I am not a Duracell-H G Geetha

I am no longer a duracell, a long lasting battery cell….but a weakened ordinary battery cell

During my recoupment period post cancer, I had developed an interest in Vedantha, Bhagavadgita etc just like the saying “Sankata Bandaga Venkataramana”. On browsing the internet, I came across a discourse on “Who I am?” as narrated in “Drk Drsya Viveka” which is considered to be written by  Shri. Vidyaranya, The beginning of the book goes like this:

The Swamiji said that while trying to understand the meaning the concepts explained in the book, Operating principle to remember is “ the Seer and the Seen are two different entities”.

During the course of pravachana, Swamiji said that “I” (Saakshi, the witness or Consciousness) is different from mind and it is free from body parts . He further elaborated the concept of consciousness as defined by our vedantha and supplemented with an example where in a business man approaches a sage and says”Oh! Great Sage, I am miserable, so help me to get rid of my misery” to which the sage asked, “Are you experiencing the misery?’, the businessman said, “yes.” the sage replaied “If you know ‘you are miserable’, then you cannot be miserable, you are the knower of the misery.” After sometime, the businessman having felt calmer, approached the Swamy and said “Swamy you are right. I am peaceful.”. The swamy says “ no you are the knower of the peace in mind, you are different from the mind. ”

I being, an ignorant of vedanthic and philosophical knowledge, did not understand much but  as it was interesting so, I listened. Everything was confusing for me as I kept on thinking how can “I” be different? How can “I “be different form body/Mind etc. What is meant by ‘Saakshi  or witness””

I read somewhere that When Shri Raman Maharshi was enduring the pain of Osteocarcinoma, someone asked him “Swamy ji is it not painful?’ to which he answered, “It’s not ‘me’ but it is ‘the body’ which is undergoing the pain. I am aware of the pain”

These words had appealed to me greatly during my chemo days and I would repeatedly tell my mind that ‘it’s my ‘body’ not ‘me’ who is undergoing the pain.’ It helped me to endure the extreme physical pains of cancer and its treatment. But neither I knew, understood nor experienced how “ I“  is different from ‘my mind’ and ‘my body’. Simply followed it.

After 2 years into cancer free life, I planned an elaborate meal for an upcoming dinner party at home. Something told me it could be bit difficult for me. But I went ahead with the preparations. After cutting vegetables, my shoulder started to pain, later suffered with fatigue.

On the day of the party I woke up early as I used to before cancer struck me, started working with lot of enthusiasm but half way through felt very tired and could not complete the cooking. To handle the bigger vessels, I had to depend on other’s help which I could earlier on my own. By the end of the day I was totally exhausted.

I thought it could be that after a long gap, I prepared so many dishes hence, I am tired. I was happy that I could pull it off and sad and worried that I had to rest in between and take others help. I let go off the thought.

During one of those long weekends, we friends planned for a happy shopping. Like my earlier practice, woke up early, completed house work and left for shopping happily. By the time I reached the market area, I was feeling tired and limbs stated to pain. Thought let me relax for some time.

Looking around, found a restaurant and entered. The aroma of ‘chaat items’ wafted through my nose enticed me into ordering a plat of ‘chaat’. Something told me it is not good for my stomach. But ‘I’ won and gulped a plateful of chaat.

Next day ended with stomach upset.

In my office also, whenever I had to do extra work on computer and do enthusiastically, I would end up with pain in back, shoulder, hands and forearm. It is disgusting.

I wanted to break away from everything and go for a long trip. But alas to my dismay, at the planning stage, I realised that with my altered level of efficiency, endurance, stamina and new need of visiting washroom often, cannot embark on a trip to multiple places which could be covered by bus only.

I always liked to add spice to my life by cooking, shopping, travelling, do yoga, play shuttle badminton, and also walking whenever felt like and watching movies, which I could not do now. In a nut shell there was no colour left in my life.

I always wanted colours in my life. How could I adjust to the new life which had become just white.. white… white……?

This new situation where in I could not do What I wanted the same things I did earlier without any difficulty devastated me. Once an active person I had become laid back.

Thus, engrossed in my thoughts, I lifted a book case. But could not do so. I called my son to keep it on the attic. He, in an irritated voice said “Why are you calling me Amma? You used do this earlier by yourself, so why cannot you do it now?

After two years into cancer free life, I look, speak and behave like a normal person. Hence when I entrust work which otherwise I would have done before, children fail to understand my diminished physical stamina and they get irritated. They do not understand why cannot I do it myself like I did a few years ago.

Feeling hurt and helpless,  I sobbed and sobbed. My mom came and consoled me and served me dinner as it was dinner time.

The power went off. The house plunged into darkness. I could not see my plate. My son came with a torch and said “Amma the battery seems to be  weak. So I focus on you and your plate, finish your meal. Then if the battery still runs I can put it on ‘high beam’ so that the whole house will be illuminated.”

My son inadvertently showed me where I was going wrong.

I failed to accept my new self with diminished physical endurance level. I had a feeling that any day my call may come; before that I should do all that is there to do. Hence with this thought at the back of my mind, I was cramming my days.

I wryly realised that I am no longer like a “Duracell Battery Cells” which had long life but an ordinary weakened battery cell. Like ‘finishing my dinner’ was prioritised over illuminating the whole house with a torch with weakened battery cells, I should prioritise my work and pace accordingly.

Then a paragraph I had read earlier came into my mind

” Torchlight, when batteries are fresh on switching on you can get bright light on a wide area. However, as the batteries get weak, you have either the choice of accepting dimmer light in a wide area or to turn the focus of the torchlight to a smaller area, or the beam of light to small, so that in that limited area, the light is bright. ”

I realised, there is a similar need to revise the areas of focus of my life to be limited for reasons of health, energy level, uncertainties of future.

Everyday I, have to keep coping up with mind / body conflict. Wait .. wait it is not only two entities, there is one more thing which comes in between the two. Every time it happens like this.

“I” want to do something and decide and from somewhere floats a “feeling” that “I” should not do so and supressing that feeling, if I do “my body” does not cooperate.

When I was pondering over this, the discourse that I had heard earlier on “Drk, Drsya, Viveka” came into my mind.

I could compare my situation and vedantha’s interpretation of “I” (Saakshi or Consiousness) being different from mind and it does not reside in “Mind”.

In my case the “I’ being not affected by happening wanted to do so many things and “mind” where the information is processed and logical reasoning happen would warn of consequences of doing a particular thing and body invariable would not cooperate beyond certain limit.

A mischievous grin lit up my grim face at this absurd comparison of highly revered Vedanthic knowledge being compared to my mundane things.

In ancient days, sages went into deep forest, did thapas, endured so much of pain, most of the time not eating, resisting the enticing Menaka, a beautiful apsara to discover the hidden meanings of life and gave that knowledge to us.

I thought of possibility of comparing our journey through cancer treatment compared with the sage’s thapas to seek the ultimate knowledge.

The great sages went into deep forest to do thapas leaving everyone behind.

We go to hospitals leaving behind comforting home, career etc. where incidentally entry of visitors is always restricted,

Sages stopped eating and if they ever ate, it was only fruits,

We cannot eat normal food during treatment, survived on fruits and juices which would invariably be thrown up most of the time.

The sages endured the pain of pricking of thorny bushes growing around them.

We endure the pain of needles. Almost every day, most of our limbs are pricked in the quest for a suitable vein to insert cannulas for IV fluid insertions, administering medicines and drawing blood for countless diagnostic tests.

The sages resisted enticing and bewitching Menaka’s dancing around them whose main purpose is to distract and deviate the sage from his thapas.

We also resisted Menaka called “Giving up hope and ending one’s life” which appears equally enticing at that time.

The sages, after so many years of hard thapas, realised “Who I am?” and existence of “witness”

I realised the something similar[1] after my cancer treatment.

This funny thought of my cancer treatment being equated with great sage’s thapas brought a grin to my face.

How do I cope up with this constant mind-body conflict? It is through laughing at myself in this way.

I learnt the lesson of focussing on smaller task and pacing my activities, taking up activities suitable to my present health limitations.

Yes, in spite of this I am yet to come to terms with my need for dependence and inability to multitask. I hate this situation.

[1] This is my earnest effort to explain the conflict that I underwent  in my efforts to reclaim life post cancers. I have taken the example from Vedantha to demonstrate the mind body conflict and not to hurt religious sentiments of anybody. My knowledge in Vedantha and religious scriptures is limited. Please excuse me if I am wrong.

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