Once upon a time her life revolved around music. Her days and nights were spent either listening or humming or singing or watching thinking about songs. All her time was infused with music. Her friends would sometimes have to shut her up. She was addicted. Music was her friend in good times and bad. It was a constant and reliable companion. It never let her down. They had a steady relationship.
One day her world turned upside down, inside out and back to front. She couldn’t make any sense of anything anymore. Music didn’t help. It fell by the wayside. Their friendship disappeared. She couldn’t cope with rhythms, notes or lyrics. Melodies brought forth floods of tears. Harmonies took her to painful places. She stayed away. She fiercely guarded her heart strings from melting. She preferred silence. Deep, dense, safe silence.
Serendipity stepped in. A musical friend who knew of her old connection invited her along for an evening of informal singing in a friendly group. She reluctantly agreed. The thought of revisiting Music had fleetingly crossed her mind on New Year’s eve. Her parents and friends had been gently pointing her in that direction. Her love of music was alive but its expression immediately exposed her fragility. Could she risk it?
She decided to go along even though she was filled with self doubt. Would she be able to hold a tune? Would she get the timing right? Would she run out of breath before the end of a line? Would her voice sound okay? After a long estrangement, would Music be her friend again?
On the morning, she meditated, prepared herself physically and mentally, determined to face Music and re-establish their friendship.
She did it.
It wasn’t as difficult as she thought it would be. She went with the flow. Her throat welled up a few times. Her eyes got heavy with moisture. Every now and then she completely lost herself, disappeared. She came away smiling, feeling lighter. She reinstated a new, joyful connection with her old friend, who had been waiting for her all this while.
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Ref: Neuroscience of singing: http://upliftconnect.com/neuroscience-of-singing/
Having a couple of daylight hours still left after work is a luxury. This evening I was lucky. I walked aimlessly along the Southbank and ‘The F-word’ exhibition caught my eye. F for Forgiveness. Bold posters with simple, human messages from ordinary people from all over the world, telling stories that transform, offering a dynamic and challenging exploration of forgiveness through real life situations.
There is nothing ordinary about forgiveness. Forgiving others. Forgiving myself. I constantly struggle with it.
One mother said “When I was told that my son had been killed in action, the first words that came out of my mouth were ’Do not take revenge in the name of my son.’ It was a totally instinctive response.”
When Saagar passed away, one of the strongest feelings that came up for me was – no one should have to loose anyone they love to suicide. That was the driving force that kept me alive and goaded me on but forgiveness is a subtle and powerful thing that happens at another level. I am very conscious of the fact that it is something I really need to address but keep putting it off while it keeps gnawing away at me. Perhaps, it is not entirely by co-incidence that I chanced upon this exhibition.
This is a well-known story within medical circles. A few years ago, a patient was in the operating theatre to have his diseased kidney taken out. Everyone believed it to be the left kidney, except a medical student who said in a hesitant, soft and muffled voice that he thought it was the right kidney. No one paid him any attention and went right ahead to take the left kidney out. It turned out, that was the wrong kidney. The only person who was correct was the medical student. The person who suffered the damage was the patient.
Large organisations are hierarchical by nature. Decisions taken by those on top are rarely questioned by juniors. But true leadership means, the ability to challenge the status quo. The culture of an organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.
During their selection process, Google particularly look out for ‘courage’ in candidates. They prefer to hire people who ask the right questions and are not afraid to be open if they disagree with what is being said, irrespective of who says it.
The only way to improve is to be open. That is how we learn.
When was the last time I kept quiet when in fact I had something to say? When was the last time I didn’t have the patience to listen? What are the dynamics at my work place? Who pays the price for my silence or my inability to listen? Will I have the courage to speak-up the next time? Will I have the courage to listen?
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” – Seneca
Ref: Just a Routine Operation (A short film about the importance of Human factors , one of them being assertiveness) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzlvgtPIof4
Jalebis are the most luscious of Indian sweets . They are made from plain flour, ghee, saffron and sugar – the best possible ingredients. They bring back the sweet memory of home. Lately they featured in a Holywood film, Lion, as a trigger for a deep longing for home for a young displaced man. This longing grows into a desperation and then becomes a source of great suffering. Even though the body moves from one place to another, the heart can stay in one place for lifetimes, clinging on to sights, smells and sounds that mean ‘home’ and ‘love’. The power of the mind to revisit, relive, reconfigure and re-create life from all these stray scraps is tremendous.
This big blockbuster addresses issues of adoption, childhood trauma, migration and much more. The most interesting questions it has raised for me are – What is your narrative? What is the story you tell yourself? Do you ever question it? Are you willing to see how your life might change if you did question it? Are you willing to be proven completely wrong? Would that set you free? Would that empower you to change your direction?
The things we tell ourselves have more power than we know. They make the difference between life and death.
Saagar as Lion 🙂
His bathroom has 3 lights, one on top of the mirror and the other 2 on the ceiling. The switch for the mirror light is just underneath the mirror. The switch for the ceiling lights is outside the bathroom door. I sometimes found the mirror-light switched on, on the way to his room even when he wasn’t there. I would tell him off for repeatedly forgetting to turn the light off after use. Now, it is my bathroom. I still find the mirror light on sometimes when I go upstairs, even if I haven’t been there for hours.
It is so easy to forget to turn the mirror-light off. I know that now.
I would arrange mail-order deliveries for the times when he would be home. Sometimes he would be in his room on the second floor and fail to open the door for them, especially if they came very early in the morning. We would then have to go around chasing our parcels. Again, I would get a bit annoyed with him for missing out on the deliveries.
Now we sleep in his room. One morning last week, I almost didn’t hear the deliveryman’s knock on the door. I thought I heard something like a knock in my sleep but disregarded it, believing it to be a dream. An identical sound came again and nudged me out of my slumber. Had the man not had enough patience, he would have left us a note and gone to his next destination. But I did manage to bundle myself up and roll myself down the stairs in a semi-comatose panic to get to the door just in time.
It’s so easy to miss a delivery. I know that now.
The hospital where we went when he was ill is just down the road from where we live. It is 18 minutes by bus, 10 minutes but car on a quiet day. The Emergency department is on the left. The Mental hospital is on the right. There is a visitor’s car park in front of the Mental hospital. That is where we parked the car. That is where we waited for a couple of hours to be seen by a psychiatrist. That is where I had to make my own way that day because Saagar refused to have me in the car with him and his father. That is where he should have been when he was severely ill a few weeks later. That is where he could have been saved.
That is where I went this afternoon to watch a play called ‘Hearing Things’, a play co-produced by patients and professionals, based on insights derived from 6 weeks of workshops involving actors and people with a mental illness, offering both an opportunity for expression, transformation and co-creation. Through a cast of 3, we met people of different races and age groups. It was about challenging assumptions. It was about the empathy and personalities of patients. It was about ‘the system’ and the dynamics within it, mental well being of health care providers and role-reversal. It was about giving people a chance.
“I am off now to be mad and I don’t have to be sectioned for it”, remarked one of the participants as drama gave him the freedom to be who he is, without fear of judgment. It was about the possibility of being ‘re-assembled’. It was powerful and moving. It did not mince words. I spoke loud and clear. It was accessible, funny, clever and heart-breaking.
One young person describes his experience of drama:
“…after you do the drama you get this feeling…it feels as if whatever was bothering you went away and you feel light and can do whatever you want around you, it makes the day simpler and you can concentrate on your activities, it makes you feel better, like at the end of the day when you come home from work tired and you want to put your feet up, you don’t feel guilty relaxing as you have done a hard days work. I wanted to understand the person and put myself in their shoes. At the end of it I felt good. 150% happy!”
It was about creating a new paradigm of relating to people suffering with mental illness. It was all heart.
Now, I belong to a network of mums and dads who share the same loss. We exchange stories, everyday struggles and our little achievements. Sometimes it is something as small as getting through an hour, a day. But then, fighting to get through the night, an all too familiar scenario. We know. We understand. We listen.
Sometimes, it is an inspirational piece of craft, a moving piece of music, a long walk or a rant. All of us desperately trying to hold on to who we were and make sense of who we now are, hanging on to the shreds of our being with all our might, seeing ourselves in each other, watching our helplessness and grief spill across the screen over and over again only to gather it all up and see it as nothing but love. All the rags weave together to form a mesh that strengthens each one of us. We recognise our reflections in each other and feel our little angels sending us collective blessings. All that is inside of us is alive even if it feels like it isn’t. It’s the purest form of love.