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He/She/They All Said No – Rejection Stories

By Kanika Bhatia 

[Rejections are like the caste system in this country. Highly visible, tangible yet rendered invisible by habit. Why is the current hustle culture, in love, career, even dreams not allowing us to celebrate the ways we handled, still handle, rejections everyday? When did dreams take the spotlight away from struggle, love from heartbreak and identity from ethos. Let’s explore.]

I noticed a tall board on my long drive towards Yamuna expressway the other day. Very simply, it read “Sensitive Zone.” I felt it and as a fair warning that’s where we are entering right now. If love in its varied formats, as romance, dream job, a bench at a deserted park has been the common theme for writers across the world, the flip side is rejections. Because what is heart felt if it doesn’t come with a little heart break. I have been a writer even before I said it out loud to myself or anyone else. However, the number of times I have rejected myself as one is the biggest story I will tell one day. What you’re about to read, is the various ways rejection works. It breaks you, makes you, and sometimes for all things reasonable, it becomes you. 

There are small infusions borrowed haphazardly from stories people have shared with me. For the lack of a better term, I call myself an enabler. This midwife quality of a writer that lets us borrow from your story to share truth, you might have missed sometimes, are essentially why writers exist. This essay has allies in rejection for each one who was brave enough to share with a stranger on the internet. Somedays I imagine us talking to each other like prisoners at night in refugee camps, “Sometimes me cry alone at night” – raw, honest, unchecked.

With loss or set back of any kind there is always the urge to string black crepe cloth over the whole period you struggled for. You would rather prefer to wipe out the memory, like the end of the safety net of college or my twenty six inch waist. But the idea of talking difficult memories is bound to make you feel more empowered than when you entered the room, and I am not fond of silence if we are being honest. Ann Patchett once wrote, “One of the things I’ve discovered in life is that no matter how vastly different our experiences are, the emotional responses to those experiences are often universal.” By paraphrasing your stories, I tried to meet all of them at a conjunction point, hoping there is light for all of us ahead. 

“I feel rejected everyday in my married life.” The day I implored for stories, this was the first message in my inbox, within the first ten minutes. I followed up, she promised, nothing came, I didn’t ask again. How do you ask someone to tell me more about a rejection she lives each day? No nostalgia, no painful memory but an everyday pain. If struggle is the biggest differentiator, I couldn’t bring myself to even fathom the 5Ws and the biggest how. Her struggle is beyond my limited bubble of privilege of choice. WHAT could be the rejection like, WHY was he doing this, WHERE did it hurt most (ego, heart or was it unbearably physical now?), WHEN will it stop, WHO will stop it and HOW will she save herself? Often when I see my little nephew going about his day, accepting and rejecting toys, textures, food, I am amazed at the callousness of children. They don’t understand rejection, and toys, food and textures don’t mind it. But at what age do we give away the power to another being for making us feel how they deem fit? When did we stop discarding what we didn’t like with a child-like ease? We were too afraid to break others so we cracked ourselves. 

Long ago, someone told me about manifestation journals. They are different because here you write things in hope that they will happen or manifest themselves before you somehow. Long lived dreams and goals are akin to those first entries in a manifestation journal. You have wanted them for a considerable part of your life, you have talked about them to whoever was listening and your mother smiles each time you look at her for reassurance that you will achieve it. What happens when one day you’re given a piece of paper that declares you can never have it. In fact, you don’t belong in the arena, and you’re not fit to even fight for this dream. How much of your person dies a little that day? This dream that metamorphosised into you gradually so much so that you no longer WANT to be a soldier, you ARE. You convinced yourself, you saw yourself in the uniform, you manifested this vision via your father, sister, uncle. You even pictured life through the kaleidoscope of discipline, patriotism and worth. It was almost in your fist, till it wasn’t. Now? Rejected, dejected and lost or hopeful, wiser and experienced. Life lets you be a true debutant sometimes. 

Burial and birth tie us to a place. They become a close identity metric. It’s the equaliser: thoughts, food, culture and means. But what happens when the same land keeps you estranged from happiness? How do you handle a rejection that raises no question on your worth, but feels too personal, too close to home? He didn’t know, he was honest in his naivety, but how long do you bury the city of your birth into oblivion, and why? When did a small town become slang or a rejection letter for love? Like the modern generation he swiped left and right, till it hit him, “modernity” was no guarantee of judgement free zones, and often it’s restricted to attires and social media humdrum. He found and lost “love”, each time with a “it’s not you, it’s me” humming sound till it was neither. It was the same city that he felt proud of, the same soil he played in, the same land that now nourished his parents that bore the denied stamp for love or a chance at it. This was a part of who he was, where he came from, how do you wipe off an identity to get a chance at love. Moreover, will love like this be worth it? Rejection bears its imprint on resumes and hearts, but soil was a first. 

These particular stories spoke to me. As a writer, when you’re trying to converse with your subject, you try so hard to connect with him/her. The writer’s paradox lies in the fact that we chase a unique story but try equally hard to find semblance, because we want to be you, to write you. These three stories, I couldn’t see myself in. I could sense the helplessness, a tear rolling down the cheek, the lingering finger tips of all things that reject you and the sinking feeling in their stomachs. BUT it was their story. As a writer, you need to learn to render yourself invisible, depersonalise.  The story is always bigger than you. I had drafts. How did I wish to tell these stories? I mutilated myself enough times, discarding, rejecting my own words till they seemed a little like yours. Hope it did a decent job. 

Also read it on the Author’s personal blog :

Picture Credits : Hao Hao (Ilustrationx)

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