Keep spreading sunshine Bheeshu, my ray of hope.

I thought I will have no words today Bheesh, but I do have a lot of words and gratitude.

You came into our lives after Appa passed away. You helped me, amma and anna in our grief. You were more than a pet, a baby, a brother and a friend to each of us bringing small moments of joy in our otherwise gloomy days. You helped us through our grief. You are our ray of hope.

I don’t think we adopted you. You adopted us. You adopted amma as your very own following her like Mary’s little lamb making me very jealous with your love for her. You adopted me as your baby sister protecting me always even when amma playfully beats me. You adopted anna as your brother, annoying each other and expecting gifts from him whenever he goes out.

You are the only reason I exercised during CoVid. I am going to miss you coming exactly at 6pm to nag me for a walk. I am going to miss the puppy face you make when I say no to taking a walk. My assertiveness always loses before your puppy face. I sometimes wonder if you were really paavam or cunning. Well, you have never caught a cat but have gotten scratched by kittens so many times; so I assume you are paavam 😉

I love how every close friend of mine knows about you even if they haven’t met you. Thank you for bringing so much joy to me that I could share with everyone I am close to. When I was asked to draw my identity at work, I couldn’t draw it without you in it. It makes sense as our home is referred to Bheeshu’s home in the whole building and street. Everyone of us is going to miss you and your antics and charades.

I am going to miss our long walks and being chased by street dogs and our escapades in Coimbatore. I would like to think everytime I take a walk from now, you are on a leash with me, getting curious about every small thing. Thank you for inspiring me to learn more about animal welfare and turning me an eggetarian!

I also like to think you would meet appa today and you would be with him until we go on more walks again. Love you more than you know Bheesh. Take care and eat lots of carrots ❤ And keep spreading sunshine ❤️

Designing habits that stick & designing solutions that will have an impact at scale

I recently read “Tiny Habits” written by B.J.Fogg and in this blog I am going to share the connection I see between the content of the book and principles for designing solutions for scale programs (district or state level programs). Tiny Habits book focuses on principles and techniques for behaviour transformation based on the key principle that tiny is transformative. That is, once we keep doing tiny habits that are easy and do not require much energy from us, the habit starts growing and with it we start developing new identities. To take a personal example, being physically active was something very difficult for me. I would try a new form of exercise with so much initial motivation but fail sticking to it and develop an assumption that I am too lazy. So I started walking just for 3 minutes everyday after I close my laptop at the end of my workday. Though it may sound very small, I could finally stick to the routine of exercise and slowly in a month I was walking for 30 minutes a day. This also helped me to develop my identity as an active person.

Through my practice of tiny habits, I realised how intuitive it was and more importantly I also realised how connected it is to the work that we do at Mantra4Change in designing solutions for scale. I will share the key principles we apply while designing for scale at Mantra and also illustrate how it is connected to Tiny Habits.

1. Design your habit such that it will work even on your worst days/Design for solutions that will work at scale

While choosing habits, B.J. Fogg nudges us to ask the question “What habit would work even on your worst day?” rather than choosing habits that will require a lot of motivation from you and will work only on your good days. This is critical as motivation is like a wave for all of us and hence it is not reliable to design habits that will work only when there is motivation. Hence, it made sense for me to just start with 3 minutes of walking a day rather than starting with 30 minutes of walking as I would have definitely failed then.

One key question we ask ourselves while designing solutions for our state and district programs is “What is the practice change that is possible for most actors in the system, given their current motivation, bandwidth & capacity?”. Taking the example of parent engagement, though there are multiple elements that different actors have to do to ensure effective parent engagement, we started with something simple: school leaders conducting parent teacher meetings regularly for parents. This practice change was possible for most school leaders as it was already in their role, matched with their priorities and they also had the bandwidth for the same. Initially we focused just on regularity rather than the quality of the parent teacher meetings. Despite that, school leaders were able to see impact such and this nudged them to improve the quality of meetings too. If we had focused also on the quality of the parent teacher meetings initially, only a few motivated school leaders who had the time and capacity would have done and it wouldn’t have made an impact in the system. Thus by asking ourselves “What would most school leaders be able to do even in months where they are overloaded with administrative tasks and are facing the challenge of low teacher motivation?”, we were able to design a solution that will cause reliable impact at scale.

2. Choose habits which you already aspire for/Design solutions that match aspirations of stakeholders

One another key principle that B.J. Fogg mentions is that we should design habits that we already aspire to do. For example, I had an aspiration to already become active and healthy and hence choosing a habit that would help me work towards it helped.

Connecting this with the work that we do in designing solutions for scale, we consciously prioritise solutions that the stakeholders already aspire for. Parent engagement was a pain point for many school leaders and that was one key reason why the solution helped as it was something they aspired for. If instead we had chosen a solution related to inclusive education, it wouldn’t have made an impact as it wasn’t an aspiration yet for most school leaders.

3. Anchor your new habit to an existing routine/Design solutions by leveraging existing structures

While designing new habits, the Tiny Habits model suggests to anchor with an existing habit in your routine. This will help to ensure you stick to your habit and it doesn’t slip out of your memory. For example, while designing my habit of walking, I anchored it around closing my laptop at the end of my work day. Since I would always close my laptop at the end of my workday, it helped me to stick to the new habit I was designing for.

This principle connects with leveraging existing structures and roles in the system while designing for new improvements. The parent engagement solution leveraged the existing structure of Parent Teacher Meetings (PTM) which the school leaders were already familiar with.

4. Celebrate tiny habits/Design for communication & celebration spaces

Recognising that feeling good about ourselves if critical for habit design, B.J. Fogg suggests to celebrate or cheer ourself up whenever we execute the tiny habit. Our society may have conditioned us to feel good only when we achieve something big such as a promotion. Hence, it is critical to consciously self-cheer in a way that speaks to us to keep our energy and belief going. For example, I used to hi-fi my mom after every 3 minute walk and feel good about myself for the accomplishment.

Similarly in the system too, stakeholders may not intuitively celebrate small wins as they may just see them as part of their role or compare them to others and see them as something very ordinary. For this purpose, while designing for scale, it is critical to design spaces and campaigns that allows for stakeholders to celebrate themselves and each other. We did this during through state level campaign named “Proud Parent” for the parent engagement solution that allowed for the school leaders to celebrate their small wins.

5. Tinker with tiny habits/Capture stakeholder experiences and course correct

The last and my favourite principle that is illustrated in Tiny Habits is to approach designing habits with a tinkering and growth mindset. This means when a habit fails, rather than considering it as a personal failure, taking the effort to understand why it failed and tinkering with the habit to make it work for you. For example, when I first designed the walking habit, I said I will walk for 3 minutes everyday after I wake up. Though it sounds super simple, I was not able to stick to it since my sleep routine was not good and usually I woke up late and dived quick into work. Then I switched to shift my anchor routine to “closing my laptop” and it proved successful.

This also applies to our work with designing for scale. One of the key principles is to listen to the system and make design changes to the system rather than just attributing the system for the failure of a solution. For example, when we first started with designing capacity building programs at scale, we designed continuous one-week programs and we could see engagement drop over the week. Through interactions with stakeholders, we realised it was because the capacity building program clashed with their other responsibilities and also because they felt drained by attending continuous virtual calls. This insight helped us redesign the structure of our capacity building programs that will allow space for stakeholders to engage continuously and effectively.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the connections we discovered between designing for personal habits and transformation and designing for scale. While writing this article, I was reflecting on Gandhi’s statement on “Be the change you want to see in the world” and it just makes sense on how connected are the roads to personal and social transformation. I would like to hear more from you. Did any of the principles resonate with you either at a personal or at a professional level?

Flipping my thinking!

Two months back I had a knee injury and had to go through a surgery for the same. For a month after the surgery, the recovery meant I couldn’t walk and need bed-rest. I was worried since gaining weight would affect the recovery process; however I was not in the position to exercise. Dieting was also not an option as I don’t prefer it and also was not advised by the doctor. This put me in a tough spot since I had a problem at hand which is to maintain my weight but the conventional solutions of exercise or dieting were not solutions that I could access. I felt frustrated as I felt the situation was out of my control. I finally decided that there are some things still in my control like I can avoid all junk and sugary foods and eat more protein-rich food. I did that and I was able to maintain my weight during the recovery process! No, this is not an article about losing weight.

It is about “flipping your thinking” process. We at Mantra4Change designed a tool that will enable school leaders to reflect and lead their school through the CoVid crisis. We designed it based on research and the tool also went through multiple iterations. We presented it to teams across programs. In every program, there was a quick buy-in for the solution as it was very relevant towards the situation and was aligned to our programs’ vision of empowering school leaders to drive change. However, we weren’t able to move forward with implementing the solution due to some reason or other. All the reasons boiled down to in “stakeholders not having enough time and mind space to engage with the solution”.

In these conversations, I would immediately ask “how do we make more time for this solution in our program? what do we do to prioritise it?”. And we would keep discussing this and stalling this over multiple mails and meetings. In my mind, the framework was well-researched and aligned with our programs’ vision and hence we should move towards prioritising it. I felt confused and disheartened many times. I was not able to figure out “why it was difficult to prioritise the solution”.

Later, due to a helpful discussion with my team members, I was able to identify what the problem was. Rather than thinking “how to prioritise the solution”, I could change my thinking to “for the time and mind space that our stakeholders have, how do we redesign our solution?”. I realised I was thinking how can I fit the conventional solutions like exercise to my situation rather than thinking what is possible considering what I will be able to do. I had to flip my thinking starting from the time availability and mind space of stakeholders rather than trying hard to just match the solution to the program vision. We then identified a part of a tool that was very critical for the stakeholders and designed a tool based on it. Now it would take only 10 minutes for leaders to use the tool which meant they will have the mind space to use it. The tool was used by around 100 cluster level leaders in a district in Karnataka recently to help schools reopen safely.

Over the past year, I have come across multiple situations which required to flip my thinking. This is a very critical type of thinking and I am sure applies to many of the places we are feeling stuck as program designers Let us learn to ask “taking into account the time and priorities of our stakeholders, how do we redesign our solutions?”. Else, our solutions will not be implemented successfully and we will remain stuck or worse cause inconvenience to our stakeholders. Especially considering the current CoVid situation, it is very important to apply this style of thinking so that we are able to continuously drive momentum and hope in the system towards our vision.

Can you think of a situation where you feel flipping your thinking will help? I would love to hear your thoughts. Add your comments 🙂

To burst, or not to burst, that is the question

It is 12 AM here and Diwali is in two days. Hence there is the sound of fireworks every fifteen seconds and my dog is sleeping under our table all curled up and scared.

For the past five years, whenever an article pops up on my feed about why fireworks have to be banned or when I hear my friends share how crackers are not good for the earth, I would either swipe to the next post or just say something like “yes, it is harmful but also aren’t vehicles causing more pollution?”. Basically I didn’t have a stance and I didn’t take the effort to take a stance. Through writing this article, that is what I am going to do-take a stance. Reflecting on all the events that have happened this year, I realise it is very important to take a stance and take small steps especially on things that are in your immediate locality.

I am always for the environment and for animal welfare. And there is enough evidence that fireworks is detrimental for both. So let’s start with why I am finding it difficult to take a stance about fireworks.

I am from Sivakasi, a small town in the south of India. 70% of fireworks in India come from Sivakasi. And I have lived almost half of my life in the town. My father was part of a fireworks business and one of my best childhood memories is when my father took me on a full tour of the fireworks factory and explained the process through which crackers were made. I remember feeling awed at the speed with which ladies in the factory made matchboxes with just their hands.

Though Diwali was always special, I wasn’t really a big fan of bursting fireworks since childhood. However, I always have and still take pride in the fact that the thriving town that Sivakasi is today is not because of any political or geographical advantage but because of the industrious and entrepreneurial spirit of its people. Fireworks industry was built by the people of Sivakasi in the 1920s without any central or state support. And to date, the town’s economy thrives because of its industry labourers.

So yes, my hesitation is coming from the place of how dependent my town is on this critical decision of state and central Government. Around 2 lakh labourers (including migrant labourers from Rajasthan) are employed in the sector. What would a ban mean not just to the legacy of Sivakasi but to its people and especially daily wage workers of fireworks factories? What would it mean to the paper mills in Sivakasi and surrounding towns that are dependent on the fireworks factories for business? There is nowhere especially daily wage labourers could turn to when they lose jobs. And I say “when” and not “if” because bans are already being imposed: be it when Delhi banned fireworks in 2018 or this year’s proposed central ban due to COVID.

Hence, here is my stance. To burst or not to burst, is NOT the question. It is no more the question. It is clear the Government is moving towards banning fireworks. I feel the question is no more “if the Government will ban fireworks” but just “when will fireworks be banned”. And hence, my stance is that the Government and all of us should plan ahead and take efforts to support the labourers; be it up-skilling or planning systematically for the impending economic transition. It is only fair that structural efforts begin from today rather than purposefully leaving the lives of labourers at stake by mindlessly mulling over the question of “to burst or not to burst”. Or plainly mulling over “Chinese crackers, imported crackers, green crackers, innovative crackers etc.”

And to clarify, this is not evading taking a stance to the question but it is high time we face the truth that bans are inevitable. Even if there may not be complete bans, partial bans will be there and increase year on year which will affect disproportionately the economy of Sivakasi and especially its daily wage labourers. It is time we take this hard stance though it feels like the fabric of what Sivakasi is is dismantling. I would like to remind all of us that fireworks is only the wrap-around. Sivakasi’s actual legacy is our industrious and entrepreneurial spirit. It is our “Kutty Japan” spirit to revive our economy on our own. Hence, let’s demand and take action for a fair and just economic transition that is impending our town!

Now that I have taken a stance, the next thing I intend to do is take efforts in alignment with my stance. Though structural Government support is required “What can I as an individual do” is a question I am going to consciously explore from now on. One step was for sure voicing my opinion. And a very critical step. But what next? I will keep you informed. I end this monologue with an invitation for dialogue. If you would like to discuss what can we do together for our town, ping me!

P.S. The legacy of Sivakasi’s fireworks industries is credited to two gentlemen who went to Calcutta in the 1920s to learn the art of manufacturing fireworks and brought the knowledge back to Sivakasi. And, one of them is my great-grandfather Shanmuga Nadar. Though he passed away before I was born, I admit I feel like I may be disappointing him through this article. Yet, I also know “my orientation towards taking & demanding action” is something he would be proud of. Because that is what he did when he pioneered efforts to build our town.

Strange and special

Something strange and special happened yesterday. I was feeling really depressed and insecure about work. I was feeling like maybe I am not cut-out for the work am doing. And, I was thinking maybe I should just quit because it is just getting too difficult. I was also feeling like maybe the way I feel is affecting my work and maybe my team members are disappointed at me for that. I also felt like maybe my team members judge because I reach out to them too often with some crisis or other. So I was wondering if maybe I should quit and that made me feel very scared. I was anxious as to how I will cope with all that is going on. And I was crying really badly. Then this strange thing happened. Strange and special.

My dad (who passed away 10 years back) spoke to me. Yes, believe me he did. I was telling him how am not same as how I was in school right now. I was telling him how my confidence is very low right now and how insecure I feel. Then my dad told me “I understand how difficult it is for you. I am seeing all of it being here with you. I know you are feeling insecure and ashamed and anxious and all those feelings are hard. But I also see how many beautiful things you are doing with your life right now. You work with passion in something you believe in a lot. You spend most of your day working towards ensuring Indian schools are safe and nourishing spaces for children. And that is so beautiful and amazing. So what if you are insecure? So what if you are not confident? According to me, it doesn’t affect the beauty you are creating everyday.” Yes, he told me this and magically I was able to see the beauty myself. I felt so safe and calmer. I can’t describe. But I felt warmth in my chest literally and I was off to sleep.

I am so grateful to have found my father’s voice in me 🙂

How I put a spin around my unhealthy coping mechanism.

One of my unhealthy coping mechanisms is to fantasise about something. it would be about a relationship or a milestone in my career or getting hurt emotionally or something or the other. I say it is unhealthy because I waste like an hour or so on bed just fantasising and then end up late for things. I realised I fantasise to just escape from my low self-esteem. The coping mechanism became more pronounced in the last two years owing to multiple changes.

I joined an online support group a year back and realised many people fantasise to cope with things and for many people fantasising can interrupt their life a lot. There were many strategies suggested in the group like: keep slotted time for fantasising and write fantasy fiction or stuff. I connected with writing fantasy fiction. I didn’t have the space and time at that point in time to try out any strategies suggested in the group. So I didn’t put any effort in trying the strategies suggested in the group.

And a month back I came across this writing page in Instagram which was running a writing challenge. One of the prompts was: “If I were to interview a famous person, who would I interview and how would that go?” I thought it is a good time to try out the fantasy fiction strategy and gave it a shot. And I loved writing my response to the prompt because basically I was putting my unhealthy coping mechanism which I am so experienced at to use. So my thoughts just flowed and I finished writing in no time. I wrote about how I would interview Mindy Kahling from The Mindy Project show. Of course it isn’t worthy (or I don’t consider it worthy) of publishing in my blog here; still it helped me expend my mental energy and fall asleep. It also automatically helped me reflect and connect with myself. I realised why I would interview Mindy is because I love how confidently she shares her opinions or interests even when she feels insecure. This made me reflect how sharing one’s opinions and being authentic is a trait that I deeply respect and value. I told myself that even if I feel insecure I can and should still strive to share my opinions and be myself.

Since that day in April, I came up with my own fantasy writing prompts and have kept writing almost everyday. It is so easy to do for me. And I feel good after. Of course it hasn’t helped in completely resolving my mental health issues. I still feel anxious. Sometimes even after I write, I do ruminate and overthink. But I am able to see small positive feelings after I write and I am very grateful for them.

So yeah. This is how I put a spin around my unhealthy coping mechanism and am regularly connecting with myself. Here are some prompts if you would like to try fantasy writing, fantasy art or any other form.

  1. If you were a finger, what would you like to say to the human whom you belong to?
  2. If you were to go back to your university/school, how would you spend your day?
  3. How would you spend a day at Hogwarts? (my response to this is the previous post in my blog)
  4. If I were to design a god in a mythical place, what would the powers of the god be?
  5. If I were to live in a village, how would my life be different?

🙂

Where is my acceptance letter?

So I can’t go out because of the lockdown. But I don’t want to go out also. Anyway I thought I could put one of my escape mechanisms-fantasising to use and go visit a fictional place.

I am a fan of Harry Potter and so am going to fantasise about how I would spend a day at Hogwarts. Ten years ago, I had read all the books in just two weeks. I haven’t kept in touch with the craze like I have seen many people do. I have a couple of Harry Potter quotes in my room and a picture in my blog’s homepage. But that’s about it. To give you a more accurate picture of my fan quotient, I would score 4 out of 10 in a Harry Potter quiz.

Note: This fantasy is not based in a particular time period (loosely translated into: all the characters I want to interact with are alive)

Ok, so if I had received the acceptance letter for just one day in Hogwarts, here is what I would have done.

I would want to wake up in the dormitory. I don’t care which house am in. But I just love the concept of house-based dorms rather than age-based dorms. Then I would go take a shower in the bathroom where there is NO moaning Myrtle. She is creepy. After a bath, I would want to drink hot cocoa or a coffee or something. But am not sure what is the magical term for this drink? Do people drink coffee in Hogwarts? God! Am such a muggle!

Anyway, after at least drinking hot water I would go for a walk and visit Hagrid. I love animals especially wild ones and hence would ask Hagrid to show me around and help in feeding some of the beasts he has. If one of the beasts snuggle or give a small sign of acceptance, I would feel deeply honoured. I will for sure spend like two hours with the beasts and probably have some omelettes with Hagrid.

Then I will go to the library and fan-girl over Hermione. I will share how we girls don’t have pockets in the muggle world and how our handbags make no sense compared to the beaded handbag she carries. She would be shocked to know I have to carry my laptop and notebooks in one bag, my valuables in another and my lunch in another one. And also how I have no pockets in my dresses. Hmmm now that I think about it, I should probably get a robe so that I have pockets always and also probably a wand 😀

After intense fan-girling over Hermione and updating her about the muggle world (who am I kidding? Hermione would already be updated about the muggle world), I would go meet the Weasley brothers! Especially the twins. And just watch them be themselves and play pranks. I hope they don’t notice me. If Fred or George Weasley even make small-talk with me, I would blush and would be very weird.

Later I would get some butter beer and chocolate frogs (probably from Ron) and then watch Quidditch. I wouldn’t dare to try playing the game. But I would probably just want to hold the snitch for sometime and just observe it.

If I meet Harry, I would want him to teach me the patronus charm my favourite spell in this universe. And am sure my Patronus would be a dog! I just love the idea behind the charm. In case you didn’t know what the spell means, here is the definition from harrypotter.fandom.com:

a projection of all your most positive feelings.

After mastering the spell, I would go have the dinner at the great hall. Here are some people I would just watch and admire from a distance during dinner: Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Nearly headless Nick… Hold on a second. I do want to see Bellatrix and Voldermort. But they wouldn’t be at Hogwarts! Ok just to fulfil my wish I hope they are up to some evil plan that day and I get to meet them. I just want to see Voldermort from a distance. But Bellatrix I think I would fan-girl over her. I think she was a good female villain. I would like to end my day probably by an “Avada Kedavra” curse by Bellatrix. I would be honoured, actually.

Now am so sure I would score 4 out of 10 in the quiz because I forgot most of the terms and names and I had to google like “What is the popular drink in Hogsmeade called?” LOL

What are some things you would do in Hogwarts or any other fictional place you would visit during this lockdown? Post here in the comments 🙂

A letter addressed to hopefully someone who will understand me

Dear reader (hopefully someone who will understand me),

I am a post-man and I deliver letters/post cards at SVS colony in Sivakasi. It is majorly a residential colony. There is one of the big fireworks factories at the centre of the colony. Otherwise there are only houses, a couple of schools and some petty shops. The people are nice to me at SVS colony. You know what I mean by nice, right? People who say “Good morning, Ranga. How are you Ranga? Thank you Ranga. Nice weather today. How are you Ranga?” in a sing-song voice incessantly in the same cheery tone every morning.

I am okay with working at SVS colony. Nothing to complain. It is fine delivering post-cards to the lovely people from their old relatives and being the first person to know about who got through engineering colleges.  But there is also nothing to be excited of. I want to be working as a post man in AJ colony in the central part of the town. “Why AJ colony?” you may ask. It is where I grew up. We moved in from a village nearby when I was seven years old and for the first time we had access to electricity and water regularly. My father who worked in one of the pioneer fireworks factory in the town used to say “We are very lucky Ranga. People in our village can’t even see their plate properly during dinner. This town is lit always. And even during the power cuts, you don’t have to worry because the sky is always lit by fireworks. Be grateful”.  And I was and am definitely grateful for AJ colony for it has made me who I am today. A postman. But unfortunately at SVS colony. I asked the post office head last year if I can be transferred and he said we can discuss it by the end of the year. But the end of the year he was transferred to Srivilliputtur and I am still stuck here like a stamp. I don’t want to be though. I want to move to SVS colony.

When I talk about this to my family or friends, they all ask me why. Just like you did three minutes ago. I have said the same thing to them multiple times. But they just don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. Srini, my friend since fifth class asks me “Machaa, no one respected us at school. We were teased a lot by others. Why do you want to deliver their dirty post cards? If you have a child, it will also face the same fate in that wretched school” My wife asks me “You and your family were made to move out from your house in the colony. Where is your self-respect?” My father who is now working as a security guard in a premier badminton stadium warns me “You will see me being used as ash for making busvanam this Diwali if you ever step into that cursed colony”. My mother simply says “You shouldn’t step into a place where is there is no respect for you even if it is a temple”.

I get all of this. Yes we were forced to move out by our pesky neighbours due to water shortage three years back. But it is the colony I grew up in. Where I had so many firsts: a caring teacher: Sheela ma’am, fight, deja vu feeling, parotta and chalna, romance, some pocket money from working at the tea shop after school, postage stamp and of course proper water and electricity. It is where I saw my dad so proud for the first time. Yes the people there were and are morons. The boys tortured me when they came to know that I was from a village. But all that didn’t matter when I came home and saw my father being so proud of his shift and his job. I did not mind being the scapegoat to the teenage tantrums those boys had and still do have apparently according to Srini. They think I don’t know that the people in AJ colony are mean. I know it. I know it more than anyone else does. I was the one physically pushed out of our house not my father or mother. But AJ colony is where all my dreams lie. It is where I dressed up as a post man for fancy dress competition. The boys tried to spoil my costume by throwing chalna on my trousers. That made me cry but the chalna dried up and didn’t show as my trousers were khaki in colour. I was the smartest post man that day. I even delivered a letter to Sheela ma’am and she was so proud of me.

I fantasise delivering letters in AJ colony every morning for an hour in bed. It is a descriptive fantasy even about what I will say but it is the same every day where I first deliver letters to my school and then deliver to all the residents and the merchants. But at the end of this fantasy every day the mean people of AJ colony become nice to me as they see that I am very competent at my job. I then have to then push myself out of bed to go to work. This is not what I want. What does it matter if the people are mean? I just want to fulfil my dream and desire to work as a postman at AJ colony. Why does respect matter? As long as I get to deliver letters proudly and get out of bed with content, why does being respected by the residents matter? I have started feeling bad about my desire because of other people’s opinions. I have heard them talking about my fantasies behind my back. They think I am very disturbed because of my dream. I now doubt I am disturbed too. But I am more disturbed worrying what will happen if I never get the chance to work at AJ colony?

I wish there was someone who can simply understand my obsession with the colony. Do you?

Yours sincerely,

Ranga.

Damsel in Distress

I wake up with a feeling of dread. I open my phone to see if I have received any messages from my “obsession of the year”. No, I haven’t. I go into spirala-la land. Does he hate me? Did I hurt him with my texts? Does he think am crazy? Is he just busy?

I get up finally. Thank god for urinary bladders. I settle down in the hall and start watching my favourite emotional tv show at this time: Gilmore girls. There are three kinds of tv shows I always watch. One is the kind which elicits a lot of emotions from you like Gilmore girls and Friends. These are ideal for days when you want to mope. Then there is the kind of TV show which you can watch in a very detached manner like River-dale and Sherlock Holmes. These are generally too dramatic and are ideal for days in which you feel very numb. And then there are the other type of TV shows for the other kind of days. Normal days, I guess.

Ok anyways I watch about 10 episodes back to back. I am clearly sad. Then I open my phone and start reading articles on what is called anxious attachment. I have been having a suspicion that I have the anxious attachment style. In non-diagnostic terms, I am clingy. My romantic interests would agree with this. Hell, I agree with it. However i don’t like when someone calls me that. I feel a ton of shame. I am guilty of doing frantic phone calls and seeking solace and support from people desperately. But that was genuine cry for support. Don’t accuse me. Don’t label me. Anyways, I continue reading this article and realise it could have evolved out of my trauma like so many other things. I apparently respond like a child in my relationships and I was even called a child by someone recently. I felt so ashamed reading all that. It was horrible for me. They say I can develop a secure attachment style but the journey looks really tough.

At one point, I just start crying and try explaining all this to my mom who is convinced all will be fine if I marry a guy who is committed to me. She may be right but am so ashamed of myself that I don’t want to torture anyone by marrying them. I talk to my mom and at one point, I feel better because somehow I ground myself to the present and realise there is a lot of other things I could be doing rather than mope over this romantic obsession of mine and my attachment style. So I do just that. I read and learn for like three hours.

So that was my day. A typical day once a week for the past four months. I call it distress. A week before I told myself I was improving and probably getting better. And then, this happens again. I started feeling like mental health is impossible for me and it is unfair that I have to work through it. Then my mom says something profound: “you have to work through this however long it takes. It is okay that you are who you are. Everyone is different. You will meet someone who is accepting. Let this journey take time and you have to work through it. Be grateful you have therapy and an accepting mother.” I felt that was true. My situation wasn’t hopeless. I had access to therapy and acceptance from an emotionally mature zen like mom. This motivated me.

I wish I could be with her always. My workplace is in a different city however. Should I give up my work and stay with her? I do learn a lot from work. It is a good environment to be in. How do I preserve my mental health? That is the question that makes me dread going back to work after my short break. What if I have an episode of distress again? There is no one to save me. Well, I guess I have to learn to save myself. Surely my mom’s genes must be there in me. I just got to find them and save myself and be there for myself more often. Seems super tough now. Bye.

Exploring a feeling

I am excited about this forum that is coming up at work in a week. I am not sure why. So I thought I will write and explore this feeling. It is after a long time that am feeling excited for something at work. I even postponed my break for this. Gosh! I am so excited for it that I want to do a countdown for it. The feeling is confusing me because as I mentioned it is kind of new. I do not want to overthink it and get anxious about the good feeling like I do usually. But I do want to explore it by being curious.  I do have a few suspects as to why I am excited.

Suspect #1: Expectation from authority figures

The authority figures are excited about this forum. So it is highly possible that this is why I am excited too. That my work is contributing to something that they value. I don’t like this suspect but I don’t doubt its ability for I have been scared of authority figures and strived to meet their expectations many times in life.

Suspect #2: This is the first time

Maybe I am excited that this is the first time this is happening ever at a large scale. Ok, we can rule out this suspect. I have never been a fan of scale as such.

Suspect #3: It is challenging

To organise the forum, to generate interest in the audience and to even design the sessions for the forum is very challenging. I can foresee so many risks. Ok, we can rule this suspect out too. Though I enjoy the challenge to an extent, many factors are beyond my control here and I don’t particularly enjoy that.

Suspect #4: Genuine interest

I believe in the power of communities in contributing to individual growth. I for one have always been inspired by the people around me and I thrive in strong networks of people. And the forum to me reflects this belief in the power of community and learning as a social process. Also my work is not contributing directly to the forum. So genuine interest in the forum is a strong suspect for the excitement I am experiencing.

Okay so we have two strong suspects. Fear of authority and genuine interest in the forum. I am not going to solve this mystery further. I enjoyed the exploring part but I think ending with a definitive absolute answer wouldn’t be fun. So I am just going to stay with the excitement the coming week. It is a good feeling and am grateful for it whatever be the reason 🙂