there was once a girl who loved to dance. not only did boi dance, she also loved sports. she was in her college athletics team and played basketball too. agility was in her character. this and food –boi loved to eat!
in those days boi was getting ready to audition for tarang -an annual inter-university dance competition; a very big event among the top 3 universities in the country. it required a lot of practice, flexibility and agility to be even selected among so many other contestants vying for a position in tarang.
boi was on cloud nine when she heard of her selection. yesss… she was going to dance at tarang! it was her first year in the university and already she was so lucky. thank god! she felt so special 🙂
vacations began and rehearsals were scheduled to commence when the university reopened after the break. boi was on the team! smiling from ear to ear, she prepared to go home for the holidays and celebrate her glory. as she boarded the flight bound home, she was full of anticipation – what it’d be like to see her family after a whole year. she missed her brother and sister most of all.
then it happened. the accident that nearly paralysed her.
how it happened or when it happened, she doesn’t recall. she only has a vague memory of what might have happened.
when she reached home and lay in bed for the first time, she knew something was amiss. and when she woke up she couldn’t get outta bed without difficulty. what’s wrong with me? she wanted to get up and jump and feel the freedom of agility again. the only difference was that she couldn’t even change her position in bed. the throbbing pain at her back made her cry out! ‘so strange’, boi thought ‘i’ve never felt this way before’ and before she knew it, boi was diagnosed with PIVD – prolapsed inter-vertebral discs. she had injured her spine! badly!! ‘ohmigod’, boi wept,‘what’s gonna happen to my dance competition now?’ this was her only concern!
thus began her excruciating journey of self discovery.
“you’re too young to have two slipped discs. what did you do?” the doctor asked
doctor, can i recover in 2 months and go back to college. you see i had auditioned for this big dance event and i got selected. rehearsals will start after these holidays. i have to go back soon, she said proudly. she was still marveling at her position in tarang and oblivion to her new found companion – pain!
“two months is far away my dear”, the doctor smiled at the little girl’s hopeful words. “right now you only have to focus on your therapy.”
she smiled back and was impatient to start her therapy, so much that she failed to notice the doctor hadn’t answered her question.
therapy included a daily session of ultrasound, laser, electric current, hot & cold compress. very expensive. very painful. each day she went to therapy, she asked her therapist to make her recovery somehow faster. she was getting more and more impatient. time was running out. in fifteen days she had to return to college and still she had shown no signs of progress! eventually her therapist introduced light exercises, like lifting her limbs and slowly turning in the bed.
she began to cry. i’m a dancer and an athlete. i’ve never needed help to move my body parts.
“you’ve permanently damaged your spinal cord and there’s no cure for it” was the therapist’s flat reply!
that night she wept bitterly! why me, god? she cried! why me??
little did she know then that god’s blessings came in disguise!
when it was time to go back to her university, her therapist handed her a big thick belt to be worn at all times around her waist so as to support her spine and special shoes for walking. her first thought was that the belt was shapeless and the shoes were ugly!!
her therapist also asked her to always carry a cushion along because she was not supposed to sit on a hard chair without proper back support. and she was not supposed to travel but since she had to for the sake of her studies, she needed to be extremely careful. and she was not supposed to climb stairs. and she was not supposed to walk uphill. and she wasn’t supposed to bend or do any kind of exercise on hard ground. and she had to start dieting else she’d put on weight. and… no dance! AND all of this for the rest of her life!!
what??? no way!
yes my dear! this is your destiny
soon boi realized the intensity of her condition. she had to continue therapy at her university and all her scholarship money was spent at the university hospital. days passed. weeks. months…then a year. and then two! the nagging pain almost paralyzed her. basic everyday movements like opening the door or bending down to put on her pants became arduous. she became more n more depressed. she was traumatized. and she was suffering. now not just from the physical pain but also mental and emotional turmoil. she couldn’t understand why god would inflict so much pain on someone so young. she stopped believing in god or anything good in life. no dance for her. no sports. no athletics. no good food. only wallowing in self pity. her friends at university showed her sympathy. and she got hooked onto that. she started to use this as an excuse to miss classes, an excuse to skip her exams too. an excuse to hide. any excuse to escape reality! stronger doses of pain killers couldn’t subdue her pain. she even became immune to them so they had no effect on her anymore.
boi now had a new passion. sleep! during these long days when she didn’t want to go to her classes, she switched into a hibernating mode. she’d sleep all day, wake up to eat and go back to sleep. nothing like sleeping and dreaming all day. it became her favorite past time. and it was better than reality. she even had a devil of a classmate who called her a sloth, but she didn’t mind. it was something she loved. and she began to put on a lot of weight.
it was only the occasional brush with reality; when she’d watch the following year’s tarang event, or the college sports day that she’d imagine more than she was supposed to, which was almost always followed by a renewed bout of depression. and the pain would inflame her unfulfilled desires; helpless and clueless, she was lost.
and she was groping in the darkness for a spark of light.
one night boi had had enough of it. she wanted to end it all – her life, her pain, her doom, her gloom! it was her third year of untold suffering and she just couldn’t take it anymore. she couldn’t imagine living the rest of her life like that – in a pool of hopelessness and negativity. what use is my life like this anyways? perhaps it’s better to end all this pain at once. lying in bed boi was reflecting her miserable life when suddenly she had a strange thought. a thought she’d never entertained before. what if…? what then??
she sprang outta her bed, gathered all her medicines, pain killers, the big fat belt, the ugly pair of Dr. Scholl shoes and dumped everything into the garbage bin. then she put on her running shoes and went out of her hostel room. it was pitch dark outside. midnight. in front of her lay the race tracks where she used to practice athletics, sometime ago. no, a long time ago. 3 years ago! she looked out longingly. then she looked up to the heavens. god, tonight i will end my suffering. if doing this is going to turn me into a vegetable, then so be it. tomorrow morning they’ll find me lying here and all my pain will finally end!
having said that, she stepped onto the tracks. cool night breeze brushed against her face.
and then boi ran. boi ran for her life. and boi did not stop. boi ran all night. she started to sprint. so fast did boi run that she could feel no pain. so light did boi feel that she imagined she was flying. freedom!!! o dear freedom, how sweet you taste!
it had been 3 years since she had stepped onto this ground. this moment was hers. only
hers. it was her only chance to seize a bit of life, before she had to count for how much damage this might have caused to her broken back! and when she finally did stop, she did not realize she had been running for hours. and boi was not breathless but full of energy! the energy of new life. it was as if a new spirit replaced her dead spirits that night and lit a candle of hope within. wow, am i outta my mind? i just did what i’m never supposed to do?! and…and… my back doesn’t hurt! moreover, i feel fine. no. i feel great! and no pain! what happened just now??
thus opened a new chapter in her life. boi didn’t know what she was doing was right or wrong. boi did alone, whatever she did. and since that day boi ran every day, midnight, alone with the stars. it was her leap of faith. in two weeks she lost 10 kilos! and back to health and spirit!
and boi didn’t go back to her doctor lest he put her back into medication and therapy.
woweee, 3 years of suffering ended just like that? in one moment of madness??? unbelievable!
it was now her final year at university. and once again it was time for tarang auditions. boi longed to be in it. i feel good now, she said to herself, but am i fit enough to dance? should i try for tarang? she hadn’t danced for almost 3 years now and wasn’t sure if she could take up such a challenge. she was afraid. will they give me a chance? she mused forlornly.
timidity puts obstacles in your path, boldness eliminates them, something from within gave her courage.
but what if i hurt again?
this is your last year. your last chance to dance tarang. if u don’t go now, you’ll never again get an opportunity to be a part of this grand event. it is time to revive your long lost dream.
hmmm. but pain scares me. what if the pain comes back?
you have learnt how to live with pain. and you are still here. very okay! now is the time to turn your biggest fear into your greatest glory.
she went and asked the tarang auditions team to let her try for tarang that year.
“boi are you crazy? we cannot let you dance. you’ll hurt your back again and land up in the hospital,” they said to her.
look i’m not asking you to take me in the dance. just let me audition. i don’t want our team to lose for my sake. if and only if you think i’m good and i can do justice to the dance then take me on your team. and now, please don’t say no!
and she auditioned. once again. and lo, once again she was selected! she was on seventh heaven!!
“it’s gonna be a lot of practice and hard work. can u commit to it?”
ofcourse i can, boi was jubilant. she had a small role in the dance but boi wanted to make the most of it. so she practiced. in the beginning it was really hard. she hadn’t danced for so long. getting back her flexibility wasn’t easy. but boi persisted and persevered.
and so boi danced. her way! now not just the normal dance but boi did stunts – cartwheels! somersaults!! standing arch!!! stunts that even people with a sane back wouldn’t do. because boi became bold. fearlessness has its own freedom, boi thought. she was only beginning to discover the power of the mind over her body.
on the day of the competition, boi performed. when she finished, there was a loud applause from the judges and the audience, for everyone was aware of her back condition. one of the judges even came up to her and complimented, “boi, what i just saw was brilliant!! how could you take such risks with your back? you did extremely well. and you’ve also lost so much weight. that’s amazing!”
needless to say that year boi’s university bagged the first prize at tarang. and because boi was a part of the dance*, she was proud of the victory. yesss i did it!!!
*You may wish to watch an excerpt of this dance here; I am still looking for the entire dance; if I find it, I will post a link on this video:
that night she looked upon the heavens and thanked god. for the present. for she now knew a secret. 3 years had taught her what it meant to be alive. and she never again went back to the doctor!
it was her first encounter with magic!
light came upon the darkness and the darkness could not put it out!
boi thought she was on top of the world! boi felt she had conquered the highest mountain!! little did she know then that this was the beginning, that she had just reached base camp and had the entire mountain to climb…
new beginnings. and boi had beginner’s luck!
because what followed was the most passionate, the most intimate, the most daring and the most rewarding journey with herself that was ever to come, and more often than not boi was lost. but each obstacle on the path prepared her for the next phase of her journey to destiny!
stay tuned! …
~ extracted from the book magicNine by baisakhi saha
“i was in singapore during december 1999 to may 2006, as an SIA youth scholar doing my pre-university or junior college at VJC and university at NUS.”
P.S. abunDance, my lust for dance, was born during the process of writing magicNine, the kind of dance life is made of… dance in abundance! visit my dance channel for a glimpse 🙂
P.P.S. I joined AIESEC as a member and exchange participant at my university in Singapore in my final semester there, which allowed me to take on various student exchange programs and travel across the world; here’s a glimpse of that journey…