Its raining blogs!

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The proverb “When it rains, it pours” seems apt for this week. From not blogging for the past two months to three posts within the span of one week is overwhelming even for me!The reason for this post is because of a pleasant surprise that I got from a fellow blogger Laura. Actually, cut that. It was really exciting, happening and great surprise. I was humbled to have been nominated for the Liebster Award by Laura from the blog “<http://Riddle from the middle>”.

Thank you so much Laura. This is my first award nomination ever, and I am humbled and happy to have received it.

Going by the rules:

  • Write a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you for the Liebster Award.  Include the Liebster Award sticker in your post or on your blog.
  • Nominate 5-10 other bloggers for the award and notify them in one of their posts.
  • All nominated bloggers are to have less than 200 followers.
  • Answer the 10 questions posed by your nominator.
  • Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Copy these rules into your post.

The questions given to me by Laura are:

1.If you could choose to take a college class purely for pleasure, what would it be?

I think it would be history and cryptology. The idea comes from Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. I have been fascinated by history since when I was a kid, and to decipher scriptures and books written in unknown languages and revealing their deep dark (and may be not so dark)secrets is something which makes it so very happening (to me).

2.Why did you become a blogger?

It gave me the freedom of connecting with people all over and sharing my thoughts with them. And because I love to write and was not sure how people around me would accept my writing. Blogging gave me some anonymity at first. Now, I crave likes and comments!

3.What’s the last guilty pleasure you indulged?

As a working mother of two, getting “me time” is somewhere close to the vicinity of impossible. So last time we went for a holiday, I feigned a headache, handed over charge of my kids to my poor unsuspecting husband and finished off my novel in three hours flat without interruptions. Bliss!!

4.Spring, summer, fall, or winter – which is your favorite and why?

Spring and monsoons. Though out of these, I am partial to the “rainy season” as we call it. I love the way the world looks then, all wet, glistening, fresh and green.

5.You unexpectedly get five hours of downtime, no strings attached.  What do you do with it?

Sleep. Or maybe watch  one whole season of“Sherlock” back to back.Or read. Or maybe go out cycling.Or…..

6.What was your first paying job?  Were you good at it?

I joined my current job two months after I finished my post grad and have been here since. So, hopefully,as I have not been asked to leave, I think I may be a teeny weeny bit good at it!

7.You have one million dollars you must donate but you can only give it to a single organization.  What cause do you choose to support?  Why?

This one is a bit difficult to answer. There are so many of them doing such a good job and so much need of funds. I think it would be to a fledgling organization which works for a girl child’s education. Or maybe I’ll start one with the same ideology!

8.What made you self-conscious as a child?

Being the center of attention. The same still holds good.

9.Do you enjoy traveling?  Why or why not?

I so love travelling. Not only the reaching the destination and exploring part, but the actual looking out on to the road for hours and still not getting bored part too. Therefore, I am very bad travel companion. I am too busy romancing the view outside (yes, even at night and even from airplane windows).

10.What’s your morning routine?  What is the one part of that routine you could never give up?

Get up. Brush. Go for a jog. Make breakfast. Cook.Wake the kids. Get them ready.Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Then get dressed and run for work. I would not miss the brushing part. I am too obsessive for that!

Thanks again for the nomination Laura.

The blogs that I have immensely enjoyed reading and hence nominate are:

  1. http://owlishwriter.com
  2. http://travelwellflysafe.com
  3. http://vintage-obsession.com
  4. http://noledinmyzeppelin.wordpress.com>
  5. http://indiadestinationsblog.wordpress.com>

I really love reading these blogs and hope you do too. The participation of these bloggers in the process is entirely voluntary.

My questions to you are:

  1. Which is your all time favorite book and why?
  2. Which is the one meal that you will remember all your life and why?
  3. If given a chance, whom would you like to swap places with in this world and why?
  4. Name one destination that you want an expense paid trip to, and of course, why?
  5. When did you realize that you wanted to blog and how fast did you act on it?
  6. Have you faced writer’s block and how do you deal with it?
  7. Reading, writing or traveling. Pick one.
  8. Which is the first book that you remember reading?
  9. If you were stuck on a island, what are the five things that you would want with you?
  10. What does spiritual mean to you?

Bye for now.

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Baby steps towards a bigger cause.

I still remember the day when my Professor of Psychiatry  told me, that it took him quite a while to find a bride who was willing to accept a “mental” doctor for a husband!

It has been almost thirty years since, but despite enormous strides taken by science and society alike, the ground reality for patients suffering from mental illnesses, especially in India, is still one shrouded by secrecy or shame.

On a day to day basis, we encounter a wide range of patients who need help, but deny themselves, for fear of being branded as mental patients. On the other extreme, we see relatives or well wishers of patients who try their own form of counseling not realizing that they are doing more harm than good! Every patient in the inpatient department of our hospital, coming from various socio- economic- cultural- religious backgrounds, is bound by the common factor of the presence of a talisman of some kind,either round their wrist or their neck, waiting to cure the illness if the doctor cannot!

In a population which fast succumbing to the high levels of stress in today’s world, the statistics regarding mental ill health are truly scary. Every one in four individuals anywhere in the world would have suffered from  mental ill health at some point in their lives. Depression ranks third among illnesses which kills the patient. And India, estimates say, has about  50 million people who need mental health care. Unfortunately, the supply of mental health professionals to handle such a huge load of patients is dismally low! We have currently in India,  about 3800 psychiatrists,398 clinical psychologists and 850   psychiatric social workers. There are no registries for counselors at all!

Even with the intent of helping the patients as best as we can, we, as mental health professionals face the problem of having too little time and too many who need it.

Hence, I feel it is the duty of every human being to finally start recognising that we need to chip in our little bit in order to elevate the status of mental health. Government agencies, NGO’s and media can only do so much if the public at large behaves like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand.

A few things which I believe we can inculcate are:

  1. Start by regarding the mind as a tangible organ of our body. One of the reasons that we refuse to consider a diseased mind is because, we cannot accurately locate the whereabouts of it. It is vague, complex and therefore out of bounds to any physical testing, apart from analysing our behavior. But this does not make it non existent. We need to start teaching the habit of recognizing emotions and their healthy expression in children, so that they learn to understand their minds early. Then on, recognizing the stress and negative emotional states may become easy and non stigmatic.
  2. Do not regard mental health professional as enemies in disguise. It is frustrating to see well educated, intelligent people take their kith and kin to quacks or magico religious healers and subject them to different kinds of torture. Eg. Thrashing, burning, keeping them hungry for days, making them eat leftovers etc. The common excuse given is that they were worried that the doctor would addict them to medicines!!! As if the torture meted to them was better than suffering from an addiction! We are commonly asked whether medication can ruin kidneys or whether we can cure a disease without medicating(when they have no qualms about swallowing diclofenac indiscriminately for their arthritis!). The need of the hour is to learn to trust that the doctor knows his job as he has been trained for a minimum of two to three years in psychiatry. At least, he is better than the neighbor who makes tall claims about the state of the patient’s kidneys(which we apparently spoil by medicating) without having studied biology for the past so many years of his life. We would love to help if you would just let us.
  3. Realize that, just as there are different treatment procedures for the body, the same follows for the mind. Discuss treatment options clearly, and realize, please, that we will not be standing with an electrical prong waiting to give an ECT to anyone who happens to walk inside the door!ECT is a valid, useful form of therapy and not used as punishment as depicted in many movies.
  4. Many mental health professionals are reaching out to the general public by way of television, media, articles and public programs to raise awareness about mental ill health. Listen, read and believe only what is coming from a genuine source, and not what gathers most trp’s, as in the case of television channels airing programs of regression therapy and past life therapy. They are false. Period.
  5. When you meet a person who confesses to feeling depressed or upset or has some trouble with his emotions, kindly refrain from offering suggestions like”You need to use your will power to come out of this” or “Look at someone worse than you, you will feel better”. Mental illnesses have nothing to do with will power. The strongest, most wealthy and physically healthy among us can succumb to mental illness. It would be better to find the best counselor in town and gently direct the person to speak with them. The counselor in turn can gauge the problem and decide whether he/she needs a psychiatrist.
  6. Do not judge the patient, after treatment, based on his illness. Mental illness makes us behave uncharacteristically. Do not hold grudges against the patient for their bad behavior during the illness nor judge him/her for the rest of their lives based on this. It is harmful for their self confidence. Eg. If a person tried to attempt suicide, do not reject his application in a job place or his proposal for marriage. Instead, ask whether the person has taken his full course of treatment. Discuss with the doctor in detail, how well the person is and how much responsibility he can handle. This solves much of the problem rather than enhancing it.
  7. Do not hide the fact that someone has suffered from mental illness, especially when the person is getting married. We see marriages breaking down in our consultation rooms, for this very reason, that the spouse discovered the illness after the wedding. Every person has a right to decide on the kind of spouse that they want. Deceit wont help. Give your child the confidence of owning up to facing a difficult illness and still believe in their self worth.Then look for a spouse. In an arranged marriage scenario, there may be a lot who shy away from proposals, but believe me, your daughter or son would be happier with a person who genuinely accepts them and respects them rather than live in shame and neglect.
  8. Practice acceptance. We never shy away from accepting any of our physical ailments. In fact, sometimes, we exaggerate them. But mental stress and strain are denied consistently. Unless we ourselves are unaccepting of our problems, there is no way the society will accept it. It was an exhilarating moment for us when a postgraduate student of surgery came up on stage at a public function to own up that she had suffered from schizophrenia and achieved what she wanted despite of it. We need more celebrities, survivors of traumatic stress disorders and people around us to start accepting their problems without shame. Only then, can the dignity step in.

Most of what I have written about is something that we all can practice at an individual level. If we can inculcate it and spread the word, we can probably inch closer to the WHO theme of this year’s mental health day”Dignity in mental health”.

A little bite of France and a big gulp of the sea -Pondicherry

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I remember reading a quote by Kurt Vonnegut which said “Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God”. I did not even know who Kurt Vonnegut was, at that point of time (though I did google him and found out that he was an American writer!), but the quote somehow stuck in my mind.

I was sure, given my obsessive traits, that such travel was never going to be a part of my existence. After all, super planning was my forte.

Cut to October this year, after six months of working myself to the point of exhaustion, the craving to take a break was immense. With unexplained logic, I decided that Pondicherry would be the place to refuel me. I knew there was not much there to entertain my kids, and that it was really far off to go (around 400 odd miles from where I live), just to put up my feet and rest! The idea was so uncharacteristic of me, that people around kept asking me if I had a conference there or would be meeting my friends, perhaps!

Slow, lingering holidays were hardly a part of my previous agenda in life. Off late, I have been reading books like “Falling off the map” by Pico Iyer and have been an ardent follower of Shivya Nath, who writes a  travel blog “The shooting star”, which may have subconsciously influenced me to visit a place, just because!Or maybe it was just sheer exhaustion which made me travel without anything specific to do, but be!

And Pondi ( as I now call it fondly) did live up to all my expectations and more.

Revisiting forgotten pleasures of watching the sunrise with a cup of coffee for hours, waking up to watching the sea in front of you, listening to the waves when you sleep at night and gorge on cuisines as diverse as the fiery Chettinad and subtle French make being in Pondicherry a divine experience!

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Whenever I used to read about Pondicherry or see pictures, it would seem to me as if the city had a quaint, old world charm to it. In reality, the city is sharply divided into a bustling, crowded,typical Tamil neighborhood and a smallish French quarter, which is rather racistly called “White town”.Strange though it was,within five short days, I got used to seeing a Tamilian lady speak fluent French and Frenchman haggle for veggies in a liberally accented Tamil!

Needless to say, all the tourist attractions and the hotels are located in the French Quarter. Most of the hotels are restored homes of the French governors and other officials, and hence stately,huge and grand.

view of the hotel foyer- complete with a fountain and wrought iron chairs
view of the hotel foyer- complete with a fountain and wrought iron chairs

The hotel which we stayed, was on the Promenade road, just across the beach. Every window we opened gave us a magnificent view of the beach, and this was perhaps the best part of the trip. I have never been a big fan of the sticky, salty ocean, but this experience transformed me! Just watching the magnificent sunrise ( sunsets are not visible on the sea, as we were on the east coast!)was enough soul food.

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watching the sea as i wake up

One of the best things about the Promenade Road is that it is home to most of the attractions that are to be seen! The Gandhi statue surrounded by intricately carved pillars (which were apparently scoured from a fort conquered by by Shivaji, in Gingee, Tamilnadu- never knew Shivaji travelled that far), the French war memorial, the old eighteenth century light house, the Cathedral of Immaculate conception,the half sunken pier and the Aurobindo ashram institutions  all are neatly placed one next to the other on the road, making it easy to tick off the things on our to do list in the span of a day! The rest of the stay hence, was used to explore and laze!

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the long stretch of promenade road
the long stretch of promenade road
The war memorial
The war memorial

The road is off limits to traffic from 6 in the evening to 7 next morning owing to the amount of people who throng the beach every evening! The road is brightly lit through the night and boasts of a cafe which is open twenty four seven to feed any hungry visitors! Waking in the middle of the night and looking out of our hotel window gave me a glimpse of the road which was still teeming with people at 3 AM!

coffee and sea at Le cafe
coffee and sea at Le cafe

The French quarter is picture perfect. The worst camera would probably still give the best picture! Every building is clickable and vibrantly colored! And one in almost five buildings is a cafe serving mouth watering food!

neat picture perfect buildings in the French quarter
neat picture perfect buildings in the French quarter

Back after the holiday, I was reading a blog on Pondicherry, when I realized that there were quite a few touristy places that we had not visited. Any other time, it would have made me squirm at the lost opportunity, but somehow, this time, it felt okay.

I had carved out my own experiences. I had explored the by lanes and alleys with an old battered cycle and knew the best place to eat street food! I experienced riding a bike on the scary, honky,busy roads with my daughter and watching rows of glaring neon signs and really really huge jewelry shops(each one the size of any respectable mall!).

neon neon everywhere
neon neon everywhere

I had unearthed stores which sold old vintage furniture, a convent  where destitute women made exquisitely embroidered clothes, discovered a never before seen insect and watching my kids’ excitement, taken a selfie with my son and a hundred year old banyan tree and read peacefully for hours while watching the sea!

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With Pondicherry,I think I have discovered my love of soaking up the feel of the place with my seemingly bizzare travel plan!

my partners in crime - a red vespa and an old cycle with hardly any brakes!
my partners in crime – a red vespa and an old cycle with hardly any brakes!