blogging on wordpress x 5 years

I thought I would write about parents and children, and people would read what I wrote, and I would thus contribute in a small measure to making India a better place for children. I would write about  common mental illnesses, so lay people could recognise the symptoms and seek treatment early.

Naïve? Sure, yes.

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A young patient started this blog for me five years ago, in March 2012. It was meant primarily for writing about child-raising and mental health. But I was scared to write. I busied myself putting up photographs and other less-threatening things on it. It was nearly one year later that I dared to take the plunge. A very simple topic: Being parents. Something I had experience with. After that it got easier.

I had written a series of articles on mental illness for a local newspaper a couple of years before. Someone suggested I list their links on this blog. So I did. Someone else suggested I write a short gist for each article as well. I did that too.

As many people are afraid to take psychiatric medicines, I wrote a series of short blog posts about psychiatric medicines and sometimes referred patients to them.

Over time, I started liking my blog. It became a place I could visit, a place where I could express myself. Here, I was obliged to clarify things in my mind before I wrote, unlike a diary where I might allow sloppy thinking, half-baked ideas and excessive emotion.

I try to be precise as it is very easy to be misunderstood, which takes away from the spontaneity and raw quality of writing that bloggers appreciate. Sharing unexamined thoughts is just not me. Frankly, everyone – from ordinary people like me to important people like the president of the United States – shouldn’t be putting unprocessed thoughts on public display. People might act on them, like Adam Purinton of Kansas who shouted “Go back to your country” as he shot two men. He seems to have been influenced by repeated racist comments made by public figures in recent times.

Though I’m aware of things happening around the world, I’m hesitant to comment on them here. I think news reports are often some sort of a red herring, the real news being closer to what one reads between the lines. Things sometimes don’t add up. There are so many things I read and hear, that float around like space junk in my head, but can’t be neutralised because of missing bits of information. Random example: Colombia – Juan Manuel Santos – Nobel peace prize – FARC – José  Luis Mendieta – forgiveness/punishment … After some time I just let them go.

I didn’t write for nearly two years as I didn’t feel the need to. In November 2016 I wrote ‘Change’ because I needed to sort out my thoughts about this phase of my life. Writing helped.

Of late, I’ve been in a nostalgic mood. Things are too quiet around the house with the kids having flown the nest. That’s why I’ve been writing almost exclusively about the time I lived on different ships over a six-year period. Those days now seem like a wonderful lifetime lived centuries ago. I’ve been sharing the links to these posts with everyone: cousins, my high school whatsapp group, and friends made over the years in different places.

The upshot of all this is that I’ve connected again with some nice people I had lost touch with, because they’ve called up or messaged to tell me how much they enjoyed the posts. Then, there’s my 13-year-old niece who said, “Aunty, I didn’t know all this had happened to you!” It was a revelation to her that I had been living for a long time doing other things, before she met me thirteen years ago!

This month I complete five years of blogging, irregular though it has been. I really need to thank wordpress for giving me this space. Blogging has given me a lot of relief, and pleasure too. There are so many bloggers whose posts I’ve enjoyed reading, or learnt from.

My technophobia is starting to feel like ingratitude. I guess it’s time I re-examined my attitude towards technology. Ah, I can almost hear my children’s sighs of relief!

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about this blog: 2016

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One often sees this scene in movies: someone standing on top of a mountain shouting out his ecstasy, rage or a Big Question. It’s obvious he just needs to get it out of his system. For me, this blog has been that mountain. I yelled out in my head a lot of things that I wrote here. Sometimes I found I had typed it all in caps lock and had to re-type it.

I could write the same things in a diary but that would be just between me and myself. I need to tell it to the universe. As a Chinese proverb goes, ‘a bird doesn’t sing because he has an answer, he sings because he has a song.’ In my case, it’s usually a niggling thought that needs to be expressed. It has to be resolved in my mind. I’m not even looking for an answer or a ‘like.’ When I look at what I wrote under ‘About this blog’ in 2012 I find that much of it is not true of today.

About parenting: The kids have grown up and flown the nest. Right now, I only hope they have come to Earth with decent natal charts to see them through this lifetime.

About teaching children to respect others’ religious beliefs: In the present milieu I would find it hard to advocate blanket acceptance of everybody’s religious beliefs as worthy of respect. The problems caused by differing religious beliefs among people are in the news every day. I would probably not talk about comparative religion at all, but just say that people ultimately get their just desserts.

About mental health: The brain is an organ, the mind a process. I broadly accept that everything that can go wrong with the mind has a biological basis, because nerve cells that mediate mental processes communicate via chemicals. Nevertheless, I am now reluctant to use the term ‘mental illness’ too freely.

About history: My interest is only in ‘subaltern’ history, the story of the common people, rather than that of kingdoms, conquests and colonisations.

About nature: The only thing that hasn’t changed is my pleasure in taking photographs and sharing the nice ones here. It’s still only about capturing a moment on my phone, “nothing hi-tech, just point and shoot” as I’ve said before.

So, what will I be writing about? Whatever wells up and needs to be expressed. With one rule: no complaining about anything at all.

About this blog

About children and parents

I believe that being a parent is a privilege and a responsibility.

I have a certain amount of experience dealing with children: babysitting siblings and cousins through the teens,  a stint as a resident doctor in the Pediatrics Department at St. Martha’s Hospital, Bangalore, before qualifying as a psychiatrist; training in the Child Guidance Clinic at NIMHANS as part of the post-graduation course; seeing children with psychological problems in clinical practice for more than 15 years; finally, raising my own children.

The last has been the most instructive. Being together, watching, listening, guiding, trying to stay tuned without intruding into their space, and of course, the arguments and deals. Like most parents I know, I have learnt a lot from the little ones.

About the role of religion/spirituality in raising children

Religion can be a robust positive force in shaping children’s values. I believe we can use it to teach children to respect other people’s beliefs, even when they are different from their own. Religion can help children develop a conscience, a moral compass, from which should flow empathy, integrity, courage – qualities we want in our kids. It can be a scaffold for a child to stand on while he builds his value system brick by brick; he can discard it when the stronger structure of his adult personality is firmly in place, if  he wants to.

About mental health

I have been talking and writing about mental health now and then.  I might put up some of what I’ve been saying on this blog and add to it as I go along.

About whatever appeals to me in nature

Life is short. I remember when I used to think there was lots of time – when I was eighteen, and had just entered medical college. I appreciate the beauty of the earth in a different way now; I look at things and places as something I have had the good fortune – or privilege – to see. That’s what the photos on this blog are, an acknowledgement of that privilege.

About human history, especially ancient times and how we came to be 

I don’t think I’ll ever stop being fascinated by how we evolved to be who we are today. I know so little about it that everything I read is new information. I write down the things that help me piece together the history of ordinary people.

About me

Profession:

I am a medical doctor and a practicing psychiatrist. I like my work as it connects me with people at a level that I find meaningful.

Other interests:

Travel – have done a lot of it. Two of the most beautiful places I have seen are the Himalayas, at many different places from Kashmir to Sikkim, and the Straits of Magellan around the southern tip of South America.

Trekking – went on treks long ago; was introduced to the night sky, trees and birds by fellow-trekkers. Have recently started trekking again after several years.

Reading – more or less alternate between fiction and non-fiction, nothing too dark and heavy

Books I have recently enjoyed are ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, ‘China Shakes the World’ by James Kynge, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid, ‘The Analyst and the Mystic’ by Sudhir Kakar and ‘The girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Steig Larsen. Occasionally read Maeve Binchy or Rosamund Pilcher because they are extremely relaxing, especially as they are set in pleasant places  that create a peaceful mood

Painting (oil) – dabble in it a bit

Photography – point and shoot, nothing hi-tech. All the photos in this blog have been taken by me, except the ones in which I’m present of course

Writing – have written two books for children with the hope that they will guide young readers towards being their best selves; at present writing a regular fortnightly column  for a newspaper (DNA, Bangalore edition, alternate Saturdays)