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.


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


Who knows where the road takes you from here

Last post…

This is a last post of sorts…

May be it is the last post for November, or may be for this year- though likely by the end of this year, I will surely come back again to take a bird’s eye view of how the year went by, and what all transpired in an aggregate way.

I will be in Delhi for a fortnight now and it would not be possible to write a new blog post from there. Once you leave home for that long a time, then all the things that pile up in your absence, do not really permit much blogging at the end of a trip.

I have some important paperwork to finish this visit- the governmental sort of work of course- always painful in India. It is about transferring my car papers to the current location where I live- so no shortcuts, but going all the way to my erstwhile home state of Haryana…blah, blah, blah

But as I look at this last part of the year, some of the ideas that are bobbing up in my head for the last few months are as follows, and they make a befitting prelude to the final post I will write, later this year

I have been brooding over the pathetic state of affairs, viz. on the issue of philosophy of education. Until a group of people identify the goals of education, it is a whimsical manner in which education progresses. In poorer countries, education has never been central to anyone’s conceptualization of social upliftment. As a result all resources that ought to have been devoted for mass education were devoted to all other areas-in all countries which have been colonized anywhere, at the cost of long term investments in human capital, which cannot but be taken care of by anything but education.

Education has often been confused with skill building in newly independent countries ( I wonder how long they will continue to remain ‘newly independent’) and the philosophical orientation, or critical thinking that education ought to have imparted people with is condemned to oblivion. Rather a slavish subservience and non-questioning attitude is what the education systems have been trying to hammer into the heads of learners, burdening them with the feudal practices of a colonial past.

Apart from this the issues of secrecy of science that I also shared as part of the last blog post have been playing in my mind- i am thinking that I need to work on that more seriously. In such a scenario, the thought of art education and what role it ought to play can only be philosophical and not necessarily on the ground- it is extremely painful to see the sort of musical experiences children and adults engage in and what they could be doing, had options been created- for an aesthetic development of the mind via artistic pursuits.

World Cultural Psychiatry Research Review

That also brings me to the journal issue, in which my last article was published. I have been slow to go over the articles, naturally enough. Most articles are written by researchers and psychiatrists of course. It is quite a strange platform for me- as a person with a past of bipolar disorder to be writing about her own recovery! That brings to mind the fact that when I had got the comments from the peer- reviewers, these were their words- which will always echo in my ears, reminding me of the significance of writing this article, irrespective of how many read it. Mine is the only article in the journal, which actually maps full scale recovery of a person. In no other article has recovery been documented. This is where I stand apart from the world, which I stand as part of- with a new light, which remains quite hidden or obscure at present.

This is what the first reviewer said-

I think this paper is just great, there is only one issue, the use of the word psychotic delirium, delirium is an organic state and so is misleading, I would say psychotic confusion or perplexity. It also needs a close proof read , minor typos and grammatical errors and bear in mind this is for international English speaking audience, so keep it plain as possible.

The second reviewer said this-

The connection between art, creativity and major mental illness is a subject extremely interesting to Cultural Psychiatry, and the report from an artist diagnosed with mental disorder does represent a substantial contribution.

The choice of an anthropological instrument seems valid and challenging, but the ethnography must be framed within a scientifically well established and validated methodology, which in turn must be described in the text.

Furthermore, instead of quoting verbatim sentences from many authors in the ethnographical section, it would be more appropriate review them in the Discussion, possibly along with an analysis of more controversial points raised in the paper, i.e. why and in which cases music becomes therapeutical.

Study limitations must be explained, in terms of generalization, as well as the risks of relying exclusively on individual elements /resources, such as creativity or inner world, especially when we address a pathological condition where help seeking is extremely discontinuous throughout lifespan and life-threatening events can be frequent. Maybe in this research the ethnography has been collected properly and scientifically, but there is no trace of this throughout the manuscript. It is therefore most suggested to make a major revision in order to bring this contribution at a scientific level more adequate to the journal to which it has been submitted.

So this is the sort of comments which actually contribute towards making an article a long term contribution in a field. It is a pity that few would read it! Anyways, i did the most I could and I know not many people will doubt that- with no training in research or anything else…I have come a long way indeed.

So while I still stand on the first level of this cartoon… I am generally thrilled to dig mid the debris of civilization’s hogwash and try finding solutions to problems, in a meaningful manner, rather than for a degree (though who knows how close that could be too!)



Antardhwanee- hearing the inaudible

Life beginning on wasteland

Life beginning on wasteland- the main picture on my new website

Antardhwanee is the name of my new venture, or rather the venture in mental health which I have separated from the musical Hamsadhwani. I did not know someone had even made a raga out of it- how tedious. For them anything they do is the done thing. The reality of inner sound it is that it belongs to the realm of the unheard or that which is un-hear-able- I am not trying to construct a new word here. It is a sookshm (subtle) nada (sound). But who can say that to Indian musicians, who think they are the last word on philosophy and music!

Antardhwanee means the sound within or inner melody. I thought it was a befitting title for my mental health work, because it is the inner suffering that goes unheard, which precipitates into breakdowns, and mental illnesses. So when I started looking for a domain name to register the website I figured I could not do so, at least by the title I was looking for as it had been ‘taken’ already. So I chose the next best option- which made the name go with a double ‘e’ instead of ‘i’. I mean I was looking for Antardhwani, which made sense because the parent is Hamsadhwani. But then I had to pick up Antardhwanee.

My whole aim is to take counseling to the point where recoveries start happening people start reclaiming their lives from the stranglehold of psychiatric nomenclature. Whether more do it or not, I know for sure the ones who counsel with me understand a whole lot of issues about their lives and become empowered. Yesterday I also discussed it with a professor friend, that I come and teach in his university and he seemed quite enthusiastic about it. I am quite serious and committed to teaching the new form of counseling that I am working with and getting meaningful outcomes.

Since learning is on in parallel, my knowledge sometimes undergoes a sudden change and qualitatively so. It is a very exciting phase of research, writing and now putting it out in the public domain. I am also happy that people are beginning to understand that if need be to communicate long distance, one must seek recourse to that rather than not communicate. I have not come across a single recovery oriented professional in India till now- and this is after nearly 23 years of engagement with mental health. It is a very telling comment on the state of affairs, where the only way people think of, in cases of mental suffering is to medicate people for the rest of their lives. It is tragic, unethical and utterly wrong that without providing people due education, you keep on medicating them without an end. But how will people learn better? I cannot educate them- or anyone like me or any activist, until that need is their own inner need- the need for emancipation.

Here is the facebook page-

World mental health day and Hyderabadi biryani

The world mental health day is an uncanny day this time for me, as for the first time I will be outside my home. At the time of writing this, I am very much on my own computer and have an article to share as part of this writing, which has just come down today for the final approval. But I have butterflies in the stomach- due to other reasons.

The road of life

The road of life- yet again

So while the world will observe the world mental health day I will be sitting in Hyderabad, at Nalsar, cooking my concoction of Hyderabadi Biryani- just kidding. I will be discussing ideas with the school of management people at the university, about my entrepreneurial venture, among other things. Some very interesting new developments have happened, in the past few days which are helping me focus on the idea of music education more than anything else. Why worry about mental health,when music itself contributes to mental health in significant ways? If I keep my focus in the domain of music, it is a much better thing than getting it distributed between music and hardcore mental health, via counseling and all that cycle. It also comes into direct conflict with many who work in mental health from clinical orientations, that are derived largely from academic frameworks and not the radical lived perspectives of those who live and recover from mental illnesses.

Okay, the article that I am sharing as part of this writing is called Musical Progressions and you can directly click on its title, which is highlighted. It will take you to an external link on the academia site, from where it can be downloaded. This article is soon to be published in the World Cultural Psychiatry Research Review, which is bringing out a special edition on the Arts, Media and Mental health. Perhaps I am the sole entry from India to contribute to this issue of the journal, of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry. It gives me quivers in my stomach to think that I have come so far- imagine me…my years of doomed dejection and hopelessness, months and months of unending fog in the mind and a ball of anxiety in my heart. I cannot even begin to call it an anxiety disorder, for that seems so small in comparison. Huge mountains of uncertainty loomed so large…has it all come to pass? And how utterly lonely! Especially those years when I finally chose to live alone. To think of that today- that leap into the uncertain future, cutting all bonds from family in a physical way, proved the key to unlock the future, no matter if it were not even visible then for years ahead.

I find it so difficult to believe that I have indeed left it behind, and today I have the courage to revisit those fearsome, blind alleys, where I languished in insurmountable creeks, where life simply could not survive. Perhaps the only reason to write such articles is the memory of those ruins so deeply etched in the mind, that I dare not forget the suffering of another. And nay, that suffering is not due to mental illness alone, of a so-called biochemical nature alone.

That suffering is spattered all across human civilization now, clothed in myriad shades, and textures, due to which people cannot recognize that we are all part of the same suffering- the eternal human suffering, whose genesis lies in one man’s greed and insatiable lust to control, dominate and lead another. This instinct for power is so deeply rooted in the human psyche that all of civilization’s suffering can actually be reduced to this one game- the power play between people, nations, communities, genders, races, groups, nationalities and you name it. It is all a power play.

Few will gain the clarity to see the picture like outsiders. But if they did, they would be able to bring all divergent ideas to one convergent hub- the greed of man and a lust for power. In the end, I am reminded that I did a master’s in political science and from that position, if I remember what the English philosopher Hobbes said, he foretold the nasty, brutish and shorte nature of man and how in nature everyone is in conflict with everyone, in a war of power!!! How tragic, and yet isn’t it true?!

Tomorrow I will be off to Hyderabad again, though this is only for two days and am back on Sunday afternoon. Before I wind off this post, I must share why this article is the most important article from my perspective and what it brings to a lay reader, who may possibly be suffering herself or have a loved one who suffers. In this article I have brought many sides of evidences, (for peer reviewed journals do not work without evidence) to say how I used


Serious creativity, and

Writing -including poetry, research. (For the first time, there is an actual poem in a writing by me)

And searched- which constitutes research in a serious way to find a way out of mental illness. In music also I worked in not one, but three genres or musical form. For the first time via this writing, I talked about ghazal as well- though in a shorter version, in another article I did share that as part of another post. Ghazal was a great venting mechanism for my personal suffering, which would not find a way out through bhakti poetry. It was only after the ghazal, that I moved into the more serious khayal, as my chosen mechanism for self expression.

Today I have left all forms behind and primarily all my musical expression lies within the domain of khayal and now I am also thinking of how to take that khayal further- via teaching diverse sorts of people via educational, therapeutic and other ventures. Everything begins with an idea- a thought or what is called in Urdu, khayal. For me this whole world is a khayal, and any artist’s imagination for a new world, a new face of civilization is essentially a khayal first. Only from the khayal, you construct an image, and from there comes a plan.

Currently my khayal is about my new enterprise and of course about further research, which will no longer be about me mapping my own story. Phew! that was tough.

(In another few days, I will be posting my poetry that I have sent to the conference of the WACP in Mexico. But since I posted the above photo and called it the Road of Life, which is also a poem’s title, I will share it right here. It also carries the date)

Me watching the sunset in Udaipur

Me watching the sunset 

A March on the Road of Life, and the Path Unknown

22nd September 1999

A march on the road of life, and the path unknown

The road rugged, the road rough’n a rude road-

Mostly a companionless road, I traverse

Hard pressed-

Unexpected corners’n blouders make it feel impossible

To take another step

In anger welling…wishing the heart would stop

Or p’raps a friend, companion, wayfarer around the next turn;

Kicking pebbles, circumventing potholes

Occasionally falling, but never really so-

The road leads the way, and the path unknown’n

I press on regardless.

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!


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.


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?

A heart without suffering

A heart without suffering,

Neither softens, nor pays heed

Me watching the sunset in Udaipur

Me, the sunset, Udaipur

To another- life or to another’s pain

Suffering, in many ways, can be a gain

If it makes one shine, like a stone carved or a metal polished

Without which we all remain merely cold, affected and inured

To all that we could have appreciated, not bored

By too much of joy, abundance and health…

(that was an impromptu thought)

The reason for this blog post is to share another piece of my writing, in which I write about the role played by Urdu poetry and ghazal in my healing, and eventual recovery from bipolar. I am excerpting a short piece and connecting to the main location where the article is hosted in Cafe Dissensus. To read the main article please click the link in green that says, ‘my writing’.

Every song has personal, social, and universal symbols attached to it. This can be detected not only a musician but also by a listener, if he/she identifies closely with the music. One of the features of my engagement with music is that I have not delved into existing repertoires of music to the extent I have on my own compositions. Possibly, the resonance which poetry produced within me was an echo of my suffering, and in expressing that suffering via a musical medium I got rid of the suffering. I have often thought about the connection between bipolar disorder and its tendency towards artistic creativity, and whether that gave me the scope for working with three forms,  bhajan, ghazal, and khayal, as well as connecting to poetry in at least four languages- English (which I have never used in music), Hindi/Braj, Punjabi (my mother tongue), and Urdu.

Finding a meaning to live for

There are many sorts of interventions needed before someone can recover completely from serious mental illness and their damning consequences. However, everyone can be supported by a whole array of resources- some of which must come from the knowledge domain.

Without new sets of knowledge nobody can break out of patterns of the past. Suppose there was an old knowledge that mental illness needs to be treated via pharmaceutical methods. But new knowledge tells us that no matter what length of time you consume psychiatric medicines for, you will never recover if you just leave it to medicines alone: you need to do a lot else.

Anyways, having recovered myself, it is not enough to write your own story down by making newer analyses of it, because people still cannot garner the spirit and verve to take ideas, from whatever you offer. The knowledge one offers is only meant for the likes of researchers and peer reviewers. In other words, it is all a waste!

Of course I would not want to think that my recovery from bipolar can have no other social outcomes than my own triumph, and therefore that much individualistic, non-repeatable and unique. I do not think I am any more special than the person next door (notwithstanding how much my ego wants me to believe that). So I decided that one of the key things that I must do, while there is still life in me, is to help more people recover, from the likes of bipolar and schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

After a slow process of blundering and getting kicked around, I have finally come to a point where I can share the first of my offerings from my enterprise, and here it is– oh dear, am I relieved! There can be no meaning, if one only lives for oneself, and I am grateful for the suffering of bipolar disorder, without which I would never have steered in the direction of thinking about helping people recover. Isn’t it?

A difficult sigh to heave

That is a sigh of relief, which I am trying to heave for the last few days but it is not always a successful act. The event merits perhaps a little celebration, so one can imagine that if I find it difficult even to heave in relief, how much the pain would have been.

In many a posts on this blog I have referred to my research (‘big’ research that I started in 2012), and which has been like an onion peel- the tearing of every layer has made me shed tears. In 2013 I wound up the research, and submitted the work to a major social science publisher, at the recommendation of a senior academic. After that I got down to a few things, the biggest of them being shifting home from the north of the country to the south, and bringing my four dogs by road the entire distance.

With great difficulty a year passed. Every few weeks I would talk to the commissioning editor of the publishing house and he would assure me things were in progress. Subsequently he told me to change many things, including the subtitle of the book and several chapter titles. I did. I was not egoistically attached to the titles in any case. I thought if a different title made more sense, then why cling on to an older one? In any case, with all my writing work I always maintain a great deal of humility, in particular the attitude of a novice- for it keeps the gradient of knowledge flow in my direction, than the opposite.

After a year of much change, both in the manuscript and my personal life, the publisher’s commissioning editor wrote the following mail on 15th Sep 2014

Dear Prateeksha,


 We have completed the final stage evaluation of your project, where we presented the project/manuscript to the senior editorial and management board here.Unfortunately, the board members, especially our sales representatives from across the regions, are not very encouraged about the positioning of the book and whether they will be able to push it in the market. They have expressed their inability to sell the content in the required market segment. In light of this, we regret to say that we are unable to take it forward for publication. This is unfortunate for me also as I was involved in the project since its beginning and we have worked together to bring the project this far. However, I hope in the long run this decision will fare well for the book and you will find a suitable publisher who will be able do more justice to your work.

 Wishing you all the best!

My response to him was- (on 15/9/2014)

Dear S
Am grateful for the end of this uncertainty, and thanks for your support, whatever and at whichever stage it was there- I value it.
and on second thought, I wrote this on 16th Sept, 2014
The final decision about my book from [name of publisher] is really NOT the final decision about my work- so I will urge you to reconsider your language when you send out such rejection slips to authors in future S . Additionally, the time taken to come to this decision was unduly long. I hope you will remember that for everyone who you choose to engage with. Nobody is disappointed with rejection, but the way it happens!
Of course I was extremely hurt- stunned beyond words and it felt that a big stone had been hung around my neck and it was saying- go and drown. I just sat quietly for sometime, and did not convey this to anyone. But that is another story.
The nightmare was not yet over- the book got many a rejection slip and not because of the content was but I suspect because of who the author was. The author was a person who had recovered from mental illness. But instead of writing a story of recovery or about her own triumph the way people are accustomed to, when they overcome something of any significance in their lives, my research was about the recovery and illness narratives of others! Without having the trappings of university frameworks to guide me, I forged an independent path of inquiry, because I wanted to see how others negotiated with mental suffering and if it ever lead to recovery. I could not be the only person who recovered successfully.
It was a difficult path to say the least. I had no training in research methods, no access to libraries, no one to guide me, no one to talk to- except in parts my sister who had a foreign phd, who had but a little patience with me due to her own work. The only person I would hesitantly communicate with was Prof. Misra- that too on the phone, which never exceeded more than half and hour, not more than six times in the course of the entire writing. Later I got to meet Prof. Ajit Dalal who was extremely generous with his time on the phone. I developed high blood pressure during the process, among other losses to health. I also lost all the friends and this is not a hyperbole- or let me put it this way, I just figured out who the friends were, if there were any. They were all remote facebook people, not people I could share my fears and uncertainties with, who would feel for me or let me hold their hand if I wept. For that there were the dogs- who let me weep in front of them and did not abandon me in the least, at the sight of my anguish.
I could write a book about writing this book- for this was the first real act that I was creating, after my recovery from bipolar. My ability to work had emerged and it was flowing, even if nobody was offering a passage, there were innumerable roadblocks on all sides (still are). Little affirmations that came from journals accepting my scholarship were the sole pegs that kept egging me on, apart from the courage mummy offered all through. Others also chipped in half-heartedly, possibly just to egg me on, so that my spirit does not break. Andre of course stayed the course too- so between my mother, Andre and my sister the burden of emotional venting rested – mostly the former two in fact. I had no courage to tell the research informants or anyone that my book was getting rejected repeatedly. Neither could I tell anyone that my book was finished for a long time or anything about what stage it was in. I maintained silence for a few years- a painful silence for me personally, for my nerves remained so frayed all the time.
I had no courage left in me. A friend whose book in military history had faced an identical music, tried to encourage me by saying I ought to revise my resume and my publications a bit and then customize them according to the publisher. Every publisher has a different requirement.

Just before another rejection

I had only faced rejection all this while. I do not think it is a good idea to think of numbers at this stage.  I have a document in my folder of the book, which lists the publishers who have rejected the book– at least six-seven of them, someone even within a day or two. One was such that he kept telling me he would come back to me, every few days (for at least six months) and then started not responding to my phone. He could simply have said no, instead of promising me that he would read my chapters and come back. He assured me that at least six-eight times!

Just before my heart would break completely I encountered another publishing house, recommended by someone known – a feminist publisher. But hey! I never thought I was working within that domain. I have never called myself one at least. I have always preferred the tag of humanist- though I am certain the feminists are also that.

They were interested from the first email- what a change. I was still tense. The publisher herself was travelling to Goa, in the week after my first email exchange and she proposed we met- we did, and within the first meeting itself she was ready to publish. I could not believe my ears.

I still thought I would wait further. Earlier in one of my moments of anxiety I had been talking to Prof. Dalal who had suggested to me that I go and meet some publishers personally when I went to Delhi, which was due for ten days in March end. Could it be that Delhi was coming to Goa to meet me? The publisher was in Goa from Delhi and she said we meet! Wow! it is difficult even to believe.

Anyways, I met her again in Delhi- and handed over the manuscript as hardcopy. I wanted someone (a professor of law) who I recently met to write the foreword, and she agreed with the one who I suggested. So that is it!

My book has been accepted for publication- my first book, struck in my throat for the last three years…such difficult years that even though this passage has come, I am still unable to heave the sigh that I want to. Extremely heart breaking years of uncertainty- my universities.

There are good things and there are bad things about everything. The bad thing is that in the waiting for this book to go through, I could not muster the courage to write another book or even start any significant project successfully. I did turn the ignition on, for many a venture- but my heart would just not pluck the courage.

The good thing is that having written the book, I discovered that if I have to do any further research, I would just be wise and fund my own study, because I would not have anyone to support me. I am not here on a psychiatry-backed enterprise to help selling more pharma products. I am here to tell people that they can recover from mental illnesses and not just offering myself as testimony but several others too! And so I founded the enterprise- my enterprise, to help others recover like me! Here is the website, currently getting ready. In not helping, they all helped me get up and straighten my bent back- thank you all, for never stopping to reject.

On a last note, I must record here that the Faiz CD that I recorded happened during the course of writing this book and I had a mind to mention that in the book itself- but the experience turned out to be so bad and sour that I would refrain from any such allusion for all times to come.

The unimaginable pain of singing Faiz

Several years ago, I recorded an album of song- written back long back by the eminent Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. His poetry found a great resonance in my suffering soul, and in expressing my angst I would compose song after song ( nearly composed 20-21 of his alone!) and give a vent to my pain, whatever it was.

Of course it was the serious melancholia of bipolar, but music was the way for me, which eventually proved to be therapeutic. In creating a musical CD of his songs, I had hoped that I would be able to establish myself as an artist after long, for the years of illness were in my past now. So I spent money and created the album.

However, life is so full of surprises that it became an unforeseen situation- i was threatened by some people that since I was trying to make money out of Faiz, without paying due royalty to his family- they would take me to court! Then it emerged that the family of Faiz was in the know of this, which was even worse.

I wept incontrollably…it broke my heart, my spirit, and rubbished the entire being of who and what I was. I have nothing more to do with that poet, for he wrote for humanity and I sang for humanity- but i do not know how to deal with the gatekeepers of humanity or those who think they need to guard any legacy for fear of being robbed of it.

How can a poor, ill person rob someone of their poetic merit, or literary value by putting in their own money to popularize their ideas, setting it to her music? The idea never became clear to me. I had plans to write about Faiz’s poetry and its role in my consciousness, when I wrote about ghazal. I had to write, but I did not mention Faiz in the writing- his family robbed me of that simple joy of sharing my music, via his poetry. I no longer want to sing Faiz.

Anyhow, I wrote- and the publication in forthcoming later this year, in an international journal of cultural psychiatry, without even mentioning his name. But this blogpost is to share the music that was the reason for joy for years, when it was within my own domain and then a reason for hope when I created the album, with the hope that it would give me a new lease of life as an artist, and then a great source of suffering. Paradoxically this was meant to be my contribution towards creating peace!

Today in writing this, I free myself of that suffering and release that music for free in the world outside, never to sing it again personally though. Faiz you are no longer a part of my consciousness- you are dead, alas!

In this youtube video, the Cd is upside down, but this connects you to seven songs, one after another.