I Had These Fleeting Thoughts of Suicide: Asha Parekh

An exclusive extract from The Hit Girl, the upcoming autobiography of Asha Parekh, whose name guaranteed box office success in the 1960s

Nine years ago, depression, panic attacks, fleeting thoughts of suicide, sleep disorders, palpitations and spells of anxiety had to be handled. Without psychiatric treatment I could have become a wreck.

A doctor and an assistant who treated me for three or four days had even approached me as if I were cuckoo, a basket case. I was becoming more involuted. I would have absurd thoughts. Images of Jack Nicholson in a mental health facility in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest would flash before my eyes.

Maybe I was a wrong case for the psychiatrist or he was wrong for me. I asked to be either relieved of psychiatry or another psychiatrist could be assigned to me.

To my lasting gratitude, the second psychiatrist pulled me out of the abyss, convincing me of my normalcy. It was okay to mull over the prospect of mortality he assured me.

One has to pack up one day, sooner or later. It was perfectly alright to brood, gaze at the dark side of the moon, to go over the edge.

If I had not been affected by adversities in my life, it would have been abnormal. Such phases of feeling low and down do recur to this day. When they do, I ask myself, “Why are you feeling like a zombie, disoriented and zoned out today?” I pull myself out of these mental spasms. I know I am not alone. No one is invulnerable to grief and anxiety.

A pensive Asha Parekh. (Photo courtesy: Asha Parekh)

While such confessions would be unheard of from a yesteryear film industry person, at the peak of their careers Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma have shown their guts by stating what they have gone through and overcome. Agree with me or not, even the busiest mind can be a devil’s workshop. The case of Dilip Kumar seeking psycho-analysis, an after-effect of immersing himself in tragic roles, is widely known.

Today from what I can sense, at long last psychoanalysis and psychiatry—two entirely different disciplines—do not carry a stigma. The film Dear Zindagi with Shah Rukh Khan as an Agony Uncle to Alia Bhatt’s bouts of self-doubts, shows that our cinema is now touching upon the subject of mental equilibrium.

Just the other day I invited the psychiatrist who had treated me—with strong daily medication reduced to a mild dosage eventually—to my house for a cup of tea. I warned him I had an agenda—I needed to know if I had been a difficult case. Could I have gone over the brink?

Hesitant to discuss this initially, the psychiatrist agreed on two conditions. Out of professional ethics his name would not be mentioned. Second, he would talk candidly. No problems, he was assured. I merely wanted to turn the clock back for a re-appraisal.

(Extract, courtesy publishers Om Books International)

Asha Parekh: The Hit Girl An autobiography with Khalid Mohamed
Om Books International
Price: Rs 895

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