Addressing the Avoided

A few days back, for the first time ever, I had a moderate level anxiety attack. Heavy breathing, heart palpitations, uncontrollable tears… I could actually hear my heartbeats, while falling short of breath. Fortunately, this happened when my mother was there by my side; so she helped me calm down. However, those few minutes of perturbation served as a warning sign to address what I had been avoiding for long – my emotions.

The past few weeks have been difficult for all of us. We are all confined to our homes, confronting the worst possible nightmare. Seeing the things we had planned falling apart; all while feeling miserable and helpless about the current situation. This is what many of us are going through, including me. All my plans for this year seem to be going haywire. The uncertainty of the future and the bleak chances of it ameliorating anytime soon are making it worse. In order to avoid letting our feelings overpower us during these tough times, we try to avoid them. And that’s where we go wrong. We bottle up all those emotions and feelings, only for them to come out in the form of an emotional meltdown later on.

A couple of months back, I had attended a session on dealing with emotions in SP College. The takeaways from that small session helped me address this issue and I reckon it could help others as well. We tend to keep away from emotions such as frustration, anger, sadness, loneliness, confusion, envy, fear, etc; considering them to be bad or negative. However, this is where the problem lies. We need to change our perspective regarding them. These kinds of emotions are not bad or negative in any way, and you shouldn’t be ashamed for feeling them. These emotions are just unpleasant or uncomfortable, because of the way they make you feel.

Emotions are colours to what we feel. Since these emotions are dull, we steer away from them. We do anything possible to not let our mind’s canvas be painted by sombre sentiments. For this, we resort to binge-watching or gaming for hours together; we feel that eating our favourite dish or a cup of our favourite ice-cream or just sleeping will make things better; we do everything but what is actually needed – sitting down, taking a deep breath and making ourselves aware of what exactly we are going through. After all, it’s about awareness, not avoidance.

“The most valuable commodity in times of crisis is clarity.”

Capt Raghu Raman

It is essential to be aware of what we’re feeling and then paying heed to it. It is the most important step and the most difficult one as well. We sometimes run away from such emotions by thinking “why am I feeling this way?” or “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” But remember, address the ‘what’ first and then the ‘whys’. First be aware of what colours are being painted in your mind and heart; and accept them, and more importantly accept yourself for painting them. Don’t run away from them. Once you are aware of them, it will be a great degree easier to answer the ‘whys’. And once those ‘whys’ are answered, you will definitely have an idea as to how to deal with them.

So here’s what you can do in such situations. Pen down what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. Then think of the possible ways in which you can address and overcome them. I personally sat down and thought of all the things that I can do if things don’t go as I had them planned. Trust me, once you get down to do it, you will certainly find feasible solutions to resolve your issues. I could do it, and so can you. Just remember to take a few deep breaths and not be harsh on yourself. It’s not as difficult as you think. And it’s definitely much better than living in the bubble of avoidance.

Khushi Goyal

An Uneasy Choice

Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, increased global temperature, extreme weather events, species extinction; the issue of climate change has unequivocally aggravated. Climate change is a global concern affecting us at an international, national, local and individual level; hence the dire need to take effective, robust actions.

Climate change mitigation can be accomplished in two ways. Firstly by curbing the emission of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide). Secondly by removing the already existing greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere. While the latter can be effectuated through forest regeneration and creation of carbon sinks, the former needs to be addressed diligently at various levels.

Countries worldwide ought to comply to the objectives and obligations set forth by international treaties such as UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol or more recently the Paris Agreement in order to tackle the matter in hand comprehensively. Additionally, at a national scale, a transformational shift towards low-emission sustainable development along with sound policy framework and direction must be the chief concern. Moreover, systemizing waste management, adopting suitable business policies and practices, advocating electric transportation technology and energy efficient buildings, promoting private sector engagement and greening urban areas are other key measures that shall be undertaken to combat the climate crisis.

Besides, at an individual level, few strategies commonly popularized are: less plastic usage, proper waste segregation, judicious use of water and energy, greater application of renewable energies, switching to public transport, car pooling, practicing the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) and the like. However, the solution which I am about to propose requires a paradigm shift in people’s lifestyle; more precisely in their dietary habits.

A report by Worldwatch Institute states that animal agriculture (raising and killing animals for food) is responsible for 51% of the total GHGs emissions, 30% of the world’s water consumption, 45% of the earth’s land use and 91% of the Brazilian Amazon destruction. Thus, the meat and dairy industry, as confirmed by the UN, is the leading cause of deforestation, habitat and rainforest destruction, ocean dead zones, species extinction and water degradation. In other words, it is one of the prime causes of environmental devastation. This is why embracing a vegan lifestyle becomes the need of the hour.

Veganism essentially refers to the exclusion of all animal products (be it for food, clothing or entertainment) due to ethical, environmental and health related reasons. It needs to be emphasized, however, that transitioning to a vegan diet does not necessarily imply complete elimination of dairy products. It simply refers to substituting them with plant-based products such as soy and almond milk, vegan cheese, butter, ice-cream and cake. Nowadays, even vegan meat is available in the market!

According to surveys, such kind of a plant-based diet saves approximately 1100 gallons of water (roughly equal to 3.5 months of showering), 45 pounds of grains, 30 square feet of forest, 10 pounds of carbon dioxide and an animal’s life per day. There’s indeed more to climate change than just fossil fuels! All of us, including major environmental organizations, have conveniently ignored this solution since it encompasses a massive change in our lifestyle, mentality and choices, while neglecting that it contributes tremendously to combat climate change. After all, we know what to do, we know why to do it, we know how to do it, we just have to choose to do it.

-Khushi Goyal

PS: This essay won the 1st prize in a competition organised by the Language Services Bureau, Pune; the topic of which was “How to mitigate Climate Change?”

Ex-changing my life

I vividly remember my first French lecture in 11th std during which our teacher had informed us about the Indo-French Exchange Programme. My mind had instantly started playing scenarios of what and how it would be if I were to be a part of it. Fast forward to today, it’s already been two years since I participated in the same, the memories being nonetheless crystal clear in my mind.

The entire journey was and still is so overwhelming. It enabled me to explore a new country, adopt a different culture, speak a foreign language more confidently, meet new people (who soon turned into family and friends), and most importantly exchange thoughts and opinions with people who didn’t share my language, nor my culture. Moreover, it gave me a deeper understanding of my own city, country and culture as well (trust me, I hadn’t been to several places in Pune earlier, which I then got to visit with my correspondent).

However, for me, the best part about being an exchange student is not discovering a foreign country as a mere tourist. Exchange programmes aren’t just about visiting the tourist attractions or savouring the culinary specialties. It’s much more! Making chai-poha for my host family, drawing and colouring along with my correspondent’s little cousin, listening and dancing to French songs with my host parents, cooking with my correspondent and her sister or learning french swear words from them,  going through my host family’s old pictures, hanging out with my correspondent’s friends, giving presentations about India in their classes (that, too, in French), enjoying the late-night conversations and discussions with my host family… these little, yet invaluable moments truly made my journey unforgettable.

Moreover, since it was an “exchange”, my correspondent, too, got the opportunity to explore a new country in a different way; while staying here with my family and I. This brings me to another significant benefit of an exchange program- it wasn’t just I who got the exposure, but my own family as well. My family, too, got a chance to meet, talk and stay with a person who didn’t share the same language, culture or country. Be it my mother watching Bollywood movies with my correspondent and teaching her to put mehendi or my father asking her about the life in France; my brother teaching her new English words and expressions (and learning French ones from her) or my sister sharing our childhood memories; my cousins chatting and playing with her or my correspondent tasting the apparent spicy Indian dishes with my family… it was so overwhelming to see my whole family have this kind of an experience, about which they talk to this day!

I had once read a quote: “Travel far enough, you meet yourself” and today it makes much more sense to me. This exchange programme helped me improve as an individual. I became stronger, braver and more responsible. I also became bolder and much more confident, both as a person and as a French-speaker. I could genuinely feel the change in me. Being an exchange student, for me, was life-changing in every sense of the word, and I can never imagine my life otherwise. After all, it wasn’t merely a month in my life, it was a life in a month.

-Khushi Goyal

Compliments are complimentary

Recently, one of my friends complimented me saying, “You’re a package of joy; people must be blessed to be around you.” And by that, as you might imagine, I was overwhelmed beyond expression. I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It had truly made my day. Consequently, this incident got me thinking about the significance of compliments in our lives.   

How many of us actually take conscious efforts to compliment people around us- our family, our friends, our acquaintances, or even strangers? At times, we hesitate to do so by thinking about how the other person might react. At times, we avoid it to not be too intrusive. And at times, our ego doesn’t let us to do it. Should all this really stop us from complimenting? I believe not.  

“The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.”

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

Imagine going through a really bad day. Now imagine someone coming up to you out of the blue saying, “I love your eyes.” I’m certain that even if it’s for a brief moment, you’ll surely forget all your problems and all the things that were going wrong that day. That’s the power of a compliment, a heartfelt compliment.  

Compliments give that what a person requires the most: Recognition, praise, appreciation and happiness. Simple words of admiration, spoken especially at unexpected times by unexpected people, really go a long way; more so when it is about the personality rather than the appearance! A simple “You inspire me to work harder”, “You are fun to be with”, “You make me so happy”, “You are a beautiful person”, “You are so kind”, might genuinely make someone’s day; and perhaps yours too! 

So today, since it’s the ‘World Compliment Day’, I encourage you to inculcate the art of complimenting. Show people the love they deserve.  Let them know how much of a difference they make in your life. Start appreciating them. Shower them with praises. Because after all, compliments are complimentary!

-Khushi Goyal

Unexplored Perks of Multilingualism

I have always been fascinated by languages. Think about it- a mere combination of just 26 alphabets helps us to manifest, express and communicate our thoughts, feelings and opinions. Besides, that is just one language. Now imagine there being more than 6500 languages. In other words, 6500 unique ways in which we can communicate the same message. Spellbinding, isn’t it? Having the power to articulate each and every word in more than one way, in more than one language is what intrigues me, and this was why I delved into the sublime world of languages.

Being a bilingual or multilingual has its own benefits. The foremost being the ability to communicate to a multitude of people. Well, not just communicate, but also, connect.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
-Nelson Mandela

Ever wonder why we tend to speak or rather switch to our mother tongue when we are being hysterical? That’s because we tend to express ourselves the best in our native language. For this reason, learning a second language helps us to communicate as well as connect with people in their first language, making the conversations more convivial and the discussions more profound.

I am also of the opinion that the more languages we know, the better we enunciate. This, according to me, is because of two reasons. Firstly, we are likely to stumble upon new words and expressions while learning a new language, hence expanding our lexicon of both the languages. Secondly, we are likely to get acquainted with certain words which are untranslatable in our native language (for instance, déjà vu), thus aiding us to convey our ideas more effectively.

Second-language acquisition proves to have enduring effects on our personality as well (it certainly did have on mine). It not only makes us more expressive, but also pertinent and more self-confident. We are also likely to become more patient, dedicated and persistent in the course of learning a new language. Furthermore, it is proven that the linguistic differences between two languages help us to develop a new perspective, thus giving us an alternative vision of the world (if you wish to know how, watch this video).

“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.”
-Flora Lewis

Language learning also allows us to enjoy the works of art in their original versions. Therefore, learning another language additionally implies being able to relish not only the movies, songs, books or poems, but also the series, quotes, jokes or even memes of that language in their authentic forms, without having to face the language barrier. Because, let’s face it, the essence of a word is lost in translation, perhaps due to the fact that we are subjected to the translator’s understanding of the idea and not the artist’s (Trust me, I have never been happier than while reading “The Little Prince” in French).

Furthermore, in the course of learning a new language, we are unreservedly exposed to the culture of the people speaking that language. This might be either through the didactic materials via which we are learning the language or through the works of art mentioned before. Moreover, it is quite possible to have friends who are native speakers of that language (by means of travel, pen pals, exchange programs or educational visits to the host country, to name a few). This, and I speak from experience here, helps us significantly to familiarize ourselves with several social and cultural aspects, consequently giving us a genuine and non-stereotypical insight of their culture and lifestyle. And this is why my exchange program and chats with French correspondents give me a much deeper understanding of the French culture than any movie or book could ever give.

I personally believe that the aforesaid merits are the overriding benefits of language learning. However, there’s more to it. There are numerous other advantages which are commonly known to all, and have therefore not been elaborated upon. These include the various cognitive, health, professional and economic benefits which are briefly summarized in the infographic given below.

Benefits of Language Learning
Source: Google Images

Thus, as can be inferred, there are innumerable ways in which learning a new language pays you. And I, as a multilingual, encourage you to not give language learning a second thought, because whatever be the motive, personal or professional, I assure you that it will definitely change your life for the better, as it certainly did change mine.

-Khushi Goyal

PS: Let me know in the comments below your perspective on language learning, and its perks and effects on your life!

La raison d’être

As I am typing these words, I’m letting go or rather overcoming one of my biggest fears: the fear of self-expression.

I have been an introvert ever since my childhood. The mere idea of expressing myself, especially in front of a large audience, makes me jump out of my skin. What if I slip up? What if people don’t agree to what I say? What if people judge me? What if people don’t like me? These questions have always daunted me; and pulled me from expressing myself freely. And this was why starting my own blog always seemed a far-fetched dream.

This brings me to “ma raison d’être” (ma-rehzon-DETre) (literally, my reason of being). Honestly, the credit to expressing myself on a platform such as a blog, goes to my friends. It is true that I have always dreamt of doing it, but it is them who gave me the courage to turn this dream into a reality.

“A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.” -Donna Roberts 

Friends indeed play an indispensable role in our lives. They are our support system, our cheering squad, our chosen family. They urge us to be a better version of ourselves and motivate us to aspire for the impossible. But most importantly, they make us believe in ourselves, when we ourselves don’t.

Therefore, as I commence this journey, I would like to thank each and every friend of mine who motivated me, had faith in me and inspired me to achieve my goals. Thank you for making me believe in myself and for pushing me to go beyond the limits. I would also like to encourage you, my readers, to express your gratitude towards your friends. Tell them that they matter, tell them how they make your little world a little better each day. After all, you, your personality and your life, without them, wouldn’t be the same.

Now, coming back to my blog; Writing, in general, is something very new to me, let alone being a blogger. I’m like a chrysalis inside a cocoon, wanting to become a butterfly. So, bear with me as I share my experiences and my thoughts on things that matter to me. Also, feel free to comment or write to me on whichever platform you like (Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Twitter). Let’s make this an exchange. Let’s begin this journey of self-expression.

Khushi Goyal