Pains, plans, and gains

I never thought chikungunya was something to worry about till I got it. And today after more than a month of contracting it, I went online to check what it is all about. What I read and figured was not comforting in the least. So that leaves me with the lurking suspicion that this nuisance is here to stay. My joints are in utter pain and I am quite low on energy. By joints I meant ALL joints in my arms and legs, including the multiple joints on my fingers and the wrists and shoulders and you name it! I cannot lift my arm if I try- so I have to hold my right hand with my left one to lift the arm! Wow- never thought life could come to that. Naturally enough I cannot drive- so I have hired a driver. But wasting money on driving seems like a luxury.

HansFon Logo

So while I was (NO, am) dealing with the pains without respite (and crying out in the night due to an excess of it) and all my writing/research is completely stalled, I thought let me be a bit useful and go offer my counseling services- let health catch up. Of course one of the reasons for return from Goa was to get the non profit (Hansadhwani) off its feet, now that we are both around for long enough. So the first thing which I have been building on is the counseling or mental health arm of it.

To concretise the work further I decided to work with juveniles in observation homes and women who have faced violent crimes or in general are experiencing some domestic issues that they need resolution for. I went and met the two people who head these two different organizations- one was the superintendent of the home for the boys and the other was a police inspector at the women’s police station, in Faridabad. Among women I hope to focus on trauma, in particular rape victims and among boys there would be all sorts of issues. On the first day of meeting the two people, they pushed me to counsel two sets of people each in their respective facilities- one in the boys’ home and the police station. How much work is needed in society- if only we step out of our little cocoons we will know. For every little thing one can offer, there are so many takers. So last week I ended up talking to four different sets of people, and what a glimpse of life it was- from murder charges, to elopement, marital conflict and petty crimes.

The best way to take one’s mind off one’s own suffering is to look at the struggles of others. It offers us courage to bear our own. Of course bodily pain is a different thing than a crime- whether you are a victim or perpetrator. But the common factor lies in the suffering that is an outcome in every case. So I hope that by listening to the stories of others I would also broaden my horizons further and who knows what outcomes emerge with the dialogues that I facilitate- am certain there would be a social value addition, even if no reduction of personal anguish. But then the personal will always kill us, while the social will give us meaning. That is my hope always.

Shivmat Bhairav

From the start this has been a difficult year in terms of health. First it was the ‘breakdown’, then came the Phd admission, then the spinal problems and now the chikungunya. Wow! talking of living in a ‘poor’ country, one cannot but worry about how the average person lives here. Everyone seems to be sick in the city of Delhi/Faridabad. The government is giving out its own statistics, but the reality of life seems so different. In every family I am fiDSC00940nding people having fever, and body aches. I myself was suffering from immense body ache at present, and it seems as though the body has been hollowed out- without life in it.

Notwithstanding that I have been chipping away at my writing- the book on music, that is, and today I also plucked the courage to  start singing once again with my guru- Madhuriji. It must have been in March or April I did some learning with her. And after that long a gap- now. It always takes awhile to pick up a new raga with aunty, because she dislikes certain and then does not think all ragas need to be sung elaborately. I wanted to pick up either Anand Bhairava or Jogiya. But she said Anand Bhairava was only sung by Jitendra Abhisheki and nobody else! and Jogiya is a a raga for thumri, nothing else! So that made my choices somewhat limited. In any case eliminating made choosing easier as well. So between a number of ragas, since I wanted to learn something new, we settled for Shivmat Bhairav.  It belongs to the Bhairav family, having both gandhar , both nishad notes. It resembles Jogkauns somewhat. (That reminds me that I have to go over Jogkauns all over again as my illness seems to have obliterated the memory of that raga in my mind for now).

The world of Hindustani ragas is so vast and colourful it seems endless- there is so much to learn, to teach, to share, to write about, to create and whatnot. And here I am grappling with chikungunya- sleeping with body ache and lifelessly so- in my bed. The book is going around in my mind at most times. Yesterday I was writing about the folk songs of women of Garhwal and thinking about the role of folk music in the life of people. It is so deeply entrenched, yet so overshadowed by the popular reign of film music and other forms of music from the cities. There is a reason to be worried. I am writing this down in the book, because if a country does not preserve its folk art and music, it is sure to be lose its voice and identity.

What is diversity if not difference from the dominant prevalent culture which is handed down by civilizational leaders? Currently the leadership comes from the West to the rest. That leadership permeates every field- including artistic and musical traditions. Foolishly enough people in third world countries think they can and ought to follow the trail of the (Western) leaders because they are markers of civilization, advancement and development. In that self doubt and self conscious assessment, they marginalize their indigenous knowledge and traditions. It is happening all over the world and India is no exception. Even Indian music is not immune to such self conscious assessment. In part one has to hold the planning around art and culture responsible for this lack of self confidence and need to be accepted by the Westerner before we can accept ourselves.

And though I am delving into the deeper end of the current, in search of newer ragas and compositions, my heart is in pain to think of how the average person is so far removed from the immensity of experience that our music brings. In talking to many people for the writing, many points of view emerged- especially on the issue of whether our classical music is our real music or should it be some folk form of music. Ramakant-ji told me that this is a classical tussle in all traditional forms of knowledge, particularly in language and mathematics. So I do not have to dig the well again, but understand the work done by linguistics and mathematicians in the realm of finding a compromise between folk and classical traditions, rather than depriving the average child in the country of both!

The book is half way done. I mean I have written just over 20k words and I need to write equally as many. It is not the easiest of books to write, though when I had sent the proposal it did not look so confounding. It is a great learning and covers a big range of topics, yet the learning has come from most unexpected quarters for me- the fact that writing a book proposal is so different from executing it! Sometimes it is so easy to nail down a broad outline, but try filling up the outline and you know what a tough challenge it can be. I have only learnt this now. Of course writing the first book was a different sort of challenge- something that I am about to embark on once again! Of course, nobody needs to do that if you find a publisher at the outset. But since I want to change the entire book, it is asking me for that sort of effort.

The PhD does not budge

If anyone asks me how my phd research is going, I feel annoyed, because honestly speaking what are they thinking? Do they think it can get over in a day? The truth is that apart from reading and outlining a few preliminary articles, I have not really embarked upon the road in any earnest manner. Shifting home 2000 kilometers, setting up a new home, falling sick and all sorts of adjustment issues that I have had to deal with these past few months do not make research the easiest things to start. SO I am staggering under the various burdens- but slowly gravitating towards an equilibrium- one part of which includes counseling with my clients.

So life goes on thus…(will write later as someone is at the door)

Without combing my hair

On 28th January this year, when I reached the guest house of Nalsar University and checked into the guest house I had an uncanny feeling that I had missed something. Later upon rummaging through my bag, I figured it was a comb- for the first time in my life, I was travelling out of my home, with no mechanism to comb my hair. It never happened like this ever. I was mildly nervous, had been unwell for many of the preceding weeks, or rather, had straightaway come from a long spell of illness. Mom had come in from Delhi to be with me and give me company during the course of my illness, and she was very much at home in Goa, whilst I flew to Hyderabad.

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NALSAR University of Law

I went to the interview next morning, at the appointed time of 10:30 am. There were many hopefuls like me, all sitting outside the Vice Chancellor’s office. I am not sure how people perceive one another when they encounter each other, without having any connection of the past, yet thrown in the same waters of uncertainty. I realized I was the last on the list of the candidates- so even if the interviews started at 10:30 I would not get an opportunity in a hurry.

Then the next thing happened. I was told to show my original degrees and certificates. Perhaps nobody could be in the same boat at me. I had lost all of them! When I think about it, I feel as though I am the least likely of someone to pursue a doctoral degree program. So here I had to go and talk to the assistant registrar, show him the document that said that I had lost my degrees and had applied for them, so I be allowed to take the interview on the assumption that I would share the originals with the university at a later date someday. Fortunately, the gentleman accepted my version and took photocopies of my documents and kept them with him.

By the time my turn came for the interview, I had witnessed how every single candidate had been received by the board of interviewers. Many came out fuming, some perplexed and some crestfallen. Nobody came out with self assurance. I was unsure how I would be dealt with considering all these were people of law, and here I was having no inkling of law, but wanting to do a phd in a law university.

Everyone had brought a powerpoint presentation to share how their research was intended. But nobody got a chance to run it through and the single person who managed to have a go at it, said he had too many slides and did not have enough time to present them. When my turn came, I went in and saw a somber group of some six seven senior professors sitting around the round table in the seminar room and looking at me grimly.

I said, good afternoon (it was past one o’clock in the afternoon) in a loud and clear voice. I was nervous, for I was not sure how this serious looking group would question me, would I have enough ideas to convince them?

Amita Dhanda said to me, Prateeksha you have ten minutes. Tell us what you would like to say.

I quickly got my presentation out, for that was the most concise way of going about things and started to talk. I was talking about psychosis and recovery, and its legal ramifications. I talked about emancipatory perspectives and how I intend my research to have outcomes for the future of society and inform policy. I had naturally planned it all out that way only. Later when I was sitting in the evening and chatting with one of my former students, I got a message from Prof. Dhanda to come and meet her. I hurriedly went, and she informed me that the board of interviewers had unanimously agreed for my candidature.

I heaved a sigh of relief, for this was the moment that I had waited for a near ten years- and now the green signal had been given. A full 24 years after being given a diagnosis of Bipolar in disorder, I would be going back to university as a student, to study about the same thing- and to see in what manner more people can recover and reclaim their lives from the tentacles of mental illness. Life has come a full circle- at least from the point where I had a break in ‘sanity’ or that which others see as sanity.

My uncombed head of hair had got me into a doctoral research at last and it has been a very hard won battle. But paradoxically, entering into phd is only the start of the real battle! So here I come with another round of research, but hopefully a lot more organized than in the past this time around. Phew…uncombed hair are not all that bad after all.

So tomorrow (13th April, a week before my 44th birthday) I am going back to Hyderabad once again, for my research methodology classes and I am excited this time- though the heat is doing a little act of pulling the spirits down. Plus the timing of the classes at 9:30 in the peak of summer seems very absurd, especially if one is waking up at 5:15 or 5:30 in the morning! I am hoping to manage it well, despite the lumbar spondylosis and osteophytosis that are bothering me for now, though they are not supposed to bother all the time. Loaded with scores of medicines for the nerves, the heat, and the bones- and a fresh set of ideas about exercise, here I am ready for the start of my phd program, a full 24 years on. Whoever could have thought this possible!

Now two years

Its two years now that we moved to Goa- me and the four dogs. It was on 16th March 2014, that we came in, four days of driving from the north of the country to the south-west. What a crazy trip it was and it took me awhile after that, to get my act together and chronicle the drive of 2000 kilometers, via this blog post on another blog.

Life is always progressive if you choose to keep adjusting the center of your existence. Goa has been a mixed experience, but so is life- never the same, even in the same place. By choosing to move to this part of the country, away from the hustle bustle of Delhi life, I took a step back in time. First of course was the country experience, which was another extreme, considering where we all came from. Then I moved my center a bit and changed home the next year.

On the whole, there is a lot of water under the bridge and a whole lot of new people have come into my life- not just because of this shift of location, but also because of increasing networks in work, research and so on. Of course I got my first book contract and gained admission in doctoral research, something which I had completely written off from doing in India. But it had to happen and it did. Now its time to shift the house again and I am a bit troubled, because a new house to the specifications I have is not an easy thing to find. I want a house which is independent, mostly ground floor and has at least three bedroom- I use two for myself- one each as a bedroom and as a study, and I need another as a guest room. So the hunt is on. Oh yes, clients for counseling started showing up, even without me going and advertizing about it anywhere as yet. I started learning once again, after a long gap with Madhuri aunty.

We all grew older of course- I came in the grips of huge amounts of pain, and they are quite undiminished still. The dogs grew older by two years each. Dash is showing a lot of dirt in the eyes, I am also seeing Raga showing a hint of grey hair around her ears, Ginger is showing skin issues in a very serious manner, and for now it is Nikki who is quite stable, though I know her weight can become an issue anyday. Andre is also a bit weak still as of now, though his house is in order.

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My four rascals in our home in Faridabad. Actually this was a rented home that my sister lived in. This photograph must be from 2012. They are all looking at a single Marie biscuit!!!

In less than a month I would be starting the phd research. I am excited and nervous. Excited because this is the area where I have been working in for the last so many years, so doing a university based organized research makes it an interesting proposition. However, considering the area is law, I am quite at sea about it.

The progress with the book that I am working on, whose subject area is music, is slow and steady. I lost two months in the recent breakdown that I had, which promised to go full scale but I was saved just in the nick of time. Therefore I requested for a two month extension from the publisher too. Currently I am interviewing a whole lot of people for it- including university academics, music producers on radio, musicologists, music teachers and of course students and lay music lovers, who have no occupational engagement with music.  It is always taxing how to organize your research, though this is not the sort of research one does for a university degree or even writing a journal article. The biggest decision for me was how to organize my book- and with the span of time I have spent thinking of the issue, I have a fairly clear picture.

I want to look at music in a holistic manner- not as a therapeutic tool or as subject of education. So from an analytical and synthesizing perspective I am trying to integrate various aspects of my life and work, bringing in stories and excerpts from other lives and research. I did a very interesting interview with someone who is a great fan of Ustad Amir Khan saheb- it is amazing how deeply people think about his music, and not just those of us who have trained in his tradition. It is quite remarkable.

I wistfully remember my guru, Amarjeet didi and how she had told me once that she sees me worthy of carrying on the baton of the gharana. It was tragic that due to a psychotic breakdown, which she could not comprehend, nor show any compassion towards, we parted ways. In the end it was a loss for both of us- she lost a disciple and a possible torch bearer of the tradition, while I lost the path on which I was slowly inching forward artistically, spiritually and aesthetically. I am still trying to cover the path, albeit without her guidance, and within the scope of another gharana.

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The companions of my research journey

my success, not mine in the least

I should have written a new post…the new year is 31 days old after all. But this was a difficult year in the beginning- it started with me having a burnout!! of all things. Due to what? Nothing but a deep cough.

A cough brought in all the symptoms of mania (psychosis) and I had to go through the difficult passage of a shamanic renewal. All my auditory sensations returned, I could hear things from far, I would hyper react to small stimuli. So what was it finally I thought?

I am certainly not suffering from any mental illness or so-called mental illness. So how to explain this sudden tsunami of the consciousness? Anyways, what I have been writing about the spiritual basis of existence is true once again and I went through the cosmological cycle of birth and awakening, meeting with the ancestors, healers and ancients in this span of time.

When the clock turned for christmas I knew nothing, nor when the new year came. But my family was all around and when they thought I had another breakdown, and may be need to consult with a psychiatrist all over again, I said no…this is not psychosis. But the ‘symptoms’ would be the same. What you are depends upon who is seeing it. If you have a cough, the cardiologist would have a different view of it than a guava seller. Everyone has a point of view. So whose view should you refer to?

Fortunately in my case my own views on spiritual awakenings are very well entrenched in multiple domains of knowledge and this time I knew for sure it was a shamanic renewal- there was so much memory of mythology and I was back again into the domain of Gaia, Sumerian civilization, Egyptian mythology and Hindu gods, goddesses and the whole of the Indus civilizational motifs- it filled my mind with stories ad infinitum. My family was certain, it was a breakdown.

But I called it a burnout, as though the boundaries of consciousness had blurred and there was a large scale bombardment from all sides- whether the personal kept merging into the universal back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And on the personal front a lot of fires were lit, friends lost, neighbours charred and whatnot- the usual upheaval that accompanies an intense experience of such cataclysmic changes.

At the back of all this, one thing was gently unfolding- I had cleared the phd entrance exam in Nalsar, Law University and I had sent my research proposal- in recovery, what else. I had to face an interview, right on the heels of a burnout! Date- 29th January 2016. It had to be made into the form of a presentation.

I asked Ramakant-ji how to. It is one thing to write a research paper, but one thing to write a phd proposal in 1000 words. He told me to narrow the focus down from the entire spectrum of mental illness to one thing. I chose psychosis. Then he told me to think what could be done in psychosis and how it would fit into the law mode. But that I also discussed with others.

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Anyways, I wanted to talk to him just before going for the interview. I was very weak, and had not studied. It was not possible to study, I could barely sit up! But I was worried. I thought hearing his voice I would feel better. When I rang his phone his wife picked up, which is quite irregular. But she informed me that he was unwell, and will talk later.

Few days later I got a message, rather a one-liner-25th January- “Improving very SLOWLY. will talk after a few days..”

I wrote- “You are in my prayers n best wishes always. My Phd interview, 29th, Hyde.Plz bless me that I clear the last hurdle. Wish u stable recovery. Gnite” (this is an sms that I quote)

His response, 26th January 2016- ‘YOU SHALL. if they don’t take you, the loss is theirs AND ours.’

On 29th January, I was sitting in the guest house with one of my former, (one course) student who is like a godchild to me. At that time I got a call from the head to go and meet her. I went immediately and she told me that the interview board had unanimously voted in my favour- and condoned the marks that I had lacked in the past- 20 years ago, i had scored a 52.6% in MA Political Science, whereas the minimum qualifying marks for phd anywhere in India are 55%. No university was willing to condone this criteria for me, notwithstanding my research record,my publications for who would support my candidature.

Finally it took an Amita Dhandha, a disability department and NALSAR- the national academy of legal sciences and research, Hyderabad to open it doors to me cautiously, by checking me at every step.

While being driven back to the airport, I called up Srivastsan to share the news. He did not pick up his phone. But when I was entering the airport he called back and I was showing my ticket etc at the door. We were busily chatting away. I told him and he was very happy. I also told him that he was responsible for my success, because if he had not invited me to the conference of the medico friend circle group, in Pune, in February 2015, I would never have met Amita Dhandha, who would never have invited me to teach at Nalsar and I would not have been there to fill in the Phd form with a fraction of time left for closing it on the last day of accepting forms (that would be another story).

There are stories galore in this one little story, but I have to hold one thread and I hold the one which has Ramakant-ji in it.

On 29th evening, having spoken with my family, I felt I must tell Ramakant-ji about it. And sending a message to him was the best thing. I wrote, ‘With your blessings, I have made it thru the Phd interview. The board unanimously agreed in my favour. Thank you so much. I hope you are steadily recovering.’

Next morning, while in my sleep I heard the phone beep. Later when I saw the message, which was sent at 4:53 am, it said, ‘The most welcome news of the new year. So much on the horizons for you to achieve. Best and regards to you mother, brave as always.’

My success, at anything whether overcoming psychosis or making through the phd passage, where the obstacles were nearly insurmountable, has never been a personal or individualistic journey. I owe my everything to others and no wonder my research will now be into how more people can recover and what sort of things can be done in the country to make India honor its commitment to the UNCRPD. I have entered the portals of law, legality and jurisprudence. WOW! life is so full of surprises.

And yet, I am not going to forget the knowledge which has flowed from Ramakant-ji- who opened my mind to the possibilities that lurk within language in how we construct our own and other people’s realities> Linguistics is going to be an intimate part of my work ahead.

I salute all my guides and mentors. My new year begins with that salutation.

I am back into university study after 23 years of studying from HOME!!!

This picture below is from the Nalsar Campus, in Hyderabad

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Who knows where the road takes you from here

Open the path…here comes the peace

Open the path

For here the armies come

The armies of the SAVIOR

Me at its helm…the swan, the song and the songstress

But for today, I leave you with songs of others.

Wishing you calm yuletide bliss and tranquil joyous tides

The way I experience it from moonlit Goan Raia.

This wonderment for you from some difficult sources…full of youthful verve and verse. Love the energy. May it spread.

This by a friend by amateur Indians from Dubai…just to share that calm is all we seek, and all we are. So let us look at the soul, not the body.

Recent, unsuspecting encounter

Upon landing into Delhi,

Recently

Some unexpected surprises seem to flood the mind

And remind (me)

I ought to take my due role in the world

As fool among the swans,

or Swan among the Swine!

But worringly so, it seems that the EYE of civilization

Keeps a tab on me across time…wherever I look,

An eye watches

Someone says ‘please sing for me’, some says lead the way

And me just hae hae hae…

Hae Raam

Enna paagalaan te

Kar apna reham je…mera pind chhuda

Mennu ton jail to chhadeya, enna anneyaan nu jail wich paa

APNE aNDAR DIYAAN AKHIYAAN KHULAN, NA KI MERI PICCHE DIYAN!!!

Meri saari wae, hunn enna di pucchh jalaa

Rabaa, tennu na pata hove, ae  ho nahin sakta je

Haan tu mera gmail da inbox naa check kitta hove- enna mann sakni haan

Ae te ho hi sakda vae…kisse gwaachi hui rooh, dooron payi boldi hai

Tu sunn odiyaan ayaan, onu lageya hai, teri-meri koi hotline khuli je

Dekh oye haraam khora…logaan nu bulekhe vich naa peya paa

Ae tera mera private connection hai, ennu open access na bana

Main umar saar kar cable pai je..jaa hunn tu mar,

Mennu lubb apne paaglaan vich

Main janam jalaa ke teraiyaan paag di chaahwaan pai wae

Ae lae phaer padh lai oss gawache hoy da farman

Jinnu tu naya naya paagal banaa ki, ankhaan te patti pai wae.

Ae le email communication rabba…paaglaan nu apne paag la

Meri pind chhuda, main pind chhad ke pind judaai wae

Jokes apart this is an actual email communication-

4th Dec 2015
He…
Hello,

I am F M, currently a philosophy student at the University of California, Riverside. I am a bit naive in my exploration of Foucault, but perhaps you would grant me the tremendous privilege of basking in your guidance. I thank you for your time.

Best,

FM

Oye rabba oye…ae Spanish Inquisition kidare hor mor…mere picche naa paa…machhu-picchu de wal tor.

(YAAR, how can you thank me, i have not yet agreed to ‘give’ my time…just because you ask! If I go to your university, will anyone meet me without an invite or intimation, then how dare you send me a pre-thanked note this way?)

Mennu thoda doubt ho gaya…main kya…ae kiddi jasoos picche pe geya. Cautiously I inquire-
In what manner may I be of assistance to you son?
I am only humble seeker,
basking in the heat of (my) civilization– peeling it slowly,
like the layers of an onion-
full of tears, staring at my fears…
whiling my time.
How can I, such an ignorant idiot
guide a western soul…
from an American University at that
the acme of human intellect 
However, i invite you to venture into my home,
stay as long at it appeals,
look around,
read what I add to the confused mess,this cacophony…
Then ask me a question.
If your question appeals,
I may consider further interaction.
Or else this is it.
From a humble dog feeding fool
p…p…p
OYE HOY odde baad oss barbaad di chalaki vekho ji- for god’s sake, watch the beguiling rascal’s rascal-‘hood’… kenda wae/he says
I understand that your self-criticisms are but an indication of an intellectual practice far greater than my own. I, the western soul, seek something far greater than perhaps I can fathom at the moment. You see, I wish to write a book of poems, but a western one would be against my intuition. I thus, have come to you, a stranger whose words touched me greater than those who have surrounded me. I only seek guidance, a few steps I should take before venturing on the solitary path of self-exploration and discovery.

p.s. that e-mail was, after my Violence Against Women class, mind-blowing. I hesitated writing back to you, for I felt I was not worthy of your time, then I journeyed into your home. Thank you. You have already done so much for me.

Warmest regards,

kinna baemaan ae..what a deceitful bugger…

pata nai keddi jhooti email di gal peya karda wae jhootha!

Mae te onu koi email nahin likhi…raba, anneya…hun behra na bann

Tu gawaah hain! tu mera saakhi ban

Me to him

Right I hear you child…i hear the dim stirrings of your feminine soul, I hear you.
I await you

Main keya…hor dhakaa maraan..

I toss a koan at thee…ponder over it, and let not your poetry be a lament over yourself. remember that…

When sing, no sing…only cry
When study, no study…only play

S/he who understands, knows it all, 
S/he who doesn’t…never walks tall…
(this is not a quotation from anyone…but a challenge to those who ask me questions)

Ja oye raba’a sambhaal apne paaglan nu

Apne paag la, mere picche na paa

pa pa pa pa