Growing up Aku and I would often hear the words “Why can’t you girls be more like her?”
The ‘her’ in question was our peer in church, whom I shall call Kate. The three of us grew up attending the same church. But while Aku and I evolved into moody teenagers, Kate was appointed as the church organist and worship leader.
Clad neatly in crisp cotton sarees, she would dutifully lend her powerful vocals to lead the congregation in worship. Additionally, she was known for being a top notch high school student; orator; and winner of several accolades in inter-church competitions. We looked up to her and
respected her ways.
I met Kate briefly for the last time at her wedding. She met her hubby at a conference and they were immediately besotted with each other. Her parent’s agreed to the marriage after much persuasion. But he lived in the USA, had a high-paying job and was on his way to successfully climbing to the top of the corporate ladder. Their post-marriage Facebook posts reflected a perfect life, filled with pictures of a newly purchased house, car and endless vacations to exotic places. On the surface they seemed to have it all.
So, imagine my surprise when a friend recently showed me a disturbing video of Kate. The hour long video posted earlier this year on FB, showed Kate listening to music through earphones and making incoherent gestures. Scrolling down, I was flabbergasted to see that her recent posts made little to no sense!
In the period between her extravagant wedding and 2019, Kate’s life had taken a sharp U-turn. She lost her beloved mother to an illness, divorced her loving husband, turned to drugs and alcohol and changed boyfriends at lightning speed. Needless to say, I was stumped!
Until then, I naively thought that drug and alcohol addicts were either trust fund kids or hailed from poor backgrounds and broken families. Deep down, I knew this generalisation was wrong, but I didn’t have much need to educate myself on the topic… until now!
I began to recall instances in our childhood that might have been red flags. Instances that her brother later confirmed were of his parents doing against her wishes. While we routinely wore halter tops and tight fitting jeans, she was forced to dress in a saree- that is typically worn by women not teenagers. While we partied and rebelled without a cause, she was made to ace the next round of university examinations. While we discussed the existence of God with our parents, her father – who worked as a reverend – never let her mind explore the same.
Mind you, they were NOT bad parents. In fact they were loving and did what they believed was best for their children. In hindsight, one begins to understand that they were strictly adhering to societal norms by raising the ‘perfect’ family. They were typical middle class parents who worked day and night to raise two wonderful children who embodied perfection.
All religions profess peace and harmony but it is the man made structure that makes adherence to it so hard. Your life needs to be faultless in order to be hailed as the perfect Christian, Hindu, Jew etc etc etc…. God forbid you stray every now and then from the yellow brick road.
Expectations towards perfection is even more unrealistic, especially for youth in India. You have to run faster than your competitor; you have to study harder than your neighbour; you should never develop feelings towards a member of the opposite sex – and in case you do it better be aimed at someone from the same religion and caste; you should be home latest by 6 pm; you must get a good job; you must marry early; you must have a child as soon as you marry (I cannot tell you the no. of times I have been asked why I do not have a child or if I have fertility issues since it’s been 3 years post-marriage).
Kate always adhered to this blue-print of perfection. She never strayed from the template laid out meticulously by her well-meaning parents. It was only after her marriage that she got a whiff of freedom – and she loved it! From what I gather, she allowed years of suppressed feelings take control of her life.
Last year she was diagnosed as having mental illness and was given pills to counter the same. Unfortunately, she became addicted to the pills. This year she was rendered homeless and her whereabouts are presently unknown.
I do not know how I or anyone else can be of assistance to her or her family. I wish I knew the answer to this dilemma. I wish I lived in California so I could join her friends in looking for her. I wish I could have grown closer to her when we were younger and listened to her while she vented out her frustrations…. I wish…. I wish….. I wish….. I wish…..