Stranded at the intersections

January 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

The crazy girlfriend

They were just coming off a break-up, she said

From a lover who was messing with her head

She spoke of support among ‘women like her’

Other survivors of insecurity?


Of Bipolar Disorder, apparently


I sat there, the crimson running till my ears

I swear I tried my best to empathize here

Could I really do so, I questioned myself

For an answer that was straightforward and true


Because, well, I had a diagnosis too.


Dear friend of mine, did she at least see a shrink

For a formal diagnosis or some link

to her child abuse and ADHD meds

That’s all what we know, but it may not be all


Ignore the long term effects of Adderall


Domestic abuse apologist I’m not

It is quite a difficult place to be caught

Should I risk butting in and being a bitch

Try a verbal hashtag – -#notallmadpeople?


Intersectionality – not that simple


So violence, infidelity and lies

Oh don’t bother explaining – pathologize

I know what they’ll say, that I am different, yeah

Deepika Padukone types, in control


Sometimes I go very deep into my hole


Outbursts, anxiety, tears – in the same zone

Options are limited, and I feel alone

Should I go to a doctor and get on meds

To stop the outbursts, the crying and the pain?


Makes it difficult to be myself again


We need someone to talk to, to just accept

Not anonymous help on the internet

Mental health fora are full of these great guys

Who want to make it work and want some advice


“Run away! As fast as you can! For your life!”


“Never stick your dick in crazy” they all say

And I feel unlovable in every way

We just need a little help and space to cope,

Maybe understanding, accommodation?


Not with our prognosis: ‘Fatal Attraction’


Why obsess over these tests on WebMD

When the reason you seek is patriarchy

Or maybe it just did not work out like that

Isn’t this explanation simple enough?


Is mental health victimhood like, cooler stuff?


Statistics and research and facts can be damned

The drama of mental illness is so grand

“There’s nothing that we could have done”, they simply

say expecting me then to nod the same way


I’m paying attention to my partner’s say


I’m trying to guess what they’re thinking right now

Do they see her point and are wondering how

to make their clean break without waking the whack

I’m bracing myself for “the” conversation


“You’re different” – again – the explanation


If and when it happens, the reason could be

Anything possible – either them or me

Rational people would reason and move on

Aren’t post mortems irrelevant to bother?


It’s ALWAYS my mental illness, no other


Think about your feminism, the next time

A relationship doesn’t end up all fine

Just leave the DSM out of this or else

When you come for a talk all I’ll say to you

Is no

Because I am some one’s crazy girlfriend too



“It’s not you, it’s us”

December 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

I found myself with the sudden enthusiasm to invite friends over during this holiday season when I was at a TASMAC yesterday and realized that I could buy a whole crate of beer because a friend had his car. I had, earlier, planned some kind of gathering, but the true enthusiasm showed last night much to the amusement of the guys at the counter. It faded a bit by the time I got home when I started thinking about what many of my ‘friends’ would think about not being a part of this.

When you have a psychosocial disability, friendship quite often comes under the bus. I used to be the kind of person who had a lot of friends. I still do. People keep telling me – ‘I met a friend of yours the other day’. People use the term friend very vaguely – to describe work acquaintances and ex lovers and classmates and even friends of friends. Sometimes I wonder what that means.

Much has been said about splitting – about how for many people with psychosocial disability, they go from idealization to devaluation very quickly, with no middle ground. I found that in the recent past that happened to me for some people. As time went by I became very disturbed by this, which itself shows some kind of development of self awareness, which might be a sign of improvement.

Anyway – I began to think about my relationships with these people. People with psychosocial disabilities – actually for that matter any disability – are often thought of as selfish. ‘They ask for too much’ isn’t seen against their need for self preservation and dignity. Sometimes people understand ‘accessibility’ and ‘accommodation’ when you put it in terms of a ramp or a wheelchair or a sign language interpreter. When it comes to emotional accommodations, it’s a different story altogether. Mostly because it’s difficult to verbalize their requirements without sounding trivial at best, hurtful at worst.

Someone close to me was indulging in what can only be described as emotional blackmail, driving me into a crisis that only someone that you truly love can do. Now it’s apparently sorted. My feeling of victimization is strong – ‘how could they have done that to me’ – so strong, that I don’t even want to speak to this person, who I was struggling to reach out to for weeks.

There are other times and people – the person who said something sexist and ableist to me that I’m not able to get over because I’d like to talk to them about things concerning me as a woman with disability; the person with the ‘hilarious’ spouse that I’d rather not have to deal with; the person who wants to discuss my ‘issues’ that they’ve been following on social media even though I don’t want to discuss it with them, and so on.

There’s a part of me that’s still social, very social – spending hours with people I don’t even know. And in fact that’s so much less stress than the middle – people who you are supposed to be ‘friends’ with, because if you get up in the middle of a group of strangers and say ‘ I have to go’, everyone bids you a cheerful goodbye. If you sit silently and watch them, they don’t know that you aren’t normally like this, so you don’t have to pretend (which is extremely exhausting). You aren’t accosted with the ‘but you just got here’ or ‘stay for another drink’ or ‘you are just acting so weird lately’ or worse, the texts later that evening asking you ‘what’s wrong did I do something wrong’ and ‘why are you hanging out with xyz and not me?’ and of course ‘have you been taking your meds?’. It’s all well meaning only, sometimes. Because we need to talk about mental health and intervene when people seem to be ‘abnormal’. Except the idea that I’m doing this out of self preservation – which is possibility antithetical to self harm – seems impossible, because I am being a bitch.

There are the friends you hold close, and who don’t ask you these questions. After you leave, or after you throw them out of your house, they’ll text you the next day with a link to a podcast that you’d like, or ask you if you want to go for breakfast to Sangeetha. When you drop off the map and they say that they are worried about you, you know it is just that. It’s not because they have tracked you on SM and found that you checked in at a restaurant the day you blew them off saying that you were ‘not well’. There is a strong movement among users and survivors of psychiatry towards ‘being there’, and there’s a sweet anecdote about this by Gabor Gombos and how it helped him overcome his crisis.

Yes, there is a lot of overthinking – jumping to conclusions and magical thinking and mind reading and all the wonderful phrases I journal regularly. We need to space to sort out these things. The conflict about whether something is just in one’s head or is real is very difficult to resolve. Sometimes, one has the courage to verbalize it.

“I think I’m a failure and I’ve wasted my entire life.”

The usual answer: “Rubbish, you are just being paranoid” or even “no, that’s not true”.

How about, instead, let’s accord this person some capacity to think things through instead of shutting them down:

“Why do you feel that way?”

It is only one’s ability to empathize that can take one forward from here. I suppose that is where peer counseling scores over other personal relationships.

It’s really really hard to be a friend or partner to someone with a psychosocial disability. A person’s heightened sensitivity will pick up on any attempt to make this about you, infantilize them, and so on. So I think that at least in some cases the judgement about someone’s condition and suicidal tendencies and selfishness based on the fact that they aren’t responding to YOUR WhatsApp messages despite being online can be reserved.

Reasonable accommodation?

* A note on semantics here. This is how I choose to identify myself. Disability is not the impairment in itself. The impairment in this case being a mental disorder. It’s when the mental disorder interacts with various barriers that hinders a person’s full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Since I am talking about people for whom attitudinal barriers create these barriers, I use the term psychosocial disability. I’m not advocating that such persons automatically qualify for social protection or disability benefits, that is a separate issue altogether. Feel free to replace PSD with mad, mentally ill, user survivor of psychiatry, or any other term you would rather identify yourself with.


** Goes without saying, this is a personal account, also drawing from the experiences of persons with PSD who are close to me and that I have been a peer counselor for. But mostly my own, and by no means a generalization.

Flood musings

December 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

I ended up in far more flood relief work than my broken Tamil would have ever imagined. Even then, it’s a lot less than a lot of other brilliant people. Everyone claims flood relief work is selfless and all that, but I’d be lying if I said that. I was truly enjoying the insights into human behaviour in times of crisis – from courage to presence of mind to practicality and to downright whatisthisidonteven. These are just some observations, thoughts I had, and perhaps just a toned down version of the conversation I just had with @puram_politics. Anyway:

  1. The hatred for relief work in North Madras was amazing. I mean let’s start from the fact that North Madras is huge. And the northern tip of the State, which I believe falls into the Tiruvallur district, also gets grouped along with that. It went from tweets like “No female volunteer should work in North Madras” to “those people are the most bullshit people” and just downwards from there. I spent a few days in relief work in ‘North Madras’ and more than two weeks coordinating relief supplies with volunteers. I was stunned by the orderly manner in which communities who had been absolutely excluded from relief work for almost two weeks since the flood hit were so patient with relief distribution (probably because I was prepared for the worst). One of the volunteers there was expressing distress at the condition of people who were living in knee deep sewage, and one of the local volunteers told her: “This is what happens every time it rains. This is just our life.” I wondered what the point of all this piecemeal distribution in the long run, but then I realized that we have to do this, and then try to do something more long term. What else can we do. Fun fact: Chennai has three rivers, including the Kosasthalaiyar River. You’d be surprised at how many born-and-brought-up-in-Chennai people I had to explain this to when they were wondering how on earth the Adyar could flood North Madras.
  2. You can never be prepare for what happens and the disturbing exposure you may get into people’s lives. I jumped off a truck straight into an introduction to a gentleman whose son had been washed away in the floods. That was the exact introduction given to me and I was still steadying myself physically. I wasn’t prepared for this. I just nodded my head and turned away.
  3. I thought people had a right to be angry, and it was fully understandable that they got really aggressive when it came to distribution of supplies. I didn’t see any of this myself, but I can imagine it – it’s been three days since your house has been flooded and you’ve lost everything. Some truck turns up with 200 blankets and food packets. There’s nothing else in sight. I’d pay a lot of money to see the peaceful queue forming there anywhere. Also I never thought the day would come where Chennai would be fighting for blankets. I was part of this bizarre hunt until I stopped myself – I was actually hoarding contacts and had become a terrible person. Until I heard about Polaris.
  4. I had an incredibly bizarre situation where two women from a nearby settlement came angrily towards the truck screaming that no relief had reached them. They were really aggressive and one of them even pulled my kurta. Somehow out of nowhere a guy came over and restored peace and convinced them very sternly but politely that we were good people and would finish distributing door to door here and then come that side. As I turned to thank him, I noticed (and smelled) that he had walked out of the nearest TASMAC. I just wanted to put this down since we were exchanging anecdotes to decide Government policy.
  5. I learned that if I planned to do relief work at a particular area, I needed to do my homework and find local volunteers and go with them. They would tell me the caste and religious dynamics in the area. There were areas with different churches on every street and the residents of each street wouldn’t talk to the residents of the next street. The result was that only the first road got relief.There are so many areas where people have been denied relief on account of their caste, their religion, their disability, their gender, even for being tenants (the house owner would keep the relief for themselves). I learned to be mindful of this. And know when to stand back.
  6. With standing back, I mean just not trying to be the hero. I was sitting around when someone walked into the storeroom area beaming: “I am ***” in a very world saviour tone. One of the volunteers innocently asked, “what do you want?” He was visibly hurt – he had come with materials and expected a warmer welcome. Sadly the person he communicated with was distributing relief somewhere else. He eventually found that he wasn’t quite ready to walk through knee deep sewage on his mission. Neither was I, especially with my anxiety disorder. I thought it better to sit back and help making kits than go out and potentially make this about myself. I think it was a good call.
  7. The ‘only first road/main road got relief’ was a common thread wherever I went. There were areas where the most hit were inside the settlement on the river banks. Trucks can’t go there. By the time the people find out, supplies run out. Sometimes the same people end up getting the relief. It’s cool though, because the people who showed up relief are like, job well done. It was pointless to land up at Kargil Nagar with 300 food packets and feel good about oneself. Even if it took an extra day, I realized that I had to find supplies in bulk and get precise information on how much we really needed.
  8. I got accosted by really angry women (apparently I have a running gag going) as I was taking photographs as a part of studying an area for a relief plan. Their grouse – people had kept coming and taking photos and nothing was happening. It’s important to follow up on what you scout for. If it doesn’t work out, tell them. So they can try other options. More importantly I learned to not make promises I couldn’t keep. I had fantastic people like @pavithra420 and @annaverve and Sudha and Vaishnavi and Hussain and @sharmatweeting and so many others who I probably don’t even know about to rely on, but still.
  9. Many places I went to had people getting on with their lives. A volunteer from Manali made the very matter of fact observation: “We only came late.” It’s true. People are going to get on with their lives. You can’t expect them to be waiting for a relief kit and not give them one because they’ve had the grit to go on with their lives. Especially when this happens very often.
  10. On this one particular lane, while we were doing door to door distribution, there was what looked like a rather affluent house compared to the other very modest ones around it. A man walked out, held his hand out and collected the kit. I was quite stunned and expressed my irritation to a fellow volunteer. He said, quite simply: if we don’t give it to them, they won’t let us give it to anyone. I wouldn’t have had that insight.
  11. People don’t like hearing this but it is true – there’s a social dynamic in every locality and we can’t really expect it to change because we are being benevolent volunteers. I wasn’t there to preach modern values, I was there to provide relief supplies. It’s not useful to suggest that I get women use the menstrual cup instead of begging for sanitary napkins, or point out that bleaching powder is environmentally unfriendly. Clean water to rinse out a menstrual cup was unavailable. People need to stop the spread of disease. You are welcome to come and conduct awareness workshops after all this is over – whatever ‘over’ means. And the TASMAC – well, it’s been written about and there’s nothing more to say on that, except if I was going for relief work, I wouldn’t want to be identified as one of those people who got TASMACs banned during relief operations. Whenever I found myself thinking ‘Well if there was *** my attempt at volunteering would be so much easier..’ I had to immediately check myself. This really wasn’t about me. I’m not the one in need of relief here.
  12. It’s hard to be a sponsor in such a situation. You need photographs to justify all the expenditure made to your company or individual donors. I guess we need some way to ensure dignity of the people receiving relief by not making this poverty porn. It’s a thin line which I failed to navigate. I tried apologizing profusely before taking photographs. Most people were really excited at the photographs and posed very excitedly with broad smiles, which was great except I’m not sure that was what the sponsor was looking for. Some kids brought out a smartphone and asked if they could take my photos too. I suppose that was fair enough. Many sponsors and donors were wonderful including one who would keep asking: are people finding the kits useful? Is there anything we can change? I think it’s beautiful to work with people like this. On the other hand you had a religious group that surreptitiously dumped a huge load of used clothes in the back of my truck while I was looking at other supplies. Including a handbag. With stuff in it, like the crap you normally find at the bottom of your handbag.
  13. At the same time some corporate activities were just nonsensical. An FMCG company distributed packages of quick cook oatmeal in Rajaji Nagar. I’m not a fan of oatmeal in general, but 30 gram packets are hardly anything, and distributing this in a place which isn’t really familiar with the food is a little weird. Another large corporate did a really big event of hoisting a banner in the middle of Kargil Nagar and after several photo ops with the locals, proceeded to distribute an apple and a packet of biscuits. This was 10 days after the flood, at least. Several people were seen throwing it and walking away angrily. – 5 for team North Madras. Now, you have an institution for women where donors are reluctant to provide relief because cameras and mobile phones have to be deposited at the gate. Okay, then.
  14. People are really pissed off that victims of the flood are refusing items, refusing food packets, and used clothes. I could write an essay about used clothes but I think @sharmatweeting is the domain expert here. I originally put out a ‘mint condition used clothes welcome’ but I really regret it. Used underwear? Seriously? Anyway, I think that I’d be puking after a week of Sambar Saadam for breakfast lunch and dinner. Just because a person is a flood victim doesn’t mean that they don’t have any dignity. I was a little taken aback when the angry kurta pulling women referred to above were further angered by there being moong dal as part of the relief packages being distributed. In Tamil, it’s called paasi parappu. It’s not very popular, to say the least. I can’t blame the sponsors – toor dal prices are through the roof, but I understand the frowns on the women’s faces. They have to face their families with paasi parappu.
  15. If you are a twitter celebrity, or running a popular help account, please think very hard before making blanket (pun intended) statements like ‘things are back to normal’ or implying that it is time to move on to other things and other regions. One person in command at a relief collection centre yelled at one of the volunteers working to gather blankets for an area around Pulicat saying ‘so many people have taken stuff to North Madras what the hell’ – betraying a lack of knowledge of a lot of things including geography – an entire group of volunteers were blacklisted there. When an actor supposedly gave a statement that there was enough relief in a particular district, people actually diverted resources away, and I mean actually calling trucks and saying turn around. Really. Sponsors started citing this to me when I called them about a particular intervention required. Villages in in the district hadn’t received relief, and even in those that did, there were marginalized groups who were excluded. And it isn’t over. If anything, the worst of ‘united Chennai’ is coming to the forefront. A friend had to accompany his mother’s domestic help to the private school where her son studies to argue on her behalf to allow the boy to attend school – many families send at least one of their children to private schools, and they don’t have the money to pay for fees for this month and so the kids aren’t being let into school.
  16. I really had to check my caste privilege. I can’t even write about the ways in which I had to do so without sounding like a condescending asshole because I don’t have the words and I live in fear of Twitter lynch mobs. I became painfully aware of it when I found myself getting a dainty teacup while other volunteers got steel tumblers when we had tea – and I was always offered coffee and not tea.
  17. I need to mention this – the Vasantham Federation for persons with disabilities in Tiruvallur was amazing – they gave me a spreadsheet a few days after the floods with the number of families with persons with disabilities (they actually have conducted a disability census in the area) and the number of families in need to relief. It was so easy to reach out with this information and they got relief almost immediately, and much tears were shed by volunteers on how perfect the spreadsheet was. Grassroot organizations working with the marginalized are coming forth with their data and their concerns. This idea of being united and equal in the floods is really sweet till no one seems to care about replacing the wheelchairs and braille books that got damaged during the floods. Equality, as the Constitution of India will tell you, is extremely complicated.
  18. It’s so infuriating when a high network individual asks ‘tell us where we can help rehabilitation’ and when you say something around Minjur to Pulicat they say ‘oh but wasn’t that in a bad shape before the floods too?’ and if you say the little huts along the Adyar they say ‘oh but those are slums anyway’, so I don’t know what they are trying to do. Please consider areas that were indeed in a bad shape before the floods. Think about this – Chennai Rain Relief 2015, a Facebook group, has been working since mid November, also known as the floods that didn’t hit ‘people like us’. All these areas which were always in a bad shape got hit badly then, and almost recovered when December 1st happened.
  19. We need to focus on livelihoods. People have bought cars on loans to ride the Uber and Ola wave, and their cars have completely gone under water. There are communities which have broken themselves out of bonded labour by moving into prawn farming in saline ponds, and now that this water is no longer suitable, might find themselves back into the bonded labour trap. Slum dwellers will be displaced because that’s what everyone thinks a good idea is, and many of them who work as domestic help in neighbouring areas will have to start from scratch in the ‘flood colony’ they are relegated to (Tsunami survivors live in tsunami colony. True story)
  20. We need to make the most of this opportunity in terms of good research into disaster management. We need data and experiences and all that and we have to start this now, especially at the grass root level. We need to acknowledge the fact that Government officials played a huge role in rescue efforts and continue to do the same. They aren’t exactly averse to the development of solid strategy, the question is, whose voices are heard during the clamour, what data is truly reflective of the experiences and vulnerabilities of all persons. At the risk of being accused of pushing my own constituency, for example, if disaster management takes the needs of persons with disabilities into account, this otherwise traumatic experience can be more efficient than it is currently. With no groups left behind.

On working from home, and time management

April 8, 2015 § 1 Comment

I was recently part of a conversation, which included two male friends, on working from home. We all agreed that working times should be adjusted to when we were most productive, and the general consensus was that mornings were the best, and the guys were very categorical about getting the best of their work done by 9 or 10am. I wanted to agree, but I knew that wasn’t true for myself. I didn’t get as much productive morning work done in terms of sending emails and drafting and the like. I do a lot in the morning, but I somehow don’t end up meeting deadlines before noon.

Today, I clocked myself. I was up at 7am, but I spent the morning cleaning up the kitchen, making breakfast, and then lunch to pack with me, and then coffee. I then put a load of laundry in the machine and sent off exactly one document before going in for a shower, feeding my cats, packing my food, and leaving the house at 10am.

Clearly, I lost at least 2 hours in home chores (considering that my maid is on leave which is why I had to do the dishes). So obviously the solution to this is to stop home chores, which I can’t really live with. The other solution is to outsource cooking, which again, I don’t want to, because I do enjoy cooking and my dietary concerns and tendency to micromanage means that I probably will end up obsessing over the person’s cooking, which isn’t really conducive to peaceful working time. Besides, I don’t think I can afford a decent living wage for another domestic help.

My time management is evidently shit, I keep thinking, because many people I know manage much more (kids!) in the same number of hours a day. And this is exactly what isn’t helping – the guilt – as a woman, I believe that I should be doing things, like having a clean house and kitchen and well stocked fridge with fresh food and without strange covered bowls with moss on them, or curd that’s turned pink (yes, that’s what happens when curd goes bad, apparently). Every time someone comes over and makes a funny quip about the contents of my fridge, or the tomato tree that’s dying in the front yard, I smile, but also, I die a little too. When I go to buy vegetables, the guy running the shop comments about how long it’s been since my last visit. He sees me walk past every day, and probably knows that in between, while my carrots shrivel up in the veggie drawer and coriander melts into a mini swamp thing, that I’m ordering fried chicken. Oh yes, I don’t have time in the evenings, either. One work call, one friend of a friend going through a bad marriage, and it’s 9pm, and five star chicken will be here in 20 minutes, I could make an omelet but then there are only two eggs left, shouldn’t I keep them for breakfast?

When I work from home, I have home work as well. Midway through drafting sexual harassment policy, I recall that the laundry hamper is overflowing, that glassware needs to be put away, that the litter needs to be cleaned.  Since I’ll be home all day, maybe I’ll call the electrician to fix everything that’s not working. All service providers – carpenters, electricians, plumbers, assume that I have nothing else to do. 9am becomes 11am becomes post lunch becomes 4pm. And I’m rescheduling calls because I don’t want to mute important discussions while I grovel in my broken tamil about please replacing the fixtures today and not tomorrow, not again. By 6pm, I’ve achieved nothing on my to do list, there are 36 tabs open on Firefox which are all relevant but I can’t focus any more.

Randomly, office has been the most liberating for me. Sure, I can’t work in my pyjamas, but it’s fine. For those 8 hours, I don’t have to worry about anything, but work. I’m not taking a break to marinate meat because I saw this great recipe that I wanted to try and be this domestic goddess, I’m not going to investigate the cats suddenly going quiet, I’m going to have those two stressful clean up and cooking hours of my day, and probably one such hour in the evening, but it’s okay, because that’s all there is. Clearly, working from home isn’t working for me – I can’t pretend that my home is an office for 8 hours.

For the rest of my problems, of not being perfect, I probably have to confront my own demons and just let go.

False Alarm

December 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Admission: I’ve been struggling with a recurrence of depression over the last two weeks. It’s been a struggle to get out of bed, and even more difficult to remember to do things, whether it be at work, or at home. My plants are dead, my house is a mess, and I am plain lucky that I do not have any urgent work deadlines, because my depression tag teams with severe anxiety disorder.

Anyway, in an attempt to “normalize” myself I booked tickets for The Hobbit at Sathyam yesterday, and thankfully I was enjoying a 24 hour period of feeling actually good, as opposed to not terrible. So it was to be a most excellent time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half and the excellent barrels-in-the-river-sequence.

During the interval, as I was settling into my seat, everything suddenly changed.

Multiple saree and jewelry ads are par for the course in Chennai and though I find them all atrocious, they aren’t normally triggers. This one advertisement in particular however, distinctly struck me at first as being significantly louder than the others. I was trying to speak to my partner and then instinctively push my fingers into my ears. It helped temporarily, but I could feel the reverberations in my chest and could not understand why, at all. The ad ended, and I unplugged my ears, but through the next advertisement I could still feel the shaking, which had spread to my hands. I sprinted out of the theatre and enjoyed a full blown panic attack, and the kind staff of Sathyam were happy to give me a glass of water and ask me if I needed help. As usual, someone asked me what happened. I tried to explain that this one ad was “too loud” for me, and the two chaps nodded in agreement, it was something they noticed as well, not that it was as disconcerting for them.

I don’t remember the next part of The Hobbit till I saw Bilbo running around with the Dragon, and on the way home I was dealing with the whole “I just went crazy before a live studio audience” embarrassment. That was until my partner explained to me that it wasn’t something extraordinarily strange that happened to me, and explained to me the concept of infrasound. In other words, sound is not just felt in the ears, and for some people, low frequency sounds can cause discomfort. I figured he was telling me the truth since he is a sound engineer, but I did doubt that he was trying to make me feel better about effectively ruining our day out. He was absolutely sure, however, that infrasound was employed in the particular ad – perhaps not intentionally, but even so. In any case, I think it is a common experience that cinema hall advertising is louder and grates on the nerves in general compared to the actual feature presentation. I believe that the fault is not with the theatre owners, who will just play the tracks and visuals as given to them, but with those who create the advertising. 

More reading on infrasound revealed that it is controversially used in cinema to induce discomfort in viewers, claimed to be the cause of “wind turbine syndrome“, and is even used as a weapon. Instruments like Bass Drums can also produce infrasound. 

So the reason this went from tweets to a blogpost was just because it was a great TIL, even if it was at the cost of my Christmas and waking up the next morning with severe anxiety and a headache. I realize that among the entire audience I was the only person who expressed discomfort at the incident, and that might make me a freak of sorts. Then again, when you think of photosensitive epilepsy, which affects a miniscule fraction of the population, I guess you realize that it could be a thing.

The takeaways from the incident are several:

1. If you have a friend with anxiety, pointing out that what they were experiencing as a trigger was entirely normal (if it is so) is a wonderful way to help them out.

2. If you are an advertiser, maybe you want to check on how your ads are mixed for theatre viewing. Oh who cares – like I want to hear someone say “well I mean she said she had mental problems so I mean we can’t really take what she says seriously”.

3. If you have anxiety, maybe it would help to stand outside the theatre for the duration of the interval.

PS: There’s a healthy dose of sarcasm in this piece.

PPS: The brand is irrelevant and people who are jobless enough to track it down and send me a link please remember the meaning of the word “trigger” (trauma sounds very dramatic in this case, but what can you do)

So, you’re not on a diet.

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment


My refusal to eat dessert, ladoos, pedhas, bread etc. has met with disapproval from relatives hosting lavish functions. “Kithe gho? Diyaat karta?

I’ve been struggling with body weight issues for years, and I’ve tried dieting in the past. I would always give in at family functions, just to avoid these conversations. But not anymore.

Hayy. Diet Karta.”

About 6 months after I embraced my figure and accepted it for what it is (my tipping point was the time I was advised to go to an ayurvedic “fat camp” by someone who should have really kept their mouth shut at the time) I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is a lot more common than you think. It was, in my case, brought about by a nasty combination of stress and weight gain, and PCOS does this lovely thing about insulin resistance which makes it impossible to lose weight. Paradoxically, the way to control PCOS is to lose weight. And that’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do.

I was unaware of my having PCOS, however – in 2011, after two years of family ridicule and personal rejection was at a high point, I found myself gymming furiously just to be “attractive” again, and my expensive personal instructor was flabbergasted by my lack of weight loss.

Ghar jaake pizza wizza toh nahin khaati ho?”

Well, not always at least. I couldn’t understand what was going on, and I quit the gym – what was the point, anyway – and started yoga. I wasn’t expecting weight loss with Yoga, but it helped manage my severe depression.

In 2012 I went to Delhi, and stayed with my old friend and college mentor, @pelorat, who had just started on the “Keto” diet, the rage of redditors. I was no stranger to low carb dieting, and I played along for a while. It was not sustainable for me, however, because I wasn’t allowed to cook non vegetarian food in my house. It was only after my eventual diagnosis of PCOS in October, 2012, that I started thinking of lifestyle changes that would work. Going low carb was easy, but it somehow wasn’t enough to jumpstart losing the 16 kgs of weightloss I needed to possibly counter the PCOS. More importantly, I didn’t want to crash diet and then put it all on back again as soon as I hit my goal weight.

Keto has been fabulous – now that I have the freedom to cook all the bacon I want, my face has cleared up, my menstrual cycle is back to 28 days, I feel more energetic, I’ve lost only 6 kilos, but last night’s ultrasound has revealed a drastic change in my ovaries – while the left one is pretty much clear, the right one has improved remarkably too.

But I still have 8 kilos to go.

But this isn’t about me, or PCOS, or anything. This isn’t even for people who are dieting. This post is for people who *aren’t*. So you aren’t dieting, but chances are, someone in your immediate circle is. A parent, a sibling, a partner, someone in your office, your best friend, you best friend’s boyfriend.

Listen up:

1. Don’t ever say, “oh why diet, you should exercise!”, because that’s not true. I’m no nutrition expert but at least in my case, and countless people I know, especially women with PCOS, have benefitted more from dieting than from exercising. Even if they haven’t, shut the fuck up and mind your own business, unless you are a qualified nutritionist. Unless it’s something patently messed up, like starvation or something similar, or causing severe harm to their body systems, if its working, its working. You can’t imagine a life without biriyani, but I can, and it’s not torture worse than death, believe you me.

2. Be supportive: People might do extreme things to help their lifestyles, and you can help. My mother, like all GSB housewives, puts a healthy dose of sugar in every sabzi. To stop this when I’m around, she doesn’t keep the sugar bottle on the table. If you go visiting a friend who is on a diet, don’t carry cakes and sweets. Take some dried fruits instead. In fact, make that a default rule. If you need a sugar fix when you spend the weekend with your girlfriend, carry your own sugar and sweets and take it with you when you go. When you’re planning a night out with your low carbing fiance, check the menu beforehand or call ahead and ask. It’s not unheard of. And it’s really thoughtful. If you are visiting your folks for the weekend, call them and tell them that your partner isn’t going to eat rice and ask them to have an alternative, or in the worst case, declare it a pot luck and take your own low carb special. And if your wife needs to eat chicken, men, please talk to your parents and let her make it for herself in the kitchen. There’s nothing copious amounts of sanitizer and air freshener and a separate cutting board, knife and frying pan can’t do.

3. If you can’t be supportive, at least don’t be an asshole: Don’t schedule dates at dessert places, find someone else to go with you to that new ice cream parlour. I don’t want a chocolate cake but I don’t particularly enjoy sitting at, say, a Haagen Daaz where there is literally *nothing* I can eat, watching other people eat. When your wife, on the South Beach Diet, asks you to bring something to eat, don’t turn up with a white bread sandwich and say “oh, I forgot.”. If your daughter has to eat meat to bring up their protein levels, and if you have a vegetarian household, find a middle ground. Meal times are special and bring people together, so don’t make loved ones stand in a corner and eat, or be forced to buy food from outside. And refusing to make out with your husband who has been eating fish for omega 3s afterwards is equally bad form.

I’m bringing up PCOS one more time here because of the horror stories I’ve been hearing on DMs and reddit from women who want to go low carb but can’t because of the family – men, in laws, etc: if your wife/daughter in law needs to go low carb to help her PCOS, please help her. Besides the weight gain she is at risk of a whole host of other disorders including type Ii diabetes, Endometrial Cancer, Strokes etc. And if, like me, she’s also taking extreme steps so she can conceive, at least be the kind of person/family she would WANT to have a baby with, the one that makes the entire struggle worthwhile, not some inconsiderate douchebag who comes back from the US with skittles for her instead of pork rinds.

PS: to everyone who has been an asshole to me and my weight loss struggles: fuck you very much.

PPS: Yes, I know that low carb diets, including the Keto diet, can be done on vegetarian diets. However, it doesn’t work for everyone, and it didn’t work for me.


No title, only facepalm

October 15, 2012 § 30 Comments

To the editorial team of the Times of India, Bangalore edition,

Sup guys.

I woke up to this:

I’m an alumnus of the NLSIU, and pride myself on it, and anything happening to students or faculty of the campus disturbs me greatly. And this IS a disturbing incident. But guess what was more disturbing than this.


Where do I begin?

1. When the Press Council of India, CEDAW regulations, the Supreme Court, almost every body imaginable, comes out with regulations relating to disclosure of names of victims of rape, the intention was NOT so that people would stop naming their kids that particular name. No. Let me break it down for you – the reason is that victims of rape face intense public scrutiny and harassment, and so that they should be able to come to the Police with the confidence that their identity would be kept from the public, at least. Any information that can be used to decipher her identity is undesirable. Understood? So congratulations on not releasing her name to the public.

NLSIU has a “SAARC quota” as we used to call it where at maximum 5 students would be taken in from neighbouring South Asian countries every year. Why her being a “South Asian” student was relevant is beyond me, but at least it isn’t clear… oh wait, you identified her as a 2nd year student. Well done, you guys.

Pointing out the native village of her “friend” is probably useful in some way that is beyond my tiny brain to comprehend.

2. It is IRRELEVANT what the Police say. The question is, what you choose to report. The gory details of the case are unnecessary. Yes, I understand that the public is perhaps concerned about violence in the Jnanbharati Campus and the Nagarbhavi area in general. I don’t see the relevance or importance of the information as to whether a 10 rupee note was thrust into the girl’s hand or whether her IPad was returned to her or not. Since the commenters seemed most excited about these two pieces of information, I assume that’s what you guys were looking forward to.

3. “Jnanabharathi police were tight-lipped about the victim’s whereabouts” – you guys were angling for an interview? Sure thing.

4. “However, the police sought to play down the gang-rape allegations, saying the girl bore no injury or struggle marks during the medical examination.” is full of conjecture. While it may, for the sake of argument, be true that a rape victim bore no injury or struggle marks, the fact is that the Supreme Court and various High Courts, for DECADES, have acknowledged that signs of struggle or injuries are not necessary evidence to prove rape. While the Police may have disclosed the contents of the medical reports (not that I’m condoning that), surmising that this meant that they were trying to “play down the gang rape allegations” is really unnecessary. At least quote the cop and name him.

5. I really don’t see how speaking to the Registrar, Vice Chancellor and students of NLSIU is going to help and I’m glad no one decided to give you any comment. And yes, the Vice Chancellor of NLSIU travels, a lot, you have established that this is some “dream destination” earlier in the article. I can see what you are attempting to do there.


Hey people at the Deccan Chronicle!

I was actually looking to set an example to the TImes of India on how to report a rape case, and I found your article.


Why didn’t you just post the janamkundali of the poor guy while you were at it?

Thanks so much for the information that she makes friends with men on social networking websites and naming the particular country she was from. Also you guys seem to have gotten reports from “a hospital source” on the whole marks of struggle thing. So you guys have actually outdone the ToI in terms of facepalm. I’m thrilled to bits.

PS: All that aside, the article is an editorial nightmare. Fire your proofreader while you’re at it.


Both of you should take some lessons from the report as published by the Deccan Herald.

1. No details about the victim were given, besides her age.

2. No details about the friend were given and his name was changed.

3. The statement which was made placing doubts on the version of the victim was attributed to a Senior Police officer and not a conjecture on the part of the reporter.



Oh yes, my qualification to comment on this is that I’ve taught Press Laws and Media Ethics, and have practiced Criminal Law for 6 years. I’m sure this happens in every rape case, and am sure you guys will not clean up our act. But one can only try.