Grief- it is so universal, yet so personal; I don’t know if I have met anyone ever who hasn’t tasted its bitter potion at least once.
It all started with a silly game of role play.
Say a word and act it out,
Say a phrase and act it out,
Say a sentence and act it out,
Say a story and act it out…
It was a theatre space, what else did you expect?
But this wasn’t ‘just’ a theatre space for any of us, and every single one of us knew that. Maybe that is why my silly brain couldn’t conjure up anything funny or trivial or ordinary when Subu asked us to recall stories from our own lives. I warned them multiple times that all I could think of were hardcore tragedies; death, abuse, neglect… you name it. And yet all of them managed to coax it out of me.
So after two years and five months of trying hard to forget the details, I finally put in an effort to recall the details of those fateful days that changed my life like never before (as if I had forgotten! I can still recall every single detail so clearly). I had poured it out before, with different people, some of whom listened awkwardly, some with sympathy, a few with so much compassion… but this time it was different. This wasn’t just about recalling; it was a replay. Little did I know that my boring story of a grief I was still holding on to — against the constant advice of many ‘experts’- would pave way for an evening unlike any other.
Having heard the story of the devastating horrors of the second wave of the pandemic in North India, from the safe health infrastructure in Kerala, I was shocked to hear the account of a son’s desperate search for oxygen to sustain his father’s life. Contrary to my months of endless regret of not being able to be with my sister during her final moments, I listened with a tearing heart to the account of a family witnessing the horrifying last moments of their dearest father.
And to see it staged in front of you once again was so cathartic; and not just for me, I realised with a mix of relief and gratitude and what not! What was most surprising was that contrary to my expectations, everyone (and sometimes the least expected ones) had a story to recall. There were memories of good times, regret for the lost past and future, confusions about how to still keep in touch, and if anyone did not share out loud, all the overflowing eyes in the room made up the threads of a single story.
So many tears were shed that night in that usually funny and playful space of Khuli Khirkee but unlike any other day, the silence that hung between us seemed to hold us close like never before. And if anything at all was learnt that day, it was that everyone, every single person, is always on the lookout for a space like this that validates their pain — a space that tells them that it is okay to feel hurt, that doesn’t judge them for their tears, that lets them feel enough closeness to feel free.
* * * * *
The stories we shared that day are not for any other ears, but I hope everyone out there gets a chance to open up their carefully guarded chests of grief (and we all know it is not only death that we are grieving) and not feel like they are burdening the other by showing them these gaping holes of these years-deep wounds. I hope we can tell each other our stories of losses and survivals and failures, and realise that we are all treading the same path, some earlier than the other and others much later. I hope we all learn to show each other our vulnerable selves, and marvel at how beautiful our scars are.
Maria is a social worker, craft-crochet-theatre lover, and a (self attested) graphic designer and content editor who’s trying to figure out how to bring all of these together to help people heal and figure themselves out. She has previously worked with the differently abled population and is currently busy ruling out all the careers she doesn’t want to pursue.