Recovery Oriented Blog for Mental Illness

I have recently started a new blog, because I felt that I needed to strictly focus on recovery in serious mental illness, as a theme by itself and calling it any other name would not do justice to my commitment, engagement and research. I have, in the past, tried writing on this blog about mental illness related encounters I have had. However the purpose of the new blog is slightly different.

The new blog is committed to one single theme. All my mental ‘illness’ oriented work would go on that blog as it is also my desire to share with the lay intelligent reader whatever knowledge I interact with, in the course of my phd research. Since a researcher by definition tends to be looking into a vaster expanse of information, data, analysis and study than someone who is not a researcher, for reasons of social good and making research accessible, people could routinely offer small chunks of that knowledge to the wider audience. This is my attempt in that direction.cropped-website-hope-image

However research is not an easy journey to make, for it is largely solitary and a tough act of balancing one’s financial needs, professional goals, study commitments, family responsibilities, domestic routines and you name it. I cannot say I am in any enviable position except that to reduce the monotony of my work, I have started teaching classical music to a few youngsters- it is a breath of air for me. Of course I continue learning with my own guru also- another breather!

This blog post is basically to re-direct anyone who is connected to me for the above reason, to redirect their gaze in a more appropriate corner. You can well imagine that I am likely to post little on this blog, while my focus lies in recovery. However peace is close to my heart and at the heart of all my efforts. If one can help even a single person come into their own center, attain a little peace- they will gradually create their own peace and spread it further as well. I call the new blog- recovering self, because only in re-covering ground that people lose due to setbacks which are called mental illness, do we become our WHOLE SELF again- the self that we were intended by Mother Nature to be. The recovery blog is only meant to be a little offering in wholeness, a testimony to the work I am doing as well as a knowledge sharing blog- diminishing stereotypes about mental illness, challenging convention and offering alternatives.

Hope it accomplishes the intention of its birth.


Education headed for doom!

Recently I was invited for a conference …

The organizing chairman, happened to be a neighbour- psychiatrist at that! Woe upon this world

But guess what- not a conference in psychiatry, but a conference in early childhood education!


Woe upon civilization, more so! Let children play…they will learn all that they need to.

When psychiatry starts deciding about early childhood education and not educationists, we know the future of society is more medicalization and more pathologizing  human behaviour. We are doomed and the future of the world seems to be more medication for children at a younger age now!

As it is we Indians are a servile lot- one of the chief guests was that psychiatrist sitting in London- Vikram Patel, who lives off the research of others all the time!

Who wants the collaboration of psychiatry for god sake?!

Must quote my other blog post in this context, though of a slightly different due. Both are written today. The sinister design of psychiatrists to lead a flock of idiotic sheep posing as teachers and educationists are going to finish the country’s thinking ability, if ever the system let it develop anywhere anyways. We have failed as a country, and this is the final testimony- the take over education by all sorts of vested interests.

Of ‘higher’ castes and lower minds

Imagine burning two little children alive, while they sleep at home with their parents. By what stretch of imagination can this be called the act of a sane mind, let alone the mind of a so-imagined ‘higher’ caste?

The continued myth of higher castes needs to be shunned at all levels in society and its oppression on the ‘lower’ castes needs to be dealt with utmost severity. But who will wield that firm stance? Those who themselves are pillars of this social menace and who have stood to gain in the name of caste and birth, generation after generation?

Just look at their faces here. Do they look like children who are any different from any children anywhere in the world? What is the meaning of Dalit or caste to these little children or other children of their age? But what have they lost their innocent lives to? To an imaginary social hierarchy created by adults centuries ago, that they had no role in creating or perpetuating, but simply becoming victims of it, without having any part to play, other than being born.

We are a failed human society. Sorry to say that, but there is no other truth that justifies this shocking, unthinkable, most condemnable act of mob violence. There can be no further words than that. Forget about civilization, when adults can go and burn children to death in a barbaric, brutal fashion…it does not show any progress, culture, education or development. It just shows that the lower mind is doing its brutal, barbaric, naked dance and it will crush anything now…unless crushed with equal force. And that force is has to be organized social action, not individual or another caste based solution.

These ‘higher’ caste men who really think that caste is their entitlement are so illiterate that they do not realize that the basis of caste system was a division of labour and at a philosophical level the four varnas were depicted within the human body itself, where the mind or intellect represents the brahmin, the arms that do work and labour are kshatriyas!! The feet that do the walking and carry the burden of the body are the lower castes. Can you see the lower caste in your own self? It is what you cannot survive without.

There is no lower caste outside of you- it is all within. So stop this brutal, barbaric, primitive dance of your savagery, you idiots. You are not higher in any sense of the word, those whose actions are governed by your lower minds. Conquor the Ravana within, and not burn laughable effigies outside.

New pathways that teach as they grow, in teacher training

Between me and Poonam ji, we have been talking about music in education for over five years, from the time I founded the Hansadhwani foundation. At that time I lived in Faridabad and it seemed very taxing to come to Delhi University and teach anyone. Perhaps my own expertise in music seemed so far apart from the rudimentary level one would have to teach beginners, it proved an additional deterrent. I was of course keen even then, but health did not permit me to drive down nearly 50 kilometers and then teach and return home.

What I find most interesting about teacher training is that students who come are all future teachers and I believe that the best inputs ought to be given to them. Naturally I place a great emphasis on learning to play a basic instrument, like the harmonium.

Life of course does not offer easy solutions at any stage so once I decided to bite the bullet, the home had shifted to Goa! Now how much more easier would that be than Faridabad? I suppose we do not do things unless pushed to the limits of our means, the same manner students in India do not study till the exam is just round the corner, which is not a good model for sustaining any knowledge.

Anyhow, since Poonam-ji had called me a few months ago on the phone, and we were also recently in touch for some other reason, I thought it would be proper that I should inform her that I would be in Delhi and possibly she wanted me to do something for her. When I sent her the message, she put in touch with me Monica Gupta, who is also an educational psychologist, teaching in the education department of Gargi College. Thereafter, between me and Monica, we worked out a mechanism of offering this music in education as a training to students in eight colleges of Delhi University, which are running the bachelor of elementary education program, called the B.El. Ed. I am sharing this background with students who are part of this, so that they know that what we are doing together has a history and the efforts of many people involved and being the first group of learners, it is in their hands now, how the whole program is sustained and carried forward in the months and years ahead.

We cannot afford in music any attitude of postponing till the last minute, because it does not work that way. If I hear you singing once at any time, it immediately tells me whether you have been working on your music or not. So this is what we all have to guard against, or else the initial enthusiasm of all of us would start waning after the first set of workshops itself. Girls I hope you are listening- I need to be as enthused as you. My enthusiasm is a mathematical function of your inputs and efforts now. I am writing this as an introduction to all that I write below, to illustrate that though this can work at some levels, sporadic, exam-oriented work cannot be effective at the level of the arts. Certainly not music among them, even if it may work in crafts or colouring based media.

In the span of time that has elapsed from the first time we spoke about it, so much has changed personally and professionally. So now, all this work is not being done as part of the Hansadhwani Foundation any longer but towards the new entity, which is currently being formulated in the area of applied musicology, a part of Hamsadhwani Enterprises.

We did a musical improvisation and every learner individually shared her improvisation with me, and while I played on the harmonium they sang along, to understand what the meaning of improvisation is. This is the first step towards musical creativity!

At Hamsadhwani, we have come to a point where we are going to work in training of future teachers with ideas from actual classical music, to give them skills that they can use music as tools for pedagogy in their own teaching later on. It is a complex thing to say the least, because music is NOT the goal of this process, but a form of learning. And yet for any new set of ideas to go into the learner one would expect a certain, concerted, regular engagement with the ideas over and over again, so that they become fluid in one’s mind.

This is the beginning, personally of the second arm of my work in applied musicology. The first of course is research in music therapy, which has been ongoing for the last decade and a half nearly, with advocacy, workshops, lectures done in myriad clinical -teaching and service organizations. This brings me to Music in Education as opposed to Music as education.

Here is the first set of workshops done in Delhi, RRCEE-(an acronym for Regional Resource Center for Elementary Education) an educational organization that works in primary education, where students from seven colleges, all within the Delhi University, were invited to partIMG-20150911-WA0011icipate. I am just trying to capture the moment before it is lost, via photographs and inviting all concerned people- students, teachers and the team at RRCEE to leave their impressions, observations, thoughts, ideas, criticisms and reflections about the workshops as we all experienced them. I want everything to be visible to everyone, to read and think about.

This is the space for students, who participated in the workshops to think aloud in, so that all may see what their friends are thinking, about our collective experiences- which have been in many a musical domain…from learning musical notes, to understanding the taal of classical music with particular reference to one taal- the 16-matra,, teen taal, musical notation, khyal, Raga Bhairav, riyaaz and so forth.

I am especially grateful to the girls who come from different musical traditions, of Carnatic and Western orientation, to attempt to fit in. Rest assured, I will extend the best possible help I can.


Bhavna, Munni, and the alarming rise of un-supervised children

Today a young man known to me from my previous home in Chandor village called me up, in a bid to get his sister, Bhavna, a job with me, or with my mediation anywhere else. His sister, rather cousin, is under 25, and a mother of two! This surfaced after a few queries to him.

So how would she come to a new place with two children and what about her husband, I asked.

“Her husband eloped with another woman, several years ago.” he responded

I was very troubled to hear that. To be sure, I think he said the woman is 22-23. At this age she has two children and is now suddenly pushed into the role of breadwinner of the family, whatever her little family be. She is at the mercy of anyone who can offer her a job. She is willing to come to a different part of the country, leaving her home in Madhya Pradesh, in search for greener pastures. But what about her children? I ask the man.

He says, true to the spirit of a young man, “We will send the children to a hostel or somewhere else.”

How unrealistic. He is willing to send children who are both under five years of age to a residential facility like a hostel. How inhuman can humans get! Had it been his own children, perhaps this thought would not have occurred to him, but being the children of a cousin, he is least concerned. We speak a few hours later, in which he has explained to Bhavna that it is best to leave the children with her parents, as she works in a distant place. I just think of the young woman, who has no resources to fall back on, being separated from her own children and what about the children? At a young age, they would be at the mercy of anyone who would hit them, keep them hungry or well-fed, depending upon their whims and fancies. What will happen to millions of children in this country…so many faces waft in front- from Delhi, train stations, bus terminals, schools, from Goa, from villages in Uttar Pradesh, towns of Haryana- whose children are these and where will they find their anchors.

I cannot accommodate her, because Haseena is very well settled with me, in my domestic work management and we have a rather good rapport and camaraderie between us. I told him the same, and then I inquired about the woman due to whom he knows me, a certain lady who was his neighbour in Chandor, by the name Munni Khan.

“Munni has gone to Dubai,” he tells me. I knew Munni had about three or four boys. So what about them, I ask this young man, Sagar, (though for some reason I recall he had told me another name when I met him first). He tells me that Munni’s sister is looking after her children while Munni is working in a home in Dubai.

I have read and heard the most horrendous stories of people who go abroad to work, as domestic helps. I had forewarned Munni too, but she has tried to cover her tracks, by working in close proximity with her brother, who works as a driver in the same household where she works inside the home. I really hope that helps.

I wonder why Munni’s husband is not taking responsibility for his boys, and I ask Sagar the same. He tells me,

“Her husband left many years ago, do you not know Madam?”

I am confused, because Munni never told me. Why would we discuss her husband whenever we met, for there for no reason to bring it up.

“He left her at least ten or 15 years ago.” Sagar lays all doubt to rest.

So this is how children are growing up in India now- with one parent involved in parenting, either one. And that parent spending most of the time in earning the bread and butter for the children, leaving children alone with others- children or adults,  unmindful of what all can go wrong. Is it any surprise that we will increasingly become a country where the only thing everyone would understand would be the value of money and not human relationships or human values, because that is what they are growing up observing?

Wherever I look, I see a rise of un-supervised children, children who have no significant bonds with any adult- parent, relative, grandparent, teacher, guide or coach. We are raising generations of mercenaries I am afraid, and in being tuned in quiet ways to frequencies of children’s minds I am afraid this is evident to me from many, many quarters- even those of the middle classes and upper middle class children. Children are growing up alone, and I fear for what the world is going to be, when there are generations who have grown up without their mother’s love, or father’s presence.

I am noting this down as part of this blogpost, because all these conversations happened right today and I am forced to connect the dots about how many women are now pushed into the role of family ‘providers’, separated from their children- damaging both the children and the women, in the long run. We are losing the most precious resources in the world- our children. And it is nobody’s gain, no matter what you say.

On a more disturbing note, Haseena informed me about the brutal rape of a four year old by a man of 70! and she is brutalized to the extent that people in her vicinity are wondering if the child will even survive. The old man has gone and hidden inside a mosque- for he was a Mullah. What have their religions taught them if not even simple love for children, of their own kind? Society is no more the protector of civilization- it is over and decimated.

Time to start a new construction.