Shyam Bhat: Straight from the heart

Sunday, 8 July 2012 - 9:15pm IST | Agency: dna

Are you just out of an abusive relationship? Is the fact that your undeserving colleague has been given a hike bothering you? Are you not able to get over your ex? Are you burdened by the unreasonable financial expectations of your spouse?

Are you just out of an abusive relationship? Is the fact that your undeserving colleague has been given a hike bothering you? Are you not able to get over your ex? Are you burdened by the unreasonable financial expectations of your spouse? 

Has your exam result left you depressed? If these problems have you befuddled and looking for solutions, fret not. Instead, pick up your phone and dial right into ‘Heartline’, a radio show that seeks to address any problem that is  weighing you down.

Bangalore was recently identified as the ‘suicide metro’ of India and in a bid to rid it of this tag, Radio Indigo thought upon the idea to air a show that has accomplished psychiatrist Dr Shyam Bhat counseling troubled Bangaloreans. “Our country has been witnessing dramatic changes over the past 10-15 years. There has been a shift from a socialist way of thinking to that of the capitalist. The atmosphere is even more competitive. And problems crop up when one fails to cope with such changes,” says Shyam getting straight to the crux of the matter. What intensifies this state of mind is the fact that most people are not ready to accept that they are suffering.

“The first thing one needs to do to rid oneself of emotional problems is to consult a professional. People need to stop thinking that they will be considered mentally ill if they visit a psychiatrist. In fact, I have seen people shying away from me in social gatherings the moment I mention my profession! I came on board this radio show, Heartline, to change this mindset and help people understand that not always does the argument that ‘I know myself better than anyone’ works to their advantage,” he adds.

The live show seems to be slowly achieving its purpose for what started as a once a week programme is now being broadcast twice a week. As the show gives people an opportunity to come out with their problems without really having to reveal their identities seems to be doing the trick.

“What is also happening is that after listening to callers, several others have started to feel that it is OK to get counselled. For instance, a woman recently wrote back to us saying that the show was helpful in her husband’s anger management process,” says Shyam. Now, considering the time constraint and the lack of physical presence, we wonder how effective the counselling given on the show can be. Shyam acquiesces and says, “Yes, we will have to arrive at the solution much faster. I don’t even get to see their expression while talking. I judge the intensity of situation based on their tone. But we seem to be helping out to an extent going by the feedback we are getting.” Has he had people with suicidal tendencies calling him given that the city is now branded the suicide metro?

“Whenever I have sensed a state of hopelessness and worthlessness in people, I make it a point to talk to them even after the show and give them helpline numbers.” And what are the most common problems that are leaving Bangaloreans depressed? “You have men who are unable to come to terms with the fact that the women in their lives are becoming independent. Working couples, we find, are struggling to keep their personal relationships afloat due to increasing work commitments. There are also women who call in to say how their boyfriends are commitment-phobic. Also, you have the older generation that is unhappy over the fact that their values are being considered less relevant in the present times,” he says.

We next quiz him about why a large number of people in the city are finding themselves depressed and dejected and he says, “Half of Bangalore is new to Bangalore! The city is seeing too much of a cultural and social change and thus, it’s boiling down to how well one can warm up to these changes. There is also too much independence to be enjoyed and problems start when you don’t know how to make use of this independence. So, everything basically gets down down to knowing yourself well. Only when you know what you are and what you want out of life can you make the right choices. We have callers from 15-60 years of age seeking our help and I emphasize on the importance of knowing ourselves properly. I also tell them that they have to be empathetic towards the people they meet on a daily basis. We just need to be clear about our goals, motivation and principles. It is also important to understand that set structures in the society are just a part of our life and not everything. It is all about being authentic in this artificial world. It is about being extraordinary by just being yourself!” 

In fact, during the conversation, we learn that Shyam is soon going to be penning a book in this regard.

As the chat winds down, Shyam gets ready to go on air for yet another show and we can’t help but wonder how he manages to stay composed and relaxed despite hearing  depressing stories day in and day out. “I have been in this profession for 15 years now and have learnt to handle things. Yes, certain cases tend to make you philosophical over the years but to help someone I need to maintain an emotional equilibrium myself. I have reached a stage where I can pay 100%  attention to the person and his/her problem and yet remain relaxed. Exercise and meditation also do the job for me. And just to assure that I don’t get too serious in life, I do stand-up comedy!” he signs off.

Tune into Heartline on Radio Indigo 91.9 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10pm. There is a repeat show on Sundays at 10 pm. The show is co-hosted by RJ Teja.               

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