Ritu Sharda
Guest Article

Soon, we’ll be out of this and posted in a new world

Ritu Sharda, the daughter of an Air Force officer, writes about the lessons from her childhood - and how they're helping her cope with these trying times.

It was the later part of 1988. We were suddenly posted to what was then, Trivandrum. My father, an Air Force officer, was called in to join the Southern Air Command to be a part of the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka.

What it meant for a 10-year-old me was that I had to once again move to a new school, mid-session, and learn and pass in Malayalam, in the finals that were coming up in four months. Oblivious to the dangers that my father could face, I howled in panic and anger, “How will I learn Malayalam in four months, this is so unfair, I’ll flunk... blah blah blah.” My father smiled, and in a very matter of fact manner, said to me, “Oh, minor point.”

He made it sound so small and casual that somewhere in my head, I figured, maybe it’s not that big a deal. I didn’t have to climb a mountain, I just had to jump over a fence, maybe. With that sudden change in perspective, I studied with no pressure and to my surprise, I passed with 76 per cent.

It’s not the first time I had heard these two words from him.

His mantra to deal with anything in life was, ”Oh, minor point.”

We had to move very often. From big cities to really small, back of beyond places.

Every few years, sometimes in just a few months, I had to adapt to a new normal.

In some places, it was easy to make friends, in others, there was a lot of social (actually, anti-social) distancing that one experienced.

But with every hiccup that came my way, I trained my mind to treat it like a minor point. And it helped me enjoy every new experience.

"Our brands, our partners, are counting on us more than they ever have. We are people who have to bounce back with a solution, and fast..."

I’ve been in Delhi for about 25 years. But the Coronavirus pandemic threw me into a state of a new posting. This was a new place, and just like I had done so many times in my life, I began to adapt, keeping two words in my head – minor point.

1. Most of us have a tendency to amplify problems in our head, minor point tells me, it’s not a big problem. So, instead of looking at the lockdown as Oh-my-god-how-will-we-stay-at-home-for-so-long, I’ve chosen to look at it as just a three to four month posting. It’s temporary, I know I’ll be out of it soon. So, why not make the most of it.

2. 10 a.m. Zoom calls with my immediate team members is sacrosanct. It’s a place where we get together to just talk about anything under the sun. Work is a small part of this call and a lot of it is, consciously, just random chit chat. Jokes, exchange of anxieties, laughs, gossip. I’m not the only new student in the new city and new class, we’re all new in this. Problem shared is problem smalled.

3. Our brands and partners are counting on us more than they ever have. We are people who have to bounce back with a solution, and fast, and minor point really helps. Because bouncing back from a problem that is small is always easier and quicker than bouncing back from a crisis. Managing work with this perspective gives our partners the comfort, the confidence in us that we are equipped to solve whatever comes our way.

4. Minor point is a middle finger to a big problem and says, you can’t overpower me, I’ll keep going on. This post-COVID world has also put our creativity to the test. But creating work and putting it out there with so many restrictions has been such a... LIBERATING EXPERIENCE!!! We’ve found so many new ways of making things happen. We are innovating, growing every day. It’s like when you're posted to a new place, you learn a new language, you learn to cook the local cuisine, you travel around and see new places. The experience makes you richer and a new place in life always teaches you that you’re capable of so much more.

5. Almost all of us were totally dependent on our part-timers. I know I was. And the first thing that hit me was doing all the housework. It was again unfamiliar territory. But I quickly realised that all I had to do was to convert my driving time to housework time. Between all members of the family, 45 minutes is all it takes, morning and evening. And I don’t give it a minute more. I’ve told myself it's okay if I don’t end up doing anything. No big deal, take it easy. And with that, we are cleaning, cooking, washing, Zooming, with some good music playing. Managing the housework and office work, together? Oh, minor point!

6. We don’t have to look like the crisis. I make it a point to have a bath and get ready, like I would when we went to office, before I hit my homework station at 10 a.m. It’s just another regular day at work and getting ready gives me that feeling.

7. There is something extremely infectious about this perspective. When you think a problem is a minor point, you don’t panic about it. And when you don’t panic, you suddenly feel empowered and confident that you can solve it. And that confidence shows on you. People can hear it in your voice. And slowly, it spreads to everyone around you. So, why not be the person zero and start infecting people with this.

What we face today may be big, but we need to train ourselves to look at it differently.

Instead of looking back at a big problem and thinking it was small, in hindsight, it’s about going into a problem, telling yourself it's small.

It makes you brave, it makes you confident, it keeps you upbeat. No matter what.

Soon we’ll be out of this and posted in a new world. Am I anxious about how we will manage? Nah! It’s a minor point.

(The author is chief creative officer, Ogilvy India-North.)