Going through the Instagram profile of actor Neha Iyer is like reading an inspirational book. It documents how gracefully she dealt with one of the greatest challenges that life threw at her – losing her husband when she was carrying their baby.
Neha and Avinash had been best friends for eight years and a couple for six years. They grew up together, spending time in the company of each other. In 2019, five days after they learned about her pregnancy, Neha lost Avinash to a cardiac arrest. It was a tough time for her. She locked herself up in her room and switched off her phone.
However, she wasn’t inside for too long. She gathered the courage to hold herself up and stepped out – for the sake of their baby and herself. From joining reading clubs to practising meditation, travelling, doing a baby shower and photoshoot, she celebrated her motherhood queen size. Her Instagram account is filled with those moments, inspiring her followers.
Neha’s story shows us the bright side of social media. “I love Instagram. It inspires me. It is all about how you see social media,” says Neha, who is well aware of both aspects of social media. She considers social media to be an extension of her real life support system - family and friends. “I use it as a medium to express myself. If someone gets inspired by my posts, that is great,” she says with a smile.
Every day, someone or the other tells her about being inspired by her posts. She accepts the comments with grace. “We cannot control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we deal with it. I always keep this mantra of 'Ease and Grace' in my mind,” says the actor, who is known to Malayalis for her performance in Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel and Tharangam.
Although the shock of losing Avinash was huge, Neha says she was careful about taking care of her mental health. “I’d lost my mother to depression three-and-a-half years ago. She took her life. I knew about the phase. Avinash and my mother were two persons who were close to me. Ironically, I lost them both," she says.
She grieved but did not let her emotions overwhelm her. “The initial one month was very difficult. I shut myself from the world. But I knew it would affect my baby which I didn’t want happening. I started thinking constructively. ‘I can’t do anything about what happened. What can I do otherwise in my capacity?’ I thought,” explains Neha.
She joined reading clubs and started interacting with people outside of her home. “Avinash and I were such a team that we were together always and I didn’t need anyone else. When he left all of a sudden, I felt the lack of friends. ‘What do I do now?’, I began to think. I realised it was important to connect with people. Whether you like it or not, in such circumstances, what you can do is to push yourself. The rest will follow.”
Neha credits her ability to bounce back to her upbringing. Meditation helped her in this period and she attended vipassana two times. “It is a 10-day silent meditation where you are cut off from the outside universe. It allows you to stay grounded in the good and bad. I’d gone for the second vipassana a few months before my husband’s demise. ”
In her opinion, the keys to survival are understanding the impermanence of situations in life and being in gratitude. “You have to pull yourself out of the situation and analyse it from a third person’s point of view. That will give you clarity,” says Neha. “You have to look at what is still working in your favour. Be grateful for that. What happened to me was very cruel. Avinash was such a lovely soul and we were setting up our family. But I count the days I spent with him. I know couples who cannot even stand each other. I had him. That is my gratitude,” she says.
Careful not to let grief take over her life, she travelled around with her baby bump, living her life. “Everything I have done was self-care, which is very important. It came from the need that I had to take care of myself. My whole effort was to be wonderful in life,” says Neha.
And, surprising everyone, on Avinash’s birthday came Ansh, her little boy. “But I was not surprised. I had an intuition that it would be a boy and he would come on Avinash’s birthday. Whether I made it happen or not, it just turned out like that. Maybe, the baby also decided to come on that day. I was really happy.”
Now, Ansh keeps her busy all through her days. It’s been a year since Avinash left. Neha says there are still moments when she misses him. But, Ansh brings her back on her feet.
She takes life as it comes. “I have no big plans, only basic plans. I know how futile plans can be. The first task now is to get back in shape. Pregnancy changes a woman completely. My body has changed. I have to get it back to shape. However, I am not hurrying up. I am taking it organically. And, the rest will follow,” she concludes.