Relationships, office politics, peer pressure, teacher trouble... mail your questions to Mark "Good Grief" in the subject lineLooking for a bridge over troubled water? Krithvi Shyam, our young psychologist, addresses your worst anxieties.

I just moved to Chennai from a small town to join college. I knew it would be different but the social and cultural shock is big. My peers are not bad people but we are not on the same plane. How do I fit in without having to change too much? 


Dear LS, Everyone who makes that leap from school to college experiences a culture shock. There will be others like you who also feel out of place in their new environment. Maybe you could try making two sets of friends: one of peers who know what you’re going through and with whom you already share interests and values; and another with whom you feel comfortable enough to make the extra effort to develop new interests.

Also, here is some free advice — Don’t feel forced to develop interests just to fit in!  Practically, every single superhero movie ever made has driven home the point that we should be celebrating our uniqueness. So if you ever start doubting yourself, it’s time to watch those Batman movies again (the ones with Arnold Schwarzenegger in them, obviously).

A final word about these turbulent first weeks of college: be nice to everyone, because you never know who you’ll have to borrow notes from two semesters later.

I joined work after college; it’s almost a year now. I still haven’t understood how the “Chinese whisper” technique works. I tell a colleague something and a few days later my senior “mentions” something similar to what I’d said. The politics and competitiveness is too much too handle and, to top it all, I miss college! How do I survive?


Dear Whisperer, In my experience, when people play Chinese Whispers, the original “whisper” and the final “whisper” usually have very little to do with each other. So consider yourself lucky that your “whisper” didn’t end with your senior accusing you of being a treacherous corporate spy or the brains behind a massive Ponzi scheme.

 The way you carry yourself in your first year of work is crucial because it influences co-workers’ impressions of you. So, this means being polite to your annoying cubicle neighbour, staying sober at office parties, and keeping your colleagues away from your profile on social networking sites, or, if left with no choice, at least granting them extremely limited access. Politics and competitiveness are a rude welcome to life after college.

Restrict your interactions with colleagues to strictly neutral topics: the weather or football (unless you’re a United fan and they’re City; in which case, yeah, weather only). If they voice an unfavourable opinion about a pesky co-worker, do not feel obligated to nod in furious agreement or supplement it with your own gripes. Concentrate on your duties and aim for a promotion once you’re more familiar with how the system works. As for missing college, make plans with your friends to get together once a month to watch a movie and (most likely) vent about each others’ jobs.

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