Thursday, August 14, 2014

एक शमा कहीं जली है

एक शमा कही जली है

हुस्न-ए-मग़रिब पे
एक दाग़ आज लगा है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

इन्सां को आज फ़िर से
कोई बुत बना गया है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

नुजूम के तारे कोई
ग़र्दिश में लपेट गया है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

वक्त की भट्टी में उन्हें
तपिश में छोड़ गया है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

चिलचिलाती धुप में यूँ
नंगे पाँव चलता देख रहा है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

ख़ाक छानते हुए कोई
ग़ुरबत में  रो रहा है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

काँटों की सेज पर बैठा
कोई हमको छोड़ गया है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

नाकामियों का सेहरा
कोई सिरे बाँध गया है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

इंसानियत का जनाज़ा
आज फ़िर से उठ रह है
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

यादों की शमाएं हमने
आतिश-ए-हस्सास से जलाई थी
उम्मीदों के दरीचे हमने
इन्ही शमाओं से जलाये थे
पर ये ज़मीन में कुछ बात है
के अनकहे अनसुने किस्सों से
ये ज़मीं आज भी रोशन है
खुश्वार है, उम्मीद से है
आज फ़िर
एक शमा कहीं जली है
एक आतिश कहीं लगी थी

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fighting Depression

The recent news of the demise of Robin Williams left a void in me that I do not think will be filled up soon. An actor whose work taught us as much about life as it rendered entertainment, and that too from a rare genius, is hard to replace. The world will surely miss him, but yes, there is an important thing to realize, one that we often overlook due to our own personal discomfort, little knowledge about issues of mental health and general disapproval of such people and ideas that leaves much to be discussed.

Depression is a deeply personal fight for me. People who may know me are aware of my fight with depression on more than one plane. My mother has been fighting this problem for over a decade now, and though it started off due to hormonal imbalances, the clinical depression has set into an ever-constant fear, that she shall be left behind all alone in this world. That triggered off a host of other health issues, including bacterial antral gastritis. Fighting this disease for so long has its moments of agony, of utter melancholy, of loneliness that cannot be filled. The fight has been getting personal with each passing day for me, as my own fears seem to be coming true. But with time, I learnt a few valuable lessons about life from my mother, as she has been on this emotional seesaw for ages.

You cannot just ask people to snap out of it. Depression is not a potato wafer that can break when you chew on it. It is like chewing gum - the longer you chew, the more unpleasant it becomes; however, it cannot be spit out under any circumstances. I detest people who make light of mental illnesses of others, of those who belittle depression, but then realize that it has a lot to do with their lack of knowledge about it.


The idea of death looms very large in the minds of depressed people. There is no reprieve for them from this idea. The inability to let go of their own 'sins' of their past continually haunts them. Their inability to 'move on' is not their fault. The brain functions in such a strange manner that there is no room or allowance to move ahead. Depression is certainly a killer, and as I said earlier prompts many people into hurting themselves to the extreme. However, what is little understood is that it also causes several diseases that are in the long run life threatening. Antral gastritis poses the threat of becoming stomach cancer; cardiovascular diseases stem from among other things eating disorders and lack of physical activity that accompany depression in people. Since people stop feeling good about themselves, they take no efforts to do anything that makes them feel good, that makes them want to be themselves, express their ideas, thoughts and emotions.


People can try treatment via various therapies for it, but it still remains there, like a dybbuk, waiting to take hold of your mind just when you are at your most vulnerable. Once the depression sets in, it possesses you. Medication is often bad - it turns people into nothing better than a vegetable, and withdrawal from the medicine often makes the condition worse. As a patient undergoing counselling, much like any other day in the story of life, you do not feel like getting out of bed on many days, as you have no courage to face the world. Whenever you are in public, you always feel that you are under observation, under scrutiny. It is like being a teenager all over again, except the level of presumtive attitudes and judgmental nature in your own worldview tends to be much much worse, pushing many people to the extent of rejecting themselves utterly, to the point of attempting suicide in extreme cases. However, what is known to certainly help many people fight this monster on a daily basis is just hearing them out. But getting a patient of depression to talk is nearly impossible, for the fear of judgment and ridicule looms large over the mind. As a listener, you have to coax, plead, fight, find some way or the other to get the patient to share the state of their mind, their fears, their apprehensions, their hopes for the future with you. Often it can be seen that a person is aided by such sessions, even if done by an ordinary non-judgmental person. Other things that help patients include exercise, painting, music, dancing, but these are often akin to taking anti-depressants. They are helpful but only in a symptomatic manner. The elephant in the room never really leaves without talking.


Friends and family can truly never understand what is going on in the mind of the depressed person, as the experience is always unique to each person. And yet, often people think that being sympathetic is all that is needed. That is like putting band-aid on a cancer tumour. What is really needed  is empathy. A patient ear, an understanding mind, acceptability is what a patient gropes for in that emotional maelstrom that (s)he is falling in. These are often no more than straws, but the patient is more than grateful for even these straws. So always try to reach out to people who say they have been fighting depression. Believe me, when a person says that (s)he is depressed, it is not a lie. It is just that they are brave enough to admit it, and do not believe in the falsehood of 'sucking it up' and 'being a sissy' or 'being a wimp' or 'it is all a farce, a drama'. What they need is someone to reach out for them. You don't have to paint a rosy picture or show the rainbow after the rain. All you need to do is to assure the person that you are an ear that is willing to hear them out, a person who they can entrust their 'secret' with. You can encourage them to visit counsellors, but it is social acceptability that they seek, not acceptability of a counsellor or a psychiatrist. Let us all try and be more acceptable of people fighting depression in our lives instead of accommodating chain smokers and binge drinkers. It is not a communicable disease, trust me.

A WHO Clip About Depression is what I would request all of you to share. It is a good primer. Another movie that people should watch is The Truth About Depression, a documentary made by BBC Ireland, that sums up quite well the challenges faced by people who have been fighting this disease.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Her

It was one of those humid sunny days that the season always brought in. Sweat drips down not just your brows but streaks across your back, making every effort to discomfit you. More often than not, the attempts are successful, if you go by the number of people making irritable faces, attempting to reach out to their backs, as if their contorted hands will help improve their position; after all, even if one such streaker were to be successfully thwarted, another would come racing.

I was amongst the countless many, as I stood there. The sun decided to come out today, making the afternoon an unbearable affair. Nothing monumental about it. As is always the case, I stood at a bus stand along the R..... Road, hoping to catch a bus that leads me to my destiny. The bus could hopefully give me a temporary reprieve. Air conditioned buses had been introduced recently, and the heightened fares seem to have had little impact on the enthusiasm of one and all in boarding it. And who can be blamed for it? The sweltering heat and unbearable humidity could be combated for a few moments at the cost of a few extra bucks; and clearly everyone looked forward to these few moments of relief in the midst of not just irascible weather but also a life that led to little else apart from being constituting a milling crowd.

The settings are usual for me. Every day, at this time of the day, after four, I am waiting for a bus. It is almost always after four when I head towards the bus station. I don’t have a watch with me, and I conveniently keep my cellular phone away from me in a bag slung around my shoulders out of fear of it being pocketed away by certain unfriendly people who haunt crowded spaces with much glee. And buying a cellphone is double the trouble. Money has to be poured down the drain for a perfectly useless device that has made us all dependent on itself even before we could take cognizance of the fact. I will also lose contact information of scores of people, to whom I shall have to apologize for no fault of mine, and request for re-sharing those details. As it is, I am not sociable; to lose a phone would be nothing less than a disaster for me. Hence, in my effort to not cause inconveniences of this sort, I hide my phone. Thus, all I ever know about time in that moment of the day is that it is certainly after four.

I always wonder what made that day what it was. There was nothing but ordinariness about the day. The sun was where it always is; the people’s movements were what they always are; my indifference was what it always is. But is it only about the weather, the sun or the people engaged in their randomness, their organized chaos? Or is it about moments that are indelible in time; moments that stick in your head for a lifetime? Perhaps it is the former; or maybe it is the latter. I don’t know; it is all starting to sound delirious....

Just then, I notice a girl walking across the road. Why do I notice her? Is it love at first sight? Or is it physical attraction? The girl clearly is not noticed by anyone else. Perhaps it is one of those moments where we have nothing to do, and so we start looking at people, trying to pass time by making educated guesses about them. But this girl...there is something different about her. She has your average looks, and she is dressed ordinarily, with that typical bag every woman carries with her when moving around (I guess). And yet, all I could do was to look at her. Some strange magnetic attraction had pulled my gaze towards her, and my eyes follow every movement of hers. The heat of the day is getting to her like it is to everyone else, including me. I noticed her wiping the sweat off her brow with something like a handkerchief, or was it a tissue paper? Sometimes, even the smallest of details make a substantial difference in the story that is to be told. And yet, even at that distance, it was as if someone had magnified a telescope on my eyes, solely focusing on her, her face. There was some kind of visible irritation on her face. It must be the weather. Such irritation often arises in this sweltering heat and suffocating humidity. But beneath those layers of irritation, there was a strange calmness that concealed itself well from everyone around her. Barely did anyone around her take notice of her presence. It was the usual; you ignore my existence, while I continue to ignore yours. The indifference is always mutual.

As the moments passed one could see visible tension on her face. Clearly, she was looking for someone. Or something. Her line of sight kept shifting every few moments, but seemed to be following a steady direction. As I kept staring at her, I began to notice her features. The eyes were a normal shape; her nose was somewhat long and pudgy at the same time. Clearly, she was not wearing any make up, though there was quite an effort to look presentable made on her part. The fidgeting with the clothes seemed to give away her discomfort with the apparel. Perhaps it was a little loose for her, a bit oversize. Her body type was average, and so the clothes seem to be slightly big on her, nearly engulfing her into their various reams and folds. And yet, she kept playing with them around her waist, almost having fun with them.

All of a sudden, I note her gaze becoming steadfast. It was probably to my left; I thought I would look around to whatever or whoever it was in some time, when she raised her right hand. It was slender, not beautiful by any means. She took that hand across her waist, and firmed something.

And then, even before I could realize what happened, there was a blast.

The girl blew up, and so did many others who stood by her, unaware of her existence. The bus stand was ablaze, and there was blood all over. Vehicles had come to a standstill, while a nearby scooter (or was it a motorcycle) had flown right across the road due to the impact.

People were running for their lives, screaming to reach out to heavens know whom, while I stood there, transfixed.

Or perhaps I was stunned and horrified, too much in shock to even understand what happened right then and there in time.

I would never know who she was. All I know is that it was her.

The Economic Slowdown Needs Immediate Address

The Buck Stops With the Duo (Courtesy: Bloombergquint) The fracas in Maharashtra notwithstanding, things are at a critical juncture ...