Beating stress

Indians beat depression in a multitude of ways by letting off steam at regular intervals.


A  friend of mine who lives overseas recently complained that he was mildly depressed. I consoled him with the usual clichéd phrases of comfort, but somewhere in me, there was a feeling of certainty that for a person born and bred in India, living abroad must be ‘traumatic’ and depressing.

Let’s think of the multitude of ways in which Indians beat depression by letting off steam at regular intervals. It begins even before we step out of homes every morning. There is a transporters strike and your morning coffee is delayed because the milk did not arrive on time. You let out a healthy, de-stressing stream of abuse.
Then, feeling all full and bloated because the absence of hot coffee ensured your bowels are unpurged, you step out and hit the first traffic signal. You dutifully stop, but the guy behind you decides to beat the red light and brushes past your vehicle, leaving a streak of his paint on your spanking new car. The second stream of abuse leaves your lips faster than you can think. You’re feeling strangely light by now.

The unpredictability of life in India is so deliciously rich that it means access to multiple opportunities to vent. Be it a situation where the watchman in the post office demands a bribe for getting you a place in the queue for your Aadhaar card, or catching a train that’s five hours late and you got to know after reaching the station, or waiting for a bus that’s been cancelled without notice. Consider our news television channels. Where else do we have people slapping each other on live shows? Or people calling each other names like presstitutes? Where is the time for depression?

In direct contrast, living abroad can be so stressful. Trains are not delayed, queues are not broken, buses come on time and there’s no jostling and pushing. Women don’t get pinched, purses don’t get swiped. Eating out is so safe. The water is double purified, so you never get to befriend any bacteria.

Pani puri, liberally laced with the dirt from the nails of the vendor and served to you with a smile will never reach your lips. You will never get to eat from a plate that was washed with the same water in which a hundred other dirty plates were hurriedly dunked and removed. A friendly neighbor will never knock on your door early in the morning to curiously demand to know why your son or daughter stays out so late regularly.

Everything is predictable and life must be lonely and boring and depressing. My advice to my friend is to return to India as early as possible and remain sane. And my advice to Arvind Kejriwal and his ilk is to never change this country and make it ‘liveable’ like the West is. I am happy seeing him curled up in his car all night while on protest even though he is a Chief Minister, and what’s more, conducting a cabinet meeting in the car! I prefer chaos over depression any day!

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