Patna Ka Superhero

Patna ka Superherob featured Ghanshyam Lalsa. The solo act was hilarious and dramatic- Ghanshyam, had the audience eating out of the palm of his hands. It was like watching a trapeze act, waiting with baited breath for the artist to trip but the acting was engrossing, the accent was on point and the comedy timing, impeccable!
Written and Directed by Nihal Parashar, the play was about Pintu Bhaiya a childhood hero of the narrator’s. It entwines the journeys of both the characters through, the hero’s pursuit of love. Though, one visited Patna, for the first time only in my thirties, the story had a familiarity. Pintu was a small town boy but those of us who grew up in colonies where there were a lot of teenage boys, would be familiar with characters, such as his.
Masjid Moth, a colony in South Delhi, where one grew up could have passed off as Patna, believe you me!instead of Nisha Sweets, there was Anupam sweets where the boys would hang out and occasionally, get into fights. There was the local hero, ‘gunda’ everyone was afraid off, like our hero, scary and admirable…boys would be standing outside girl’s homes with their friends, for hours at a time waiting to catch one glimpse of their object of affection. This was way before Tinder, Messanger and Insta, so instead of swipes and sliding into Dms, friend’s would act as the the mailmen passing letters and messages, back and forth. Everyone would claim the girls they desired were theirs without even showing any interest to the actual girls, themselves. Everything about the play had a familiar tone to it, that had one reminiscing. On the onset Patna Ka Superhero, is about a local gang leader, regaled to the status of Karl Max and Bhagat Singh, by the adoring eyes of the narrator. But it’s really about the trials of an uneducated, village boy, who is eventually beaten down by life and the narrator’s need to hold on to his sense of identity and familiarity with his roots.

Habba Khatoon

Habba Khatoon at Rosetta House. The play was about the love story of Zoon (her name was later changed by her lover) and Yusuf Shah Chak, who married the woman he fell in love with a woman he found in the woods.
‘Habba Khatoon’ Written by Kajal Suri was staged by Rubaru Theatre Delhi.
Though Zoon was married earlier, her husband despised her spending time writing poetry. This became his grounds for leaving her.
Yusuf Shah Chak was played by Rajeev Sharma and Zoonie by Chandrani Mukherjee. Akbar wanted to conquer Kashmir, so Chak went to Delhi and was
arrested there. He never returned to his beloved.
Habba spent the rest of her life healing others and composing poems of separation and loss. Like all great love stories, this too ended tragically!

Jaskiran Chopra played the part of the terrible Mother-in-law.
Rahul Malhotra Aziz Jan , Khatoon’s first Husband

Love in the times of technology

Got a panic call from a friend, this morning. ‘Do you want to marry a Muslim man? Is uncle not giving you the permission to marry outside your community?’ The question was met with peels of laughter from my end. ‘ Do you think if I wanted to, anyone would be able to stop me from doing it? My dad would only be too happy if I agree to marry anybody at all, as long as I am paying for it! Come on, we may have a tumultuous relationship but there is nothing he would like more than a son-in- law, especially a live in one, irrespective of what religion he follows! The question is whether, I will marry a Muslim man, not whether anyone will allow me to? Well, I could as long as a man, any man, will not ask me to change my name, my religion, will be okay with the kids using my surname as well ( unless, they don’t want to use mine or either of ours), will not ask me to straighten my hair, will be ok with how I look (weight, colour of my skin etc) and the most important will be okay with living with two different versions of me, both that aren’t very pleasant! So, no, till I don’t find such a namoona, I don’t want to marry anyone, so all of you stop fretting!’

The panic, was created due to a comment I made on a page called, ‘Being woman’. Aftab, murdered his live in partner Shraddha and mercilessly chopped her into pieces, burnt her face and dumped her into a fridge. The cold blooded murderer, then kept her remains at home for twenty days, dated other women, while her corpse was in the house and then scattered her remains, one at a time, every night at 2 a.m in the Mehrauli forest. Gruesome, is the word for it!

But considering the regressive state our society has been stuck in forever and the current political climate; this murder like everything else became about questioning the woman’s morality, a sermon about the virtues of listening to your parents and of course the man’s religious identity. Is he Parsi or Muslim? Muslim it turns out to be! Not that it makes an ounce of a difference.

Courtesy the Meta Page- Being Woman

But if you grew up in as Islamophobic an environment as I did, where right from childhood you were told, ‘ kisse naal bhi vyaa kari muslmaan naal ni kari!’by the elders in the family…you know where all this is coming from. Sikhs are terribly suspicious of the ‘other’ and surprisingly this is not just the generation that moved from Pakistan. I was at a holi party, this year and a Sikh friend of mine, who had seen the Kashmir files, said things that were exactly the same things that the elders of the family, who actually witnessed horrific things, say! So the bias, is carried through generations and has very little to do with actual experience. But you know what, all the suspicion vanishes when people come face to face…when they have personal relationships. The same friend, was really nice to my Kashmiri Muslim friend, six months later, at another party. My nani, who was always worried that l would elope with an Muslim man, said to me before she passed away, ‘if you want to marry a Muslim man, go ahead!’ Inspite of her belief, Ms Rashid was like a daughter to her. My bhabhi who is a Muslim woman from Bhaderwah, remains an angel to the family because they know her! For my friends who spew venom against the community, Afshan remains wonderful.

The hate is directed towards an abstract, a wound of the past, carried through generations but who you love is real- flesh and blood! Love is….love! It gets embedded on your mind, heart and sometimes even on your skin, irrespective of what religion the man follows! If the love of Shraddha’s life was Muslim, she wasn’t going to not live with him because society was against it!

Unfortunately, in this case, it ended badly for her. But there are many cases of such kinds of murder, where the perpetrators weren’t Muslim. The trouble is, the poor girl lost her life and her dignity is being stripped off of her mercilessly, as all her decisions are being dissected, ruthlessly! Then we wonder, why she didn’t leave him? This is why. If she was alive no one would have spared to punish her for this bad decision. I’m saddened by the loss of her life but I grieve more for the life she must have led. Don’t you think, something must be terribly wrong with her existence if her family didn’t figure out she was dead? It was another man, a male friend who got worried! Don’t you think, Aftab knew that she had no where else to go, no one who would have stood up for her (other than her male friends) if he misbehaved with her? If anyone knows, including a cold hearted killer, that you are loved and cared for, they cover their tracks better. He knew her weakness and he exploited that. I feel sorry for the lonely life, this girl must have led. Not knowing you have people in your corner…no place to call home, isn’t a nice feeling and definitely leaves you exposed to wolves! She should have left….I wish she knew where to go!

P.S- One comment on a post, on a random page, got me comments like -‘ You are poison for your parents!’, ‘ You will get a big fridge’ ‘How many children do you have?’ and ‘Frustrated Nibbi!. Wow! Remind me to indulge in this nonsense when I’m getting bored, this is entertaining!

The Women of Kashmir

Candles in the Wind

An entire body of works, from 2007 till 2022, is part of a book project, titled- The Women of Kashmir. Over the years much has changed in my subject’s lives personally and in terms of their identity! I might take some pictures next year, as well, you never know with me! The book is divided into a few parts, some of the works have been shown over the years at the India Art Fair, like the one above but most of them have only been emailed to a few curators and ofcourse Mary Ellen Mark (attended her workshop in 2010) who was instrumental in directing the works this way .

Many a books have come out from the time I began. That doesn’t hinder my project in any way. When one initially began, the only way female photographers would shoot Kashmir, was to go through NGO’s. I took the same route, met Parveena and Parvez, though they were very helpful, I realized that I don’t do well with viewing the world through anyone’s eyes but my own- skewed, tainted, cynical ones! Plus, I’m not an activist, philanthropist not even a feminist. Right from the word go, from my first book, which is stark white and black with hints of colour, to my first film- Loss- which looked at the problems faced by the Kashmiri Muslim and Kashmiri Pandits, one holds what one calls the ‘ greediest view of the world’, wanting to look at everything- from every possible direction one can!

There’s much that one hasn’t been able to do in Kashmir, there’s much when I view the works in their entirety, look at and think, wait a little longer, try a little harder but without organisations pushing you, without proper press credentials and with being looked suspiciously at by both parties- the Pandits think I’m Muslim and with an agenda and the Kashmiri Muslims, a lot of times think I’m a spy; this is what I could do.

Like curator after curator, has been telling me, it’s time to release it, maybe it is! But one’s apprehensive, it ain’t good enough just about yet and once the works come out…I might not be able to return ‘home’!

Side note/ technology is handy, anytime you get accused by some hot shot-there’s Flicker, which will display all your file info and your emails, too can help determining who all were sent the images. This is valuable info for long term projects because anyone can quickly churn out something and turn the tables on you. When I put up the image above, a very famous male photographer got pissed with me. Someone who uses ‘black backgrounds’! Thankfully, for me the pictures had already been published, long before, he did his show and my first book, was filled with such pictures. Unfortunately, I can’t accuse him of the same because it’s needless, doesn’t work in reverse and two because I have studied and taught photography, so what a hypocrite I would be, to get my own references from international photographers and then accuse someone else!

2022….

All my upcoming series or at least most of my works will be named after the year, in which the images were made like the last two 2019 and 2020-2022- Barely Surviving. My latest works, will be 2022-…the rest will be revealed when I exhibit the works next year. Hopefully, next year one should be able to show a lot more more work.

In the Light- Swiss Art Night

Swiss Art Night at the Embassy of Switzerland in India and Bhutan.
Gerry Hofstetter, the Swiss artist who crafts pieces of art with light made his Indian debut at this event. He creates light art performances for various cultural partners.
The incredible art pieces, which were created in the garden and facade were breathtaking. This event was part of the Swiss It! initiative.
Dr Ralf Heckner, the Ambassador of Switzerland, organised the event to celebrate 75 years of India’s independence and the diplomatic relations between India and Switzerland.
Contemporary Indian Choreographer and dancer Diya Naidu, with the Citizens of Stage Co Lab enchanted us with a brilliant performance, which was both painful and seductive.
Diya Naidu has been a member of Attakkalari, India’s pioneer contemporary dance company. Citizens of Stage Co lab is a collective of independent contemporary dancers, who share their passion with whoever is interested in learning
We all gathered around in the garden, where sumptuous food and drinks were being served and watched the performance.
The Indian and Swiss team behind the performance.
Simon Sevan Schafer, Head of Culture Embassy of Switzerland was one of the main organisers of the event
The special surprise for the evening was when the Di played Bollywood songs. Everyone came together on the dance floor to turn it into a night to remember.

Hope in the future

Two patients who were admitted to the Institute of Mental health in Chennai- Deepa and and P Mahendran, will be getting married this Friday.

Mahendra had a tussle over property issues with his relatives and Deepa after the loss of her father, had to endure rejection from her mother and sister. Somehow, they both ended up at the Institute and after a few months of their treatment were sent to a ‘halfway home’.

Since, they both had nowhere else to go, they found love and employment at the Institute. If you go through Jordan Paterson’s videos, though he is considered enemy number 1 by the Western feminists, a lot of what he says about mental health issues, is spot on. According to him, before you declare that a person is unwell, make sure that everything around them is fine. If they’ve lost a job, are grieving, have no hopes for love, they’re not necessarily unwell but under stresses caused by their environment that they’re unable to manage. Many a times, the removal of the triggers will make their life much more pleasant and productive. Stress management and managing trigger points is the key to a better life for everyone including someone who does have a disorder.

Love, they say makes the world a better place. God knows but hope definitely, does. Umeed pe duniya kayam he, aur kissi ki umeed banjao, to kyaa baat he! Here’s hoping they have a fabulous life, one might not be able to find love but we at a 100 pieces of me…love…love and live for a good love story. Cheers.

Mirza Ghalib and Nawab Jaan

Kathak Dancer-Manjari Chaturvedi

Mirza Ghalib and Nawab Jaan
Courtesan Project

Spartacus

Spartacus, Hindi Play.
Directed by Tarique Hameed
Written by Badal Sircar
India Habitat Centre

World Mental Health Day 2022

The End Of Mental Illnesses- Daniel G Amen

One recently saw a play- Strictly Unconventional , about marriage which touched upon various topics like polyandry, closeted queer and complicated straight relationships, a sexless relationship, the ignorance and targeting transgender couples deal with and a lesbian couple dealing with mental health issues. Of course, as is done in films, like the recent Chup and Dhoka ( imagine, in one week, I saw all three with a friend. Thankfully, Hritik toned down the seriousness for us, in Vikram Vedha) the dramatisation of the patient’s behaviour was a bit much, as the symptoms of a couple of disorders were muddled together, to make the whole thing look more interesting. To be fair, if you were to read bits and pieces of my report you wouldn’t know if I have PTSD, BPD or am just too depressive by nature. Although, I started to weep, while watching that particular part, which made my companion very uncomfortable and the girl sitting behind me, angry. ‘How can they be so insensitive?’ she remarked. It’s so charming how easily youth is enraged. 20 year olds are my favourite people for this reason.

Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see mental health issues being discussed in the arts and becoming a part of everyday conversations. I don’t know if it helps with the stigma or if it changes the ground reality as of now but one has hopes the younger lot will be more clued in! As mental health issues rise in the US and around the world, steadfastly, this is going to be something everyone needs to take cognisance of, as soon as possible. A very interesting book, one’s reading at the moment- The End Of Mental Illness, is about combatting mental health problems with other alternatives to anti depressants.

Let me share a few insights, that seem doable. Daniel G Amen, suggests taking vitamins and fish oil, regularly. Eating healthy- limiting the intake of low fibre, processed foods and artificial sweeteners. Exercising and following a spiritual practice. Detoxifying your body, drinking enough water. Correcting low thyroid function. Consuming probiotics and developing a brain warrior way ( you are in a war for the health of your brain). Getting your hormone levels checked. Checking the triggers in the environment, that perpetuate your problems. Avoiding – stress, lack of sleep, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, missing meals and excessive screen time. Sleep does make a huge difference. One oscillates between too much or too little, when one is disturbed. Gymming helped regulate my sleep, quite a bit. Socialising apparently helps, well, I’m mostly uncomfortable around most humans. I’m most peaceful by myself. But apparently it does wonders for a lot of people, is good for their mental well being, even increases their life span. Anyhow, see if it helps.

Live Love Laugh

The end of mental illness by Daniel G Amen

I love weekends. They give me a legitimate reason to stay away from a place I find little joy, returning to. As the workers, go about running the machines, one gets to finish pending orders, plan, introspect, read and sleep. After they leave today, by five the lights will be switched off and one will gaze out at nothing, drift in and out of sleep and wake up slightly chirpier in the morning. Although, I seem to be forgetting what that really sounds like these days. Note to self- dance as frequently as possible.

Anyhow, one digresses. There was an interesting article about Deepika Padukone and her foundation that helps people with mental health issues- Live Love Laugh. The article states that the role of the caregiver is very important and in her case, it was her mother who figured out that she was depressed. Well, if you are lucky to have sensitive people around you, that’s good. But even if you aren’t and you feel like a mess, much can be done. In my case, since I’m masochistic and have suicidal thoughts, the minute I started ideating about death, I sought help. I even dragged my ass to a clinic, to get my psychological profiling done. One’s had the privilege of witnessing one’s mother’s life and one would rather not have a rescuer ( although, to be honest, one does have someone who will show up when one sounds too terrible and SC, loves it. I guess despite my anti social ways, one’s human). For now, one would rather be in control of one’s own mental, physical and emotional well being.

It’s a tricky thing, though. One day, you feel you’re better and suddenly out of the blue, after a decade of no masochistic acts, you’re slashing your arm, after being being triggered. It’s freaking frightening, to be honest. But once you figure out what or who triggers you, you can counter it. A friend spent ten days with me, countering the criticism one deals with on a regular basis. It helped, the way, my teacher would, countering the criticism with appreciation and the hate with tenderness and understanding. My teacher saved my life, otherwise I would have been dead by eighteen! This one doesn’t get my gratitude, though, just, ‘ I don’t need, nobody! Don’t try to be my father!’

Unfortunately, he doesn’t take my silence, and withdrawals seriously. In fact, my silence is met with lots of questions about my well being, my withdrawal with incessant calls and the latter with laughter and ‘you behave just like my two year old niece!’ So, I guess, I do have a caregiver- not technically, not someone who takes me for my sessions or insists I take my meds ; someone who is neither a family member nor a spouse. But someone who believes I can manage everything on my own yet watches me like a hawk and shows up when he thinks, I’m spiralling out of control and need some food, sunlight, laughter and dancing. I guess, we all need a caregiver, someone who cares about our well being. Not just when we are sick but on a regular basis. Caregivers come in different forms, I’m glad I have one.

Side by side

A week’s gone by…in an attempt to escape reality for a few hours a day, one’s overdosed on entertainment- four movies and two plays later, with the one—my mum insisted was the only person who can ‘ handle me’, most think I’m eloping with and my pops wishes I would just marry. But can you ever escape your own reality? Naaa, one invariably ended up watching stories of people with mental illnesses. Sent a shiver down my spine. ‘Snap out of it! Snap out it before you go absolutely cuckoo!’ I tell myself. I look in the mirror and someone I don’t recognise stares back at me…a sadder, hopeless version of me, just going through the motions. Get up, go for work, drive, eat, sleep and repeat!

‘ Get out of your den’ ‘ Do your hair!’ ‘Smile! Please smile just a little bit!’ he says as we pose for a picture. A photograph is worth a thousand words? Ahh, don’t we wish! Anyway, it’s not so bad, being around someone for large chunks of time, just going about the business of living. May be addictive. It’s starting to dawn on me, why people require company in life, it’s nice to have someone in your corner. One’s too used to one’s aloneness and too much of coward, to get too comfortable, though. Last, few days, I should try harder. Mask on…baby doll.

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, a group, that advocates for mental health. Blessin Varkey and Chitra Kalyani are some of the members of the group.

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?’

P.S- Don’t misconstrued my sarcasm as abatement to suicide. I ain’t challenging you to jump off but rather telling you that first it ain’t easy to jump and two if you do, you ought not die, which will be a bigger problem. So breathe in, relax!

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.

Bilkis Bano Case: Protest at Jantar Mantar

A very emotional, Shabana Azmi at Jantar Mantar, seemed flabbergasted and horrified at the release of the 11 convicts.
Shabnam Hashmi, of Pehchan, at the protest asking for the revocation of the remission of the convicts.
Kavita Krishnan, of AIPWA, appealing to the youth of Gujrat to tell the government, that it is insulted by this remission which has been done to garner votes.
From the young to the old, from celebrities to common folk, women and men from across all communities came together today.
Children at the protest
Gauhar Raza, at the protest in Jantar Mantar, which was organised by AIDMAM, ANHAD, AIDWA, AIPWA, AISA, AIMSS, AIUFW, ARMAA, BASO, NFIW, PEHCHAN, SNS and other other organisations.

Hundreds of people gathered at the protest.
Muslim families from Randhikpur- where Bilkis was raped, are moving to the relief colony, as there is fear.
In Delhi and across the country, a number of Muslim men and women, came out in support of Bilkis.
A Sikh man, came out in support of his Muslim brethren.

Inside Out

Demi Moore’s Inside Out, is one of the most interesting books one’s read, in the recent years. Deeply personal, it not only takes us through her journey as an attractive woman navigating through the entertainment industry, it not only explores the relationship between a woman and her various lovers and the play of power amongst partners but essentially to me it’s just an ode to motherhood, how things come full circle, how healing is our foremost duty to ourselves and the future generations and how self awareness and determination can change your life around, irrespective of your past!

Without giving too much away, let’s just say, it’s not for the faint hearted or the one’s who look at the world through rose tinted glasses. After all, how believable would it sound to people who believe all mothers are martyrs that a famous woman’s mother tried to sell her off for a few hundred dollars and trashed her infront of the press? How will anyone who has never had to deal with a Bipolar parent know what happens to you mentally, how you are the parent not them and how all of it skews your own view of the world? How can anyone who hasn’t been in that situation understand the bond between the siblings? How can anyone know, how it all comes back to haunt you when you least expect it and the addictions are part of the upbringing? But even if you haven’t had any of the experiences that made me weep, while reading this book, if you’re a woman whose had an unusual existence- read it, it will be your light at the end of the tunnel. If you are a woman, who has never had such experiences, read it so that you can stop being so judgmental about other women. If you are a man who knows an unusual woman, read it so you can get a glimmer of an understanding about how her head functions! But most should read it so that they can get a shred of understanding about mental health issues!

A strange phenomena has occurred since one has started addressing one’s own problems . Every time I step out in public, people peer at me and are kind of waiting for me to do something rather dramatic ( that’s what I feel). It’s like they’re trying to figure out where the horns on my head are at! Makes me think, it would have been nice to have normal genes or maybe mental issues that fit into other peoples idea of what a ‘depressive person’ should look like. SB, who is always up for pulling people’s legs, keeps nudging the other one to do some antics, to please the crowd. The other one just nods her head in utter dismay. Nothing hurts her more than insensitivity and nothing triggers the other one more than hypocrisy!

I was telling a friend of mine the other day that at my masochistic best, one once took a paper cutter (my favourite) and put a hundred and some slashes on my body in one go and then went to school the next day, while everything inside and outside me, hurt! This was when I wasn’t even an adult and my view of the world was far less skewed and I still thought that ‘someday everything will be alright’ and that ‘somehow I will find someone who will make everything seem worthwhile.’ Even then, the out of control behaviour was not so much weeping infront of others but withdrawing and running away. Now, the tears have mostly been replaced with sly comments, withdrawl or even better pure rage!

Makes me wonder how less defiant people go about getting help for their issues, considering the absolute ignorance that still surrounds mental health. This is a very interesting anecdote- My mother who made I can’t even count how many suicide attempts in her life, who was addicted to Corex for the longest time, seemed so normal to people that I have a childhood friend who claims she was absolutely alright because whenever she met her, she seemed fine! Unlike me, she wasn’t an introvert but was gregarious and gleeful on her good days, running around the house and singing songs for us. On her bad days, well, overturning cars, getting violent and waking us up in the middle of the night paranoid about everything! Thankfully, my aunt noticed her change in behaviour and took her to her first shrink- Dr Kothari. I marvel at how observant she was thirty years, ago and how ignorant people are still!

The last time I slipped before this, was in my thirties and I kept telling people that I didn’t feel like myself! I wish I’d seriously asked someone for help, surrounded myself with wiser, gentler humans but even when the plastic bag went over my head and even when I lay in bed weeping for days on end, I never dragged myself to get any real help. Withdraw, find some new people, avoid, travel and become normal. Then every decade have a meltdown! How mature! They say, you live and you learn! The biggest learning, hero up, save yourself, ask for help, there are some really nice people out there. In my case, there were a few male friends, professional help, my own ego (at its best, it’s my greatest strength) and faith. The trouble is that by the time you realize or the world realizes, it’s usually a little late, like in Demi’s case, where all the trauma caused health problems!

Now, inspite of all the judgements I no longer hide. I no longer hide my scars and no longer make a conscious effort to wear full sleeves clothes or wear a watch, so that people don’t get uncomfortable. They’re my battle wounds, I survived them, I survived my life and now it’s time to heal.

While reading Moore’s book, one felt so grateful for the wisdom that comes from reading. I read something about forgiving your parents a long time ago. In May 2016, I wrote on a paper which is pasted in my basement- Things to do-‘Forgive your parents, if you can’t do it…still do it. If it seems impossible…still do it!’ I would get up and read that, everyday. I still do, when I’m home. Thanks to that and my mum’s enormous efforts, my relationship with her changed drastically in the last few years of her life. Demi’s book reminds me- they are fallible humans and when it’s your turn, hopefully your children will forgive you too! Until then, heal, if not for yourself for them!

75th

Ever since I’ve returned from Kashmir, whenever I see the national flag it reminds me that there’s an entire community, which has been told that the members will loose their jobs and their properties can also get confiscated if a flag isn’t hoisted at their homes , tomorrow.

So while some of us may enjoy our freedom, imagine if someone threatened you, with an ultimatum to hoist a flag at your place so that they could show the world and its mummy that Kashmir is now officially a part of India. 75 years of independence. Lets never take our freedom for granted and lets be aware that anyone who can threaten another’s rights can take yours away in a jiffy. While there’s much to be proud off…still hoping for a better India….a better future for the coming generations. Har ghar tiranga, at the cost of what?

Anniversary Edition

It’s been nine years since I began this blog. The start of it coincided with the end of many constants in life and this which was just supposed to be a blog about encounters with interesting women, somehow turned into, like most of my work, a self-centred project. A lot more personal…a little whiney, sometimes full of rage, at times appreciative but mostly flawed, real and in your face.

Many a times, over the course of these years, one has been reproached for over sharing, ‘not everything needs to be written’, I’m told. Well, if I wrote everything about my life, some people would get into serious trouble, so no, one does withhold a lot, covers many things with the same fresh cream and puts the same kind of cherry on top, the world uses to cover its bullshit. But mostly, it’s done, so that my cynical mouth doesn’t taint other people’s perfectly crafted worlds. Plus, someday my babies will read this. I don’t want them to have as skewed a view of the world as I. Hopefully, they’ll think everything is all sunshine and rainbows.

Yet, one attempts at keeping it as real, as one can, which then invariably displays my privileges and my eccentricities. Honestly, other than hiding things that aren’t mine to tell, one tries (and fails) at hiding about love. Samjhdar ko ishara kafi he? Nothing much can be said about unrequited love, other than it’s value lies in not acquiring, I guess. Plus, everyone I love is tattoed on my body (other than mum because for the past two years I’ve been going back and forth with the design). Don’t worry about who occupies my heart or for that matter who keeps me entertained in life; in my case, nothing leads to anything. This, sums up all I hide from you, my few and treasured readers; I suspect, most of you are only family, ex lovers and friends, worried the crazy lady will end up writing something she shouldn’t. Wellllll……..just pulling your leg!

So, stop getting enraged, not everything is about you …it’s about me! ( self centred, much?) It’s hilarious and infuriating: I’ll be writing about fifty year old superstars or commenting about a news item and someone will get pissed with me thinking I’m taking a personal jibe at them about matters one isn’t even aware off. Property rights are shrugged under the carpet with, ‘no, no, why do you write like this? Of course we appreciate what we’re being given.’ Everything is hunky dory, let’s continue to live in an era Before Christ and pretend we have no issues, since being treated like second class citizens is better than spoiling the family name.

Plus, the whole talk about smoking and lovers, in a society that represses women’s sexuality and asks them to pretend to be holier than thou, doesn’t sit well, with most people, so there’s invariably a lot of personal taunting. I forget a number of people in Kashmir, also sometimes go through what I write, which I get to know, when I meet them. The pictures of protests are frowned upon, the reactions to Kashmir ( I’ll write about this) harsh but even harsher surprisingly, is the reaction to mental health issues. The most unlikely people, who have seen parents suffering from mental health problems , people with degrees in psychology, have turned around and told me, ‘this is bs. Therapists just try to swindle your money.’ So, my conclusion is- it is so much easier to post about all the problems in the world other than your own, to speak about what makes you sound smart but never really say what makes you look vulnerable and to stand up for everyone, other than yourself!

But, one treads on, not as a feminist, an activist, philanthropist, not as anything that makes me belong to any group of people, known for their good deeds. You know, one has an aversion to the herd and the herd’s always disliked me in equal measures. Like Javed Akhtar said, ‘ jab tak mujhe sab criticize kar rahe he (Muslim/hindu/ liberal/conservative) tab tak theek he. Jab ek bolne lage ka yeh theek he, tab ghabrane ki baat he!’ I concur.

One treads alone as an individual, hoping it will be enough for some masochistic, lost, teenager (out there and within) overwhelmed with life. One’s just taking space on the web, stealing a little bit of your time and attention by following her heart and writing what is on her mind. Read, discard, criticize or ignore that’s upto you. Being…..that’s upto me!

Happy Friendship Day

I love how memories pop up on FB. That’s why, these days, one writes lovely notes to oneself ( privacy setting to only me, of course) and posts them on FB, for a later date. Someday soon, when things look up and one feels all gung-ho, it would be nice to be reminded of how far one has come from those nights of desperation, when surviving even one more day, seemed like too much.

This popped up today. Ironically, just a couple of weeks ago, while I was driving around the North of India, with a friend, we were discussing how crazy one was at this time. I was telling him how I wish, I would have listened to my gut and not ignored, the red flags. What I mistook for just heartbreak and desperation, was so much more deep rooted. Other than, he and I, no one knows, the extent of my nuttiness. Why hasn’t he jumped off the sinking ship, like the rest of the world? ‘Murder or institutionalisation?’ I pull his leg. He just nods his head and laughs. I’m glad I amuse, someone, most people are exasperated by my sense of humour/cynicism. Too negative, too different, too aggressive, too crazy…always, too much. Both SB and SC, are bewildered by the world’s reactions to us but the answer lies in these lines by Kipling-

‘If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much!’

Or my favourites, ‘ Gam or khushi mein farq na mehsoos ho jahaan. Mein dil ko uss makaam pe lata chala gayaa.’

Even this makes loads of sense-

‘ You don’t outgrow others. Your new vibration outgrows the vibration of your old self. Your energy field configuration is different from before. You no longer resonate with those who only resonate with with your old self. You naturally move into another timeline.’

Maybe one’s vibrations have been lower than before or they might be changing, all together. One’s closest companions remain solitude, death and God- who ensures that when all the doors shut in your face, you have the one that stays. Anxious, much? Old habits die hard, if they ever do, so one’s on tender hooks, when someone is being nice, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. For how long, will this niceness last? Well, who knows? ‘Till it’s convenient I guess, the day it ain’t, all relationships are like revolving doors’ thinks the self protective/ cynical SB. Her motto in life remains, ‘tu nahi to koi aur sahi…koi aur nahi to koi sahee’ Misanthropic, much? Always. The other one is nicer, doe eyed and totally setimotional…like her mum, pity she doesn’t get to come out. But to you, believers in all thing lovely, who believe friendship/love make life’s journey sweeter and who look at the world with rose tinted glasses- Happy friendship Day!

To the one who stays, from SC to you-‘ Yaroon ne mere waaste kyaa kuch nahi kiya, sau bar shukriya, sau bar shukriya! Till, you’re around, I’m glad. When you go, well, you’ll remain in my thoughts and prayers, like the rest of them.’ From SB to you, my reproach to your niceness remains the same, ‘I don’t need nobody, ok! To zyaada baap banne ki zarurat nahi he, samjh aa rahee he?’

P.S- I sent this to a friend from New York. The month that I spent there was probably the scariest for me. Though, I was living in a beautiful apartment in the heart of the city, I was hysterical. I was so depressed that I missed a day of the Jane Evelyn Atwood workshop because I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. So don’t take the red flags lightly and never let anyone convince you are fine when you don’t feel it.

Mysterious Ways

Though one likes to run alone with the wind and wolves, once in a while, company is greatly appreciated. The Wall, flew down to Delhi and we chilled out for a couple of days ( meaning eat and packed, since I take forever) before leaving for Ladakh. Since, Ladakh has become a UT, for my project I needed to make pictures there but one’s body can’t withstand the high altitude, so my go to- ‘I get into trouble, you get me out of it’ man, gave me company. He adores kids and tends to hurt animals, so no guesses for figuring out how we tolerate each other. After two solo trips- once when I was in college and the other one in 2007, one hasn’t really been eager about visiting. The landscape is like I wrote in my diary then, ‘a mysterious lover’ but with age, lovers and especially mysterious ones have totally lost their ways with me. Now, one just longs for familiarity and grounding.

Anyhow, Life doesn’t unfold according to my plans. One may not be the fastest or the most skilled driver one knows but nevertheless, one is a relentless one. So, once one decides one is going somewhere, there are very few pit stops, it’s usually a ‘just let’s get there then we’ll rest’ kind of an attitude. The plan was to see if Google is right and I can drive 24 hours straight to Ladakh without, staying over. My assumption was I would reach Leh in 36 hours if not 24, since my companion can’t drive! Then we would go to a camping site in Nubra, since one has already been to Tsomoriri and Pangong, earlier.

Man proposes and God disposes. An hour from Delhi I concocted this plan and I said to my companion, ‘I think I’ll just keep driving, let’s just keep going. Mein kheech lunga’ and then from somewhere the words came out of my mouth- ‘ if God wants me to, then.’ I shit you not, it slipped out of my mouth, without me wanting to say it and by the clock within thirty seconds, the tempo infront of me came to a screeching halt and the car infront of it, did a J turn (180 degrees) and slammed right into the tempo, we were saved by the bell, in my head. Of all the things that scare me about myself- my temper being high up on the list, this is by far the scariest trait-sometimes, things slip out of my mouth right before they’re going to happen. Most people, flip backwards trying to figure out how I ‘get to know things’. I wish somebody would figure out- my body reads energy very quickly and goes into defensive mode, almost on cue.

The night proceeded just like the first omen, it poured profusely, the wiper broke…so the Wall, whose great under pressure and fabulous with his hands, fixed it, while getting drenched. We slept in the car for a few hours, drove the next day and reached, nowhere close to Leh! After 24 hours in the car, we decided to stay in Jispa, right at the border of Himachal Pradesh. One was glad for the rest, I may be nuts but the body is ageing, dude.

Nothing went according to plan is an understatement, we took one wrong turn and by the the time we figured it out we were on our way to Zanskar, instead of Leh! A biker convinced us, it was prettier, it didn’t occur to him, to inform us just how terrible the route was. By the time I figured it out, all I could do was yell, ‘air lift my car, I ain’t going to put it through this. It never troubles me, how can I do this to it?’ Other, than mumbling, ‘sorry baby…sorry baby…sorry baby’ as one drove through water and over boulders, through the narrowest roads…as one stopped to inhale oxygen and pee under the sky, one knew his plans unfold in mysterious ways. We visited places, we’d never heard of, slept on the ground, in a tent, in the middle of nowhere, saw the most spectacular night sky, studded with stars, gasped for air, almost collapsed, let go of the sadness that I’m told has engulfed me and eventually found our way back to what seems like ‘home’. Of course as soon as the air changed and one knew one had reached where one belonged, the smile returned, much to the amusement of my fellow traveller. There are many places, I need to be but there’s only one place, where pieces of me, lie hidden underwater. They bring me, home!

Pause

One began the year, wanting oneself to feel better…less erratic and less melancholic. Half the year is over and it dawns on me, it’s time to rise. It gets awfully uncomfortable being on the roller coaster ride, as I age. Thankfully, one’s no longer a teenager and as masochistic as one was but these raging emotions, that make one feel like one is so terribly down in the dumps that one doesn’t want to go on even for another day, some days and then suddenly flying on a rocket, feeling absolutely invincible, on others, can be quite confusing, tiring and many a times very scary. When will it get a bit aggravated? When will I stop being aware of what’s going on in my silly head and start overturning cars and turn violent like my mother is what constantly worries me. ‘You’ll be fine!’ says the shrink, ‘you’re better!’ More productive, masks as better, rather well.

Does this seem better? I have to wonder, when I pause between non stop action, for just a bit. Weeks go by, sometimes, when one goes without interacting with people unrelated to work …everybody is shrugged aside, with ‘ya, ya just busy’, calls go unanswered, messages are replied to curtly…while one hides behind computers, books and machines, sometimes howling like the world has come to an end and at times, so ecstatic, like one’s just fallen in love, yet again! Even the house, makes one uneasy, so one spends night after night on a make shift bed, staring out at nothingness and my only constant, the moon. Oh, I’m such a peach, ain’t I?

Most people I know have figured, engaging with one is either going to be met with deadly silence, a quip or just rage, so they tread rather carefully but then there are others, who insist on showing up to check on the crazy lady! I think the Art Fair was emotionally cathartic, helped coming to terms with a few things. Since, I promised the shrink to break my childhood record of crying on my birthday, this year, one worked like crazy the entire month, to not be melancholic, outdid all the sales records, started to pick up my camera again but broke the promise, nevertheless. The next afternoon, as I sat in an empty house, lit two candles, cut the cake a friend had sent the previous day and sang happy birthday to oneself, , one also promised oneself, this has to end, not the solitude silly, this fear of when I’m going to go absolutely cuckoo!

Things happen as they must and always for the better. God, karma and time are even and merciful. A friend wanted to come check up on me…it’s been five years since Road tripping began…someone nominated that project for a grant ( which I didn’t apply for but so thankful, nevertheless) and many things are telling one, it’s time to get my behind up and running. Over the past two years, I’ve wondered constantly, if I’ll ever lay eyes on someone whose eyes light up when they see me and after my birthday, like a gift from above, a little boy walked in seeking employment. If I tell you he looks a little like my brother and smiles each time he sees me, you’ll think I am exaggerating but it’s true. Each time he calls me didi, he makes my heart melt. Some of us are born to run alone, mostly but when we can’t thankfully, God, sends people to nudge where he needs us to go. There are many places one needs to be but the only place one really wants to go, is home. The Dal beckons. Here’s hoping for some brighter days!

Uff! Get a life!

Why? Kuch nahi he karne ko life mein? Iss na cheez ke liye itna effort? Whoever you are, I’m absolutely convinced, you must be following this blog…considering you are going on random sites and linking my name to shitty urls! I don’t know which is worse- finding my name on sleazy sites or my profile appearing on ‘celebrity’ websites. Aisa he, hum mar jaye to koi char aanson na bahai…celebrity, my ass!

What is wrong with you? What? Continually, for the past two years, you’ve been at it. Did your mum not hug you when you were little? Ithe aa mein tenu dasaa, mera shoe size jo itni achi tara se pata he na, wohi padega. Yucks, sleaze!

Weirdo

In a few days, one will start inching closer towards a milestone birthday. Not much seems to have changed in the past year and yet everything seems to be changing. I still like my seven year old rickety car and eight year old broken phone. I still sleep alone but always with books on my bed. The loves remain the same and the hates? Well, I hate very passionately, like I can scare the crap out of myself with that emotion it can be so intense so I avoid going there, completely. But the people I’ve harboured resentment towards the past two years…I wish I was mature enough to say I’ve forgiven (I’m not there, yet) but one’s found a better way of dealing with it, by being totally engrossed in other things and venting on this platform. Therapy has helped, it makes me realize, how intense the abandonment issues are , what an asshole one is ( not really a revelation but the intensity certainly is) and how intuitive one is. The humour is too self deprecating, apparently, areee come on, I don’t have a spouse to pick on, so I’m my best source of entrainment. But the prime get away has been there are things you can gain with effort but love isn’t one of them, so there’s no shame in giving up on some things and some people. Another thing one has figured out is avoiding human contact, is freaking awesome for my mental health because I have the maturity of a two year old.

One’s been surprised by people, this year. The Art Fair, was something else. The gallery didn’t inform me that they were discussing my work during the art walk, so one was a bit taken aback, with the way they described my pictures. One’s only met a few people in the past two decades who have really seen it from my point of view, so that was refreshing. And there’s another thing that will stay with me- I met up with some batchmates and one of them, has written this interesting read called Cupidity. So, one was having a fan girl moment and what truly surprised me was her friend’s reactions. They were so thrilled for her, that it pleasantly surprised me. Aspirational. I think one would want to someday be like this author’s friends, actually be really, genuinely as thrilled for another woman, with that kind of intensity.

The other thing one has been fixated on is:- what do I want to be when I’m forty five? So, the hours that one’s been putting in, has very little to do with money and much to do with that thing that one wants to turns oneself into- an unstoppable machine ( the only problem with that plan is the BPD- the highs are so freaking high, one’s totally energetic, like a disciplined soldier and the lows make it impossible to get out of bed. It’s like something I read- sometimes I feel like Van Gogh’s starry nights and sometimes like his suicide note) who doesn’t need anyone, especially not a man.

Before you accuse me of being a man hater, let me just say, ‘ come on, look at me, if anything I’m totally, unbiasedly, misanthropic. But I do adore men. Not all though, not the weaker ones who get off on verbally, physically or emotionally abusing women. I’m done with those, for this lifetime! But the rest- I love working with them, I think like them and I thrive in their company, as they’re aggressive and very competitive and that’s totally up my alley. In fact, every time I walk into a room, my first instinct is to gravitate towards the mundas because that’s where all the fun is and one has failed at decoding one’s gender, as miserably as they have. Plus, like them, I too am looked at like a spoilt, badly behaved, work in progress, rogue who needs to be fixed ( no man has been able to fix me, maybe a woman can).

Having said that, the super clingy (SC) part of my personality, looks at all of them with doe shaped eyes and has always wanted to be rescued by one of them. They’ve tried and failed at doing a job, that isn’t meant for them ( we have to rescue ourselves, I know, I know…dil ko behlane ke liye Ghalib yeh khyaaal acha he). In any case, women are better at this, unfortunately the thirteen year old who was going through a I hate all men after a molestation attempt, who developed a crush on SK and PK, twin sisters who played basketball and looked so cute, with their short hair hasn’t found a woman other than Anokhi Parekh and Sushmita Sen, she would want to be fixed by. ‘Please God, help me tap into my bisexuality, send me a woman with a deep husky voice, broad shoulders and strong hands before I die. I want to play Romeo, someone needs to play my Juliet..man, woman I don’t care’, is my birthday wish, this year but unfortunately nothing, nothing is happening.

Other than my very sweet aunt, sending me proposals. I know she likes me but sometimes , I want to tell her and the boys, who seem to loiter around that, ‘ For once look at me carefully….if I don’t get along with my own tubbar, I’m the blackest sheep in a family where everyone is not really normal, what are the chances that I would get along with a man’s family and especially his friends? With my Sheldon Cooper type ability to put my foot in my mouth and my intense aversion to being controlled or even being answerable to anyone for anything, on what planet would this work out?’ But I remain invisible, I guess, some are blinded by love and the others by contempt. But one remains Mr India, nevertheless.

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, to my constant source of entertainment and woes, my companion and my in-law and my source of inspiration for the person I wish to be and also someone I hope I never become. This statement, as dichotomous as it is, falls short in explaining our rather complicated dynamic. But like the boy, you insisted I should be with said, ‘it’s like Amitabh and Deepika in Piku!’ Who knows? For now let’s just try to fit into that box.

I look at you with amazement and horror and that makes me realize how lucky one is to be able to have parents who were fallible humans and not demi Gods, one would have idealised but instead looked at as co travellers, who didn’t have all the answers. Having said that, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t appreciate how hard working and dependable you were. How you stuck around when most would have bailed and how you managed human relationships, so well, for the longest time. To deal with your life partner’s illness, then loose a young son and then to deal with your wife’s death and inspite of your grief to consistently work and focus on someone other than yourself and not shut shop, when you have the option of an easy life, is commendable and highly admirable. It reminds me of the tortoise and the hare.

Your sense of humour keeps me entertained and is also the absolute death of me. No one in this world can come up with such one liners-

‘There are two biggest doomsters ( which isn’t a word, it’s doomsayers but you insist on calling me thus) one was Nostradamus and the other is you! Always, preparing for the worst case scenario .’

‘Jo bhut aur dayan hote he unna koi gender nahi hota!’ Ya, I know, I’m one!

And my most favourite, ‘ You’ll never be a good daughter to me, so don’t do this pakhandbazi!’

The last statement has helped me more than a year’s worth of therapy. It has set my heart free. Hope something takes away the woes of your heart, as well. Have a lovely day.

Hierarchy

The Amber Heard/ Johnny Depp trial, had me almost as engrossed, shocked and appalled as the Kashmir files and the series of events that have unfolded in the Valley after that ( which we will talk about).

One has been ranting on other people’s walls…how upset somethings make one is the reason, I avoid the news, like the plague. Whatever other voyeuristic tendencies one may possess, watching people leave their homes, mother’s weeping for their kids, people dying, my heart ain’t capable of watching all of it for consumption, so I’d rather be an ostrich and bury my head in the sand. These two things unfortunately still managed to sneak up on me. The trial barged into my morning breakfast routine, which includes doing a little visualisation ( where I try to see myself with someone/anyone and miserably fail at imagining it…the sky, the moon or the clouds, is the best one can do) and watching Larry videos on YouTube, while I munch. The last thing I need, is something stressing me out but YouTube threw up this display of how toxic marriages and human relationships are in my face and ugh.

It reaffirms a nagging thought one has been having for the past two years (since my own trial of sorts) – fuck society and fuck a system that still burns women it imagines to be witches at the stake. The definition of the stake and the method in which its done may change but the act remains the same, nevertheless!’

Is she a saint? Hell, no! But she seems as damaged as him so bo freaking ho! What is this crap that people throw at beautiful women- she only wanted him for his money? Oh ya and he wanted her because she was Mother Teresa not because she’s really hot? Come on, at least in the olden times, when we weren’t all pretending to be so evolved, we knew, for marriage ( which is a business transaction) women were acquired for their looks (procreation and coitus) and men for their money ( security). Yet, can you think of a term similar to ‘gold digger’ that a man is accused of, for doing the above mentioned? Nothing as demeaning.

I don’t know if she faked her injuries or not but I do know that, men get away with domestic abuse all the time, with the help and might I add encouragement of society. Let me tell you, however drugged a man is, the minute he realises that someone will call him out for it, he straightens up, fixes his clothes, puts on his best behaviour. If it gets too serious, he knows who to bribe and impress- from the authorities, to the neighbours, to the victim’s relatives, he’ll charm the shit out of them all! Why do you think women don’t leave the abusers? Their abuse doesn’t end with the slap, it just begins with it. The maligning of the woman, stripping her off her personal autonomy and support system, that’s their trip, weak men get off on thrashing and trashing women, makes them feel more manly.

And who is their ally? Always other women, who believe that said woman has too good a life or she’s lucky because she has access to his wealth from relatives to friends, everyone begrudges her, this perfect existence. In Heard’s case, just look at her, women must be disliking her without her even opening her mouth, it’s like Aishwarya Rai, most people begrudgingly appreciate beauty. ‘She’s too perfect’ can only be used to insult a woman, it’s never unattractive on a man. Neither is ambition. A man is driven and passionate while a woman is greedy and crazy.

Forgive me if I don’t believe someone’s guilty just because strangers will vouch for powerful men and women are being tarnished by their own, that’s just society on it’s classiest act. That’s why abused women keep looking for protectors- either physically strong men or men who are top of the societal hierarchy.

Oprah Winfrey, recalls how when she began anchoring, her male colleague was paid much more than her. So, she went and asked her boss for more. Guess what was his reply? ‘ What do you need money for? You’re not married, you don’t have any kids, why do you need a raise?’. So she thought, ‘wait, I’ll show you!’, for the disrespect. In the scheme of things, it’s my realisation- the top of the pyramid is the politician (where too male is above female but it’s tolerable) . Then there’s rich man, less fortunate man, woman married to rich man, woman married to less fortunate man and then at the bottom there’s the single woman, divorced is considered better than someone whose never married and ofcourse wealthy comes over someone who doesn’t have, enough. We single women stand on the threshold of society, some have been cast out and others don’t seem to fit in. In Heard’s case it’s the latter- too pretty, too ambitious and she’s queer, there wasn’t a chance in hell, she was going to win this one. Like, I say, they are still burning witches at the stake! Screw their rules, be magical!

Rashmi’s Contemplations on Mental Health

Rashmi Divyam

How did you remain centered during the pandemic? Did your spiritual practice anchor you through the trying times?

The pandemic has been truly challenging for the entire world and it became absolutely essential for us to keep ourselves anchored and balanced in all aspects. Spiritual practices help us in a huge way to stay grounded, centered and deeply connected to what matters the most. I feel that our spiritual practice reminds us and keeps us bringing back to what gives meaning to our life. Certainly my spiritual practice supported me immensely to stay calm, grounded, aligned, connected, focused in countless ways and through that I have been able to cope up with the challenges that kept coming my way during difficult situations. It serves as a constant reminder to me that there’s something bigger than us, and that keeps me deeply anchored and helps me greatly in coming back to my center whenever needed. 

How were you introduced to Osho’s teachings? Any particular thought of his that resonates with you more than others?

I remember watching an evening show on Doordarshan channel during my school days, that was somewhere in early 1990s. They were showing ‘Whirling Meditation’ in an Osho Commune and everybody was dressed in long flowing maroon robes. In that moment I felt a strong connection and desire to be there. Later during my college days, whenever I would come across Osho’s quotes and articles, I felt a deep resonance with his writings and my inclination towards Osho gradually became stronger in a very subtle way. It was only in 2012, when I was in an extremely difficult situation in my life, and I felt a strong disconnect from everything and everyone I knew of at that point of time, somehow I landed in Osho Commune, Pune. And I felt such a strong sense of belonging there; it totally felt like being home to me and so much more than that I would say. I felt such deep love and acceptance of my being, for who I am and that was immensely huge for me, I never felt this way before. For the first time in my life, I felt I belonged, somewhere. 

I have always been a rebel. I could never accept false conditioning, the damaging patriarchy and the old belief systems of the society that no longer serves us. As I got to experience Osho meditations in the commune and I explored further through his writings and teachings, it all served as a healing balm soothing my heart and soul. Whether we agree to it or not on the surface, but I feel Osho’s  teachings somewhere deeply resonate with each of us.  

“Never belong to a crowd; Never belong to a nation; Never belong to a religion; Never belong to a race. Belong to the whole existence. Why limit yourself to small things? When the whole is available.”  ~ Osho 

How can Reiki help with mental health issues?

Research shows that Reiki primarily helps in the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression as well as relief from chronic pain. Reiki leads to a decrease in symptoms related to hypertension, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and stress. Reiki is deeply healing and helps clear mental blocks, bringing clarity and focus by balancing the energy centers, known as ‘Chakras’. Reiki works on all aspects – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

The human body has electrical and magnetic energies that flow through it and around living tissues, creating a magnetic field around the body. Pulsing magnetic fields from the hands of Reiki therapists are in the same frequency ranges that are optimal for stimulating tissue repair. Reiki brings to us what we need at the time, at any given moment. 

Have you had any particular point of desperation in your past that you look back at and realize it turned out for the best? In that moment what helped you the most?

 There have been many difficult situations or points of desperation in my past, and today when I look back I feel so thankful to all of that. There was a constant knowing that was telling me all along, nothing is permanent – “this too shall pass”. All that came my way only made me stronger and more determined to be my authentic self, live my soul purpose, and it all constantly nudged me to make the rest of my life the best of my life. Having given a chance, I wouldn’t want to alter or change any of that. All the learnings that have happened over the years and how everything has been taken care of by the Universe, it all makes me feel so very grateful from the bottom of my heart and opens me up further to trust the process and live in surrender to the universe. I have learned that our Creator is so generous and kind that He knows better than us what we can endure, what we deserve and what is good for us on the whole, rather than what we want for ourselves at any given moment. Of course we do need to make necessary efforts, and we are constantly supported and guided by a higher force all the way, I have no doubts about that. When we look at the bigger picture, we understand how everything falls back into place and how much we are loved and taken care of. It all makes me feel so grateful, thankful and blessed.  

“I am so grateful for the many times God has shown me the mercy of not giving me what I want. As I look back on my life I realize – every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.” 


Since you are a mother of young adults and are also spiritually inclined, what suggestions can you give to parents about children’s mental well being? What sort of emotional tool kit do parents have to equip their kids with to go out in the world?

Unconditional love is the biggest gift that we, as parents, can truly give to our children. I am a mother of two young adults – I have a daughter who is 20 years of age and a son who is 16 years old and from my experience of raising two beautiful beings as a single mother, I would like to convey to all parents to provide their children with a nurturing and supportive ambience through unconditional love and a deep understanding of their emotional needs, respecting their space, trusting them fully and encouraging them to follow their passions, knowing and believing that there is a genius in every child. And in so doing, we discover that in the process children not only feel empowered to trust their own self and open up to their true potential, they also truly blossom as compassionate and confident individuals who know their worth and how they deserve to be treated. I read this beautiful quote somewhere- “Our greatest contribution may not be something we do but someone we raise.”

How do you remain spiritual and fierce at the same time? You come across as a person who is happy in their skin but who also speaks her mind. How do you balance the opposing traits within your being?

Well thank you for sharing this is how you see me as, and I am glad to know that this how I am perceived, today. But let me tell you, it has been a very long journey for me from then to now and in all these years a lot has happened. Yes, it took me a lot of inner work, self enquiry, contemplation and self reflection to open up my true authentic expression, my true authentic voice that was suppressed so much because of false conditioning, old belief systems that no longer serve us and all kinds of wrong ideas about how a woman “should be” and “shouldn’t be”. Now I feel, after all these years of hard work it all gets integrated into one’s personality and it all becomes so effortless because this is who we are today after all the learning and experiences get absorbed into one’s skin and bones. Today, everything has changed, I feel like a completely different version of myself, and yet I am more me than I have ever been. They say, fearlessness is not the absence of fear, it’s the mastery of fear and I feel I am still on my way, slowly and steadily getting there.  I feel so very deeply grateful to my parents, to my children, to all my Masters, to all my Teachers and my wonderful guides who have always been holding me energetically, supporting me with all their love, light and blessings. Heartfelt gratitude to all that is.

To contact Rashmi get in touch with her on FB/ Instagram.

Mandira Srivastava talks about mental health

Mandira Srivastava is a transactional analyst and mediator at Awaken The Dance Within.

How did you remain centered during the pandemic? Did your spiritual practice anchor you through these trying times?

Saadiya, I view the Pandemic as a reset in the world.

I have been living off the grid and in my rhythm for many years now. Yes my spiritual practices, which I also teach, helped me stay centered and energised, as they always do. In fact, because I could not move out much  I ended up working with lots more people and furthering my own educational qualifications. I also learned Spanish. The idea is to make the best of everything.

I celebrated through these times. The traffic stopped. The skies cleared up. More birds sang. People caught in the automaticity of life, were forced to rest and reconsider their existence.

Stops/ Resets are good to return to Consciousness.

I think dance is your main practice-whether it’s the sufi whirl, the Gurdfieff movements or Belly dancing. How do you think it helps in releasing angst?

Movement helps to shift and release energy. Done consciously, dance, or any other movement can support catharsis, including breathing exercises. I also practice Reiki, and counsel with Transactional Analysis. I am also a trained Trauma Release Therapist. All these methods allow for release of trauma.

I remember meeting you two decades ago and then having the privilege of meeting your spiritual guide. I find a lot of people being skeptical about not just religion these days but all kinds of spiritual healers. What are your thoughts on the importance of appropriate guidance?

I think when the Teacher is ready, the Learners will appear.  We each attract the experiences we have chosen for ourselves. Accordingly, we experience who and what we do. I am blessed to have found wise guidance at a time I needed it, and privileged to offer it to others in my turn.

People often want quick fixes. To transform requires perseverance, effort and most importantly the wish to change. It means self discipline and the ability to leave the known behind. It takes courage.

Sometimes the Teacher is not ready  sometimes the Learner!

As a single woman how do you navigate through Indian society, so cheerfully? What advice would you give people who get bogged down by expectations?

That would require a book! I think being self sufficient is crucial to navigating through any society. Self sufficiency, for me includes, having the courage to live my life on my terms, and in my rhythm and not letting others opinion of me matter, as much as my own opinion of myself.

‘ What others think of me is none of my business. ‘ My life is mine to co – create and celebrate. And as long as I am not disturbing others, I think I can do as I wish!

Favourite quotes or a song, you read or listen to on a hard day?

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am not for others, then what am I?

If not now, WHEN?

Rabbi Hillel

Passing Through….. Leonard Cohen

‘We are spiritual beings, having the occasional physical experience

Not the other way around’

( Not sure who all have said that)

To connect-Check out her Page on Fb- Awaken The Dance Within

Antaheen Komal’s thoughts on mental well being

Antaheen Komal is a spiritual healer: a family constellation practitioner, based out of Mumbai.

How did you remain centred during the pandemic? Did your spiritual practice anchor you through these trying times?

Since, I am a spiritual healer, my work and spiritual practise is one. During the pandemic, the energies were really high for me. It was a deep transformation time. I was guided by energies to host several workshops to contribute towards the creation of a New Earth. Work took new dimensions as it went online. The pandemic was a really busy time for me, it was highly enriching for the soul.

How do familial relations influence the individual psyche?

I work in the area of family constellation and ancestral lineage healing. In every therapy we have seen karma or emotional and psychological patterns of the family or childhood traumas affecting the individual. A child sometimes also expresses and compensates for something which has remained unexpressed in the family lineage.

How do you propose coming to terms with past hurts via the family constellation workshops?

When you see, acknowledge and name the entanglement as it is…the soul makes a movement. This is the basis family constellation work. We make the client see what is the root cause of an issue, acknowledge that yes! it is an issue, name it and then make a choice to move from the old space into a new space.

Is group work necessary or can the work be done individually?

The workshops can be conducted as a group workshop, as a private, individual session with other people as representatives or private individual session with puppets or paper representation. These can be done in person or online.

Contact- agarwalkomal@gmail.com

Eitu Vij Chopra Reflects On Mental Health

Mental health awareness month

Eitu Vij Chopra is a spiritual entrepreneur, Life and Mental Wellness Coach, Educationist, Writer, Poet and Just Another Volunteer.

How did you remain centred during the pandemic? Did your spiritual practice anchor you through these trying times?

Fear and uncertainty can play havoc with psychological as well as physiological goodness of the body and both of these emerged as big issues during the pandemic. The one sure short way that helped me was being purpose driven, grounded and joyous in creating something bigger than myself for the world and finding Joy in Giving.

So on the one hand a lot of volunteering went on, by way of being an aid and support to front line workers as mental wellness and holistic coach coupled with starting our #miLLLss ThemoJOsh Life Leadership Learning2Learn Success Summit; an online program for youth to help them bring to the forefront their passion and purpose and become passiopreneurs to create better world for self and others. To be able to accomplish the season 1 of it, we reached out to 100 plus self-driven passiopreneurs from across the globe and curated and recorded their learnings and insights for youth who had been left high and dry during the pandemic with no internships, no jobs or no colleges. (* passopreneurs are entrepreneurs who are led by their inner passion and fire not a job, money or title).

Yes, my spiritual practice of meditation and mindful conscious awareness helped me a lot to feel and feel that this too shall pass and let’s make some meaningful memories and learning out of it. Did a lot of Writing and Journaling as holistic health practice for anchoring the mind played a big role too and both of these therapeutic modalities have been proven through research to help anchor the mind in calmness and in here and now.

We all know the benefits of yoga for the body but can you tell us a little about how it helps to calm the mind?

Yoga is a game and play of breath as it uses our own energy source that is the breath know as Prana: breath recharge and energise our body and mind. Yoga for me is a way of everyday life to centre myself and also recharge all my energy centres. Full body cardio exercise like Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a full body cardio exercise and manages to massage each inner vital organ and stretches every muscle of the body.

Yoga as I said above draws its energy from our breath so when practised with focus and right breath work of inhalation and exhalation brings the mind to NOW and helps to relax and stay mindfully distracted in a way that is long benefit.

Sometimes just sitting in simple Lotus posture or the Padmasana and focussing on your breath is a sure shot happy calming pill as it’s again proven that deep breath while in this pose the brain is calm and aids sleep and relaxes muscles.

Can you tell us a little about chakra balancing? What should a person do if they feel unusually distressed?

 Chakras are nothing but energy grids or power grids of the body that are around major organs and also around major glands in the body. They work in unison with neurotransmitters to carry energy and signals to the brain. So when our mind is heavy, stressed and depleted like in fear or anger our chakras get depleted and awry hence we feel depressed or less energetic and find our minds and bodies heavy.

This in comparison to easy, light, charged energy helps to keep us in now as well as  happy and moving like when we are joyous or in gratitude or practising empathy and compassion.

I practice 10 non-invasive and organic ways to help charge the chakras just as nature has designed it to be, through- sound therapy( natural sounds of the universe), yoga, colour therapy, nutrition or food ( raw), reflexology, crystals, visualisation, affirmations ( thoughts its part of Neuro linguistic Programming, aromas and mudras ( hand postures and pressure points).

Simple remedy I would tell people is to eat raw many coloured food and walk bare feet on grass to get natural antioxidants to calm your mind and bring the heart rate down. It has sure shot instant health benefit.

Not much is known about the mind, let alone about mental/mood disorders. Even now I see psychologists struggling to give a particular tag in a jiffy, since observation is so hard, unless a person is institutionalised. That is quite evident even in the Amber Heard trial; where she has been ‘accused’ of suffering from a ’border line personality disorder’ and a ‘histrionics personality disorder’. Do you think this vilification will make it more difficult for people to come forth with their problems? What are your thoughts on this labelling of mental conditions?

When there is a complex, complicated and sophisticated machinery like brain why can’t it act up like any other part of our body is the question to ask?

As a Mental health coach and therapist one major shift in mind set and narrative has to be to detaboo mental health issues and/or by giving it these big fancy names and then make people dependent on chemical suppressants that are never a cure or sustainable.

Time to accept mental health issues as regular human health issues and in need of intervention and mainstreaming as heart ailments or cancer, diabetes or let’s say skin issues and finding dialogue that is not self-defeating but empowering.

Vilification or taboo as I said earlier has to be completely omitted and we have to treat them as any normal health issues not even mental health issues to help them get acceptance as part of human life and journey. More talking and accepting at every level of family and society together will usher in this change. It’s OK not to be OK.  Seek help and no brandishing at all is the way forward for all genders and age groups and people across countries.

Does it help to label in order to heal, a person? Is it easier for you as a counsellor and a spiritual practitioner, to define or is the spiritual practice more fluid about such matters?

Labelling for research and medical cataloguing is fine as sometimes genetic or family history plays a role but the truth is 99.9% of human population suffers from some or the other mind issues which could be because of circumstances, hormones and food so labelling is a NO but at the same time awareness to seek help and get perspective and find within one’s own thinking to adapt to adept to find tools to cope with, is what I believe in. I help my clients to become aware and educated with the functioning of their own body and mind and to think and find answers and help them with tools that will aid them in their hour of need, The story is always inside out and I believe in empowering not taking away the power which modern medicine does.

Spiritual or non-invasive tools that I mentioned above help get clarity and our thoughts have potency to change our personal reality and tonality. So I lay a lot of emphasis on something that I developed called Talk Therapy which is fluid yet structured conversation that helps to find triggers and once we are deft at identifying them we know them and handle them better and help ourselves. It’s an art learnt slowly but surely that has benefited each client. Secondly, whatever goes in our gut brain that is food or mind brain has to be in our control only then we can manage good, mind health. So awareness is paramount.

It’s easier to pin down disorders when people are melancholic but there are many symptoms. Is there anything in particular that you would want people to watch out for, especially in teens?

The major symptom for teens is when they stop being teens and stop doing the fun, stupid, normal things and are more brooding and pensive then that’s the time to watch out.

Secondly, everyone in the society or support system or family or parents should be laying importance on talking of taboo / bothersome things to teens as it should be fine to talk anything without being judgemental about teens. This is a collective call to all of us.

Thirdly a lot of issues in teens are due to cocktail of hormonal surges happening and coupled with wrong kind of food that could be processed or junk food that leads to mind issues and go utterly undiagnosed.

To get in touch

Email at- eitu.vijchopra@gmail.com

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