Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Depression- An insider’s account

A tale of a bossy brain, out of control hormones, a confused heart and a bruised soul

Who would you listen to?

Imagine the best day of your life. What is it like? You wake up at 6 am, hit the gym at 8, workout till you get exhausted, have a healthy breakfast, grab a coffee and show on time to office. You are greeted by cheerful colleagues; you have another round of coffee with them and a gossip session too. Suddenly, there is a crisis in office and you come up with a brilliant idea. Your boss appreciates you, your team loves you. After work, you hang out with your friends. Your parents/partner calls you up and you spend hours chit chatting. Before going to bed, you write a blog post which instantly gets 50 likes. You sleep peacefully like a child.

Now imagine, you wake up in a hospital bed, bandaged and unable to move your legs. You have bunches of flowers around you. All your loved ones are showering you with love, blessings, wishes and sympathy. You try to get up but no one would let you do that. You realize it would take a long time for you to recover. You worry about your commitments, finances, and responsibilities and so on. People come together and support you, calm you and encourage you to hope for the best. They look forward to see you again leading a normal life. There’s a doubt-“What if I never recover?”.“Are you mad?” they would reprimand. There is always a chance of never recovering but no one is so stupid to believe so.

Now again, lets change this scenario a bit. You are in your bedroom, in your warm and cosy bed, trying to get up but you can’t. You have inexplicable body ache but no symptom of cold or flu. You feel exhausted and restless at the same time. You feel you have lost everything, even the will to live. The perfect day you had yesterday seems like a distant past. The ticking clock, the ringing cell phone, the mail alerts- mean nothing to you. You lie down again and think- what’s wrong with you? You message your boss- “Just a little under the weather. Taking an off. See you tomorrow.” He/she would reply with the usual monosyllable- TC. You feel relieved for a moment but start sulking again- all the moments of failure flash before your eyes. Suddenly you are envious of your friends, colleagues, Sharma ji’s son etc. A chemical locha happens and your one body one mind policy is breached. You hear four voices coming from four corners of your body:

A.      The Bossy Brain- The superstar of your so called successful life- a fighter, a hero, always giving inspirational talk, pushing you, criticising you, trying to make through every situation- oblivious to your emotions. It screams at you- There’s nothing wrong with you. You are just lazy. It’s your fault. You can do everything but you are laid back. You are a failure.

B.      The Hyperactive Hormones- These are the little toddlers who run around the house and break all the delicate objects. You don’t know what’s on their mind. You try to control them and they would start crying louder. The only way to work around them is to let them do what they want and don’t hurt them by being harsh on them- These little sensitive devils.

C.      The Haywire Heart- Well….. living your life to the fullest means following your heart but what if your heart is on a zig zag path that ends up in a circle? It wants to obey the bossy brain, calm down the hyperactive hormones and soothe the sorrowful soul at the same time but can’t prioritize. It starts pulling one string, leaves it midway, starts another and ends up getting tangled in them.

D.      The Sorrowful Soul- Poor soul- bruised and broken- believes nothing can make it feel better. All hopes given up, it just wants to put an end to the misery. It is tired of everything- like a broken record- playing the same line over and again- I hate my life.

The worst part about this- the whole body is on revolt mode but all you can see outside is a person with blank face and puffy eyes. That’s what depression looks like.


Did you say take it easy?



























Friday, February 3, 2017

Tulsi

(image sourced from Corbis)


It was 8 am only but I was late- the same old story of a poor soul trapped in a corporate world. While I was climbing the stairs to the metro station with a dazed face, something sparkled in my eyes. It was a mix of vibrant colours against the plain pastel wall of the station. An octogenarian lady wearing a bright silk saree and a lot of trinkets was trying to do something with her trembling hands. I could see a long steel needle sparkling in the morning sun. She was making a garland using red, yellow and pink flowers. They looked beautiful, only if I could buy them and decorate my puja place I was wondering.

It was 8 pm and I was climbing down the stairs of metro station while still on concall with clients. I found my old friend again with her basket still full of flowers. While there was chaos going on the other side of the phone, there was a complete calm on the lady’s face. Only her eyes were speaking- they were curiously looking at every passer by trying to judge whether it would be her next customer. With each person totally ignoring her existence, her face drooped a little but she was supporting it with her petite hands. By the time I hung up I did not realize I was almost home. For some reason I felt guilty that those curious eyes followed me too and like everyone else I also could not appreciate her perseverance.

I was compelled to walk back but when I reached there I noticed the crowd- policemen and local vendor chit chatting over politics, corporate slaves walking back with their heavy laptop bags, pretty ladies ready to go to parties. Suddenly the feeling of disturbing this equilibrium scared me. The old lady sitting in the middle of all the hustles seemed to be so lonely that by going near to her I would draw everyone’s attention. I loitered around her place pretending to be on phone and casually looking at all the stuff on sale.

She probably sensed that there is another gleam of hope. She sprayed some more water on the flowers. I bent a little and took a closer look at the flowers. The flowers that appeared heavenly in the morning were turning into a shrivelling and stinking mass. My old woman could see the twitch in my body and her happy smile was converted into an apologetic one. She picked up a garland of pink flowers that were relatively fresh and held it to me pointing at my neatly tied hair bun. I could see through her nervous intentions but she was no cunning sales person. She gave and started winding up. I desperately wanted to help and so I pointed towards a garland made up of tulsi leaves. She happily wrapped it and gave it to me. Purposefully I handed her a 100 rupees note instead of a tenner and rushed away signalling that I am in too much hurry to wait. She probably understood. Her triumph of selling stale flowers was belittled by the charity done by me and I was already regretting it.


I looked at the tulsi leaves and remembered home. Though dried up the leaves were still smelling sweet unlike the stinking flowers. Suddenly the old tulsi of night appeared to be more valuable than the young flowers of morning. I placed them in my puja space satisfied that they have served the purpose. That evening, I smiled after many days.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Metamorphosis





(Image Source: http://www.slideshare.net/Joy1618/the-metamorphosis-15879135)

One rainy morning, Gregor gets up in the morning and finds out that he has turned into an insect! Instead of panicking over how he turned into a bug and how he can get back into his original form, he was worried how to get to the work as soon as possible. Metamorphosis is a masterpiece by Franz Kafka which is inspired by his own life. The novel revolves around an event which seems to be absurd and unrealistic in real world but has been dealt with utmost practicality. Metamorphosis is a story that has forced me to think about a lot of issues that’s going around in the contemporary world even though the story was written almost a century ago. This post is not a book review but my retrospection over few relevant issues.

The hackneyed term “WLB”- Work Life Balance

Let’s accept this fact that most of the good intentioned organizations also do not understand this term. Even though companies are serious about the work timings, annual block leaves, Do Not Disturb policy after office hours, people who are rewarded at work are often those who are able to put their personal needs at the backburner and work their ass off to achieve their goal. Sadly, this is the definition of dedication and perseverance that’s thrown towards you during induction and orientation programs. The balance of work and life shouldn’t signify only your time-table but also the share of your mind and unfortunately, for most of us it is tilted towards work because we are in a race and we have to keep planning, strategizing and prioritizing even while we are sleeping. What choice did Gregor had other than mulling over his job when he was constantly under pressure to do better no matter how much he did.

The hidden metamorphosis

Gregor suddenly turned into an insect. A new body, new emotions, changed circumstances- there were so many things Gregor had to go through. The only people he could bank on were his family. But how did the family react? Instead of supporting Gregor in getting through this rough phase, they judged him, hid him, felt ashamed of him and finally shunned him. Recently there have been a lot of hues and cries over mental illness or depression. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Deepika Padukone came forward and spoke about depression as a common phenomenon. Movies like Dear Zindagi have tried to establish the fact that it can happen to the strongest people but the society is still rife with stories of people misunderstood and let down by their own family.

The societal definition of duties

I have been a bright student all through my academic life. However, so many times during my graduation and post graduation, I have been subjected to comments like “its ok for you girls to not have a job. You already have a fallback plan of getting married but we boys are always under pressure to prove ourselves.” Countless times I have been offended by such derogatory thoughts carried by my near and dear ones. After all I had to put the same amount of efforts to crack the entrance exams, my parents too had to sell off their property to afford my education and I too feel the pressure of repaying my education loan. But pondering over it a little more, I can see their point too. All through our childhood, my sister and I felt that it’s our dad’s job to earn money and our mom’s duty to stay at home and look after us. We hardly found our dad at home and we were so used to it that we sometimes felt uncomfortable when he stayed at home for longer never realizing how much he misses to be with his family. That’s the felony of societal definitions. Gregor worked so hard to fend off his family’s misfortune but in its course diminishes his importance to merely a money earner. When the tragedy strikes him and he becomes incapable of earning any more, he becomes worthless because he no more fits into the definition of a good son.

 The best thing about the novel is that even though it has a sad ending, no one is left sad. The abrupt end to Gregor’s life brings out the hero hidden inside Gregor’s seventeen year old sister Grete and she steps up to assume her brother’s responsibility. It definitely doesn’t do justice with Gregor but leaves the reader hanging with a lot of challenging questions about the society and complexity of human life. It might not have changed my life but it indeed made me stop for a while and question myself about my choices.



Monday, October 24, 2016

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (O heart! it’s difficult)

It’s been months and I desperately wanted to write something.




Searching through some random prompts, I stumbled upon this one- write about a song that’s on your mind this week. I closed my eyes and tried to listen to the in-built jukebox I have in my mind and I came up with this:




tu safar mera, hai tu hi meri manzil
tere bina guzara, ae dil hai mushkil
tu mera khuda, tu hi duaa mein shaamil
tere bina guzara, ae dil hai mushkil….


Tune into any Hindi radio channel, this song is topping the charts. However, this post is not about the song, the movie or Karan Johar and MNS debacle, it’s about the itchy feeling that the song gives you- memories of an unrequited love. 




The song is an effort to glorify one sided love. One fact I really liked about the song is that it’s a mixed bag of emotions. On one side the male protagonist seems to be admitting that he can’t live without his love – tere bina guzara ae dil hai mushkil and then he says his journey is not dependent on the destination- “mohtaz manzil ka to nahi hai ek tarfa mera safar”. Some ‘chemical locha’ definitely happening there!






My observation/experience

As far as I have understood the business of unrequited love from my own experience and observing people around me, it’s like a crash course of life lessons. One day you feel grateful to God that he gave you an opportunity to feel the purest form of love- a love without expectations, without any gain and the very next day you bury yourself under pillows and yell- “Why God, why me?”




I am neither an expert on relationships nor a psychologist, I am just an ordinary adult who has gone through the tumultuous journey of attraction and infatuation and has the courage to look back and have a good laugh on her own stupidities.




I remember stealing my mom’s magazines and reading the columns on First Love where people wrote about their first love and breakups. I used to be so moved thinking of why do people who love each other so dearly, separate.




But after witnessing hundreds of heartbreaks and dancing on several breakup songs, I feel amused and today I am trying to dissect the whole phenomena into four parts:

Stage 1: The sunshine




This is the first time you feel the warmth of love. A person has sneaked into your world without you knowing and surprisingly, you like everything about him/her. You try to be close to him/her just to observe the person’s behavior for you. You can imagine your faces photoshopped on the hero and heroine in cheesy love songs. In your mind, you blow up your casual meetings into some life events and publish them with dates on your own imaginary Facebook wall.




You count all the coincidences you had and try to prove the hypothesis that God has made two of you just ek duje ke vaste like Yash Raj’s movies.  You get butterflies in stomach when he/she is in vicinity. Your radar sets off an alarm when your friends are talking about him/her, you blush and turn red and suddenly everyone can smell the smoke of your fire. After days of teasing and mentoring, your friends encourage you to take a leap of faith and bend down on your knees.

Stage 2: The twilight




I really appreciate your feeling but I have never thought of you like that. Infact I like ^*^@(). You are a very good friend and I certainly don’t want to lose you. Can we remain friends and not talk about this again?”- While you play these words on repeat over and over again to find a loophole to console yourself that it was not a straight no, your heart is trying to recover from a mini heart attack. Suddenly a lot of never-experienced-before emotions crop in- you feel embarrassed because you just have been rejected and you have to answer your well wishers’ queries. You feel jealous of the girl/boy who he/she is dating or will date in future. You hate yourself for being not good enough for the person you love. You feel helpless for not being able to do something about it. You cry your eyeballs out and occasionally ask God to call you back to heaven.




After days of thinking, over-thinking and some more thinking, eureka moment happens to you- probably the time is not right. Let me give one more try. You take one step back and continue playing from a safe distance. This phase is mostly marked by a number of good morning and good night forwards and wishful thinking of getting similar replies but usually what you get back are monotonic letters like GN, GM, Hi, OK etc.

Stage 3: The dark moonless night





You tried everything you could. You liked, loved, stalked, poked him/her on social media; you tried DIY gift ideas to prove the authenticity of your love; very patiently and carefully you tried to maintain a safe distance (by sending yellow roses instead of red) with sporadic instance of love confessions which were turned down immediately. Now the harsh reality is dawning upon you and its official- you two are never going to be together. It’s a state of withdrawal for you. You avoid going out with him/her.



At this stage, you are at the highest level of hypocrisy- you tell your brain that perhaps this is best for you to stay away,  you pretend to drown yourself in work and forget him/her while your heart knows that this is the final desperate act of letting him/her realize your absence from the scene but alas! You find that he/she has happily moved on and no one misses you anymore. You try few more tactics- you start hanging out with a guy/girl he/she hates or you show up occasionally and give cold vibes to him/her only in order to let him/her know that he/she has made you miserable but oops, it’s of no effect.

Stage 4: The dawn





Stage 2 and Stage 3 can run in iteration for weeks, months and years depending on how stubborn your obsession is. And after a long period of denial, one fine day Maslow’s hierarchy of needs strike you hard and knocks some sense into you. You suddenly realize, you are not moving forward, instead of investing time and efforts on your personality development, you have wasted your precious moments weeping over spilt milk. And this is the day you actually put your specs on and see the light rays on the other side of the tunnel. You genuinely feel responsible towards your life and are able to see the bigger picture.




You think about 10-20 years ahead when probably this phase of life would be a distant past. You stop listening to your genuinely concerned friends who sympathize with you and abuse him/her for being cruel to you and try to boost your morale by reminding you that it’s his/her loss. It’s positively a new dawn for you and you are all set to give your life a new start by getting a new look, shifting to some other place or adopting new hobbies.




If you managed to survive the crap that I wrote in the last 1000+ words, let me tell you there’s a stage 5 too- where you become so indifferent and casual about the most painful phase of your life that today you are attending his/her wedding, raising toast, clicking selfies and doing high five with him/her.




Suddenly one of your kameena/kameeni friends mentions it in front of his/her would be and you just give out a sheepish laugh giving a Bhasmasur ( a demon in Indian Mythology who could burn anything by touching it) look to that friend.  




So if you are one of the wise ones in stage 5, salute to the indomitable spirit of life. The newbies in stage 4, welcome to the greener side of life and those who are still in stage 2 and 3, you have an apt song to sing along- AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL.








Monday, July 11, 2016

Cost of freedom?

It always amuses me how alien locals of metro cities behave when I tell them excitingly that my parents are coming just to meet me. They often shrug their shoulders as if to react- what’s the big deal? When I walk up to my boss asking for a half day or a leave to spend each and every hour with them, they too don’t understand. Probably the world is too used to listen to stories that lonely parents across the world have to tell about missing their kids on Holi, Diwali, and Christmas. Rarely does one come across the story of a young adult slipping into home sickness.



I remember exactly ten years ago when I was packing to leave home to join my dream college. Despite all the best wishes flowing in, I was numb. I did not know what to expect, how to react and most importantly, how to leave without hurting people and making them miss me. First few weeks at the hostel were definitely a honeymoon period, like a summer camp where we were busy bonding, doing activities together. But as kids, we are used to coming back home to narrate stories of our new friends, our adventures, and new learning. Perhaps the worst time is when suddenly you realize there is no going back. In fact, there is not a single thing you can cling to for comfort- everything is unknown, uncertain and you are left alone to pick up the pieces and solve the puzzle all by yourself.
The funniest thing is the gap in expectations from both the sides. First few months, my parents used to call me 3-4 times a day to ask me about my new life, how I am coping with new people etc. They expected a face to face conversation to be replaced by a phone call, a hug or cuddle to be changed into emoticons. They expected me to tell them everything the same way I did when I returned from school. However, nothing was same for me. I was angry, broken inside- still trying to figure out who’s a friend and who’s not because I did not have the choice of running away to home after every childish fight. There were days of depression when I would just pretend to be sleepy or fake irritation or frustration just to make my parents hang up so they don’t know I was crying because I knew they too miss me terribly. Every night out that I would take to party with my friends and on returning find 10 missed calls from my parents to know that I am home, I felt guilty. Every Holi or Diwali when I could not go home, all the lonely souls would gather at a place to do a make shift arrangement- fake a puja, make an abstract rangoli and try to bring all the memories live. But sheepishly would feel jealous and hide a tear looking at lucky kids still being pampered by their elders. Honestly, it’s great to be in-charge of everything but there are few occasions where you just wish to sit back and enjoy seeing your parents do the preparations. I can totally relate to why my parents would do budgeting and cost cutting every year during Durga puja just to visit their native.

Now that its ten years and I am habituated to this freedom and leading a life of my own, I do not miss home. Somehow I have started to believe home is where I can comfortably lie down with a laptop and headphone. In fact until last year when I visited home, I felt captivated because I was made to follow orders as if nothing has changed in last ten years but it has, in reality. I scream, I crib and I feel frustrated about everything- AC not working, Internet connection not up to the speed, boring job, too much work, blah, blah and blah but what I don’t tell them is that- I missed them terribly and there were days when I really wanted to run back to them. This was all I wanted them to know but being too weak to touch the touchy topic and start a melodrama, I preferred to make them realize that my fast track life does not leave me with any time for anyone. Happy and content to find me enjoying my life, they leave peacefully as if they never came but truth to be told, my life goes topsy-turvy. When you are given only 1-2 days to see the people who taught you to see the world, nothing can be more painful than the period that follows the meeting. I dropped them at the airport today and have at least found hundreds of things that I wanted to show my mom- a new dress I bought at an unbelievable price, a new painting that got a lot of likes, pictures from the most recent trip and the list goes on.