Arjun Mathur was just 13, when his mother passed away. It was a car accident. His father had been driving.
The loss was sudden, irrevocable, and left on the 13-year-old Arjun a huge impact. Opening up years later, Arjun spoke to pioneering child therapist, Shelja Sen, Founder of Children First, at their ‘Imagine’ conference about how the media can play a huge role, especially for a kid who struggles to be understood in the aftermath of a family tragedy. The conference brought together young adults, parents, teachers and experts from Children First and elsewhere for an intimate conversation on parenting, mental health and emotional bonding.
'My Insecurity Came From That Phase In My Life'
At the moment tragedy hit, Arjun was dumbfounded, shocked and sad. But then, as time passed, he began to pick up the pieces of his life and move on. However, he says the impact of the tragedy emotionally didn't hit him, until he had grown up.
Arjun Mathur, ActorAt the time, you don’t know what’s happening. You are just coping. Much later in life, as you navigate work and relationships, you wonder where the insecurity comes from and it all begins to unravel.
“I can trace back every fault, insecurity and doubt to those years”
Arjun says the loss of a foundation, that the mother ends up providing to a child, made his confidence and self esteem suffer. But he braved it all and emerged stronger on the other side.
'There was a lot of friction between my father and I'
Because Arjun's father was driving the car, he had a lot of guilt. But with the loss of his partner and wife, he was unable to provide emotional support to his kids.
Arjun Mathur, ActorMy father unfortunately could not provide us emotional support. He thought only providing would help, he was a hotelier (laughs). He tried to manage the family, but that wasn’t working.
Arjun also grew up with a lot of fear of his father. But he advises that the language spoken to a child must be chosen very carefully.
Arjun Mathur, ActorThe language you speak to a kid becomes the language he tells himself. That makes him feel unworthy and unloved.'Empathy Started Coming to Me'
Arjun says because of the tragedy, he grew up as a sensitive child. And even though he had always wanted to become an actor, his experiences made him more attuned to emotions.
Arjun Mathur, ActorHow it (the tragedy) changed me was that empathy started coming to me. You automatically become sensitive to universal pain.
Arjun's drive to become an actor became stronger after his mother, because creativity of any kind, becomes intensely therapeutic to anyone going through a grief of any kind.
Arjun Mathur, ActorMy outlet was always creative. Before I started acting, I would write and paint. They were my first creative outlets. In that time, you are connecting with yourself.
Even in terms of his roles, Arjun Mathur says it's important to him to choose and tell strong stories.
Arjun MathurIt does come from my teen years, where I felt that the compassion was lacking towards me. At this point in time, I strongly feel that all artists need to *not* create anything that’s empty.
As for what his mother would think of him, Arjun says, "She would have loved what I am doing. She'd have been proud. That's my biggest drive"
'To Anyone Going Through The Same, Know That It's Okay to Feel the Pain'
I asked Arjun to tell me what is the one thing he wished he knew as a teen. He says, "I wish I knew that it's gonna be okay."
Meanwhile when Shelja Sen, the story weaver interviewing him asked him what he would say to anyone else going through the same pain, here's what Arjun said.
Arjun Mathur, Actor.I would tell them it’s okay to feel the pain. Go through it. See what comes out of it. Act however you want to act out. There’s no judgment.
However, Arjun makes sure to tell them, that it's never going to be okay.
Arjun“But you’ll be fine. Just be good, be kind, be sensitive. Feel the pain. Feel the love, and it’s okay - just be the best that you can. Life doesn’t throw something your way unless you are strong enough to deal with it.”
Arjun also wants not just the media, but the public too, to normalise talking about pain. "Anyone who has a void should talk about this"
Arjun's story is a reminder about the resilience of the human spirit, also gently prodding us to be open about our loss, and vulnerabilities.
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