Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and what followed thereafter gave an immediate impetus to do this series of interviews. We wanted to share real, lived experiences of people as well as mental health professionals.
The conversations that followed the actor’s death were certainly shocking, especially ones on the lines of ‘A person who has everything, how can he or she be depressed?’ But I did not have to look far, I had to only look within. Just a decade or so ago I had met a man on a date, and he had revealed in the course of that evening that he was bipolar. My own knowledge or the lack of it on what it means to be bipolar, was shocking.
I asked him – ‘You mean, you wear bifocal lenses?’ I do not know, how, after reading Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, I could have been so ignorant. What I found helpful at that point in time, were blogs, books (memoirs and first-person narratives) that told the story of what it meant to have a mental illness with honesty, without judgement and with empathy.
I loved reading Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom, and followed it up with A Book of Light, The Bell Jar, Prozac Nation, Mind on Fire, I’ve Never Been (Un) Happier. I kept adding blogs and books to my to-do reading list and with every book that I read, I found my understanding of mental health issues and sense of empathy growing several inches.
I also learned a lot from my relationship with the young man and from what he so honestly shared with me.
So think of these interviews as a pool of resources. Come to these interviews as and how you like — to hear voices that speak to you, to find shared, common ground, out of curiosity, to explore your own self, or to broaden your horizons. There’s no judgement here or an attempt to preach.
The voices are so clear, brilliant, and brimming with the poetry of life — I found myself richer for having had these conversations with each person I interviewed.
In the series, you can expect to hear from Jerry Pinto, Amandeep Sandhu, Shampa Sengupta, Shyam Mithiya, Anjana Deshpande, and Tanika Godbole. We also have Karishma Upadhyay’s interview on researching and writing on Parveen Babi.