Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Of Anxiety, Worthlessness & Lost Friends.

The worst thing about anxiety, depression, polarity etc is the way it affects your relationships. It makes you do things to people you'd not normally do. It makes people do things to you the way they normally wouldn't.

I have, sometimes, for no valid reason, spewed venom on those closest to me. I have called, texted, even woken people up just to fight or have an argument with them. All this not because they have done anything to deserve it, but because I was in such a deep pit myself that all I could to do was to pull them down in the pit with me: I needed company!

Most people have understood & forgiven me. Some of them have pulled me up. But there have been those who have neither forgiven, nor helped me get back. Ironically they were the ones I relied on the most. Maybe I had hurt them beyond repair: you always take those closest to you for granted.

The thing about such feelings is that they isolate you from the world around you. You see the world as I and them. You look at them being happy and going about their lives while you continue to suffer. Often in silence.

Then there are times when you gather courage and seek help. You tell people about what you are going through, but mostly you suffer in silence: How do you explain to a normal person the knots in your stomach? Or the sinking of your heart? How do you convey the helplessness and dejection, the fear and the anxiety? How do you justify the highs and the lows?

Most of my highs have been followed by lows. The happier I have been, the more forlorn I have become. The feeling of being on top of the world, in no time, transforms into a feeling of uselessness and worthlessness. The transformation is so sudden that often I don't know what make of it. 

It is therefore quite understandable if others around me cannot. It's also possible that they consider me as moody and irresponsible especially in my behaviour. It is OK if they do so, after all they can only see the manifestation of my anguish. But what is not OK is the lack of empathy for the millions who suffer silently because no one understands.

But what does someone who doesn't know how it feels do to help?

It is fairly simple. If you ever come across a person who acts unlike himself, do not judge him/her. Do not try to solve the problem for the person either. All someone with anxiety needs is a friend, some one who can listen to him, someone who tells him he's not crazy or stupid or mad or irresponsible. Someone who reiterates that this too shall pass.

If you can, be that someone.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Joy of The Jalebi

A version of this post first appeared in The Hindu

It is 11:30 in the morning and we are as famished as we are tired. We have been out since 4:00 AM, have driven over 250 kms, visited the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daula and the Taj Mahal, and are on our way to the erstwhile capital of Akbar, where we also plan to catch up on breakfast. But there is a problem: we have taken a wrong turn and instead of being on the road to Fatehpur Sikri, we are stuck in a narrow lane in the heart of Agra’s Sadar Bazaar.

On a Sunday Morning, all of Agra seems to have descended on the street: hawkers, shoppers, cattle, cyclists, pedestrians. So we crawl on the street along with them hungry, angry, and frustrated praying no one hits our brand-new car.

It is then that we spot it. A corner shop with wok full of hot, juicy jalebis and fat, round asafetida laced kachauris. We forget all about our misery & stop the car in the middle of the road for a dose of UP-special breakfast.

Jalebi & kachauri happen to be the most coveted breakfast the Hindi heartland. Rich, flavourful, and wholesome it is almost a staple with the locals. Every Sunday morning, irrespective of which part of the state you are in, you can see a long queue of men & children in front of sweet shops waiting patiently for their Jalebis and kachauris. 

The flavours of the kachauri keep varying as per region – tangy in the eastern stretches, asafetida laced and spicy in the western parts; served with dry potato preparation in the east and with oily gravy in the west – but the form of the dish remains the same. These crusty, crispy, beautiful domes of flour, filled with lentil mixture fried to perfection and served with potatoes on the side can turn the biggest prudent foodie into a glutton. Jalebis on the other hand remain the universal favorite. Unlike most part of the country though, in UP they are eaten in the morning and are essential to complete your breakfast. They are also fatter, juicier and much more sinful than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Together they are to UP what Fish & Chips are to a Brit – inseparable with each other and staple of the locals.

By the time I reach the stall, dreaming & salivating, there are only four Kachauris left in the shop and there are at least ten people in the queue ahead of me. I almost break down in frustration and anticipation. I don’t know if it is pity or awe that my expression induces in the shopkeeper, but he decides to hand over the last four pieces to me along with a bag full of piping hot jalebis. On another day, I’d have insisted on waiting for my turn, but today I shamelessly grab them and run back to the car.  Being a UPite there is nothing more precious to me than my Jalebi-Kachauri breakfast.