Tag Archives: #mentalhealth

Communication in Desi Households

Desi Talk – A column that works on embracing our brown background and unique identity using Coach Yashu’s helpful tips. Find her talking to IC Editor, Srishti Prabha on Instagram LIVE Tuesdays at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST!

Recently I saw a post that seemed like a cry for help and reminded me of the need for a Desi Mental Health Community.

We need to be a Desi Resource for one another and because we are the only people who can understand the implications of desi culture, lifestyle, and health. 

I want to let people know…Yashu is here! I know how challenging being desi can be.

Tip 1: Most conflicts within desi households revolve around communication style.

In the end, it’s necessary to remember that the most important person is YOU and you must protect your energy, whether you are the parent or the child. Sometimes protecting yourself can feel like an impossible task, so you have to break past the cultural guilt and learn to redesign your relationships and communication styles. YES, it does work!

This is a very real issue, but one that has a resolution!

Oftentimes, children may feel shut out or denied their feelings. As a result, they stress themselves out trying to convince their desi families to listen and not dismiss them. But how many of us have truly had luck with that? Where we just talk it out and the parents just get it? Explaining the same thing, over and over again, can be discouraging and even hurtful. 

Now, all you desi kids, You must remember that when the other person, be it a sibling, or a parent,  is not ready to receive you, there is no point in imposing your thoughts on the other person; investing energy on convincing a parent who is not open to hearing you is meaningless. This can ultimately lead to giving up on our dreams or even worse, shutting ourselves off to our parents. 

And if you are a parent, even if your child is making a mistake or doing something you do not agree with, allow your child the space to express and then have a respectful conversation – allowing your child to come to a space of realization or find where their thinking was not thorough. At that point, if your child refuses to listen, you may try again but if they are not in a space to listen, let it go. Because desi families are protective, and it is in our culture to be closely knit, make yourself available to your child so that you are a resource and a safe space. 

To all my desi kids out there, I hope this helps! Slip this article on the living room table, where your parents sit to have their afternoon chai (Don’t forget to act all casual about it). 

Parents, see if this helps you become even closer with your children and create more beautiful memories with your family!


Yashu Rao is the first South Indian-American plus-size model and doubles as a Confidence Coach. She is the Founder of #HappyYashu, a Confidence and Lifestyle Coaching Service, specializing in desi family structures. She’s here breaking down stereotypes and beauty standards as well as inspiring and empowering people to lead a life with self-love, confidence, and genuine happiness. Find her on Instagram giving tips and modeling.

Fitness: A Forgotten Remedy

An anonymous author once wrote: “We are living in an era where capturing moments using our phone is more important than actually living the moment with whoever is beside us.”

Last year, in 2019, this quote rang true, where everyone was glued to their devices by choice, not necessity. As the pandemic rages on, our paradigms have continued to shift, forcing us to socialize virtually. If we shut away our screens, we become truly isolated. Isolation brings depression along with lethargy. As more people become glued to screens, health and fitness drop and, in some cases, to dangerously low levels.  

Fitness – the backbone of a strong lifestyle – helps us de-stress and stay healthy and happy, while allowing us to take a much needed break from our screens. But as this dangerous pandemic has engulfed us, the lockdown has constrained most to our homes. CNBC and Psychology Today found that nationally, people have become less active and sleeping more. Within one month of lockdown, the average activity level dropped 48%, while people are sleeping 20% more.

After the national emergency lockdown in March, the national average of those reporting anxiety increased from 29% to 49%, largely due to the restrictions on activities and the health scares. Physical activity reduces temporary and long-term diagnosed and undiagnosed anxiety and increases neutrophils and natural killer cells which protect the body from viruses such as COVID-19. Regular exercise can also indirectly reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome and other respiratory problems that are prevalent with many who have contracted COVID-19. There is no doubt that staying fit is the best way to shield ourselves from both physical and mental health issues, which bolsters our immunity and helps fight against dangerous infections and diseases. 

During these past six months since lockdown, it has become abundantly clear that fitness, or the lack thereof, has become a major issue. It may seem like a mystery that the national average for activity levels has decreased during this period, even though many people claim “to have started working out.” This can be explained rather easily by the types of exercise most are pursuing under lockdown: unsteady vs. regular. Regular fitness is categorized as vigorous repetitive exercise of 75 minutes to 150 minutes per week over several weeks, as described by Mayo Clinic. Unsteady exercise, on the other hand, while may still be rigorous, does not occur repeatedly enough to cause a noticeable improvement in fitness.

Many of us have tried to adapt to the rising virtual fitness world, turning to virtual products of at-home workouts and exercise, says Fortune. But staying committed to a routine without external support is difficult over a long period of time. Families have eagerly scheduled activity times, such as hiking, family walks, and beach days, but these activities are not defined as rigorous, repetitive exercise, leading to the major misconception that people are becoming more active. Since regular exercise is mandatory to maintain a calm composure, release stress, protect against viruses, and remain focused and alert, we must find a way to bring fitness back to our society.

The proven method to create and manage an exercise routine is to create a planned extensive workout schedule with someone and work together to hold each other accountable. When it comes to your health, never leave anything to chance, so plan out your approach, and take guidance from experts to design the best and safest exercise routine for you. Each individual is unique in their strengths, abilities, and flexibility, so a routine designed around you is best. I personally started with scheduled Zoom workouts with my friends, focusing on building muscles and staying healthy. I joined virtual sports classes for youth and committed to attending them each time. My top sport is Taekwondo and I have incorporated at least one hour of virtual learning and teaching each day of the week. 

In March, I began my own virtual fitness and martial arts classes, mostly for family and close friends. In just a couple of months, I realized the amazing progress my students had made with their martial art learning and overall fitness and health. They had matured in discipline and perseverance. Encouraged, and realizing the benefit my classes provided, I formally started a non-profit on the premise of spreading fitness and martial arts training to youth virtually. The free classes teach general fitness, self-defense, and confidence. Fit4Grit Academy now has nearly 10 instructors instructing over 35 students. We also have multiple partnerships with national non-profits, youth-employment/development organizations, and martial art and fitness academies. We are working to expand nationwide, and globally. Fit4Grit focuses on fitness by teaching students the most effective ways to exercise in a safe environment with commitment, rigor, and discipline. The foundational values of fitness taught in Fit4Grit can translate to creating a healthy lifestyle for the long haul.

With the uncertainty around us, it is important to take care of our health and that of our loved ones. Fitness provides the most benefits to anyone of any age, anywhere. Take your time to understand your body and your needs and prioritize your health, even if it means picking up that electronic device and joining a virtual fitness class.

Let Fit4Grit Academy help you. Try out a class and plan your fitness schedule in the comfort of your home. If you have questions or would like to discuss your fitness needs, feel free to reach out to me, Adarsh Gupta, at fit4grit.adarsh@gmail.com.

 


Adarsh Gupta, a sophomore at Saint Francis High School, a 2nd Degree Martial Art Black Belt, a competitive golfer, and the Founder of Fit4Grit Academy. He loves to be surrounded by fitness but also enjoys relaxing by playing guitar and gardening.

Teenagers Use Technology to Fight Dementia

Brainy Haven is a nonprofit created by high school students from Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Its founders, Raayan Brar, Darron King, and Siddharth Jha, worked collaboratively on the initiative after realizing the lack of online resources for not just the elderly, but specifically those with dementia-related illnesses.

“In the modern world we live in, using technology to better those around us is our obligation,” says Jha. “At Brainy Haven, our team hopes to serve those with dementia-related illness by aiding their process, which can be terrifying for many families.”

Brainy Haven aims to assist those with memory through the use of technological resources. Their website contains an assortment of puzzles and brain teasers for dementia patients to use, ranging from patterns to a fully functional memory game. Having already sent it out to many nursing homes, the team at Brainy Haven has received positive feedback from users.

However, wanting to do more, the three contacted a team at the University of Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center to receive feedback on structure and implementation. “I had known the Alzheimer’s Center’s Director, Dr. Henry Paulson, from past events so it seemed like he’d be the perfect person to reach out to for help,” King explained, “Dr. Paulson kindly introduced us to a group of people with diverse skill sets working at the Center and they gave us some detailed, brilliant feedback.”

In addition to Brainy Haven’s carefully crafted program, users can find important information regarding dementia-related illnesses and their impact on the brain. The team was astonished to see the sheer number of people affected by dementia and they hope that through Brainy Haven, those who are lucky enough to not have been afflicted with dementia can take a few moments to educate themselves on what dementia really is and its effects on their communities.

Brar remembers reading an article from the Hindustan Times and being shocked at how many Indians that are personally affected by this devastating issue.  “Helping the community during difficult times is an amazing thing to do,” Brar says, “I have always wanted to better society, and what we did is something so simple, but I do believe that it can help the lives of our seniors.” The trio is proud of the work that they had done, and now they want teenagers all around the world to do something similar and help benefit their community in some small way.

Sticking to their roots in India, Jha and Brar plan on sending out customized programs to homes in India. Both having had family affected by dementia-related illnesses, the two are aiming to help those suffering in their ancestral lands. “After talking to family members and visiting India numerous times as I child, I hope to be able to give back to the people of Bihar and others who have not been blessed with the same opportunities as myself,” says Jha. “Brainy Haven is the first step to accomplishing that goal.”


Siddharth Jha hopes to change the world and solve global problems through management and technology. When he is not coding, Sid can often be found playing a game of chess or partaking in any other strategic activity.

Raayan Brar passion in life comes from the joy of teaching others and helping the community. As a teacher at various student programs, Raayan knows and enjoys the true value of critical thinking.

Darron King is planning to pursue a career in the field of neuroscience and psychology in his future endeavors. He is interested in learning about the endless capabilities of the human brain and is excited about the future of neurology.

Finding the Silver Lining: Stories of Strength and Struggle

As the global COVID-19 crisis has continued well beyond initial predictions and precautions, the response of the community at large, especially across the Indian diaspora, has been startling. Some have embraced the changes, calling for society to adapt and accept the circumstances as “the new normal”; others have lamented the lockdown as a pestilence to be endured. For many in the Indian community on a global level, questions and concerns about when the global pandemic will end remain unanswered.

However, some have managed to find a platform to voice their stories during these difficult days, especially through a younger audience. This has shed light on the experiences of many who have previously have encountered limited responses from peers and the wider community.

We the Young, a positive, youth-driven Indian media platform, has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by assisting young people to find the silver lining during the uncertainty of these times. As an online portal, the virtual community has developed a safe space that welcomes the voices of youth to share their story and find inspiration from others’ shared experiences. Many Indian youth have been able to voice their personal outlook on life from a mental health perspective as a way to engage with young people across the internet.

As a way to facilitate this further, this initiative also collaborates with mental health experts, advocates, and those with lived experiences to engage and explore approaches to coping with various mental health issues through their weekly initiative, the Mental Health Dost.

Udita was one such youngster who found it difficult to keep her emotions in check early on, especially when it came to her relationship. Diagnosed with clinical depression and borderline personality disorder, she found it hard to handle the pressures life threw her way, and she wished to end it all. A random Google search led her to get connected to a helpline, where she found herself pouring out her emotions to the person on the other end of the line; who gave her both the assurance and hope that she was looking for. Now with professional intervention, Udita has found help and is coping with her mental health issues. “For me, now, Udita says, “it’s one day at a time”. 

Many young people just like Udita have began to share their stories as part of the Instagram live series, #DearZindagi; which, with the help of We the Young, has been turned into a mini-documentary series which has been promoted online and has received thousands of views and responses from young people with shared experiences who also are empowered and able to share their voice as a result.

As We the Young continues its campaign to engage others, including through their social media campaign, #InItTogether, as well as their weekly live sessions with artists and advocates who share their tips during isolation, and the blog online which is updated regularly – the story continues. The voice of youth has continued to empower others to do the same, and as the platform continues to impact others, many more youngsters are inspired to join this growing community.

Commenting on the need of the hour, Charit Jaggi, the founder of We The Young said, “We need to create more platforms and safe spaces for people to come and share their vulnerabilities and problems..so many of us are battling with loneliness, anxiety, and depression alone. No one deserves to suffer alone. There is an urgent need for us to come together as a generation, right now more than ever.”

For young people across the global Indian diaspora, strength in solidarity is the best way forward.


Joseph Kolapudi is a young writer, currently serving as Editor-in-Chief for ProvokeWoke, a youth-driven, online platform. He also contributes to several print and online publications. He has been recognized as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum for his work locally and internationally. 

Introspection on the Road to Self Discovery

Presently our lives are topsy turvy and we are dealing with the reality that the coronavirus will be with us for a long time. The whole world has paused. The new normal is one of uncertainty as our lives have been disrupted. We are unable to meet our friends, vacation, go to work, or school. We wake up hearing more disturbing news of the stock market, unemployment, rising number of cases, and deaths.

Before the pandemic hit us, we took things for granted. We did not value the simple things of life. Being able to walk and breathe without a mask, meeting friends and family, hugs, eating at restaurants, shopping at stores, have become luxuries.  

Many of us felt fear for our lives and our loved ones when we heard of the COVID -19 virus, then came a feeling of frustration and irritability which led to the anger of being locked down. Gradually our communities have started to open and some of us step out cautiously with paying attention to social distancing and wearing a mask. Life has changed!

This has been a difficult time for me too, but as time goes by I have realized that I have to make the most of what I have. I nurture my mental physical and spiritual health. This lockdown has made me aware of my inner strength, resiliency, and compassion.

We are caught up in our busy schedules and many of us are unaware of who we are. During the pandemic, things have slowed down and we have time to tune in to our thoughts and feelings. Use this as a time of self-discovery, to dive deeper into understanding who you are. This time of self-isolation is to search for answers to get to know your true self. 

Many of us are naturally anxious or unhappy at this time and find it difficult to move towards balance and peace, but it is possible. Consider making one or more of these methods an integral part of your life. They may help you with your own self-discovery.

Meditation: The practice of mindfulness, a practice for mental health and clarity. Self-discovery meditation could be done in a simple manner. It is a way to calm the mind and body with relaxation and to get in tune with your inner self. By regularly meditating you will be able to live a more thoughtful and introspective life.

  • Find a quiet place with no distractions. Do switch off your electronics.
  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  • Breathe naturally, in and out. 
  • In your relaxed yet alert state, ask yourself a few questions to stay focused.
    • Questions you can ask yourself could be, “ I would like to know my strengths; I would like to know my weaknesses; who am I: how do I achieve my goal, etc. 
  • Or you can use one word or mantra such as discovery, belief, knowledge, etc to help you focus.
  • Focus your attention on the mantra and drop into the depths of your inquiry where the answers arise. if unable to do that then bring yourself back to your breath.
  • Feel the sensations in your body of each inhalation and exhalation and let it flow.
  • After 10 to 15 minutes open your eyes and sit still. Try and recall if you felt anything that helped you understand yourself just a little bit more.

This requires daily practice, time, and patience to move towards the path of self-discovery. As you move towards this goal, meditation will help calm your mind.  

Journaling: During this unprecedented time, try to pay attention to your mental health. Journaling is a very effective and simple manner of tracking yourself over a period of time. You just need a pen and paper or you can journal on your phone.

Journaling helps you look back and see your progress, patterns, emotional triggers, and what you have overcome. If you see yourself feeling negative often then journaling will help you identify this pattern. You can train yourself to write positive affirmations and think with a more hopeful attitude. It can help you identify your aspirations and overcome your fears.  

I have found journaling to be like self-counseling which has put me on the path of self- discovery and getting to know the authentic me.

Walking: An exercise for our physical well-being and also for our mental health. Walking in nature, absorb what is around you through your senses  Do not have any distractions with headphones or any electronics. Get more introspective and let your thoughts wander. If your thoughts continuously move to the negative then try and bring it back to the one thing which made you smile.

For example, you are irritated with something happening at work and it keeps expressing itself repeatedly. What do you do? While walking, observe your breath and focus on it, till you are calm. Then start appreciating where you are and enjoy that moment. When your mind goes back to the irritability bring it back to the breath and the beauty around you. It takes practice but soon you will find that you are in the present moment while walking.    

Gratitude: As life has changed for us, it is not easy to feel gratitude.  

Try and have compassion for yourself at this time and when you are able to do this, you will feel that you are able to express gratitude for yourself and others. Gratitude is a positive emotion and can help let go of the negative emotions which we feel during this time.  

I have a gratitude jar in which I write the simplest of things I am grateful for. After a week I look at them and feel that I am fortunate in so many ways and this helps me move forward.  

Mindfulness:  Mindfulness is when you take notice of what is happening right now and when your mind wanders, then you bring it back to the moment.  I urge all of you to engage in mindfulness throughout the day. Be in the moment of what you are doing and observe it and your feelings but do this non-judgmentally. 

Some of us don’t realize the strong emotions of sadness, fear, and anxiety which the pandemic has brought on. With the practice of mindfulness, we can reduce these triggers slowly and move towards feeling more balanced.

Get in touch with your soul. Keep searching for answers, look within, and find your courage, passions, dreams, and happiness. Keep introspectively exploring till you find your true self. Go on, raise your consciousness, and be a higher version of yourself.


Geetanjali Arunkumar is a writer, artist, life coach. She is the author of ‘You Are The Cake’.

Learning to Embrace Aloneness

I live alone. I’ve lived alone for six years now. In that time, my state of being has evolved from not knowing what to do next, to a mix of daily routine, work, activities, social encounters, plans, travel, fulfillment and a life with meaning. Of late, however, the occasional, unexpected wave of loneliness has begun to wash over me once again, unpredictable in its arrival and in its impact. This is without a doubt a consequence of five seemingly interminable months of ‘sheltering’ in my home; a daily walk in the park my only foray into the outside world.  Do I feel lonely? Yes, sometimes. Isolated? It seems that way! Do I feel sorry for myself? The answer is yes, on occasion, if I’m honest with myself. I’m a “people person,” and being by myself can be quite difficult.

I was ensconced in my couch late one evening, indulging in a little self-pity, when a vague memory straightened me from my slouch. Pushing up, I walked into the next room to scan my bookshelf for a couple of slim volumes of poetry. Thumbing through them, I soon found the verse from Hafiz of Shiraz that had shaken me from my little pity party:

One day
the sun admitted,
“I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
The infinite Incandescence
That had cast my brilliant image!”

“I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!”

I had been feeling lonely and in the dark. What made me seek out these words? What was the 14th century Sufi Master trying to say? A thought flickered, then flared. Was he telling me that I need not be lonely or feel lonely when I’m alone? Suggesting that I embrace my aloneness? Thrive in it? Exploit it?

Loneliness left unchecked can be dangerous for the body and the soul.  Just a few short months ago, I talked about its ill effects in my article Lonely in a Crowd, describing how this hidden and largely unobserved epidemic had been sweeping through our society long before the coronavirus reared its deadly head. And now here I was, ironically, fighting off its symptoms! I expect some readers will recognize my symptoms.  In that respect, I’m not alone!

What’s the difference between Loneliness and Aloneness? “Loneliness is a lack, a feeling that something is missing, a pain, a depression, a need, an incompleteness, an absence,” says Pragito Dove, “aloneness is presence, fullness, aliveness, joy of being, overflowing love. You are complete. Nobody is needed, you are enough.” 

The Sufi Master, it seemed, was suggesting that I should seek my own light. Handing me the key to turn an absence into a presence, pointing me to the path away from the perceived pain of an unfulfilled want, towards a joyful exploration of an infinity of life and being that existed within me and around me. A universe waiting to be discovered, in which I would never feel lonely even in my aloneness.

A number of writers describe the power of aloneness; of solitude and the opportunity, it provides to draw strength, peace, and connectivity with oneself and with nature.  Introverts thrive on being by themselves, says Sam Woolfe; they feel energized by focusing on their own inner world.  Why can’t we give ourselves the same power? In Walden, a classic account of an experiment in essential living, Henry David Thoreau writes “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.” Naturalists who spend long stretches of time by themselves have learned about the power of aloneness and the value of solitude.  Some claim that solitude reinforces a secure sense of self, and with that, the capacity for empathy that is so necessary in society.

Those moments when we’ve had a difficult, trying, or exhausting time, or feel that wave of loneliness approaching provide the perfect opportunity to reach within ourselves.  That instant when we begin to feel sorry for ourselves or have the urge to get away from it all, is the ideal time for quiet introspection, to be alone and replenish ourselves. Constant “connectivity” in this digital age has driven many of us to a need to always “be with” or engage with someone; this has become so reflexive that we’ve lost the ability to be by ourselves, focus on our surroundings or turn inward to reflect, and connect to our inner selves. Let’s listen to Hafiz once more:

“Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly
Let it cut more deep
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can …”

I’m learning to embrace my aloneness; to find comfort and ease in my own company. It’s difficult. I still have a way to go. I see that light now and then, and experience the peace aloneness brings, as I sit in my front-row seat and observe and absorb the universe within me.

Are you ready to walk on a path towards the astonishing light of your own being?

Sukham Blog – This is a monthly column focused on health and wellbeing.  


Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community.  Sukham provides information, and access to resources on matters related to health and well-being, aging, life’s transitions including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death in the family, and bereavement. To find out more, visit https://www.sukham.org, or contact the author at sukhaminfo@gmail.com.  

Take the Time, Check In

WHO reports suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally, with a total of 800,000 lives lost every year. This data was compiled pre-pandemic and the assumption is that this year the data is going to look worse. 

As an actor and storyteller, I wanted to capture mental health in a short story, focus on one of the potential solutions, and drive that point home. It was an active decision to remove focus from the underlying reasons for depression. As of late, we’ve learned that depression can happen without an obvious trigger, as in the case of Deepika Padukone.

As one would expect, initially it took time to find people who wanted to invest time in a project about mental health but I found my key collaborators – Christina Perez and Emmanuel Vega. Christina Perez directed, edited, and created the background score. Emmanuel worked the sound and lights, among other things. The shoot was done in one location and completed in 3 hours.

In these trying times, the relevance of the message has increased and the collective consciousness has been almost forced to develop empathy to understand it. However, the message was relevant even before and will remain relevant even after. The ending of the short was designed to be something that lived online given the ubiquity and the growing relevance of the Internet in the current world. 

As a volunteer project, my team and I have nothing to gain from this video other than spreading a beneficial message. Please take the time, just 96 seconds, to watch the short film below!

Since the release of the short, the response has been very positive. A young musician from Kerala was inspired by the short and composed a song using the visuals from the short film. A doctor messaged me and said how this movie had impacted him; he started making calls to his coworkers to check in on them as they are working 80 hours/week.

Almost everyone who watched the short has loved the art and has had a key takeaway from it, however, not many have watched it. While it may seem that 70k views are a lot, remember that 800,000 people die due to mental health every year. We are just getting started!

Uday Krishna is an actor, writer, and data professional. Uday has acted in a bunch of shorts, plays, commercials and has written/directed plays and shorts.

Dil Bechara: From Reel to Real

Sushant Singh Rajput’s posthumous film Dil Bechara recently released on Disney+ Hotstar. Clearly dedicated to him, the film begins with a smiling SSR playing the guitar while a quote of his flashes in the background: “Perhaps, the difference between what is miserable, and that, which is spectacular, lies in the leap of faith…#selfmusing.” Inspired by John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars, the film is set in Jamshedpur and its opening dialogues are what most bedtime stories start with: “Ëk tha raja, ek thi rani; dono mar gaye, khatam kahani.”   

Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) is a young girl suffering from thyroid cancer. An oxygen mask is attached to her person, which she carries with her at all times. Due to her disease, she has a largely boring life and feels like a reality TV show contestant who can be eliminated from the game of life anytime. She often attends funerals of strangers and sympathizes with their loss. More than anything else, she longs to be just like any other normal girl her age. 

Enter Manny (SSR), who she meets at a cancer counseling group. Though ill too, he is fun-loving and likes to sing, dance and act. SSR is sadly so energetic and full of life in this—his last film—with expressions that remind one of Shah Rukh Khan from the DDLJ days. He also spins magic with some promising dance moves in the film’s dreamy title song. Watching it one can’t help but lament with a heavy heart about such a talented life tragically wasted. 

The film has its share of clichés too—like the fact that Kizie and Manny’s taste in music doesn’t match. While she likes to hear soppy, mellow songs, he prefers the likes of Honey Singh. Along with Manny’s friend, the two of them start shooting a comical film together, and he shows her how to enjoy life. In turn, Kizie gets him to hear an incomplete soulful song by a singer whom she admires, and he begins to love the tune too. They write to the singer to conclude his song and request to meet him. Kizie can barely believe it when the singer invites them to Paris. Since her immune system is weak, it’s risky for her to travel, but with some coaxing, she goes to Paris along with Manny and her mother—who agree to fulfill her long-cherished dream. Though meeting the crazy singer (Saif Ali Khan) is a bit anticlimactic, the three of them have a great time in the city. 

With the stars of young love in her eyes, Kizie soon finds a raison détre in Manny, but filled with emotion, she frequently gets breathless and her heart beats faster when around him. Manny later tells Kizie that an ache had led him to discover sometime back that he too is going to die very soon. In a poignant scene, his family hugs him and cries, as his condition steadily deteriorates. He also attends a mock funeral for himself where his best friend and girlfriend read weepy vows to him, while he sits across and hears them out. Predictably the end of the film is melodramatic, made more true to life by the fact that SSR is no more in reality too. There are several dialogues that seem ironic now—and while they were being shot, no one probably had a clue about what the future holds. In one instance, Kizie tells Manny, “One doesn’t need to be popular to be a hero. You can be one in real life too.” 

The film’s subtle message is in the letter that Manny leaves behind before dying: “We don’t decide when we are born and when we die, but we decide how we live.” As Kizie tearfully watches visuals of the completed film that they had shot together, it could very well be Sanghi herself watching the completed Dil Bechara in real life now. In a sense, the film and SSR’s life remind you of the fleeting nature of existence itself, making you almost want to hug your loved ones a little tighter, laugh a little louder, and just live life a little more fully…

_____

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.

Nexts Steps to Reduce Anxiety

Are you feeling anxious during these troubled and difficult COVID times? Anxiety starts to affect our mental and physical status. We worry about our families, friends, and ourselves. What if something happens, what next? Fear, and anxiety, come from thinking of the future.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs. In the traditional Maslow pyramid, we see that the basic physiological ( food, water, warmth, rest) and safety needs ( security, safety) are not met for many of us. Many have lost their jobs, do not have a roof over their heads, or even food to eat. This causes immense anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear. However, even for those whose primary needs are met, there is still a tremendous amount of anxiety. To help understand and cope with this feeling in these unusual times I have redefined the upper part of the pyramid.

In these uneasy COVID times, it is necessary to ease our minds. What are our emotional needs during a difficult time like this? Here is a simple diagram that helps explain it. During this time it is good to go within us.

Let’s look at this diagram. We need to accept this situation as it is. It may not be what we anticipated or wanted, but with Acceptance, it will be easier to deal with the situation, rather than fight against it. 

Routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed. In these times it would be beneficial to create a healthy routine. Pick things that you have control over and make them an integral part of your routine.  When new things show up that are not in your control, let them go, and don’t let it affect your routine. In this process of not being able to be always in control of happenings, anger, and frustration arise, which need to be slowly released. 

Would you like to connect with others? We have been asked to social distance. The effects of this have brought about sadness and a feeling of loneliness. Even though you are social distancing, you can nurture your relationships with emotional Connections. Go on, pick up the phone, and speak with a friend, text, or use social media. Share your feelings and know that you are still connected even though you are physically apart. This is not forever.

The world has slowed down so that you can discover yourself. Think about taking a pause and figuring out what is the new normal.  When you Reset, what you thought meant something important to you may have changed. What seemed normal no longer seems useful to you. 

For many of us, it is hard to concentrate on our emotional needs when we are filled with anxiety and fear.  Use these next steps to reduce your anxiety first so that you can take care of yourself and the needs within.

  1. Reduce watching and listening to negative news.
  2. Enjoy family time with a feeling of gratitude. I understand it is difficult at times being under the same roof. Cooking, cleaning, teaching kids (homeschooling), video conference meetings, loud music, dogs barking. Once this is over you will realize that this was an opportune time to bond with each other. So make it happen now.
  3. Be in the present. Anxiety, worries, and fear come from thinking of what will happen in the future. Just live for the moment as life is precious and should not be taken for granted. 
  4. I find yoga, meditation, and most of all a good night’s sleep valuable to calm my mind.  Many apps and sites offer meditation sequences. 
  5. Practice gratitude. Gratitude for being you, for having the smallest of things. Gratitude for the frontline workers, researchers and so much more. 
  6. Exercise helps release your feel-good chemicals. If you are allowed to and it is safe then, walk, run, cycle with 6-foot social distancing in a non-crowded area while wearing a mask. Come home and wash your hands. 
  7. It is time to take on a new hobby, or even learn a new language. All the things you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. 
  8. Charity is giving. Giving makes you have a feeling of purpose and control. Donate to an organization, assist the elderly, support those who need your help. 

I keep asking myself what is troubling me. Is it the fear of my fragile life, that my loved ones or I am locked down at home? So many things keep flitting through my mind causing anxiety, but the best approach is to look at what I have and be thankful. Be in the moment. 

Geetanjali Arunkumar is a writer, artist, life coach. She is the author of ‘You Are the Cake’.

Social Distance Dancing for Mental Health

A group of Bay Area musicians and dancers have come together to spread joy during these challenging times with a Bollywood inspired version of “The Other Side” from the Trolls World Tour. The video features 27 dancers bringing various forms of dance to the feel-good song originally performed by Justin Timberlake and SZA

Corte-Madera based dancer and choreographer Enakshi Vyas saw her dance life evolve as shelter-in-place started taking shape in March. “Our entire industry changed overnight. We were in a situation where what we needed the most – exercise, art, community – could not exist like they did before. But we had to find a way to keep the community together,” said Vyas. She quickly embraced technology and shifted everything online, hosting dance classes and rehearsals over video chat, and instantly found herself re-energized. 

When it came time to consider making her next video, she turned to San-Francisco based Bollywood composer Vivek Agrawal with an idea: what if we choreographed a dance video to a feel-good song where everyone could record from their own homes? 

Agrawal, intrigued by the thought, remembered that the new Trolls movie had a track that felt appropriate for the times called “The Other Side.” On why this song in particular, he said, “It is one of those songs that make you smile the first time you hear it. It reminds us that even when we may think things are tough for us, there’s always something to appreciate about the world. For us, even though we can’t be physically together, we can still create beautiful art together, even from our own homes.” 

Agrawal recruited Aarti B to lend her vocals to the song. They recorded the entire cover over Zoom, and Vyas recruited dancers throughout the Bay Area and taught them the dance over a series of online tutorials. In less than a week, they had a video ready. 

After piecing together video recordings from dancers of all different styles, the group released “The Other Side” on Instagram and Youtube on Friday, May 8th. “I never would have imagined that this cover song project, that we recorded over Zoom, would turn into a 27-dancer, donation-raising extravaganza! What a special moment for us all. I’m so proud to have my voice on this project.” said Aarti B after seeing the reactions on social media. 

In addition to encouraging everyone to enjoy the video, the group is inviting viewers to make a donation to AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement) to help support essential workers providing behavioral counseling. 

Founded in 1973, AACI is one of the largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities in Santa Clara County. Our mission is to strengthen the hope and resilience of our community members by improving their health, mental health and well-being.

AACI remains open during the shelter in place order, to care for the vulnerable, low-income, and limited English speaking families who need help.  We provide culturally appropriate behavioral health counseling to individuals and families of all ages and backgrounds which is more important than ever during this stressful and uncertain time.  Your gift to AACI during Mental Health Awareness month will make a huge difference in the lives of families who are struggling with anxiety and depression.

Enakshi Vyas, a Marin county native, has trained and taught throughout the Bay Area in a variety of styles including but not limited to Jazz, Tap, Kathak, Bharata Natyam, West African Dance, Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Indian Folk styles, and Bollywood dance. As the director of Elite Naach Academy, Enakshi instructs a variety of stylistic backgrounds and cultures, providing her students with a more complex and diverse dance curriculum. She strives to create a safe space for dancers to explore their versatility, ignite their passion, and find their story. 

Vivek is a composer based in San Francisco who previously worked with A.R. Rahman, just left his tech job to pursue music full-time, and is working on his debut album of original Hindi songs. He recently left the tech space to focus completely on music, and is currently working on two projects. One is an album of American pop covers with a Bollywood flare. The other is an original Hindi album of songs that he has written over the past two years. 

Aarti is an SF-based professional singer, born and raised in the Bay Area. More recently, Aarti was asked to come to NYC to audition for Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, the Broadway musical. She also was the lead singer in the house band for SF’s high-end Indian restaurant, Rooh. Aarti is currently working to record her first-ever original music and release new music this year.

Navigating Autism – A Mother Without Help During a Pandemic

As a mother of three beautiful children, Siri, Vamsi, and Kiran, shelter-in-place has been a time to find positivity in the difficult moments. While Vamsi and Kiran are in college, my eldest daughter Siri never left home. 

This past April 2, 2020 was Autism Awareness Day and a few weeks into the ongoing pandemic frenzy. Initially, I couldn’t help but think that this shelter-in-place should come with more help for moms – especially for those that have children with disabilities.

Siri in a dress she made herself.

Siri was diagnosed with Autism when she was 3 years old.

Before shelter-in-place, Siri was involved in several activities: ice-skating, exercising, boxing, fitness dancing, ABA therapy, working at Goodwill, and attending a day program. For the past six months, I have accompanied Siri to all her activities except her day program. Since most of them are fitness-oriented, she was showing considerable improvement in handling her emotions, and so we gradually tapered her medications for anxiety.  

Around the time when shelter-in-place was declared, Siri was at the peak of her fitness regime, and we were approaching zero medications. But, now, since all her outdoor activities are inaccessible, I feared we might have to start her medications again.

To my surprise, there was no necessity to bring her medications back. Furthermore, she got adjusted to the new schedule within a couple of days. She noticed that her brothers were at home and she adapted to the new lifestyle of no outdoor activities.

On the Autism spectrum, my daughter’s main challenge is understanding language; Siri cannot communicate much. For example, if we tell her why she cannot go out, she may not understand or might misunderstand, and her anxiety will increase since she cannot ask clarifying questions. My husband and I have decided to let her learn by herself, letting her observe her environment.

Siri’s jewelry.

Siri keeps herself busy by working on her online jewelry making business, which she started 5 years ago. What she lacks in her ability to communicate, she more than surpasses in her fine motor skills.

Currently, in this period of shelter-in-place, I am teaching Siri to stitch masks for the COVID-19 workers and once the SIP is lifted, I have plans to teach her horse riding, weaving, soap, and candle making. Autism doesn’t have to be a barrier. It requires creative ways of teaching. Siri can learn any new skill if taught the way she understands. Small and simple steps. 

Considering that I regularly make decisions for her and motivate her as well, it often worries me, will she be able to manage without me? Nevertheless, during this shelter-in-place, the silver lining is that Siri is gradually becoming independent and is without her medications. These are the small assurances that remind me that, even without me, Siri will emerge much stronger, confident, and better than what she is today.

My family wants to share our story as a South Asian, immigrant family confronting Autism. It has been a unique and challenging journey.

If you’re interested in helping us fund the documentary, you can donate to our kickstarter campaign.

You can find the amazing work Siri is doing on her website.

Swathi Chettipally is a devoted mother and an Autism advocate. Find more about her work with Siri on pinterest, instagram, and youtube.