The following email was sent to me by a family friend about 6 years after my father passed away. I’ve kept it all these years hoping that one day I might be able to share it.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week I have decided that this week is the perfect opportunity to share it amongst not only my own Punjabi community, but the wider public too.
At the time, this email really did add to my story. As much of what is expressed was also touched upon in ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’. Obviously I’ve had to redact some information from the original email to exclude names and other personal information.
Thank you to my family friend for allowing me to share their experiences.
“Hi Kal, I would like to share a time when your dad came to my mum’s house. I believe it was in Dec 2005. 3 months before he left us all, I can remember walking in and seeing your dad sitting down talking to my mum. I said hello how are you? He said that his head hurts and that he doesn’t feel too good and he has been to the doctors, but the doctor did not know what it could be, possibly thinking it was to do with his head injury in the past.
On previous visits to the house he had mentioned his head and the fact that he was taking medication in the form of anti depressants.
I then said to your dad that the medication can make you feel like that, I however did know as I too have been taking them and suffered symptoms. I started taking them back in 2000 when I started feeling physical symptoms of anxiety. Not knowing what it was I went to the GP who also did not know what I was suffering, but put me on anti depressants and beta blockers. At that time I did not know too much about these meds but just started taking them.
Being an Asian man you find it hard to explain to others what you are suffering – call it pride or just being too ashamed. It took me nearly 1 year before I told my wife and 2 years, before I told all my family, which made me feel a lot better. I believe your dad found it hard to explain what he was suffering, like I said, pride, too ashamed. It has been over ten years for me now; I have tried all types of anti depressants and suicidal thoughts play a big part in these meds. I however at that time didn’t suffer too much depression because my problem is only anxiety, but I did feel suicidal with the meds. I have since experienced my worst ever depression about 4 years ago, as I was off meds for a year but had a relapse in my anxiety and started meds again, which put me in to severe depression.
Depression is very hard to cope with I still do suffer but not as bad. If only I had tried to explain to your dad more that time, but I believe we all could have tried to understand. I am strong as I have learnt to cope, but your dad found it to hard to share his thoughts – he didn’t even want to talk to me when I asked him – like I said, PRIDE.
Also your dad said that he has stopped drinking because of the meds, I didn’t personally agree with that. The reason is that your dad was a social drinker, not heavy unlike me them days. But that didn’t stop me – meds can help you out of depression but can also put you in, like me. What helped me was that I continued with my life, so depression doesn’t take over, however, your dad decided to stop as the GP said to. But that also took a lot from your dad because he liked going to the Chestnut Pub. I know it’s very hard when you’re in depression like me when I feel down I base my whole life on just that day, thinking how will I cope, but then I say to myself, its just for a few days I will get better, you need to fight it, but like I said its hard as I still find it difficult at times but I know my family’s here for me. I have stopped anti depressants over a year ago and my mind is a lot free and clear. Meds do mess you up, but like I said, they also do help some.
I wish my GP never put me on them because they do mess your mind up. I believe the GP should explain in more details about side effects and also speak to a member of the family to let them know that side effects of suicidal thoughts do occur and there is a worsening of depression when starting any anti depressants. Your dad didn’t know this but I now Google any med I take to check on side effects ¬– not always a good idea as most only write about the bad side effects, not how well they work.
Your dad leaving us really hit me hard as he was the only person that visited me as he liked to see me doing up my house and give me ideas. He used to come at least twice a week. He was like an inspector coming to pass off my work. I still remember taking that call that afternoon. This moment and the above are the only ones I will never forget. I have always wanted to share this moment with you but just didn’t know how.
I don’t blame anyone especially not your dad as I know how it feels. I have made some enemies in my life but I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone, it’s horrible.
What we need to learn is that as Asians we need not be ashamed to talk openly and understand. My wife and mum always say don’t think too much, but I say you can’t just stop thinking, its just our genetic makeup, we’re all different.
I know I can’t add to your story, but I did know how your dad felt. We all need to be there for others in the future. I just wish he told someone that he was suffering depression.”
I was on the Sally Pepper Show earlier in the day talking about the recent Aidan Connor storyline on Coronation Street in which the character takes his own life by suicide.
The vast majority of us in this room today will be familiar with what this means, because as Sikhs we have had it ingrained into us from birth.
Chardhi Kala is the Punjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy, even during times of great adversity.
A positive mental attitude.
An ascending energy.
To be in constant high rising spirits.
A state of mind in which a person displays no negative emotions such as fear, jealousy or enmity. Instead the mind is filled with positive feelings including joy, satisfaction and self-dignity.
But what if I told you that Chardhi Kala was a load of nonsense?
Some of you are probably now wondering who on earth invited me up here to talk such nonsense?
How can a so-called Sikh not believe or even practice Chardhi Kala? This man is no Sikh? He doesn’t even look like a Sikh?
Well I’ll be honest with you. I do believe in Chardhi Kala. The only reason I said it was nonsense was because I wanted you to reflect on how we judge others.
You see, what if I was diagnosed with a mental health condition? What if my mind was corrupted by a mental illness that prevented me from practising Chardhi Kala?
Would you still judge me the same? Might you even abandon me because I could not live according to the Khalsa spirit.
Sadly I think there are too many within our community who readily reject those who cannot fully practice this aspect of living in Chardhi Kala. As a community we are seriously letting our people down. They deserve better.
It is the Sikh way to defend and protect those that are vulnerable or who have fallen on hard times. It is not the Sikh way to abandon them.
Two years ago I released Part One of my book, ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’. Part Two will be released within the next month.
My story deals with the stigma of mental illness and how it continues to ruin lives. It was always my intention to share my father’s story as well as help others in our community who have also been similarly bereaved by suicide.
Suicide stops people talking. That was definitely the case with my father and it almost became the case with me. But as time went on I realised that the longer I refused to speak up about my father the greater the possibility that he could be forgotten in time. That was not fair on him, nor all the other good people in this world who have ended their lives by their own hands. I refused to be silenced by suicide. Their stories deserved to be told. They deserved to be remembered.
12 Years ago when my father died by suicide I could never imagine that one day I would be here talking so openly about my father’s passing. But I am Sikh and that is exactly what a good Sikh should do. To help others who have also been bereaved by mental illness.
As I continue to speak out I no longer feel afraid. I no longer feel any embarrassment or shame. I feel alive with high rising spirits and overcome with a feeling of great happiness.
As us Sikhs would say.
The launch of the British Sikh Report 2018 has found that almost 3 out of 4 Sikhs know someone with poor mental health. 77% of Sikhs find their lives stressful, and twice as many Sikh women have diagnosed mental health issues compared to Sikh men
Speeches were made from the following individuals:
• Seema Malhotra – Labour MP for Feltham and Heston
• The Lord Crathorne KCVO
• Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi – Labour MP for Slough
• Adam Holloway – Conservative MP for Gravesham
• Jagdev Singh Virdee – Editor for the British Sikh Report & internationally renowned statistician
• Alison Thewliss – MP for Glasgow Central – SNP MP for Glasgow Central
• Rt Hon John McDonnell – MP for Hayes and Harlington & Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
• Tejinder Singh Sahota – British Sikh Report Team
• Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal – Senior Lecturer in Sikh Studies. Department of Theology and Religion. University of Birmingham
• Harpreet Kaur Sihre – Phd Student in Perinatal Psychiatry at the University of Birmingham
• Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa – British Punjabi author of ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’
• Jaz Rai – Founder of the Sikh Recovery Network
• Shuranjeet Takhar – Founder of men’s mental health charity Tarakī
• Neelam Heera – Founder of Cysters
• Gurbax Kaur – Founder & Director of Positive Participation and winner of the Thrive Mental Health Commission Awards
• Jasvir Singh – Chair of the British Sikh Report & compere
You can also see news about the report here:
You can read the 2018 report here: www.britishsikhreport.org
Many thanks to Curtis Taitt for the photography
A new memorial to one of Derby’s most-celebrated footballing sons – Steve Bloomer – has been unveiled.
A blue plaque now sits on the front the Derby County legend’s former school building in Derby’s in Portland Street, now home to Paul Wallis Fashions.
The plaque was unveiled in a small ceremony in honour of Bloomer, who scored 332 goals in 525 appearances for the Rams – he was leading scorer for 14 seasons – and 28 goals in 23 matches for England between 1895 and 1907.
On the @bbcasiannetwork earlier with @Shuranjeet speaking to @TherealNihal about @_taraki__ and Mental Health Awareness.
At Tarakī, we want to help shape an open, honest society in which Punjabi men can speak comfortably about mental health.
Tarakī wants to normalise mental health discussion for Punjabi men. I am looking for Punjabi men who are able to share their mental health experiences… submissions can also be done anonymously! Please email email@example.com
On Sunday 26th November I will be appearing at the Southbank Centre in London.
– Howard Cunnell, an author whose most recent book Fathers & Sons (Picador) is a critically acclaimed memoir of both growing up with an absent father and then as a father himself, having a daughter who is becoming a son.
– Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa, a British-Punjabi author, whose debut book is a memoir called My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree. Born to Punjabi parents in Derby in 1979, Kal was raised as a Sikh. For the first 28 years of his life he lived in the Pear Tree area of Normanton in Derby.
– Scott Graham, Artistic Director of Frantic Assembly who created Fatherland, an acclaimed play exploring the complexities of contemporary fatherhood, commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, Frantic Assembly, the Royal Exchange Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith and LIFT.
– Karl Hyde, musician, artist, founding member of Underworld and co-creator of Fatherland.
– Yomi Sode, poet, father and former social worker. Over the past nine years, he’s had work commissioned by The Mayor’s Office, BBC World Service/Africa, Channel 4, charities and for the UN Humanitarian Summit. He also created Daddy Diaries, an online forum for fathers.
Chaired by actor and writer Ben Norris. In 2013 Ben became the UK All-Star Poetry Slam Champion and has since performed his spoken-word across the country, from Latitude Festival to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. His work has been broadcast across BBC radio, his first poetry pamphlet was published in 2014 and his debut solo show, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family, won the 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before touring the UK extensively in autumn 2016, finishing with a sell-out run at Southbank Centre.
“Do we still hide mental health issues in the Asian community? BBC 2 drama ‘The Boy with the Topknot’ tells the story of a boy growing up in the Midlands, who finds out as an adult that his father has mental health issues which the family have been keeping secret”.
by barfiCulture Team
13th November 2017
“I only begun to learn about mental health after I was impacted by anxiety whilst at university,” says Shuranjeet Takhar.
He started university being a sociable person but his experience changed all that. And it’s only now he is coming to terms with it.
“Now, as a postgraduate at Oxford University, I want to ensure that mental health isn’t something that needs to be experienced at its worst to be understood,” he says.
Shuranjeet is starting a new campaign called Tarakī to change how we deal with mental health issues.
“I formed Tarakī to try and make a structural change to how mental health is seen within the Punjabi diaspora community,” he told Barfi Culture. He chose the name because ‘Tarakī’ means being progressive and forward thinking in Punjabi he says.
He isn’t alone in his quest. The writer Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa documented his own battle with mental health issues in his book, My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree. His father Mohinder Singh Dhindsa took his own life after a long battle with depression, just as Kalwinder had gotten married.
Dhindsa wrote on his website: “Suicide stops people talking. Whether it is the person who has just taken their own life or the loved ones bereaved and left behind to pick up the pieces. Lack of engagement with the bereaved is a serious problem in our community due to the apparent fear of upsetting close family or just not being able to approach the subject or not knowing what to say.”
He adds: “Another factor in this is the issue of shame and dishonour within cultural groups. All these factors further diminish the good memories of the loved one who has passed on, resulting in a paradox in which as they are no longer talked about – they could possibly be forgotten in time forever.”
Researchers says that mental health problems are a big taboo not just among Punjabis, but South Asians in general. A recent report found that ‘sharam‘ (shame) was a big reason for people keeping their mental health struggles to themselves. And Punjabi men are particularly affected since they are not used to talking about their problems.
“Taraki wants to shape a society in which Punjabi men understand mental health as something they can speak openly about, discuss with their families, and most importantly, seek help if needs be,” Takhar told Barfi Culture.
The campaign hopes to reach out to Punjabi men, publish and amplify their experiences of mental health, and show that such difficulties can impact anyone, no matter their ethnicity, gender, class, or age.
He adds: “My focus is on Punjabi men, as that’s how I feel I, as a Punjabi man, can make the best impact.”
To start with Shuranjeet published a video with his own experience and the challenges he faced. He hopes others can also join him.
“We want Punjabi men to come forward from all walks of life to share their thoughts. In the longer term, Taraki will facilitate workshops and link individuals to support systems for the Punjabi community.”
My Grandmother on BBC Radio Derby talking about her memories of Partition.
I’m asking the questions in Punjabi.
About 35m in.
She passed away about 7 years ago.
When my father died. For a long time I tried to avoid the word suicide. And when I did use it I would also attach ‘commit’ to it.
In time I realised ‘commit’ was not an appropriate word to use. To ‘commit’ suicide once upon a time was a crime in this nation.
It is no longer a crime. Therefore in my opinion I will not use the word ‘commit’ any longer to describe death by suicide.
IF you would like to buy any of these DERBY related Mugs please click on the link below.
It was a great honour to have my good friend Andrew Edwards and his wife pop over for tea last Sunday.
Andy brought me a present. I am now in possession of a genuine ‘Andrew Edwards’.
A maquette of the great time lord John ‘longitude’ Harrison.
Tulip asks: Do men feel weak if they talk about their eating disorders?
I can be heard 1 hour into the show talking about my own experiences with suicide and depression.
As I will be releasing Part Two of My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree next year. I have reduced Part One to £0.99 on Amazon Kindle.
Self Published Author & Writer.
I also campaign for statue projects dear to my heart.
‘There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’
Every Coffee helps to keep me writing and dreaming 🙂
I’m currently in the process of creating a Statue for the Legendary Kevin Coyne of Normanton – Derby. My friend Andrew Edwards is on board.
I wrote the following the other day.
This is why it matters.
‘The fact that he was Normanton born like me is of great significance but much more important than that is the realisation of just how much he did through his Music, Art and Writing to promote mental health awareness. He obviously had family and friends that had suffered in the past and he chose to do his utmost best to support the vulnerable. Not only by working in mental health institutes but then continuing to pursue it through his art.
Mental health awareness is always a difficult topic to put across. It can be so disheartening when you try and help others but you have the doors firmly slammed in your face. That aspect of his music may not have always appealed to the big record companies, but Kevin never gave up. He never allowed himself to be compromised. He continued relentlessly till the end.
“I don’t see the point in doing anything unless you’re going to say something, unless you’re going to try and communicate, or even to instruct in some things, to share or pass on a feeling that hasn’t reached other people. To encapsulate certain feelings for people that they haven’t been able to express. Sounds a bit pompous, but I’ve got the ability to do these things. So, why not use it?” Kevin Coyne (Liquorice, 1976)”
I’ve tried to do the same with my writing after the suicide of my father. It’s difficult at times when you can’t get the message across, as some people just don’t want to engage. But all the statues I have worked on in the past have been for a reason. To bring happiness back into people’s lives. To remember lost loved ones. In most cases lost fathers.
This is also my way of remembering my own father and giving back to my community.
Steve Bloomer kicked it all off and it seems quite right that I might just come full circle with Kevin Coyne. If this is the last statue I ever work on. I’ll be more than happy to say I contributed in bringing Kevin Coyne home.
And to think. I’ve only known about Kevin since last Wednesday. Ha’
Kalwinder manages to do this without preaching or lecturing to his readers but just by simply and modestly writing about the ways he tackled things himself.
I think this book works on two levels. Firstly on a person to person level but also on a larger and more general level. At a time in this world when tensions between racial and political factions have never seemed so dangerous and threatening this book could hardly have come at a more appropriate time.
Kalwinder is from the Sikh community and very proud of his origins. But he is equally proud of the friends he’s made in this country and willing to embrace the aspects of our cultures and traditions he approves of without prejudice. For example he has helped to have monuments to Derby celebrities, Brian Clough and Steve Bloomer and helped to write a book about a school he attended here as a teenager. But most important of all is Kalwinder’s approach to life in general. Instead of anger and despair he seeks tolerance and understanding. We need more people like this in our society and I wish him all the luck in the world.
I was on the BBC Radio Derby Satvinder Rana Show earlier. Preet Gill MP also appeared on the show via telephone at 34m. Myself and Ranjit Seehra appear at 46m.
On Saturday 10th June 2017 I attended the Derby Book Fair Event at the Derby Silk Mill. However, this year I appeared as an Author for the first time. In the previous two years I was a volunteer for the Derby Book Festival.
I had a great day and met some lovely people. Some I knew from the past and some I had never met before. It was great to be there to talk about my life and my writing and especially the books I have released.
Thank you once again to Steve Bloomer for watching over me 🙂
And Steve Wetton for being by my side.
I also did a reading from Chapter One of My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree – Part One.
Thank You to everyone who attended and engaged with me.
Picture: Derby Telegraph
It was a great honour to be there in the presence of the Silk Mill ‘Weeping Window’ Poppies too, knowing that I also designed the Sikh Poppy Khanda for the Royal British Legion a few years previously.
Last Tuesday I spent a good couple of hours giving Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail a tour of Pear Tree in Normanton, Derby.
Once home to Derby County Football Club.
The old neighbourhood where Steve Bloomer was raised.
Chris Cornell best known as the lead vocalist for the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave died by suicide last month.
It was quite a shock to hear of his passing and then subsequently find out that he had taken his life by his own hands.
Whenever I hear about suicides like this, I always think to myself:
‘If only there was someone there with them in those moments before they made the decision to end their life. If only they could have spoken to someone’.
‘If only they could have heard a voice. Something, anything to make them snap out of their mindset for them to reconsider what they were going to do’.
I then began thinking about some kind of audio device vulnerable people could carry with them for this particular scenario. A device in which a message is pre-recorded and then played back in times of urgent need and desperation.
A message of reassurance and positivity that once pressed might make the person reconsider and possibly change their mind. To pull them back from the edge. To create a moment of doubt.
It could be a message they have recorded themselves, a message from a loved one or a medical specialist offering reassurance and advice.
A simple record-playback device that could be pressed at the push of a button and temporarily snap someone back into reality.
I decided to look into the idea. The ideal device would work with a simple push of a button, very much like a Star Trek Communicator badge.
I ordered these items above a few days ago. On the left is a ‘Talking Button’. It is able to record and play audio up to 10s. On the right is a Recordable Voice Module Sound Talk Chip (30s).
As you can see, the item on the left is quite large and bulky for it to be turned into a badge, so I decided to play around with the Talk Chip instead.
Having trimmed down the motherboard, I squeezed it all into a little Vaseline container and then added the push button onto the back. It works quite well. And there is no need for speaker holes either. The sound produced is easily able to pass through the container without being muffled.
I’m just waiting for a bar pin now to glue to the back so that I can test it out properly whilst wearing it as a badge.
In the Asian community, the man is seen as the head of the household. So much is expected of him from the instant he takes on the responsibility to provide for his family.
My father was a proud and gentle man who always tried to do his best for those closest to him. My father was a good man. He was not a criminal; he did not commit a crime. He did not ‘commit’ suicide, but my father, Mohinder Singh Dhindsa, did die by suicide on March 1st 2006, resulting from a mental illness that had corrupted his mind thus silencing him forever. It also silenced many more around him who were also deeply affected by his death
Suicide stops people talking. Whether it is the person who has just taken their own life or the loved ones bereaved and left behind to pick up the pieces. The lack of engagement with the bereaved is a serious problem in our community due to the apparent fear of upsetting close family or just not being able to approach the subject or not knowing what to say.
Another factor in this is the issue of shame and dishonour within cultural groups. All these factors further diminish the good memories of the loved one who has passed on, resulting in a paradox in which as they are no longer talked about – they could possibly be forgotten in time forever.
Suicide stops people in their tracks. On March 1st 2006 that was definitely the case for me. It took me a long while to finally get back on track. An uncertain journey that eventually saw me on the straight and narrow, almost nine years later which was developed upon hearing about what led to the death of Robin Williams. The man who set me free and provided me with a form of closure and an acceptance to understand. This then allowed me to try to do my utmost best to help others who have also travelled a similar path.
But before that life affirming revelation I chose to open up to myself first and foremost. Immediately after my father’s death, I knew that I could never allow my memories of him to be lost in time. Therefore I decided to write down all the feelings and memories I still had of him in my life, up to that point. The memories I still retained within my mind took me to places only I could find and recall within the deepest corners of my mind. They had to be written down for posterity. The memories needed to be kept safe from the fear of one day losing them altogether should my own mind also be corrupted in the same manner as my father’s.
It was difficult to talk to anyone at the time; a cloak of silence seemed to have masked all attempts to understand why my father’s death occurred. Religion mixed with custom soaked, in culture. Suicide was taboo, a stigma to be avoided at all cost.
Eventually I began to seek some professional help. Thankfully, I was referred to a Mental Health Therapist who helped me set foot onto the road to happiness. A person who listened without prejudice, unblemished by society’s taboo.
Pain was the motivator for my change. An opportunity to question my life and move on. There had to be no time to stop and contemplate the darkness. I needed to be distracted. Thankfully writing came to my rescue.
But what of all those who can not see a way out? Who are not able to communicate their thoughts or feelings? No energy to engage? No ability to seek help? How do we help them? Anxiety and depression saps their spirit. Suicide will amputate it.
If the answer to the suffering of our people does not lie in our own community then we need to show these people a different pathway. Secrets can destroy lives. Especially for those that try to convince the world and themselves that they are not suffering. These people need to know there is no need to hide and that there is a way out if they seek to destroy the stigma of mental illness. There are agencies out there that they can talk to who will understand what they are going through. You are not alone. It’s time that our community stopped ignoring the most vulnerable that are obviously in need of help. We need to accept that mental illness corrupts the mind. Let us all take the onus if we see someone in difficulty. We can not leave it in the hands of those that suffer. We need to show them the light. Help is out there if only we can help them to ask for it.
Keep talking. Keep moving on. Keep the faith. Disown the stigma of suicide within our culture.
Between 1800 and 1930
I am currently in the process of starting to finish
My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree
Unlike Part One I will not be releasing the Chapters on this site.
I hope to release the book by March 2018.
From Portland Street to Downing Street. My quest for happiness has taken me to the steps of No.10.
I stand on the ground beneath my feet upon which Sir Winston Churchill defied the Gestapo and all the apparatus of Nazi rule.
Two roads diverged in a village street, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
ESWCSBRF1874 — at 10 Downing Street.
Going to Downing Street was all down to an accumulation of things I have done over the years since the death of my father. Things I needed to do to keep me distracted. To keep me ticking along. To keep me busy. More than anything to keep me happy and to raise my spirits. Many of these things I have contributed to have involved my community. My People. Derby folk. Punjabi folk. My folk.
‘NEVER REJECT YOUR OWN COMMUNITY NO MATTER WHAT FAULTS YOU FIND WITHIN IT.’
I’ve done nothing alone. I’ve always tried to bring others with me. You can’t do anything worthwhile alone. Everyone needs help to move forward in life.
Thanks for helping me all.
I’m not finished yet;
Anton Rippon, author of A Derby Boy
Yesterday I released ‘Homelands Revisited’.
Two paperbacks versions are now available on Amazon to buy.
Both books are of the same size and contain exactly the same content. The only difference is that the colour version has a mixture of both colour and black & white pictures/photos, and the black & white version is entirely black & white inside.
The reason for this was because I didn’t want to put people off buying the colour version if it seemed too expensive for them.
Another thing to clarify: I will be making very little money from the sales myself. The vast majority of the money will be swallowed up by printing costs etc.
I have also decided to provide a PDF version for a minimum fee of £2.99
Also, please remember that any profit generated from the sales of this book will be ploughed back into restoring the Honours Boards as well as creating the ‘Homelands Plaque’.
Finally, thank you to Philip Heath and Tom Fulep for their great assistance in putting this book together.
It’s been a great honour.
Next project ‘Homelands Reclaimed’. I’ll reveal more about that in the future.
I was on Radio Derby earlier.
You can hear what I have to say around the 0900 mark.
Nomia asks: Has it become easier for men to talk about their emotions?
Also, our immigration guru Harjap Bhangal answers your questions. Nisha and Hamel Soni talk about their young son Kush who has Down’s Syndrome and discusses whether the condition is still taboo in the Asian community.
Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa was a newly married and recently qualified teacher when he received the news that his father had taken his own life.
For Dhindsa in Derby, closure after his father’s death came as a result of his decision to prioritise his personal happiness above any other ambition.
Today is March 12th 2017.
It has been one full year since the since the death of Marjorie Calow. Marjorie was a student at Homelands Grammar School for Girls in the early 1940s. She later came back to Teach as Mrs Harrison.
In late 2016 Philip Heath left a post on the wall of this group informing that he had the original ‘Homelands Grammar School for Girls – Honours Boards’ and if anybody wanted them he would be happy to give them away. If not they would be disposed of. I quickly replied saying that I would give them a good home.
Philip is the co-executor of Marjorie’s estate. On October 1st 2016 I drove down to Melbourne to collect the Boards. During this visit I was also given a box of Marjorie’s Homelands possessions.
In this box I found two booklets, one was called ‘Homelands Remembered’ and the other ‘Homelands from the beginning 1938-43’.
Both books were put together by Homelands Old Girls.
I wanted to share these books with this group, but the last thing I wanted to do was just scan them. That would have been too easy.
So with permission I asked if I could reissue them in book form, with extra memories, profiles and information. To give these memories a wider audience and also acknowledge the hard work and effort that was initially put into these booklets to keep the memory of Homelands alive.
Today I will reveal the Cover Art designed by Tamás Miklós Fülep another Homelands Old Boy.
The book itself, called ‘Homelands Revisited’ should be released before the end of this month.
I’ll also be on Radio Derby later in the evening talking about the book.
My ‘Homelands Revisited’ Interview on BBC Radio Derby today with Satvinder Rana
Any money made from this book will be used:
– To restore the Honours Boards and give them a new home.
– To erect a plaque at the old school site (Village Primary School).
Compiled by Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa
Cover Art by Tamás Miklós Fülep
Foreword by Philip Heath
Marjorie Calow of Melbourne
To be released in March 2017.
As we enter the next phase of austerity, pressure will continue to build on the NHS and other resources that treat mental health problems will also be strained. Tackling this will not be easy. Mental health issues require multiple, connected strategies, and cannot be addressed with singular, disjointed policies. This is because in the United Kingdom, different communities are at differing points in regard to their views on mental health. It is important to understand the subject positions, histories and cultures of those suffering from mental health issues if progress is to made.
For example, South Asian communities are acting in the condition of post-colonialism in which their subjectivity is shaped by many structures of oppression. This is true for the Punjabi diaspora in the United Kingdom which has been shaped through its experience of migration, settlement and integration. There are now over 200,000 Punjabi people in the UK, predominantly in areas like Southall and Handsworth. The bulk of these people migrated to the UK in the aftermath of World War II and the subsequent partition of India.
Partition caused a deep sense of trans-generational trauma with the event displacing more than fourteen million people (over five million of whom were Punjabis) and violently dividing the region into what we now know as India and Pakistan. This violence led to the disappearance of two million people and the largest mass migration in human history; the trauma from this event still lingers heavily over the heads of British Punjabis. As a result, events such as the partition of India need to be considered when addressing mental health issues within Punjabi communities, particularly in regards to the older generation.
Whilst settling, first generation immigrant families faced extreme racism and hostility in the United Kingdom. Being placed at the bottom of Britain’s class hierarchy, many made their livings in factories and through manual labour. My nana (grandfather) worked as a carpenter, his family and his brothers’ families all lived in one house – children shared beds, adults worked multiple jobs and money was sparse. My family now find themselves in a better financial situation, and a lot of this is success is based on the hard-work of the first generation of adults living and working in the United Kingdom. The diligence of previous generations has shaped a distinct Punjabi identity, and an idyllic Punjabi masculinity that is deeply intertwined with traits such as perseverance, determination and fulfilling provider roles.
Similarly, over time, hegemonic forms of masculinity in the United Kingdom have largely prided themselves on rationality, control and stability – defining themselves against the feminine, which is perceived to be emotional, uncontrolled and unstable. Discourse around illness, both physical and mental, currently fit into this gendered framework so as to champion health, and feminise illness. Within current cultural discourse, someone hoping to legitimise their manliness in such a society is unlikely to acknowledge, diagnose and engage with treatment for mental health issues. It is within this gender context that Punjabi diaspora operates. Here, cultural notions of hard-work and providing for one’s family combine themselves with British structures of masculinity. A Punjabi who is physically or mentally ill can be viewed from the outside as someone who is not providing for their family, and mental illness is continually marginalised due to its lack of “physical” impact.
Historically, Punjabi people have been painted in a militaristic light; they were labelled as a “martial” race by the British which encouraged their participation in very violent, and emotionless masculine performance. When speaking about mental health issues, many are implicitly told to “get over” what ever is bothering them, or their experiences are belittled and often compared to elders’ lives who “went through more hardship” than they ever could. The reality is that the first generation went through different hardships to those who are growing up in twenty-first century Britain which presents its own problems and challenges. No good can come of the different generations within the Punjabi diaspora competing over who suffered more and why; each has had to face many obstacles here in the UK.
Despite few studies being conducted on the mental health of Punjabi males, members of the diaspora are well aware of how common alcoholism and suicide are amongst Sikh men. For men of all cultures living in the UK, suicide is the most common cause of death for those aged eighteen to forty nine; one of the reasons for this is the emotionally closed and insular conceptions of masculinity they are presented with and thus see themselves and legitimise their maleness. Punjabi men experience this because they are shaped by more culturally Punjabi notions of masculinity, particularly in the post-colonial context. This double-burden of both notions of masculinity in Britain, and a diligent, unwavering work-ethic needs to be considered within the Punjabi context. The subjectivity of such people, the nuances of their pasts and how this affects their present lived experience are all factors which require understanding when offering services that combat mental health issues.
Outside of the Punjabi diaspora a prominent strategy to combat mental health stigma has been the discussion of mental health issues by celebrities. These celebrities speak about their own experiences in an effort to normalise, encourage and provoke discussion around a subject that had been considered taboo for many years. I found one commonality with most of the media and its presentation of celebrities discussing mental health: whiteness. In general, only white women have spoken of mental health in an open and informative way, some white men have also involved themselves in such discussions. However, there was very little space occupied by people of colour – which limits the potential effectiveness of this approach, particularly as people of colour are more likely to be affected by mental health problems. Lena Dunham, or even Steven Fry, speaking about their mental health issues, will do very little to combat stigma in South Asian and Punjabi communities.
Step forward Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, better known as Monty Panesar, a British Punjabi cricketer who has represented England at international level. Last year Monty Panesar was interviewed about his life, and a large portion of this discussion was around the mental health issues that he was going through towards the end of his playing career. Panesar touched on the taboo around mental illness within South Asian communities and noted the ways in which conceptions of gender and masculinity play an important role in mental health discourse. Following his interview, Panesar said he had a lot of young Asians coming forward to discuss the stigmatised topic. Such young people perhaps wouldn’t have been so willing to reach out after hearing w white person speak about depression. The position Panesar occupies as a Sikh male makes him a more accessible gatekeeper for discussions surrounding mental health for Punjabi males. Further examples of South Asians speaking openly about mental health include musician Apache Indian and public figures Manisha Tailor and Kal Dhindsa.
In conclusion, more needs to be done to get prominent Punjabis (and people of colour more generally) to speak about their mental health and actively try to destigmatise a topic that is bound up within a complex web of cultural identities and post-colonial nuances. Mental health treatment is very complex but from the outset it should be noted that mental health issues affect different communities in different ways; the variety of human subjectivities has to shape mental health discussion, diagnosis and treatment.
This article first appeared in the winter ’17 edition of Consented’s quarterly print magazine which you can buy online now.
Kal Singh Dhindsa says Robin Williams’ death helped him understand his father’s suicide.
Buy both books in paperback on Amazon and receive free delivery
My next book to be released will be called ‘Homelands Revisited’.
Collected memories from ex students of Homelands Grammar School for Girls.
A reissue of ‘Homelands from the beginning 1938-43’ & ‘Homelands Remembered’.
It is hoped that profits from this book will go towards erecting a plaque at the old school site on Village Street, Derby.
I wasn’t expecting to do this interview. Martyn Williams caught me on the way out of Radio Derby (Having listened to my BBC Asian Network Interview) and asked me to go back in for a little mini interview for Radio Derby.
A Great #LoveToRead Interview conducted by @martynmnw of @BBCDerby with me about my love of Books