Not just another doggy tail or passage

Some dogs are so special, such important parts of your life that one thinks l…o…n…g before writing those words of goodbye that one must, to acknowledge that indeed the hands of time have moved, and life gathered your beloved pet, companion and soulmate into the folds of its long gown and slithered away. It is a week in calendar terms today, and it has taken me considerable effort to sit down now (8:15 am) on my computer to make these jottings.

 

It is not to say that Ginger alone was special, but Ginger was the one who came first and left last, and that made her special in her own kind of way. I cannot but go back in time, time and again and how the images of her entering into my life flit past in quick succession- the first encounter on the service road of a big highway (Mathura Road) and the vet who had brought her along to palm off a sick puppy to me, without telling me so She was, so to say, my first official dog- not that there wasn’t another before her, but she was the one that I alone brought home, taking a quiet decision about it and dealt with the whole thing from the beginning. She imparted me with a great sense of responsibility and a little, sick puppy who came coughing (she had pneumonia then) became the harbinger of all that was to change in my world, soon after.

She was very ill, and the vet who had palmed her off just wanted to get rid of her and make his money. She was an outcome of a breeder’s farm and the runt of the litter– nobody had wanted to take her. That is how I got her, because I could not have paid what it took to get a Golden Retriever- I was a poor, dependent, ‘mentally ill’ person myself, with no job, having no life of her own, and not sure whether there was anything to live for. The year was 2006, I was 34. Today when I look back at that life of deep

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This is the kind of basket she was crouched in

solitude, suffering and uncertainty and think of the young people who struggle with labels of ‘mental illness’ I feel they are much more empowered than I was then. There was no social media, or if it was there I was far from that world. Not to say that social media ever proved to be good for me in any real manner.

Anyhow, going back to Ginger- the day she came it was Diwali, so it is easy today to look up and find the date, am just about to do it! Oh, so google tells me that Diwali was on October 21st in 2006! So well, that is the day she entered into my life, my world and my home- that sick, coughing, terrified pup,  so lanky at four months (born on 6th June as she was) that the man who had brought her had put her in a vegetable basket, the sort in the picture above! My maternal grandfather was also sick at the same time, and he was coughing away with pneumonia  or bronchitis in his last days then. And then came a sick pup doing likewise. My mother was aghast to see this, for she had just met her father coughing and here her daughter had brought a coughing sick pup home 😦 Nobody can say she was pleased.

Yet, I was besides myself with joy, and immediately wanted to name her ‘Lakshmi’ as it was Diwali, but my grandmother was adamant- for how could I name my dog after a Hindu deity! And it took a bit of humming and hawing before I would settle down for a name like Ginger- who nevertheless soon had to be started on steroids and antibiotics, for she was really very ill . The vet I had known in Noida (Rappai) came to my rescue and for many other situations I have referred back to him for long since and before. But that was Ginger then- in a manner of speaking rescued, and ‘restored’ in time. The images fall in front of eyes like droplets of rain and can I ever capture them on a blog-post? Seems unlikely and neither I wish to attempt such a big thing here. It is not a small time I am sitting here to chronicle, but a relationship of nearly 14 years. In fact had Ginger lived, she would have been 14 this year in June (6th June 2020).

Seeing or sensing that perhaps another dog would do us good, or may be I thought that she was lonely (was I projecting myself on her?) I decided to get another and that was to be Nikki- the most adorable, sweet, loving animal anyone would ever ever get to know. I remember the day I drove down- to Noida once again, to get Nikki- also from a breeder! But that lady was not into breeding Labradors, only Cocker Spaniels. Yet for some reason she had this particular labrador. But this is not about Nikki- but how Ginger encountered Nikki when they met. Nikki was over-joyed on meeting me and I thought it seems this pup has a past life connection with me (how silly!) that she recognizes me from some other time, seeing her recognition and joy at meeting me. She was going bonkers around me, flapping her little tail as though she had only been waiting for me. So even though, I had only gone to ‘check out’ the pup (though cautious enough to carry the little money I had) leaving such a doting pup there, made little sense.

So I quickly bundled her up into the Zen car I drove those days. Me, Ginger and Nikki- both pups in the backseat. I also gave them a chew-bone each to munch while we covered the distance back home. But Ginger was so upset with this new situation in her life, while Nikki was least concerned. For her having a family and another sibling with something to munch on seemed like a safe enough proposition to start a new life. By the time we returned to our home, she had not only eaten both the chew-sticks but also defecated in the car! So that was the start of our new life with the second pup. Naming her was another story, but I wouldn’t get into that here.

So life kept on its quirky road, with a person as quirky as I could be- then came Raga, the German Shepherd and life was never the same –

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These were the dimensions of their size once upon a time- Ginger and Raga , and small wonder Ginger would never accept Raga’s dominance for all times ahead, no matter what the consequence

In October 2007, a year after Ginger entered my world, I moved to Faridabad- with my three girls: Ginger, Nikki, Raga (GNR), and the year after in 2008- December came Dash, adopted from a family in Gurgaon.

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Today all these are just words, and memories– so many memories, so many people, encounters, neighbourhoods we lived in, a village in South Goa, cities- Delhi, Faridabad and Margao … Ginger held on as all dogs went down – my brave little angel. It was not in vain though- she held on until I had written the first draft of the PhD thesis. And perhaps this PhD would not have happened at all! In 2015 I was in conversation with two universities in the US for a doctoral research. In Stony Brook they were very kind and welcoming. In fact the lady I was in conversation with also put one of her doctoral researchers in touch with me and we had an email exchange and then a Skype chat as well. She was intrigued that I had published so much already- she was also working in mental health, an American woman, a little older to me. As these conversations unfolded I was living in Goa- the time was July 2015 or thereabouts.

While they showed interest in my possible application to the university I was uneasy about the fact that I was in Goa and I had these four  dogs around me. Finally I had to move one way or another- I wrote an email to the young academic and bowed out, admitting that since my animals were all ageing it was not possible for me to leave them and study in the US. I had internally imagined the scenario that they would be old, requiring care and would I be happy doing the PhD in cold New York? That lady was kind enough to understand my reasons and that was it- no more PhD for me!! At least that dream was shattered… Until (surprisingly enough) providence brought another opportunity in September 2015 soon after, which indeed is what I pursued and bring to completion now.

So the reasons that I began this PhD- my geriatric canine family proved the case that I was indeed right  in not taking up the opportunity of a foreign degree, while they lovingly watched over me  struggle with the PhD year after year- each of them leaving me, gently changing their own course…one year after the other or a few months apart…

Raga- 23rd October 2017 (the youngest)

Nikki- 8th June 2018 (utterly unexpectedly)

Dash- 28th June 2019 (just a day of being ill, really has not made sense until today)

and finally Ginger – 29th January 2020

It has taken me a week to write this, not only because Ginger left or that it was sudden, because this is a huge shift in my life- a demographic shift, a change in situation that I had not put at the forefront at any time, thinking they all had more time. Dash’s demise was certainly very shocking and Ginger’s- plain unexpected. This is not to say she was strong, or well. She was fading, getting weak, yet until the very end, barring the last one week moving around, demanding food, engaging with everything. Then her eyesight completely began to fade and I realized she was falling into the plants and I decided to guide her on a leash.

The last three days were  heartbreaking, the sort of time you really wish it would end. She was crying out in pain throughout the night. I could not put any medicines in her mouth because I knew it would not matter now- the same that I would want for myself. If I would pet her she would calm down- but I could not for the whole night and my arm would be frozen outside the blanket, though I did for several hours. I mostly managed to sleep for one or two hours at most. But in the day she would sleep peacefully  – while I could not sleep to that extent. She did not eat for full five days and that was a sign to me that this was it!

None of my dogs had such a painful demise as Ginger. I wonder if it was due to the fact that she was such a strong-willed, tenacious girl, who held on despite the pain or was it something else? She had not given up much earlier as well, even when she was considerably weakened by this very deep mange issue that I treated for her, but her immunity being compromised since young did not help the matter. We tried scores of oils, baths, treatments, antibiotics, anti-fungal treatments – oral or topical, you name it sort of thing. Then in the early parts of the winter she also had another case of aural hematoma . I did not do much about it this time because in the earlier case when she had developed this in Goa I had a surgery performed and was so unhappy with that experience that I figured that if this can heal on its own in a few months (as I read and figured it out) I would just leave it for now. And my poor darling resigned to her fate- quietly let the hematoma, the mange and age get to her slowly, as I poured in the CBD oil and everything else to make it comfortable for her , to whatever extent feasible.

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This winter has been biting cold for us and I kept Ginger especially protected because her condition did not permit me to cover her with any garments, unlike the other two. At least the cold did not get her, she was safe, secure and warm- until the end. It was other things.

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Ginger under the dining table. Just see how her underbelly is all red with the itch and scratching, though she sleeps here peacefully

It is not just Ginger who is gone- it is that big loop, which started with the entry of my dogs, and that was to change me forever, coming a full circle. I have no grief, only a deep sense of loss and tears that I find unexpectedly welling into my eyes- sometimes while looking at something, lying in bed or reading something. The home is the same, the dachshunds are sweet and playful- yet the passage of an age cannot but be acknowledged and accepted. It was not just another dog- it was a companion who came to change every possible formation on the chessboard of my life. As I write this down, tears that have frozen in my eyes finally find an outlet and this is a sign that yes, I have come to terms with it at least in some measure- I have taken seven days to muster the courage today to write these words down. All my darlings, no longer in front of me, yet forever with my soul who have merged.

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There was something beautiful and auspicious about her, a little different from all others too. Imagine her coming in on Diwali day and my whole gloom and loneliness was replaced by a small, sickly pup. Similarly the day she passed away was Basant Panchami– a day I am very fond of, amidst all other days in the year. She passed away on a day that means a lot to me- another harbinger of change of seasons, celebrated, special day. Her passage was a relief for the end was very painful, especially the long time of throwing up and diarrhea – which I cleaned innumerably. It was tricky to keep cleaning from both sides, and I could not believe she could throw up so many times, for she had not eaten in so many days.

 

 

I have no words more to say for now but that my sweetheart, my darling is gone and gone is that part of my life where my dogs made me what I am today. I owe it entirely to them to become what life was to make of me, finally.

Friends, blog-readers and family, who would like to leave a word of remembrance or any other comments are kindly requested to post them at the bottom of the post itself and not on any social media platform, which would be lost forever. Hope this is not a trouble for anyone

A decade of ‘recovery’

2010-2019 gets over in a few hours now. An eventful decade, full of recoveries, adventures, love, friends in all parts of the world, flowers, homes, family, books, research and more. Phew! woof! what a decade it has been. Not easy to capture in a blog post, so it would be foolish to attempt it. Instead I will focus on the word ‘recovery’- silly though it may seem.
But then this was a decade which began with my ‘recovery’ – a non-drug dependent recovery from bipolar, in 2010. I did not know then when it all started that I would someday be studying my own recovery, through the lens of a researcher. So this was the decade in which I was slowly morphing from a psychiatric patient, overwhelmed by her bipolar diagnosis, to a self-trained researcher. The testimonies of that started coming in the previous decade when I had peer- reviewed publications, though I had not yet turned the researcher’s lens on my personal story.  Moving out of psychiatric medication also brought about that change. And then came those early attempts at documenting the ‘recovery’ from how I understood it then- three journal publications in 2011, 2014, 2015.

2014 was another year of adventure when I moved with the four dogs I had to live in a village in Goa, and meeting with the Goan countryside was an experience I will remember for long, perhaps until the end of my life. I often think of my landlord Hyginus as the only person in Goa who was really fond of me from the bottom of my heart. Little did I know how attached he became to me and my dogs, and so emotionally dependent upon us that once I left his house after a year of being there, within two months he passed away. Not that I was in any way responsible for it, but his loneliness and sense of abandonment was so acute that it ate into his very soul and killed him. A simple man constantly misunderstood and rejected his whole life, a single child of parents who were extremely poor, who by dint of his labour and traveling on ships for a living gathered a lot of wealth, building four houses for himself and his family- all throughout rejected by his wife and sons, due to his deep dark complexion.

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My Raga stands in Hyginus’s side of the house and on the inner side of the gate was where I lived myself, while he lived on the other> The gate was put here to confine the dogs to my side of the house.

Life can be unfair. Seeing Hyginus and his heart, or how people treated him or how they perceived him, how he struggled to keep up his dignity, living in a small part of the house he had created and letting out the bigger one to one tenant after another got him an income and possibly some company, though not all tenants were like me. There had been an American lady who perhaps stayed there six years and another English couple whose length of stay I cannot recall.

There were many others I met and befriended in Goa, but there was no substitute for Hyginus. However another person who is a dear friend until now is Mina- who interestingly I met at a vegetable vendor’s, in Fatorda, Margao. So we are the best of WhatsApp friends nowadays as I have kept busy with research and writing, keeping away from all friends, for want of my ability to manage time. I remember seeing a very exquisite part of Goa once with Mina, we both drove down in my car, though I forget the name of the place now. Having a car with me in Goa was a great blessing for it gave me tremendous mobility and freedom, without of course the ability to figure out where to go! Google maps were not such a rage then, as they now are and that curtailed me somewhat. Not that I knew anyone anywhere to go visiting them anyways. The Goan adventure was just over two years, which enriched me yet brought me to a place of peril- which became a turning point for me to return back the same 2000 kms I had gone. It was a heartbreak to return and build all broken fences/bridges.

But it was also facilitated by the fact that I had gained entry into a doctoral research, by a sheer dint of fortune (how else to justify it). So at least this was the time when my acumen as a researcher got established as a certainty and I entered university with nearly eight peer-reviewed publications in tow, perhaps the highest a researcher entering into a doctoral program would be having in most parts of the world.

May be there is a time when a person needs to morph from being a producer of research articles to a producer of books :). With the completion of the PhD research I hope to complete that part of the journey of my life. This (doctoral) research has been a very interesting, yet difficult journey of research, replete with spinal issues and another attempt at recovery – of my bone health this time, recovering my lost self from the abysmal darkness of mental ‘illness’ and then diving down at the deep edge to understand recovery more fully, thoroughly and minutely. A few days back I wound up my first draft thesis and sent it to the supervisor, who has finally shown some interest in my work and has understood that I am doing something quite interesting. Otherwise all this while half the time she did not even respond to my emails. Until now we have only had a brief ten minute phone talk once in 2018 I think- which was so useless that I decided never to talk to her again until I reached the very end. Having finished the first draft of course meant that now the time had come to get back to her and share the work I had done.

Coming back to Faridabad has also meant recovering my life from all the lost years, nay decades of life, rebuilding the life of a musician by first setting up the music school (that I intend growing in the new year), and then starting out my counseling practice, from both of which I have so much experience now that it merits another scholarly endeavour of writing!

And this decade has also meant losing Raga, Nikki and Dash and welcoming Rhythm and Floe into our lives. I do not know now whether it is fair or ethical to mourn the ones who are gone, which also includes my grandmother in 2013 or celebrate the new arrivals (which means all the children of my brother and sister as well)  but in keeping with the infinite flow of life we can only bow to the passage of life, and accept the inevitability of this motion. What is here today will be gone tomorrow and the circle will go on unceasing. It is comforting yet not when you lose someone you love. I still ache in my heart about my dogs.

Making friends with wonderful people all around the world has been another enriching experience and I have begun to value the nature of these friendships which bring people together for ideas, rather than other selfish needs or fear of loneliness. And the range of people is big- from scholars, academics, to artists and therapists, students and whatnot. Students have a special pride of place in my heart- not only because of the bond of a teacher-student  but how we enrich one another on a fairly regular basis. It continues thusly.

Andre keeps busy and his & my lives are interwoven in a deep, yet distant manner- My Phd years have been tough on him and us- for I have not had the mental space to accommodate him/us, overwhelmed and forever tired as I largely have remained, for most parts. So this is where things have brought me at the end of the year or decade. Steeped in work I do, passionate about the work, in deep meaningful connections around the world, full of ideas, musical compositions and ideas, always on the move with research and doing all the latter without any financial support from other than family resources. It has been quite a venture really- but well worth it I suppose.

And with this goldmine of knowledge I move into a new decade, whose numbers also look so musical, especially because I am born on the 20th of a month. There is rhythm in this year ahead and there is Rhythm in my home…and dogs go on with their doggy lives, chasing rodents and up with their playful barking as researchers like me turn grey in their locks.

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Rhythm the dachshund

A decade of recovering my lost self, gaining myself back from the suffering of mental illness and a decade which brings me to my emancipatory road of taking this knowledge into the wider world around, with this doctoral research as I now begin to wind off. I hope this earnest labour of years spent alone racking my brains, interspersed with the doggy lives, and music classes will be well worth in the year ahead.

And I hope that anyone who drops by to read this post will also be enriched in their lives further and possibly this post will bring a sliver of hope to some that they can also overcome their suffering no matter how daunting it appears at the moment. It is still meant to be overcome for this is the destiny we are all born with. So here comes a decade of taking the knowledge of recovery wider and catalyzing more people’s recoveries via the counseling work I do.

Thank you friends for reading and for your interest. I wish you a beautiful time ahead and hope that the change of the calendar will weed out the useless and bring in the goodness. May it be so- may there be flowers in your gardens and may all your earnest hard work bring you all the blossoms you have earned.

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A full bed of chrysanthemums  in December 2019, and the dogs and birds on the far side of the photo

As 2018 slips away into eternity

Yeah right! Eternity. No matter what, we will never be able to return back to it- unless of course we choose to return to the experiences, the people encountered along the way, the knowledge gathered and the friendships forged.

Couple of days ago I wrote a little blog post about my research and writing in 2018- it has been a year of gaining tremendous clarity about many many issues, in and around mental health mostly. And then in the same vein I could say that my networks expanded in mental health in almost a 360-degree way. From social scientists doing fantastic work in Sociology, to therapists doing phenomenal work in recovery in mental illness and of course the work done by people who have lived through mental illness and now work in the scholarly/activist domains- these become three sets of practically unconnected people, though there are minor overlaps there. What I am saying is that I got to know people, in person all over the globe in these three domains- social sciences, therapy and the survivor/emancipatory network. 

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Photo by Louis. K on Unsplash 

Now I think about it, its a BOOM moment, when suddenly sparks flew in all directions and lit them up- illuminating pathways which must have been there all along, but suddenly became visible. All in mental ‘health’. It is amazing that so many people are working in mental health in such contrasting and different ways- it is a miracle I got to see and experience so many sides of it. I have to thank my Phd work in a small way, though these things are not really linked to my research. It is all in the wider field of mental ‘illness’; a great expansion of perspective/s! In that sense, it’s been a great year.

Perhaps in most other ways, another year, like the rest of them. Some losses, the most significant being Nikki, my labrador- there won’t be another like her. My utter-est sweetheart!

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Wondering what to do

I am quite thrilled about the forthcoming publications and the progresses I am making in the dissertation. I am not thrilled about the dissertation necessarily, but the fact that it is moving at all 😦

And since this year has been a very introverted year, with limited mobility outside of home, most work has happened within the four walls only, except for the visit to Greece. I am not writing any further for now, but I hope to in the new year, for this year is already over and what has to be done in the next one, should be spelled out or chronicled then. Adieu 2018.

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Each of these people is working in mental health, except the Finnish, young woman in front of me- who was finishing off her Phd in Education. This is a predominantly Finnish group, barring one lady each from Paraguay, and Australia, and another young person, whose face is hidden who is Greek. As of course me- Indian!

An auspicious time

This is my birth- month. Gone are the days when I would see one day in April as significant, for the whole month is so meaningful now. This month is a special month, after a long time. Many new things, a few new beginnings, some pending things getting cleared and new horizons.

First of all, I turned another year older yesterday- that could have been last of all, but like the ‘baby’ that I am – I still like to think of the birthday as a special day. No longer in the public dIMG_20180420_160637868omain- only with family- so it was eating, playing with dogs, watering around the garden and then back to the books- naturally.

So, this beautiful and very light, fruit cake reads- Happy 40-something birthday Preeti. Good line to go with all the birthdays in the forties – all thanks to a PhD for a sister 🙂

 

Academic

Yesterday an article I had written long ago, and which was going as a book chapter in an edited book came to me, from the publisher this time (Springer) for the final nod- it was a relief. For years there was complete silence about this chapter. If I can recall now, I wrote it at least five years ago!

And of course I am struggling with a journal article – that has been on from August- back to me after peer review, and i have to return it now, in the following week. But fortunately for me, the struggle has been a very meaningful one and in writing down this article I have been able to clarify my own research methodology very thoroughly. So that will help me write the methods chapter, hopefully in a better way now.

My Phd work is languishing for now, but in reading/researching for the article above, I have read a lot of stuff and I feel I can see at least some light in the darkness now! But I think I will fall short of my promise to my supervisor- about sending some of the stuff that I had planned for May 2018! What a pain/pity.

On another front, I will be talking in the Open Dialogue Symposium in Greece about the challenges I face working in Counseling in India, which is a traditional and ‘closed’ society. I am keen to learn and hear what scores of others from different parts of the world are working on and creating useful outcomes for their societies. Let’s see when that happens in due course. For now I have to write the paper down and also read Plato’s Symposium- after all one is going to the birthplace of the Philosopher.

Musically

But the most important thing happened today- the thing that I have been waiting for months (or shall I say years and years) for. I started training with a guru, that I have been in search of for lonnggggg. I found him, first in the world, then on the phone, contacted him and earnestly requested him to teach me- rather give me ‘marga-darshan’ for I have learnt music for almost 36 years now, I teach my own students, I read/write/research and perform myself. But the desire to learn more and with a final degree of finesse never left me and made me consider knocking at many doors. On most doors when the head peeped out upon my knock, the person who opened did not coincide as the person I wanted to learn with- either their singing was too mechanical, or as people they were prejudiced or their terms and conditions were not friendly. So I just backed off and waited my time. And all these people are among the top musicians of this country, all Padma-shree-s (a civilian honor given by the president of India) awardees

After more than a decade of searching, I found the person I started with today. I am not writing his name down at present, because I feel this is not the time for that and besides, I am not sure if anyone who sees this blog cares who I learn with! Of course he is also a top musician, and someone who is senior to me in age by almost two decades. And this is the reason for my current deep elation, without excitement- to understand the extreme subtleties of music- which only master musicians can teach. He told me clearly that he does not teach anyone and whenever he comes to Delhi, he would be teaching me- which is not a frequent occurrence at all. After today, the earliest he would be come may be around August!

However, musically things are progressing. I have four new students this month and the tribe has grown- which is interesting- a challenge to teach older people, all into their fifties and older.

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I must not forget that I had the among the first of my (paid) classical music concerts in March- end recently and the singing was well appreciated. This was at a difficult time- afternoon at 4 pm. The venue was Delhi University and it was a conference in Indian Psychology- so an international affair. I chose to sing two ragas with the same structure, unfortunately because most ragas sung at this time of the day have that structure only- N S G M P N S, S N D P M G R S. I sang Bhimpalasi first and then Madhuvanti! What a pain, having the same structure but different notes.

Even though the ideas are abundant and the mind is so highly wired in so many directions, there is no time at present to write another blog post, and it is a great pity, because I know that someday I would like to look back at life and read through some of my writing- I want to not see blank pages, but pages full of work done, people supported, family loved, dogs tended to and played with…and more and more. Of course gardens nurtured and friends laughed with.

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Oh, and the legs in the picture are Andre’s!

Managing different kettles!

These days the tea is boiling in many kettles- many, many in fact. And diverse, non-overlapping ones as well. Yesterday I started one major part of the work in data collection for the phd research- so that is a big enterprise by itself. And getting people to talk to, who are willing to share their stories of mental suffering is one of the most anxiety producing situations. No, let me rephrase it.

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From March 2014- April 2015 this was my kitchen in a small village, in South Goa- from where many a guest has been served a wholesome meal and many a cup of tea shared with loved ones.

Finding people who are willing to share their lives with you is one of the most anxiety producing things for any researcher. I was just discussing this with Ramakant-ji, and he told me about his experiences, in the 1970’s, of doing research with Punjabi children in England, and how he was often shown the door by people suspecting him to a be a spy, trying to interview them to send them back to India!

So on the one hand, one meets one person and then the one person backs off. Then you meet another, through whatever means you may have- and they say, we will think it over. You approach one non profit; they say we will come back to you- someone comes back, someone leaves you wondering for months. By then you know they have no intention to come back.

Start of Data Collection

Nevertheless, I started the process yesterday- interviewed the first person, who happens to not live faraway. There is another meeting with another person on Friday- she too, like the first person, has agreed to come down and meet me in my home. It is a great relief really, because with my broken back, going anywhere is a huge challenge for me personally. I also decided to NOT record any interviews (and go through the needless hassle of transcribing the interviews and collecting mounds of data). So I have taken the equally difficult path of writing the interview down with hand! I wrote almost 11 pages yesterday. Later I realized that there are some themes that I want to discuss again or with a different perspective. Fortunately since this person is also a Phd herself, she understands the process of data collection and in any case I still have to meet someone from her family.

Yesterday I sent off a letter to a friend who once headed an NGO working in mental health, requesting him to help me find people who would be willing to talk about their lives. So now I am waiting to see, if anyone would be willing. I spoke with someone more today- who first declined fearing exposure, but when I assured him of anonymity he was okay with it. But I think I will still write a letter to him.

Musical melodies flow on all counts

On the other hand something completely different in brewing on the musical front. I started some beautiful new compositions in Raga Durga with my guru. I have learnt Durga earlier as well, and it is one of my valued Ragas.

On the other hand, I am looking for poetry for children and creating newer compositions for my students. Just last week I composed a khyal in Ektaal for one girl in Raga Bhairav. Today there is a possibility of a boy (of 22 years) starting anew with me- he learnt much earlier, many years ago. [We decided to offer scholarships to those who cannot afford music education- so three students are full fee-paying, whatever be their fee amount and three are completely subsidized, to paying a small token money (which is less than or equal to 10% of the actual fee)]. At least it is my hope that money should not be a deterrent in receiving quality music education. I hope we will be able to sustain the venture. In two months we have six students enrolled and another two expected. I do not expect to grow very quickly in this location anyways.

Apart from these, the house has its own very fixed rhythm- three women report for work at 6:30 in the morning and then another man comes an hour later to get the daily supply of milk, the garbage collector comes to take the garbage away and then the last boy in the morning comes to clean the car and wash the clothes whenever they have to be! Oh I forgot the dusting lady, who spends  between 30-40 minutes dusting around the house- the doors, windows, books, tables, computers etc. In the evening one or two, depending upon my need for then, of these morning ladies come and do some more household chores and then comes the gardener on three days a week. the remaining four days I have to water the garden on three sides of the house myself. Till so long as these people are around the house, I cannot begin my own riyaaz- living alone means managing a lot of sides actually. Of course there are the outside dogs too, that have to be fed- nearly six come everyday, but there are eight also at times!

So imaging a day with learning with my guru, to teaching my students music and working in phd research in psychosis, cooking, watering the garden, feeding the dogs, feeding the birds, tending to Raga and cleaning her up as per requirement, is a lot to balance in a day. What to talk of days when I have to go out (for shopping for groceries or paying some bill, or bank etc)- life is brimming with ideas, activities and tasks I enjoy. Of course there are other tasks which vary- bathing the dogs, cleaning the yard after them, changing their beds- laundry issues, and so much much more!

Goa 2014 266The long and the short of it is that the tea is boiling in many kettles and my day is a dance of the creating some semblance of this and that. Meanwhile whenever I lie down with acute pain, which is a 24-hour companion anyways, I have these books to read nowadays. I was reading a recently acquired book called Our most troubling madness, and then there was Mad Matters from Canada. I feel so grateful that I have the resources to buy these books that are published in the West, all thanks to my brother.

The last of the things that seems to be cropping up is a course in counseling that I wanted to offer to young people, who are interested in looking at counseling from a non-medical perspective. One young woman recently (in April) approached me but I postponed it. But now another one did- two days back. then I the time has coming or is nearly there- to offer a course in collaborative counseling in the Indian milieu.

Life is not bad after all, so what if the body remains in pain and I don’t feel like waking up on any morning- the birds, the dogs, and the daylight manage it everyday 🙂

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These new crop of puppies are the new morning guests to our home these days- they are all lying in wait in the bamboo shoots outside, and the moment the gate opens they all come running. Adorable foursome

 

Pains, plans, and gains

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

HansFon Logo

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

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

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

Dog crates and the Indian Rail

I am going through a distressing fortnight these days, ever since I sent two dog crates from Delhi to Margao, Goa. I had taken two dogs from Goa to Delhi and sent the crates back from there with the view that the other two dogs would come back a fortnight later, in the same crates- by plane, the way the first two (Nikki and Ginger) went.Dog crate fastning

However, even though the crates were loaded on the train on 10th June 2016, and had to reach by 11th June here, they have still to. I made them into a big parcel, having three dog crates this time- one was a hired one, from the pet shop next door for which we are paying Rs. 180/- a day as rent and the remaining two were my own. The idea was to return the petshop one, clear its rent and take our two crates and the two dogs back.

Now we have not received the crates and everyday we are running up and down to the Margao/Madgaon station in trying to see if they have come. From Saturday, we are also in a whole lot of twitter dialogue with a number of people in the Indian Railways. It is extremely disappointing to see how the Indian Railways are not handling freight with the earlier precision with which I had sent things two years ago to Goa from Delhi.

But there is more at stake here. I have cleared up my dues with my landlord and told him I would be leaving, there are plane tickets booked, and the packers and movers have been engaged to move my home goods. However, without the dogs moving out with me, I cannot move. I cannot keep incurring the expenditure of buying crates and with the railway authorities everything seems to be going round in circles.

I am worried about something that need NOT have bothered me at all, and anguished what to say. My whole day is spent in the concern of ‘what if’s’…so this is the joy of living in India, where every part of our lives is complicated for all the wrong reasons. Talk about mental suffering. Moving home is a very taxing and resource heavy exercise as it is- and the least anyone requires is the additional burden of misplaced goods. I am suffering a huge lot- not the sort of post I am accustomed to writing on this blog. I had thought that this last week of me being in Goa would be a pleasurable one, but that seems not be be the case. I suppose this amounts to a social construction of how our little joys are so easily compromised, and what need not be a source of trouble becomes a great one.

2013-11-21 13.46.01

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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