When I first heard about the theme of this special issue, I jumped at it because I had a wonderful personal story to tell. I said, “Yes, yes, yes, I did something very unconventional in my 20s and I want to tell everyone about it." It is a full-baked story. I even typed out most of it hastily, it is a story so ready to be shared.

The editor got back to me. Write about your writing, she suggested. About spilling your guts.

I knew what she meant. I had just sent in a piece about my personal experience of being sexually harassed in my office when I first started working as a media professional. I had written about feeling isolated and emotionally abused and how I eventually healed from it. I had felt both compelled and repulsed by the idea of writing it. It had been hurtful and scary to revisit old wounds, yet it had felt imperative for me to share the story. As if the story had chosen to tell itself.

I had spilled my guts. I felt raw and vulnerable. I had opened a door that had been locked for years and was dealing with a rush of memories.

There were the old familiar fears. What if someone misunderstands you? Is this important enough? Will I seem like I am always trying to draw attention towards me? Why do I matter? What if the people I speak about are hurt by my version of this story? I don’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable.

Are you sure you want this to be on the Internet forever?

I was surprised at the battles I had had to fight internally before the words began to appear on the computer screen. I literally had to laugh away some of the doubts. I was recounting an experience of healing from trauma in my life and almost two decades later, I was still worrying about hurting other people? About betraying trust? I felt like I was in a dust storm designed to obscure the core of the story.

Calm down and be exact, I instructed myself. That’s all I have to say finally to the neurotic self who ties me up in knots before she will allow a simple personal story to tell itself in words typed through my fingers.

A few weeks before that, I had written about my mother and me. In my everyday conversations with my children and husband, we talk about my mother a lot. We even call her Sudha, echoing her name among us. I struggled to write about my thwarted conversations with my mother. Something came in the way and distracted us from our love and I wanted to confront that.

A struggle to express is a struggle to heal. I completed that article and sent it to my brother. He read it at work and sent me an SMS: all good.

“What about Dad’s reaction?" I asked him.

“Don’t be silly," he texted back.

I went over to my mother’s home with our youngest child, who prefers to visit nani ka ghar over school any day of the week. I read out the article to my mother. Somewhere near the second-last paragraph, my mother put her fingers on her eyes and pressed back the tears. I continued to read.

“Why did you cry?" I asked her.

“Mataji ki yaad aa gayee." She said she was reminded of her own mother. She allowed herself to cry. “I’m just thinking of how alone my mother was in her last years," said my mother about my grandmother.

I didn’t show it but I was astounded. I had written the piece trying to loosen the knots in my connection with my mother, hoping that it would make readers reflect on their own relationships. I was worrying about how my Mum might feel and here she was reflecting on her own relationship with her mother. I quickly texted her son again and shared her reaction with him.

“Hmmm," came his reply.

I have begun to send text messages to my mother now. She calls later and tells me where she was when my message arrived. After years of blogging, Facebooking and tweeting, I am sending messages straight to the person they were meant for in the first place.

The most played song in our home is Aik Alif, a Coke Studio production of Bulleh Shah’s poetry performed by Saieen Zahoor and the Pakistani band, Noori.

Parh parh ilm te faazil hoya, wrote the 17th century Punjabi poet, te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na. You have read so many books and know it all, but you have never read your own self. You run to visit temples and mosques, but you have never entered your own heart.

Jo na jaane haqq ki taaqat, Rabb naa devey usko himmat. These lines speak to me. It is only when I acknowledge the life-affirming power of truth that I find in myself the courage to claim it. Don’t allow the cacophony served up by the mass media and the marketplace to drown your voice. The power to write your own story will come to you when you give up the fear that your truth will somehow hurt you.

Personal stories have the power to heal us. Sharing them has the power to console. When we go searching for who we were and what changed us, we find the strength to transform who we have become.

Natasha Badhwar writes the fortnightly column My Daughters’ Mum.

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