Friday, March 12, 2010

The Story Of A Ring!!

Ever since I saw "The Lord Of The Rings" triology, I've somehow found it difficult not to associate even the mere thought of a ring from the power it be to the wearer. I'm not sure if you people also feel the same or is it just me who has got all the liberties in the world to be weird.
Anyhow, I am sure you people don't want to read another piece about the Tolkien masterpiece and trust me, this ain't about any of it. This one is the story of a ring which is still waiting for the touch of the soft white finger of a fairy that it was bought for, even though there are walls higher than the Mount Everest, forests denser than the Amazons, deserts hotter than the Sahara's and colder than Siberia, that lay in the way.
I can't help but remember how one early morning, Kevin Jonas flew to New Jersey and surprised the love of his life, Daniella, by showing at her doorstep on his knees with a ring in his hand, love in his heart, and hope in his eyes. True to her love, she didn't dissappoint him.
With no offence to the Jonas brothers who, I know now, are immensely talented and popular, but before that day I didn't even knew about. And if it wasn't for Kevin's similarity to the younger years of the father of the girl I loved, she wouldn't have mentioned about him in his tweets, and I wouldn't have known about him, or anyone else.
Coming from India, the only way I had known to propose a girl was to stop her on the side of a road, or perhaps at a bus stop, and profess your feelings with a rose or a choclate in hand. If the girl said yes then take up the issue with the parents, and if they agreed, an engagement where rings are exchanged, followed by a wedding.
But I wasn't in love with an Indian girl. I was in love with an American beauty. A beauty that my eyes can't find a parallel off to this day. They say love is blind, but mine came with dumb as a spare. I thought that maybe I need to ask her the way Kevin Jonas did and I bought a ring that I thought was worthy of even entertaining a thought of touching her soft, pious skin.
So what's so special about that ring, you will ask?
Well, the ring is not special for the stones that it carries, or for the hole it may have burnt in my bank account, but for the feelings that were associated with it, and my love which the mute stones can't speak about.
Everyman who dares to love a girl often associates a value with her, knowingly or unknowingly offcourse. That value can be judged only from as to what extent is he ready to open his purse strings, which basically would mean, how much of what he's got, is he ready to spend on her?
I valued her at priceless and opened the sluez gates of my bank account. Ruins was what I was ready to accept and anything short appeared inappropriate.
But why do I point to the ruins if I love her so much? Am I so cheap as to make a statement of what my love cost me?
No my dear friends, that is not the case. Rather I am mentioning about it to show you how much she meant to me, cause somehow the only way in this modern world to show the depth of your love is to show what worth was the money that was spent on a girl, with a smile.
Now friends, I would leave it upto you people to decide what value I attach to her, but here's a story of my every single penny that I had, and that I spent to buy something I thought was worthy enough to speak the language of my love to the only thing good I saw in my life.
The money that I used to buy the ring had a bit of that 1 dollar that was all that I was left with in my account, three months after migrating, when I had no work, had eaten only one meal a day for three days, with the meal consisting of a few slices of bread with a hint of jam that I was running out off, with a glass of tea.
The money that I paid for the ring included the money that was never paid when this University Gold Medallist went to wash a butcher shop with his hands and a rag, and when he went to clean the carpets and toilets in a factory, simply because you don't get paid for working two days as that constitutes trial period which is free service. And friends, after having spent 20 years of my life getting education in schools, colleges and a university, and another 5 years imparting educatins to high school kids, I couldn't see myself doing that work. The time was desperate but the man was proud of his heritage. Perhaps a bit too proud, but that would be a subjective judgement.
The money I used to buy the ring contained the missing money that the two guys ran away without paying me after using my cab after assaulting me. The money contained a missing part of the $825 that I paid as ambulance expenses as I was taken to Lyell McEwin Hospital, unconscious on the night of 18th June, 2008.
The money I spent had a part of the money that the Centrelink refused to pay me when I had nothing to buy food as I had no job, just because I hadn't been here for long enough.
The money belonged to a person who knew he was all on his own in this cruel world that won't even feed him, leave alone give him shelter, were he to loose his job for any reason. And that money was all this man had.
Now what do you think would have been her worth to me if I went to ruins for her with a smile?
Trust Your Love!! But don't blame me for it!!
Amanpreet Singh Rai

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What is Trauma?

As laymen, we often describe trauma as a state of mind of a person, resulting as a direct consequence of some events or situation that put the person in question, under immense emotional duress, resulting in establishment of a fear in his heart. A fear of something unknown and of un-explicable nature and definitely something bad.

Now we may have know someone from our close, or perhaps not so close circle, who's been through a tough situation and has been stated to be traumatised by that experience. But, do we ever imagine ourselves in such a situation, and how it would affect us? Atleast I never imagined myself to experience trauma in my life, especially since I consider myself fairly strong mentally, and I am not too bad physically as well. But then, fate and mind, neither of them is under direct control of most of us, or are they? The following experience is the exact representation of what I personally went through on the intervening night of 15-16 February, 2010, and a few subsequent nights, and am still going through it.

On 15th February, 2010 I went to the house of the girl I loved and her mother, and supposedly younger sister, refused to let me see her, or talk to her and threatened to call the cops on me.

Now I am an Indian guy while that girl is of mixed western and asian origins, and my mother is not too happy with my liking for this girl, primarily because of the religious and cultural differences, and secondarily because of the caste differences. I am a Sikh by religion and Jat by caste, the highest in our religion, and my mother is concerned like most Indian parents, what will friends and relatives say because the girl is from another caste, which in this case we don't even know.

So expectedly I thought that perhaps this girls parents don't like the prospect of her marrying an Indian guy from a different religion and hence are not allowing me to see her. So with these thoughts and a feeling of insult by the harsh behaviour of the two who opened the gate, I kindly requested them to call the cops while I waited outside the house. I pulled out a piece of paper from my own pocket, as they had refused to even give me a piece of paper to write to her, and wrote my deep anguish to her. I was hoping that when the cops will arrive, they may perhaps help me see the girl, or atleast hand my letter to her.

The first cop arrived, refused my request of either an audience with the girl, or to hand my letter to her. I was about to leave when another cop car arrived, and without any questions asked, I was handcuffed, searched for any weapons, and put inside a car. After that there was a mele of cops and specialised divisions like Victim Support, Psychiatric Division etc.

No one cared for what I had to say, but everyone took turns to go inside the house and talk to people inside, and soon enough it was decided that I be taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The reason given was that they want to be sure that I won't hurt myself after being rejected by the girl. I asked for an attorney but I was refused one.

The doctor at the hospital said that I will give you some tablets that you can take, but as I was alright I objected and asked for an attorney, a request refused again. All this was happening in Los Angeles County Hospital, Psychiatric ward. I was instead told that I am being admitted for 72 hour observation, and that my consulate, Australian Consulate General, has been informed of my situation and they will come and pick me up to take me back home in a couple of days.

Now I was scared. I hadn't done any crime, I was in a foreign country with no friends or family, no one knew where I was and what was happening with me, have been refused legal help, and was literally told that I am going to be flown back, or deported in other words.

The staff nurse kept on repeating one line, "We don't play in America!" And she told me that a lot of paper work needs to be filled, so it will take atleast 2 days before the embassy people will take me home.

Now I had a return flight pre-booked for the next day, 16th of Feb, and I was supposed to reach Australia on 18th and start work on 19th. What I was being told meant I would have been in trouble with my job.

The only reason I went to see the girl was that I trusted her, much more than I love her, and there I was, in an alien land, with no one known familiar of my circumstances, and some deep mess staring at my face.

I had no way of contacting my friends in Australia, or family in India, as my mobile was in the custody of hospital staff, and I didn't remember anyone in Australia's number.

There was a payphone hanging from the wall with services provided by AT&T but that was not help. The only number I remembered was my parents number in India, and when I tried to call them trough the operator, using my credit card number that I remember by heart, thanks to online shopping and billing, the operator told me he cannot connect me to India.

So there I was, with my predicament writ large on my face. In a psychiatric hospital, between mentally sick patients, or criminals who have physically harmed someone. My job as well as future travel to the states on line, and no family or friends aware of my situation that could have helped me get legal help.

Then there were nurses and ward boys who kept on putting more pressure on me by telling me that I may be kept for 72 hours, but the doctor may extend my stay for upto 30 days.

I was given a bed in a corner which was a bit darker than the rest of the room.

I only had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water before I left for the girl's house because she was more important than feeding myself, but ever since I got to her place and that mess, I wasn't even offered water by the cops as they didn't want to be in a situation where I would have asked for a urinary break.

In the hospital, this hard-core vegitarian was offered beef. I had to do with two apples and two 100 or 125 ml juice bottles.

Hungry, wronged, in a dark corner of the room, there I was lying on a hospital bed, surrounded by criminals and mental patients. No way of letting anyone from my family or friend circle know of my situation, with no legal help available, and my job on line.

I couldn't sleep the whole night. I was anxious, scared and helpless. If I tried to go to sleep, there was always a commotion that would wake me up. The ward boys and nurses used to start chatting loud, as if on purpose to wake me up.

During the whole night, no doctor visited me to see if I was alright, no medication was given to me. If I got up from the bed I was asked to go back to it straight away. I was once told that if I won't I will be restrained.

A lady with some problems, who must have been in the hospital for very long, started shouting twice during the night, "Please let me go! Please let me go! I am alright! I just want to go to Church!" and stuff. She was first restrained, and the second time sedated.

I was lying there, anxious and afraid. My whole life flashing infront of my eyes, all that was at stake, and what for? Just because I loved a girl and asked her, "Will you marry me?" and instead of answering me like an honourable girl of noble upbringing, there I was, put in a psychiatric ward with a vield threat of being declared insane?

When I couldn't take it anymore, I asked the nurse on duty to give me a sleeping aid, but she refused saying it was 5 in the morning, so too late for it.

I couldn't do anything except agonisingly wait for each minute to pass by.

Finally at around 8 am a young lady doctor came to have a word with me. A few questions and she said, "I think you are alright! I'll talk to the doctor to release you!"

And I waited another agonising hour before the senior doctor came to see me. He asked me a few questions that I answered to his satisfaction. To give you a sample of what I answered:

Doctor: What do you do?
Me: I am a registered school teacher as well as a bus driver.

Doctor: What do you do now?
Me: I am driving buses at the moment.

Doctor: So you are a bus driver!.. Now that you have seen this girl's house, do you think they are rich?
Me: I guess so!

Doctor: Why don't you go to India and marry a girl of your parents choice?
Me: Doctor, I will do exactly that.

Doctor: What about the relationship with this girl?
Me: Doctor, she doesn't like me!

Doctor: Good! I think you are alright! I'll let you go!

Now I want to tell this doctor if he reads this post, that the guy you were questioning and trying to show his place is a University Gold Medallist in Masters of Forensic Science, with 5 years of teaching experience in a Government School in India, and if it wasn't for his addamance to prove himself to the world that he is something special, he wouldn't even have bothered to leave India.

And yes I am poor. I am poor because no one will give me a good job over here in Australia. They don't even call me for an interview if I apply for a good job. Yes, I am poor, but my parents are not. I come from a good upper middle class family, with values, honour and honesty. We are not cheapstakes.

But anyway, I couldn't have said all this to him or I would have been in a lot more trouble. So I waited for another couple of agonising hours before I was finally allowed to leave the hospital, a free man.

I took a bus to Los Angeles city west, then to Santa Monica, and then Marina Del Rey. Reached my hotel, got refreshed, took a shower, and got ready to leave for the airport. I got downstairs and requested the reception to book a cab. The cab arrived, but also arrived two cop cars.

Once again my ordeal started. Two cops stopped me from leaving, took me back inside the hotel lobby, frisked me infront of all the hotel guests present around the area, and made me wait for nearly 40 minutes before another couple of cops arrived to hand me restraining orders. I was made to feel like a terrorist infront of all other hotel guests who were looking at me with disdain. I felt humiliated, but I couldn't do anything.

I finally requested for another cab. When the cab arrived, the cab driver saw the police, looked at me and asked, "I'll have the fair in advance if you don't mind."

"That's fine! How much will it be?" I asked. He said $20 and I gave him $25 which was ultimately more than enough. Although a cop car did follow me to make sure that I went to the airport.

The threats were vield, but loud and clear. Love this girl or we'll either declare you insane, or a terrorist. I couldn't sleep in the whole 12 hour flight but I was happy to get back home.

Now you all must be wondering where's the trauma that I was talking about? Well friends, here's where my trauma starts.

I got home around early evening, refreshed, took a shower and went to a friends house to tell them my story, and also had my dinner over there. I returned home when the night had just started to fall. I could barely keep my eyes open by that time. I hadn't slept for two nights and was so tired that I could have fallen asleep in standing position itself. All I needed to do was, close my eyes.

So I went to my bedroom and turned off the light.

As soon as I turned of the light, for the first time in my life, I got scared like a mouse caught in dark. I could hardly breathe. It felt like someone was gagging me, suffocating me. I was gasping for breath and the darkness gave me a feeling like someone has imprisoned me in my own house permanently. I immediately switched the lights on but the feeling persisted. I felt suffocated inside my own house even after I had switched on all the lights, including the one in my brother's room and our common toiled-cum-bathroom. I felt scared.

Now I was too tired to stay awake but I had no other option. I picked up my car keys and went for a drive. I could barely drive a few kilometers as I was finding it hard to stay awake, but I didn't want to sleep either.

I got myself together, returned home, strenghthened myself, and turned off every light and went to bed.

Friends, that was my first experience of trauma.

For the next few days, this fear lingered on.

I was alright at work, but when I was at home, even if I pulled the shades on my windows down to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the house, the resulting darkness used to scare me, make me uncomfortable, and my breathing would become laborious for a few seconds. That was the trauma that I fought off and got myself up and going again.

Even after three weeks, my sleep is still not proper. It's hard to get to sleep in the first place, and then when I wake up in the middle of it, it's hard to get back to it again. But I am improving.

But my question is, "What was my fault? Just that I loved her and dared to ask her if she would like to marry me?"

Trust Your Love!! Will you?
Amanpreet Singh Rai