maladies of the mind..

Posted October 9, 2015 by rudhran
Categories: written for a magazine

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“The lover, lunatic and the poet are all of imagination compact”, remarked the Bard, perhaps signalling that all of them have intense emotional experiences, which we all do have. The term lunatic, inappropriate in all times is invalid now, and mental illness is the description that has replaced it. Mental illness is not just about emotions and their intensity or lack of it, it is an umbrella under which many maladies are contained. Even for this googling generation, almost all mental illnesses are conveniently or comfortably labelled as depression. Depression is just one of the many mental illnesses that affect humans.

Depression though a very commonly used, and rather misused term ( as many use it to call from degenerative brain pathology, technically called Dementia to simple difficulties in social functioning, as in personality disorders), is not just one type. We have all experienced losses and failures and felt low, sad and even at times despondent because of those events. This is called secondary depression. It is a reaction to an unpleasant event in life. Generally this would pass off in time and we would get back to our social and functional adequacy.  And then, there is another one called Major or Primary Depression.

Major Depression is not event related. It can strike anyone anytime, as it is a disorder of neurochemical transmission. Though there are some factors like hypothyroidism, diabetes, certain medications, and some genetic factors that can predispose one to a Major Depressive Disorder, it is essentially a biochemical disturbance that can only be treated with medication. In the currently raging fad that makes people shrug at the very mention of a prescription, MDD is a ripe field for quacks and fakes to swindle people and waste their time in getting early and proper treatment. On this, we shall see later.

What happens when MDD strikes? The person loses sleep to begin with, and gradually loses interest in all that he was involved passionately earlier. It mars his concentration, reduces his functional competency, makes him see the world dark, pushes him into a self- withdrawal, refuses him to take care of himself, and this ‘darkness visible’, can at times push him into a suicidal rumination and attempt. Depression can be considered as a serious emergency because of its potential life-taking possibility.

MDD apart, mood dysregulation can also manifest as a BI-POLAR disorder in which a person alternatively exhibits severe depressive sadness and switches imperceptibly into a ‘manic’ phase that is marked by incongruent elation and disturbing exuberance. This shifting mood makes not just the person unpredictable but also his relationships vulnerable. This again is a major mental illness and can be treated only with medication.

Mood apart, thought is what makes a man function- personally and socially. A severe form of thought disorder in which even perceptions get disarrayed is called SCHIZOPHRENIA. This is a very severe mental illness and it affects all social classes, both sexes, beyond religious and national boundaries in the age group 15 to 45. Unless detected and treated early, schizophrenia can devastate an individual’s life. This again is a neurochemical dysfunction coupled perhaps with a genetic transmission. This is one mental illness that is most researched and even now is the focus of scientific psychiatric investigation. Medication alone can handle this malady.

Schizophrenia is characterised by again loss of sleep and withdrawal in the beginning. But as time passes the individual loses focus in almost everything and is seen going further into himself. Though the affected alone can hear voices talking to him, threatening him and commenting on him, the outsider can still identify this symptom of ‘voices’. The patient would start muttering to self, not like what we all do when stressed or rehearsing for a stressful event, but muttering and alternatively appearing to listen as though he is in a conversation with a non-existent being. Besides hearing voices and responding to them orally or at time by acting out the ‘received ‘commands, schizophrenia is also characterised by delusions. These false beliefs are not induced as in the religious charlatans ‘money making mockery of the public. These delusions are baseless convictions in which even an innocent child can appear as a sinister evil conspiring and planning to harm the patient. These paranoid delusions are very common in schizophrenia. Again, it has to be reiterated that only medication can help these suffering individuals, because of the increasing popularity of  the stylish fad  wondering whether counselling alone would not suffice as therapy. You cannot counsel a schizophrenic patient, because he does not have insight- the reasoning of reality that makes him accept that he is sick. His hallucinatory voices and delusional convictions are unshaken in any conversation that tries logical reasoning. Unless the neurochemical balance is corrected, he will not listen, and therefore not understand.

Another important and common psychiatric illness is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Unlike in schizophrenia here the affected person is aware of his problems but absolutely incapable of doing anything to come out of it. OCD is again not a rare illness. It can be seen even in literary descriptions, like the Lady Macbeth lamenting on the inadequacy of all the perfumes of Arabia to wash her stain. OCD is characterised by repetitive actions done consciously but without voluntary control. Unless a specific number of times an act is done the individual becomes stressed and distressed very much. There are tow types of OCD symptoms one is repetitive cleaning and the other repetitive checking. A variant of these two would be repetitive acts that may be guffawed away as quirks or habits. We check because we are scared, we clean because something is dirty. Fear and shame are the underlying emotional disturbances in OCD. Regarding OCD, certainly medication is the first line of treatment. But since the individual can listen to sense and comply with therapeutic instructions, some behavioural modification techniques when taught alongside the prescription would help in recovery.

Now to come to minor mental illnesses, one can see the entire human emotional and social spectrum. From simple anxiety which we all experience and conveniently describe as non-existent butterflies in the stomach, to severe panic in which we cannot get into a lift or even close the toilet door when we have to use the restroom, there are a wide range of problems. Most of them are self-remitting, that is short lived and event related. Some like Phobia persist and do not go away even with total insight and high level intellectual capability.

Dependency on drugs or people can also be a psychiatric problem to be addressed. Addiction is another area of mental illness. Besides these, mental retardation, dementia, personality disorders, relationship  problems, learning difficulties and many more come under the group called psychiatric illnesses. Even the problem encountered by many doctors who are frustrated explaining to their patient that there is no physical problems, but find them coming again and again- the problem of what was once called hypochondriasis is a psychiatric illness. A once popular word, another misnomer that is still in usage- ‘hysteria ‘is also a mental illness.

Hysteria was named thus as the Greeks believed that the uterus of the woman was moving all over her inside and making her do bizarre things. This is now described under two types. One is conversion’- where one converts a psychological problem into a physical one. A common example would be having a headache when one is angry and unwilling to go to bed with partner. The other is ‘dissociation’- where the individual dis- associates from reality to escape stress or seek attention. This is commonly manifested in our country as ‘possession’- by a God or an Evil spirit, according to their cultural milieu. Here the individual though initially behaves involuntarily, at some time enjoys the attention he or she gets and goes on to exhibit the behaviour as and when time permits and need arises.

This is a very, very brief outline of mental illnesses. This may not help you to understand them all. But to identify any mental illness look out for- 1) sleep disturbance, 2)lack of focus in work, conversation and self-care 3) unusual and inappropriate speech or behaviour even if it is only for a brief period, 4) emotional imbalance of inappropriately extreme sadness or elation, 5) a gradual decline in occupational, social and interpersonal spheres of life. If you notice these take the individual to a doctor. Don’t Google and conclude, don’t get swayed by the promises of quacks, don’t ask the opinion of every non-medical person ranging from your auto-rickshaw driver to your jobless neighbour. Mental illness is treatable and in many cases curable. Help them to get their life back.

This was written for ‘THE WEEK’ mental health special issue October 10, 2015 (

sushruta two months’ toil

Posted August 19, 2015 by rudhran
Categories: Uncategorized

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sushruta by rudhran

sushruta by rudhran

it took me two months to paint and every day the couple of hours i spent on it were not exactly pleasant. i had all along been comfortable in speedy stokes and fast painting techniques.

this time the theme dictated that i take the old style of painting. it was not meant for the roving eyes of a critic or the raving eyes of a connoisseur it was meant to be on a wall of a medical college.

what made me suffer with performance anxiety was the fact that the college was my almamater- the great MMC, Madras Medical College.

i had dropped this style of painting nearly 40 years ago, and to push myself back in time and alter my style was not at all easy.

here is how the journey happened





the picture now hangs in the new building in the new premises of MMC


2014 in review

Posted December 30, 2014 by rudhran
Categories: Uncategorized

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Facebook foible

Posted September 16, 2014 by rudhran
Categories: ennui, life book, ramblings, rudhran

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To discover or invent the psychology of the pathology of the facebook I need words, but I wonder if I do really have them. I am getting close to saying I am at a loss for words.

If I were not in facebook, I would have savoured and used many words again. I don’t mean just words. Words are just a part of a grand design whose line drawing is a sentence.

I may have gone on writing in the paper on the same page the next day or the next year, but the page with my words would have just been there, hanging around like a loyal dog waiting for an uncaring master. I may have even let the poor dog die unfed and uncared, but I would not have caught it and flung onto the street, where its whimpers would have drowned in the chaotic traffic out there. Facebook  has made me merciless and cruel, more cruel than a child battering mother. I give birth to these words in their formative design, and without waiting for them to grow and grab other words and weave another branch or related words, I thrust them out into the harsh light of social media which scorches more than the sun in its peak of heat.

I am not lamenting at the premature death of so many poetic probabilities that were prematurely delivered and left to die, untreated and uncared at the reduced number of ‘likes’. Thank God they did not create a  clickable ‘dislike’ till this moment. I feel like the shameless and selfish mother who disowns her child because it does not beget her appreciation. I have let so many lovely angels decay before they grew their wings and turned rosy. My words are unfortunate to have been born in this facebook era. Had they been born in the days of paper and pen, they would have still been alive and around, and if perchance I see them in a new light, may have got resuscitated. Not these days; words flee from typing fingers onto the launch pad of a click button, and in seconds after their appearance, appear in front of all. Not the ‘ALL’, but the ‘all’ who I have considered my temporary all. And, not all look at these words. Some are not even aware that they have arrived, some do not care to give them a second look, a few ignore, and a few more refuse to acknowledge. The fresh sculpture soon finds a dustbin, and with the million tons of debris and rubbish that keep piling everyday it may never find an archaeologist, anytime in the farthest future.

Having wasted so many words I still keep collecting them. I still keep weaving them into a tapestry that I always imagine would surpass the shroud of Turin. But those golden threads have gone out of the window, and I have gilded copies which would soon fade and dim in the eyes and minds of whoever cares to even take them on for a look.

I pause, ponder and in defense pontificate, that words are just the outpouring of a perennial stream and there it would always be, the source of the stream, supplying for eternity.  I lie to myself and write- ‘Wordless in the wilderness of mind..’

It is not that words have flown away from my memory; it is just that they are looking back at my mind which flung them out. They look down and mock at times, at my foolish delusion that they would one day soar up above the world so high that they would twinkle and light a new path. They do look up at me with ineffable sorrow, to make me guilty that I have thrown a seed out before looking at the ground and its fertility. They pray to me, an incompetent creator, hoping that I would resurrect them or give another birth and a chance to do something worthwhile. They pretend to believe in me, and pretend to believe in the world outside of me.  I have thrown out many words. Every word I threw out was not a casual toss into oblivion; they were all pellets aimed at a goliath that I had not even sighted. I have thrown away many words, original words that glittered and glimmered in the illusory sentences that my mind elaborately designed in deceit. All those words are gone. My mind and its brain still have surplus stock of words, but many are just replicas of those original words which went flying out into a fathomless obscurity. Having had the delight and ecstasy of using the original word in its pristine form to make a virgin design, replicas make me sigh.

Lies again. Not the cunning, scheming, malicious and brutal lies that are generally evident; these are lies that smoothly sail out like a leaking perfume, and hover long enough to get noticed and vanish. They would by the time have made their impact. An impact that would not choke or scorch, but an impact that would slowly cloud the vision, temporarily but long enough to distract and alter the perspective. Depths would no more be deep enough….

NO..I cannot write lies to myself. I cannot take writing down to the level of a ‘selfie’. I have to save my words, whatever is left of them, for a hope in the dark future when I may have an opportunity to unhurriedly set a necklace uncaring whose neck it would adorn the next day.

Until then, I have to write lies, not for myself but for others.

beginning to begin writing

Posted October 27, 2013 by rudhran
Categories: just writing, life book, ramblings, rudhran, Uncategorized

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To begin, I presumed was easy, you just have to start with, “once upon a time”. And, that peek into the past is flooding the mind with memories that slip away from words. So where does one begin, and of course, the metaphysical musing that is the pastime of postponing laziness, `why begin`, is irrelevant having begun. This is going to be a narration – of all the good, bad and confused moments of my life. Not that it matters in any significant way to the reader, I still pursue this rendering, as any bathroom singer would attempt at the right pitch and scales, just to soothe myself. Do I need a soothing? Does it mean I have a wound? Well, I have indeed been wounded many times, and I know that scars are not painful anymore…but memories are.

It was a fully moonlit night, as even calendars affirm, when I wailed for the first time. I whimper still, I wail too…but in the learnt shyness of solitude.

The moon has aged too, and became no more the romantic muse of adolescent attempts at poetry. My hair turns whiter every day, while my mind delves into days and dreams that I lived in my younger and younger days. As is common in all nostalgic musings my Madras seems to be more beautiful in the sepia memories of untaken photographs.

I have always known how to get up once I had fallen, but waking up while slipping was never possible. Can one awaken while slipping? And, what if there is nothing to reach out and hold on? Life kept teaching me everything except itself. Well, then, this is how it all had been till the moment I type this word. As I write time will move on, and while it drags me on, I just wonder what my new perspectives would be!

One day I will…. is the distant dream of everyone. Does the day arrive unnoticed? Is it actually being designed by me?  I have a vague arrogant notion that I have designed my destiny, and, WHAT indeed is my DESTINY? Is it the desire to reach the destination that I dream or have been programmed for?  Have I missed that magic clock that keeps the past fresh and forever, consoling the ageing mind that time is still there and in plenty?

The city grows and the citizen ages. Nostalgia is a cynical contempt at the fresh growth of permanent youthfulness, a bitterness that is the necessary nausea of reduced capacity and neglect,  a sigh at the clock that does not wind back; it makes the city move on and the citizen blink  in a daze at the speed of time.  The city will outlive the citizen, but will never ever be the city of the citizen.  Metamorphosis is not necessarily evolution, nor compulsorily beautiful by yesteryear’s standards, as definitions and measurements of the mind keep changing with every generation.  My grandfather, who scrawled poetry, would never have imagined me tapping on this machine without a pen and a paper, as my great-generations would wonder how I could sit and type on a machine. Time moves, city grows..The citizen gets frozen at one point. He cannot accept changes as he cannot cope with the challenges; in his best defence he suppresses his insight and projects a pseudo-wise appraisal at the degeneration of values as that is what he wants it to be, a frozen ice cream that can even be a picture on the mind’s wall.

and i presume i would finish writing  the book that is already bound and shelved in my mind….

Pondering and rambling..

Posted August 15, 2013 by rudhran
Categories: musings and the muse

Tags: , , , ,

Writing is laborious at times, especially when one decides to strew words together to form a meaningful and purposeful piece. The artist is more blessed than the writer in this labour of love.  He can dab colours at will and fancy, let them form meanings of their own and allow the viewer to discern and dissect what had never ever occurred to him while creating. The writer is not so fortunate. He cannot let words fall in disarray. Words are more precious than colours. They can’t be sprayed carelessly or with carefree abandon. They need to fall in place, and that place has to be determined in advance not left to destiny’s design.

In the beginning, they all declare, was the word. That may have been the only word that dropped out of nowhere to become something not really planned; this surmise could be wrong too since in a primordial pondering,  they all also say that word was the beginning. Just daring to go a little further, a thought comes to mind that in the beginning there was the thought, and thought became the beginning and in the beginning was the word. Word, the form of thought is perhaps the first idol of the formless thought that god is made of.  

What indeed is God and why God? The inevitable and obvious answer to this puzzle is that god is the need for mankind to express and explore existence. In this exploration is contained the negation of the hypothesis of god, in this need for expression is contained the human urge to express and leave an imprint. Having witnessed the disappearance of fellow species, fearing similar extinction, ancients might have felt the urge to leave traces of themselves in eternity and not vanish into void, knowing that sowing their seeds alone would not guarantee a permanent place on earth. Thus would have, in the beginning, born a word.

Word is thought, uttered or written; and word has been declared as the beginning and as god. Thought therefore is god and the mind therefore is god’s natural abode as the mind too is formless and open to multiple interpretations like god.

As is the common vanity of humans who could afford to experiment various forms with words, some would have  experimented with expressions of thought in art forms. In the beginning perhaps an artist gave form to his shapeless yet sharp thought and created an idol. In a modest moment he may have ignored the urge to replicate himself in art and created some form that was not exactly his self but an expansion of it. He called it god, and IT was declared god. The form created by imagination, the manipulative quality of thought, gave scope for words to be imagined. Words eulogized the form and claimed that, ‘that’ form inspired words. Words and forms, created their own structural formulae to withstand the decay and death the definitive threat of time.

Therefore and thus, THOUGHT, the formless void, became, by itself, words and forms, to live on and on in the mindscape for eternity. ‘Thought’,  the force, became the idol in the special space that was named as mind. They became inseparable and the temple became god and god became the temple, to be worshipped so that the proximity that can puzzle was distanced with respect- respectful in a self-preserving safe defense. Once the preliminary structure was formed, rules and rituals were determined and put in place. Grammar was formulated as were rituals and rites. The formless was framed in form.

Once in a while, the free spirit of the original formless thought would break through the rigid walls that humans had built around it, to try and become formless again. Whenever that happened, the fearful humanity would capture that formless leak of the designed form, and make a new form, a new grammar and a new order. Negations were thus negated. And words continue to fall into structured patterns. New forms were declared as new designs, and designs were newly formulated. The walls of the prison were and are, extended to encompass whatever escaped or tries to. The prison became designated as a shrine, and worship was a way of ensuring and checking that the imprisoned formless thought remained the acceptable word and form.

Thinking about thought, words keep propping about words too. Thought indeed is the primal word. in the beginning it was the word, and the beginning was THOUGHT, uncluttered, unstructured, untainted by imagination, unpolluted with rules, unformed but containing all including itself, the original self, the God. To that god I dedicate these ramblings, bits and pieces of itself.

psychology of blogging

Posted October 29, 2012 by rudhran
Categories: pscyhological musings, rudhran

Tags: , , , ,

*** this was written in 2008, posting again with cyber-accusations and criminal actions becoming more frequent.***

Whether Kancha Ilaiah is a fraud or whether saibaba is a god, whether there is brahmanical fanaticism or fanatic anti-brahmanism, there are enough blogs to argue both sides. All these bloggers can argue rather forcefully even if not sensibly. Why is blogging picking up?

Basically the operative element is an anonymous proximity. Even if my photo is seen you  cannot claim to become my friend and try to spend time with me. This safe “use and throw” relationship-of-convenience is the primary attraction of blogs. I can say what I want, and if you decide to register your protest I still have the right and the choice to allow the protest on my page. Those who see my page will be seeing my views and my counters (whenever, and if ever I can logically produce one) and no one will know where and when I am at a loss to explain.

I can still feel I am in a crowd that is talking about things which matter to me. I can protest with dignity or cheapness, be an angel or a devil, talk when I want to and be silent if that is fine for me. I cannot be forced into discussions; ofcourse, I cannot force you into a discussion, except when I dare to spit valueless venom through a personal pathology. These are the conveniences I have noticed and even used in blogs.

The second operative element in blogging is its pseudo-personal space wherein one can become disinhibited. Though your true skin will be seen by others when your blog is posted, you need not hesitate to say whatever you feel like unlike in the real world where you have to observe elementary decency to those who deserve it. Yet, it is only a disinhibited and not an uninhibited behaviour, because deep down you are conscious that your words are going to be seen by someone somewhere.

Masked identity is another courage-boosting element of blogging. You need not talk in your real name.  I know of some people who chose to mask their identity for real and valid reasons, but most of the persons who write in pseudonyms ( and sometimes in anonymity) do so out of fear. Though their words may appear courageous they still have not mustered enough conviction and courage to come out in the open and stand by what they have said.

Why mask identity? Some are like a compassionate medusa, for if their face is seen their critics would turn into stone, stupefied with fear. Some are like clowns who need to have a different identity to make an apparent fool of themselves so that others can have a good laugh. Some are like a silly child hiding behind a table thinking no one can see who and where they are. Whether one decides to disclose her/his identity or not is certainly a private decision that has to be respected and even if not accepted, not discussed.

The problem of wearing a mask is different in a socio-psychological perspective. There are intellectuals who use their intelligence to call themselves idiots, and so too are there idiots who stupidly call themselves intellectuals. Depending on why the mask is worn, and depending on the insightful intellect of the individual, a mask becomes a potent weapon or a poor joke.

It is understandable if masks are worn and identities deliberately disguised in the mushrooming social networking sites. Though these sites can be a forum for healthy and honourable matters, mostly they are used to find a `friend` to flirt. An elderly uncle who tries to wear shorts and T-shirts, ugly dyeing of hair and a false accent in which lies are expressed as values, will never be able to date a young girl with average intelligence. But in the virtual world, the same uncle just has to assume a name, age, occupation and marital status that would bring scraps to his page! But, blogs are not meant for picking up a date. Whether your profile declares you as young or old, spiritual or religious, left or right, no one `falls` for you. Only your views matter. And therefore your identity is never masked or invisible. However sublime your language, however innocent your discussion, your colours will show through the veil.

Blogging has its psychological benefits. Just as how your mind operates in a dramatic performance there are certain mechanisms operating here too. Initially there is identification, then there is the possibility of learning a conflict resolution and finally there is a catharsis. You identify with the character or the cause or the chronicle, you feel you have experienced a similar situation. Then you see the situational conflict resolved in the performance and if you choose to, you may try to use it to answer your personal question. Even if you cannot find a solution to your problem in the performance-narrative it would still be a cathartic relief. You can download feelings from your emotive memory and get the same relief of being happy, sad, angry or disgusted. But are blogs used for this?

Though blogs can be of immense personal psychological comfort, I see some bloggers using it to throw mud (if not spit venom) on ideas that are not consistent with their own values. Blogs are becoming pamphlets thrown on the disinterested by stander. If perchance someone reads and accepts their ideas it is fine, otherwise just some space on space is wasted! However impassionate and objective you may describe yourself, you will tend to lean towards one ideology versus another. If you have not formed your own opinions on matters, these moments would tilt you towards a particular idea if not ideology. The intelligent wearing the mask of an idiot would appeal to your conscience by their pseudo-innocence. You will fall for the game plan. Some vague emotional itch that you have been bearing all along would be scratched and you will not only become comfortable with that anonymous hand, you would start yearning for it.

If we can just be  a little more aware when we imagine that we are awake, we can escape from the dragnet. We would be able to retain our power to choose. We can choose only when we think. And, when we start thinking we cannot be silent. We would start protesting.

This is what had happened to me, and I consequently started  commenting on issues that I felt were concerning me, and the response I got from one blogger was that I have “become jobless”!! Blogging is not a jobless individual’s way of spending time, it is a social obligation to respond to the milieu.