It is almost 2019, and I am so blessed for life and faith. My faith and adversities have made me the woman I am today, far from the shy, passive, and reserved little girl who used to be walked on in the name of “tradition” or “culture.” I reflect back on the last 10 years of how I managed to transform from that girl to this woman. The shy nursing student walking into a patient’s room with her instructor saying you are too quiet, you need to speak up, to the outgoing nurse practitioner that has done mission trips in different continents and had patients tell her they will miss her if she leaves the family practice. I did leave for the sake of other reasons, but I make friends with my colleagues and learn people’s life stories within 15 minutes of their visit. People open up to me saying they can share what they do not with others, something about a therapeutic aura that makes me a healthcare provider. I went from people pointing fingers on my personality being too shy to traveling the world with friends from hundreds of cities. I went from being told by my family, because I am a girl, I cannot do yoga camp in Rishikesh, to traveling India alone to Banaras and Kerala. From my family telling me I cannot go to the best Masters in Public Health Program in the world, Johns Hopkins University, despite being admitted part of the 1% admission rate, to working with NGOs and doing my own public health service in the world.
Women are kept from achieving their goals and dreams for the mere fact of being a female. I witnessed girls being left at a riverbank in India, babies, because of orthodox Indian “traditions” of wanting boy child. I volunteered at that same orphanage and vowed to be a strong role model and help girls and women achieve their goals. I know men who are scared to travel alone, and women, but I captured fear in my hands and let it go! I am my own bodyguard and have similarly met 100s of other women who break gender stereotypes and represent bravery, courage, and wisdom to seek opportunities to grow. Somehow, I end up making friends when I travel and am never truly alone.
I learned to always believe in myself, even if others do not, because I live with the consequences of my actions. I saw how women were and are treated as sub par, or like maids. I see how women are made to sacrifice their whole lives and fulfilling careers made of sweat, blood, and sleepless nights, to be a mold of status quo. It is all a choice of what makes one happy and fulfilled in life. I, for one, am blessed to have a career that lets me use my knowledge to help others and save lives, which I take as my calling and prayer to God. I have seen how women in my family did not get to go to college, or their college degree was just to look nice on paper which no use of it. I make it a point to be strong for my nieces, to look up to.
Another thing on my mind recently as I am very blunt with no filters is the topic of joint families. This whole concept is based on patriarchy from when women did not work and only served the home, to the men bringing money to pay bills. It is based in India and many cultures in the world. I have noticed how it is seen as a birth right and acceptable for men to live with their parents and women to give up her whole life, to be a oppressed and submissive wife and maid really. I have seen how this has turned the strongest women into depressed souls with no life, career, independence, privacy, or hobbies of their own, breaking ties with their own families and best friends. This was the norm back in the day when women were raised to be passive and cook and clean all day, and bear children, and tend to her in laws. I was shocked to discover this still goes on. I question tradition that oppresses women in any way, subtle, or not. Women are not born to be submissive and not have a mind and opinion. In this generation, women and men should be equal, especially considering women can do everything men can and vise verse except the genetic fact that men cannot give birth or continue the human race. Women have to put up with harassment and discrimination in workplace, home, then what type of life is that? She is basically abused due to patriarchy and male egos. The notion of joint families represents men not having to leave the comfort of their childhood homes, and live with their parents, not having to change one thing but adding a roommate. On the other hand, the woman makes sacrifices being uncomfortable and feeling like living like a child being controlled by traditions and in laws which leads to breakdown, depression, and so much agony for the woman, no matter how educated or financially independent she is to buy her own house with her partner. The men benefit, and the women suffer unless there are many compromises and limits of boundaries. I can write a book on the cases of women suffering I have seen. Ignorance and bigotry are dangerous breeding grounds for anxiety and depression, which is a growing epidemic in this world, and I have witnessed and cared for so many cases. What about a woman and her aging parents. What about a woman and her mother’s battle with cancer, or father’s battle with lay off. What about a woman being the breadwinner of the household and taking care of the two people who gave her life and instilled faith in her. What about the woman who works hard so her parents don’t have to worry in their retirement. I learned that to be a woman of God and strength, as Hindu religion Amba mata represents, or Greek goddess Athena, I have stick to my ideals of becoming a better version of myself day by day, and not revert back to the shy timid passive girl. Once a mind has been opened, through traveling the world, it cannot be closed again. Wings are grown to fly, not clipped to be tied down by orthodox beliefs. I strive to give woman to follow their dreams and stand up for themselves.