Jadunama- Javed Akhtar’s Journey discussed at Jashn-e-Rekhta

Jadunama- Javed Akhtar Ek Safar, Akhtar Sahab’s biography, was recently released and discussed at Jashn-e-Rekhta. The Hindi Edition has been published by Manjul and the English by Amaryllis.

‘Khudkushi Kyaa Dukho Ka Hal Banti, Maut Key Apne Sau Jhamele The. Zahan Au Dil Aaj Bhuke Marte He, Unn Dino Humne Faake Jhele The. Hum To Bachpan Mein Bhi Akele The. Sirf Dil Ki Gali Mein Khele The.’ Many a nights, one has battled with thoughts of extinction and won those battles with the help of three poems…this has been on top of the list. Written by Javed Akhtar, it is from Tarkash. Since, Jadunama is about Javed Sahab’s life and how he has touched the lives of people around him, I thought I would narrate an anecdote on how he has touched the life of a stranger.

Though, one doesn’t own a copy of the book, you will find the audio on every device I’ve owned in the past decade because of this one poem. Javed Akhar, is my hero, not the way Ali Bachchan ( that’s what I used to call Amitabh Bachchan when I was younger) was who I wanted to grow up to be (angry, young man) but the way someone who saves you from your darkest days, without knowing he did, is! Forever, his voice will calm my nerves. I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t say that to him. All I could say, your poem helped me a lot…not most days, it helps me to not blow my brains out! Dramatic, much? Always!

You know, how people always want to get pictures taken, with the people they admire. One wants to make as many pictures of them, as one possibly can. So of course, any time, any one mentions Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar one rushes, to do the deed. Akhtar Sahab, can light up a room, with his wit and the twinkle in his eye. Always, a delight hearing him and one can’t wait to get one’s hands on his biography!

Jashn-e-Rekhta 2022- Sanjiv Saraf With Saif Mahmood

Sanjiv Saraf, founder of Rekhta.
Love Longing and Loss, is a book on love poems translated by Sanjiv.

Saif Mahmood, is an author and literary critic.
On the 2nd day, of the festival Sajiv Saraf’s book discussed by Mr Mahmood who is a great orator and also an advocate.

Patna Ka Superhero

Patna ka Superhero, was performed at the Stein Auditorium and 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

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!

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.

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

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!

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!

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

Facebook-

https://www.facebook.com/EituVijChopra/

Depression in teens

This month we’ll be sharing the opinions of people who help others to deal with their angst. Since, one went through a period of masochism as a teenager-when one would just leave the house in the middle of the night, cut oneself and be totally erratic, one feels parents should be aware of children who act out and get them the necessary help, before it gets out of hand. Melancholy, is not the only symptom. What may come across as puberty or rebellion, may be something far more serious, which left unresolved can create lasting issues for any individual.

This is from an article which was published in Manorma-

‘If a child is sad, it doesn’t mean he has depression. It’s when that sadness stays with him day after day, when depression may be an issue. Other than this if the child has disruptive behaviour that interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork or family life. These can also be signs of a problem.’

Please pay attention to these warning signs-

1) Sadness that lasts an extended period of time.

2) Aggressive behaviour and impulsiveness.

3) Thoughts or talk of self harm.

4) Thought or talk of harming another.

5) Thoughts or talk of death or suicide.

6) Thoughts or talk of perpetual guilt or worthlessness, almost everyday.

7) Lack of sleep or excessive sleep.

8) Restlessness or a slowing down of bodily movement.

9) Overeating or a loss of appetite.

10) Aches and pains, fatigue, headaches or digestive problems.

11) No pleasure in activities that were enjoyed, otherwise.

12) Social withdrawal- limited interactions with others or turning excessively argumentative.

There are various kinds of depression and not everyone has the same symptoms. Please pay attention to unusual behaviour, that can only be figured out by someone extremely close and get the teen, the help they require.

Mental Health Awareness Month

India Art Fair- 2020-2022- Barely Surviving
Art Walk at the India Art Fair

Since, my mum’s birthday and the mental health awareness month, coincided with the Art Fair, this time one decided to show a series of work which reflects the past two years of our lives.

This is the concept note of the exhibit-

We all hide parts of ourselves that we afraid of or ashamed of due to the fear of rejection and ridicule. The first day, I couldn’t stand being at the fair but by the second day, I was more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been, today one is joyful, happier than I’ve been in a long time! This year and this fair will remain etched in my memory.

This month at a 100 pieces of me, we will be discussing mental health. Stay tuned.

MCM 1-111

My latest body of works, is a record of the last two years of my existence. Titled, 2020-2022- barely surviving, they are going to be up at stall no D-5 at the India Art Fair. It’s an ode to my Mum, who passed away in 2020 and to the series of events that one faced after that. If you are one of the few people, who actually likes me, don’t worry, I’m in a much better place- emotionally and psychologically.

One had apprehensions about sharing it but one’s works right from the word go, have been a record of one’s journey. Since, history is written by the rich and powerful ( by the winner) just making sure, ‘her story is written by her!’, flawed as it it may be. Motto in life- ‘You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud!’

One hopes that one day, that shouting will be something akin to Harry Styles’ and Louis Tomlinson’s videos, hiding deep love or like Mann’s work about her children but as of now, the photographs are what seem like a ‘perpetual self indulgence’, as I call it under the garb of ‘ making it okay for masochistic little girls, everywhere!’ Self deprecating, much? Just a little. But it is what it is! This is who I am, right now, take it or leave it! Angry, depressed, anti social …right now…tomorrow I will be something else. But this will lurk from, the shadows always…like it always has. One could, do what the mind says and project something else- nicer, pleasanter, more positive like all humans beings love but SC, needs her outlets, otherwise she will come apart at the seams.

Here is a description of what the MCM1-III, test entails. Like I keep saying, this should never be shared with anyone so please be very discreet about your mental condition. In my case, I’ve been sticking it up to the world since I was very young, plus, I have nothing or no one to loose and much to gain from this. Closure for one, cleaning house for another and just for hope. One wishes to just close this and someday find someone I think I can be with, not having to worry about the sword dangling above my neck or about what anyone will tell him. I’m just going to be like, ‘read this…see this and then lets take it from there!’ Love does have a way of saving us, for now, I make do with the moon.

Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale

Each of us comes into the world with our own worldview and that worldview is actually shaped from the crib. You get from the world what you project into the world and you project into the world what you were raised with and what you were raised around. So the question to ask isn’t what is wrong with you? The question to ask someone who seems different is what happened to you?’- Dr Perry

One has been rather quiet about one’s journey towards calmness for various reasons. Well wishers, advice me, that a person in my position, with no backing other than her own, shouldn’t show her vulnerability to all and sundry, it could lead to hassles, later. But one throws caution to the wind, like one always has because well, if I don’t, then how does a regular Joe do it? I grew up around mental illness and thankfully, I am a single woman the society can’t yank around because there ain’t going to be no freaking legal guardian and there’s already a ‘incase I go totally bonkers’ plan in place! So, no, no one can lock me away or give me electric shocks! Ya, the plus sides of being a little nuts, always prepared for the worst case scenario.

Anyhow, we all wish to leave a legacy. Mine, is going to be always upsetting the apple cart. When I die, my desire, is that people should say ‘ She always did exactly what she wanted…she never listened to anyone, other than herself!’ My soul is going to pao bhangara, at that moment. If even one person, says I was nice, my dead body is going to barf on the poor unsuspecting creature! So, since I have such noble aspirations, you can figure out in what direction my moral compass points. Oh, honey, come on, chill, we all got to make fun of ourselves!

Anyhow, one digresses- one can’t live in this sort of closet. So, I’ll take my chances, roll the freaking dice, there are too many people out there who never say, what’s going on in their heads, out of fear of ridicule and judgement. Aur janeman humrae paas to kuch bhi nahi hai gavane ko, to hum kyun dare? Here we are, ready to catch the raging bull by it’s horn. One will be sharing, various aspects of one’s journey like what kind of tests were done and what were the results. I did share a post about the ink blot test, in the morning. That test was rather interesting. Books, recommendations from the spiritual kinds, quotes etc have helped. Most human beings, in my case aggravate the situation, other than my male friends, who entertain me with their antics, so one tends to stay away, but in my mum’s case, she felt calmer around other people. So, you choose your poison, one handles aloneness, better, It’s a good idea to go for psychometric testing, especially if like me you have issues conforming and you need conclusive evidence before believing anyone. The results may surprise you pleasantly or they may come as a rude shock but what’s the point of not knowing yourself , when that’s the only person whose going to be with you, all the time?

Some very important pointers. Most mood disorders/ mental illnesses stem up before a person hits 25. So, anyone with a mental/ mood disorder, would have had their first episode or episodes in the earlier phases of their life . This differs from what we call depression, which is a loosely used term these days. There are induced states of depression- drug/ alcohol induced, postpartum depression ( after a child is born), depression after loosing a job or on retirement, separation, grief induced etc. These are circumstantial and should in normal cases, last for a certain duration of time. These vary from a genetic disposition and that is why there is in depth enquiry about family history, when you go in for a regular psych interview.

Most of my test results were spot on, other than the alcohol dependency, where the score was high, purely due to genetic disposition from both sides of the family. So, since one barely drinks in any case, one has reduced it even, further. These are all screenshots of my actual reports, with the shrink’s description about the tests which were conducted. I know in a court of law, these results could be used against a person, during a divorce proceeding so I would suggest never sharing such things with anyone.

If My V Could Talk

Inspired by the Vagina Monologues
Art works displayed in New Delhi, in 2008.

We at a 100 pieces of me love the Vagina Monologues. The above artworks, were inspired by Eve Ensler’s, famous book and displayed in New Delhi, In 2008. In 2022, if my V wanted to say something though, this is what it would say!

If My ‘V’ Could Talk. Plate 1 (2022)
If My ‘V’ Could Talk. Plate 2 (2022)
If My ‘V’ Could Talk. Plate 3 (2022)
If my ‘V’ Could Talk. Plate 4 (2022)
If My ‘V’ Could Talk. Plate 5 (2022)
If My V Could Talk. Plate 6 (2022)

P.S-Don’t shed a tear, it might bounce back into action with a vengeance. Ya, ya I know this why society at large loves me…it so gets my humour. Lol.

Women’s Day 2022

Women more than men can strip war of its glamour and its out-of-date heroisms and patriotisms, and see it as a demon of destruction and hideous wrong.’-Lillian Wald

Women are the victims of of war…as widows they’ve faced the trauma of being single parents and livelihoods of families are affected. A lot of gender- related problems come up in terms of health, education, domestic violence etc.’ -Kumari Jayawardena

We at a 100 pieces of me, are praying for the Ukrainian women, who are fleeing their homes due to this senseless war. Special dedication to our friend Anastasiia Pashniak, who shared this on Fb, a few days ago.

War…Day 9. Sometimes I feel like it’s a catastrophic movie. But the special effects are way to good. We and millions of people had to leave their houses skipping the sirens and sounds of bombs…My friends ask me if we are safe-No! No one in Ukraine is safe now.’- Anastasiia Pashniak

Diggin Cafe, Connaught Place

Diggin, Connaught Place.
Selfies
Delhi at Night

I’m told I should get my act together and start doing things, that make me ‘feel like myself’. So, one has yet again, started going through the motions-solo dates, driving needlessly while blasting music to literally, deafen myself and of course smoking bidis, occasionally! For five minutes, they teleport me to a sand dune in Pushkar. Works but that can’t be a solution.

The newly opened Diggin cafe, in Connaught Place, is a pleasant beanery to spend an evening alone. Next to the Museum of illusions in A block, this is the third outlet of the Diggin chain. The ambience is just as pleasant and the food is as palatable. Though, there’s no outdoor seating available but the bar will make up for that I guess, as none of the other outlets serve alcohol.

For an evening out by yourself, it’s safe and friendly. Anyone who likes to hang out by themselves, in this city will tell you how people always raise their eyebrows, seeing a person enjoy their own company- that’s a given. When you’re alone, you’re given the worst seating and ‘is anyone joining you?’ is asked, in a rather condescending tone, sometimes. Not at Diggin. The staff was very friendly and the service, fabulous. So, drop in- alone, with a lover, with your family, whatever pleases you.

Solo Date- N Block Market

Full Circle, Greater Kailash
Breads And More

Since one is adamant to not take the medication, that is being repeatedly recommended by the professionals, one has to come up with other ways to try to keep oneself (relatively) sane. The verdict it turns out, is that one’s a bit loony ( someday when one is in a better space, one will share more). Well, if you’ve ever read any of my posts, I bet you already knew that!

Par, janemans humme dava ki nahi, dua ki zaroorat he aur kitabo ki. Since it was raining one couldn’t go to the Dargah today, so the next best alternative was a bookstore. Gurudwaras are just too crowded for one’s anxious heart. I wish the paijis sang kirtan like Harshdeep Kaur or Jagjit Singh, I would sit near the Sarovar and listen to it but they don’t. There’s no crescendo, most of it just makes me sleepy.

As it poured, one found solace in a familiar space- The Full Circle Bookstore, in N block market. Books have a way of finding us at the right time and the first few I chanced upon were – Healing is the new high and Failosophy. Though, one is having a hard time concentrating, so one invariably only reads poetry these days but they seem like interesting reads. Let’s see if they help.

Calmed my tumultuous mind with a cup of coffee at Breads and More, with the books and the rain keeping me company. Gobbled up a lemon tart, that reminded me so much of my mum. Whenever she would get angry with me, she would recount what a good kid I was and how painful I’d become as an adult. She told me, apparently that when I was younger I was low maintenance and quite a content child. I would never ask for anything, when we went out to shop, other than lemon tarts. I have no recollection of it but lemon tarts will forever remind me of Ma.

When it stopped, I parked myself on a bench in the garden for a bit. The luscious greenery would have normally pleased me to bits but ……….It will get better, I’ll make it better, somehow.

A Day in Mehrauli

Qawals
At the Dargah
Jumme Raat at the Dargah

Post birthday celebrations continued with friends, this week. The culmination of it was today. What a euphoric day! Spent the afternoon with a friend at Bo Tai, then went to the park to lie in the sun. Got dirty looks from the lovers, who hated the intrusion. Made my way to the Dargah. Spent a few hours there till I could feel the depressive thoughts of the past few months, leaving my body. Mujhe aap ne bulaya yeh karam nahin to kyaa he?

Home away from home

Mughal Road

fb.watch/624thPyAGa/

‘I believe wherever dreams dwell, the heart calls it home.’- Dodinsky

(Video shot Enroute Gurez)

So many of my memories from the past twelve years are entwined with Kashmir, a place I first visited as a child with my mum. Later, sometime in my twenties, I remember seeing Zila Appa, clad in white sitting opposite the Dal, singing with Muzaffar Sahab’s musicians, while I shot her, totally enamoured by her voice and the place. Travelling with friends, family, alone, accompanied, for work, for leisure and most of all for the spot near the Dal, where I’ve tucked away the broken pieces of me. I return sometimes, just to see if they are still there. Like tonight, I long for my spot.

One understands that just because one has a birth certificate and a passport mentioning the place of birth as J& K it doesn’t make the place home. But my love of places, like Kashmir and Pushkar has been more intense than the love that one has felt for any man. I should stop though, it causes plenty of confusion. My concept note for the series 2019, that drew a comparison between Srinagar and Delhi, mentioned my home- Delhi and my ‘home away from home’ Kashmir. A journalist visited the stall, at the art fair, read the concept note and wrote ‘Kashmiri photographer Saadiya Kochar’. A compliment for me and I’m sure a little infuriating for any Kashmiri, who might chance upon it. The journalist and I never did get to chat and I guess my name confuses everyone in any case, so not her fault. One should have been more careful.

In any case, as the rumour mills churn and one hears there might be another bifurcation the place of birth on my new passport, might just mention Jammu. One wonders how much the people of this land will continue to suffer? Now that we’ve all experienced lockdowns, it might help you empathise with a twenty year old whose life in Kashmir, has just been a series of such shutdowns with no internet and the fear of being locked up. That’s if they haven’t lost someone due to the conflict. God should have mercy and we should have some empathy!

23.5.21- Lockdown Extended

Dilip is from U.P and works at a dhaba. ‘ Madam, dar lagta he lekin roti khani he!’
While everyone stays home, things gets fixed.
A rag picker (didn’t want to disclose his name) in Sarojini Nagar
Prashant, an employee of the (in) famous Khan Chacha.
A lone guard sitting outside a store in CP
A lone man walking to work in CP

Hmmm

We are all controlled by our vices, till we don’t learn to control ourselves. Or is it just, my wrath, that takes over me? You reach a point, at least I do, where you’ve been listening to all kinds, of what seems to me as bullshit and then I explode!

But one has to ask oneself, what is the point of all of this life experience, if your Achille’s heel is so easily exposed? If having great gut instincts is just going to make one furious, isn’t it better to be oblivious to the truth? Isn’t that misdirected passion and sensitivity just as bad as all my other masochistic tendencies because it causes, if not more then almost as much harm to the body?

Don’t be like me! Anger intrinsically, causes harm to the body, is a waste of your precious time and energy and on the other hand anyone with an agenda will use it. If you’re scared of the dark and people know, they will use it to scare you, right? Same, if people know you’re going to get triggered, they will trigger you, for sure. Something, so frivolous as someone out of sheer jealousy, can indulge in all kinds of malicious gossip that started at my mother’s funeral and it just doesn’t stop, for an entire year isn’t a good enough reason for you to get so triggered as to destroy all your relationships. That is the goal of the person and you will end up damaging your health and your self esteem, eventually.

It baffles most people, how information travels at the speed of light. It’s easy, humans are driven by a need to share information once they receive it, so the person you will tell, will tell another and the grapevine will buzz with it. Everyone wants to tell you, what they’ve heard about you, they say knowledge is power and nobody who has power will not exercise it. In my case, everyone’s figured out you just have to drop the hints and she’ll piece it together, that’s my freaking double edged sword. Knowing other’s intentions ain’t rocket science, controlling your own reactions to them for me, is as tough as going to Mars. Sometimes, the misanthropic me wants to just go there but if one keeps having these fight or flight reactions, then I will end up in a brawl with a Martian. Now, the people and especially the men who’ve loved me, adore this trait and are usually amused by, all the drama, that the raging bull creates, women I’ve been told are rarely this aggressive but this level of reactivity is damaging.

The boy I spent the maximum time with loved comedy. He himself had a wicked sense of humour, like my dad and till date when I watch, read or hear anything funny it reminds me of him. That may have gone kaput but one has many things to thank him for, amongst them, introducing me to all kinds of comedians is on the list. So this came from an older black comic, can’t recall his name. He made an astute statement of how we got to pay for our privileges with our silence, how a fat person can body shame a thin person but to do that the other way round, is insensitive. A person who has less money, can pass snide comments or question another’s wealth but the reverse of it is insensitive! The crux of it is was something like this and that’s how the joke carried on. The more shit you have, the more shit you got to listen to was the gist of it. There aren’t any free lunches and a few snide comments or some gossip that ain’t going to matter to anyone who wants to deal with you in the end, is the price you got to pay for the life you lead, just roll with it!

As a child that’s all I dealt with: incessant gossip. My mother was too damn different so you can’t even begin to imagine the things that were said behind her back and to my face. People forget children remember, I spent majority of my life disliking and slightly afraid of other people and to counter it developed this response. It’s either my shell or my quills, most people encounter. But that’s a terribly unhealthy response. ‘ I don’t know!’ saying that perpetually is part of it I was told in therapy when I was younger but you know I don’t agree with it anymore. Maybe like they said, when I say I don’t know as a protective defense mechanism, I’m also telling myself that, which isn’t a good idea, to repeat something like this to oneself. But most people don’t need to know, what you know, so zip it. So now I’ve developed a new thing, someone tells me day is night, night is day, I say hmmm! Someone will tell me two plus two is five hundred I say hmm, correct. If you figure out other people’s intentions the reaction can’t be anger. It has to be hmmm! I’ve decided to argue and get angry with only the ones I love. There’s a breach in your defence mechanism if every rocket that comes at you, causes an explosion. Develop a Kippat barzel, your Iron Dome to protect from internal damage. But don’t be like Israel and react to the rockets. Be stronger, be wiser, don’t be like me or just react with hmmm to this rant, as well.

Day 13

CO-RADS LEVELS

One is recovering steadily, one can figure out just by how restless one is at night. High levels of mental restlessness due to physical inactivity, just means I’ll be back in action. The physical weakness is still prevalent, one prances around the room as one talks over the phone to feel completely exhausted in a bit. Strangely enough, I kept praying for a positive result. Not only for the antibodies but also to know whether the gut instincts are as sharp as they used to be.

Found some useful data, in the middle of the night about CT scans. About how to determine if you’re Covid positive, through a scan and when should you get it done? So this is what I found out. The CT scan should be done after five days, from when the first symptoms crop up. The CT value will determine the severity of infection and the CORAD, which is the standardised grading of the likelihood of being Covid positive is given. The CT score is from a range of 0-25 or in some cases 0-40.

So a CORAD 1, means highly unlikely. CORAD-2- Level of suspicion of COVID-19 is low, CORAD 3- Unsure, typical for other infections, CORAD 4- level of suspicion is high, CORAD 5-typical for COVID 19 and COVID 6- proven RT-PCR positive for SARS COVID 2. Now, in my case on the 11th day the scan says CT-1 and CORAD-6. So the infection is minute but still in the system, but it’s been established as Covid. Thankfully, one was on antibiotics from day one. But this means one should keep one’s butt at home, away from other people, especially when one can spread it, due to the nature of work, till one doesn’t get another test done.

Like me, if you aren’t as terribly unwell, as other people are- with no fever, no severe symptoms but just have a general feeling of lethargy, eye infection, cramps; you’ll know best, what your body normally feels like when its sick or healthy. Listen to it very carefully. This is the time to tune into your inner voice, your intuition because the test results are deceptive, the labs under pressure and the doctors overworked. Plus, come on man, it’s a new virus and a smart one. No one can say for certain, how it’s going to attack each individual and what the symptoms are going to be. So keep yourself safe.

I am convinced, I had it last year, when my mum passed away. People go blue in the face, trying to convince me, otherwise but I’m one of those people who truly believes, no one really knows anything about anything in this world, so I’d rather trust my own instincts. So, let me tell you how it went down. I share this not for the sake of argument but also because you or your family would benefit greatly by being adamant. It might save your life, like it did mine!

My mum passed away on the 18th of March, which was a few days prior to the Janta curfew and a couple of weeks after the first case was declared in Delhi. The virus that we were made aware off, only in December, had been floating around the world, way before that. Anyway, she had been bed ridden for around eight months by then but was doing alright. A couple of weeks before she passed, a new nurse came to look after her. This girl had a headache, a cold and a terrible cough, so I sent her away and got another nurse. Anyhow, the week before she passed away, I took my mum to the doctor for a routine check, she was fine. But on the sixteenth night, she suddenly started running a fever. 99, sore throat and an upset stomach so I took her to the doctor the next morning. Her oxygen levels, sugar, Bp, everything was alright. The doctor prescribed medicines and I brought her home. The next day by the time I woke up, she passed away. The last person she saw that morning, was my dad, who looked at her realized she wasn’t breathing properly. The footage of her death, still sends a shiver down my spine. On arrival to the hospital, she was declared dead. Her death was termed a cardiac arrest!Now, it may or may not have been. Who knows?

But it is the sequence of events which followed, that make me term it a covid death. A few days after my mum passed away, I started to get sick. I had trouble breathing, so much so that I would gasp for air at night. I was taken to the hospital, where they checked my ECG, which was irregular, did my ECHO which was normal and sent me home with a prescription, for Alprax. We were already under lockdown and I told them I tried to give my mum mouth to mouth resuscitation, yet they didn’t ask me to get myself tested for Covid. They said I was just anxious, so every one believed them. I kept getting sicker, people thought I was being dramatic. People kept telling me there’s not a chance she had Covid or you have it. I believed everyone. But Rabb Rakha! Plus there’s someone who is hell bent on saving my life. So, thankfully, he would make video calls at that time, as I was terribly unwell, to see how I was doing and realized I was very sick. He made me take Novamox ( the same antibiotic I took last week) and after a couple of weeks I was fine. I think I had it, am more convinced now, but what do I know? Trust me, you will know, there’s something unusual! So save yourself, if you listen to naysayers you’ll get yourself killed.

Last year, Reuters reported that the Corona virus was circulating in Italy in September 2019. This study was carried on by the National Cancer Institute. Our ceramic rods- raw material for making resistors comes from Hubei in China and anyone who does business, with them will tell you, imports were getting delayed, way before December. In 2019, India was only the 12th largest trade partner of China. How many Indians must have travelled there between September and December?How many people would have come in contact with those people before the declaration? One has to wonder. Anyhow, now look at the current lockdown in Delhi. Do you know how many people are testing negative, inspite of being positive? You think it’s just a failing of the health care system or just that the strain doesn’t get detected? You believe the government will be willing to admit the real figures and would not be pressurising the authorities to keep the statistics lower, like they do in the case of natural calamities or the killings in Kashmir? Maybe they aren’t, so why are the number of tests being conducted decreasing?

Do you really believe a country that is exporting at the scale that China does would let anyone know, what was happening? If this is bio warfare and synthetic, like some people argue, if it is so ( I don’t know) then wouldn’t they wait for it to spread everywhere and then make the announcement or not make it at all, until they feel like they’ll get caught? None of us can be certain what really happened! Even now around the world, the deaths of old, sick, hypertensive, diabetic people are not added to the statics! Do you not wonder, if there was no COVID, would Rishi Kapoor and Irfan Khan, have survived a few more years? I know they were unwell but much healthier, after their treatments. I’m not even counting all the indirect ways in which Covid, has killed many people by playing with their mental well being, like in the case of Sushant Singh. I think all these things all the time, so when I found Vir Das, talking about some of the same thing, on his episode about death, I was glad I’m not the only one. Though, after watching that video, one had to wonder if his mum has actually passed away at the age 65? If when he speaks about this being his job, he’s trying to poke fun at his own grief? But one wonders many things, I’ve been told it’s my greatest flaw.

Reach Out

Spent the past few days, catching up with friends, family, colleagues and a few of the exes. One’s had all the time in the world, during this isolation to go back and forth, re-examine and reevaluate, for which one is most grateful. It seems like we’re all playing Russian roulette, no one knows whose going to survive. Might as well, find out how they’re doing, might be our last chance, won’t even get to know.

It’s been quite sentimental. Human beings are capable of doing the worst to each other, yet in such times of crisis, most people become more humane. Their best versions shine! The human spirit has amazing resilience and is capable of such incredible kindness, that even a deadly disease like this can’t stop it, from helping people. This is a strange time to be alive, one is scared shit for everyone and yet the heart is warmed by the kindness one witnesses.

Of course, even at this time there are people who are black marketing goods and hoarding. Flip side of it I guess. People also continue to be not such nice versions of themselves- the gossip mongering and the taunting continue. One’s an easy target, too many scandals, too many men and zero apology for the life one has lived! Thankfully, the men one is surrounded by from the father, to the brothers, to the friends, to the prospects are beyond being scandalised by any of my escapades. Most of them just plain amused. The women are a different story but you know, if one has to be something else, I’d rather kiss them goodbye, now! Everyone knows practically everything and what you don’t know is tattooed on my body, so booo hooo!

But the vilification is interesting, as a study, as something that happens to someone else, as a story about a character. One day one will record, al the scandals on video and put it out for the whole world to see. Na, it will invade the privacy of the men, so can’t. But just to Scandalise the next partner, before anyone else does. If he flees, he’s not worth it and if he stays, well then it’s cool! Ya, that’s why I’m still single, not! Other people’s contempt is quite a good fuel for the ego! Being watched, examined and taunted, definitely inflates it! Even in these times, a random person, repeatedly creating a site that embeds part of my text into his website and when you click on it, it gets redirected to some shady websites. It’s been going on for months, inspite of my best efforts. Even in these times, due to a difference in political ideology, people you know, insinuating, ‘ oh the only time you’re open minded is at night!’ (trying to take a potshot at a love affair from seven years ago that the man’s friend has gone and blurted to them) or wishing death on you! No guesses required for their political leanings. That’s a low, of another kind! Of course SB, has replies that are terribly viscous but to say something at this time, is not only foolhardy but very insensitive. But one records this just incase, in the near future one forgets, what people are capable off!

Day 7

Ahh, the lovely scent of rain. I sit on a rickety plastic chair, looking at the R block park which is totally devoid of human beings and full of birds, chirping away to glory. Grateful, one couldn’t have asked for a better place to be isolated. Of course you could argue Goa or the hills, which just proves you’re clueless about exactly how privileged we are. The employees who make us rich- work in our companies, our homes, on our construction sights; three share a tiny room and have to share the toilet with sixteen people. So, forgive me, for thinking one has too much, my comparisons are different.

Feel better, sporadically some symptoms crop up- stomach ache, itchy eyes and of course the constant body pain but one keeps feeling like one is perfectly alright. Got some work done, after a week. Feel a bit chatty today, called up to check up on a few people, promised to party when this thing gets over.

But when is it going to get over? It looks like it’s going to be around for a while. The physical and financial damage it’s doing, everyone is well aware off but the psychological damage is rampant. Even for someone like me, who speaks maximum an hour or two in a day ( unless I am teaching), after a week it starts to get to you. This is despite having the floor to move around, just the thought that all of a sudden it might worsen and it’s packy, wacky time. Am I that unwell? No! I just always imagine the worst case scenario and then take it from there.

So if I were to die soon, do I have any regrets? Not anymore. I’ve said and done what I needed to, it’s a pity my will isn’t registered. Of course, everything will go to charity, preferably Khalsa Aid and I shit you not, if anyone tries to cremate me, I will haunt them till kingdom comes. What scares me is that all my Muslim friends who have promised to find me a place, to be buried, will not be able to turn up. Otherwise, I’m good, death can take me when it wants. Dying in my car would be preferable but on my own bed, is not bad either.

Suicides and depression, separation and divorces, this pandemic is just giving everyone grief. A famous couple gets divorced after 27 years ( Bill And Melinda) and it turns into news. The enslavement of two people to a higher ideal, ‘us’ , purely for the sake of an alliance to expand the family’s labour force, should have become redundant by now, once monogamy became the norm and after women became financially independent. In this day and age, what do women need men for other than war, I have to wonder or viz a viz. Vibrators, IVF, robots- technology is replacing the ‘ need’ for a man/ woman. Companionship and intimacy, aren’t replaceable but one look at married couples and it seems to me, marriage just sucks the passion out of love.

Around the world, divorces have been skyrocketing. There’s a 122% jump in enquires for divorce proceedings, states the BBC. Of course in India, young people are still opting for the arranged alliance and putting themselves up, to be tied to the best bidder. Maybe, there’s some wisdom in it, who knows. I might just be J, incapable as one isn’t a saleable package-average looking loner, with below average intelligence, with too many tatoos, a sailors mouth and a stubbornness that could only be inherited. I should turn this into a matrimonial ad and to it I should add- not doing it enough, will 200% lead to a divorce. Forget marriage, they’ll put me on a cross and torch me! I’m definitely putting this on my- if I survive the next two years ( Covid) list. It’s a work in progress, unfortunately everything on it requires me to grow up, which is highly unlikely!

Day 6

The isolation makes one realize how privileged one is. To have space to move around, is a blessing. Though, the results are negative, one feels like crap. The eyes are starting to trouble again, the body pains are the same, there’s a problem with the throat. But everything else is alright.

It’s frustrating not being able to read at all but my -8, eyes and mind tend to get affected the most when one is unwell. ‘Keep your spirits high, my baby and talk to your friends’ says my aunt, who fusses over me, like a mother hen. ‘Talking takes too much energy and makes me feel sapped on a normal day, right now, I don’t have the strength to!’ I reply. The aunts (my dad’s sisters) have taken me under their wings, since mum’s passing. The father of course, hasn’t spoken to one in six days, which one should be used to, ‘cause he’s always been like that with everybody but SC is too sensitive. Nevertheless, concerned childhood friends and family rally around, for which one is most grateful. SC, loves being scolded and fussed over, so she’s chuffed. But one does feel useless and a little bit like a fraud, getting so much attention when all one really feels is extreme fatigue.

Of course, one is always open to speaking to the male friends ( I’m not misogynistic but most men one hangs with are hilarious, my female friends bit too serious) call up to check on R, who too is recovering. ‘ Now you know, what I was talking about Ma’am?’ he laughs. Of course, we discuss all the places we are going to hang out at, whenever we can. One is always game for spontaneous plans and this one is too much fun. As is V, who called up to check on me. This time a bit too serious, ‘don’t take this lightly, I just lost my classmate today. He was alright yesterday and today he’s no more!’ he sounded really upset and concerned. Who would have thought, we’ll see this day? It’s horrible. Our dead are just turning into statistics, mere numbers against this fight!

However, this is a good time to take stock of our lives. To imagine a different way of being, to invent a different lifestyle, for planning a life away from this hustle bustle, re prioritising and rearranging everything, especially relationships. People keep saying, relationships are important but no one realizes how much of our time and our lives, we give to unnecessary ones. So, I’ve being doing a serious rethink, of who and what I will give my energy to. In the end, it’s just going to be you and the people who really, truly care about you, fighting this fight against Covid or any other fight you will ever take on in your life. So conserve the energy!

Negative

The test result is negative but one’s been asked to stay home and isolated for a few days. The symptoms persist-upset stomach, excruciating pain in the legs, pain in the throat and congestion. No fever, no cold and the oxygen levels are okay.

Though I would have loved to cover all the Gurudwaras, doing oxygen seva, one is in no rush to step out for one’s own work. It’s just that the 65 year old father, is still going to the factory (the govt is encouraging factory owners to run their units as they don’t want to aggrevate the migrant worker’s issue) which is terribly worrisome. One hates being of no use to him right now. Wish they would enforce a stricter curfew for the sake of everyone’s safety.

Gratitude

So, turns out one might be positive. Since day before yesterday one was getting severe body aches and cramps in the stomach. Of course, the man in the house yelled and screamed till his face went blue. ‘You have to look after yourself, I’m incapable of it! Don’t expect me to look after you!’ As if one was unaware of that! Eye roll! In any case even if he was, politicians, journalists and their parents are dying, no one can save anyone right now!

So one’s grown up listening to , ‘Sheikh apni apni dekh!’ which roughly translates to you got to save your own ass! Sounds good but invariably it’s meant, ‘all our problems like sickness, loneliness, debts are your problems and all of your problems are only your problems!’ Which is great! It’s made me who I am! But there are times when you don’t want to hear it. You kind of want to say, ‘ I told you so!’ But that’s neither going to change the situation nor is it going to stop him from continuing what he’s doing. So be it!

Anyhow, kahavat he, jiska koi nahin hota uska khudda hota he and turns out I do ( surprisingly) have people around who want to ensure I am ok. While my aunts speak to a doctor and start me on meds, a childhood friend has booked an appointment with a lab for home collection. One’s overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness. Now, the tricky thing is keeping the spirits high. One tends to become terribly anxious when one is sick, which invariably increases the blood pressure and aggregates the breathing. So over dozing on BTS and funny videos on YouTube.

Museum of Illusions

‘Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’ This famous quote by Albert Einstein can be found on the walls of the newest museum in town- The Museum Of Illusions. Situated in the heart of Delhi- Connaught Place, right above the iconic Wenger’s.

The concept is highly unusual-to teach you more about your brain. About how we perceive things, and how easy it is to miss the tiniest details. From Visual Illusions, that play with your retinal sensitivity, to size illusions, to Kaleidoscopes, to 3 D images, to Upside down rooms, the tricks will leave you bewildered. The 50 illusions that are part of the exhibit have been studied by some notable physicists and psychologists like Ehrenstein and Jastrow. Hence, they would be of great interest to anybody with an inclination towards science or the arts. For six hundred and ninety rupees, you get an hour of brain twisters and fabulous imagery.

Since, one navigates the city, primarily by oneself, as soon as I entered the space, for a fraction of a second I regretted going alone. But the staff was so attentive, that they immediately figured out I would need some assistance, as selfies don’t work with the tricks. So, all my pictures were taken by the crew: mostly by Neeraj who accompanied and took pictures of me, while giving me a guided tour. Since, the cases are spiking, the museum is very strict about COVID protocols and the only time people are allowed to remove their masks is when pictures are being taken. So take your kids, a date or just yourself without hesitation.

The museum in Delhi, is the first of its kind in India. The backgrounds used here, have local references- from a picture of Gandhi to a backdrop of CP. Initially, it opened up in Zagreb, Croatia in the year 2015 and now there are around thirty such museums around the world in – Athens, New York , Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Riyadh etc. I hear, Bangalore and Bombay, too, will be getting their very own Museums of Illusions.

Women’s Day Ride Organised By LetsRyde

If you think, ‘ women can’t ride bikes and they are each other’s worst enemies!’, think again. These women will shatter that belief. Not only do they ride like the wind, they cheer each other on. This year, one wasn’t in the mood to celebrate womankind. Someday, the past year, will become what artists do with their feelings, turn it into a body of work. But somehow, one bumped into this incredible bunch of women, thanks to Amit Saini from Lets Ryde Academy.

One attended the motor cycle riding workshop, which entailed learning how to pick up the bike if it fell and learning how to walk with it. That of course did not qualify me, for the ride to Leopard’s Trail, which was organised, yesterday. This was done in honour of women and was called The Women’s Day Ride.

‘Let’s break the stereotype’, is Amit’s favourite line, that he repeats, constantly. It seems to work because women from all walks of life, attend these classes. Abha, who led the ride, is a doctor and the owner of a BMW bike. Someone, with an infectious laugh and camaraderie that trickles down to each member. She held court, effortlessly and made everyone comfortable.

Tarana, a 34 year old, Muslim woman, will shatter your belief that the women of her community are suppressed. She works, rides and does as she pleases, while keeping her head covered, laying to rest, the idea, that women’s strength and independence can be gauged by the size of their clothing. Anita, who was just about to graduate from the academy, is all excited about riding to Ladakh, bro! From air hostesses to directors, to advocates to wives who bought Royal Enfield’s on a whim because, ‘they loved how it looked’ are all learning at this academy in Gurugram, that has been running for the past few years. So, if you feel the need to break the shackles, do check out their classes.

Solo travels- Pahalgam

Solo travels

Pahalgam, also known as the ‘Valley of Shepherds’, is frequented by yatries as well, as tourists in the summer. But in the winters, it’s relatively less crowded than the favourite destination of Kashmiris and tourists alike-Gulmarg. Neither the shepherds, nor the locals crowd the main market and most hotels and shops are still closed. Yet, this time around, I saw more tourists here and everywhere else, than I have ever seen in Kashmir, during the winters.

Posing with the girls, who picked me up after my fall. They all wanted selfies. Me too!
I was stopped while walking down the Main market road, for a selfie. I felt like half celebrity, half Martian.

A few years ago, I journeyed to Baisaran in the winter, with a couple of Kashmiri photographers for a day. That’s when I realized, that Pahalgam has it’s own charm in the winter. The mini- Switzerland or so it’s called is a quaint place, surrounded by snow capped mountains. Of course, I was driving then, this time around Farookh Uncle (my cab guy) traversed the terrain, with me. Being driven around by someone who can handle the winding roads of Kashmir and not be afraid or maniacal, is a bit hard. How I’ll explain later. But Uncle, is an experienced older man, with tremendous skill. For someone who hates being driven around, to say that, means the man must be fabulous at what he does.

Shot around Pahalgam, met a bunch of people, who wanted to take selfies with me. Slipped and fell on the snow and hurt my back badly but my models were kind enough to pick me up, while giggling non stop. Saw breathtaking scenic beauty and actually enjoyed being there for a change.

This time around I had my customary solo date, at a restraunt in Pahalgam. I sat by myself, ordered some yakhni, butted into someone’s conversation about Kashmir and got told, ‘You’re lying, I’m sure you’re Kashmiri!’ Each time someone says that to me, I can always imagine my mum’s fairness obsessed family going, ‘ae, andhera kum kerah!’ ( as dark as a dense, dark night, that’s what they used to call me, when I was little). I get a tan and it stays for months, plus I love the sun and I happen to work outdoors..so mostly I’m a shade of beige to light brown. That’s apparently horrible coming from a family that’s primarily been born white as milk or has got fairness treatments done, to look as white as milk. So, this statement always amuses me.

Anyhow, Uncle wanted to eat by himself but I somehow managed to drag him into the eatery for one of my favourite beverages- kahwa. We shared an awkward few minutes, as he sat on another table, facing me and talking, making me acutely aware of my gender or class. We rarely meet others, where that doesn’t come into play. After, which we headed to Betaab Valley.

Faking snowfall

The entry fee at the park is around fifty bucks, right now, goes upto a hundred later. There were more than enough tourists from – Punjab, Bengal and Kerala, who had flocked this serene spot. I had the best time, as I met the cutest guide cum photographer. ‘Ma’am, please let me come with you. This is how we run our homes.’ he kept trying to coax me. I kept trying to convince him that I was there to take pictures and not to pose, but eventually gave in. I’m so glad I did. After I finished my work, he made me slap a ball of snow, to fake snowfall. Took me around various spots and made me pose. Oddly enough, none of the photographers that you meet at the gate carry cameras (they use your phone to take the pictures), only when you walk inside, you find DSLR’s swinging from the shoulders of men, sitting next to different colours of velvet phirans. But I would personally vouch for these cameraless guides calling themselves photographers. They make you have loads of fun.

With the photographer and the sledge guy

Solo Travels Srinagar

Came to Srinagar yesterday, armed with all that SB comes with-bitchiness, arrogance, anger, resentment and as soon as the plane touched the runaway of Srinagar Airport, SC was back in all her glory. I’ve been told by many, any place outside of Delhi, I’m nicer. They get to see the other one, I guess.

One’s recently becoming more and more aware of one’s privileges. To be fair, when you live a life, that your relatives term, ‘living under poverty line’, your view of reality and your privileges is quite skewed and mine despite all my travels and having friends from different strati of society, still is. Read an article before coming here, about how these three boys travelled to Kashmir and used public transport to go from one place to other and I realized twelve years down the line and that is something, I’ve barely done. I have no idea, what it’s like to catch a bus from the airport. So yesterday, I did. It cost 70 bucks and I met interesting characters, on the way. A girl from Ladakh who was coming from Delhi but staying in Srinagar, a man who was returning from hibernation and so and so forth. But if you are pressed for time, you’ll be waiting for forty minutes on the bus, as passengers fill the seats, slowly.

Hats off to those young lads, who managed going from one destination to other by local transport because to find a local bus, in the winter, to take you to Pahalgam or Gulmarg is impossible. I tried and even the local passenger taxis don’t take you to Pahalgam, straight. They drop you at Anantnag and from there you have to catch another one cab to Pahalgam. Since, one is here for work and not for budget travelling, I chucked the idea of doing that. Lugging my overweight bag around, in the winter, by myself, waiting for local taxis, isn’t a feasible option for me. The anonymity that it grants you, though, is quite enticing. Some other time, for now, Farookh Uncle (my cab guy) and I remain steadfast companions.