Multi hyphenate creative talent, Shy Ganglani speaks with Ruhee Meghani.

Shy is a professional copy-writer, a comedian and poet – just a few of her talents!

Together they discuss, trying to ‘blend in’ to culture, and then finding connection and friendships through authentic interests and community spaces.

Shy and Ruhee also critique the concept of “resilience” and how it is often applied to migrants and cultural groups as an expectation.

About Ruhee: Ruhee Meghani is an inclusive facilitator and public speaker with over 12 years of teaching and facilitating experience. To support others in their learning journey, Allied Collective was founded to solve the need for impactful, inclusive, and accessible training. Today, Ruhee combines these insights with years of experience in teaching to provide clients with engaging workshops, training, and facilitation.

You can follow all of Ruhee’s latest work here: 


About Shy:

Follow Shy on Instagram @shyreesays and her website


Note; This transcript is automatically generated and may contain errors.

Ruhee Meghani: My name is Ruhee and I’m the founder of Allied Collective. I’m also a yoga teacher by passion, and it’s an honor to be here today to interview not just an extraordinary person, but also one of my very good friends, ShY Ganglani. Before we dive in, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live, the Boonwurrung and the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, also known as Melbourne, Australia. And I pay my respects to elders, past and present and any First Nations people that might be listening in today. Welcome, Shai. Hi. And it’s it’s like I said, it’s an honour to be in conversation with you. We’ve been together in so many different places, and it’s been an incredible journey to witness each other and the growth we’ve had in the last couple of years. And I’d like you to firstly introduce yourself, who you are and what do you do?

Shy Ganglani: Oh my God. I want to start by saying that when we first met each other, which I don’t think was that long ago, I had these hobbies and interests, but I had not. I had not been behind a mic before, truthfully. So I’m sitting here and doing this podcast with you feels very surreal because I have been on a mic approximately 350 times now. Um, I am a writer and I’m an associate creative director in advertising, and outside of that, I also do comedy. And so I’m a stand up comic as well as a slam poet. I really like the sound of my own voice, which is why I am here today.

Ruhee Meghani: That’s incredible. 350 times in a span of under two years is no small feat. So, and as a fellow generalist and knowing you as a multidisciplinary artist who does copywriting, who is a comedian, who’s a poet, a writer, and so many other wonderful things, we’re here to talk about stories of community resilience. So what do you think? What do you. Being a multidisciplinary artist like yourself who is a copywriter, a comedian, a poet, a writer, and so many other wonderful things. Today we’re talking about community resilience. So how do you define resilience and how do you adapt to change?

Shy Ganglani: Ooft. Am I allowed to start by saying that personally, I hate the word resilience? I understand why it is necessary as a South Asian immigrant in Melbourne, in corporate offices, that word and as a woman, that word has been thrown at me so many times. The first time I went to a HR person and said, like, we’re having problems as a team and everyone’s burning out during the pandemic and everyone started complaining. The next workshop that was put in our diary was Emotional Resilience Building Workshops. And so I think I dislike the fact that resilience is being weaponized as this thing where the onus is on us to build our resilience so that we can brave the world. That is, quite frankly, not fair. But going back to the questions about like the actual question, which is how I, how I build resilience or how I, how I view it and have it. I think. I was born as as most people are with resilience. And in my case, I have a very high tolerance for it. I have a lot of resilience, and I’ve always known that about myself. And I think deciding to move to Melbourne in the whim of like seven days from the Middle East, which would be a huge culture shock, where I knew nobody I knew would take a huge amount of resilience. And I made that step. And to be really honest, everything else pales in comparison. Like getting behind a mic is scary. Poetry is scary. Comedy scary. Showing your work to creative directors and clients is scary. But every time I think about like, I’m actually having a really hard time and I don’t know what to do and I’m losing it, and I don’t know if I have enough resilience to do this. I go back to the core of, like when you had nothing and nobody and you moved here, you made it through that. And if you can make it through that, you can make it through anything. And that’s what that does for me.

Ruhee Meghani: I love that. And it’s that quote, right. I’d be scared and do it anyway. Yeah. And that is literally so inspiring just knowing you and seeing you go through this journey and the exponential growth you’ve had, and if there was someone, someone who has just recently moved to a new country, whether it’s, you know, Australia or any other country, what? I guess. Advice would you give them, or what do you wish you’d done differently when you moved?

Shy Ganglani: Find a partner with a visa? [laughter] No. I think I think I wish I. Didn’t act so strong. I think when you move here and you realize you’re like in the thick of it and you’re like, what did I just do? You grow this layer of thick skin that you might not have had when you had a safety net or when you were at home, and you act really macho and you pretend like you don’t need anyone. And for me, vulnerability, as I’m sure most people like most empathy, empathic people. Um, vulnerability is huge. It’s your superpower. So losing that for me was really big. And I’d say, don’t pretend to be strong. Ask people for help, ask the right people for help. Because actually, the best advice someone’s ever given me is the easiest way to make a friend is to ask for their help because you’re giving them power. And I wish I had done more of that when I first moved here. Instead of be like, I don’t know what a fairy bread is, I have no idea what Vegemite is. The sausage rolls are disgusting and then just walk away from it. Like, as opposed to actually just call the Australian in the room and be like, or find the other immigrant in the room and be like. Does Vegemite smell like blood or is it just me? And also, can you help explain to me what this is and what is Remembrance Hour or what? Like just ask a question. They’ll give you the answer and you make them feel smarter. That exchange has a power balance. That just creates a really nice connection. And I wish I’d asked for more help. Absolutely.

Ruhee Meghani:  And I can still relate, having moved here 13 years ago and it’s, I guess, a process of, I guess, the need to assimilate as well, that you just want to kind of fit in and kind of just melt into the background and not be noticed and be like others around you. But the reality is that, you know, we are all so beautifully different and we aren’t meant to fit in and be like chameleons. When it comes to your life journey. You’ve lived in so many different countries around the world, so when you move to a country like Australia and a city like Melbourne, how did you find community?

Shy Ganglani: I’ll start with a line that I think is in. One of my favorite poems that I wrote. Is that arrogant? Never mind. Um, but I’ll start with that line, which is, um, I want to fit because I’m in. Nope. I start with a line from one of my poems, which is. “I want to fit in because I fit, not because it’s in.” And I and I and I think about of that often because when I first came here, I wanted to fit in with everyone and I had no idea where to go, but I just I heard a bunch of Australians that sound and looked nothing like me in office spaces, because that’s where I was finding community and I had nothing in common with them, but I would just constantly try to fit in with them. I would watch the footy. I started watching a stupid amount of reality TV – Love Island, Married at First Sight. I hated reality TV just so I could go around the coffee table and talk to them about something and be like, “wasn’t it crazy what Rebecca did?” I really tried to like, fit in and then it took a while to go.

Shy Ganglani: These aren’t your people. But more importantly, when I first moved here, I ran away from my own community. I was triggered by them. I thought if I never have to see another Indian person again, I’d be the happiest person on the planet. And then I ran towards everyone else that didn’t look or sound anything like what I knew. And then I realized there was a homogeneity in that community too. It was just different from the one I knew. And I think eventually what I did was stopped focusing on the demographics of the community that I wanted and found hobbies and interests, which seems really simple, but found hobbies and interests where the community I wanted was into rock climbing strength training, poetry, comedy, writing, workshops, anything really, board games, nights. I tried it all and where I saw people who were more like me, whether it was just queer and in the definition of literally different.  I would then go and hang out there more and be like, okay, I’m gonna learn how to like this skill because I like the community here.

Ruhee Meghani: That’s a beautiful way to reframe spaces where we seek belonging all the time. And at the end of the day, um, we all are bound by this common need for belonging and the need for community. I want to go back to your earlier point around resilience being put on us and the onus being on us, and there is this fine balance that align. We have to kind of balance around, yes, taking personal responsibility for being more resilient, for being stronger, but at the same time trying to change and challenge the status quo that are the very reasons why we’re burning out. Um, I often talk about burnout in my work, and I constantly say that burnout is a byproduct of the systems around us that were setting us up for failure. And they have been and they have let us down and are continuing to let us down. So how do we start to find that balance? Or is there even a balance?

Shy Ganglani: I think the answer is community. I think the answer is community. It’s number one –  Un-Gaslight yourself. Talk to people around you, realize that it is the systems and it’s not you, because the systems, to your point, will constantly try and make it your fault and tell you it’s because you’re not strong enough or you’re not doing good enough. Work smarter, not harder. They’ll say things like this to you all the time, but when you talk to your friends, you talk to community around you and you realize they’re all going through it, too. That’s step number one recognition of the problem. And then past that, rely on community. Figure it out. Someone who’s ten years older than you or has got ten years more experience, or even just a wise person who has those answers. I tried this and it really worked for me. Instead of taking the six free yoga classes that your office gave you, that might not do anything because you can’t focus on yoga when you’re so stressed. Maybe take all your sick days. Maybe try. Doing this community will give you the answers that don’t profit capitalism because they don’t benefit from it at all. Whereas all of the systems built by capitalism that continue to contribute to capitalism will continue to give you answers that are self-reliant. And that do not benefit you and that only profit them. So my answer is community. 

Ruhee Meghani:  And that’s such a good point. Especially like we’re witnessing the capitalism and overconsumption in the wellbeing space itself and where this capitalism interwoven into wellbeing, which is ironic and we know that, uh, we’re talking about self-care, which is so important, but it’s so important to drive home the point that well-being cannot exist in isolation. We cannot self-care and isolate our way into well-being. Community is the answer. What is your favorite way to find nourishment or restoration in community?

Shy Ganglani: Chai with my friends and I’m laughing because, yeah, I often do that with you and our other friends. I think moving to a very alcohol centric culture is very dangerous for someone who has golden retriever energy like me, because I never know how to say no to a pint. And yet, the most intense and significant moments of connection where I didn’t know how much I needed it and it’s come through for me, has been sober and someone’s front seat of their car or in the house on someone’s couch cuddling their cat or dog. It has been the most random, warm moments. It’s been dinner at someone’s house. It’s been Dhal. Find your community and don’t think that it requires a fun plan and a calendar invite. Like it doesn’t. It doesn’t always impromptu. It call your friends when you need them. Tell them that you’re really, really just not doing well. And maybe you need a walk. Um, you don’t know what you need, but my form of nourishment within community, especially when I’m burning out and I’m rundown. Is to call my friends and make it their problem. And they always come through for me.

Ruhee Meghani: And that reliance on each other that we don’t have to do everything on our own and go through life with the world’s burden on our shoulders. Right. I love this quote. It’s from Tricia Hersey. “Rest is resistance.” And in a society that continuously tells us that our worth is reliant on what we produce and how much output we have, rest is truly resistance, and we can only find true rest when we rely on people closest to us and who truly care for us as well. So when you mentioned the golden retriever and we are we do exist in a society where boundaries are so important. Right? And there’s often the peer pressure, especially when I guess you’re new in a community or a group to say yes to things and even in the workplace and around us to say yes to things that we might not necessarily. Be good for us. How do we find the balance between challenging ourselves to and be open to new experiences, but then also know what is right for us and and to stay true to our boundaries?

Shy Ganglani: Girl. When you find the answer, you let me know. [Laughter]

Ruhee Meghani: It was really relying on some wisdom there Shy, yeah.

Shy Ganglani: If you look at my calendar at any given moment, I’ll try and answer seriously. But like I said, golden retriever energy just means I want to say yes to everything. Now, I think I’m better at saying yes to the things that I know will be good for me in some way, whether that’s like nourishing or whether that’s just good for my career, whether it’s going to get me a leg up, however that is, or I just need that connection with people. So I try and say yes to those things. My honest answer, as somebody who’s terrible at setting boundaries is. It’s okay to cancel. It’s okay to make the plans. It’s okay to say yes to 100 things if you’re going to do that. And that’s just the kind of person you are. But it is okay to cancel. Perhaps don’t wait till the last moment and spiral like I do, and then send a 200 word text about how much is going on in your life. I’ve gotten a lot better at that, and just knowing one week in advance, looking at my calendar and going, I can’t do all these things. What two things can I cancel and then canceling them? It is okay to say no to things after you’ve said yes to things, even if you’re someone who struggles to hold a boundary initially because the opportunities, no matter how important you think they are, nothing is worth. Your mental health. Nothing. And I and I say this as someone who’s canceled a show where I knew maybe 150 people would be in the audience that night, and I called, I cried, and I said, I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t. I didn’t get penalized for it. And that moment was a turning point for me because I was like, if I didn’t get penalized for a last minute drop out in such a big show and no one actually cared, then why am I so worried all the time about saying no?

Ruhee Meghani: And we do place an extraordinary amount of pressure on ourselves of, you know, what would people think? Who am I letting down? And kind of those inadvertent things that may or may not be true. So that’s so important. And in terms of again, going back to advice. What would you tell Shy? Five years ago.

Shy Ganglani:  Don’t go on the internet and meet a random man and move to a different continent would be a good place to start. But what I actually would tell the Shy from five years ago is. “Stop being so hard on yourself. Nobody is thinking the things that you are thinking. You really are your own worst enemy.” And also. In the opposite tandem. “Find the kindness that you constantly give everyone else and give it back to yourself.” I know this now because at this big age, I know this. I am one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met. And yet I am one of the most ungenerous and unkind people to myself that I have ever met. And that is a terrible feeling.

Ruhee Meghani: Why do you think that happens?

Shy Ganglani:  Trauma responses, upbringing. Mainly because I think I just hold myself to such a terribly high standard. And every time I don’t meet that standard, I get really upset at myself. And then I have to do all of the therapy things like think of myself as a little child so I can’t be mean to myself. And you know, I have to do those things. But my first instinct is to be pretty mean to myself. And yeah, I think if I could go back and say something to shy from five years ago, it would be you have no idea the places you’re gonna go. So stop being so hard on yourself.

Ruhee Meghani: To what extent do you think I guess culture plays a role in this of, you know, being really hard on ourselves and how have you, I guess, worked on a path to undoing and unlearning that.

Shy Ganglani:  You know what’s really interesting, Ruhee, is most people, when they think of South Asian culture and Asian cultures, they think that their parents have really high expectations of them and the pressure to do well and lawyer, doctor, engineer all of those things, right? Mine was the opposite. My family and community expected nothing from me. I was born with a golden child. I have a twin brother, and they expected everything from him and I like. I already had two sisters and they expected nothing from me. And growing up I was a dreamer. I stared out of windows a lot. I wanted to write poetry. Um, I was a little bit slow, and I wanted to just enjoy the pace of life around me all the time. And so I was labeled a lot of things like useless and, um, blur and it and all of those things stuck with me and I. And I really think they didn’t expect me to do well at all. They were like, if she gets a job, that would be a big win for us. But I’m also one of the most rebellious, annoying people I know. If the reverse psychology was invented for people like me, tell me not to do something is the way to get me to do it.

Shy Ganglani:  And so by them constantly battering it in, you’re useless and you’re not going to get anything and like, it’s okay, you don’t have to be a lawyer or a doctor or get married. I was like, excuse me, I will do all those things and I will do more. I will do it and I will make myself proud, even if you don’t want me to make you proud. So I had a very different experience in that community, expected nothing from me, and told me that to my face. And I was like, okay, well, fine, I’ll show you. I’ll prove you wrong. So that’s it. I don’t know how many people can relate to that story, but for me it was a different one, but it still resulted in the same thing. Whether someone tells you that you have to be good at something or someone tells you there’s no way that you could do that, you’re going to end up trying your level best to either prove them right or to prove them wrong. 

Ruhee Meghani:  That is so profound. When it comes to finding your own identity as a South Asian woman migrant living in Australia, what do you think has helped you in that journey of solidifying your own unique identity?

Shy Ganglani: Diaspora, meeting other kids from diasporas and not being triggered by it. There was a very specific diaspora of, you know, expat, Middle Eastern or like kids who grew up rich and Indian in Dubai. And there were a very set. There was a set of behaviors that came with that, and that triggered me. And when I moved here, I just associated every person who looked like me or like them with that. And like I said, when I first moved here, I was like, I never want to see another Indian person again. I don’t want to hang out with them. And then I started to jump back in slowly and be like, okay, I really want to understand this, and I really want to get to know the other cultures more. And in fact, now when I post on my Instagram stories and I post like Punjabi songs and Hindi movies and I went to this kirtan session, all my friends laugh at me because they go, you were the most racist person towards your own community. You used to call people fresh off the boat. You used to not like these things, and now you’ve moved there and you found your love for your own culture, for South Asians. And it’s true, because coming out of it made me feel like I really needed a connection once I felt lost from home, but when I was within it. This is the oldest story in the book for most third culture kids. But I didn’t fit. Most Indian people would be like Firang, which means foreigner. And you don’t. You know you’re not one of us. The Arab people in Dubai would be like, you’re not one of us. And then I moved here and they were like, you’re not one of us. And I was like, oh, okay. So honestly, when people here tell me, go back to where you came from, I’m like, do you know where that is? I don’t.

Ruhee Meghani: There is. Again, so thought provoking in that when we talk about decolonization, it’s also about decolonizing ourselves and confronting our own internalized racism and the perspective that we have grown up with of our own cultures, and trying to undo that. That is incredible. And speaking of, it’s just been so amazing to have this conversation with you, Shy. Are there any parting thoughts you’d like to tell the listeners?

Shy Ganglani: Parting thoughts in general. I suppose the one that I had in mind, which is. I was thinking a lot about how trauma is often used against us in communities, especially when someone can’t relate to your trauma. Or, you know, they might even be like, oh well, crack out or put away the tiny violin you get. You’re in Australia now, like, it’s okay. There’s no more of that. And I. I guess I urge everyone to not listen to all of those things. Not. This is a culture which will constantly tell you to. Just keep moving things under the carpet. Sweeping things under the carpet, sweeping things under the bed. Get rid of it. She’ll be right. And then the dust bunnies are so big that they’ll come for you one day and you won’t be able to handle it. But more than anything, trauma is your superpower. Viewing the world through a trauma lens is a superpower. It is a kaleidoscope of different things that you can come up with. If I think of my own trauma, whatever that is, let’s just say for the sake of it, immigrant experience, I get to turn that and be like, okay, do I want to? Do I want to be funny about it? Because I can turn that into comedy? Do I want to lean into how angry or upset it makes me? Because that can be poetry? Do I just want to talk to a friend about how frustrating it is? I could do a podcast. There are so many things that if you just keep the trauma thing and look at it as a lens, you can actually find this beautiful Venn diagram, kaleidoscope world of things you can do with that. So don’t let them beat it out of you. Use it.

Ruhee Meghani:  That is such a beautiful note to end on. Thank you so much, Shy for your thoughts and it’s been again so wonderful chatting with you. Thank you so much.

Shy Ganglani: Thanks for having me.


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