Story # 4: Life As It Unfolded: Rajani Nandakumar

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Like a dam opened, Rajani Nandakumar unleashes floodgates of words;  drowning us in her life! Many emails flew back and forth, as I shared my vision for the blog and she shared her life.  It is not easy to confine oneself once we start sharing our journey, for there is so much to tell and so much to dwell upon.

This amazing individual takes us through a journey of pain and patience. The matter-of-fact way she has handled many challenges, the patience, care, compassion and empathy she has for her family (which soon transitioned into all of humanity), shows us that courage is about becoming a stand for those in our lives, and being there for people when they most need us.

Multi-talented, enterprising and dedicated; she led many parallel lives while recreating herself. Here is a story of reinvention that was a continuous process, culminating in an identity that lives the very nature of the trials that carried her here. Nurturing souls has become her passion and her purpose!

(you can email her at rajaninandu@yahoo.co.in)

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I am a practising psychologist since 2005. I came into this profession without a clue, whether I wanted to be one.

Actually I have always wanted to do something that would be a calling. I was exposed to a lot of careers, like Government job, Banking, Advertising, teaching, even film making. But somehow it never rang a bell for me. Anyway, after marriage I settled into domesticity and this came with the attended service of caring for sick parents.

It was agonizing to see my parents waste before my eyes. My mother suffered long, while my dad’s problems were shorter duration. There came a need to be available for my family on a daily basis.

It was only when I found I was no longer needed as much, the old yearning returned. But again I was at a loss. I secretly wanted to be a doctor, helping and saving lives. That dream was not fulfilled.

Medical transcription came close to it. Though even here as a profession, I was not satisfied. Then psychology happened. I do not know whether to call it destiny, or that my question to the Universe was being finally answered.

Rest of my history you will know here. I am happy my dream has materialized, but I know I have a long journey ahead. I am game, since this journey is so fascinating……

This journey is all the more special as I have been blessed with a wonderful, supportive life partner.  Through all my experiences, my husband  has been and is, my pillar of strength.


I will get on with my story…

I was born in 1959, in Mumbai. The middle sibling amongst three girls. In 1971, my parents settled in Chennai and so I call myself a Chennaite!

I was pretty good in academics and participated in all the cultural and sports activities of my school. I participated in several inter-collegiate competitions and brought home prizes in college as well. I was an active member of the Leo Club in college; President of the students’ union; Senior Under Officer in NCC, and Secretary of Economics Department. (I have loads of friends and my school mates are still in touch with me. We meet up regularly and I love making new friends.)

I marched in the Republic Day parade in Chennai as part of NCC for two years. I was also chosen to be a part of the Tamilnadu contingent to march in Delhi for the Republic Day parade. But as I was in the final year of college, my Principal did not give the necessary permission. (A decision I regret to this date.)

I completed my M.A. Economics in 1981, happily married my love, (who had proposed to me seven years before and was waiting for consent!), and settled into a blissful marital life. (We had to wait, since my father was not convinced about our relationship, to put it mildly! God rest his soul.)


The thirst do something was always there, though what was a big question mark. (There was no career guidance then, like it is available now.)

But thoughts of career took a back-seat as I found my mother had cancer. I wished to spend all my time with her. My sisters were working and they had less time with her, so I was happy I was not working. Her final days were very distressing and I particularly found it upsetting. How could I imagine my life without my beloved mother?


The initial folds of my life…

My mother had her first operation for the removal of her uterus (before I was married). It wasn’t so bad, since we considered it to be an essential surgery. But I remember seeing my dad very tense while waiting for her to come out of the theatre. The surgery was successful and she recovered well.

After her surgery, she was taken to the post operative ward. It was difficult there as she was in a government hospital. (My dad had a central government health scheme). The post operative ward was filled with bed bugs. I spent two days killing bed bugs on her bed and I am sure the next patient had a cleaner bed! She was later shifted to a private ward, after two sleepless nights. A much better option I felt. My elder sister did the daily rounds of bringing food and clothing. Following which, I took care of her for a month, looking after all her basic needs.

Soon…

She had to go in for a second surgery. It was traumatic because we knew it was due to breast cancer. For a woman; removal of her breast can be extremely distressing. She was in hospital for fifteen days this time, but my dad stayed with her. I insisted, as the travel to and fro would have taken a toll on his health and having him around would be supportive for my mother. (This time we could afford a private clinic.)

Cancer was a dreaded thing back then; nearly 25 years ago. (I was married by then and my husband supported me through all of this). I would cook every morning, carry food to the hospital, collect their used clothes, go for my ticketing class, return home in the evening get the clothes washed and then the next day again follow the same routine. So I had no time to brood.

She came back home and I had to give her enough information to ease her mind. There was no access to Internet back then, so even my knowledge was sketchy and limited.

Soon, she recovered and my parental home went back to its routine, but now I had to accompany her for the radiation therapy. I remember taking her by cycle rickshaw from Mylapore to Radhakrishnan Salai for her radiation. But all this took a toll on her.

Once again…

Six years after her breast removal, she had a lump in her chest which was suspected to be malignant. That was when I lost all hope. With this diagnosis, my mother too lost hope. (It can’t be a picnic to know cancer has struck you twice.)

She bore the chemotherapy well. By then, my husband and I had bought a flat on the same road as my parental home. That was a blessing, I can never, ever forget. I would accompany her for her treatment to a distant hospital and bring her back, a tired woman. The next week would be terrible; she would throw up, be miserable. I had to coax her to eat but she lost all her hair and weight.

Knowing and seeing her this way was terrible. My mum was a plump woman. She had good, long hair and was the envy of her friends. (We would joke around saying she was moving with time; she had cropped her hair!). But I know how much this affected her. I would finish my housework and after my husband left for work, I would go and spend time with her. We bonded well those couple of years.

Soon she became too weak to move around. Even going for the chemo became an ordeal. The doctor had said even if the disease does not kill, the treatment will, and this was turning out to be true. She was so sportive throughout the whole thing, but she knew time was running out.

My younger sister was to be married and we felt my mother was kept hanging on for this to happen. We soon got my sister married. It was not an elaborate wedding, but in fact, one that was hurriedly put together. My mother had to be literally carried to the wedding. Only during the thali tying ceremony was she was brought into the hall.

After the wedding, she told me she did not want any more treatment. I tried to cajole her but she refused. She said she did not want to prolong the agony. Reluctantly I informed the doctor who agreed, saying that the patient had the final say. Within two months of the wedding, she was no more. I know people die, but she was too young. She had not even reached sixty when she passed away.

In a way I am happy she left, she no longer suffers. But I still miss her till date. Even now, sometimes I turn to share something with her, and I find a vacuum. We used to love to go window shopping. Once a month we would wander around T. Nagar and eat  ice cream cone, while window shopping. We loved to eat spicy food, and I simply loved all her cooking. I regret I have not got her skills!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My father was obviously shattered by her demise and added to that he had to sell his flat to meet the loans he took for my sister’s wedding. So he moved into a rented premise. He managed with my elder sister staying with him for sometime, and later with my younger sister.

Then he suffered a heart attack in the month of July. It was massive and he took more than a couple of months to recover. He had complications of diabetes and prostrate gland. Surgery of the prostrate gland was ruled out due to the attack.

After his first attack, I brought him home to my place. He had a deep wound on his backside that needed daily cleaning. The wound could not be left unattended as he was diabetic. I nursed him, as my younger sister was carrying her second child and my elder sister was in Kerala. After a month, his wound had healed beautifully and his cardiologist was amazed. He wanted to know if I had taken any medical training!

(I remember that my father would get embarrassed that I was doing everything for him. I told him that he was a patient and he must look upon me as a nurse). He had two more attacks, and passed away within 6 months of these attacks.

And many times more…

I have also done my share of caring for my father-in-law when he fell ill at my place.  He too is no more.

My mother-in-law too is 90+ now. So when she visits us, I tend to her needs (bathing, combing, dressing her, etc.), before I leave for office. It is one rushed morning when she is here, with no help or assistance. Right now she is in Bangalore with a trained nurse and I am relieved.

I took care of my younger sister when she delivered her children. She was with me for a month after each delivery. Of course my elder sister too pitched in, but basically it was my home; so my responsibility.

There have been various childhood illnesses of all my four nieces. We almost lost the youngest niece once, which was a scary time. I am glad to say we three sisters have always been there for each other.

Now I am eagerly looking forward to my eldest niece becoming a mom. The next generation is on its way! What can be more exciting? I have offered my niece the same facility and she has accepted. I am excited and so is my husband!!

I do not mind caring for my family. I love my family!

Have I left out anything? Yes, I do not have children of my own. But honestly, I do not miss this experience. I have five nieces to fill this gap! One of them is my close friend’s daughter. I tell people I do not have children, but I have five wonderful daughters. They think I am crazy!!


I come to my other story: The parallel folds of my life and how I came to be!

In the midst of all this I enrolled myself into various classes: computer, travel and ticketing, etc.

I soon joined a six month course in medical transcription and came out with flying colours. Then I joined a company doing only psychiatric files. Now I became fascinated with the working of the human mind. This revived my interest in medicine but I was too old to enrol in medical college. (You see, I secretly harboured a desire to be a doctor, but that wish never got fulfilled.)

It was at this time my close friend suggested we do psychology.  I completed my M.Sc. Applied Psychology in 2005, and did a Diploma in Counseling. We studied everyday, gathered information on the Net as well as scoured all libraries. We had two years of tears, laughter, fear, triumph and a feeling of accomplishment at achieving the degree. The subject of psychology has fascinated me and continues to do so. (It is amazing how different people interpret the same things so differently.)

My friend and I struggled to set up practice. We trudged into various schools, hospitals, corporate offices, etc. We printed small flyers and left them in super markets, in nursing homes, etc.

Slowly clients started contacting me and I built up a private practice. Then in 2007, I got a call from Bharatmatrimony, a marriage portal, looking for a counsellor. The founder CEO wanted to provide some service to the general public; free of cost. He felt the need for a psychologist on board. I went for the interview, got selected on my terms and have been with this company since then.

I enrolled as a member of an organization called Chennai Counsellors’ Foundation and I have gained immensely from it. The founders and committee members found me suitable to take on the Treasurer’s post and presently I am holding this post, for the last one and half years, though finance is not my forte!

We, in CCF, hold various workshops for registered members and members of public interested in mental health. Part of my private work includes holding workshop in colleges, Rotary Clubs, and other organizations that look for such workshops.

I love to do workshops and have held workshops on stress management, responsible parenting, grooming, relationship issues, and addressed school children on study skills, etc.

I counsel on line, through telephone and one-on-one in my office. The cases are mainly pre-marital and marital cases, though in private practice I do attend general cases as well. I also have a counselling desk for in-house employees in the corporate office, and at our two branch offices. So you see, I am kept pretty busy!

Part of my official duties is to host a site where articles are uploaded everyday by me. I have been writing on this blog since July 2007. I upload an article everyday, all 365 days. The site is http://betweenus.bharatmatrimony.com. If you wish, you could either subscribe to an article a day for free or just browse through.

This again is an interesting aspect. I did not know I could write though I am a voracious reader. Give me a good, thick fiction book filled with action and I would not need food or sleep. When I was asked to write articles on emotions and some of my cases, I broke into cold sweat. Yet I seem to have evolved into a writer of sorts, I am able to write pretty well, even if I say so!

Psychology is becoming relevant in so many areas. So many niche areas are becoming apparent now. One has to keep abreast with latest developments, theories and therapies. I recently attended the Psychiatric Society of India’s annual conference in New Delhi, in January. It was an eye opener in so many ways. Though they focused only on psychiatric intervention, I did register my presence, and asked them to be more open to counselling by psychologists! (I stayed back this year to witness the R-Day parade; a part of me is satisfied!!)

I have appeared in television channels to counsel in live shows and also am quoted in print media due to my association, initially with Bharatmatrimony, and later in my own capacity. I travel on work and I have held workshops in Neyveli and Muvattupuzha, Kerala.

I am proficient in English, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, and Kannada. I have also travelled extensively in India, so my knowledge of various cultures is pretty good. This helps me in my work.

I have found in my years of practice that there are so many people who do not realize they have emotional problems and continue to suffer. The quality of their lives could improve if they come in for counselling. Not many know the difference between psychologists and psychiatrists. So I keep educating people and media about this. A new area is opening up for counsellors as well:  counselling in fertility management.

While doing my diploma in counselling, I was asked to choose an area of counselling; I said marital. I feel when a marriage goes right, the family is emotionally healthy and the off springs will also be emotionally healthy. I seem to have branched into this area, quite by chance.

Yes, I feel I have found my niche. I am doing something productive and challenging. I am happy I am associated with the medical field in a way, so that dream has been fulfilled. Becoming a counsellor seemed to be the logical step forward.

Maybe some divine force is guiding me in this? I choose to believe it.


Though I did feel lost for sometime, I am glad I had that respite. It was a sort of gathering my strength for entering this field. My sisters have always been working professionals and I used to envy them, now I no longer do so.

Working outside home, plus taking care of home and family is no joke. It requires lots of patience, thinking on the feet, juggling chores, turning out yummy dishes when all you want is to crash on the bed, managing when the servant decides to take off, participating in office festivities, etc. It is more than a full time job for a woman.

It is probably due to all these experiences along with my educational back ground and scientific knowledge, that I am able to counsel all kinds of people; young and old and even the terminally ill.

I know I have years of counselling still left. I am happy I found this field, or rather this field found me. I do not know which. For me, everyday I learn something new. I meet a lot of interesting people and all have touched my life in some way. If I too have touched some lives, then my purpose on this Earth is being fulfilled.


here is a bit about me!!

(for your added interest! )

I can be lazy! I seem to have given up my reading habit, I need to get back there. Free time is reading time or nap time! (A luxury, as free time is so rare!)

I do not believe in social networking,perhaps as I am not so computer savvy. I prefer talking to people, rather than posting my updates. Maybe a little old fashioned here, as I know lots of people can read my updates; this is a little too squeamish for me!

I am slow to anger, but my anger stays.

I get carried away by mystical things.

I believe in simple cooking, so I resort to all methods of fast cooking. I don’t bother with looking up recipes.

Sometimes my house is filled with dust as I am not enamoured by this chore!

I love animation; Harry Potter series and the world of make believe. I used to be a sucker for sob stories, but I am better now. Though given any movie/book with pathos, I reach for a tissue. You see I cry unabashedly!

I do have a good sense of humour!

I enjoy film music of the seventies;  and in any language.

I love to accessories my outfits, it gives me pleasure to be turned out well.

My idea of an ideal holiday is to check into a hotel, and not go out for a couple of days. Maybe  a stroll in the evening, but basically read, be in bed, watch television and use room service! My husband loves to go out and this causes conflicts sometimes.

I believe in fitness, though looking at me no one will believe! I go for aerobics class four days a week and morning walk, five days a week. I also diet a little, though being a foodie, that is difficult.

I am a romantic at heart and my favourite hero is Shah Rukh Khan. I hope to meet him someday!

 

( This story came to me in 2 parts. Initially, the author had included the story of her reinvented self, but had not gone into details of the conflicts and defining moments that led her down this path. Many emails later the story took shape in its present form)

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14 responses »

  1. Very good story! I have known Rajani for over three decades and have always admired her for her patience and compassion. I know what she has gone through in life to look after her own and her extended family. With a husband who is the most popular uncle in a big family and a great human being, it has been a tough life for her entertaining unending stream of visitors- while attending to sick and needy in the family. I am glad she has atlast found a vocation she is enjoying. Moral of the story, it is never too late for anything in life. Thanks Rajini for sharing your inspiring story and Sowmya for bringing it to light!.

  2. Never knew Rajani had such difficulties during her growing years,inspite of knowing her for more than three decades. Now I am so happy for her and good to know that she has reinvted herself and is bring a lot happiness to so many people. Keep up the good work and keep bringing cheer to people seek your valuale guidence

  3. Interesting story!I know Rajani for past few years.
    And few words about her .

    She is very friendly, humorous, down to earth, magnanimous,gorgeous,trendy, supportive,resourceful and a
    very good human being & always helpful to others.

    Behind every successful woman, there is a man. So thanks to MOMS!!

    Cheers Rajani & Keep going …………………..

  4. This is truly a revelation! Have known Rajani aunty…as we’ve called her, for so many years and have some idea about all the trials that she has gone through. A gentle, happy, ever smiling, person,always ready to help….. But i had no idea that she had ‘reinvented’ herself as a counsellor. With all her empathy and patience and I’m sure she is a very successful one too!
    Congratulations Soumya for inspiring us with such stories!It’s all the more stirring when these stories are of people we know…….

  5. This is truly a revelation! Have known Rajani aunty…as we’ve called her, for so many years and have some idea about all the trials that she has gone through. A gentle, happy, ever smiling, person,always ready to help….. But i had no idea that she had ‘reinvented’ herself as a counsellor. With all her empathy and patience and I’m sure she is a very successful one too!
    Congratulations Soumya for inspiring us with such stories!It’s all the more stirring when these stories are of people we know…….

  6. I didn’t know that you went through so much hardship in life..I am very glad that you have come out of all that as such a stronger and a inspiring person that I know today! Thanks for sharing your story it is truly inspiring

  7. Ms Rajani is such an inspiring woman. Hats off to her courage,confidence and patience. Awesome journey. Thanks for sharing it Sowms.

  8. A Fantastic blog taking through the journey of Life of my lovely wonderful Rajani Aunty whom i respect, love and care as a mother, friend, philosopher and guide through my best and bad phases of life. Love you lots always.

    PS: You also have a son in me in bangalore 🙂

  9. What Rajani missed mentioning is how great a sister she is. A firm and reliable shoulder to cry on, a practical mind that guides you and a deep sense of humour that shows you the funny side of life! The innumerable jokes, the shared laughter and the most uncanny sense of being able to think and react alike! It is a wonderful bond that I share with my sister. Being younger to her has also given me the advantage of being pampered by her! Unfortunately, now I have to share it with my daughters! sigh…

  10. though the story certainly makes very good reading, i would take a different take on it! kudos to her supportive partner, and all those people in her life, who actually motivated to do whatever she chose to do, and make a success of it, those who constantly boosted her morale and gave her the confidence that yes she CAN reinvent her life!

  11. I am her oldest sister and believe it or not I did not want to join school unless she accompanied me. So she joined school without going through formal admission routine just to give me company. That wonderful person she is. She has helped me in my crisis and I will never forget her help, support and the wonderful time we have had growing up doing everything together. Though I am older than, still she is the person who I look up to for inspiration. I wish her all the best.

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