At my age it’s hard to remember what life was like when I was twenty. I was in medical school, forming strong friendships, working hard, playing harder and worrying about exam results. The last one made me swear that I would never ever take an exam again after finishing medical school but like many others, this resolve too, dissolved.
The upside – one can drink, have sex, travel, dip into the bank of mum and dad, live at home and be a kid when it suits and be an adult when it suits. The insecurities – Am I the person I want to be? Will I be able to establish my place in the world? What will become of me? Will I make my parents proud? Will I achieve ‘success’? How many years will it take? Will I meet Mr Right and will he continue to be Mr Right for a long time?
The biggest advantage of passing years is the gradual evaporation of all these concerns, the ability to follow one’s dreams with lightness and self-belief, to be able to laugh at oneself and not take life too seriously.
Would I like to be twenty again? Nope.
What would I tell my twenty-year old self? Relax.
Things have a way of working out.
What would you tell your twenty-year old self?
A simple source of hot water in Delhi is the sun heating up supply pipes. Very eco-friendly.
Another simple yet highly un-eco-friendly source is an immersion rod. I used it today after about 3 decades. It was like revisiting my university days. The plastic bucket and the broad clip reminded me of the 2 parallel burn marks on the edge of the light blue bucket in college. The soft hissing sound of the frantic molecules was all too familiar. Seeing the little eddies set off by the heat waves made me smile. All those times when I had completely forgotten about the water and got distracted only to come back to the horror of half a bucket or less of absolutely boiling hot water! Adding just the right amount of cold water was crucial especially at the peak of winters.
The geyser with a red and a green light is another old friend. My brother lives with his family in a rented house in a little village in India. The landlord and his wife live in part of the house with a separate entrance. For some reason, the guest-room (my room) bathroom geyser is shared with the land-lord. The switch happens to be in their house. This is never a problem as most people are around most of the time. We forgot to ask them to switch it on in time, hence the immersion rod.
This kind of arrangement between neighbours, land-lords and tenants is normal here. It’s no problem. It’s perfectly workable. There is no desire to change it. I suppose things like this make it a close community. It would be quite unthinkable in more ‘advanced’ settings.
Fact: 4 days is the time it took for our next-door neighbour to find out that Saagar had passed away.
Britain, loneliness capital of Europe:
Ding-dong – the laundryman with the ironing.
Ding-dong – the ever-smiling, podgy little cleaning lady.
Ding-dong – the air-con repair man with a helmet.
Ding-dong – the Fed-ex man with a delivery for the neighbours.
Ding-dong – one of the workmen upstairs requesting a bottle of cold drinking water and so on …
The lull of rotating fan blades. The hazy, lazy sun. The hopeful hint of an on-coming shower. The microscopic layer of fine urban dust on glass table tops. The colourful screw-tops of refrigerated water bottles. Old familiar Hindi film songs playing in the background like long lost friends. Dodgy links with the world-wide-web. The cool marble floors easing bare soles. Honey like water melons. Heavenly early mangos, semi-yellow, a wee bit raw around the stones. Heads taking respite under thin cotton scarves in multitudes of colours. Loose, airy, light, flowing, feminine garments. Childhood aromas emanating from Mum’s kitchen. Her annoyance with disobedient modern gadgetry. Dad’s concern. Their everyday household problems of retirement. Saagar’s pictures lining the walls adorned with flowers and silk. Being called by childhood names.
Specks of earth lifted off by droplets hitting parched ground. The magical heady confluence of moisture and earth teleporting my brain to a nearly buried, exotic moment from a long time ago. The awesome dance of the wind with the chime. The pure joy of the breath. The ecstacy of being.
The best things in life are not things.
Till date I wonder what it must have been like for Saagar, to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and to be on Psychiatric medications. I have read books, watched documentaries and films to gain an understanding of it and I think I have an idea but maybe I have absolutely no clue.
Watching a clip of Paul Dalio, a young man living with Bipolar disorder and a film director brought clarity in 2 and a half minutes.
“When you get diagnosed, you go from experiencing what you’re certain is divine illumination. After sometime in it, you’re thrown into a hospital, you’re pumped full of drugs, you come down 60 pounds overweight, completely disoriented and they tell you, ”No, there was nothing divine. Nothing illuminating. You have just triggered a lifelong genetic illness which will swing you from psychotic highs to suicidal lows and you’ll probably fall into the 1 in 4 statistic unless you take the medication which makes you feel no emotion. If you imagine missing feeling sad, it’s the only thing worse than pain.”
So, it’s very hard for people to comprehend.
After a lifetime of building your identity, your place within humanity, you’re suddenly told that you are a defect of humanity. And to know that you’re not going to be the person you used to be and that you’ll at best be able to get by is … is life shattering. And the only labels you have to choose from are some kind of a disorder, Manic-depressive or Bipolar. So you scrape through every clinical book trying to look for answers. That’s exactly what I did. Peeling through these books which were these diagnostic, medical texts where I felt like I was under a microscope and someone in a lab coat was judging me.”
Paul Dalio came across a book by Kay Redfield Jamison who is a world authority on Bipolar Disorder by way of having the illness and being a Professor in Psychiatry. The book is called “Touched with Fire”. He went on to write and direct a film by the same name.
Everything was fun.
As soon as he could walk with support, leaving home in the buggy for a walk in the evening meant, him pushing the buggy, taking it for a walk. Looking into the mirror, playing hide and seek with himself was fun. Kicking a cotton sheet off him with his frantically moving arms and legs was fun. Wearing big sunglasses and shoes was fun. Playing with toys and words was fun. Crawling, walking, running was fun. Dabbling in different kinds of music was fun. The ‘bandana’ phase was fun. Playing and listening to any kind of percussion was fun.
Going round and round while sitting in one of my mother’s big cooking pots with a convex bottom was fun. On his second birthday, we found him in the balcony with a pot of yogurt, officiously feeding himself and our dog, Caesar, with alternate spoonfuls of the honeyed white stuff. As he grew older, pulling faces was fun. Smurfs and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was fun. The little toy in the occasional Happy Meal at McDonalds was fun. Z-Ball was fun.
Being back here in my parent’s house brings back heart-warming memories of his childhood. He was such good fun!
“It was 20 years of not thinking about it and two years of chaos.”
He was only 12 when his mother died a traumatic death. He shut down all his emotions for almost 2 decades. He often felt on the verge of punching someone. He suffered severe anxiety during social engagements. Living in the public eye left him feeling he could be very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.
His response to the tragedy was to stick his head in the sand and refuse to think about it as that was not going to bring her back. It was only going to make him sad.
During those years he took up boxing as he was told that it is a good way of letting out aggression. That certainly helped him a lot as punching someone who had pads on was easier.
He finally sought help after persistent encouragement from his older brother. Since learning to talk about it honestly, he now feels able to put his ‘blood, sweat and tears’ into making a difference for others.
“The experience I have had is that once you start talking about it, you realise that actually you’re part of quite a big club” he said.
He’s now in a good place and will commemorate his mother, Diana, on her 20th anniversary later this year. He is Prince Harry.
Bluebells are the undisputed spring highlight. At their peak, around this time of year, they form an unearthly blue haze through the woodlands. A winding path in the wood passes through swathes of dainty blue flowers. Here, the air is laden with a delicate perfume and birds sing happily in the background. Tall trunks of ancient trees emerge randomly and the light filtering through the canopy gives a different hue to the blue carpet every few minutes.
The perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends, chatting and taking pictures, desperately trying to capture the image of what it feels like to be there, frustratingly aware that it’s impossible.
Half of the world’s population of bluebells are here in the UK.
Bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects feed on the nectar of bluebell. Their flowers provide an important early source of nectar. Field of bluebells are intricately woven with fairy enchantments.
The blueness of the bluebells is nearly purple. It reminds me of this poem by Jenny Joseph and my big purple coat.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.