The Circle

14 Jun

​”Hi. I’m A, and I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober for 2 months.” 

“Hi A.”

“Hi I’m B, and I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober for 7 months.”

“Hi B.”

“Hi I’m C, and I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober for 3 days.”

“Hi C.”

“Hi I’m D, and I’m… I’m… I don’t know… I don’t even know if I belong here. I couldn’t find a self-help group for my condition, and I’m desperate for help. I’m addicted to a person, and I have been sober for 23 hours.”

As the sound of “Hi D” chimed through the circle, a wounded soul finally found a shoulder to rest on. 


I am. 

8 Jun

I am the profanity which screams from the sharp glare of the lady’s eyes as she is cat-called and whistled at. 

I am the vengeful text message that the young man types out to his boss, and then presses backspace until aborted.

I am the silent sobs that the newly married woman tries to stifle every night as she lays next to her ball and chain.

I am the shadow of the boy’s unstretched hand, who yearns to hold the doll being handed to his sister. 

I am strong. I am powerful. I am undefeatable. 

I chain the mouths of the men and the women, the young and the old, the rich and the poor. 

I infringe on their rights with empty, but terrifying and plausible threats.

They detest me. They scorn me. They curse me. 

But they forget. 

They created me. 

I am birthed by the patriarchy and the orthodoxy of their society.

I am nourished by their misogyny, stigma, conformity, and intolerance. 

I am the itch in the throat. I am the fist rolled in a punch. I am the tightly clenched teeth. 

I am The Unsaid.


27 Apr


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She sat huddled in the corner of her room. Her back was pressed against the wall, as if hoping for some grounding, some support. Her knees were drawn close to her chest, her arms tightly wrapped around herself, almost seeming like she was trying to soothe herself with a hug. Tears dropped intermittently from her eyes, her body emitting an occasional shudder. Her eyes glanced over her arms and legs, looking for the red marks from the lashing she had just received. A quivering hand rose up to her face, tentatively hovering over it, almost scared of brushing over a stretch of slashed skin. She sat there for what seemed like hours, her heart rate accelerating with the rise in the sound of the footsteps outside her locked door. The footsteps of a burly man, a man she had loved, even revered, for years.

She woke up the next day as the alarm clock blared at 7 AM. Laying a few minutes in bed, she steeled herself for another day. As she stood in the shower, with the cold water pouring down on her, she almost wished that it could also wash away the memories of the previous night. She applied two extra coats of concealer under her eyes, an attempt to ward off the anticipated queries from her co-workers about her growing dark circles. She wondered if there was any concealer available in the market which could also mask the look of death in her big, black eyes. She trudged through the day, immersing herself in the pile of files on her desk, hoping to distract herself from the impending doom that awaited her at home at night. One could never unearth the whirlpool of emotions inside her which was wrecking her sanity, every moment, every day. As she cracked jokes, and laughed along with her co-workers, not one of them was able to look past her façade, and tell her that she seemed to be trying too hard; that even if her face was perennially split into a wide smile, her eyes were still vacant.

10 PM, she shuffled around the house, completing her chores and hoping against hope, that tonight will be the night she would be spared. She tried to be as invisible as she could, hoping that if he didn’t see her much, he wouldn’t flare up. Wishful thinking. Just a few minutes later, he sought her out, and on started the insults, berates, belittling, threats, and mockery. His verbal blows rained torrentially on her, every word searing through her like acid-tipped arrows. She winced through them, cowering, sobbing, fighting back, and weeping, in unending cycles; until she was resorted to a lump of flesh and bones pressed hard against the wall, her knees drawn close to her chest, and her arms wrapped tightly around herself.

Relentless loop. Every day. Every night.

She did not have any scars to show for her abuse. There were no breaks on the surface of her skin; no cuts, burns, or slashes. But her heart, soul, and psyche was repeatedly stabbed at every night. Sure, there were no outward signs of distress; but if one would have ever looked closely at her, one could have fathomed her pain. Her shoulders drooping with a veiled burden, her vacant eyes, and her deadened spirit and zest for life were her scars.

Emotional abuse is as real, painful, and damaging as physical abuse. It is time we give it the attention it silently screams for.

The Addiction Story

3 Dec

Every time I visited the government hospital, I never paid any heed to the half torn, faded posters that preached about the harmful effects of addiction. I was pompous enough to believe that it would never happen to me, that I was strong enough to never fall into the trap, that I could never be the pitiable person they depicted, the one who lay half-dead on the hospital bed.

I had always glanced at the cigarette boxes, which warned us about how smoking causes cancer, earlier with a one line statutory warning, and later with horrific images, which have only been getting larger and larger over the years. The warning never affected me, because I knew that I wasn’t foolish enough to let something else govern my life, enough to insidiously render me powerless, at its mercy for my survival. I always managed to find a way to ridicule the advertisement at the beginning of a movie, at any theatre in India, mocking the poor acting by the characters in the advertisement, at the outright portrayal of doom which they implied was sure to befall on you if you succumbed to your temptations. I mocked because I knew that I was safe, far away from cigarettes, or alcohol, or any other drug. I prided myself on the ground that I was a sensible, independent, well-informed young woman, who would never voluntarily give in to cravings, regarding how fatal they can prove to be, and hence, was at a self-appointed higher position from which I could look down at the other humans who had given away their souls to the devil.

Until I met you.

As soon as I started to get to know you, my ground slowly started slipping from under my feet, and I found myself falling in love with you. I could feel myself falling, but the fall was sweet, and I let myself loose, falling down from my self-appointed higher position, and into levels way under the earth. Moments of self-doubt crept into my head, but aided by the notorious Cupid, I managed to shoot them down, convincing myself that my condition wasn’t the same as that of the young boy who started smoking marijuana occasionally with his friends just for recreation, but the high was so sweet that he slowly started smoking it every day, and soon, all day every day.

Initially reluctant about the possibility of it turning into a routine, I soon started speaking to you every night on the phone, giggling and blushing. I used to feel light in my head, almost dizzy, quite like the woman who drinks alcohol every day, until she’s inebriated enough to allow herself to be happy. Cupid’s aim had started to get better by then, and he could easily shoot down the balloons of doubt even before I could see them.

Days turned into months, and then into years, and when things between you and me got over at the end of the two years, I couldn’t even recall the exact moment I had started getting addicted to you. My mouth did not have any blisters or ulcers to show for proof, nor had my liver or lungs started to degenerate; but my heart felt hollow, and my soul felt battered. I sat on my bedroom floor, hours of tears dried up on my face, with not a grain of energy left in my body and soul to fight the craving that consumed my heart. And I dialed your number, and again, and again, drawing comfort from the sound of your voice mail. I looked around for my old accomplice desperately, only to realize that Cupid was after all, just the devil in disguise.

The haze gradually lifted, and it dawned upon me, that after months of consuming my addiction, it had finally consumed me.

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Dear Zindagi: Yet Another Review

30 Nov
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After months, or maybe even years, Bollywood delivered a movie which managed to draw the attention of people from all spheres of life. Dear Zindagi, like every other movie, received its share of praise and criticism, and for about a week now, I can’t scroll down my social media newsfeed without stumbling upon yet another review about it. The movie grapples with the idea of mental health, and what is heart-warming for me is that more and more people are now sitting up and paying attention to the issue, albeit, with certain criticisms thrown in. I was initially hesitant to jump on to the bandwagon, since all the articles I had read about it, seemed to collectively mirror my thoughts. However, I was aghast when I came across an article, which reviewed the movie with some distasteful words, armed with extremely incorrect and stereotypical facts. It made me realise that the concepts of mental health and mental illness are still elusive for a wide part of the population, and being a part of the mental health profession myself, I felt the need to voice my opinions about the movie.

One particular area which I believe requires to be emphasized on, is who exactly is in need of help with mental health and/or mental illness? A popular idea which seems to be doing the rounds is that the lead protagonist of the movie is just a young woman, with difficulty in sleeping and forming healthy romantic relationships, and thus is just spoilt and emotionally weak, and definitely doesn’t need to seek help. “But she doesn’t even have a diagnosable mental illness! And she has been having sleepless nights for only three days. What is she seeking help for”? Interestingly, what I found progressive about the movie was this very depiction of a situation requiring valid psychological help. The director broke through the barriers of diagnosable mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia; and welcomed the issues of difficulty in coping with one’s life situations, emotional distress, difficulty in acceptance of one’s own sexual orientation, into the realms of psychotherapy. One doesn’t need to have a classified mental illness to enter psychotherapy. “I don’t feel so good these days”, is an equally valid reason; denial of which, only strengthens the stigma revolving mental health and illness. Hundreds of people stifle their cries for help, only because they are told that their problems are just not grave enough.

Another criticism that I came across was about how impolite it was when the lead protagonist of the movie declares her mental health problem in front of guests at a party. Again, I personally found it empowering to see a young woman, unabashedly yelling out her problem, not just in front of her immediate family, but also her parents’ close friends. It gave me a hope of de-stigmatization, of more and more people getting emboldened by this portrayal, and being able to confide their struggles to their close ones. The very idea is to break the shackles which have been chaining mouths shut for decades, and allowing the people to discuss their problems freely, thus, breaking the taboo.

Yet another criticism which seems to be doing the rounds is how instead of helping the young woman understand faults within her current patterns of communication and attachment, the character of the psychotherapist in the movie conveniently shifts the blame to her childhood and her unhealthy attachment pattern with her parents, to be the reason for her present difficulties with forming a healthy relationship with a significant other in her life. A quick research on the internet should suffice one with various theories propounded by eminent psychologists, who believed that our early years of development constitute a crucial period of our lives, any significant disturbance in which, can have powerful impact in our later years.

Lastly, the usage of the term ‘shrink’ needs to be put an end to. It is a slang word, and I believe that writers, bloggers, film directors, can do their bit to cultivate a habit of instead using the more dignified terms like ‘psychotherapist’ and ‘psychiatrist’ to refer to the same. Gauri Shinde skillfully weaves these terms into the movie, along with the more relatable Dimaag ka Doctor, thereby giving the derogatory shrink a miss.

Even though the movie did portray certain fantastical scenes which violate some of the regulations and ethics of psychotherapy, it still deserves an applause for being brave enough to broach the subject of mental health and mental illness, and softly target the stigma with grace.

The Duality of Mind and Body

28 Nov

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The 58 year old woman has a severe backache, years of toiling around the house had sucked the calcium out of her bones. She manages to drudge along during the day, but as the night falls, her bed suddenly seems to transform itself into an iron slab studded with sharp nails. She tosses and turns all night, only to wake up the next morning, tired and lacking energy, day after day.

The 15 year old boy was the pride of his high school basketball team. Towering at a height of 6″1′, the only sound accustomed to his ears while playing, was the resounding roar from the crowd, chanting his name. Fate seemed to have cruelty in store for him, and he lost his left leg in an unfortunate car accident. Gone was his leg, and along with it, gone was his glory. Unable to grapple with the loss of adulation so abundantly bestowed upon him earlier, his self-confidence received a massive blow, and he started avoiding social gatherings.

The cancer victim, a 42 year old man, had undergone numerous sessions of chemotherapy to demolish the parasitic cancer cells in his body. Having always been a zesty person, he marched on bravely through the first few months, determined to bring cancer down to its knees. The degenerative disease took its toll on him over the next couple of months, and the zest was soon replaced with hopelessness. Along with the cancer cells, chemotherapy seemed to also have demolished his interest and ability to find pleasure in life.

The frail, malnourished child who had been abandoned by his birth parents, met his guardian angels at the age of 3 years, when the benevolent couple adopted him and brought him to their home. The child, they noticed, was not as energetic as his peers, and often plopped down in the middle of a game of running around the garden, fatigued.

Suffering from typhoid, the 28 year old man had lost his appetite. Much to his wife’s vexation, no variety of savoury food could awaken his hunger, and he would only peck at the dishes laid out in front of him, forcing tiny morsels of food down his throat.

What would we expect the family members of all these people suffering from the physical illnesses to do?

Do we expect them to be empathetic, and frantically seek medical help for their loved ones?

Or do we expect them to shower their loved ones with suggestions like “Just get over it”, “It has been so long, you need to move on now”, and “It is all in your mind, if you try hard enough, you would get cured.”?

A person diagnosed with depression also had the sleeplessness of the old lady, the hopelessness of the cancer victim, the fatigue of the malnourished child, the low self-esteem of the erstwhile basketball hero, and the loss of appetite of the man suffering from typhoid. However, instead of being offered medical help, they are often expected to magically recover, by just trying to snap out of it.

It’s time that we accept the tribulations of the people suffering from mental illnesses like depression, and treat them as we would someone with a physical illness.

The pain is the same. The approach to treatment also needs to be the same.

​Daddy’s Little Girl

19 Nov

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While attending a psychology lecture, a young woman came across the legend of Electra, a character from the Greek mythology, who had plotted the matricide of her mother, as a revenge for the murder of her father. The Electra Complex is a theory about a girl’s psychosexual competition with her mother for the possession of her father, at about 3 to 6 years of age. Successful resolution of the Electra Complex takes place when the girl internalises the mother, and starts to identify with her, incorporating to her own ego, the personality characteristics of the mother.

Memories start playing in the young woman’s mind, quite like snippets from an old film reel. She starts to connect the dots, right from her childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood.

On a warm Sunday morning, the father gets his beard shaven, sprawled out on the chair in the verandah of his house. In the corner of the room stands his 5 year old daughter, a look of innocent betrayal on her face. Just as the barber’s razor was about to graze on his moustache, he calls his daughter to him and asks, “Is it okay if I shave it off”? The girl shakes her head violently in indignation, and the father promptly asks the barber to let his moustache, his daughter’s prized possession, to remain on his face.

Most of the young woman’s memories from that age, revolve around her father. She had an indescribable bond with him. Tantrums were thrown whenever the father mentioned traveling to another city without having taken her permission. The little girl felt a sense of possession and ownership over her father. 

During her teenage, her relationship with her father took a backseat, and she only has recollections of her mother, and her constant striving to be more like her mother, her supreme ideal being. She wished to inculcate her mother’s kindness and patience, the kind which was required to deal with a man as erratic as her father, whose evenings were spent with a glass of scotch in his hand, while the music of Mick Jagger blared on the speakers, albeit, much to her mother’s displeasure.

Hailing from the Indian culture, the realisation and acceptance of having been attracted to one’s own father can easily pass off as desecration. However, objectivity was a quality ingrained in the young woman because of her academic discipline, and she chuckled to herself as she continued analysing her own life.

Her thoughts drifted to the recent past, when the little girl inside the 23 year old woman had given away her heart to a man, as they got drunk on cheap whiskey and the Rolling Stones, in her one bedroom apartment.

And at 25, she still gets attracted to men with well-groomed facial hair.

Daddy’s little girl, indeed.