What an incredible first 15 days of the year it has been! Gratitude is all I have for the opportunities, support, and kind words,
Yesterday, the very famous USA Raja Telugu Vlogs gave me the chance to share my personal stories of struggle, satire and success. Never did I expect that anything I’d ever do would get 235K+ views, 9K+ likes or infinitely positive comments. Or that my personal blog would rake 2K+ views a day.
As the saying goes, “All process takes place outside the comfort zone,” last few months have been nothing but that. #quotidianblessing
Every experience impacts who we become. Thanks to David Raviv, New York Information Security Group, I am able to relive those moments, be grateful to those who helped me uncover my true potential, and the invaluable lessons I learned that contributed to who I am today. . #quotidianblessing
Grateful for the bitterness and gloom Through bright days and dark nights When leaves fall and trees are bare Remembrances of despair and venom Knowing that cynicism is painful Hurt that rekindling of bygone brings How would I appreciate the goodness If I didn’t know the bad in life The good things that are in store And the treasure that lies in hope Where the future is like the sunrise That burns all the disgrace amassed There would never be the best of me Had I not known the demons I overcome
To that friend who I asked about their caste in 2003, not knowing any better, I am so sorry. To all the people who continue ask me what my caste is in various ways, I am sorry that I don’t know what to say. I am yet to understand myself where I truly belong having been exposed to a conglomerate of regions and religions. And to all those who’ve watched me be the rebel and somehow ended up emulating me without realizing, thank you! It sure gets better from here.
Over the last decade and half, I have impacted my kith and kin and the poor things are yet to let that sink in. I’ve developed such deep admiration for most of them although I haven’t made any particular effort to reach out individually to commend them for their growth. There will be one or two in the family that will always be uncomfortable around me but someday soon, I’m sure they’d fall in love with me. Who cares if they didn’t walk next to me when I most needed but I’m so ecstatic to celebrate their heightened tolerance when it has come to their own brood.
This write-up is particularly a tribute to my friends and acquaintances whose never ending support has been pivotal in my own nirvana, my ability to see beyond barriers, religions, caste, and regional stratification. It is because of them that I dare to give back to the community, language, and roots. There has not been a single moment in these 21 years in the US that were cringe-worthy compared to the many embarassments that I faced in India due to my lack of importance to the whole caste system. I was almost thinking it is obsolete here in the US until it crept back into use cases and universities.
When I was a kid and till I was eligible to get married, I lacked the basic understanding of the c-word. That ignorance became worse when I started to acquire the qualities of ‘when in Rome, be a Roman’ after coming to the US. Not everyone is blessed with such stupor. As the years went by, I seemed to have no recollection of the instances where I was castigated for stepping out of the acceptable norms and achieving the ‘sadhguru’ state of social enlightenment. To the point that my parents, despite few exceptions here and there had begun to accept that humanity was indeed a better caste than those that created prejudice.
I didn’t realize how contemptuous the most educated become when it comes to marrying someone outside the caste and even worse region or religion. That was exactly the case when I was looking to find a husband after few confusing relationships that sank without trace because of my caste. It was not because I was of a higher or lower caste; I was just not their caste. I’ve been chuckling more lately as generations began to quest outside of their menage, diversifying into other sects, regions, religions, race, and even queer.
When I was in pursuit of my forever bliss, there were more taunts than praise. But I’m not complaining because progress is progress no matter when it manifests. The true privilege of being alive now, is to curtail all things that didn’t work in the archaic systems. Some of us continue to annihilate those evils to create an heirloom. And follow the path where, “There is only one caste… the caste of humanity. There is only one religion… the religion of love. There is only one language… the language of the heart.”
It was first day of school after second grade summer holidays. Late Mrs. Anthony was our class teacher. I knew that I had to get her attention to let her know my intent to become the yellow house leader. We didn’t have class leader back then to oversee the red, green, blue and yellow house leaders. At an opportune moment in between two classes, I went up to her desk hurriedly and asked her if I could be the yellow house leader. And that I’d make everyone proud if I were elected. Yes! I said exactly that.
She laughed. I could see all her pearl like teeth with a light stain of lipstick and the big red bindi on her forehead become wide enough to scare me. I looked at her wondering if she was going to shut me down but she didn’t and asked me to go back to my bench that I shared with three others. I still remember many glittering eyes of my classmates staring at me while I tumbled through the school bags double our size blocking the narrow pathway to my bench.
At the beginning of the next period she announced that we will need to elect our house leaders and she started with the yellow house. And very softly asked the housemates if they’d like me to be their leader. I vividly remember that I couldn’t breathe for few seconds anticipating opposition from my housemates. All that one of them had to say was, “Miss, I don’t like her.” That would have been the end of my leadership pursuit even before it began. To my pleasant surprise, all my housemates nodded in agreement that they’d be just fine tolerating me as their house leader for an entire academic year.
I don’t remember how the other house leaders were elected because I was too happy to even listen or be part of those conversations. There was a certain sense of gratitude and responsibility that soon overcame my little mind. All I wanted, was to ensure that my house mates and class teacher never regretted their decision of electing me. Within a week, the badge ceremony took place and below the round yellow school badge, I had another round yellow badge that said ‘Leader’. It was the first time I had executed on a development plan, marketed myself and explained my ROI successfully. And it was a fantastic year with no trouble in my little paradise.
As I grew older, somewhere, somehow, I forgot those tenets of being the leader I was. Success meant different things at different times. Especially, after becoming a working woman I struggled few years feeling stuck, not being able to market myself, in establishing my brand, and simply being able to move my needle. Then one day, a mentor told me that I have to ask to receive. I was reminded of who I was in third grade and what I was truly capable of. Since, I have not looked back. Besides building an amazing support system not just in my personal and professional life, I was able to work towards my aspirations. Each time I invoked my third grade self, I realized my full potential.
If there is anything that I share with those who are willing to listen to my story is to never forget to go back to basics. If you feel you deserve something, prepare a business case, present the facts and explain the benefits of investing in you. At the end of the day, all we need is a Mrs. Anthony to believe you are ready for the next level. That sponsor or group of sponsors like my housemates who took the leap of faith. After nine glorious years as senior manager across various business units in the organization, I became my third grade self again recently. And I got promoted! Oprah Winfrey once said, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” That’s my truth.
I vividly remember this life transforming moment. It was just another afternoon in Junior College (equivalent to senior year of high school) when I was walking down to the bus stop with three girls who were my only friends. They were eerily walking faster than me so I couldn’t catch up to them but stopped to turn around at one point in a very cinematic manner to imperiously tell me that they will never talk to me again. And they didn’t. The next few hours that followed that rejection were turbulent, filled with self-doubt, as if someone had pushed me into an emotional chasm.
After I came home that day, I shared what happened with my mother who was my confidant and guide. Instead of empathizing about my situation, preaching me to stay away from my friends, she simply shared some of her own stories as a young adult. Growing up, she had no friends, most of her siblings couldn’t support, her parents didn’t know how to help her, and she had to build herself up. In my case, I was not alone. I had her, my first mentor. And that was my first mentoring session. She remains one of the few mentors that I haven’t outgrown.
Through meaningful lessons while still young, I had some early wins in life that many others at that age didn’t. I knew how to be my own cheerleader, build a support system with available and willing people, being impervious to negativity, and knowing how to be authentic despite adversity. By the time I was studying and living in a new country, I was sorted. Somewhere along the way, even though I missed childhood and adolescence, my advancement, both emotional and behavioral, was unparalleled. While I appreciated the tribe that backed me, I was not afraid to walk alone.
Since, I have been looking for those three friends to thank them for evoking me understand that I am more powerful than I’d known, for teaching me to “never dim my light for anyone,” for preparing me to stand alone, to write my own story, and keep those that chose me closest to my heart. Who knows what I’d have become if they didn’t spurn. This is just one example that helped me rise like the Phoenix that rose from ashes. I often remind myself in dismal situations, “Sometimes you just have to die a little inside in order to be reborn and rise again as a stronger and wiser version of you.”