Coronavirus Chaos: We have taken things for Granted

Let’s face it; we have all been caught off-guard, including those in the medical fraternity. COVID-19 has left everybody, including the economy, in shambles. Stocks have crashed, businesses have gone bankrupt, and a large number of human lives are being lost every single day. With more than 300 confirmed cases coming to light thus far, India seems to be feeling the heat of the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Back in 2011, Contagion, a film directed by Steven Soderberg, predicted the deadly virus outbreak. Upon release, the film was met with rave reviews, but nobody would have ever thought that some of our worst nightmares would come to life approx nine years after the film’s theatrical release. 

Come 2020; a global health crisis has left the world reeling in tatters. Despite all of the chaos, the disease has made us learn a few valuable lessons:

Death Isn’t the worst of human fears, misery is

The fact is: we have all taken human life for granted, haven’t we? Ah, there’s no point denying it. The virus has made us realise that the human race isn’t invincible. In fact, ours is a race as brittle as glass, and all of us are prone to disease, death, and misery. Also, it goes without saying that all of our hard-earned money can vanish within minutes, all of it. Just look at the plight of the stock markets if you disagree. 

‘Normal’ life has been derailed

We seem to be learning that our planet, and the life forms it sustains, are fragile, and we’re learning it the hard way. A godforsaken virus is killing people in large numbers while forcing us to practice social distancing. Grocery stores are running dry as people have started with the panic-buying exercise. We can’t even go out in order to meet our friends and colleagues, and eating out is now a distant memory. So, to top it all, we have all been robbed of the bite-sized pleasures of life. 

In all fairness, many of us have this habit of taking things for granted, don’t we? Take this for an example: most of us waste a lot of food, don’t we? And now we are here, trying to keep our body and soul together in an era where food prices are skyrocketing because of panic buying.

Furthermore, many of the popular tourist attractions across the globe have turned into graveyards. Take the example of Italy, the European giant. The country, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, has turned into a ghost town. More than 4,000 have died in different parts of the country ever since the pandemic showed its ugly head. 

To make matters worse, the country reported 627 deaths on Friday (March 20, 2020). The sick and the elderly have been dying a slow and painful death, and cannot be visited by their relatives. A feeling of perpetual sorrow seems to have made inroads into the minds of people, but there’s something much worse than sorrow, i.e., helplessness. People have been dying in large numbers, and we have done nothing (because we can do nothing). Such is life, you see. 

In all fairness, death isn’t the worst of our fears, but it is the pain of dying in loneliness that makes our hearts grieve. Nearly 6000 have died across Europe, and a lot of them cannot be given a proper burial because of the fear of contagion.

Usually, we do not value people till the time they stay with us, but the moment they are gone, we tend to experience emptiness and sorrow, isn’t it true?

All of us are dying to get back to work, aren’t we? Well, it has been long since I travelled in a crowded metro. Once all of this is over ( pretty soon, I’d like to believe), I guess all of us will begin appreciating the beauty of everyday life. 

Our Adversities Only Make Us Stronger…

“If you’re mentally unhealthy in the first place, it’ll affect your body. The first thing you need to do is to accept it, and go through the difficult part thinking it’s a part of a much bigger scheme of things.”- Gulraj Bedi

Confidence is often considered a precious commodity. It is something only a few people are born with, while the rest of us are left wishing to get a taste of it.

Confidence, in all fairness, is not a fixed attribute. It is a fickle companion. It depends significantly on the thoughts that fly through our mind and the decisions that are taken by us. It is an age-old fact that the beliefs we hold and nurture, help us in directing our actions and shaping our mindset.

I still remember the day an interviewer asked a question that caught me off-guard. Well, he asked me when do I feel the most confident.

Now, this question might appear quite straightforward, but the answer is quite tricky. Confidence is viewed differently by different people. A lot of people believe confidence is an external characteristic. They believe confidence is synonymous with appearance. However, if the entire concept of confidence is deconstructed, we’d realize that confidence can be summed up in three words, these are self-belief, security, and trust.

I must also discuss insecurities because a lot of us are surrounded by them all the time. Be it relationship or work; insecurities are bound to keep in out of nowhere. 

Then, there are social interactions. Well, social interactions aren’t my cup of tea, I must confess. I feel like no one cares to be my friend and that not even my family knows me because nobody is bothered to know me enough. But despite insecurities, I feel confident enough. And sometimes, it’s good to have insecurities about something as important as work, because those insecurities make us work harder.

I believe all of us have a unique story to tell. The degree of hardship varies. There are struggles and challenges. I’m sure there are ups and downs as well. There are things we would have liked to have done differently, things we’re proud of. All of that is a vital part of our story. Instead of getting bogged down by the struggles and hardships we are subjected to, we must learn to embrace them.

The game of cricket has taught me quite a bit about adaption. I’ve learned a lot of lessons through cricket. One such lesson I’d like to share is a lesson on adversity. In life, we aren’t given a lot of liberties or guarantees. Our stories may be different, our hardships may also be different, but there’s one common link in all those stories. All of us, at some point and in some way, are bound to face some kind of adversity. All of us have gone through adversities, and the thing that inspires us to keep on moving is the belief that we will succeed.

To keep on moving is as inspiring as it can get. That is a huge accomplishment. Because of all the adversities we face in our lives, we’re left with countless decisions to make. Should I continue? Would I lose belief in myself if I continue?

The biggest problem we face today is: we get things underway, but we find it hard to complete them. That holds true for almost all of us. Whatever we come across in life ends up shaping our mindset. Sometimes, situations and circumstances don’t really go the way we want them to go, but that is exactly where we end up learning our lessons. We just need to make sure that we end up accomplishing the tasks that have already been started. Once we have finished something (despite limitations), we will be really proud of it when we look back at it.

Empty spaces….

I used to remain extremely depressed when I was 18 years old. To be very honest, I was a loner. I felt lonely and tired in a crowded room filled with unknown people. I would go to my apartment and just sit there for hours doing nothing. Everything used to remain quiet, lonely and still. A few creaking sounds made by an old wooden door used to break the shackles of silence.

I used to leave the television on just to feel that somebody was there with me all the time. As many as seven years have rolled by, but my situation happens to be quite similar to what it was back then. The biggest irony in the world is to have 500 friends on Facebook and yet be so terribly depressed and lonely.

In all fairness, there is absolutely no pleasure in being lonely.  The trouble with me is not that I am depressed and likely to stay depressed, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely for the rest of my life. It seems as though there is a hole in this world, and I find myself walking around that hole constantly during the daytime. I tend to jump into that hole during wee hours of the night.

Moments before falling asleep, I tend to feel alive, with a thousand fragments of unspoken thoughts flying through my mind. I have this habit of bringing each moment into the bed with me much like a five-year-old brings pencils and pens. And then, I turn motionless and fall into the depths of sleep, just like a lump of sugar melts away in a child’s mouth.

Well, when I had a closer look at my plight, I realised that there is a huge difference between being lonely and being alone. I reach home at around 8 PM every night and start abusing my Netflix subscription. I also love to roam around aimlessly on a lazy Saturday evening. I have always had to struggle in order to keep myself away from being overwhelmed by people. Well, it is not the easiest thing to do, but you tend to get used to it as the years roll by. There are people who believe you’re ‘egoistic’ just because you don’t talk. Not everybody understands the meaning of silence.

art blog - Shin Kwang Ho - empty kingdom
Quite frankly, no price is too high to pay if you wish to experience the pleasure of ‘owning yourself’. At times, it becomes absolutely necessary for you to take out time for yourself. It provides you with an opportunity to rejuvenate yourself.

I must also admit that I was quite an annoying student and used to ask a lot of questions.  Not much of it changed after I graduated. I was quite an introvert when I started working as a copyeditor for one of the leading financial dailies. Back then, I was untouched by joy or sorrow and used to work tirelessly.

Just because I am an introvert, you’d be thinking that I don’t have friends. Well, that’s not true. I do have a small circle of good friends, and I must admit that I have been quite fortunate to have a bunch of jolly good friends. No matter how dire the circumstances are, they are always ready to help me out with things. I love indulging in constructive arguments with friends over a hearty cup of coffee, but I won’t jump into an argument just for the sake of gaining attention.

Complexity of human emotions, which is hard to be defined in one word, is left as momentary traces on the empty space, after the long agony of the artist’s inner side. The ?complexity‘ is a kind of action which is come by completely absorbing and assim…

To end it all on a positive note, I would like to say that I’ve seen great men being lonely. Ah, I am not saying I am a great man:). I am a lonely little chap who feels shy while eating in front of too many people. At times, people set up extremely high standards for themselves that they are bound to feel lonely. But at the same time, loneliness becomes an integral part of their ability to create something out of the extra-ordinary.

Picture courtesy: Pinterest

 

Seeking acceptance…

I have a friend whose son is 15 years old. He is extremely suicidal and lonely, and finds it  difficult to socialize. His mother left her job to take care of him. One fine day, she was shocked to find blade marks on his wrists. His parents seemed quite worried. When his condition started worsening, they decided to see a doctor.

The doctor examined him comprehensively. After the examination was done, he asked them to see a psychiatrist. As soon as the doctor said this, the boy’s parents began fuming. They chided the doctor and hurled expletives at him.  The father said ” Mera beta pagal nahi hai. Pagalon ka ilaaj Karne waala hi sabse bada Pagal Hota Hai.” (My son isn’t mad. The guy treating the mad guys happens to be a moron.)

Anxiety by ArtistKS.deviantart.com on @DeviantArt

A lot of people in India shy away from talking about mental illness. Lung infections, cancer, and tuberculosis are diseases, but mental illness is not. Mental illness isn’t considered a disease; it’s considered a ‘sin’.  People suffering from mental ailments are frowned upon by people. Recently, I was with a group of colleagues, a majority of whom are fathers. One of them mentioned a colleague who happens to be suffering from a psychological disorder. My colleagues appeared unimpressed and began passing judgments. I could hear one of them saying ” Pagalon ka ilaaj Karne Wala bhi Pagal  hi Hota Hai.”

Various kinds of mental disorders have been recognized throughout the world. Mental disorders are very much curable, but the stigma that comes along is the real problem. Psychiatrists are always willing to help. You need to be a bit open-minded.

We tend to face a lot of pressures in our life. Leave alone the working classes; even children haven’t been spared. Parents want their children to become ‘champions’. Moms and dads want their kids to score 95% in each subject. The problem doesn’t end here. Getting good grades is certainly not enough. A student needs to be a good sportsman as well. Expectations are never-ending.

New Sketches by Sebastien del Grosso

Instead of providing moral support, parents tend to pressurize children endlessly. I remember the day when a very good friend of mine was slapped and insulted by his father for choosing Arts over Science. The pressure was immense, and he had to reconsider his decision. Consequently, his grades declined drastically. Physics wasn’t a cup of tea for him. He found it hard to put two and two together. Life became miserable, and in his panic, he turned to substance abuse.

Well, I fail to understand why do we still hesitate while discussing mental disorders? Why is this topic swept under the carpet? Are we living in the 1820s? Well, I guess we are.  Furthermore, psychology is still not considered a ‘real’ subject.  A friend of mine told me about her father’s reaction when she told him that she wants to pursue psychology  (Hons.) from the Kamala Nehru College for Women, University of Delhi. Her father replied, ” Kya tum Pagalon ki doctor bano gi ?” (Do you want to treat mad people?”)

We need qualified psychologists. Psychology would help us understand human behaviour. Studying psychology would allow people to get to terms with the functioning of the mind. Understanding the mind happens to be the first step towards curing mental illness.

Human beings are quite fascinating, aren’t they? Different people have different opinions.  Getting into the minds of people happens to be an interesting exercise. Doing, thinking, and acting form the core of human behaviour. As a psychologist, you get to experience and understand various aspects of human behaviour. How does the mind work? Why do different people react in different ways? Psychology has all the answers for you.

To conclude:

Mental disorders are just like any other disease. Whenever your throat is in bad shape, you go and see an ENT specialist, don’t you? Similarly, you can get in touch with a psychiatrist if you’re suffering from depression.

Picture courtesy: Pinterest

Dating Diaries- Part I The Coffee Shop Conundrum…

Dating someone happens to be quite an adventure. The reason I consider it to be an adventure is: you don’t know what you’d be bumping into. You don’t know the person. You aren’t aware of his/her tastes and preferences. So, to top it all, there’s a considerable degree of uncertainty that ends up making the experience memorable and exciting.

In all fairness, a romantic date is not something all of us are privileged enough to experience. Only a few are able to experience it while the rest of us are left wishing to get a taste of it while staring our way into the depths of the oblivion.

For a guy such as myself who has never experienced the thrills and spills of dating a girl, the opportunity came out of nowhere.  Let me give you some context before I start bombarding you with my earth-shattering experiences.

The Prelude:

I am a transcriber by profession and work at a content marketing firm. The office happens to be located in Delhi’s Pitampura area, just about five kilometers away from my house. To be honest, my happiness knew no bounds when I got this job. The office happened to be nearby, which meant I could save a lot of money which would have otherwise been spent in commuting to the workplace.

I take a shared Uber cab in the morning simply because it happens to be cheaper than hiring an independent cab.  During the routine pilgrimage, I met a girl. We met in August last year. Our first meeting turned out to be quite uneventful. Since both of us were complete strangers, we didn’t bother speaking, but our eyes must have met quite a few times that day.

The Beginning

Days kept passing by and both of us kept meeting each other. As our interactions grew, we started moving past the usual hellos and heys. She appeared a bit shy. (I would like to believe that.) She didn’t really open up until recently.

Back in December, we shared our phone numbers. It was followed by an unending saga of text messages. For the past 10 days, my phone has been buzzing quite frequently. The messages don’t stop. The conversations just go on and on and on. Our conversations are like a river i.e. never-ending.

Now, let us come to the dating episode. During one of the days in early January, she texted me saying that she wanted to meet me. I, out of shyness, tried to avoid the meeting by cooking up various excuses.

Despite my resistance, she remained firm. It felt as if she wanted to meet me out of desperation. My phone’s message box was being flooded with messages. After being overpowered by a thousand fragments of broken thoughts, I finally gave in and agreed to meet her.

It was a working day and I had to apply for a sudden short leave in order to materialize the date. We decided to meet at one of the Café Coffee Day outlets in Jwala Heri Market (West Delhi). We were to meet at 4 pm. I must confess that I was scared. It was the 5th day of January 2019, but I was sweating profusely.

I wasn’t scared out of shyness, but because, in the past, my encounters with girls had been disastrous. It is hard for me to be close and I can’t help it. I find it hard to start a conversation. And that day, it happened to be no different.

The Shyness, the Nervy Moments, and Everything in Between

Okay, so as far as the date is concerned, it was no less than a life and death situation for me. The reason I consider it to be a life-death situation is: I didn’t know how to react. When I entered the coffee shop, she was already there, with her eyes glued to the coffee shop’s main entrance. For the first time in my professional career, I had been late for an ‘appointment’, albeit by just a couple of minutes.

It was a sunny afternoon in January with occasional gusts of wind kissing my cheeks. Our date began with a few glaring stares. I guess she too was just as nervous as I was. Our conversation began with the usual hi and hellos and shifted to our mutual love affair with coffee. The regular pauses in her voice made me realise the extent of insecurity prevalent in her mind. She wasn’t comfortable. I could clearly figure that out. Her eyes were an epitome of insecurity and fragility. Nearly 10 minutes had passed and yet both of us couldn’t manage to strike a conversation. Both of us kept scrolling through the WhatsApp conversations in our attempts to look busy.

After more than 15 minutes of indomitable silence, I managed to break the shackles and asked her if she wanted something to eat. She, in the softest of voices, replied that a hearty cup of coffee is what she wanted and asked me if I would be kind enough to go and place the order.

After the order was placed, silence began creeping into our heads once again. This time, quite surprisingly, she ended up breaking the monotony and asked me if I had a girlfriend. I wanted to tell her that having a girlfriend is nothing short of a luxury for an introvert such as myself but ended up opting for an easier escape by simply nodding my head sideways.

She told me how she had been prone to allergies and that she avoided eating out. The sorrow of not being able to complete her higher education due to personal problems could also be clearly seen in her eyes. She told me that she couldn’t complete her graduation as she had to relocate all the way to the United States during the 2nd year of her Bachelor’s Degree Programme.

The conversation then shifted to how our respective families are doing. How many sisters and how many brothers and so on. These questions were followed by a few predictable answers. Just then, a young girl of about 22 served coffee and within no time, both of us could be seen smiling at each other whilst sipping the divine liquid. I call it a divine liquid because it helped ease our nerves and we could now talk freely. Within no time, we were discussing pop culture, films, a shared love for Punjabi pop music, etc. That coffee must have contained magic, for both of us couldn’t stop talking after sipping it. Our tongues ran berserk and all the cautions were thrown to the wind.

We kept talking and the time kept passing like an overflowing river of sand. A knot was tied. There was a certain degree of warmth which, in all fairness, seemed to have engulfed us. Both of us didn’t bother moving. Everything remained still. Even our hearts must have skipped a few beats. The experience was worth it. I got an opportunity to open up after ages.

After an hour and a half of endless banter and gossip, the time had come for both of us to part ways. As we made our way out of the coffee shop, a bond was established. A few threads got entangled. It was all worth it. The experience helped me get over my fright.

And soon enough, goodbyes were being waved. For me, the ‘meeting’ had ended, whereas for here, it had just begun.

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Four Short Films Made by Students Which Deal With Social Issues…

That films are an integral part of our life is no hyperbole. Cinema, because of its wider reach and accessibility, is no less than a mirror which helps us reflect on a host of issues that the society comes across.

The likes of social media platforms such as YouTube have allowed amateur filmmakers and students to come forward and voice their concerns regarding anything and everything under the sun.  From blood donation to physical disability to the ever-growing problem of child abuse, countless videos are being churned out by students in with an intent to mobilise public opinion and bring about a desirable change.

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Addressing the Severe Lack of Sensitivity…

The video of Zomato’s delivery guy eating food from a parcel meant to be delivered went viral on social media in December last year. Zomato, the food delivery giant, was quick to react and sacked the guy for tampering with sealed food parcels. After the delivery guy was sacked, the company was quick to clear its name and tweeted ‘we take food tampering very seriously’. The incident ended up attracting a lot of eyeballs for a week or so,  but the buzz around the incident eventually died down.

Continue reading “Addressing the Severe Lack of Sensitivity…”