Archive for December, 2008


HIV vs. Schizophrenia

   Posted by: aman    in Other

On December 1, I was playing the radio in my car and it was flooded with messages about AIDS and HIV. That is World AIDS Day, wear a Red ribbon.  Each message or conversation revolved around how AIDS is a limited contagious disease, it does not spread by touch or eating meals together, how we must learn not to discriminate a carrier or victim, and so on. Another important part of the messages was: practise safe sex. Very right. With 2.8 million people suffering from the illness we must do our best to spread the messages and educate ourselves.

But I also wondered. What about Schizophrenia? Or Bi Polar Disorder? Or Depression, Stress, Anxiety Disorder, or sheer inability to handle our lives. Those do not spread through touch, or meals together, or even through sex. Are we doing enough for them?

I have always felt that there is an essential difference between the two kinds of disabilities: mental and physical. When one is physically disable one can make a plea for better attention from the state or society. One can stand at Gandhi Statue in Bangalore or Jantar Mantar in Delhi and hold black flags to influence policy and compensation. But when one is mentally disabled one has only one place to go to, hide in a dark room in one’s heart and go silent.

We do not hear the voices, we do not know the sufferers. But there are many. I am no expert but at least one in every five people I meet I learn of someone in their family suffering from a mental breakdown. See this: Mental Illness 

Wonder if we can do more for mental illness while we try to work on AIDS.

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Untrue Stories?

   Posted by: aman    in Other

This is not something new but it came to me as a surprise as the parts I was trying to connect started forming a whole. I was talking to a professional who works in the area of human trafficking. We concluded that a reason why migrants want to cross national boundaries is because of the stories they hear about the far away places. The migrants find the stories of El Dorado so fantastic that their real lives pale in comparison, fuelling a desire to migrate.

She told me that migrants in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Europe, America, Canada, wherever suffer their ordinary lives, live in debt and hunger but keep trying to project an image that they are very well off, they are succeeding. Behind the pretence is the fact that they do not want to lower their image in the minds of those they left behind. The stories they tell are a validation of their struggle, often illegal.

That set me thinking whether we are right in assuming that India was a great place a couple of thousand years ago. We have the Ramayan and the Mahabharat to show that we were a great civilization. We have histories, remains of civilizations, paintings, sculpture, and many other artifacts, all of them proving we were great. What if we were actually poor and we projected greatness through our works of art. What if our arts are not realistic but are actually aspirations of a hungry mind?

What if writers are essentially liars? Did Ryszard Kapuscinski not say in Imperium that the paintings of fruits and food were so brilliant because the painters were so hungry? They created arts that they could love because their life really had nothing else. What if India is not one glorious civilization which lost its riches but is actually a very slow nation on the path of progress, punctuated time and again by those who heard stories of its glory and came to check it out.  Who does not believe lies?



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