18 November 2018
Part 19 – “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”
In my last post I recounted the questions that started surfacing in my mind as a young child.
Why is the world so Unkind?
Why was I an outsider?
why was the world so unfair?
By the time I started Grade 1 at Progress Primary School I already found myself floundering, lost, alone. I was born in June, so I was allowed to begin Grade 1 before I turned six. I felt overwhelmed and alone. I had no friends that I bonded with and I felt isolated and alone. We would get 10cents spending money if we were lucky and that would buy quite a bit. I remember moorkoo (a hard spiral-shaped crispy fried spicy batter) which I could manage to buy. I remember the moorkoo more sharply than I do any of my fellow pupils in my formative years at school. There was a boy who wet his pants in the class and someone who picked their nose and ate it. As grossed out as I was, I cannot remember the children or their names. I had no friends. I wished I was good at running, because that attracted much attention and fuss. However, I had to satisfy myself cheering on the fast kids in my sports house, wearing the coloured rosette that my mom sewed for me. I was spotted by the PE teacher as having a penchant for gymnastics and was told to do some bunny jumps on the wooden bench. I never really found much joy there either. I was not a loner, but I felt lonely. After school I would visit my aunt and her toddler, my new cousin, and I’d inevitably be late for madrassa (Muslim school). I felt equally lost at Madrassah, afraid all the time that I’d forget my surahs (verses of the Quraan). Teachers and school were a grim experience for me. My memories of Grade 1 and 2 were clouded and it was about the same time that my innocence had been disturbed by my mom’s cousin in the incident I described in earlier chapters. How much that affected my schooling I will never know. I loved books and would immerse myself in the likes of Enid Blyton, only discovering in later years her subtle racism and her personality disorders that clouded her reputation. It was the fantasy aspect that appealed to me most. I loved that I could become lost in a fantasy world and pretend that I was capable of flying and doing magic because it made me feel empowered. In Grade 1 and 2 I felt lost in the crowd, ignored and overwhelmed. In Grade 2 I got a maths sum wrong and I was rewarded with a strike from the sharp end of a ruler which left a lasting scar. In those days, corporal punishment was the norm. Boys would get whipped with a cane on their butts and girls would get ruler shots on their hands. The end result was that I had a mental block to arithmetic and math ever since. I work carefully to hide this disability especially because I am expected to be so ‘intelligent’, being an advocate (barrister), environmental lawyer blah blah. My Grade 2 teacher, who had an acne scared face and the most beautiful thick long hair which she wore in a braid to one side, no doubt thought she was doing what was best for me. By the time I went to standard 1 (Grade 3), I had all but lost any concept and couldn’t keep up with basic arithmetic. Instead, I continued to throw myself into books and was so thrilled when the protagonist was the same age as me. There were moments of happiness in my childhood, but mostly it was marred by a shadowy mist, in which I felt misplaced.
In standard 2 (Garde 4), they had built a new school closer to where we lived called Pentarosa Indian Primary School. Things started changing then. I found myself coming out of my silent shell. I started performing well at school (except for math), and my personality started surfacing more as a leader. We were asked to prepare a speech in class and I had not done my home-work. I thought I had some time because I was way down the list alphabetically and would probably get my turn in a few days. The teacher decided to randomly call people up and as fate would have it, my name was called. Being put on the spot, I did an impromptu speech which was a pack of lies. I still don’t know why I made up a story about my blind Grandfather, who was anything but blind, in fact he was a dominating strong sometimes aggressive man. I always witnessed my father’s subservience and deference to his father with confusion. He was only ever this way with his parents. I felt like he was bullied but endured it out of respect and then moved out of the way as soon as he could. This made an indelible impression on me and I suddenly found myself speaking about a fictitious feeble vulnerable grandfather as if I was taking his power away from him. I am reminded of a verse that I love that says God’s mercy is in every situation. That speech got me recognised and I ended up doing the annual opening prayer for ours school concerts, always taking the lead in plays, speech contests and the like. I had a talent for taking my pain and reflecting it to the world. Instead of being consumed by my loneliness and exclusion, I stood out in the crowd and made myself seen and heard. Being the outsider, gave me a different perspective. I could see people in a way that many others sometimes didn’t. I saw their pain and their vulnerabilities. Their beauty and the secrets. I felt their emotions in every movement or expression of their faces. I found it almost second nature to look past their posturing and glimpse at what they were feeling. I didn’t understand it always, but it disturbed me. I always hoped that people would be happy all the time, and when I could witness their pain, not knowing where it came from, it made me unhappy and I would reflect that pain back onto them, as if shielding myself from it. I would look for reasons to judge them badly because they were making me feel bad. I tried to shield myself form absorbing the pain of others by finding fault with them, so that I didn’t have to deal with them. Yet as I grew older, I always tried to mend people’s hearts. It is still something I struggle with. Trying to fix the world. All the while, I was trying to mend my own heart. I never assimilated into any group, which allowed me to see the strengths and weaknesses of each with an objectivity, which would not have been possible if I were on the inside. I could participate in groups without being absorbed by the culture or ethos of any of them. I searched for their truths and falsehoods, whether it was in religious groups, political organisations or social circles. I sometimes assumed the identity of a group, and would pretend to accept the values, but it never lasted long, like my first marriage and my friends at varsity. I had to forge my own path. I was an outsider, because I had to see the world and humanity from a different angle. If I were to serve humanity, I would have to understand human beings, and I could never have clear picture from the inside. The pain I suffer being on the outside however, helps me to understand myself. The path of finding the self is littered with pain and strife, for it can be no other way. Pain is an essential part of existence It is an indicator of something that needs attention. When I sought to avoid it, it brought more pain. I constantly try to discover the source of my pain (physical and emotional) and learn and grow through it. It has become my friend. My experiences, which I used to think were bad and even tragic were perhaps just catalysts for my learnings and growth. My contemplation about these matters have led me to find the answers to my questions. Perhaps one of God’s pointers are to be found in the very darkness of our experiences. For we will never the see the breaking of the dawn without the darkest part of the night.
I had to answer my other questions also. But more of that next time.
With love, Radia💜