Commentary

The Boy with the Top Knot

I thought this was just a book about growing up attempting to maintain your culture in a foreign land (the author was an adolescent Punjabi Sikh in 80s Britain). It turned out to be a sensitive, personal story of the author’s gradual realization of the mental sickness in the family.

I’m still halfway through the book and I don’t know yet how it will all turn out, but this description from his sister, found on page 141 of the paperback version of the book, epitomizes the difficulties those with mental illness face in a society which does not recognize mental disease as worthy of attention as physical diseases: “What surprises me now is that nobody, not my friends, not my teachers, ever questioned me or talked to me sympathetically about what was happening. There was no help or support. Also: why didn’t I ask for help?

But I stuck to haloperidol and got through two years of sixth form, hibernating in the common room in study periods or in my bedroom at home. I became very quiet and felt very alone. I completely lost myself to the illness at that time. I was a zombie. Drowsy. Withdrawn. Moody. Depressed. Nobody understood me, not even me.”

A recommended reading for anybody who is a suffering from mental disease, or one who has a close friend or relative suffering from mental disease, or just about anybody who would like to understand more about mental diseases, hopefully helping out carve a more accommodating society.

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