Please Note: This is Ep.10

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10. Potential Bomb (ii)

I was drifting in and out of consciousness in the emergency room, throwing up the black, liquid charcoal that the nurses had made me drink to combat the poisons in my stomach.

As I was coming to a little, I saw the tense, blurred form of my father standing a little way from the bed, whispering to me, “How can you do this to us. You’re a shame to the family. What will everyone say.”

I threw up some more and passed out again.

Immediately after I’d downed the pills, I’d sat in the living room until my mother had come home. She’d taken one look at me and saw that something wasn’t right. I’d begun to feel dizzy and disorientated by that time, then the fear kicked in. I told my mother what I’d done. She freaked out, running back and forth from the kitchen, bringing me water, then a huge bag of Kenyan, salted banana crisps, because that’s all we had on hand that was ready to eat, then ran back to the house phone in the kitchen to call my father. She made me eat as many of those crisps as she could while waiting for my dad to come home and put me in the car.

He’d dropped me off outside the emergency room of the hospital and I’d staggered inside. A nurse had pulled me into the triage room and sat me down, and before I’d even finished my sentence, telling them what I’d done, I’d vomited all over the floor then passed out. I never had quite the same liking for banana crisps after that.

I was hospitalised for a few days in the children’s ward as they had to make sure I hadn’t permanently damaged my liver from the overdose. After I was discharged, we were supposed to attend family counselling sessions, but after two sessions, we stopped going. I don’t remember why.

The silver lining was that my school teachers understood my cry for help and intervened. They met with my parents, and I was put into a special needs class and given the option to drop two GCSE’s. The time I would have spent in those subjects, I was now spending in the special needs classroom. The students there had health conditions, such as cerebral palsy and down syndrome, or were dealing with learning challenges such as dyslexia. I had none of these, yet I couldn’t manage my studies like my classmates could.

I’d loved music, art, and languages, even then, but I thought such subjects were a waste of time. The Indian family’s education mantra is, ‘DLD’, ‘Doctor, Lawyer, Dentist’. It’s what we’d heard from the entire community ever since we were old enough to go to school. So, whether I consciously realised what I was doing or not, apart from Drama, I picked all dry, academic subjects for my GCSE’s.

This is undoubtedly a major regret. I have no doubt my younger life would have been somewhat different if I’d followed my passions and had more creative outlets. Today, I find immense joy when I dance, or sing and play the manjeera (hand cymbals), the dholak (an Indian hand drum), or the Lyre (a small, Celtic harp), and when I draw or paint – all of which I’m learning now from YouTube. I’m starting these lessons in my forties and I absolutely love them. It really is never too late to find out what you’re passionate about and learn something new. I’m mastering some new languages too, and of course, meditating and writing have become my lifeline.

I had amazing teachers. They were supportive and were always encouraging me to reach higher, and they always had good things to say about me. They seemed to see in me what I couldn’t see in myself. I guess I was a bomb of potential back then, and perhaps I still am — I have to believe in myself a bit more — but had I tapped into it in my childhood, who knows what I may have accomplished by now. Anyhow, better late than never, as they say!

A teacher I will always be indebted to is Adam Litchfield. He was my Religious Education (R.E.) teacher (and not surprisingly, considering I am a monk now, it was the only subject I got an A in). I was so late in handing in my GCSE coursework that he came to my house to collect it. My parents were in Kenya visiting family, so he stood in the driveway, outside the front door until I finished it and handed it to him. If he hadn’t, I might not have submitted it at all and I would have failed. After twenty-five years, I recently got in touch with him again via email, and amazingly he still teaches at the same school. I wanted him to know what a difference he made in my life. That one small gesture meant everything to me and will never be forgotten. I’m so thankful to all my teachers at Canons High school who saw potential in me even when I felt hopeless.

I left Canons with one ‘A’ in R.E., one ‘C’  in Drama (my group had had a couple of drinks beforehand and I was admittedly a little tipsy during my Drama practical), and a bunch of respectable ‘B’ grades. Unfortunately, our school didn’t have a sixth form then and so I had to go on to an independent college. I said goodbye to my high school teachers and entered a college full of complete strangers (my brother was at another college a couple of miles away), and teachers who didn’t know me or my history. I didn’t have the same support I’d received at Canons and I fell back into the pit, deeply.

I spent more time smoking weed in the cemetery park near college or playing pool and drinking in the pub with my classmates than actually doing any work, and I was barely making it to class anyway, so unbeknownst to anyone, I dropped out. My parents thought I was headed to college each day, but instead, I’d be off here, there and anywhere, on the busses and the London Underground, anywhere but where I was supposed to be.

I was drawn to places like the Welsh Harp reservoir near my first home, and Camden Town, which was full of people with tattoos, piercings and brightly coloured hair. They didn’t dress like ‘normal’ people – they were ‘misfits’, hippies, punks, creative people, artists, and a lot of people lived on the streets there at that time. I’d go there alone and walk around the canal and the market where they sold everything from incense to antiques. I’d meet the homeless people and buy them a takeaway meal and chat to them. I wanted to understand how they ended up there, I wanted to know their stories and who they were as people. Somehow I felt more of a connection with them than with the people in my own world. I never spoke to them about my own troubles, but I asked questions and I listened. I’ve also written about some of my experiences volunteering at a homeless shelter here.

As my home life was unbearable and I had no one to help me, I figured I’d have to help myself, I figured there had to be another way to live.

One day, I packed up my belongings, called a taxi, said goodbye to my mother, and, looking my father dead in the eyes, said something quite defiant and probably not very nice, and left.

Looking back on this now, my forty-year-old self wants to scream out at her, “No, you’re just a child! Stay where you are, talk to someone! Get help.” But at that time, I felt I had no other option.

When my father had rained down on my mother, I’d covered her body with my own and cried out at the top of my lungs for God to come and help. But no God came, no God heard me… or so I thought.

But, perhaps He had heard me after all. Perhaps He’d set the wheels in motion, and instead of showing up, He was making me journey towards Him: the path of an itinerant, a wanderer, belonging to no one and to no place in particular, learning the lessons of impermanence and detachment along the way.

So, at the age of sixteen, the age that it was only just legal for me to do so – perhaps not quite a child, certainly not yet an adult – I broke away from everything and everyone I knew.

With a very warped view of the world, especially of men, I was now completely alone in the big wide world; I had no family in my life, no parents, no siblings, no more understanding teachers, no real friends.

Where the hell was I going to go? What on Earth was I going to do?

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