My twig got stuck – comprehending depression at its nascent stage

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In the roller coaster ride of life, I have at this time hit the bottom (or is the trench even deeper?). I choose to be aloof, I choose to talk and meet a ‘chosen few’ and I choose to reflect on things that I would never otherwise. Reflection has never come naturally to me as I have always gone with the flow – where my life is like a twig that has fallen in the stream and it flows at the pace of the water current. It has been mostly a very smooth ride with only now and then some thing or somebody picking up the twig out of curiosity for a while and then throwing it back into the water body (much to my respite!). At this point the twig has been stuck to a tree by the stream. It can feel the current rush around it but nonetheless, it is stuck. I would call this point being stagnant. Others would call it boredom and depending on the state of mind and the length of stagnancy some may even call it being lonely and depressed.

I have understood loneliness and sadness, despite never consciously subjecting myself to the term ‘depression’, much better at this stage of life. No amount of reading about others mental state is helpful. No matter how many happy quotes you read, it is very difficult to bring yourself up and get going.

I have understood why depression is co-related to loneliness. Why it is difficult to ask for help when one is undergoing this phase in life? Here are my reasons pointed:

  1. Because you don’t have a sad club to join. You are on your own.If you are sensible you would know that whining before family and friends has a certain limitation. The more you whine the more agitated they will be with you at one point. If they cannot express their agitation they will be barely listening to you – not hearing you. People will tell you to meet friends more often, go out, join a book club or a riders club or take up zumba or even practise yoga. Do they help? I can’t vouch for any but most in my area from my experience of taking my daughter to these dance, art and yoga lessons have taught me that they are plain money-making machines. There is less or no learning. If the purpose is to make new friends and socialise, you begin to realise how fake people look around you. You hate to be around depressed souls so why should they be around you? You fake just as they when you join them!
  2. Because though people say never compare the story of your life with the others as you are on a different chapter than theirs but you just can’t help it. While I write this and struggle to increase my workflow, I have just heard my phone beep. Upon checking my notification from a recently downloaded no-nonsense news app is that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made 3.4 bn USD in an hour after positive second quarter earnings. Wow! Ok, he and his ilk are rich shots and they make insane money and no way my life chapters are ever reaching theirs (practically writing!) but then when you start to look around people nearby whose chapters could be possibly nearer yours, you can’t but help making comparisons. Suddenly their life looks glamorous. they are getting promoted, they are switching jobs, they are getting huge bonuses, some are bored with their world travels. So when you make an effort to get up, get out and visit them in order to cheer yourself up, you end up returning home more depressed.
  3. Because you do not want to get out of your comfort zone. It is connected to the first point. There may not be a sad club but joining a happy club is an effort. Your home is your comfort zone. Not realising that it has imprisoned you. That drive to push you out of the house is missing. You have become an unknown parasite feeding on the comforts provided by your loved ones. You begin to adapt to this environment. Everything is being provided for so what else could you want? You are all to yourself. You are not making friends. You are not making enemies. You are doing nothing.
  4. Because you do not want to break down. You want to look strong. You try hard to believe that all will be ok but when? You know good times follow the bad times but how long is the bad time to be? There are thousands of inspirational quotes on every cloud having a silver lining, light at the end of the tunnel and storm before the calm but nobody can tell how long the storm will last, how long the tunnel is and when will the silver lining of the cloud be displayed. Not everyone is as patient as the other. While some don’t breakdown, others just drift to another world. I have imagined just laying on the water on my back with my eyes closed and it is a beautiful feeling. i do not have the courage to go to another world on my own but I have realised that if someone decides to do this, one should not call them weak as nobody can take this course of action in a weak state of mind. Respect them. They must have gone through a lot.

So, how does one fight and get out of loneliness and sadness?

I will tell you when it happens! The tunnel can’t be that long after all! 🙂

 

img: me!

 

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Courtesy Calls – A perception

Is it essential to pay visit to someone who is recovering from sickness or an accident in a hospital when you know that you can’t go and that the ‘someone’ is being taken good care of? Someone with whom you have a relationship that goes beyond social obligations. You know the person will understand. And if they don’t happen to understand, as I learnt last month, you know that they were never close to you! An eye-opener moment!

Not one, but many such hospital-related moments occurred in the last one year which eventually, to be precise last month, made me change my perception completely.

Episode 1:

My father underwent a leg surgery early last year, followed by tongue surgery in August and then radiotherapy in October which meant he had to stay and also make many visits to the hospital. I happened to be with him in the last two where the tongue surgery and the radiotherapy took place in the city I live. Mum flew to be with him in the first one – the city where he works.

In all these three times, my brother, who lives in the UK, couldn’t fly down. He had in fact met all of us back home barely a month before my father was diagnosed with carcinoma in August. I kept thinking in my head, why is he not flying down immediately after hearing this shocking news! And over the weeks, the thought persisted in my head, why can he still not come? Should he not be coming? Is this how a son should be? I was a bundle of nerves then and overlooked the practical side. While I was trying to play a dutiful daughter by giving company to my father, my brother was calling up his sources and finding the doctors and hospitals that were best for my father – keeping distance, his age and every logistics in mind. He was doing the spade work. Convincing my thick-skinned father on why he should be getting treated in an ABC hospital and not XYZ is a task.  In fact he got everything lined up and kept me on my toes too by making me coordinate with the doctors.

Episode 2:

A few months ago my friend was relating a marital dispute between her sister and her husband and how the sister was upset that the husband didn’t stay back in the hospital at nights when their child was hospitalised. The emotional side of her had overpowered the practical side, just like me. The husband was working all day long so that the child could get the treatment in the best of hospitals! It was not as if he was partying while the wife stayed the nights in the hospitals.

Episode 3:

Last month when I was in Goa for a few days, a friend happened to visit me. He called me one afternoon telling me that he fell off a bike while riding it. Though he had escaped with minor scratches he was in the hospital getting himself checked. After asking if he wanted any help to which he refused, we decided to catch up later in the day which never happened. And when I did see him the next day, he was all upset. He was in no mood to talk and in that half an hour we had become absolute strangers. A decade long friendship was over in no time. We haven’t talked since.

I had to be on both the sides of the fence (hospital in this case – as an expected visitor and expecting visitors) to finally understand that formalities such as courtesy calls are meant for acquaintances and distance relatives. A relationship with a person goes beyond such calls.

My brother’s love for our father and vice versa would not grow any less. So would the love of my friend’s sister’s husband toward their child and vice versa.

As far as the episode with my friend is concerned, it is such a pity that it took us a decade to realize that our friendship was superficial. It didn’t transcend beyond social norms. Sigh!

In the name of illiteracy

Illiteracy is to do with numbers and letters. Not basic manners. Where I have come to visit my father at present,  there is not a day when our gatekeeper’s son, aged five or six, is not wailing at the top of his voice intermittently. His parents seem to care less. I don’t see the father busy with work.  He barely opens or closes the gate for most of the residents. The mother seems least interested other than the time when she has to feed her family or do the dishes. Upon discussing this annoying issue with my neighbour the other day, she shrugged it off by saying, “they are illiterate!” I have seen the parents and even the elder brother hitting the youngest son. It is as if they enjoy to hear him wail daily and endlessly. After nearly a month of ignoring this I finally took most of the family members to task today. The father was lucky to be not around. The mother was part-lucky to not to understand the language (as she speaks just the regional language and I can’t speak it) but she and the elder son understood what I was putting across them curtly. Like music needs no language, so does anger and the hurls that follow. The younger son quietened down in a few seconds. And as I write this I have not heard him wail since and it has been a few hours. Touchwood!

I am not against poor and uneducated children but playing the cards of poverty and illiteracy to gain sympathy of public is unfair. A few weeks ago a handful of poor kids (I am guessing they were above the age of 9-10 as per the picture I saw) accompanied by a social activist were denied entry to a popular restaurant in Delhi. In protest, the social worker sat outside the restaurant and returned the next day to continue with her protest. A lot of hue and cry was raised. The news had gone viral with many sharing it on the social media. A prominent minister of the Delhi government stated that the whole episode ‘reeked of colonialism.’ In defence, the restaurant said that the activist along with the kids were allowed the entry but were then asked to leave because of the ruckus the children were creating.  I don’t know what happened after that. The news, like any other hot local news, got relegated to the bottom of the newsfeed.

I don’t see what was wrong in asking the activist along with the kids to leave the restaurant. What did the activist want to prove and achieve? By taking these poor kids to the restaurant and making them experience what it is to eat food in the restaurant, how was she aspiring them? Ok, everything is not about aspirations and seriousness but would it not have helped if she had also taught or told the children how they should be behaving when they were in a restaurant. How difficult is it for kids  (above the age of 7-8) to understand the instructions (If they choose to ignore, that is different!) imparted to them especially on how to behave in public. If you cannot respect the decorum of a place you visit, you have no reason to protest – rich or poor. And that is why you have bouncers in the pubs – to control the customers from going berserk and even asking them to leave if things go beyond control. Rich or poor.

Again, I have nothing against the poor children but it does work me up when they start their begging pitch. They know exactly in which tone to beg and the kind of sorry face they have to put up. The moment they are done with you you can spot them looking natural. And they are back to their performance as soon as they spot some more potential people who can give them some alms.

The same boy, who wails endlessly, I caught him once sh**ting at the back of the apartment and when I called for the father he looked indifferent. What has literacy got to do with this? They have been given a bathroom to use. Why should I or anyone be subject to such a sight. It is not a village or some jungle where they can ease themselves off.

The ‘Swachch Bharat Abhyan’ (Clean India Mission) is a national drive by our government to keep the country clean by both rich and poor. You don’t need education or economic background to understand this. If keeping a place clean is considered understandable, so are basic manners and a consideration for others around you.

Again, I have nothing against poor children. I am against such lazy parents, guardians and social activists who refuse to bring up the children in their care properly. Add poverty to their social status and they think they can do anything that they feel like.

(And the boy hasn’t wailed still! Thank you!)


 

Shun the must-visits for vicariousness

 Don’t be disheartened when you can’t visit a ‘must-see’ place  or  can’t do ‘things you should do in your life time’  as  splashed in a plethora of articles (usually recycled) in print and online with filtered glossy pictures . I have done a few of such things and it usually has been a painful experience. Some were as close to being traumatic. From witnessing the F1 race when it happened for the first time in India some years ago to going up the historical towers in different countries- it has only been a time consuming, money wasting and mob-intimidating experience.

 Very recently, in my quest to make the best of what could be my last ever visit to the lovely coastal state in the east of India, Odisha, I decided to visit the iconic holy temple of Lord Jagannath in the small town of Puri, some 50 km away from where my dad works and lives in the state’s capital, Bhubaneswar. I have visited Puri some 4-5 times in the last 2 years but have always headed towards the beach. This last trip was more like ticking an iconic place off my suddenly-erupting-from-nowhere checklist and letting everyone know, all those people who asked me earlier if I had been to the temple, that yes, I have!  It is akin to going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower.

I am lucky I survived the very poorly-managed frenzied crowd that went berserk as soon as the gates to the sanctum opened. In a place where one should ideally display their best behaviour– after all, you are in the abode of God, one could see their worst coming out. They didn’t care if there were children (and a lady even got her one-month old baby!), ladies, old, sickly and frail people around them. They continually pushed one another till they reached the point where they could catch that one glimpse of the God’s idol. The mob was intimidating. I was one of them. I had to push along to survive. There was just one exit and the only way to it was by being carried away to it. I felt more awful for my mother who accompanied me as she is a quasi-claustrophobic. After a certain point I lost her in the throng. With phones being banned inside I could not contact her. Luckily, she had managed to reach the exit.


I have been to some amazing places in the state whch do not have the “must visit” tags attached to them. Starting from the Biodiversity park two minute away from my father’s accommodation where I jog every morning to visiting lovely beaches in the coastal towns of Konark, Puri, Gopalpur-on-Sea, and Chandipur-on-Sea. The Bay of Bengal looks so vast and beautiful. Not to forget the architecture of Konark’s Sun Temple which is breath taking.


 I am better off visiting the temple across the road where my dad lives. I have not witnessed anywhere else the enthusiasm with which the priest performs the daily evening prayer. As he goes in trance, some devotees play the drum and ring the gongs in cadence. You can feel the passion, the vibrations, Goddess Kali being invoked. And most importantly, you can breathe and come and go as you like.

So if those ‘must’ visit places attract mob, then you are better off watching them – the games, the places, the people – in the magazines or on the television. You have not missed out much. You have rather been a wise person. 

Explore unknown places. Uninhabited places. Unpopular places. Place that you will genuinely enjoy and not just go to a place ticked as mandatory by others. 


…..

Images from top (all clicked by me on iPhone): 

1: Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri

2. Walkers in the biodiversity park, Bhubaneswar

3. The priest at the local Kali temple, Bhubaneswar

4. Papa takes a walk by the Konark beach

from oww to wow – conquering pain

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Many a time when a non-inked person looks at my tattoo-ed Koi on the back of my neck I know the questions that I would be asked and one of it is always: ‘ was it not painful?’ The truth is that it wasn’t. I was alright all through out. The tattoo artist, a Brazilian was very passionate from the start of drawing the sketch on a small piece of paper to the final stage of colouring the little koi on my skin. The question of pain has come up so many times that it has made me stop and reconstruct the day it happened six years ago and figure out my emotions. It has led to my coming up with varied answers: ‘yeah, a little bit!’, ‘it was just as if I was being scratched’. I even go onto justify some times why was it a little or no pain with the reason being: perhaps it was on my back which is a hard portion and it has less flesh etc etc. I am not claiming that there was no pain at all but it was like an any day when you get a cut, bite or a small wound. I would not go on making a deal about it. I see my men friends with a cut on their cheeks after a shave and it has never been an issue. Perhaps getting a tattoo or body piercing attracts more attention toward the pain as this is a conscious decision to get wounded. A decision considered foolish by many who are however okay with ears and nose piercing.

I am not waxing lyrical on tattoos here. It is about pain. The physical pain. One thing which we have in common with everyone in the world. The other abstracts like happiness, sorrow, jealousy can be hidden or denied but not pain. You see somebody or the other complaining about a type of pain invariably. How does one manage a pain without using the painkillers? Simple: 1) By working on the pain! 2) By getting used to the pain.

In a recent freak accident a friend of mine had his right shoulder dislocated (which he was able to put it back in the socket right away), and he spent the next four to five days in a zombie state. He took to sleeping pills besides other pain killers. His sleeping pattern and routine got awry. The doctor had to finally tell him to stop using the pills and learn to manage the pain. He was recommended a physiotherapist to work on his loose shoulder. He has got much better since.

I was impervious to the tattoo pain as compared to my recent strange pains (lets not get into the giddiness I felt after I got down from the ‘twirl-a-whirl’ ride which I accompanied my daughter last week!). My new pair of specs for one gave me a hard time for more than a month. I hadn’t thought that switching from plastic to metal would give me severe headaches. The sticks that go behind the ears crushed my temples. I felt worse as I had spent good money on my designer (yeah, I mean fragile and the high maintenance) glasses! Being prescription glasses (and even if it wasn’t!) there was no way I was going to get a replacement. The thought that it was so expensive and I couldn’t exchange them, stressed me more. I remember how the first time when I wore them on a short-haul flight it gave me a severe headache. However, as days rolled by and with more usage (I usually wear a pair of lenses when I go out and choose to have a hazy vision at home!) I felt finally ‘at home’ wearing them. The sticks fit behind my ears very smooth.

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And how can I forget the dental pain! Everyone who visits a dentist knows what the pain is like especially if an extraction is involved. I must say I was very bold when a few tooth extractions took place a decade ago. However what surprised me recently was when a ‘crown’ was being placed on one of my open tooth that had gone through a severe process of root canal. I felt as if my dentist was fixing a stone. I conveyed my feelings to him who then asked me to hold that little crown in my hand. It was so light. I did feel heavy in my mouth for a few days and was cursing myself for not having taken care of my teeth but all was back to normal after some time.

I had conquered the physical pain. Got used to it or managed it or both.

A small pain (a recent cat bite), and a slightly bigger than a small pain (when I fell down as I jogged : Interpreter of Falls with a thud) tell me many different things: to not to play with that silly stray cat; to not to dream as I jog but never to hate the pain. I have learnt to embrace it.

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It is just the mental fears that I think I will have to live with. I don’t think I can thinking of bungee jumping.

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Images:

  1. my little koi inked in 2006
  2. my new pair of glasses with my daughter at the back photo bombing – Feb 2016
  3. tooth image courtesy: https://drbase.s3.amazonaws.com/attachment/887ef998cc-99863/tooth%20extraction.jpg
  4. cat bite – May 2016
  5. Ginger, the cat who bit me – May 2016

Draupadi – the name and the shame

 

My mum while recalling her kindergarten years yesterday,  in particular an episode on how the little tots like her were peculiarly punished, she happened to mention the nursery teacher’s name which was a bit strange. However, what was even stranger was the name of the nursery teacher’s sister – Draupadi.

In the nearly four decades of my life with a good proportion of it being spent in three all girls’ school across the Indian states, I have not heard any girl with the name Draupadi.  For those not familiar with Indian epic and mythology and hence with the name Draupadi, it is of a queen from Mahabharta who went on to marry not one, but five brothers. She didn’t marry them out of choice but out of a situation on which she had no control on. She was pre-destined to marry the five valiant princes who later on went on to fight their 100 evil step brothers and reclaim their lost kingdom. So what is wrong with her name? There was nothing evil about her. She was a good daughter, sister, wife and queen. So what shrugs people, including me, from hearing someone named Draupadi? It is the story attached to her. When you think of her, you think of a woman with five husbands which of course means, sleeping with five men (sowhat if it was lawful) and of course we relate her with another disastrous episode from the epic: ‘cheer haran’ – i.e. being disrobed and that too in the royal court after her up-righteous  husbands (though human and filled with faults and we happily name our boys after them) lose her in gambling to their step brothers!  So for no fault of hers and despite having a ‘good’ character she is looked down upon with shame. How typical and in modern lines of getting raped and then having to feel ashamed about it. This is how it was centuries ago and sadly, continues to remain so even now! And then we talk about advancements. Advancements that have occurred only in science and technology. Ever heard of moral advancements?

Mythologies around the world are filled with characters with a dubious biography. But sadly Draupadi got chastened for no fault of hers! Luckily for Sita, she was a mere suspect and she passed the purity test! So we have millions of Sita around us. Suspects score better than victims.

I will be lying if I say that I will not be getting ideas if I come across someone named Draupadi. Deep-rooted myths and culture. Whatever I understand of it. Sad but true.

 

(pic courtesy: https://rrgwrites.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/women-of-india.jpeg)

 

‘This is’ why I don’t click on ‘these’ news headlines

I had always thought that it was just my pre-teen daughter who needed to be told every time,usually when I drove the car and she sat at the back, to not to use ‘this’ and ‘that’ while starting a conversation. A pronoun is, after all, a noun replacer and one needs to know the noun in the first instance. It is yum. It is tangy. It is soft. Yes, but what is “it’?  It is a case of sheer laziness more than a weak vocabulary in her case. But what about so many online news headlines these days?

As you scroll down the news feed I invariably come across a headline or two and sometimes even more that reads something like:  ‘this is how the mother of 3 fought the tiger’, ‘this powerful herb cures depression’, ‘this is why the actor walked off the stage’ etc. What in the correct, traditional way should really have been written as a) Brave mother of 3 fights a tiger, b) XYZ cures depression and 3) Actor in anger walks off stage. Simple. This is how it is usually. Why would you add ‘this’ and ‘that’ and their plurals.  Is it not obvious that the body of the article will explain the headlines and in a good journalistic fashion report the whys, whats, wheres, ifs and hows. And if the subject is of reader’s interest he/she would anyway click on the headlines to read further on.

I figured out the reason and maybe I am the last one to do so! It all comes down to making the readers curious and encouraging them to click on the headlines so that it takes them to their website. Clicking on the link gets them the numbers after all and in the end it is all about numbers. So if it was something like : Green Tea Cures Depression you might move on to the next news and not bother to click the headline to read the details- who said it, why, where etc. However, if it was “this” cures you of depression, this this (yes 2 ‘this’) will make you click on the headline to at least grab the name of “this”. Clever. Though many times this ‘this’ makes you feel cheated. You have after all taken the bait! How predictable of you?! And if ‘this’ turns out to be nothing as spectacular as it was made to sound in the headlines (which happens most of the time) it is very annoying.

I choose not to read such articles at all now. It is more like a revolt. Revolt against being fooled. Revolt against being sold something by playing on a human weakness called curiosity. I might be missing out on some useful information but a gimmick like this is better suited for selling new products. Selling news? No way.

 

(image courtesy: http://www.monkimia.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Moebeltattoo_this_and_that.jpg)