This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sanghamitra Aich. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

A Look Back – ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ And How The Book Finally Made Sense

More from Sanghamitra Aich

By Sanghamitra Aich:

It’s that time of the year – book fairs, the smell of books both old and new, and a rush of precious memories. One of my remembrances of such times is of painstakingly counting twenty-eight 10 rupee notes to pay for my copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, when I was 15. I had already bought my share of three books from the fair that day, and then some more, when I saw Penguin’s anniversary edition of the book. I really wanted it, and surprisingly, my mother agreed to buy it (she usually doesn’t agree that easily, I assure you). She just said “this book makes sense”. That enigmatic answer was lost in my immediate joy. It is only after several reads that I have gone back to what my mother said 5 years ago. This book makes sense. It really does.

cuckoo-cover-by-stephanie-kellum2

Looking back, I give you 4 reasons why One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a must read.

The Great War: McMurphy vs. Ratched

The book begins with McMurphy swaggering into the ward of a mental institution and taking it quite by storm, challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. But this defiance that forms much of the plot of the novel, turns into an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, backed by the full power of authority, against McMurphy, and his indomitable will. Amidst the automatic good and evil, this book makes you understand and acknowledge the grey. Towards the end, though there is no happy resolution of this war, we come to sympathize, at least partially, with both sides. Nurse Ratched’s personality is marked by the events of her past, and her present. In fact, most female characters in the novel are relegated to the extremes that we ascribe to even today – the spinster, the whore, or the angel. McMurphy is quite the hero, a brawling, fun-loving rebel, forced into a marshmallow machine of enforced conformity and emasculation. R. P. McMurphy isn’t so much a character as an untamed figment of the freedom we desire in the face of increasing control of the government on private life. He serves as one of the greatest reasons for reading the novel, one of the greatest proofs of life, and the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

The Silent Storyteller: Chief Bromden

21st century reading experience has seen great postmodern variation in narratives. Here, Chief Bromden is a reliable and observant narrator. We realize how he adopts the popular muteness to stage an inward rebellion against the world that has too many boxes to lock you in, and too many tags to label you with. There is the madman, and there are the sane. You have to be one or the other. And yet, all of us are guilty of having mad moments, and sane solemnity. All of us are human, and Chief Bromden’s voice shapes a story that celebrates this very humanity.

The Thin Line Between Madness And Righteousness: Socio-Political Commentary

Kesey’s ingenious simplicity conducts the socio-political oppositionist business with an unabashed, cartoon-stroked theatricality. A lot of us are better acquainted with the movie and the Broadway adaptations, than the book. All of the performances won great acclaim – critical and popular. This is of course to the credit of the brilliant casts, but some of the credit lies with Kesey. His language and descriptions yield well to action. Almost all of the action is within the intense confines of its sanitarium, apart from a fishing jaunt that gives a welcome break from ideas of villains and happy ends. The sanitarium is of increasing interest in the light of present-day studies of totalitarian institutions, and how they give rise to new behavioral patterns in both the inmates and the guards. An alert reading betrays that the sanitarium serves as a microcosm of the society; it’s military barracks, prison cell block, schools, households, and every other socio-political structure find a parallel in our world. The book seems more relevant than ever when we accept how the oppressive forces have only gotten more immersive and influential in our lives in the 21st century.

 All of it will make sense

The book is for those who need answers to face the crises created by the modern world, the least being militarized medication, because who can deny the way missiles and medicines have taken over our lives – from therapies, sick certificates, million dollar hospital bills, automatic prescriptions of paracetamols, painkillers to sleeping pills, poisoning us, while burgeoning a million dollar industry. Hegemony, dominance, guns, terrorism, McDonalds, and oil pipelines have overtaken our reality. Everything of consequence is related to medicines, or militarism.

The book is also for those who ask questions, questions of the nature and effectiveness of science, of medicine and treatment, definition of craziness, and if it can be rendered and remedied, and the extreme manifestations of femininity. We are left with the feeling that the one fishing trip did more good than years of being in a closed-in space. But the most startling realization is the arbitrariness of the line between righteousness and madness; if you didn’t know which side the characters are on, Nurse Ratched may come across as crazy, the guards may seem violent and maniacal, and McMurphy will seem like a man of soil and toil.

The book is for all the people who more than just see – who notice.

And The Rhyme– you can never forget

And there is the rhyme…haunting, honest: symptomatic of the very novel it names. You can use it with great effect- when you are scared, when you are intrigued, when you want to scare, when you want to intrigue, or when you remember the book (which will be quite often).

High high in the hills,
High in a pine tree bed.
She’s tracing the wind with that old hand,
counting the clouds with that old chant,
Three geese in a flock
one flew east
one flew west
one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.”

You must be to comment.

More from Sanghamitra Aich

Similar Posts

By Mallika Khosla

By Tuba Afreen

By Mallika Khosla

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below