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
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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.

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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.

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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:


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.” 


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.