Fleeting!

Let me start this post with a little story- moments from life in these times:

” That morning, it was raining. Quite unusual for this time of the year. He opened his eyes, unsure of what had awakened him. The alarm hadn’t gone off. The clock dial showed 5 a.m. He lay in bed, listening to the sound of the rain outside. He buried his head in his pillow and tried to go back to sleep. But somehow, the rain kept him awake…just awake enough to not go back to sleep. A state of calm nothingness. A memory came floating into that nothingness. He remembered that night from many years ago, when he had stood beneath the lamp post in the rain, with his best friend, holding hands. They had waited for the rain to stop, and it was at the same time that both gazed up at the raindrops that sprinkled on them like drops of gold, in the yellow light of the lamp. They gazed in silence, spellbound by the beauty of what they saw, unable to speak a word. After long moments of silence, they looked into each others’ eyes, overwhelmed. And both instantly knew that the magic of that moment did not have to be verbalized, for it was there in their eyes.

Those days had been different. There was the luxury of time. He remembered how their friendship had evolved at a slow, steady pace over time. They spent a lot of time together, unrushed by the need to analyze their relationship. Just as with the magical moment under the lamp post, it had been unnecessary to verbalize their emotions for each other. They just settled effortlessly into their friendship, savouring every moment of it. On most days, they went out. Sometimes, on long strolls and at other times, for a drive. At times, he rode the bike. He loved her for her emotional spectrum…her ability to find excitement and joy in the essence of an experience, rather than in its superficial appeal…her child-like joy at every new experience he treated her to. The gender difference never really came between them. They were like two children exploring the world. That she was a woman only made it more special.  They talked endlessly about nothing and everything. They ate out at cosy places where the food perhaps tasted extra nice on account of the bonding they shared. He had a taste for places and together, they let the city come to them. There had also been times when they settled for some toast and marmalade at home and poured cups of coffee to go with it. In every endeavour, big or small, there had been so much richness.

The beep of the alarm broke his reverie. The rain had stopped. It had just been a half hour of memories, but his mind had travelled at the speed of light. He thought of the day ahead; it was going to be a long day. By 7, he was out of the house. As he walked towards the cafe for a quick bite, his phone rang. A colleague was on the line. Over breakfast, he discussed with his colleague the intricacies of the new project. As anticipated, it was another busy day at work. A meeting, a difficult client, pending work that needed immediate sorting, bills that needed to be cleared, plans that needed approving, tickets that had to be booked, tasks that needed to be handed over, and so much more. In the middle, he had somehow found time to order lunch and cater to the needs of his stomach. At 7, he had left office with a colleague and after some unwinding over dinner and drinks, he had finally come back home. When he came out of the shower, it was to realize that it was raining again. He suppressed his urge to pick up his mobile and reach out to the world that dwelled there. He just sunk into the couch in the living room and through the glass doors of the balcony, watched the rain outside.

He felt very disturbed. Every day seemed so full, and yet, it was to an emptiness that he returned every evening. An emptiness that he filled with the virtual world. His life was a sea of events….one event merging into the other in no time. He tried to run through the day in his mind. But all he could remember with clarity and peace was the morning reverie and the rain. He tried to recollect what he had eaten for breakfast, and was surprised at how hard he had to try before he could recollect. He looked back at the events of the week. He had met interesting people, indulged in enriching conversations, enjoyed his badminton sessions, been productive at work. He loved his work and he was his own boss. And yet, work had also transformed as an experience. Despite enriching moments, he still felt empty and disturbed.

He walked into the little room that he now used as a store. He moved aside the luggage bags and cartons and looked at the room. This was his work studio before he had bought the place where he had set up his office now. He sat by the window and reflexively reached out for the lamp switch. He switched it on and off. Through the window, he saw the city- a sea of shimmering lights. After a while, he switched off the lamp. The room was in darkness. Outside, the city looked beautiful. ‘I love sitting in the darkness and taking in the beauty of the city. This studio is beautiful!’, she used to say. Light and dark- they had both loved the contrast of it…the fact that one enhanced the other.

On an impulse, he fetched his laptop and switched it on. He looked up mails she had sent him a long time ago. They had all been long mails, full of life. He read through them with renewed zeal. He then sat back, lost in thought. When was the last time someone had mailed him? Or he had mailed someone? Apart from work, there was none. He scrolled through the texts and instant messages on his phone. They appeared pale and dry. And then he knew what was wrong with him and with the world.

It was all fleeting. The pace was so fast that there was never the time to let a feeling percolate deep into the senses, deep into perception, and root itself into an unconscious memory. Emotions need to be brewed like tea. Until you brew it long enough, the essence of the tea will never permeate the concoction, and it will indeed be a weak tea, unappealing to the senses. Multitasking and pace was erasing every fresh emotion with a new one, exhausting the body and mind, without really permeating the mind or building memories. Thoughts were always far ahead of feeling. On instant messaging, before you could delve deep into one context, the other person had already shifted your trail of thought. More range, less depth. ”

Loneliness and depression are the epidemics of our times. If we don’t heed to them and fight them, we are only going to run into a deeper mess of mental health issues in the future. Unconscious memories are an important component of our mental health. In a fast paced world, everything happens so quickly that there is no time to form deep rooted memories. However intense a moment might have been, the next moment, a fresh event uses up the machinery of the brain. The first feeling is wiped away by the second, it doesn’t last or build up progressively to be locked into memory. It is analogous to writing on water. As children, when emotions are primary and thoughts secondary, we are in a phase of imbibing experiences and forming unconscious memories. These memories in later life, lay the foundation for our overall optimism, mood and energy. On this baseline, we have our ups and downs. And so, it is vital to give our children good memories, based on active experiences. In a world where every experience is fleeting, our children never spend enough time with an experience, long enough for them to brew this emotion into a memory that incorporates itself into the foundation of the mind. And this is not just a lacuna on the part of the parents, but on the whole society. Parents in these times, have valid constraints in terms of providing the best possible environment for the growth and development of their children. The nature of jobs is no longer the same as it used to be, and so is the case with lifestyle. And so, they need to be supported adequately by society. Schools can play a very important role in providing this support, but thanks to materialism-driven objectives, schools are also transforming children into mechanized gadgets. In the absence of memories, there is no potential for bonding, attachment, learning or creativity.

Let me end this article here with a recommendation that comes from a teacher who practices this on her students. Her students maintain a diary. They write about their day to day experiences in it. They do this over time, and this can help a parent/teacher/psychologist/their own selves to get into the journey of their minds. It is a healthy practice for anybody and everybody. On that note, let me end, wishing you all a happy new year. May the essence and fragrance of your unconscious penetrate deeper into your conscious!

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Merry Christmas??

My 35th Christmas. Every year, it is the Christmas season I love the most. Right from my childhood, it has always been the best part of the year.

When I was a child, I lived in a place where we had a whole lot of Christian neighbours. Decembers were cold and the pale glow of stars that adorned their houses radiated warmth. Back then, the shops didn’t sell extravagant and sophisticated stars. They were simple and sober, and their light was just enough to dispel the darkness of cold nights and the darkness in any lonely soul’s heart. They were a comforting sight and I would look out through my window late into the night, drawing warmth and happiness from the sight of these stars, wishing I could have a star for myself. But as a child, I was too scared to ask my parents if I could put up a star too. Only Christians put them up, didn’t they? Oh, why was I not born a Christian? I was absolutely miserable about this fact the whole Christmas season. And so, I had to be content gazing at those stars from my window, dreaming of owning one some day.

Christmas carols and music filled the air. The carol party always had many familiar faces and I loved their visits to our homes. Someone would be dressed up as Santa, and I always felt this Santa did not somehow look quite as nice as the Santa I had seen in my story books. The thing about Christmas was that it cut through the loneliness of winter and made winter come alive. With the festivities, decors, stars, carols and parties, the night felt youthful. The entire city seemed to retire to bed very late, and it made the streets feel safer and merrier. More importantly, we children seemed to have a little more freedom….a little more time outdoors! Parents seemed to loosen up as half-yearly exams came to a close and the school closed for Christmas vacation. The most striking memory is of how safe it was, back in those days. None of our parents worried about our safety as parents do today. Also, the barriers between neighbours were not as palpable as they are now, especially when it came to us children. I think I spent more time outdoors and at my neighbours’ houses than I did at my home. Closed doors were a rare sight in a household that had children. So many faces come into memory. I remember most of my neighbours as people very fond of children. They welcomed us, spoke to us in a language of affection that is still fresh in my mind, showered us with homemade delicacies. I always loved cakes. And as it is with most things, I doted on those simple homemade cakes which I label as ‘exotic’ today. By the end of Christmas, we had tasted every variety of homemade cake. Sometimes, we also bought those goodies that were exclusive to the Christmas season. Christmas in those days, was a season when it was impossible to feel lonely. Everybody came out of their homes and reached out to each other.

When i was older, i remember staying in a house that overlooked the backyard of a church. By then, Christmas too had evolved. There were more parties surrounding Christmas. There was a huge ground adjacent to where we lived. It would be transformed into a party area in December. Every evening, there were games and contests. Many people gathered and from our terrace, we could watch all of it. They would also have an orchestra and occasional dance parties. From the church, music filled our house. They had bonfire parties in the backyard and we watched it all from our terrace. I loved the sound of the guitar strings as they kept me company during the night.

The Christmas season was also the most romantic. We would get to see pretty young girls dress up in beautiful frocks and skirts and attend mass or go for parties. And there were smart, handsome young boys trying to woo them. I had my favourites when it came to pairs. And I wanted to grow up fast and meet someone interesting and cute…someone who could play a guitar….someone who would look at me the way these guys looked at those beautiful girls. I wondered if it was possible to have a Christian boyfriend.

Christmas was different when I finally grew up and we were in college. I remember this one time they were inaugurating the Allen Solly store at Safina Plaza. I had gone shopping with dad, and as we walked towards Safina Plaza, this lady walked up to me and asked me a question. My dad answered and I repeated, all smiles. She gifted me an Allen Solly voucher, and said- ‘For the striking smile on your face’. I remember blushing as the whole crowd looked at me. I never used the voucher, I preserved it in my diary. That Christmas, I loved the decors on Commercial Street, the Christmas decors we bought and everything about Christmas. Mom was visiting her sister, so it was just me and dad.

Towards the end of college, my life had turned into a perpetual Christmas. It was full with people, their love, laughter and the outdoors.

Christmas took a turn when I moved abroad. The decors were unimaginably beautiful. Sales were everywhere and we shopped big time. We bought gifts by the dozen and it was important to thank everyone for being a part of your life. I loved to think of what each of my friends might really like for a Christmas gift, and I loved wrapping up the gifts, personalizing cards and surprising people. It was party-time…at work and otherwise.

Following my move to Kerala, Christmas became a memory. And yet, it remains the most beautiful part of the year, thanks to the evergreen memory.

This Christmas, I was surprised to see how many souls expressed feelings of loneliness and depression. I was surprised to see people very much alive on virtual platforms, trying to derive some solace there. A good many people were deriving companionship from their television screens. There seemed to be no scarcity of stars in the neighbourhood. Non-Christian houses had them too. The stars today are extravagant and sophisticated, some too bright and blinding. They radiate no warmth; they themselves appear lonely. Loneliness is the most deadly disease that is gradually gnawing into our lives. I do not know if it is possible to rid us of this dreadful disease…to prevent it from afflicting us. As we zealously wish each other ‘Merry Christmas’ on social networking sites, I wonder how merry it really is!

Are we evolving?

Change is vital to the development and progress of any society. But in the name of change, a lot of what we see around us, is far removed from the concept of development and progress. And so often, it is a nightmare for many of us to watch this epidemic of self-destruction in the name of change.

Evolution is integral to nature. It is a key component of any dynamic system. However, evolution rests on the foundation of a past. It rests on a base of awareness and insight gained over time, discarding what is fragile and unstable, incorporating what is strong and stable. It is noteworthy that the process of elimination is more crucial here, than the process of incorporation. Only if a trait is time-tested and analyzed in terms of its utility versus futility and proven to be a strong limiting factor in survival, will it be eliminated. After all, a lot of energy, effort and creativity would have gone into the genesis of that trait. And so, nature does not eliminate it without the deepest analysis.

This process of evolution in nature should form a guideline for evolution of a society. A society’s tradition and culture are formed in the course of years, incorporating into them the geography, climatic conditions and so many features unique to that land and its people. However, it is not a static process. It is a current…a wave that evolves with time, to suit the needs of its people at any given time. As newer phenomena penetrate that land, as new knowledge is acquired, and as newer insights are gained, it evolves to a new equilibrium. However, here again, the process of elimination deserves importance. It must never be impulsive, thoughtless abandoning. After all, everything that we have in our tradition and culture is the outcome of numerous innovative minds, their energy, effort and struggle. Minds that belonged to different eras. Minds that symbolized the collective consciousness of that era. Minds that are our own past. We would never have the heart to chop a tree that we have painstakingly planted and tended to. Unless the felling was in some way vital to our survival. Likewise, it is tragic to impulsively and thoughtlessly eliminate aspects of our tradition and culture. Incorporation of new elements at the expense of existing elements must practise utmost rigidity in elimination. And this is the tragedy that has afflicted the Indian society. Overnight, we are unlearning all that we learnt over centuries, and incorporating a lifestyle, largely borrowed from the superficial aspects of Western culture.

We have a responsibility towards this planet. And so, we have a responsibility towards the generations that will succeed us. It is our moral and social responsibility to preserve the wisdom of the past and to deliver it to the future. At this, we seem to have failed miserably. We helplessly watch this process of discordance between man’s emotion, thought and act. We helplessly watch our children self-destruct in the name of change. It is high time we take a stand and steer them from this path of extinction towards a path of evolution….

As another year unfolds…..

Another year draws to a close, marking the end of perhaps another chapter in this book of life. Each one of us would have our own stories to recollect, some sad, some happy. And thus we all move on, battling with adversity, licking our wounds, burying our scars, replacing them with new leaves that have sprouted from the scar, healing us and taking us a step closer to our souls. This is the whole process of life- this story of how we discover our true inner drives and unleash our souls onto the platform of this world, immortalizing our souls. At the end, it is only our creation and contribution that outlives our mortal selves and reaches out across time and space. For me, it is words. My words are my mind…they are my soul. And until the day I carry this mind, I shall recreate my mind on the canvas of this earth with my words. Through my words, I hope to be perceived….long after I am dead. I hope to communicate and to make a difference to any lost soul who can find comfort in my words. It is my tribute to this precious gift of life.

Looking back at this year, it has been a peculiar mix of experiences. The early part of this year was a crucial phase in my life because it was the answer to all that I endured in the course of the last 5 years. And I was rewarded. It was a sweet reward, simply because it was a moment which made every trying moment of the last 5 years worthwhile. And thus, I finished my post graduation in style, zealous and eager to jump into the next phase of my career. It was not ambition which drove me towards the next phase, it was energy and insight. It was perhaps the first time I felt I had come this close to the intricacies of the human mind, and I really wanted to put my insights to good use. And yet again, I stumbled. And this time, I knew I could not get up on my own. It was only with the help of my friends that I could manage to finally make a comeback to life. When I did, I was able to finally decipher what life was trying to tell me, and I could see the direction I needed to take.

People have always been an important part of my life. And every age group has a different role to play…a different significance in my life. Together, they complete the emotional need in me. I love children. They represent to me a natural world, driven by emotion, instinct and curiosity. No other world can replicate the purity of the world they create. Sometimes, when one is in the middle of complicated problems and responsibilities, it helps to just spend some time with children. They take you with them. You are suddenly able to relax your guard, shed off your responsibilities and become a child yourself. You drift to another world, devoid of the sophistication and complexity of the adult world. The best thing is to have kiddo friends who will let you into their world. The adolescent world and the youth have a different place in my life. They represent more of an outlet to me. Even in these times, it is possible to be a reference to them. In the course of my career as a teacher, what I have noticed is that they are in need of a strong reference- a reference who represents a personality that symbolizes happiness and contentment. If you can be such a reference to them, then you can significantly influence them and mould them, for they aspire to follow your track. They will look up to you, spend time with you and make you feel loved, cherished and immensely valuable. And then you have your own age group. You are bound to them by the commonality of the problems you deal with. It is a very unique bonding coz they will make you feel that you are not alone. But the people I love the most are the elderly. Those old and wise people who alone have the ability to read your silences, shoulder your burden and show you perspectives that can only come from experiencing the crux of life. I miss their presence in my life. Their presence had the feel of a hearth that could keep you warm on a cold night. Somehow, with them, your deepest secrets were safe, your worst flaws were acceptable, and your insecurities were laid to rest. With them around, it always felt like everything was going to be alright again. I always feel they were the pillars of society. Sometimes, I wonder if we will ever be able to substitute them when we are old.

We are a lonely society today. The only difference between solitude and loneliness is that the former is felt in the absence of people while the latter is felt in the presence of people. This year, I hope I go back to being with the people who I call friends, but in reality, are my family. I hope we light each others’ lives with warmth and togetherness. On that note, let me end this post, wishing you a happy new year! May the year ahead be enriching and insightful!

It’s a free world!!

Someone recently commented on how fortunate this generation was, in terms of the freedom they had. Just look at the clothes girls now wear. You would think they were all models right out of the pages of fashion magazines. For us to even wear conservative Western outfits, we had to put up with frowning faces and stifled sighs of dissent. You can lock yourself into a museum if you don’t smoke or drink these days. And you can call yourself a loser if you haven’t ever smooched or dated by the time you have stepped into adolescence; it doesn’t matter if you have never fallen in love.

‘Bold’ is in. As long as you can lash out and sound like you are breaking convention, you are a hero and will be celebrated. Manners and etiquette do not matter. It is perfectly alright to be very rude to an elderly individual, however grey his hair is, and however insightful his words are, as long as you manage to put up a practised air of intelligence and spell out your words with conviction, however hollow they may sound to your own ears. The whole point is to make noise so that everybody is looking at you. As long as the matter you have chosen has scope for controversy, you will succeed, for the media will take care of the rest.

In today’s world, we are all celebrities, thanks to social networking and media. We all look like models, we all write beautiful poetry and prose, we all have insightful perspectives on every issue that is of apparent significance, and we all lead glamorous and picture perfect lives. Just the number of ‘likes’ on our facebook wall will tell the world how big our celebrity status is.

Indeed, we have the luxury of unlimited freedom.We assume that unlimited freedom is synonymous with ultimate happiness. But that is far from the truth. Long-term happiness and contentment depend more on motivational drives than on the transient euphoria that accompanies our accomplishments and achievements. To lose motivation is to lose one’s very soul- a state labelled as ‘depression’ by medical science. As long as we are in the pursuit of realistic goals, we are driven towards a future. The harder the struggle to attain our goals, the more we cherish the accomplishment of these goals. From time immemorial, it has been emphasized that the pursuit of our goals is in itself, happiness.

With unlimited freedom, every goal is easily achievable, and a threat to our motivational drives. Our achievements lose value because they are easy to attain. We are forced to define more complex goals. We also move from one instant gratification to another, unable to connect to a deeper sense of motivation. A lifestyle based on instant gratification puts the mind into a more passive mode and is therefore detrimental to growth and maturity. This manifests as a variety of mental health issues and behavioral problems. We fail miserably at interpersonal relationships and are deficient in life skills.

A certain restriction of freedom is important, particularly at the level of an organization/community/society. A framework has to be defined- one that allows peaceful coexistence of all personality types, without room for hurting each other. The importance of such a framework is also to transform passive events into active experiences in the life of every individual within that community. There is scope for choosing one’s own path within this framework, but such a choice would be born out of a genuine drive, than out of impulsive thoughtlessness. To break out of this framework would mean thinking and questioning oneself- ‘Is this what I really need? And why?’

We have numerous examples from the past- of people who chose their own path, breaking out of the framework of convention. In the days when Indian women wore sarees, there were women who defied this conventional norm. But they didn’t break the norm just because they wanted to revolt and break free. They had their individual reasons and so, society did not regard these women as rebels or outcasts. Simply because they had personalities that matched their attire. And so, they coexisted peacefully within the umbrella of a society unified by a higher goal of humanitarian values.

The problem today is that many a time, the attire is discordant with the personality. External make-over without accompanying internal transformation can look comical and vulgar. Just because we wear more modern outfits does not necessarily make us modern in our outlook, and that is no sign of development or progress…no reason for pride.

In the past, it was not easy to convince parents that you were mature enough to fall in love and choose your life partner. I know of many friends who fell in love, but could not marry the person they fell in love with. Though there is a sadness to this thought, I still feel that if one really wants something, one would find the courage to go for it. I feel that rigidity, in small measure, is a tester of one’s drive and motivation. It helps us discriminate between what is impulsive desire and what our soul yearns for. Today, you can just go out with anybody on a casual affair. That degree of freedom robs you of your opportunity at experiencing a relationship that is truly meaningful and beautiful.

Take the case of the ‘kiss of love’ campaign. I remember how beautiful it was in the West, to see couples kissing. It made you feel that ‘love’ is in the air. But when it comes to the Indian context, I am forced to ask- ‘Is the Indian mindset moulded enough to perceive this act in its holistic sense?’ The answer is no. We have a long way to go. At this point, people have even lost the ability to differentiate between love and lust. A gradual transformation in mindset, perception, values and attitude are all vital before we relax our framework. If not, the wrong message would be conveyed to very young people who have been conditioned by a very conservative upbringing and who do not have the mental maturity to think for themselves.

There is yet another phenomenon which is significantly affected by freedom- that of creativity. I saw this discussion on the gradual decline of creativity in recent times. And why not. Creativity is an alternate, unexplored path that the mind takes when trapped in the real world. In the setting of unlimited freedom, creativity becomes an option, and not a necessity. And so, the mind will never venture as deep as it would, in the setting of entrapment.

Having said all this, I must emphasize that I am not vouching for overt rigidity, which is incompatible with leading a qualitative life. It is no doubt, detrimental to mental health. This explains the high incidence of mental illness/suicide in highly conservative societies such as Kerala. And that is why positions of power (the policy makers at the level of family, schools, offices and all institutions) need to be handled by people who have the sensitivity and humanity to relax the framework where necessary.

A peek into the unconscious

“The most intimate stranger I have known is my mind”

Last night, an old acquaintance asked me,” How have you been? Long time….”
5 months. In 5 months, I seem to have walked through 5 years.
“I have been okay”, I said.
“And there must be a whole world in that okay”, he said.
I smiled.
Did I say acquaintance? He had to know me too well to make these remarks!

Not much has happened in my external world. A few career plans that couldn’t be worked out in the end. My part-time job. All the chores I had kept pending for the last 5 years. I even moved away from all forms of socializing- real or virtual.
But my internal world bore no semblance to this external picture. It has never been easy to carry the burden of the personality that defines me. It has its extraordinary appeal, but that extraordinariness comes at a cost. I think of water bodies. Even they have their independent personality, so different from each other. On the surface, they are all water. But the pond can never be the river…the river can never be the sea. The irony being that the sea can embody the river, but the river cannot embody the sea. The river flows effortlessly, perhaps mocking the sea at its inability to do so. The sea gleams with its extraordinariness for it guards a beautiful world that thrives deep within. It also struggles eternally with its depth for depth has the potential for turbulence.

On bright and sunny days, the surface of the sea is calm. It appears to look outward in calm reflection, a gentle breeze caressing its surface, the sunshine penetrating right into its soul, illuminating portions of the beautiful world that thrive within. On dark and cloudy days, the sea is just as dark and opaque. It looks inward, and all that comes to visibility is its infinite depth. It attempts to look deeper and deeper and comes in contact with a dark world, alien and unfamiliar. This world has none of the attributes of the beautiful world illuminated by the sunshine. The confrontation with this dark world triggers the turbulence and the sea is taken over by a storm. It lashes out until the turbulence settles to give way to a vacant nothingness. And into this vacant nothingness penetrates a fresh bout of sunshine. This is the story of the sea…of its journey.

Living in Kerala, it is easy to understand why this little state has the highest suicide rate in the country. Like a cult, the society rigidly holds on to its inhumane principles of perfectionism and idealism. The lines between black and white, between right and wrong, are impossibly sharp. Within this framework of rigidity, it grooms its people and conditions them to believe in its perfectionism and idealism. The conditioning happens so early that it is impossible to ever release these minds from their conditioning and motivate them to think independently. The pressure to abide by social norms and convention is so high that there is a palpable unconscious fear in people here…perhaps of being thrown out of the ‘herd’. People are intolerant to differences, independent thinking, freedom and individuality.

For me, the difference is palpable. Every single day, I thank God that my parents left Kerala when they were young and found jobs outside the state and so, we kids grew up in a free world. We spoke and lived our minds. And that did not mean disregard for others’ perspectives or needs. But because the benchmarks were rather loose, it was easier to be human, with all the imperfections that came with it. It was perfectly okay to have an open mind, make mistakes, learn and grow. But that is not the case with Kerala. The patrolling of character and moral policing is so rigid that it is practically impossible for any human being to conform to these benchmarks. The consequence is that if you are sensitive and have an inner voice, you will prefer looking inward to looking outward. For when you look outward, the vision will conflict with your internal world. That is the beginning of the road to creativity…and also, the road to mental illness. And this is perhaps the reason why Kerala has only two extremes of people. One has to either be highly insensitive or highly creative to survive the assaults on the mind. Depending on whether it is a sunny day or cloudy day in your life, you will switch between creativity and mental illness.

I remember this question Kay Red field Jamison had put through ‘Life derives its meaning and excitement from that zone that represents the interface between normalcy, creativity and mental illness. What decides if you will take the path to creativity or to mental illness?’ I guess creativity comes in little spurts- where an environmental stimulus has suddenly illuminated a relevant aspect of what you have tucked away in your unconscious. Creativity cannot be forced upon. It thrives on the spontaneous creation of a mood intense enough to unlock a relevant aspect of your unconscious.

But if you consistently look inward, without balancing it with looking outward, all you will see is darkness and depth, that do not make sense. In that darkness, you will move from one dark place to the next, attempting to unlock something meaningful and beautiful, but you will fail miserably, only triggering turbulence. Coz your mind feels trapped. In a society like Kerala, one is forced to persistently look inward. One becomes uncomfortably aware of one’s emotional depth. And that is not healthy.

While dress codes and freedom of speech with regard to women in this society are extensively discussed, it amuses me that even simple things are not acceptable here. Playfulness and excitement, for instance. It amuses me to see them label you as a characterless woman if you are zealous and high-spirited. It is acceptable if you are a boy, but not if you are a girl. You cannot drive in high spirits, you cannot dress aesthetically ( I am not even talking of dressing liberally), you cannot be mischievous, lighthearted and happy. You cannot look at beautiful sights on the street and allow yourselves to be visibly enthralled. You cannot let your emotions show on your face.

It amuses me that when you make eye contact with a man while you are talking to him, you will make him uncomfortable. He will look away and make you feel uncomfortable. This will happen all the time- when you are buying things from a shop, when you are paying your bus-fare, when you are discussing work with a labourer, when you are settling your bills at an office.

Every single day of my life here, I ask my genes how much more potential they have for endurance. They are now on reserve. And now I understand why the average human being just leaves this state and builds his future elsewhere. That is the road I need to take as well. For it is impossible to put up with this image of perfectionism, at which the state ultimately fails miserably!