Lockdown has allowed us to indulge in activities that we may not have found time for normally, and because of that, I was able to sit down and read Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, for the umpteenth time today. Whenever I read this book, it leaves me feeling overwhelmed, thankful and happy with the thought that I have my Ikigai. I’m glad to have a reason to jump out of bed every morning and appreciate my life. But, had somebody questioned me a few years ago, “What’s your Ikigai?” I surely would not have had an answer.
I grew up in a small town in India, where everyone knew me and my family. I was quiet and tended to stick close to one or two of my friends who I was comfortable with. I was known for getting good grades and for being a ‘good girl’ but that was it. College was no different, except for the fact that I tried desperately to be a ‘cool’ person like the other students. I got married in 1997, and from Agra – the city of the Taj Mahal, I shifted to Calcutta. From a nuclear family, I was brought into a huge joint family, and as all Punjabi families are, mine was no different – loud, lovable and always hungry for food.
After two years, I was blessed with a son – I was ecstatic, my family was delighted, but having a baby also meant added responsibility. I was busy taking care of my husband, child and family and needless to say I was enjoying all of it or maybe I just thought I was enjoying because in the bargain I had completely forgotten about myself. I had forgotten that I was just a 25-year-old girl, who needed to have some dreams and aspirations in her life. I got married thinking that this could be my chance for a fresh start. I thought my family and my husband’s love would help me realize who I really was, but my life did not change the way I wanted it to. I still did not know what it meant to express myself, speak my mind or stand up for something that I was truly passionate about. I remember the many times when I would just sit and listen to whatever matter was being discussed in the family but never dared to share my views, mainly because I did not know whether my views were apt enough to be shared or if anyone would even care about what I thought or felt. There was no one other than me who could be blamed for how I chose to act. I opted to remain quiet all the time.
Nonetheless, as years passed by, the more I kept quiet, the more horrible I felt about my mind and body. Eventually, I became depressed and felt as if no one really cared. I was scared of only one thing – what if I die tomorrow and no one remembers that I even existed. I desperately wanted to do something, have my own identity but I did not know how to go about it.
As a result of my depression, I found myself truly alone and had to finally confront myself with what was missing in my life. Not wanting to blame my past and present anymore, I decided to add some colour to my future, and that’s how with the constant and unconditional support of my husband, I began my writing journey and I’ve never looked back.
As I became more engaged with this activity, my inner voice grew stronger and stronger and it wanted to come out and express itself. It was such an amazing experience for me that I wanted to share it with anyone and everyone who was ready to listen. I love writing, not just because it is my profession but because it is my Ikigai , and it’s a way to help me better understand myself.