He was in the ladies compartment of a Mumbai suburban train. Neither an alarm nor an eyebrow was raised by the women around him. For all the ladies out there, with one notable exception, he was a lady. They barely noticed. He was not looking at anyone either. His heart was dying out on him.
What am I doing out here?!
My friend had joined a professional development course. As course-work, each participant had to commit to one action, just one deed of change. This action should be do-able. And the only barrier should be their own self-perception; what they think they can or cannot do.
My friend had picked up this one: Pick up filthy garbage in front of his office with his own hands & deposit it into a garbage dump in full view of others.
The course does telephone follow-up of course-work status before every meeting. When my friend was called, he had not done it. The course was giving him a lot to think over and do. Somehow, he couldn’t get himself to do. Up until this point,he felt he was failing to convert his learning into concrete actions. The call pushed him over the edge.In a desperate moment, he blurted out that he will be coming to the Sunday meeting as a woman! He added that he will be travelling in a ladies compartment. That was his way to show how far he was willing to go. Curiously enough, he did not think much of himself and what he will go through. As a kid, he wore his mother’s necklace for fun & frolic. I can pull it off, he told himself.
The day came. My friend’s wife helped him get ready. When they began to dress him up, every garment & accessory became a pin-prick of awareness about what he had gotten himself into. In his own words, “My body became dull & lifeless. All life-energy was sucked out of me. Here I was, a man with a wife and two kids, about to touch 40. A man who so much disowned his own body that he could not bear to feel his own skin, draped as it was now, in a saree. I became a living corpse” What he was going through was so powerful that it made the thought of backing out irrelevant. Something pushed him from within even as it was tearing him apart.
Both my friend & his wife went to the railway station & travelled in the same compartment. Their mutual pact was that this train-travel experience was to be his & his alone. He was to experience it all by himself. She was around just in case his cover was blown & the women turn against him. So, in the train, they kept a distance & became strangers to each other.
It was a 40 minute train ride. He was in a woman’s world. Everybody & everything around besieged his consciousness; pushing against the frontiers of his identity & staking a claim. He could not look into anybody’s eye. To pretend who he wasn’t was forcing him to question who he really is; especially when the world was taking him at face value. He was both dead and alive at the same time. Dead to what he had become to the world. Alive to how the world was sparking life into him by its acceptance of who he had become. A lot was happening within…
When they reached the program venue, my friend had his course-colleagues come up to greet him. It was then that he came back to life, as he puts it. What did he accomplish?
My friend sums it up. “I have had my fair share of self-limiting doubts & fears. On what I can and cannot do. I reached the deepest core of my identity by peeling off all the layers of conditioning. When you reach that deep dark core, a light shines through. I now know that I create myself. I can bring myself to confront my darkest fears & do my own thing anyway. I am no longer my own adversary”