On a ledge in the corner of our guest bathroom sits a bunch of white roses in a tall blue ceramic vase. They add a pretty relief to the otherwise functionality of the space, which also houses the washing machine hidden neatly under a marble enclosure. But not quite. The front is open to sight.
As my gaze moves from the machine to the flowers above, I register the energetic feel each item lends to a space. Necessity, need, purpose, or purely a decorative presence.
The flowers, however, have no fragrance. The petals never wilt, nor do the buds blossom. They are artificial. A skillful simulacrum of the real thing crafted out of fine silk fabric. Every once in a while, the dust just has to be washed down, patted dry, and there they are as good as new.
Walking the aisles of the famous fresh food markets in Tokyo, I looked upon the tantalizing display of exotic dishes – the greenest of broccoli, tossed with Shitake mushrooms, garnished with burnt garlic, and grated orange carrots tossed over a bed of rice. Made my mouth water even after a full breakfast. Indeed, the spread extended to stir-fried shrimps, baked crab in the shells, and a whole grilled yellowtail tuna. Being vegetarian myself, I could only but imagine the impact this sight would have upon the appetite of a hungry tourist excited at the thought of savoring these world-famous Japanese delicacies.
But as we passed by the restaurants along the crowded street, the broccoli looked just identical, and the crab, I could swear, had a twin! Yes, masterful replicas made of some fancy resin composite.
The world has mastered the art of faking it. A specialized, lucrative industry that has perfected the process of reproducing almost anything of such close resemblance to the original that it’s almost impossible for the naked eye to differentiate the real from the not real.
“How are you today?” read the message from my friend. “I’m good,” I immediately texted back. I was faking it too. I actually wasn’t. I was bored, fed up, tired, and really not good.
“Hello,” waved my next-door neighbor as he crossed me on the street. I flashed back a wide smile. But the smile never reached my eyes. A reproduction of the original may be missed during a casual interaction, but an almost imperceptible difference is evident to a discerning, sensitive gaze.
Like the things around us, we all exude energy. An aura, if you will. A bundle of feelings and emotions accompany our presence. Strength, fragility, charm, or even a sense of wariness that you sometimes experience when a total stranger enters a room. A person whom you’ve never before set eyes upon leaves you cold and on edge.
But we cannot always portray what we are really feeling deep within. Situations demand expected responses. Societal and cultural norms encourage us to always put on a brave face and pretend to be just right. Like the artificial roses that look pretty, we do too. But neither does the fragrance of our heart breathe openly and permeate the air that touches our soft skin. Withered, old, faded, and wilting – sadness, melancholy, grief, and to stretch even despair has an impact that is perfect in and of itself.
It allows for an expression of an unapologetic vulnerability. Of a primal experience in the journey of living – pain – that is as majestic, unadulterated, pure other than for the interpretations of the mind.
So yes, the semi permanence of the artificial flowers have their own place in the universe of things. Yet these too shall fade away someday. But the beauty of a sigh that escapes a heavy heart is eternal, universal, and uniting.
We each have our own burdens. Perhaps sometimes it’s okay to say I’m not okay. And yet at others to laugh out aloud with unabashed abandon when you look in the mirror, and you’re just having a bad hair day! Sometimes we just look funny. And that’s okay too.
Though my childhood was difficult and complex, these challenges forced me to look for happiness in things beyond the conventional givens of material possessions, career and marriage. Decades of philosophical reading, exploring meditation techniques and alternative therapies, culminated in meeting my Guru, Ramesh Balsekar. It was during the six years I spent attending his daily discourses that my innate love for language developed into editing books and doing some writing of my own. Learning from hard-earned personal experience I was finally able to overcome my unresolved issues. Today, this journey has allowed for me to be an emotionally present mother, a caring partner and a dependable friend. Indeed, suffering can be a gateway into becoming a more complete human being.
This series of blogs has been reviewed by Drishya Warrier, Aditi Iyer, and Pratishtha Bagai, of Symbiosis Centre of media and Mass Communication, Pune. We are students that have completed our first year. Through this NGO Internship Project at MHAT, we explored the field of mental health while pursuing our interest in creative writing.