The romantic duet Phirni Aan Main Labdi, sung by Noor Jehan and Munir Hussain for the Pakistani movie Nooran (1957), is also very familiar to Indian listeners, for it is a reworking of the popular bhajan Om Jai Jagdish Hare. The song is filmed differently from others in the movie – it is part of a dream sequence from the heroine’s point of view and has a spiritual dimension befitting its origins.
Written by Hazin Qadri, Phirni Aan Main Labdi is among several wonderful tunes by composer Safdar Hussain for Nooran. The movie was produced by JC Anand, the renowned filmmaker who chose to stay back in Lahore after the Partition and produced numerous local hits as well as distributed Indian titles in Pakistan. By the mid-1950s, Anand already had the tragic romances Sassi (1954) and Heer (1955) under his belt. In 1957, he produced four films, including the Urdu language Ishq-e-Laila, based on the Laila-Majnu legend, and Nooran in Punjabi.
Nooran, directed by MA Khan Jr, is a rural Romeo-Juliet style romance that charts the unrequited love between Nooran (singing star Noor Jehan) and the handsome new stranger in town, Sohna Baloch (Sudhir). The romance, beginning with a typical love-at-first-sight moment, is destined to fail since their families have been at loggerheads for years. Unfortunately for Anand, the production – his only collaboration with Noor Jehan in her acting phase – didn’t work at the box office as expected.
But what did click was the soundtrack. With Noor Jehan in sublime singing form, the movie boasts of some of her best-known Punjabi songs, including Tere Bol Ne Te, Panchi Te Pardesi and Ik Cheez Gawachi Dil Kolon.
Phirni Aan Main Labdi forebodes the doomed romance between Nooran and Sohna. The two are dressed predominantly in heavenly white amidst a backdrop of flowers and clouds, and divine blessings are showered on them from above. At the end of the dream sequence, Nooran is shown to be mesmerised by Sohna playing the flute, invoking parallels with another legendary Punjabi tragic romance, Heer-Ranjha.
Om Jai Jagdish Hare also inspired another tune in 1957: Aaj Nahin To KalBikhrenge Yeh Badal from the lost mythological film Naag Mani, starring Nirupa Roy, Trilok Kapoor and Manhar Desai. The song, written by Pradeep and set to music by Avinash Vyas, is sung with great feeling by Geeta Dutt.
Removing the layers of complexity that weigh down mental health in rural India
Patients in rural areas of the country face several obstacles to get to treatment.
Two individuals, with sombre faces, are immersed in conversation in a sunlit classroom. This image is the theme across WHO’s 2017 campaign ‘Depression: let’s talk’ that aims to encourage people suffering from depression or anxiety to seek help and get assistance. The fact that depression is the theme of World Health Day 2017 indicates the growing global awareness of mental health. This intensification of the discourse on mental health unfortunately coincides with the global rise in mental illness. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people across the globe are suffering from depression, an increase of 18% between 2005 and 2015.
In India, the National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) revealed the prevalence of mental disorders in 13.7% of the surveyed population. The survey also highlighted that common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. Perhaps the most crucial finding from this survey is the disclosure of a huge treatment gap that remains very high in our country and even worse in rural areas.
According to the National Mental Health Programme, basic psychiatric care is mandated to be provided in every primary health centre – the state run rural healthcare clinics that are the most basic units of India’s public health system. The government provides basic training for all primary health centre doctors, and pays for psychiatric medication to be stocked and available to patients. Despite this mandate, the implementation of mental health services in rural parts of the country continues to be riddled with difficulties:
In some rural parts of the country, a heavy social stigma exists against mental illness – this has been documented in many studies including the NIMHANS study mentioned earlier. Mental illness is considered to be the “possession of an evil spirit in an individual”. To rid the individual of this evil spirit, patients or family members rely on traditional healers or religious practitioners. Lack of awareness on mental disorders has led to further strengthening of this stigma. Most families refuse to acknowledge the presence of a mental disorder to save themselves from the discrimination in the community.
Lack of healthcare services
The average national deficit of trained psychiatrists in India is estimated to be 77% (0.2 psychiatrists per 1,00,000 population) – this shows the scale of the problem across rural and urban India. The absence of mental healthcare infrastructure compounds the public health problem as many individuals living with mental disorders remain untreated.
The scarcity of healthcare services also means that poor families have to travel great distances to get good mental healthcare. They are often unable to afford the cost of transportation to medical centres that provide treatment.
After focussed efforts towards awareness building on mental health in India, The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), founded by Deepika Padukone, is steering its cause towards understanding mental health of rural India. TLLLF has joined forces with The Association of People with Disability (APD), a non-governmental organisation working in the field of disability for the last 57 years to work towards ensuring quality treatment for the rural population living with mental disorders.
APD’s intervention strategy starts with surveys to identify individuals suffering from mental illnesses. The identified individuals and families are then directed to the local Primary Healthcare Centres. In the background, APD capacity building programs work simultaneously to create awareness about mental illnesses amongst community workers (ASHA workers, Village Rehabilitation Workers and General Physicians) in the area. The whole complex process involves creating the social acceptance of mental health conditions and motivating them to approach healthcare specialists.
When mental health patients are finally free of social barriers and seeking help, APD also mobilises its network to make treatments accessible and affordable. The organisation coordinates psychiatrists’ visits to camps and local healthcare centres and ensures that the necessary medicines are well stocked and free medicines are available to the patients.
We spent a lot of money for treatment and travel. We visited Shivamogha Manasa and Dharwad Hospital for getting treatment. We were not able to continue the treatment for long as we are poor. We suffered economic burden because of the long- distance travel required for the treatment. Now we are getting quality psychiatric service near our village. We are getting free medication in taluk and Primary Healthcare Centres resulting in less economic stress.
— A parent's experience at an APD treatment camp.
In the two years TLLLF has partnered with APD, 892 and individuals with mental health concerns have been treated in the districts of Kolar, Davangere, Chikkaballapur and Bijapur in Karnataka. Over 4620 students participated in awareness building sessions. TLLLF and APD have also secured the participation of 810 community health workers including ASHA workers in the mental health awareness projects - a crucial victory as these workers play an important role in spreading awareness about health. Post treatment, 155 patients have resumed their previous occupations.
To mark World Mental Health Day, 2017, a team from TLLLF lead by Deepika Padukone visited program participants in the Davengere district.
In the face of a mental health crisis, it is essential to overcome the treatment gap present across the country, rural and urban. While awareness campaigns attempt to destigmatise mental disorders, policymakers need to make treatment accessible and cost effective. Until then, organisations like TLLLF and APD are doing what they can to create an environment that acknowledges and supports people who live with mental disorders. To know more, see here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.