Still the Same – Depression: The Formative Years

“Am I really that bad?” she thought as that man in her neighborhood called her “kaali.” And why was everybody laughing at that? Was that some kind of joke? Wasn’t anyone, including her parents, going to tell him that he was wrong? This was incomprehensible to her.

Was there really a problem with her? Her face! Her body! Her hair! And she kept pondering and buried these things in her heart, a place which would be locked to everyone. Because they didn’t seem to get it. She didn’t get it, either. But the damage was done. She was disturbed.

With all this deep inside her, she continued to learn. She went to school regularly; a diligent student, indeed, but nevertheless of average intelligence. She didn’t know then that this was about to change. Because the time was approaching when she had to be on her own. To make it on her own. Through all the rejection and the labeling, it was time that she conquer the world.

It was in class four that the moment of metanoia occurred. She was going to do it. Ignore all things that pulled her down. She was going to get through, come what may. She labored hard. Burned the midnight oil. Exhausted herself till she could take it no more. She didn’t care that she was shining among others; people were looking up to her. There were miles to go before she’d stop.

The years passed by and she never looked back. And in the last year of school, she passed out as the most successful among her classmates. It was the same in college. She still loved her books but there was a new problem now. The hormones! Kicking in, signifying those unstable, tumultuous adolescent years. Yes, she looked at boys. But the problem was they never looked back at her. Was she ugly? That bad-looking? Or maybe she was a little bigger than the other girls. Boys, she noticed, liked those skinny, heavily made-up girls, sashaying invitingly down the college corridor. Ah! That was it! But no matter how hard she tried, she never really managed to be like them; she couldn’t even bring herself to dress like them.

Unlike those heavily mascaraed girls, she excelled at studies. Then why did those thoughts that she had once pushed into the far recesses of her heart came tumbling back with striking force. Those words began ringing in her ears. “You’re ugly! Have you looked at the mirror? Look at those other girls; how beautiful they look. When will you become like them?” Was that the reason boys didn’t want to look at her? It possibly was, that she knew, in her sinking heart. “Nobody is ever going to fall for me. I don’t look like those pretty girls out there.” And her tears seemed to flow with a gush like they’d got an outlet after years of being kept locked within her being.

That night, with red-rimmed eyes, she spoke to God, who had come to be her friend over the years. She prayed and she cried and this went on for some time before she finally fell into a peaceful slumber. When she woke up the next day, not a single soul around her knew anything about last night. Because, like always, she had cried alone, terrified that if somebody sees her like this, she would have to face their questions to which she had no answers. No explanations. They would never know. But today she knew that she had to remain strong because if she crumbled, there would be no one to put her pieces back together . . .

She never knew if what she was going through was what they called depression. Did she have the symptoms? Seemed like it. But then what was it that pulled her out each time. Something far beyond her understanding. Was it that God she spoke to? She didn’t know for sure.

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Still the Same – Joy: It’s a Girl! Again!

They heard the cry that emerged from the delivery room. They were elated, anticipating the big news. “Congratulations! It’s a girl!” the ever-smiling nurse proclaimed. The air was filled with shouts of joy.

That’s the day she first looked at people. Her own people. They would love her. Care for her. Do everything that “your people” do for you; for your good and well-being. And she smiled at them. “Aww. Look. She’s smiling at us,” they said. She, indeed, was.

Born at a healthy six pounds, she was as cute as a baby can be. Pink skin and dark hair, she was the apple of everyone’s eye. Oh, they loved her. Accepted her. Her sister, at least half a decade older than her, came running toward her, excited to hold her, to play with her when she was brought home. “I think I look like her. A little bit maybe.” That thought made her smile at her sister. She was happy, very happy.

Months passed and she began to grow. She was adored by everyone. She went about life like any other toddler. Eating healthy, nutritious food; playing with her cousins and friends; and sleeping peacefully at night. She had it all. Not a care. No worries. What more could she ask for?

One habit she picked up early was to read. She loved doing that. Those books were magic. They took her to a completely different yet amazing world. It was nice there. But her world was nice, too, wasn’t it? It wasn’t long before she started going to school. A convent school, they said. “Your sister goes there, too.” That made her very happy. “My sister will be there with me.” And her smile said it all.

She loved going to school. She had new friends to play with now. What she loved best about going to school, however, was that she learned new things. Things she didn’t even imagine could be true. That’s how she felt when she read! She would learn, learn a lot, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. A big decision at such a tender young age. Well, time would tell how that would take shape.

In the meantime, she learned another fascinating thing. They called it prayer. Something like speaking to someone called God. She tried to fathom what that felt like. Who God was after all? Did she ever meet God? As far as she knew, they’d never met. God and her. Now this was exciting. She wanted to speak, pray, to this God. And the only way to do this, she realized, would be to look at how others went about it. How did they do it? Those big people. “Let’s see how they pray,” she thought. So she watched them. But what she saw left her discombobulated. “Is this how one prays? Just mumble something.” She really couldn’t understand what was being said. So how would God understand, then? Could he?

And, where was this God? She didn’t find him anywhere. She seemed lost. She asked those big people where God was and all they said was he was in heaven. Oh ok. And where was heaven? “Up above the sky,” they muttered. But how did he look? “Old man with white flowing hair and beard. Always smiling!” “Alright then, so maybe these old people have met him and he just refuses to meet me,” she thought, “because I am little! Maybe I should pray to him, then he may meet me!” And pray she did. Fervently and frequently. But he didn’t meet her. She didn’t give up, though. She knew she would meet him. Someday.

She persevered. She spoke to God every day and even though she didn’t really meet a smiling, old man with flowing white hair and beard, somehow she knew that God was listening to her. But she also noticed that the people around her thought that a little crazy. “Who is she speaking with? To herself!” they chuckled. “Why are they laughing at me? Don’t they believe that I am having a conversation with the God they told me about? I am praying!” That’s when she decided that they wouldn’t see her speak to God ever again. She would speak with him in private. At night. That’s when the others would sleep, so they wouldn’t know and they wouldn’t laugh at her.

This, even though she never realized then, felt wrong. It remained on her mind. They had laughed at her. They had thought she was crazy. And there was more to come.

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Still the Same – Prologue

“Finally!” she thought to herself. “The lights have been dimmed. Everybody is asleep. I can cry now.” And cry she did. Softly. Nobody should know. Or they would ask questions. The answers for which were complicated. There was no way she could explain what she felt, what she went through, what was running through her mind. They would never understand.

How was she ever going to make it? It would be even worse out there. The world was no place for a girl like her. Because she was made to believe that she wouldn’t be accepted. And the reasons? “You’re not beautiful!” “Ah! You’re dark.” “You’re such a fat bull.” Unfortunately, these words were not the only weapons used against her. They also laughed at her. She looked at her parents for support but that didn’t seem to be coming. Maybe they took it as some kind of a joke. And they laughed along never knowing what their daughter thought about all this.

But she went deeper into her shell. Believing that she was a “good for nothing,” she never wanted to come out. At least that way she would avoid all this. Be safe inside. Away from them. She prayed that she die.

This, however, was not meant to be. There were bigger plans in store for her.

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Ph.D.: Not Just a Degree, It’s a (Torturous) Way of Life – Part 4

First, sorry about the delay between the last post and this one. I know, I promised you’d find out “soon” if my place of research, which I had no difficulty in getting through, was heaven or, erm . . . Let me tell you my experiences and you decide . . .

So, anybody who’s been part of higher education for a long time, like me, will know the functioning and everything else that goes on in these places. So, obviously, as a Junior Research Fellow, you are expected to do some extra-curricular work, in the name of getting hands-on experience. Examples:

1. You’re literally preparing for lectures that, well, was somebody else’s.

2. The so-called departmental activities including doing all office work. Imagine dictating official letters and that letter does not even have your signature. Sigh.

3. Cleaning cupboards to throw away thrash!

4. Unpaid guidance to other research fellows because why not? Haven’t I all the time in the world?

5. Oh and being the unofficial photographer at Department events. Yeah, I’ve some photography skills.

Wait. Did I include my own research work up there?

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And, I love you enough,

To let you go . . .

My love isn’t attachment,

It wants to see you happy . . .

Even if I am not the reason you’re happy.

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Ph.D.: Not Just a Degree, It’s a (Torturous) Way of Life – Part 3

The place of research! Didn’t seem like a big deal to me because:

1) The place where I did M.Ed. from offered Ph.D., too,

2) I had ended up being the gold medallist at the M.Ed level, so, I believe I was quite revered, and

3) I was an “esteemed” Junior Research Fellow.

So, my entry into The Place was fixed. The interview was just a mere formality.

The panel didn’t even ask me about research; they wanted to know what I did as an Instructional Designer. Tee hee. I was in and out of the interview in like three minutes. Lucky me, you’d say! But was that the case? You’ll find out soon . . .

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Ph.D.: Not Just a Degree, It’s a (Torturous) Way of Life – Part 2

“I’m a Junior Research Fellow (JRF)! I am basically above mere mortals! I am great and I know everything! Bow down to me! Ha!!!”

Oh! Was I dreaming loudly? Did you’ll listen to all that? Argh! It’s not even true! That’s not how this JRF is, rather was.

Once you’re a JRF, you’ve to make two extremely crucial decisions. Why crucial? ‘Cause these decisions will decide the amount of torture you’ll go through during your Ph.D. tenure. These “protecting my sanity” decisions are your place of research and guide.

Now, choosing the guide wasn’t much of a problem. My decision was made. It would have to be my guide from my M.Ed. days. And, she is pretty good. So, this was smooth. Coming to the place of research, again, it was an obvious choice because I’d passed M.Ed. with flying colours from here. But was this place right? I’ll let you’ll know about that a bit later.

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