What if this broken vessel is your own life? Are the cracks on it, a part of your personal history? How would it feel if you are endowed with the art and means to repair those cracks to become a stronger version of yourself?
This book is an offering to every single mother who has had to stand at the threshold of utter helplessness, insecurity and confusion, who has gone through personal conflicts and healing crises, to enable her to finally celebrate motherhood and womanhood in its highest glory. It is an inquiry into her emotional, mental, physical, sexual and spiritual realms and the up and down trajectories on which life took her to finally reach her ultimate purpose in life.
The word I choose to describe such a life is Kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of mending and fixing broken pieces of pottery with gold and lacquer, thus accentuating its cracks rather than hiding them. It has its metaphor which is much deeper; that by embracing the damage, the broken object accepts its past and paradoxically becomes more robust, beautiful, and precious than before.
Excerpt from The Kintsugi Moms
GRATITUDE- THE GAME CHANGER
I start with the story of Ayesha, the latest bead in the chain of my favourite ‘Kintsugied’ moms; as the initial healing tool I used on her was the first one that changed my life and thinking process forever. As everything in my life has been like a preordained play of serendipities and synchronicities, I simply flow with the prodding of the Universe and have readily changed the outline of my book to add Ayesha’s story as the first one.
We met through a Whatsapp video call at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown period. As Ayesha appeared onscreen, with a carelessly worn head veil, unkempt hair, her face devoid of any make-up, and lack of confidence writ large in the fidgety body language, my first impression of her was that of a shy, orthodox and uneducated Muslim lady.
I prepared myself to reach her level of understanding and asked her in a very complacent tone of voice, “Assalaamu Alaikum, Ayesha. What can I do for you?” Doctor, I haven’t slept for the past three years, not day or night. I am completely aware of what is happening around me even if I manage to doze off for an hour or two. I just want to sleep soundly every night,’ she replied in a meek voice, finding it difficult to even look directly at the camera.
‘What do you feel when you try to sleep?’ I asked her. This was the nutshell of her story. As mentioned earlier, Ayesha was a versatile student, orator and social activist with ample family support. But in this patriarchal society, when it comes to marriage, a middle-class Muslim girl is entitled to have no say. She was married off to an “eligible bachelor” working in Dubai, who gave her three children apart from a heavy dose of verbal and physical abuse, the years of torture leaving their indelible scars on her. After 12 years of suffering, she finally summed up the courage to leave him for good, but not without the untold misery heaped upon her and the total loss of self-esteem. Not to mention the accompanying physical ailments, diabetes, hypertension, migraine and sleeplessness.
As I interrogated her further, I realized that the predominant emotion ruling her was grief. Insecurity, anxiety, and resentment were all there. But the predominant emotion was grief. After losing her parents unexpectedly one after the other in a short interval of time, and with her children on their own highways to life, she felt absolutely lost. I noted the first important symptom (grief) and got ready for the remaining story.
‘Tell me about your childhood and marriage, Ayesha,’ I prodded her.
The next half hour was like going through a tragic movie script.
Though from a remote village, her father, a local political /religious leader, encouraged her to pursue studies and learn to make a living. When the marriage proposal came, they assured her that she would be allowed to complete her post-graduate studies and would be taken to Dubai. The groom was said to be a company supervisor with a provision for a family visa. But the big story of deception came out on the second day of the wedding.
His was a second marriage and already had a child. He was just a car driver who blatantly confessed that he married for money alone. Her jewellery was taken away in the very first week itself. Post-graduation dreams were thwarted right at the onset as she tried to merge with the new family, which was in stark contrast to hers. A joint family of 14 members, with 5 cows and several hens, a typical day began for her at 4.30 am and ended far past midnight. On top of it all, she faced harassment from her mother-in-law, who had been a survivor herself.
Somehow, this breach of dignity and respect ignited the warrior in her. She screeched and seethed with rage, yelling at him to back off, or else she would bring in the whole neighbourhood. He was taken aback for a few seconds by her bold reaction but nevertheless blackmailed her to keep mum, saying he would otherwise kill her.
For the first time, she found her voice and reported this to her husband and her brother-in-law. Her husband flew down for a detailed family discussion but ultimately the whole story was painted in an entirely different hue. It turned out that it was Ayesha who had approached her father-in-law. She was stamped as an immoral lady in front of the whole crowd of an all-men mediation squad.
She stood aghast, shocked at the turn of events; attacked, accused and verbally humiliated by everyone alike and unable to utter a single word in self-defence. How could she reveal this to her parents? Such a demeaning accusation with no evidence to substantiate her innocence! She went on living like a machine, tolerating every vindictive comment and physical torture. But what happened one day when her husband knocked her down near the kitchen? How did she muster the courage and grit to stand up for herself and change the course of her life?
I met many of these women who are single mothers when they had only darkness for company. I have travelled alongside each of them, in some phase of their lives, in different roles: As a Homoeopathic physician, psychological counsellor, nutritionist, wellness coach or on some occasions, just as a witness or silent listener and in most instances, as a combination of any of these. But I have always been instrumental in assisting them in their journey to healing and self-discovery.
The Kintsugi Moms is written by Dr Haseena Chokkiyil and is published by Hay House Publishers.
Suggested reading: Ambapali: How A Young Woman Fights Power To Take Control Of Her Life