Why The Lotus Blooms: Choosing to Stand Tall by Tara Anand
by Tara Anand
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A string of shattering experiences results in Tara, putting her ambitions aside to marry her college sweetheart at twenty-five. She wakes up as a wife, numbingly empty, but for the next nine years convinces herself: marriage is about compromising. Meeting Aadi, a married man seven years younger, tears her identity and secure world apart. It’s impossible to restore the equilibrium, so she takes a staggering leap of faith into the terrifying void. Socially isolated, Tara must inch through pitch darkness for her six-year old daughter’s sake, relying only on her inner voice till she meets her spiritual teacher, Sri M.
Her inner demons of guilt, shame and fear, obstruct her way every time she needs to make a daunting choice. What will it take to bloom into the lotus of her true self? Can she find love and fulfillment while staying true to the woman she has become––not losing herself once again to the roles of wife, mother and daughter?
Tara’s poignant poetry woven into her fiercely frank narrative, takes you along the dramatic twists and turns of her inner and outer journey.
Note to the Reader
PART I : DARKNESS ALL AROUND
Ch 1 ‘The Doomed Choice’
Ch 2 The Powerless Choice
Ch 3 The Assertive Choice
Ch 4 The Guilty Choice
Ch 5 The Empowering Choice
Ch 6 The Defining Choice
PART II : REACHING FOR THE SHIMMER
Ch 7 The Unthinkable Choice
Ch 8 The Wise Choice
Ch 9 The Freeing Choice
Ch 10 The Skeptical Choice
Ch 11 The Firm Choice
PART II : STANDING TALL ABOVE THE MUD
Ch 12 The Student’s Choice
Ch 13 The Seeker’s Choice
Ch 14 The Disciple’s Choice
Ch 15 The Women’s Choice
Ch 16 The Daughter’s Choice
Ch 17 The Clear Choice
Why the Lotus Blooms – A Poem
The seed was released;
alone herself she found;
Pitch heavy darkness
weighed down all around.
“Where, what, why…?”
—bewildered, she cried.
After a short while,
gathering herself, she sighed
“There must be a purpose
to my being here
I have to believe—
in time it will be clear”
Trembling all the while,
emerging from her shell,
she sent her roots down
to anchor in the bed.
Groping in dull waters,
she looked around confused—
relieved to see above her
a golden beam diffused.
Reaching for the shimmer,
she extended herself up,
trudging through the mire
without the slightest fuss.
She rose to the surface
—by now a reticent bud
savoring the air,
stood tall above the mud.
Warm rays embraced her
and lovingly kissed her face;
She had made her way home
…with splendor & grace
Her joyous petals whispered…
“inspire them, tell your story”
so laying bare her heart…
she bloomed… in all her glory.
~Tara Anand ©
Chapter One: The Doomed Choice
1. The Doomed Choice
My wedding day.
Standing alone in the dimly lit dressing room, waiting to be escorted out, I nervously look at the mirror for a final check—the wine-gold silk saree looks exquisite and the pleats fall neatly. I gently tug them to ensure they are secure. Reassured, I slowly move my gaze up and find myself looking at a tall, slim woman.
Meeting her eyes, I recoil in shock.
“Who is this apparition? Why does she look so miserable?”
I look in horrified wonder as it slowly sinks in. Without warning a hot ball of panic and dismay rises, nearly choking me. “What’s wrong with me? This is not how I was supposed to feel on this day. Especially not when for the past seven years, I have wanted nothing more than to be married to this very man.”
The door swings open. “It’s time for the Jai-Mala… come with us,” my cousin-sister grins at me with twinkling eyes.
Pulling myself together, taking my place between my cousins, I demurely look down as Indian brides traditionally do. As I step outside on the red carpet, a harsh light blinds me; I hold onto my cousin’s arm for support. I am slowly led toward the stage—the solemn sound of shehnai announces my arrival. Hundreds of eyes, awarding points for beauty and grace, bear down on me.
Carefully climbing the stairs to the stage, my eyes search for the groom—hoping the sight of him will dispel my gloom. When I do, my heart sinks even further. He stands with his cousins with a distant, smug look on his face. “Is this the man I am going to marry? He seems like a total stranger.”
The proceedings get underway; I repeatedly try to connect with him hoping for a reassuring look or gesture. But he seems lost in a world of his own. “He hasn’t even said a word about how I am looking, unlike everyone else.”
Distracted by loud voices, I notice my cousin-sisters talking to him. “Be prepared to roam around barefoot after the ceremony. We won’t return your shoes unless you meet our demands,” they tease him.
“Don’t expect any money. You can keep the shoes,” he says dismissively. “We can easily arrange for a backup pair,” his cousin-brothers add.
My sisters exchange a perplexed look, as I look on incredulously fighting the urge to step in.
“Maybe he has been drinking,” I tell myself—furious at how a friendly ritual intended to build ties has instead created walls.
I go through the motions feeling like a decked-up doll—numb and empty. By the time we enter the wedding mandap for circling the sacred fire, my emptiness gives way to indignant anger at his self-centeredness. When we sit down side by side in front of the fire, I finally get a moment with him. We exchange a few heated words as the priest chants the Sanskrit verses.
“What an inauspicious beginning,” I think in dismay as the priest tells us to hold hands.
I want to stand up and walk away. But I know this is impossible. I try to shake off my loneliness, but it only gets stronger when we get back on stage—especially as I am repeatedly left alone to meet guests, while he gets off to mingle with his friends.
The next morning, a knock startles us. We ignore it. “Surely someone has the wrong room.” The knocking persists. My husband stumbles sleepily to the door.
I hear his mother’s voice outside but am too preoccupied with the disorienting pall hanging over me. Before I know it, she is standing by the bed. I fumble around—my face getting warmer by the second—and hastily pull the covers up. She waits as I sit up to greet her.
“Did you sleep well?” she says with a smile. “You must wear the gold set with the long, heavy necklace—you know the set I’m talking about?” I nod, managing a weak smile but cringe internally. I know the one all right—the one I’ll probably wear for the first and last time today—it’s just not me.
“Get ready and come quickly… everyone is waiting to have breakfast with you both.”
I silently wear the glittering necklace over my rose-pink saree, thanking myself for having insisted at least the sarees were selected with me. Putting on the mask of obedient daughter-in-law, I feel like a traitor to the woman I was just a few months ago:
“Why must my parents foot the entire cost of this wedding… it’s not right.”
“That’s the tradition… it’s the way things are done in our family,” his mother had said.
“I think the cost should be borne equally between the two sides… after all it was your son who pursued me relentlessly for years—not the other way round.”
His father had stepped in, “Don’t worry, I respect your feelings… we will pick up our share of the tab.”
Does marriage do this to a woman overnight? The feeling of impending doom I have been waging a battle with gets set in stone, as I gear up not only for the day ahead, but also for the life it heralds.
“Maybe I am overreacting…” I tell myself. “After all, tender love—the kind that makes your heart stir—must surely exist only in the movies. Time to wake up to reality, my dear. Enough ado about nothing. Roll up your sleeves and get set for married life… it can’t be that bad, both of you do love each other. And marriage is about compromise. You can’t have it all. Focus on the bright side.”
Over the next nine years, I repeated this pep talk like a broken record—till I had second-guessed myself into believing I had a solid marriage. However, as I look back now, it is ridiculously obvious we were totally wrong for each other. In fact, over our seven-year courtship, I was served many red flags. Although I did breakup with him every time, I always took him back.
Why did I not choose to follow my dream: study abroad and travel the world? Why didn’t I explore a relationship with the men I clearly had a better connect? Why instead did I hitch my wagon to his…?