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.

IMG_20150918_102105599_HDR

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.

DSC00866

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.

DSC00863

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.

DSCN1155

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

IMG_20150918_102420319_HDR

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

Towards new knowledge

These days I am quite concerned about writing and writing better. I am not writing- to say the least…just musing about it, reading other people’s writing and thinking of ways to make my own better, crisp and more accessible. Of course one of the reasons that has caused this shift in approach to understanding human communication is rooted in my newly deepening interest in linguistics- the science of language. For the last few years, not recent.

The next bit of research that I intend working on is the interpretation of psychosis in terms of psychiatry, and law on the one hand and how from mid psychotic breakdowns also recoveries are happening, yet marginalized. It is a critical gap, if one can see it, yet all researchers believe that whatever is their current obsession will indeed contribute to knowledge in some meaningful way. So I am no exception to that rule of a researcher- an obsessive dreamer who wants to contribute a minuscule fragment of knowledge to the overall pool of human knowledge.

Of course this is not my research question but one of the significant issues that I intend delving into. I am keen to understand how linguistically psychiatric nomenclature of psychosis is interpreted in law and why people are institutionalized- what is the philosophical position taken by law and enforcement agencies in deciding who needs to be institutionalized. This is all a matter of how the science of psychiatry is interpreted in legal terms- in other words does law have a mechanism, linguistically to decide what psychiatry is saying or is something getting lost in a transfer of information from one medium to another.

Last night I was reading an article called Transparency in Public Science. The author raises some critical questions and also in some manner reflects some of my own concerns about the politics of knowledge sharing. I think for the current research this lady, Sheila Jasanoff will remain an important person to follow, for my own referencing, even though her writing is largely in the American context. But being of Indian origin, I may run into other issues, and who knows at a later point even discuss them with her.

Since linguistics is all about interpretation, the various stages of interpretation of a person’s account of their suffering, which involves- expression openly and its interpretation in a specialized knowledge of psychiatry led interventions and thereafter other social welfare outcomes are all matters of interpretation. So my interest in linguistics is not just here to stay, but grow and grow deeper and deeper.

I have to deeply acknowledge the role played by Ramakant-ji in this awareness. He is one person who has always consistently been happy in my success, maintained a very generous and supportive stance and actually taken pride in my little accomplishments. When I got to know him in January 2011, he was already retired from the university, as the founding head of the department of Linguistics in Delhi University, but despite that he continues to steer people, in very gentle ways towards the significance of language. I feel unfortunate that I could not meet him earlier in my younger years or possibly I would have thought of studying with him, but better late than never.

He has sent me some introductory articles on linguistics and now today told me some three books to read up. So I hope to do that before I can sit with him in the near future to discuss the role of language in the context of mental health. Of course one big strand of language has come into my consciousness already due to social constructionism and its emphasis on language, so the remaining gaps whatever they are will be taken care of by this inquiry- hopefully.

So coming back to where I started and my never ending concern with writing better. I encountered this talk by Steven Pinker, that I think could be saved here, for future reference, because some of the ideas he mentions are indeed valuable. It is another matter that I also agree in parts about the issue of Strunk and White’s book that i found so tedious and archaic myself when I read it, that I could not finish it. Nobody who is into writing can stop their efforts at trying to get better at it- so I am no exception to it. But reading more of those, whose writing you really admire, is somethign we can never afford to ignore. And if I have to think blindly who are those people, I know I would count Bertrand Russell, Kenneth Gergen, Richard Dawkins first of all. Then of course when one starts thinking deeper many more names emerge. But I think the next in that league is going to be Sheila Jasanoff. Oh yes, I do really like the writing of Carolyn Ellis- of course I am only ending up mentioning researchers here I think. But this is not the entire list, I must admit. To write better and more succinctly, I really need to imbibe a lot more precision and clarity- which I hope, is happening all the time.

A peopled space this month

This month has been full of the unexpected in so many ways, and if I have not said it already I am saying it here, a certain explosion in the number of new people I met in the past few weeks. Of course, everyone meets with new people every few days or thereabout, but I met new people in different universities, in different cities and talking on different subjects too!

IMG_2336

Students in the psychology department, Delhi University, 4th Sep 2015

In Psychology department of Delhi University I was talking about my recovery from bipolar and the role of music in it- the students not only listened with attention but also stayed back to talk to me- many of them. Later, some of them commented on the blogpost I wrote about it, and a few also expressed a desire that I come back and talk to them again. Of course, in an institution of higher education, the power of that vests with their teachers- neither me as a speaker, nor the students, irrespective of how many would like to listen to me or talk to me. So that is a subjective decision, for which I cannot contribute much, except for expressing an inclination with the teacher concerned. Their professor, was not exactly happy to see the reaction my talk had on the students, because possibly he could see that though he was touted as a ‘different’ person from the entire faculty for exposing students to newer ideas, the reality was that students found me so radical and challenging the ideas of society, especially about mental illness, in a very non-threatening way. Some of their reactions are worth reading here.

IMG-20150911-WA0006

Me teaching the trainee teachers

The next experience was at the RRCEE, in which I did two workshops with girls from seven colleges of Delhi University, three girls from each college. This was a teacher training venture- extremely difficult and taxing, unless you do not care about the quality of knowledge students take home. I was bothered, emotionally involved and passionate about my work, as always. It did not matter to me that these were all teenagers, in second year of college and most of them had no prior training in music. To teach them, ideally, I should be allowed to train them at least once a week for four years! That is the sort of effort we require if we really want students to become empowered to use music as a tool of pedagogy in their classrooms. But who can understand that! the organizers are all ambitiously thinking that students will acquire the skills to become composers. I cannot break their hearts by telling them that even if people do master’s in music, they do not always become composers, much as those who do a phd in languages, do not become poets!

And then there was a talk in a college of Delhi University, to the teacher training department, just a one-off talk with no real outcomes, and another such IMG_20150918_102105599_HDRalso happened in a management studies department, in another university, in Hyderabad, towards the latter part of the month.

Thereafter, I was to be in Hyderabad, to teach introductory narratives to students in Nalsar, an altogether different sort of experience in so many ways. Firstly, because it was a first time even for me to teach narratives to anyone. IMG_20150916_181544137_HDRI have only worked with people directly to understand their narrative truths, never really taught that as a method to anyone. So I had to look for resources how to frame the structure of the course. I did this with a quirky method. I told people to write their self-narratives, as assignment. My idea was that when young people start looking at their own lives in reflective and introspective ways, they may become a little kinder in seeing the humanity in others too. At the time of writing this post, the submissions, whose deadline is this evening, are pouring in. I will have to get them all together and then read through, to start marking them. I am glad that at least some of the outcomes that I had hoped, are beginning to come about. Some of the narratives are really quite touching and deep, just the way people are.

My room at the guest house, where I did riyaaz, prepared lectures-presentations, exercised, slept and of course talked on the phone.

My room at the guest house, where I did riyaaz, prepared lectures-presentations, exercised, slept and of course talked on the phone.

I  stayed at the guest house in Nalsar, where I had a very brightly lit room, just the way my spirit likes it. I was quite comfortable in this room, and I even took a picture of its good energy, to preserve it for me. Then guess what, I peeped into all the rooms of the guest house, at one or another time, just to see if they all exuded the same energy, but found all of them having a deficit in that attribute. In which case, my appreciation and gratitude for the room became even more so and while returning, I specifically thanked the room for letting me be in it and giving me a sanctuary for the entire span of my 11 days at the university.

 I was also invited to dine by the personal assistant to the vice chancellor, who wanted me to meet his children and wife.

The wife of my host, and his twins

The wife of my host, and his twins. I am holding one the twins just for the photo, though they were quite shy. However, for the photo they were willing to pose with me 🙂

Since they lived right across the guest house, I landed up there too! This is so uncharacteristic of me- to go if someone invites me to, I am so shy otherwise, by most social standards. Or possibly since they had only invited me and nobody else, I took the opportunity. But that was not the end of my mingling with people at Nalsar, for more was to come! Due to Ganesh Chaturthi, I was invited for a staff lunch during the span of my time there and even met the Vice Chancellor! Thanks to a person who was teaching in the Center for Management Sciences (CMS), who was also a guest faculty like me, staying at the guest house, I got to meet people from the CMS. So now the CMS wanted to invite me for a talk in their department, which I was happy to accept and yet they wanted a workshop, which i declined, because I cannot offer anything in a hurry, without forethought. For now, I have pushed that down a few months.

On the whole in September, I met hundreds of students in different departments of different universities in the north and south of India, and in

Who knows where the road takes you from here

Who knows where the road takes you from here

disciplines as varied as psychology, education, law and management. It was a great month of exchange of ideas, meeting so many new people and learning so many new things for myself as well. The CMS people are even willing to help me with the initial phase of my entrepreneurial venture, which they do with many startups. So that proved to be an additional boon. But life is so full of surprises that surprises continue to unfold.

Just when I was thinking that I am not going to offer any part of my work to people in Goa, where I currently stay, my neighbour, who is a psychiatrist who knows about me, and who has read my writing too, invited me to write a short piece for  a conference of parents of young children, who can be informed about the value of music education. I thought, there would be no problem in writing the piece, but the real problem would emerge when they all start looking for music teachers to teach that music, which I would be writing about!! And they do not know, that in India we DO NOT currently train teachers in music at all! It is not a student-oriented style of learning that we adopt in the arts. How to say that to them. At least I can and should do my two penny bit to let people know the possibilities of music education, and its outcomes- which far outweigh anything they can even remotely think of.

So this month full of people brought many new people into my proximity and with several many professional ties emerged and take shape concurrently. Yet before the month is over, another special person, who is the wife of a friend from the US, will be coming over for a brief time to Goa. That would complete the picture of the peopled space, this month. A month full of so many new people in my life.

Am reading from my article in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, about my recovery from bipolar

Am reading from my article in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, about my recovery from bipolar

When age gets to you faster than your time

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but due to extreme pain in my spine the time I am spending on my computer is extremely curtailed. But when I saw ideas piling up in my mind, I thought I might as well, put this down, lest…I lose it completely or all the others that seem to be wafting in my mind, of late.

I recently had to go through spinal x-rays, IMG_20150719_105931388_HDR (1) as my back has been in a lot of pain. If I would sit on the computer, I would get up and walk crooked for the next several seconds, before it would un-stiffen. The orthopedic I went to in a government hospital nearby told me it was all well, i should take some pain killers and go for physiotherapy. I know so much yogasana, but thanks to a lack of inner discipline about this one aspect of my life I have suffered irreparable loss.

Next I went to an ayurvedacharya – he recommended this treatment Churna Pinda Sweda (PODI KIZHI)- Fomentation massage by bolus of medicinal powders in hot medicIMG_20150813_121054917ated oil. Right now that is what I am getting nowadays and then sit in a bath of steam for at least ten minutes!!!

The experience is so painful, because the effort is to apply heat to my calcified vertebrae and then make the calcified portions become softer. I was a bit saddened to hear from the doctor that at age 43,  “What appears at age 50, is what you are showing already.” He wondered how it happened. I then told him that due to long illness of bipolar, I was in deep depressions for long periods of time, and remained mostly confined to my home and had a very sedentary life. I look back at those years wistfully now- how much they took away from me; a full time career in music, possibly as a performer, introversion for years of solitude with no friends to fall back on, and no networks who would one day support my music, if at all I would be able to sing someday, or have any other form of career. And now this. I am not mentioning here, the liver damage, the other bone issues or the thyroid that happened as a result of medication.

But just when you think the worst is behind, it really is not the case. So now this oil therapy and all the other ayurvedic pills I have to consume for a few more days. Right now the pain is extreme, even while sleeping I find myself in agony. I am really hoping this treatment, by increasing the pain is getting them out. What if it does not and makes it a part of my daily experience?

As it is sitting continuously is difficult, also for riyaaz. Tragically today my guru, Madhuri aunty told me that there is no way I should not become a performer. I have a throat, weight in the voice and strength that if I apply myself I will most certainly be a performer again. My heart winced in pain- if only she had said that long years ago, I would not have bothered in any other direction, trying to find a toehold. At 43, it seems late to begin. The only courage I have is to remind myself of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who started his training at 39. I, of course, started young but to be a performer, is a different ballgame. So having done the long road of bhajan and ghazal, if there is one thing I want to now do it khayal, and that is all the current effort invested in.

2014 065

This is a view of the greenery in our village home. The slopes are part of the space of the house- a great number of trees have been grown by Andre and yet many comes down from generations ago.

What comes ahead is a mystery, but it is a great thing that I have a partner who loves my music, who is always happy to hear my tanpura playing, who demands that I do my riyaaz, even if he does not understand Hindustani music, who is creating so many kinds of spaces in a rustic village home for me to sing and work on musical ideas, that nearly all that I could have asked from a life of extreme pain seems redeemed. And yet, not really so. how can your pain be over, when humanity suffers?

Damyanti … :)

A few months ago, I went to meet an elderly relative of mine- a grand aunt and her son’s family, from my father’s side. When I visited them, my first visit to their home ever, I was fascinated to meet them as a family, because where does one get to meet second cousins of one’s father, except for weddings and funerals, if you happen to attend any? I am notorious for not, so inadvertently the one source I have to get to know about anyone is from descriptions of them from others, usually my mom.

When we went visiting them here in Goa, where they are living for several years and me only for the last over a year, it was my first visit ever to their home. I never met them in their home, in Delhi, though we did not live far from one another. My family kept away from relatives or perhaps everyone in a curious sort of way, or possibly everyone is caught up in such a madness of living the daily survival.

Damayanti, is the name of the lady who is seated here. I am sta20150421_155924nding right behind her, with knees bent. To my right is my mother and the two extremes are her son and daughter-in-law; both architects by profession. The small girl there, is the child of the architect parents- Amit and Vinita. She is a swimmer and that explains her complexion as compared to that of her parents. The sun in Goa is quite strong, for human skin and she swims between three to four hours everyday. Of course she is swimming at a competitive level nowadays.

It is quite fascinating when you discover relatives after decades of knowing them from a distance and chachi-ji, the honorific with which we address Damayanti Parashar (ji) who is seated here, prepared the lunch for us that afternoon, personally, taking over from the household assistant who would be helping her. Me and mom, heard this and appreciated her alertness and we kept thinking of her age, on our way to their house. Finally we could not resist it and inquired plain and simple, how old she is.

The response was a bit surprising for us. She is 93. She had cooked for us (!!!), she maintains a full active life of pursuing her practice as a homeopathic doctor and keeps in touch with her patients via email (laptop user). She goes out for a walk with her friends in the neighbourhood every evening, and manages a little garden of her own, right outside her window- small balcony garden, and a very neat little thing at that.

So we thought on our way back that it is nice to meet elderly relatives, for you never know in what form one gets an inspiration. At an age when people become feeble and feeble minded, she is as active as could be and spreads positiveness around. How truly wonderful.

On the amusing side, in response to one of my posts a few days ago, I got a message that said, the way wordpress informs us all, that Damyanti liked your post very much (or whatever the standard wording is). I was even more impressed with chachiji, thinking seriously she knows enough to follow a wordpress blog too! And lo and behold…when I saw who the Damyanti was, it turned out to be a much younger Damyanti this time, who writes another fascinating blog here. So I smiled to think of the two Damyanti-s that got me mixed up for a day or two, till I could check who was who.

Here is another picture from the same afternoon. In this one, it is A20150421_155901ndre standing there, next to Tanaya the young swimmer, instead of Amit who is behind the lens. Rest of the team is the same.

 

With dogs as audience

IMG_20150706_122003038This is my German Shepherd, Raga…alert here- not in response to my music, but due to a wasp carrying a worm. It was an unusual sight as I sat singing and I was stunned to see the temerity of the big creature trying to fly away with this equally big worm- green in colour. Raga caught it in her mouth and bit at it, so the insect released it and flew away. But as I caught her here, she was provoked into looking at them, due to the sudden flight of the two intertwined creatures.

But the reality of life in my quiet, windswept rooms, is another one, when not broken by the excited, noisy barks of my dogs- who must object to every passing dog they encounter, or herds of buffaloes or even a stray langur, when it is sighted. IMG_20150617_205055003Life is another story when I sit down to sing and all the dogs come down and settle in close proximity. Of course Raga has the unchallenged ownership of me, so she stays closest and in mad frenzies of ownership of the master has attacked Nikki, the labrador on one or two occasions and had seriously fights with Ginger, the golden retriever on many occasions.

My current home is a bit colourful, in the wrong ways- I mean the paint on the walls is this horrendous scheme, which is different in different rooms. With my hermetic spirit over the last few years, I had painted all my rooms, completely white- especially when I was not living in rented accommodations in the past few years. Having shifted to Goa, in rented homes, one is at the mercy of the landlords and what colours they choose to dress up their houses in.

Dash, covered in his blanket

Dash, covered in his blanket

Then I thought, why the heck am I getting so worked up about the colours on the walls…my spirit cannot be so feeble that the colours of another rattle mine. Saying that as a compensation to the awful madness of having different rooms in different colours, I have gulped down the bitter potion of living here. Of course this was the precise reason I had rejected this house in the first round of seeing it.

But there is a compensation of having this small mountain in front- which looks very small, but is not small at all, if you get closer to it. So the trouble of coming in here, with the dogs, the musical instruments and the books is al2015 002most worth it…as new ideas for research emerge, new alliances get consolidated and new pathways become visible. life continues, mid many a morning song (riyaaz) , doggy barks, bird calls, hooting of the winds, lazy stirring of giant coconut leaves. And why not, this is the country of the languid, the sanguine, the susegaad people- a lot who revel in their laziness!