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Into The Wild: A Self-Expedition

Into The Wild: A Self-Expedition

By Ushasi Sengupta

April 01, 2021

It was a Wednesday morning. My wristwatch showed 10.00 am. By the time I reached the bus stop, climbing down the stairs in a rush, skipping two stairs to save time, and navigating through a crowded street hoping that the bus driver might be late as well, my bus had already left. I realized that the bypass route to reach my office would be so congested that a private cab would not be able to help me reach the office on time. My hope to show up at the morning meeting was shattered. It is fair to mention here that this was the fourth time in a row that week when I was missing the morning meeting.

My mind crawled through the brain’s cache and projected consequences of a delayed day—questioning glances scanning a late-comer, unfinished works piling up, working overtime to clean up the queue, and totally exhausted by the time I would be in bed. Spending an entire day seemed an upheaval task for me. Amidst traffic, roads, and people, I found myself helpless.

My daily encounters with failure, be it missing the bus, not being able to reach the office on time despite my best intentions, unable to complete my work and to maintain a balance among responsibilities, and to not accomplish my plan, afflicted me. Slippages were tearing me up, wrapping me in a damp pouch of apprehension of failure. I was unable to figure out how I could realign my distorting life and find a breather for peace and happiness.

Inevitably, I chose to escape. Off-loading the failures on someone might help me find avenues for self-compassion. So, I looked for reasons for my unhappiness and failures—family, marriage, office, home, past, and aspirations. I started focusing more on the search for excuses. I looked up external ailments to heal my ruptures. My wound deepened. The lack of self-compassion turned my life outward-focused; nothing silenced my shapeless chaos.

I thought that being the center of attention would bring me happiness. I tried to live up to others’ expectations by altering my food habits, attires, and routines. My situation did not improve. Distraction was siphoning off my confidence and courage.

“Accept yourself. Start with a minimal accomplishment but make it a habit. It is okay to fail.” I found a person who understood my problems. My mentor’s relentless patience and empathy helped me empathize with myself.

It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” But unless we realize our core problem, the idiom barely makes sense. I realized that I had been facing an existential crisis.

Amidst noise and distraction, I heard my voice: “I am fine. Only I can make me happy.”

Self-compassion aided in healing my internal ruptures. I managed to focus on my priorities. Paying attention to the internal system improved my emotional state and efficiency. My performance soared eventually.

I achieved my faith in failure.

However, continuous juggling between household work and office vex me at times. Grief, frustration, and fear of drifting still bother me. Complaints still pile up in my heart and congest my head.

“Why do I need to indulge in household work? Just because I am a married woman. Yet, I am also earning, and my husband and I are equally qualified! I should better stay alone.”

“Where do you see yourself, when you are successful in your life? All alone?” “Pen down your thoughts, channel your grief and anger in a better way.” My mentor’s continuous guidance steered me to clear my blurred vision and ascertain a greater purpose.

My inner voice echoed: “It is not the first time you are thrown into an ocean of pressure in life. However, always remember that you are a swimmer.”

I have reflected on my experiences and failures, but this time with compassion and confidence.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can’t be created or destroyed. Energy can only be conserved. We see a wide application of this principle. However, during the process, a part of the energy gets dissipated. That is because of system friction. I found that the principle holds true for my internal energy, too. The lesser the system resistance, the more efficient the outcome.

I am still learning how better I can manifest my internal energy.

 

Ushasi Sengupta is a senior research analyst at Tata Consultancy Services. She completed her Post Graduate Diploma in General Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur, in 2019. Other than working from home and working for home, in parallel, she is spending her new normal exploring the unchartered territories. She is a sports enthusiast. Running is her newly developed habit.

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Empathy and Compassion Ideas Personal Essays Scatter Diagram Women

Scatter Diagram in a Scatterbrain: A Story of Self-Compassion

Scatter Diagram in a Scatterbrain: A Story of Self-Compassion

By Srija Chakraborty

January 04, 2021

Though we subject ourselves to a spartan diet of effective communication skills, we fail to shed the extra calories that result in a gamut of misunderstandings and sufferings amongst our fellow human beings: just like the unwanted flab around your waist after living on a frugal diet and practicing a rigorous workout regimen. So, what is it that will get the world in shape?

Compassion! And it begins with self-compassion.

True compassion is the tool that unmasks the very basic purpose of communication. That is, recognizing and understanding one’s own needs and those of others, leading to a spiral of more profound and positive relationships around the world or even a small little corner of it. It is imperative that we gain a fuller grasp of how we can practice self-compassion in order to effectively communicate with ourselves and in turn with others so as to build a better world.

“I love you.”

You must have uttered these three “oh-so-important” words on innumerable occasions in your life. But, how often have you addressed the “YOU” to yourself? The idea might seem strange or even narcissistic, for most of us fail to distinguish the not-so-thin line between narcissism and self-compassion. Conversely, we attach “I am” more easily and frequently than “You are” to the adjectives “stupid” and “unworthy.”

It is evident that, more often than not, we inadvertently fail to establish a compassionate communication with our own selves. This handicapped self-communication stifles our self-confidence and smothers our self-esteem, thereby negatively affecting our decisions and behavioral patterns and degrading the quality of our lives.

Now, let us take this to a slightly higher level. This distorted self-communication affects us not only at the individual level but also at the group level. When our lack of self-compassionate communication stimulates wrong decisions, attitude, and perspectives in a group, we fail collectively as well.

Going to even higher levels, let us apply this to our society. The success of a society lies in the collaborative inputs from individuals or from the groups of individuals comprising the society as a whole. Failed self-compassionate communication is bound to have ramifications. The way we communicate with ourselves has a direct bearing on how we affect our lives and our society. The more compassionate our communication with our own selves, the more compassionate and adhesive our society.

Self-Compassion through Scatter Diagram

For us to inculcate self-compassionate communication in our everyday lives, self-awareness, self-worth, and self-acceptance are of primary importance. Here’s where the scatter diagram comes into play. Scatter Diagram fosters self-compassion by facilitating the following techniques:

  1. Self-awareness: If we stay tuned to our strengths, we can avert the vicious cycles of self-sabotage and move towards extending compassion to our own selves. Scatter Diagram provides us with a shot of self-awareness and introspection to identify and stay tuned in to our strengths. These strengths are called “points” on a Scatter Diagram. The techniques of Scatter Diagram help keep us focused on our inner landscape, making it a curtain-raiser in the journey towards establishing a seamless compassionate communication with the self.

  2. Self-worth: It is a hard truth that we cannot always achieve what we want to achieve. When we confront this reality, we question our self-worth; we feel threatened by the fear of being perceived by the society as an unworthy individual. We tend to become crippled with pessimistic thoughts of being shamed and criticized by others. The “self-worth” technique reinforces our real strengths and competencies, and helps us design our life based on these strengths. Scatter Diagram, by reminding us of the strong “points” of our personality, helps us derive our sense of self-worth. This technique administers hope and optimism within us and guards us from the apprehension of rejection in the future. By applying the techniques of Scatter Diagram, we inoculate ourselves from self-critical and self-blaming communication. This is achieved by reducing our irrational self-beliefs and fear of shame-proneness and failure.

  3. Self-acceptance: One of the barriers on the path to achieving self-compassion is conditional self-acceptance. It is humane to accept only our positives and not accept our flaws and deficiencies. In doing so, we allow our shortcomings to define us. We fail to treat our identities and our limitations as separate entities. We draw our self- portrait only in terms of our weaknesses and all the positive attributes seem disjointed. By applying the techniques of the Scatter Diagram, we are able to connect all those disjointed positive attributes that seemed unrelated to us and paint our self-portrait in terms of not only our weaknesses but also our strengths. By employing the Scatter Diagram technique, we also build on our strengths and this, in turn, engenders positivity in us to diagnose our less-desirable traits, find meaning in them, and embrace them. This is how the Scatter Diagram technique fosters an objective and self-accepting communication within ourselves.

How the Scatter Diagram Technique has helped me cultivate Self-Compassion

Before you read on how the Scatter Diagram has made a positive difference to my life, it would be worth knowing as to “Who am I?”

In my early childhood, the answer to the question went something like this: “I am a friendly, caring, impulsive, hot-headed girl who is talented, decent at academics, and good at Kathak,” or something like “I am a fair, pretty, and charming young girl.”

However, in my mid-twenties the answer to the same question changed. It read, “I am an underachiever who is not talented enough to be good at anything, and an ugly-looking person who doesn’t look good in any outfit.”

In providing answers to the same question in different stages of my life, I have simply super-imposed others’ perceptional image of myself and heavily relied upon those perceptions to arrive at my conclusions. In childhood, the others, for example, my teachers at school or my relatives, thought highly of me, perceived me as a very good student securing either the first or the second position in class throughout my academic life. After Class 12, I was accepted by several prestigious universities in India for pursuing an Honors degree in Physics. I had always wanted to do so.

However, heavily influenced by my parents and unable to maintain my stance of pursuing an Honors degree in Physics, I decided to take up engineering as a career. It is then, that, the well-intentioned significant others in my life, especially my relatives and friends, changed their perception of me.

I started casting doubts upon my talent. Despite the fact that with very little preparation I managed to find myself within the top two per cent of the State Level Joint Entrance Examination candidates, I borrowed my self-image of my capabilities as a student from those others. I doubted my academic capabilities.

Over the initial years of my professional life, I put my heart and soul into all my assignments but never garnered any attention, let alone appreciation, from my bosses. I constantly compared myself with my colleagues. I saw them outshine me the way I had used to others, back in my school days. I blanketed myself in fear of failure. I paid little or no attention to the potential that I was yet to tap. Gradually, I developed a very thick coat of low confidence and low self-worth.

This influenced the way I communicated and also affected the way I responded to communications. I feared clarifying my doubts from my bosses. I allowed them to overpower me, to criticize me, or to belittle me even when I did not deserve such treatment. I retreated. I lost my voice. I forgot my positives. I perceived myself as an unworthy, incompetent, and good-for-nothing individual. I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle. I could not quit my job in fear of being shamed by others and found it difficult to continue either. This sense of unworthiness was etched so deep into my mind over a period of two to three years that even without realizing, my dreams of pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and of becoming a strategist and eventually a highly successful woman became dormant.

My focus shifted its trajectory from my goals to my appearance. I emphasized only on my looks. Even “obsessed” would be an understatement. I gambled away all my self-esteem on how good I could appear. I defined myself only in terms of my appearance. Consequently, I suffered the ill effects. I became overtly anxious of each and every public appearance, even if that meant stepping out of the house for grocery shopping. I could not take a respite from checking myself on every mirror or windowpane that I passed by when I stepped out. I freaked out when I thought I looked bad, so much so that I could not manage to step outdoors; walking confidently on the street was a dream far-gone. I strived to look perfect in every photo or selfie, failing which I felt naked as though all my flaws were exposed to the world.

Every now and then I would find myself waged in self-defeating wars on social media, constantly comparing my photographs with those of others. I anchored on the weakest weapons such as makeup and beauty filters. I forgot to leverage my most powerful weapons: my confidence and my smile. In the process, I lost my stride in my uniqueness and my self-worth became contingent on my outer—not inner—topography.

It was at this time that I got introduced to this beautiful concept of scatter diagram by my mentor. No wonder, the first thought that ran through my self-critical mind was as to how could a person like me have any point on the Scatter Diagram. But therein lies the beauty of the technique. It requires delving deep within the horizons of your brain. It was for the first time that I started an in-depth analysis of my habits (good and bad), values, passion, hobbies, strengths, and goals.

And, it was not like eureka that I had my Scatter Diagram ready. I had to dig really deep to communicate with my inner self. My brain feasted on the deepest of musings on the following questionnaire:

a) What are the things that give me perpetual happiness?

b) Self-satisfaction or recognition by others, which one blooms me?

c) Benchmark that I set for myself or on the one that others set for me—which one is my motivator?

d) What were the occasions on which I was respected or appreciated? What were the occasions on which I was berated?

e) What do I want people to remember me for?

f) What are my accidental slips?

g) Am I courageous enough to recognize and embrace my imperfections?

Step 1: In my attempts to find answers to these questions, the Scatter Diagram has helped me rediscover things that motivated me like dancing, cooking, writing, and watching movies. It also helped me find my character strengths such as diligence, meticulousness, and courage. That I am good at dancing, cooking, writing journals was a disjointed event of the past. Scatter Diagram reinstated them. My conception of my self was, until now, defined only in terms of my appearance. Scatter Diagram gave me a wholesome and complete definition of my self by reintroducing my inner qualities.

Step 2: I envisioned my long-term and short-term goals. My goal of getting admission into a top business school and becoming a highly successful woman, which I thought was intangible, seemed attainable. My past achievements (points on the Scatter Diagram) served as constant reminders and sources of hope for an optimistic future.

Rigorous practice of the technique facilitates internalizing hope. The injection of hope through Scatter Diagram enables an improved ability to deal with the fear of shame-proneness arising out of a fear of failure and thereby propels one towards the set goals.

The psychological barrier stemming from a fear of criticism and embarrassment was the number-one barrier that impeded an effective communication between my manager and me. Now that I evaluate my self-esteem in terms of my capabilities, I can deal with any negative feedback more objectively: I treat the criticism and my identity as two separate entities.

So, the fear of criticism is not so aversive. I do not feel afraid to ask my boss as to what his expectations are from the work assigned to me. I do not stumble, if I need to clarify my doubts. Because of my improved self-communication, I can ably understand the information communicated to me by my manager in a manner intended by him. Consequently, I can deliver the expected results and also communicate my ideas and thought processes unambiguously.

Step 3: I chalked out ways to achieve my long-term and short-term goals by making use of points on the Scatter Diagram. This step distinguishes the Scatter Diagram technique from other therapies or counseling techniques. Let us analyze a bit in depth to understand how the Scatter Diagram technique is unique in its operational effectiveness.

The Scatter Diagram technique, like strength-based counseling, aids in providing solutions to people who have poor self-esteem, want to overcome challenges, and achieve their goals but often feel stuck in life. Strength-based counseling helps in identifying strengths and in realizing goals by capitalizing solely on strengths. Unarguably, though working on strengths offers a plethora of benefits, yet focusing only on the strengths can sometimes be a disadvantageous attitude. Emphasizing only on what works for you may leave unaddressed underlying maladaptive thoughts stemming from what does not work for you.

Our weaknesses are our problem areas. The general human tendency is to look for solutions that have worked for us in the past. When you practice the Scatter Diagram technique, you have a natural inclination towards scouting for points with similar situations or problems and, thereafter, deriving workable solutions from them. In doing so, Scatter Diagram not only focuses on strengths but also addresses the underlying issues or problems arising from weaknesses.

Scatter Diagram by the sheer nature of it—that is, scattered—explains why you cannot always focus just on your strengths, and, sometimes, how the best way to move forward is to embrace the imperfections and address the underlying problems arising from those imperfections. In the process, the weaknesses themselves could become the points on the Scatter Diagram and serve as reminders that those weaknesses themselves can be turned into strengths by accepting them and addressing them.

A constant point on the Scatter Diagram could be the ability to take up one’s weaknesses. It is needless to say how embracing weaknesses does not result in misplaced perceptions of reality and in chasing unrealistic targets. For instance, one of my strengths is “meticulousness.” When I leveraged only on meticulousness, I tried to perfect every minute aspect of my appearance and when unable to do so, I could not accept the asymmetry and settle for anything less. I found myself invariably trapped in the self-harming vicious cycles.

Movies, a constant point on my Scatter Diagram, introduced me to Olive from the 2006 award-winning American blockbuster movie Little Miss Sunshine and made me believe in the dictum: “Let Olive be Olive.” From Olive, I learnt that it is okay to not conform to the conventional standards of beauty and that it is more important to embody one’s wholeness. Scatter Diagram gave me ample resources to broaden the horizon of my idea of beauty and encouraged me to become more self-accepting and love every bit of me. Now, I use meticulousness to fuel self-improvement without being destructive. With continued practice, the ability to find comfort from discomfort could become one of my points on the scatter plot.

The Scatter Diagram technique, in enabling me to harness the power of self-compassion, has streamlined my inner and outer communication skills. I feel safer and more-cared-for with my new self. I am bestowed with more courage to practice imperfections. I have garnered more resilience to strive towards my personal and professional goals. My transformation from a stingily self-compassionate to a self-loving person was definitely not a cakewalk and certainly not an overnight phenomenon.

However, the intermediary trek to get me there is worth savoring every bit.

The Bottom Line

The most crucial yet less-touched-upon faucet of communication is the ability to avoid misunderstanding. Lack of compassion and, more importantly, the lack of self-compassion blocks our ability to understand ourselves and others. At the heart of the Scatter Diagram technique is the process to inculcate self-compassion. Scatter Diagram technique makes you self-aware by making you revisit the arenas from where your self-esteem stems, redesigns your life based on the positives inside you, and aligns your self-image with the reality free from your biases.

More importantly, Scatter Diagram, in its uniqueness, helps you identify your negative triggers and rather than sweeping them under the rug, allows you to embrace those negatives. It also gives you the opportunity to tap the best out of our negatives.

I have shared my story. So, all the people out there with poor self-esteem jammed with distorted inner and outer communication skills and unable to navigate your way through the pits towards your goals, please try your hands on the Scatter Diagram tool to become a more self-loving, a healthier self-esteemed, a better self-managed person and, last but definitely not the least, a more effective communicator.

The key to mastering this technique is the old cliché: “The more you practice, the better you’ll be.”

Practice, till it becomes your reflex.

 

Srija Chakraborty is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.

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Personal Essays Women

The New Woman of My Nation

The New Woman of My Nation

By PPD

November 6, 2020

Do breaking stereotypes, crushing comfort zones, pacing stagnation, lifting the burden, and doing the unexpected unlock the possibility of living a life of freedom? No, not for the women of my nation. “Women” of my nation have to live according to the perceived notion of womanhood first before living the life of a free “human.”

I was born and raised in an Army household. Naturally, discipline and norms were made to be an integral part of my life. A tight schedule without late nights or night outs, pocket money of which every penny was accounted for, good grades, and minimum friendships were few of the rules that I was made to follow. When my friends would go partying and on tours, I would sit back and revise my notes. I didn’t have any complaints barring a few teenage disappointments. I realized that strict parents raise rebels; I know this from my first-hand experiences. I do have my share of rebellious and mischievous tales, again with no complaints or regrets except for, let’s say, a few adulthood disappointments. 

But who would have imagined that amidst playfully disobeying and escaping these household rules, life would take a fast-paced turn and throw me off my game? I realized that my existence was, and would be, bound by the societal expectations of an ideal woman of my nation?

Well, living in a world where casual sexism goes unnoticed in almost every household, having been born in India was an incidental cherry on the top of a rather rotten pie!

While growing up, I witnessed the numerous ways in which women were treated “a tad” bit different from men. Women, both working professionals and housewives, were the only ones taking care of the entire household and their children. Girls had to greet people with unrealistic kindness and entertain them as a “girl” was supposed to. And there were constant lessons about adjustments and keeping one’s family happy. Back then, being a mere child, I never really “noticed” or “questioned” these gross undermining. Why? I didn’t know any other way and thought it was just what it was. 

This is exactly how most of the modern-day tragedies are born. 

We often forget the value of terms like “selfless,” “sacrifice,” or “nurturing” when it comes to describing a woman. They have become so “natural” and “obvious” that people rarely ever pay attention to the underlying hypocrisy! 

Men, on the other side, are consciously and almost repeatedly perceived as “strong,” “powerful,” or “successful.” 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with admiring selfless motherhood, but who made motherhood a gender-specific, universal concept? Who bestowed weaknesses in sacrifice? And who exactly thought that compassion could never take you on the road to success? Guess we’ll never know. 

From women accepting their casual dismissal as submissive “entities” to standing against the face of “misogyny” today, modern feminism in the 21st century of India did not come easy. Going as back as to the mythological figure Draupadi, considered one of the first feminists merely for possessing a sound consciousness about her virtue as a respectable “person,” womanhood has challenged this society for the longest of time. Be it the question of Draupadi’s self-respect, Rani Laxmi Bai’s unmatched bravery, Savitri Bai Phule’s empowerment, or the sheer rebellion of today’s women, Indian women have seen and done it all. We will keep progressing and are indebted to tons of women who tore the societal bonds and stereotypes to emerge fearless and as women of substance.

As a kid, traveling around the country and leaving behind my friends and my comfort zone became absolutely normal over time. Unfortunately, it did leave me behind with no “childhood friends” or a specific place to call home, but then again, it made me realize the importance of being self-aware, sufficient, and opinionated. 

This “adaptation to change” trait also made it possible for me to settle in the latest phase of my life—the college life in Delhi. Delhi is the infamous rape capital; the polluter of the nation; a city where stalkers, goons, and molesters are neighbors. Yet I decided to live here “independently.”

In this city full of mansplainers ready to knock you, a sense of competition and the constant need to prove myself as a woman became a part of my lifestyle. Before expressing what unique I could bring to the table, I had to justify how I was capable of doing the same tasks as my “male” counterparts. 

I recollect the apparently controversial Pinjra Tod movement on the campus that hit a spur among those trying to bring women down for illogical reasons.

Why do these girls need to go out at night? We need your parents’ permission to let you step out of the room. You definitely cannot wear “that” here. What character does this behavior give away?

This movement, wherein women had to demand the minutest decency to let them live their lives like adults and to make their own decisions, was an eye-opener for our ridiculously unfair society.

This reminds me of Gayatri Devi, the Maharani of Jaipur, a celebrated idol since the 1930s, who refused to be confined by the purdah system back when even stepping out for women required the “approval” of the heads of families. Although married into royalty, she didn’t compromise her boldness and free spirit to regard her family’s “respect,” and dared to have an opinion. After her victorious welcome to the Lok Sabha, she even curbed the purdah practice in Rajasthan to let women face the real world. 

These powerful women of today, protesting and standing for their most basic rights, showcase how India’s young, educated, and modern women are in for anything but confinement.

Fitting into the idea of an ideal woman—with a family-oriented mind, a tiny waist, fair complexion, and having a next-to-no opinion—always gave me a bit of a chuckle. It depicted nothing but the frustration of this society where people needed something or someone “weaker” to draw upon their insecurities. 

The normalization of a woman’s life revolving around her “character” and accustoming her to the unrealistic and demeaning norms have surely brought down millions of unique brains, but at the same time, the normalization instilled the will of breaking free in Indian women. The women of my nation have come a long way from being homemakers with no apparent ambitions to living independently, equally, and successfully. 

I recall the path-breaking poetess Amrita Pritam, who shattered every absurd standard set for a woman’s character with her work, one poem at a time. Amrita lived as a modern romantic and welcomed contemporary relationships. She was married to an editor at a young age of 16, only to get divorced within a few years, back in the 1960s. Her passion for writing took her and her two children to Delhi, and soon she fell in love with the work of the renowned lyricist Saahir Ludhianvi. She believed “Love is freedom, it must set you free,” and lived by it. Their affair caught the limelight but when she couldn’t find commitment, she left him to live independently with her children, defying the unjust notion of “need for a man” in a household.

Amrita moved on to become one of the most cherished names in the history of Indian authors and, till the day, inspires young individuals to set their lives free of the customs. She later moved in with the famous painter Imroz, and the two lived as life-long partners without the tag of marriage until her demise in 2005.  

Stories of women like Amrita have given today’s women that missing, absent “consent” to pursue an independent and choice-driven relationship. This sense of control has led women to realize their significance and has given them a voice to stand up against the wrong conducts in their personal lives. The liberty of having a “say” in their personal lives was long overdue anyway. 

I am thankful enough to be in an environment where normalizing the topics that are deemed to be a taboo is welcomed open-mindedly. Living in a surrounding full of enthusiastic and woke youth, people have publicly talked about the most natural and common things that go around in a woman’s life. I, too, have sat down with my male peers to talk, educate, and discuss periods, sex, body image, physical and mental abuse, and mental health.

It came as a surprise to most of my male peers that nearly every woman around them had faced the horrors of molestation, eve-teasing, and sexual abuse that they “only saw” in news headlines.

It is both saddening and infuriating to spot the ineffectiveness in educating children about these important subjects in the early stages of their lives.

Fortunately, in a world where even the most powerful have disregarded the importance of early education and self-awareness in children, I had the honor to work with young entrepreneurs imparting the same education along with creative knowledge to young minds. 

These young women entrepreneurs started this project of teaching performing arts, awareness, and communication to underprivileged children with the motive to help them build a positive conscience. The stubbornness with which these women traveled for hours, conducted workshops, worked without any secure (male) presence in sleek corners of the city, and managed their studies well, was a slap on the face of this society which tagged them as “too ambitious” and “western.”

The tags—“western,” “bold,” “demanding,” and “outspoken”—this society has given to the modern women have helped them to develop an attitude where the more the society tries to bring them down, the more they rebound and rebel. Be it thrashing the age-old standards by speaking what is on their minds in places full of judgments, unapologetically competing with the men, staying up at nights to work or celebrate, wearing anything and everything despite the “inviting” allegations, not settling in to the idea of being just mothers or homemakers, and living independently bereft of a male figure in their lives, or simply supporting the “idea” of being modern, however small the step and stepping-up be, in a nation known for its discrimination and patriarchal triumph, a woman to even live ambitiously and freely is rather commendable. 

These questions and opinions that I am privileged enough to draw today, even the mere thought of these problems didn’t cross my mind back in the time. Fortunately, along the thin line of evolving, I have seen the parallels between an independent and ethical woman get shattered. I have witnessed the notion of a woman needing protective gear (man) to save her from the “cruel” world get busted. I have seen the compliments for females shifting from mere physical appearances to their creative and professional accomplishments. And I have witnessed working women take charge of their own life first instead of the entire family.

And. 

I have witnessed the rise of the new woman in India, because I am the new woman of India!

 

Shrutty Sharma is a recent commerce graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She is a budding writer and a theatre enthusiast who strongly emphasizes on devoting herself to art and creativity and continues to pursue the same at every step of her professional and personal lifestyle. Although based in Gurugram, she has traveled across 15 Indian states and has grown up across the country. She likes to be opinionated when it comes to social causes and welcomes empowerment and adventures. 

 
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Bracing Adversities

Bracing Adversities

By Manami Talukder

August 28, 2020

It is often believed that people can’t estimate their threshold unless they face an appropriate competition or a befitting competitor. A state of uncertainty brings forth one’s firefighting instincts that usually surface under extraordinary circumstances. I, too, had found myself in such a situation when I thought the ground was swept away from beneath my feet without any prior intimation. I emerged as a changed person after that phase. Acquaintances who came to know me after the phase have seen a radically different version of me.

However, before getting into the nitty-gritties of that phase, I want to share a little bit about my childhood. My parents dedicated their entire lives to the upbringing of their only child. Although I grew up in a middle-class family, I never saw the face of scarcity. My father provided me with the best lifestyle, one that would be conducive to a healthy childhood. However, don’t for a second think that I was spoilt. My parents disciplined me well and, for that, I am grateful to them. It never culminated into resentment and I never felt unloved as I was never chided without a reason. They prioritized my education above everything and, maybe, due to the pressure of their expectations, I was a nervous child. Examinations were always a nightmare, although I fared quite well and always maintained the top position in my class. The fact that I ranked first every year added onto that pressure. You could say I was a nerdy bookworm who didn’t like talking unnecessarily during recess or after school as I considered that part unproductive. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends or that I didn’t have hobbies, but I just wasn’t talkative. It is difficult for a lot of my friends to imagine the changed person who came into their life later.

Now, let me introduce you to my parents, who play a huge role in shaping the person I am today. I have inherited a lot of my characteristics from them. My mother is the youngest of seven siblings and has a twin sister who is older than her by three minutes. Maa is a major in Mathematics and has spent a lion’s share of her life as a teacher. She is someone who is never deterred by anything that life throws at her. She bravely prioritized motherhood over her higher studies, for which I will always remain indebted to her. However, a staunch believer of the ideology “it is never too late,” she went ahead and completed her master’s degree in Mathematics and received a Bachelor of Education degree after the age of fifty. Her hobbies know no end. She is a singer, an actor, and a theatre director, and currently holds the position of the cultural secretary of our colony. She has a knack for interior design—she could have easily pursued a career in that—and has a terrace garden with all types of house plants. I will never be able to match her level of youthful energy and her eagerness to learn new things every day, be it operating new smartphones or using tripods to record videos. Let me also add that she had two miscarriages, fought against and conquered Hepatitis B, and battled clinical depression. The darkness from which she has pulled herself out is unthinkable, yet she remains the unnerving light in my house who does not stop showing the world what living means.

My father, the eldest of four siblings, faced hardships since he was young. His mother passed on when he was just seven while his father took to be an ascetic and forsook all responsibilities. So, my father and my aunts, the youngest only two-month-old, were, in all sense, orphaned. It was his aunts who sheltered them, for which he remained grateful till his last breath. He always taught me to be humble, loyal and, above all, grateful for what I have. But childhood without parents was jarring and he had to miss out on many opportunities as he could not afford them and could not expect his relatives to spend on him after all that they had already done for him and his sisters. This entailed losing his chance to complete his higher education even after securing an opportunity to study medical sciences. Struggles that you or I will shudder to imagine was his everyday life. As a child, he used to spend Holi inside his house out of fear of ruining his sole good shirt. Hence, to become an established bank manager in one of the leading institutions of the country, after coming from such a background, was more than he could dream of. I don’t think I have to emphasize that I am an extremely proud daughter of a self-made man and value hard work above everything.

Naturally, when my father, the strongest person I had ever encountered, someone who had never even caught a cold, was diagnosed with the last stage of cancer, it was nothing less than a bolt of lightning from the blue. It was in the month of October in 2009, a few days after Diwali, that he visited our family doctor as he perpetually felt tired and was abnormally losing weight. Few tests were prescribed. The CT scan identified lumps, in one of his lungs, that turned out to be malignant. As I have already mentioned, struggles had always been a part and parcel of his life. Maybe, that’s why he didn’t pay much heed to his discomfort while the malignant tumours started nurturing inside him. The following few weeks were akin to a nightmare. Like any other eighteen-year-old who had just started college, I too had left home for studies for the first time with lots of hopes and dreams for my future. Destiny, howbeit, had planned something different for me. My whole life was turned upside down in the span of a month.

Well, we all know what “cancer” is. But until it hits someone close to you and whom you care for, you don’t understand how devastating and draining this disease can be, not only for the patient but also for the entire family. My mother was told by the doctor that my dad hardly had six to ten months left as he was diagnosed at the last stage. My father refused to undergo chemotherapy as he realized it would only add to the pain and wouldn’t cure him. My mother was a warrior, as she always has been, through those days; my father was a hero till the very end. I never heard him cry or whine although he was in pain day in, day out. Naive as it might seem, I strongly believed we would get him back and life would again go back to being “normal.” I prayed a lot during that time as I had full faith in God. However, my father didn’t have to suffer for long, and on Wednesday, November 25 2009, he passed on. I became the unofficial head of the family.

I promised my father that day that his struggles would not go in vain and that I would take care of the family as he had done throughout his life. Another thing changed that day. I lost faith in God. I don’t pray anymore. I don’t believe that the omnipresent will solve all our problems. From that day, I realized that everything that happens is predestined and is not in our control. No amount of prayer will change it, so why bother God?! Instead, divert all that faith into yourself so that when life plays tough games with you, you stay strong and collide head-on without thinking of the outcomes—as did my parents against cancer. I don’t believe we lost against cancer as it has failed to dampen our will to live a vibrant life. On the contrary, it made me stronger. Anxiety doesn’t freak me out anymore because I don’t rely on miracles to happen. I trust in myself and believe that I can handle anything that will come my way. Both my mother and I believe that my dad hasn’t left us. He is always there to show us the path and guide us to happiness and peace.

My father’s death brought me face to face with the real world and I knew I needed to learn to protect myself. Nothing is permanent. You can’t be dependent on anyone for long, as people move on once their purpose in your life is fulfilled. You should learn to get up when you fall rather than searching for a hand to pull you up. My parents are my inspirations, be it in life or in death. I have learned to never give up, to always feel there will be light if you persevere, and that spirit has helped me through all my struggles so far. I appeared for my first semester examinations in college five days after my father’s death. While others suggested I should skip it and repeat a year, I knew my father had sacrificed so much for my education and he wouldn’t have settled for anything less.

Let me elaborate on some prominent changes that appeared in my personality after my father passed on. I started talking more. I started interacting a lot more with people and made many friends. I started talking about my father with my friends and family; it very well could have been a coping mechanism or a way of remembering him, however you want to perceive it. Talking about my father meant keeping his memories alive and sharing it with more people. But I want to clarify that I never did this to arouse any sympathy as I didn’t want people to pity me. It was an inevitable mishap and I can’t deny that it created a huge void in my life, but it is something neither can I blame anyone for nor can I change. It is a part of my life and I must deal with it. I didn’t allow it to break me. One must accept that life is not always kind. However, I feel I was fortunate to have proper shelter, food, clothes, and all other luxuries of life that my parents always provided for me. Baba had completed his tenure and our well-being wasn’t hampered after his demise.

I evolved into a more practical person. I don’t get surprised a lot with uncanny events or news anymore. After being hit with such a stark change within a month, I realized anything can happen, no matter how bizarre it sounds. Truth is stranger than fiction. And above all, I started to accept that death is ineludible and the most real thing in life, and one must not ponder over whether someone’s death was timed well or deserving. I don’t think I have become uncaring or cold, but I have become more accepting of the weird whims and fancies of destiny. I still get a bit nervous before examinations or interviews, but during such moments, when I start losing trust in my abilities, I remind myself that I have gone through much worse and nothing can be as difficult as living and smiling without a parent.

The last and the hardest thing to overcome was to accept that this loss will forever remain in my life and I should not expect anyone to fill it. A father is like the shade of a banyan tree—you can rest in peace underneath knowing it will not let any harm touch you. I tried to look for that shade in friends, family, and prospective life partners, but soon realized that it was a futile search and somewhat unfair towards the other person. I also learned not to dwell in negativity. Instead, I try to relive those good memories with my father and keep him alive in me. Every milestone in life now seems to have one part missing as I can’t share it with my father and can only imagine what he would have said had he been there. I miss those debates when our opinions would clash. Now that I have become wiser and know more about the worldly affairs, how fun it would have been to discuss economics, politics, films, and sports with my father. And above all, I miss my banker dad the most when I have to file my taxes or plan my loan EMIs. My father was loved by one and all around him. Even now, whenever my family gets together, somehow, something he said or did pops up in our conversations and we relive those beautiful days. As I have grown up, I have lost a lot of close people—both family and friends—and there is no denying that it is something I wish could be undone. However, I have slowly but surely learned to stop fighting the past and live in the present. I try to keep those I lost alive in my memories, in my learnings, and in my day-to-day experiences. What I am today is an amalgamation of the learnings I have got from all those who have had any impression on me along the way and a part of them shall forever remain within me.

It would be wrong to say that it was an easy transition and that I didn’t see dark days. Everyone has their own ways to deal with hardships and so did I. Whenever it got hard to communicate the pain I was going through, I used to write my thoughts in a journal and found it to be an amazing way to express myself. It is very important for everyone to learn to accept the reality and try to gauge the best options ahead. Life is beautiful and gives you new opportunities every day. There will be struggles along the way, but I am quite assured from my own experiences that the struggles make you stronger for the road ahead.

Back in 2009, smartphones were not abundant like the present times, so there weren’t a lot of videos of my father except some videos during family weddings and a few recorded conversations during such gatherings. Sometimes it feels I might forget how he sounded or the way he walked but then I close my eyes, and he appears in front of my eyes, ever healthy and smiling, assuring me that there is no way a daughter can forget her father in her lifetime.

I think it is clear that I can go on for ages talking about my father, but, for now, I should stop. If anyone is going through a tough phase in life and feels that there is no road ahead, please feel free to connect with me and, maybe, I will be able to help you. At the end of the day, this is what life is all about.

 

Manami Talukder is currently adapting to the Work from Home norms while quarantining at her hometown—Kolkata. She studied Electrical Engineering at Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur; worked as a Technology Consultant; and completed Post-Graduation from the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode before entering the mythical world of Management Consulting in 2018. She got married in December 2019, in a traditional Bengali-Tamil style, before the trend of attending weddings over Zoom became the new standard. She loves to spend her time learning new sketching and painting techniques, and utilized the initial periods of lockdown perfecting her baking and roti-making skills. She likes to spend time at home and hasn’t yet lost her sanity because of the pandemic-induced isolation. She is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and tries to learn new choreographies during weekends. Manami is mostly a nocturnal being and finds it hard to sleep on time, and hence has recently got addicted to audio stories to accompany her long nights. Her recent interests include solving puzzles, playing carrom, and revisiting Bengali classic novels and movies. Manami spent the first nine years of her life in Siliguri before migrating to Kolkata for most of her student life before work and higher studies pulled her to places like Mumbai, Kerala, Pune, Bordeaux, Hyderabad, and back to Kolkata. She likes to express her opinions strongly but isn’t unwilling to hear others out and is always up for a healthy argument.

She can be contacted on [email protected].

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Social Issues Women

Not Chinese. Not Nepalese. Not Coronavirus. We are Indians.

Not Chinese. Not Nepalese. Not Coronavirus. We are Indians.

By PPD

May 02, 2020

Dear Fellow Indians,

We have a message for you. Before we enter into a prolonged discussion, let us introduce ourselves. We belong to the eight states of north-eastern India—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. It took the British nearly a century to seize our region and almost no time to label us a frontier. Since partition and independence, we haven’t been much more than mere natural resources and a frontier to the government. We overwhelmingly contribute to the total tea produced in the country but aren’t eligible to house the headquarters of the Tea Board of India. We have deduced from ages of experiences and sufferings that not many Indians are aware of our existence and that we deserve to be humiliated. Though we are legal citizens, we aren’t yet considered cultural citizens of our own country.

Our girls are supposed to be easy preys in bigger cities. It is difficult for our girls to get rooms on rent in those cities, as people there think that we are harbingers of sex and drugs. Our girls are stamped by you as whores. Even if they manage to get a room on rent, there are unsympathetic restrictions on their choice of food items and what kind of smell is allowed. Our girls are tired of the humiliation and the unwanted advances everywhere. Tetei, our daughter, was forced to leave Delhi because of the constant agonies she was subjected to. She was regularly made to feel the word chinki in her bones. If you read the poem she wrote in February 2008, you would know:

Tetei came from a village, far far away,
Where the spring river flows
and the nightingale sings.
Where the autumn brook glisters
like the face of an immaculate.
Where innocence still exists,
there amidst the hills so green.

She left that village, filled with dreams,

Dreams that she always dreamt of
back in her village so bare.
Dreams of neon lights and skyscrapers,
and of opportunity in abundance.
Dreams filled with dreams and dreams,
of changing her life and her destiny.

Oh how that dream shattered, with all the abuses,

Abused for being a woman,
as if it is a sin to be one.
Abused for being from the North-east,
as if she is a cheap whore from Sodom.
Abused by the media for being both,
as if they haven’t done enough harm already.

Tetei cried every night, and finally made her way,
Back to her barren village, far far away.

Tetei’s words echo the plight of most of us who left our homes for a better livelihood, as both political and social conditions were frightful in Northeast India. The government’s extractive and exploitative attitude, armed civil conflicts, and poor infrastructure left us with almost no opportunities. The North Eastern Council (NEC) set up in 1971 and the ambitious Look East policy launched in 1991 could hardly live up to their lofty objectives and remained a rhetoric. Little educational initiatives were undertaken by the central government. We were largely ignored by the national media, except for their discriminating obsession with violence and insurgency in our region. Barely a handful of journalists covered our stories. For long, this media-built perception created a negative picture of the region in the collective imagination—“a region riddled with insurgency and most unsafe place in the country” or “people with mongoloid features and weird food habits and an alien culture.” This notion was reinforced by the 1998 Bollywood movie “Dil Se.” That Manisha Koirala’s “small eyes” made her the perfect choice to play the onscreen character of a Northeast militant was no surprise. The movie is set in Delhi and the Northeast, projecting two contrasting images—a serene Delhi and a turbulent Northeast—and reflecting a common theme rooted at that time in the “mainstream” India: ignorance.

We were the outcast with little or no voice. As our people moved to cities outside Northeast India, cases of discrimination against them escalated at alarming rates. Most of the incidents, barring a rare few, never caught the fancy of the popular media. Apart from subjection to language abuse, rapes became commonplace in our lives. When one of our girls was gangraped in June 2005, the principal of Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi, suggested that our women must wear salwar-kameez to avoid sexual harassment. Protests flared across the city. In July 2007, the Delhi Police published a booklet which advised our women to not wear “revealing” clothes, avoid lonely roads when dressed scantily, dress according to the sensitivity of the local populace, and not cook our native cuisine as the foreign smell could disconcert our neighbors. It was like rubbing salt into our wounds.

The “cheap and easy” image of our women grew stronger with time. In January 2008, two sisters from Manipur were molested by 25 drunk men near Delhi University. One of them offensively questioned the morality of girls hailing from Northeast India, leading to the confrontation. In December 2009, when the verdict of the Dhaula Kuan rape case was in progress, the advocate defending the accused blamed the “active sexual life” of the victim from Mizoram for inviting rape. Despite the rampaging violence and discrimination, Delhi continued to offer some respite from the difficult conditions in our region.

The Chief Minister of Mizoram, Mr. Pu Lalthanhawla, in June 2009, finally vented his disappointment with his own countrymen at the Singapore International Water Week. In his own country, he had to face the question, quite frequently, as to whether he was an Indian or a Nepalese or from some other country. Shilpa Shetty when called a “Paki” in a 2007 reality show had seen the entire Indian media on the verge of shedding her tears and bringing her agonies, live and deferred, to every Indian household. The same media raised an unprecedented furor over the racial attacks on Indian students in Australia but did little to address our concerns. Lalthanhawla rightly said, “Indians consist of three races – Dravidians, Aryans and we in the northeast.” Is it because of our short stature? Is it because we have a flat nose and small eyes? We smell, with the flat nose. We see, with the small eyes as you do with your “better” features. We were born this way. In 2012, calling us chinki became a criminal offense. But we remained as chinkis and bahadurs among a long list of slurs.

Our men are often stereotyped as drug dealers and addicts. Richard Loitam, a 19-year-old from Manipur, like many young Indians, went to Bangalore to pursue engineering studies. In April 2012, he was found dead in his room. To date, his death remains a mystery. The night before his death, he was assaulted by two students for changing the TV channel. As investigations proceeded, few commented that Richard was a drug addict and that doses of fatal drugs led to his demise, though forensic report ruled out overdose. We felt lost in the dark.

The media lit up the pitch-dark tunnel, albeit late and slow. The widespread penetration of the social media also played a pivotal role in changing perspectives and bringing a long-overdue change. Our fellow Indians’ perception of us markedly improved in the last decade.

The light, however, couldn’t glow long enough to save Nido Taniam, our hero from Arunachal Pradesh. On January 29 2014, he was beaten to death by our fellow Delhiites. Do you know why? Because he stood up against a group, who made fun of his hair and physical features. Nido, who apparently looked different, compelled the country to differently see racism at the expense of his life. The government was exacted into action and implemented the recommendations made by the Bezbaruah Committee. Children around the country now read our geography, history, and culture in their textbooks. Thanks to the fellowships, quality education is more accessible to our children. We found a ray of hope in the creation of the Special Unit for North Eastern Region (SPUNER) under the Delhi Police and the ensuing efforts in sensitizing people toward discrimination against us.

In the same year, the popular Indian reality show “Kaun Banega Crorepati” hosted by the megastar Amitabh Bachchan played a crucial role in highlighting the much-neglected issue. In the promotional advertisement, Mr. Bachchan asks the contestant Poornima-ji, a native of Northeast, “Which country is the city Kohima in?” The audience expects her to know the answer but to everyone’s surprise, she chooses to use one of her lifelines—Audience Poll. “India!” is the unanimous answer, to which Poornima-ji replies, “Yes, everyone knows about it, but how many believe in it?” This message reverberated across the country as reflected in the millions of views garnered by the video. The movement was powerful enough to put popular brands, such as Nestle India, Big Bazaar, and Vim, into action. In 2015, Tinkle Digest’s latest superhero WingStar aka Mapui Kwalim, a 13-year-old Mizo girl, made her debut. This was a pathbreaking initiative by the much-loved comic strip to create awareness in the tender minds of its readers. We hope Mapui’s powers help in quelling the painful stereotypes.

We are proud of the works of Dr Alana Golmei, who has been working tirelessly for our inclusion in the mainland India. The North East Support Centre and Helpline (NESCH) founded by her in 2007 has been our lifeline in fighting discrimination in our country. We have seen setting up of more institutes of national importance—National Institute of Technology Silchar in 2002, National Institute of Technology Agartala in 2006, Indian Institute of Management Shillong in 2007, and National Sports University in Manipur in 2018. The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region’s efforts to integrate the region through tourism and economic development has also played a decisive role in the recent years. Improved connectivity through air and rail has encouraged more tourists to visit our places, thus making our culture travel through their eyes.

Our hopeful eyes on the proposals to amend the law to insert two stricter anti-racial discrimination provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC Section 153C and 509A) are still waiting to shine. It has been six years since Nido Tanium’s death and injuries are still ruthlessly inflicted on our people. The dark eclipses the occasional glimmer of light. Few voices are heard; most silently bear the brunt to avoid worsening the problem. In one untold story, our girl enrolled in a reputed engineering college was described as “having too much attitude” for rejecting sexual advances by the supposedly brightest minds of the country. In another incident, an ambitious girl was asked just before the start of an aptitude test whether she worked in a massage parlor. Our girls are brave enough to ignore the innuendos, but no girl deserves such a behavior.

Let’s talk about our jewels. The Golden Girl, Mary Kom, has won laurels for India and not for Nepal. Despite giving it all for our country, she routinely faces racial bias. Why? Seven percent of the Indian contingent in 2016 Olympics were from the Northeast. They poured every drop of their sweat to make us proud. Should their identities be questioned? Dipa Karmakar’s sensational performance brought smiles to the entire nation and not only to Tripura. Somewhere we need to stop. We salute the 2016 movie Pink for making a statement on discrimination against us. In the court room scene, the lawyer emphasizes on naming Andrea Tariang’s native place as Meghalaya rather than referring to her as someone from the Northeast. The chinki someone.

We managed to become immune to the word chinki but the COVID-19 pandemic gave us a fresh identity. We are now Coronavirus. Scientists are running against time to develop a cure for the deadly virus and will be successful. But we doubt if there would ever be any cure for the deadlier virus of racism.

On March 20, 2020, in Ahmedabad, police picked up nine employees of Northeast origin from an insurance company based on a complaint alleging that they were from China. They were placed under forced quarantine with other patients suspected of infection. In another such tragic incident, a young man from Meghalaya committed suicide after he was fired and forcibly evicted from his apartment on accounts of allegations that he might be infected with the virus. In Delhi, on March 23, the day after the Janta Curfew, a man called our Manipuri girl “corona” and spat betel nut juice on her face. We are disturbed and more afraid than ever. Not only because of the novel coronavirus but more so because of the increasing attacks on us.

In Kolkata, on March 28, a 24-year-old woman from Sikkim, suffering from abdominal pain with no symptoms of COVID-19, was forced to undergo test and put into an isolation ward with several other infected patients. The initial questions thrown at her were—“Are you a Chinese? When did you get here from China?” On the same day, this time in Mysuru, a 20-year-old boy from Manipur who stepped outside to buy groceries from a nearby shop was denied all the items. “You are not Indian,” the staff shouted as he was chased away.

On April 6, a Manipuri girl was spat on by a miscreant in Mumbai, which we consider the safest city outside our home. In Bengaluru, on April 20, two Manipuri boys were beaten by police for not maintaining social-distancing norms when they went out to buy groceries. The police physically assaulted and caned a Darjeeling-born 25-year-old journalist and his Manipuri cousin for failing to show the necessary pass for roaming around in Bengaluru, while some on-lookers were calling them “coronavirus.” In both the upsetting incidents, our people were selectively chosen. Our heart goes out to our brothers and sisters from Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Koch Bihar, Ladakh, and to our Indian-Nepalese friends; they face the same torture as we do. We would like to remind you once again, dear friends, that we are humans and that we have feelings, too. Monolid eyes do not make us any less Indian. While we cry foul when Indians face discrimination abroad, our hypocrisy is out in the open when we call our own countrymen names.

We do not wish to share these stories now, but we can’t afford to take an appointment with life for the perfect moment. The scrutinizing looks, the questions, and the need to establish identity repeatedly are too harsh to tolerate. India isn’t only Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra. Neither is India only Chennai and Kolkata. India is as much Manipur and Nagaland. India isn’t only Anu Sharma and Anjali Daware. Neither is India only Narayana Raghavan and Sukamal Chatterjee. India is as much Zorothra Darlong and Larson Sanathomba.

India is as much Inzamam Alam and Burhan Mohammed.

We understand most of us are afraid of something that is unfamiliar. But rejection is not the solution to ignorance. Acceptance is. Empathy is. We stand not only for our people but also stand against all forms of racial discrimination and stereotyping. People from South India, for example, are mocked in the North; similarly, people from the North are treated unfairly in the South. We need to educate ourselves and stop stereotyping into believing that all South Indians are Madrasi, all Marwaris are Makhichoos, all Marathis are Ghaatis, and all Punjabis are Sharaabis. We are also guilty. We ask forgiveness and strongly condemn all acts of hate crimes against people from Bengal and Bihar in our own backyard. As more African-Americans and Native Americans die compared to the White Americans in the course of the pandemic, we realize that the racism virus is bigger than us.

When the pandemic ends, the world will go back to normal. Maybe, we should not. We do not want to live in a normal world but in one devoid of racism.

Can we not anymore be treated as aliens in our own soil? If only you co-operate.

Yours loving,
Fellow Indians.

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