India Rising: But to what end?

September 2, 2015 at 8:41 am (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Ever since the BJP Government came into power, with its development agenda, we hear news of growth and development everyday. From the news that our GDP is more than China’s (but what that may mean is still debated, as stated in this article), or whether it’s about newer investments in India, our Prime Minister’s efforts at bettering foreign relations, to newer roads, flyovers and more money put into development infrastructure, it’s all to the slogan of ‘India Rising’.

But can you eat money?

Last I checked, you could not.

We always forget the human development indicators in all this. What’s the point of high rises and big roads if your people are unhappy and unwell? We are losing more and more merit to nations like the US because our policies of education and employment are forcing Indians to leave for greener pastures.

Our basics of poverty alleviation, education, health and mental health – have a long way to go. According to a WHO report, we are one of the most depressed countries, with suicide as second leading cause of death. That way, the only thing that seems to be rising, is unhappiness. Farmer suicides are a constant problem. It looks like materialism and vote bank politics are not a permanent solution.

Does this mean we give up infrastructure development? Of course not. But that will only improve our structures. What about the functionality of these structures? What about the users of these structures?

The expenditure on mental health is 0.6% of the health budget, not even of the GDP. Clearly, our allocation to human development and quality of life indicators need to improve, which of course includes gender ratio as well.

Sports (apart from cricket) are suffering, with football clubs like Pune FC and Bharat FC are shutting down. Our LGBTQ population have little or no legal protection from harassment. Moral policing is on an all time high with police raiding hotel rooms used by two consenting adults. We are becoming more and more intolerant about diversity, which used to be our strong point, and more and more leaning towards safeguarding ‘our kind’ and our thinking with imposed bans and bandhs for reservation, or against helpful laws.

We need a people-friendly government. A policy and police system we can approach and don’t have to be scared of.

It’s good to have good structures to live in, and travel by. But it’s even better if these structures are complemented by basic needs, of which, it’s high time that education, sanitation, livelihood, health and mental health were made an important part. It’s imperative to have human conditions of happiness and satisfaction. Concrete can only do so much.

Are we rising where we need to?

Are we rising where we need to?

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In Sickness and Health

August 2, 2015 at 6:05 pm (Opinions, Random) (, , , , , , , )

I’m down with a bit of flu, some bit of fever triggered by throat infection. I have noticed that I am snapping a lot and not being my usual collected self with family, may be even friends.

I am irritable because of fever and body pain and a few complaints. This – after getting access to medication the day i fell ill. Also, the day after was the weekend so I did not have to go to work. And i do not have to for a while now. This, after I am getting all the rest I need, am at the liberty to eat and sleep as I see fit, and am gradually getting better.

Compare my situation to someone who has had an illness – chronic or acute, mental or physical, without privilege.

If a flu can make me snarky, what can constant pain do?

Yet, we want all patients to be nice, sweet, obedient, playing the victim. If they are angry, hostile, rude or in anyway not how we expect them to be – rosy – we do not treat them well, consciously or unconsciously.

If a flu can trigger hostility and bring down inhibition, stronger stuff definitely can?

Why do we want cute little victims?

couples480-blog480

Has being a savior become more important than being a humane health professional?

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The Overrun Tenure of Hierarchy

July 7, 2015 at 7:07 am (Opinions, social commentary) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you are in a collectivistic culture, like Asia (India) lines of command are a way of life, even if you are not part of the military and armed services. In India, hierarchy is multifold – caste hierarchy, class hierarchy, age hierarchy, gender hierarchy, seniority hierarchy and even piousness hierarchy.

I am sure that there was a time when hierarchies were important to establish order and get work done. However, these hierarchies are oppressive now, from the school to the workplace, from the police station to the hospital, and from the family to the religious institution.

For example, under the District and National Mental Health Programs in India, the psychiatrist is to lead the team, and is also paid better. Why? There could be stringent qualifications for all the professionals and all of them could be paid well. Surely, knowing what medication to give is not enough and mental health requires holistic treatment. But it is driven with the assumption that the psychiatrist is some holy figure – male (no surprises) and with sound knowledge of medicine which no one understands anyway. But medicine has an 80 % relapse rate. Is it wise to trust just that? And it is proven now that much of mental illness is psycho-social and popping pills won’t help.

Another example, take any school or traditional corporate office. The feedback system is so flawed that anyone at the lowest wrung of the chain will always be crushed – in these cases, students and fresh employees. Much of the motivation to climb the career ladder comes from wanting to move to the position of the crusher from the crushed : the only way to make your situation better is to stamp the others and make theirs worse. Ditto for bullying.

Are we then surprised that we are growing herd of people and children who are spewing toxic hatred wherever they go, who themselves feel alone, and the whole point of human connection is lost. We have become mindless chewers of technology and materialism.

the cruel climb

Work is important. Order is important.

But what is more important is to realize that humans have evolved, and our systems from before may simply be redundant. We don’t need to stand over our employees with a stick in our hands to get work done. People have work motivation and achievement needs of their own. Appreciation and reinforcement are concepts that actually work.

Sounds too fuzzy?

Check out this organization that is taking these brilliant concepts to heart, and also making money!

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/396527/case-32-hour-workweek/

This really is a dream organization: adequate offs, good pay, no hierarchy, and mutual respect. And works get done all the time – and people enjoy doing it!

As Ryan Carson says, ‘We should be thankful that we live in a time where we don’t need to work so much’. And we should be using that to achieve a balanced and holistic life.

Meanwhile, in India we continue to slog in 6 and 7 day weeks.

The tenure of hierarchy has really overrun – from the pot to the parliament.

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Shame and honour

June 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm (Poetry) (, , , , , , , , , )

To have depression,

What a shame!

To kill in the name of caste,

What an honour!

To be poor,

What a shame!

To be in debt paying dowry,

What an honour!

To spend on her education,

What a shame!

A wedding worth lakhs,

What an honour!

To help your wife out,

What a shame!

To ‘discipline’ her,

What an honour!

Middle Eastern woman wearing face covering

To marry in a different religion,

What a shame!

To plunder another religion,

What an honour!

To be childless,

What a shame,

Child marriage,

What an honour!

To donate organs,

disected!

What a shame!

To go up whole,

useless,

What an honour!

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Disenfranchised Grief

June 14, 2015 at 1:49 pm (Opinions, plea) (, , , , , )

I am not myself for the last few days. One of my cats has gone missing the day after I celebrated the 2-year anniversary of having bought them in. Did he slip out when my brother went to receive a guest at night? Why couldn’t my brother be more careful? Did anyone pick him up and sell him somewhere? Or is he hiding nearby and unable to come back? What if other animals attacked him? What does he eat? He only loved one kind of catfood.

Each day I would try something new after work: look all over in the building, post flyers, try and go around the area with a catnip toy, ask people. And then I get a lead that he may be in the school opposite my house: my dad sees a cat and we are allowed to search for about ten minutes before we are ousted. I have gone to the school twice after that and not allowed to enter. I understand security, but really, could you be that heartless? I am going to try and look in that school again today.

But what if he is not there? What if someone else adopted him because he was wandering? Can I manage to cover all the apartments in the area in case he is in a house? I have ordered a catnip spray to go around spraying in order to lure him, but that will take 5 days to come as it is not manufactured in India.

I have a national entrance test to give and so I need to study, but I am just not able to focus. I sleep with difficulty because I feel I failed yet another day in getting him back. And then I wake up in the morning feeling a stab of pain: he’s still not back. My other cat is lonely. I am distraught.

When will he come back?

scrnshot

When will he come back?

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Happiness is deep fried

May 10, 2015 at 6:24 pm (Opinions, Random) (, , , , , , , )

How often do you have deep friend snacks or food? Most people don’t have it very often. There could be various reasons which mainly come down to either health or expense.

The best way to have deep fried food, is sparingly, and preferably making it at home. Now, if you take shortcuts and have it from outside or have something crappy to satisfy the craving, then although you are done for the short term, you have eaten something that is difficult to handle and breakdown and will most likely give you aches and fat – or both.

Similarly, for happiness to be hand, you need to do certain things. If you cut corners, you maybe fine for now but there’s nothing to be had at the end and a sort of bloated feeling persists all along.

If you are eating right otherwise and indulging every now and then- that is the perfect formula.

If you are working hard most times and taking well-earned measured breaks from it, that’s nice. If , however, you start too late and try to take shortcuts just to fill in for the while, you are as far from happiness as it gets.

The reason I used this analogy is, as tempting as shortcuts are, you are the person who will be most annoyed for taking them, at a later point in your life.

Therefore, whenever you feel like cutting corners, think of a home made golden sizzled pakoda, that does not increase your weight because you had it right!

Seafood-Platter1

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Statistics, Stories and Storytelling

May 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , , )

So, at the end of my two year course of clinical psychology at TISS, I had to intern somewhere. In the absence of the full-time maid, Jyothi, I sourced a work-from-home internship with the Bapu Trust, Pune. I would analyze their community mental health data from home and submit reports.

I had to use SPSS and excel and basically a whole lot of descriptive statistics. Now, I have a sort of love-hate relationship with math and statistics. Such that, I do know these branches of science and measurement are vitally important to know how well we are doing a particular venture or project, but at the same time, feeling I might not be great at it. Now, I was marginally better at statistics than other math, but it was still rather elusive.

However, my internship turned out to be fun, because the actual calculating was done by the software. I had to call the shots. THAT is an empowering feeling. I had to say what units of measurement what would be used, what would be compared against what – and then I had to make a simple yet impressive report of it.

Because of being at TISS for two years, I have learned and engrained something – it is good to do good work, but it is as important to evaluate it. In our curious little world, we have more money for wax statues than real people. In the shortage of funds reeled towards social betterment, we in the field have to be thorough about producing results. And even if money were not a constraint, knowing how well you’re doing with an initiative is just good and honest practice – and you’d rather have that as a quality if you want to work for social upliftment.

Slowly, I started to not get befuddled by the humongous amounts of data, but actually find parallels between my internship work and reading a story. It was as if, a type of analysis I choose, is a plot twist I am choosing and it will eventually lead to an ending. Then I play with the numbers the other way around, and an even clearer picture emerges.

Working with raw data and making sense of it is also like story-telling. A whole lot of times, we are fascinated by one aspect of the story we want to tell – maybe the beginning, maybe the ending, maybe the protagonist. But we fill in the other details along the way and try to make the whole story appealing. Similarly, I know where my data comes from and what is expected of the results. Then I fill in with different analysis and voila – I see that in a particular community women with depression benefit better from group interventions than adolescent boys.

I have always pondered and advocated that psychology and therapy be bought down from its elite status to a tool of mental health available to everyone. Bapu Trust and the work they do is a dream come true in that sense. I see hope in wanting to freeing psychology from its elite status, because they are doing it day in and day out. And they are creating a mentally healthy community by doing so. You could claim I am saying that because I am just impressed, but I have statistical proof for it.

APA_Latino_MH_Guidebook images

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Why ‘men will be men’ is most damaging to men.

April 7, 2015 at 6:38 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , )

So, if you google ‘men will be men’, you will find a million memes, videos and images that reduce men to sex boxes. Thanks to Imperial Blue’s ad campaign, this is reinforced all the more.

In the typical ad by this company, men are pretending to be fitter because they can only thinking of deceiving a person into sex when they see a woman, or they will ‘protectively’ keep a hand on the shoulder of their wives/ girlfriends to show another male that his is better, or at least he has one.

Apparently, men have the egos of five year olds and the mating rules of the animal kingdom.

I disagree.

I have had the most moving emotional conversations with some male friends of mine. Others have given me great intellectual insights. Still others, have engaged in philosophical debates with me, enriching me all the more with it.

My guy friends are good friends who are there for me, they are good at what they do, they are good at their hobbies, and they are great people.

I refuse to think that their brains do not function beyond sex, gaming and sports.

Most human beings think about sex. It’s normal. No need to make it a man’s domain. And women also like gaming and sports. And there are men who do not like gaming and sports. And even if they do, they do not suck at balancing their emotional lives along with their interests.

Although it is very convenient to want to say ‘men will be men’ for certain stereotypical male behaviour, it is damaging in the long term because it portrays men as some sort of one dimensional, unfeeling, sex boxes. They are so much more. This kind of understanding about how men are and supposed to be, is what reduces the chances of sexual abuse and rape against boys and men being reported, this increases the likelihood of domestic violence on men, as well as makes it possible to misuse women protection laws because men are always seen as perpetrators and strong – they can never be victims. If a person is craving sex all the time, of course they can’t be raped – this thinking is encouraged.

This kind of thinking makes bullying and ragging look like rites of passage and young boys growing up not reporting horrendous acts of violence because you are supposed to ‘take it like a man’.

It makes it very difficult for men to have fulfilling romantic relationships.

Lastly, it reduces women to one-dimensional beings who do not like their male partners to be involved in sports and hobbies and play hard to get. Redundant crap.

After so many years on this planet, we as people certainly have more depth than being the one dimensional man and woman. Even cave-people did.

It’s easy to use ‘men will be men’ to justify something you or your friend did, but it is not very different from when women are offered privileges due to patriarchy (date bills paid by the male partner), and by succumbing to them, women add to the status quo of inequality.

Next time you or someone you know wants to use the above justification, stop yourselves and give yourselves permission to be a complete human, not a one-dimensional sex box.

No, thanks IB.

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A Summer Art Challenge!

April 1, 2015 at 8:21 pm (Uncategorized)

This is the link to my weebly blog, where I will post artworks based on people’s sugestions. I am trying to be enterprising, and though I might sell some, there is free art to earn!

http://summerartproject.weebly.com/

art-palette

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TISSues

February 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been almost two years since I joined TISS as a Masters’ student. The course is about to end. I am not sure if I have really seen the TISS life – since I do not live on campus or even close by. So I have missed out on the hostel/pg stories and the *cough* vibrant night life. But I have been around for my fair share of TISS exposure and I do think I understand its spirit.

When I initially joined, I had put the institute up on a pedestal – because of what I had heard before. However, I have discovered that the place has its own flaws and paradoxes – one of the most glaring ones is how haphazardly masters level research is done by more students than not in a place that prides itself on research and field presence.

Another one was the kind of people I met. I think that just because I met them in TISS, I was expecting a socially conscious and humanitarian person in everyone. That doesn’t happen. Human tendencies are everywhere – in teachers and students. The base emotions of insecurity and jealousy cannot be done away with – even if you are a TISSian.

However, I also know that a lot of what I learnt would not even be accessible to me in a place like Mumbai University. This is not limited to the course content and how it was taught – but the way the two years in this institute have broadened my thinking – to the point that I can no longer have uninformed, one-sided viewpoints or opinions. This was compounded by a training in psychological therapy – which requires further stripping down of your issues and meaning in life – to the point where you are that you know yourself well enough to be secure to enter someone else’s personal psychological world.

I have met a variety of people. I am not going to keep in touch with all of them – but some I am going to treasure. People from diverse walks of life and who amaze you by the amount of good work they have done – as also how humble they are.

However, when I was still a novice, I put these people in some holy light, and would feel really bad if they stopped whatever was required of them professionally to draw out, compartmentalize and have time for themselves. I realize now that it is required – in a field as loaded as ours. You might encounter such grave issues in work that you have to force yourself to stop bothering beyond a point – even if it means drawing up artificial borders. The only difference is, some people still do it better than others and then it hurts less.

I always had a vague dream of ‘giving’ back to the society. Being at TISS has taught me where and how I can concretely do so. It has shown me the gaps where a mental health professional can be useful – community work, policy making, and so on. Even if you follow your ambition and want a comfortable life – it can still be a righteous one.

You learn that giving a fuck about things isn’t something special.It is also nothing which requires a lot of time and effort. But, if everyone did their bit, people who are into slimy stuff would never get away with it as easily as they do. Who can escape a million questions?

I think at the core of it, TISS is a hopeful place. They go all like ‘oh this is a gap in the community? we will create a course to generate professionals and research to understand this better’. And there you are. They are trying to do things their way, and it has its limitations too.

I have probably not lived the proper TISS life, but I think what I’m taking away is the philosophy of it. Being a TISSian is not about the time you spend there, its a way of life.

tiss pics -3

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