Hitting Ground Zero

 Guest Post by Pujya Priyadarshni

‘How wrong can things go?’ was the first thought that came to my mind as I saw the test report. I had been diagnosed with dengue (A mosquito-borne viral fever). The slew of setbacks one had been facing at the professional and emotional front had now knocked on the door of health and well-being. How and where do you begin to cope when literally no letup is in sight and nothing to look forward to? Only fear, anger, resentment and hurt clutter your mind and soul.

While these thoughts engrossed me, I was whisked away to the hospital. Though the memory of that visit is hazy, I remember the doctor saying that there is no cure for dengue. We treat the symptoms. ‘Great! Even this opens up the floodgates of uncertainty.’

‘Uncertainty’ – that ominous term, I thought. It is said that what we want to avoid most definitely chases us. It surely has been the case with me where what I desire runs away and what I avoid chases! Perhaps, certainty is too much to ask for in today’s day and age, where change and uncertainty are desirable, not taboos. Do desire and fear go hand-in-hand? Does one have to let go of one, both or neither?

After eight hours of investigations, the doctor felt that my indicators did not need hospitalization and I could be sent home. With a prescription of paracetamol and fluid intake, I left feeling drained by the burden of not just the disease, but the virus that was wreaking havoc in my life for no known reason.

Cases of deaths by dengue continued to make news during my illness. Even well-wishers cautioned with statements like “You never know with dengue.” The tentativeness of the illness was perhaps the most exhausting. And somewhere it reflected the larger canvas of my life.  Suddenly, I found myself off work, at home and with no energy to do anything. Lying in bed or in the winter sun, all I had were my thoughts to engage with. Despite all the ambient light, it was like a self-imposed exile in a dark chamber where I could mull over my problems, their causes and consequences. Unknowing and unwilling, I embarked upon a journey that ostensibly was of battling dengue and recovering, but turned out to be one of overcoming disappointments and wrangling a new lease of life.

The first few days of the illness were difficult. The physical distress was overpowering, leaving little time for any contemplation. Given my caged existence, my cluttered mind was forced to a standstill. Perhaps, it was a much need break that let me forget my extant problems in light of the physical distress. But as the days past, I discovered that the physical pain had somewhere overpowered my troubles.  Was it the fear of potential fatality? Or the recurrent dream of the scene from Titanic where in the freezing waters, Rose let’s go of Jack’s hand. The scene is as much about letting go as it is about survival; their journeys’ being intertwined in more ways than one. I can’t say for sure, but the fact remains that the process of dismantling the rigid structures that had caged my mind began soon after.

As the initial pain and debilitation of the illness abated, I discovered that each day I set small goals for myself. From washing my hair, to climbing stairs to simply walking for 5-7 minutes – ordinary tasks in everyday life that otherwise went by unnoticed and without a sense of achievement. Call it small joys, living a day at a time or simply rewiring you goals, this daily regimen suddenly seemed worth it. Somewhere clarity of thought was making its way for the larger picture as well. It’s not about lowering your expectations, but drawing inspiration from small achievements that can pave the way for the journey called life.

I had already christened the year as annus horribilis, when the illness had struck me. The previous months had pushed me to become a recluse, where I ended up sharing very little with my friends and family. Perhaps, it is a sign of losing hope that we stop investing in relationships and believing in the goodness of people. The burden increasingly becomes ours and only ours to bear. However, as friends, family and colleagues found out, I received calls, messages and surprise visits. Though they could do little to help my condition physically, the interactions served as a panacea for my emotional state. The positivity was refreshing. In the process, I realised that opening up to the world enhances your ability to cope with its challenges.

So as it turns out, dengue, both medically (potentially) and metaphorically, gave me a new lease of life. It helped me bury my failures and losses and let me resurrect afresh.

As the year comes to a close, I want to take a moment to reminiscent the year gone by. It definitely was not easy and it challenged me in every sphere. As I hope for the next year to be an annus mirabilis, I realize that how I emerge from 2017, will make the next one worthwhile.

Maybe, one doesn’t have to let go either desire or fear, because in the circle of life both have a role to play. In the end, to appreciate spring, you must experience the winters…

“O wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” –

Percy Bysshe Shelly






12 Comments Add yours

  1. White xmas is cool.. spring is equally nice as well.. treasure every moment in our life..


    1. Sadhna Shanker says:

      very true


  2. Amy Dong says:

    It’s so true – in order to appreciate the spring, you do have to go through the months of winter first. Thinking about that analogy in the arctic Midwest where we live, it is never more true – the leaves die away, the landscape is brown and white with snow, and everything is still and so so icy/snowy/cold. But it REALLY makes us appreciate the spring when the tulips arise, when the green grass somehow miraculously resurfaces, and when the brown branches overflow with lush green new baby leaves. Hoping for much “spring” in 2018 for you.


    1. Sadhna Shanker says:

      Thanks. Same to u!


  3. Hello. How are you now? Dengue is a dangerous health problem in my country as well. I hope that all you`ve been through will eventually strengthen you emotionally and spiritually. Stay strong.

    ❀ Grace ❀


    1. Sadhna Shanker says:



  4. sangram singh says:

    Illness as an epiphany;Illness as a metaphor! A brilliant conceit, and beautifully expressed in lucid words.


    1. Sadhna Shanker says:



  5. Sahil Dhawan says:

    It’s interesting isn’t it how these thoughts come rushing to you in sickness. How modern pillars of our faith in family, our trust in work, our attachment to love and friends and our general sense that life has purpose and meaning is attacked by the likes of someone as weak as a mosquito. Fear, anxiety and despair are three most interesting of human emotions that we experience most of the time. This is because there is uncertainty everywhere. Even Murphy’s Law in Physics conform to it!
    The existential angst of sickness you experienced will help you overcome your cynicism and pessimism, nurture it. For me sickness was a means to rise up and give up my cozy sentimental illusions. It made me realise that Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forward!!! Wish you good health Pujya.


    1. Sadhna Shanker says:



  6. Shell says:

    I hope so much your health is doing better and I wish you much happiness in this coming new year…


    1. Sadhna Shanker says:

      Thanks, best wishes for the hew year!


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