A Psychological Interpretation of a Lalon Shah Song
This performance was my interpretation and analysis of a song written by the late Bangladeshi songwriter, spiritualist & social reformer, Lalon Shah (1772-1890). I have often listened to this song and wondered what he was referring to when he wrote ‘Tumar Ghoreh Bash Koreh Kara?”. The more I engrossed myself in this song, its lyrics and Lalon’s own biography, the more I was convinced that he was referring to psychic structures.
Performing as a ‘Professional’ to ‘Service Users’
At the the prospect of performing to ‘service users’ to communicate the genius of Lalon, I was a little apprehensive. My anxieties lay in the power difference which presents itself when a ‘professional’ finds themselves in the minority, going as a guest to an event organised by those whose lives I would normally be arranging through my clinical assessments, reports and recommendations. I wondered what Lalon Shah would have made of this divide between ‘professional’ and ‘service user’ and the power difference it creates between us. Lalon was critical about the concept of caste based hierarchies and religious divisions. When asked about his own religion, he replied that he saw no colour or caste in people, meaning that he saw no reason to associate himself through labels of religion or nationality.
Interestingly, when I took part in this event, I no longer became a ‘professional’ but simply an individual who was part of a beautiful event organised by kind and caring souls. We seemed to connect very easily possibly due to our shared acceptance of each others’ emotional journeys. I realised that I was no longer the professional and they were no longer the service users. Rather, we were part of a system which continues to create divisions, power differences and social hierarchies through all the multiple labels we give ourselves and each other. Like Lalon, perhaps I too take a critical view of these labels which divide us and create anxieties about ‘the other’.
Significance of Kingsley Hall & Survivor Stories
This performance was organised by the Friends of East End Loonies (FEEL) which is a self funded, progressive mental health group campaigning for arts and holistic care for individuals with lived experience of mental health difficulties. The event included pictures/paintings submitted by service users, performances celebrating survivor stories and a whole day of stalls and workshops. Kingsley Hall itself was home to one of the most radical non-restraining, non-medicalised psychological treatments through the provision of therapeutic communities for individuals affected by schizophrenia during the 1960’s. In addition, it is also significant as it is where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visit to the UK in 1931.
Survivors of an Abnormal World
My performance consisted of a short presentation which included singing a song written by Lalon which I understood to be referring to internal conflicts within the psyche. I believe these ideas Lalon talked about are very similar to theories of personality and psychopathology developed later in the West by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The audience received it amazingly well, engaging in both the music as well as the meaning. I found myself feeling utmost respect for each person I met. They were survivors of an abnormal ‘mad’ world which is often cold and cruel. Perhaps we are all survivors, but however we choose to describe our experiences, music brings us closer to each other and reduces social, cultural and political divisions. I experienced this for myself as a participant in this event. Thank you Loonies!