Updated: Dec 18, 2020
If one finds a problem in the title, take it up with Siddhartha Gautama Buddha who got furious himself when he saw 'godmen' ill-treating who were then called 'untouchables' during his era.
On 19th October, my father & I begin work on setting up VAJRI STUDIOS, a space I have always wanted to have from the time I begun painting in 2004. It’s such a liberating moment as I have waited 16 years to have my own space, having otherwise created in the limited area of my bedroom, where I also operated The Red Door work.
"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."
To quote Michelangelo, I have always been told how lucky I was, the support I had, my talent, intelligence etc. and that others do not have what I do. I have equally had opposite remarks, that my father paid for it all, we had ‘connections’, that I do not know what I am doing, that The Red Door has no plan or structure and neither do I. Ironically, I would not have reached where I am if I didn’t have a 1000 ideas, 50 versions of the same plan and improvisation structures where social innovation is concerned. I always drew these out as mind maps with images that no one would understand because I never shared them to begin with ;) After all, no chef will truly disclose their secret ingredient.
Such constant comparisons that I received did not help anyone, even the person making it. Any successful person can tell you the amount of hours they have had to put in, sweat, sacrifices and practice that led to that one brilliant winning slam-dunk or the 1000s of punches Bruce Lee kept repeating until he reached a stage where one punch could throw a person triple his size 10ft away!
We live in a country where if someone is sweeping/cleaning are laughed and glared at as if s/he is a lower being. It is only due to the pandemic, that cleaning has suddenly become a big deal in people's lives in India. A country so dependent on someone else cleaning for them that their entire week can be affected if the maid doesn't show up. Yet how easily the same people would have judged some of us who have been cleaning our front yards & homes long before the pandemic. I often wonder about the contradictions.
So each day from the time we begun, my job was to go up to clean the entire space, check the moisture around, help dad when he needs it. Owing to which I get physically exhausted to do anything else as I am also regaining strength from dengue. Hard laborious work from 11.30 – 6pm, plus TRD meetings, usage of brain power forces me to bed instantly. I would attempt to paint, managing a few lines each day before I drift into sleep.
Another group of 'spiritual' people have remarked that how can I be spiritually inclined when I get struck by a certain illness. What people have failed to understand is no human being is free of suffering until they are entirely purged. The more spiritually inclined you are, the lessons are more intense. Things that bothered you before will look insignificant as you realize you've climbed the ladder. You also begin noticing that you are no longer tuned in to what your friends are doing and they begin feeling that you’re not bothered about them. It’s a sad state of existential affairs, however, people have different levels of realization in their times at their own pace. When scaling higher levels, only a few people will have the capacity to walk with you. Higher here is not a competitive mark, but the reality of our breath: SOHAM-HAMSO.
My process of setting up VAJRI STUDIOS & SHARED CONSCIOUSNESS PROJECT is also a re-telling of my story - the sequel that should have been published by Women Unlimited/Kali for Women. Where I have often stated 'The obstacle is the path', realizing it and actualizing it has only begun. This isn't something that happens with a magic wand, spiritual incantations or rituals. It's called LIFE. Sorry to burst your bubble if you believe otherwise but "LIFE is what happens while you are busy making other plans." - John Lennon.
And there are many in this boat, complaining about the same stuff instead of reflecting about why there are caught in the same stuff. I have done this myself of course!
As was evident in my narrative before, I had a very difficult relationship with my parents ever since I was a kid. Trauma existed early. I kept them away from my work with The Red Door - telling my father "You will not spend, support or be engaged with the work I do in mental health". There was a reason for this. He didn't agree or disagree, nor say yes or no. I began The Red Door with the support from one person Aparna Sanyal.
Where people called me crazy, she held my space, listening intently not discouraging nor encouraging but just being. I had made it a point that my parents will not be involved. They were never around when I received my Ashoka Fellowship, my book launch, all my Tedx’s and other talks, or my art exhibitions. They had moved to Indonesia by end 2014. A required distance that helped us understand each other and I eventually regained my independence at the age of 34.
Although I sucked at taking care of my food habits, forgetting to eat as I would be extremely involved in my work. I always told others ‘If I am so involved in my work that I forget to eat, sleep or shower, why are you complaining that I am not involved in your life, that too some random gossip or story of no interest to me?’
I had to deal with people in the very mental health sector including caregiver groups who wrote nasty emails saying my father had connections that got me the Ashoka & Ink fellowships. In the past 9 years, my parents did not shed a single rupee for my work. The only time they had to, was my treatment for the brain tumour, the back & forth hospital visits, my health insurance plans, and care needed when I had seizures. Seizures that make me forget who and where I am. Making me immobile for hours unable to speak or move, waking up dissociated for days. Each time, I lost days and when I regained myself I had deadlines of work that overwhelmed me. So how could I come for a party, attend a gathering, my own award functions and not get affected by the thought of losing days.
These are choices I always have had to make alone. I let my parents have the need to care for their child but I refused financial gifts. For my birthdays, I only asked that they believe in my practice and if they really wanted to give me something - then work on changing themselves.
PART 2 of this post is an extension to my sequel Fallen, Standing; My Life As A Schizophrenist published by Women Unlimited/Kali for Women in 2015. To access my second book you will need to subscribe for a nominal price of Rs.20 per month for 9 months.