TRANSVESTITE

What lurks behind his eyes?

Seems to me like a woman’s pain –

The burden of carrying lifelong lies

Amid an urge to live again.

His eyes were once so full of life –

He had family, friends, a thousand dreams;

But now, in this time of strife,

Nobody seems to hear his screams.

So what if he’s a transvestite?

Why should it be so disgusting?

They seem so irked by his delight

And turn chiding eyes upon him.

Life’s been unbearable, of late –

They turn away from him in hate.

With an utterly unabashed lack of feeling,

They engage in petty mud-slinging.

No one tries to cool his sighs

Or cares enough to look into his eyes.

A long, lone path awaits him

Powdered with ashes of departed dreams.

 

FAMILY

The sound of a nasty drunken brawl from downstairs – accompanied by the noise of breaking glass -awakened Myra. She hurriedly got out of bed, groaning inwardly at the thought that such a fine, sunny winter morning had just become really sour for her, just like so many other such fine mornings before it. She was way too tired of playing grown-up to two other grown-ups who always seemed to be after each other’s lives, to say nothing of the fact that neither of them cared the least bit about her. Truth be told, her mom and her step-dad didn’t want her around at all, because she always seemed to be getting in the way of things that they wanted to do, like drinking and aiming for each other’s throats all day long. Myra couldn’t remember a time when they had lived like a normal family, let alone a happy one. When she was still a kid, sometimes the neighbours had taken care of her and sometimes it had been her grandparents. But since she was fourteen, she had learnt to take care of herself and her ‘parents’ by taking up various jobs from time to time. She had even completed her Master’s from the local university. While problems at home had escalated over the years, they hadn’t been able to stop her from trying to get the life she wanted. It was equally true that her ‘parents’ hadn’t helped her any in her efforts to make their life more bearable.

When she came downstairs, she found her step-dad holding her mom against the wall by her throat, a nasty snarl across his face. Her mom, on the other hand, was pressing the jagged edges of a broken wine-bottle against his chest, holding him at bay. The place where the jagged edges had cut through the shirt fabric and into the skin had started to bleed. Yet both seemed oblivious of the pain they were inflicting upon each other in the face of the feeling of mutual loathing that was being displayed.

Myra’s continual exposure to such incidents of violence since childhood still hadn’t inured her to it. Yet, much as she disliked it, she always had to intervene at such times and at no little risk to herself. This time, as she fell between them, trying to pry them apart so that they wouldn’t hurt themselves any further, they focused their loathing on her instead.

“Oh! Here comes our saviour, looking out for her mommy and daddy. Are your plain stupid or do you deliberately ignore the fact that nobody wants you here? Takes after her daddy, saviour senior, doesn’t she?” cackled her mom sardonically.

“Yep! I’m just glad that, between the two of us, we managed to drive her daddy to his death. That makes one pest less to deal with,” replied her step-dad, and the pair of them started to laugh like maniacs.

What followed next was a blur to Myra. The blood started pounding in her head and before she knew it, she had punched both of them in their faces and stomped out of the house and into her car, tears flowing freely from her eyes.

As she drove away from the house, wiping her eyes frequently on the sleeve of her sweater, she hardly noticed the quizzical glances of her neighbours, who had gathered outside with shovels to clear away the snow. She held the memories of her dad sacred, as she had enjoyed his company for a very short time, as an infant, before he had died of heartbreak at the infidelity of his wife and his best friend. All that she had left of him were some photographs and a pair of old boots that had belonged to him. And today these two remorseless people had derided his memory and gloated about how they had rid themselves of his presence. So, though she felt miserable for having punched them, yet a part of her couldn’t deny that they had it coming all along.

She drove furiously for a couple of hours and when she finally stopped, she realised with a start that she had parked in front of her grandparents’ home in Reacher Town. As she got out of the car, she could hear the sound of an axe hacking through wood from the backyard. So drying her swollen eyes, as best she could, she made her way around the house to the back, expecting to find her grandpa there. Instead, she was mildly surprised to see a young man gathering firewood in the yard. As he looked up from his work, hearing her footsteps, she saw that he was very good-looking. More importantly, though, there was something about him that seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t really place him. Just then, her gran came out with a steaming mug of hot chocolate for him and stopped short upon finding her there.

“What a pleasant surprise, child! Why didn’t you let us know that you were coming?”  cried the elderly woman, smiling and handing the mug over to the young man, so that her hands were free to embrace her granddaughter. “What’s wrong?” she added with concern, noting Myra’s swollen eyes. “Come on in and I’ll fix you something to eat. You look miserable. Dae, that’s enough firewood for a couple of days. Why don’t you come in from the cold as well, son, and we can sit round the fire and talk,” she continued, addressing the young man.

“Is that-” Myra started to ask. Her gran cut her short, saying, “Yeah, that’s your Dae, back home after all these years.” Myra managed to give him a weak smile before she was hustled inside.

For the next fifteen minutes, Myra sat beside a warm fire and talked with her grandpa, while her gran puttered about the small but tidy kitchen, fixing her a late breakfast of sandwiches, scrambled eggs and hot chocolate. This house, with its old-fashioned fireplace and chimney, had always been Myra’s idea of a dream home. As she tearfully told her grandparents about the day’s events, her eyes lingered lovingly over every nook and corner, every cobweb and every stain of this favourite old haunt of hers. Dae, meanwhile, having brought in the firewood, was leaning against the fireplace listening to her story with a serious face. When, at the end of her story, Myra broke down in tears, he silently came and sat beside her and held her while she cried, just like old times.

When her grief had subsided somewhat, she looked up into his face and asked, amid hiccups, “Do you remember?” And holding her tighter, he whispered, “I do.” For Damon, or Dae as Myra preferred to call him, and she had been best friends and comrades in joy and grief for years. They had attended the same school, had played together since they were children and shared secrets that nobody else knew. Damon’s parents had loved her like a daughter and they had been the closest thing to a family that she had ever had, besides her grandparents. When they had both died in a car accident, Myra had felt their loss deeply; yet, for Damon’s sake, she had tried hard to hide her own grief so that he could give vent to his. And then, Damon had gone away to another part of the world with his uncle, his only relative, after the funeral, while she had returned to the misery of her own town.

Now, though, he was back again, as if he had known somehow that she needed him; and they passed the rest of the day with her grandparents, remembering and talking about their lost loved ones, and in the evening, they walked together to their favourite sunset point. On the way, it started to snow and one of Myra’s neighbours called her cell-phone to let her know that after she had left, her mom had stabbed her step-dad during an ugly fight, that he had died while being taken to the hospital and that the police had taken her mom away. She listened calmly and promised that she would return the next morning. Damon guessed from her strange calm that something bad had happened but he didn’t feel like ruining the moment by asking her. Nor did Myra tell him anything just then, for she knew that she would have enough time later to tell him and her grandparents everything. She had realised long ago that life was never free of problems, but that, with Dae and her grandparents beside her, she would never have to feel weak or alone. And she knew, somehow, that this time Dae had come to stay, that he wasn’t going away. So she let him take her hand in his, and they stood side by side in the glow of the carmine evening, watching the snowflakes blend into the sunset.

****

“This story is written as part of A Winter in Storyland contest on Tell-A-Tale – Bringing stories back into lives.”

THE PRISONER

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I’ve been sitting on the stile

Waiting for you for a while

Now, watching the dusk deepen.

I watch the cattle being led

Homeward, and the tired birds

Return to their nests. And

I hope you haven’t forgotten,

Though there are greener pastures,

Warmer climes, deeper waters

Where you live, plus the

Myriad pleasures hidden.

I might watch in vain and

Watch the shadows lengthen

And the stars dim; yet hope

That you haven’t forgotten

Everything – the magic of a moment –

Amidst fairer flowers and lovelier

Dreams, newer reality, stranger scenes,

Dearer friends or other things;

While I’m stuck here waiting

Forever a prisoner in your dream.

THE SHADOW

I am the shadow

That lurks around corners,

Just out of reach,

Just beyond the range

Of your sight.

In broad daylight,

Amidst a busy, faceless crowd

Catch, you might,

A momentary glimpse

Of me flitting,

In and out

Of the crowd

Like a vision in

A spring-flavored dream,

Borne away by the milieu,

Tearfully moving on.

I am your shadow,

The one that fazes you –

Sometimes you scream

And hastily beat

A confounded retreat,

When you fall into my arms

Upon turning a dark corner.

Among the multitudes of

Noisy, well-lit streets

You won’t find me;

But in the darkest hour,

Lightless and silent,

Save for the pale glow

Of my candle and the wax

Dripping into the gloom below,

When all you grab is emptiness

And you are afraid of a fall,

I keep you company.

shadow

 

THE NATURE LOVER

The blue sky bathed in sunlight

Makes me breathless with delight.

The singing birds, the swaying trees,

And whisper of the gentle breeze,

Joyful children crying aloud,

Flying colorful kites that glide around,

Are sights and sounds that fill me

With boundless peace and ecstasy.

I am and will be for ever

An ardent poet and nature lover.

Heartbreak – 2

Ever since I lost him, I have never failed to remember him every single day. Like I said, I returned to normal, if this state could be called normal; I started talking again, then I resumed smiling, and finally I got back my laughter, too, but not without paying a price: hundreds and thousands of times, in the act of smiling, I’ve only been able to give a weak grimace, for even this simple act, reminds me of him. More importantly, for the rest of the first eighteen years of my life, I never again had the courage to make friends. So I remained aloof, and let everybody around me think that I was an arrogant pest, and I didn’t feel like doing anything to dispel the illusion. For I still had my memories of him. I won’t deny that I tried falling in love, if only to drown my sorrow somewhere, a couple of times, but my heart wasn’t just into the thing. As I grew into a young girl, many of the other girls started going out with their boyfriends, boys who were students of his school (his school and mine were the two best schools in our city; both were convents, his was a “boys only” and mine was a girls’ school; and the liaison between the students of these two schools was an accepted thing, from before I was even born), and all their stories, only helped aggravate my pain and deepen the sense of loss. So I cocooned myself in loneliness, and while others fear it, I’ve had it as a comforter. It was not until I left home, to continue my studies in another place, that I again made friends. And in each of them, I tried to find some part of him, just to convince myself that those few months, so many years ago, hadn’t been just a drawn-out dream. Of course, I met with failure, because no two persons can be the same, as I came to realize later. But this realization didn’t help me much; I continued with my futile attempts, and with every failure, I grew more taciturn and determined. That was the start of the second phase of loss. I dived head-long into studies and hobbies, leaving hardly any time for anything else. I put a stop to outings, parties, picnics, romantic movies and books, even music; in short, everything… even to sports, after a few unwanted incidents, when, in every little instance of cheating, I only saw somebody trying to cheat me out of my happiness. So I reasoned with my blinded-by-loss self, that by giving up sports, I was robbing everybody around me of their opportunity to hurt me. Much later, because I started missing the activity of sports, I tried to compensate in other ways, by going in for action movies and suspense-thrillers. I also came to realize that my tears had dried themselves, somewhere along the way, and that no amount of hurt, could now wring tears from my eyes. From then on, I started writing: to give vent to the unshed tears, and to revive his memories, inside me, I started writing love-poems, prose, satire; anything that made me feel a bit better. Writing fast turned into a fever, and I would, more often than not, be found scribbling in note-books or sheets of stray paper, in-between lectures, during practicals, at dawn, in the middle of the night, or right through the long summer day or the bitterly cold winter night. My roommates soon got tired of that, and there were regular and bitter fights, and still I fought to write, because writing made me want to live again.

One other thing happened during this time. As is usual in our time, our entire batch of girls became very intimate with our male fellow-students. I had some few such friends of my own. But having been burnt once, I dreaded the fire. So whenever any of them tried to express an interest in me, I made sure that I drove him off, with my sardonic smile and my dry excuses, but, above all, using my arrogant exterior, which I diligently nurtured, so as to keep my vulnerable self safe. And so, the number of my friends dwindled some, but those that stayed, I was glad to notice, had accepted me as I was then. And I would absolutely agree with you, if any of you were to tell me, that not all men hurt, that they are often much more than nice, that it means the world to some of them if they can bring a smile to your face; but no reason was good enough to persuade me to try again, maybe because I wasn’t ready to test my fortune again.

Fast-forward some years, during which my life went through no discernible change. And I was 26 years old. My parents had been trying to find a good match for me for the past couple of years, but to no avail, as I wasn’t interested, and I had been showering them with all kinds of bizarre excuses for declining the proposals. Another lesser reason might have been that, this thing entailed making compromises. And I was not ready to do that. I was ready to be alone for the rest of my life, nursing my bruised soul, than make compromises to try to be happy. I had watched so many other women around me doing that, and I never did find out whether or how that made life better, because when I looked into their eyes, I could still read the pain there. Meanwhile, I was once again into romantic movies and books, I had resumed singing, but what was most interesting to me, I had started noticing people, looking into their faces long and hard, trying to see whether, in one of them, I wouldn’t suddenly discover him. Because I still hoped, and in all these years, I hadn’t been able to give up. So my vigils continued, more intense than before.

And, then, I saw him. A look-alike of A, who called himself Pari, an IITan, who had been to the University of Wharton, an immensely talented young-man, not much older than me, whose accomplishments were fit to drive anybody insane. He was a killer guy, I’ll give him that. And no wonder, I fell for him. He so reminded me of A, that unknown to myself, I attached myself to him. Quite prematurely, as it turned out to be, I started dreaming of a happy life, with a family of my own. I felt as if all my years of prayer, had not gone in vain; that there was hope for me yet. Of course, I had forgotten that I still had my unusual lack of good fortune to reckon on. It so happened, that, when I expressed my interest, it met with the most supreme kind of indifference that anyone can conceive. Not even an answer in the negative reached me, past that wall of indifference. And how I hated being spurned! No wonder, I took it uncommonly ill. But I am being only honest, when I say that I tried hard to not take it in that manner, or when I say that I still regret doing so. And so, that was the last lesson on relationships that I allowed life to teach me.

I never, ever, gave love another chance. I had been badly hurt. And I decided to end it forever- this vulnerability which was nothing more than a liability. And, worse still, was the realization, that this last loss had poisoned me: that I was no more in danger of falling into darkness once more, for I had well and truly escaped; but that, now, I was the darkness; that now, I had the power to wreak havoc; that, if I so wished, I could suck up all the happiness and light from the people around me, lock it up in a box and drown it in the darkness inside me, and lose the key somewhere. I was more afraid than I’d ever been before. I started going out, each time praying that I wouldn’t have somebody’s blood on me, or that I wouldn’t rip the smile off somebody’s face. For the entirety of the time that this lasted, I was in a fever of fear, feeling like a person who was being haunted by an evil spirit.

I still cannot imagine how I overcame this stage, and settled into a kind of normal pattern of things and events. I don’t mean to say that all is well now. Far from it. The darkness is still there inside, boiling; but reined in. So the poison hasn’t affected anyone else, yet. But if I had to make a guess about what it was, that brought a part of me back, bruised and half-alive, and at the same time helped stop the darkness from spreading and taking control outside, I would hazard saying that, it was the memory of a very short-lived happiness, an even shorter love-story, and a boy, whose image had been etched into my heart since for ever, from my childhood, eons ago.

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HEARTBREAK- 1

I was then but a child, around 8 years old, when I had my first heartbreak. At that tender age, I came to realize, deep within, that I was unusually unlucky, when it came to relationships and love. With time, of course, this absolute absence of good fortune began to show itself in other things, as well. But that is neither here nor there. What I realized, growing up, was that life is a battle, and that I was destined only to fight and fend for myself, with no other weapon, save determination. So I started metamorphosing into a bull, so to say, both inside and out: a bull that gores its way through, trampling all that comes in its way; and like a bull facing a storm, I began to dig my feet into the ground, facing the storms, as they came, with angry eyes, waiting and watching as they tried their best to put me down, once and for all before passing over.

So at the age of eight, I’d had my first of a series of heart-breaks. It must have been love, as deep a love as one stupid kid could have for another; why else would I still feel the pain of losing and have to live for ever in fear? I used to go for drawing classes to a house across the street. One day, it was announced that the classes would thereafter be held in the house of some fellow-student, whom I had never known until then. So, from then on, I started going to the new house, half-afraid and half-diffident, as I was the youngest and newest member there. The elders had their own group and their own pranks, while the younger ones, all except me, had their own share of the fun. As I was the loner, I became the subject of the pranks, played by both the groups, with the result that, more often than not, I would be teary-eyed and red as a carrot and as impatient to get back home, as anybody can be, by the time the teacher came in. The boy of the house, A, used to take an active part in causing me trouble. In fact, he simply loved to annoy and torment me. This continued for a while, and then, one day, I mustered up enough courage to put up a physical fight. I kicked and tore at their hair, and thrashed around, and for a few moments I was a raving fury. I hurt them enough to cause them to complain to the teacher about me. Of course, my parents heard of it, and I received not a few slaps, but all in all, I felt quite proud of myself, and safe, because I was sure that I would never be troubled again. And I was happy about one other thing- A, who was my age as well, started to admire me. His interest in me grew everyday. It was as if I could actually see it happening. So the classes continued, and the admiration in his eyes turned into friendship. That summer, we spent a lot of time together, and if anything, it strengthened our bond. I came to know that he could be really nice once he got to know people and that he had no fear other than that of strangers. He was beautiful as well, and I’m not ashamed to admit that that certainly increased my interest in him. Around that time, my kid brother started going to a preparatory school, which was at a stone’s throw from my friend’s house, and it was my pleasure to drop the little guy off to school every morning and bring him back at ten, a duty which I willingly took up, because my brother meant the world to me. He still does. So then, every morning, when I went to drop my brother off, or when I went to bring him back, I used to gambol around or talk to A, and he used to play with my brother as well and offer him chocolates, so much so that my brother began to adore him. And it was around then, that I realized how beautiful men really are, when they play with children or carry them around. Of course, it was more a realization of the soul, for which I have found the right words only now. This continued, for I know not how long, though I now feel that it didn’t last long enough, not more than some months at any rate. A- was my only friend, my best man, from childhood to the very end of my school-life, long after I had lost him.

When he wasn’t there anymore, the memory of his friendship was still there to guide me through many a rough patch. He went away as suddenly as he had come, for one evening, when I went for my drawing class, I found the house dark and locked up, and a note from the teacher, saying that that day there would be no class, and that from the next week, we would return to our earlier haunt. Soon as I had finished reading the note, my eyes were flooded with tears- I still don’t know why. He might have gone away with his family for a vacation, and one of these days, he would soon be back again- I tried to reason with myself, but still my tears wouldn’t stop, probably because, somewhere deep inside, I realized that my worst fear, of losing him, had come true. I have never, ever, been as afraid in my entire life – never as afraid to lose, as I then was. I came back home in a trance; for the rest of that week, I cried frequently and, apparently, without any reason; and next week when I went to class, I was thoroughly attentive to all that was being said, in the hope of learning something about his whereabouts. But nothing was said about him, and I was more than disappointed: I was afraid. And I couldn’t ask about him, for what would I have said, had anybody asked for a reason for my interest in him? Days passed, and weeks, and then, months, and still nothing was heard of him. I began to lose hope and at the same time started to pray more diligently, for who knows what; but all the while, I felt as if I was dying inside, that I was falling into the darkness of a chasm, from where there was no way out. Daily I felt more and more lost, I stopped playing or even going out, and then I stopped talking, even at home. My parents started getting worried, upon repeated reports from school, regarding the sudden change in my behaviour; and I saw all that, but failed to resurrect myself. Then my results for the class 3 finals came, and I was thrashed to nearly within an inch of my life by dad; but, after he had gone out, amidst all my tears and pain, I blurted out the reason to mom. I think she understood much more than she let on, and she started doing all that was in her power, to help me live again. I still often wonder what might have become of me, if I hadn’t had her.

It took me a long while to return to normal, though I am not really sure that I did, because for years afterwards, during my evening rambles, I used to stop in front of the house and search for any sign of his having returned. And even now, when I am past 30, and no more fit to behave like a young, sighing lover, I still do it. I have watched new people come to live in the house, I have watched them leave and others come and then leave, as well, while I have continued my vigils, but I’ve never thought of giving up, because in my clouded reason, I have somehow felt that, for as long as I continue to visit his place, he’ll be alive and well, maybe even happy, wherever he may be. Perhaps it’s nothing but some sort of superstition, but I can’t take chances – not when it comes to him.

heartbreak-586432

FOLLY

What is it

If not folly,

When, unthinking,

Without a preamble,

Soon as my eyes

Close, your lips-

Rose-hued,

Sculpted with care

Like Cupid’s bow,

Before my mind’s

Eye appear,

Like some sacred shrine?

When your fingers

Appear as petals

Of a dream-flower?

When your laughter,

Intoxicating, rings

In my ears,

Like the music of

The orbs? When

Even in lonesome

Memory, your voice

Sets my heart alight

With a soft glow?

For I know,

That you certainly

Don’t deserve me;

That you are pathetic,

Arrogant, heartless,

Filthy as hell, and

Slimy and cold

As well.

Still I foster,

Knowing full well

That it’s a disaster,

Dismal hopes of love –

In vain.

About Fortune Cookies

cookie

I always feel excited whenever I can lay my hands on a fortune cookie. The cookies taste great, but my real interest lies in the tiny piece of paper inside it. Each tiny piece of paper feels like a precious discovery. In fact, at this very moment, I’m staring at one that says, “They say love is blind. How can it not be so when someone as dazzling as you are in front of me right now?” I’ll be lying if I say that it has lifted my spirits; because, it has actually done much more than that – it has made me feel ecstatic. Right now, I feel like a princess who owns the whole universe, and this is a precious feeling that one can feel only on rare occasions. So, I never fail to make the most of such occasions. I can’t say that I remember most of what these tiny scraps of paper have to say, except for the fact that they help my spirit soar every time, without fail. However, I do remember some of the rarest lines. For example, one tiny scrap of paper once said, “You are the tune that completes my song and lends meaning to it.” Another time, I got one that said, “You are the song in my every step…”. It’s a pity that I can’t remember the rest of it. What I do remember is the spirit of romance that takes possession of my soul on these rare occasions. Bad things happen to everyone, almost every day; but lightness of spirit is a rare blessing and should be made the most of. My heart and shoulders feel way lighter when I come across one of these messages scribbled across a piece of paper and hidden inside a cookie or wrapped around one. In these busy times, when people hardly find time to connect with their own families, when the idea of socializing has been reduced to sending messages over Whatsapp or posting bits of personal stuff on Facebook or other social networking sites, it feels absolutely great when I chance upon a good thought, no matter how small it is, from someone I don’t know, somebody who doesn’t know me, in the form of these scribbles hidden inside cookies. It makes me feel as if there might still be a ray of hope for humanity. It makes me want to believe that there is still some shred of goodness left in us. Most importantly, they make me feel very happy, as every time I grab a cookie, I relive the many fights I used to have with my kid brother, over fortune cookies, until what seems like only yesterday. Growing is a part of life and I’ve always welcomed and looked forward to it, but the one thing I regret about being a grown-up is the loss of innocence. Making a grab for a fortune cookie reminds me of that period of innocent joyfulness, that has been lost for ever, but the memory of which is potent enough to still make me feel happy every time, even when I’m in the blackest humour on the worst of days.

An Essay On Achievement – II

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Until recently, many people used to see me as an under-achiever. I am a slow-learner when it comes to learning about life and its battles. As a result, I was late in realizing my dreams. In fact, I have only just started. As I realize each dream, I set new standards for myself, because I have finally realized that no matter how high the standards that I set for myself, I will be able to reach them and keep reaching beyond. It is my goal in life to keep moving forward because moving forward means being alive and useful, while staying behind means the death of one’s dreams. Being alive is not an easy task; one has to fight every inch of one’s way to get where one wants to be. I am no different. I have had my fair share of problems, the chief among them being my own naivety. Four years ago, I was a young girl brimming with ideas and dreams but lacking in the resolution to put them into effect. I wanted to do so much and I couldn’t find ways to do so. I had nobody to share my hopes and fears with and nobody to turn to for advice. The lack of mentors and of advice are things that have cost me much valuable time and caused me much trouble. It was only when I started working as a teacher that I started to find ways to help myself while figuring out how to help my students. I started reading more of self-help books and books on meditation and these helped me to be optimistic, to channelize my energy in the right direction and to pursue my dreams with renewed vigour. I also started reaching out to people to give as well as to receive help because I realized that by giving away help, I was, in fact, gaining much more in the form of friends and acquaintances. While I continued to try and figure out ways to work more actively towards the realisation of my goals, I also started to try and improve my talents as a writer and a musician. Music and writing helped me come to terms with myself, my fears, my failures, in addition to helping me to express myself with clarity and honesty. Music and writing has helped me bear disillusionment and to forgive myself for all my wrong decisions. All the challenges that I had to face, I later realized, had been partly my own creation. However, they had also helped me emerge from my comfort-zone as a warrior and eventually, as a winner. Had it not been for the challenges that I had to face and the steps I had to take in order to get out of my comfort-zone, which had, in fact, become a burden that I had to carry around everywhere, I might never have connected with the amazing people who have believed in me and helped me with their insights and advice. Now, I am much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and making a steady progress in my life. I believe that I have been able to make quite a few people, including my parents, proud.

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