By Pankaj Kumar (Husband of Vinita Kinra)
Who would know better than me, the joys and jeopardies, the bliss and bane, the highs and lows that colored the canvas called The Life of Vinita Kinra, for I sat balancing the opposite seat of the seesaw, unable to put enough weight on my side of this turbulent swing so her side would always remain high.
In 2004, Vinita and I decided to leave India, making Canada our new home– she left that year, while I waited in India for my immigration paperwork to be cleared. We chose to settle in Vancouver, mostly at random, for even though she was born in Milton, Canada, she was only about 2 years old when her family moved back to India. So she was, in fact, going to a foreign country which happened to be her birthplace—a country she had known only through pictures of her infancy, pasted haphazardly in her parents’ album. She had never experienced snow, barring those first two years of her life in Ontario, yet she felt an eternal connection with the flawless white precipitation from heavens. She instantly knew she belonged there, when she saw her soft baby face framed with a thick wool cap, bundled up in a toboggan on a slope of snow, and snapshots of two consecutive winters where she had to be lifted in a lap to poke a carrot for the snowman’s nose.
Fast forward to 2006 when I joined her in Vancouver, I met a frail, depressed woman stuck in a call centre job. Life seemed very unfair to her and she was too jaded to make things turn around. It’s here that I strongly recommended her to start writing. I knew she had won several short story and poetry competitions in college, and was also the editor of the in-house journal while completing her Diploma in Public Relations. My father loved her writing too, as he had indiscreetly read some of the letters she had sent me from France. Before long, Vinita was writing a book.
What started as a cathartic experience for her—healing her soul and empowering her mind—by putting in her hands the magic pen that could command imagination on the blank paper of fiction; she became addicted to the power of expression. I was gradually being re-introduced to a spouse who knew how to channel her personal grief by lending voice to those who couldn’t speak for themselves. I soon realized that her personal grief was far from over, as God had written her name on yet another hurricane that was hurtling at her faster than she could prepare to confront it.
In the summer of 2008, we were basking in the warmth, enveloping the breathtaking landscapes of Vancouver, soaking up our blessings that we were going to become parents soon. Vinita was pregnant with our first child, glowing radiantly with the nervous excitement all women may be going through when they learn that their lives would soon be transforming themselves beyond recognition, with a potent word called ‘motherhood.’ Only Vinita didn’t know that she was going to be tested again, albeit more severely, for the speeding hurricane was getting ready to blow her hopes and dreams and tender emotions into uncountable shreds.
Within weeks of her pregnancy, the complications began. On a glorious day when the sun was golden and everyone on the streets was smiling. Vinita started her day as normal. She kissed me goodbye before I left for work and got ready for her beloved morning walk at Stanley Park. This destination was her favourite: the seawall infused her mind with profound ideas and imagery to capture in her writings. She returned home, worked on her book, cooked, ate lunch, and got ready for a nap.
It was towards evening that the pain crept in stealthily. Vinita brushed it off as normal discomfort associated with pregnancy. But the pain was spreading its tentacles surreptitiously around her, until it became overwhelming by the time I arrived home from work. I acted in a daze. I threw my bag, dashed for her shoes and helped her towards a waiting taxi. The hospital was a 2-minute drive from our place, but Vinita was fading quickly.
By the time we arrived at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Vinita was screaming in pain. After a quick ultrasound, I was informed that she was being wheeled into an emergency surgery. The doctors had no time. I signed the paperwork, too numbed to react when the head surgeon said they would do their best. I was a broken man.
But Canada was where Vinita was born a first time. And it was Canada where she was reborn after the brilliant surgeons gave her a second chance at life through a successful surgery. We cried for the baby we never saw during nights when nobody could witness our pain. Vinita was once again slipping down the abyss of depression, and I knew I had to do something fast to rekindle hope in her flagging, gloomy life. It was on the hospital bed where she was recovering that I brought her clipboard and pen with the half-filled page she had written the very day the hurricane had hit a second time. I can’t forget till date the smile that lit up her sullen face when she held the pen limply without grip, as her wrist bore multiple blue-black bruises from needles poked in them several times a day for blood tests. I told her this book would be our baby until God willed a flesh and blood bundle of joy to play in our arms.
I helped publish her debut book of short stories, Pavitra in Paris—our baby—and was astonished at the overwhelmingly positive response she received. All of a sudden, her work had made her a champion of women’s issues who spoke out loudly against inequities in race, caste, religion, gender and much more. She was invited frequently to encourage new immigrants to Canada with her amazing life journey. Media covered her speeches and writings widely, including CBC, as she addressed huge gatherings of many hundreds assembled to listen and learn from her pitfalls of a close shave with death; of being a victim of racial discrimination strongly in the clutches of depression who never letting her spirit die. She has celebrated her Asian heritage with schools and community groups, where she continues to engage the masses with incisive motivational quotes she creates from her own life experiences. She is soon launching her book of original quotes called Imagine: Selected Quotations, many of which have found a home next to legends like Buddha, Gandhi and Einstein, and used by global organizations worldwide.
What started as a cure to a damning depression has bloomed into a richly rewarding career for Vinita where she is attaining new heights constantly. She recently took the reins of Global Asian Times as Editor-in-Chief, a project we co-founded with a vision to help expose invisible artists by bringing their stories out of obscurity. In all of this, Vinita never turns down an opportunity to make speeches that would uplift people going through a low phase or lack of self-esteem. She thanks Canada profusely for steeling her determination. In her own words, “If you wish, you may; if you want, you can; if you are determined, you will!”