Zain's new podcast is already garnering attention
"It wasn't sadness, it wasn't anger. It was something different," says Mumbai-based Zain Calcuttawala in the promo of his new mental health podcast Marbles Lost & Found.
He brings up Anthony Bourdain and Chester Bennington in our conversation, both of whom took their own lives as they succumbed to the weight of their mental condition. But unfortunately, Zain, who has been grappling with depression since he was a teenager, thinks the conversation is still a long way to go. But dialogue still remains key to awareness.
"If I don't talk about it, maybe someone else will. But do I just wait for them to do it? What if nobody talks about it?" he asks. With his podcast, he hopes to get the ball rolling. "After the podcast came out, people from the indie music industry and outside, people I didn't know, reached out to me and the more people talk, there will be a trickle-down effect," he says.
Zain, who released his debut EP Just This Once last year, was just 17 when he first suffered from depression, but did not know exactly what it was. He had spent the first 10 years of his life in Nigeria, and then went to a boarding school in southern India, and came to Mumbai in 2006.
"When I moved to Mumbai, I was one of the few people taking a year off after high school. I thought it was going to be a fantastic year but I was bored within two months, and it came to a point where I wasn't doing anything. I would just wake up in the morning, sit at my computer and go back to bed, and this went on for a while," he tells us.
The first signs
Like so many people his age, Zain hadn't quite figured out what he would do and was jittery. "Of course, being a 17-year-old who just got out of high school my parents were understandably curious. 'Zain, what are you up to? What are you doing?' And I didn't have an answer and I had no real direction, and that escalated," he tells us.
He felt the first physical manifestation of his situation one morning when he felt a heavy weight on his chest. "It made it very difficult to get out of bed. I did though, and there has never been a point where I wasn't functional but I was just usually slower, I think," he reveals.
Zain hadn't known that he might be suffering from depression and figured it might have been stress, so he just visited a general physician. "Even back then, the idea of visiting a mental health professional was a no-no. The GP only gave me something for stress and that was it. But it was only when I was 25 or 26, a very close friend of mine was dealing with depression and he started opening up to me. And a lot of his issues resonated with me and I realised this is exactly what I have been going through in the last few years," he adds.
Zain reveals that therapy helped him immensely. He says, "It helped me understand the kind of narrative I had about myself, and with people. And the strong self-critical language I was using led me to behave a certain way."
But reaching out to friends is what was so cathartic to the music producer. "I hit a harsh point in 2016 and I just took a leap of faith and started talking to people and the more I reached out, the more I realised that a lot of people are dealing with very similar issues," says Zain.
"What I tell myself is that if people are going to ostracise me for helping myself and helping others, then I'm very happy to not associate myself with them at all," adds the music producer.
Why the podcast
His podcast Marbles Lost & Found, which released its second episode today, features Zain and his friend Avanti Malhotra talking about the topic, 'Do we belong to our past?'
"The podcast aims to normalise the topic of mental health. Just like we go to a GP because we have a cold, the idea of going to a therapist just because we are not feeling well should be normal. Each episode is about 20 to 25 minutes long, and we have tried to make it as friendly and as accessible as possible. We've built it up like a conversation between close friends," says Zain.
The indie music in this country is a stressful scene and Zain believes creating a safe space should be a priority for aspiring musicians. "Creating a support system is essential, and really helping people internalise that they are not alone. There are people to whom I hadn't spoken to in a number of years, they reached out to me after the podcast," he adds.
"For instance, I got a call from this acquaintance who just got laid off and his dad passed away and he is going through a really tough time and he asked me if I could recommend somebody. And it's daunting and also humbling, you know. But this is what is important, this is what we're trying to do, so that people can actually reach out," reveals the music producer.