Thursday, December 10, 2015

Drained

She hated the sight of it. A nobody getting such accolades. A shoddy piece of work being proudly flaunted and people liberally, unthinkingly showering it with compliments. She was disgusted with the mediocracy, and with herself for making such judgements.

What gave her the right to make such evaluations? Did she consider herself too good? She shuddered. To say that she didn't consider herself better than most she knew would be affectation. She shuddered again. She was drained, not just with the judgements she kept doling out for others, but also, and in fact more, with the judgements she kept doling out for herself for having made those judgements.

She was even a tad envious. She, who was afarid of her own past successes so much that she now rarely created anything new. She was envious of these people who had no idea that their work was mediocre and could take undiluted pride in it. She didn't have the guts to create something less than spectacular and live with it. Oh, so she believed she had had spectacular success in the past, didn't she? The sense of exhaustion was pulsating again.

She knew the other path, of not creating anything at all, would lead to stagnation. She knew she was stagnating. She didn't need anyone to come and analyse her mind for her nor she did need anyone to tell her how to get out of it. She knew, she understood it all, and she only hated herself more for it for she wasn't able to change anything with all that ocean of self-awareness. Underneath all the ramblings, the throbbing grew and grew in intensity: Drained.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

5 ways in which success dooms you, if you let it

Pic Courtesy: www.mbacrystallball.com

Dealing with success in a healthy manner is not everyone's kettle of fish. And we are not talking about the cliched 'losing your head in the clouds' a la Priyanka Chopra in Fashion. There are sundry other ways in which life changes, and so do you, if you are not consciously trying to do something about it.

1. A side-effect of achieving great success fairly early in life seems to be a constant state of making comparisons with the past, often synonymous with a perpetual dissatisfaction with life. Good is never good enough and 'what else could have been' is the ongoing background music.

2. As a logical extension of the above, one also fails to appreciate what one does have for what it's worth. Gratitude goes for a toss. Stuff that doesn't count as 'success'- meaningful relationships, hobbies that make one happy etc. fails to make it to the 'list'.

3. What does make it to the 'list' is mostly what can get one more success- more work usually. Working hard for one's dreams is great but when it comes at the cost of excluding most other things in life, one is running for the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which ain't always filled with gold or at least the gold one thinks one is running after.

4. Naturally, when one falls down in the middle of the rainbow before reaching the pot of gold, one is likely to get hurt more than one otherwise would be. You see if dreams of success are all one has, it gotta hurt more than anything else can when they are shattered, even temporarily. Failures look like catastrophes and if one is not careful, one may question not the circumstances that led to defeat but oneself and one's abilities.

5. The most dangerous scenario is when past success acts as a barrier to trying out something new/difficult for the fear that one may not succeed so spectacularly as before. No fresh attempts for success translates into no new success. By and by, one is just left a shadow of what one used to be at some point. The result is stagnation and despair, and eventually ennui.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Life



Brick on top of brick. Carefully. No mistakes there. Everything formed as planned. One storm and it is all gone.

The student becomes the teacher!



It's only about a month now since I started teaching, so in a way I have way too little credibility to be talking about the art of teaching. But deep inside I feel like I have been doing it for years, and from that place comes this post.

Teaching sort of clicks with me, and when I'm in my class in front of 40 odd students, I actually feel like I'm in my element there like nowhere else. Not to say that the ride has been without challenges so far, drawing me in for the ease and comfort of not having to exert myself. On the contrary, its been a roller coaster ride, replete with adventures and surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, and a lot of hard work, every weekday for the last one month. When I look back, however, what I see is satisfaction in work like never before and my heart swells with a sense of fulfillment. I have been extremely fortunate to have been allotted subjects very close to my heart. It is hence actually a matter of joy to get up and go to work every morning. Now there are several things about teaching I have learnt in the last one month which I would like to share. Since I was a student myself 6 months back, I like to believe I have pretty good insight into what students like and dislike, and hence a few tips for beginner teachers:

Firstly, love for the subject shows quite easily, and a teacher's passion in the classroom can be infectious. Students automatically respect teachers who love their subject. Teaching becomes ever so much more engaging and enjoyable, for both teacher and students, if the teacher is a person who is passionate about what he/she teaches. A person who doesn't love academics has absolutely no business becoming a teacher.

Secondly, teaching is performing. It takes a lot of confidence to be on the other side of the table, every day, with the same set of people who grow to know you more with passing day. If one enjoys being the center of attention for a prolonged time or loves putting up a performance in front of an audience, teaching becomes all the more easier. If the thought of dazzling one's audience and holding their attention for about an hour gets one nervous, teaching probably isn't for them.

Thirdly, students' performance has to do with both teacher and student variables. Its easy for beginner teachers to feel bad if a large number of students don't turn up for exam or don't do as well as anticipated, but one has to keep in mind that an excellent teacher can have bad students just as an average or poor teacher can have excellent students. 

Next, a beginner teacher must be, above everything else, humble and honest. There might be times when the teacher fails to answer a question put by a student. In such cases, it is always imperative to say without getting defensive that she would remember to look it up and answer it the next day. Holding the assumption that the teacher should know everything can prove to be dangerous. Students easily find out if a teacher is knowledgeable, and pretending to be what one is not may not be the best way to gain respect.

Furthermore, its far easier to be a teacher today than it must have been a couple of decades back. With the technology we have our hands on today, both preparing for class and teaching in class, take less effort than they would without the help of technology. If one has access to such resources, it would be foolish to not make use of them in one's teaching efforts. There are ebooks that can be sent to students to read before or after lectures, lecture videos of reputed universities and powerpoint presentations prepared by other lecturers free to download for teachers to prepare lecture notes from, and if the college has required infrastructure, a variety of unconventional teaching aids that can used in the classroom. Openness to technology and the desire to go the extra mile could make all the difference in students' perception, say between being a regular novice teacher and a young teacher who does things very few other teachers in the college do! 
 


Most importantly, teaching is all about being a learner. To be able to explain something to the class, one has to be thorough with the subject material and anticipate most doubts and questions that could arise from the material, and prepare accordingly. Coming to the class unprepared is extremely unprofessional and must be avoided at all costs. Students appreciate being asked to give feedback and a beginner teacher would do well to take all negative feedback in her stride, and strive for improvement constantly.

That's all for now. More will come along as I teach and grow some more. If you're a teacher too, please do share your experience!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Roughing it out with Writer's Block

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I will be honest; I haven't written anything since long (except for various product campaigns to earn some extra pocket money) because I have wanted to write something profound, only profound, and have patiently, way too patiently and passively, waited for inspiration. 

I have wanted to write something that would match posts in my previous blog- an aesthetic love poem or a moving short story with a social/political subtext perhaps or at least a decent social commentary. I have wanted to inspire the same depth of feeling in my readers, and in myself, that many of my previous works did. I have wanted my posts to be food for thought, and not just a one-time read. 

I have often browsed through both of my blogs, gone through some of my previous works and have been daunted. I have sometimes wondered how could the same person have such a chronic writer's block going on! After all, do I not still have the same muse? Am I not still in love, and in awe of God's brilliant creation? Am I still not a psychologist, a feminist or at least someone who reads books? I still have all the fodder I need! I could definitely do book reviews, if not anything else. Then it hit me. Though I may have lacked in inspiration, I have also lacked in pro-activeness. 



I don't remember the last time I sat in front of my laptop, doing absolutely nothing, staring into the screen, attempting to conjure up something to write. I guess I wasn't even aware that I had give up by not lifting a pen before some great inspiration flooded me. Who is to say that inspiration has to come first, and then the pen has to touch the paper? Who is to even say that I haven't missed moments of great clarity and imagination because of not penning down my thoughts immediately? 

Writer's block is an evil monster, all the more because it is clever. It makes one feel as if there's nothing wrong in waiting for the perfect moment of synchrony. It makes one forget that sometimes, one has to sweat it out, and inspiration present or not, go ahead and work to create the perfect moment. All of one's works need not be pearls. Even Shakespeare has critics. Lastly, this.


Friday, July 10, 2015

A Sweeter and Wiser Alternative

In today’s age and time, people are more conscious than ever of their weight though ironically obesity has never been more prevalent in the youth worldwide than it is in the present. There is rampant body-shaming on one hand, which is one of the contributory factors to several eating disorders, and on the other, a majority of the world’s youth leads a sedentary lifestyle and consumes high amounts of junk food on a daily basis. What we can’t seem to find is ‘balance’. At least a lot of us.

Now that summers are here, this lack of balance becomes all the more evident. Suddenly crash diets are the in-thing. Living only on juice or soup etc. becomes a fad. After all, one needs to fit into one’s summer clothes! Sometimes I wonder whether we are supposed to change our bodies to fit clothes or clothes should be made in accordance with our fit! When we are in our 20s and early 30s, we may not realise what such crash diets do to our body since our body is young and has enough ammunition to keep firing without being loaded much, but the effects start becoming evident as we age- early ageing, loss of memory and concentration, aches in joints, lowered immunity resulting in catching diseases easily and not recovering fast enough etc. We start reaping what we had sown in the first place.

Anyways, though I am vehemently against dieting I do believe in making dietary adjustments so that one eats healthy food and avoids unnecessary unhealthy items. Sure I believe that one need not become a size zero to look beautiful or feel good but that is no endorsement for eating whatever comes in sight and making oneself vulnerable to a whole array of diseases. The word is ‘balanced diet’.

There are simple things one can do within one’s budget and without compromising on taste, say adding fiber and reducing sugar. Fruits and veggies eaten raw, as opposed to as juice, add a great deal of fiber to our diet. As for sugar, once can totally replace it with something sweeter yet healthier- honey.


Honey is one of those things that can totally make an ordinary dish taste delicious without making it unhealthy. In fact, one can go on a honey diet, if you will. Honey added to lemon juice and lukewarm water makes for a great start to the day- it flushes out toxins and even helps in weight loss when taken regularly for months. Milkshakes, smoothies and other summer drinks can be easily made healthier and tastier by substituting honey for sugar. Honey added to chilled milk and mint leaves makes for a simple yet delicious drink for the hot afternoons. Other than being a replacement for sugar, honey has several medicinal properties too- taken with cinnamon powder, it helps in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart attacks as well as in checking weight gain. All in all, maintaining a balanced diet makes way more sense in the long term than going on crash diets and honey can help you to immediately start making your diet more balnced. Go get your jar of the Sweeter and Wiser Alternative!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mamma can find everything!

Every time I don’t find something I’m looking for, I terribly miss my mom. My mind wanders to my childhood days when I had not moved out for higher studies and mom was always there to the rescue. My mom had this uncanny knack of finding things effortlessly that everyone else had failed in spotting, and I had the tendency to forget where I kept my stuff. That made for some very interesting happenings at home every other day.

I always made sure that I had exhausted all my faculties of searching and was left with no other recourse before I admitted defeat and called my mom. While marching in, mom used to declare that I would be in for some good scolding if what I had been looking for unsuccessfully for hours actually was just lying around in the open, like always. I used to be outraged and protest that this time the object I was looking for was definitely not out in the open.  And then upon magically fishing out the lost object in the blink of an eye, mom used to tell me, every time, for the umpteenth time, that I’m practically blind! It brings a smile on my face every time when I remember those moments.

Image credit: http://goo.gl/NEHs2I
I of course used to vehemently tell mom that my eyesight is perfectly fine and it is she who has magical power of spotting things. She used to laugh it off but it always managed to bring down her irritation :D

Now that I think of it, I realize that my mom was my troubleshooter in every respect. She had magical powers for everything, like I guess all moms do. She was my go-to-person who had the solution to all my problems, always. She donned multiple hats and was equally adept at everything! She was the one and only expert I ever needed!

Image Credit: www.redeeminggod.com

At 23, I feel all grown-up, living alone in Mumbai and supporting myself financially but when I look up to my mom, I understand what it means to be grown up really and how far I am from reaching there. Taking responsibility of others’ well-being and always being there for them- I guess that’s what being grown up actually is, and no one does it better than my mom.


I thank Godrej, the most widely trusted expert when it comes to hair color, for this post as their campaign this Mother's Day inspired me to recollect my memories with my mom, my first expert, and share them here. I would like to end my post with this image that hits the bull's eye perfectly.


Image credit: https://www.pinterest.com/kinsahealth/you-have-to-laugh/

Life made easier!

There are few innovations that are happening at a more rapid pace and touching people’s lives in a more entrenched manner than mobile apps. For every possible task one might need to do, be it taking notes in a meeting or storing favorite web articles to read later or keep track of one’s calorie consumption, there’s an app available that one can download on one’s smartphone and trust wholeheartedly to get the job done without any fuss. These apps have thus not only brought information at our finger tips like never before, they have gone beyond just providing information and have made our lives far simpler and easier.

One such app that I can vouch for from my personal experience is the new #MyAirtelApp. It’s nothing less than a godsend for a working professional like who lives alone in a busy city. I work for 10-12 hours a day 5 days a week and all I want to do in the weekend is sleep and read. If there’s any bill to be paid or even shopping to be done (which I used to love to do when I was a student), I cringe. Thankfully I don’t really have to exert much effort to get the ‘important’ things done which require me to move out of my couch and away from my novels. How? Apps! Particularly the #MyAirtelApp

Image Credit: www.shoppersfort.com

I’ll outline in this post its 3 key features that best suit my lifestyle:

1.    Free Coupons-Everyone loves to be surprised with free stuff! And the makers of the #MyAirtelApp know this very well.  Every recharge you do via the app lets you select a free coupon for yourself from categories like shopping, food, beauty and wellness and others! What is cooler is that you just shake your phone and you get a surprise from airtel in terms of cashback on next recharge or other offers! How cool is that!

2.    All in one- It lets me do everything related to Airtel at this one place! I mean be it phone or internet or TV DTH, this is the single platform one needs to engage with to pay bills or do recharge etc. One can add multiple devices and know the data and balance status on the home screen. Saves a lot of time. Ask me.


3.    I want to- It has this amazing feature called ‘I Want To’ on the home screen that remembers my frequent tasks and lets me finish my tasks in a jiffy. I don’t need t navigate a lot of pages before I get where I want to go!

Isn’t that wonderful? I have been using airtel services for my pre-paid mobile and recently broadband and this app has just made everything faster and simpler for me. Kudos to the app makers!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Book Review: The Silent Scream

The Silent Scream is one of those books that you don't want to read initially, if you're anything like me, but that make you feel glad you decided to read anyway. There are too many issues out there that no one wants to talk about which makes authors of issue-based books a brave lot. But not all issue based books are commendable just because they talk about something no one is comfortable with. Very few are such cases in which people take up a sensitive issue and do justice to it without resorting to sensationalism. This book is one such rare gem.



Being a student of Clinical Psychology I am required to read many volumes, academic and non-academic, on various kinds of trauma. Hence, when I read something out of my course's recommended reading list, I avoid stuff related to mental health. When Siddharth Garg approached me for a review of his book, I almost denied the request only to delete the draft and send another mail saying I'll be happy to review the book. What made my almost-no to a yes was the curiosity to find out how much the author had lived up to his promise of the book being "a ready guide to create awareness about this rampantly growing evil". Sure the book had a few case studies but it also had a section on answering questions, busting myths, providing simple guidelines etc. and it was the latter that drew me in. 



The Silent Scream, a very apt title, is based on child sexual abuse (CSA) and begins with an account of a very typical CSA. Several stories follow, each exposing a certain 'type' of CSA and busting a certain myth regarding various aspects related to CSA. The attempt is clearly there to not brush anything under the carpet, for which I congratulate the author, as it speaks volumes about his comfort level with the issue, but there is never a whiff of any attempt to raise goosebumps by going over unnecessary details at the cost of losing out on sensitive  telling of the stories. The author has captured several things about the characters in his case studies, not falling prey to the amateur's mistake of letting the case study revolve around the 'issue' only. I can't stress this point enough- Siddharth Garg has loads and loads of sensitivity and it oozes out of every line in the book. 

The latter half was more to my interest and pleasantly surprised me with not just how comprehensive it was but how well researched all the chapters were. The following are some of the chapter titles in the second half of the book: Rape and its types, Who are these Perpetrators, Signs of Danger, Why people abuse children sexually, Silence : The Biggest Encouragement, The Repercussion, The Constitution of India, Must Do’s for Parents and Children, A Note for Survivors, Way to Heal and Helplines. It was great to see that the author's voice was gradually coming along like a neutral voice, talking about the perpetrators' minds as well, without turning into a rapist-apologist or a pedophile-apologist for a single moment. The subject matter covered is thorough and has my approval and I daresay, this is more than just a book. That the author is passionate about the issue is easy to tell. He is emphatic in his pleas to stop giving implicit encouragement to the perpetrators of this heinous crime by maintaining silence and provides a great ending to his book by giving us a glimpse into his heartfelt genuineness in his involvement with this issue. Here goes:


If you know something is wrong and there is nothing being done against it, report it to someone and if you are afraid to report it publically, you can also write it to me anonymously and I will make sure that your concern is raised to the local government officials. Also, in case you are not satisfied with the law enforcements that we have for the children in our country and have some better suggestions (which are not biased and are in favour of the whole nation); please feel free to write them to me. We will collect all the suggestions that come across and will send them to the government demanding for an action on the same. You can feel free to write to me on sidg1639@gmail.com.

“The world is a dangerous place to live in, not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
 - Albert Einstein



Wow! Had the author not approached me with a request to read and review this book, I would never have picked it up, unless of course it was a part of my course recommended readings, but I'm really glad I did end up reading it. Its a must read for parents of small children and all the people who work closely with children, be it teachers or social workers or other social protection professionals. It is not an academic tome and is an easy read but offers plenty of information and insight into Child Sexual Abuse. As a person who can say with some authority that CSA is more prevalent in our society than we care to admit, I highly recommend this book to all. Don't fear a few goosebumps and chills down your spine; its totally worth all that. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My #LookUp Story

Its been close to 2 years in Mumbai now and from cursing its crazy pace of life in my initial days here, I have, by and by, come to discover a "rhythm to the insanity", as one of my TISS  professors would say.

Pic Credit: http://www.legal-planet.org

Mumbai has an extremely fast pace of life. Extremely, crazily fast. The local trains that people jostle with life to get in (at times if you just stand at the right place, you will get pushed into or out of the train automatically), the overcrowded buses in which the rare event of getting a seat happens once in a week, the always-congested roads, are all but microcosms in themselves of the city. The very pace of walking, that looks akin to almost-running, adopted by most people here sort of captures the essence of the city. Survival of the fittest is thus the mantra to live by.



Pic Credit: http://adayinlife.timesofindia.com
Other than the fact that the city is really safe and offers a great deal of freedom to its women, I guess the reason why I haven't experienced a single incident on the likes of some guy staring at me lecherously or singing cheap songs while walking behind me or the like, is also because no one really has the time to loiter on the streets and have nothing better to do than ogle at girls and make uncalled for comments. By the same coin, there is little time to stop and smell the roses here (no pun intended). Climbing up the ladders of success seems like the single most important goal of the people. Of course then in the quest for maximizing productivity and being successful quickly, one runs the risk of losing out on presence, if one is not careful to not let it happen.

But if one is a person that does recognize the pitfalls of a too-busy lifestyle, one can attempt and create one's own island of quite and presence too, in this maddening city as anywhere else! I like to believe that I'm one such person.

But in the said race for survival, do I not get tired? Do I not experience despair sometimes and have a violent inclination to leave it all and run away? I would be lying if I said I don't. I do; I absolutely do. In such moments, where do I look up? Who do I look up to in order to stay afloat? What fills me with inimitable optimism and positivity and inspires me to go on?


Pic Credit: http://www.bispobira.wordpress.com


It is faith- the faith that my loved ones have on me and my capabilities. It is precisely their unquestioning faith in my dedication that drives me to be dedicated to what I do, tirelessly. The confidence my loved ones have over me, the way my younger siblings look up to me as a role model, the way my mother appears to live her life vicariously through me, all are things that fill me up with gratitude and boundless energy at times of wanting to leave it all and flee. As they say "as elusive as it may seem, optimism can be found all around" and I find my optimism in the love and confidence of my loved ones. They make me #LookUp :)


Pic Credit: http://www.christainnewyork.com

Monday, March 30, 2015

We Are Together In This Journey

As one era of life comes to an end, and a very different life stage beckons, my heart is heavy with nostalgia though eyes are full of dreams and hopes. 

My student life has been extremely kind to me in terms of friends- my path has always been strewn with some gems who have made it all ever so much more pleasant and memorable. This post is to express my gratitude to all those friends of mine who have stood with me in difficult times and inspired in me the strength to go on.

I moved to Mumbai, the city of dreams, from Delhi, the city of my dreams, 2 years back for higher studies in TISS. Though the city was extremely open and kind, people in my immediate vicinity were not and adjustment issues with flatmates soon escalated into what I now see as the worst phase of my life. At flat and at college I was met with cold stares and hostile remarks by people who had not bothered to find out my side of the story, and combined with fretting over a personal crisis of a family member, overwhelming academic demands and minor hassles of daily life that come up when you are living on your own in a new city, I spiraled downwards by and by into the clutches of depression. That I managed to keep my academic standing above a certain standard is a miracle of sorts. And it couldn't have been achieved without the support of a few close friends who have now become a very important part of my TISS Story. Ritesh, Avtarnika, Vaidehi and Shazia- you already know that I refer to you :)


As the saying goes "it's the company that matters more than the advice" and it was the company of these people that always infused me with fresh hope and strength to keep going. It is difficult to pick out any one of such inspiring moment together for there are so many- some with individuals and some together. In train while travelling to fieldwork with Vaidehi, in library with Ritesh, at hostel with Shazia for last few days of 2nd semester and with Avtarnika at her place where I was an extremely lazy guest :D And all together so many times in the Dining Hall :) All  extremely precious.

One particularly precious memory that comes to mind- one of the best of my time in TISS- is the one of all 5 of us together going to gorge on Pancham Puriwalla's thalis. 



The long cab ride, watching sunset together and discussing future hopes and apprehensions, the endless eating, the jokes and future advice, the long walk to KitaabKhana and the unending return cab-ride that allowed us to share so much with each other! It was a great day and I'm glad we finally were able to put everything aside and go out together, for it will remain a moment that filled me with gratitude for the past, with all its ups and downs, and inimitable optimism for the future, for I know, we will always be #together :) Isn't life great when we can count on the support of some reliable forces? Ask me, it is.

Starting Over, Starting Anew!

"Traveller there's no path. Paths are made by walking."~ Antonio Machado
Image credit- www.thenotmom.com


Life is all about the choices we make. At every step, there's a choice to be made, be it as small as whether to hit the snooze button or to get up and hit the gym, or as big as moving to a new city leaving behind all of one's security and comforts. At the risk of oversimplification, I daresay there's always an easy choice and a difficult one, and choosing the path that one truly wants to embark on is most often the difficult one, thanks to societal pressures, need to conform, need to make others around happy at the cost of one's own happiness, sheer inertia, lack of courage and several others. 

Standing on the cusp of financial independence and end of student life, I can't help but look back at the most important decision I have had to make so far- the one choice that begun the series of events that brought me where I am. Moving to Delhi to study Psychology.

I was in class XIIth back then studying PCMB, all set to become a doctor as all my relatives thought. I had had no coaching of sorts as it was accepted that I would dedicatedly prepare for pre-medical entrance exams for one year after finishing school. It was hence a great news when I cleared AIPMT prelims with a good percentage. I needed that objective proof of my calibre to be able to assure my ever-doubting relatives that I was going to embark on a very different path not because I wasn't good at what I was doing but because I really was passionate about the other path. I wanted to study psychology and badly wanted it.


Image credit- www.mindfulpsyc.ca
Considering that I come from a doctors' family of sorts and that I'm the eldest in my generation, it was a mighty blow to my parents who had never expected me to be anything other than a doctor. But I had been at the brink of depression in 11th and had been rescued by a few psychologists' works and the power of words basically had dawned on me anew. I had silently nurtured hope to be able to touch lives and promote well being, to do meaningful work that would show my gratefulness to God for all the bounty that surrounds me and to do it all through the ‘power of words’ essentially. 

My parents had had hints in the past, when I used to pore over Delhi University's website and had emphatically made them watch 3 Idiots and recommended several articles with similar messages. It was not very difficult to convince them once they realised that I would be unhappy studying medical (I reminded the that I haven't dressed a single wound yet though my father is a doctor, that I'm scared of the sight of blood and can't imagine ever pushing a needle into somebody etc.). Not to say that no quarrels or tears or accusations of 'disappointing' them were not involved. But at the end, my will won and my parents gave in. The much more difficult task of answering my relatives' queries was left thus to my good parents.

Image credit- www.getmyuni.com
Moving to Delhi to study Psychology in DU was the first step towards giving myself the opportunity to be all that I could be. The Psychology Department of Daulat Ram College was instrumental in shaping the 'new me' which was in reality the 'real me'. I realised that following my true calling, though difficult, actually had made my life so much more enriched. Things were very simple; happiness was easy to come. I drowned myself in the subject, allowed myself every opportunity to fall in love with it and established a great foundation to what I knew would be a life-long affair with psychology. 

Eventually I topped DU in all 3 years and got a gold medal and got into Clinical Psychology in TISS and moved to Mumbai and now, here I am, ready for an exciting job that begins tomorrow for the next several months until I'm ready for PhD. Life would have been so so different had I not had the courage to change stream and opt for a humanities subject and disappoint my parents! Life would have been so so different had I not had the courage to move to Delhi after having been brought up in Jharsuguda, a really small town in Odisha! Life would have been so different than what it is that the thought scares me! In every sense, I did indeed #StartANewLife with that single tough decision and that has made all the difference.


To all those who are struggling with dilemmas about unconventional career moves, my advice is this: no matter how difficult it seems now, do follow your heart for life will become kinder eventually, and yeah, never stop working hard once you're on the path you want to walk on :) Life has a knack of throwing help at us in various forms and it is for us to recognize the angels and let them help us! If life is not a bed of roses, it definitely is not a bed of thorns in any sense. One such team of angels in work-clothes that is helping several people turn their dreams into reality (see the video)!  


Monday, March 16, 2015

A Few Titles from the World of Romance




Romance is my favorite genre and I have been lucky to have read some great classics as well as contemporary novels in the genre that are dripping with romance. For a question on Quora, I compiled a list of novels that I think are some of the most romantic. For every book, I have mentioned one (really) romantic quote. Here they go:




Classics:

1. Wuthering Heights
"Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you — haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe; I know that ghostshave wandered on earth. Be with me always — take any form — drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss where I can not find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!"

2. Les Miserables
"How wonderful it is to be loved, but how much greater to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion; it rejects everything that is not pure and arms itself with nothing that is not noble and great. An unworthy thought can no more take root in it than a nettle on a glacier. The lofty and serene spirit, immune from all base passion and emotion prevailing over the clowds and shadows of this world, the follies, lies, hatreds, vanities and miseries, dwells in the azure of the sky and feels the deep and subterranean shifts of destiny no more than the mountain peak feels the earthquake."

3. Jane Eyre
"All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever."

4. Pride & Prejudice
"In vain have I struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you" 

5. Persuasion
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago."


6. North and South
“He knew how she would love. He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love.” 




Contemporary:

1.The History of Love
"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering."

2. The Time Traveller's Wife
“There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.”

3. The Broken Wings
"We feared not the observer’s eyes, neither did our consciences bother us; the spirit which is purified by fire and washed by tears is higher than what the people call shame and disgrace; it is free from the laws of slavery and old customs against the affections of the human heart. That spirit can proudly stand unashamed before the throne of God."

4. P.S I Love You
“Finding someone you love and who loves you back is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. But finding a true soul mate is an even better feeling. A soul mate is someone who understands you like no other, loves you like no other, will be there for you forever, no matter what. They say that nothing lasts forever, but I am a firm believer in the fact that for some, love lives on even after we're gone.”

5. Message in a Bottle
“It is at moments like these that I know my what my purpose is in life. I am here to love you, to hold you in my arms, to protect you. I am here to learn from you and to receive your love in return.I am here because there is no other place to be.”

6. Nights in Rodanthe
“When I write to you, I feel your breath; when you read them, I imagine you feel mine. Is it that way with you too? These letters are part of us now, part of our history, a reminder forever that we made it through this time. Thank you for helping me survive this year, but more than that, thank you in advance for all the years to come.”

Dissecting Annoyance

Its funny (and extremely bad for my health) how almost every time people around me open their mouth, I can pick up which error in social cognition it is that is operating in their mind. I almost want to hurl a social psychology book in their face and make them talk sense! 



But even the hope that if people know about cognitive distortions they will make use of them less, is misguided. Kahnemean, a leading figure in the field says, “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy as it was before I made a study of these issues.” Furthermore, being able to identify more cognitive biases in others as compared to oneself is also a cognitive bias! It is called the blind spot bias, and there are high chances that I'm operating with that bias. If you see Wikipedia, which provides a pretty exhaustive list of cognitive distortions, you will almost get the feeling that all that we think and do is fraught with cognitive distortions/biases that it would be outrageous to imagine ourselves capable of rationality!



Mmmm so what exactly are we talking about? Essentially, we human beings take in a lot of information every waking moment of our lives. We are practically bombarded with information- sights, smells, sounds etc., by our sense organs, some of which get us thinking. Now, with the brain being overburdened, it doesn't always analyse every bit of information thoroughly, consider all possible perspectives and then come to a conclusion. It has certain information processing hacks that let it make quick judgement and attributions thus saving us a lot of time and mental effort. The catch is- accuracy is compromised. No wonder that these hacks are called the cognitive biases or cognitive distortions.

Consider this, a very common cognitive bias- the ‘actor-observer effect’- we tend to attribute inner or dispositional causes to others’ behaviour but situational or external causes to our own.  For example, if you see a man falling down the stairs, you are likely to fault him for absence mindedness or the like. But, if you fell down, you are likely to look at what made you fall down and explain away the falling because of something in the environment.

Anyways, my above mentioned annoyance has got me thinking how studying psychology has been a double edged sword. On the one hand, it has made me more empathetic as I quite often understand why a person is acting in a certain way and thus don't feel angry, but on the other hand, I notice people's quirks and eccentricities more, stumble upon themes and patterns in how they talk or work, and unwillingly notice what all it is that they are doing wrong. Plenty of food for thought!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Love: Then & Now




When love is young, it delights at the prospect of being missed by one's sweetheart. One wants to know how much one will be missed. The more, perhaps the better. One asks childishly "will you miss me?" and hopes the answer will be "A lot".








When love is secure, it dreads the prospect of being missed too much. One wants to be assured that the beloved won't pine and lose sleep and have heartache over missing one. One entreats sensibly "don't miss me too much, I'll be back soon" and hopes that the plea will be heeded. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Steep Road to Equality

From the mild "you are ungrateful" to the moderate "education has ruined you" to the extreme "you are breaking this family", I have faced it all. I'm sure there's more to come! 



Three years back, I was a 2nd year student of Psychology honours in Daulat Ram College, DU. In our department (Psychology department), 5 students got to do a research project in their final year and have their own dissertation. I had put forward 4 research areas of interest in my proposal, one of which was this:

Commonsense says that having an orientation inconsistent with societal values may be a risk factor for poor mental health. My first research proposal is a logical extension of this argument and is as follows: Are women who identify themselves as feminists more prone to psychological distress than women who identify with patriarchal values considering that the socio-cultural climate of India has historically been patriarchal?

Today as I was surfing the web, I chanced upon an article A Toxic Stew: Risks To Women Of Public Feminism. An anthropologist herself, the writer Barbara King analyses in this piece the recent phenomenon of deluge of misogynistic comments and psychological abuse hurled at feminists in the digital world and the harm such anti-feminist discourses do to women. When I read this article, I couldn't help but remember that what this article talks about is essentially what my first area of research interest was to explore in the Indian context! Not to say anything of my own experience of paying huge psychological costs for not being a demure creature and actually having a mind of my own (terrible things for a woman!). In India, considering that patriarchy is extremely deep rooted, and most of our population remains untouched by the liberating forces of education and modernization, I fear that the repercussions on women's psychological health would be still worse. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

When Juliet Fell in Love, Again.




“That whose ears love has not yet caressed, do not hear when it comes calling; that whose eyes love has not yet blinded, do not see when it arrives on its winged carriage”. What follows is not meant for their eyes and ears. They may work out the maze of black and white strewn over here and navigate the labyrinth of my emotions articulated through language but such untoward beings will not be able to decipher the whisperings of my pulsating heart not clad in words. But pray, do such men exist whose souls have never been enveloped by love? Do such men exist who have never worshipped what love did to them? For, isn’t love the elixir of all life that is?

And who better to sing the praises of love, high-wrought love, than me? Who better than Juliet? Yes, in love I am- violently, as is my wont.


It all began ten years ago when every young lady with a heart that could beat fell in love with him. But Juliet’s love is no ordinary love. Their love- love that sprouted out of the attraction towards all the fame, power and material pleasures that were to be his or out of infatuation with his oration and wit are no comparison to this love of mine for him- pristine, unselfish love; love that was perhaps born in the almighty’s lap and gradually trickled onto here dollop by dollop with the night’s secrets. I know he is married and his family is the picture of a family that is as happy as any could be but that doesn’t bother me. Juliet’s love for her beloved will not grow more with reciprocation or diminish with rejection. I have never intended to possess him; I don’t need to. Didn’t some great poet once said, “it is limited love that asks for possession of the beloved; unlimited love asks only for itself”? That’s precisely the nature of this love of mine.


You may ask what all this will amount to- self destruction perhaps, as Juliet is known for. No, I declare. You may choose to call it destruction but to me it is spiritual exaltation. In all my senses have I draped myself in this wreath of thorns by choosing to declare my love for the most powerful person in the world who, I know, can never be possessed. I know I’m headed nowhere but being the mistress of the White House has never been an object of any interest to me, let alone desire.

I don’t need his attention; I don’t seek his acknowledgement. I only want to make him realize to what extent a woman can love a man. I want Mr. Barack Obama to know how much Juliet loves him. I want him to understand that Juliet loves him “more than a poet loves his sorrowful thoughts, more than a devotee worships his Lord, more than a mother loves her stillborn child...”

Will you be my messenger?


P.S. This entry was written in a creative writing contest for the topic 'When Juliet fell in love with Barack Obama." Yeah! :D
P.P.S. The quotes used are of Kahlil Gibran's, slightly modified.

Foray into Adulthood

          

  To be an adult means, to me, being competent- to deal with one’s own issues without needing anybody’s help and taking care of others competently. Adulthood entails a new set of rights and responsibilities that separate an adult from a child. Some of these rights and responsibilities are totally new, and some are extensions in the degree of what was allowed before. Of course the picture is different for different people. For e.g. being allowed to drive/ travel alone (right) and being expected to drive/travel alone taking care of one’s safety (responsibility) may not be enjoyed by a child, but quite likely to be by an adult. Yet at the same time, there might be kids who enjoy this right and responsibility and adults who don’t. The degree of competence then, and even the expectations of such competence in various areas by other adult members of the society, would be what would differentiate a child from an adult. I don’t think that adulthood is a number- something attained chronologically by a natural process called biological growth. Chronological age certainly matters but it’s not the whole thing. I rather see adulthood as this process of gaining social maturity and various everyday skills to get on with life with as less dependence as a society allows its individuals. I don’t see all aspects of adulthood as things that are bestowed automatically, inevitably, on everybody crossing a particular age (say, 18 or 21). Legally speaking, it may be that simple but in real life i.e. in a familial and cultural context, that’s not how it happens. Rather much of it has to be negotiated and sometimes fought for.


There hasn’t been a specific instance or experience or time I attach to the emergence of my adulthood. In fact, I don’t remember ever being a child. Being the eldest of three children in a family that had moved to a new place, my childhood ended perhaps with the birth of my brother when I was seven. Even before that, I don’t have any memories of playing with toys. Anyways, I had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities (sometimes unwillingly) from a very young age and this I owe to the fact that my father was the only male in our nuclear family and I had to grow up to be like what a boy would have grown up to do. I loved my brother too much to ever complain about the lack of attention to the fact that I was still vulnerable, emotionally and otherwise. 

I particularly remember my tuition days in class 5th when I had to cycle 3 kilometers crossing an over-bridge out of which 1 used to be in total darkness as the time for the one-hour power cut every evening coincided with end of tuition hours. I resented it a lot but seeing no other way, had to go with it for months till our tuition teacher was transferred to another city and I didn’t take up a new class. There are several such experiences that make me realize that I attained what is adulthood in my eyes, pretty grudgingly. My tears during my undergrad days when I made sure that my parents didn’t have to know about every difficulty of mine, or at least those that they6 couldn’t do anything about from such a distance, have made me an adult. My resilience has made me an adult. Interestingly, my father still doesn’t consider that I’m an adult. Of course he doesn’t say that I’m a child still. Adolescence is my bane. There is some implicit disrespect in that word, as if, you need not be taken seriously if you’re an adolescent which I’m up against. Respect for traditional values and conformity to elder family members seems to be an essential component of adulthood which I haven’t gotten close to attaining so far. I fear even when I’m 30, my father will have his reservations regarding whether I’m out of my adolescence yet!


          
  As I said earlier, I became an adult without having tasted the pampering of childhood. Perhaps that’s the reason regression is my first response in times of stress since the last three years that I have been with my boyfriend in the kind of relationship that allows me to pour out all my difficulties in front of him. Some introspection into how my romantic relationship has been decreasing my threshold of stress tolerance  and accepting the fact that I have to live alone for at least a couple of years more has made me climb up the ladder towards adulthood since the last few days. As it flows from here, for me adulthood means independence more than anything else, inevitably coupled with responsibility and increased loneliness that only increases. An adult can cry too, nothing wrong in that, but if you ask me, the adult me crying is a slip, a mistake. An adult me not wanting to get up from the bed is a feeling I have the luxury to experience only very few times, since I‘m human, but not always since I’m an adult. That’s how I see adulthood.


Now that I’m an adult, I’m expected to participate in family discussions about people I don’t even know because they are my extended family; I’m expected to see how my cousins are doing in life and offer them advice and help, on my own, no matter how far I stay away from them; I’m expected to be a representative of my family, which includes not caring about my personal opinions and emotions and supporting my father’s decisions while dealing with relatives and family friends. This is not necessarily what adulthood entails for everybody; it’s my family script for adulthood. I plan to rewrite it once I’m married and well settled professionally (being in a position of importance, according to my family), which is when I’ll have more of a say in how my family runs because I will have acquiesced to society’s demands of settling down and in my family power comes only with conformity to society’s ways. I can see I have been rambling about my family, but adulthood is a topic which always does that to me. I wish I knew adulthood means so much of loneliness; I would have appreciated my parents more for all the challenges they must have faced every day of their life while bringing us up. They haven’t been perfect, but it was never an easy job anyways.





Do I want to be more adult? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. I would like more discipline in my life and less influence of my mood on my actions; hence yes. At the same time, I would like to, once I’m married, be a child and experience all the little little joys I missed out, with my partner; hence no. That would mean, indirectly, more or less, more influence of my mood on my actions. Perhaps the desire to keep the child in me alive is as strong as being ‘more’ adult. I hope I’ll be able to strike a good balance.