I wait to meet her in a park and then I see this individual with a huge smile, her hand eagerly waving towards me. Even at the first glance I am stunned looking at a soul who reminds me that ‘life is better rode with determination vehicle’.
Meet Maneesha Ramakrishnan, a mum who was in the horrific fire at Carlton Towers a few years ago. She insists there is more in her life to recall, live and talk than just the incident and as it has so severely impacted her life. She is the voice who cannot be silenced..
Maneesha who loves to call herself the ‘Queen of Carlton Towers’, recalls on her childhood memories where she was one among the three siblings. “As a child, I used to care for my two brothers – we three were born in consecutive years. My first idea of happiness was caring for them, caring for my cousins and making other people happy. My parents were caught up in their own struggles; their focus was not on us children. So, I found great warmth and joy in visiting my grandparents in Kerala for summer vacations. It was my maternal grandmother who instilled and literally carved this belief in me that “god is watching”. This inheritance has tremendously helped me to keep and bestow sanity each time life crumbled before me.”
Having an authoritative and overtly disciplined environment at home led her to rebel and she says, “I got married when I was 18 years. It was an escape route for me. I now understand that I was far too young to take such a huge step but I did what I thought was right. I have two grown up sons now who are 26 and 21 years and now I know how naïve I was to marry so soon.
But alas the relationship didn’t go as anticipated. I was a mom too soon and by the time I was 20 years, I had a new role of being a mother and a wife. Without explaining too much I can share that life was intense and emotionally exhausting. I had to understand what I really wanted in life to shuttling between by parent’s home and husband’s home. I was the darling family member as treated by my in-laws and others in the joint family. But it was not meant to be as I couldn’t get along with my husband. I was a mom again and at 25 years of age, I was unemployed, without a home, a mother to two young children and had to pick my life to survive.
I enjoyed my journey as a mother being a compulsive mom and didn’t let circumstances or an unstable marriage deter me in any way. I remember my elder one’s first birthday. I went to a neighbors place and baked the cake, iced it with jam, made vadas, gathered kids and celebrated. I was there holding my child through all times despite the chaos of a divorce and moving to my parental home again .and giving a second chance to my marriage yet again.
Life kept unfolding before my eyes asking me to move forward ,take decisions, risks for the better and I did so . I was scared and there where gut-wrenching days ,where I carried both my children to the court even as my first born came crying that his dad said he would take him away from me .There where appalled eyes in the courtroom judging me.. But the injustice I felt that was being done to us gave me the courage to step up. In the days that followed, my best friend offered me a part-time job and thus started my journey as a working mom. I have been mightily blessed to have the best work spaces who accommodated the ‘mom in me’’.
Feb 23rd 2010 was again a normal working day. There was the rush of ironing clothes; asking my children what would they want for lunch, cleaning up my home only to return almost a year after .The inferno the aftermath, once I realized that I was out of danger after months of suffering; all I wanted was to rescue my children and protect them .Motherhood rescued me yet again with all the grace .I got to witness the love of my boys they doted on me through my several stints in hospital; with Dhruv even refusing to leave my bedside.
That day, I was working in my office at the Carlton Towers. I saw that there was a huge fire and there was smoke all around me on that floor. Among the panic with colleagues and others, some who leapt to death and others who were getting fainted, I picked a fire extinguisher and broke the glass window. I wanted to shout loud for help and then I realized with the smoke around, my voice was gone. Before I could think much I was led by a fire fighter. But the smoke had damaged by body to a large extent. I now breathe through a tube that is surgically implanted in my lungs.”
Her voice is very feeble and she struggles to make it heard. Maneesha speaks through a machine that clutches her neck and tries to be the intervention surface for her voice to be audible.
“I was in coma for over 72 hours and was on ventilator support for over 70 days in the hospital. But the incident surely changed my perspective on life.
Motherhood has been challenging considering I had to be away on work for most of the time and I had my own emotional issues to deal in life. It is however since the last few years that I finally took a decision to work as an independent consultant. It was time to give that space for myself and time for my family. I call myself as the emotional capital builder. It was one of the Epiphany moments that helped me to take the decision of offering an extended childhood for my boys. It was like delivering them all over again with fresh new perspective of letting them be -giving them their space, while I engrossed myself in my personal development by seeking therapy, attending workshops and sharing my insights and of course sharing my story.
We are so blessed. Yes, we have been pushed to edge several times but the universe has never let us down! It is a very compassionate. I have to admit people who hardly knew us have kept supporting us financially.
At an event that marked remembering the departed souls and the incident, my kids Akarsh and Dhruv along with their friends danced with me before Carlton towers. It was my way of healing and offering ‘shradhanjali’ to souls who where consumed by the toxic fumes .Ours is a great friendship – I have always been open, sharing with my boys and I am always willing to learn from them.”
Maneesha Ramakrishnan in conversation with Reshma Krishnamurthy from Mums and Stories.
We are also sharing a video interview on her, where she talks being a parent.