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“It’s okay to reach out when you need help” says Amrita Sharma, author of “Taken For a Metro Ride”

Amrita Sharma, author of the book “Taken For a Metro Ride”,

Amrita Sharma, author of the book “Taken For a Metro Ride”, talks about several issues in her book, including mindfulness, living in the moment and the value of sharing. But what her book highlights is mental health – an issue which many in India still approach with an Ostrich mindset, by burying our head in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is the book about?

My book “Taken For a Metro Ride” is about people, about life, about metro rides and also about issues we push under the carpet. In my book, there are two protagonists – one is the girl through whose experiences we learn about life and the other is the metro, which becomes the stage where all different kinds of stories unravel.

Through this book – “Taken For a Metro Ride” – I wanted to integrate personal and impersonal, profound and profane, obvious and the ambiguous, and take the readers on an extraordinary journey, with the metro playing the supporting role in my protagonist’s voyage of self-discovery.

What motivated you to write the book?

All of us travel to work every day and most of us find it difficult to pass the time, especially if the journey happens to be a long one. Most of us end up depending on books, mobile or other gadgets to fill that time. I would do the same, till the time I realised that my eyes got practically no screen break. That’s when I started observing people, listening to their conversations and sometimes just trying to understand the diverse personality types through their varied behaviour patterns. I realised to my surprise that everyone travelling in the metro was a story – and that got me really interested. The book actually encapsulates all those experiences and observations.  

Your book highlights the issue of mental health. Please tell us why

Believe it or not, I heard many people talking amongst themselves in the metro how somebody in their family or in their wider circle was ‘depressed” and seeing counsellors and psychologists. They would talk about it in hushed tones and refer to it as if it was some kind of a curse or a contagious disease. That got me thinking. Today, in the stressful life we all live in, depression and mental health are a reality and we cannot hide from it. You never know, but someone in our extended family, our neighbourhood, our wider circle could probably be struggling with it right now, and is afraid to talk about it or seek help because of the stigma still attached to it in India. When it comes to mental health, we seem to behave like the ostrich, thinking that the problem will disappear if we bury our head in the sand and not see it. That is why I decided to weave the issue into my story – to create more awareness about it. Today, there is an urgent need to accept that the issue of mental health exists and needs to be addressed, and that we must empathise with those struggling with it.

What drew you to the issue of mental health?

I have been a student of English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) in Delhi and many of the classics introduced me to the workings of human minds and its underlying psychology. I also read several books that touched upon the issue of mental health, including Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  and of course Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, to name a few. Some recent ones that I read on the subject include The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. I really feel people should read more on the issue so that they can understand what people with mental health go through.

What would you like to tell our readers?

I would like to tell them three simple things (a) learn to be present in the moment (b) be mindful and aware of people around you  (c) nothing is more precious than your life and your health – both physical and mental.  That’s why it’s absolutely okay to reach out when you think you need help.   

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