Friday, March 18, 2016

A Story From the Life of Jayshree J. Ghostwritten by her granddaughter Stuti S.

Photo courtesy of Jayshree J.

A Story From the Life of Jayshree J.
Ghostwritten by her granddaughter Stuti S.

Like a Pane of Glass

Serenity can be described as a pane of glass. So fragile, delicate, almost like it’s begging to be shattered. Serenity can be described as a one-sided conversation- like watching from the other side of a window. Your ease is yours alone- but with that, the same can be said for your hardships.

Dharamsala was my pane of glass. My little window of peace that separated me from the outside world; protected me from the harsh realities I thought I would never experience.

I guess I was wrong.
I guess, for me, my window shattered.

------------- August, 1965 --------------

I never saw it coming.

A note that would change me forever. A note that pierced the veil of peace I knew was going to rip and tear eventually.

A note of war.

A man brought the message to the bungalow-style military house my husband and I stayed in. Upon its the arrival, my husband promptly read it and turned to me.

“I have to go,” he said. I caught on immediately.


“The border.” This was the only real downfall to being the wife of an army doctor. The panic, the fear that constricted my throat as I could only sit down and watch as my husband gathered all of his things.

I’m only 21! Just newly married! This can’t be happening. This is too soon. Where is he leaving me and going?

Panic and fear overtook me. The panic and fear that tore breath-rattling sobs from within me that screamed and shouted my fear, my panic.

“Don’t cry! Stay strong,” was his last message to me, and with that, I watched as my loyal husband took off to save other soldiers while they fought for our country. With everything that I’d experienced as a person in life before this- it amazed me how I only had the capability to sit and watch, as my world came crumbling down in 30 minutes. It took a little bit of time for what had happened to settle in. As I’d never really been on my own, the statement ‘I felt lost’ was a huge euphemism for my situation.
There I was, in a place that I barely knew, surrounded by people I didn’t know, and in a place where pretty much no one even spoke the same language I did.

Was I scared? Yes. But was what I felt right now anything compared to the agony, the panic, the despair I was about to feel? No.

----------------------------- 4-5 Days Later: Mid-August, 1965 -------------------------

No message. No sign. My thoughts bounced around in my head. Thousands of ‘what if’ scenarios that tormented me- scenarios that grew more and more dangerous with every day. What if he doesn’t make it home? What if-? fHEWWWWWWWWW BANG! Bombs. Every single explosion reminded me of things that had been- and what had happened. Desperation. Bang. Stress. Boom. Worry. Crash. Panic. With every single day without a message, without any sign that he was alive, emotions that ranged from despair to depression to fear started to fight a battle inside me. I barely ate. My appetite materialized into the worry of loss and despair.
How will he return? And if he can, when?

I will admit I broke down quite a lot, but I had every reason to. That sensation of being alone, even when I people surrounded me, is what crept up on me and suffocated me in its grip. There was no one to really talk to. No one to lean on. No one who could even provide moral support. I turned to the only source of hope I could think of at that point.


When you have no one by you, your faith in God increases, as did mine. Every single day I prayed to God to keep him safe. I prayed and kept hope, even when my mind urged me to give up. Told me that there was no chance. When my brain tried convincing me to close in on myself.

There’s no point.

I prayed and tried to remain positive even when fear and panic threatened to overwhelm- overcome- me. I gripped and held onto any little piece of optimism I came across, because the only thing I could hang onto was hope, and the sliver of the chance I thought I had. What astonished me was how this much could be going on internally inside a person, when all the outside world could see was a peaceful town sat on a hillside. Where spring bloomed, and all was well.

Remember what he said. Stay strong. Stay strong. It’ll be okay. It’s alright.

----------------------- November, 1965 ----------------------------

After nearly half a year in total agony, panic, worry, stress and torture, it seemed too soon. The war finally ended. I knew the leaves were changing back in Dharamsala, and matched how I felt inside. Cold and barely hung on. I looked up at the sky.

The postman should be here soon.

Sigh. Another day back home in Ahmedabad, where I had come back after the bombing had begun back in Dharamsala. Another day spent waiting by the porch anxiously as I anticipated the arrival of the post. Since about mid-August, I had not even a small message from my husband. I was so desperate for news, I almost gave up hope. But then I heard it. The soft footsteps of the postman that crunched small stones and kicked up dust. Those footsteps that filled me with a rush of promise, of disappointment. He dropped the post off, and I walked slowly towards it as I tried to delay my impending fate. Then I saw it.

A letter. His name, Jagdish Jethi scrawled on it. My hand reached down and grasped it like my lifeline. All of the post that came through from the army got filtered, so the envelope already lay open. Thank God. I didn’t think my trembling hands would have had the coordination to rip it wide. A surge of adrenaline and elation jolted through my veins. With a held breath, I nervously took the letter out and unfolded it.

“Don’t worry. We won. We’re okay. We won, and I’m so proud. Not only because we won and I got to serve my country, but because because you came. Because you were with me. You’re so strong even in a situation where I couldn’t guide you, and where you didn’t choose to be. Don’t worry because I’m okay. I’ll come home as soon as I can get a break. Just remember God and all will be well. Stay strong.”

The food on my plate was long gone that night. The worry switched with relief and pride. That hole that caused me to curl inward, instead filled with happiness.

He’s alright.

----------------------- 41 years later ------------------

As I’m writing this 41 years after 1965, a lot has changed. As a 62 year old mother of two and a grandmother of 4, I’m pretty satisfied. But that feeling of something missing is threatening to overtake me. My very reminder to be strong is gone. 2006. The year I would lose my husband, and the year my world is falling apart all over again, like 1965.

Be strong. He’s here with you.
He’s gone.
Be strong. You have family that will always be there for you.
You’ll never get to see him again.
Whatever happens now, big or small, you can handle this.
You can tolerate it.
This will pass.

No. I will not let my pain, my fear, my stress take over me again. Yes, I’m devastated. Yes, I’m miserable. But I’m stronger now.

And my shattered window begins to rebuild itself.