Tension, madam

In Delhi, verbal reassurance abounds. I hear a lot of, “no problem,” “it’s okay” and, my favorite, “no tension, madam.”  I think this happens to everyone, but maybe I look like I require extra convincing. This usually occurs when haggling a price and the seller wants to convey, “Don’t worry…I’ll let you pay the higher price that I’m asking, not the lower one you are demanding.” How thoughtful.


While the phrasing is local, the negative connotation of tension is global. It conjures images of furrowed brows, tight deadlines and high blood pressure.


I’ve felt some of that stress over the past few weeks in my shoulders, my calendar, my distracted thoughts and my wallet.  But tension, in its true definition, is neither negative nor positive; just important.


The real tension I’ve known is a pull in divergent directions. It’s the same tension that stretches a spider web or makes a trampoline so fun. It’s an equal and opposite tug.


I’m at the very center of my fellowship.

In time, I’m halfway through, having just returned from the Midpoint conference where we reflected on our experiences and planned for the next steps.

In space, I’ve explored some of Delhi, and had equal and incomplete excursions to India’s north and south.

In focus, I’ve gotten fairly comfortable with my role at work, but am coordinating with my supervisor to hire my replacement.


So I feel the competing forces. The other fellows are incredible people and I want to know them better. But I adore the camaraderie of laughter-filled dinners with Delhi fellows. Plus, on the surface, it seems nearly wasteful to spend so much time in India with Americans…until you know them. Additionally, I long to visit the far reaches of India, like the wildlife preserves of Assam. But I hope to know Delhi like it’s my own city. I’m honored to have attended my colleague’s wedding reception, but I enjoy meeting professionals who work totally different fields. I should study for Hindi class, but at the cost of which call from home? I hope to lead the Systems Change team at Counsel to Secure Justice with excellence in a way that secures their good name for years. But I’ll un-regrettably skip work and host my family when they arrive next month. In short: I want it all. And while striving to see/do/taste/visit/learn too much at once (you know, really live in the moment), I’m also thinking about post-fellowship.


So there is tension. I feel it every day. It is abundant, obvious, and mostly good. Sometimes it is overwhelming and my priorities swivel to the point of ineffectiveness. Sometimes I just want a nap and a hot toddy, or a crystal ball. Overall though, I hope this wealth of possibility stretches the net tighter and wider in innumerable directions.


“Tension-free” sounds appealing, until we’re talking about bridges and parachutes and scaffolding and fellowships.


So I’ve become a fan of true tension. I like to think it’s holding me up, elevating me to a place I wouldn’t otherwise reach.

While pursuing her degree in journalism, Amy spent summers as an intern and contractor at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. and New York. She concentrated on copy editing for travel books and then photo editing for Adventure Magazine before graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a focus in Photojournalism and a minor in French. She "briefly" returned to her hometown in the Great Smoky Mountains for a summer as a whitewater raft guide, whereupon she took a grant-funded position as a coordinator for special victims in the District Attorney's Office. Amy came to love the unique dynamics of these challenging cases and enjoyed coordinating multi-agency collaboration and policy review, while supporting victims in crisis. Amy and her colleagues secured funding from the Department of Justice for a domestic and sexual violence unit for an additional seven years, which is still in place. She brings a passion for under-served populations and aims to facilitate their passage through complex systems during difficult circumstances.

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