Today I had an unexpected experience, in fact perhaps the sort that thrilled me. There are two things I must add as background here- one is that I am trying out a new service on google called Hubspot or something like that, which tracks your email, and tells you when someone opens the email sent by you. So in case you have sent the email to 20 people, it will tell you each time they open, though if they are part of a list their names may not show up.
Just the past week I had a somewhat unpleasant exchange in a little group that talks about mental health (not all in the group work in mental health directly) and there were those who raised doubts and called me self pitying and playing the fool, writing my story down as a research, where it did not merit the tag of research! I was somewhat taken aback that such people whether they understand all sides of research or not, have the courage/audacity to confront you, without verifying details. Anyhow, many people wrote to me privately after that and expressed solidarity, which was a little relief.
As it is, writing about yourself via research is not the easiest and I’ve not yet forgotten how many tears I have shed every time I have written an autoethnography. Then to meet cynics who tell who that your work lacks merit or verifiability is just plain hurtful. Perhaps instead of taking it so personally I could have taken it in the spirit of criticism, but then what is the compensation? First of all your suffer for long years being ill and then you suffer because you have no way to get back into the mainstream of life, and then you suffer because though you offer your wisdom to the world, in ways that can transform the experience of others if they can take a leaf out of your’s, you face more criticism. Where are the people who will really assist those who come out of decades of illness and embrace them and let them just breathe and celebrate their success, for it is not only a personal thing, but something that carries the potential for the universal? Unfortunately those people do not seem to be sitting in India (barring some really senior academics in universities).
But the really interesting thing happened today, which I had really not even imagined could. I am subscribed to a list of research from the McGill University, department of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, from which I almost get weekly updates, of research happening around the world, in mental health. Between this and a few other sites that I am connected to, i am pretty much in the loop about the latest dialogues in mental health research in most disciplines- psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics and you name it. Many a time I have written to people directly on this list and asked them for their research papers since I have no access to any university serves, and the beauty is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON i have ever written to has always sent me back their articles. Oh course I can say the same for Professors- Misra, and Ajit (Dalal) too, for they even gave their personal copies of many a book to me and Girishwarji sent many books to me online. But this is not about comparisons, and there is no scope like that here.
I wrote to Prof Lawrence Kirmayer who is the editor of an important journal apart from being Director of the program in the McGill University, Canada, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, and inquired whether my article of the CJMT could be shared there, and went for a walk with the dogs, and then to feed them, clean the house, do this that, cook, eat etc etc. When I got back to the computer there was a response from him, thanking me and asking me whether he ought to also include my email as part of it, and forward to his list of people. I affirmed that.
Within five minutes of me sending the response to him, I got a letter from the same list, for he had posted to his list, and this was one of those emails that I too get as part of being subscriber to that list. As I am writing this blog post, it is only an hour back and almost 120 people have opened the same email! This is called speed. Am not sure how many people in India did that ever…or even shared with one more person!! Then we lament that good research does not happen in India- what an irony! You do not facilitate sharing of ideas and exchange of views, provide access to those on the margins and then you expect that great research should happen in India just because we were once such a knowledge oriented society. Indians need to get out of the Halo of the past, because right now we are not only mediocre but less than human mostly. I want to see one professor of psychiatry do this in India! Or any professor who works in any discipline that can connect with the originality of this work- for it leads in many directions.
But the flip side I am talking about is- that perhaps those who need it most would still not get to read it- and that is my real loss, for they are the driving force that makes me write in the first place- and not university departments or the prospects of any career enhancements- for there are none coming my way in either domain.