Day 697


Last week, Saagar’s bench was dedicated to his memory at his old school. I was asked to speak. It’s never easy but I do have a lot to say and so I did speak. I also wore a sari as Saagar would have liked that.  It was attended by many of his teachers and friends, some of our friends and family and some who didn’t know him at all. Here is an except of what I said:

“We got married in 1990. I was 24. Very close to my ‘sell by’ date, which in India is about 25 for a girl.

3 years on and no kids! Both sides of parents were politely not asking, only hinting obliquely every now and then. 3 years was too long! Concerning! I was a junior doctor and Naresh was a captain in the Indian army. In the 4th year of our marriage, Saagar was born. He was beautiful! First grandchild on both sides of the family. Much adored and absolutely adorable! At 5 years of age, while moving from nursery to Kindergarten, he was asked to write numbers from 1 to 10 and then all the alphabets. He started with 1 and wrote all the numbers till 9 which he wrote the wrong way around and it became a P. He then carried on writing QRS…Z.

As he was growing up, he coped with many changes, moving from one city to another in India and then to Northern Ireland and then London. The reading homework in Primary school was more about the accent of the day rather than the reading. He had a great sense of fun. He made good of wherever he found himself. He never made a fuss. Although, age 9, after school one day he did ask me if his name could be changed to ‘Aron’. He had his own brand of humour and an infectious laughter. He loved dressing up. He valued his friendships greatly. And grew up to be a talented young man. His accomplishments far surpassed our expectations, as an academic, as a musician and linguist, a sportsman and as a human being. I always thought he was too good to be true. It turned out he was.

His brief illness was very painful and confusing for all of us, most of all for him. He did his best to manage it. He followed every advise he was given. He wanted to get better but sadly that wasn’t to be.

In the UK suicide is the leading cause of death for young people, both male and female, 3 times more than road accidents. Every day in the UK alone, 4-5 young people take their own lives. 3 times more men than women. Majority of people don’t know this. I didn’t know it. But it is the sad truth and it is closer to home than we think. It needs to be treated as an urgent priority. I am immensely grateful to the college for honouring Saagar and keeping his memory alive in so many ways. Thank you for recognising the need to raise awareness and to empower everyone to be able to make a difference.

I am very proud of Saagar. He would be very proud of me seeing me use an i-pad today. He was the one who coaxed/encouraged me to move from my good old Sony Vaio to Apple. It always amused him to see ‘old people'(me) work on a computer. Even today when I am stuck, my first instinct is to call out to him.

For me this bench is a reminder of Saagar’s friendly, creative and playful nature, his wit and charm and his ability for compassion. I hope the boys will enjoy it and know that they never have to suffer alone. I hope that it will be a source of strength and hope for many for a long time to come.

Thank you all for being here today.”

Thank you.

Day 696

It started off very well. The young lady who looked like she had just walked out of a Boney M album gave us a nice little warm-up. I felt excited about the walk, having never done this kind of a distance before (50K). I didn’t know what to expect. Having so much time to think can open up all kinds of channels in the brain. So, I knew I had to watch myself which I did.

The first 30 kilo meters were easy despite the constant light drizzle interrupted by heavy showers a few times. At the very start we decided to not worry about the timing as we wanted this to be a pleasant and peaceful day. A few people asked us about Saagar whose picture they noticed hanging off our back-packs. They told us about their mum with dementia or their sister with cancer or their soldier husband with PTSD and so on. We shared our stories and derived comfort from each other. It made me marvel at the voluntary sector in this country and what a good job they do. I could see that in the field of Suicide Prevention too, the commitment of concerned charities is incredible. I felt great that I could help in some way. I also knew that my friends and family were thinking of us and derived strength from that.

Soon after the 30K point, the ground turned from a springy green grassy surface to a quagmire of mud. We had to place our feet on the slippery uneven path very carefully knowing that if we fell down, we possibly won’t be able to get up. It really slowed us down and greatly increased the tension in our legs.

Luckily around this time the rain stopped, the skies cleared up and we entered the serenity of the twilight zone. The legs by now were starting to complain but were still manageable. Annoyingly, some of the runners who had started their 100K run a couple of hours before us were now passing us.

The last 5 kilometers.
They were the test. They took me to the brink of my endurance.
Physical and emotional.
One pain making the other worse.
I so wanted to keep it together till we got to the end. If I would have stopped, I am not sure I could have re-started. The tears came right up to the eyes and one or two escaped into the darkness. Others just sat there and did not spill. They sat there looking at the parallel: finding myself in an impossible situation and yet somehow carrying on despite how I feel. The whole range of emotions from the last two years traversed through me in those last 2 hours.

I hung on to Si’s hand and kept walking funny/limping/hobbling. I am sure his left arm is marginally lengthier than the right one now.

By the time we reached the finish line, I was numb. I felt nothing.
We sat down and a lovely young man came up to us and asked about Saagar and then the dam burst open. It was long overdue. It was time.

Would I do this again?
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
― John Muir

Day 695


Wow! That was something.

50 K without much practice and with a few pre-existing issues in the right ankle and lower back for me and healing blisters from the last walk for Si.

It drizzled most of the day with no sunny spells and a few heavy showers. But around 5.30 pm it completely cleared up and we had a blissful walk in the twilight. The river and the life in and around it were making their sweet sounds, often unheard in London. More than half the moon was shining on us and soothing our aching legs. The last 5 kilometers were excruciating! Breathe in-2-3-4. Out-2-3-4. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Paracetamol. Electrolyte water. Massage. Stretch. Sit. We had the best jacket potato with cheese for lunch. Met some lovely people. Shared stories. Reminded myself – one foot in front of the other. Si walked beside me holding my hand. At times bearing some of my weight through that hand! 

Feeling the legs a lot! Exhausted!
Hobbling but happy!

Ps: Thank you!!!

Day 693

This morning I spent an hour and a half at the Parliament Square with other enthusiastic, proactive, dedicated , men and women of all age groups who are passionate about talking about suicide and bringing it into everyone’s awareness so that it stops being a taboo subject.

A new YouGov survey commissioned by national charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide reveals 78% of those surveyed did not know that suicide is the leading killer of our young people. The nation needs to wake up to the reality before more young lives are lost.

People do not realise how major this issue is. We need to raise this level of awareness and enable people to be more comfortable with the idea that they too can help to prevent suicide.

When asked what stops people from asking a distressed friend or relative about their suicidal thoughts, the main reason given was the fear of putting the idea of suicide into a person’s head.

“All the evidence shows that naming suicide is a relief for the person at risk and that we cannot create the idea by talking about suicide”, stresses Ged Flynn. “I cannot emphasise more strongly that asking about destructive feelings, talking about suicide, does not make it more likely to happen. It can, and often does, reduce the risk of suicide. Talking about suicide can seem scary but silence and stigma are killing young people. Many young people feel isolated with thoughts of suicide. People can start today by supporting our #TalkThroughTheTaboo campaign – it could save a young life.”

What would stop someone from speaking out about their destructive thoughts? That they would not wish to worry anyone (31%) or felt they would be letting people down (26%). Stigma is a barrier to seeking help.

Andy’s Man club is an inspiring new movement started by Luke. His main message is – “It’s ok to talk.” ( I felt strong standing there with these people, knowing that through the pain and tears, I make a difference.

When great trees fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

-Maya Angelou

Day 692



The missed appointment at the vet.
Another petty lost bet.
The drive past the crematorium.
Why? Why? Why? The pandemonium!
The young woman’s dip-dyed blue hair.
Neither here, nor there.
The overdue car insurance.
Repeated calls testing endurance.
The warm beer cans.
The rude drivers of white vans.
The empty ice-cold ice tray.
Wish the guests would stay!
The man leaving the ‘ladies’.
The misplaced car keys.
The delayed train, again.
The inside out umbrella in the windy rain.
The missed medications.
The fudged calculations.
The purply-pink figs with white patches
The rot comes from nowhere and catches
The avocado bruised blackened.
The skin on me somewhat slackened.
The sweet man-boy.
His rusted old toy.
A necklace with a broken latch.
An ear-ring without its other match.
A letter returned in the post.
To the young dead, a toast!

Day 691


A snippet from life of a Helpline call centre:

11.51: Bullies at school are telling the next female caller to take her own life. She’s upset and agitated and feels anxious about talking to her parents or GP. After talking through the issues, she says she’s not in immediate danger and will try to talk to her parents and seek support from her GP or the charity if she feels it necessary.

13.49: A mother calls about her son who is struggling at university and has told her he may as well not be alive. She is worried he might be suicidal.

The adviser talks to her for half an hour about asking her son directly about suicide and discusses what other support he may need, including talking to his GP and giving him the HOPELineUK details. Afterwards, the mum says she is more confident about speaking to her son.

18.32: With the suicide prevention advisers on calls, a voicemail is left by a young man. He calls back eight minutes later and starts apologising for calling the helpline.

He’s made plans to take his own life today and despite calling his mental health team and telling them he’s suicidal, he’s still waiting for his case worker to call back.

After 42 minutes on the phone with the helpline suicide prevention adviser, he’s much calmer and says he won’t take his own life today.

18.53: A young transitioning transgender person calls, admitting she’s feeling suicidal today. She spends 23 minutes talking through her issues with a suicide prevention adviser who works with her on a plan to stay safe over the coming hours and signposts her to support networks she may find helpful.

19.38: A text comes in from a young father who says he’s feeling suicidal. He suffered domestic abuse as a child and, as a result of alcohol and drug addiction, has lost contact rights with his own children. He says he has his suicide method in front of him and is intending to end his life.

Let’s break the silence. Hopeline number: 0800 068 4141



Day 690

“Everything starts and ends in your Brain-Soul connection.
How your brain and soul work together determines how happy you feel, how successful you become, and how well you connect with others. The brain-soul connection is vastly more powerful than your conscious will. Will power falters when the physical functioning of the brain and the health of your soul fail to support your desires, as seen by illogical behaviours like overeating, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, and compulsive spending.

It is the aim of The Amen Clinics to provide instructional programs and materials, evaluations and medical treatment where necessary to help you to understand and direct your mind to enhance your relationships, your work, and your health!”

Dr Daniel Amen is a psychiatrist in America who is a strong proponent of SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computerised Tomography) imaging of the brain. It bothers him that psychiatrists are the only medical specialists that never look at the organ they treat. Cardiologists, orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists look, whereas psychiatrists guess. As a result of which diagnoses are still made in the same way they were in the 1840s, based on symptom clusters. It’s like shooting in the dark especially when most psychiatric medications come with black box warnings that they might make the situation worse.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 13.06.53

Simply put, the images tell us 3 things about the brain – areas of good activity, too much and too little activity. In his TED talk he shows some very convincing pictures of brains ‘before’ and ‘after’ interventions. He also shows scans of 2 patients with clinical depression but very different scans, one showing gross under-activity and the other significant over-activity.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 13.16.56

He expresses great concern about the homeless people, criminals and soldiers returning from war zones who are not getting appropriate care as no one is looking at their brains and tailoring the care of their mental state.

He claims to have helped many people over the years using this technology but his work has been much criticised, firstly for not having enough evidence in its favour and secondly for the potentially harmful effect of the radio-nucleotide dye that needs to be injected in every patient. He has also amassed a great amount of wealth doing this work that insurers will not pay for. This  fact further discredits him within the medical community.

Would I have paid 3500 dollars for Saagar’s first assessment and scans at one of ‘The Amen Clinics’? Probably not. But it would have been good to have a more scientific approach to the diagnosis and management of his illness. It was like throwing darts in the dark. 



Day 689

What does life want from me?
Now, after all this, what do I want from life?

When I was 20 something I thought that most 50 year olds had the answer to those questions. Ha! I look around and find many others my age in a similar place.

A journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what his message was and he replied, “My life is my message.”

I suppose life just wants us to live as joyfully and meaningfully as we can. At present it feels as though the orchestra is playing and the dance floor is ready and I am standing at the edge, listening but completely dumb-founded and frozen.

Is it my ‘ego’ that keeps me feeling this way or is it natural? Am I capable of turning this around? What does that even mean? What would that look like? I think I am doing my best but am I really? There is no yardstick. There are no comparisons. Whatever the question, the answer is love. Being with love, being in love and being love.

photo (6)

Day 688


The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Day 687


“Is it wrong that I secretly enjoy this bit very much?” asked a deeply religious young lady as she was going off to sleep as a result of having received some anaesthetic medications from me this morning.

The turmoil and the innocence of her question made me think about how much of our life is governed by what’s right and what’s wrong. On the one hand it in an important judgement to make and on the other it can be completely stifling if we take it too far. It can make us judge others and ourselves rather harshly. After all, the past and the present is witness that many thousands of innocent people having been rightfully and ruthlessly killed and ruined in the name of a ‘loving, merciful and forgiving’ God and ‘democracy and liberty’.

Being ‘right’ often does nothing more than instil a sense of false superiority, designed to control the feelings and behaviour of others and confine them and society to very narrow boundaries. People who believe they are ‘good’ and ‘right’ constantly look down upon others who may be different.

According to a story from Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu had 2 wives – Laxmi, the goddess of fortune, and Alaxmi, the goddess of misfortune. Both of them believed they were the most beautiful. So, they asked Vishnu, “Which one of us is the most beautiful?”
Vishnu said to Laxmi, “When you arrive, you are the most beautiful.” And he told Alaxmi, “When you leave, you are the most beautiful.”
What is the correct answer? Who is really beautiful?

“Existence knows no right or wrong. The beauty of existence lies in doing what is appropriate, rather than relying on morals and ethics.The life process seems to be so chaotic and unbearable for you that you are trying to bring some silly sense of order by establishing your own principles, your own morality, your own ethics. If you bring your own silly sense of order to life, you will completely miss the magnificent order of the existence. There is no need to be orderly. Existence is in perfect order.” – Jaggi Vasudev.