How should we talk about mental health?

Mental health suffers from a major image problem. One in every four people experiences mental health issues — yet more than 40 percent of countries worldwide have no mental health policy. Across the board it seems like we have no idea how to talk about it respectfully and responsibly.

Stigma and discrimination are the two biggest obstacles to a productive public dialogue about mental health; indeed, the problem seems to be largely one of communication. So we asked seven mental health experts: How should we talk about mental health? How can informed and sensitive people do it right – and how can the media do it responsibly?

End the stigma

Easier said than done, of course. Says journalist Andrew Solomon: “People still think that it’s shameful if they have a mental illness. They think it shows personal weakness. They think it shows a failing. If it’s their children who…

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My first.

Some people drink, some smoke, some do weed. I took to art. It gives me a certain high when I engage myself in any sort of art for that matter. Glass art is one such obsession. The paints and colour, the translucence, the resultant messiness, the mesmerizing beauty of any liquor bottle – it’s all gotten me hooked to the extent of developing a glass art ritual every weekend.
Like every good thing in my life, my romantic encounters with glass art began with a disaster. Two months back, when I had first decided to try my hand at glass paintings, I chose Google for a tutor. One of the popular websites suggested using a hair dryer to dry the paints quickly. The alternative was a microwave oven. The website even gave specific temperature settings for drying the paint.


So, here I was on a rainy Saturday evening, listening to Pandit Ravi Shankar to warm me up for my upcoming artistic endeavour, with a cheap glass tumbler, that I took the trouble to purchase for 95 bucks at Sapna Book House, at my table. I shivered as I squeezed the paint out of the tube only to realize that a 5-year old had sturdier hands than mine. But giving up is never an option, is it? So I went ahead and sabotaged the glass tumbler with my paints. I had no hair dryer. Thanks to mom’s wisdom on how hair dryers are bad for your hair. So I took the little fellow to the kitchen and kept him inside my oven. I timed the oven for two minutes, a lot lesser than the time that was mentioned on the website.
Ten minutes later, when I went into the kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice the foul smell. I looked into the oven only to find my precious work of art all shattered. Oh! But that’s not all. The glass plate and the plastic wheels on the rotor were gone too. (Yes! I know I was being stupid. It is after all glass!)
A few scoldings later, it was time to begin afresh. Except this time, it was an empty Nutella jar that I picked. I painted the most common and mindless image I had in my head and filled it with colour. But this time, I decided against using technology. And there she was – cute and pretty, my first glass art.


Citizenfour, Glenn Greenwald and why privacy matters

When filmmaker Laura Poitras started receiving encrypted e-mails in 2013 from an anonymous whistleblower identifying himself as “Citizen four,” she did what any brave filmmaker would do: she picked up her camera and went to investigate.

Poitras charts what happened next in Citizenfour, a documentary that premiered Friday at the New York Film Festival. Watch the trailer:

Citizenfour provides a gripping look at events including her first meeting in Hong Kong with “Citizen four,” aka Edward Snowden (TED Talk: Here’s how we take back the Internet). Learn more about the film.

As one of the first reporters to see Edward Snowden’s files, journalist Glenn Greenwald (TED Talk: Why privacy matters) has broken many stories on the global surveillance being conducted by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Greenwald’s current book on the topic, No Place to Hide, was released in May. He continues to write about surveillance issues for The Intercept.


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What are you revealing online? Much more than you think


What can be guessed about you from your online behavior? Two computer privacy experts — economist Alessandro Acquisti and computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck — on how little we know about how much others know.

The best indicator of high intelligence on Facebook is apparently liking a page for curly fries. At least, that’s according to computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck (TED Talk: The curly fry conundrum), whose job is to figure out what we reveal about ourselves through what we say — and don’t say — online. Of course, the lines between online and “real” are increasingly blurred, but as Golbeck and privacy economist Alessandro Acquisti (TED Talk: Why privacy matters) both agree, that’s no reason to stop paying attention. TED got the two together to discuss what the web knows about you, and what we can do about the things we’d rather it forgot. An edited version of the conversation follows.


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“When is this country ever going to change?” lamented Vidya’s mother. “First they dropped out of schools because schools didn’t have toilets. Now the girls can’t use the fields too.”
“Every street has a temple. Can’t they spend that money on building toilets? Our priorities need to change”, Vidya replied.
Vidya and her mom were talking about the rape of two young girls who went to the fields to relieve themselves. The second rape in less than two years, that had earned national ire.


“Amma, can we have something to drink? I am very thirsty”, Vidya asked her mom. The two ladies walked out of the travels office to see if any juice shop was around. Madurai heat was sucking the sweat of their bodies like never before.Although they would be home in Bangalore in a couple of hours, they had to find ways to beat the heat atleast until they boarded their bus. They found a woman selling tender coconuts on the pavement at a distance of a few metres from the travels office. They ordered two tender coconuts at twenty five rupees each. Having had their fill of that cool, sweet fluid, they quickly went back inside the travels office, in a desperate effort to escape the sun.
About thirty minutes later, the Bangalore bus arrived. Vidya and her mom got into the bus with their luggage and made themselves comfortable. Vidya took the window seat as usual and closed the curtains. She made sure the AC vents at her end were directed at herself. While her mother had started flipping through Tamil magazines, Vidya tried to catch up on her Anna Karenina. The bus, in the meanwhile, had started moving.
Not less than twenty minutes since the bus had started on its journey,Vidya realized that the tender coconut had done what it was supposed to do. It was almost a litre of fluid after all. But Vidya didn’t care much. In another eight hours she’d be in Bangalore. And the driver shall surely stop the bus at a fuel station on the way. So she let Tolstoy continue to mesmerize her. How an entire chapter dedicated to the simple act of mowing, could make her feel so elated, was incomprehensible to her. To Vidya, the protagonist in Anna Kareninawas not Anna. Not Alexei. Not Levin. Not Kitty. But Tolstoy himself.
However, no love for good story telling can contain the most pressing, fundamental, physical urges.
“When do you think these guys will stop the bus?”,Vidya asked her mother. “Why do you ask?”, her mother looked at her suspiciously. “I badly need to use a toilet”, replied Vidya as her face flushed in embarrassment. “You’ll have to wait. They’ll only stop the bus at Salem, which is atleast four hours from now.”
Vidya felt troubled. She didn’t think she could wait that long. The journey, the AC, all of it seemed to only make things worse for her.


“Amma, I don’t think I can wait that long. Will you ask the conductor to stop the bus at a fuel station on the way? They’ll surely have toilets.”
“Even if I ask, they won’t stop the bus. Last time when your grand-dad came home, he had to face the same situation. They didn’t care that he was a 75-year old man. Please try to control for a while.”
“But there is no harm in asking. Please?” , Vidya begged.
Her mother was visibly embarrassed. The two women were travelling alone after all. She had to walk up to the conductor and driver, both of who were men, amidst thirty odd passengers who were also mostly men, and ask them to stop at a place with a toilet. Though the driver obliged, he told her clearly that he will not be able to stop the bus for another two hours. The mother nodded and returned to her seat, thoroughly upset. “You are not going to have anything to drink, the next time we travel by bus”, she told Vidya sternly.
Vidya herself was quite perplexed at how her body was behaving. Even as a child, Vidya never had to face such a situation. Her body had never troubled her with what until today she had considered so petty. Yet, here she was, struggling to remain still. She opened the curtains so she could quickly spot a place she could use and stop the driver.
Almost immediately after her mom spoke to the driver, the bus went past a fuel station. “There’s one. Why isn’t he stopping?”, Vidya whispered urgently to her mom. She got no answer from her mother. Her mother, after all didn’t know what to do. In the next twenty minutes, the bus had crossed three fuel stations and the driver never stopped. Vidya grew restless by the minute. She was using the nastiest of words in the English language to scold the driver in her head.
“That’s it. The next place he stops the bus at, I am getting down to find a place myself”, she told her mother.
Fifteen minutes later, the bus stopped at what looked like a pick-up point. Vidya asked her mom to move. “What will you find here?”, her mother asked, worried.
“I don’t know. But I’ll find out.”


She got down from the bus and asked the man at, what looked like a hotel, if there was a toilet around that she could use. The response was negative. Meanwhile, the conductor who saw Vidya get down from the bus, assured her that he’d stop the bus again soon. Vidya, by now, didn’t care what the men around her thought of her anymore. She went back in the bus. Her mother still wore that worried, helpless expression on her face. The bus started again. Vidya began to pray that the bus stops soon.
She couldn’t relax her back anymore. She had to lean forward to be able to be able to hold it in. This action made it impossible for her to occupy anymore than the tip of the seat. She held on to the handle at the back of the seat in front of her. Her facial muscles and jaws went tight. Her restlessness, which once increased by the minute, now turned into stillness. Stillness – the only thing that made it possible for her to control herself. But this stillness was painful. What seemed to be a discomfort earlier, now turned slowly into an excruciating pain in her pelvic region, which strangely made her knees quiver. She felt her temperature rising. A mild sort of tightness set into her lower abdomen.


Two more hours passed. The bus never stopped. Vidya didn’t talk, or laugh, or read, or watch the movie playing in the bus. All her efforts went into enduring that terrible pain in the lower part of her body, while simultaneously postponing her physical need.
It had been more than three hours since she had asked the driver to stop the bus. The entire route had no toilets whatsoever. The few places that did have toilets, neither the driver nor the conductor had the sense or sensitivity to stop the bus for the suffering woman.
Vidya felt utterly humiliated and punished. Like the whole of mankind had perpetrated unspeakable violence against her. She needed to relieve herself. A basic need, of which, everybody in the bus was aware. Yet she was being tortured like this. She was afraid she would lose control. She was afraid she would humiliate herself before strangers even though she was not to blame. Tears filled her eyes.
Finally, the bus stopped at a toll gate and the conductor showed the female passengers the way to the toilet. Vidya, obviously, was the first one to get down.
All those long hours of controlling made her genitals hurt as she relieved herself. How could anybody be so insensitive? A woman may have a hundred reasons to use a toilet. Yet, nobody wants to pay heed to her even after she makes her needs very clear. And this sort of behavior came from older men. The government didn’t make it any easier either. Again, she blamed a group of older men for the lack of toilets along the route. She witnessed, for the first time, the apathy and insensitivity her countrymen had towards her kind.
“Do they even deserve us?’, she thought to herself, as she walked her way back to the bus, relieved physically, but her woman’s pride hurt.

The Cry of Innocence

There was no one around at the time near the building, just like every other day. The cool breeze rustled a few leaves and kissed a feeling of tranquility into anyone who passed by. The darkness and isolation made one of the two girls seated on the bench more courageous than usual. “Appdi podu podu podu…….” , the mobile sang. Devi sprang to her feet and started dancing merrily, unable to hide the bounce the song gave her very soul. Just then a middle-aged couple passed by and smiled gently at the young girl who was dancing joyously. Devi blushed upon being caught and all of a sudden, didn’t know what she was supposed to do with her hands or legs that seemed so disobedient now.



Having walked further away from the girls, the husband said to his wife, “Now that is what you call innocence. Her dad is in deathbed and yet this kid is here dancing with no worries whatsoever. What a pity!”

Devi’s father had been suffering from throat cancer for eight months now. Her mother was forced to admit him in a well-known hospital in Chennai after all the hospitals in Bangalore turned out to be way too expensive. Devi and her younger sister were left behind in Bangalore under the care of trusted neighbours, so they wouldn’t have to miss school. Devi’s father was a driver and a gardener at the colony they lived in, while her mother was a domestic helper. Both of them were hard-working and their only dream was to give their daughters an education. Devi too was a smart and responsible girl and studied well.

Having taken care of her husband day and night for months together, Devi’s mother had to return to her girls to make all the necessary arrangements for the groceries that had run out at home. She left her husband with close family relatives and came to Bangalore. On returning, none of the neighbours needed to ask her about the status of her husband’s health. The poor woman’s face communicated all the suffering that cancer brought with it, which she had been a witness to, for eight months. Enquiry, to these concerned neighbours was not a necessity. But a mere formality. That one and only night, when she was away from her husband for the first time in eight months, she got a call from her relatives in Chennai. Her husband had passed away.



Devi’s mother cried. She cried. She fell. She hit herself frantically. Her only support, her only partner, a man she always thought would be a part of her life, was gone. But more importantly, the father of her two young daughters was gone. And poverty never does much to comfort a soul in such a desperate situation. She didn’t know what she was going to do alone. So she cried. And cried till everyone heard her. Till she would faint.

Devi and her sister couldn’t comprehend what was going on. They were told that their dad had passed away. They saw their mother cry in pain. They felt sorry for her. But they didn’t know what it all meant really. The tenderness of their age wouldn’t let their innocence disappear. Not yet. So the two girls just looked on as the adults went about doing what had to be done.

Devi’s father was given his last rites. The two girls played hopscotch at the funeral home. Relatives and family friends could only pity the little ones.

A few months later, Devi returned home at noon with an assistant from school. Her mother wondered why she was home so early. The assistant smiled and said, “It’s all good news. Your little girl has become a woman now.” The mother, overjoyed at what she had heard, held her daughter’s face. Seeing her husband in the eyes of her little girl, her eyes swelled with tears. “Her father would have been so happy had he been here now. He would have celebrated this in pomp”, she cried. Devi had just experienced womanhood for the first time in her life. She saw herself changing physically and it was not a pretty sight. She was confused if she was to cherish these changes or regret them. And for some reason, she felt insecure like never before. Insecure, scared, uncomfortable, confused. And the reminder about her dad’s absence by her mom at this hour, brought tears to Devi’s eyes.

Devi missed her dad.


A critique on the photo nazis’ critique.

Many times I have come across people on social media and of late, even mainstream media, complain about how every Tom, Harry and Dick today has an SLR or one of those cool cameras, whose features or function, they do not know, and yet they are prompt to click pictures and post it onto facebook. A lot of ideas come gushing through my head each time I hear this and so I thought, “why not go live about it!”


Unedited : A crane shot using my sony cybershot hx300


As someone who enjoys taking pictures frequently with her camera, I certainly take great offense each time someone ridicules my pastime in the above mentioned manner. After all, I live in a free country that guarantees me my right to pursue the kind of life I want to. And given that these photo nazis did not pay for my camera, I see no point in anyone having a problem with my hobby. Or with any photo enthusiast for that matter. However, one must be blind to not see the magic behind this ongoing phenomenon.


Unedited : Another one…

Until a few decades back, photography was a pastime only an informed few could afford, and yes, the elite too. But today anybody can call themselves an amateur photographer. It may look like the charm of photography is being taken away. But it is not so. Digital cameras are now easily available at prices that any middle class family can afford. Development in technology has enforced fresh perspectives to come to the fore; it has enforced more number of people to keep in touch with things that excite them. If capitalism is mass production and maximum profit, and if communism is everyone having equal access to all resources and enjoyment of opportunity through merit, technology today, is what plays cupid to communism and capitalism. (YEah, I don’t think there is going to be a third world war.)


Unedited : If any of you know this lovely insect, let me know what it’s called. The fellow is a natural.

This is a kind of decentralisation of power.Yes. No longer can only an elite few wear that intellectual mask through photography. Like only few men have a perspective of the world. Maybe that’s why the disgruntled men come up with such jealous remarks.


Unedited : And here is my favorite model of all times – The Sun.

That just opens the door for another idea. Is there anything known as talent? I don’t really think so. You see “talent” is one of those mind games that the world has been playing on people for long enough now. SImply put, talent is nothing but politics. You heard me. There is nothing that nobody can not do. Everyone can do everything. While some learn the trade quicker, others may take a while. That time taken to learn a skill, again depends on the personality of the individual – the likes, dislikes, etc. which is again just an illusion – a conditioning of the mind. It is not really you. So, to sum it up for you, talent is a word that society has been using to keep the rich people rich and poor people poor. IF a teacher uses the word, it is because the student is/not making her job easy for her. The same applies to photography. Like any skill, all it requires is the passion to learn and explore. Nothing else. The rest is just modern day casteism. Don’t buy it.