Over the years, growing up in a diaspora, I was surrounded by conservative Indian culture and open minded American culture. I saw gender roles daily, yet I learned possibilities. Most people who know me now always say how they remember me as a shy child who was so quiet. They are surprised how I grew up to be assertive and adventurous. To be fair..I did climb trees as a child! Anyway, they say how they are most surprised how I can travel solo as a female. Other females tell me they are too scared or afraid of getting bored. Honestly, I have never once been bored in my solo travels. I make friends easily, and I became best friends with other travelers from different continents as well as locals. I never felt unsafe. I feel more scared in my own city sometimes. This blog is about inspiring and sharing my experiences because I broke out of traditional stereotypes of being an Indian woman, and found my niche.
How did I get there? Be strong. Filter out what others say. One of my old fav songs.. kuch to log kahenge, logo ka kaam hai kehna, chodo bekaar ki baaton mein kahi, beet na jaaye raina. People will talk, let them, forget useless things, don’t let these moments pass. Growing up, I was taught to not pray when on my period, come on! Who dictates me relationship with God? Not anyone but me. I learned how oppressive my culture can be in the name of blind faith. I broke that status quo after years of being ashamed of my own body and most natural human processes such as menstrual cycle aka how the human race still exists on this planet. I learned to empower other young girls in India teaching classes on their body and health as a new nurse 7 years ago.
One step to another. If I could empower other girls, why not keep pushing myelf to grow and develop new skills, I thought. Afterall, personal growth is so important! News flash, even the Hindu holy book, Bhagvad Geeta, my fav book, talks about the same concept. My spirituality led me to push myself out of my comfort zones and break barriers. I knew my God, best friend, is with me, and I took off with a backpack and backpacked across Europe! Family tried to stop me. Friends thought I was crazy. People said what if something happens? Why don’t you join a tour group, so you are not alone? I said, I trust myself and can take care of myself. A petite barely 5ft woman took her weight on her shoulders, literally my 10 pound bookbag, with 3 weeks of essentials, and boarded the plane for London. I had the best experiences with my 1st long hiking in Italy, to paragliding in Switzerland, I concured one fear after another. My fear of heights.. bye bye. There has been no turning back. Once you break the shell and box, you keep growing. I dedicated my youth to breaking stereotypes of how women in my family and culture, not to generalize, but from my experience, were told to be quiet, submissive, cook all day, clean all day, take care of everyone but themselves, rely on men, not be financially independent or career driven, and give up dreams and goals to fit into the society of a typical Indian woman aka from the 1950s. I decided that being forced to fast as a 5 year old girl for being a girl..no other reason while my older brother ate in front of me is not the type of value I will pass to next generation. Instead, lead by example. When people tell me they want their daughters to be like me or they want to get over their fears, I tell them courage and independence are values worth striving for. Not easy, but worth it. Best things in life are not things.. anything worth having, you have work for and push boundaries and status quo, be it in your family, own mindset, or the society.