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While my husband is recuperating I receive telephone calls from concerned friends and family relations who enquire about his well being. Most of them know that my daughter struggles with a serious mental illness. When some of them tell me that they have prayed for our family I am moved.
One telephone call is troubling. It is from a seventy year old lady I have known for more than thirty years. She is concerned about her brilliant nephew who is living in USA. He had passed out of one of the renowned Indian Institute of Technology several years ago. His life was falling apart. He had stopped going to work because he said that his colleagues were trying to poison him. He said that people were following him. He was unable to sleep. His marriage too had broken up. There was no one to help him. His mother is no longer alive. His father who was in India did not want to go to USA. He refused to acknowledge that his son was very ill and needed to be treated quickly and helped in his recovery.
This reminded me of an unassuming, scholarly young man, who also graduated from an IIT few years ago. He got a scholarship to the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in USA. After completing his Masters at Rensselaer, he worked in USA for a few years and returned to India after he became aware that something was not all right. In India marriage is touted as a cure for mental illness. So he got married. Unfortunately it didn't work out. He married again after much coaxing by his family. This too broke up leading to a severe relapse. He is better now with regular visits to the psychiatrists, a regimen of medications, exercise. He is not able to hold a full-time job. He is reluctant to come out in the open to talk about his illness. People only want to hear the success stories of graduates from IIT achieving wealth, fame and glory. I wonder how many would want to read about an IIT ian's struggle with mental illness.
In India few talk about the fact that like any other institutes of learning, young men and women who study in the Indian Institutes of Technology popularly knows as IIT are also vulnerable to severe mental illnesses. Many who have passed out of the portals of these hallowed institutes struggle with serious mental illnesses like Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia…. Over the years I have read numerous newspaper reports of young men studying in IIT who have committed suicide. I feel sad that the Indian media and society still accepts such suicides as natural and justifiable phenomena. Families who have lost their child forever have not only to deal with grief but also the ignominy of their child being branded as 'coward', 'weak', 'weird',' deranged psycho'…by self-styled experts of suicide. The reasons often attributed to suicides are -' family problems', 'bad mothers', 'being a loner', 'coming from a small town', 'lacking mental strength', 'not being able to cope', 'too much of stress', 'result of a failed love affair', 'low tolerance' and even 'after all he had depression'. What is alarming is the continued acceptance of suicide by young people in India as the natural corollary to Depression. And that no one has paused to ponder that there are so many so called 'cowards'-- who have family problems, who have 'bad' mothers ,who come from small towns, who have difficulties coping, who have experienced a 'failed' love affair ,who supposedly 'lack' mental strength or 'low' tolerance - who have not committed suicide.
A few days back on June 2nd there was an unusual celestial event in the night skies. Some newspapers had written that most of the planets of our Solar system would be visible in the night sky. That night was oppressively hot and humid and buzzing with blood-thirsty mosquitoes. One just didn't feel adventurous to climb to the terrace of our home and look up into the night sky. But we did so - after eating a delicious Chinese dinner.
My daughter took us out - to an old restaurant which had been redecorated and still serving excellent food. It felt so good. The three of us had not been out together for such a long time. We also stepped into an old bakery which served delicious Chocolate Mousse. Later we sat on cane stools amidst swirls of smoke from the burning 'mosquito coils' which were balanced on empty soda bottles. The mosquitoes stayed away. Venus was clearly visible next to the moon. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn could be seen too in the night sky. We sat for a long time in silence past mid night into the next day. It was such a wonderful night.
My daughter had been so thoughtful and taken so much of effort for us to have a good time. To ease the anxiety in our hearts for her father was going to be admitted to the hospital the next morning - for a surgery.
It is such moments that I will always treasure.