Sita sat on the steps of the pond and looked deep into her heart: ”He is never going to go away- always stalking me and ready to attack at any opportunity, watching and waiting. I can feel his eyes on my back. I am never at ease, never feeling safe… when will he finally get me? As a child my parents always told me ‘he’ is to be avoided at all costs. If he gets hold of me I would let them down.
So I strived at school to come first, at music and dance classes to win all competitions, among all my cousins to be the most accomplished and well-mannered. I never let him get close; I am always running two steps ahead. But all the running to be on the top and keep him away took its toll on my childhood. I never gave myself the permission to laze around, to just be a child – get my clothes dirty, fight with friends on the street or bite into a mango with the juice oozing out on to my face.”
Can she dodge the Stalker?
Never clumsy, never lazy, never angry – she was the perfect daughter her parents wanted her to be. Yet when she saw the kids on the road all dirty, clumsy and playing, something tugged at her heart – the desire to let herself go! But she never gave herself the permission to do that. She had dodged ‘him’ all through life. Yet she felt ‘he’ had her all through. How could it be?
She had excelled all through – topper in school, college, profession, married to another achiever and topper and mother to a gifted child. Her parents boasted about her among their peers and she felt happy. But how long could she keep up the façade?
After over three decades she had come to her mother’s native village accompanying her mother – fulfilling her mother’s desire to visit the village while she was still mobile. The paddy fields, the ponds, and the river brought such peace to her heart. She almost forgot about ‘him’. But her conversations with her mother the previous night had brought him back: ‘Don’t be complacent; you need to work hard to keep your husband happy. I could hear you arguing with him during my last trip, that will not do… Is Subash not going to tuitions? He is coming fifth in class, if he keeps on being lazy like this he will soon flunk. Your son’s studies should be your highest priority… Even your house isn’t looking spotless and upmarket. You are slacking… Rekha, Shanthi aunty’s daughter has become the CFO. When will you get your next promotion…. You have even started putting on weight. Look at you – you look older than me. Better watch what you eat.’
Meet the Stalker
The pond looked inviting! She just wanted to jump in and let the waters take her, envelope her, pull her to its bosom where she could rest in peace. Where ‘he’ could never get to her. ‘He’ is the villain of her life. He – Mr. Failure – whose fear had stalked her all her life! Her parents had introduced him to her – ‘Don’t let Mr. Failure get you. If you do, no one will want you. You will let us down’. All her life she had tried to keep succeeding in being perfect so that Mr. Failure could not get her. The fear of him had driven her entire existence. Even now as an accomplished woman she felt just like that small girl petrified about getting her exam results. Always pursuing perfection and success, and trying desperately to keep Mr. Failure away!
As she peered into the water feeling so drawn to it, she saw her son’s face in it. Afraid, trying to desperately please her and win her approval! She saw her face looking at him disapprovingly, shaking her head saying she was disappointed in him. Then it dawned on her, she had introduced ‘him’ to her son and now Subash was being stalked by ‘Mr. Failure’ too. ‘NOO…’ she screamed, ‘This is it. I will not let that man ruin my life or my son’s.’
Fighting the Stalker
She got up with determination and went back home. The next time her mother started on ‘that is not good enough’ conversations. She stood up for herself and her son. ‘It’s good enough for us ma… We like our house like this… Subash’s scores are fine… I have decided to go part time at work and spend more time writing and travelling…’ Ma was not happy but Sita let her be. She wanted life on her own terms.
Slowly Mr. Failure stopped stalking her. He still came up many times like an old friend, giving advice to push herself to be perfect. But she has learnt not fear him and to say no. ‘I laugh out loud, I sing and dance, I play with Subash, and I savor and celebrate every small accomplishment. I take the not-so successful ventures as learning platforms and don’t let them bring me down. I am free,’ said Sita to her friend Miriam on their holiday together.