Panel: Mental Health and the Politics of (Dis)connection

What a powerful panel on Connection/Disconnection in the field of Art Therapy and Mental Health. Thank you Rumi Clinton, Beth Enterkin, Nerissa Osby and Leah Amaral for participating, sharing, engaging in such a wholesome manner.

Some questions that were spoken to:
– What does a decolonial art therapy practice look like to you?
– How does one navigate conflict in work/education settings when one is training as an art therapist?
– Do politics and mental health intersect for you?
– Speaking from an intersectional lens, what are your experiences of mental health practice?
– What are your personal resources that sustain you during times of disconnection?

May I watch you? On Consent and Being Queer

Today, a woman who said she found me attractive, in a queer party asked me if she could watch me dance as we were all dancing. She said if I said no, she would understand and not engage in the act of looking, because she wanted to ensure I didn’t feel uncomfortable under her direct gaze.
I was so moved by her unexpected and staggeringly surprising utilization of consent in what could be seen as an obvious “invitation to look”- the act of dancing, that I became teary eyed with pleasant surprise.
For survivors of sexual assault and for everyone else who reads the news, every act of stripping away of power of the self through rape and acts of “powering over” others, may feel like the “norm”. “Boys will be boys and it’s in our nature to objectify people.” “Who asks for permission when they are fucking?” Statements like these are present and normalized everywhere.
But there are spaces where people not only actively acknowledge that we live in a culture of rape, but actually put in concrete actions to ensure that we end rape culture. There are people out there who WANT to make you feel safe so they can ensure you enjoy yourself. Not need to, or being forced to, to fit the box of a “good person” but believe me, they actually want to make sure they are not harming you. There are people out there who DON’T think that saying the words “May I kiss you?” before kissing someone is an abnormal thing. There are people who say, “I want to touch you like this, but if it doesn’t feel good, just tell me, I’ll stop.” There are people like that. And if you, the one who is reading this post, isn’t one, it’s high time perhaps you changed.
Intimacy with someone who asks before they act heals so many trauma-wounds. And oh, it is so sexy.

The Study of Therapy and U.S. Centrism

US centric academia, US centric food, US centric music, US centric porn, US centric clothes, US centric social justice… Oh goodness, it gets so tiring. Studying the practice of therapy, sociology, anthropology, or anything slightly related to “culture” in the US is such a dissociative experience. You have to not only adapt to US supremacy within your own neurobiology to place all the psychotherapeutic learning you’re embodying, but also erase a whole part of the fact that you belong to an entirely different land where therapy practice, people’s inner narratives, attachment styles and cultural propaganda that manifests in the psyche, are performed within a completely different sensibility. Who is going to understand, in your foreign classroom the nuances of an intercaste parent-child relationship living in suburban Kerala and that they aren’t necessarily “enmeshed” because they live together well into their 40s? The term enmeshment itself is studied from a western-centric lens and it guides the narrative of so much that we consume. Yet, this place defines how much bread I can earn, how much value other people see in me, in my home country, as someone educated in its narratives.

But then, the most disarming is to sit in a classroom with other Indian immigrant students and friends, who have conditioned themselves to be so US centric, growing up millennial in India, that the experience of dissociation isn’t even visible to them. And then those of us that practice therapy/mental health of any form in the US, long after our studies have finished, gain greater and greater distance from a whole part of our identities that we have sold to the US. It’s so subconscious and it’s so prevalent.

#ussupermacy #therapy #mentalhealtheducation #usimperialism#howtheworldseesvalue #why #dissociation #unlearningyourself

Tapal Danedar

I hesitate to be,
one of those who sit outside
the lines of reality,
yet comments on what happens
inside the box I sometimes 
call home.
Somehow Indians and Pakistanis
have the best allyship outside that
boundary when emotions run high.
Yesterday I spent the evening in
quick conversation
with a familiar auntie
who I’ve never spoken to before,
buying atta
at the Indian-Pakistani grocery store
on the corner of Devon.
We sighed together,
zipping our carts around,
in quiet companionship
searching frantically for food
that didn’t reek of white,
amidst a musty stack of all things brown
conversing in robust hindi-punjabi
about spices and daal
and the media and fake news,
all in one,
she wearing a green patiala,
me in my dress,
and silver nosering
until she reached for Tapal Danedar
and I for Brooke Bond Red Label
and she asked me if I wasn’t from Karachi
I shook my head and we continued to talk
about the media
and the fake news
and our prime ministers,
and how we both
have lost blood.

In times where our borders are wrestling
with whose blood means more,
I run a check on my walls
that come up around anyone
that doesn’t agree with me

I hesitate to comment on war,
yet I get riled up
whenever it is brought up,
my heart closing,
my fists shaking,

I go home and cook my roti,
I log out of facebook #josh
and american activists
commenting on intergenerational trauma
whose corpses I carry in my own blood

Yet, I check my walls
I don’t want the borders to play
with what’s in my heart.

India 2018

Folks in Mumbai! I’m visiting in July and currently setting up dates for sexual violence focused, trauma-informed art therapy workshops for:
– survivors of sexual violence (across the gender spectrum)
– artists that may or may not be survivors but are interested in learning about art therapy
– therapists/social workers that are curious about incorporating the arts in their therapeutic practice.

I also want to provide time to anyone in our queer communities struggling with finding a trauma-informed sexual violence focused therapist. If you have friends that would benefit from my work, please connect them to me.

Currently teaching a segment at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai,the lovely Khula Aasmaan, an MIT Media Lab Maker Space in Powai and seeing folks and families impacted by sexual violence who contacted me earlier this year in Mumbai. I have a few dates open, so if you/your organization/your community need therapy work in the arts, gender and mental health spaces, I’m open to setting up dates until this Monday.

Thank you and much love.

Video Responses

In response to the #metoo movement and some questions I keep getting online, I have decided to start a video series addressing questions around sexual violence in the Indian context. The videos are for survivors of sexual violence and their friends/families- however the content will vary according to who it is specifically for.



Ending 2017 in the complex city of a complex country, studying and working in a complex arts and healthcare system.

As we enter the last week of the year, I am thinking about:

– The necessity to show up for oneself everyday, outer work needs to be balanced by that much or more inner work. Especially thinking of Gabor Mate’s quote, “It’s a myth that time heals all wounds, it just freezes them. One has to put in work towards one’s healing.”

– While our ‘inner work’ systems today such as reiki, yoga, neoliberal meditation processes are tainted by racism, appropriation, casteism, religious oppression, I urge folks (especially my wonderful politically aware friends) to not give up on the search for an inner system. One that can keep the self nourished as the external work we do demands us to show up more, do more, educate more, agitate more.

– I’m spending the last week journalling each day about the people that came into my life, that left. I’m writing and remembering those that did conflict really well, (for conflict is natural in every relationship, of any sort). I’m thanking them for their ability to sit with their discomfort and hold mine too. Then, I am making space for my resentment and subsequent anger for those connections that meant a lot but could not sustain the work needed to remain in connection.

– I’m thinking about forgiveness, sexual violence, cultural trauma and how we don’t need to forgive those that hurt us. There is NO obligation to forgive. Forgiveness does not equal healing. But, we do need to be able to work with our wounds, so we can learn to nurture them as they bleed, seethe, dry up and reopen, with time.

Sending immense love to my connections globally. Hope to see many of you in 2018, over tea, long conversation, tight hugs and shared pain. I’m off social media for 2017, so email/text/dm message me and I’ll reply in the new year.

Everyday Rape Culture

White White, Gulp, Choke, 2017, 20 x 20 inches, Mixed media on Silk and Canvas

This post was written in response to the #metoo campaign

SIX Things I do to combat Rape Culture in my everyday life:

1. Stop minimizing violence in everyday interactions. Physical, emotional, mental. I have had ex partners “push” and “shove” me in times of intense conflict, and I had to struggle against my own social conditioning to not minimize it as “Oh, it’s okay. He is hurting. I must have triggered him, so it happens”. NO.

2. Hold people (friends, relatives, partners, society) to higher standards. Test your friendships. Narrate your story of sexual violence to your existing friendships and see how you are received.
If you are further minimized, and your friend unintentionally reinforces social myths, explain and let the person know compassionately that they are contributing to Rape Culture. They are hurting you. If they freak out on you, breathe deeply and unfriend/stop engaging. The person needs to get the message that something has gone wrong.
STOP TRYING TO BE BFFs WITH YOUR ABUSERS, especially when there’s little to no repair. You are not obliged to forgive, forget or let go.

3. Be okay with people seeing you as “too much” or “judgy”. Nurture yourself with the knowing that your standards are being looked up to by some young one somewhere who doesn’t yet have the confidence/privilege/awareness to do the same.

4. See that Rape Culture shows up in small ways everyday. How you look at a body on the street to how you shame yourself for walking alone, the fear you feel on the street when it’s dark, what porn you consume everyday. Control and reflect upon what you can. Explain to those who want to understand the connections between everyday life and rape culture, leave those who don’t.

5. Call out your friends at every little sexist joke they make. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t minimize. See point number 3.

6. Do some kind of advocacy work to counter sexual violence. Go to a gathering or read up on Rape Culture. You’ll feel less alone and more urgent. Our houses have been on fire for decades and we’ve been sleeping.

#metoo #rapeculture #smallnotsosmall #littlenotsolittle #arttherapy#dontshutup #accountability #society

I Love Men, I Love Men, I Love Men

I am attracted to many men and everyday I meet men who are kind and wonderful. I write this because that’s not enough. Being kind and wonderful and honest IS not enough, today. I want to love more. For that, I need YOU to understand.

This is a triggering time for me. Bangalore, India is my home. A group of women were molested, in masses, on New Year’s eve, on a street I know too well. Bangalore is where I came out as queer and Bangalore is where I found identity as an artist.

But this, this is not about a place.

It is about each time my breasts are pinched on a train, or my ass is groped, be it during the Chicago Cubs rally or in a tightly packed Mumbai local to Churchgate… OR at house parties or in college, with the guy who brought me to some party, or an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand what it means to threaten violence.

It is about each time I have to share the same articles with my male friends, and help them understand, what they don’t understand…,
what it is like to walk down the streets with breasts and a backside.

It is about each time my professors, teachers, mentors, all male, have breached my personal space, hugging me too tight, asking for a kiss after a meal, telling me to “not tell.”

It is about the fact that I can count on my fingers my male friends, who openly identify as feminist. Five, five to be exact.

It is about the fact that I cannot count on my toes and fingers, your toes and fingers, and her toes and fingers, the number of times I have experienced assault and had my female and male friends experience assault through sexual objectification and harassment.

This is not about waking up each time a rape, molestation, sexual assault is reported, and asking, “Now, what should we do?” and going back to our lives earning wages, making art, until the next time, when femininity is attacked, again.

This is not about statistics. Which city is safer. Which city is not the “rape capital”. There is no such thing. Every city, every street, every house is “rape capital”. Why? Because the DAMAGING effects of patriarchy are pervasive. So invisible, so internalized, our fathers get triggered if we bring it up and our male friends call us too sensitive, asking us to forget, to protect, to dress better and not tempt. (Message me if you want to read about this)

I know nothing else but to dedicate my life, my therapy, my work, my relationships, my friendships, my parenting to lessening the damages of the patriarchy. If my posts trigger you, great. If my work triggers you, great. If my life triggers you, great.

I refuse to be exhausted. I refuse to die a death where my voice is unheard and I shall agitate, educate, organize, share, speak, build, argue till my last breath, till women can walk from their house till the grocery store without fear.

Image: The Fearless Collective


On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefearlesscollective

And please note, dear readers- there is a reason I’m not saying I’ll keep working till EVERYONE can walk safe. I would love that. That would be ideal and that’s what the world must look like. But that’s not the point here. The specific trouble being addressed here is female objectification and assault by male privilege, which is one of the damaging effects of patriarchy.



Deepening Community

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house,
I would like to see you living in better conditions”

-Khwaja Shams Al-Din Muhammad

I have been working at a wonderful art library this winter, here in Chicago. As I sort through my regular duties like filing books and organizing information, it has happened a few times, that a burning question on my mind has been answered by a book, that has chanced upon me.

It’ll so happen that I’m thinking about the recent molestation incident in Bangalore, and I’ll be shelving books in one corner of the library- and suddenly, I’ll feel a need to look at the title of a particular, seemingly random book- it’ll shine out to me.

This happened today with this lovely, hazel-orange book called ‘Deepening Community’- Finding Joy in Chaotic Times.


The author has outlined some wonderful ways of categorizing communities- shallow, fear based, or deep.

In shallow community, one believes- “Take care of yourself- no one else will”

In fear-based community, one believes- “We’ have a greater right to happiness and life, than “they” do. We are stronger when they are weaker.

In deep community, we believe- mutual acts of caring build a sense of belonging. We know and act when neighbors and family are sick. Mutual acts of caring occur often.

I’d love to hear from you- where do these three types of communities show up in your life?

How would you like to be cared for?

Here is a link to the pdf version of the summary of the book: http://tamarackcci.ca/files/deepening_community_finding_joy_together.pdf