The Chaotic Mind

Today is World Mental Health Day…My tribute to those who have mental illness and have to constantly live with the stigma of the illness. Two young patients in their late teens consulted me today. I guess this poem written by me is a reflection of that consultation. 

Untethered on the edge I wander- 

of forced normality

Lured by what lay yonder

My irrational reality

Spiraling into a chaotic world

Of swirling, storming gray 

Where things were how they were not

A mind in constant disarray

Where malevolent shadowy people

Haunt my waking world

Where incessant voices of evil

Echo unseen, but not unheard

Where my moods have lost their rhythm

And my words fail to rhyme

And as my mind slips into a schism

What reigns is pandemonium

Am I a visitor in this path

Or forever destined to stay

And as the carnage rips me apart

Am I cursed till my dying day

Teetering on the edge of insanity

I view the world askance

As the sane world, your “fictional” reality

Points fingers at me, takes a “noble” stance

Amidst this I yearn…

For a second of sweet silence

For a night of unhaunted sleep

For a day of unfettered freedom

For a moment of serenity

And a lifetime of pure sanity

Commentary:
Stanza 1:  Forced normality: People do not understand the signs of mental illness and they force those affected to be normal. Irrational reality: Though the thoughts/feelings/beliefs of a mentally ill person may seem irrational to the outside world, for the patients what they are very, very real 

 Stanza 3: Malevolent shadowy people: Visual hallucination the ill-person experiences

Waking world is the person’s conscience

Incessant voices of evil: Uncontrolled auditory hallucination

Moods losing rhythm: Normally one’s mood are in congruence with one’s thoughts. In mental illness the poetic dance between our moods and thoughts is lost. For example a person may think that someone is trying to kill him, but may laugh while saying this

Words losing rhyme: People with mental disorders lose clarity of thoughts and expression. In medical terms this is called as formal thought disorder

Schism: Means splitting of the mind

Stanza 4:  The patient is asking if she will get cured or is this going to be a chronic problem

Stanza 5:  Speaks of stigma of mental illness. Even normal people perceive reality differently. What I think of a situation, another person may not think the same. In essence every reality is created by our mind, i.e. it is fictional.

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Quest for freedom on Independence Day

69th-independence-day-of-india-2015

                  Happy Independence Day!

With pride I watch, like every other Indian, the unfurling of the tricolor and the celebrations on the 71st Independence Day. India celebrates her birthday, her liberation from the largely perceived as “oppressive and repressive” 200-year colonial British rule. India has galloped ahead since those times, the naysayers notwithstanding, more so in the last decade. And in my mind questions abound –While India the federal union celebrates her freedom, are we, the people of India, truly free?

When we stop judging a woman by the length of her skirt or the color of her lipstick…when the birth of a daughter is revered as much as that of the son…when she can belong to her workplace as much as to her kitchen…when she can walk as freely on the roads during the night as in the day…when instead of chipping her individuality to mold her into “what she should be,” she is given wings to explore “what she can be”…when instead of protecting her, she is given a choice…that is when we, the people of India, will experience true freedom.

When what I eat is dictated by taste, not caste…when what I wear is decided by choice, not religion…when every Indian sings the national anthem with pride…when the law of the land, instilled in the Constitution of India, will reign supreme for one and all…when the religion is practiced within the four walls of the house…when repressive diktats and oppressive fatwas find no place in public conscience…when there is a distinct separation between organized religion and state…when the Indian in us rises above fault lines of faith, regionalism and linguicism, only then can we, the people of India, experience true freedom.

When the streets are as clean as our homes…when the child on the road reads like the one in the home…when universal healthcare is no longer a pipe-dream…when “retail corruption” is a thing of the past…when the politics of quota and reservation becomes obsolete…when “sabka sath sabka vikas” is not just a slogan but a reality…only then will we, the people of India, experience true freedom.

We, the people of India, will experience true freedom only when we succeed in shrugging off our cloak of indifference. Isn’t it always “their” responsibility…Aren’t “they” to be blamed for everything…As long as it does not affect “me” why should “I” get involved. This habit of blaming the abstract entity, the determined apathy…is this a coping mechanism, a fatal fatalism, a pervasive loss of hope, or just a pass-it-on attitude…what drives this, I wonder? “The world suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people”, said Napoleon. The good people of India are guilty of silence allowing the ranters and ravers a free reign. The interpretation of freedom as being able to say and do whatever one wants, without respect for the law of the land or the right of another, is a surefire recipe for disaster in a pluralistic society. “Freedom and power bring responsibility,” said Jawaharlal Nehru. When freedom of speech is tempered with freedom of thought, i.e. awareness and understanding of a situation, along with the ability to choose the “right” response, both individually and collectively, only then will we, the people of India, experience true freedom.

We can call ourselves a truly independent and free country, as guaranteed by our Constitution, only when we free ourselves from our oldest curses…our misogynistic attitudes, divisive religious belief’s, and our determined apathy. Are we ready for this challenge, another struggle for Independence, this time not from the colonial rulers but from our own “oppressive and repressive” attitudes I wonder?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The angst of a woman…

Slide2

I am “janani”…the mother

I am…so you are

I carry you in my womb…

Give birth to you…so you are

Yet, I’m cursed…

My womb abused…

To have birthed…

The monster in you…

 

I am…a daughter

You are…so I am

Created by you…so I am

Yet, I’m cursed…

Killed in the womb…unwanted, a “bojh”

If born, a “paraya dhan”…a “thing”…

My existence cursed…

To be owned by one…handed over to another

 

I am….”ardhangani”…your better half…

I am…so we are

I carry your future…your heir

Yet, I’m cursed…to oblivion

To be seen, not heard…

Within the four walls of your home…

To serve, but not demand…

To exist, but not live…

 

I am… “sthree”…the woman

The yin to your yang…

Two halves that make a whole…

But this one-half is cursed…

 

Cursed am I…

By your inappropriate touch…

By your acts of wanton lust…

By your abusive words…

And hands that are raised to hit…

 

Cursed am I…

To carry the burthen of impurity…

To be exploited with impunity…

The ignominies heaped upon me-

Condoned by all as the way to be…

In the shroud of “honour” buried to lie…

My hopes and dreams under the starless sky!

 

I am “Shakti”…the energy divine,

Worshipped by you, yet curtailed in a shrine,

Unfettered one day…I hope to rise again

From the ashes of bigotry, enriched by the pain!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Souls…

rumi-quotes-what-you-seek-1024x640

 

Two Souls

Feeling…

Two souls

Not hearing, not seeing

Just feeling

The travails of the broken heart

Chained together, yet wrenched apart

(The two souls here are the patient and their loved one…they do not hear  norsee the normal activities of life once diagnosed with cancer. They just feel the pain, the suffering the disease brings. Chained in their suffering, wrenched apart by destiny)

Two Souls

Wandering…

Not caring, yet daring

Just wandering

Along the eerie broken path

Dodging the fiery hands of wrath

(The normal path of life broken, the two souls walk a lonely, ghostly path. They don’t care about the fear, with great strength they try to dodge death (fiery hands of wrath).

Two Souls

Seeking…

Not knowing, not speaking

Just seeking

Solace together, arm-in-arm

The stillness amidst the storm

(The two souls seek comfort in each other, not knowing how the disease is going to progress. Most patients and relatives do not talk about their disease to each other or anyone else…in all the storm (upheaval in their lives), they seek stillness (peace)

Two Souls

Resting…

Not running, not jostling

Just resting

In their secret sylvan place

Bleeding hearts, at last in peace

(The two souls when they stop running from the truth (when they overcome their denial), when they stop jostling i.e. pushing for futile treatments; when they accept the inevitability of death, at last find peace. By secret sylvan place I mean coffin.  Their heart bleeds at the thought of losing loved ones, but still they find peace)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The pain that the rain brings…a malady of craters

My childhood memories…two sturdy bullocks with bells round their neck, tethered to a colorful rickety wooden cart with two large wooden wheels, driven by a scrawny turbaned driver, with betel juice staining his mouth. The reins of the cart in one hand, he cracks a thin whip with the other, much like a magic wand onto the back of the hapless animal. With a sudden jingle of bells the cart starts to sway forward…all of us in the cart in for a bumpy ride over the unpaved roads, the sun beating down on the face, the cool gust of wind ruffling the hair…an unique experience, reminiscent of the years gone by.

And then there was the sleepy town of Bijapur where I went to medical school, known for the famous “Tanga”, the horse buggy, this our preferred mode of transport. Drawn by an emaciated, ill-fed horse, the creaky carriage would carry quite a few of us. I am ashamed to say oblivious to the concept of equine abuse at that time we would enjoy the tanga ride. At times the more adventurous amongst us would take over the reins from the driver and with a whoop and flick of the whip propel the carriage forward. As the horse raced clickety-clack, with our hearts in our mouth, we would silently pray to reach our destination in one piece.

Of late I have been reminiscing a lot about these bumpy rides, more so after coming back from sunny London to a wet, wet Mumbai. The week I landed there was heavy rains. My car decided to try swimming in the pool that came up overnight outside the house. Needless to say, she drowned. We tried to rescue her, but alas she had ingested way too much water. She has since been admitted at the local garage for the past few weeks…to recuperate…the organ transplant is taking its time…

Life has been an adventure ever since as I negotiate the Mumbai roads in a cab or an auto. All adventure enthusiasts from around the world would agree with me I am sure. The fantastic adrenaline rush you get has to be experienced to be believed!

The looping, twisting, whirling experience has left me enthralled. With a loud roar the rickety beast (rickshaw) jumps to life to negotiate the pock-marked road, just like the horse-buggy. As she races ahead she sways from side-to-side, at times lurching forward, at other times backward, and I hold on for dear life. As the ride gains momentum, I find myself floating weightless upwards, defying gravity, only to land with a loud thud onto the hard seat. Each death-defying plunge leaves me breathless, physically and emotionally depleted. As I reach my destination battered and bruised I say a silent prayer…at last I have arrived. The cab rides are a bit smoother…much like the bumpy rides on the bullock carts. The drives skilled, negotiate these craters with the experience of a rally driver… You are shaken and stirred and thrown around all at once, leaving your osteoporotic bones aching and the arthritic joints creaking.

It’s a known fact that the craters on Mumbai roads are bigger and better than those on Moon or even Mars.   And as some news report states NASA is tying up with amchi BMC to train all astronauts on the crater-ridden Mumbai roads!!

As Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going”, the journey of every hapless Mumbaikar during monsoon…and as we struggle our politicians and BMC have much more important work to do…renaming roads, reforming the culinary habits of Indians, designing appropriate dress codes for women, etc…

mumbai-road-pot-holes-are-like-moon-craters

Pictures are sourced from Google, from India Opines

mumbai-potholes-759

Picture sourced from Google

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You and me…

Two pieces of a puzzle

Amidst life’s intangible muddle

Two different shapes, two separate bits-

that merge into a complete fit

 

You and me…

A perfect melody

Born from the discordant cacophony-

of intolerant faith and warped destiny-

that echo in absolute harmony

 

You and me…

A timeless treasure

Tempered in love’s ancient pyre

Rising from the embers, raging beyond measure

An inferno of intense desire

 

You and me…

Two fragments of a soul

Wandering in the labyrinth of life

When life and death cease their strife

Seek redemption as a whole

 

You and me…

A paradox, a puzzling enigma

Damned together by the ancient stigma

Of what could not, but yet could be

Beyond all shackles of worldly decree

 

You and me…

Forever…

An unanswered question…

In the mind

 

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The Specter of Death

Life After Death 2

Hiding deep in the shadows dark

A faithful companion is death

In the journey of life as we embark

Death follows our every breath

 

Mocking us disdainfully from afar

Through our laughter and our tears

Death reminds us how finite we are

All our hopes, dreams and fears

 

Mocking our mortal struggles in disgust

Our cravings of flesh, our endless desires

Death raises the specter of the blazing pyre

Where the vain body humbled, one day will rest

 

Defiled by humans, greeted by wails

Death is the infallible truth of living

In its waiting embrace will peace prevail-

Is it the end, or just a new beginning?

 

Is it…

In the juggernaut of life, a harbinger of peace

An escape from the Insanity

For the soul within a wanted release

In its journey towards Immortality

 

I wonder…

Death, when you come to set me free

Will you be quick? Will you be slow?

Will you slowly draw the life out of me?

Or fell me down with a single blow?

Will I find peace in your embrace-

a hallowed resting place?

As the mortal body burns, as it must

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!!!

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