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Bhagat Singh, Irrfan & heath ledger: lessons for mental health

Isolation can be difficult to deal with, yet it is an unavoidable part of the present reality of many. What lessons might we draw from the lives of these three remarkable individuals? The term ‘mental health’ is in fashion. So are our thoughts on the issue. The recognition we are giving to anxiety, depression etc. as a consequence of lockdown has been quite remarkable. ‘Lockdown’ is a term of American origin. One of its meanings is ‘an emergency measure or temporary condition in which public contact is curtailed.’ Is mental confinement a cause of physical confinement as well? It’s true that one tends to be anxious and depressed due to privation of social interaction or confined movement. However, there are real-life examples of individuals who defied the effects of circumstances to overshadow their mental stability.

For instance, Bhagat Singh (the young Indian freedom fighter and socialist revolutionary) spent his time in Lahore Central Jail reading, writing and continuing his revolution from inside the Jail, knowing that he would be hanged in sometime. Some historical accounts tell us that he used to read a lot and also wrote some of his celebrated writings like Why I am an Atheist?, Letter to Young Political Workers etc. in that time.

Irrfan quoted wartime poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

Similarly, Irrfan Khan, an artist revered by all, maintained his sanity and raised the bar of expected mental health, despite knowing about the symptom-less Cancer he had and its incidental detection. The battle he fought and example he set, can go a long way in inspiring others. In one of his tweets, he began with writing about his feelings with the following quote – “Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect.”- Margaret Mitchell. He also shared few lines written by a wartime poet, Rainer Maria Rilke– “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” He applied his thoughts and the literature he read or came across to allow us to peek inside his mind. Besides being an outstanding actor on stage with a script, he also played his character on the stage of life beautifully, with warmth and dignity till the very end, and created memorable script for all to behold. He discovered beauty in his life’s lockdown and instead of getting confined, only expanded his vision by spreading positive vibes. We may imagine the emotional strength and optimism required to handle such a difficult chapter. Mere imagination can help us view our personal issues and problems as being quite small. On the other hand, is an awareness that one’s death is quite near, a motivating factor, for creativity? It’s a question which may have different answers.

Another account of inspiration is from the life of Heath Ledger (an Academy Award winning, Australian actor best known his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight). He went into self-isolation and produced the most realistic and beloved portrayal of the character. That ‘self-isolation’ can be a means to carve out a creative-self; as great as this that it can become an invaluable part of our cultural history. We all have been, wholly or partially, witnesses to the idea of self-isolation and are under a compulsion to accept social distancing as a norm. Especially, in order to adjust better with Covid-19 as a way of life. Why can’t it be considered as an opportunity to repose and carve out all the creativity, which often becomes dormant in the maze of life? Why should we wait for situations to change, when rediscovering and existing more with ourselves might be the new constant with different variants, all across the globe?

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