CROSSROADS – V

Riddhima didn’t want to remember any of it. Suyash’s cold behavior, his insensitive attitude and his bitterness towards her. It was over. That chapter of her life was closed and she desperately wanted to move on. But something kept holding her back. Why was she still awake at 1:15 am? 

Enough is enough. I got to get some sleep.” She thought. She drank some more water and put on her headphones that was playing some light jazz. And she desperately tried not to think of Suyash. Her mind slowly and gradually drifted to deep sleep. 

Riddhima is sitting with her colleague Mahi and having a cup of coffee at the office cafeteria. Her eyes randomly searching for somebody and she finds Suyash sitting in one corner of the cafeteria alone. He looked like he was upset or maybe he was crying. Riddhima just wanted to go and give him a nice tight hug and shower him with love right there. Suyash is mine, he is not supposed to be sad ever as long as he has me. Mahi catches her staring at Suyash. 

You really like him, don’t you?” teases Mahi

Yeah, sort of. But I don’t know if he feels the same.” Blushes Riddhima.

Go and find out for yourself. He is right there – go and buy him a coffee” says Mahi with a big smile.

Riddhima a bit unsure of herself still goes and gets another cup of coffee for him. She slowly walks towards Suyash and sits next to him. She looks at Suyash and is immediately startled. It wasn’t Suyash. It was Avi. 

Avi, you? What are you doing at my office cafeteria? I thought I saw Suyash.” Screams Riddhima. 

It doesn’t matter Riddhi. You just need somebody to be your love. How does it matter if it is me or Suyash.” Says Avinash with tears in his eyes.

Riddhima jumps out of her chair spilling coffee all over her. And when she looks down at her dress, it was covered in green algae. She looks at the spilled coffee around her and it is not coffee but it is green algae. She feels disgusted and runs to the washroom to wash herself. 

In the washroom, when she looks at herself in the mirror. She sees her mother standing behind her. She turns around. “Mom?” 

Its ok beta. It is only me. Suyash is a good boy. You must get married to him. Other girls of your age are having babies, I don’t know what is wrong with you. People have started talking about you now.” Says her mom. 

Suyash and Avinash are also standing next to her. They both say – “Yes Riddhima, you should get married. You need a man to make you feel loved. Why are you running away?” 

Riddhima runs out of the office on the road and runs as fast as she can. She realizes that there are some cars and trains chasing her. She runs even faster but looks like her home is nowhere visible. She realizes that these vehicles chasing her and finally going to hunt her down and she collapses.

Riddhima wakes up. She finds herself sweating profusely and out of breath. She jumps out of her bed and drinks some water. She feels like puking and runs to the washroom. No puke comes out but she feels sick to her gut. What a horrible nightmare! What does it mean? Mom, Suyash, Avi, Mahi, the cars, the trains – what does all this even mean?

She washes her face multiple times and looks at the clock. It was only 1:55 am. She had hardly slept for 30 mins and this horrible dream woke her up. She now knew that she has to see a doctor the next day. This insomnia and these nightmares would make her go crazy otherwise.

NEW NORMAL

New Normal phrase has become synonymous with the COVID period, however, if I look back there were various times when normal way of living was altered drastically and yet it was never named as “New Normal” because such things are expected. 

When mobile phones suddenly became popular over no period of time, it changed the way we lived. I was studying engineering at that time and we had to wait long queues at the STD booth to call up our family or friends. Every time we received a call at the hostel landline, the security guard used to shout in the loudspeaker so the whole hostel would know who received how many phone calls in a day. It was a very different way of living and with the mobile phones getting popular amongst students, the normal way of getting in touch with your family changed completely. 

Similar example would be for how emails replaced the handwritten letters, how digital cameras (or phone cameras) replaced the film-based ones, how ola and uber changed the way we book cabs, how UPI changed the way we deal in money transactions and so many more examples. I think the world is changing so fast that it is hardly possible to define a normal. Every day, every month and every year there are new innovations coming up which are bound to change the way we live. 

One personal New Normal that I will never forget is what happened immediately after I got married. I lived with 2 of my flat-mates for about 4 years before I got married to the guy I love. Of course, I and my husband started living together after marriage as expected – not very far away from the home that I lived in with my flat-mates. After about a month, my husband’s brother moved in with us as he had just started his job hunt in Bangalore. So in a very short span of time, I went from living with 2 girls to living with 2 boys. And yes, it was a very drastic difference. 

I suddenly realized that in my new home now I was the only one who was interested in cleaning up and buying groceries. I also realized that there was no space (or respect) for my beautiful pair of earrings that had always adorned a part of the wall in my previous home. I realized that my collection of shoes looked very different next to the boys’ shoes. I figured that I was expected to cook and cook all the three meals. Suddenly, there was no space in my life for my own likes. I had to hunt for time to do what I wanted to do. And I realized that this is what my life is going to be. I liked the change and I had a lot of fun with boys. But there were periods when I just wanted to go back to my older home to my girlfriends and live with them again. 

So, the feeling of a new normal hasn’t been new really. But now it is being used to denote a time that we never expected to see – the corona period. Of course, the new normal is going to change a lot and transform all of us beyond our imagination as a society. New normal is just a feeling of getting out of your own comfort zone and that indeed is always tough. Let us adapt to this new normal for now and hope that this normal gets evolved to better new normal.

ME – A PEACEMAKER, NO WAY!

Well, I don’t have a very good experience of being a peacemaker mainly because I usually avoid conflicts. This has been a feedback for me since quite some time in my yearly appraisals that I need to learn to resolve conflicts among my team members because it is an important aspect of being a leader. So, as part of leading my team – I need to ensure that they can work well with each other. But I find it very difficult because I feel that being a peacemaker really drains my energy. I feel so exhausted if I have to deal with it. 

The only peacemaking I do is when my son gets into fights with other kids in the neighborhood that is the only time that I gladly step in to resolve a conflict. Only because it is fairly easy to resolve the conflicts among kids because they really do listen to you. I have dealt with adults who are probably much more immature than my 5-year-old son. 

There is one peacemaking that I am doing actively but reluctantly these days is between my husband and his parents. Yes, you read it right. I am the mediator between my husband and my in-laws for a lot of things. The situation is that my husband is away living in another city and I am living with our son and my in-laws since last almost 3 years now. Apparently, I have managed to build up a good rapport with my in-laws wherein my husband is not involved in the equation.

My husband is a bit of a free spirit. All of us know that he is quite careless about things. Losing his precious items and forgetting important events is very common with him. And a person like him is now staying alone in this Corona period. All of us are quite sure that he doesn’t take as many precautions as required. He might not be washing all the groceries and packages that he receives, he might not be immediately changing his clothes if he comes home from outside. 

On the other hand, my in-laws are practically paranoid about Corona. All the grocery items, veggies are washed thoroughly. Any electronic items or books that cannot be washed are kept at a corner of the house for a couple of days till we are sure that they are free of any virus. We are obviously not stepping out of the house at all. If we have to step out at all – only eyes are visible (preferred to be covered with specs). As soon as we step in, everything needs to be washed. 

Imagine the amount of conflict between my husband and my in-laws. Parents keep complaining that he is not paying enough attention to the Corona cleanliness and my husband has an attitude – “Jo hoga dekha jayega (We will deal with whatever happens), I cannot stop my life”. And I am stuck somewhere in between trying to pacify both sides. Multiple arguments on both sides totally exhaust me and now I have come to a situation where I tell both parties – “Please deal with each other directly, don’t talk to me about it”. 

Tell him to take a bath as soon as he reaches home” My mother in law would tell me.

Tell her I have taken bath thrice since morning” my husband would say that with a laugh on the other side. And I know for sure that he is not telling the truth. 

Well, I just hope Corona ends soon without affecting my family so that this conflict is over forever. 

Just got reminded of a meme I read recently – “Corona has divided this world in two groups. One group is extremely aware of Corona cleanliness and does everything possible to ensure that virus doesn’t enter their homes. Another group who take minimal precautions and believe that they would deal with it if it happens. And the funny part is that both the groups think that the other group is foolish” 

In my family, both the groups exist and I am living with the two groups. God, save me!

PURPOSE OF LIFE

Mamma, why is my soap always white? Why do you have colorful soaps?” asked 4 year old Mohit while his mother was giving him a bath.

Because your soap is the baby soap and my soap is an adult soap which comes in various other colors?” replied Anusha

But I also want colorful soaps.” Said Mohit stomping his foot hard on the wet floor of the bathroom while Anusha ignored his tantrum and continued to clean him. 

Later in the day, she logged on Amazon and ordered few of those colorful, animal shaped baby soaps for her son – just to avoid any more tantrums and so that he could enjoy the bath time. 

The trick worked and first soap that he got was a yellow colored lion shaped soap. He loved it so much that he started taking bath himself. He would make lion roars in the bathroom, would talk to this lion and keep it nicely in the soap case after every bath. Bathing time became the most enjoyable fun time for little Mohit. 

A week later, the detailing of lion’s face started to fade off. A couple of weeks later – it became just a soap, it wasn’t a lion anymore. 

Mamma, where is the lion now? Why can’t I see him?” said Mohit staring at the yellow soap which now was just a soap. 

The lion got dissolved in water.” Anusha said smiling nicely to her son.

Mohit had tears in his eyes now. “Why did the lion dissolve? Did I hurt him?” 

No my dear, you didn’t hurt him. You just helped the soap fulfill its purpose.” Said Anusha.

What is a purpose, Mamma?” asked Mohit

Purpose is something that you are supposed to do in your lifetime. The soaps are made so that they can dissolve themselves in order to cleanse others. This particular lion soap was created not only to clean you but also to entertain you. It did its job well. You loved the lion for the last two weeks, didn’t you?” said Anusha 

Can I get an elephant this time, please Mamma?” asked Mohit with a twinkle in his eye

Of course, I will get it for you once this lion is completely gone. See, even when the face of the lion is gone – its body is still there. You got to use it and when it completely disappears, I will get you an elephant.” Said Anusha.

Ok, Mamma.” Said Mohit now busy with the lion once again.

Anusha continued to wonder about the important lesson of purpose she had just imparted to her son. Every soap is made with a purpose to clean others and in that process it selflessly dissolves itself. While fulfilling its purpose, it completely vanishes and then is replaced by another soap. 

Similarly, we are sent on this earth to fulfill our purpose and while doing so we spend all our energies and one day we just vanish only to be replaced by our next generations. Life goes on this way for ages and ages. And there cannot be a better purpose than to cleanse others of their dirt while dissolving our own life little by little each day.

MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE

When Shalini reached office that morning, all she wanted was a few moments of quietness to gather herself after all that had happened the previous night. She couldn’t get this privilege, though. To her utter dismay, a pile of files landed on her table with a call from her authority to wrap them up in an hour and report. Jostling with the thoughts within, she managed to work on all the files and get them sent. Within minutes, she was called by her superior and given a mouthful for the shabby work and issued a Notice of Show Cause.

Shalini’s story is the story of many working men and women. Physical well-being impacts mental health and mental well-being impacts physical health, though physical fitness is not always an indicator of mental fitness. So often, we focus on our physical health not realising that mental health is also a part and parcel of ‘health’.

For people who work outside home, the workplace is where they spend a large part of their time. Hence, mental health in the workplace ought to be important.

What are the threats to sound mental health in the workplace?

  • Long work hours without breaks
  • Partial/ unjust favours rendered to others at one’s expense
  • Labelling and gossip
  • Spying on personal life and leaking stories at the workplace
  • Personal ill-health
  • A disturbed family life
  • Insensitive authorities
  • Lack of adequate rest
  • Abysmal work area conditions (poor lighting, stinky surroundings, dirty walls/ rooms, etc.)
  • Sexual harassment
  • Life threats
  • Lack of job security (frequent lay-offs)
  • Underpayment/ Irregular payment
  • Pressure to conform to the work culture at the cost of one’s individuality

What happens when workplace mental health is not emphasized upon?

Efficiency and productivity at work reduces – Work performance dips. Energetic confident performance gives way to sluggish below-the-mark outputs.

Irritable temperament develops – Ever observed a colleague/ subordinate/ superior being up in arms about something or the other all the time? Well, it is not just the behavior that needs to be modified there but the underlying cause needs addressing.

Psychological disorders crop up – Most cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) in working people develop overtime due to workplace demands.

Psychosomatic symptoms – Body pains with no medical reasons, persistent headaches, and nausea are just a few of the physiological manifestations of psychological causes.

Unwanted relationships – Having to spend a large chunk of time away from loved ones creates space for unwanted relationships to develop which ultimately causes disturbance in one’s personal, familial and work life.

Addictions – People take to alcohol or other addictions to douse certain workplace flares – humiliation from the boss, lack of job security, etc.

So, then how can mental health in the workplace be addressed?

Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of our mental health. We need to take care of our minds like we take care of our children. There are different things that work differently for people but here are some guidelines that can be followed to ensure that we don’t lose it. 

Take time out for your own hobbies – This is really important. For some people reading or writing can be stress-buster for others it could be cooking. Somebody might enjoy meditation while somebody else can enjoy dance. Whatever it is that works for you – invest at least an hour each day on your hobbies.

Give priority to self and learn to say “NO” – Well, this is the toughest thing to do – saying NO to your boss. Take a step back and think that if you work for an organization, where you don’t have an option to say a NO – you deserve a better workplace. 

Relook at the definition of success – For many of us, the definition of success is to reach a certain level of organizational ladder or to have a certain amount of bank balance. Such a definition of success puts us in a rat race that we can never win. Relook at what success means to you. Is it being a CEO or is it being a successful parent? Is it having X amount of money in the account or is it being a happy person? Decide for yourself.

Build a support system – It scares me when I see the number of people (apparently successful) giving up their lives. I wonder why they didn’t have a support system. We can never build our support system when we are stressed. We need to build it when we are happy (normal). Have a set of friends who can be your “Agony aunts”. It is really important to have people who can pull you out of a stressful situation.

Learn to identify when you are stressed – This is very challenging. So, have a checklist of stress. If you mark most of the items in that checklist as YES, then you need to take a break. The checklist might have things listed above as symptoms of bad mental health. 

Of course, each individual is different and these guidelines might not be enough to cover everything. Follow what makes you happy, don’t follow a rat race. Don’t wait for that heart attack to give you an alarm of your situation. Look at it right now and make it better right away.

COLLABORATIVELY WRITTEN BY RAJNANDINI SAHU AND PRABHJOT SAINI

PHYSICS, MY DEAR PHYSICS BOOK

Magnetic effects of Electric current. Reflection and refraction. Centripetal and centrifugal force. Oh man, I haven’t even read these topics once. I’ve Physics exam tomorrow.” Thought Deepa. 

Then out of nowhere a book of Physics comes flying and falls on her lap. She finds herself in an open area that is full of book racks loaded with books. She’s sitting down on the grass and when she looks up, she can see stars twinkling and the moon shining down on her. On her sides, there’re two book racks extremely tall, which seems to be touching the sky. She cannot see the top end of the book racks. 

She opens the Physics book and finds Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice inside it. 

No, this is literature. I need Physics book”. She shouts and feels the panic rising inside her. 

Another book falls on her hand again. It says – “ICSE Concise Physics – Class 10, by RP Goyal and SP Tripathi”.

She sits down on the grass again, opens the book. It has only one chapter – Stars and the Solar system. “This is class 8th Physics book. Where’s my book? I need to study Reflection and refraction. I’m going to flunk”. She starts crying and feeling terribly helpless. 

Can’t you hear me? I need my class 10th Physics book.” She shouts to the sky. 

Another book comes flying to her. This time it has to be the right book. She opens it quickly and to her relief, it’s her own Physics book complete and intact. She’s relieved, as she opens up the page of the chapter – “Magnetic effects of Electric current”, she feels something on her legs. She ignores it, after all, she has to prepare for her exam. Slowly, she feels something tightening around her ankle. She looks down and there’s a black snake circling around her leg, crawling up her knees. 

In an impulse, she throws the book up in the air and as soon as the book is out of her hands – snake disappears. She looks around for the book, then for the snake – there’re none. She frantically looks for the book again on the book racks. She finds all other subjects of all other classes but not her Physics book “ICSE Concise Physics”. 

The book racks are infinitely extending in all directions. She kept walking looking for the book. Suddenly, all the books start flying in the air hitting each other. She tries to save herself. There’s one book that’s ready to hit her on her head. She starts running for her life but while running she manages to read the title of the book – “ICSE Concise Physics Class 10”. 

She wakes up sweating and panting for breath. It’s twilight already. Her clock reads 5:58 am. Her alarm will go off in 2 mins. She has her board exam in another 3 hours and her Physics book is sitting silently on the table. She smiles at the book, picks it up, and hugs it. “You’ll never hurt me ever I know, my dear Physics book”.

I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU

Prompt: She turned to see who was behind her…

(Image Credit – Google Inc.)

She turned to see who was behind her, but before she could completely take in the view – somebody hugged her tightly. It was dark and she couldn’t figure out who it was but it was a similar touch, a similar fragrance of the man she had loved all her life. Now at the age of 83, she didn’t have to see his face. She knew him – every touch of him and the feel of his aura. They knew each other so well and even after 60 years of marriage, they were deeply in love.

She let him hug her while the quiet tears moistened her cheeks. He said – “I told you I will never leave you till you are alive, and I never did.” She closed her eyes and remembered the day of her husband’s funeral. It was his encompassing love for her as he had promised, remained then and forever.