Post traumatic stress disorder is an epidemic in Kashmir. Conservative estimates would suggest half of the population is suffering from either depression, or anxiety disorder or some other post traumatic disorder.
The report released by Doctors Without Borders in 2016 states that while some 1700 people visited the only Psychiatric Hospital in Srinagar the number has gone up to 100,000 a year. The causes are obvious. There wouldn’t be a person in the valley who hasn’t seen the killing or disappearance of either some member of his family or a known relative. There wouldn’t be a person who hasn’t suffered grief and mental distress or who hasn’t suffered harassment many times in his lifetime. For parents, siblings, spouses, kids who have lost their loved ones the pain and suffering is indeterminate. Under these circumstances any estimate of the number of people suffering from post traumatic stress disorders would be less than the actual number. Even if tomorrow morning all the killings were to stop, all disappearances disappear and all the issues are amicably resolved, the pain and anguish will pass on to future generations through narration, memory and memorisation.
When I narrate the stories of misery and pain of the hundred years prior to 1947 that I have heard from my parents, I can see the anguish and distress on the faces of my kids. These memories will bring another set of psychiatric disorders to these and the next generations.
Drug abuse is continuing unabated and multiplying. The figure of people resorting to drugs in the Kashmir valley is anywhere between 70,000 to 2.5 lacs with around 90 percent below the age of 20, young innocent children. There can be many causes but exposure to trauma at an early age has to be one of the primary ones. Drug abuse often causes permanent damage to the brain.
The other about 50 percent of the population continues to struggle for a living and support the society as a whole with the primary objective being one of bare survival. The way we have done generation after generation under extreme environments. Although we don’t have data available about the psychological disorders of our previous generations, the alternate indirect material does suggest that such disorders were rare and definitely far short of the current proportions.
Is it that survival this time has become more monotonous? Is it that living has lost the essential component of leisure? All struggles have a “meanwhile” without any determinable time frame. This “meanwhile” may last for generations.
While struggles have sought to utilise the “meanwhile” for keeping the “idea” of the struggle at the centre without allowing it to get either diluted or being taken to extremes, the role of leisure in sustaining and celebrating life in the “meanwhile” appears to have not been addressed or underlined formally? Or has it been? Leisure as we know is an activity that allows free flow of energy and makes one lose sense of time and self consciousness in an apparent competition. It is when the body gets rejuvenated, is drained of stress and loaded with positive emotion.
We have had our own leisure activity throughout our own history including singing, composing poetry, reciting stories in the evenings at joint gatherings, playing our own amateur sports or playing cards in groups, and women spending time at “yaarebals” etc. We, nowadays, see all this activity almost absent from our lives from villages to towns. Life is just monotonous. Can we break this monotony? Can we adopt and engage in leisure activity in full swing and see if we can lessen the stress from our lives and can possibly reduce the stress related disorders and reduce the drug abuse among our youth?
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
A poem by William H. Davies.
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