I was born in Pune, India, into a Maharashtrian family inclined towards art, music and education. I inherited an aptitude and flair towards painting and being raised in a cultural environment, only supported that.
My father, despite his deep commitment to science as a Professor of Physics, was a connoisseur of fine arts, specialising in drawing portraits in charcoal medium. I received lessons about types and nature of colours, composition, combinations, mixtures, hues, shades and their psychological impact in creating moods very early on in my childhood.
After receiving my Bachelors degree in Mathematics from Delhi University, I went on to complete a course in Fashion Designing from the reputed National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi. An area, that fascinated me very passionately.
Celebrated scientists frequented our home and on eavesdropping their conversations, intellectual discussions and views had left a deep impact on my mind and I subconsciously picked up the cardinal principles of universal flow of energies of various kinds; and their interactions with matter in giving shape to human thought processes and life in general. I also learnt to take a holistic view of every problem and relate that to the roots of their origin.
In short, critical analysis, logical thinking, application of mind with full concentration to see the best possible solution of any problem had become my second nature. Brought up in an academic environment, I was always encouraged to study well for a passionate career rather than getting involved in learning household chores. However along with formal education, certain traditional and cultural values are always unconsciously imbibed by every girl child before leaving the parental house after marriage, and that happened to me as well.
Life for me took a dramatic turn when I was detected with a rare kind of fungal infection of the lung at a tender age of 22 and the only symptoms were frequent bouts of hemoptysis. This required an intensely painful treatment including a critical surgery. All this was followed by a series of life-threatening medical conditions, including breast cancer, surgery on spine, severe compression of lower back nerve, chronic and stubborn sinus infection, loss of olfactory smell sensation and now an extremely rare case of chronic and critical fungal brain tumour.
There was a pattern in all these unfortunate happenings that occurred within a span of some 20 years, with a gap of 2-4 years in between from the earliest ailment. Interestingly, what I noticed was that none of my ailments ever relapsed. Instead, each time a new challenge cropped up with a different body organ / part, leaving me in a catatonic state, although temporarily. Eleven major surgeries on different parts of my body, tons of antibiotics, radiation and heavy drugs for treating the health issues and innumerable side effects of drugs intake was another story in itself.
After my cancer episode, I realised that life for me cannot go on in this stereotypical way and needed a major shift. I started reading spiritual and self-healing books that I believed would work on a different tangent besides the regular cancer treatment. I believed that allopathic treatment would be quite palliative than curative but had no other practical choice in such a chronic situation. A state of despair engulfed me completely and left me in a delirium.
While reading the self-healing books, I realised that years of suppression of thoughts and anger in the mind, is possibly manifested in the form of chronic diseases in the body. It compelled me to contemplate and introspect as to where I had gone wrong and what sort of emotional feelings were entombed within me, in my mind, memory and heart.
In the process of consistent churning of all the heartrending incidences from my past years, emerged a pot of venom comprising of abounding anger, unexpressed words, suppressed emotions and feelings that were decomposing there for years without an outlet. All that mainly was an extract from years of emotional and verbal abuse suffered after marriage, emotional and mental breakdown due to consistent inappropriate actions by my nearest kin and tremendous financial insecurities.
I ascribe the no outlet policy to the bunch of so called cultural values passed on to me just before marriage such as to always listen and obey elders, never answer back or question them, sacrifice for others, if your husband makes mistakes then cover it up, always take care of others before yourself and mainly the biggest word “compromise”. I learnt and followed all these religiously and never understood that the finitude of compromise was where it starts damaging the self-respect. Every time the thought of retaliation brought in me a feeling of trepidation and I pushed myself back into my shell of cowardice. I went on and on like a fool, only to realise that I have landed myself into a lamentable situation where I can neither go forward nor return.
Claustrophobic feelings of being in a pitch dark room with no light or escape entrapped me and I started sinking slowly. No one to talk to and no one to help. Since I married my own choice, going back to parents for saving me from this situation was not an option that I wanted to choose.
That was a turning point when I thought of being my own best friend and determined to come out of the entire situation step by step. There, the journey to the hardest transformation began – “to change my own self”.
It was certainly not very easy for me who was ridden with emotional and physical health challenges, to rise against all odds, give meaning to my life, find pleasure in my work and yet remain peacefully content in life to create atmosphere of hope and happiness for myself and for those in my company. It took me years to change myself to a level where I was comfortable and happy with my feelings from within.
During those trials and errors, I came across times when I failed, got frustrated and started to lose hope. I contained myself to stand up and carry on. I believed- whatever happens, is for the best. I started watching my thoughts, changing them into positive if they were negative, kept myself on top of my priority list, started to love myself unconditionally and looked for positive lessons from every adverse situation.
I was in the hospital for three months during the treatment of my brain tumour and someone asked me with a very sad tone that why such horrific thing happened to me. I instantly replied that I agree of going through excruciating pain but still have achieved two great things out of this. One is little repayment of my past karmas that I believe in and an irreplaceable solitude with my own self. After marriage, I had never found me-time for myself. The meals were served on my table and taken away. All I needed to do was to eat, rest and sleep in a comfortable en-suite room. I think what could be better than this in this given scenario that could not be changed.
I grew more and more confident in my efforts when they started showing very positive results and hence my journey of counselling and mentoring started. People suffering from mental depression, physical problems or illness of some kind found relief, solace, encouragement and renewed urge to fight their problems just by talking to me for few minutes. They believe me more, especially given my experiences and how I came out positive and stronger.
I started volunteering for supporting a charity and fundraised by donating my paintings to the charity auctions, volunteering at old age homes, giving companionship for the decrepit and engaged in cathartic activities such as painting, music and cooking.
I believe that our feeble mental state thwarts our own progress. My appeal is to acknowledge your own feelings by calming your mind by either meditation or mindfulness and change negative feelings into positive. The saying is very true; YOU CHANGE, YOUR WORLD CHANGES.
Prachi M Bajaj
Prachi is a mentor for distressed women and cancer patients. She is a teacher, and has proven expertise in catering, fashion and art. She is in the process of writing her biography that she hopes will be an inspiration to many.