Fuck science, let’s do feelings

you will be held when you cry
you will be heard when you speak sad words
you will be seen even if the vision that is you, is terrifying
I will be here for you

trust is not a mirage
this is not a trap
fear is not your invariable companion
flowers are not to be trampled upon

hope doesn’t spring eternal
it is, in fact, easily crushed
you get up and fend for yourself
you put on the mask and trudge on
and on

it doesn’t have to be so
there will be a rock
however mundane, you could lean on
let it be me perhaps?


An Ode to Laziness 2

My last post didn’t go down well with certain sections of society- the organized sensible sections.
They accused me of glorifying laziness. I don’t know if it’s even fair to understand me so accurately. I hereby register my protest.

There are so many industrious, ant-like hardworking people forming the backbones of civilization, slogging away. Of course, without them we would collapse in a heap of anarchy which would be fun until you realise there’s no cake to eat. Like my family on any regular day, you’d have to resort to bread.

Bread isn’t all that bad, particularly the white, unhealthy, intestine and artery clogging, maida variety. The grocery shops are selling it as food, believe it or not, and not even with statutory warnings!

Not that cake is such an angel. Make it with whole grain and no frosting and it’s as good as sweetened cardboard. Make it conventional way and die young.

The fall-winter collection food showstopper this year is kadha (karha). People are guzzling it by the gallons and causing air pollution to worsen.
It looks and tastes like poison, I’ve been told, but is not poison. It boosts immunity, much like ageing boosts cleavage.

I forgot to plead the case for laziness, got distracted by food. Will continue in next post

Draped this soft batik cotton, the perfect comfort  sarees for home bound laziness

An Ode to Laziness

If you think I’m inventing a planetary system or something because I’ve been silent all this while, you are wrong. I have been lounging in home clothes (non saree) and eating junk mostly.

One day I did find some motivation somewhere and went for a walk. When I came back, my peeps were very worried from my appearance of fatigue but I assured them that I just needed a quiet place now to go and die. Never attempted anything like a walk again.

I have ample practice breaking resolutions remorselessly. Yes the world is still waiting for me to whip up six course gourmet meals to pretty up my dining table. Alas, the world will go on waiting to eternity. I haven’t learnt a single new dish but I have discovered that I have witch hands that makes my mustard paste go invariably bitter.

Among the other lockdown resolutions that I have trashed are cacti (they die), origami (the scissors were bad), educating my children (they still barbarians) and inventing an affordable roti maker (just eat rice).

Freud said you are mentally healthy if you are able to work and love. Since I’m able to do both, I try not to let anything else guilt me into making changes I don’t need. I’d rather swim in gratitude, for my place in this world.

Draped this tussar today as I was worried it will tear at the folds from disuse atrophy

The Name of the Rose (book review)

Life is way too short to be wasted on mediocre books. The problem is shortlisting the ones that are extraordinary. That’s what I figured when I joined book groups.

Aishwarya Sampath mentioned this book sometime back and then Edathua Teejay endorsed in a comment so I put it up on my list. My deepest gratitude to you both for this gift.

It has kept me blissfully awake the past few days.
Questions of rationalism, free-thought, the scientific method and the biggest holy cow of all – religion. What happens when we look at rationalism from the perspective of a monk? Can we frame even one sentence, where religious dogma and the scientific method, coexist in peace? And yet the father of modern genetics was a monk (Gregor Mendel).

When the arena of the clash between reason and religion is a library, peeps like me feel the book was written just for us. ‘Theophany’, a word I learnt from this book, that’s what it felt like.
If God herself had chosen to manifest to me last week, she would have felt quite ignored, busy as I was with this spectacular book.

//….You know that, although very learned, he is not a man to appreciate the library. He considers it a secular lure…..For the most part he stays in church, meditating, praying….//

I’m always in favour of succumbing to ‘secular lures’, or libraries instead of brainclogging dead ends of dogma.

//….I must believe that my proposition works, because I learned it by experience, but to believe it I must assume there are universal laws. Yet I cannot speak of them, because the very concept that universal laws and an established order exist would imply that God is their prisoner…//

Is physics God? What a breathtaking takedown of intelligent design! The protagonists’ dear friend William of Occam would have approved.

When the detective confronts the killer, this is how the narrator describes the encounter.

//I realised, with a shudder, that at this moment these two men, arrayed in a mortal conflict, were admiring each other, as if each had acted only to win the other’s applause…..
……the act of seduction going on before my eyes at that moment….each of the two interlocutors making, as it were, mysterious appointments with the other, each secretly aspiring to the other’s approbation, each fearing and hating the other.//

Reason is suspended, because the prey and predator are too busy admiring each other, not yet aware who has won the game and who has lost. The reader alone knows because evil cannot win.

The translator has done a job par excellence. May we all be blessed with such books that make our insomnia worthwhile.

Shrink Prospects

I thought a lot about writing on the mental health scenario in India. After quite a lot of digging and research, I realised I had no good news to offer. What’s the point of recounting the lacunae when the whole system is an abyss all by itself?

It led me to the realisation that matters have in general, gone downhill, since I passed out as a fresh psychiatrist 16 years ago. On this forum, I try to restrict my rants. So I thought I’ll share a few of my own experiences that range from outrageously hilarious to mundane tragedies.

I didn’t know I was going to be studying a subject that will break my parent’s fragile heart. They didn’t ask much from me, except that I scored top ranking in either the premedical exam or the pre engineering. All they wanted in return was bragging rights. They wanted to be able to tell their friends how they raised perfect topper kiddos.

Alas, I went and dashed their dreams by taking up Psychiatry. My mother feebly told people I was studying at the hallowed Maulana Azad Medical College of Delhi, but suppressed the vital information that I was neither going to be a surgeon, nor a gynaecologist.

People who knew the horrid secret, warned my parents that it will be difficult finding a match for a woman Psychiatrist. Dire predictions were made about Psychiatrists losing their marbles from the backbreaking work of interpreting dreams. My parents knew Psychiatrists haven’t been interpreting dreams since the last ice-age, but they were never averse to perpetuating stereotypes. It helps build up a certain parent-victimhood.

Strangely, I was not finding it difficult to negotiate my way in our very organized marriage market. I don’t think our military is half as disciplined as our marriages, we have column after column of choices, all neatly segregated and classified. Open any matrimonial page or website and look at the inventory on display. Make a list of potential husbands and start meeting them one by one. Meeting them all at once is so last season, swayamvar is passé.

An image I liked and saved for Lavanya to see someday

Frankly Fishy

When I first joined as a psychiatry resident, I was told to meet all the professors. I went to the first one I found in his room and introduced myself. His first question to me was – “Have you bought fish?”

I have never been more taken aback in my life. The professor was not even a north Indian (he was Oriya) making jokes about me being bengali fish eater. I stammered “How do you mean sir?”

He said “Fish, Fish! You have to buy Fish and all the other books but Psychopathology is most important.”

I was thinking whether i should be diagnosing a professor on my first day at the program. It’s a relief that in my confusion I didn’t burst out laughing, nor crying. It was later explained to me that he was talking about Frank Fish’s book ‘Clinical Psychopathology’ which is considered the indispensable Bible of psychopathology for all Psychiatry residents.

Things had gotten only worse when I reached second professor. Outside her room I had found someone loitering. This someone was dressed in somewhat shabby unironed salwar kameez and I presumed that she must be class 4 worker who knows about the department. I asked “Is he available, Dr Mittal”
She said no, he’s left the country.

More confusion. I remember distinctly being told that Dr Mittal is someone I absolutely have to meet. I tried to update this person that as per my information, the professor has been spotted recently in the premises.
Suddenly, this person got aggressive, and she yelled “Dr Mittal has left, do you think you know BETTER THAN ME??”

Alarming indeed it was, I was wondering if I should start running backward towards the staircase and make a dash for the exit when this person, sat down on the professor’s seat and started tinkering with his computer.
The seniors sitting there were finding the episode very funny. They later told me that this was Dr Mrs Mittal, wife of Dr Mr Mittal, who were both working in the department but Mr left for better prospects in another country. So Dr Suresh Mittal’s room was allotted to his wife Dr Mona Mittal, and she is the woman who screamed at me.

Great Expectations Miss Havisham was playing out in the psychiatry department, the wife having not allowed anyone to change the nameplate outside her room in all the years that she worked there.

The final frontier was the Head of Department. No one in his right mind would say this chap looks ordinary. He had long white hair, sometimes sported bangs. He stared at me without a smile or a nod and asked “What do you want from me?”
That’s actually a profound question, I later figured out. I told him I’ve been asked to introduce myself. So he said

That’s actually a profound question, I later figured out. I told him I’ve been asked to introduce myself. So he said OKAY and went back to his work.
In the past few years, I have adopted this style of communication in real life. Most strangers I encounter at social events/parties etc, I ask “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”
It’s an awesome way to rid yourself of people and small talk and men and mediocrity.


#mentalhealth #knowyourrights

A client recently told me that she had been taking a particular medicine for the past few weeks even though it was making her continually nauseous. I asked whether she had reported it to her treating physician. She said she hadn’t because physician apparently gets ‘angry’ with her for complaining too much.

It made me think of my privilege as an empowered woman as well as a medical professional. I take it for granted that I can question my service provider. But women raised to live life bowing to tradition and hierarchy, they cannot confidently question authority figures. So they bear discomfort, even illness and pain, just so that authority figures can feel smug about having ‘succesfully’ treated her illness.

The doctor–patient relationship has historically been described as based on trust rather than on the monetary considerations evident in the more typical business transaction. With increasing cost and complexity of treatments, hospitals began considering themselves business establishments and patients started viewing themselves as ‘consumers’.

Patient’s rights are inextricably linked to human rights. Access to healthcare is a human right.
In the paternalistic model of the doctor-patient relationship, the doctor utilises his skills to choose the necessary interventions and treatments most likely to restore the patient’s health or ameliorate his pain. Any information given to the patient is selected to encourage them to consent to the doctor’s decisions.

This description of the asymmetrical or imbalanced interaction between doctor and patient has been challenged during the last 20 years. Critics have proposed a more active, autonomous and thus patient-centred role for the patient who advocates greater patient control, reduced physician dominance, and more mutual participation. 

I am enumerating some of patient’s basic rights, that apply not just to Psychiatry but to all specialities.

1. Right to Appropriate Medical Care and Humane Treatment.

2. Right to Informed Consent.

3. Right to Privacy and Confidentiality. 

4. Right to  Information.

5. The Right to Choose  Health  Care Provider  and Facility.

6. Right to Self-Determination. 

7. Right to Religious  Belief.

8. Right to Medical Records.

9. Right to Leave.

10. Right to Refuse Participation In Medical Research.

11. RIght to Correspondence and to Receive Visitors.

12. Right  to  Express Grievances. 

13. RIght to be Informed of His Rights and Obligations as a Patient.

I hope the readers are encouraged to exert their rights that WHO espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978.
Ask your doctor for information about your illness, plan of management, alternative treatments, cost of treatment, short and long term side effects.
Be an informed patient in this information age, it is your right as well as your duty.

Reading Challenge 2019

This year has been by far, the best year ever since i touched my twenties, in terms of the amount of reading i got done.

1. I started the year with Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. What it tweaked in my grey cells, I’m not sure, but i realised that I’ve been right about most things including Buddhism, all along.

2. I had no idea that Rahul Sanskrutyayan had published a book in 1943 that might be burnt in the streets today for suggesting an alternative history.
Volga to Ganga took me on a breathtaking journey of self-discovery. This book made me feel spiritually connected to humanity as never before, and believe me, I’m about as spiritual as a rotten turnip.

3. Slaughterhouse- Five by Kurt Vonnegut, i started reading it happily thinking it would be like Catch 22. Anushrees fault, this book was her suggestion. This little book was nothing like Catch 22 or anything I’ve ever read. It was gut wrenching, and i recommend it should only be read when one is NOT anywhere near a psychic collapse or civilizational collapse.

4. I started Meditations by Marcus Aurelius with grave reservations. Meditation makes me think of ungodly things. And so is this book, quite ungodly, just a fellow writing how tough it is to be king. To judge people correctly and fight the demons of past mistakes, this book left me with a feeling of peace.

5. Ants Among Elephants, by Sujatha Gidla, my friend Parul made me read. The nuances of class vs caste in the backdrop of a communist movement, it’s a never ending maze that leads to the Telengana Armed Revolt, the Naxalite movement of Bengal and all the Maoist movements in other parts of the country. How little I know of history!
A student of science in India in plus 2 can narrate all of indian history in about 5 words – Mughal, British, Gandhi, Nehru, Bjp. I am hoping to correct my knowledge in the coming year.

6. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie opened my eyes to the cultures of the indigenous peoples of Nigeria, and the experience of being coloured in a white supremacist world.
Sadly, the trans exclusivist comments being attributed to the author made me realise all the more the need for INTERSECTIONAL feminism.

7. One of my favourite discoveries was The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek. It is a hilarious take on the territorial animal called man, and how civilizations fall to the folly of racial, ethnic and communal divides.

8. My affinity for irreverence in all walks of life led me to Good Omens by Terri Pratchett, Neil Gaiman. Though not in the same league as The Hitchhiker’s Guide of Douglas Adams, it is one of the most politically correct but hilarious books I’ve read.

9. Wendy Donigers book The Hindus almost got banned in India. That was the reason i picked it up. It was a revelation. I realised the vastness of the blind spot we have for ourselves and our own kind. It was difficult to read for me, because i had no idea about the tools of the Historian. I strongly recommend it even if, like me, you have to google something on every page, to cross check or to understand.

10. Amrita Shergill by Yashodhara Dalmia left me thirsting for more on women artists of the world. For every Pablo Picasso, there are innumerable Amrita Shergills who lost the gender lottery. This book also made me think of all the unsung artists who could have been, had they been born to the privilege of Shergill herself.

11. Because i couldn’t watch it, and i was feeling like a kid left out from the party, i read The Game of Thrones. In bits and parts, it’s interesting. But fantasy is not my genre. Towards the end of it, i felt like i have been cheated and would have demanded all those hours I’ve wasted on it, back, so I can read some real realism. I’m a freak of nature, i didn’t even like Harry Potter.

12. Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey, was my first Rohinton Mistry and is certainly not going to be the last. I’m going to read up everything else he’s written, hoping to find at least one strong and central female character.

13. In an Antique Land by Amitava Ghosh, takes one on an extremely well researched journey as is expected from Amitava Ghosh. One makes Harrison Fordesque swashbuckling discoveries while sitting in old and decaying libraries. The only regret one is left with at the end of any Amitava Ghosh book is that he lays the facts before you without making a statement. It’s on my frail shoulders to make a moral out of the story, whether we be reading about Marichjhapi or Morocco.

14. A History of God by Karen Armstrong I started reading as part of my self education project on world religions. In particular, i wanted to know about the religion that’s always in news – Islam. Religion has always been a tool of politics, history has proved several times over. And the opiate of the masses cannot be done away with either. So here we are, still warring over who’s imaginary friend is the best.

15. Seeing Like a Feminist, Nivedita Menon, a book that every woman should read. I can’t believe that I’ve lived so many years of my life not knowing my own home. Exactly why the personal is political was answered to me in the language i understand- the language of logic and justice.

16. Buffalo Nationalism by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. It’s not very healthy to discuss the creature, certainly not it’s fair cousin. This book is not an easy read for those who haven’t read Mr Shepherd before. It is a compilation of essays and definitely worth a read.

17. Daughters of the Sun, Ira Mukhoty, a feminist read of Mughal history. The more we ‘otherize’ via whatsapp, there will always be the ones who will humanise.

18. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, the psychopathology of trauma, the most challenging and intriguing field in modern Psychiatry. I have so much to say about this book that I’ve lingered on over so many sentences and researches, it will end up being another 500 word post to review this one.

19. The easiest read of the year was Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt. It was roll on floor laughing funny and poignant. Strongly recommended read for doctors everywhere.So finally I come to the books i couldn’t finish.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends….
Both books were making my grey cells commit mass suicide. But even the books i couldn’t read, told me so much about myself. I am no investor, perhaps I’m not even intelligent. I am certainly not out to make friends. These books were profound statements in what i would never want to be or do.

Hair Today

For the past several months, i have been planning a visit to the haircut people. I keep postponing because they are so preachy, so mean to me. First they start by complimenting my hair “You have such nice volume”.
The first time i heard this i thought they are talking about my expanding girth and i was pleased that they find it attractive.
Things go downhill from there. They discover that without me knowing it, i have been suffering from a dreaded disease called dandruff. Of course, it’s their duty to inform me, they try to be gentle breaking this news to me. “OMG you have DANDRUFF!”

I am so naive, i don’t even understand the implications of this serious news. I am transported back to my Dermatology posting during internship when we were told in the clinics that dandruff is dead skin. Apparently, we shed dead skin all the time, quite like snakes. Nothing to worry our heads about unless it’s infected with fungus, in which case you absolutely will KNOW about it.

For hair professionals, it seems dandruff is a far greater villain. They look at me with pity and promise that they won’t abandon me in my most difficult hour. I forget to be grateful, and ask if we can get on with the cutting hair part. They forgive me for a while, thinking I’m in denial.
But to their horror, they find out that i intend fully to remain in denial. They show me proof, i am losing hair by the kilos it seems. Again, I have to admit I’m adorable like cats, I shed. But history has proven time and again, that it grows right back.

Finally they give up helping me heal my hair but it has already taken a toll on our relationship. We go snipping away in a loud uncomfortable silence. I pay them and thank them but they look at me as if it’s been an ordeal dealing with me.
That’s why I’m so wary of inflicting myself on the haircare people now.

Draped this Ikat silk that i bring out every winter, super light weight and a little too cheery for my melancholic tastes

Thin is a state of mind.

In yesterday’s pic I was looking thin, many friends have commented thus. I believe an explanation is warranted. Yes, I have cut carbs like by only about 80 percent of what I was having before. So I think I lost around 2 kg weight over the last month.
No one noticed in the pic I put up on Monday. I couldn’t have lost significantly in the four days that followed, because it’s only on Friday that you all noticed.

Let me share the secret.
1. You have to wear a very loose blouse, one that keeps falling off your shoulders as well as doesn’t at all fit your arm circumference. It should look like you wore your heavier cousin’s hand me downs.

2. Set the timer selfie and suck in your tummy.

3. Lean forward slightly so your head looms large over the entire picture and body becomes disproportionately small. Think Megamind.

4. Buy your phone after carefully researching which company is giving you the best photo filters. They make you glow like you just conceived a very naughty idea.

Despite every body positivity song I sing, do not believe for a second that I am comfortable in my body. I would have exchanged it with a fitter body in a jiffy if my kiddos allowed it. They like my jiggly belly, my kissable cheeks and my well padded shoulders and arms. So long as they like it, I’m keeping it.

Your comments in the morning made me think I should be able to carry off a synthetic saree today. I mean you never know if I gain the 2 kg back by tomorrow, better not take a chance and drape the sexy thing right away. Also do notice how my leafy garden has proliferated by chain migration, from one pot to another, and now there’s a whole wall of it.
This bandhej in psychedelic colours is very appropriate for my Friday .