An Essay on Mental Health.

An Essay on Mental Health.

Two celebrities took their own lives within one week of each other. One, a talented Bollywood actor. The other, his former manager.

Sushant Singh Rajput was only thirty-four when he committed suicide by hanging. There was no note. Indian media being the Indian media, the family was harassed and photos, circulated. Photos that showed the poor soul lying supine on the bed, ligature marks around his neck. And people kept forwarding those images on social media without showing any respect for the deceased or his grieving family. There were no trigger warnings, either. It shocked me to see how people here lack respect, empathy and common sense. As more details surfaced and as more people shared what they knew about the situation, a couple of major issues came to light. Depression, and the fact that since the Indian film industry only survives on the ‘product of nepotism’, Sushant had also been left feeling unacknowledged. He’d made it to Bollywood without a Godfather to push him, and he was finding it hard to stay afloat. In a conversation with a fan on social media, he confessed that he would be kicked out of the industry if his movie didn’t do well.

While the rest of B-town shared posts on social media talking about how they should’ve been there and been more accepting, keyboard warriors started sending hate to top-tier actors. Case in point: Alia Bhatt getting bullied for her post on Sushant. Kangana Ranaut, another self-made actor, getting way too much hate for speaking up about Sushant’s mysterious suicide. And this is exactly how the cycle never ends. Trolls find someone to bully and sometimes, even the strongest of minds breaks down. And goes places where it’s hard to recover from. And it’s not just celebrities or prominent people that face mental health issues, it’s shockingly sad to see that it’s a thing in every Indian home. A thing most families choose to ignore. A thing many believe – TO THIS DAY – that it’s not an issue at all and can be chased away with a proper beating. Not only is that child abuse, it also worsens the child’s state of mind.

As a Bengali Indian, and now a married woman, I’ve faced my share of bullying, I’ve been pressured into doing something I didn’t want to, made fun of for having clinical depression, been doused with buckets of unsolicited advice, been body-shamed and at the same time, never been taken seriously when I needed to talk to someone. And it pains me to say that many others I know go through some form of mental health problems and are dismissed for wanting to talk about it. In (Bengali) households, fifteen-year-olds are mocked at for being low on energy or having enough courage to say that they’ve been feeling depressed. Many are ridiculed for wanting to choose to study something they find interesting. God forbid should you want to become a photographer or a makeup artist. God forbid if you’re not doing well in med-school. While in others, children are made fun of for being “weepy and dead inside” all the time. They’re dismissed if they’re not interested in the same things their parents like. As they grow older and get married, they’re bombarded with questions about when they’d be gaining or losing some weight or when they’d be making babies, despite being fairly new to the whole “being married” scene. No one asks you what you want or if you’re doing okay. No one checks in on you when you’re struggling to reach out. Some people only want you to be happy while putting pressure on you that if you’re not happy, you’d be henpecked into doing what they want because that’s how the world works. People are in fact so quick to judge that all you’re going to end up getting is a bunch of ridiculous statements ranging from “Get over it” to “You’re just thinking you’re depressed. It doesn’t happen that way. No go do the done thing.”

And all of this is normal. That’s what we’ve all grown up facing and are still facing today.

People are so educated but there is serious lacunae in our understanding of mental health and how important it is for a healthy living. And it’s often the people that post about how they wish they’d been there for someone, are the people that spew the most hate. No one actually likes to listen. And that’s the major issue here. We don’t have good listeners around us. Everyone likes the sound of their own voices too much to ever give someone else a chance to speak. And that’s how we start feeling lonely despite being part of a proper unit. And that’s how we start breaking down. Despite all the “education”, we still consider things like pansexuality or depression as something that should be kept under wraps only.

What if the neighbors or the relatives find out? We’ll be so embarrassed!

Why’s any of this taboo when it’s actually out there affecting people badly enough to make them want to take their own lives? And we know that with the quarantine very much in place, it gets hard to keep a brave front all the time. And we need to learn that it’s okay to let do and to have a breakdown or two. But it’s not okay to not have anyone to reach out. Therapists are there for a reason and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

It’s time we learned to be more accepting, more vigilant and more aware. The time for passing crude judgment has now passed. If we want to live healthy, we’ve got to focus on our mental health first and quit treating it as something that can be shoved under the rug and forgotten. And just saying that we need to do something isn’t enough. It’s time all of us actually DID something about it. It’s June 2020 – so if not now, then when?

Millennials and Marriages

Millennials and Marriages

I asked a few people, who are well into their twenties and thirties, about their opinion on marriage and starting a family. The answers were mostly the same across the board. The group I was talking to did NOT want to get married.

It’s crazy, you’d think that with the wedding industry growing as it is, people would actually want to take the plunge as well – but no. Women say that men change after the wedding happens, and men say that women change too. Millennials are confused as they come, and they say they don’t need any more on their plate. Fair point.

Someone said that people don’t know how to date in their own lane and the same goes for marriage. You marry a super rich someone, who’s had a lavish lifestyle, promising to give them the life they’ve always had, but as soon as you’re married, you want them to tone down so they can fit your mold – that’s not done, they said. Imagine if Rose had ended up with Jack, she would definitely complain at some point about him not being able to give her the life she’d been used to, they said. Another reason why some people don’t want to get married would be the fact that most people make enough to give themselves a comfortable lifestyle – but they cannot cover the cost of having kids and raising them because, to put it frankly: “Kids are expensive.”

A few women that I know have decided to never get married because waking up next to the same person and watching them grow old with you isn’t as romantic as movies make it out to be. At this point, I was going “Yikes”, I kid you not.

All these strong opinions against marriage ended up driving me a little insane, so I asked people the same question on Instagram: and this time, the opinions were divided. Honestly, that’s such a relief because I’m getting formally hitched in two months and I could do with a few people saying they would love to get married, too.

One person said they wanted to do it and didn’t care who the other person was as long as they were good people. Arranged marriages are still BIG in India. A couple of people said they wanted to do it because premarital sex, unfortunately, is still frowned upon. And someone else said they wanted to do it because they were deeply in love and couldn’t imagine being away from their partner for one more second. This made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Go, girl! You get him.

Ooh, and someone else said they wanted to wear Sabyasachi and be featured on the designer’s Instagram page. Girl, if you’re reading this, I hope and pray that it happens one day. And soon. This brings me to the last thing I want to say – What do YOU think of marriages?

Bengali Weddings: Part Two, The Bad

Bengali Weddings: Part Two, The Bad

To read the first part, click here.

It’s getting super hard to keep up with things at this point. We barely have two months left before some major life changes happen. I’m about to become someone’s lawfully wedded wife, and oh my God, I couldn’t be happier. And ooh, about that.

Bengali weddings, of course, come with their own set of rituals. The one that we’re already done with, the Aashirwad, is the first step towards the madness that the actual wedding almost always is. At least, I’m pretty sure mine is going to be nuts. I have crazy family friends who say the most inappropriate things. And my dad has crazy friends who have questionable motives. I’m sure you’re familiar with such people, they exist everywhere.

On the day of the Aashirwad, people got wind of the fact that the Mister would be coming over to my place with his parents, officially, for the final talks of the wedding. And I kid you not when I say that everyone in the whole neighborhood actually appeared to be queueing up outside my house, or even leaning out of their balconies, trying to catch a glimpse or two. My guy belongs to a very refined family from Bangalore and all of them were taken by surprise to see this. What decent community does things like this? And my neighbors have all built their houses SO close to ours that they could see everything through my open windows. I think I died of embarrassment, a million times over, that day.

As if that wasn’t enough, I had people come up to me and ask me what the guy’s family had gifted me. Apparently that’s the culture, the norm, to ask someone what she’s been given as a gift from her husband-to-be and his family. I still fail to see the culture bit, but okay. I’m waiting to post about the good, if there’s any, about this particular Bengali wedding. Stay tuned.

Bengali Weddings, Part One: The Ugly

Bengali Weddings, Part One: The Ugly

I don’t know if this is a thing will all relatives, or just some of the people in my (very, very extended) family but…

I have a huge family, okay? Back in the day, nobody had heard of birth control or television or any other form of entertainment. This meant that their only source of um, relaxation, ended up resulting in tiny humans and burning holes in the parents’ pockets, putting the ever growing family into economic stress. They also used to get married in their early teens, making teenage pregnancies super common. Many kids would die of complications following childbirth and their husbands would end up marrying other kids. Sounds gross, but that used to be a legit thing, child marriage.

My grandma got married at a young age too. Her first child, my oldest aunt, was born eighteen years before my mum came along. My oldest aunt is in now her seventies, and my grandma passed away ages ago. I don’t remember her much, unfortunately, but she was a nice person. Same goes for my Dad’s mum. I don’t even remember having met her. The only memento I’ve got of hers is a photograph of me in her lap, and she’s wrinkled as a prune and I’m barely two. And I look mighty uncomfortable as heck.

Having said all of that, it also means that when you’re about to get married, the whole clan comes to town. Irrespective of whether you’ve ever met them or not. They just seem to pop out of thin air. Suddenly you have three hundred aunts and five hundred nieces and you’re a legit grandma and aunt and aunt-in-law. If you’re the bride, your parents have to bear all the expenses – from the relatives stay to their comforts. And when your parents are extra and don’t get the concept of low-key weddings, the budget overflows and puts your parents in debt. Sometimes you need to end up selling assets, sometimes you give yourself depression and stress but you won’t chill with the number of heads on that guest list because you’re a prominent member of the society so you’ve to make your kid’s nuptials a grand affair. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The age gap between my Dad’s siblings and my Dad has also resulted in my oldest cousin being born over TWO decades before I was. He calls my Dad “Uncle” but he’s only a few years younger than my Dad. *Jeez.* The rest of my cousins are way older than I am too, and we never really meet on the daily. I mean, the last time I ever saw any of these guys and their wives would be like, 2013. And it was awkward as heck. I didn’t attend any of their weddings but they’re all going to show up when the next wedding happens. Yikes. And with the estrogen comes the judgements. And with the older women, comes the tongue-clacking and the nosy behavior.

If you hate people and have awful social anxiety, nobody notices you going into depression because they’re too busy making your mum show them your wedding shopping and making snide comments about every saree you’ve picked. And about your weight. And about your dark circles and thinning hair. And the list goes on.

By the time the wedding approaches, it’s a miracle if you have any hair or body weight left.

The Twin

The Twin

I was getting married in three hours. I’d suddenly developed this awful headache, and told my hairstylist to give me a second.

I must have fallen asleep.

Someone was shrieking rather loudly in my ears, and also shaking me persistently.

“LOU? LOU! Wake up, Louise! Oh, God!”

I opened my eyes and everything was so bright, it took me a while before I realized that I was bound and gagged, in my underwear. My mother was in tears, in shock, and a long moment passed before I noticed that we were Inside Missy’s closet.

Missy was my dead twin sister.

We had gone swimming one night, while on a family trip to Bali, and the tide had swept us in. And I had lost track of time and woken up to find Missy gone. She’d stayed gone. The’d never found a body. We had a closed casket funeral for her, with fourteen-year-old me clinging to my mother’s arm, both of us inconsolable.

It had been ten years since.

The only thing that I happened to register now, at this point, was my very terrified mother asking, “But who did Sean get married to? We all thought it was obviously you! She even called me Momsicle!” The only person – apart from me – who ever called our mother that, was Missy. Who we held a freaking funeral for. Ten bloody years ago.

Sean is – was – my fiancé. Sean was also Missy’s teenage crush. Missy and Sean never happened because of the incident. I’d never meant to fall in love with Sean – I didn’t – but fate has awful ways of meddling with people’s lives and he’d proposed to me on my twenty fourth birthday, after three years of dating.

I looked at the date – February 14 – and realized that he was probably on his way to Florence. With his new wife. Who looked exactly like me.

Quotable Quotes, So Relevant in 2019

Quotable Quotes, So Relevant in 2019

You read a book, and a part of it sticks with you. Sometimes even for ever. Some of these quotes are so beautiful, you want to get them printed on tees and on mugs. And some become the wallpapers that adorn your phone or your laptop. Here are ten of my absolute favorites, starting with a quote from a book I happened to read only yesterday.

• You can’t sit on the fence for ever.

My Sister The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

• Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell

Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Turtles All The Way Down, John Green

• It’s one thing to fall in love. It’s another to feel someone else fall in love with you, and to feel a responsibility toward that love.

Every Day, David Levithan

I’m constantly left to wonder if the people we are online will lever materialize in real life.

Puddin’, Julie Murphy

There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

In my opinion, most marriages are based either on money or on the fear of being alone.

The Other Woman, Daniel Silva

• Men who want to get married
propose. You don’t need to read the signs. They propose and that’s the sign.

Wedding Night, Sophie Kinsella

Rich folks can tolerate almost anything, but not rejection.

The King of Torts, John Grisham

What happens when people open their hearts? They get better.

Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

What are some of your favorite book quotes?

Book Review: My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book Review: My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

• This is Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel.

My sister the serial killer is based in Lagos, Nigeria, and the story is told from the point of view of Korede, the (eventual) head-nurse at St. Peter’s.

• She has this sister, Ayoola, who’s already killed three men, making her a serial killer. Ayoola also starts dating Tade, the guy who Korede secretly cherishes a burning passion for. Actually, scratch that: she loves the guy. Love love. The book opens with Ayoola calling Korede in panic. Ayoola has just murdered her boyfriend of one month, Femi, who used to write poetry. She doesn’t remember Femi’s last name, but she remembers his poetry. This bit hit me so hard. The two sisters then go ahead and clean up the mess and dispose of the body, with Korede doing most of the work – from the cleaning to the driving to the tossing of the body wrapped in three bedsheets they take from Femi’s studio apartment.

• I found parts of the book super interesting, the writing is mostly lucid as well, but to me it felt slightly bland as the book came to a close. The book (hardcover) is a little over two hundred pages long, and won’t take you a lot of time to finish reading.

• The ending’s been left vague. There’s man that comes to visit the sisters and you can totally speculate, but you can’t tell for sure, as to who he could be. Is it a new man, a new target that Ayoola is about to murder with their dead dad’s famous nine inch long ornate knife? Or is it the newly-back-from-a-coma patient, who in his comatose state had become the only confidante to Korede, who wants her for her, now that he’s divorced his wife? It’s up to you to decide.

• The humor is very Sophie Kinsella and the storyline is vaguely similar to the cookie cutter murder books we’ve all read at some point. Also, I love the contrast between the two sisters. While Korede is plain Jane, who shocks people when she randomly wears makeup one day after looking at a YouTube tutorial, Ayoola is a total knockout and a fashion designer who uses social media and men, for her own purposes. And for her designer wardrobe. She’s also messy, and Korede is so clean and organized, she probably has OCD.

My sister the serial killer is a mix of chick lit, deadpan comedy, dark fiction with hints of romance (the way Tade woos Ayoola with red and white roses), jealousy (the way Korede shreds the roses in the dead of the night) and Daddy issues (the father isn’t mentioned by name, but he had been the law in the house and never a father figure). If I had to rate it, it would get a 3.5/5 for good premise, and I would dock points for the rushed and vague ending.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Any recommendations I need to be looking out for?

50 Word Story: Vanity

50 Word Story: Vanity

Her whole life had been dedicated to the pursuit of ridiculously pricey trinkets.

The day she slipped and fell off the cliff while sightseeing, she had on some Manolo heels. A good pair of Nikes would have saved her life, but she’d always loved a rather vulgar display of wealth.

Growth.

Growth.

We’d fight all the time

Mostly it would just be me

And we’d end up

Going to bed seething, so angry

There have been times

When we hated each other

I’d cry, you’d look away

You’d say I was such a bother

But look at us now

We’re doing great, aren’t we

So in love

A love that grows effortlessly

My shrink once told me

That it’s okay to fight a lot initially

Because that’s when people adjust

And you were growing to love me for me

People tried to take us apart

People said things, mean stuff

One day we decided it would be just us

And that we’d had enough

I guess growth

Only comes from within

And that’s pretty much it

It comes with a lot of accepting

Growth tells you

That when you’re in love

You don’t need to involve the world

Not even when push comes to shove

The Donor

The Donor

Donna had the personality of raw, unsalted pasta. To say that she was bland, unappealing, and completely far from being impactful, would be the understatement of the century. She’d been that accidental baby that neither parent wanted, and she’d grown up with the feeling of being unloved her whole life.

Her mommy issues ran deeper than the hatred a certain pair of adjacent nations felt towards each other.

Her daddy issues ran deeper than the Mariana Trench.

She wasn’t great to look at either. And she didn’t have brains, they said. Nor did she have a spine, apparently, because everyone she tried to talk to would ask her to grow one. Donna, for the life of her, with her rather limited IQ and her simple heart, never understood how one was supposed to grow a spine at the ripe age of twenty nine.

She was also color-blind and didn’t qualify for a ton of jobs, so she worked as a book-binder instead.

Donna would sit at home, by the window, look out at the trees that everyone said were green, and tell herself that things would be okay someday. And as each day passed, and as each time a prospective groom came home, ate her parents’ food and rejected her in front of her worried parents, Donna started losing hope. At this point, her parents were growing old, and wrinkly and everyone that came home would always talk about Donna’s unmarried status. And as Donna approached thirty on the last day of the warmest summer in history, she thought that it would be a great idea to soak in the bathtub for the last time before the clock struck midnight.

Donna filled the bath with ice cubes and heard voices.

Grow a pair.

Grow a spine.

You’re such a waste of skin.

You should be dead.

You should never have been born.

Nobody wants a girl child, anyway.

You’re pathetic.

She looked at the shower curtain and thought to herself that it was about time she did something worthwhile.

The last thing she felt was the press of the defibrillator on her chest as Donna finally faded away. The last voice she heard said something she wanted to hear since the time she’d developed a conscience, even though she had dung for brains and an IQ of less than ten.

She’s flatlined, they said.

A few hours later, a young man received a new kidney.

A few more hours later, someone else received a liver transplant.

In death, she wasn’t so useless and far from being impactful, after all.