When Ghosts Of My Memories Re-visited Me

by | May 24, 2018

Your body is just a place your memory calls home
– Dr Deepak Chopra in his book titled Quantum Healing

Some of us live in our memories. A part of our brain is always dedicated to relive old moments while the rest of the brain’s major duty is to mold the reality based on these memories (and dreams). But there are always some parts of the past which we don’t want to remember ever. They are buried deep in a corner. Life is strange and so are such things!
Unwanted memories (also known as triggers) may come back suddenly when we are exposed to certain situations or things which remind us of those moments. The beauty (or curse) of this is that they come with the same feeling, of pain or intensity, physically and mentally as that of our original experience. Medical science calls it the ghost of a memory. They can appear out of nowhere even if you think you have moved far away from them.
A new life with my host organisation invited many such ghosts that I never thought will come back.
I was really excited when India Fellow team informed me that I will be placed with Agragamee in Kashipur, Odisha, for the entire year. Agragamee has a rich experience of working with the tribal people of Odisha for more than 30 years. They have made a big impact in livelihood, education and advocacy. It presented a great learning opportunity for me. After four days of travel by bus, train and jeep, I along with two co-fellows reached our destination.
Kashipur is a quiet little place. Our campus is located almost 8 km away from the nearest town. Initially, it felt like an Oasis. The first few days presented a variety of challenges which were totally new. First came the language – Odiya, completely alien for me. Till then, the thought had never occurred to me that proper communication with people around us is necessary not just for maintaining relationships but also to keep ourselves sane.
Sitting in the middle of a group conversation where I didn’t understand anything made me feel vulnerable. Then there was problem with food (regional cuisine was relatively new for me), unavailability of internet, home-sickness, different ideologies and the list goes on. There were too many changes and I was not prepared for them. I was lost and it took me a while to realize that I was being hunted down by ghosts of my memories.
The source of fear and sadness was my childhood insecurity that arose from being the shortest guy in my class as well as neighborhood. I used to hate it when people looked down upon me as a weak little kid. Here, I could almost read that same look in everyone’s eyes. I was this weird looking guy with big beard who knows nothing but to smile back whenever he is asked something.
With no access to internet in the initial days, I was totally cut off from social media. Virtual escape was not an option anymore. Both my co-fellows were struggling with their own issues and I didn’t want to burden them with my problems. All this made it worse as I was back to a familiar kind of loneliness which I felt at so many points in my life, where I would be in the middle of a crowd and still feel alone.
Weather changed here abruptly which resulted in me getting fever and cold. As this is my first time away from my home, the realization that no one is there to take care of me was really painful. I was lonely by fate, not by choice. To survive, I had to overcome these problems. To get rid of my immature thoughts, I tried to immerse myself in the local culture and understand how the organization works.
I accompanied a staff to a nearby village to see people celebrate ‘Chaitra Prabho’ (a local festival similar to Holi). Villagers were welcoming. I was feeling relaxed for the first time in last few days. Then, they showed me a tree where a boy was killed and hanged a day before because he got into a fight with some of the locals. No one got arrested and the festival went on uninterrupted. I could feel a sudden rush of emotions in me. I was now required to accept the ways of the community even if I didn’t agree with them.
Here I was, in a strange place, interacting with a culture that strives on a set of principles which were now presenting their revelations upon me. This conflict of thoughts was not new. The ghost of this conflict was born with the mental struggle I had when I found that my parents’ aspirations for me and my own dreams were totally different. Traces of that duel, which I buried a long time ago, were now hanging in front of me. It was during the same time that my heart got broken when I tried to get into a relationship with someone I considered special. That rejection started a chain reaction which dug up all the low points in my life and now those ghosts seems to appear everywhere. When fate hits you, it comes with a whole package.
India Fellow for me, was a way to escape my past and discover my new self. I thought that moving to a new place and gaining new experiences will help me create a better version of myself, and here I was finding my old reflection wherever I look. When memory hunts you, fighting it back is of no use. The best strategy is to accept it but I didn’t know how. For the first time in many years, I reached out for emotional help.
I started talking to my co-fellows, mentors and staff of Agragamee. Many perspectives were put before me. My co-fellows Trisha and Shailesh listened to me patiently. Sharing my feelings with them was a big relief. People were more understanding than I thought they would be. Reading every day, listening to more music, volunteering for some physical activity in the organisation, trying to learn Odiya – all became a part my daily routine.
I also started to dive deeper into activities that Agragamee conducts in this region. Hiking in the nearby hills and mountains helped me discover an intimacy between nature and me. This newly found ability to connect with everything around adds up to another gift that I found through the fellowship. I’m digging up all those feelings which were buried for years. For if I need to complete this journey, I should walk through my memories making peace with every step I take. Now, instead of always asking others, “God, why always me?”, I ask myself “Why not?”.
Half Half None

Half Half None

The following blog has been co-written by co-fellows Daraab Saleem Abbasi and...

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