Artwork by Seyhr Qayum

Author: Shameen Raza

For World Mental Health Day, 10th October 2019

The mind; this ceaseless jungle of wild and tamed thoughts that sprout like thorns, roses and tea leaves; gushing into whirlwinds of pain – fortunate and unfortunate, shinning onto seasons of black and white, grey and red, of snakes and ants and centipedes and what not. This mind of an eighty year old, this mind of a young boy, both yearning and forgetting what they think they are unable to carry, unable to unfold; grafting tears of salt into empty letters, into empty words and inflicting torments of fire, of water, onto all that surrounds them and into all that they are. Their mind, our mind, one mind, like a cottage long forgotten and secured in wreaths, in garlands and bouquets; forming out of the river that we once dipped our feet into, the feel of which continues to sooth our skins with its coolness, with its softness; surprising us with rashes, with bruises, with marks – black, purple and blue. This mind, which has endured what seems like this timeless existence of loving, of betrayal, of letting go, of never ever being able to let go, of not being able to understand, of being able to understand so completely, of wanting to find answers, of wanting to find the universe, of wanting to find God, of wanting to hear and wanting to see and wanting to know; what are we to live with, how are we to live with it, how are we to survive, to breathe, to lose and still trust the future. How will we ever clear these empty rooms so full of silence and noise and dust and cob webs of memories that continue to be created, annihilated and destroyed in the midst of these broken tables, this rotten furniture, this broken body and these rotten bones.  

Our mind, this ceaseless jungle of wilderness, with tantalising dreams of union and nightmares of separation; this hot hand, gloved in plastic, holding the earth as a grave and breathing from it old stories. Where should we go – from this need to go away from ourselves or to find ourselves, within ourselves – in skull sockets, in dried bones and white skeletons, in marbled temples and ancient monuments. Where should we lose what we find and find what we lose; where we plant the roses and dig out the seeds, burning the roots and eating the soil to let them grow. We live, we die, we live, we die; lashing out spirits of venom and coils of heat and fire, hating and never forgiving, loving and forgiving – again and again and again.

Within this jungle, this crowd of horrors, of wars and alphabets and of things that don’t have words or a voice, is an aging body greying at the edges, wrinkling and wilting and blinking and open; isolating a child, a baby, an infant. The child who went unheard, hurt, denied and wrongfully conceived and deceived. The child who held no power, no sense, no place, no home; abandoned and left alone in a hostel room, a bazaar, a street, a lounge, a drawing room, a room. A child who was silenced and slapped and slammed and wronged. A child of innocence, a child with a soul; trying so hard to remember what the sun could do and what flowers meant once upon a time. A child, now lost in this jungle of existence, in this jungle of a world; a world within a world within a world. A poem. A scheme. A divinity. A soul denied. A soul in pain.

There are too many knots in what you are seeking and what is seeking you – what you are seeking is alive, what is seeking you is dead; we don’t know. What you do to yourself is what you do to others. You are what you have lived through and what you continue to live through; growing with the seasons and rising from them, diving into deep blue seas and oceans and rivers and mountains of gold and silver. These spoils of war need to be purified and washed, these carpets need to be reweaved. These memories need to be navigated through, drawing out lessons, erecting mirrors and echoes – the resurrection and the judgement call, all in purgatory.

You are what you are seeking. The light that blinded you has borne you. These flames that once bloomed like petals are brewing again for you to blow. This is you, your world on fire, your world as a feast. Do not be a cast away. Do not just be bones. Be a red hot heart, beating all the time with the clock, with the rhythm of the changing seasons, of the changing times, through despair and revocation, through gates of love and spells of emptiness and through galaxies of another life, and black holes with no time.  

This year. This day. This hour. This minute. Give yourself a standing ovation. A ceremony. A stage of stages. Of what you have been through. Of your noise and your silence and your dreams and your great, big betrayal. After all, it is you and only you that you were born with. And it is you and only you that will see through the deception of being alive. Conquer it. Vacate it. This is only the beginning with no end, and an end with no beginning; a ceaseless jungle borne out of light, out of nature. Just as you – a being out of water, out of the earth, out of the sun. Like a forest leaf or a banyan stem glowing, shinning, developing and growing. Still now, it is you. The embryo. The child. The woman. The man. The old and the new born. Sit down, please.

Acknowledge the wretched, secret, profoundly beautiful sense of being alive. 
And simply, talk about it.

Shameen Raza is a Creative Resident with TCB. She takes writing as one of the purest forms of exorcism; where all demons and angels collide into an insane mesh of words and wonderment. She is in the process of publishing her first (fictional) novel, exploring the many dimensions and dichotomies of a woman’s existence.