Chennai: When 2017 was coming to an end, Vidya Shankar had planned for the launch of her first book The Flautist of Brindaranyam, but life had something else in store.
She was in for a rude shock. Vidya had to undergo hysterectomy. The incident threw her into the vaults of depression. For long, the poet grappled to write, but fought back the fears little by little and began to write poems.
What she wrote over two years has been compiled together and Vidya published The Rise of Yogamaya, her second book. She has taken it upon herself to take home the message of mental health to her readers through poems.
It was not just the surgery that precluded her but it was the pent-up emotions that had accumulated for about 10 years.
”There was so much pressure from my family and society to undergo fertility treatment to bear a child and I did for about a decade. But suddenly my womb crashed. I felt a deep emptiness within me,” Vidya recounts.
As any other human, we look after our physical appearance and ignore the invisible mental health. ”Since it does not have a form, we presume it does not exist. If you think mental health does not have face, so we don’t believe in it,” Vidya says.
Despite going into depression, people around her did not end their charade. Much to her disappointment, she neither received any sort of support nor sympathy.
”Even in a hospital, where one is supposed to find compassion, nurses or doctors had no empathy towards the patients. The fertility treatment was entirely forced and no one took the pain to seek my consent. Nobody told me that it is okay to not be able to conceive a child,” she adds.
Fortunately, Shankar, her husband supported Vidya through out thick and thin. Six weeks after the surgery, the writer was invited for a book launch which was about depression. ”It was then I realised that anyone can succumb to mental health and folks around me constantly chattered that I was fine because of my strong-willed person,” Vidya, who works as an English teacher, narrates.
VERSES OF AGONY
Vidya took to poetry and chronicles how she regained her tenacity. The poem Puthanai describes her feelings when people called her names for not bearing a child.
”Barren she was, barren of child,
But not of compassion or care,
Empathy, emotions, love or laughter.
Hers the pain that came from her barrenness
of a womb so dry that no seed ever could merge
its tiny wriggly form upon a fertile earth and spring
a sweet bundle to life,” the Triplicane-based poet writes.
Despite the conflicting situation, Vidya fought back and resumed attending yoga classes. ”Due to the physical and mental damage, I had to re-do the course from the scratch.”
It was not an easy start either. ”I could not close my eyes to chant. Whenever I did, I went deep into myself and encountered fear, the fear of being a misfit in the society because I’m not a mother,” she narrates.
The poet decided to conquer it and continued writing. With time, she became better and became a part of India Poetry Circle (IPC) where she shared her collections and was approached by Adisakrit for publication. Within a few weeks’ time, she compiled The Rise of Yogamaya, which she calls her second child.
Asked about the title, Vidya says, ”Yogamaya is the girl child to Yashodha who was born on the same day and at the same time when Lord Krishna was born. My first book has poems on Lord Krishna. I went into depression during the time of my first book launch. Kamsa tries to kill Yogamaya. She faces fear, but does not die. She rises and warns him. Thus, the name,” Vidya concludes.