Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Dear Friends,

you are aware about my interest in mental health and concern for caregivers. On August 22, at 4 pm, Supreet Dhiman has very kindly invited me to make opening remarks at a meeting of caregivers. It will be a safe space.

In the conversation titled Pyramid of Mental Health – A Caregiver’s Perspective, for a change, there will be no hard line between the speaker and the audience. All of us will speak and all of us will listen.

Since the session was in time and audience shared vulnerabilities, we did not record the session. Here is wishing we have more such sessions. We need them.

Dear Friends,

Here is a short author interview by Amazon to go with the recent essay available as an e-Book: Bravado to Fear to Abandonment: Mental Health and the COVID-19 Lockdown

It tells us the reason I wrote the piece: ‘As someone who was clinically diagnosed with depression twice, Mr. Sandhu is no stranger to mental illness. He has also been a caregiver to mental illness sufferers, and that has prompted him to center his next story on the mental health aspects of the current pandemic.’

Please read more here …

Dear Friends,

A few months back when the longest lockdown in the world was imposed on India, it disrupted all our lives, jobs, social securities. While the economic devastation would be a sphere many would look at from various angles, I was interested in how the lockdown affected our mindscapes. What does the lockdown augur for us as individuals and as a society? Here is my essay as an e-Book available on Kindle for India users. It will be available for foreign readers in the coming weeks.

Bravado to Fear to Abandonment: Mental Health and the COVID-19 Lockdown

 

13
May

PANJAB: The Book Review

   Posted by: aman

Dear Friends,

The Book Review, Volume XLIV, Number 5, May 2020, carried a review of PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines by novelist Radhika Oberoi. Thanks to Adnan Farooqui for allowing me to share the review.

Chronicles of a Resilient State

The tenor of Amandeep Sandhu’s Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines is established in the very first chapter titled Satt–Wound. The author, born in Rourkela, admits to only a fragile link with Punjab (spelt Panjab)–his family once belonged to the State. He then provides images that are intimate and distant, uniquely personal and universally familiar all at once: brass vessels with either of his parents’ name engraved on them in Gurmukhi, a whiff of desi ghee in a frying pan, photos of Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh and Bhagat Singh in the living room, his father’s (Baba) turban and his mother’s (Mama) salwar kameez.

The author’s gaze is that of many different people—son of the soil, curious traveller, hard-nosed journalist; his portrait of his Panjab is also gleaned from each of the people he becomes, as he embarks upon his three-year-long journey into the State. His schizophrenic Mama could never offer him a lucid narrative of the Panjab she had left behind: ‘The Panjab I heard in her lap came out rambling. Its love and war legends splintered and turned into a volley of abuse.’

Sandhu, whose narrative often meanders into history, dwells on mythology, and pauses to search his memory for flashes of childhood, never rambles, or loses coherence. This, perhaps, is what is most admirable about the book. While each of the sixteen chapters is titled with clinical precision (Berukhi—Apathy, Rosh—Anger, Rog—Illness etc.) and foretells the author’s journalistic preoccupations; there are deeply personal anecdotes that turn the harsh terrain of Sandhu’s investigations into landscapes of beauty, and even profundity. For instance, he embarks upon a road trip to his ancestral village, Manawan, together with his wife Lakshmi and his cousin Minnie, because his wife reminds him of his Baba’s last wish. Before passing away in Bangalore in 2003, Baba had wanted to go to Anandpur Sahib, Amritsar, and Manawan. While he had visited the former two sacred sites of the Sikhs, he was unable to travel to Manawan, his birthplace. ‘As a tribute to Baba, Lakshmi wanted to start life with me from his village by completing his story.’

Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines is strewn with personal histories that amplify the collective troubles of the State. In the chapter Dawa—Medicine, Sandhu recalls a handsome grand-uncle whom everyone called Rumiwale Mamaji. Green-eyed and muscular, he was in the habit of pulling out a bottle of liquor and pouring himself a Patiala peg in the early hours of the evening. Sandhu, who was barley seven or eight years old, was assigned the task of filling the glass with water, and supplying his uncle with a variety of nuts, and chicken, as accompaniments to the alcohol. In the mornings, Sandhu would bring him a concoction of milky tea, which he would consume with a small black paste, rolled into a ball. ‘A cousin said it was afeem.’

The chapter is an exploration of Panjab’s addiction to intoxicants like opium and poppy husk, as well as home-brewed alcohol, but it isn’t a mere enumeration of dismal statistics. In fact, Sandhu attempts to debunk a remark made by Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Panjab University in 2012. Gandhi is believed to have said: ‘What is happening to human resources in Panjab? Seven out of ten youths have the problem of drugs.’ Sandhu undertakes an investigation of the route for opium exports in the 1980s, and its infiltration into Panjab. He meets smugglers in Gurdaspur, Dera Baba Nanak and Tarn Taran and delineates the problem of drugs with facts garnered from a variety of studies.

There are no conclusive findings, or satisfactory solutions to the malaise of drugs and addiction, or to any of the other socioeconomic-political predicaments that Panjab has dealt with. But in Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines, Sandhu sets up an apparatus that probes, with a rare attention to the topography of the land, its myths, folk traditions and songs, the State’s many quandaries. His narrative is also dappled with the light of oil lamps at tube wells and ancient graves. The sound of the ‘moolmantar’ from the Granth Sahib wafts through his prose like a soft breeze, even when he traverses hostile landscapes. There are meals of sarson ka saag and rotis that nourish more than just his weary body at the end of a long day. Fragments of a legend—the doomed love of Sohni and Mahiwal—scatter across an otherwise dispassionate analysis of the politics of water. And memories warm the pages of cold-eyed chronicling: ‘During my childhood I could spot hand pumps everywhere in Panjab, including one right opposite the home where Baba’s extended family lived. In our fields, three in the city market, more in the old town, one between the railway station and the bus stand, hand pumps were a part of the locality. Not anymore.’

The Panjab that emerges from Sandhu’s observations is tantalizingly different from the Panjab of his childhood. It is also one that does not conform to popular images peddled by Bollywood—sprawling mustard fields, and hyper-masculine men leaping to the beats of a dhol. Sandhu’s Panjab is as distinct as the spelling the author has picked for his chronicles. Rihla, the Arabic travel memoir of the fourteenth-century wanderer, Ibn Battuta, mentions a land called Panj Ab—the land of five waters. Sandhu borrows from Ibn Battuta, even as he knows that the land of five rivers is not the glimmering and bountiful one that fascinated the ancient traveller.

Radhika Oberoi works in advertising and moonlights as a journalist. She is the author of Stillborn Season. She has a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing, Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

Dear Friends,

Kanwar Manjit Singh has been kind to push me to flesh out my mid-night ramble. Punjab Today has published the piece.

Here I appeal to Bengaluru to join the protests against NPR/NRC/CAA at Bilal Bagh.

‘When together, humans have a tendency to cast away the miasma of impending doom and seek each other out through smiles.’

Please read more here …

Dear Friends,

On this Republic Day, we need to engage with how we think about citizenship: is it through our lived experience or some bureaucratic papers?

Here is my piece for Indian Express. Thank you Amrita Dutta for the opportunity.

The piece brings to light a different experience of the Sikhs in Odisha and Chattisgarh in the year 1984 and is a homage to the civil servant who saved my parents. Thank you Gagan Bains, Kulvir Singh Dhiman, Hardaman Singh.

Please read more here …

Dear Friends,

Punjab Today has been kind to pick my morning post on the significance of the anti-CAA/NRC protests all over the country, update it with the Supreme Court judgement today, and publish it as an article.

Thank you Kanwar Manjit Singh.

Please read here …

In an excellent inter-community educational initiative, the Bengaluru based Rahmath Group has initiated a Mosque visit for people from other faiths. This visit is to Modi Masjid, Shivaji Nagar.

Bismillah e Rehman e Rahim.

Here is me in my Amanullah avtar. 

Please read more here …

Dear Friends,

it was my privilege to share stage at the Bangalore Literature Festival with Navdeep Suri, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar moderated by Preeti Gill.

Please see here a report on the panel discussion, follow the link …

Dear Friends,

I found myself hosting a panel of six eminent writers, psychologists and psychiatrists at the Bangalore Literature Festival 2019.

I am providing the link to the session descriptions here, please have a look …

Here is the recording of the session, please click here …

However, I am placing Dr Ajit Bhide, a beloved psychiatrist of Bangalore and my own doctor too here:

“Most wretched men are cradled into poetry by wrong
They learn in suffering what they teach in song…”

Attended a panel discussion at the Bangalore Literary Fest, titled ‘I’m OK You’re OK’ , dealing with Mental health and more specifically mental illness. Amandeep Sandhu, currently in the literary news for his new book on Punjab, (and whose first autobiographical novel Sepia Leaves dealt with his own mother’s illness and how he as a young lad, an adolescent and a man learnt to deal with it – and with life) was the effective and empathetic moderator. Others on the panel were Jerry Pinto (Em and the Big Hoom), Anna Chandy, Himanjali Sankar, Gayathri Prabhu, Roshan Ali, and Shyam Bhat. Shyam elaborated succinctly the importance of the narrative in the practice of mental health. The narrators themselves came from the raw to the mature but with crystal clear sincerity.

The panellists shared their angst about their respective disquiet, the youngest (Ali)about his discovery of his own turbulence, and two about their mothers’ illness (Pinto and Amandeep, the latter minimally, as he was a most conscientious rapporteur/ moderator). Sometimes there was the awkwardness of spilling the beans, making private matters blatantly public and the guilt that comes almost always with it.

Anna’s ( a much sought after and respected therapist) sharing of her personal perspective led to familial and social ostracism, and unexpectedly her clientele stood by her through this. She rightly brought home the point of equity between therapists and clients (I still prefer to call them patients); a truly humane stance, well appreciated by those who seek help. This resonated with the chosen title of the session: I’m OK; You’re OK.

Sometimes there was a cavalier air to it all, the note of the author being strident and rabble rousing. But in a forum dealing with the perceived ugliness of the mind of someone close, and the sensitive nature of the entire realm it is I guess, to be expected. Gayathri’s reference to her letter to her deceased father, was to me very intriguing and that is one work I want to read. Admixing fact with some fictionalising seemed to have found many takers, and Shyam also made the often missed point of the need to seek the subject’s permission to share her/his story.

The width of the coverage and the systemic method of the entire discourse rendered it a useful hour and half. Not an easy task given the tendency of delicate content to turn maudlin and meandering. This session teetered that way at times, but was saved from dropping off those cliffs.

For this credit must go in great measure to the seasoned moderation by Aman; and to the panel’s overall ‘stepping out and stepping forward’ approach. The auditorium was packed from the start and I believe so were most listeners’ minds by the end of the session.