The Mind's River:How a Life Along the Cauvery Stilled my Anxieties PDF Print E-mail

By Nisarg Praksah

“I had noticed earlier that my illness subsided when I had access to the wilderness. Time spent outdoors in wild places were the only happy memories in an otherwise confused and chaotic few years.”


January 1, 2017.

I have been running. Running hard all these years. Running on tarmac, on dirt, running from others – and even harder from myself. I was afraid it would catch up. It was amorphous. It would come uninvited, settling down like a dark cloud refusing to let the Sun through. I took pride in being fiercely independent and didn’t believe in bothering others. I refused to seek help for a long time. I believed I knew more about it than the doctors I was seeing. The truth is… I am dealing with a mental illness. I have been bipolar for much of my professional life.

While riding these crests and troughs of my mind, I was following streams and rivers, from hills to the plains, in forests and agricultural fields. The meandering course of one particular river, the Cauvery, I would come to know very well. Maybe I chose to work along rivers and streams because, like my mind, they followed a well-defined course, a path: uphill, downhill, always in the valley, always with gravity. Or maybe I thought so.

Depression is like an auto-immune disease of the mind. You are turning inwardly against yourself and, unlike a broken limb or an injury, there are no visible scars or casts for others to see. There is time initially when you doubt anything is wrong and are always seeking your true self, the person you thought you were before it all started. I was to discover much later that there is no true self. I have long resisted the idea of writing about my work along the river because I felt I simply could not dissociate my state of mind from my work.

In many ways, the illness lent my work shape and structure. It made me more sensitive to everything I saw and heard about the river. What I was seeing was what I was witnessing wearing different lenses, that of depression and mania and the in-between.

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