my mind.

I stepped down from that bridge and sat down again, took a deep breath and relaxed for a few seconds.

Few seconds or minutes could have made me jump off that day. What I realised was, if I really had lost hopes, I would have just jumped. When I got a second thought for not to, which means I wanted to live. So I accepted the fact I want to live and took all the courage to face whatever comes. Alone.

I picked up my bags and started to walk again. Very next moment there came a bus and just stopped in front of me. I was confused. Why did they stop?

The same lady in the bus stop who spoke was inside the bus and seeing me she asked the driver to stop. SHe didnt even ask me, she said give your bag, come soon come soon. I was blinking but I just randomly got into the bus.

Everyone inside the bus were smiling at me. I was like, I would have missed a lot in my life if I had ended. May be there is a lot to go.

I then went to Udupi temple, sat down for the deeparadhane, took another bus to Dharmasthala. On the way, I saw a samosa wala and felt like eating some. I bought but hesitating to eat alone. I kept in the pocket but it was tempting to eat. I then thought how does anything matter now? Let people see me. I am hungry, it is my food and I eat. I took them out and started to eat. A girl was sitting next to me kept staring. I didn’t know what to react. I didn’t speak a word but offered her to eat. She smiled and took a bite. I was like, wow, not bad. She then opened some chips and offered me too, I then understood she was willing to eat but hesitant just like me. Seeing me she got motivated too! The roads from Udupi to Dharmasthala is just damn beautiful. I started to enjoy every bit of rain now. I was at the window seat and let my hair free and just enjoyed every minute of that journey.

I reached the temple, kept all my belongings in the cloakroom and stood in the queue. I met a family – A husband, wife and a cute girl. The girl kept on talking to me and the lady started to ask a lot of questions like where do I come from, what do I do etc. The news spread so fast to 10 people behind me and 10 people after me that I have come alone. I finished the darshana of the lord and came out, it was very late around 9 pm (I have forgotten, not really sure). I was not sure whether to stay or go back home. I was so clueless. But I really wanted to eat the food there. It’s like you don’t miss laddu from Tirupathi, you never miss food at Dharmasthala.

I thought I will skip it and walked towards cloakroom to get my things. The lady who was with me all the time in the line came in search of me, ran towards me and asked if I wanted to join for the dinner in the line. Infact she dragged me telling the baby girl wants to eat with me and they didnt give me a choice. It was for the first time I had food with a stranger.

So much of love, affection and happiness in meeting new people. World was not a bad place at all. We came out and she was worried that I have come alone and made sure she helped me board the bus. I kept on telling her I was absolutely okay and have travelled many times, but she was treating me like a sister and took so much care of me.

I boarded the bus and this was the highlighting part of my entire solo trip journey.

I took a ticket and chose to sit in the last seat of the bus as I always enjoyed the last seat. I always traveled a lot with my dad in all means of transport and usually he was taking the last seats and making me sit with some ladies in the front. So with that mindset sitting in the bus really didnt bother me.

Conductor got worried when I asked for single ticket. He went but came back in few minutes and told, madam please sit in the front. You are saying you have come alone and why do you take risk. I thought strange but went and sat in the front. Soon a guy in the next station boarded the bus and immediately sat next to me. He was drunk and stinking badly and he dozed off next to me. Although the conductor told him to go back, he sat there ignoring. I wore my jacket and kept the bag next to me but he still took the liberty and started to irritate me by falling of faking on the bad roads. I got super irritated and called the conductor loud. The lights were off and bus was dark inside. When I called the lights were on and conductor scolded the guy. He was neatly dressed and looked like an educated but was trying to misbehave with me. The fight started and out of no where he hit the conductor and started abusing me with the F words, showing the middle finger and I was totally scared. I was scared only because I had not told anyone at home and what could happen if something goes wrong.

Soon he raised his voice a guy, sitting just behind my seat who was aged almost like me got up and told that he is observing me and told he witnessed that misbehaviour. He shouted saying I dont understand English but I know you are abusing this sister. I was surprised. I turned at him. I said did you just call me sister? There is a stranger mis behaving and there is another guy calling me a sister. Immediately the entire bus passeners stood by me and supported! I could not believe an entire bus passengers are supporting for a girl who is alone! I raised my voice too and told am ready to give complaint and lets turn the bus towards police station. He got scared and he was immediately thrown out of the bus in the mod of the road nowhere.

That incidence gave me a lot of courage that I can face anything in life. I was confused between many things but the children I met at the orphanage, auto drivers throwing cigarettes and calling me as a sister, a girl sharing samosa, a lady stopping the bus to help me, a sister like person talking nicely and dragging me to take food, helping to board the bus, a guy calling sister and standing with me.

World is not at all bad. Its much better place and there are lot of good people. A bad thing happened but good things also happened at the same time. I understood one thing that life is what we make it. Perception matters the most. How strong can you grow within.

With all the mixture of emotions, I came back home, hugged my granny and kissed her and told I missed her so much. I also told I would not do anything that she is not proud of. I asked her sorry many times and she felt totally strange why I did all these. I smiled and just went with her into the kitchen made some coffee to my aunt and granny and had a morning chit chat talks and finally got to office.

I was back to my life, but with better mindset.

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