September 22, 2020

Sanjana Jagan on being a fighter

I meet her in one of the meets Mums and Stories organises for mothers to network. It is amazing to meet this inspiring individual who is so full of life. A horrendous fire accident that changed Sanjana’s perspective to life is shared here. I was so awe-struck by the zeal and enthusiasm of this mum, I had to ask her to share her story for others.

In her own words, Sanjana Jagan begins, talking of her childhood, “I had a fantastic upbringing along with my younger sister. My father was a professor and mother- a former state volleyball player, now a central government employee. We were indulged but not spoilt. We went to one of the best schools in our city, which was a blissful experience. As a family, my parents ensured that we were active partakers of all the decisions made from as small as buying groceries to as big as buying a real estate property. My mother always says that we were well-behaved children; barely troubled them, so I am not going to challenge that.

We were taught gratitude and responsibility for our actions from the very beginning, which always kept my sister and me very close. She has always been my rock and my best friend. We have grown to become more perceptive of each other. Over the years our bond has only gotten better and stronger.

The best days of my childhood were during the summers when we went swimming. I fell in love with the sport immediately. I was five years old when I was introduced to swimming, since then water bodies just make me happy.

Both my parents have been overprotective from the very beginning and nothing changed with time in fact they only got paranoid. My mother always lives in the fear of the mighty forces conspiring to make her babies squirm in the happy times and she bought her solace spending more time being spiritual. On the other hand, my dad a very practical man gave us heads-up on reality of dealing with our future in general. He never felt it was too early to be preparing us for just any curve ball the world was going to throw.

I guess my affinity to water sort of raged jealousy in fire, well I can be dramatic in comparison. I recall the fire accident when I was 11 years old. It was our school Annual Day 13th Nov, 1999, two days after Diwali. Our event was a closing act we were more or less 20 students participating. Most of us were from the same grade along with a few seniors and few juniors

Our school Annual day was a massive hit every year and was also the best event of the year.  Our school has a vast campus in the heart of the city, which also meant we had a huge playground and this was the venue for our performances for the evening on the day.

We had rehearsed with flashlights for our closing act, we were to wave to the cheering crowd with our flashlights and make a grand exit. Dressed in Santa Clause attire, we sat in a van that would take us around the playground before making the exit, the dance had went well but the flashlights were replaced with fire sparklers, an idea from recent Diwali.

Everything went very quick from there, few of us held sparklers from the windows, and the next minute we were screaming later few seconds we were streaming out of the bus for help, burning in flames.

I ran a few meters screaming for my mum and dad, who I knew were not in the crowd, they were home taking care of my sister who was down with fever. My dad was to come and pick me up after the event. I stopped and fell to the ground and started rolling on the tar laid ground, in hope to put out the flames, well the safety lessons paid off that evening. I lay there still, when I saw one lady wrap a shawl around me and we were driven to the nearest hospital.

Trauma experienced is beyond any words could ever express. It was a chaotic evening and even more a chaotic aftermath.

We were 10 children in the most appraised medical facility of Hyderabad; the following weeks we were absolutely running on a tight schedule. We had plastic surgeries, dressings, pressures garments, a lot of physio-therapy and a yearlong physical healing. It wasn’t all that bad, I remember birthdays and Christmas being celebrated, we sang songs, exchanged quick notes passed by our nurses, became each other’s power and comfort when days got rough.

Eventually life happened, and now all of us are successful in our own stride; yet we are still connected to each other with this one accident. Although we don’t meet each other but I am sure there are days when each of us think of one another.

My parents were absent for the event and were unaware when they received a call from multiple strangers. I can’t imagine the skeptical exchanges that my parents had over the phone with strangers calling to inform their daughter had a little fall. It wasn’t very difficult for my parents to put two and two together; but nothing could have prepared them to see their daughter lathered in medicine sprawled on the bed when they first walked –in to medical ward. Devastating, I still remember my parents couldn’t step forward to touch me, they didn’t know if there was any part that wouldn’t hurt. My mom collapsed on the first chair she found across my bed, I remember calling her out and asking her to come closer, she did but she was shattered.

Most would think for the victim in an accident but honestly it is the keepers that are worst affected. My parents were living their worst nightmare and feeling helpless and incapacitated. My mother spent two months with me in the hospital.  I was in the burns ward which is the most sensitive and highly protected ward, with concerns for infections. She spent her days away from my younger sister with me in the hospital sleeping on the empty chairs in the waiting area. My father took care of my sister for the same period sans anyone else’s support and drove almost thirty kms every day to and fro just to spend few minutes with me during the hospital visiting hours.

My parents are the most resilient people that I cherish today. After resuming to the normalcy of life, adjusting to the new routine, they ensured that I was not treated differently or pitied upon.

They restored my buoyancy and encouraged me to challenge every uninvited failure.

My dad who is my intellectual lifeline, he is a man who taught me to live to conquer and whose heart beats only for his children’s joy, recited a phrase every night; “This too shall pass”; I was young but he was determined to make me understand what it meant. He said; No situation is a permanent damage or a permanent respite, it is just an experience. He said; Clouds will roll, Sanjana and just like the clouds; every situation that comes knocking, will leave too. And they did, the clouds rolled. Always. Some brought pain, some brought recovery and some brought learning. Such enlightenment put everything to perspective for me.

Of course, after that accident my parents looked at everything under the microscope. I made peace with their obsession, because if my mother felt like she should check on me ten times while I am asleep in the night and if my dad thought calling me 20 times a day when he was at work would keep me secure then who am I to stop them?. I still don’t, and yes they still do whatever they can to know I am shining bright.

They never surrendered to any form of social pressures. They hushed every unsolicited advice and politely showed their disinterest. They empowered me and trusted me with my decisions and stood by me on my worst days making them bearable. They restored me with mighty confidence and self-esteem. They fought their demons while protecting me from mine.”

Talking on her growing up years, Sanjana shares, “Life within the walls of the school was bliss. Teachers, friends and administration, they all did their bit to welcome us back into their lives; made us feel special.

However, the scars from the accident brought a lot of stares and questions, which during my early years caused me anxiety and to remedy that I started wearing a jacket. I embraced my jacket as my second skin (ironic, since I already had a second skin-plastic surgery)  and rarely took it off. I thought by covering my scars I could avoid questions and unwanted attention  and practically become invisible.

My parents never mentioned my jacket during my schooling since they approved that it was my comfort and they thought I warranted it. However, once I was ready to start junior college, they sat me down for an intervention.

They educated me that  If I couldn’t love myself enough to embrace the superficial disfigurements, I would never have the power to question anybody’s rejection. They presented that my perception would be a greater liability, if not rehabilitated. That was the last hide-out that I broke free from, and I never looked back. As a reward, all my apprehensions were put at ease when my first week in college brought me new friends and no questions. Not one question! Can you believe that?

I am not naïve, yet I’d like to believe the world is indeed a good place. It is a mirror, what you demonstrate is what is reflected. I have made some life lasting friendships and special bonds which have been tested by time and circumstances most of them have come out unscathed.

Every now and then I still get stares and still see suspicious faces, however, over a period of time I have tuned myself to think that the stares are because either I am dressed well, or I look beautiful today, well I know my facts but somedays I just need these endorsements as my crutches to get me through my anxious days. It has been my coping mechanism, not arrogance.

Even on the worst days, not once have I heard my parents seeking to blame anybody for the accident. Accidents happen, they don’t always come with a caution they just knock you down. But what makes it endurable it is to have the best support system. Here, family plays a significant role.

Children no matter their age look for acceptance and appreciation from their immediate family, possessively their parents. Parents are the bestowed to be unconditional caregivers, however if their primal responsibility to support and comfort is defeated, especially when a mishap alters their child’s life, then their title stands unjustified and void. As parents, you will see days that seem like a dawn of a losing battle for your family, yet when stood together as one in the raining combat the victory is conclusive.

To me my parents will always be the epitome for courage, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, acceptance, pride and persistence.

Today, as a mother myself I recognize their fears and apprehensions; I live every day to do and be better for my daughter just like they have. As a mother I will never be ready for my daughter’s failures and heartbreaks. But as a daughter to my parents I will always know to keep it rolling, my strengthen will be hers, my love and support is a promise I will never break.

My daughter is too young to realize her mother is a little different from others. She caresses my scars and absent mindedly strokes my hands. But there will come a day when she will ask and I will tell her a story of how some imperfections bring a perfect happily ever after.

Now along with being a pampered daughter and loved sister, I am a happy wife to an extraordinary husband, a learning mother to a miracle of a daughter and an independent working woman in the corporate world. With a few reroutes and pit stops, life has given me all, and I have all intentions to take more.

Here’s to faith! Cheers!”

Mums and stories thanks Sanjana for sharing this awesome story with us and we wish her all the very best in life.

(Reshma krishnamurthy from Mumsandstories met Sanjana earlier and later had the story over an email interaction.)




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