The Therepuetic World of Harry Potter I entered at age 13.

It’s 20 years since the first book and nostalgia is all over the internet. The geeky kids of then are reminiscent adults of today. Till about 12 or 13, I was hardly a reader, forget an avid one. I tried cultivating the habit because they said at school that it was a “smart people thing”. Because of being an introvert and some other personality traits and often terms like “slow” and “God forgot to give you brains” used by loved ones, I thought of myself as lacking in intellect. And I tried really hard to prove that otherwise.

_7_felix_felicis_by_picolo_kun-d9cowbp

My elder brother was the reader of the house and he introduced me to the Harry Potter books. He bought them second hand and got them bound and the colours were really dull – a dirty blue with dull red borders. I was quite honestly put off. The first day I opened the book, I was stuck at the “Boy who lived” – the first page for three hours. At some point, I dozed off and then decided – books, or at least this one, wasn’t for me.

Days passed. I was cleaning the house and I came across the book again. And this time, it was a deep dive. I went from the Dursleys, to Hogwarts, to two-faced Quirrell in a matter of days. And that was really fast by my standards. And then I was done with all six books in the next few months (despite exams). I was then eagerly awaiting the seventh one like the rest of the fans.

The book was therapeutic because it helped me believe that you don’t need to grow up in privilege to turn out good. That you could be bright and be a girl. That you could be awesome at sports and not be a douche. That friendship matters and stands the test of time. That “bad people” aren’t always bad but just misguide their energies because of some bad treatment they received before. That love makes us do great things. That old people don’t have to be boring or uncool. Just at the age when I would have formed perceptions and stereotypes, the books helped me challenge them.

18votykbprsptjpg

But more than just this, Harry Potter introduced me to the world of reading. At a time when patriarchy overpowered me and limited my access outside home, books were a good world to lose myself into.  It was safe and it was dreamy. Books were my gateway to many important, impressive people, specifically, women and feminism and social justice and a bunch of important ideologies that define me today.

I think sometimes, where would I be without the second chance that I gave to the Dursleys.

Why Books Should Never Go Out of Fashion

So this post is slightly biased, coming from a reader. I don’t like the term ‘voracious’ because it indicated I already may be reading as much as I can and it leaves me without any future goals. So yes, this post is slightly biased because there are some minor things lik vision problems with too much reading (only if you don’t observe book-distance hygeine for the most part) and the whole ebook discussion and how reading off a screen may not be healthy.

There’s of course this whole question of trashy books, but I’ve made my peace with it. They may be a good starting point for non-readers and there need to be many ordinary books for the extraordinary ones to really shine out. In this post I am going to outline some benefits of reading that I have read (!) about in various sites like research journals, newspapers, novels, interviews etc. All in all I make a compelling case, except that citation is missing because I feel a little lazy for all that.

Educational benefits: Well, this is a no-brainer. Although multimedia and other forms of teaching are coming up, we still rely heavily on the written word to communicate educational information. In fact, it would be really hard to study subjects like Physics or English without the backing of written text. Since words are the symbols of human existence and communication, they may be replaced every now and then by multimedia, emoticons and icons, but they will never go away completely.

Cognitive Benefits: Reading expands the mind. Reading helps foster easy symbol recognition and processing. It also helps retention and memory capacity which can be very useful for academic activities and life after that. Reading encourages linkages across disciplines, and that is where innovation takes birth.

Emotional Benefits: Reading makes you more attuned to personal struggles and better able to understand that there is a range of emotions and one shouldn’t judge others quickly. Readers have the patience to let the story unfold.

Social Benefits: Reading gives you something to talk about, and may even make you a good storyteller. Even it that doesn’t happen, having exposure to reading helps you realize individual differences in people and are more likely to acknowledge and appreciate them and not being put in pigeon holes gives people the freedom to be, when they are with you.

Statistics, Stories and Storytelling

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

A struggle?

“Sab kuch commercial ho gaya hai yaar”, she says and waves her hand nonchalantly.

Her friend, sitting across from the table, nods solemnly, sipping expensive wine in an expensive glass, a trademark of being in an expensive hotel. The conversation was about art. Or was it about fabric? Did it matter? They were just whiling away their time, splurging the cash that would last them up until the next ‘job’.

Both of them were high profile escorts. Important men would routinely ask especially for their company. Rita, the one who thought that the world is rapidly becoming commercial, was a favourite of one of the important ministers these days, thus the expensive meals so often. The only problem though, was that he was becoming too attached. He was paying the agency money so that they would not ‘employ’ her anywhere else.

But she could not devote herself entirely to him, despite that. This is why she had called her friend to lunch – to tell her about this development. She had met someone. She had gone to accompany a friend who was a struggling actor to one of the auditions. Often these girls make do in between acting jobs by becoming escorts.

When her turn came, she was to give single auditions and group auditions and many other formalities. She said she would take long. Rita had spotted a guy from one of the ‘parties’ and was uncomfortable. She decided to go to a nearby mall and wait for her friend to get done. Rita crossed all the clothes’ shops with only a quick glance. She needed to dress well for her work, but right now, she needed to indulge her mind.

She went into a book shop. Rita had a fantastical idea that knowledge would save her. She would read anything and everything. From trashy romance novels to those discussing the economy or philosophy or religion, she would read anything she could access. She would become a transparent being in this world of words, symbols of her freedom. She would absorb what others had to say, and form an idea only after she was done reading that book or piece. This helped her to acquire a non-judgemental, and to some, an opinionless taste in books.

But she did have her favourites of course. She did not side with a particular opinion, but rather, some ways of expressing opinion opinion appealed to her more than others. How could we describe it? She did not like it when the writer tried to hoard readers by mindlessly introducing sex or some other desirable trait in the book, neither did she like extremely technical writers who would be very dry regarding what they had to say.

She read them all nonetheless, but she loved those the most who could charm the readers simply, without jargon or glamour, or mindless rubbish. It didn’t matter what these writers were saying, were they anti-religion or pro-religion, whether they were feminists or patriarchs. What was important, was this – they way they spoke their mind. Isn’t that how we function in life, too, Rita would think. There are many things that are not good for us, but we do them because they come across as appealing.

One such writer had just released a book, and there was a huge crowd in the bookshop. Rita just remembered this, and cursed herself for not coming sooner. She ran into the bookshop and asked for a copy of his book. Why was this writer special? He never put up his picture, and most people assumed that the current name was not his real name either. His books were about nothing in particular, and everything. It was a commentary on various aspects – on the social world, the political system, romantic love, the efficiency or inefficiency of Greenwich Mean time.. about everything under the sun. Why people liked him was often a mystery to critics. But it was true that his opinions were informed ones, and he was well-read, and if possible, had worked in multiple fields to know so many things so well. But he told them like you would discuss the weather over chai.

As a result, the readers did not feel overwhelmed and reduced to nincompoops. They felt like they were talking to a friend. A wise friend. And because he often jumped topics, yet linked them well, in so obscure way, they never got bored. When his first book came out, the publishing house that supported this venture was ridiculed by the who’s who of Literati. But later they realized that this small little publisher was growing, thanks to the sales by this writer. They were solidly guarded of his identity however. No matter how much the newsfolks tried to dig, by hook or by crook, they would not let go.

As a result, this writer had become a new-age guru of some kind. The critics slowly started to accept that he was influential. Often, they would fight over the genre he wrote. He used fiction too sometimes, at other times it was narration of his own life, or his observations, or hard facts broken down for understanding. Such was the enigma who’s book Rita wanted to buy. However, she saw that there was only one copy on the shelf. She ran to grab it.

However, she saw that the other end of the book was grabbed by someone else. A moderately hairy arm, it was a man. Youngish – late 20s, glasses and a creased shirt, with cotton pants. He looked like a voracious reader. He was about to say something when Rita interrupted him.

“Can you please let me buy this book? I may not be able to go out for several days after today, and this is the largest bookstore and they are running out of copies. Please? I’ll pay you double the amount of the book so that you can buy two copies for yourself, tomorrow? Let me take this one?”

Many things went through the young man’s mind. For instance, what was the logic behind buying two copies? He shrugged it off. Maybe the girl was just flustered. He said he would let her have the book, if she had coffee with him. Rita was taken aback. Nerds had social skills? Lack of opinions meant that Rita still hadn’t challenged the stereotypes in her head. She agreed. It was a small price for letter her have the book.

They discussed about many things, hit it off, and one thing led to another, and they ended up exchanging numbers, fixing a date to meet again. He said he was a product designer. She nodded vehemently, not sure whether this was the right time to ask what products he designed.

“Is that what you told him?” Rita’s friend asked, almost near the end of her wine, gesturing the waiter for a refill. “You told him you’re a struggling actor?”

“Well, am I not? I sleep with important men, just like struggling actors have to do. I put on a face with every new man. And if outside of my knowledge, if one of those creeps makes a video of us fucking, it’d complete the story, would it not? I hardly lied,” Rita said, smiling wryly.

Note – I would like feedback if I should continue this story, with a part 2 or end it here? I have several endings in mind that I could use in part 2, if I were to write it.

Crockery Conversations – Part 2! (a co-authored post)

And The Manor lived by another day. Its members and inhabitants doing what they were supposed to do. Live on, do their daily work, blissfully unaware of the existence of talking crockery. And just like these members, lived the Crockery of that Manor, the sun went down, lights went out and the Crockery came to life, like always. Slowly, gradually, trying to shake off the stagnant daily life off them, and shedding the darkness. Beginning to talk and move. This day had been quite eventful. Hell, not just eventful but full of hectic work and excitement. It was Neelofar’s birthday. Neelofar, the middle child of one of the brothers of the Manor, was celebrating her18th birthday. Every event, like a birthday or a marriage, at the Manor was a huge, ‘talk of the town’ sort of event. The magnificent Manor would be lit up like the Sun, covered by unbelievable and brilliant decoration, making it truly look like a wonder. Richie rich guests, friends and family, all occupied the Manor for Neelofar’s birthday, to get together and meet up, greeting each
other, the party being a reason for another social comparison, who was prettier, who was richer, and by how much?.

While the legally living greeted outside, the pseudo non-living prepared them to serve their guests with exquisite food and beverages. Dishes of many varieties and kinds were served on them, to cater to people of every type .For a manor this big, serving a family this royal, the amount of Crockery in the kitchen had to be humungous and unbelievable too. Years of serving the royal blood and friends, they had tasted almost every dish, every drink and every stain. They would show off, about how many dishes they have served and which the best was. Surprisingly,
these were the things who had tasted more than any man could have (or woman. We no sexist, bro.)

Shaking off the memory of the day, Mrs Potts, the all mother, the oldest, announced it was safe for everyone to come out. With her permission and assurance, all the unboxed, unchained Crockery came out. Cluttering on their way through the counters, hopping, rearranging themselves, and finally walking down from cabinets, and the strong ones jumping off heights, they all gathered around Mrs. Pott.

Mrs. Potts, with her favourite pots and cups, started chatting about how the day had gone. What went wrong and what was new and what all happened. Comparing everything to how they did it before. Condemning some new things and praising some. While the pots and cups kept on with their chat, two imported, English plates, brought specially from
England, argued with other Indian plates about a recent game of cricket between India and England. David, one of the English plates said, “We invented the game, we play it the best. Everyone else came and cheated from us and learned it. We own cricket!” To which, a furious Indian plate, Rex, replied, “Yeah, and who stole hockey? Don’t you people play it, too? Everybody in the world does. That’s our game. Give that back to us and you can have the
right to lecture me about owning cricket.” Disgusted at being levelled by a comment equally valid, David had to give in and cluttered back into his stand, stomping angrily, giving Rex the meanest of looks. Rex continued to talk to the other English plate, Harrison. Harrison was rather a calmer, more reasonable plate. Now, that’s the kind of personality a plate should have, Rex thought approvingly. He would talk is way out of people but never fight. Taking David’s place, Harrison started talking to Rex and everyone, the other Indian plates knew, Rex was going to succumb to Harrison’s way with words. Thus they popped open their ears and patiently waited for it to happen. Knowing that this night, was going to be all about it cricket and Harrison.

Only, they noticed that one of Neelofar’s friends had forgotten her cup at the Manor, and it simply wouldn’t talk! This was pointed out by the very observant kettle, Jaya. Then it struck her that, *maybe* only the crockery which has been in this Manor can talk! And that spun all kinds of questions – Was the manor bewitched? Were the owner’s wizards? This would explain the incident of last time, when they thought morning came too soon! Do time and other fundamental things behave differently in this Manor? The uproar that went around was magnanimous! But how much of it was true? Only time would tell! (Whether it behaves fundamentally normally, or not.)

{ This blog was co-authored along with Adam Fredie, in fact, the post is mostly him. Do encourage him by comments 🙂 }

Busy-ness is bliss?

This post happens about 20 days later after the last one. I’m actually surprised the gap isn’t wider, for Third Year or Majors year has completely taken over my time!

I had taken up a freelance writing job, but had to leave it because I could not manage it all. My academics include anew psychological experiment every two weeks (and believe me, the two weeks are not enough to prepare!), group calculations of these findings, making notes, studying, conducting research, submitting project proposals (that will eventually culminate into projects, hopefully!), attending lectures, and lastly, travelling to and fro to college! What? It takes up quite some time, the travelling. Besides, it’s tiring.

So, my 10k per month job went down the drain. But, not only that, I have to make other sacrifices too! I hardly paint these days and the ink in my calligraphy pens has dried due to lack of use. The blog receives less attention. In fact, so does social networking in general. Except Twitter, because it is convenient to access on the move.

And being social with anyone except those in college has taken a back seat. I really hope my friends outside college will understand.

But then, would I be comfortable not working so hard in an important academic year? I have chosen to study something I love and dedication is probably not questioned on those grounds. But I have to deal with a lot of people these days, whose general level of pea-brain-ness appals and disappoints me. Besides that is the fact that, perhaps I need better time management.

Also, not all is lost. For example, even though slowly, I did complete the painting for my room, “The Royal Escape“. I am also able to try some new fonts each weekend.

ImageImage

Another good thing that’s happening these days is that I’m catching up on my reading. In trains or during meals, it’s easier to read a book as compared to my other hobbies. Since I haven’t gotten time to update my playlist, music is a second priority now (I still have 818 unassorted tracks on the phone though 😀 )

And lastly, I do get new insight regarding psychology each day. I will have a career in this field someday, and this is definitely a start. Besides, this hectic year will be over before I know it. And there is also the College trip to Kashmir. Maybe I will enjoy it all the more because of the being busy for so long? Who knows, maybe busy-ness is bliss!?

Image

As Moving Day approaches..

Chaos, and then order from chaos can’t get better than this. We are moving to a new place, with one more bedroom, FOR ME! I FINALLY GET A ROOM!

But, anyway, coming back to the point, we have lived in the current apartment for eight years now, and obviously, some connections have been made. The current apartment is a snug little place, in a residential area near a creek. This means that I’ve had the most enjoyable walks, with friends and without. Some days, rain was my companion, some others, music.

The Sky displayed various colours depending on the season, and equipped with a camera phone, I loved clicking away and later tried to capture the enchanting skies on canvas. The environment I am going to miss also includes people.

The folks here are relaxed and unbothered about who does what, and yet they are there for you if you need them. Perfect in away. I have made friends with this Bhukkad who will be my ex-neighbour soon, Dearly Doted Abhishek, jiske ghar roz ka ana jana hai. I shall miss him dearly.  :’)

Now, to the more practical matters at hand. Moving is a pain in the ass! The Mum has got me running errands everyday, to buy random things for all the rooms. Thanks to all the bags I carry back from the market, I’ve built some rather flashy muscles.

Lastly, there is a lot to be thought about my new room. I get the smallest room, and I have to fit my painting accessories, easel and all, book case, study table, speakers, cupboard, bed and pet tortoises in it. Oh and the cane jhula too! But I won’t say it is unfair, at least I got a room, and it is enough for my needs, if adjustments are made.

There’s the mum calling again, undoubtedly to order me to buy a dustbin or something. Until later! Hope the next post will be from the new house! 🙂

P.s – this is a picture I clicked on one of those walks. For me, they resemble praying hands stretched skywards.