Sometime during the year, someone asked me what am I grateful for and one was pissed off and angsty, so of course one had the choicest things to say. Ya, ya, I know, one is a royal pain in the butt but relatively honest, you have to grant me that. So if I’m angry every fibre of my being- from my hair to my toe will scream that it’s pissed and it wouldn’t care if it makes me look bad, it is what it is. Pretending to be pleasant and nice ain’t my trip in life! But having said that Jannat-e- Kashmir meri jaan, has a calming effect on the raging bull, so one’s ending the year, on a happy note. Here’s what I’m thankful for-

1) For my Amma- In retrospect it’s so much easier to forget pain and just remember the good stuff. Death and distance do tend to glorify people a bit but as I struggled with my mind this year, one got to re-examine my mum’s life almost as much as my own and however she lacked as a mum she was a class apart as a human being. I’ll always be grateful for having had the privilege to witness the life of someone, who was so different-depressive and joyous, loving and violent, doing exactly what she pleased yet never being indifferent. Truly, a character worth knowing.

2) To these crazy ships- I think it was somewhere around May, when one started to question everything. Existential angst came to hit me with a bang. Everybody kept telling me to find someone and somehow married people look so out of love to me, that nothing inspired me to tie that noose around my neck. Somehow, the cynical me, chanced upon Jikook and Larry Stylinson and yes, I know I’m not a sixteen year old girl but there’s something so enticing about forbidden love, that one was hooked and how. My daily dose of watching videos of closeted gay couples and a little bit of thinking about Shabnam Hashmi and Gauhar Raza, has kind of rekindled my life long romance with the idea of love. Not that one is looking, far from it but it’s nice to not growl at the idea of it, at least. Don’t you think all great love stories are essentially about fighting against ‘them’-family, society, world, injustice, whatever gives you an adrenaline rush? Or maybe like they ask , ‘Is it separation or is it marriage that’s worse for love?’ The jury’s out on that one nevertheless we are starting to love the idea of love, again.

3) The wonderful insights- One’s bumped into many people this year who helped me more than they’ll know. Their valuable insights about-life, femininity, grief, strength, rights, love, even about me as an individual helped me a great deal and one is truly grateful.

4) Realizations- One is apparently, very self critical, so very rarely can anyone tell me something terrible about myself that I don’t actually know. But two things really stood out- someone told me I was being very touchy about anyone calling me a photographer and that was on point.Months passed by and I couldn’t shoot, so I was being highly sensitive about it. One thought one would never be able to shoot again, so that comment really made me work on the problem. The second comment came from my father. He was explaining something about the business to me, about always having a backup plan and in the midst of this serious discussion he smiled and said, ‘you know everything about it! Since your teenage years, you’ve always kept a back up plan!’ Honestly, it was terrible and yet so true. I always thought, I was the queen of the rebound because I was just commitment phobic but shit I’m more cowardly than I ever admitted to myself. When I look back at all my relationships, I realize, I always expected them to fail. Going in, my subconscious strategy was, this is going to end sooner or later, what will I do next? If ever there’s a next time, I have to think it’s going last.

5) Friends- The one’s who miraculously, have had my back the past two years. To go against the tide and have someone’s back when no one is by their side requires real spine. Respect! It hasn’t been easy, in fact like they say ‘ the best part about the worst time of your life is that you get to see the true colours of everyone around you.’ Wow, what a revelation it has been! For helping me hold on to my sanity, for showing up, for the scoldings , the coaxing and the fussing, thank you mere gine chune, chindi chor, dosto you all know who you are! Tum jaise ——ka sahara he dosto!

6) The detractors- For all those whose lives are so uninteresting that they spend so much time discussing mine, plotting, recording, trying to hack my phone, trying to link my articles to porn sites, thank you. Iss kaneez ko itni importance, wah! It’s made me realize, I’m truly blessed to have so many things to occupy my brain, tongue and time with. It’s a privilege one’s truly starting to feel chuffed.

7) Karma and the Lord- Karma has been quite kind to me and Khudda ke to hum entertainment channel hai hi! Barring the times I’m bloody pissed with him, he keeps me good company on solitary nights.

So on this X’mas day, this is my gratitude list. Since one’s always a bad girl of course Santa, didn’t come down the chimney but in my old age I’ll try, to be good, just to see what the damn fuss is all about! He might pay me a visit then.

Another one

Dear Love,

Time passes like it does and before you start to think that just because I don’t pass by the cremation ground, everyday, I’m beginning to forget you…it ain’t so. You’re in my blood, up in the sky, even in the mirror…sometimes. But I can’t pass by that place, everyday now, it gets to me. For sometime, I need a break from death.

I was told recently, by someone who practices reflexology that my body still carries the trauma of loosing you. Who can really tell, what kind of trauma we all carry? But one does, curse you everyday, asshole! Since the cuteness quotient in this house has been reduced to zilch, after mum, it’s quite the haunted house, now. Ironic, you were the muh mangi dua and one was the ansuni faryaad…the one that can’t be his…I’m still told every few days and you’re gone and one is still here. Well, we all need our villains, I’m making you mine. Okay?

Your childhood friend Rohan came over with his mum, to meet us. Unfortunately, neither of us were home. Very considerate of him, the last time Dad met him was at your cremation. Goodwill, they say carries beyond death. Sometimes, it makes sad, though. You were wonderful, God knows only our mum and Jimin could compete with your cuteness but our mom was even warmer. It’s heartbreaking when women aren’t spared, even when they’re gone.

Our really sweet relatives, were here from Hyderabad and very patiently, Uncle was trying to give me some life lessons about running the unit, about marriage and how I’m not thinking about my future. He was so concerned and sweet, I was really touched. Not once did he mention, quitting the business or going away, in fact he kept saying, ‘you can bring someone well educated, home!’. I liked him so much, that Dad kept telling me, ‘you’re doing naatak infront of him!’ Well, he never did figure out about our mum and I, that we reciprocated and multiplied whatever we were given.

It’s sweet, all of them think, there’s some Kashmiri boy I’m going to marry and probably I need a nudge in that direction. That’s hilarious. Wild horses, will have to drag me down that path. As for Kashmiri boys, they’re cute and most of them display spine but other than the one who got tattooed on my body, a long, long time ago…I doubt anyone else is making a way into my heart. I’m told about time, I let the past go, with all its losses before it renders me useless. You, mum, him and of course the one I clung to for dear life, just a little so that I can see what is in front of me. Well, in front of me, there are are men who look at me and see your father’s stuff. So invariably directorship, job, moving into this house, are spun in nicely into the conversation, when I meet someone, new. I ain’t falling for that, what do I do? Some of them are funny, though. I went on a trip, recently and as usual I spent more time around the men. So, one night I’m weeping in bed and outside I hear one guy tell another, ‘ I was so good, I was talking to her…I even played with a dog and gave him biscuits but I got nothing!’ I know I should be offended but I thought it was hilarious. I missed you so much that night because only you and I could be amused by this honest declaration.

So, the future doesn’t look very promising but it is what is. There’s too much to take care of right now to worry about love. In any case, between the unrequited and the familial one, all corners, someone complained seem to be occupied. Will make some space I’ve promised myself. Let’s see, if I manage to.

How does it get better?

After a long time I caught up with the girls, today. The conversation drifted from this, that, to the other and somehow landed on depression. A friend was feeling a little low, so it steered to the taboo topic and I shared with them, that I’d been taking help for a while, now. ‘ Do these sessions help?’, they asked. That is a highly debatable topic.

So I’m thinking about this, sitting on my couch in the factory- Did all of it help? Nope. Was some of it a waste of money? Yes! Was it a waste of time? Not at all and time dearies, is what one considers most precious ( now you know why stingy me, spends such little of it with other people). One’s flirtatious by nature, so one doesn’t mind the quest. But if you’re looking for sure shot, quick fixes then don’t go down the path, that I did. The quickest and most effective way, they say is medication, which I hope to God, I don’t have to take in this lifetime. But considering how things are, menopause is going be the decider. The things that helped me to pull myself out of sheer helplessness and the worst kind of suicidal thoughts, I’d had in a long time was self analysis and the most rotten things I could say to myself.

1) Affirmations-Ironic as that may sound, my overthinking, self critical brain is supposed to be my biggest problem but SB needs to give SC an ass whopping, so that worked for me. When I was younger I would actually hurt myself (don’t try it). But as a grown up- ‘I’m so peaceful…so good, lad lad di dah!’ all those affirmations don’t work on me. Criticism….works like magic. But try them, affirmations work on most people most of the times. You’ll find enough- Day Meditations and Night Meditations on YouTube, Calm or any Music App for that matter. Louis Hay is the queen of it all!

2) Meditate- Breathing in, breathing out, when you’re agitated may work on some people but my brain gets damn pissed. So I’ll be sitting with my eyes closed and ‘ what is this?’ plays on my mind on a loop. Try meditating, it helps most people. Nature has a calming effect on me, especially water bodies, tend to suck out bucket loads of my angst. I think, the most profound effect, any kind of meditation other than the Sufi whirl has had on me, was a mediation session that was conducted in Rishikesh. I released more pain sitting on a rock, weeping, than in any counselling session.

3) Know your madness- Depression is the most loosely used word these days. There are various kinds of mood and mental disorders. So, if you don’t feel like yourself, talk to an expert because trust me most human beings are not only ignorant and ill informed, they’re also judgemental as hell. The classic signs, loosing weight, sadness etc are easy to diagnose but there are many different symptoms, so the opposite like gaining weight, severe agitation, disturbed sleep and fatigue, go undetected. Plus postpartum depression, bipolar, borderline, anxiety, trauma, schizophrenia can’t be diagnosed by a lay person. In my case, thankfully, my mum was correctly diagnosed after much trial and error. So, the doctors knew the history plus it’s easier for me to catch myself slipping, it’s manageable because I saw my mum. My diagnosis, too has been a rollercoaster from Trauma to Boderline Personality to Bipolar because it takes a while to narrow it down. Meds for most of these and even Epilepsy are the same.. so it varies between shrink to shrink. Trust me your neighbourhood aunty, doesn’t know you better than you know yourself. If you don’t watch yourself, one day they’ll say you’re feigning it…after a few years they’ll give you shocks and I’m terrified of that shit. You don’t want to end up like Kanye or like my mum, in a psychiatric ward for that matter.

4) Surround yourself with life affirming individuals- This is the key. There’s a very interesting quote, by Freud, to the effect- ‘before you diagnose yourself with depression, make sure you’re not surrounded by assholes!’ I agree. Most people, most of the times are afraid to live their lives according to their own rules. So they tend to follow everything that society, religion, and their parents have dumped on them. Most people are like Mary’s little lamb. If you’re one of those, surround yourself with like minded people they’ll do wonders for your self esteem. But if you’re not, find your crazies. A handful are good enough, to get you through the madness of this existence without loosing your shit. My male friends have held on to my sanity, for me the past two years by showing up, to cheer me up or just for a quick drive, even a quick pep talk. So, find your people. The wisest thing someone said to me recently about feeling torn between two things- ‘ Think that photography is your passion and the factory is your work and security. You’ll be able to do justice to both!’

5) Be inspired- Books are more inspiring than people for me. But in reality, there are everyday heroes all around us. A few weeks ago, I went through my friend list on Fb and found more than a few hundred women, just from my own list whose stories are incredible. I sat and went through a few timeliness and was awe struck by their grit and awesomeness- artists, intellectuals, journalists, activists, models, mothers and businesswomen, just kicking ass. What struck a chord, was someone who lost both her parents, at an early age, is a director of more than ten private limited firms and successfully manages not only her father’s travel business but also her own beauty business. So, everything is doable. As the saying goes- If you want to travel, don’t take the advice of someone who hasn’t left their house.

6) Follow a religion- Coming from me, it sounds rather hypocritical but religion has some great benefits. Confession I think is good for the soul, meeting for a Sunday mass can give you a sense of community, doing wazoo five times a day can calm your mind, it’s also great for your skin. Then namaz of course is a great form of exercise akin to yoga. Seva is the easiest way to feel better about your self and your life by being useful to someone else. Sitting in a temple activates the chakras and ringing the bells can remove negative thoughts. I think one of the reasons so many of us struggle emotionally is because we don’t follow a path, that guides us in our times of trouble. I don’t follow a particular path but one tends to use many of these methods and tries to find answers from various sources. If you follow a particular religion and can dismiss anything that seems outdated from it and follow the things that are relevant, more can be found in those books than anywhere else.

7) Let Jordan Patterson give you an ass whopping- So, one of the most controversial figures on the Internet, hated by feminists or anyone who isn’t right wing, is someone who has ironically helped me, loads. I like tough love….it works on me. I don’t agree with his views on monogamy and he does come across as intolerant and conservative at times but a lot of what he writes and says, helps. My biggest takeaway, has been- ‘ always be the most useful person in the room!’ and ‘take on more responsibility’. I like anyone who doesn’t ask you to shirk you responsibilities towards others or towards yourself. It’s harder but doable.

8) Create- Make some music, create a piece of art or redo a house. I tried all, other than photography, which seems to be the most effected whenever I struggle, emotionally. The rest helped. Give it a shot. It may not turn out to be a Van Gogh but we ain’t ready to cut off anything just about yet. Find solace in the fact, that most people with mental illness, who refuse to take medication are in fact artists.