Apr 25, 2010

A wallet that made me realize why my childhood was hell

Two days back, I got robbed. I was on a BEST bus on my way from work to the gym. I had two bags with me – the regular backpack strapped up against my back and the gym bag on my shoulder. Because I have a tendency to misplace my wallet, I had made sure that I put it in my backpack after drawing enough money from it for the ride.

It was a crowded bus and I jostled my way to the already-crowded area just behind the driver's set. I positioned myself comfortably after depositing my gym bag in a corner, and started tending to my e-mail and FaceBook. Retrospectively, I recall that there was a young man standing adjacent to me struggling for the same space that I had been occupying.

I remember that he had shifted his position briefly, for a minute or so, during the journey. That must have been to unzip my backpack and steal my wallet. As soon as I got into the gym and started undressing, I checked my bag and realized that I had been robbed. I, thanks to my psycho-pharmaceutical cocktail, did not panic. Instead, I started worrying, and started thinking of myself as a bad person.

I came back home in a very self-flaggellatory mood, but had the presence of mind to cancel all my cards. Vinokur tried to give me advice and encouragement. But I know him too well, and am comfortable enough, to not take any definitive action against my impending implosion. After a few minutes of chatting, I left him alone to pursue things that he enjoys even more – things that bring him consistent pleasure – things unlike me.

One of the first things that I did, as a punishment to myself, was to inform my date – the special person that I have been blogging about, and I'm going to title him M – that I'm canceling the date for the next day evening. He called me immediately, and tried to comfort me, but wasn't able to do much good. I insisted that we should cancel the

The next day (yesterday) morning, I sent M a message telling him that I wasn't feeling better and that we are not meeting in the evening. Then I reached my office and things started to change. People, with whom I was not totally comfortable with, started talking about how often such robbery occurs and started making me feel more comfortable about the reparative process that needed to ensue. That cheered me up. I immediately sent M a message about the turnaround and suggested that we might still meet in the evening.

During the day, I went to one of the banks that I had an account in and started the process to get a new debit card. I drew some money and bought myself a new wallet – a physical entity in my life that reminded me that things weren't all that bad and that I'm not a bad person.

At 5.30 pm, I got a call from a person who had found my wallet in the drain near my gym. He asked me to meet up at a certain place in half an hour. I went there in a rickshaw and met this guy. I got my wallet back – everything intact but the money, including the change. I was so happy to get my license, PAN card, and my medical registration ID – three things that would have taken months to renew/replenish.

To celebrate, I decided to skip the gym and meet M early. I was relieved and feeling much better. We went to dinner at a restaurant called Sheesha. Over cherry/mint-flavored sheesha/hukka, we had a wonderful conversation about the entire incident and why it had triggered such a heavy negative feeling toward me. And then we stumbled on the truth – my childhood!

Practically every day in the tender-age period, I was subjected to things like 'Kris, you aren't a good person!', 'You deserve to be punished!’, 'All the bad things that happen to you is because of the bad things that you do, because you didn't respect elders and God!', 'Kris, look at your cousins. See how good and obeying they are? See how they pray and go to temples. If you don't do all this, you will be a bad person all through your life'. This and more such stuff. Everyday. Every conversation.

This was the reason why I had started hating my home. This was the reason why I was a wreck, an introvert, an angry, obstinate child. This was the reason why I had no friends until I broke out of the shackles in med school after interacting with patients, who talked to me and respected me, who were proud of me. This was the reason I'm scarred for life.

Vinokur's childhood was scarred by his father. M's childhood was similar to Vinokur's, but probably less severe in intensity. I am scarred similar to Vinokur, but my scars are hypertrophying with every passing day, I think. And the psycho-pharmaceuticals aren't helping that much.

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