Word of the Week #85:

Revelry

Just this Sunday, my sister and I were sitting in a cab. I was looking out the window, as we whizzed past the flashing lights.

“I have a meeting till 5PM on Thursday,” she suddenly announce. “I don’t think I will be able to make lunch.”

“Huh? Okay,” was all I could elicit, at the moment, not sure what to do with this little piece of information.

It is not like her to make small talk, after all, nor is she known to volunteer information for no good reason.

Also, considering her schedule, it was almost always impossible for her to have lunch at home on a weekday, and I could not see why she would feel the need to specify it, that too days in advance.

I stared at her for another few seconds, before either of us could spoke again, and I was so wrapped in my thoughts that I do not remember even a word of what followed.

What I do remember is the sensation when, after an entire minute of befuddlement, realisation finally dawned on me: Thursday also happens to be my birthday.

It may seem odd to some, but to me birthdays do not seem like a big deal… Especially when we are talking about my own. If it is someone else’s, I would still love to make a big fuss for their sake. That is still fun.

But, you see, I have already seen enough birthdays. Their novelty has already faded. Now, it is no longer a day I look forward to for the weeks, or even days, that precede it. Moreover, I have not even been able to spend it with the entirety of my family, for the past two years. That rather dampens the effect.

Now, I do not say that I will not celebrate. It has been a good year, and all good things deserve a celebration, right?

But, more than Thursday, I am looking forward to Wednesday night. On 15th of November, 2017, we commemorate the third anniversary of the completion of the first draft of Arrkaya: Origins, after a marathon writing session that lasted 46 hours and ended only because the manuscript was complete. It is the time to remember one of the finest day in my short lifetime, and I could not be more proud.

So, the party does not start at midnight. No, it shall start at 10PM. Just as it did, three years ago…

This week should be fun.

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Word of the Week #84:

Paternity

Do you have children? If not, would you like to?

And no, that is not an offer, only an enquiry.

It is just that lately, due to recent changes I mentioned last week, I have been pondering over the challenges of being a parent. Only the challenges, unfortunately, and none of the rewards, because, well, are there any?

I generally like to think of myself as a ‘silver-linings’ kind of a guy, but in this case, I just cannot see beyond the dull greys.

Children are stupid. That is just a simple truth. Sooner or later, they will find a way to put themselves or you or someone in grave danger.

Sure, they may seem cute while they are clean and quiet, but you cannot expect them to stay that way for too long.

Being a parent is tough, it is often said, but there are many who would disagree. In fact, even I would disagree. Being a parent, in and of itself, does not seem all that tough.

However, being a good, responsible parent, one who can strike the right balance between care and discipline and is attentive and neither too aloof nor too clingy on a consistent basis, now that is a tall order.

Interestingly, I forgot to pack any nightwear for my trip to Bangalore. Now, if I cannot even be trusted to be responsible for my luggage, how can I even comprehend being responsible for an entire new life?

On top of everything, we never receive any training whatsoever for what is undoubtably the most important endeavour one can undertake, but thank goodness I spent decades learning how to calculate the area of a cordate.

To be honest, I do not even like this idea of unilaterally creating life and then nurturing it according to our will. It is almost too much power for a single individual. For one, if I have noted anything in the past couple of years, it is that too many people are too stupid.

Of course, it is not entirely a unilateral prospect. Bilateral at the very least, right?

So, until I do not have a willing partner, it is all moot.

And, well, looks like it will stay that way for at least the foreseeable future.

Word of the Week #83:

Cataclysm

Who likes change? I don’t.

What is there to even like?

Let alone the big stuff, I struggle to even tolerate small changes in the weather. The very thought of buying a new phone or laptop or vehicle is enough to make me hyperventilate.

Of course, I have no money and cannot afford any of those things, but that is beside the point…

Now, we did talk a few weeks back about the changes a person undergoes, in order to reach greater heights, and that is obviously a different thing altogether. I don’t exactly love it, but I do understand and appreciate it.

However, there are certain changes that seem far less benign, and I count myself lucky for never having had to endure any of them. Now, I am still only thinking about things like switching schools or relocating, both of which appeared at the horizon at certain points in my childhood, and we somehow managed to evade both these looming disasters.

These days, however, I am living my life a little beyond my comfort zone, and experiencing these changes, albeit second-hand.

And, of course, my life is still enviably comfortable, so…

Nonetheless, a new chapter has begun. Our brave protagonist finds himself stripped from the warmth of his childhood home, into a mysterious land filled with unspeakable horrors.

Let us see how his story pans out.

Stay tuned for more…


PS: You see, ‘unspeakable’ because, well, cats cannot speak.

Word of the Week #82:

Narcolepsy

We have seen this happen to the people around us, have we not?

One moment, they are awake. They are talking, or singing, or cooking, or playing, or even driving. Whatever they may be doing, you know for certain that, at that particular moment, they are wide awake. And, the very next moment, you see that they are not.

We cannot say that they have fallen asleep, though. That would not be quite right. Nor can we call this a stupor.

If anything, I would call this a variant of a ‘pre-lucid dream‘.

You must have seen this, right?

For instance, let us say you are hanging out with a guy, narrative to him your latest escapades, perhaps with a little creative editing of your own. Now, towards the beginning of the story, he is all ears. Head nodding, hair bobbing, and, if your story is good enough, lips parted in an inaudible chuckle.

You grin back. Take a sip of your Thums Up, because, what else would you rather drink. By now, however, he is no longer awake.

He just lies slumped in his seat, shoulders drooping and neck arching to the front. He is already caught in the dream.

You try to resume your story, but he is oblivious to your babbling. He is held captive by the bright colours flashing before his eyes.

So, you have seen this, right?

It is already a wide-spread disorder, and it may well be one of the greatest threats our society has ever faced.

Yeah, I know hate-morgering-extreme-right-wing-pseudo-nationalism is pretty bad. I hate it too. But trust me, this is worse.

You see, unlike sheer stupidity, which some people just do possess and some just do not, this can affect almost every living human on this planet… Except maybe the poorest of guys, but really, they already have their hands full…

Your parents may say that you are the ones trapped in this, but we all know that even they are as vulnerable as you; perhaps even more so, one may argue.

Unfortunately, there is no real cure either. I mean, you could wake them up with a quick whack to the head, but really, how many of them can you handle by yourself? And for how long?

Be smart. Save yourself.


PS: You have seen this, have you not? 

No? Odd.

Well, the dream is somewhat lucid. Maybe you could try to wake up.

 

Word of the Week #81:

Scavenger

Have you seen one?

You probably have.

You may not have noticed them, or identified them for what they really are, and one cannot really blame you for that. They can be quite the masters of disguise.

They roam our world, lurking in the shadows, largely unseen and unheard. They lay in wait for the weakest of us, and when they find us at the weakest of our times, they pounce.

Occasionally, you can find them lurking behind traffic signals, often in packs. Sure, they are camouflaged perfectly as men seeking to serve and protect, but be sure you are not lulled into a false sense of security. They are waiting to lunge at you, any moment they can get.

Sometimes, they wait in your schools and colleges, your cricket fields, your gymnasiums. This may seem like their natural habitat, but do not be fooled. Without the slightest of warnings, they will slam upon your young shoulders the heavy burden of their broken dreams.

Quite often, they will disguise themselves as one of us, and with the promise of a better tomorrow, lead us down the sheer ravine. Of course, these vultures can fly, and look forward to the feast you provide.

Lastly, there are some that make inroads into our offices and industries, and often find their way to the very top. It is a good vantage point, you know, The Top. From up there, it is quite easy to spot the perfect prey, and to hunt them down with impunity. They get what they want, and then get away with it. Easy.

Now, with all these predators swarming around and above you, the question rings through your mind: How do I protect myself?

Well, you could try growing some spikes. It works for porcupines, it may work for you. But, unfortunately, that is not an option for most of us.

So, what do we do?

Maybe we could try growing some spines, instead?

Word of the Week #80:

NemeSis: 

Monster

DISCLAIMER: This article is my personal account and does not prescribe any methods for diagnosis or treatment of OCD.

As a 2-year-old child learning to write on a 4-lined page, I was not aware that it was possible to leave a few edges of a few letters spilled out of the designated lines. The consequences of not sticking to the lines were terrifying and erasing every delinquent word and rewriting it was the easiest thing to do. When I saw the other kids crossing these lines, I could not accept it. It did not hurt at all during pre-school because I was smarter than most kids (not bragging at all) and time was not an issue. However, with age, the self-imposed rules kept growing and it started getting difficult to keep everything within the lines.

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Then there were fears — fear of heights, fear of closed spaces, fear of contamination, fear of people…

Since my moral standards were so high, I found it very difficult to trust normal people. If they could bend a rule, they could break a law; if they could break one law, they could definitely break another. I also took all spoken words literally. A person saying “I will kill you” would immediately be labeled as a potential murderer. It took me a long time to get used to hearing people use such words jokingly. That posed another problem… people did not mean what they said.

Then there were nightmares of war, apocalypse and dystopia.

Although experiencing and confronting this anxiety took a lot of energy and time, I did not realise it was a problem because I did not know there was any other way to live.

Maybe it was too much to deal with as a child even though most of it was only in my head. I started questioning if my fears had a basis and calculating the probability of my nightmares turning real. I created this entity called ‘My Rational Observer’.

At 8, I (or my rational observer) decided to deal with my fears on my own. I would lock myself up in small places and stay there till I stopped shaking. I waited and observed that I was suffocating not because of lack of oxygen but because I was using too much of it. This took a few tries. But I do not hyperventilate in closed spaces anymore. It is the same with heights. I would sit with my feet dangling off the 4 floor ledge. The first few times were terrible (my little brother witnessed this stunt often and freaked out). But it got easier. I still hate heights. But it takes a lesser amount of time to get over its mind-numbing effect.

Sometime along the way, I started having nightmares of me brutally hurting the people I loved the most. When I was 17, I unfortunately discovered The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud — the book convinced me that all my nightmares were a form of wish-fulfilment. This new information threw me completely off balance. I would break into tears every time I saw someone that I had recently mutilated in my dreams. I kept apologising to them without explaining why. In some time, all these people completely freaked out. They were sure something was wrong with me. I was sure too, but I could not really talk about any of it.

Two years later, I decided to see a psychologist. She turned out to be a follower of Freudian philosophies. During the first session, she had me convinced that I had some deep rooted ill-feelings towards the people I was hurting in my dreams. By the end of the second session, she had me convinced that I was a horrible and ungrateful person. The next few months were a nightmare — whether I was awake or asleep. Fortunately, I had some really good people on my side. I am not sure how I survived that period.

After completing Engineering, I decided to plunge into Psychology so that I could understand what was going on in my life. The people I met during this time had a soothing effect on my psych. It was during this time that I was first diagnosed with OCD. My mentors and teachers for the Psychology program started working with me, applying REBT (an older version of CBT) techniques to help me get a hold on my OCD. They also explained that the coping techniques I had been using so far were already similar to REBT (but I was just being too radical while applying them). I would like to believe things got a little better… maybe.

My need for order and the rituals necessary to keep my World safe, dictated that I should stay alone. Living with another human being would add another variable to my life and could trigger an apocalypse. The rational observerwanted to test that and I invited my very good friend to move in with me. I loved her company but the pile of her clothes at the corner of the bed stressed me out more than it should have. Once she became more important, she too got added to the list of people I hurt in my nightmares. The most logical thing to do was to stop sleeping. I developed insomnia. I hid my thoughts from her, but the insomnia had her worried.

My first instance of not resisting a hug was when my friend (and housemate) hugged me on her birthday to thank me for the gift. I had to resist a thousand thoughts about contamination and hygiene though. She realised how awkward I was. When I explained to her what I was thinking, she frowned at me and hugged me again, her words still clear in my memory, “There is no way I am going to stop hugging you. Let us see what happens.” Well, nothing bad happened. In about a month of being hugged repeatedly, I started hugging her back. It felt warm and happy. No, nothing bad happened. (When I look back at this, I realise that this was classic CBT, and my friend still does not know it is called that.)

Few months ago, I got myself 3 rescue kittens. Every single time I get home late from work, they scatter things in the house and make a mess. There is cat litter everywhere. I am not sure why it no longer causes stress. It is probably because of their adorable faces staring at me defiantly when I scold them about the mess. I end up smiling and picking them up and pampering them before I get to cleaning the house again. That delay is fine. And the cleaning can wait for a few minutes, or hours, or days.

When I look back, I have had OCD forever. Some parts of it were painful, but the others did not seem like a problem till someone gave it a name. Every person in my family has a different manifestation of OCD. We try helping each other out and it is one of the many reasons why we are so close.

Many of my friends have spoken about obsessive behaviours but they do not have the courage to visit a therapist and seek help. There could have been times when people would have given up on me, but they didn’t, and I am so grateful to them for this. OCD is not something anyone would want to talk about in great detail. There are also many misunderstandings around it. I have been told many times, “You say you have OCD but you don’t wash your hair everyday… so you don’t have OCD” or “I like to keep my house clean, I am so OCD about it”.

If you think you have OCD, please talk about it. Also, my OCD could be very different from yours. Formal therapy did not help me as much as real-life, regular people (and the rational observer) did. I have usually been in situations where there was me, my OCD and someone (or something) that I really cared about. In most cases, I was able to overcome my obsessive thoughts to cross over to the other side. So far, this is the only kind of therapy that has worked for me. Maybe it will work for you too…? Maybe formal therapy will work for you…? You will not know till you try. You will not know if the problem exists for you. You will not be able to fix anything unless you know if something is broken.

Sometimes, even now, I have to remind myself that I am a good person who would never let anyone come to harm with my actions. The nightmares are not so frequent anymore. I mostly sleep fine. I don’t treat my OCD like a criminal. I believe it is only a form of self-preservation, some twisted form of a survival instinct. I do get anxious about certain things from time to time, but overall, I am fine. As long as my rational observer is around, I will be fine. I am friends with the monster.

#OCDWeek

Word of the Week #79:

consent

|kənˈsɛnt|

noun [mass noun]

default state of a woman, unless negated through sufficient vehemence: it would be really difficult to decipher whether little or no resistance and a feeble “no”, was actually a denial of consent.

ORIGIN

Farooqui vs State, Delhi High Court, dated 25/09/2017