Hi, and welcome to #TalkbackTuesday. This week’s interview is with Mr. Aitijya Sarkar. See his interview below.
Talkback Tuesday is a weekly interview with everyday people. It is always inspirational to look into the life of another person, and realize it is just as complex and large and confusing as your own.
1. For the readers, who are you, what do you do, and what is your current side project?
I am Aitijya Sarkar and I’m in my fourth year of law in Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
I’m obsessed with the internet and the way it’s shaping our future. I take an active interest in Indian media and how content in general is changing so rapidly.
I don’t read the news unless it turns up on my feed. And I have an almost unwavering faith in our generation’s ability to change the world and make it a better place for all.
When I’m not online I spend the better part of my day meeting people and getting to know them better. Stories and people drive me.
Knowing what matters to someone, what makes them happy or sad and having a real conversation in the process is a rush. [It is] something I strive to re-live everyday.
My current project is The Wall and Us. It is an attempt to create a safe-haven for the millennials of the world where they can be appreciated for who they are. A space without any inhibition or judgment, a space where they can be themselves.
2. You said you don’t read the news, and followed up with a show of faith in our generation. What turns you off about the news and what would you like to see improve in that field?
The misery and the pain. At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I have to explain here how I am wired a little differently. I stopped reading the news when I was in my 10th, primarily because I just felt helpless.
The Nirbhaya rape case had just happened. Middle East was in turmoil. Death. Despair. And misery. And in the midst of it all, there I was. A class 10 kid who longed to make a difference.
I am an empath. For those who don’t know, an empath is a person who has the capacity to feel or understand what the other person is experiencing by quite literally putting themselves in the other person’s shoes.
So an empath doesn’t just live one life. They live many lives. They live in people’s stories. I get how all this might sound a bit weird but I’ve realized that it is what it is.
So fast forward 5 years, not much has changed. The only difference is easier access to information. And every time I read the news, it just breaks me. I don’t want to lose hope.
I believe the world doesn’t owe us anything. We are all instruments of change if we choose to be. If our birth was a scientific miracle, we all need to realize how special and unbelievable our existence really is.
We all should want to make this world a better place. We owe it to ourselves to realize how it is on us to make the future a happier and less miserable place for most if not all.
I believe the world doesn’t owe us anything. We are all instruments of change if we choose to be.
To do the work I do with The Wall and Us and everything else, it’s imperative I don’t lose hope. The news makes me lose hope. It makes me feel like I am not doing enough. That somehow I am at fault for another rape that happens somewhere or a child who gets killed somewhere.
That happens primarily because, like I’ve said before, I am wired a little differently. And that’s why I stay away.
3. Talk to me about The Wall and Us. What is it, and what do you hope it will be?
The Wall and Us began at a very dark and tumultuous period in my life. Struggling with alcohol and prescription pill abuse, I would try to kill myself. That’s where it began.
It started as an attempt to document my own journey at getting better. Soon contributions poured in from people around the world about heartbreak, physical abuse, weight loss, bullying, loss of a parent. As I ran these contributions I realized how ingrained this sickening feeling of loneliness is.
People had friends, but they couldn’t talk about the things that mattered to them or moved them or made them happy or sad. We knew people but we didn’t really know them. People know us but they don’t really know us.
Every time someone opens up, they are shut down. No one is accepting vulnerability. No one is preaching empathy and kindness. Not one platform celebrated people for who they are. And I realized that what I went through is probably what millions of millennials around the world are going through.
So we migrated to a website. We realized anonymity was key in a highly stigmatized country like India so we kept that option. The website now allows the users to do one of these three things –
- Talk to a back-end listener anonymously and in real time.
- Share your story anonymously so that someone somewhere can know that they’re not alone.
- Start a discussion thread in the Safe-Haven anonymously.
So far we’ve completed 200 chats, ran 30 contributions and heard some incredible stories. In five years, I want The Wall and Us to be the immediate thought attached to the word vulnerability. In five years I expect us to have run about a 1000 contributions. I want The Wall and Us to become a platform curated for and by the lonely of the world.
4. That’s incredible. In that case, can you provide 3 insights into how people should deal with loneliness and depression?
There are 3 ways we go ahead with curbing the epidemic of loneliness and subsequently depression.
- Accepting vulnerability – We as a generation are putting up these walls around us that help us hide who we are essentially making us forget what makes us special and different. We need to break this wall brick by brick. How do we do that? By accepting vulnerability.
The art of sharing. Having real conversations. Unless we choose to share and let the things that bother us out, we’re never going to let go of this constant longing for more. We need to be real, and talk about the things that are important to us. We need to stop trying to fit in.
- Empathy and kindness – This is an addition to accepting vulnerability. How do we get more people to reach out for help? How do we get more people to put themselves out there? By giving them the time and attention they need.
People choose to not open up because no one is telling them that it’s okay to cry, fail, hurt and grieve. Even if their problems might seem minuscule [to you], they matter immensely to them.
We need to be patient. We need to be taught the art of practicing kindness. And we need to not shut them up when they open up. Depression is not a precursor to loneliness. I believe loneliness is a precursor to depression. We need to be more accepting.
- Fitting in – We need to stop listening to a certain kind of music because people around us are. We need to stop smoking up and drinking because people around us are. We need to stop fitting in.
If you’re over-weight, that’s okay unless it’s a health risk. If you’re dark-skinned, that’s fine. Or if you like to cross-dress, that’s fine. Fitting in is one of the leading causes of loneliness. And someone needs to tell the world that you’re okay just the way you are. And if someone judges you based on the clothes you wear, or how you talk or look, it says more about them than you.
5. Great. Finally, do you have anything you’d like the audience to explore? It can be a business or movement, or it could be anything from a video to an idea.
If you are as obsessed as I am about content marketing, check out NeilPatel.com.
Or if you are an early stage entrepreneur and you’re looking for networking opportunities, join this Facebook group called PushStart.
If people and their stories drive you or you just need someone to talk to, check out thewallandus.com.
If you love alternative music, start listening to Radiohead and 30 Seconds To Mars if you don’t already.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this one quote:
Love yourself. Only then can you start loving the world around you.
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Next, check out the previous interview from last Tuesday with Advait Moghe by clicking on the image below.