The Survivor’s Guide to Life

TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Suicide, Self-harm, Depression, Anxiety

My first attempt at taking my life happened when I was 13; I took 26 sleeping pills, two for each year I had existed uselessly.

Now, which part of the above sentence strikes you the most, dear reader? The fact that it was a suicide attempt, or that it implies that I had many others, or that I was a mere teenager when I first attempted? Or maybe you’re wondering why a 13-year-old felt the (repeated) need to try and kill herself?

I don’t think there even exists a valid answer to your question. Peer pressure? Bullying? Misunderstandings on the side of my family/society/friends? Fear of the future? Hormones? Depression? Even now, almost a decade later, I couldn’t tell you if it was any of these things individually or all of them combined, which made me swallow those pills on that fateful Thursday in early May. 

Oh yes, I remember the month, day, date, and even what I was wearing when I attempted. I remember that it had been raining. I remember wondering, hoping, as I held the bottle of pills in my hand, if my pain would be washed away and if I would arise anew in another world, just like the earth rises clean and fresh after every shower. I remember giving the afterlife; heaven and hell and all the mythological stories my dad used to narrate to me about punishments, a fleeting thought as I lay in bed drowsy and half-conscious. I remember murmuring a ‘Sorry’ to my mom, for hers was the last face I saw in my head (or was it in reality?) before the darkness pulled me under.

Unfortunately, having been blessed with an eidetic memory means that I have the capacity to recall even the things I don’t want to, in perfect clarity.

I recall briefly regaining consciousness in the ICU as they pumped my stomach. I recall looking down at my own pool of sickness and thinking, ‘Oh crap, I failed.’ I recall waking up much later in a normal ward, gazing up at the disappointed and worried faces of my family. 

And later, I recall the weeks of tense silence that followed me as my family skirted around the issue. I recall searching for a Band-aid one day to find that the whole medicine cabinet in my house had been wiped clean. I recall being paranoid about seeing if my guilt followed me around like a shadow. And I recall shattering the long mirror in my bedroom one day, because I just couldn’t look at myself. 

Some say that suicide is a coward’s way out because only people who don’t have the courage to face reality and the challenges of life take the apparently easy way out. Well, having survived multiple suicide attempts and having learned something from each of them, I’m here to tell you otherwise. 

It takes an extraordinary amount of determination to make the decision to end your life, and an exponentiated amount more to continue to live after a failed attempt. There’s tonnes of research and psychoanalyses pondering the question of why people consider suicide at all, so I won’t delve into that now. Let’s look, instead, at a group of people that society treats as pariahs – the survivors. 

You would think that if someone comes back from the cusp of death, their near and dear ones would celebrate them, molly-coddle them and never let them out of their sight, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what happens in most situations. 

Most survivors’ second lives (I like to think of them as being born a new person) are filled with awkward silences, misunderstandings, and lots and lots of heartbreaks. Our very normal and perfect society views them as abnormal and imperfect, making the survivors regret and start to hate their second lives, more so than their first. 

My situation was very similar. In the months following my attempt, I found myself more confused and lonely than I had been in my entire life. 

My family was walking on eggshells around me; talking to me only when necessary, I wasn’t allowed to go out socially anywhere, not even with a chaperone, not even to meet my only friend at that time, I was asked to lie to everyone that I had taken time off from school because of a stomach ache, and the list went on. So how did I deal with this?

I went into self-destruct mode. 

But then, after numerous cuts, burns, popping painkillers, and a night where I spent hours and hours throwing down countless bottles of alcoholic cocktails (don’t worry, I was no longer underage) which made me end up in the hospital (again) with (another) pumped stomach, it all ended.

How, you ask?

It’s no great miracle; it’s something you see happen to everyone you pass on the streets, probably. It happened to me, too, when I was 21. 

Love, the destroyer of lives. Which actually ended up redeeming mine. 

Yes, reader, I fell in love. Madly, irrevocably, head-over-heels in love with probably the most understanding, caring, and loving being in the entire universe. 


He was my entire universe. 

Coco, my savior, friend, and the best therapist one could ask for!

Within four seconds of seeing him, he had me floored (and I mean literally, with my back on the floor, with him licking me furiously). However, redemption is not as easy as falling in love. It is a long, difficult, (mentally and physically) exhausting road filled with more thorns than roses. Which is probably why, come to think of it, one of the only two ways to destroy a Horcrux (to the non-Potterhead, it is an object of dark magic where a witch or wizard hides a piece of his or her soul) is to seek redemption for your deeds (the other one being stabbing it with something that has Basilisk venom; at this point, I would highly recommend everyone just pick up a copy of Harry Potter). 

After what seemed like endless visits to therapists and psychiatrists, heart-to-heart discussions with my family, and many, many tears, I learned to deal with it all. 

Oh, no, I wasn’t fine all of a sudden, far from it. All the panic attacks and the depression and the self-harming tendencies and the suicidal ideation (yeah, my latest therapist has an extensive vocabulary) didn’t go away. They were very much there. I just learned to deal with them in a healthier way. 

For example, Therapist #2 introduced me to the wonderful world of bullet journaling. It was a really calming activity, especially for someone like me who used to have a creative streak before all this went down. Therapist #3 taught me mindfulness and grounding techniques and ways to deal with the urge to self-harm. While I don’t really appreciate all of them, some of them, like the 54321 exercise or even simply holding an ice cube in my hand, really work for me at desperate times. 

So what am I trying to say through this (ridiculously long and depressing) rant?

That it’s okay to spiral into self-destruction as long as you come out of it? Of course not.

That love makes everything perfect? Definitely not; perfection doesn’t exist.

That people shouldn’t be stigmatized for attempting suicide? Well, yes, but that’s beside the point. 

Then what is the point, you ask?

It is this; the night is darkest just before dawn. 

Okay, I might have just recited a quote from Batman: The Dark Knight, but let me elaborate. 

I’m not saying everything will be peachy at some point in your life, that all the trauma you suffered will fly away as though it were never there. In fact, I’m saying quite the opposite; there will be the ‘Bad Days’, there will be the days you would want to punch the smiles out of everyone’s faces (the ‘Fudge-You Days’), and then there will be the days when you would feel as though the world isn’t ending (the ‘Okayyy Days’).

I’m saying, trudge through the bad and the worse and try to live for a better day. 

Because that’s all anyone can really do in life – try.

Grow Up, Or Don’t

When I was a kid, there were;

Purple skies and pink rivers,

Paper cranes and wooden toys.

The world was only as big as,

The candy shop around the corner.

The big blue ocean,

Fit itself into the sound of a seashell, 

And hide and seek was only a game. 

But today, I hide behind the solace of my words,

As the same big blue ocean threatens to sink me.

My skies and rivers are both blue, too. 

There are no cranes or toys. 

And my world hasn’t grown any bigger. 

It all fits into a tiny smartphone. 

I realise it’s all a hoax;

To grow up.

So today, maybe;

I didn’t walk around the puddle, 

I remembered to colour outside the lines, 

And all my little paper boats,

Slowly sailed back to me.

Journeys of Hope: Part 3: Depression – Battling College Days

Trigger warning: Mentions of self-harm, depression and suicide

It was the first day of college, and I was freaking – a full-blown panic-attack. Was what I was wearing okay? Would I be asked to talk in front of everyone? Would everyone make fun of my figure? Would I even make any friends? A million different questions were zapping through my head at the speed of light, even as I stood there in front of the mirror, trying desperately to put on kajal without poking my eyes out. After a few (painful) attempts, I gave up on the act as tears started streaming down my eyes. Despair engulfed me as depression, my old friend, reared its ugly head.

College is a place to reinvent yourself, they say. You can find yourself, or create a whole new identity, they say. Well, I lost a little bit of myself every day for those three years. Each night that I went to sleep, I did not thank God, but prayed that I would not wake up the next morning. Each morning that I woke up was filled not with expectation or excitement, but with dread of what the following hours would bring.

To give you a little background, I studied at a wonderful place with extremely supportive staff and students, some of whom still check in with me from time to time, but it was not always joy and smiles. In fact, I can now reveal without any shame that most of my time at college was spent inside a bathroom stall while I desperately tried to control my tears.

So what, then, was my problem?

I didn’t understand it back when I was an extremely confused 18 year-old, and I’m not sure I understand it now. All I knew was that I was feeling sad and tired and so, so hopeless all the time, but I didn’t know what to call it. I didn’t know whom to open up to, and even when I did, neither my friend nor my family took me seriously. That was, until they found me one day with a plastic cover tied over my head.

Of course, like the whole world thinks, my parents were of the opinion that therapy would ‘fix’ me, that it was a one-stop solution to all my problems. Of course, I love my family, and I could never, ever blame them for what happened to me, but they didn’t understand that sometimes, there’s nothing to fix.

My therapists throughout the years have had quite colorful adjectives to describe my ‘issues’. ‘Depressed’, ‘Hallucinates’, ‘Self-harms’, ‘Suicidal’, ‘Mercurial’, and ‘Unpredictable’ were some of the labels used on me. They poked and they prodded and they dug and they dug until there was nothing left of me. Did I experience any abuse? No. Did I lose someone close to me? No. Did I hate everyone? Absolutely not, I actually bent over backwards to please them all and be like them. So why was I like this? No one knew, so they sent me to the doctors, who put me on pills that made me sleepy 20 hours of the day and made me fail several tests.

College was a nightmare, because I could neither keep up with my peers nor hold a decent conversation without breaking down/having an anxiety attack. I looked at all the other girls, and was filled with self-loathing because I didn’t know how to be one of them. No amount of lipstick, perfume, or kajal could make me feel beautiful. I hated life, and I constantly searched for ways to escape my situation, most of which were unhealthy. While everyone I knew was out flirting and partying and having fun with their significant other, I was shut up in my room mooning over my unrequited love. While they were all engaging in extracurricular activities like singing and dancing and debates, I was writing depressive and frankly scary stuff and then tearing up the pages to destroy the evidence, all because I couldn’t bear to face it, to face myself.

But this is not a rant about how awful my life was, whatever impression I might have given you so far. This is an account to assure those who are suffering like I did, that it will all change. You will make it to the other side. The day will come when breathing won’t be so difficult, when your smiles will feel that much less forced. The day will come when you will no longer have to worry about the future and shed tears about it. And the key to effecting that change? Falling in love.

Falling in love with people, with all their imperfections and faults. Falling in love with life, with all its difficulties and trials. Falling in love with the world, with all its ugliness and wars.

And most importantly, falling in love with yourself, with all your bitterness and scars.

I’m not saying that everything will be fine and dandy one day as you wake up, and you will no longer feel bad. On the contrary, living with depression is like an obstacle race that never ends. You have to face insurmountable odds, and the ground will be smooth for a little while, but the difficulties will rise again, and the cycle will continue. What I’m asking you to do, is to look forward to landing on level ground, to living those relatively peaceful days. Live for today and hope for a better tomorrow, because what do we have left, if not hope?

Journeys of Hope – Part 2 – A Poem

Breaking Free

What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

Put your life on pause and frozen alive.

You feel it rushing past you, sometimes through.

But at heart, you’re still a kid with issues.


You know the lines, have the script by heart,

Wear the smiles and play the part.

Impeccable performance and invisible pain,

Patch the holes and back up again.


What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

Watched, as my teenage flew by.

I’m all smiles, laughter bursting at the seams,

Hoping to be someone’s teenage dream.


But life’s a bully, unforgiving and unkind.

It’s a test and unfair by design.

I played by its rules, or by ‘their’ rules,

And it played us all, for fools.


What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

I realize, I need more than just survive,

I want to be happy and grow up to live my truth,

Strike out of this eerie vortex of youth.


I am terrified but alive, melted and moulded anew,

Imperfect but with a new point of view.

My vigour for life charges through like electricity,

To face the trials and cut out toxicity.


What is it like to be fourteen going twenty-five?

I knew once but am no longer that guy.

Stripped off self-made shackles, Breaking free,

Home again with my chosen family.


Fourteen in my heart, doe-eyed, brimming with hope.

Endless possibilities, a kaleidoscope.

Untainted by guilt or remorse, flawed but whole,

Forever young, growing old.

Lessons from Taare Zameen Par

Gyan Toh Gyan Hota Hai, Chahe Woh Zabaani Ho Ya Likhit…

I would be the first to admit that my Hindi vocabulary is extremely limited, so if you had randomly approached me for a translation of the above quote, I would have had to blink and stammer.

However, it so happens that this particular sentence has appeared in a movie, one I have watched over, and fallen in love with over, again. So let me tell you what it means.

‘Knowledge is knowledge, whether it is spoken or written.’

Let me ask you a question. When you hear or read the word knowledge, what or who is the first image appearing in your mind’s eye? For me, it’s Mrs. Vimala, my 9th grade English teacher. Having been one of the most influential people in my life, I will forever remember her playful smirk and chastising tone.

Now that I think about it, it’s actually rather interesting how we remember only particular teachers/professors and conveniently forget the rest. The ones you do remember, it’s because they’ve either made a huge positive impact on your life, or they’ve given you memories so bitter that you can’t forget!

I mean, don’t you remember that playschool teacher who looked so like a popular actress that it was funny?

Don’t you remember that high school teacher who gave you the chills when she so much as called your name?

Don’t you remember that college professor who helped you see the world clearly even through the lens of your depression?

Whatever they’ve meant to you and at whichever points of time you’ve met them, the fact remains that every teacher you’ve had in your life has shaped and changed you irrevocably.

On that note, let me get back to the movie that I have watched numerous times: Taare Zameen Par.

When I first watched the movie 8 years ago, I was impressed. When I watched the movie yesterday to prepare myself for this review, I was emotional. I mean, hats off to the entire team, man!

From Darsheel Safari’s perfect portrayal of an innocent 9-year old, to Shankar Mahadevan’s soulful voice singing ‘Meri Maa’.  Just beautiful.

And don’t even get me started on Aamir Khan or I will gush. For now, I’ll just say one word.


But then again, I guess all teachers have that effect on people. Teachers inspire you to introspect, innovate, and improve yourselves; they make you want to be a better person. And this part has been played amazingly well by Aamir.

Would it have been more realistic if the character had been a little older? I would say ‘Yes’, because Nikumbh’s wisdom seems a little uncharacteristic of a youngster. But one part of what makes the movie so unique is its turning of prejudices and stereotypes on their head. The other part is its relatability. Like I mentioned earlier, all of us have had teachers like Tiwari Sir and George Sir, and all of us have been misunderstood kids at one point of our lives, and it is this nostalgia that the movie captures accurately.

With the growing need to pay attention to the delicate psychological and emotional health of a child, the responsibility has fallen on our very own lighthouses of knowledge – our teachers, to guide us through the rocky seas of life.

If there is one thing that TZP brought out very well, it is the importance of a strong support system for children and adults suffering from various disabilities. Emotional and moral support can come from your family, friends, and even your pets but teachers, being those we are most in contact with during our initial years, are the first to note and care for you, and form the best support system one can have.

Think about Ishaan’s attitude when he is in a situation where his teachers misunderstand him and compare the difference we see in him at the end of the movie. Drastic development, don’t you think? But that’s the truth; a misinformed teacher has the ability to break a child’s spirit, where a compassionate teacher can kindle happiness and motivation in the same child, as wonderfully shown in the movie.  

Yes, to some children, school is a nightmare and teachers are downright scary, but to some others, going to school and interacting with friends and teachers is a form of therapeutic release. I have experienced this, myself; those 8 hours I spent at school everyday served to save me from being alone with my thoughts. Apart from the purpose of education, going to school also establishes a very dependable long-term routine, which helps to ground yourself and feel secure. 

Your daily lessons also serve as a distraction when you need one, and the sports and extracurricular activities at school act as excellent stressbusters. And who is at the centre of all this? Our teachers.

But let’s face it, teachers don’t have it easy. Theirs is one of the most unwanted positions in terms of employment, because it takes herculean effort and endless patience to handle the job. And that’s what makes the difference between people who view teaching as a profession, and those who view it as a calling. And imagine this: in a world where you might be distracted from caring for your own family, teachers volunteer to come forward and take care of 30+ troublesome little people!

Jokes apart, I strongly believe that every child or young adult deserves an inspiration in the early years of their lives, be it someone like Ram Shankar Nikumbh who has gone through similar struggles, or someone like Mrs. Vimala who can simply be there through your bad days. And the most important thing that linked both Nikumbh and Mrs. Vimala? They both believed in their children.

Team LonePack salutes all the love, care and effort that teachers provide!








Stay Paw-sitive!

The best part about being quarantined?

Hundreds of cuddles.

Thousands of slobbery kisses.

Infinite number of ‘Fetch’ games.

In short, lots of precious time you can spend with your fur-babies.

Seriously, let me tell you something; whether you’re irritated about working from home or not, I can guarantee that your furry friends are ecstatic. Because the sad thing is, most of us don’t find enough time to give to our pets. All of us have a 9-5 timetable, and we tend to fall short of the hours, minutes, and seconds of love that you can shower them with.  And these are troubled times, which makes it imperative that you spend time with them.

One thing that medical professionals around the world agree upon is that having a pet at home is an incredibly effective stress-buster. This has been proven over and over, with various people, countries, and with different animals. Studies show that people who care for a pet, especially a cat or a dog, at home are less prone to health issues than those who never interact with pets.

Pets are known to reduce stress levels, improve recovery from diseases such as high blood pressure and cardiac disorders, etc. Another benefit of having a pet is that you are constantly motivated to exercise (though this is true only in the case of dogs) which helps you improve your physical health. In fact, studies dating back to the 1980s also show that interaction with animals on a regular basis decreases your stress levels and improves your focus and concentration skills.

Children who are exposed to animal interaction from an early age are also observed to gain significant social skills.  In fact, a research article published in ‘Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals’, back in 2011, also says this:

‘Human–animal interaction (HAI) has been shown to have positive effects on health. Owning a pet is associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure during basal and stressed conditions and well-being in humans..In addition, anxiety decreases in the presence of a dog and children having a dog present in their classroom display increased social competence.’ 

This is because many pets, dogs in particular, are highly attuned to human moods and behavior. Dogs in general are attuned to human commands and are very responsive to their humans’ low moods. It is attested to by many that a good snuggle with their pet at the end of a bad day can relieve their stress and anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just Pomeranians, Maine Coons and other well-bred dogs and cats who can help you improve your health. Any homeless fur-baby, even a stray, that you pick up from the local shelter is capable of providing the same amount of love.

It is significant to note that the beneficial effects of owning a pet is generally agreed upon by even those in the administration/ government.This is why governments all over the world recommend animal-interventional therapy to war veterans and those in the army. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, or obesity, you name it, they can help you get out of it. 

So, the next time you come across a stray or have an opportunity to care for your friend’s pet, take pleasure in knowing that through this interaction there is a mutual benefit. And, if you’re more of a go-getter, volunteer at a pet shelter, foster a pet till it finds a forever home or bring home a bundle of furry joy. For, no matter if they are slobbery, aloof, hoofed or horned, we need our animal friends more than they need us.

Team LonePack wishes you health, companionship and lifelong friendship!

Thoughts during COVID Quarantine


When I think about talking to people about what I am feeling, one thought stops me from going through with it – “What will they think of me?” Will they think I am weird? Will it affect my relationship with them? I’ve realized the short answer to all those questions: yes, they will be weirded out and yes, it will affect the relationship.

Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash

Quite simply, any action causes some change in the environment. So, introducing this new aspect into a conversation that would otherwise consist of quotidian chit-chat would be weird at first. Since the other person is not used to talking to you about ‘this stuff’, they might be taken aback or their interest piqued. The probability of one is just as likely as the other. It is just simple math. 

Also, once this change is introduced, the other person will re-evaluate their perception of you. It is only rational to do so. For example, If you were to find that your colleague from work is a good singer at a party, you would refresh your view of that colleague as not only of a certain caliber at work but also multifaceted in his/her talents. This doesn’t seem weird because the new information is either positive or neutral to you. It’s just more information and the transition to the new perspective is seamless. However, if you heard something ‘negative’ about this colleague, the transition might not be as smooth. 

Two things come into focus from this analogy to our fear of talking about our feelings with others. Firstly, the other person might be well-equipped to handle this new information. Secondly, they might simply consider this as more information and not necessarily negative. In the worst case scenario, the person might consider this information negative and they are not able to process this new information and still maintain the same level of trust and respect with you. Frankly, in my opinion, that possibility sounds more like a problem of the other person than your own.

Everyday, we are challenged with our perception of what we think we know, at work, at home, at school, etc. We are expected to not freak out each time but calmly break down things we do not understand, to the fundamentals we comprehend. Only then, can we take a more rational approach to tackling the unknown. So, why should we freak out when someone shares a little more than we expect from them ‘normally’? 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Now, none of this rationale can eliminate the irrational fear, the discomfort or the risk of opening up to someone and having it not go the way you thought it would. For me, all this analysis is a reason not to be too scared of the outcome in a language I understand – science and math. The outcome is just as probable to go well as it is to not. So, there is nothing you can do about it. Hence, there’s no point in worrying. 

Everyone is self-isolating during the pandemic and that is new to most, and they feel frustrated about it. But, I have been isolating myself forever. Now, they know a little about how I feel, maybe they are more willing to listen and understand?… I feel this crisis has refreshed our view and opened us to the widespread prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, mood disorders, and much more. Even if most of the people are facing this acutely, they are now in a better position to step into your shoes if you are willing to talk to them about how you feel. 

P.S. Just remember to listen to their problems too, however trivial they may seem in comparison to yours.

International Day of Happiness

It is an odd time to celebrate the ‘International Day of Happiness’. Coronavirus, global warming, social and political issues, to name a few reasons why. The future seems bleak and preaching hope sounds distant and impractical. So, should we just skip celebrating this time then?

Happiness feels like a fantasy in today’s world. While happiness seems more like a utopian ideal today, one cannot deny that we need to believe in the idea of happiness to move forward. Hope is central to happiness; it is what drives us from the past to tomorrow. But is there hope at happiness at all? My views on happiness are skeptical to say the least. When someone does present themselves to be happy, more specifically, social media happy, it feels artificial and manufactured. 

If writing for mental health awareness is not a dead giveaway that I too have gone (going) through mental health issues, I am not sure what is. When hope was given to me, it felt like a lie and the person I was talking to felt more distant. I never would wrap my head around the fact that things would get better. But as the years went by, I found that just as much as the circumstances made it difficult for me to heal, my attitude was just as big a hurdle to happiness. Yes, things are bad and against me, but after taking a few blows, I began to realize that not even I was on my side. If the world was against me (it was so, in my head), I was right there with them, upholding their views, beating myself up more than they ever could and turning down help. I realized that my thoughts of never being happy… I was the one making them a reality.

While it takes very little to be a critique, a debby-downer or a sad boy confined to the prison of his mind, it takes great courage and tenacity, to stand up to the challenge and do something about it. Now, not every cheery message might get to you or is it possible to suddenly wake up to be grateful and happy everyday. But if we keep an open mind to change and to happiness, it can do wonders. I am forever in awe of people who live their truth, who are hopeful in the face of struggles and who put others happiness before their own. There is a story there far greater than I could perceive, of one much deeper than the one of struggle, it is rarer, for it is one of hope and overcoming adversity.

Cliched as it may sound, if I can change my attitude towards happiness, so can you. Some things that have enabled me to embark on the road to happiness are patience, practicality and pity. I have never been patient, not even with my recovery, and I tend to get ‘distracted’ by all the awful news out there. It helps me to stick to a program, keeping a schedule to adhere to. Here’s a coping calendar that helps you do one thing a day for a month to deal with the current crisis. 

Keeping your cool and taking wise decisions that are good for your mental health has been far more difficult than I presumed. For even taking a mental health day off or cutting toxic people, I have had to justify my actions repeatedly to myself. Ironically, being practical and not letting emotions cloud my judgement has been the best tool to take care of my emotional well-being. Finally, compassion may be the single most unexplainable and yet crucial quality in an individual seeking happiness. I can attest to the fact that we indeed become happier as we help and provide for others. So, as the slogan for International Day of Happiness goes, ‘Keep Calm, Stay Wise, Be Kind’, we too can become happier by being patient, practical and pitying.

Dear Songbird

Trigger warning: Mentions of depression, rape and related issues. 


‘Songbird, why dost thou bear a broken wing?’

Sarojini Naidu.

Wait, I know her! Naidu…Naidu…Yes! That freedom fighter, right? The one who went on Gandhi’s Dandi march with him? There’s even a very famous photo of them marching ahead to freedom.

Freedom…Independence…Such abstract concepts! As if freedom could be gained simply by drafting a constitution and establishing that you were no longer under some country’s thumb.

Speaking of countries…can you believe that India actually celebrates more than 60 national days? Me, I can count a maximum of five: Independence Day, Republic Day, Gandhi Jayanthi…Wait, what were the other two?

Going back…

Independence Day…August 15th…Good movies on all TV channels

Republic Day…January 26th…Good movies, plus I was initiated into GUIDES in 7th grade.

Gandhi Jayanthi…October 2nd…October 2nd

Why do I remember this day? Oh yeah! I once wrote an essay on how the Mahatma was a misogynist and was ostracised for it. If I remember correctly, I claimed that his ideas set women’s empowerment back by several centuries. Hey, don’t judge me, I was 13! And while I might have come on too strongly about accusing the father of our nation, I feel that I was justified in my other ideas.

I mean, why do we not celebrate the birthday of famous women? Like, Rani Lakshmibhai, or Kalpana Chawla, or Mary Kom, or Sarojini Naidu, or even-

Oh wait. Sarojini’s birthday is celebrated. On February 13th of every year, as National Women’s Day. Because she was one of the few people who fought for women empowerment, back when it was a barely-developed concept.

Back when we were just learning to walk on our own two feet.

Back when there were so many social and cultural pressures placed on us.

Back when sati and child marriage were fresh nightmares that we were struggling to recover from.

And the sad thing about nightmares? The fact that they are so personal that you can’t even talk to anyone about them.  Not that talking to anyone about anything is easy nowadays. I mean, there are tonnes of psychiatrists, counsellors, and well-wishers just waiting to help you, but is it easy to confide in them? Well, I feel that I speak for the womenfolk when I say that no, it is definitely not easy to talk about your woes and worries, be it domestic abuse, rape, coerced sex, or any other trauma.

Just the other day, I was pondering the depths of life and love on Google when I came across this extremely insightful UN report that claimed that 70% of married women in India experience one of the above-mentioned traumatic issues at least once in their lives. The same report says that one-third of these instances go unreported.  Scary, right?

Even scarier is the question of what women in Sarojini Naidu’s times would’ve done in those cases. Coupled with the fact that dialogue about mental health was non-existent back then, one can only imagine how difficult it could’ve been for anyone to talk about the hard times they were going through.

Today, figures show that more women become victims of depression, anxiety, or similar common mental disorders due to social and familial rejection, than due to any other reason. Throughout the years, women have battled suicidal thoughts, kept quiet about the worst kinds of abuse, and encountered probably thousands of sleepless nights, all because they consciously believed that they had to bear what they thought was normal in marital life. Being single was probably as harrowing an experience then as it is now, so that was no walk in the park, either.

Thinking about it now, I wonder; why is being single so difficult?

Why is being a woman so difficult?

More importantly, why is being a single woman so difficult (pun intended)?

We have come far as a society; we’re respecting women, supporting them, their education, their ambitions and careers. And that is an amazing thing, but there is still quite a lot to think about in terms of how far we’ve come in talking about women’s mental health.

Because we are still part of a society whose majority reserves the position of ‘breadwinner’ for men. Because we still follow a culture that says that women have to bear whatever is thrown in their way and suck it up. Because we still live in a period where the female foeticide and rape are very much a reality, though times are changing.

Times are changing, and it’s time to put our mental health and wellbeing first, before the opinions of the world. 

Wellbeing, both physical and emotional, involves not just getting better with the help of medicines or therapy but also staying that way. You’ve got to be confident, secure and satisfied with yourself; you’ve got to learn to love yourself. And let me tell you, the whole world will be an obstacle in your path. But it’s time to take a stand. 

We’re part of a world that tells us that femininity and fragility go hand in hand, but at the same time, gives us great burdens to bear. Is that the case with you? Show the world a picture of Mary Kom, the woman who is a symbol of strength and courage. 

We’re part of a world that tells us that the place of a woman is in taking care of the family, but at the same time, expects us to go great heights in all fields. Is that the case with you? Show the world a picture of Kalpana Chawla, the woman who conquered space.

We’re part of a world that will beat you down and tell you that your place is there, but at the same time, expect you to be bold and outgoing. Is that the case with you? Show the world a picture of Rani Lakshmibai, the warrior princess. 

We’re part of a world that will, time and again, judge you for what you were, but expect you to be more than you are. Is that the case with you? Show them a picture of you, who are perfect just the way you are. 

It’s time to display the phoenixes and eagles inside us, instead of the songbirds with broken wings that the world thinks we are. It’s time to rise and –

Wait! Songbird…Broken wings…Where have I heard these phrases before?

Oh right! Yes, it comes back to me now.

‘Songbird, why dost thou bear a broken wing?’

Sarojini Naidu.

Wait, I know her! Naidu…Naidu…Yes! That freedom fighter, right? The one who went on Gandhi’s Dandi march with him? There’s even a very famous…




Battle with my body

“I want to be more fit, maybe a little taller” blurts my friend as he looks at a larger than life poster of a model on the side of the highway. Earlier in the day at a restaurant, he orders a salad for lunch and leaves the croutons untouched. He casually says he’s not hungry. He’d skipped breakfast that morning. He exercises every day and looks well-built to me but to him, it’s a different story. 

My friend is not alone in his struggle with body image. Memories of myself going on diets, trying to lose weight are still fresh but his obsession with weight loss and attaining the perfect figure are a little concerning. However, to the unsuspecting, his behaviour seems nothing out of the ordinary. It has become commonplace to find youth today constantly trying to perfect the way they look and obsession is only ever subjective.

Constantly discussed yet unspoken; Fad diets, intermittent fasting and Juice cleanses; Myriad labels – 0%, 2% and Whole, calorie count tables and Organic – This is the world we live in. A million blogs and videos detailing unbelievable weight loss journeys are available at the click of a button. Celebrities and commoners alike hop on Instagram to post photos of their flawless bodies, hoping to inspire their followers. Can I say “TMI”?

Now, more than ever before, we have greater access to information on how food affects our bodies and deeper insights into weight loss routines but we still understand so little. So much of the information that we encounter on a daily basis is neither scientifically corroborated nor applicable to our bodies. It is impossible to avoid this constant stream of statistics and data, and being as human as we are, ill-informed decisions are made.  

It is only a year later that I found out that my friend has been diagnosed with clinical anorexia. Our mutual friends were shocked, after all, he seemed to be a role model for healthy living. I suspect that it’s this constant adoration that might’ve pushed him to maintain a dangerous diet even when his body told him otherwise. In fact, a study shows that 81 per cent of ten-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat. At an age when their bodies are still not fully developed and need nutrition, children and teens alike are starving themselves.

Traditional media does little to help. Though there has been a spike in the recent trend of being authentic and more and more influencers share their struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, these voices are few and far in-between among the general commotion of weight loss gurus. Models to mannequins, everyday imagery promotes a thin, fair-skinned and Western as beautiful for women, while tall, muscular and Western again are the qualities of the masculine handsomeness. It is almost impossible to ignore these constant reminders that our own bodies are inadequate.

“I stopped going on social media”, tells my friend. “I deleted all my accounts and the tracker apps on my phone. That has helped me a great deal”. He also tells me that his general mood has improved ever since he’s been eating healthily and his emotional stability and mental acuity have been boosted as well. I am happy that he found the courage in himself to break out of the vicious cycle but not everyone is as emotionally strong. It is estimated that around 30 million are diagnosed with eating disorders in the US; that number is a staggering 25% of young girls in India and this trend only seems to be growing. 

Health and dietary science has made quantum leaps in recent decades but we are still far from understanding the complete picture. While we must be well-informed of our options, the greatest tool in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, is the feedback we receive from our own bodies. It is important to consult a certified doctor before going on diets and even then to remember not to set impossible goals for yourself which in turn might only become another source of stress.

Here are some tips to battle your body image issues [WellCast].

  1. Stop, Breathe
  2. Look inward and look to your own inspiration
  3. Don’t sacrifice future health for current figure
  4. Don’t keep moving goal posts back. Don’t set unattainable goals.
  5. Talk It Out
  6. Step away from the mirror


[Photo courtesy: Alora Griffiths on Unsplash]