Winning the South Asian Vote

In an urge to be of service to my ‘karmabhoomi’, I have been finding my way to the grassroots. Thanks to the many opportunities provided by friends, the journey has been mind-boggling. No matter how anyone may look at the political inclinations of South Asians, bottom line is of quintessence. If those that are running for any office need a place in the hearts and homes of South Asians, in return for their votes, it is indeed a long road. And one may never know what may flip those labyrinthine intellects.

First know our names. If we could attempt to pronounce any name in any language correctly or nearly, it is paramount that one needing our support knows how to say our names. Whether be Mohammad, Haniya, Aadrik, Sunaina or Sukhbir it is not that hard since we’ve faithfully taken care of saying your proper nouns. And unlike our other Asian counterparts we refuse to anglicize. We also takegreat pride in why each of us was named so. There is every chance that there is mythological significance.

Our religions are not sorcery. We come from places which are an amalgamation of thousands of beliefs, regional stratification, languages and sentiments. Indians don’t speak Hindu, our lands are not filled with elephants and snake charmers, and we speak good English because we were taught in it. When we offer something in good faith, it doesn’t change who you are. And the best way to understand us is to respect our foundations and emotions. If you don’t put an effort, we will always remain a mystery.

There are certain intricacies that you must understand. The festivals we celebrate, the cricket (which is not the same as baseball) fervour, what critical race theory means to us, why we are invested in education more than sports, how we idolize the characters in our movies, and our political preferences are purely based on our liking for the person not the principles. Hence, it is very important that the future leaders are not just charismatic but also genuine. We dislike homophobes, chauvinists and racists even if we perpetuate such within our communities. And, curry is not our staple food. We cook more variety that you can ever imagine.

Women who are the backbone of our support system are even more hard to please. A lot of them have been through immense patriarchal pressures, made unparallel sacrifices, created successful households and professions. Their support is fiercely towards their own no matter which faction they may be. Sadly, those that end up breaking their trust will never be forgiven. Never assume their kindness and never underestimate their gift of gab. South Asian women have made undeniable histories and it only a matter of time.

It’s sacrilege to snub them on pretext of equality. If you want them on your side, assure them the equity they deserve by not taking opportunities from underneath them to serve another purpose. The only option here is to uplift those that work hard to raise the per capita income of the counties and country. They will never be below any red line because of the ecosystem they’ve built. Their joint family set-up, elder care without taking advantage of old age homes, and kids staying with their parents even after they are much older are criteria not captured in any survey. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need the support. They totally do!

Even before certain magnanimous events have turned tables, we were targeted. Our people are killed due to hate based thefts, are subjects to hit and run cases that are never solved, are randomly chosen for TSA checks, our background investigations for jobs take longer in some instances, and despite having respectable places in society we are subjected to mistaken identity. We are tired of being called terrorists, job snatchers, and some of us are accused for doing black magic just because we decorate our homes traditionally. Weirdly, we are also called the next white race.

A lot of affection does exist with our non-Asian friends and families but American politics are yet to find the right place. That topic still remains the most dreaded in any of our gatherings. Because we don’t know where we really belong. Some of us think we’ve nailed our alignment but heart of hearts we know we are kidding ourselves. We, our forefathers, and fathers came to United States to build a great nation just like its other ancestors. Yet, we seem to have been trapped under the veil of sophisticated idealogies until someone from amongst us or someone that understands our diaspora leads us with righteousness.

Between Winning and Success

As a child and through my young adulthood, winning was everything. A decade ago, by chance, I was thrilled knowing the difference between winning and success. When life unraveled itself, the distinction became clear and winning felt less important. Through trepidations and lessons learned, I was able to derive my own essence on the two most significant words, winning and success. That feeling was nothing less than illumination.

Winning is like being rich. Success is to have enough to be content.

Winning may give satisfaction but success gives happiness.

A job well done is winning. And to do it for benefit of others is success.

Being literate is like winning but to be educated is success.

Winning is like giving the highest donation and success comes with providing service.

To jump high is winning but rising after a fall is success.

Giving birth to a child is a win but to be able to raise them to be decent humans is success.

Solving a problem is like winning but building resiliency is success.

Winning is fun but success is fulfilling.

Having wealth is winning at life but to have good health and peace of mind is success.

Winning is good but success is great.

A brilliant idea is created when one wins but those that fail and then succeed have uncovered hundred ways of making that idea work.

Being alive is winning but to make something remarkable of it, is success.

To be popular in life is winning but to leave a legacy that is remembered for ages is success.

Undying

With each passing moment

The love that glowed fades

It’s slow but it eventually goes

And what once did, no longer does

For all those times we held

There was magic that lingered

Yet, it wasn’t meant to be

At least the way the world sees

There is never a goodbye

Just a deep understanding

Something that brings us close

Only that exists between us

Duty calls become the truth

Where tears would mean insult

Despite the heart ache that follows

From making an undying tale

#quotidianblessing

Empty Nesters

Circa 2002. Last picture with my empty nesters in India at Shirdi, Maharashtra.

To all the parents who are going to be empty nesters, partial or delayed empty nesters because your grace period is now truly up, grandparents who’d see less of their grandkids or the siblings, and friends who were not looking forward for this separation, I know the feeling. Not because I am sending one off to college but I’ve been the one who couldn’t wait to leave home but was so bummed at the airport that I regretted having that feeling.

My parents’ process of being empty nesters was done in two phases. And it was my deliberate attempt to prepare them for the long haul, viz my emigration to the United States. While I studied out of state it was still an easy process because they had this feeling that I was accessible within 12 hours. Moreover, my father could just hop on a train and come visit me whenever either of us had separation anxiety or I had the need for parental intervention to my teenage crisis.

Both times it was a weird experience, because the least anticipated happened. My mother and grandmother not just started sobbing in turns but they stopped eating their normal portions. My father didn’t exhibit any emotion and I later learned that he bawled his eyes out for days. But when he dropped me off at college, his focus was to ensure that I am settled in the new place. With three huge suitcases worth of books, clothes, kitchen utensils and provisions for few months, I was ready to move on. My parents were not.

The second time, when I was coming to the United States was worse. My father started crying river and my mother was distraught. While it felt normal that my mother was in such shape, I realized that it was okay for men to cry. I felt so bad that I stopped breathing, turned my back to them and didn’t look back. It was not only a moment of realization on the void I was leaving for them but also one where I realized my greater responsibility of making them proud and start raising them in their old age.

My parents were older than most others because they were late in getting married and having me. After fulfilling their familial obligations, none of which they needed to, I was their culmination of love, hope and all desires. But when I was walking away at the airport, their heart was perhaps bleeding in ways that I could never imagine. And when I say I understand what parents might be going through dropping of their kids at college, I really do.

It is easy for anyone to advise empty nesters to look forward and spend more time on themselves not knowing the plethora of emotions they must be going through. As someone rightly said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” So true.

Yet, there is always comfort in knowing that the the kids who’ve left their homes have a mission at hand to secure their future, our future and lead the way for many other who follow. Especially to turn nervousness of parents into pride and honor. They may fail along the way but they know it only leads to success. Just like the civilizations that preceded them. No matter how complicated and complex their lives were to become or how hard it must’ve been for their parents to keep them safe from life’s treachery, all will be well in the end.

Just like my parents paused, readjusted my absence, started looking forward to their own time and taking on new worries to get me married, I wish all those parents the best of new things. We all know it is not going to be easy but the birds must leave their nest and fly high. The hope is that all those going through this life promoting event, muster the strength, peace and love to transition. If a bewildered person like me could make her parents proud, I’m sure each of yours will make you magnanimously proud.

Anonymous

Because it wasn’t acceptable
Than anything else today
You turned your back to me
And threw our love away

There was a lot we’d share
Yet you put yours first
I was a muse that stirred
Quenching your inner thirst

When you no longer exist
Will I be the girl that loved you
Or the one that got snubbed
But never the love we knew

Your headstone will have all
Son, husband, father and friend
Not the beloved of my bane
Always anonymous in the end

Freedom

Nearly two decades ago when I came to this country, I was unprepared and unplanned. Consider my naivety of not knowing what it takes to travel to a foreign land or my enthusiasm to get out of a place that interferes into my personal matters on pretext of love, none to disgrace my failures for having deviated from the standard template of honorable education. I missed my parents and close friends sorely. First couple of months were a huge struggle, yet I got the opportunity to be grateful for the massive support, kind words and extraordinary help when I least expected, that too from unfamiliar persons.

There was a lot of chaos about the course, the campus, and the start date of the program I was permitted on the student visa. There so many that went out of their way to help, few of whom became my early mentors, friends for life and to whose presence in my life I am indebted for. My host families (also strangers at that time but took me in because I was practically homeless) had no obligation in my well-being but they ensured that I was adjusted in this new place.

There were times when I couldn’t keep up with the expenses and stood on the edge of the Hudson River contemplating if there were any options besides walking into it. I was so ashamed to ask my parents for more money knowing that they could not match the expenses in dollars. But some good sense prevailed, and I stepped back to keep chugging along. I wasn’t an immediate triumph, but my disappointments were never frowned upon. With the newly acquired freedom, I promised myself that I will make the best out of my life. And I did.

Sometimes, I am reminded that I am not patriotic towards my motherland, India. There is no other place I’d rather be born. While India gave me my name, I created my own identity in the United States. Love there was overwhelming but here I realized the meaning of it. I was petrified of making mistakes there but here accomplishments are nothing without them. I lived nearly two decades of my early life in fear of being wrong but here I taught myself the courage to do the right thing. I was brave enough there, but here I am applauded (mostly) for being me. “America is not just a country, but a way of life.” And I am very grateful for that freedom.

#America #USA #FourthofJuly

Alligator in the Room

Years ago, I was coached for being an “Alligator in the room.” It wasn’t tangible feedback and I assumed that it was one of those gender blinds. So I ignored and continued to work on those that made sense.

Most women, who are assertive, are often tagged as being aggressive. Nothing wrong with that until the perception is translated to being arrogant and intimidating.

Some others that I talk to have said that they overlook and have developed thick skin to combat such comments guised as feedback. Nevertheless, each of us have learned to lean towards success in our own way.

There is no right or wrong way to tackle these situations because it is ultimately a personal preference on what we choose to fight for. But I wish more of us are able to challenge the status quo.

For those who’ve not been in these situations, it is hard to comprehend. And just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

I am reminded of a quote from Twitter by Jayne, “To the women who are aggressive: keep being assertive. To the women who are bossy: keep on leading To the women who are difficult: keep telling the truth. To the women who are too much: keep taking up space To the women who are awkward: keep asking hard questions.”

We don’t need a yearly commemoration to remind us that we can empower ourselves to challenge the status quo. Because, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” Maya Angelou

(Many have asked me to ‘move on’ from writing about DEI, women centric topics and get ‘competitive’ and focus on technical stuff. I promise, when I feel the time is right.)

#leadership #psychologicalsafety #work #motivation

Eve-Teasing – Assault of Another Name

It was always my fault. I wore full sleeves and was covered head to toe barring few instances of wearing long skirts, jeans and T-shirt. My freedom as a girl was confined to my expressions through my eyes and speech. My father was also increasingly conservative, not because he is one but he feared that something might happen to me. Eve-teasing at that time was the pandemic that killed many young girls’ characters. And there was nothing anyone would do besides blaming the girl.

I learned how to ride a motorcycle when I was in 6th grade and 4 feet 9 inches tall. My dad who was barely 5 feet 2 inches not only took the risk to teach me but also made sure that I was overly independent by the time I was 13 years. Perhaps because of that I didn’t have a conventional good girl reputation through high school. Not that it is any now, but I learned to take immense pride in my noteriety for the last two decades, thanks to coming to the United States without any support besides from my parents.

My parents let me ride my dad’s Priya (similar to a Vespa) until my 11th grade and then bought me my own. Those years were the toughest because my dad suffered from gout and I became the only means of transportation for all domestic chores, picking and dropping off my mom at train, bus stations when she traveled for work. And I even gave my grandmother rides to our relatives homes whenever she wanted to. While it was thrilling to experience riding at such a young age, I might have grown up sooner than I should have because of the experiences that came after.

We lived in a community that was infested with utterly narrow minded families with mostly lads who were established male chauvinistic pigs. And because it was a government provided housing, and was free, my parents may never have had the thought of moving to better accommodation. It was hard to pinpoint to the harassment as it was done in groups, in dark and usually discreetly. Those who grew up in very protected households or those that never understood freely blamed me for being in these situations.

The extent of eve-teasing at one point became a threat to my life and my family My parents were older and I tried not to bother them. On the other hand, there were many that insinuated that my bad character was the reason why I was being eve-teased. These guys from the community or someone who loathed my spirit used to fill my gas tank with sugar or sand or water almost every other day. When the motorcycle stalled, I would push it on busy roads for miles at a time. My 11th and 12th grades were a disaster. As any teenager would, I survived that too.

This one time we had torrential downpour and I had to drop my mother off at the bus station. She couldn’t cancel or postpone her plan to travel to another state. Little did I know that someone had punctured the petrol tank and it leaked all the way. I still thank my stars that the vehicle stalled after I dropped her. Lugging it against dirty down drift of gushing waters was the most difficult physical task I could’ve ever done. I lost my sandals too, had bruises from the sharp objects on the road and I barely escaped an open pothole.

Sometimes, I used to cry myself to sleep not knowing why someone would do this to me and so often. Once, I surrounded myself with guy friends from outside the community, the things to the motorcycle stopped but physical abuse had begun. I still look at my bruises in great honor because not once I gave up on myself. To live, despite the disgrace was the best gift of life I gave to myself. I could have thought of ending the eve-teasing many other ways but I didn’t. But I did skip town for my undergraduate the first opportunity I got to get away from the tormenting.

Eve-teasing was not identified as a crime back in the 90’s. While it was harassment, it was much harder to prove than a physical manifestation of an abuse whether be sexual or domestic. And the offenders would be discreet with their harassment. To date I don’t know who those people were. I suspected many around me and believe in all sincerity that karma may have caught up to them. But I do regret not seeing a face, and teaching them a lesson. There were no cell phones back then and I never had a camera either.

Eve-teasing diminished my morale those years and it took me decades to build it back. It impacted me emotionally and psychologically. For many years, I couldn’t stand up to other forms of abuse because I was reeling under the effects of what those men considered as flirty and fun. Positive thinking ended up being a superficial mechanism of coping and much later in adult life, I had to take deliberate measures to address the real problem. “Step into my shoes and walk the life I’m living and if you get as far as I am, just maybe you will see how strong I really am.” Raise your voice against the menace and call it what it is – Sexual Harassment.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

It is not easy to raise a child. There is no good parenting or bad in that case. And there are hundreds of books written for the uninitiated. But when it comes to raising an elder there are few. We have to rely on our sensibilities, empathy and situational awareness. For those who are trying to do this right, it could be emotionally and physically draining to take care of an elder, protect their basic rights, ensure their health is preserved to the best, and be witness to their dwindling legacies. Still doesn’t give any care giver or those that are surrounding the elder a plausible excuse to resort to abuse

While I always weave in personal stories because of extreme hurt, I have no shame in pointing out instances that are not acceptable by my standard or any other. Because what we feel is simple yelling or logically arguing, when it translates to the older minds it is toxicity l, nonetheless. Sometimes, the same, we do to our peers, or those younger to us is considered bullying or harassment. And if proven is punishable by law. In school, there are strict anti-bully laws that govern the environment. When it comes to elders, laws are very weak and lost in translation as many time we are unable to prove the abuse.

I’ve heard horror stories from my friends and colleagues about the elder abuse. It is gut wrenching to hear about some elders who muster all their energy for the last lap of their life just like a marathon runners, so that they can get to the finish line with certain pride and dignity. But no, some just won’t let it happen. A friend’s grandmother died from internal bleeding after her daughter-in-law beat her to to pulp on her death bed. That daughter-in-law could not even wait to let my friend’s grandmother die in peace. My own grandmother suffered from a lot of indifference from her brood, their spouses, and her grandkids except from my mother, and my uncle. Rest are all culprits.

WHO has global strategies in place to help countries adapt laws against elder abuse. They recorded elder abuse as the most repeated action or or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.

I am personally very motivated to address psychological and emotional abuse, abandonment, neglect and deliberate impairment of dignity and respect to an elder person. Anyone that is 60, in some countries it is 65 or older and defined as an elder. Now, there are so many positivity promoting pseudo-influencers who keep telling me to ignore and focus on ‘good things’ and that everything is be fine if I meditate or do yoga. But one thing they may never comprehend is, if elder abuse is happening right in front of me and to my own mother or those I dearly know, how is positive outlook or a yoga pose or ignoring is ever going to help? Makes me wonder which world they live in. If people like me don’t make a strong effort to intervene, snub the ridiculous behavior of the offenders and teach them a lesson, their sadism is bound to perpetuate. And they might continue to have this wrong impression that it is okay to do what they do.

There seems to be a heart ache amongst some audience when strong people retaliate in the open instead of quietly suffering through and exhibiting their supposed strength. Such people are the cause of societal inequity and they might not even understand the concerns expressed in this podcast. Do we ever tell a physically abused younger victim to move on and find better things only to be abused again? Then why do we turn blind eye to elder abuse mostly subtle, verbally invasive and not acceptable, no matter how you look at it.

My mother’s sister, pedamma had Alzheimers. And suffered from abandonment, and in the end her death was most painful from dehydration, malnourishment, lack of hygienic circumstances and brutality that educated families don’t experience. Some others that were part of the extended family took devious pleasure in seeing that degrading humanity. In my heart, there is no forgiveness for such people.

I have a special mention of state of California. Under Penal Code 368 PC, California law defines the crime of elder abuse as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of a victim who is 65 years of age or older. The offense can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, and is punishable by up to 4 years of jail or prison. Specifically, emotional abuse (which can take the form of isolation or ridicule) which has been the favorite of some living in California and impacting my mother. Apologies from those individuals after the fact will never be accepted as it does not compensate for their preposterous actions. I regret twice not reporting elder abuse within 24 hours of occurrence. Moving forward, I will not hesitate. I sincerely want to teach those that are conveniently instigated to attack an elder person. I wish other states in the country and other country refine their elder abuse laws.

With awareness campaigns such as mine, STOP ELDER ABUSE, SEA, it does not cost a penny to propagate awareness. Not much is known about elder abuse and how to prevent it, particularly in developing countries. Because of booming technology, elder abuse and awareness is just coming to light. There are many improvements that need to be made, and sometimes law enforcement requires extensive evidence which is unavailable because the elder many not have the strength to pursue. May be they’ve just given up to their fate. Either case, that is the saddest that could happen to the those who’ve ensured our present is secure.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (#WEAAD), was yesterday June 15th. It is all about making it a mission that safeguarding the elderly is everyone’s responsibility. Around 1 in 6 older people experience some form of abuse. Recognise and report it. Hope each of us can work towards ending elder abuse and celebrate the value that older people bring to our families, lives, communities, and future. Show you care by taking a stand.

Not Now, Not Ever

In his cruel immortality, I found solace for many of my pains. Neither was it a fangirl in me that was veiled because of his untimely demise a year ago, nor was it my sense of inseparableness with many others across the globe who eventually found their way for a shared cause for justice despite the benevolence of their variety. Regardless of exhibiting the conceit about being the biggest democracy in the world, or being the most prominent at social media, and by sheer strength in statistics, there seems to be bifurcation in how a premature passing is perceived.

There are many amongst us who proliferate superfluous positivity instead of focusing on the root cause. There have been days at a time, sometimes contiguous months, that I have felt a sense of emptiness. It has been a hard 15 months and I could possibly be confusing the departure of many near and dear because of COVID, my own personal misfortunes and the upheaval in emotions in exchange for the anxiety of one. And, surprisingly I won’t be the last in this conundrum.

What continues to baffle me is how nonchalant his own fraternity is. Through the rectitude of those that have not ceased to fight for him, have not rested a day without trending him, and linger much to the disgust of those who are watching from the bleachers, there is a certain tranquility that because of him, it was a better place . And perchance there is some decency left in this debauched world. Although, I have been counseled to see a shrink for matters of imaginary negativity, there won’t be a moment where I will distrust the few tenacities I am committed to.

There will never be another like him. He was an enlightened human being, with dreams bigger than the clouds, ambitions that could not be measured by an average mind, and was outrageously a societal outlier. Many more honorable than him have died leaving an abysmal hole in this creation, but millions seem to still care about exalting the virtues of this specific deceased man. This has become bigger than conviction or belief for his admirers regardless of Wikipedia audaciously gripping a suicide theory.

Well-wishers have snickered at my incompetence to grieve a flawed thespian but I can’t seem to give up remembrance of one of the paramount individuals that embellished the earth. Some influencers are spreading their shamefaced commiseration to rejoice his life but there is a convinced obsession to find the actuality. And people like me will not give up on him or themselves. Every morning, we make a choice to do complete fairness to our own lives without forgetting that there is a part of us that will need to fight till the end – whatever it may be, rationally.

It is hard to fight when the fight isn’t fair. It is hard to imagine that the person is going to come alive from all the memories. But, if the persuasion of verity is curtailed then there will be many more like him. Humanity will come to an end. Those who have caught the habit of being reprobates will remain to hound what is left of harmony. They will tatter the heavens into irredeemable smithereens. Yet, there won’t be another opportune moment to reinstate our reliance on valor, exactly the way he may have envisioned. The kind where we can never give up seeking the truth – not now, not ever.