The abuser, teacher

Just this morning, I wrote a post about a piano teacher (click link). It could have been a happy case of writing about a musician and how wonderful it is to interact with young minds and impart them newer ideas about playing music, but this is not such a post. It is about an abusive teacher. The dilemma about knowing abusers is multifold. But the story about teachers abusing power only changes- it does not end, it does not create new outcomes and definitely in an unregulated environment, it can create some dangerous outcomes.

There was a recent incident, which I read about in the newspapers, just yesterday, about students stabbing a teacher. It takes a lot of anger to stab a person and that too when it is a teacher – who is traditionally assigned greater power socially than students. First of all, this itself is a critical issue. Why should teachers have more power than students? Is the students’ ‘work’ of student-hood any less significant than a teacher’s? Can teachers become teachers without having students? Can teachers become better teachers by teaching the same thing again and again, year after year, without any change, if students do not question them?

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I do not personally think that students would stab a teacher upon a little provocation. To come to a point of stabbing a person, unmindful of its consequences is sign of accumulated anger- which for sure does not happen in a day. I have seen school teachers, particularly in government schools treating their students like despicable vermin. There was a well-feared school principal who was known to hit his students with big bamboo sticks, and not thin ones at that. I always carried the image that government school boys are ‘goondas’ or ruffians till I did not grow up and learn to understand the politics of knowledge, and how one class is ensuring the perpetration of ignorance of another class, by not even wanting to educate them- which the oppressed classes are seeing as the sole route to their emancipation and social upliftment.

Misplaced Hierarchies

Personally I believe that teachers being ascribed more power than students is itself a sign of a decadent, patriarchal value system in which the elements that constitute the system are not recognized as partners but viewed as a hierarchy. Patriarchy is also based on the idea of hierarchy and dominance. Of course it takes more  complex forms, about ownership of wealth/decision making ability in a family, society or institutionally. But the underlying idea is dominance. The whole Indian system of the guru-shisya parampara, which is carried down historical times until now is a continuation of the same hierarchical, decadent system, which carries on, with teacher-worshiping and unquestioning submission to the teacher (irrespective of their intelligence, kindness and knowledge). It is no wonder that our education is not producing the sort of social outcomes, growth, development and critical thinking that knowledge is supposed to inculcate. With unquestioning submission, nobody dares to question and nobody cares to answer, if someone questions.

Higher you go, lonelier it gets…in education

In the same context I would like to share here that recently I was having a telephonic dialogue with a young woman who is entering into a clinical psychology program, in a premier institution in India- someone who did a masters’ in psychology from a major university. I had read some of her articles and told her that I could see a research potential in her, though I did not see her academic articles to be thorough or methodologically significant. She said that nobody in their department (her teachers) helps any students! They (the professors) have so much on their plates already that it is not possible for them to pay heed to the needs of their students. I thought it was a great irony, since professors are paid to impart knowledge explicitly to those students only. They ought to at least guide their students and steer them in directions which bring their ideas to fruition or at least a clarity. Though as a student she was trying to condone her teachers’ lack of kindness/ethics/participation in the lives of students, as a student and a researcher myself I find it unpardonable. She further said that she has been told already that M.Phil that she is entering for, is all about finding your own way through the world- of ideas, patients, counseling methods and so forth.

Is it any surprise that when students come out of these departments with vacuous degrees they actually have no skills to offer to the world? They are just exposed to people, without given the wisdom and knowledge how to interpret the exposure. Everyone can have an apple fall on them, but only a Newton will think about it to arrive at the idea of gravity. Hundreds of people would have been hit by something falling from above- do they end up finding new ideas, new solutions or new perspectives? Then how to we create new knowledge? By just tossing about old ideas, in old vessels and older ways of looking at life, which are not even created in our own country, but the West?

So…coming back

Anyhow after these thoughts about education in India, as it goes, I need to come back to the main subject that triggered off these thoughts- about the piano player.

I have known him for at least 15 years- from a distance, the sort of knowing when you know a person’s name, their work (not having heard it) and knowing that he is a go-getter. The trouble with India is that a lot of us are gogetters. We will do anything to get what we want- even deviously, following no inner or social morals, because our conscience permits us to do everything, by hook or by crook.

Since I have already written the post about him, in this one I am not going to repeat my words written there. My concern here is the underlying philosophical, ethical, moral and social responsibility which we end up shirking when we abuse our own students. The other concern is that a whole lot of people are in the teaching market, in an unregulated manner, where their knowledge is not measured, nobody questions them about their methods and parents are largely ignorant about anything- from general education to art education. In such a grey scenario, the ones who know even a little are able to masquerade as knowledgeable and get jobs and private classes..

As human beings we all love to direct our emotional expressions at someone we can identify. Today I see that I can identify in that man, the piano teacher, an abuser- a convenient scapegoat for my angst. However more than my anger he provokes my sadness and my dejection- at the emptiness of everything people do. What is the significance of music if it does not deepen your own inner gaze and make you think about life, creation, philosophy, society and your own responsibility in a meaningful way? Is everything only about our bread and butter? Isn’t it a great shame really and we think and believe we belong to a great nation? So where is that greatness supposed to be, if we are not able to muster it in our daily life and day-to-day behaviours with our fellow human beings? A greatness of the past means no greatness at all– for the past is only a matter of the eyes that interpret it and History is only about interpretation- not about the truth. We do not need to glorify a past where a majority was oppressed and deprived of their dignity. What else was the guru shisya parampara if not exclusion of a majority of people from the possibility of achieving knowledge, which would only be imparted to a select few?

Teachers need to get out of their guru-hoods and embrace their journeys as inquirers and responsible citizens, who can only hold a candle, akin to an indicator/sign of the path of knowledge. The path is not owned by them, nor created by them. They are journeying on the path as co-voyagers of their students, colleagues and several others. If they cannot understand that, they do not deserve to be teachers and today I can say that a majority of teachers in India do not deserve to be teachers. The minority wherever it is, is worthy of salutation and to them I bow as the upholders of a value system, in which it is not the ego of the teacher that is supreme, but the process of collaboration that learning and teaching is supposed to be- the co-creation of knowledge.

my success, not mine in the least

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This picture below is from the Nalsar Campus, in Hyderabad

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Who knows where the road takes you from here

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

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!)

 

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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- https://www.facebook.com/antardhwanee/

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,

Greetings!

 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.
Regards
Prateeksha
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.

On the shoulders of giants

Recently Prof. Ken Gergen, one of the key people who have contributed to social construction (and the one via whose writing I discovered it) wrote a path breaking article- questioning what should be the purpose of research and whether it ought only to be a reflection of society or should it point towards a way forward, more solution oriented. He uses the phrase- future forming.

The Taos Institute decided to have a follow up dialogue to generate some intellectual stirring on the subject, keeping this article at the center of it. I happened to encounter the article in following up with Dr.Gergen’s research updates on research gate (a site where academics share their published research, that others can download from), a few weeks ago. I requested him for a copy and indeed it sent it- I mean uploaded it there. A few days later Taos Institute announced about this interaction with him!

Anyhow, this is the interaction that is unfolding this week and it is so exciting to read others too, that I decided to put it on my blog, just to share it as well as save it for future reference.

I am so interested to hear what Dr. Gergen has to say, though personally the article has done much of the speaking for him.

The timing of this article is very fortuitous for me as I am just completing a qualitative, autoethnographic study of 13 people, with mental illness diagnosis, and how due to our collaborations new outcomes emerged for many, while everyone  had the opportunity to meet at least one more person who has recovered from a serious mental illness label(that person is me) 

My research stems from a social commitment to help more recover and be more socially meaningful in addition to the personal gains it gives me to ground my experience in a theoretical framework and accord it a measure of seriousness, while not make the recovery of one person look like a chance. Moving within the autoethnographic frame, beginning with my own to reaching out to embrace the storied accounts of others has a been great experience for me and just when I was writing the last bit of it I came across this article by Dr. Gergen.

And viola, I felt as though it were written with someone like me in mind- for my research has no academic gains for me, except for the ‘future forming’ ones. I do not come from, nor go to become a part of any university community. I come from lived experience and I take that as the basis of knowledge creation, which is then located within an emancipatory epistemology. 

Thank you much for this piece Dr. Gergen I have already cited from your article, in the last few days itself and hope to delve into it once again, before sending my manuscript onward for publication.

Regards from India

Then I encountered someone who was working on identical pathways-

Dear all. It’s exciting for me to joint his conversation. I am in the process of finishing my PhD exploring processes of change within dialogical practices in mental health. We have interviewed adolescents and their families to bring their experiences to the table. I very much like the way Gregen’s article, in a thorough way, lead the attention to the way research is useful as prospective rather than retrospective affair. Prospective, not in the sense that it predicts, but in the sense that new ways of viewing (and feeling, sensing) the future is opened up. And consequently new ways of moving and acting. This is in line also with, it seems to me, the writing of John Shotter who suggest that what forms our movements and ways of acting in this world is perhaps more a matter of our sense and imagination of the future, than the cause of determinants in the past (i.e. his concept action guiding anticipations). In fact one of our findings in the study we have conducted was that the dialogues facilitated by the services “opened the future” for the participants. Dialogue was not (only) about finding new word for the past, neither (only) about being present in the moment; it was about hope, possibilities for the future that emerged: A future with no place for them turned into a future with a place for them. Kind regards from Tore Dag

Dear Tore Dag

It is really fascinating to see the nature of your work- for mine is identical 🙂 will be a pleasure to share and compare notes with you. Please scroll down on this page to see what I have responded, about this theme. You will see the parallel too.

And then we hear the voice of another person-

Tore and Prateeksha,

I would very much love to see your research projects. I want to develop a research program that opens up alternatives to the ‘mentalization’ and medicalization (psychiatrization) of young peoples’ distress. And here I would love to hear Ken Gergen’s input. It seems that sometimes problem-oriented critique can also be part of constructive ‘future-forming work’, no? I think of Robert Whitaker’s work, for example. His research extensively articulates the harm embedded in the current dominant mental health system, ‘illuminating’ ‘what is’, and at the same time, Whitaker’s work functions as a powerful springboard for transformation.

I value the call for research that contributes directly to a more liberating, just, and sustainable future–I find this innovative, necessary, and thoroughly inspiring–and at the same time I wonder if the distinction between problem focus and positive focus is somewhat arbitrary. Is it possible that at times, ‘the occasion’ will call for a disruptive, analytic critique of ‘what is’, and at other times, the research context might call for a more tangible, positive, future-forming achievement? 

And I say-

Dear Jan

Thank you- I am at the culmination of my writing. It would be a pleasure to share further. I principally call my research – emancipatory. I think to reclaim the right to interpret your narrative,  not from clinical but social constructionist perspectives, in particular looking at the relational aspects of life, illness, meaning making, recovery etc are important.

These are also central to my work in counseling others. I see my work to be future forming, and radical, for it starts from the self. I do not need to research for any professional or academic goals- i am not even qualified to contribute in that sense! I am just tenacious and committed to helping people recover, document my findings, starting with  personal autoethnographic writing and then extending that to others- both in counseling and research. Hopefully training as well, in the near future.

I strongly feel to not look at mental illness through the frameworks offered by people who have only theoretical perspectives, pardon me, because a lived experience and similarly based knowledge endow people to look at the label of illness itself as suspect. I have serious reservations about psychiatric appropriation of human suffering and re-casting it in the language of illness categories.

I totally agree with the significance of research to be future forming, for what else ought the purpose of research to be- but find solutions for dilemmas that elude easy answers? So perhaps you would agree that the only authentic place for solutions to emerge would not necessarily be university departments only, but the actual sites, which have traditionally been the subject of research. This is where my current study is also located.

I would be happy to connect and share further writing and ideas. Thank you and regards

  • So, just to add, the utility of the research project might depend not only on the particular features of the research, whether it is positive or negative in focus, etc., but rather, the usefulness and value of the research might depend largely on the relationship between the research and a particular living context? Warm greetings to everyone, Jan

  • I am not clear about the meaning of positive or negative focus- my focus is always to research with a purpose to find something that evades the casual glance, for it requires a deeper engagement. Since my need for research stems largely from the need to find solutions, it keeps me somewhat aligned to that goal all the time. Even in my work in counseling, because I am also into research, some unusual insights come now and then, and frequently I share them with the ones I counsel.

    And then guess what

    Prof Gergen commenting!

    • Dear Prateeksha, It seems you are a very courageous counselor, and if you could share your writing with this group I think it would be wonderful. I agree with you about the need to move beyond university departments. As I write in my article, most (but not all) researchers are caught up in the mirror metaphor of research, so they continue to remain within the traditional set of realist assumptions about “mental illness.” I also wish you could have joined us in Norway last year when a group of almost 200 joined in conversation about alternatives. There is now a crying need to find a way to extend this conversation – and the sharing – around the word.

      The great thing is that scores are looking for ways out of mental illnesses and suffering of people and the better thing is that due to the facilitation offered by modern technology, someone sitting in a far-flung village in a remote corner of the world can be connected to top university academics. Technology has done the impossible, now humans need to do the same- use the possibilities that these interfaces create to create real, long term, long lasting and meaningful outcomes.

      The whole conversation can be followed via this link.