Word of the Week #87:

NemeSis: 

Triumph

Luca completed 30 days in my house today.

For the past 30 days, I have been taking him out to relieve himself. But, our boy thinks that the mats inside our house are better spots for that. So, once he feels the force, he starts crying and begs me to take him back indoors so he can find release.

Even indoors, he is convinced that touching the potty training mat is enough and there is no need to aim so that the liquid projectiles land somewhere on the super-absorbent mat.

Today, two things happened.

  1. I took Luca outdoors thrice. He relieved himself outdoors thrice.
  2. Out of three liquid projectiles, two landed in the dead centre of the mat, one on the border.

If this is not a major victory, I don’t know what is.

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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

Book of the Week #35: [Guest Post]

Yashas:

So, as they say, all good things must come to an end…

What kind of a rule is that, anyway? I hate it. Stupid rule…

As one can possibly discern from my sour demeanour, I am here to announce that the conclusion of our collaboration with this wonderful young lady is now upon us.

Of course, we wouldn’t just let her leave, at least not without a final, particularly amazing post. And with that in mind, we chose to save the best for the last.

So, here we have the post that Shruti herself prefaced by saying, “Spent a reallllllllllly long time on this post and still feel like I can’t talk enough about it.”


Shruti:

Man’s Search for Meaning,

by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl

“If you read but one book this year, Dr Frankl’s book should be that one.”

—Los Angeles Times, on Man’s Search for Meaning

This is my sixth post on this blog. Considering how much Yashas has been requesting me to guest author more BoTW posts, it might seem like I have read scores of books.

Shall I let you in on a secret? I haven’t. Ssshhh…

Well, at least not as many as I would have loved to, by this time. And definitely not even close to what bibliomaniacs read by the time they are 23!

Continue reading Book of the Week #35: [Guest Post]

Book of the Week #34: [Guest Post]

Yashas:

Led by this dauntless young lady, we continue this month of literary heavyweights with what is probably the very first Pulitzer Prize winner of our list.

Let us all strap in, shall we?


Shruti:

Interpreter of Maladies,

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Interpreter of Maladies is one of the most recognised works of its London-born American author of Indian descent, Jhumpa Lahiri.

A collection of nine short stories, the book is heralded as an impeccable narrative of the immigrant experience. After having read a short story from the same book—that goes by the same name—for an English course, I was not entirely sure how I felt about it. But I was eager to read more from the book. I recently did, and let’s say, I am not disappointed! Continue reading Book of the Week #34: [Guest Post]

Book of the Week #33: [Guest Post]

Shruti:

Siddhartha,

by Hermann Hesse
Translated by Hilda Rosner

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Siddhartha, written by the German writer and painter Hermann Hesse, was written in 1922. Originally written in German, it was first published in English in the United States in 1951.

The book remains, till date, one of the most influential novels, based in India, by a Western author. I came to know of the book a few years ago. Having a deep interest in spirituality and philosophy, it was only natural that I was drawn to this book.

Continue reading Book of the Week #33: [Guest Post]

Book of the Week #32: [Guest Post]

Yashas:

She is back, Ladies and Gentlemen, and quite frankly, we could not be more glad!

And this week, she picks out a book that falls directly into her own backyard.

She says she hadn’t written this post with my blog in her mind; she just wanted to share her love for the book with the entire world, and isn’t that the very purpose of our blog?

Needless to say, I managed to badger her into sharing her words here. Such avaricious, you know.

For the uninitiated, might I elaborate just a little on the significance of the phrase “Pale Blue Dot”. It is actually a reference to the photograph of the Earth taken on 14th February, 1990, by Voyager 1 from a distance of roughly 6 billion kilometres.

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Pale Blue Dot

Really puts things in perspective, does it not?

So, here we go…


Shruti:

Pale Blue Dot,

by Carl Sagan

Literally the best book I have ever read!

You might think I am enlisting the book in that category because I am an Astrophysics student. I won’t deny that I might be ‘biased’ that way, but in all honesty, I feel that this is one book that every person should give a read.

Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed the Cosmos series by Carl Sagan, I couldn’t wait to read his books; although, I did wait. I watched that series more than three years ago! Insightful, inspiring and refreshing.

Was the Pale Blue Dot just what I had expected? No, it was much more.

This is one of the richest books I have read, in terms of content, style and language. Sagan has the ability to capture the imagination of even those people who are least interested in space science. His words are arresting, his style intelligent; what else could you expect from a world-renowned astrophysicist and science communicator?

Continue reading Book of the Week #32: [Guest Post]

Book of the Week #31: [Guest Post]

Yashas:

So, after a gap of 30 long weeks, we are back!

Of course, as we promised yesterday, I am still insanely busy with Book Two… Either that or I just am insane…

Thankfully, we have our dear friend Shruti, who is coming back with a much needed series of guest posts.

Okay, to be honest, she says she cannot promise anything at the moment. She does not want a long-term commitment, she says. However, we do hope she sticks around for a while.

Anyway, Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for Shruti!


Shruti:

Malgudi Days,

by R. K. Narayan

“We are a flawed, weak species, he gently reminds us in these pages, focusing his attention, clearly and without sentiment, on those who will stoop low, those who will stop at nothing. What makes us care for such frequently pathetic characters is that they, like most of the rest of us, are strivers, driven by hopes for a slightly better life.”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, on Malgudi Days

The discussion about Indian literature is certainly incomplete without talking about one of the most celebrated writers of India, the late R. K. Narayan.

If you have grown up in India, you have most probably heard of the name Malgudi Days. Set in the fictional town of Malgudi in the south of India, Malgudi Days chronicles the lives of the simple folks of the town through more than 30 short stories.

My first encounter with Malgudi Days was when I was little, when the TV series based on the book was televised on Doordarshan. I still remember the enchanting tune of the theme music, and I won’t be surprised if every single person who ever watched the series or even a few episodes remembers it too. Something about the series struck a chord, and I was drawn to it.

Years later, a short story from the book happened to appear in our school English curriculum and having loved it so much, I decided to lay my hands on the book at last!

As mentioned earlier, Malgudi Days is a collection of over more than 30 short stories. Check any list of the best works from Indian literature and you are sure to find Malgudi Days in it!

There is something very endearing about R K Narayan’s language; it’s simple, yet so powerful. The elements in the stories and the lives of the characters seem fascinatingly relatable.

Maybe it’s because I spent the first 11 years of my life in a town and I used to be a very frequent visitor of the village that is my native place. But I doubt if anyone who has always been a city-dweller would not find the stories appealing.

Malgudi Days features a plethora of colourful characters. You have an astrologer, a school boy and his friends, who actually go out and play and not stick to their smartphones, a large-hearted postman who knows every single person in the town. You have rich folks, and also poor people trying to make ends meet.

The simplicity and the refreshing innocence of the town is one of the main reasons behind the enormous popularity and success of the book.

Even though it was written in the first half of the 20th century, Malgudi Days has proven to be a timeless classic. Through the enchanting narrative, R,K, Narayan wove a tale of this simplistic town so well that it has captured the imaginations of people across the country. And I am sure it will continue to do so for many more generations to come.


Yashas:

Well, I have not read the book, nor can I remember that short story from our curriculum…

And isn’t that the reason why we have a team?

 You can start reading Malgudi Days here.

We do hope Shruti comes back, next week, and really for a few more weeks hereafter.

Anyway, that is all for today.

Thank you…