Sunday, October 17, 2010

Erase and Rewind

Commonly, people believe that defeat is characterized by a general bustle and a feverish rush. Bustle and rush are the signs of victory, not of defeat. Victory is a thing of action. It is a house in the act of being built. Every participant in victory sweats and puffs, carrying the stones for the building of the house. But defeat is a thing of weariness, of incoherence, of boredom. And above all of futility. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It is by most standards a decent house: two rooms, a dining hall and a kitchen. In buildings just like this, even just next to this, lives are lived. The scene could easily have been one of children cramming for exams on desks placed under tubelights against the cream coloured walls. It could have been one of office goers jerking awake at daybreak, shaving cleanly, suiting up and soldiering off to work.

Instead it is a showcase of both the building blocks and aftermath of one boy’s blue state of mind. The boy has decided to furnish only one of the two rooms, that too with as little standard issue furniture (a double bed, a shelf, a single sofa and a dresser) as is needed. The walls are bare, but a decorative wall hanging lies in a plastic bag in the corner, unopened since the day it was bought. In another corner stands one of those ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters – conceived but never released by the British to keep spirits up in case the Nazis won and were overrunning England. He had never mustered up the vigor to nail either up.

There are stray unread newspapers all over the place – most have on average one article he believed useful and worth re-reading, something hardly ever done. And then those hoards of books – purchased with such life-changing good intention, and neutered into space-occupying jetsam by bouts of inertia and emptiness – the Gita, Being Your Own Mentor, You can beat Depression, medical textbooks (these had had belief most completely given up on them), paperback fiction, correspondence material…..and a television – ketamine for the life-force – there were days on which he what can only be called numbed himself in front of it for as long as 6 hours. Coming linearly at him in the dark, television’s cathode ray tunnel turned into an audio-visual cove within which he would hide, it’s walls supporting the life he became too hollow to keep propped up.

I give the fight up: let there be an end,
A privacy, an obscure nook for me.
I want to be forgotten even by God.

Robert Browning. Paracelsus, pt. 5.

And yet … it moves.

Galileo Galilei

But we begin again. Another start after another sputter. One more attempt to clamber up the sides of the next crest, with the hungry hoping that the next time the ground collapses into a trough is at least further away and the pit shallower.

Self-pity can be comforting for only so long. By design, even the most dismembered of minds and the most broken of personas refuse to marinate in gloom beyond a point.

But first there is the denial. You forage for easily-made tools like retreat, and even fashion facades to hide your handicap. Perhaps you hide an accent, feign seriousness or humour, or lie about a make believe focus and imaginary insurmountable obstacles. Maybe you pretend just not to have time from work you have little vocation and even less ability for. When actually it is perhaps just like that line diagram of molecules crashing against the walls of a closed chamber – when your ability to feel becomes this rigid and cold, the more people try to cram inside the chamber of your life, the more the pressure builds. It becomes just that much harder to breathe. To exist. All the while there’s white flags all around you.

And then, utterly sick of all things white and pitiable, you start to want to clamber out again, punching wildly and blindly at something unseen but which you can tell by the resistance against your knuckles is definitely there. There are shards which you can use to build better tools with – you turn to things - medication, information, but most of all a fear of utter devastation. Today is the day you start once again. Frustrating true, but invigorating also.

At any given time, there are over 10 million depressed young people in India. Today is one such day for one of them.

He has now been on the medication for 12 days. Clearly something has begun to change, for the paralyzing weakness that turned waking up every morning into an ordeal is waning – not gone but waning. It is still hard, but he removes the blanket he has been shrouding under.

It is 7:20. For the first time in over 3 months, he will get to work on time today.

1 comment:

Mridula said...

Hi Ashutosh came to your blog via your Gonomad article. Got to know that you are a doctor. Recently my father was hospitalized with Bacterial Meningitis and how thankful I am to the doctors for getting the correct diagnosis and curing him. Just thought I would share it with you.

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