The enticing darkness of the stage got replaced by blinding lights focussing on a singular point, and the audience erupted into a roaring cheer as Arihant Sindhya entered the spotlight.
Arihant Sindhya, the celebrity host of the popular talk show ‘UNHEARD,’ greeted the audience with his infectious smile and introduced the guest for the hour.
“Today, we have with us someone who has not only pushed the boundaries of acceptance but also transcended the societal norms. In doing so, she has attained success only a few people can even dare to dream of. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s welcome the one and only Dr Swara Iyer, a leading researcher in the field of psychology.”
“Thank you for this passionate introduction, I don’t think I’m worthy of such an eloquent welcome.” Said Dr Iyer with a warm tone and addressed the present audience. “I am so grateful to be on this platform, the feeling is beyond words how, despite being a trans-woman, the current young generation has accepted me without being judgemental. Earlier when I used to go out it felt like everyone’s eyeballs were just focused on me. Or at least that is what I thought…”
“You said you felt that all eyes were on you. Why?” interrupted Sindhya to prompt the conversation further.
“Sometimes, how we feel is perceived to be reality. Back then, it was a binary society- white or black, male or female. Growing up in an orthodox Brahmin family, I was forced into a particular societal role just because I was born with a penis. However, that was not someone I identified myself as,” Iyer said while recalling the hardships during her early days.
“On reaching adolescence, my behaviour was distinctly different from what others comprehended to be normal. I was the grey area of the society that was never really in the spotlight. So, I decided to come out and started to dress in a way that would be closer to my self-expression,” she added.
“However, that leads to insecurities I could feel stares on my back like a clown walking in the circus. During that time, all I wanted was to mingle with the crowd very easily, but maybe I was too young to understand the importance of standing out in a herd.”
Arihant was quick enough to ask the next question. “So tell me how did you charter your journey amongst all the self-doubts?”
“As a human nobody wants to be isolated or shunned, and I did not meet someone like me as a child. I felt piercing gazes every single time I went out. When I went on to pursue higher studies in the field of psychology, those eyes probably followed me there too.”
“It took me a while to realize the gameplay that was taking place. But again there is a saying – Its better late than never. What was going on was called the ‘Spotlight Effect’.”
“Never really heard of it before… you know this ‘Spotlight Effect’. What do you mean by this?” inquired Arihant
“Remember, there was a spotlight on you when you entered the stage and held the audiences’ undivided attention? That is what the spotlight effect is. It’s prevalent, and a majority of us feel it to a certain degree.
To an extent, it can be good… as it compels us to check or correct ourselves before interacting with society. It feels as if one is continuously in the limelight and is being noticed by everyone around.”
But in some cases, it takes over the conscience.
You become very self-destructive plagued with self-doubt, identity crisis, isolation, social anxiety which may force you to take extreme measures.
It is essential to understand that this is all it is; our brains toying with us. Overcoming it requires a willingness and determination to out-wit ourselves. The human mind is a complex entity and is very difficult to win against. Still, it is never impossible to take control of your life and live it without illusionary fears.”
“You always learn something new every day; thank you for sharing your story with us. Ladies and Gentlemen, can we have a huge round of applause for Dr Iyer!!! Meet you all next week with another UNHEARD story” saying which Arihant concluded his talk show.
The lights dimmed as the audience shuffled around to exit the hall.
~Written by Pallavi and Swarnima for MTTN
~Graphics by Sindhura Lukka for MTTN
~ Edited by Rahul Alvares