Tag Archives: women

Remove the safety net!

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Remove the safety net!

Let me begin and end the blog with the same question –

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Before we begin, I am sorry. I have had absolutely no time over the last week to write. I would fully blame myself for this – I was being unbelievably lazy and all I did was go to school, work out, come home to Netflix. The physical and mental exhaustion takes over you and you are left doing nothing when you are free. I found this interesting picture on Tumblr and couldn’t help but share it here! This is pretty much my life right now!

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Here I am, writing on Monday morning 20 minutes before my class. This is what college does to you!

Back to the blog – I am currently sharing an apartment with two other people. My previous roommates graduated and moved out and I am still getting used to the new ones. So yesterday, we finally started talking while cleaning the kitchen. I found out a lot about my new roommates and I must say, they are both very interesting people.

One of my roommates is an agri-business major – coming from a country that has a majority of engineers and doctors, her choice of profession intrigued me. That was when she told me that everyone in her family (all of them are Indians, mind you) chose the “non-engineering” path. Her sister is studying English literature and most of her cousins are in varied fields of arts. I was particularly interested in one cousin of hers who is an amazing painter and a model. She was showing me a lot of pictures of her and that had me evaluate my entire life (we all have such days!).

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At the age of 32, my roommate’s cousin is a self-made woman – she lives on her own in the beautiful city of Pondicherry – a city in India that is equivalent to New Orleans in the US (French colonies and all that). She has refused to get married till she finds “the one”. She attends a lot of art conferences all over the world and in short, lives life to the fullest. Her best friend is into pottery and that’s how she makes a livelihood.

Here’s a picture of Pondicherry – it is one of my favorite cities in India!

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When I hear or see the lives of people who chose the path less trodden, I suddenly feel bad about my choices. I do enjoy being an engineer, but this was a safe bet. Everything has always been about stability and having something to “fall back on”. There have always been Plan B’s and Plan C’s. I often wonder, if by being so careful about everything, have I lost out on the various opportunities to discover more about myself.

Anyways, after yesterday, I have decided to not let my mind be clouded by always playing safe. It will be difficult to get out of this groove that I have comfortably sat myself in, but I will be starting soon. I need to go out there and do things that scare me. We all do. Everyone who is too scared to move out of their comfort zone – take the leap. Get rid of the shackles. The world has so much to offer – you cannot see all of it if you are working behind a computer screen for 80 hours a week.

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Kudos to those women and men, who are sticking to their guns and living the life that many are afraid to even dream of.

Now, think back and tell me –

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Stranger 3 – Divided we fall

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While I was chatting with Tamara, my Brazilian counterpart (Stranger 2), a girl with a thickset body, with long black hair tied in a bun came to us, looking worried and asked us if we had any pain killers. Tamara had one in her bag and was looking for it. Meanwhile, the girl, let’s call her Rupa, started to talk to me. She was clearly from the Indian subcontinent and she started telling me why she was at the airport at 2 in the morning.

Before I start, here’s a little bit of2 history for those who don’t know – India achieved independence in the year 1947 but the country was partitioned and Pakistan was born. In the years that followed, there was a huge exodus where a lot of Muslims moved to Pakistan while many Hindus moved to India. Many people lost their lives and livelihoods in this process, but now time has passed. Although there has been some bitter relations between the two nations, I know I speak for the citizens of both nations when I say that there is no animosity in our hearts for the other. But after extensive media brainwash, I know that doubts have been sown in many people’s hearts when it comes to peace between the two nations.

Anyways, back to the story. Rupa told me that she and her mother had come to the airport to send Rupa’s 90-year old grandmother to Chicago where Rupa’s uncle was going to receive her.  Shortly, Rupa’s mother, Saira, came back asking us if we found the medicine for her mother. That was when I noticed her, lying on a couch – she was a frail, fragile woman with wispy hair- all bones and she looked like she could collapse at the slightest touch. She was not able to sleep on the airport couch because her back was aching pretty badly and thus, needed the medicines. Tamara gave her what she had and in the midst of this, I told Rupa that I was headed to Chicago too. As it turned out, her grandmother was flying to Chicago on the same airline as mine to meet her son. She asked me if I could help her grandmother if she was lost or unaccompanied at O’Hare and I readily agreed. I was ready to do whatever little I could to help her. As soon as I did, the mother and daughter duo immediately started talking to me in Hindi. Since I understood and spoke the language fluently, I was able to hold a conversation with them for quite some time. They were very happy to have someone to talk to and halfway through the conversation they asked me where I was from. “India,” I said.

Rupa replied, “My grandmother is from Gwalior! She moved to Pakistan after the partition.” Now before I could react to that statement, her mother, Saira, interjected, appearing worried – “She just as much an Indian as anyone else. She keeps thinking of her homeland.” This was followed by a barrage of statements all emphasizing the fact that Saira’s mother was a lot more Indian than she was a Pakistani.

I was taken aback – it really looked like Saira was trying to appease the “Indian” in me, under the fear that I would not agree to take care of her mother, just because she was a Pakistani. That was when I had to put my foot down. I made it very clear that her mother’s nationality meant nothing to me. She was a woman who was in need of help and I did not see anything beyond that.

It still saddens me when I see people putting country borders or religion over the greater good. It is a matter of virtue to help without being parochial about race or sex. I don’t blame Saira for justifying the mother’s citizenship. I blame the people who let that feeling creep up in the first place – the media, the corrupt politicians and those wielding the money, arms and power who would benefit from our constant squabbles. The governments of India and Pakistan or the cricket teams and their rivalry do not represent the feelings of the masses. For us, an ailing Indian is the same as an ailing Pakistani and we will rush to their aid if need be. Yet again, this is not a problem localized to India and Pakistan. This is a widespread epidemic between many nations and I believe that it can only be addressed by the masses. ip6.jpg

 

Stranger 2 – Main Act

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My Brazilian Counterpart (Main Character)

If you remember, we last saw Ms. Senorita storm off to some unknown destination and it left us all baffled (On Stranger 1 – Act 1). Once Ms. Senorita left, the woman sitting to my right (the one who lent her the charger) turned to me and asked – “Whoa! What is up with her?” I noticed that she was wearing an off-white blouse and jeans and was all curled up on the couch, keeping a watchful eye over her luggage which consisted of two suitcases and a bag stacked unevenly on a trolley. “Is she coming back for my charger or not?” I started laughing because one could never tell anything with Ms. Senorita.

Ms. Senorita came and left like a hurricane with mass destruction and an abandoned cell phone charger behind her while we were recovering! That was when I met Tamara – I’d like to think of her as my Brazilian counterpart.

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The topic of Ms. Senorita got us talking. I found that Tamara was also a 20-something girl who has led a far more independent life than I did. I admired and even envied her life! She completed her undergraduate studies in Brazil, where she spent a year in London. After this, she moved to Mexico for a few months and for the last 4 months, she was in the US as a tourist. She took up an English course in Massachusetts and used her undergrad degree to land a job with HP. When she was talking about what she wanted to do with life – travel, discover herself, just live life like it was meant to be – I was impressed. I saw in her, a girl who was dancing to her own tunes and was craving to explore more of the world!

We spoke for hours. Initially it was all staying in the USA, visa status and all the related conversation that immigrants have!! Then it turned into something more serious and personal. She was just getting out of a toxic relationship and she said this – “I had to get out of the relationship. My boyfriend was leading a stagnant life and was ‘dying inside’. That is not how I want to be. I want to soar and I cannot do that if he wants to be deadweight.” She was sick of being taken for granted and that got us talking a lot about how as women, we tend to easily give up the first priority spot to someone else. Evaluate yourselves and if you feel the need for it- take back control over your lives, ladies! We have a lot to accomplish on our own – without any support from anyone.

Then we got back to talking Philosophy! Like me, she likes to be in control of her life – any kind of uncertainty would shake her off. So, when I told her that I was in a phase where I did not know how my life would turn out in the next three years, she was extremely sympathetic and genuinely concerned. We kept making plans of what we would do in the future, how things would turn out for us and all that. We spoke like we knew each other for ages! We started off as strangers and departed close friends. This experience has been one of a kind for me. So the next time you get a chance to talk to a stranger, take the opportunity. For all you know, you might find your Tamara!

Here’s a letter that she left for me before she went to her flight!

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As you’d have guessed, we became friends on Facebook and now chat regularly. Although, this story had a Happy Ending, I need to still tell you all about what happened to Ms. Senorita. But before that, I will need to segue into a third story – a story which is wretched and tugged at my heartstrings.

Let me give you a brief introduction of what happened – as I was talking to Tamara, a girl with a thickset body, with long black hair tied in a bun came to us, looking worried and asked us if we had any pain killers. We were immediately concerned, because it is not good to fall sick at an airport without anyone to help out. So we started rummaging out backpacks to see if we had anything to offer and that was when she started telling us the reason why she needed the pills.

For more, hang on..Stranger 3 – Divided we fall, will be out soon!

Stranger 1 – Act 1

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As you might already know, I am continuing writing about the story of three people I met at the airport. This is a continuation, so make sure you read the first part before you start this!

Ms. Senorita (Act 1)

A tall woman, with medium length black hair tied in a messy plait, she strode in flats, capri jeans and a red sweater. I noticed her only because she was was walking around, talking very loudly to random people either in English or Spanish.

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It definitely looked like she was searching for something or someone. I was wondering what the problem was and I saw that she was walking towards us. She asked me if I had an Android phone charger – unfortunately, I was using mine and my phone was running out of juice. So she turned to the woman sitting next to me and she complied. I helped her with connecting the charger since it was closer to me and she started thanking me very profusely. There was a very clear boisterous, “bossy” tone in her voice. Like she was used to getting people to do things her way. I hope I am not painting a negative picture of her here- that is not my intention. I answered a lot of questions that she shot at me:

“Where are you going?”,

“Where are you coming from?”,

“College Station? What kind of a place is that?!”

I tried asking her meekly where she was going and I find out that she is not sure! I mean, she lived in Houston and she wanted to go to Ohio but she hadn’t bought a ticket. And she continued talking but throughout the time I was wondering – “Why would a person who was from Houston choose to spend a night at the airport AND not have a ticket booked to some place?”

My thought process reached a sudden halt when I realized that she was waiting for me to answer a question she had asked. Like an idiot, I replied “Yes!” (Always say “No!” if you don’t know what the question is!)

Anyways, before I knew it, I was lying on a massage chair that she offered, nay forced me into while she went to change her clothes. Throughout the time I was on the chair, I was wondering if I actually wanted the pounding on my back! I realized that I was not a big fan of massage chairs. So long story short, after about 40 more minutes of interrogation about me and what I do, she took her phone and went without letting me or the person who lent her the charger know if she will be back. Where did she go? Where is she planning to fly to? Will she return?

Stay tuned for Stranger 1 – Act 2 which should be out after a couple of other stories!

 

Toasting sisters everywhere!

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Toasting sisters everywhere!

It was on Jan 17th, 19 years ago, when I woke up in the morning to find my mum and dad missing from home. Naturally as a 5 year old, I began freaking out and ended up crying looking for them. It was only after I found my grandfather in the living room watching Television that I calmed down and asked him where everyone was. “They have gone to get your little sister”, he said. I thought to myself, “Oh! the day is finally here” and did a mental cartwheel before proceeding to sit beside my grandfather to wait for my dad to come pick me up to see her.

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I still remember half-walking, half-running down the hospital’s dimly lit hallway. And when I finally entered the room, I saw my mother lying on the bed and smiling at me. She said, “Why don’t you say hello to your sister?” and that was when I saw her there – all wrapped in white with plump cheeks with a rosy tinge. My sister. I was dumbstruck for the first time in my life. Emotions that I did not know existed, came bursting forth. My heart felt so much fuller and lighter at the same time. People are often surprised at the clarity of my memory when it came to this incident. But I think it was only expected – I met the most important person in my life. No one can forget such important phases in one’s lives.

Now that she stands before me, a beautiful woman, I think of how fast time slipped by. I still remember our fights over toys and our gossips about boys among other things. Now looking at her- an avid reader, a budding computer science engineer and a beautiful woman with a wacky sense of humor – has deepened my relationship with her. When I see her stepping up and taking care of my family in my absence, having philosophical conversations with me about books or life, I can only swell with pride. Such brave and wise women, with hearts of gold are not found easily.

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So Happy Birthday my love! Here is hoping that you get everything that you have ever wanted in life. I hope you continue to grow as beautifully as you are now and I hope I will get to watch you bloom into an even better wholesome woman than you are now. I love you and I wish only the best for you.

To all the other women and men who are as blessed as I am to have such supportive and wonderful sisters, let us take a moment to raise our glasses to these marvelous works of God or nature. Thank you for coming into our lives and brightening everything up. We would be nothing without you.

Remembering Alice Paul

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I was checking out the Google Doodle today and realized that today was the 131st birthday of Alice Paul. There have been instances where I have seen these doodles and forgotten about it in a matter of few seconds. But something in the doodle caught my eye today – Alice Paul was a feminist, she fought for equality and women’s right to vote. I was initially quite embarrassed about the  fact that up until today, I had no idea who Alice Paul was and I proclaimed to be a feminist. Anyways, here is a small summary I put together of who she was and what she did for women.

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Alice Paul was a very well-read woman. With a PhD in sociology and a Doctorate in Civil Laws, she was a radical reformist with a  staunch belief in women’s right to vote and equality of women. Despite being imprisoned and subjected to severe brutality several times during her tenure as the co-founder of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), she tirelessly worked towards realizing her goals. A story that touched me deeply were the events that unfolded during the Night of Terror. Despite facing severe brutality by the authorities – and this included being force fed raw eggs with a tube pushed down her throat – Alice Paul continued to remain strong and fight for her cause. The part that makes me proud to be a woman is that after the court’s ruling on the Night of Terror –

The decision declared that every one of the women suffragists who picketed the White House was illegally arrested, illegally convicted, and illegally imprisoned. The women could have filed suits for damages, false arrest and imprisonment at once, however they did not.

And all this happened in the early 1900’s. More often than not, I end up wondering what we kind of progress we have had as women. A lot of times I end up sensing a gut-wrenching despair – I don’t see many women in engineering disciplines in higher degrees, not so many women back at work and not as many women in politics either (Here, I am proud to be an Indian, at lease we had a Prime Minister and some very strong female political figures). But then, the feeling passes. We are stronger than we ever were and we are only going up from here. Take a moment and be proud women and men all over the world!