Mental health, emotions, and feelings are hard to comprehend for the majority of Indian society. Right from getting a decent hospital for delivery to getting a job, commuting to work, buying a house and even just surviving the rains– it all can be difficult. 

In such an environment, few people dare speak about their struggle with mental illnesses as there is always a challenge of opening up and baring yourself in front of all, only to be belittled by society. One Indian who took upon the challenge and tried to address such issues is Tahira Kashyap. She is a prolific writer, a talented filmmaker, and a bold woman who doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind. 

Comfort to mothers

Her recent book, The 7 Sins of Being a Mother, is a breath of fresh air for every woman who is tired of trying to fit into society’s expectations– starting from the expectation of having all those motherly feelings as soon as the child is born to giving your child everything tangible or intangible till you die. Ms Kashyap has truly tried to normalise the status of a mother from that of a Goddess to a normal human being who is capable of making mistakes. Indeed, this is a book that all mothers need for comfort, when all righteous aunties of society try to make them feel guilty for having a caesarean, or giving their babies formula milk, or having a libido while bearing a child in the womb. She has aimed to liberate women from guilt and fear. Her short film Pinni touches upon giving much-needed appreciation to mothers who silently work to make our lives sweeter and giving them our undivided attention. Hence, we don’t need to respect our parents because they are ‘avatars of God on Earth. I think it should be the gratification from within that should guide us in treating them better. 

Dancing with the demon

Such gallantness in her expressions can only come from being the prisoner of the same war. A few years back, the writer opened up about her struggles with depression. Like most of us, she comes from a society where people think they can never have depression as it is a disease for the weak-minded, or believe diseases only include dengue, TB, cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes, COVID, and not depression, anxiety, stress etc.

Coming from such a place, she shared that she never treated her body, mind, and soul as one entity. She always thought physical health was important, and there is nothing called mental health. So, she took care of her body while keeping her emotions locked up. She spent hours at night crying but always kept a happy front before her children in the morning, who were aged two and four then. She was battling a lot of anxiety attacks and sadness at the time. According to her, had she gone to a doctor, she would have been declared clinically depressed. But, she chose to cry every night as she was afraid of looking like a loser in front of her children. Slowly, her body started to reflect all the negativity she was harbouring inside of her through cancer.

Physical unrest and mental tranquillity

Tahira underwent a double mastectomy after she was detected with the initial stage of breast cancer. Throughout, she never shied away from sharing a series of photographs of herself showing how chemotherapy affected her, to talk about the change in her attitude towards life due to the disease. She made sure to exude strength and give hope to others. Some users trolled on social media about her baldness after chemotherapy and she was called the ‘Bhai’ of Ayushmann Khurana, her husband. The insensitivity shown by people affected her, but prayers and support from her fans surely kept her afloat. From being the girl who loved her locks and tended to hide behind them, to becoming comfortable in her skin and loving to experiment a lot now, she feels thankful that she went through this chapter in her life when she was strong enough to deal with it mentally. She accepts that things started to change for her after she started taking care of her mental health

Finding a happier place

Her faith in Nichiren Buddhism and the support of her family helped her see the ordeal with the pragmatic eyes of ‘just another obstacle’. She candidly refuses to be labelled a survivor. As in her view, each patient has to overcome their own set of problems and inhibitions. Some make it, and some don’t. There is no need for a medal or a label at the end of this journey. 

She believes in ‘food for the body and food for the soul’. The food for the soul comes through her practice of chanting Nichiren Buddhism. Through her spirituality, she has learnt that mind and body exist in unison, and we can’t be taking care of one at the cost of the other.

Conclusion: Mental health is as important as physical health

Each of us has our own set of hurdles to jump and our learning curve to follow, but what we can learn from others is what role models like Tahira learnt the harder way. She has already taken us halfway through by telling her story, and now it is upon us how we find our own bliss.

Written by: Kamakshi

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Mehak · 17 November 2021 at 10:52 am

Beautifully explained !!

Prince · 17 November 2021 at 4:34 pm

Very nice??..keep it up?

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