L;GHTS OFF PLEASE

Lights off please began with an opening monologue by Rochan Mathur, who played the part of a person grieving the loss of a friend by suicide.
Ravi P Sharma’s monologue was about a caregiver and his frustrations-‘the caregiver burnout’ was expressed beautifully. Those of us, who have seen it up, close and personal, could identify with the dialogues and the tone of this enactment, the most.
Preeti Agarwal Mehta’s monologue, was about the psychiatrist who has lost a patient to suicide. The director, Shruti Bijnoria, sew the three monologues, effectively but unfortunately no one played the part of the person, whose died by suicide.

The panelist- Dr Alok Bajpai is a consultant at IIT, Kanpur. I’m rarely intrigued by mental health professionals. But Dr Bajpai, had something that not many professionals have- a sensitivity, which can’t be taught or feigned. Of course, the way he used mythology and literature to elucidate his point of view, was very interesting. The ‘cry for help’, ‘the window’, that a person will give you to save them, when he/she is slipping, will always be there, when they grow too emotional or withdraw too much, that’s what you need to keep an eye on, was what he mentioned. If he was in Delhi, that’s the professional whose clinic I would be camped out in front of.
Dr Sujata Minhas, spoke about how she spearheaded a movement to make changes to the law, that punished a person who attempted to commit suicide. Thanks to her and other change makers, attempting suicide is no longer a punishable offence but abetment to suicide is.
Mr Rajinder Pal, spoke about the questions that arise in an analyst’s mind about their own mortality and their own existential angst, while listening to a patient. Honestly, it made me a bit uncomfortable, hearing an analyst give voice to the same questions that pop up in my head like ‘do you actually know what to do about this or are you as confused as I am?’ But having mulled over it, one realised only a brave man, says, on a public platform- this thing I’m supposed to be an expert on, I don’t know enough about.
Shubha Menon, who is currently writing her autobiography about living with Bipolar was part of the panel. Now, the sensitivity quotient in the room, which was filled with psychology students was a little low in any case, for my liking, with audience members giggling and talking ( you know how difficult it is to get young adults to pipe it down). But this took the entire bakery, for me. A round was opened up for questions to the esteemed panel. If you know me, you know I shy away from public speaking like it’s the plague. But one was moved by the play and the panel. So, inarticulate something- gibberish, spilt out of one’s mouth. After the event, a man approached me. We were in the middle of a sensitive conversation when Ms Menon, approached us and just kept standing there, waiting for us to end this serious conversation. Anyhow, long story…longer…this is the Vishesh tipani she gave me, ‘ You know my mother was bipolar, more than anyone in the world can be bipolar!’ I didn’t know where to look. ‘ Look at me, I am just fine! You are not your mother, okay!’ I shit you not, it took, everything inside me to restrain myself but in the end I just felt terribly sad for her child, who must be dealing with this regularly.
The event was organised by Saahita. Blessin Varkey and Chitra Kalyani, are the key members of the group, that advocates for mental health.

Aware?

They say ‘suicide is an act of cowardice!’. I say, ‘ try it once and you’ll figure out what it takes!’ Having said that, I do think it’s not just a failing of the emotional system. A person tries to commit suicide, when their imagination fails them! When they look at all the permutation- combinations and nothing seems to work out, the future seems too bleak…when their problems seem unsolvable and they have no real support system. No one they can talk to, about what weighs on their heart. Also, it’s not an act or a thought your average Joe indulges in. Though, people always think it’s the destitute, outcasts and losers who take their own lives…I think it’s the odd balls with enormous egos, who aren’t willing to live with what life hands out to them, who aren’t willing to submit to the rules or roles, they’re asked to play. They’d rather be dead, than be someone else! But it is some sort of systematic failure, nevertheless, that requires a rebooting, either internally or externally ( death is a fab- reboot but there are other ways). Anyway, if I talk about raising awareness about it…..let’s leave that for another day….I would feel like a mighty hypocrite.

On a lighter note, like they say, ‘there are only two ways to sort out———problems. Through marriage or death!’ If you ask me, ewww, same, same! But that’s another way to go, by that logic one should give marriage a real think! (Each time one does, though, the thought of waking up to the same face, everyday, for the rest of one’s life…how much would one have to like a person for that?) If the shit hits the ceiling and it gets worse, rather than better, well, this option is always open! Sorry, don’t take me seriously, just randomness runs through my brain at the speed of light, the entire day. Ignore! Oh, you probably can’t, that’s why you feel like this! So, my humble, hypocritical solution- Work like your life depends on it (probably does), sleep, pray, create, smoke, drink , fuck, do whatever…you might feel better tomorrow…or not! Repeat after me, ‘ I ain’t going to be a freaking foregone conclusion! I ain’t going out like this!’. Works… some days. Anyhow, everybody, should do what they want but put your problem solving hat on…you need a solution, not a final exit! I leave you with this dialogue, you might want to dwell on it-‘to live in the tyranny of the current situation, be brave enough to ask , ‘ what next?’

Happy Teacher’s Day

P.S- Nothing teaches you more than a bad time. It reveals to you your own character- where your weaknesses lie and what all you can bounce back from. Most relationships and friendships are formed accidentally, unintentionally without giving much thought to how they impact our lives. A hard time gives you an opportunity to examine every single relationship.

Jyotsna Suri

Jyotsna Suri, managing director of Bharat Hotels Limited, epitomises perseverance. She is the perfect example of what women can rise up to, in the face of the toughest challenges. An English Literature graduate from Delhi University, with no training in hospitality, Jyotsna, was a homemaker; a mother taking care of her four children before she started managing the hotel business with her husband- Lalit Suri. She faced various challenges along the way- her husband was incapacitated for two years due to a surgery; after his recovery she took over additional responsibilities from him when he became a Rajya Sabha member and eventually after he passed away, she had to consolidate everything and prove the naysayers wrong, who claimed that the business wouldn’t run. She rebranded the hotel and is now counted amongst the top 50, of the most powerful women in the country.

Dr Suri, is not only a force to be reckoned with, in the hospitality sector but has also been a staunch supporter of her children. All four of them are involved in the business. Her unflinching love and support for her son, Keshav Suri, who is a LGBTQ activist, led her to perform with him at his first drag show.

I chanced upon her words recently and it amazed me how little we know the people we grew up around! Her daughters studied in C.J.M and the youngest one was a batchmate of mine. I remember her as a sweet, polite girl. We never moved in the same circles, so I had no idea what was going on with her! But when I read Jyotsna’s article, one got thinking about her, what her life must have been like, what ‘privileged people’ look like to the outside world but what goes on in their lives, is the same, sometimes more complicated than what goes on in yours or mine.

Much can be learned from Jyotsna Suri, not just for her own achievements; strong mothers, they show their children and the rest of us, how women can get up, multitask, build empires and fix any problem, inspite of the odds.

Women

Anyone who knows me, will tell you I view my gender with the same kind of fascination and confusion, as a man. For the longest time, one thought it had to do with the company one kept, after all one was always most comfortable around the opposite gender. But through therapy, one’s realized that it has to do with my rejection of my feminine side- the softer, gentler version that one’s afraid off. Funny, most people are afraid of their shadow side, the darkest versions, mine are on view for the world to see! What you get, is always the worst version! The better one, for only my car and the wind to witness!

Anyhow, ever since mum’s gone, one’s deepest fear stares one in the face, the worst case scenarios, the cynical me, could have imagined have actually happened. So, in actuality that’s a relief! It gives me time and space to explore other versions of one’s self, really imagine a different life. Try to let go of some baggage! Dude! uff, it’s a lot! So, one struggles, like the caterpillar struggles! That’s part of the process, I guess. But for someone- self depreciating and masochistic, to come to a point, where one is able to really believe, ‘ I deserve better! I deserve a better life!’ is amazing! And though, one slips and slides, goes through the highs and lows, one knows one has come a long way from where one was!

Anyhow, my endless rant has a point. As I get in touch with my own femininity, I long more and more to hear the female voice. Not the voices, I’ve been hearing…not the voices of the one’s who chose security over adventure and then carry on a tirade, against the one’s who don’t comply by the norms society has set for women. The other, voices- of the go getters, of the jet setters; voices of the one’s who rose- through the odds, through the ranks, inspite of it all!

I’ll be sharing snippets and quotes from famous women. These are coming unfortunately from books and the net, as one isn’t venturing out as much as one used to, these days. Someday, these will be actual interviews. For now, let’s just get the party started.