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A space to share stories of our work using narrative practices with children, adults and families in the Indian context

Empowering Mobeds – Reflections from Kashmira Kakalia

 

The priests of the Zoroastrian community are respected members of the community. They meet their clients, the laity or the people who visit the fire temple. They meet with them regularly or for the prayers of their departed ones or on happy occasions. They have sensitive conversations with the laity during times of sickness and bereavement.

“Empowering Mobeds”; a session on training in self-awareness and basic counselling was conducted for the priests of the Zoroastrian community. It was an offsite training programme held in the midst of greenery and serenity.

Here are some reflections from the experience:

Exploring the self, communication with others, role of language, resonance and the importance of being decentred yet influential, were a few skills I tried to highlight with the use of my knowledge of the narrative ideas and practices.

As the session progressed, from just being listeners to active participation and dialogue based on mutual respect and non-judgemental conversations were some of my observations. A simple exercise using questions based on interviewing about a pleasing story resulted in awe and understanding among the priests who were co-workers.

With the practise of externalising conversations, sparkling moments were visibly noticed. The operations of hierarchy and power between the congregation and the Mobeds was made visible and a discussion on being aware and taking this into consideration in interactions was made possible using the narrative ideas and practices.

Our conversations drifted to various topics, though keeping in mind the timing of the session, I was reminded of how these conversations created a space for related conversations which needed to be addressed leading to an understanding of multiple identities of others, and the importance of “loitering”.

Here’s what one of the participant had to reflect, “It was a great way to know someone better. The experience got me more understanding after a certain flow; personally I got confused at a point myself while asking questions, but that was probably out of a lack of having these skills. There seemed like a sense of relief to the person being asked the question knowing that he knows the answer/ solution.”

Another participant said, “For the first time the priests reported the unique experience of being heard and sharing feelings.”

About the author –

Kashmira A. Kakalia is a Special Educator and enjoys working with students and adults with special needs,to promote their social, emotional, intellectual and physical development to facilitate them to be self reliant, confident and guide them to achieve their goals and qualify for a better tomorrow. She’s passionate about teaching and cooking she believes if for pleasure and fun. She has completed her training in the Mental Health Training Program at Ummeed.

You can contact her at kkakalia@hotmail.com

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Inclusion: A Celebration of Diversity | Parul Kumtha | TEDxRAPodarCollege

Parul Kumtha : Focusing on universal design and sustainability, Parul Kumtha is the principal architect at Nature-Nurture Architects and Planners: an initiative that is committed to green designs, preservation of natural heritage and providing design solutions to old, existing buildings. A trained counselor in Mental Health and Narrative practices, she is the parent founder and trustee of the parent support group, “Forum for Autism”. In a world where the autistic are treated in a manner different from others, she stands out by saying, “Yes, they are different, just like you and I.” Here’s the story of Parul Kumtha, who shows us the world through different perspectives. Architect This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

There is always more to Stories

In March of 2018 when Prathama (Mental Health & Disability Support professional) and I were asked to conduct a daylong workshop on gender and sexuality using narrative method as a precursor to planning for Photo Kathmandu 2018, we were thrilled. The theme for this edition was Power, Patriarchy, Sexuality, Gender and Identity. We had just come back from the first block of Mental Health Training Program at Ummeed, Mumbai. Those 5 days of the first block felt very transformative for us. Through out 2018 we conducted a few more workshops introducing Narrative Approach and contextualizing it to mental health work in Nepal while going to Mumbai for the three blocks that happened every two months. I soon realized that partnership in doing these workshops, the process was the highlight for me because it captured the essence of Loitering as we call it in Narratives. What follows is my telling of how the process unfolded.

Friendship Partnership—the gift of Narrative

When I was introduced to Narrative ideas and the emphasis it put on language and its power I felt a resonance I hadn’t felt before. To feel that resonance together in the same room and taking it back with us to Kathmandu felt wonderful for me.  As we sat down to prepare, Prathama would write down the activities while I with my index cards would right down the lay out of the workshop down to the minute. Then on another note card I would write the key ideas that I hoped would unfurl in conversations. Putting all of this together calmed my anxious self.

However, since being part of the MHTP my focus was shifting from rushing and covering everything I intended to move towards intentional loitering. Loitering, as we all know takes a lot of preparation.  It wasn’t easy to start to practice loitering, as it doesn’t just happen!

Before any workshop I would go to Prathama’s apartment or we would spend a day together at cafes and through dinners or other meals we would discuss what is it that we hoped for in these workshops. Initially the anxiety to finish preparation would get the better of me—I wanted to arrive at what we would want to do and finish the preparation. But Prathama guided me towards loitering. What do you think if we…? How do you feel about…? These were the questions we began to ask each other in person, on the phone or via text through out preparation. The tentativeness of these questions created a lot of space for us to move ideas around and the pressure to arrive at a conclusion was no longer the end goal.

Talking about Power

One of the themes that resonated with me was Power. Discussions about power I felt were very limited or non-existent in circles where folks hold considerable privilege i.e. Photographers covering a marginalized community, a cis gender able bodied therapist working with their clients, teachers in classrooms with youth etc. How do we talk about our privileges without feeling the need to defend ourselves? How do we have those difficult conversations without the need to attack or without feeling attacked?

I felt that using the language of narratives through the lens of intersectionality made sense. Putting together of these concepts gave us the idea to talk about what Vicky Reynolds calls “imperfect allies.” As allies we have the responsibility to constantly educate ourselves and equip ourselves with knowledge without burdening the group we are allying with. Discussions about doubts, our personal biases, judgments then can happen in ally circles without traumatizing or doing harm to the groups we intend to help. For the first time I felt that I could talk about my own biases. More importantly I could come face to face with dominant discourses in me and explore where they come from and what I can do about it so that I am aware of it.

Narrative approach gave me the idea of dominant discourses that color our world without our even realizing and intersectionality assisted me in seeing how those discourses do less or more harm depending on where we as individuals or groups stand in the hierarchy of how things are in the world. Instead of feeling daunted by these realization I felt a sense of loosening up in the group from the tightness that comes with feeling always being afraid of doing harm. Instead being able to see dominant discourses around us, in us, it started feeling like we could be kinder to ourselves in settings like these while discussing our biases and afford that kindness to our peers as well. With more group conversations like these I feel that we can move towards becoming better albeit still imperfect allies reducing harm to the groups, communities and folks we work with aka “clients” as we engage with them.

Spaces of becoming

As part of Photo Kathmandu Third Edition programming, Prathama and I put together a daylong workshop with the intention of introducing some ideas of Narrative Approach. We decided to include the Lightning Testimonies, a work on display at the festival as part of the day. We specifically reached out to individuals related to mental health, like teachers, current students, psychosocial counselors, and folks living with diagnosis, primary care givers of individuals living with diagnosis. My intention in this was also to build a network in Kathmandu in the long run looking for support and resonance in the day-to-day work and lives of folks engaging in mental health be it as therapists or caregivers and bring out the alternative stories getting buried in the daily hustle.

The title of our workshop was: “Is there more to the Story?”

We decided to have 20 participants for a four-hour workshop.  We started out with

Watching “The Danger of a single Story” a TED talk by Chimamande Adichi, which sets wonderfully the ideas of the perils of Dominant Discourses. The idea that Stereotypes may not always be untrue but it is also not the only story of the individual and the community its about. Single stories or these stereotypes are thus very limiting hence dangerous. Then we did introductions.

We wanted folks to share various aspects of their identity, as they felt comfortable to share with the group. We gave prompts such as race (skin colour), ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, education, geography etc. This idea of bringing to the front our various identities came to us after many hours of loitering during preparation for the workshop. With the first group, when introduction extended to over an hour, I started to panic. We were running out of time! Prathama seeing I was concerned whispered, “this is the way of narratives, we will be okay!” I felt a sense of calm.

We did not ask folks to stop talking or make their intros short and immediately what became clear to us was that the conversation on identities without the usual rush one feels in workshop setting really created that safe and soft space for hard conversations. We realized when we are able to really talk about our multiple selves there is an opening that then makes it possible for us to see the multiple identities of others—those that are in the room as well as of those that aren’t. It was evident that if we haven’t been allowed by forces around us to realize, see and be ourselves fully, then we also do not know how to afford that space to others around us.

From here on, transitioning into recognizing dominant discourse activity felt like a wonderful way of continuing to loiter.

Recognizing Dominant Discourses activity was one of the first ones we were introduced to during our MHTP at Ummeed. It goes as follows:

We mention a person with their identity, for example,

A teenager who is questioning their gender,
who has stopped going to school and is
brought to the a therapist by their parent…

With this information, the group consisting of 3-4 participants were asked to discuss what dominant discourses are prevalent about the said group; as a result of such dominant discourse how does society (their parents, friends, siblings etc at a micro level to the school, community at large) treat them. Thirdly how does the treatment affect their behavior i.e. how do they act as a result of being treated this way. Additionally if they transgress or do not agree to act in ways that society things they should what happens to them as a result. The participants were asked to list those actions and the consequences.

This activity is wonderful in bringing out our internal biases without us feeling judged or defensive. We felt that participants were comfortable with one another and often there would be pauses after which someone would say “I never knew I thought about this group in this way…”

After lunch we watched The Lightning Testimonies and discuss the idea of Absent but Implicit a narrative map at the heart of which is the idea that people are always responding in any given situation. And this response is resistance to power. For instance if someone is angry, that anger is a response to the violation of some value, vision in life that they hold dear. And asking a question like “What is that anger a testimony to?” makes all the difference. The question might not yield a succinct quick answer because these aren’t the ways we are encouraged to use language in general but they sow a seed in the mind and turn us towards landscape of possibilities, away from the constant noise of problem stories.

In the context of The Lightning Testimonies, we asked what resonated with you when you were listening and watching the installation? One of the most common response was that it shifted how sexual violence was seen, it did not put the “victims” in the boxes of single stories.

In the course of a month and half we conducted three different sessions with 56 individuals in total all of whom were related to the field of mental health as therapists, educators, students, doctors, caregivers, living with diagnosis etc. We were surprised by the resonance participants said they felt in the room. I felt lucky to be witness to the words as well as the moments of silence. The latter being the most difficult. What I am most thankful for is the creative alliance that Prathama and I were able to work towards. Workshops are best ways to co-research and create resonance and I feel that finding your tribe and working together is one of the best ways to go about it. Dominant Discourses are daunting and working together has been healing and empowering. We would like to thank the Ummeed MHTP team whose work-shaping style inspired me and Prathama to form a team in Kathmandu.

About the Author –

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Raji Manjari Pokhrel is a mental health worker living and working in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her background lies in community organizing and mental health and her passion is to integrate the two at the intersection of gender. She was part of Ummeed Narrative  Approaches  MHTP 2018. Raji loves to do collaborative work using narrative approach and somatic awareness to envision alternative ways of practicing psychosocial therapy. Working with Adhikaar and the Nepali-speaking immigrant community in Queens in 2006 sparked Raji’s passion for community organizing in the immigrant community. She went back to work with Adhikaar as a social worker from 2012-2015. She is forever grateful for her education and know-how of the world to the Nepali speaking domestic and elder care workers’ community in Queens, New York, who taught her to see emotional labour otherwise rendered invisible in everyday life. Upon returning to her home town in 2015 she has worked with the LGBTQI community on mental health issues. She provides therapy online and in person. She is cis gender and identifies as Queer. She completed her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work, 2013.

You can get in touch with her at manjariraji@gmail.com.

From Theory to Practice: Putting Play for Peace Methods to Work

“The incorporation of Play for Peace methods and narrative ideas allows me to create more meaningful conversations. I am able to reach out beyond the problem and find skills in each person.” —Archana Magar, Play for Peace certified trainer

For Play for Peace, cooperative play is used as a catalyst for creating long-lasting positive change at the personal and interpersonal level. It promotes positive relationships among people who live in communities affected by conflict and helps them start a dialogue based on mutual respect. The process begins by creating a safe environment, where people of all ages and backgrounds can experience the joy of play. Since all activities are fun, caring, inclusive and cooperative, group members can get to know each other in a non-threatening environment. Laughing together releases tension, and the games allow participants to build trust in one another. Mutual trust is the condition for cooperating, finding solutions for conflicts, and creating peaceful communities.

Play for Peace clubs around the world use cooperative play to learn about the unique challenges their communities face. Play for Peace’s methodology is the basis for a productive and inclusive dialogue, so it can be incorporated into other concepts and/or programs. Furthermore, using Play for Peace methods not only increases our clubs’ success rate of reaching their objectives, but it also strengthens the sustainability of the Play for Peace model itself.

An example of Play for Peace methods being incorporated into another concept is in the work of Archana Magar, a certified trainer and regional coordinator in India. She currently conducts weekly narrative therapy sessions with terminal stage three cancer patients through a local organization in Mumbai, as well as monthly sessions for special need children and their parents. Narrative therapy concentrates on separating people from their problems while focusing on their many skills, beliefs, values, and abilities. This allows them to reduce the impact of their problems on their lives. The therapy consists of asking questions and helping people to recognize the solution from within. This self-realization makes the solution more effective and something people are more apt to follow. Archana is incorporating narrative ideas into her Play for Peace work and will share her experiences with the Play for Peace community, as well as experts working in therapeutic fields.

Play for Peace’s methodology and narrative therapy share many of the same values, and many Play for Peace activities bring out narrative ideas. This includes the belief that people are experts in their own lives. Conversely, narrative ideas can influence the way a Play for Peace community cooperates. With narrative therapy, the problem is seen as different from the person, so questions can be asked in a way that uncovers the story behind the problem, as well as the skills that will allow the person to solve his or her challenges. Practicing and incorporating narrative ideas in Play for Peace is an initiative and exploration with the ideas such as people being experts of their life. Through facilitating cooperative games, people become leaders and make own decisions. They taking risks and start exploring their own skills.

Archana successfully began incorporating Play for Peace into her narrative therapy sessions in December 2018, and it will be a steady component of future sessions. In her work with palliative care patients with cancer, she uses Play for Peace games to create the feeling of joy and laughter. This creates a safe space for participants to share stories they find within themselves. By using narrative ideas, those stories are analyzed in order to discern the skills they already had had or developed when making decisions in that story.

In a recent session one participant shared: “I would not have understood my own skills of looking at life so beautifully if I hadn’t been part of this session.”

Archana Magar, has shared her experiences with Play for Peace Global and started projects in Cancer Hospital and at the Family Court, applying and developing process of Play for Peace incorporating Narrative Ideas and Practices in this article written by Katrin Huenemoerder, Development Officer & Community Stories Lead at Play for Peace®.

About Archana Magar – 

archana profile

As the Play for Peace Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator, Archana Magar uses her skills and persistence to build and strengthen her community. Archana has been associated with Play for Peace since July 2008. She began as a volunteer and continued attending Play for Peace sessions while pursuing her Master’s degree in communications media for children. While studying, she spent holidays and weekends attending PFP trainings conducted by Swati Bhatt and Agyat Mitra in and around Pune, India. She then applied for certification while conducting PFP sessions in 2010.

Archana is an experiential educator working in the field of Experiential Education through Play for the past ten years. She is associated with organizations and schools to promote child rights, inclusive education, expressive arts-based therapy sessions for mental health, zero violence, and playful teaching techniques for marginalized communities through training processes and workshops.

As a Regional Coordinator, Archana’s responsibilities range from supporting members, clubs and communities, organizing global exchanges, collaborating with other PFP partners, and celebrating successes.

Play for Peace core values are very close to Archana’s heart. She sees enormous opportunities to share her expertise with children, youth, and adults in conflicted areas. This is her Play for Peace dream.

Contact Details:
Archana Magar, Mumbai India
Global Training & Community Events Coordinator
Contact : +91-8767560940
Email : archana@playforpeace.org
Website : http://www.playforpeace.org

Monthly Narrative Gathering -February 2019

Greetings!

Inviting everyone from our narrative community to witness our next monthly Narrative Gathering “Linking lives of parents of children with Autism using narrative ideas and practices”  in February 2019.

Ranjana Chakraborty and Manisha Bhattacharya are both associated with Autism Society West Bengal (ASWB), a parent organization working with families of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

They have been trying to explore narrative possibilities across the array of their work and wish to share their journey and amazing experiences over the past year and how it has changed their lives.

Date: 09th February 2019  

Time: 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Venue: Ummeed Training Facility

Zoom is available for those who cannot come in person. 

नैरेटिव सोच और तरीकों पर वर्कशॉप – फरवरी २०१९ / 2-Day Introductory Workshop on Narrative Ideas and Practices

उम्मीद की मानसिक स्वास्थ्य टीम फरवरी २०१९ में २ दिन का ” नैरेटिव सोच और तरीकों ” पर वर्कशॉप करने वाली हैं।
यह वर्कशॉप हिंदी में आयोजित की जाएगी।
अधिक जानकारी के लिए फ्लायर को देखें।

Ummeed’s Mental Health Team is conducting a two-day Introductory Workshop on Narrative Ideas and Practices in Mumbai on the 13th and 14th of February 2019. For more details, please refer to the flyer. Register soon!

ntworkshop hindi -01152019

Beyond the Dominant Concept of Aging by Arpita De

I was occupied with myself in exploring the concept of age or oldness. How do we define age or an aged person? The normative world goes by biological age. Generally there is a defined age to get into an activity/a job and for retirement, too. But what does the word ‘old’ bring in our mind? I have seen people to become sad and unhappy in becoming old. Even I have watched people to react when they receive a birthday wish on their birthday!

‘Oh!  One year more! I am becoming old! It is saddening!’- They often utter.

The word ‘old’ is also being used derogatorily to express inability or incapability. This is not very uncommon in our society. The term sometimes becomes an abused term in the daily discourse to express how incompetent and powerless one is.

I remember one recent incident in the metro. The metro was not much crowded. A young man was standing in front of the senior citizen seat and absorbed in his phone.  Another man entered the train who was visibly aged with white hair. He almost collided with the young man and said ‘could you please shift a little, I want to sit.’ The young man did not shift and not even show that he recognized his request. The train was running. It was really problematic for the old person to keep balance. It was also difficult for him to take a zigzag way to reach the empty seat. After his repeated requests, the old person took the zigzag path and found a seat. He was angry. He started shouting at the boy. The look the young man gave to the elderly gentleman and the body language he showed were mere expressions of abusive power and disrespect. Other people got involved. There were heated exchanges and ultimately when the young man left the train, he uttered an abusive term associated with oldness. It was ‘ghater mara’ (a dead body in queue) which means people having one foot in the grave. We the co-passengers ( 2/3 persons, others were indifferent) were busy trying to resolve the anger and humiliation of the elderly gentleman. Obviously this is not the only story and life is not single storied even.

But it exists in the society. This is how the mainstream deals with the marginalized.

‘Tumi buro! Tomar dara kichhu habe na’ (you are old so you won’t be able to do anything, you are worthless, powerless).

When we attach a gender lens with oldness it takes a different dimension altogether. ‘Girls never talk about their actual age’ goes a popular saying. There are plenty of popular jokes which prevail in the society associated with age and gender. I sometimes feel that they are embedded in the unwritten social norms and in our daily jokes in such a way that we fail to recognize the underlying humiliation and disrespect of these sayings.  People send such posts via WhatsApp and other social media and laugh. I remember stories from my own life. When I started growing white hairs I remembered stinging comments from friends, acquaintances and relatives. I took those comments with playful curiosity. It especially amused me to see the reactions of men with strong judgmental & patriarchal attitudes. Some of them (of my age and having white hair) were really cross. They were questioning me why I would not colour my hair? It sounded to me ‘how dare you to violate the unwritten norm of the society that girls should always try to hide their age?’ It is not again a single story but it is clear that the act of colouring my hair either ‘black’ or ‘green’ or ‘white’ or ‘grey’ is not my personal selection. A dominant surveillance is always there from the society which may include a different patriarchal politics. We need to understand it in different layers.

All these things came in my mind when I got an invitation to design a program to spend an evening in an old age home with the residents. My friend Angana runs an NGO. She works with underprivileged children in Sundarban locality. They were interested to celebrate the evening of the international day of older persons in an old age home. She requested me to design the program.  My mind was wandering in different questions arising out of the allied experiences I gathered in my life. I was trying to understand the dominant meaning of the term ‘aging’. I was relating to this word in the context of my experience and experiences of many others which I have been gathering during my life-journey.

“chaler pathe dine rate dekha habe sabar sathe” (a favourite line of mine from Tagore meaning in the course of the journey I meet so many people ).

Yes, we meet people — so many people — so many dialogues — so many stories –so many narratives.

I started my commencement of learning of narrative practices in the month of July 2017. Jehanjeb and Raviraj ushered me in the world of narratives. That was a magical moment for me to get a direction for my work. It has been redefining my work in the counselling sessions and in my life too. Since then I have been trying to apply it in my practice in the chamber and in everyday life. Things which are highlighted with power and pronounced with pride in the mainstream discourse continuously give rise to some grand narratives. Power and politics play an active role to create these grand narratives. The process of development of this dominant discourse or grand narratives may be very complex, but its manifestation creates people –‘others’ — who do not fall in the dominant group. Hence, the grand narrative gets priority, and the numerous narratives of our lived experience go unnoticed. These countless stories of an individual may hold the real strength of the person. In the chamber of a narrative therapist, those stories sometimes bring magical moments which may lead people to rediscover their strength and agency.

I found it to be important to understand the concept of aging from this dominant societal point of view. My first intention was to deconstruct the reality which identifies aged people as ‘others’ and marginalises them. Secondly, I remembered an exercise of narrative practices focussing on ‘how stories shape us’; this was a wonderful exercise to reflect on a pleasant story of one’s life to explore for new meaning.

In the meantime I met Ujjal (Ujjal Maitra) and Kabirda (Rezaul Kabir) who were from my friend’s NGO. Interestingly, Kabirda has started his work after his retirement from job as a bank official. He visits the school in Sundarban every week, stays there and teaches the children.

We all sat together and decided the program. It was planned in three parts. We would start by performing a drama. It would be a small drama involving natural conversation among four persons (us) exploring and deconstructing the concept of oldness. It would explore some important questions, such as:

─ What is international day of senior persons?

─ What does it mean to celebrate a particular day?

─ Is it important to celebrate a day?

─ There are some provisions for senior citizens. Is it a privilege or it is a right?

─ Is it important to redefine oldness and well-being?

─ Oldness doesn’t mean the end of all attainment. etc.

Finally kabirda (who has started a new life after retirement in Sundarban) would speak about his experience and realization.

In the Second queue we kept the exercise of ‘how stories build us’. We named the exercise in Bengali as ‘Galpo boli galpo shuni’ which means telling stories and listening to stories. Residents would participate in pairs, and they would interview each other following some questions which I translated in Bengali. It would be followed by a discussion and reflection from the participants.

In the last part there would be a celebration. Residents would be free to participate in any manner they pleased. There will be an arrangement of high tea and some gifts (a coffee cup and blanket for the residents) from the NGO too.

We decided one more thing. We designed a small card and planned to visit the residents in person and invite them.

We started working as per our plan. I made the script of the drama keeping in mind the deconstruction of the concepts. I tried to keep it as balanced as possible. I shared the script in the group. Angana made the card.  Ujjal got himself busy in making the other arrangements. I and Angana went to the old age home to visit and invite the residents for the evening. We met them in person and invited them. It was found that many of the residents were in their late seventies.

Finally, the awaited day came. Residents were coming and taking their seats in a hall which was the venue for the program. Some residents were coming with their attendants. Perhaps arthritis was a natural companion of age — I thought. I could feel my excitement inside me, but tried to keep myself as composed as possible. I was a little bit apprehensive about the size of the hall. The hall was small. We expected a number of 25. There was enough space for the drama and the celebration. But I became uneasy about the exercise. Would it be possible to do the exercise comfortably in pairs?

When we started the program, there were at least 40 persons in the hall. Apart from the residents there were participants from the administration too. Surprisingly, most of them were senior citizens. Participants enjoyed the drama. After our conversations in the drama, when Kabirda started talking about his own experience of new work, I found people with curious faces started asking questions. Naturally the session became interactive.

When it was time to start the exercise, we found that it was not possible to make arrangements for pairs to sit face to face. Scarcity of space forced us to pair them sitting side by side. I was slightly disappointed. But I found that the participants started the exercise eagerly. The interviewer and the interviewee became immediately engrossed in the activity. Initially there was a murmuring sound in the hall, but gradually the noise level rose. I was in a position to observe the absorbed faces clearly. The faces were immersed in narrating and listening, and the surrounding noise didn’t bother them. Excitement, happiness, curiosity and joy were dancing in those faces. Their expressions displayed their enjoyment of the exercise. As I witness the spontaneity reflected of each smiling face, my uneasiness and disappointment about the space faded away. This led to some self-reflection of my part regarding my initial views on how this exercise should be conducted. ‘I need to be more flexible’ ─ I thought, as I gained new insights into our concepts of forms/boundaries.

The discussion part was remarkable. They shared their feelings and thoughts and how they liked the activity. They were amazed at the happiness arose from the stories of their shared lived experiences. Some of them also talked about how they could easily relate to their partners’ stories. I remember a story of an elderly lady which came out at the time of discussion.

She was travelling in a country boat with local passengers in Sundarban locality. The passenger who sat next to her had glasses perched on his nose. Somehow a limb of the spectacles became loose which made the villager anxious about his situation. The lady had some band-aids in her bag. She repaired the glass with the ban-aid for immediate use. After this immediate solution of his problem the country man smiled out of relief. She talked about the smile in her story. The smile was so natural and beautiful she felt that she was experiencing God. It was an ‘aha’ moment for the lady, and she realized again in her life that God only resides in human beings.

The celebration was just wonderful. Participants came out spontaneously to sing, to recite and to dance. The administrators of the home had allotted one & half hour for the program. However happiness is not confined to time or space and the event ran over. We too were also drenched with joyfulness and happiness. It was really a motivating experience for all of us.

This experience made me realize how important it was to redefine certain terms such as ‘age’,’ aging’ and even the term ‘boundary. When we impose a boundary of age–  be it for any job, any project, anything–  we need to reflect again and again. In our daily life, in our day-to-day language, we sometimes are constrained by structural dominant ideas about aging and many other things. They are so deeply embedded in our language that we don’t really understand the true significance. We must be very careful and mindful to use such language, such terms. It may be true for anyone who is marginalized on the basis of mental illness, physical disability, gender, race, caste or economic condition.

The experience of that evening reminded me of Shefalidi  (Shefali Maitra) who has been teaching a class on feminism and related issues at the Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University, after her retirement from the same department. Last year, we, the students celebrated its 10th anniversary. The class doesn’t have any formal recognition. One does not need any money, any degree, any admission test and any fixed affiliation of any subject or profession to take this class.  It is an open class. We call it The Thursday class. We wait eagerly for this class on Thursdays. It is an excellent example of the fact that formal retirement doesn’t speak of any closure.

I remembered the song of Tagore which he wrote when he was eighty.

‘hey nuton

dekha dik aarbar janmero pratham shubhakhan’.

Here he is hailing the new. He wants to see the sacred hour of birth once more.

I feel that the song is talking about continuous renewal. In order to start something one does not have to be confined by boundaries of time and space. Another important thing I realized is that we ignore a very important aspect of life, i.e., lived experience. It holds knowledge, but we ignore it. Older persons have more experience in their knapsack. We often forget to explore it. The program also taught me again that we must be careful about the fact that time is controlling us. Can we try to go beyond the popular concept of ‘time’ too?

 

About the Author –

arpita de

Born in 1963, Arpita spent early childhood in the Himalayan Terrains of Doors region of West Bengal. She received school level education in different district towns and finally came to Kolkata in 1981 for studies in college and University. As a professional, Arpita has a varied experience which includes teaching economics in a college, imparting IT education and developing software, building maps, charts & teaching aids for schools, and running GIS institute and making GIS maps etc. From the very childhood in her lived experience she has discovered different types of discriminations of which the most widespread is gender. The vast exposure in the professional life helped Arpita to understand the unwritten structural disparities prevailing in the job market as well as in the society too. At the same time, in her journey, she recognizes the fact that the real strength of people goes unnoticed in the mainstream culture. Her fascination for psychology and social psychology drew her close to the world of mental health and since 2009, she pursued relevant studies like MA in psychology from IGNOU, Counselling course from JU, Post PG Diploma in school counseling from CU etc. Currently she is doing her Ph D on Stigma and marginalization in mental health, from psychology department of Calcutta University. She is attached to a Kolkata based private hospital as a counsellor and also works in the SPU unit of Applied Psychology, CU. She has a special interest in feminism and related issues. The idea of Narrative Practices has brought new meaning in her work, and life.

Contact : epitome.arpita@gmail.com
Phone : 9830688126
WhatsApp : 9804205018

Arpita De
1 A, Udayan
1918 Garia Place
Kolkata 700084

Narrative Ideas and Practices travels to Hyderabad!

The Mental Health Team at Ummeed Child Development Center, Mumbai is excited to announce a short-term training program in Narrative Ideas and Practices in Hyderabad, starting in December 2018. This training program is organized by Pause for Perspective, Hyderabad.

For more information, kindly refer to the flyer.IMG-20181120-WA0016

बच्चों और युवाओं के साथ मानसिक स्वास्थ्य पर चर्चा (In Conversation with Children and Young Adults about Mental Health)

On the 10th of October Ummeed celebrated World Mental Health Day with an exciting Panel Discussion comprising of children and young people at the Ummeed Training Facility, Mumbai.
There were conversations with children and young people where they shared the power of personal stories around mental health and changing the way society understands the same. Our hope was that the conversations can inform our practices and understanding around mental health.
The panel discussion was facilitated in Hindi.
Here’s an excerpt of the Panel discussion.

 

जागतिक मानसिक स्वास्थ्य दिवस के अवसर पर १० अक्टूबर २०१८ को उम्मीद चाइल्ड डेव्हलपमेंट सेंटर में पैनल चर्चा आयोजित किया गया था।

 

इस पैनल में हमने बच्चों और युवाओं को मानसिक स्वास्थ्य के विषय में चर्चा के लिए आमंत्रित किया था। उन्होंने बड़े उत्साह के साथ अपनी व्यक्तिगत कहानियाँ और अनुभवों के द्वारा मानसिक स्वास्थ्य की प्रथाएँ कैसी होनी चाहिए, यह सूचित किया।

 

उस चर्चा का कुछ हिस्सा, आपके लिए :

To watch the video of the same, kindly click on the link given below:

इसका विडियो देखने के लिए, नीचे दी गई लिन्क को क्लिक कीजिए :
____________________________________________________________________________________________

रविराज: हम प्रश्न शुरू करेंगे। यह जो प्रश्न आए हैं, हम शायद से २ या ३ प्रश्न ले पाएँगे इनमें से। तो पहला प्रश्न जो यहाँ पे हैं, ऐसे कौन-कौन से तरीके हैं अपने मानसिक स्थिति को बताने के लिए…लोग लिखते हैं, कवितायें लिखते है हैं और चित्रकारी करते हैं। कोई और तरीके हैं जहाँ  पे लोग अपनी मानसिक स्वास्थ्य के बारे में अपने विचार और भावनाएँ व्यक्त कर सकें?

अंजलि: मैं लिखती हूँ , लेकिन अगर मेरा लिखने का मन नहीं है तो मैं गाने सुनती हूँ, और अगर कोई ऐसी स्थिति है जो मुझे बहुत प्रासंगिक लग रहा है तो जिसको मैं सुनाना चाहती हूँ – वह यही बैठे हैं, और मुझे देख रहे हैं तो मैं उनको वह गाना सुना देती हूँ, ताकि उनको अगर पूरी परिस्थिति न समझ में आ रही है तो कुछ तो समझ में आएगा। कुछ तो उनको वाइब मिल जाएगा की ऐसा नहीं तो, ऐसा हो रहा है। और मैं नाचती हूँ।  तो नाचना, अगर मुझे लिखना नहीं है तो। इस तरह से मैं अपने आप को व्यक्त करती हूँ।

संकेत: मैं अगर ऐसी परिस्थिति में हूँ जहाँ मैं बात नहीं करना चाहता तो या तो मैं रो देता हूँ; तो रोना भी अच्छी बात होती है; या फिर आप गाना सुनो। मैंने यह निरीक्षण किया है के गाने सुनना ऐसा..ऐसी चीज़ है जो बहुत से लोग में सामान्य है चाहे वह बड़े से बड़ा…हमारे माँ-बाप, या बड़ें क्यों न हो या बच्चे क्यों न हो तो वह एक चीज़ है। एक और चीज़ कह सकता हूँ की मैं यह महसूस किया है के लोगों के साथ महसूस किया है ही अगर हमारे दिल की बात बता देते है हैं, तो हमारा दिल हल्का हो जाता हैं है। तो ठीक है, अगर हमें किसी इंसान को नहीं बताना तो हमारे कोई भी…युवाओं के पास एकाध टेडी-बेयर रहता ही है। तो उनको बता दो क्योंकि अक्सर ऐसा होता है की सबसे भरोसेमंद चीज़ होता है तो वह निर्जीव वस्तुयें होंगी। क्योंकि न तो…क्योंकि हम उन्हें बताते हैं, क्योंकि न तो वह हमें सुन रहे हैं, न तो हमें समझ रहे हैं और न ही वह हमें अपनी राय बता सकेंगे।तो चाहे तो उनको बता सकते है अपनी भावनाएं। क्योंकि मैंने यह किया है। मैंने अनुभव किया है, मैंने बहुत बार किया है। मेरा एक soft-toy है और मैं, जब भी मुझे ऐसे लगता है कि … मैं किसी को नहीं बता पाऊंगा।  कुछ है, तो मैं उस soft-toy को लेके बैठा रहता हूँ।  मैंने किसी को भी नहीं… कितने बार बोला है यह किसी को तोहफ़ा दे और मेरा है कि soft-toys पसंद हैं।  कोई मुझे तोहफ़ा दे soft-toy तो मैं वह किसी को नहीं देता।  तो आप ऐसे तरीके इस्तेमाल कर सकते है। कोशिश करो की आपको जो पसंद है, वह करो और आपको खुद के लिए समय चाहिए, आप खुद के लिए समय माँग लो। आपके जो भी परिवार वाले हैं, उनको बोल दो की अकेला छोड़ें आपको। और, किसी को ऐसा भी होता है की किसी को खाना बनाना पसंद है, तो आप खाना बनाओ। जो भी पसंद है, आप वह कर सकते हो क्योंकि कभी ऐसा होता है की आप जब तक उस बात को समझ नहीं लेते, आपको उसी के बारे में चिंता सताती रहती है। तभी आपको जो पसंद हो, वह कर सकते हैं। सोना है, सो जाओ। वह, मेरे हिसाब से वह सबसे बढ़िया तरीका होगा। तो, ऐसे परिस्थितिओं में जो पसंद है, वह करना चाहिए ताकि आपके पूरे शरीर को आपका जो भी इंस्टिंक्टस (ज्ञान) है वह भी थोड़ा शांत होने की कोशिश करेंगे।

शहबान : हाँ तो जब मैं कवितायेँ या फिर लिखता नहीं हूँ, तो मुझे लगता है कि, जब हम लोग अभिव्यक्ति की बात कर रहे हैं के ऐसे कौनसे व्यक्त करने के तरीके हैं जो कर सकते हैं या देखते हैं, या कविता करते हैं, तो मुझे लगता है की ख़ामोशी भी एक तरह की अभिव्यक्ति होती है। तो अगर आपको ऐसे लगता है कि, मतलब अपने बारे मैं बताता हूँ, तो मैं अपनी बात बताऊंगा।  तो, मुझे भी, ज़्यादातर मैं कवितायेँ करता हूँ क्योंकि मेरा हॉबी जैसा है, लेकिन ज़्यादातर समय जब ऐसे कुछ परिस्थितियां होते है, मैं चुप रहना पसंद करता हूँ। और मुझे लगता है की जब मैं चुप रहता हूँ, समय मिलता है अपने आप को समझने का।  तो मेरा चुप होना ही मुझे समय देता है चुप होने के लिए। तो मुझे लगता है की चुप भी हो सकते हो थोड़े से समय के लिए और ज़रूरी है चुप होना। अपने आप को ठहराव देना ज़िन्दगी में, कि वह समझ पाना की क्या चालू है, मुझे लगता है की वह करना चाहिए।

प्रीती: मुझे लगता है की मेरे case में कोई विकल्प नहीं हो तो, आप खुद से बात कर सकते हो। मेरे लिए, बेहतर काम करता है। बहुत बार ऐसा होता है की तुम किसी से share करते-करते तुम ही अपने समस्या का सुझाव निकाल लो। और बहुत बार ऐसे होता है के आप राहत महसूस करते हो खुद से बात करने के बाद क्योंकि बहुत बार ऐसे होता है की तुम रोज़ की भागदौड़ में हो और तुम्हारे पास खुद के लिए समय नहीं होता। तो खुद के साथ बात करना व्यक्त करता है तुम्हारे भावनाओँ को।

संकेत: तो मैं खुद के साथ बात करने के बारे में कुछ कहना चाहता हूँ।  तो मैं आमतौर पर जो भी होता है, अगर समस्या आई है या कुछ भी हो, मैं अपने आप से बात करता हूँ। मेरे बहुत सारे दोस्त है और अच्छे वाले दोस्त हैं उनसे अपने आप को व्यक्त कर पाऊँ।  तो मैं जब भी ऐसी समस्या होगी  तो पहला इंसान जो भी दिमाग में आएगा, उसको मैं पहले यह कोशिश करूंगा मैं की वह समस्या को समझ पा रहा हूँ की नहीं समझ पा रहा हूँ।  तो वह खुद के साथ बात करना क्योंकी… आप बात क्यों करते हो? ताकि आपके जो दिल में आये, वह समस्या…आमतौर पर ऐसा होता है की आपको जो भी समस्या या आपको जो भी दुःख है आप किसी से जाके बयाँ करते हो तो आपको लगता है की, हाँ, कोई मेरे साथ है। लेकिन उस समस्या का सुझाव ढूंढना, वह आप ही के हाथ में होता है।  हाँ, कोई सलाह दे सकते हैं और वह भी काम कर जाता है लेकिन हमें कोशिश करना चाहिए की पहले हम खुद उसके सुझाव ढूंढने की कोशिश करें क्योंकि अगर हम वह करेंगे तो हम उस समस्या से कुछ सीख भी सकते है, अपने आप को आगे बढ़ाना कर सकते हैं। तो आप वह चीज़, जो खुद के साथ बातचीत करना है, मैं तो कहूंगा की हर दिन अपने आप को कोई समय दो, कम से कम १० मिनट, के आप सोच सको अपने बारे में।  कुछ भी हो, आप कुछ भी सोच सकते हो।  ऐसा नहीं है कि अपने समस्याओं के बारे में सोचो।  कई बार मैं ऐसा बैठा रहता हूँ, तो मैं बैठके फिर सोचता हूँ की पोकेमॉन होते तो क्या होता? मतलब असली में, क्या होता? अगर मैं पावर रेंजर होता, और आकाशगंगा से कोई आता, तो मैं कैसे बचता? मेरे टीम में कौन-कौन होगा? तो ऐसा कुछ भी सोच सकते हो जिससे आपको हँसी आये, जो आपको अच्छा लगे। और अगर कभी ऐसे आपको लगा की आप बहुत ही दुःख महसूस कर रहे हो और आपको कुछ प्रेरणा की ज़रुरत है तो आप प्रेरणादायक वीडियोस देखो।  बीच में जब में १० वीं में था और मुझे ऐसे बहुत समस्याएं आई थी तो मैं संदीप माहेश्वरी के वीडियोस देखता था, जो मुझे बहुत प्रेरणा देती थी। और ऐसे कुछ प्रेरणादायक वीडियोस हैं जो आप देख सकते हो।  तो आप ऐसी चीज़ कर सकते हो जिससे आपको मदद मिलेगी लेकिन अपने लिए समय निकालना बहुत ज़रूरी है। क्योंकि तभी, उसी समय में आप अपने बारे में सोच पाते हो।

रविराज: मेघा, आपको कुछ बोलना है?

(मेघा नहीं बोलती है)

रविराज: अगला प्रश्न यह है कि धर्म और मानसिक स्वस्थ्य का क्या संबंध है? धर्म और मानसिक स्वास्थ्य में क्या ताल्लुक है?

अंजलि: मेरे ख्याल से जो धर्म…यह मेरी राय है कि धर्म और मानसिक स्वास्थ्य के बीच में जो ताल्लुक है, वह विश्वास है। तो, हर किसी का धर्म एक जीने का ज़रिया है, जिस तरह से वह जीते है हैं। धर्म एक जीने का तरीका है, यह तो बताता है आपको किस तरह से करना है, क्या करना है, क्या नहीं करना है, और हमारी मान्यता भी है। बहुत बार ऐसा होता है कि मैं अगर एक धर्म से आती हूँ, मेरे धर्म में इस चीज़ को मानते हैं, तो मैं भी उसे अपनाती हूँ। तो..मेरे माँ-बाप का उदाहरण लेती हूँ…मेरे माँ-बाप को लगता है की जो लोग रोज़ सुबह उठकर पूजा नहीं करते तो, कम से कम नहाने के बाद, भगवान से बात कर लेते है, तो उनका दिन अच्छा जाता है और यह मेरे माँ-बाप मानते है। और जिस दिन, जिस दिन वह भूल गए ना , तो वह चिंता में रहते है की आज का दिन अच्छा नहीं होगा।  मेरे पिताजी को ऐसा लगता है की दुकान में आज का काम नहीं होगा। मेरी मम्मी को लगता है की जो भी बनाउंगी, खाना पकाऊंगी, वह भी बहुत गंदा बनेगा, भले वह अच्छा बने, पर वह चिंता में रहती हैं कि कभी अगर नमक ज़्यादा पड़े, फिर वह ऐसा कर लेते हैं कि,  हाँ क्योंकि मैंने आज प्रार्थना नहीं किया, इसलिए ऐसा हो गया। मेरे ख़्याल से वह भी होता है।  हर चीज़ के अच्छे और बुरे हिस्से होते है। हाँ, एक यह है और दूसरा है अध्यात्मवाद जो भी मेरे ख़याल से मानसिक स्वास्थ्य को लेकर बहुत ज़रूरी है। मुझे यह संबंध दिखता है।

संकेत: मैं बोलना चाहता हूँ की हम, आजकल तो इतने हम, मतलब बहुत लोग विश्वास करते हैं।  बहुत से ऐसे भी लोग हैं, सिर्फ, मतलब अगर मैं मानता हूँ की मैं जो भी काम करूंगा उसमें मैं ‘law of कर्मा’ पे बहुत विश्वास करता हूँ। लेकिन मैं भगवान को इसलिए मानता हूँ क्योंकि जब भी मैं जाता हूँ, मंदिर जाता हूँ, या कुछ, मुझे एक मन की शांति मिलती है, तो मैं सुबह उठके भी मैं एक बार सिर्फ याद कर लेता हूँ। तो अगर हम कोई भी समस्या या कुछ भी हो तो क्या हमने कभी सोचा है कि हम भगवान के पास क्यों जाते हैं? क्योंकि हमको शांति मिलती है। मुझे लगता है की हमारे दिमाग को थोड़ी शांति मिलेगी तो हम तभी उस चीज़ के बारे में और अच्छे से सोच सकते हैं। और उस समस्या को ख़तम करने के लिए, और अच्छे से उस समस्या का समाधान कर सकते हैं। तो इसके लिए, मतलब, हम जब देखते हैं,मतलब, जो भी धर्म है, उसके बारे में पढ़ाई या चर्चा करते है तो वह जब हम गहरायी में जाके चर्चा/पढ़ाई करते हैं तो देखते हैं कि हमें हमारा जीने का तरीका क्या होना चाहिए।  तो वही है की हम, मेरे हिसाब से, मंदिर जाना या भगवान  में विश्वास रखना, जो भी विश्वास होते हैं जो हम मानते हैं क्योंकि वह कहीं न कहीं हमारे अच्छे के लिए होते हैं और यह मैंने खुद भी सीखा है। और दूसरी चीज़ है कि हमें शांति मिलती है वह चीज़ करके। बहुत से ऐसे लोग हैं जो विश्वास नहीं रखते भगवान में तो उन्हें जिस चीज़ से शांति मिलती है, वह करते हैं।

प्रीती: मेरे हिसाब से धर्म मतलब एक आशा की तरह होती है। जैसे की जब आजू-बाजू में जब कोई सहायता नहीं होता है, लोग धर्म को आशा की नज़रों से देखते हैं कि शायद कुछ अच्छा होगा तो वह एक तरीका बन जाता है आशा को ज़िंदा रखने के लिए। इंसान जब पूरा टूट गया हो तो वह आशा बन जाती है, एक उम्मीद बन जाती है ताकि इंसान उसका सामना कर सके।

शहबान: मुझे लगता है कि जब धर्म की बात करते हैं हम लोग, तो, यह एक जीने का तरीका है। धर्म और मानसिक स्वास्थ्य साथ में चलते हैं, मसलन एक साथ, एक दुसरे के साथ जाते है।  तो यह बहुत अच्छी बात भी हो सकती है या बहुत बुरी बात भी। तो, मेरे लिए, वह बुरी जैसी है, तो वह आपको बर्बाद कर सकता है। तो बहुत सारी चीज़ें है जो कर सकता है।

मेघा: हर एक धर्म में ना, हर एक धर्म में, अलग-अलग, जैसे कोई ऐसा (नमश्कार) करता है जिससे उसकी मतलब धार्मिक इसमें बोला जाए तो ऐसे बोलते हैं बहुत…मतलब धर्म-धर्म ज़्यादा नहीं होना चाहिए। पर उसमें भी एक शक्ति मिलती है।  जो हम बोलते हैं कि हमारा मानसिक स्वास्थ्य है, वह तंदुरस्त रखने के लिए हमें खुश रहना चाहिए, हमें शांत रहना चाहिए। तो किसी चीज़ के अलग-अलग तरीके होते हैं भगवान के पास जो प्रार्थना करते हों, जिसकी वजह से शांति मिलती है, वह ज़रूरी होता है के अपने मन से करें। तो एक सिर्फ़ वह हमारे लिए एक ज़रिया बन गया है हमारी मानसिकता को सुदृढ़ बनाने के लिए।

संकेत: और मैं एक और बात बोलना चाहूँगा की जैसे हम यह जानते हैं कि जैसे अलग-अलग धर्म हैं तो उन में से जो भी अच्छे गुण हैं, जो भी अच्छी बातें हैं, हमें उन बातों को लेना चाहिए, मान करना चाहिए और उन पे काम करना चाहिए।  जैसे के जो भारत का संविधान है, वह कैसे बनाया गया है? वह अलग-अलग संस्कृतियों और अलग-अलग देशों से अच्छी बातों को लेके बनाया गया है। तो उसके लिए आज माना जाता है की हमारा संविधान सबसे लम्बा है और एक बहुत अच्छा संविधान माना जाता है।  उसी तरह से, जहाँ हमें अच्छी बातें मिल सके, जहाँ से हम अच्छी चीज़ें सीख सकें, तो वह लेनी चाहिए और उस पर काम करना चाहिए।

रविराज: एक और प्रश्न…जाति का मानसिक स्वास्थ्य पे क्या प्रभाव पड़ता है? जाति जिसमें लोग हिस्सा बनते है, उसके उनके मानसिक स्वास्थ्य पर क्या असर रहता है या थेरपी पे क्या असर पढ़ता है?

प्रीती: अगर… मुझे लगता है बहुत इम्पैक्ट होता है, बहुत असर होता है क्योंकि जो भी जाति होता है वह पहले, मैं ऐसे नहीं बोलूँगी कि वह अभी चला गया है पर पहले उसका ज़्यादा महत्त्व था। पर अभी भी है, बहुत सारे क्षेत्रों में। तो marginalize करके रखा है। तो एक तरह की सोच बना के रखी है एक तरह के जाती जाति के लिए। अगर तुम चमार हो तो ऐसा होगा, अगर तुम राजपूत हो तो ऐसा होगा, अगर तुम मुसलमान हो तो ऐसा होगा। तो यह ऐसा सोच बनाके रखा है। और बहुत बार क्या होता है, कि लोग खुद उस सोच को अपनी आइडेंटिटी एक्सेप्ट (पहचान अपनाना) कर लेते हैं। अगर में एक उदाहरण दूँ, अगर में एक चमार हूँ तो मुझे मंदिर में जाने की इजाज़त नहीं दी जाएगी। या फिर मुझे ऊँचे जाति के लोगों के साथ नहीं रहना चाहिए। या फिर मैं अगर ऊँची जाति की हूँ तो मुझे किसी नीची जाति के इंसान के साथ नहीं बैठना चाहिए या फिर उससे बात नहीं करना है। और फिर यह सब का उस पे बहुत असर होता है जैसे मैंने पहले बताया था के कोई एक्सेप्टेन्स (अपनाना) नहीं है और वह marginalize करके रखा है। और हम खुद भी एक्सेप्ट (अपना लेते) कर लेते हैं, वह चीज़ को के मैं अगर ऐसी हूँ तो मुझे ऐसे ही चलना चाहिए क्योंकि सब लोग ऐसे ही चल रहे हैं। और अगर मैं कुछ अलग करने की सोचूँ, तो बाकी लोग मुझे जीने नहीं देंगे। तो क्योंकि मैं एक सोसाइटी में रहती हूँ, मुझे बहुत ज़्यादा ज़रूरत है उस सोसाइटी की, भले ही मुझे पता है की सही क्या है और गलत क्या है। मेरे घर में फिलहाल जाति को लेके बहुत से समस्या चल रहे हैं दो साल से जिसकी वजह से मेरी काउंसेलिंग भी शुरु होने वाली है। तो उस चीज़ को लेके बहुत बहस चलती है क्योंकि मेरे माँ-बाप बहुत स्ट्रॉन्ग्ली जाति में भरोसा रखते हैं और दूसरी चीज़ यह है कि जाति को लेकर कुछ होता है या मुझे नहीं रहना चाहिए किसी के साथ जो दुसरे जाती का हो। तो यह बहुत असर करता है क्योंकि उनको ऐसा लगता है की मेरी बेटी को क्या हो गया है? वह मान क्यों नहीं रही है? हम मानते है हैं। हमने उससे बचपन से यही सिखाया है कि तुम सबके साथ मिल-जुल के रहो पर जाति को सीरियसली (गंभीरता से) लेना है। यह नहीं, वह नहीं, और अब जब मैं नहीं ले रही हूँ तो मेरे में भी ऐसा है कि यह लोग समाज क्यों नहीं ले रहे है? पहले तो खुद ही मुझे बोलते है कि सबके साथ रहो फिर तुम लोग खुद ही बोलते हो के मत रहो। तो मेरे लिए भी वह एक, मेरी मानसिक स्वास्थ्य पे भी उसका असर हो रहा है जितना उनके लिए, उनके मानसिक स्वास्थ्य का असर हो रहा है। यह छोटे दर्जे की बात है। जब यह बड़े दर्जे पर चले जाता है, देश के दर्जे पर या उससे भी ज़्यादा दर्जे पर तो दंगे और यह सब होता है। तो मुझे लगता है वह बहुत ज़्यादा ज़रूरी है समझना इस चीज़ को।

शाहबान: मेरे लिए जाति बहुत ज़्यादा मायने इसलिए लगता है क्योंकि इसका असर मैं खुद नहीं तय कर सकता कि इसका असर मानसिक रूप से कितना लग सकता है क्योंकि तो जो आलरेडी जाति  रिवाज़ में थे वह लोग वहाँ पे समस्या का सामना किए। फिर सुझाव मिला की धर्म बदल देते है। जब वह धर्म बदल के दूसरे धर्म में गए तो वहां पे भी वही समस्या हुई। तो अभी भी बहुत सारे मतलब जिस गाँव से मैं आता हूँ, वहां पे बहुत सारे लोग मुसलमान हैं लेकिन अभी भी उन्हें चमार बोला जाता है। हालांकि मेरा धर्म ऐसा कहता है की हम लोग इस बारे में जाति-पात में इतना फोकस नहीं करते लेकिन अभी भी वह एक लोगों का झुंड हैं, जिनको चमार माना जाते हैं। तो उन्हें अलग रखा जाता है। तो कहीं से वह लोग निकल के आए, वह उस चीज़ का समस्या या मानसिक स्वास्थय, फिर वह दूसरी जगह पे आ गए, उस चीज़ का सोचना। अब वह दूसरी जगह पे जी रहे हैं, उस चीज़ का सोचना और उनके बच्चे होंगे उस चीज़ का सोचना। तो यह बहुत बड़ा प्रभाव है और धीरे-धीरे ऐसे और मेरे लिए भी आसान नहीं है के इस तरह का सोचना के उस समय पे कितना था, कल कितना, और आगे के समय में कितना होगा। तो मेरे हिसाब से यह बहुत बड़ी समस्या है। बहुत बड़ा मसला है और बहुत बड़े लेवल पे है। हम लोग मुंबई में रहते है तो हमें दिखाए नहीं देता आमतौर पर क्योंकि हमें लगता है की यार जाति क्या है ? लेकिन जब हम छोटे जगहों पे जाएँगे for eg. मेरा गाँव है, मतलब, मैं उत्तर प्रदेश से हूँ। उत्तर प्रदेश में हमारा गाँव है जो बहुत ही गाँव जैसा है, मतलब, अभी तक वहाँ पर डेवलपमेंट (विकास) पहुंचा ही नहीं। तो वहाँ पे तुम देख सकते हो क्या फ़र्क है। तो हमारे लिए यह बहुत ज़रूरी है यह सोचना की बहुत सारे लेवल पे बहुत ज़्यादा प्रभाव हो रहा है।

प्रीती : सर, मैं कुछ बोल सकती हूँ? जब हम जाति की बात करते हैं, मानसिक स्वास्थ्य और यह सब के बारे में बात करते हैं, जब जाति की बात आती है, तो लोग सिर्फ जो नीची जाति के हैं, उनके बारे में सिर्फ बात होती है। जिसके बारे में फिर मेरे लिए बहुत बड़ा चिंता का विषय हो जाता है। कि सिर्फ उनके बारे में बात होती है, जो ऊंची जाति के हैं, उनके मानसिक स्वास्थ्य पे क्या असर होता है? वह भी तो एक, सब पे असर हो रहा है। वह भी देखने वाली बात है। मैं जहाँ से आती हूँ, मेरा गाँव जहाँ पे है, वहाँ पे अगर कभी किसी ने मुझसे यह सवाल पूछ लिया कि, तुम्हारा जाति क्या है, मुझे बताने में बहुत डर लगेगा। मैं एक राजपूत हूँ तो मैं यह बताने जाऊँ, तो लोग मुझे जनरलाइज़ (generalize) कर देते हैं। “तुम तो ऐसे होते हो। तुम तो मारने में भरोसा रखते हो। तुम लोग बहुत egoistic होते हो।” तो मुझे बहुत डर लगता है।  बीच में यह पदमावती का सब चल रहा था, तो मुझे मेरे बहुत सारे दोस्तों ने जो जाति के बारे में बात करते है, उन्होंने आके मुझे बोला के तुम्हारे में ऐसे लोग होते हैं, ऐसा सोच होता है, यह होता है, वह होता है, जिस चीज़ को लेकर मैंने लोगों से बात करना बंध कर दिया था। यह जो जाती है, वह बहुत बड़ा मसला है, ज़्यादातर इंडिया में। हम बोलते तो हैं हम diverse देश हैं, सिर्फ बोलने के लिए हैं, इधर कुछ नहीं है ऐसा। इधर आज भी तू हिन्दू है, मैं मुसलमान हूँ, तू भंगी है, मैं चमार हूँ।

संकेत: वह diversity में एकता जब बोलते हैं, वह बड़े लेवल पे तो दिखाई देती है लेकिन बेस लेवल पे वह दिखाई नहीं देती। तो अगर वह बेस लेवल पे दिखाई नहीं देती, तो आगे जाकर एक समय ऐसा आएगा हमारा बेस ही इतना मज़बूत नहीं है, तो ऊपर का पार्ट आपका भले ही मज़बूत दिखता हो, वह उतना मज़बूत है नहीं। तो कभी ना कभी तो…अभी जैसे हम इंडिया और पकिस्तान का यह देख रहे हैं, तो कभी यह भी हो सकता है कि इंडिया में जो…वैसे मैं एकदम वह नहीं कह रहा हूँ मुसलमान लोगों को… मैं आमतौर पे बोल रहा हूँ, कि कुछ भी हो सकता है। तो हमें यह पहले तय करना पड़ेगा हम पहले क्या हैं? क्या अलग-अलग जाति हैं? और अगर हैं, तो हम पहले क्या हैं? हम पहले इंसान हैं। हम सब एक जैसे हैं। हमें हमेशा कहानियाँ सुनाई जाती है जाति-रिवाज़ पर, धर्म के ऊपर, कि आप खून दे दो। खून तो वही है, लाल रंग का। लेकिन वह बात सब समझ नहीं पा रहे हैं। अभी भी वह चीज़ हैं। तो अभी इसने (शाहबान) ने जो बोला कि मुंबई में दिखाई नहीं देता, लेकिन मैं भी जब पढ़ता हूँ जैसे कि अखबार में या सोशियोलॉजी में, (१२वी तक पढ़ा है) तो उसमें भी हमारी टीचर्स ने यह बोला है, कि गाँव में या जो ग्रामीण जगह है, उधर अभी भी यह प्रथाएँ प्रैक्टिस किया जाता है की जाती है। तो पहली बात तो यह है कि हमें पहले तो उन लोगों तक पहुँचना पड़ेगा, उनसे संपर्क बनाना पड़ेगा, उनकी मदद करनी पड़ेगी, क्योंकि बहुत से ऐसे गाँव हैं, जहाँ पे बिजली नहीं है, जहाँ अभी भी कोई सुविधाएँ नहीं हैं। वह अभी भी कच्चे घरों में रहते हैं। तो अगर हम उनकी मदद करेंगे और फिर धीरे-धीरे उन्हें बता सकते है कि यह गलत है। अगर ठीक है, आपको चाहिए भी तो यह जाति प्रथा क्यों बनाया गया था? जाति प्रथा इसलिए बनाया गया था ताकि समाज एक अच्छी तरीके से चल सके। हम जब देखते है हैं ब्राह्मण तो उनको इसलिए ब्राह्मण बोला जाता है ताकि वह भगवान की सेवा कर सके और उस जो भी क्षेत्र है मंदिर का, उसका ख्याल रख सकें। क्योंकि अभी सब को समय नहीं रहता है सब चीज़ें करने का। फिर क्षत्रिय। हमारे सुरक्षा के लिए लिए कोई तो होना चाहिए, इसलिए वह बनाया गया था ताकि वह लोगों कि सुरक्षा दे सकें। फिर उसके बाद जो भी आते हैं, व्यापारियों और वह सब, वह भी ज़रूरी थे, अर्थव्यवस्था और वह सब के लिए। और जो किसान थे, अभी किसी को तो साफ़ सफाई करनी पड़ेगी, किसी को तो काम करना पड़ेगा बाकी का जो भी बचा हुआ वह। लेकिन धीरे-धीरे इसमें ऐसा हो गया है के यह शूद्र है तो यह सिर्फ साफ़ सफाई करेगा। साफ़ सफाई करना कोई बुरी बात नहीं है लेकिन यह ऐसे बहुत  ने इसको, यह पहले नहीं था, पहले लोगों का बहुत आदर किया जाता था लेकिन अंग्रेज़-राज्य और उसके बाद का यह सब चालू हुआ की ऐसा generalize कर देते हैं। तो यह अभी भी चालू है। तो लोगों को यह समझना पड़ेगा और जब हम ग्रामीण जगहों पर जाते हैं तो लोगों को यह समझाना बहुत ज़रूरी है क्योंकि हमारा जो भी, यहाँ हम शहरों में रहते हैं वहां का एजुकेशन इतना मज़बूत है कि बच्चे खुद-ब-खुद समझ जाते हैं यह चीज़। लेकिन वहां के लोग यह नहीं समज पाते। वहाँ अभी भी भेद-भाव होता रहता है।

रविराज: हमारे पास समय है पर हमारे पास बहुत प्रश्न हैं तो क्या करेंगे कि में आप सब को वह प्रश्नों का कॉपी दूँगा और अगर आप सब उत्तर देंगे तो हम इकट्ठा करके ई-मेल कर देंगे सबको। उसमें बहुत सारे लोगों ने विचार भी डाले हैं आपके लिए तो आप उनका भी उत्तर दे दें।

रविराज: आप के लिए चर्चा कैसी हुई? आप यहाँ से वापस क्या लेकर जा रहे हैं? कोई एक शब्द जो आप यहाँ से वापस लेकर जा रहे हैं, वह क्या होगा?

मेघा: जब आए  थे तो बहुत डरे हुए थे लेकिन, फिर जब यहाँ पर आई, सब एक-एक एक आने लगे तो और भी दर डर गई। अरे! यहाँ तो कैसे-कैसे लोग आ रहे हैं, अभी क्या बात करेंगे? यह तो आलरेडी इतने पढ़े-लिखे हैं, इनको तो सब कुछ आता है।  इनके सामने क्या बात करेंगे? लेकिन जैसे-जैसे प्रश्न आते गए, दिल खुल गया। सारी बातें मतलब, आज अपनी सोच, सब कुछ बोल दी। अच्छा लगा। मेरा भी मानसिक स्वास्थ्य आज अच्छा हुआ।

प्रीती: मैं यहाँ से कहानियाँ ले जा रही हूँ। कहानियाँ जिनको अलग-अलग दृष्टिकोण से देखा जा सकता है। जब में यहाँ आई थी, में एक दृष्टिकोण के साथ आई थी कि मेरे हिसाब से मानसिक स्वास्थ्य यह होता है, मेरे हिसाब से मैं यह कर सकती हूँ या मैं वह कर सकती हूँ। लेकिन यहाँ पर बैठने के बाद, मुझे लगता है मैं दूसरे-दूसरे अनुभवों और दृष्टिकोण से वही चीज़ ले जा रही हूँ जिससे शायद मेरा भी दृष्टिकोण थोड़ा बदले या फिर और सोचने के लिए चीज़ मिली। तो हाँ, मैं यहाँ से कहानियाँ ले जा रही हूँ।

संकेत: पहले तो, धन्यवाद बुलाने के लिए, इतने अच्छे चर्चा के लिए पर समय कम है। मैंने बहुत बार ऐसे अनुभव किया है के ऐसे विषय के लिए समय हमेशा कम पड़ जाता है। दूसरी चीज़, मैं यहाँ से बहुत सारे दोस्त लेके जा रहा हूँ। और कोई २-३ लोगों ने बोला मुझे संपर्क करने के लिए कि नंबर दो प्लीज। और तीसरी बात के मुझे इन लोगों से भी बहुत कुछ जानने को मिला की इनकी ज़िंदगी कैसी है जो की मुझे बहुत काम आएगा लोगों को समझने के लिए। लोग कहाँ-कहाँ से आ सकते है। मुझे जैसे कॉउंसलिंग साइकोलॉजी में करियर pursue करना है तो मैं अभी यही देखता हूँ की मैं लोगों के साथ बात कैसे करूँ, उनको और कैसे जान सकूँ। तो मुझे यह सब बहुत अच्छा लगता है। तो मैं इनसे बहुत कुछ लेके जा रहा हूँ वह बता नहीं सकता, सोच के बता सकता हूँ। लेकिन बहुत कुछ लेके जा रहा हूँ, बहुत कुछ सीखने को मिला।

रविराज: शाहबान और प्रीती, कोई कविता है जिससे आप इसको ख़तम करना चाहेंगे?

शाहबान: सब की बातें सुनने के बाद मैं बहुत खुश हूँ और मैं अलास्का वाली स्माइल (हँसी) के साथ आया था और मैं उसके साथ ही जाना चाहता हूँ। और मैं वह महसूस कर रहा हूँ, वह जादू। तो यह मैं लेके जाना चाहता हूँ।

अंजली: मुझे लगता है , मैं बहुत मतलब थोड़ा और प्रोत्साहित महसूस कर रही हूँ और मैं अपने आप को खुश-नसीब समझती हूँ के मैं यहाँ पर हूँ।

संकेत: और मैं सबकी मुस्कानें लेके जा रहा हूँ। फिर मैंने देखा सबके चेहरे पर एक अलग सी मुस्कान है जो मैं हमेशा सबके चेहरे पर देखना चाहता हूँ। तो मैं जब भी ऐसा कुछ अटेंड करता हूँ (उपस्थित होता हूँ), मुस्कानें देखता हूँ सबके चेहरे की तो यह मुस्कानें बहुत पसंद है मुझे।

रविराज: धन्यवाद !

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Raviraj: We shall begin now. These are a few questions we have received from the audience of which we will be covering only 2-3 questions. I shall read the questions in English as well as Hindi. The first question is, ‘What are ways to express a mental situation besides writing, writing poems and drawing if someone doesn’t want to talk to anyone?’ (reads the same question in Hindi)

Raviraj: Yes Preeti, you may begin.

Anjali: I usually prefer to write but if I am not in the mood to do so, sometimes, I listen to songs. At times, during certain situations, I make a specific person listen to the song so he/she understands the situation and my perspective. Sometimes, when I am not in the mood to write, I dance. So these are two ways in which I express myself other than writing.

Sanket: In situations where I do not wish to talk to anyone, I cry. I believe that crying is also a good way to express a sad feeling. People may prefer to listen to songs. I have observed that people belonging to different age groups use this way to express their feelings. I’ve also experienced that we feel less burdened when we share our feelings with others. It is not necessary to share your feelings with people only. I know teenagers and youngsters who prefer to talk to a teddy-bear. Talking to non-living things can actually be a reliable way because non-living things cannot listen to us, cannot understand us and will not judge us. I usually practice this with my teddy-bear. I love soft toys and find it difficult to give them away. So, you too can use some of these tricks. It is very important to spare some time for yourself. You may ask your family to leave you alone for sometime. Some people like to cook so they may choose to do that.  It is important to do what you like especially until you address the thought that is disturbing you. The best way, in my opinion, is to sleep. All these methods would help you to calm yourself.

Shahbaan: Writing poetry is my hobby. But when I am not not in the mood to do so, I prefer to remain silent. I believe that silence is also a way of expression. It helps me understand myself better and calm down. So, you can try using this technique as well as it helps you understand what is actually going on in your life.

Preeti: In my case, I prefer self-talk. You may reach the solution of the problem you are facing by self-talk. I have experienced that, several times, you feel relieved when you talk to yourself especially when you are in between busy schedules and you have no time for yourself. Self-talk becomes a way to release your feelings. 

Sanket: I would like to share something about self-talk.  I prefer talking to others about my problems. I have many friends to whom I can express myself. So, whenever I face a problem, I talk to that person whose name first occurs to my mind. Before doing so, I use self-talk to understand the problem. Talking to others about your problems makes you realize that you are not alone but it is important to understand that you yourself have to find the solution to your problems. If you are unable to solve the problem by yourself, you may use a suggestion given by someone. Finding solutions by yourself will help you to develop and learn something from the problem. In my opinion, everyone should devote ten minutes daily to self-talk to think and self-introspect. You can think about anything of your choice. Sometimes I think about what would happen if Pokemons actually existed? Or had I been a Power Ranger, how would I have saved the world from someone from another galaxy? Who would’ve been my team members? You can watch inspirational videos to motivate yourself. During the 10th grade, I watched several videos by Sandeep Maheshwari to motivate myself.  You can watch videos by other motivational and inspirational speakers as well. You can practice these methods but it is very important to spare some time to think about yourself.

Raviraj: Megha, would you like to add anything?

(Megha nods to say no)

Raviraj : The next question is ,“How do you connect religion and mental health?

Anjali : In my opinion, the connection between religion and mental health is belief. Religion is a way of living. It tells us things we can do, ways to do those things and helps develop a belief system. People adopt some concepts because of their religious beliefs. Speaking of my parents, they believe that those who pray to God in the morning after a bath have a nice day. And the day they forget to do it, they feel stressed that they won’t have a great day. My father feels that he won’t be able to work properly in the shop. My mother feels that the food she cooks won’t taste good on such a day- it may contain more salt than required. Everything has two sides – positive and negative. I also sense a strong connection between mental health and spiritualism.

Sanket: I believe in the law of Karma as well as in God. I experience peace of mind and calmness when I visit a temple. Have we ever wondered why we visit a temple or pray to God when we are facing a problem? Because we can calm down by doing so and think about the solution to the problem. Religion also shows us the way of life. In my opinion, we tend to visit temples, pray to God, follow some beliefs because we know that benefit us. I have realized this from my experiences. There are people who do not believe in God. They may choose to do something else that helps them to calm down.

Preeti: I think religion kindles hope in a person that the situation will get better especially when others are not supporting him or her. Religion is a hope that keeps one alive and helps him or her deal with problems.

Shahbaan: I think religion is a way of life. Religion and mental health work simultaneously. So the effects can be positive or negative. If it is negative, it can destroy you.

Megha: Every religion has distinct ways to do the same thing (e.g. a namaskar to greet the person). One should not be a fanatic but religion gives us positive energy. It helps to be healthy, happy and calm. It is important to pray to God with all your heart. Religion has become a way to enhance mental health.

Sanket: I would like to add something. We must accept and imbibe the good qualities of different religions in ourselves. For example, how was the constitution of India made? It was made by adopting some contents from the constitutions of different countries. This has made it the longest constitution and a very good one. In this way, we too can learn good qualities from other religions and work on it.

Raviraj: How does the caste that one belongs to influence the mental health of that person?

Anjali : It has a tremendous impact on mental health although its importance has reduced since olden times. Marginalization of certain castes has led to certain beliefs about people belonging to those castes. If you are a Chamar, you would some some specific qualities whereas if you are a Rajput then you would have some other qualities while if you are a Muslim, you would have some qualities. This becomes a part of the mindset of people and people belonging to those castes accept the beliefs as a part of their identity. For example, if I belong to the Chamar caste, I would believe that I should not go to temple or interact with others from the upper castes. If I belong to an upper caste, then I should not interact with people from the lower castes. As I mentioned earlier, these beliefs are not only accepted by people belonging to certain castes but they also affect them. People feel that the society won’t accept them if they change something about themselves. So, despite knowing what is right and what is wrong, we make certain choices because we live in a society. I am about to begin counselling for myself due to issues related to caste at home. My parents strongly believe the concept of castes whereas I do not believe in it. This has affects me as they feel that something is wrong with me. They find it odd that I don’t believe it but they do. They have always taught me to live in harmony with everyone but never forget your caste.  On the other hand, I find it odd that my parents are unable to understand me. It has affected my mental health because they initially taught me to live with everyone and now they are telling me to do the opposite. This is an example at a smaller level (family). At higher levels (countries) such beliefs can lead to riots. So it is important to understand the way in which the caste that a person belongs to affects the mental health of the person.

Shahbaan: Personally, I feel that caste has an effect on mental health.  Several people who faced problems in their castes, changed their religion. They face similar problems when they change their religion. So many people usually the ones belonging to the rural areas are Muslim by religion but are still addressed as Chamars. So although my religion does not believe in the caste system, some people still believe that Chamars should receive different treatment. People who have changed religion also think about the effects it would have on them and their children. This affects the mental health of such people.  So this is an issue at a much larger level although we do not witness it to a great extent in Mumbai. But we can see it in rural areas like my village in UP. My village is not very developed but you can see the effects of caste on mental health there.

Preeti: People normally talk about the lower castes in the context of mental health. However, it is important to address the way in which caste affects the mental health of the people belonging to the upper caste. I get scared when people in my native place ask me which caste I belong to. When I tell them that I am a Rajput, people tend to generalize me by saying that Rajputs are aggressive and egoistic.  During the release of the film Padmavat, my friends who believe in castes were generalizing me due to my caste. I stopped keeping in touch with them. So casteism is a big issue in India. We may say that India is a diverse country but in reality, it is a different story.

Sanket: Unity in diversity is seen at the higher levels but not in the lower ones. If this continues then we will have a very weak base so the upper part may appear strong but may not be actually so. We need to think about some very important questions like who are we? People belonging to different castes or humans? We are humans first. We are all equal. All of us know the story pertaining to caste that irrespective of the caste, our blood has the same colour i.e. red.  However, several people don’t understand it. As Shahbaan rightly said, I too have read newspapers and studied in 12th grade that casteism still exists in rural India.  We need to get in touch with such people to help them overcome difficulties caused due to this system. They still live in villages with no proper electricity and housing facilities. We must help them and educate them that this is a wrong system. Let’s look at why caste system was actually developed. It was developed for the smooth functioning of the society. The caste called ‘Brahmins’ was established to include people who would perform rituals and look after the premises of the temple because others don’t have time to do such work. The Kshatriya caste was established for the security of the people. The merchant caste (Vaishyas) was established for economic development. And the Shudra caste was made to ensure cleanliness of the surroundings. Gradually, people started believing that since someone belongs to the Shudra caste so that person must clean to earn a living. Cleaning is not a bad job. This system became more prevalent after the British rule and people’s tendency to generalize others increased. This must reduce and people especially those in the rural areas should be educated to reduce discrimination based on caste.

Raviraj: Although we have some more questions but we are falling short of time. We will provide each of you a copy of the remaining questions and we shall compile your responses in an email. Some well wishers from the audience have also written some thoughts for you.

How has this experience been for you? What is something that you will be taking with you from this discussion?

Megha: Initially, I was anxious especially when the others entered. Since everyone was more educated than me, I was clueless about what was I going to speak. As I answered each question, the anxiety within me reduced. I could truly express myself and I used this as an opportunity to enhance my mental health.

Preeti: I guess I will be taking stories from several perspectives with me. I entered this discussion with a unitary perspective about mental health and my capabilities. After having participated in today’s panel discussion, I am taking with me the experiences of others which would help me think and may change my perspective.

Anjali: I am thinking. You ask (points at Sanket)

Sanket: Thank you very much for inviting me to this panel discussion. I have realized that often, we fall short of time during such discussions. I made new friends here and a few people even asked me for my number to contact me in the future. I learnt about other’s experiences and this would definitely help me understand others better. Since I wish to pursue a career in counselling psychology, I make a point to talk to people to understand them better. So it was a very enriching and fulfilling experience for me.

Raviraj: Shahbaan and Preeti, would you like to end it with a poem?

Shahbaan: I feel happy after listening to other’s stories. I entered with an ‘Alaska wali Smile’ and will be returning with it as well. I am able to experience the ‘magic’ in this room and would to take it with me.

Anjali: I feel extremely lucky to be present her. I feel motivated after the discussion.

Sanket: I will be taking everyone’s smiles with me. I noticed that everyone had a different smile on their face and I  would always love to see them smile. I love to see people’s smiles during such events.

Raviraj: Thank you so much. 

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