Humble advisory – if you are looking for something deep, inspirational, soul-crushing, heart-wrenching type of story, this probably is not the right place to be. But if you are looking for an observational analogy, well you just might have come to the right place!
What did you do in the formative 13 years of your lives?
Anything worth-while or interesting?
Well, I spent all those years cramped in an old British building with people from a single-sex. We were all girls, to be perfectly clear. Like any other situation, it had its pros and cons. I don’t know if it was the convent sisters or the charm of the old school building or the “90’s vibe” that turned us into the millennials with old souls. But the curiosity of studying with boys in the same classroom was always present in the back of our minds. So we did the next best thing; we wrote to them. Oh! The excitement of those handwritten letters and sneaking around, were the rituals we grew up with. The school was a one-of-a-kind journey.
There were no regrets. Only mistakes!
Next came college, and apparently, not a lot of boys were interested in design as a career choice. Therefore, our college only had a hand full of them. Nevertheless they were there; I got the much-desired taste of co-education. Being in such a setup throughout, I was mostly surrounded by women.
My school had only 3 male teachers throughout. I clearly remember how my English teacher (a woman) taught and delivered stories and sonnets. She did it with such vigor that it ignited love for Shakespeare inside me and the next thing I saw myself doing was being all poetic, or at least I thought so. It was later that I met this girl in college who read whatever that came her way. From classic literature to marvels fan fiction to the theory of general relativity – she devoured it all and vomited it on me whenever she got a chance. It always amazed me as to how someone could read so much and actually understand all of it. Her curiosity inspired me.
Drenched in pride, I sat down to write my ode to all these amazing, awe-inspiring, warrior women around me who have inspired me in different phases of my life, right from my mother and sister to my friends, colleagues, bosses, faculties of India Fellow and Tamarind Tree women. Each one of them is special in her own way. Halfway through my writing, while recollecting these blurred stories, men started popping up with their tales, the ones who had equally inspired me.
Disappointing? Ah! What a thing to say in this world of misunderstood feminism.
But to your and my disbelief, it turned out men had played an equal role in inspiring me through different phases of my life. Right from my father who works really hard, to that crazy design faculty who spoke of his abstract thoughts with such clarity, to an alum living his life to the fullest by walking on a two-inch slack-line and a recent addition to the list – another man who blew my mind with his thoughts about his work, his confidence and firm beliefs. I had never crossed paths with someone who had such lucidity.
Suddenly, my thoughts took a sharp turn. I realized that every one has their own set of struggles. But this piece is not about those struggles but about celebrating the journeys that have made us who we are, as individuals and as a whole unit. Learning from each other, and about each other is how we move forward as a society. Or am I just an entitled millennial?
Being strong was never the only option in the face of hardships for me; I would like to think that it was a conscious CHOICE.
It is not always about being another Malala Yousafzai or Mahatma Gandhi. Just by looking deeper, I’m sure we will find ourselves being the strongest in some way or the other. The next time you meet someone may turn out to be an important person or a conversation may end up inspiring you. I’m always on a lookout for inspirational struggles and stories. Remember we are observant enough to look for meaning in what we lack in ourselves.
A teacher of mine once said to me, “be with a friend who inspires you” and the fact of the matter is that I am blessed to have a lot of strong people around me, from the sabzi wali tai* who is persistent to sell her vegetables to this boy in the school who sits quietly under the chikoo** tree working with sheer dedication. Almost every day, I stumble upon one such person and this is an ongoing process.
Keep being yourself and keep inspiring people like me. When you get better, in turn, I get better!
*Female Vegetable Seller
Such a good read Rupali. You definitely have inspired me and I am sure a lot of other people too. The smile, confidence, down to earth attitude that you carry has definitely impressed me.
Very well reflected and written Rupali. Long way to go, reflector!
Hail reflectors! 👻
While this is a good topic, would have liked to hear the stories – like who are these men, what was it that they did to inspire. For now, its more like trying to follow your thoughts … and while i read it, i am not sure i have understood it. In short, more elaboration would help!
Thanks for your feedback Anupama. More elaborate blog can be done on this now. Will think how to put it up