HT reviewer Chintan Girish Modi picks his favourite reads of 2020
Manjiri Indurkar’s memoir It’s All in Your Head, M is the most unpretentious book I have read in 2020. It struck a chord mostly because it comes from a place that is sincere and heartfelt. It is obvious that she has written this book not to dazzle prospective readers with her beautiful prose but to find release, make meaning, and communicate with an interested audience.
Published by Tranquebar, it is described on the blurb as “a coming-of-age story... an exploration of the author’s struggles with mental health.” While this is accurate, it also belongs to the genre of ‘autopathography’, which writers use to process and articulate their lived experience of illness. Audre Lorde, Lata Mani, and Susan Sontag are some of its most famous practitioners.
This book is refreshing because the author does not employ any of the jargon that mental health professionals use. Indurkar focuses on narrating what happened to her, and how she came to understand it, instead of trying to educate the reader by stuffing her book with secondary research. Her tone is such that it seems like she is speaking to a trusted friend at a sleepover.
The author’s home town, Jabalpur, is an unmissable presence in this book, and so is Bollywood. They are important because they have played a formative role in her life, and given her a vocabulary to talk about love as well as pain. They have taught her that familiarity should not be mistaken for safety; grandmothers can shield abusers, boyfriends can cheat, and therapists can become over-friendly. Being let down is a terrible feeling.
The belief that the body and the mind are separate entities is easily shattered in Indurkar’s narrative. She opens up about her various health conditions and addresses how each one is connected to the history of abuse she was subjected to quite early in her life. This must have been utterly draining but she assures the reader that she needed to write in order to heal.
Those who expect an inspirational tale of courage against all odds might feel disappointed because the author is not interested in catering to clichés. There are no grand proclamations about recovery or closure because she seems aware of how slippery these terms are. Indurkar writes, “This, by no means, is the end of my story. But I am choosing to stop here for now.”
Chintan Girish Modi is a writer, educator and researcher. He is @chintan_connect on Twitter.