I was shooting for the film ‘Ankahi’, when I decided to visit a mental hospital in order to study for my role. I got to see the women at close quarters. I remember when I came out of those premises I was literally sapped of all energy. I felt as if I had taken a great beating. The four hours that I spent inside the women’s ward left me extremely perturbed and enervated. I started wondering what it would be like to be left in there behind those walls with no hope of getting out ever.

Later I went back to work on a film script. It was the winter of 1993. The script was about an actress playing a mentally disturbed woman and how the role affects her. This time I lived with the women. Inside the ward. This visit stretched to more than two weeks. It was a very trying time for me. I got to watch the women at close quarters, a few of them even intimately. Suddenly I was confronted with so much pain; pain on the faces of women, telling the stories of their lives.

‘Bhavuk hoiyega, tabhi to paagal hoiyega na!’(`Only if you are highly emotional can you become mad’)

One woman would keep saying that to me every time she saw me.

I realized that the world of the mentally disturbed was also the world of the starkly real… the world of the hyper sensitive…. the world of the unabashedly honest. I also realized that there were a lot of women who were not ‘mad’ but were simply dumped in there for life because no one wanted them back. Even though they were medically treated and ‘cured’, no one would ever come to take them home. They were discarded by family and were doomed to spend the rest of their lives within the walls of a mental asylum.

Two weeks of watching them, listening to them, talking to them changed my perception of the world in a strange irretrievable way.

An acute level of sensitivity, to a point where it becomes addictive; to a point where, when you return to the sane world you find everything shallow and a ‘put on’. You start missing the realness of the asylum. Outside, everyone says and does what they think they should be saying and doing. But within the walls of a disturbed ward there are no should-be-s. These people are on the outside, what they truly feel within.

No masks. No façade.

I was able to put down a lot of the material into my script, yet a few images still floated in my head; a few fragmented images that inspired these poems.
I would like to share these words with you.