Wild Soul, Wise Words

Sandhya Rao | Updated on December 06, 2020

The author shows a mirror to our own lives

It’s an arresting photograph. The black and white image of amused Ruby Ahluwalia looking up, as it were, at the words ‘Fragrance of a Wild Soul’. You can almost hear her say, ‘Yeah, right, that’s me!’

From the delightful story of the ‘disobedient’ camel in the prologue to the end of the book where she draws powerful conclusions from the lessons taught her by life, author Ruby Ahluwalia recounts a series of anecdotes that both entertain, sometimes, startlingly, and educate. In a sense, this little book inspires each one of us to reflect on our own lives, and the lessons we may or may not yet have drawn from our experiences. This is no mean achievement. Ruby Ahluwalia somehow manages to show a mirror to our own lives.

Even to the untrained eye, the book abounds with flaws, some of them intrinsic to the practice of self-publishing. For one, there’s usually little or no editing. For another, there’s usually little attention paid to design. This book suffers on both counts. If we were to go by the spirit of the book’s message, this ought to matter; the reality, however, is that it won’t because those who are motivated to read it, will do so and those who are not, won’t. And here’s where I’d like to quote from the prologue: ‘We all tie ourselves up and we all need to release ourselves – from ourselves. Letting ourselves free is the biggest favor we can do to ourselves – for our lives to flourish, for our souls to blossom and for our potential to peak.’ This is the fundamental truth Ruby Ahluwalia wishes to share with readers, and which presumably motivates her transformation from being ‘officially’ a public servant to ‘volunteering’ her services as a healer, both as founder of Sanjeevani Life Beyond Cancer and life coach.

There are no pyrotechnics in the narrative. It moves in a reasonably linear and simple fashion through various incidents and explorations from childhood onward that made the author stop and think about the larger questions they raised and the answers they led her to. She recalls the time she and her brother were lost and the relief at home when they were found. However, since the school management had been held accountable for the children’s disappearance, the vice-principal was beside herself with rage. As the child Ruby sees the lady explode, she also slowly realizes that she ‘was a vulnerable woman, who used the opportunity to vent out her own woes’. She goes on to say it is incomprehensible what gave her this insight at that age, and suggests that maybe ‘at times children have a better understanding of the human psyche which they may tap into, in crisis, through their uncorrupted mind’.

She recounts many instances from her childhood that many would instantly label her as ‘rebellious’ or ‘difficult’. Those who have had to deal with the so-called ‘tantrums’ of small children or the elderly will immediately identify with many of these experiences, and are likely to find remedies or answers in the explanations that the author offers. The case of the injection, for instance, or the fear of injections, which many adults too would admit to, if they were honest. She analyses this phenomenon and sees it as a ‘feeling of violation’ which ‘can destroy us, if not processed’. The act, the administering of the injection in this case, is well-intentioned, but it is ‘important … not to push other people… to talk it out with them… to first convince and then act…’

These are important and useful insights, provided by someone who clearly has reflected upon them at length. They provide the perfect foil for the second less-than-half of the book that talks about her encounter with cancer. It was only after she had ‘made peace with my condition, my body and the normal reactions of others, trying to look at me intently to find a trace that my face could be hiding’ did her journey become easier. Because she had become more inclusive.

This is a lesson not just for or from a cancer survivor, it is a lesson about life, for life. In Ruby Ahluwalia’s words: ‘It is amazing how accepting your own situation not only helps you understand yourself better, but everyone and everything around you too.’ These are wise words from a supposedly wild soul. She winds down her ruminations with questions we would do well to ask ourselves: Would you rather be at peace than angry? Stable rather than anxious? Compassionate rather than jealous? Expressive rather than suppressed? What would you rather be? Seeking the answers could be a kind of release is what Ruby Ahluwalia suggests.

The reviewer is a freelance editor and author of children’s books

Published on December 06, 2020

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