Collateral Damage of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Anxiety looms like a shadow behind the gloomy exterior of the Pandemic. A country battling with COVID on the outside is fighting away anxiety on the inside. In times like these, hope tries to levitate us only to have lingering storms thrash it back down. Collateral damage of a pandemic is nothing the humanity hasn’t seen before. As important as it is to maintain the focus on the disease, it’s important we also weigh in on the auxiliary damages that COVID brought with it.

Here are a few of the many collateral damages of this pandemic:

1) Mental Health – How much awareness is too much awareness? Thousands of miles away, I still bleed blue. And if this has such a tremendous impact on me, I can only imagine what it would do to a country already suffering with alarming lows in mental health.

2) Fatal Diseases – First damage, now collateral damage. Fatal diseases like TB and Cancer takeaway thousands of lives every year. With limited medical equipment, doctors and resources and the focus shift toward COVID, lives of patientssuffering from such diseases are more in danger than ever. Doctors struggle while picking the greater of the two evils.

3) Business and Education – A lost year for many in terms of business and education. While some businesses have shut down or are failing to keep the boat afloat, education has hit not only in terms of quality but also equality. While parents with the right means are still able to support education from home, many others with lesser means struggle to juggle adaptation in this new way of life.

4) Domestic Violence – With all locked away at home, danger rises for the ones that used to take shelter in the outside. The rise in domestic violence induced by the lockdown brings a plunge in the hopes of those that were either already victims or are new victims to this heinous crime.Moreover, the ones venting their anger increase in number while dealing with the frustrations of the pandemic.

It is as much a pandemic of COVID-19 as it is of all the issues listed here. Of course the gravity of COVIDsurpasses the graveness of most of them but it’s important to not undermine the additional brunt that the world is facing because of this pandemic.

Lessons From My Father

This is less of a blog, more of a memoir dedicated to my father. Why I felt the need to write it? Well, there are moments in your life when you realize your parents have taught you so many things by their actions without ever having to actually teach you anything. Sorry mom, but this one’s for Dad 😛

  1. Never work a day in your life

After a week of exhausting work, on a Friday morning I tell myself – “Just one more day”. Immediately after, I ask myself – “Is it really worth it?” I bet my Dad probably asked the same question to himself at some point in his life however we now know that he didn’t just mumble those things to himself, he did something about it. And it worked, a successful businessman and doctor, I like to believe, my father never worked a day in his life after that day. Don’t get me wrong, he worked his ass off, however this time he was working for himself and not for someone else, so it never felt like work. In all my years, I have never seen him complain after a hectic day of work. Being a frontline worker, I know that he is stressed now more than ever but that stress comes from the gravity of the disease and not from the work that’s going into it. For that matter, I see him more energized when there’s lots to do as opposed to when things are slow. He feels that when you’re not doing anything, you’re basically rusting away your potential.

2. Don’t expect/wait for reciprocation

A generous businessman might seem like an oxymoron but the person in question is an exception. It amazes me how many favors he gives out without expecting anything in return. Now, before all the realists out there, like my mom and myself, start complaining that this will only cause you to get used at the hands of the vultures of the world, I would like to debate that how you see people around you is highly based on your perception and experiences. This man right here only sees the good in people. It’s his choice and one of the reasons he is a success. A giver of sorts and a go-to person for many, people know they can reach out to him without feeling the guilt of not being able to pay back. As much as I like to think that this quality of his has rubbed off on me, the older I get, the more I grow suspicious of people around me. So, I am not there yet, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. But he inspires me every day.

3. Never stagnate

While I have a plan to retire at 50, he at 57, already has multiple projects on the go at the same time and planning for more in the future. I don’t think retirement is or has ever been in his plans. I don’t think my dad will be able to handle the stagnation that retirement brings, he is just one of those super active, energized by action kind of people. I feel like I am slowly getting there with my initiatives and my plans for the future but had I not seen my dad metamorphose, I would have thought that living like this and feeling like this on a Friday was probably okay. I now realize that it’s not and there are things to be done.

My dad’s my hero, I hope you find that inspiration in someone in your life too!

Feminism – What’s cool, What’s not!

I have been wanting to write a feminism piece for a long time but the sheer breadth of the topic made me nervous. I want to write so much but I didn’t feel worthy enough. I have written about it before in terms of equality however the term has so much more meaning now than just equal opportunities and equal pay. It’s more than that. How do I put forth the struggles of a common woman without sounding whiny and without warranting a rebuttal from the opposite gender and getting inundated with backlash concerning #NotAllMen.

So, I will start by writing what this blog is not. It’s not a cry for help, the purpose is not to undermine the struggles of a common man as opposed to a common woman and most of all, it is not meant to, in any way, signify that the oppression comes from a single gender. Women pull other women down as much as men do and it’s time, we take responsibility for that.

Let’s talk about what’s cool and what’s not, shall we? Sports are cool, romantic comedies are not. Being manly is cool, being girly is not. Emotions and tears are lame, tough exterior is not. Staying home and taking care of the house and children is unbecoming for men, for women it’s not. Obsessing over cars is cool, clothes is not. Black is cool, pink is not? Should I go on? Who set these rules anyway? Just some #FoodForThought!

Can you think of more of these self-invented disparities between men and women? Comment away!!!

Don’t Confuse Oppression with Freedom – Hijab Ban in France

Oppression is not about what’s right and what’s wrong, it’s about the lack of choice and the day you take away that basic right to decision making, that is the day when oppression wins, and feminism loses. That is what happened when Hijab, which is considered a sign of Islamic gender oppression was banned in France for girls below the age of 18. Some might look at this as an act of freedom and liberation however, embracing or rejecting the idea of religious expression is a choice and taking away that choice, either in the form of an imposition or a ban is a violation of a basic human right.

A law passed to eliminate public display of extreme religious sentiment disguised as so called upliftment of oppressed women is nothing but another example of the lack of consideration for basic human rights in developing as well as developed countries.

Thoughts?

Cultural Dilemma

The more I live in the U.S. the more I am reminded of the fact that the residents here were dealt a poor hand when it comes to self-grown culture. Belonging to a relatively new country, the residents of the U.S. have always been at a loss of rich culture of their own. However, they filled the vacuum by incorporating eclectic cultures in their celebrations as they did with their people. Be it St Patrick’s Day for the Irish, Holi and Diwali for the Indians or Lunar New Year for the Chinese, the diverse people of this country make sure they don’t lose a grip on their roots that are still embedded in their homeland. Some might have a stronger grip than others based on whether they were born here or how long it has been since they left their birthplace.

But is culture something we should hold on to? Or is it another bygone that should and will eventually dissolve with the modernization of our existence. Indians for one have done a tremendous job to hold on to their culture, not one but various diverse cultures that thrive on its holy land. We might have forgotten why certain celebrations came into existence and the meaning of these festivals might have morphed over decades, however, the essence truly remains in the feeling of belonging. The feeling that we are part of a whole. And that feeling is far greater than what history taught us about these festivals.

Final verdict – culture is much more than holding onto antiquated ways, it is more about the feeling of belonging which essentially acts like a glue for the residents of any country. So, pass it down with pride. There is a fine line between letting go off ancient ways that pull us down and embracing the ones that bring us together.  

Having Thick Skin is Overrated

The importance of unfiltered unapologetic communication is obvious however it’s amazing how we practice something so obvious maybe only 10% of the time, or less. To be honest, I had a liberating experience only recently where I spoke to my loved ones about what, most possibly, had been piling for almost 2 years. The experience was not only liberating but also to a certain extent meditative. It would be unfair if I gave myself the full credit for my courage because I did have someone pushing me to take that step. I am glad I had that emotional backing and today, I encourage you to reflect on what’s been bothering you and aim to push you to voice it. Believe me, it can and will work wonders.

You deserve more than what you give yourself credit for and more often than not, that is the reason you keep certain things out of your loved one’s purview. However, understand, your loved ones are more receptive to your emotions than you give them credit for. Open up a little, thick skin is overrated. You are strong when you have the ability to speak up. Cry in the process if you can’t hold back those tears, you’re still strong. Tears don’t make you weak, building walls and tough facades do. No matter how difficult, have that conversation!

Tying back to a common theme in all my blogs, as millennials our responsibility lies in embracing vulnerability by creating an environment where being indifferent to, and suppressing emotions is not glorified as being thick skinned.

Living in the Present

I call India a land of successful Plan Bs because we have this tendency to plan for all the “What ifs”. There was never a plan I ever made without considering the possibility of it failing. And so, I always had a plan B and sometimes, even a plan C. God forbid, a plan A on its own would have been a sin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan for the future but remember – you have to give your 100 percent in the present for those future plans to work out. In today’s blog I talk about “Living in the present” and how the modern wellness and minimalist industry is screaming at us to embrace it.

It is a universally known fact that the tranquility of meditation has a calming effect on our mental wellbeing. But what is the basis of meditation? It is nothing but living in the moment. Keeping track of our breath makes us completely aware of the present and blurs out the thoughts of the past and the future. Think about it, are we ever fully conscious of our surroundings?

Why have the sales of wellness products shot up? The scented candles, scent diffusers, aromatics all remind us of the goodness that lies in the moment at hand. For a moment, we forget about what the future holds or what the past has taught us. When overthinking takes a backseat, you can truly be one with yourself.

Minimalists all over the world talk about how minimalism forces you to live in the present by allowing you to let go of possessions that remind you of the past and the obsession of acquiring possessions in the future. When the past and the future has no bearing on you, you can truly begin to live in the moment.

Just some food for thought on a Sunday, learn to truly live in the present to work for the future you are so abundantly obsessed with making a success.  

Pick Your Battles

Let’s talk about the circumstances that surround a typical Indian household. Often, petty fights snowball and sensitive topics are brushed under the rug. There comes a point when you need to contemplate, to what extent is this healthy?

In every blog I write, I talk about traits that need to be passed on by millennials to the next generation. I do this in the hope of protecting our progeny from blindly accepting the truth as presented to them, and following a path created out of their own discretion. However, in order to do that, we as millennials must unbound them from the foes of our culture so their minds can be free to think the way they want. In this blog, I urge my fellow millennials to create an environment where our children are free to speak their mind, are allowed to have their own opinion and feel worthy of and comfortable with disagreements and confrontations.

In a country where anxiety induced by overthinking is at its peak, we need to identify ways to outlet the negative energy built up inside. And believe me, you can talk to your friends and colleagues all you want however those conversations will never appease you as much a heart-to-heart conversation with your family. All you need is to not turn a blind eye to sensitive dialogues only because you hate confrontation. An environment of open conversation is a healthy one.

This ties back to one of my previous blogs – “The Guild of Irreverence”. As we grow older and hopefully wiser, our beliefs mold as per our experiences and more often than not, these experiences differ from that of our elders and in turn, so do their beliefs. Voicing these beliefs when life decisions have to be made is critical and sometimes imperative. At this time, it is important we put that “guilt of irreverence” on the back burner and stand up for what we believe in.

Not all battles are important to be chosen, however, there are some that need attention for your own mental wellbeing. Pick the right battles and don’t brush them under the rug.

A Land of Professional Bias

We might attribute accolades to the Indian schools and colleges for producing one of the most promising leaders of the corporate/healthcare world. However, in my opinion, the Indian education system has failed us in so many ways. 

I firmly believe that every one of us is really good at something and if we are able to identify that “something” early on in our lives, the chances of us succeeding become 2-fold. With the backing of talent, the job at hand not only comes naturally,resulting in far better results, but also brings more joy. However, the Indian education system not only undermines the importance of talent by promoting/favoring some professions over others, but also glorifies hard work at the expense of happiness. The focus needs to move away from what the country needs from us to what we can do best for our country. Consider this for an analogy, if you had 2 choices – buy one amazing gift for your loved one or multiple average gifts for the same amount of money, what would you choose? Our education system seems to have chosen the latter. The professional bias has created a country of millions of average engineers and doctors rather than a country of pioneers and achievers in different fields.

A generation coping with a faulty education system is now taking shade in the promising avenues provided by the concept known as the “side-hustle”. Side-hustle has provided support to individuals who take out time to pursue their passion, their calling while still managing a steady income from the job they land out of their education. Imagine if they were fortunate enough to have identified their calling at the right time and had the opportunity to make a career out of it. This is what the job of an education system should be. Rather than assuming a role of a factory producing products of the same profession, education needs to be about recognizing one’s predisposition and then pointing them towards the right path to achieve success in the same field.

Our country has so much more to offer. If only we had means to tap into the talent of the individuals that reside in it. As millennials the baton is in our hands to recognize and promote our future generation’s talents and not letting them go to waste.

Confidence is bred; not inborn

Having lived in the U.S. for a few years now, it’s hard to not notice the difference in the average confidence of an American as compared to an Indian. Don’t quote me because I am not stating any facts based on stats here, this is purely based on my experience. Chime in if you feel/don’t feel the same way.

The lack of confidence amongst Indians when placed in a global cosmopolitan setting stems from the underlying inferiority complex that they constantly feel with respect to their fellow light-skinned counterparts. Years of suppression under the British rule has somehow ingrained this “less-than” feeling that seems to have quite a tenacious grip on our conscience. Before we protest racism and discrimination by color, it is important that we first take measures and pass down values that erase this innate discrimination that we put ourselves through, be it consciously or unconsciously.

As far as confidence is concerned, it’s quite convenient to think that only the British rule is responsible for our tribulation. The way we were brought up plays a part too. Indian culture to a certain extent not only undermines the potential of young children but also invariably spoils/pampers them, giving way to highly dependent adults. Often, young children are never asked for their opinions on anything, their brain is never stimulated to make decisions and even if opinions are presented by them to adults, they are often suppressed/not valued. This is bound to create adults who have not only felt undervalued all their lives but also don’t feel befitted to take their own decisions. Furthermore, they feel entitled to have their decision made for them.

And if you really want stats, here’s one for you – “An HSBC report states, around 55 percent of Indian parents still provide financial support to their adult children”. It’s important that we teach our children to be financially independent as soon as they hit adulthood. Financial independence is not only about not having to depend on your parents for money, but it’s also so much about being confident in your own skin. As millennials, this step is ours to take.

Falling back on your parents when nothing works out can no longer be your plan B. Go out into the world, headstrong about making a career for yourself where financial stability is the last thing you seek from your parents or from your spouse. Confidence is not something you are born with; it’s achieved over years and is inbred through your upbringing. We as millennials not only need to imbibe this philosophy but also make our kids stick by it.