The Piano Teacher

Earlier this week, I called up Hem, who identifies himself as a creative film maker/ recordist (!!) After discussing my recording requirements, which are mostly classical music based stuff, I was generally talking to him about a few other things.

Hem is a south Indian, and lives near my parents’ home in Delhi, a place called Kalkaji. He is trying to set up a studio of his own, which I think finally he has found a place for. When I was here in December from Goa, he and another person, who we will call as R, came to meet me. R has been known to me for the last nearly two decades or possibly a little less than that. I have known him to be a musician of a small order, who has not learnt music thoroughly from anyone, yet by learning to play by himself and by dabbling with his keyboards.

He has often come to me for learning music, but more with the intention of ‘getting things out’ rather than really learning classical music. Surprisingly enough we have never clicked as a teacher-student. He always came, once in a couple of years, bowed at my feet (whcih I always resisted and told me not to) and talked about musical ideas and compositions. He never had it in him to learn music with anyone- he was always in a hurry to ‘encash’ things- quickly learn a raga and show if off to others. Even when I invited him to play with me, as I sang, I did not find him competent enough to, because he would be too restless to hear and start playing as I would start singing.

There are many I know like him- who keep playing tunes on the keyboards and then they figure out full melodies and they become musicians. Nothing wrong with that. They are doing things which they wanted to, by dint of sheer persistence.

best-mobile-piano-ringtones-free-download

So willy nilly, moving in our conversation, Hem informed me that R is ‘out of the market’. I heard him and did not pay heed. He repeated it for me again. I thought ‘what a strange thing to say’. So I asked him what he meant. He repeated himself and said that R was in jail, for the next ten years at that. Oh! I thought, now what was that about.

And then it struck me that I had read about it in the Hindu paper, that  a piano teacher being caught abusing his student in Kalkaji. I asked Hem if he was talking of that incident. At that moment when I read about it, I thought of R- what a coincidence. I of course was not thinking of him as an abuser, but I just thought that he was the only piano teacher that I knew of in Kalkaji. But then I consoled myself thinking that hopefully there would be others, and it is not him. Now what Hem was telling me confirmed that indeed it was R!

It is sad. The world of Hindustani music is rife with teacher-student abuse, which has stifled many a career and many a relationship. ( There have been instances when teachers have married their students, but that is not an instance of abuse) But a man in his forties abusing or exploiting a child. I do not know how quickly the prosecution worked but they gave him ten years in jail. I thought for a moment, what would happen to him after those ten years and what about his family?

And then what about the child who suffered? What would be the consequences of this on her? And what if there would be more children, who could not raise their voices against him? Would there be someone to support her traumatic experience? I am sure it would have taken a lot for her to express her suffering.

The sad thing is that when people known to you do anything, your faith in humanity is shaken for a moemnt and then the whole anger which each of us has against the systemic abuse- finds a target. I feel no sympathy for R. In fact, I feel more for his wife and family. What a suffering they would have to go through socially. Like we always say, letting go of every abuser only emboldens them further- it is about time some were punished. Even if those some be people of our own associations and families. It is about time.

Here is a related post about the same incident, on another blog.

 

Mr. Rail Minister-acche din dooor hain

Dear Rail Minister of India, Mr Suresh Prabhu. Namaskar

I sent a parcel from Delhi (PRR number 4000377207) NZM station to Madgaon, in Goa on the 10th June, 2016. The parcel was loaded by a young man who works in our domestic enterprise, his name being Pundalik Zalmi.

Pundalik Zalmi (Gokul) is a simple village boy, who by dint of sheer labour and tenacity has worked his way into being the right hand man of the owner of the enterprise, my spouse. In his family he is the only one who has come so far- economically or socially. He was on his maiden trip to Delhi- to assist me with something. He took the parcel and landed up on the Nizammuddin Station. First of all, he encountered a coolie, who demanded Rs.1200/- to help him reach the parcel to its destination, which was the parcel office of the Indian Rail. When someone intervened the coolie agreed to do the job for Rs.700/-

In the ensuing pell-mell that happened somehow the coolie rushed him into the train, having booked his parcel allegedly on the same Rajdhani Express that Gokul was taking- train number 22414, NZM-MAO. When he got down the next day at Madgaon, the parcel had not reached with him- he went and checked in the luggage van too. He was confused, for it was the first time he was doing such a job.

Next day, and for several days after that he kept going to Madgaon Station every single day, a distance of eight/nine kilometers from our home, asking around for the parcel and then talking to whoever concerned at the station. Several times this was done by another of his colleagues Pravin Shirodkar, who is the driver in the enterprise.

After a few days, there was no sign of the parcel and everyday we were going up and down. Then I spoke with someone in the railway, who suggested I send a twitter message to report the misplacing of my parcel. I was anxious- I had just returned from Delhi myself, the day before and seven days after Gokul but the parcel was still not to be found. I needed the contents of the parcel for my next travel, which is due on the 1st July 2016- I have to return to Delhi with my two dogs, by Jet Airways. My parcel contained doggy crates- PVC containers meant for carrying small animals  by plane.

Upon the suggestion I sent the following tweet

PRR no.4000377207 sent HNzm to MAO_ Goa, 10Jun,16, not received till date. Plz help urgently. Load train 22414, PNR2765467844

This was followed by a daily round of tweeting to scores of people, who linked me to one another. The entire conversation can be seen here-

 https://twitter.com/HansadhwaniP/with_replies

Into the dialogue were roped the Konkan Railway, the Madgaon station people, the NZM station people, the freight people in New Delhi and of course the rail ministry in India. IN the medley, I saw many a bad egg and a few good apples too. This open message to you, Mr. Prabhu is written to bring to your notice one practice, which is perhaps going on regularly in the railways and is routinely unreported or brushed under the carpet.

After my first tweet of 18th, the following week, on Tuesday, 21st June after trying desperately to get hold of some information about the parcel we finally got in touch with one Superintendent at the NZM station called Mr. Meena. He told us that the parcel had been loaded on the train, as per the details here ( i noted them from the website myself)

Parcel/Luggage/VP Details
PRR No./PWB No. 4000377207 Scale Booking Date
From Station HAZRAT NIZAM-UD-DIN JN. Destination Station MAO-MADGOAN JN.
Consignee Name and Address – – – Consignor Name and Address – – –
Item Description Total No. Status
PVC GOODS 1
Last Loading Train No. 22414 Last Loading Stn. NZM-HAZRAT NIZAM-UD-DIN JN. Last Loading Date 10-Jun-2016 11:24
Status Loaded on train Stn. NZM-HAZRAT NIZAM-UD-DIN JN. Status Date 10-Jun-2016 11:25
Last Unoading Train No. Last Unoading Stn. Last Unoading Date

He repeated the same message to everyone concerned.

Now Sir, just make a note of the following- The time of departure of the Madgaon Rajdhani is 10:55 am. IF the train left at 10:55, can any parcel be loaded in it at 11:24 logically?

In several conversations, Mr. Meena (mobile number 09717- 999425) had with both me and my husband he repeated the same information. In the final dialogue we had with him, he even told me that the parcel had been sent to Panvel, instead of Madgoan (perhaps to get rid of our persistent queries?).

Since I was in touch with a gentleman called Upendra Shindye from the Konkan Railways, who had been kind enough to call me on his own, in response to my twitter message to Konkan Railway Corp, I requested Mr. Shindye to make inquiries at his end. He did- I think he even sent someone to Panvel, from Mumbai, though I am not sure about it.

We were already more than ten days from the time the parcel had been loaded. I was worried for a lot hinges on it for me in the present moment for me. Mr. Shindye promised to update me by the evening. The date being 22nd June-12 days later. Meanwhile our rounds to the Madgaon Station were in vain everyday- but we still went. Either Gokul went or Pravin.

Finally my husband went on 22nd- we were all worried, and he met someone there, who promised to help him, then did not call. Later a gentleman called up Gokul and spoke with my husband too. He identified himself as one Mr. Murli (mobile +91 9004476083)- who said he was investigating the case of the missing parcel. My husband proposed to him that he probe into one angle- that the parcel had never left from Delhi in this whole span of time.

Lo and behold…Mr. Murli called and confirmed the suspicion, and said that the parcel would be leaving on the 22nd June 2016, by Goa Express and reach Madgaon on 24th. Later Mr. Shindye of Konkan railways also confirmed the same. IN other words, in this whole span of 12 days when we were all tearing our hair, Mr. Meena kept misleading every single person- saying the parcel had been loaded on the train, whose details are there on the website.

Who is updating the website?

My query and concern to you, Honorable Minister is this-

  1. If the parcel was not loaded on the train, how did it start reflecting on the website?
  2. What sort of a fraud is happening here – in which people’s parcels are getting lost? I at least had access to internet and even twitter, but what about those who cannot use these new technologies? Do you think every Indian who is using the railways for sending parcels is having a twitter account- to knock at your doors for lost goods?
  3. I am told that people are compensated @50/- per kilo of the weight of their parcels. what sort of a way is this to ascribe value to goods people are sending? (My parcel was carrying goods worth at least Rs.50,000/-, though its weight was a mere 25 kgs)
  4. There is a deep flaw in the way parcels are tracked– and there is no verification happening. IF a man can tell us that the parcel has left the station, while it is very much lying on the station, what do you think is happening in this department? How can the website be uploaded and scores of people mislead?
  5. Can you please initiate an inquiry about how goods are getting lost in the Indian rail parcel service and start fixing responsibility for the same?

Can we think of simple village folks like Pundalik Zalmi who come from their villages and lose their belongings on trains, never to have any voice in the whole din and cacophony of the Indian Rail?

Is size of the Indian Rail so big that we do not now care about the common Indian people who use it day and night, putting their hard earned money into goods they transport by trains everyday?

Would a Pundalik Zalmi, not backed by his employers who were English speaking, twitter familiar people, have found his parcel? Would he have the resources to keep going to the station, everyday, leaving his work behind, without losing his job? What employer would have allowed him the leave and not believed that he was lying about the loss of the parcel? 

Today is 24th June, 2016, and true to the word given by Mr. Murli and Mr. Shindye, the parcel reached Madgaon and we duly got a call at 7am confirming that. We of course have to pay a price of Rs.2880/- as the rent of one of them, for we were being charged @ 180/day for the same. The parcel that would have come on 11th, would have meant only four days of rental, instead of the 16 it has become.

But that is not the point, Mr. Minister. The point I am trying to make is would the average Indian have managed to stir so much action? Are we really empowering our people by giving them redressal mechanism via the twitter and other social media?

I am grateful that the twitter action works, but how many Indians have access to it and they use the Indian Rail? Please stop by at any station, Sir, and take a look at the India that travels by train- maybe you would think of other ways to touch their lives and save their hard earned belongings.

(i wish there was a way to measure the quantum of suffering this experience has caused us, starting from the encounter with the coolie- a great shame I assure you)

Caregiver’s stress or psychiatric emergency

On Saturday, the past week, a woman in her early forties, came with her mother and child to see me. The person who needed a counseling intervention was her mother, who came in with a deeply disturbed state of mind. I felt her inner fabric had been suddenly jolted due to a shock and catapulted her into a state from which she could not recover, with her own means.

According to the description of the daughter initially, and later corroborated by the mother herself, possibly two significant events in her life had lead to that. In the distant past, she had lost her spouse, in 2009, which possibly triggered off a grief which could not be duly addressed, or if it was it was not assimilated properly. However, the lady lived a fairly active life despite that, with one of her other daughters, in Bombay. In the recent past, the daughter who accompanied her to meet me, moved from Bombay to Goa, with her family, in response to her husband’s need for better work prospects. That set off another degree of anxiety in her heart, which remained unarticulated.

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All of a sudden the daughter became unwell (she had a bipolar diagnosis) due to adjustment stress in a new situation, whilst otherwise she had been quite stable for long years and off medication of any sort. The news of her daughter falling sick made the mother panic, and her anxiety took a turn for the worse- pushing her off the brink and rattling her fragile balance significantly.

When she came to meet me, for her daughter thought the next intervention required would be counseling/therapy, her discomfort and constant talk made me immediately decide that this was not someone who needed counseling support but immediate relief from her ‘symptoms’. The talk was ceaseless, she was frantic, tearful, anxious, repetitive, and kept saying that she would not take any medicine. The daughter was trying her level best to seek out any intervention that would work for her. I decided within five- seven minutes of listening to her that she would not have any effect of counseling, and requested her to take homeopathy, which she had been taking earlier as well.  But it had not been effective of late. I even referred my own doctor to them, lest their doctor have a limited repertoire, which is mostly the case with homeopathy. Before coming to meet me they had tried other ‘treatment’ options of reflexology, possibly reiki and other things.

I called up my doctor and also made her talk to him, and requested him to intervene, give a prescription which would be followed here in Goa. This is not something that we do frequently- because every doctor needs to meet their patients face-to-face. Doctor sa’ab was kind enough to relent, seeing the lady hysterical, and reporting lack of interest in anything in life, suicidal ideas, and several other indicators.

However , the catch in the whole picture was that she kept saying, that, if my daughter (indicating to the woman with her) comes back to Bombay I will be fine. This was a peculiar situation, because her deepest attachment seems to be with her daughter who is already married with a child of her own. The mother is so deeply attached to her, that it is almost like a parasitic attachment.

They stayed with me for over an hour, but since I had decided earlier, I did not put a bill on the exercise. What is the point of taking money when the recipient is not ready for what you have to offer- I cannot be a mercenary like a ‘professional’ if I remain untouched by human suffering, and focus just on the money that my practice can bring me. The more I thought about it, the more ethical I thought my decision was. Of course I could have told them to leave quickly, but considering they had come a long way, I just let them stay and talk about how to go about it and of course explaining to the daughter the medicines the doctor  had prescribed, since it was me who had spoken to him not her.

The Next Action

Today is Monday, and according to me today the whole routine would have fallen in place. However the daughter called me up today before noon and said her mother was refusing to take the medicines and had gone back to her earlier prescription of homeopathy. She reported a further hardening in the head and was unstoppable. I felt anguished to hear that. I had seen the mother to be a headstrong lady and I could see she was making it difficult for everyone around her to deal with the situation and only making it worse, in every possible way.

That brought to mind the last resort of psychiatry. I thought there was no option but to sedate her to calm her down. It is a very sad thing when I myself have to recommend psychiatric medication to anyone, because I try the best that nobody should be pushed into it. But if there is no alternative left and the person is adamant, what else can the family do? Her behavior must be causing a great deal of stress to her daughter also, poor girl, who was bravely facing it, both in front of her husband and in front of her mother- keeping a calm exterior.

I thought for the time being the best option was to anyhow medicate the lady and help her calm down. Over time when things stabilize and she has had some sleep due to sedation, possibly she would look for other ways to deal with her stresses and the triggers. For now her franticness would only make others spiral into the same. Her daughter said she was herself thinking of the same, as nothing else seemed to be working for now. In other words, the difficulty a family faces, pushes a person into forcible psychiatric intervention. The only trick is that at a suitable time the person has to be weaned away from psychiatric medication, because psychiatrists themselves will never prescribe it!

On that note we parted over the phone- me with a resignation that only when people are willing to get well and be compliant to recommendation of any sort, does an intervention work. Some people make difficult patients- they resist everything, for they know the better of it. I cannot but feel sorry when people have to be administered psychiatric medication, but I always hope that it would be a short term measure. Of course if the patient is complying, like me myself, homeopathy can work very well.

I do not see any recourse except for a devious manner of giving the medication or per force- which actually amounts to a human rights abuse. So that brings in the ethical dimension, as well as the dilemma- what could have been done alternatively? What can be done now? I am not sure today and I leave this post with this query.

Everyone will have a different response to this situation, but how does one decide. I do not know if they will come back to me, because they need not. But I will be around to support them in future, if they choose to. The mother certainly needs counseling to help her deal with the sense of loss that she is suffering from, and to help her focus on what is present in her life, rather than clinging on to adult children, who need to fly away from the nest, towards greener pastures.

I also hope that the daughter would not be unduly troubled by her mother’s suffering, as it creates a scope for her own suffering to surface once again.

On the last note, I am also wondering whether the mother’s suffering is not another face of the caregiver’s burden of looking after a child with bipolar and being tuned to her needs in an obsessive, fussing manner. But there is no way to find out about that, because I had no time to talk to them about their life together. Only this much could be ascertained within the scope that we had, once I felt it would not be proper to dig further into her psychic matrix. Whether this is an ’empty nest’ syndrome, a psychiatric emergency or another form of caregiver’s hyper-reaction to her daughter’s situation, piercing through her own frame, it is difficult to ascertain at this stage.

Seeing the Full Elephant- Spirit, Science, Religion and Psychosis  

I am writing this piece in a general way so that even if you do not understand any of the disciplines that I am borrowing ideas from, you would be able to understand what I am talking about. This is my offering to you on these different, seemingly divergent issues- which flummox people on many sides of life (parents, doctors, social scientists, patients, religious followers, lay public, and scores of others), for they are not able to see beyond their disciplinary/experiential boundaries. To comprehend better, what I am about to share, kindly suspend any judgment about who I am or how qualified to write this. Just enjoy the writing, for whatever it is trying to share. (Since I will take several hours in writing it, with a view to shed more light on unconnected areas, I urge you to spend at least a few minutes, reading with some patience). I am annotating this writing with scores of resources, for you to refer- for I am not just writing from self experience, but self experience fortified by ideas and wisdom gleaned from the work of scores of people across the globe. This is not to suggest that I am the wise one here, but in bringing these ideas to you, I hope we will all grow from the possibilities that they open out for dialogues.

Birth Onward

I am going to start with the birth of a child. Recall that the process of birth itself is a dangerous, potentially perilous and fearsome journey, because a living entity from a primitive, borne in water form (just like the start of life on the planet earth, in water) comes into an aerial medium, through a birth canal- it can die in that process, the mother can die, the reasons for threat are many. The birth is a big triumph for so many and for the birthing mother is considered a second life. It is a big trauma- though not for all. So the state of trauma can come early- let us remember that. We know of many women who during the birth process have near death experiences, show signs of PTSD, as well. The same signs will come later in life when suddenly exposed to other traumas- rape, victimization of any sort, violence of a man made nature, natural calamity that threatens life, war, drowning, and etc etc.

Any child soon after being born is a creature of pure instinct- there is no reason,  judgment, or boundary. When there is an instinct for hunger it may cry, when it wants to ease its bowel or bladder, it does not wait for the appropriate location- it just follows its instinct and wants to ease that pressure. So that is the state when the ego, is in a primitive, undifferentiated stage- it does not recognize anyone, anything and so forth. In this state, since it has emerged from an amniotic environment, it can only connect with its mother, in a parasitic (helpless) dependence. Recall here the idea of id-ego-superego, given by Freud.

The next stage is the development of the ego stage- it starts differentiating between it’s self and another, family and outsiders and so forth. If you recall psychology is the discipline that wants to start seeing from an early stage how the mind learns, trains and starts getting ready for a role in society, someday in the future. Most development of the ego remains just that- attachment, connection, identification with self. So if you recall, people who are called egoistic are those who think that they matter the most or what they have to say matters the most, their own knowledge, or sense of self is very heightened. So anyhow the field of psychology is all about studying the path of this development and where it goes off its set path. What is the set path of anyone? If you recall the work of Freud, for him the stages of development of every human are so significant that he reduces everyone to their libidinal instincts only and psychoanalysis comes to center around the early years of a person’s life- and trying to identify the present, using the yardsticks of the past. There is something right about this and something wrong.

Just like they say a mighty oak hides inside a little acorn– the potential of each human lies inside it’s body- but nobody can see where it hides- it has to go through its own maturation, its unique experiences and become a special person, different from everyone, different from the ones who created it. This potential is different for everyone- just like any species. From the birth if someone follows a path of becoming who they are destined to, which is given as potential, this path is called the path of individuation (Jungian terminology). But often it is not easy to follow the path, in a linear manner. Everyone faces hardships of one or another kind, the path is not exactly laid down like a blueprint- it changes in response to external stimuli all the time. On the path many hurdles lie for everyone, and sometimes the hurdles can be extremely painful too, like loss of a mother, accident and loss of a limb, sudden disabling condition, war, calamity, physical violence, abusive family or anything else- the possibilities are innumerable. That changes the path of individuation and a person like a plant has to undergo many a season, many a mishap if it has to survive till an older situation. When these mishaps and traumas do not get addressed at the time when they occur people do not get over their impact, or they may be unable to express them, for they do not understand what happened. For instance take the case of a child who faces an abusive/incestuous adult at home. All these sufferings, these lack of expressions come to lie hidden in a person thereafter, and keep getting added to other suffering, which life necessarily brings.

C.G. Jung and Analytical Psychology

According to Jung, a person’s potential is not a sexual template but a spiritual one- and he tells us that the whole of human history lies coded in every person- called the collective unconscious, with which we have no regular communication, except through dreams and symbols. Those symbols are not such convenient ones like the logo of Coke/Pepsi. They lie hidden mid folds of stories that are handed down in every culture- through its mythology, fables and fairy tales. He also shares that the reason why mythology acquires any significance via gods and goddesses is not because they were real beings, but they were chosen to carry forward the messages that a culture wanted to transmit, about itself for generations ahead, through simple stories. They are patterns of behavior, which are chosen to be identified as desirable or noteworthy and made an example of.  So the power of a story in mythology does not lie in the story itself, but in its interpretation.[1] Joseph Campbell did some remarkable work in the area of mythology by studying the mythology of scores of peoples across the world and then he wrote many a book, for me personally a great book- The Hero with a Thousand Faces (life changing book as I see it). The essence of the book was that he brought together any number of stories from around the world to harbor on the fact that the HERO is not one person (only)- he can have a million forms, faces and voices. But ultimately every ‘hero’ (that potentially lies in every human as his/her unique potential) has to go through a big circle of suffering, losing his way, whiling his time, getting a reminder of who he is and then making the labourious journey of finding a way back into the world, with the learning gathered, and if possible, offer that to others. This pattern in every story of a mythic dimension is what Campbell calls the monomyth. It runs through any mythic story,(or any human’s story) from anywhere in the world.

If, at this juncture, you may be reminded of the story of Siddhartha, who is born a prince- goes on a difficult path because his allure for life has been jolted. He sees the possibility of death, suffering, old age and whatever else it was, to realize that everyone will go that way. If you have read the road he takes, he followed no footprints- his is a search, often a perilous one, for he can even die in the process. But he does not- he survives, become the Buddha, and returns back to civilization- to offer that method to others.

The Underworld

That is the method which all those, who makes a descent into what Jung calls the ‘underworld’ (not the one of gangsters/mafia, but one’s own unconscious mind) have to take by default. Those who have long years of depressions, who have nightmares of gigantic proportions, who see great suffering for one reason or another-  descend into a land which inspires fear, where nobody would want to go out of choice. Descent into this underworld may be a one way road for most, because they do not know how to integrate the experiences of that world with the day-to-day reality of living. Their entry into the underworld may be a result of a suicide attempt, a rape, a war, a family violence, a poor exam performance, a divorce or anything else. They become lost, fearful, worried, confused, anxious and bothered. Seemingly simple things like accidents, family violence, bullying at school, dominating adults in the family , untimely  loss of a parent, or anything else that makes a child insecure can much later in life manifest in a sudden descent of the spirit.

I am now going to bring this descent of the spirit, into a contrast with its ascent, due to sudden equally unexpected situations, in a format possibly unfamiliar to many- the serpent power in the subtle body.

The Game of Consciousness- from self to the transpersonal realm

Let me make this transition via the theme of the collective unconscious lying dormant inside every person. In the yoga tradition there is a similar thing- called the kundalini– lying dormant inside everyone. The important thing is that traditions of antiquity have methods to evoke experiences of kundalini (and kundalini -like experiences, including among the natives, the medicine men/shamans and among those who are not averse to a little intoxication via natural opiates. Also recall in this context the issue of drug induced psychosis) and they are meant to be done under the watchful guidance of those who know. But are such knowing guides really so accessible? I have seen many ‘spiritual masters’ who talk about Shaktipat, or about kundalini yoga and whatnot quite laughable, rest assured. Anyways this is not to lampoon anyone. The idea that I am coming to is that there is something called- kundalini, [2]the serpent power, said to lie dormant in every person, at the base of their spine in a form of a coiled serpent (I am not going to give an explanation but hints about many things- read more if you want to). I am not going to get into the debate about whether there is something like kundalini or not, because it does not matter to me. I really do not care about kundalini, as much as I do not care about the electricity coming into my home. If it is an asset to me, I like to honor its presence, when it goes off, then I have something to worry about.

In some cases, this kundalini ‘wakes up spontaneously’- and it runs through the spine in an upward direction. (Even if you do not believe this, just keep reading.) It is a very powerful energy and can unsettle everything in a person- for there is no explanation what happened, how it happened, where the trigger came from and what it means, how one has to behave now, who to talk to. If, of a powerful enough dimension- it may lead to psychosis- then you see all those ‘symptoms’ called grandiosity, running helter-skelter, flight of imagination, racing thoughts, inability to focus and …(please read DSM if you like). But this term ‘psychosis’ is the terminology of psychiatry- based on the outwardly visible ‘symptoms’.

What happens in reality is this- (okay this is self experience speaking now)- a powerful electrical current becomes present in the body, and it keeps the body in a faint vibration, like a hum; just a little more powerful than the one that you may experience upon being intoxicated. Now what happens with alcohol is that after awhile the intoxication comes down and the person is ‘restored’ to normalcy, whatever it had to be. But in case of kundalini/psychotic upheaval the sensation does not get over- it just stays. It makes a person ‘extroverted’, happy, as though intoxicated, carefree and of course expansive- one wants to share this strange sort of ‘happiness’ with others, but does not know how to say it, in what words and whether they cannot see it as well.

Remember this is the so-called divine potential unleashed in a person who is not ready for it; just like a wire that suddenly has a huge voltage passing through it, but was not expecting it. I must refer you to the writing of Swami Rama here, in particular when he refers to the similarity between the manic and the mystic (Book: Yoga and Psychotherapy, Himalayan Institute)

Religious traditions train their neophytes in various ways and by severe disciplines for any such process to happen- by training their mind, senses, body and thought processes. But awakening the kundalini is not considered necessary by any stretch of imagination, among the truly spiritual. The training of the mind for action without reward is considered more important. (If interested please read Kundalini- by Gopi Krishna). On the other hand, you may be aware that there are several unscrupulous people who want to use the ‘divine’ potential in ‘ugly’ ways- the tantriks etc.

The issue of kundalini that I understood finally is that kundalini is the cosmic consciousness lying inside everyone – a coiled serpent, at the base of the spine. So psychosis is nothing but the spontaneous awakening of the divine potential and a person coming to understand that though s/he is a body , there is also a bigger picture- s/he is also a fragment of the divine. That makes initially (or permanently) people go berserk- because they can see their cosmic potential and believe that –I am god/Jesus/the Saviour etc etc (aham brahmasmi).  We in India know that Aham Brahmasmi comes from the Upanishads, into our traditions. In other words the Upanishads are testimony that though man is a mirror of a cosmic maker, yet there is a path of knowledge and virtue that needs to be followed in order to truly awaken the cosmic potential. Now the Upanishads are the highest knowledge of the Indian civilization that is agnostic or perhaps predates religion. There is no religion in the vedic age- but nature worship. So the human is one with his natural element and through that expresses every aspect of life. Moving away from nature, if you can connect the dots, moves people from their natural and easy selves to their unnatural/cosmetic/dis-eased selves!

The greater issue is that even if the cosmic potential awakens spontaneously, it cannot be utilized unless the person learns to harness it. It is like saying that you have a huge voltage passing through yet you cannot handle the charge- so the body breaks down, the mind breaks down and it causes ‘madness’ . In this case psychiatry enters and says it can handle something that it does not even recognize as such- where are the tools in psychiatry to understand the ‘subtle body’ in which this so-called ‘divine’ potential resides, there is a whole array of nadis, the three dominant ones being ida, pingala and sushamana? I am not accepting anything or rejecting anything. I am simply putting the facts in front, as I have understood in over two decades of my own studies and research.(in fact in Gopi Krishna’s book, there is an explanation about why the wives of Krishna are said to be 16,000 or whatever their number is. That coincides with the number of nadis a person has). I must add that the entire spiritual traditions of India provide subtle and gross references to these things, in different ways. I of course found my anchor in Kabir there, because he was the one master who wrote very clearly about it, without really revealing anything, to those who could not understand. (The more difficult task after the spontaneous awakening is to ‘earth’ the kundalini, otherwise it will make you mad permanently- nobody can handle it. There is a great book in this context- After the ecstasy, the laundry. Please read it in case you have had an experience of this nature. It talks about integrating the knowledge, which is more arduous than one can imagine. It takes years and years, or decades. Even then, there is no guarantee one would learn. In my own case it took me years and repeat incidents of ‘psychosis’ till the time a time came when I would not go into any psychotic breakdowns any more, but simply watch the ‘game’ like a game, and not be ruffled by it, not get hyper in any sense and just accept the polarity of the universe playing within, like the sun and the moon- and carry on my day to day, extremely tough and deliberately solitary life.

Those of you who are aware of the idea that the spiritual traditions recognize that this universe is nothing but consciousness, the human and divine just two aspects of it, will comprehend that there is nothing high or low about it. It simply IS- no judgement. A great amount of work in this realm has been contributed by Stanislav Grof and Cristina Grof- the former being a psychiatrist. What he has done is so remarkable that every psychiatrist needs to at least read it, if not dare to follow. He risked himself by becoming a subject for LSD research and experienced the play of consciousness physically and he writes about that in many books, including The Cosmic Game. Of course the book that I was first introduced to was the Stormy Search for the Self.

Grof could see the continuity in LSD research, the shamanic traditions of the world, psychosis and much else. His wife’s near death experience (NDE) during child birth, brought in the concept of PTSD, and became the reason for her to be involved in the same journey that led in due course to the Holotropic Breathwork technique they created and share internationally.  I also found identical ideas, during years of my own inquiry, in the Sudarshan Kriya, though I found it lacking in depth (which no doubt now it must be gaining due to being investigated in medical departments). There are more such things in every religious practice anywhere, where the focus lies on breath. As we all well know, hatha yoga of course begins there- pranayama is one of the first four tenets; prana- meaning life force energy that is manifest through the breath.

Bringing you back to Psychiatry

If you can see from my writing, the two people who contributed immensely to newer understandings, are Jung and Grof- both psychiatrists by training. Of course both created huge traditions, with thousands following in their ways and me learning from all. The Jungian method lead to the tradition of analytical psychology and Grof- transpersonal psychology.

I am now taking you to a different pole- where you get to see the birth of psychiatry itself! This is a very tricky place, because this is the realm of Charcot and France now- (please read Foucault’s –Madness and Civilization, if interested). Foucault shows how madness is ascribed to people who cannot express their suffering properly by a man, who is a powerful physician, who has a great social standing and prestige, and who has the guile to transform the inability of people to express their suffering coherently. So where they lack language, he puts in his own- he becomes their ‘representative’- his language is his representation of their suffering and in fact nothing but a ‘social representation’[3].

Have you ever noticed how socially marginalized people look up to those who they perceive as having a better social standing/class? They feel helpless and meek in front of them. They dare not oppose what the ‘rich’ say. In such a case if a poor wo/man would go in front of a rich person, and the rich person says, ‘you are an idiot’, the poor wo/man will accept it with resignation that the ‘rich’ man really knows better. (Please put this in the same location as poor and rich countries as well). So a rich man, who has close connect with the nobility goes around telling in his evening parties and soirees all about the patients he saw. (I really recommend you read how he is amused at discovering that ‘hysterial’ women are mostly those who are younger women married to older men. But he does not tell this to anyone- he just knows he has ‘figured out’ the roots of hysteria!!). You may know, like me, that many younger bahus in families, because they are periodically the subject of family oppression, show these signs. I also know this to be true for young girls who are not being allowed to marry the boys of their own choice.  If you marry them with the boys they want to, all ‘symptoms’ will instantly disappear! ( one must listen to Parvez Imam about the film he made in this context- yet another psychiatrist here).

So here we are now- back into real world – where the suffering of someone, coming from a huge history behind it, gets to be given a label of ‘mental illness’. By-the-bye, just in case you do not know, Charcot was also one of the early influences of Freud, who in turn influenced Jung. In other words, they were all looking at human behavior and trying to comprehend the reasons for the so-called ‘abnormal’ behaviours. That is why through psychoanalysis and talk-based interventions their hope was that people would be able to go back into their unconscious mind, where their traumas and suffering lay hidden, and possibly in the presence of a person trained to help, be able to get past those traumas.

Anyways, by the time the DSM came into its third version, this behavior-oriented psychiatry was abandoned in favour of the biomedical view, because now the pharma industry wanted to have a fair share of people’s suffering. So psychiatry became a tool for the pharma industry to ‘sell’ cures that simply were not there- in what manner can psychiatry deal with the suffering of a child whose mother committed suicide at age eight, other than stamp her with a schizophrenia diagnosis at age 17, 19 or 22? I strongly recommend two books[4] at this juncture. Ethan Watters[5] talks about the DSM and how it is ‘sold’ to the world by America and another book called Mad Science- Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs. Both are researched and written in the US.

What happens to people in ‘poor’ countries

The fact of lives in poor countries is that their poverty is not just  chance or destiny ordained by the heavens above. They are the unfortunate bearer of the progress of the rich countries- to the extent that now they are so poor in so many ways that even ‘knowledge’ does not reach them. So if the research that I have quoted above were to happen in India (first of all it cannot happen in India, because the sort of data that has been quoted here, would never be available), it would be kept so ‘hidden’ from the public eye that nobody would know.

There is a ‘culture of silence’ at work in poorer countries- anyone who opposes/questions anything (coming from the dominant West) is marginalized or made to look like an idiot or a threat to society. It is very easy to silence someone by making them ‘invisible’ or ‘inaudible’. Most people would not have access to the sort of books it takes to arrive at any real, paradigm shifting knowledge.

The knowledge that is effectively handed out in our universities and institutions, (especially in departments of psychology etc) is all second hand knowledge that is disseminated from the West, repackaged in Indian syllabi and taught to students as though it is the last word. Students memorize theories and ideas and spit them out in exams and become ‘qualified’ to heal others (naturally I am talking in terms of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists etc). If there is any other form of ideas they are derived from quantitative studies that do not examine the differences, diversities and individual realities of people’s subjective experiences.

Where does that leave anyone?

You may have heard of the story of the blind men looking at the elephant. In case you have forgotten here is a great link to remind its metaphor- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant. The symbolism of this story is so significant that it is used in various parts of the world with minor variations.

What my theme from the beginning of this ‘essay’ has been to share with all of you, those ideas which come from such diverse directions that unless you are aware of them, anyone will take a great amount of time to land there unexpectedly. I have spent nearly 23 years of my life to attain this connectivity, coupled with much writing, dabbling in music, encounters with holy men, wise wo/men, sadhus, monks, academics, ‘ill’ people and whatnot to come to this mental and linguistic ‘clearing’ that I can offer you some of these ideas, in this manner. The rest is for you to see, what interests you, makes sense or not, may be it is all nonsense for some.

In the end it is my hope that given the manner in which I have brought all these divergent ideas into a convergent sort of a frame- where the journey of the aggrieved person is not a mental illness but a quest for wholeness, I hope many would be able to help others who they encounter where they do. And I on my part am getting ready for the next phase of my life- in sharing/teaching the path that I have discovered, so that many more heroes will come, in their various faces, voices and contours and each heroes journey will contribute to the overall good of the world.

Thank you for reading till this point. I offer you another linked piece of my writing that I never really wrote fully, but the theme was identical. Kindly click this link for it – https://www.academia.edu/4923393/Madness_as_Search_for_Authenticity

Last, though not the least- I will be thankful for any feedback/comments, but only on blogposts, where they will last longer, and not on email please.

[1] I invite you to read the myth of the churning of the ocean, from the Hindu tradition, as per my interpretation and relevance to the modern time- http://merakabir.blogspot.in/2009/07/mythology-of-churning.html

[3] Social representation is an idea in social psychology, according to which every one who represents himself or another is making a social representation. The representation of someone’s suffering by another, by changing the language of their suffering, into one’s own (medical or specialized) language is nothing but another such act.

[4] In case anyone of you cares to come by to my home, you can see/read them for yourself.

[5] Here is a blog post that shares a few resources as well- https://inprateeksha.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/making-madness-uniform-and-global-the-american-way/

Ordinary Life Therapy

I encountered the work of Carina Hakanson a few months ago via her very beautiful and simple book, simply titled- ordinary life therapy. Upon encountering this video I thought there is no way I cannot share it with those who would not have access to her book.

As the end comes once again…

… new beginnings begin to show.

The road does not end, it merely turns around a corner…

I have not been writing this blog for long (in terms of years)- I mean this is one of my recent blogs. I used to blog a lot once upon a time- it was even therapeutic during a certain phase. There was a time when I was very afraid of the wordpress platform for it baffled me so!

As the year comes to an end, I have just now written a little piece about art advocacy to be used by people who suffer from various mental illnesses, to offer some ideas and recommendations they can use in their lives, via the arts- the performing and visual arts. I am writing another bit for a conference in mental health in which I would be speaking on the subject of whether the labels of mental illness are a useful device and if they really help anyone.

But the most important venture that I hope to  start in the new year, on the subject of mental health is a twosome- one is the counseling, for which my website is almost ready, and the second is the counseling training course that i will offer to people who have themselves lived through mental illnesses. The purpose is to empower them by helping them understand the roots of their own suffering as well as be trained to support others via a proper method of counseling- taken from a merger of post modern collaborative approaches and systems theory. Of course all my work is rooted in social psychology- in which I view human suffering as an outcome of people’s social settings and environments.

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Recovery – an option in mental illness

This post is a link to my article that appears in one of India’s national newspapers, The Hindu. Please feel free to share further.

The incidence of mental illness is predicted to rise. Its economic burden would be the single largest burden among all disease categories in times to come.

The reasons are many. First, mental illness strikes people in adolescence or early youth. This is the time a person is still acquiring skills and training through education to become employable. Secondly, when one becomes mentally troubled enough to be called ‘ill’, they are frequently incapacitated enough to not be able to either continue such education for significant periods of time, or at all.

Managing a member who is ‘ill’ requires a lot of adjustment by the family. More often than not, one person becoming ill puts others through care-giving stress and emotional burden, in addition to facing the economic consequences of a person facing ‘disability’. More often than not, another person is required to look after the person, in worst-case scenarios on a full-time basis, which may rob the carer of employment opportunities. Managing a mentally ill member in the family also involves people themselves becoming ill!

Read the rest of the article here.

A Collaborative Dialogue Directed at Someone Suffering

Hesitant as I am to buy or sell the idea of anyone being ‘mentally ill’, for the sake of those who believe that they are, I will go with that classification for the present blogpost. This post talks about the stories of two young men who worked in the medical profession and who got the labels themselves.

My mother just told me this story- and the boy was also once upon a time known to my sister. The boy was among the toppers at the stage of entrance into medical college and he went to one such which would rank among the top five institutions in India. When he became a doctor, he was immediately (perhaps, or this is our guess) assigned to some section where he had a lot of encounters with the ‘dead’ (bodies? post mortems? Forensic? or something else like that? we do not know)

It seems the boy just could not handle it and the next thing heard about him was that the family would keep him confined and possibly tied up! But the sad thing is he was finally dead by the time he reached his 30’s! We do not know the story for how it progressed, we just knew of the boy entering medical college when he had – for he was the talk of the town then. Could not imagine he would come to such an end.

That brings me to a mail, I just received from another friend, (about another medico) saying -‘Hi! There’s this guy, who had arguments with his parents about his exams and career few years back. His parents took him to a psychiatrist who labeled him with schizophrenia. The psychiatrist was telling him that he has OCD too as he was not willing to accept his diagnosis. He doesn’t get any hallucination or delusions…He says now he is being covertly drugged. I asked how and what he is feeling now and asked for the side effects and when he’s getting them. And I think he IS being drugged. Further he says his parents are demoralizing, humiliating and inciting him by showing his case paper to all the relatives. He has completed his graduation and wants to do PG now. Though his parents are ready to help him financially he feels scared to take any help. He doesn’t know what to do about the situation. Both his parents are doctors.’

Here is what I am seeing in the story (the marks in red above indicate the flaws, which are the red herrings in the picture to me), if I just deconstruct the power axis here:

The parents are in a position of power over their son and these are the ways in which they are exercising control-

  1. In response to arguments (which are a sign of any child rebelling or asserting his/her rights-autonomy or selfhood) take youth/child to psychiatrist.
  2. Youth/child is not allowed to choose career as they do not permit the choice for they know ‘better’, have seen more of life, know what is best for the child, can take better informed decisions for him.
  3. Psychiatrist hands over schizophrenia diagnosis because boy is clearly showing anger, rebellion, and even rejecting the further labelling of OCD. this is even more problematic in their collective eyes, because people want that those who are being given the label should accept them (called diagnosis) meekly and silently.
  4. Parents decide to avenge this ‘misbehaviour’– and now attempt to socially isolate him, by public display of his ‘pathology’.
  5. They further want to help him financially, for continuing his education.

The mental state of the person in question here, may be like this:

  1. Initially anger
  2. Wronged- because he has been unfairly given a ‘diagnosis’
  3. Cheated by being covertly drugged; unfortunately by parents, against whom the defense mechanism is weakest.
  4. When parents let you down, who can you further trust?
  5. Where can he turn now, and more so, what options exist for him?
  6. If parents are trying to bail him out financially, how much more control will they exercise over him? For what can he trust them?
  7. If this is the way life will go further, what is the nature of happiness in his life, or will there be any? Will he be able to determine the course of his life or will it be the parents all the time making decisions for him?

(All the above ideas are in the nature of conjectures, because I have not directly spoken to the person. I am just writing this out so that more people who may chance upon this writing may read and take some inspiration, if they can)

The real question of mental illness here is a question of developing a voice or autonomy. Autonomy is supposed to develop during teenage, as per psychological parameters. At that stage because it is also accompanied by hormonal maturation, it becomes a cluster of experiences- some of them showing assertiveness which is construed as rebellion by families. In a culture where submissiveness or unquestioning obedience is valued, any sign of rejection, questioning or self-expression becomes a threat to the ‘system’ around every individual. People who are showing these expressions are taken as rebels and they are then given appropriate ‘correction’ mechanisms to make them fall in line. Unfortunately, this is what happens in a vast majority of cases.

Somewhere along the way, such people also part ways with their friends and peers because they are too anguished to share what is happening in their personal lives, with their ‘friends’ for they think whatever is happening, is happening to them ALONE- they become prisoners of their mind, their souls and their imagination. Reality is that we are all on a continuum of human experience and suffering and a lot of people are suffering due to overt or covert family violence of this sort, where children are unequally pitted against their parents for they are weaker in position in multiple ways- financially, socially, initially physically, and more. Often parents also operate as ONE unit/voice- no difference between the parent as mother and father.

My further recommendations, in a very remote manner would be somewhat on these lines.keep the glow intact

  1. You need to develop your own inner and outer resources– which starts from financially to social mechanisms of support.
  2. Remember, the more you rebel in this scenario, the more you will be penalized and you are already outnumbered, out-powered and out-witted for the’system’ can overpower you very easily- DO NOT try to challenge the system. The ‘system’ refers to family, psychiatry, relatives, neighbours etc in this case. It may also be your educational institution tomorrow, which is another kind of system. Each of these is a system in its own sense, for it has its own principles, guidelines and methods, and together this process is a complex systems thinking.
  3. When parents are not your support systems it often becomes difficult to trust outsiders. But there are many resources out there in the world and support mechanisms– though those who have mental illnesses themselves cannot be your support systems right now, for how much can you support another one , if need be? Be wise and be safe. Do not become part of peer support groups, because that would be only more aggravating and you will see your own story played out in different variations across the spectrum and it will fluster you further.
  4. If you can make slow progress one day at a time, by even continuing your education, by slowly gaining control over one aspect of your life at a time, it will slowly fortify you and give you the ego-strength to overcome the system. Instead if you try to challenge the system by taking it head-on, it will punish you seriously. Do not do that.
  5. Come to a clearing, where you can totally wrest free of your parents and your diagnosis, by reclaiming your life as your own. This cannot happen till you are dependent on them in any way. For that you need to develop your mind, and your body adequately and you will be able to get up and walk away from everything that holds you back today.
  6. Remember a day a time and not a life in a day.
  7. Be slow, be steady and be regular– even if you make an inch of progress in a day. Even if you wake up late, even if you have no one to talk to- you will have someone soon.
  8. Believe in yourself and your strength and build it a drop at a time, a little at a time.

I believe everyone can overcome their pathology and diagnosis if they have others who believe in them and if they also believe in themselves and hold on to their dreams. So hold on to your’s, no matter if they are the most ridiculous ones also and try to see them as clearly as possible. You have to gain the power that others hold over you, into your own hands- be the HERO of your own story.

Already, even at this stage, though this person is not directly in touch with me, there is a collaboration at work FOR HIM- for there is a friend of his, who has written to me. I have sat down and invested this effort in deconstruction/writing/counseling…we are the smallest links in the chain and a proof that there is hope and scope for everyone, because when you cry for help, someone hears it- even if distantly. SO PLEASE …ask for help, for it will come to you.

Robin Williams, mental anguish and cultures of silence

If you think this article speaks to you, please consider sharing it further, for we never know who needs to hear this today, via your social networks.

A death, particularly of a celebrity by suicide, is a big thing, more so when the celebrity is someone who seems to be at a pinnacle in his life, popularity and fan-following. So what could be the reason for such a death and how should others, who look at it in disbelief and dejection, see it? If someone who was so well applauded for his work, won many an award or nomination, then what despair could it be that could not be overcome despite such ‘success’ and adulation?

Suicide is always a many sided phenomenon, never a linear progression and to link it to depression is the easiest anyone can offer as analysis. However, depression by default does not lead to suicide, though the likelihood of lurking depression among those who attempt or commit suicide, could be a correlate. This writing is a miniscule deconstruction of celebrity suicide (with this one as case in point), in its sociological aspects and an attempt to tell others who suffer how suicide is not something we need to be shocked at in this instance, but at the alienation of a human, despite every sign of success and how unimportant those outer signs of success are in the overall scheme of life and sense of joy. So in case your depression is coming from a sense of failure or that you are feeling lost and lonely whereas there are others who are shining and winning accolades of all sorts, this is another side of that shining life.

Men often suffer in silence, and do not want to be seen as anything but macho in dealing with emotions. So the likelihood of a man seeking help or support of a therapist or any other ‘talking professional’ is that much more diminished, because they see it as a sign of weakness, which is culturally indoctrinated from the time a little boy is told, “Don’t cry like a girl/baby”. There is a whole process of socialization of what emotions are desirable in public and what are not, and everyone learns to fake it early in life- for mostly it is the family which leads the way in teaching what is acceptable and what is not.

Secondly, the final act of suicide, which implies a whole complex array of thought spent on what is the best way to commit it, that ensures success in the first attempt itself, is proof of the alienation that a person has from their environment. No matter what they have accomplished in the public sphere, how happy or joyful they appear in public portrayals of success, their own art/craftsmanship, companionship or even make others laugh, the fact that comes out in the end is, that they are not able to connect various other dots in their lives and neither they want to seek anyone’s support on the issue. OR, more worryingly, if they have sought that support, that support itself was not correct!

I work in research in mental health and all evidence to me that comes from those suffering from disabling mental illnesses is that talking to clinical psychologists, among others, is often counter-productive! I can further corroborate this from two dimensions- both experiential also. I myself had a very damaging interaction with a young clinical psychologist, in my younger years, when I suffered from bipolar disorder. It was a chance encounter with a Jungian therapist that made me change my views about therapy, for I had no intention of meeting a psychologist again, after that meeting in a psychiatric clinic in the early 2000s, with that young woman I mentioned in earlier lines. Now I am head of a team, that includes young people with degrees in clinical psychology as well, and they tell me that the role that a clinical psychologist is expected to  play in the hierarchy of mental health is to augment the work of a psychiatrist. So if the psychiatrist recommends medication, the psychologist will further argue with the patient/client that the medication be taken as the first line of action and then some therapy can be effective. In other words, they do not really have either an idea of human suffering, nor they have an independent line of thought that can stand on its own feet, to deal with mental distress as something that comes from the social environment of a person. They are also taught in their training programs that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) is the bible in mental health, without being told the flip side of it or whether such a side even exists.

There is any number of research evidences that talks about the inefficacy of psychiatric medication, its harmful effects, including suicidal ideation, violence and whatnot. I am not delving into the long lists here, but what I am trying to derive at is that the among the side effects of psychiatric medication, also antidepressants, there is a whole possibility of suicidal thoughts coming to those who consume such medication. Oh yes, my own experience also confirms that.

Fear or uncertainty about future/imaginary illnesses, (isn’t hypochondria something similar) or the onset of a new one is also something that can make anyone suffering from depression even more depressed. Williams had recently been given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, which is a progressively disabling condition. However, he did not have the resources internally or possibly around him to deal with it, in a manner that did not cut his life short. If we look at another celebrity story, whose life was also fraught with something equally distressing, we can all really admire the spirit of Ronald Reagan, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease ( his son claims, that the onset of Alzheimer’s possibly happened during his presidential years). So that brings us to the question of disability and how people cope with disabling conditions of the body or mind.

David B. Oaks had been an activist in mental health for nearly three decades of his life, till he was disabled by another condition. Despite that, he continues to inspire people through his courageous spirit, attitude and commitment to work for the larger good of humanity. The reason I bring up his story is to draw attention to the fact that suicide is a possibility we all face- it is so much easier to kill yourself than go through the tragic meanderings of unknown sufferings of the body or mind. So why does one commit suicide while another does not? Is it that those who commit suicide are more courageous, more desperate, selfish, cowardly or what? Nelson Mandela lived for 27 years in prison, in the course of which he faced innumerable acts of inhumanity and violations at the hands of the prison guards, including not being allowed to attend the funeral of his daughter. Similarly, Victor Frankl talks about his sufferings during the holocaust years. One could imagine that they wanting to commit suicide would make more logical sense than someone as successful or seemingly so, like Robin Williams.

It means we need to reconsider what is success. More significantly what is the significance of the success of one person when the whole world is suffering? In that case you are unable to connect with anyone else, because in your success you become a prisoner of a façade that you have to maintain. I am certain Williams would have always portrayed an image of a happy man, or worse a comedian! How many times would that have been only a façade? So may be when you see yourself on the continuum of the human experience, your success contributes something to the overall success of the human race in some dimension and your failure, an overall human failure, not just your personal one. That is why when one person commits an act of suicide hundreds around him/her are affected in different ways. And when we combine our individual suffering with the suffering of the world around us, we will be pulled away from the brink of suicide no matter how many reasons compel us to consider suicide. That is where a Nelson Mandela, a Thich Naht Hanh or a Victor Frankl will stand out, whereas those caught in the trappings of their own imaginations will perish.

Everyone who is depressed needs to remember that our lives are scripts that get written every day- NOT one final day, when we get a diagnosis.  Celebrities and actors look good from a distance- their lives in reality are often not all that great and what we hear them talk on screen is dialogues written by others, not themselves. Given their choices and vulnerabilities, they are only as fragile as you and me, and you tell them to write the scripts of their lives then we see what they make of it every day in newspaper stories, which we are continuously bombarded with.

Suicide is a personal and a social act. It remains personal if you think your suffering is your own and it is only your responsibility how you deal with your life and its fluctuations. Instead, if you think you are a social being and your death could be of consequence to many others, you may consider being more responsible. If you remain in the first model, of individualism, then your life and your death, only matter to you and that  is cowardly, irresponsible and a punishment you are putting others through. Especially those who love you, and who will be left to clean up after you have left the world in a huff, what to mention the emotional mess, which will haunt them for their lifetime ahead- including mental breakdowns in older years in some cases.

Instead of looking up to celebrities, who are the modern day gods and goddesses, shall we not look at the great people around us (believe me there are so many even in your own neighbourhood) to see that a hero can have a thousand faces, or may be millions.

If we think that we are connected to everyone on this planet earth and one act of violence toward anyone would be an act of violence toward everyone – we may value our lives differently, and not commit that act of violence even toward our own selves, because we are NOT THE OWNERS of ourselves- the world owns us and that is who we need to owe an explanation to. That is the stage when we would have moved on to a different level in our evolutionary journey- from the personal to the transpersonal self. And that is the only journey worth making finally. Among the many things I read in the context of Williams’ death, the one thing I consider worth sharing is by a professor from Liverpool.

 Yet cultures of silence, which teach men to hide their sufferings and despair, becoming ‘real men’ will continue and take many a life and a big toll, unless men and women both realize that a life in which we balance our masculine and feminine energies, polarities and sensibilities is a life which will keep us safe, humane and centered. Isn’t it time to question these cultures of silence that want men to remain emotionally frozen and robotic? What is your view?

My problem with the Israeli Palestinian Conflict or Why peace talks fail

If you like what you read, kindly share further – on facebook or twitter, and add your voice to mine, to spread global peace

For years now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I have been anguished by the Israeli atrocities against Palestine and have wondered how a people who have faced so much persecution over the centuries, which reached a pinnacle during Hitler’s reign, become so inured to human suffering? How is it possible? Does suffering of an extreme nature make you inhuman, apathetic or bloodthirsty so that they want to enact the same drama again and again and again- and for how long? 11 millions Jews died in Europe (for more figures/statistics and facts, please check all links in blue, for this is a thoroughly researched piece)

While I am developing my own analysis of the situation in a slow and phased manner, for this attitude is something that I would extend to all conflicts around the world, I always look at any conflict from multiple positions and from different perspectives too- mostly with an attitude to understanding the genesis, the development/escalation of conflict and then to look for a solution that is beneficial for a larger number of people. But one position I am lately beginning to take is that of political economy and sometimes use the social constructionist view for dialogic engagement.

How the new nation of Israel was born– a background

Due to the Nazi holocast, in which millions of Jews were killed in Europe, the flight of the Jews to other regions of the world, when Hitler lost the war, it was time to see whether Jews who had been persecuted for thousands of years before that, should not have the promised homeland.

As far as i am concerned, I personally always had a soft corner for the Jews, more so for I found them so hardworking, honest and committed to everything. Their contributions in the field of knowledge are legion. If we look at some of the greatest among them it is truly inspiring.  I also loved the movies in which we saw them and naturally sympathized with them, whether it was Teyve singing if i were a rich man, in Fiddler on the Roof , or the Von Trapp family running away from the Gestapo in the Sound of Music. The chilling stories in the Boy in the blue, striped pajamas and Schindler’s list, or the Pianist made me see the other side, where people were not really escaping but getting caught and dying premature deaths at any age, or came close to it, as the movies showed. The books that nailed it for me, for I was incapable of seeing it beyond that were Anne Frank’s Diary and Frankl’s writing.

Anyways that was the background and the conditions, as well as the historical antecedents of it all. Now coming over to the birth of the new nation and how it takes roots in Palestine, where the Jews were supposed to have originated from, making Jerusalem, come into the eye of the storm. Now the problem is that the holy land of the Jews, lies in a place which belongs to the Palestinians! So what happens next? I just encountered a simple video, which shares that- this one.

Since the present state of the conflict is very well known and how it impacts even the smallest aspects of life in Palestine, i am simply looking at the larger context of its political economy and who stands to gain, if the region remains in conflict. So here is meaning of what is Political Economy Analysis.

We all know that the biggest industry in the world is the armament industry, followed by the pharmaceutical. So if there are two sides at war ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD these are the two who will gain first of all. So well…what have we. You create a war and sell arms to both the parties, then when they kill and maim one another, you rush in medical aid and then so on and so forth.Each year, the United States gives Israel about $3.1 billion in military assistance, a commitment that stems from the 1978 Camp David accord that led to peace between Israel and Egypt. Those billions are roughly divided into two funding streams. About $800 million underwrites Israeli manufacturing of weaponry and military products.‘ In case you want to read the full details of how the US gains from the conflict, you might want to click this- by an American journalist. Just imagine, if the anyone gave $3 Billion dollars to Palestine to develop- every year at that!

(Actually at this stage, it is proper that I bring in perspectives about the various sides involved in the conflict, including what is HAMAS and how it was created, what purpose it serves and what about the ones who are not part of Hamas- who are/were they, what was the role of Yasser Arafat and why his death has been such a great loss…but this is just  blog post and I cannot write more than what I can, so that whatever I am saying at the moment is not lost or become too much for anyone to digest. In the near future I will write about all these as a separate post- or several of them)

WHY PEACE TALKS Fail?

Don’t ask me this…who stands to lose if there is peace? Just probe that. Nobody is going to buy from the arms dealers, and they may have to close shop. There will be no money spent on deployment or maintenance of troops, there would be enough for everyone to eat, study, develop and live a life of sharing simple pleasures and not creating barriers for movement from neighbour turned enemies overnight. So much more, so..much much more for everyone. Who does NOT want that? Do you think the ones who want to sell arms want to sit at home and appreciate the blue sky on a clear winter morning?

This is a very broad way of putting stuff- the political economy analyses has to go down deeper, also bringing in the role of US foreign policy and why it needs to defend its own imaginary or real interests, everywhere in the world. We need to fundamentally understand one thing- there is always two sides in a conflict- the one that wants war and the one that does not. Now if there is one that does, then the second one automatically gets drawn into it, and often have no choice in the matter.

Do you think little children whose charred and stiffened bodies we encounter every other day are there by choice? Or young girls and boys, mothers and fathers, old people and wounded people- did they have a choice in the matter that a grenade came through their window and burst in their homes? Can we choose to stand immune to this human suffering any longer?

But equally significantly, I want to ask the Jews in Israel, hey what happened to you guys? I would have thought you were such gifted people and the ‘chosen ones’ – as you liked to call yourself. So how come, despite having suffered so hugely, you did not develop any compassion to not persecute another? Did you forget your own sufferings, and not want to save the world from it? I never forgot mine, so I want to save the world from it…so why are you and me, not the same? We are the world after all, we are (same) people- of this planet earth.

It is with great deliberation that I write in a simple language so that even someone who does not understand anything about the conflict can understand. Please help others understand.

But just see this before we part-  and never underestimate what you can do, and more than that what YOU and ME can do together