And even though it’s easy,
easy to get carried away with what life throws our way;
let’s not forget the souls, who fought the messy battles,
messier than ours,
and lived to tell their beautiful tales.
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Asheta Suresh Vance is a survivor in the truest sense of the word. The horror unfolded 18 years ago, when she and her classmates, who weren’t older than nine years of age, were trapped in a burning bus. The incident shook the city, and when I started school there, it was one of the stories I was often told in hushed whispers, again and again: How a bunch of little girls was caught in a fire during a school annual day celebrations. But the truth is, there is more to Asheta than what marred her. She is warm, extremely friendly, killer yoga expert, and a friend you can always count on in times of your dire need. And right now, she is here to share her story, to let you know that no matter how hopeless your situation might look, it’s safe to say it won’t last forever.

Q1. Do you remember the first few months after the incident took place? What was the biggest hurdle you had to cross? What nightmares were your constant friends? And on whom did you rely on the most to help you get through the day?
It’s been more than 17 years since that dreadful fire accident, but I remember not being able to walk for a few months after. Since my burns are behind both knees, simple tasks like standing up and sitting back down, were herculean. I couldn’t sit cross-legged for the longest time and had to undergo rigorous physiotherapy to ensure my legs didn’t lose muscle memory.

I think more than one’s physical scars, it’s the emotional ones that cause damage. Getting over one’s self-consciousness and dealing with peoples’ pitying stares and intrusive questions took a while. It was only a decade later that I was truly confident of my scarred (scared?) self! My family was my biggest support through the ordeal. My parents were my backbone and my sisters indulged me. I remember my middle sister reading aloud stories to me from Chicken Soup for the Soul series about bravery and valor, even though I had the grit of a trembling leaf when the doctor came calling for my wound dressing.

Q2. If you could go back in time during that period, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself not to wallow in self-pity. It’s okay to throw oneself a pity party on some days, but it’s important to know when to snap out of it. I’d tell myself that I have some fantastic things in store for me and oh, to never listen to those patronizing aunties who told me that I’d always be saree-clad when I “grow up” so my scars would be concealed.

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Q3. What has been the biggest loss that you experienced in your life that you are yet to make peace with?
Losing my mom to cancer. There has been nothing more painful than that. It’s been two and a half years since we lost her, and I’ll admit I’ve come a long way from the train wreck that I was, but I still have bad days. It is one thing to theorize death and wax eloquent about nothing being permanent, but it’s a whole other ballgame to face it on a day to day basis. It wasn’t easy and quite frankly still isn’t, knowing that I can’t so much as give her a call for something as mundane as a recipe or to harmlessly gripe about the husband.

Q4. Has marriage changed you for the best?
I’d like to believe that it has. Marriage has definitely humbled me and my respect for stay-at-home moms/wives have gone up ten-fold. I’ve also come to understand the importance of teamwork and being less selfish. I’m grateful I don’t compete with Tay and I’ll have to hand it to him for being my biggest cheerleader, especially when the chips are down. Additionally, because he’s American, and I had to move base here, the paperwork and accompanying long wait had to become a part of our lives; so I think patience is another thing I’m getting a good lesson in.

Q5. Have you been able to call the US your home now?
I think I’ve become a global citizen now, even if I remain a ‘Hyderabadi potti’ at heart. Being in the US has brought into my life some phenomenal people, relationships, and experiences. With extremely supportive and welcoming in-laws I’ve been blessed with, the transition from India hasn’t been rough. Sometimes when God takes something away, he gives you something else to compensate for. *knock on wood!* At the risk of sounding shameless, honestly, I miss the food back home, most! That, and the luxury of someone else cooking it! Of course, I miss work and my Yoga clients with whom I became great friends, but with technology playing such a huge role in our lives, it isn’t too bad. Keeping in constant touch with close family and friends, on the other hand, is a bit of a challenge. Yes, it’s tough to coordinate phone calls, and I’m not at liberty to call whenever it suits me.

But like everything in life, it’s about getting used to change, adapting to it the best one can and ‘adulting’ once in a while.

Author: AD

Born and raised in India, Anisha Dhiman moved to Toronto to study Publishing and then Lifestyle Media at Centennial College. Writer, social media strategist and content creator, Anisha is the founder of Five Question Series, where she profiles people… you guessed it, by asking five questions. In her free time, she enjoys reading and trolling people with puppy GIFs and memes. Her only phobia? Losing her sight, but staring at the screen all day long doesn’t help much.

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February 24, 2017

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