Time marches on, another year gone

Time to put another calender year behind- not sure if this is a good or a bad thing to happen. Oh like every year, this year has been full of heartaches and heart burns. But the one good thing that has happened as a result is that I have arrived at an inner location which says heart burns can be dealt with as we grow wiser and more centered.

The Pen refused to write

Anyhow, this year I did a lot of writing in the last quarter- after whiling away the better part of the year- waiting for some new thing to happen on the subject of my book. I realize, like many others who have worked on the margins of life and society, that the position you choose to work from, or where you land up thanks to having no choice in the matter, determines everything. Whether you will be heard or not, is contingent upon where you are standing and saying it. If you are offering or analyzing something from a critical position, you are already ahead of the times you live in- because people do not want to either criticize nor face criticism. They prefer living lives of comfort, comfort zones and no challenges to the status quo. That is also why a whole lot also keep taking a lot of abuse, till the point where it becomes intolerable.

So writing a book about mental illness, having recovered from one was not the easiest of fires to tend to. It is only an imaginary thing that senior academics mentor me, it is really not the case. They are kind enough to pick up my phone when I call up and that is all- the sort of guidance and mentoring that they would be offering to their own students would not reach me by miles. And foolishly enough I keep toiling- I cannot understand my own reasons. This must be the real madness about me!

2014 013 (2)

Though it is a woodpecker, in reality it is ME- for like a woodpecker I have been pecking at issues that bother me or touch me, in ways that I keep at it persistently- just like a woodpecker pecking for worms. I am not trying to look for food but fodder for my soul, to solve some issues that I with my skills, in whatever dimension they be, can resolve.

After I finished writing the book last year, someone told me, “Great now you have something tangible in hand. But remember not many will read it.!” Coming as it did from a senior academic, it was a great device to puncture the spirit…particularly because the spirit has only been punctured forever and never really encouraged or egged on- barring the family. As it is till September I could not muster any heart, waiting as I was for a word from the publisher- it came a whole year later with a rejection! Of course they made it sound like a regret- that oh, our marketing team could not think of how to market it, though the editorial was ready for it. I do not know whether to believe it. So after the setback settled in, it was time to move on- refurbish, tighten belts, look out for other publishers and talk to seniors again. Still wading through that.

Oh yes, the article I sent to the World Cultural Psychiatry Research Review came back with appreciation from the reviewers, with of course recommendations, which I duly incorporated and sent back. So possibly one may get to see it in print next year. Then I wrote another one for a journal in medical humanities- a short story! I realize that reading about mental health is so boring for most, so what is the point of telling things in complex disciplinary frameworks? Why not simplify them? So here was one attempt to share my writing in a more public way- via a newspaper! This of course encouraged me to attempt more, which I intend doing soon.

Just last week I sent off another article (for translation) about the Arts and Self help in mental illnesses, for a book that is going to be translated from its original into Marathi. Now since the original will not be read by anyone, I thought might as well send it to someone else- for now I am thinking of cutting it short and sending it to a newspaper, and to another journal of pure music. For that I have to make it a music based thing, not a general arts based thing. And just before the end came, and while I was in Delhi (mid Dec) I got a letter saying a group that is meeting on the subject of mental health wants me to contribute something, as also come for a conference. I agreed to do both, as it is important to be heard and know and be known. So that is for Feb 2015- but i have to send in the piece by the next few days. Am through with more than half of it already.

While all this happens I am still agonizing about my book- which is such a difficult effort that I have made and overcome so many obstacles to write. Then being in Delhi I met someone who wants me to write on the subject of music as therapy for a journal of doctors, and of course I had to agree. If you do not educate the doctors and health professionals first of all, how will they carry the message forward and how will the knowledge grow?

But by far one of the really exciting things that happened was that I am now planning, for the first time, to write in the area of pure music- i mean music pedagogy, a subject that has always been close to my heart and I am really thrilled at the prospect of doing that work now. For now I just have to write an abstract and …but even if it does not get accepted, the fact that I would have formulated my ideas in a certain framework will give me a structure to write the full article and who knows, it may become a part of my own book someday. This abstract is in the context of critical perspectives viz a viz music, education and religion.

New Home

This was an unusual year in many ways, because I also moved home- by approx.2000 kms- to Goa; and that was something that I wanted to do for a long time- move to a village. Life was never really easy and coming to the village I only made it more difficult for myself by another few degrees. But that was mid March when I came and by now many months have gone by and I have made some contacts around and hopefully am feeling more entrenched emotionally here, though we Indians are so biased that it is never easy to settle in a new place, without being periodically reminded about being an ‘outsider’. By now the dogs have also settled in and we are so relieved that we do not have to face the harsh variation of Delhi’s climate.

Seeds for future action

But some of the key changes that happened in the last quarter were that I became a little more interested in writing, having failed to start-up my new enterprise the way I had visualized it. And that brought me to the idea of starting the counseling teaching program- the one meant for those who have lived experiences to refer back to. The idea of the applied musicology center is very much on the anvil and am just bidding my time before I start its work. So this has to happen before that- one thing at a time.

Musical Notes

My own music took leaps and bounds this year- thanks to being back with a regular learning schedule with my guru and some really complex tangles, where I was getting struck got resolved. A whole sea of ragas entered back with a huge velocity. I learnt this year for the first time- Nat Bhairav, Jogkauns, Lalit (my god, how could i ever live without this)  and learnt to have a better view of Bilaskhani Todi, Madhuvanti, Maru Bihag, Kedar, Mian Malhar (again) Gujri Todi, Des, Bairagi (never seem to get over with this), as of course Yaman, Shankara (!!!) and on the last days today and tomorrow- Chandrakauns. Wow! that is a huge lot.

I learnt a minimum of two or three bandishes in each of them. In each of these I already had a big lot of compositions from the past. The only three that I almost learnt from the barest scratch were the first three. I have not yet got the hang of Jogkauns (makes my heart sink for I find no room to play musical ideas in its tight structure of notes yet) and Bilaskhani Todi (perhaps when I knew it little, I could sing it better!!)


When I moved to Goa, I tried setting it up here again- not that I had it going in any significant way even in Delhi, but thinking that may be in a new place, it would be a different story. The different story cannot really emerge until I move things. So though I hired a house to work out of and a whole lot of employees- that was what. They were just employees and nothing else- no heart in the work!

Then I thought the best thing is to do the work myself and see how far it can go. Now I am conceptualizing it again and like I said earlier, keeping it focused within the domain of counseling for now, which I will make an international affair. I mean since I work via the skype/phone geography is not a constraint for me any longer and I can pretty much counsel in any part of the world. I have already started with this, having someone in England talking to me, as well as people from other parts of India as well, since nobody can come and meet me at home. I intend sharing this model further, as of course the counseling training.

I am not sure with what expression of mind to view the new year, but I think the most befitting thing in my case, possibly like everyone else, is to have an attitude of curiosity and hope- and the tenacity to bear it, no matter what. What option does anyone have apart from that? Only to crumble!

Going up in smoke

Going up in smoke

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