The Importance of being Reshma Valliapan

She is a powerful presence in the life of our city… artist, writer and mental health advocate who is also Founder-Director of The Red Door, a platform that raises and questions the notions of normalcy and madness. An Ashoka fellow, Ink fellow, a CAMH fellow, she is also the protagonist of a multiple awardwinning documentary ‘A Drop of Sunshine’.

Hang on everybody, there’s more to come… her first book which was about her experiences before she was diagnosed with schizophrenia was published by Women Unlimited/ Kali for Women and made a powerful impact on its arrival. Fallen, Standing: My Life As A Schizophrenist, gripped readers and yanked them into the very vortex of her amazing world.

ReshmaShe now takes lifeskill sessions combined with counselling using concepts from martial arts and her own life to address issues of bullying at an Ashoka Changemaker School in Pune. When she is not doing all of this, she attends conferences, gives talks and lectures, acts as peer support to families, and has written the first course guidelines for CREA’s online course on Mental Health and Sexuality and is trying to still further develop her superpowers.

The look on your face says that you are more than just impressed but would like to move on to other important matters of everyday living. But sorry, I have to go on. Patience…

She has recently been chosen to join the biggest startup community in Silicon Valley through TARMAC as a woman social entrepreneur, followed by the GOOD100 Festival in Switzerland, and has joined hands with members of DaDa Fest UK to perform Pantomime and Art in Brazil as part of Women with Disabilities.

The truth of the matter is that Reshma Valliappan is my superhero. She is Pune’s wonder girl… someone who has turned around her supposed disadvantage and transformed it into breath taking and inspirational powerpack advantage that has touched the lives and sensibilities of people of all ages. In the presence of her creative spirit, I feel inspired and set free.

During the course of her exhibition of art at Gyaan Adab show, I had the privilege of her presence in my office, listening to her talking…words, ideas, experiences flowed uninterrupted.

Here is a collage of what she said during those very special moments…

“My exhibition Visions & Voices retells the story of my life’s journey with auditory and visual hallucinations that have influenced me ever since I was a teenager. I deconstruct the many traumas in my life through dream symbols, shamanism, tantra, mythologies, the ethereal and supernatural. Creatures from these themes have been central to my thoughts and are considered to be delusionary. However they are essential keys to unlock one’s search of truth and decoding illusions, especially where the lines between the saint and the madman is drawn by society.

The mediums used vary from ball point pen, poster, fabric, acrylic, charcoal, ink, pencils. Digital prints on display are recreated pieces of art works that I have destroyed due to constant inner turmoil. The ability to recreate what is destroyed and offer them a different life allowed me to rebirth myself.

In short, the exhibition is a start to only open minds and thoughts on what schizophrenia really is…and that maybe everyone has really forgotten the meaning of life.”

She left me speechless.

Randhir Khare

Randhir Khare

Randhir Khare is an awardwinning writer, teacher, artist and storyteller who has mentored a few generations of creative talent. He is Director of Gyaan Adab, Pune’s Premier Cultural Centre. Randhir Khare writes every Wednesday for Pune365.
Randhir Khare

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