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Saturday, April 20 2024
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Brian's Subtle Humour

Understand my silence, and you will understand my words!

Smile for Mental Health
Photo Credit : Unsplash

At the outset let me say that this week’s column is abnormally long because it deals with abnormality. Normally you might skip it, but I think your normality will make you curious – because it’s about abnormality! Rest assured, that’s normal!

‘Perfection is boring; it is the flaws that make you human’: Alia Bhatt. “We knowingly or unknowingly think that to be liked and loved we have to be completely devoid of fault,” says Alia Bhatt. “I am terrible at spelling, but I know what to say to someone who feels low, my general knowledge is terrible, but my emotional intelligence is something that I have worked hard to cultivate,” she said. She continued, “I tend to be hard on myself, my weight, my appearance but I never say no to a French fry.”

So many messages for us from Bollywood’s most bankable Diva, Alia Bhatt on World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2022 – if we can understand them or at least look between the lines and not see the emptiness there and feel empty ourselves. But if we do, we need to empty ourselves to someone we can trust – with the confidence that comes with confidentiality and a non-judicial attitude.

Empty Vessels make the Least Sound!

True, empty vessels make the most sound, as we realized when we tried to drive Corona away in March 2020; but when the brain becomes an empty vessel, it goes very quiet, even if nudged to make a sound. There are tears behind the eyes and a smile on the face, not from reading this column, but to hide the dryness in the throat. It’s a different kind of empty, nothing can fill it. Because it wants to be empty? Because it has to be? Because someone emptied it? Or all of the three? Who knows. It doesn’t say, can’t say or it’s too empty to bother to find out. Or no one wants to hear!

There is perhaps one element in this world that can help find out and fill it and it is not listed in the periodic table – that’s because it’s not periodic enough! Love. It is a four-letter word that is less used or misused as often as its antonym – another four-letter word – hate. But it is capable of recognising the difference between who you are and who you were! Of interpreting your silences. It’s important to note the words of Elbert Hubbard: “He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand what your words”

As emptiness fills him, he says silently: Walk in my shoes, feel the way they bite, and you say, they don’t fit, they are of abnormal size – you are loose, they are tight! And then he is just one step away from just throwing the shoes away, not even thinking of getting a new pair, but of walking on hot coals barefoot. A thought that normality does not entertain. It’s a crucial point of a journey into nothing (not the phone and the earbuds).

The ticket is punched, and the bus is about to depart and will do so if there is no roadblock ahead! And the roadblock can be you! But do you want to be a roadblock? Do you know how? And first, you must understand the silences, and then the words. Some are lucky to have people like that around, like Deepika! Deepika Padukone, another Bollywood Diva, as she explained yesterday “Had My Mother Not Identified My Symptoms…” I don’t know what state I would be in today,” she said.  And this is true of all of us.

Of course, love is around; but it does not abound, and as always, some are luckier than others in this respect. Indeed, many in India have felt that way since the onset of the pandemic in January 2020. If it was not the pandemic that killed them, it is thoughts of what the pandemic can do to them – kill them physically, economically, and socially that made the emptiness seem full!

Killing me softly, without his words!

Under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the third goal aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. As per Target 3.4 of this goal, countries must work to reduce premature mortality by promoting mental health and well-being, and the suicide rate — the number of suicides per one lakh people — forms a key indicator.

Unfortunately, the trend in India has remained contrary to this expectation in recent years. The NCRB divides the data on suicide into nine occupational categories, and among them, the maximum number of suicides in 2021 was recorded among daily-wage workers, self-employed, unemployed, and homemakers.

As per the NCRB data, suicide rates showed a decreasing trend from 2010 until 2017 but have been on the rise ever since. The suicide rate was a record 12 in 2021, which is the highest for any year the data has been available since 1967. The pandemic made things worse. For until then, it was maybe about emotional desolation and isolation – are they the same?

Then came job drought, and inflation which is living upto its name in more ways than one, and the two combined to devastate those who were able to see into the bleak future. Also, as many as 50 people in India commit suicide every week due to career or workplace problems, according to recent data from NCRB. A record 2,593 people died of suicide due to such reasons in 2020 — a whopping 41% higher than the previous year.

Well, when your right to life was in someone else’s hands till you were born, it is now your own and you want to give it up! But you must not. True, it’s a right that can be taken away, by war, imprisonment, and murder, but why should YOU give it up? Because it serves no purpose? Maybe not to you, because you have not found a way to find it. But to so many around you, who can help you find it?

How do you escape emptiness when there is no place to go but one, that you know of? Like when you want to go on a holiday but don’t know where? Somebody has to help you. A travel agent or Google! Somebody who knows how! Or perhaps think they know how! And those too abound – for a price! Because Health is now more mental than physical. Like batting in a cricket match!

And there are so many disorders of the mind, and they have been put in order by the ICD – International Classification of Diseases! Version 11 is doing the rounds right now, and as more abnormalities are discovered – the list will grow longer, and stronger! Normal though is not classified. It’s what we believe we are, but if you see the rate at which normal people do abnormal things, and say abnormal things, then normality must also find a place in the ICD – don’t you think? There are more than 50 shades of normality out there! But their hands are tied!

An Act to enable action!

On March 27, 2017, Lok Sabha in a unanimous decision passed the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 (everybody thought it was necessary!). It was passed in the Rajya Sabha in August 2016 and got approval from the Honourable President of India in April 2017. If that didn’t happen, it would be in the ICD perhaps. The new act defines “mental illness” as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation, or memory that grossly impairs judgment or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs.” Most disorders are now put in order! Because that’s the only way we could understand them – the number, classification, and progression!

What this new law on an old problem does is, it provides them with the right to access mental healthcare services. “Such services should be of good quality, convenient, affordable, and accessible. This act further seeks to protect such persons from inhuman treatment, to gain access to free legal services and their medical records and have the right to complain in the event of deficiencies in provisions”. If he is in a position to complain that is! More often he is not!

There is something new though – a person who believes he may get/has a mental disorder is entitled to an Advance Directive: “This empowers a mentally ill person to have the right to make an advance directive toward the way she/he wants to be treated for the requisite illness and who her/his nominated representative shall be. This directive has to be vetted by a medical practitioner”.

And most important of all – it is trying to eliminate self-styled practitioners of empathetic counselling, in the most empathetic way! The government has to set up the Central Mental Health Authority at the national level and State Mental Health Authority in every state. All mental health practitioners (clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, and psychiatric social workers) and every mental health institute will have to be registered with this authority who will supervise and monitor them!

This is truly empathetic on the part of the Parliament, given that everyone seems to be an expert these days! Some with a six-month course, some with a one-year course, some with an online degree, and some with some vague certificates that say they can put in order what is not!

Now the abnormal (as we define them) are in better hands and can hope to be treated normally. Though Hope is the keyword. Always has been! Emptiness is only felt when there is no hope!

Wabi Sabi!

Maybe to find hope in emptiness, it is best to follow one rule – believe or at least be made to believe – certainly not make believe – that there is beauty in imperfection as the Japanese do through a concept called Wabi Sabi!

Just have a look in the Mirror – I did today, and all I could see were the greys shining through the black, the stubble that missed the razor, the pimple below my eye, My packed abs, and the shadows below my eyes. I was disappointed. At home too, I often see imperfections every day, a fingerprint-stained wall, a scrappy sofa that has seen our life’s ups and downs, peeling paint in some locations, a little dampness in the corner of the roof and the like.

I find my own missing tiles in what others have and I don’t. All of these lead to unhappiness. If you are unable to see the beauty in imperfection.

The result – I am generally upset and unhappy, as would you!

The concept of Wabi Sabu has its roots in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and is sometimes explained by using the example of a well-loved teacup, made by an artist’s hands, cracked, or chipped by use. Such traces remind the observer that nothing is permanent — even fixed objects are subject to change.

The Japanese philosophy celebrates beauty in what’s natural, flaws and all. The antique bowls above are prized because of (not despite) their drips and cracks. What if we learned to prize the drips and cracks in our messy lives?

The classical Greek ideal of beauty, which underpins much of the Western physical aesthetic, celebrates smooth, symmetrical perfection. Wabi Sabi prizes authenticity. And there lies the difference and importance.

It’s time to strive for perfection but eliminate Atelophobia – the fear of being imperfect. On the contrary, it is time to find beauty in imperfection. If we do that perhaps we can expect the NCRB’s statistics to reflect it next year and a disease called normality to take centre stage!

But let me leave you with a poem I found on the internet  and I quote

If you don’t understand my silence, you won’t understand my words

“It’s yesterday that I cry

the past, the fragile droplet

that slithers down my cheek.

A tear, not clear

but red and grey and blue,

with blood and shadows and bruises –

a hardened rock

straight from the heart.

It’s the product of silence

and caught up words

in a tangled web of fear.

A silent war without swords

but guns loaded with shards

of a death cloaked heart

that forgot how to beat.

It’s a cloud of unknown

where even crows don’t fly

but their cackles ring throughout.

A lonely place

of dark and dampened mist

that drapes over you

but inside your head,

and it fills your brain

where no one else can see.

It’s a puppet show

with white faced dolls

and fake red smiles.

A false reality

with plastic masks

and unseen controlling strings,

from which you can’t just escape

as they become your soul.

It’s the dark secret of my heart.

It’s the curse of my mind.

It’s the strain on my soul.

It’s the tear in my eye.

But it’s why I am who I am,

It’s why I know I’ll never understand.”

© 9 years ago, Emma Marriott

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Disclaimer
This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

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Brian Fernandes

Brian is an alumnus of Roshni Nilaya’s Post Graduate School of Social Work, HR Department and has 30 years of local and international HR and General Management experience. Journalism, poetry, and feature writing is a passion which he is now able to pursue at will. Additionally, he loves compering and hosting talk shows. He loves learning and imparting it; so, when time permits, he provides leadership facilitation and soft skills training to Postgraduate students and Corporates in Mangaluru and Bengaluru. Besides, he is an accomplished Toastmaster under the aegis of Toastamasters.org and a designated Distinguished Toast Master.

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