Toba Tek Singh, a short story written by Saadat Hasan Manto is considered one of his finest works and as with his other works, holds a mirror to the societal norms.

I read the story in school as part of the curriculum and came away unimpressed, a little disappointed and confused. What had it been about? It talks of a mental asylum and its inmates. After the partition of India, the two countries decided to exchange their people in the ‘madhouses’ based on their religion. The story features rants and incomprehensible (to my young mind) reactions from people living there.

Why was I confused? At 15 odd years, it was the first time I had encountered mental illness. Rather than a feeling of poignancy, all I felt was apathy and a mild repulsion. And this quite well sums up why mental health or illness is much misunderstood.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels



There are lack of conversations. No, I would go back and say we don’t ‘see’ enough mental issues around us just because we don’t talk about them. It’s not that they are not there; it’s that we don’t acknowledge them.

If we do hear of people who are depressed or suicidal or so affected by a mental illness that their daily lives are impacted, the condition is presented only in black or white. There are no greys. There’s no awareness on the spectrum of disorders or conditions one might have.

Let us atleast begin by speaking of these conditions in the same breath as nutritional deficiencies, infections and even lifestyle diseases. Sensitise children, have more chapters in textbooks, more movies, more songs about these debilitating illnesses that are as physiological in origin as the other physical ailments.

After all, how would we treat it if it’s not really visible?

This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter where I speak of mental health.

16 thoughts on “If not the spotlight, atleast some ambient light?

  1. I remember the movie Toba Tek Singh. A stark truth, there is a huge social taboo around mental illness. Biggest reason why people never seek treatment for themselves or their family members.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What you said about black and white is one of the reasons why I’m focussing on every day mental health as I explore the topic on my blog 🙂 And you’re so right, the more it’s seen, the more it can be heard, and thus treated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Taking care of our emotional needs on a daily basis is exactly what we must do. It’s good to hear when people talk of their struggles or their experiences. Mental health is as important as physical health!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘It’s not that they are not there; it’s that we don’t acknowledge them.’
    Well said. Thoughtful, engaging and well written article. And Manto reminds me of your guest post on my blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly ,to talk about mental health is still a taboo in our Indian society. It is very important to make children aware from an early age itself that it is important to talk about how they feel.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I recall being confused too as a teen when I read Toba Tek Singh. I thought it was more to do with partition than mental health. Back then there wasn’t any awareness. Things are improving, but still, a long long way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

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