Saturday 28 March 2015

Battling Workplace Depression

This is a reproduction of my post which got first published on "India HR Live" in guest post series (26th March 2015, 10:24 IST): Battling Workplace Depression

It was late in the evening some days ago when I received a call from a local hospital informing that a family friend had been admitted to its  Intensive Care Unit in a frayed mental condition, perhaps in a failed suicide attempt. This ‘friend’ was rather my husband’s colleague. A happy-go-lucky guy on the face of it who had joined us in a common official party just a weekend ago at the financial-year end celebrations. Nothing then seemed unusual, obvious or even slightly dispiriting? I wondered what led him to this fearful fate so suddenly.

At the hospital, inside the frightful chamber on a confined corner bed punctured with in numerous machine recesses, our friend was struggling with life and death. He had tried to slit his wrist and would have almost bled to death when someone who had noticed, rushed him to the hospital. His devastated wife kept weeping bitterly before us. She could not let go of her guilt of not believing when he repeatedly said that his work depresses him so much that at times he wants to end his life. “I thought it’s just a casual common remark in a bad phase in office which he’ll easily cope with. All of us go through such depression at some point or the other. Don’t we?”

Casual, Common. Easily Cope. All of us go through….?I stopped to think for a moment. Hell, NO! It isn’t as casual as we think it is?

The scariest proposition about coping with any depression is not accepting it as a disorder pese. To be treating it as some ‘bad phase’ that will either pass by with time or with non-serious suggestions from friends and colleagues or with silly non-technical meditating exercises or with popping in sleeping pills or even with some neighborhood aunt’s homely advices. When the fact is, all this make the disorder worse, often leading to the unexpected last resort – Suicide!

The most ironic part of the tragedy is that it is pretty preventable. As a society, we often miss the chance to help those who want to help themselves and instead chide the victim with a societal stigma by singling him out. After all, who would want to be called a ‘mental case’ in office that people will pity, call out names, joke about, sympathize or whose name will likely be pulled down from appraisal sheets and promotion lists? Sadly, depression at work is often lackadaisically overlooked by the sufferer himself, ignored by his so-called educated workfellows and let gone without being treated.

My friend’s family confided that in past few months the man who everybody identified as  ‘always cheerful’ was emotionally disenchanted with work, upset with office politics, complained about inadequate work systems, avoided making it to social gatherings, stared at a blank computer screen for several minutes and sometimes randomly broke into tears. His ‘to-do’ list in the diary which once looked organized and up to date was now filled with red marks or warning circles. His alcohol consumption increased five times and he’d blow up cigarettes after cigarettes throwing fag circles in the air for several continuous hours. He would not sleep till late night, unsubscribe from whatsapp and facebook groups, failed meeting work deadlines, felt guilty towards the incompetence he was showing in work and do self-shame about facing his boss. No one realized that the darkness of depression was gradually setting its dismal foot in his otherwise comfortable life. He needed psychiatric help badly. NOW!

It is very difficult to ascertain what causes depression.  Not always it’s the huge pile of unfinished work, hard work environment, politics-power play and the feeling of being treated unfairly the culprits. Factors such as genetic vulnerability, severe life stressors, substances one may be taking (like drugs and alcohol) and medical conditions that can lead to faulty mood regulation in the brain. Everyone is different and it’s often a combination of factors that can lead to a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain which relay incongruous messages between brain cells, leading to depression.

Does this sound like freaking bad a condition? Well! Millions across the globe are partners-in-trouble to this single problem called workplace depression and are together fighting to get over the evils of this beast. There is no dearth of help if one seeks to find. Pills, prescriptions, meditation techniques, art of living, holiday breaks, picking up a hobby, chucking out the negatives from one’s life and talking it out, you name it and you have it. But here’s the big question. Will my dress fit you perfect? If no, then how will my life’s stress-buster fit yours? So the best is, let’s stop giving or taking random tips and advice from a jamboree of a fish market and help the patient run for the expert who knows what best must be done.

This post is written as much from the pain of seeing a friend face an undeserved life-threat as from the bewilderment of insensitivity we show to people who are already fighting a hard battle to combat depression. There may be a shade of my friend in me or in you or in anyone sitting near you in office. Before glancing the person a mocking or a pitiful look, stop to think over – “The strongest persons are not who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.”

Let’s help those who want to help themselves. Maybe, we end up saving a life

Monday 9 March 2015

The Unholy Side Of Holi

This is a reproduction of my post which got first published on "The Huffington Post" (06th March 2015, 08:24 IST): The Unholy Side Of Holi

Aha! That time of the year is once again here when the machismo of Indian men gets so built up that it sexes up one of North India's biggest festivals, Holi, in a not so holy manner. The air is full of colourful and myriad thoughts. Thoughts of Prahlada on a pyre with Holika, Lord Krishna playing Holi with Radha, the colourful descriptions in the 7th-century play Ratnavali. Wait a minute! Is this the Holi we know about? From what I have grown up with and seen around, our Holi is not such a holy affair.
Somewhere in the nip of the mid-February air in the plains of Uttar Pradesh, the erstwhile Krishna Brij, I hear the first Holi song playing in the local market. It goes like this, "Chabe gori ka yaar, balam tarse, rang barse..." In plain words, overt shameless adultery! So here we go again. It's time for the double entendres and pun-intended songs to start. Words which otherwise are supposed to be uttered in hushed tones will now be bellowed at every passing woman.
I have disclaimer to offer. I'm rather a Holi fan. It's a lovely feeling to play colours (organic, of course!) with your loved ones, to collect in a posh colony's garden, rain dance to the latest beats, wine-dine together and give each other hugs of gulal.
However, one metre beyond the walls of our apartment gate, the scene is little less wholesome. Gangs of men, loaded with bhang and out of their senses, patrol the streets. These streets may be quiet because the city knows what can happen at times like this. But they are not the only danger around. Even the balding neighbourhood uncle has relinquished his pleated pants and checked shirt in favour of a half-open shirt, a la Salman Khan. He is not at his government office today, so he thrusts his pelvis to the lecherous lyrics of a Bhojpuri number.
With his comrades, he too hunts for ladies who by noon are colorfully drenched in translucent saris sticking to their bodies. His imagination soars. While the 'gentlemen' in the gang stay happy leching, taking pictures or making videos, some bhaiya-devar-jijas leave no opportunity to rub their hands first on the cheeks and later unobtrusively slide it lower to other parts of a woman's body.
Those who miss the chance to lay their hands on victims do the next best thing. What could be better than a water balloon? They can hit what they would have loved to touch and are greeted by the sight of girls and women screaming with 'joy' and running around in their wet attire. This is the day words change their meaning. "Please let me go" is heard as "Do it more, baby." If the girl says, "I'm ready to play," she is thought of as inviting touches and if she says, "Don't", well hurray because today force will not be equal to harassment. Bravo!
This reminds me also of the glorious contribution of Bollywood in spicing up Holi's concupiscence. Like lascivious lover-boy Amitabh smearing Rekha with multitudinous colours in front of her husband and his own wife in the movie Silsila. Haven't we clapped enough on such chousing in the cinema halls? Like Deepika Padukone and her puerile company in the Holi song "Balam Pichkari" brilliantly dancing to the signature step of emulating a pregnant belly? Oh, we completely get the naughtiness intended, don't we? How about B-town lyrics rhyming into Holi-choli, ang-rang, gaal-gulaal, gulaabi-bhabhi that even the street urchins sing boisterously while the police and district administration enjoy the holiday slumber?
Come dusk and when one is done with playing colours, hogging on gujiyas and downing laced thandai, it is time to clean the body with soap and shampoo, to wash away the sins of the day. After a liberal application of Boroplus and eyedrops pinched into red eyes and falling into bed dog tired, delirious bewilderment takes over.
"I should've said 'No' to thandai."
"I can't believe it was Jiju who behaved that lecherous way."
"Shucks! I hate the way he put it on my face."
"I should've slapped him in public."
Just then someone suddenly barges-in, empties an entire bucket of coloured water on you and, as you stare speechless with disgust, hollers "Bura na maano, Holi hai! (Don't feel bad, it's Holi)"
Seriously? Well, I can't!
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