Monday, November 28, 2016

IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS AN EXCERPT FROM – ‘DARKNESS AND BEYOND – A MEDLEY OF MANY LIVES


IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS
AN EXCERPT FROM – ‘DARKNESS AND BEYOND – A MEDLEY OF MANY LIVES

This is an excerpt from my book ‘Darkness and Beyond – A Medley of Many Lives’ which was released in July 2016. I know that a few/many of you who have read the book may relish (hope so) reading it again, but it is to the vast majority of friends who have not read the book who I wish will read this and may be find an echo of their own feelings

“What is it that you seek?”

“I come seeking happiness” I replied.

“Why do you seek happiness?”

“I believe that it will bring an end to my suffering” I again replied.

“And what is that suffering you talk about?” he asked with a smile on his lips.

“This very existence, it is painful.”

“So what do you mean by ‘painful’?” he continued.

“Well, it’s an unpleasant feeling. It makes living miserable.”

“What is this feeling you talk about? Where do you think it rises from?” he once again asked.

For a moment, I lapsed into silence and then said, “I am filled with anxiety when I think that one day I shall die without ever having achieved all that I have wanted to in life. I shall die without having known what true happiness is. It makes me miserable and I suffer.”

“You really think that if you find happiness it will bring an end to your suffering?”

“Isn’t that so?” I asked.

“No, happiness does not bring an end to suffering. It is the end of suffering that brings happiness. So you see there is no way that you can escape suffering. It is a process that has to be undergone before you reach happiness.”

“And how does suffering end?”

“When you learn to live with it?”

“How‘s that possible?” I asked.

“Well when I said you should learn to live with it, I meant that it would be necessary for you to understand the cause and accept the effect as a natural result of your own actions. Once acceptance is there then it ceases to bother you and the unpleasantness or the suffering as you would like to call it, vanishes. This perhaps is the state of happiness you are referring to.”

“Do you mean to say that I should accept the suffering and do nothing about it?” I asked.

“I never said that. The process of understanding and acceptance is in itself the way to overcome suffering. 
Life is interspersed with periods of suffering and periods of happiness. Both are temporal in nature and vanish the day you die. After all, both are sensations of our physical existence.”

“So you mean to say that there is nothing like a state of permanent happiness?”


“What I told you is true of our physical existence. This is a reality one has to accept before realizing what lies beyond. It is in this process of trying to understand and accept that we ultimately transcend the boundaries imposed on us and maybe get a glimpse of that permanent happiness that you talk about, though I would term it as bliss or eternal peace. You said you have come here seeking happiness. I cannot nor can anyone else give you what you want for you are searching in the wrong place. What you seek is within you and that’s where you will find the answers. Running away from reality does not take you any closer to what you are seeking. I can only say that your suffering will teach you more about who you are then your happiness.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

MENTAL ILLNESS AND CAREGIVING by Amrit Bakshy



MENTAL ILLNESS AND CAREGIVING  by  Amrit Bakshy

Some time ago I posted a review of Dr. Atul Gawande’s book ‘BEING MORTAL’. This book deals with the author’s confrontation with terminally ill patients, the aging and dying. The book traces the slow development of palliative care from Nursing Homes to Hospices to Assisted living. It lays bare the reality of aging and increasing dependence. I found it disturbing. In Gawande’s own words, “Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone. We have been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.”

I found these words of Dr. Gawande echoing in my mind when I sat down to review Amrit Bakshy’s book ‘Mental Illness and Caregiving’. May be I used the wrong word when I said ‘review’ for I am in no way qualified to do this. This is a book which within its pages (200 and odd) places before you all that you wanted to understand about mental illness and how one goes about handling with it. Written by a person who had undergone the trauma of dealing with a daughter who was affected with Schizophrenia and who along with his wife learned to cope with the situation and ensured that his daughter could lead a meaningful life in the long run, this book is an authentic guide to all caregivers and the affected. Mr. Bakshy who had taken early retirement from his job so that he and his wife could take care of their daughter is now the President of the SAA (Schizophrenia Awareness Association) in Pune. He is also the Chairperson of the Hospital Management Committee of NIMHAANS.

The book was sent to me by a friend and I am thankful to him. While going through the book one realizes how little the awareness of mental health is among the general population. The stigma attached and the utter hopelessness we find ourselves in tackling such a condition in a family member (or in ourselves) has perhaps contributed to the large unattended cases of mental illness amongst us. Bakshy says that first of all the family has to accept that a family member is having mental illness and needs treatment urgently. Once the family accepts, it becomes relatively easy to convince the family member to go and get professional help.

The book is divided into four parts –
1)                              Orientation – covering the basic information to the caregiver regarding the various types of mental disorders like Neurosis and Psychosis (though the author says that this broad classification is no longer valid), the impact and role of the families, the caregiver, barriers to treatment, medication and side effects.
2)                              Theories, Therapy and Treatment – providing guidance on the various issues that arise during the process of caregiving
3)                              Empowerment – compendium of important legal issues involving the rights of patients, mental health etc
4)                              Annexures – provides important references.

Why has it been so hard for us to accept the reality of mental illness? If we introspect we shall see that all of us are in some way or the other mentally sick in varying degrees. While it is easy for us to accept that a part of our physical body has been diseased (even a common cold or flu) and rush to a doctor for treatment, how many of us will accept that he or she suffers from OCD or some form of neurosis which is a mild form of mental disorder. Bakshy defines Neurosis and Psychosis in the book –

‘Persons with neurosis remain in contact with reality (no delusions, or hallucinations) and understand that they have a condition affecting their daily chores, but feel helpless. They have inexplicable anxiety at the subconscious level – anxiety, depression, phobias, eating disorders etc.’

‘Psychosis is manifested by a loss of contact with reality. Persons with psychotic disorders do not accept they have a problem. They live in a world of delusions and hallucinations. They lose touch with reality like Schizophrenia, Manic Depressive Disorders etc.’

Years ago when I was in Baroda, we had arranged as part of the social service activities of the Bank branch which I was heading, a visit to a hospital for the mentally ill and serve the inmates lunch. We have come a long way from calling such places as a lunatic asylum, such a derogatory way of describing it, but we did and that was the reality then. If you ask me now what we accomplished, I will truthfully answer that it was part of meeting targets under the Bank’s programs. But I remember that visit even now for it was the first time that I came to closely observe the life inside. It was unnerving and at the same time depressing. It has taken a long time for that experience to take root within me and now when I read this book of Bakshy, I realize that to really make a difference and be a catalyst for transformation it requires tremendous amount of sacrifice and courage and that’s what sets people like him apart. If you ask me now whether I have read the book, I shall say no for the value of the book lies in our understanding and acceptance of the fact that there is such a thing as mental illness and us playing a proactive role in mitigating the trauma such people undergo.

It would be necessary for me to quote Mr. Bakshy’s own narration of the transformation that happened in his life –

“Looking back I remember my becoming a proud father of a bundle of joy in 1972. Eighteen years later, in 1991, destiny made me her caregiver. In 2007 I became a volunteer for helping those with mental illness and their families and in 2010 I joined the mental health movement as a full time activist. The journey continues. I have made arrangements for Richa after my wife and I are no more. I get great satisfaction to be ‘Agony Uncle’ of the community of caregivers.

I feel I have an unending responsibility towards my daughter and the mental health community, so this journey will continue as long as I am functional.”

I wish and hope that Mr. Amrit Bakshy will be able to reach a wider audience through his book in his efforts to create an awareness of ‘Challenges, Concerns and Complications’ in dealing with mental illness and its mitigation.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A LETTER TO A DAUGHTER An Excerpt from ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’




A LETTER TO A DAUGHTER
An Excerpt from ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’

Now that you must have read An Extraordinary Man (Amitabh Bachchan)’s letter to his granddaughter, I request you to spend some time to read the letter written by an Ordinary Man to his daughters much earlier.

I am posting this excerpt from my book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ which was released in October 2014. I know a number of you who have read the book may relish (hope so) reading it again, but it is to the vast majority of friends who have not read the book who I wish will read this and may be find an echo of their own feelings. 

‘Who would want to read the auto biography of an ordinary man? I know you will and may be other ordinary men. No one is going to write our biography; we are not that interesting.’

My grandson is a beautiful child and I am sure one day he shall grow up being a handsome and confident young man. But above all I wish to see him as a loving and good human being. I am hopeful that I shall be there to see this happen. I know you are capable of giving him all the love that he needs, but you have to ensure in the process that he is given his space and is allowed to develop independently. For this, it is absolutely necessary for you to take stock of your emotions and keep them under control. At every step you should make him understand what is expected of him for it is never too early to start. It’s most important he should understand the value of relationships. I look forward to the day (maybe when I am eighty years old) when I come over to your place on a visit he gives me a big hug and says “Hello grandpa, how are you?” that would be enough.

When I look back over the years, I think your mother and I have as parents given you and your sister all the love and space you needed to grow up as individuals who can take their own decisions and chart the course of their own lives. I am happy that you both have grown up as good human beings and I have no doubt about that. Of course we each have our own fallibilities but in the ultimate analysis if we can live a life devoid of all those base instincts of jealousy and a desire to hurt other people through our actions and words, it is a worthwhile life. I always wish that you become stronger, realize your own worth and are able to face any adversity with equanimity and firmness. Believe in yourself and never be shy of standing up for what is right. These are qualities which you will be passing on to your child.

Your mother and I are as individuals very different in our views and approach to life but we have been together for thirty five years and the passage of time has in no way diminished the love we have between us. That is because we have given each other the space required by us as individuals in our own right and a tolerance towards each other’s views and above all a trust that has grown stronger over the years. Not that we have not had our fights or have not been irritated at each other sometimes, we still have them but they have been of no consequence given the strength of the relationship. We may belong to a different generation than yours and have not been subjected to the pressures of the present day living and demands, but I guess the basic definitions for happiness, understanding and relationships will hold to whichever generation you may belong to.

I have always found that the best way to handle people who irritate you is to ignore them and move away. Conflict does not get us anywhere except increase the existing tension. By this, I do not propagate the view that one should always keep quiet for there will be situations where you feel that what is happening is unjust. In that case you have to speak out and make the other person see reason, or at least understand your point of view. If this also fails, then you will be left with no option but to fight it out. But, are we prepared for this? Do we have the necessary mental setup to withstand the consequences of such an action? These are questions that you will have to answer for yourself. I can only say that injustice should never be tolerated.

 I never like to be preached upon and I try to avoid preaching to others. But I say all this out of parental concern. Your mother may have different views but we have only one thing in our minds and that is you should be happy and comfortable in your life. We never expect demonstrations of affection for we know you love us and that is enough.

Our life is one endless stream of choices. At every step we are forced to choose. We choose to accept or we choose to rebel. Ultimately the life you are living is the life you have chosen. There is no point blaming someone or for that matter God, that things have not gone the way you expected them to be. You make compromises all the way to ensure that you are not inconvenienced in the conduct of your life. In the process you may lose all that you had held as valuable. It is when we want to retain our values that we choose to rebel. Rebellion brings with it its own share of misery and suffering but it ensures that your life becomes more authentic and helps you realize your own worth.

As a father I can always advise you. Like I said I am concerned and that is the only reason. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated and do not manipulate others. Be a good person but be firm in your relationships and let people know that you are an individual in your own right and that you expect respect in return for respect. I never want to hear a weak voice when I talk to you and would always like to see you with an erect stature and look people in their eyes when you interact with them. These are the signs of an individual who knows oneself.

I have written this letter to you and would like you to keep it and show it to your children when they grow up so that they are able to understand and appreciate the concern that parents have towards their children. I am sure that with all the love that you are capable of giving them they will grow up to be fine human beings

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

TIME HAS PASSED



Time Has Passed

Time has passed,
We have moved in space,
But, certain mornings like this,
I sit in bed and gaze,
Through the window.
The cooling green
Of the tender day,
Sways,
My heart leaps, bounces,
Back to the past,
To the little rock,
On which we stayed
To hear the gentle tones,
Trickle,
And caress our feet.

Time has passed,
We have moved in space,
But, in the stillness
Of certain moments,
When the heart seeks
The softness it once perceived,
On the river’s bank,
Through the strands of hair,
That softly slid,
And veiled,
Her smooth surface.

Time has passed,

We have moved in space, but….