Panorama pic of a bird sitting on a play pen. Purpose was to depict my circumstances which prompted me to write the article. Alone yet looking ahead. The bird is brown and blue in color
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of Erasing Identities: One Name at a Time

I was introducing myself to a graduate class in an American university. I had zero orientation to the entire system! I had never been in an American classroom. Did not know how the system worked. Barely knew anyone in the class. There were two friendly people who nodded their heads at me and asked me who I was. But the class had an amazing mix of people. To this day it is hilarious how naive and scared I was. It was – fear of the unknown. If I entered a similar class today, I would drop out of the class mid-way and walk out without even explaining myself to such a class/professor.

In walks a professor in shorts and starts taking introductions of people.
[Note here that the unprofessional dressing of the professor was already shocking me. Sorry from where I come, to teach, teachers dress in formals. I am sorry if that is too much to expect at an American University].

It was my turn to introduce myself to the class. When I said my name -SriPadmini Chennapragada, almost everyone’s eyes in the class popped out in shock.

There were already a few women who had the standard, “I will not be friendly, I won’t make this brown girl feel accepted into our group” look. Then there were a few others who were clueless of my presence only. So the shocked expressions only added to the already existing discomfort that was surrounding my presence.

And to immediately feel accepted and make them feel better (which was again a pointless effort and I know better today!), I politely said,

You can call me ‘anything’

To this the professor bends down to stare in my face and jokingly said,

“If I can call you anything, then I can also call you an asshole.”

Before that day, I had never spoken to anyone who used a foul English word in their communication with me. I think I was in shock for many hours after that. I immediately recovered from my embarrassed and shocked face to say,

You can call me Sri

And that day was the first day of the next ten years of my life when erasure of my identity began. Every time someone called me Sri, I taught myself to respond. It was like learning to talk and be communicative again. When I took ‘Sri’ to my name, it was to associate my grand father’s memory with me forever. To have him with me in my journey of life. To have a part of his name first read out during all important occasions of my life when my full name was to be read mandatorily. It was to honor him at every milestone of my life and thank him for what example he set for us. From where I come, we don’t call ourselves out by the names of our ancestors that we add to our names. But at UTA, I was not allowed even 2 minutes to add that into my communication. It was shock treatment. As I write this today, I still remember the expressions of these men and women who laughed to the bad joke. I can still hear the whole class bursting out to laugh while a couple of us cringed!

That experience killed me internally and that building became a very scary place for me to go to. Six months later I left the program because it was nothing but a brick and mortar space that was delivering some technical skills. There was no education happening there!

Over the next six months, every day was a tearful scary experience. The building was stress causing. I hated my life. I questioned the reason for my existence by the end of the semester. All these were the symptoms of a root cause that I was not trained to identify back then – I was angry for someone making fun of my name (that I was taught was also connected with my spiritual identity). I was disliking seeing the people who didn’t give a damn about me changing my name in a split second. I felt like an imposter for saying my name was something else that no one in my life called me with. And it constantly reminded me that it was my grandfather’s name that was being taken to identify me (which we almost never do here at home). All that was needed was for the professor to not use ugly language and I would have just told him,

You can call me Padmini.

Over the ten years that I have travelled extensively outside India,

My name has been a conversation starter.

My name was a story to introduce people to my language and culture.

And that day in UTA, that was taken away from me because a professor landed a job in a university just because they had a PhD. No one cared to check if he was a good teacher. Nor was there a system in place to periodically check what was happening inside the classrooms. And trust me every little thing adds up. Do you still wonder why educational leadership evolved into a whole PhD in itself?

Today, at least 4 people (that I know of) who sat in that class are full-time faculty in American universities. As an educational leader if you think a webinar/workshop/2-day training is going to help them ‘learn’ to be respecting of others’ cultures, you are so wrong! I can’t imagine being a student in the classes of most of those former colleagues. What American higher education needs is more diversity in your faculty. What American higher education needs is to identify and re-school faculty members who hate the way our names sound or the dislike the food we eat.

Before I tell you why I wrote this today, let me tell you, until I left the US last year to commence field work in India, I studied in a program where a professor told me my name was hard to learn for six straight years. In a class, everyone’s last names were written up on board while explaining a concept. The list always stopped at my name. And the professor would be like, “No way! Am not spelling that out!” And my last name is only Chennapragada.

Ten years later, when I read this article about a similar incident at an American University, I am shocked but at the same time happy to note that there is enough awareness within the student community and the system to flag it as a situation that needs immediate attention.

FIVE POINTERS FOR AMERICAN PROFESSORS WHO FIND IT HARD TO LEARN FOREIGN NAMES

  1. ESSENTIAL SKILL : To address your students respectfully with their own names is an essential skill and not an optional skill that can be substituted by something else. The student will definitely feel included.
  2. PRACTICE and it takes some time daily. Invest in it and the student will better engage with you in the learning process (which will make your life and job both easy!).
  3. WRITING the name down in your own codes and symbols for pronouncing it properly (especially if you rarely interacted with foreign students before). Ask a linguist on your campus to help you (if you are embarrassed to ask the student and learn).
  4. PRINT a copy of all the names in the class prior to the day 1 and mark any names that need to be learnt. Ask the student to teach you how to say their name properly and call them out more. This will encourage a culture in the classroom that will discourage ‘invisible segregation’ that is very common inside American classrooms.
  5. DO NOT ASSUME a word sounds certain way. We all have our own languages and corresponding scripts. Most of our languages don’t fit into the confines of English language.

In conclusion, since US Universities want our monies, our diversity, our creative and out of box thinking to grow their own revenues and diversity profiles; plus you (a faculty/staff) as an employee of that US University have agreed to work for that organization, we all have to make equal efforts to learn together.

We learn to speak English and pass the TOEFL –

You will learn to call us by our own names and not ask us to pick an English name!

 
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Of Sunshine & Strength: The Category 2 People

TRIGGER WARNING:

Some ‘well-wishers’ ‘advise me’ not to write ‘posts like this’ 🙂 but you know me better than that!

In my little understanding about human life, I learnt that there are a few broad categories into which human beings can be placed (while considering how they react with the spaces and events around them).

1. Some just keep changing their course of life as obstacles and challenges keep showing up.

2. Some stick to the path no matter what the challenges are.

3. And then come the third kind who will present chameleon hues to say ‘We are smart. We adapt according to the circumstances and grow up the ladder’ (trust me — adapting is significantly different from stepping over others and enabling a discriminatory and excluding system).

How we each respond to the space and events around us is deeply internal, and influenced by a multitude of factors ranging from our upbringing to socioeconomic statuses.

For the people belonging to category 2, the small percentage of luck to survive is critical. Success is hard to get for Category 2 people, and survival becomes an every day battle to wake up to.

What we saw this past week in news of a Bollywood star’s passing, was in my opinion — him missing out on the small percentage of luck. When someone who he pushed away would have come back and insisted that they stay and watch over him. It may have needed just that much of push back from someone whose help he refused. But now, we will never know.

For many humans like him, the journey is lonely. Not many understand what they are speaking and for the insecure ones who can’t match their (Category people) brilliance, eliminating them becomes a priority task to ensure that mediocrity thrives over rare brilliance. Brilliance in my understanding always leads to change and change is hard to process for the elite few who control a system. Here is where the status quo comes into the picture.

In Bollywood they call the root cause for these selective support systems — Neopotism

In corporate workplaces, I hear many Indians broadly use the term ‘workplace politics’

In Indian sports too, ‘politics/ego clashes with administrators and top coaches’ is cited as a common reason for brilliant athletes losing the races even before competitions begin.

In academia, depending on the geographical positioning of the individual, root causes range from casteism to racial discrimination.

I have faced it. In the form of both casteism and racial discrimination. I was bloody lucky to have had people in my life back then who said —

“No matter what, we are stopping what we are doing, we are sitting with you, we are not leaving you alone while you are battling this brutality!”

This was not my blood-related family. A few years before, these people would have been strangers in my life. If I didn’t get lost in this brutal battle of discrimination, nepotism or what ever fancy terms we humans use to describe the ugly side of human behavior — that is because some strangers decided that being compassionate, and caring for a foreigner was more important for them than to appease the status quo.

We all need to educate ourselves to be more compassionate!

There is a strong need to move beyond hashtags and memes that will fight for equity and fairness. I don’t mean to undermine the efforts of individuals who are making an impact through social media content. However, many of us who are still operating under strong biases assure ourselves that by sharing ‘I Care’ content, we are absolved of our every day behaviors where we discriminate, abuse and disrespect people who are different from us in how they live their life or eat their food.

And for the Category 2 people reading this, when feeling low, it is hard to reach out for help. One needs a lot of strength to be able to reach out and ask for help.

Let me also tell you, to allow yourself to feel vulnerable by seeking help — is the hardest thing to do. But on the other side of reaching out for help —

There is sunshine. There is healing. There is growth. There is strength.

For many people who view me as an accomplished person who is living the best times of her life — I have been to the dark side. In order to not trigger other’s pain, I made a conscious decision to not speak about my struggles for sometime. But mind you, what I place on social media platforms is selective content. So that must never make anyone who reads the content feel — wow what an accomplished personal and professional life.

So this post was to tell everyone who looks at me and says to me — I am lucky. I am accomplished. I am doing great things.

I never set out to do great things. I am a curious person who always chased interesting questions involving many social science variables. But what you see came to me at a cost. And I don’t ever want that for anyone in my life.

Having said that, I will conclude this post with what a friend once said to me:

Adi, why am I like this?

He simply said,

“Padmini, you are an authentic person. There are no two sides to how you present yourself in any sutuation. And today’s world is rarely like that. So don’t change. But learn to protect yourself while you stay authentic!”

My Category 2 peers, don’t be afraid to be judged. Just reach out for help. Pick the phone. Show up at a door unannounced. Don’t walk away from asking help. Some day you will discover the power in developing that habit when survival is the need of the hour.

And some day you will save many more lives by just being you and sharing the story of your survival.

Padmini seen here in a white and green salwar kameez and also wearing a matching face mask. She is  smiling while looking into the camera with a balcony herb garden and  colorful wind chimes in the background
Dressing in Style when your mom is bored during the COVID-19 lockdown 2.0

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The VIllage

#1 TheVillage: One Hard Push to Walk Away

An year ago, on 27th of June, I experienced a life incident that I believe has changed me permanently as a person (pray to God and hope that it has changed me to become a better human :P). It has significantly impacted how I view, understand and experience life as a woman, higher education professional and as a person advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in India.
While the incident in itself is not positive enough to be narrated on my blog, it is important for you all to know that I persisted and I made it through that day and many days after that day.
During the last 365 days of my life, I have for a number of hours experienced a plethora of emotions and struggles just to be able to stick to the plans I and others have made for me to succeed personally and professionally. And there was one day a few months later (after June 2017) when I could turn the tide over things to gather some control on my situation.
I was sitting in the middle seat of a long flight and on my left side sat a middle aged American woman. She was impeccably dressed. I had cried for over two hours by then and by the time the flight began to take off, she had already given me her handkerchief and was trying to find a way to calm me as I sat and cried uncontrollably. My tears and nasal secretions were all over her hands as she held my left hand in a clasp and didn’t let go (And let me tell you, in the US it is a huge beeping deal for someone to actually be ‘that’ human. For example, when you sneeze twice and people around you will already be almost thinking of masks to protect themselves – it is that bad in some places. On a funny side, there are people like us Indians who are like ahh! I don’t care). Let me tell you by then she didn’t know my name or my problem. Initially I sat in my seat, wore my eye mask and was crying quietly. After I could stop crying she continued holding my hand and said, “What ever is running in your mind right now or your brain is telling you right now, trust me it will not feel desirable tomorrow. The pain gets lesser as more days pass between the incident and your present!” Then she continued to narrate to me about her own situation that led her to walk away from something that she was associated with for 17 productive years! But in telling me her story, she shared two precious lessons with me.
It is okay to walk away from something even if it turns all odds against you if you have to preserve yourself!
Not often times in life ‘walking away’ is presented as an option. But when you look at an excruciating situation in life, sometimes, not fighting and bowing out is an excellent option. By closing one door through which you are trying to survive a painful experience, you may be preserving yourself to walk through another door that needs to be held open for others to follow you. This is not spoken of as a practical and relevant skill. Especially in the Indian context, walking away from anything is like you are hanging out your family’s pride out to dry and die in scorching heat (yes, I also understand at times, walking away is not an option for some people and my heart goes out for them!). I was privileged to have parents whose arms I could run into and say, “Take me home, I cannot do this anymore!” I have come to identify that as a person of many privileges compared to my peers, I have to utilise my privilege as a power to stay put in a situation that pushes me towards failing.
No matter what the external help sources are, there is a point of time when you have to push yourself the hardest to get out of a quicksand or quagmire that you are stuck in.
While she was telling me her story, she told me what helped her. And she asked me to try it for myself. She said, “I want you to get up every morning and say to yourself loudly, – I am taking away from you the power of affecting me any more as I recognise that you hurt me with your actions and behaviours! You say this sentence everyday like every other ritual you do. Say it loudly and watch yourself say it” – Being the person that I am, despite the grief I was feeling, I still found it in my heart to think it was a very lame sounding suggestion. I nodded my head blankly but the lines stayed in my mind. 
A couple of weeks later, after yet another triggering incident, I was angry and looked at myself in my car’s mirror and said the lines out loud (without a pause of thought and of course in Telugu!) and suddenly felt a sense of relief crawl through the back of my neck muscles (which I had been trying to release through yoga, manual therapy and you name what!). The woman’s words were imprinted in my mind and I wasn’t even conscious of them until another wave of hurt and pain came over me and I was sitting my car thinking, “What next?” And suddenly I felt capable to make a plan B.
Did the lines solve the problem I was facing? No
They solved nothing except that they helped me hear my own voice saying that I was not to continue blaming myself for everything that was happening. Most of the situations of discord that we experience in our life come from situations when one/one group of the humans in that interaction are rendered fully powerless. Her lines gave me a voice. In a powerless situation where I felt muted, her lines made me realise that I still had my voice to talk to myself and push myself ahead towards success.
When any human being succeeds personally or professionally, we must remember to look beyond them and see who are the people nudging these humans forward. In respect for every person who nudged me forward every time I took a back-step in fear or failure, I want to tell you about TheVillage that raised me. TheVillage that lives beyond country borders where I lived and continue to live.
TheVillage that stays put to propagate human values which continue to diminish within our communities because we are all in a blind race towards success.
And my first TheVillage story starts with this anonymous lady who was brave to share her life story with me and tell me that, “We live to fight another day!”
P.S: Many well-wishers from India continue to tell me that I should not write about life lessons so openly as it may affect my future in many ways (Multiple words: first word starts with J and last word ends with E! *Facepalm*).
My response: The first problem with current human societies is the illusion of aspiring to live an error and shortcoming free human life to achieve success. And I’m not a subscriber to that style of life. While I was not raised in an environment where there was supreme emphasis on being the ‘perfect kid’ who was always the over achiever ( I have many Indian friends who are victims of such parenting), I was in a learning environment where being less than perfect was not welcome. Yet here I am today doing what I can do. While I understand the advise to not speak about my weaknesses or challenges comes from a good place, I cannot accept to follow it. In writing openly about the ‘imperfections’ that are woven into my being, I am able to accept my failures more positively than ever before. And I owe this lesson to that woman who spend two hours of her life talking sense into my hurt mind that day in 2017. 
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NIDIA 24: Thirty years and then that one day..

When: 1 AM,October 28th, 2017

Where: Aboard AA 2311

My Uber driver today (from the hotel to airport) was a former professional boxer who proudly told me he was a first-generation immigrant and he loves coaching young kids. There are times in life when you start talking to strangers (in buses and airports) and realize you agree with some of their opinions about life. J is one of those people from my life. J kept talking and I suddenly felt an incomplete circle of thoughts in my brain complete itself.

Today it is 31 years since I was blessed to be born into this beautiful world. As I sit and type these words out thousands of feet from above the earth, I remember J and another conversation from earlier today that pushed me out of my slumber as a NIDIA. Also here I want to tell you why this post is very important for me to write. For several weeks now, battling through a personal crisis, I have stayed away from talking to every good friend I had (like literally. If you know me, and then I tell you I have become a silent person, that can tell you volumes I guess). I showed up for family events because family is one thing that grounds me and gives me the hope to keep moving ahead in life. Sometimes it is blood related, sometimes it is not. And it is hard to stay sad for a really long time when you have a family that will not quit until they see you laugh a lot. You take advantage of that blessing and hang in there so that you can preserve that humane side in you to pay it forward. It has now come to a point where I am overwhelmed by the concerned messages I receive from people everywhere and all that I do is flip through them not knowing what to say. So this communication is very important for me to tell you all that I am okay and am recovering.

Several weeks back, at work, I was assigned the task to read a book that one of the professors I work for had authored. I was to help create supporting imagery for a research project presentation. Click here if you wonder what I do at work.  I remember that week of the assignment. I had walked into my work supervisor’s room several times that week expressing my disbelief on how much that book’s content was making me uncomfortable and unhappy. What no one knew was that assignment made me sick in my stomach. It was hard to be reading the book and not connecting with it multiple times.  What no on knows is that I cried multiple times that week because of everything I read in it. You may be wondering, “Well wait, you call yourself a non-immigrant Padmini, this book is on immigrants! Not adding up?!”

When you live thousands of miles away from the home in a place where every day, apart from studying, working, staying healthy, a considerable amount of effort also goes into ‘fitting in’, you have to be careful. Careful to not let the process get to your nerves. Careful to not let someone tell you that you are not good enough to be among them. Reading Dr. Stewart’s book made me realize that no matter how much I want to deny it, I have lived some parts of those lives described in that book. I have struggled through some of those challenges. I have undergone similar micro-traumas like those immigrant students did in their lives. And over the time, they have only accumulated onto my mind. And my struggle was to keep going no matter what – to not let the dream die. There are some people in my life currently who are championing for me to gather my strength and nerves to move forward in my life. But mental health is complicated. In a common man’s language, broken spirit is hard to heal. No matter how best it can be restored, will a broken porcelain dish pieced together by the best expert in the world be the same as the one that has never been broken? Or as some may argue, will the viewer’s perspective decide if the patches make the mended one even more beautiful? Regardless of the point of view whatsoever, the key questions to ask for me are:

Do we have those best technicians available to us for mental health?

What is the best glue to piece a broken spirit together?

C, I know you told this to me before. But today, when I heard the same analogy from another woman, I felt a sense of calm in my heart.

Would just one average intensity poke on someone’s shoulder hurt the same as hundreds of pokes at the same spot on the shoulder for a really long period of time? If a person with Spinal Cord Injury came to you, what would you say to them? Would you talk to them the way you are talking to yourself? Think about it, would you be so unkind to them as you are being to yourself? Oh, or is it because their pain is visible and yours is not visible to the eye?

As someone told me earlier this week, “Sri, you do you first!”  Seldom will we have an opportunity to sit across the table from leaders who will look you in the eye and say that to you. You take care of yourself first and then worry about the rest. I remember them also telling me this. “Sri, if you take all the inner dialogue that you have and make it into a person and let them stand beside you, you wouldn’t be able to stand that person for one moment. We need to teach ourselves when to not hear to it.” This is the most profound sentence I have heard in the last sixty days of my life. This birthday, yet another blessed day when I got to be with my family, I made a decision to be kind and compassionate to myself first. And that also I will seek help as much as I need and won’t shame myself for asking help. I wrote this post for many reasons. Some of them are:

  • I am okay and I am keeping to myself. One of these days, I hope to find the glue that will fix the broken porcelain that I am today.
  • I have talked to many of my friends over the years who discussed with me the shaming that surrounds taking time to heal (I know everyone doesn’t have that option but for ones who have the privilege, don’t disregard it. Use it and help someone because it makes you stronger). Especially when you are on track to achieve a ‘goal’. I want to let everyone reading this to know that we cannot shame/silence the help seekers. Nor can we say that seeking the help of a psychologist is a sign of weakness. It is a science and like any profession, there are greatly knowledgeable people working in the field and then there are the others. So educating ourselves about it before shaming someone seeking help is important.
  • We cannot normalize a person’s suffering as a process of toughening them up for life. If I have a rupee every time I heard this sentence in my 8-full time years as a student, I would not have needed a humongous education loan from SBI.
  • We cannot negate or devalue a person’s human experience because they have put up a brave and dignified presence always. I write this point particularly because in the last sixty days I had people say to me things like, “Oh! You are so successful, you are so capable. You are such an achiever!” Some of them may have some truth to it. The fact is, I am not. Keeping in line with my desire to share only positive stories or life lessons on this blog, I never wrote about the experiences that have severely challenged me as a non-immigrant in this country. The experiences that made me feel very low and worthless. Disregarding the pain of being treated like that is what led me where I am today. Also I wrote this post because my mom says if in her younger days she had a way to express her views like this, she would have shared her life lessons with more people around her. She says when I can write my thoughts down, I should put them to good use.

Thousand miles away from where I call home, I found comfort in the questions that two women asked me about who I am ( I guess that is why I am drawn to qualitative research and interviews. The beauty of this form of research is: within its principles, every voice counts, every story matters). While there are many loved ones that care for me, pray for me and have positive thoughts for me everyday, meeting these champions made me realize that I lack compassion for myself. So as I turn 31 and am trying to bounce back from this crisis, I want to request all of you who read this to:

Be respectful of any pain you face in life. Don’t tell yourself it is okay to get a ‘little’ hurt in the process. No hurt/pain is little. It only keeps layering more pain onto itself. That is the complexity that surrounds our human minds.

No goal/desire in life should take you to the point of choosing between loved ones that care for you and success that may kill your inner joy (that success becomes pointless if you become a mean person in that process).

It is okay not to be able to fit in everywhere we go.

You do not know what great hope and joy meeting you brought to my life C & K! To keeping the promises and making every day count with self-care and compassion for myself. Thank you for the laughs and sharing your stories.

Karin Korb on the left in a black top, Padmini in the center wearing a  white Kashmiri kurti with colorful embroidery and Candace on the right wearing an elephant grey t-shirt. All the three women are smiling their hearts out while looking into the photograph. In the background is an open air drinks bar at a hotel with two uniformed bartenders on scene.

Note: To all the junglees of my life who will text me jokes about the porcelain dish comparisons, I will personally come to beat y’all up 🙂 Please don’t! Is emotional post pe kachra math karo kameeno *hugs*

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NIDIA 22: Tears, Therapy and Truth

Over the years, I have faced a lot of backlash for my thoughts and ideas that take me forward in life. From the day I could see how surgeons can revive a dying patient on an operating table to the day I saw a child with severe spastic cerebral palsy take ten steps during gait training without a break: one thing became clear to me. Individuals with disabilities and challenges that concern their everyday health have always been redefining how we relatively look at success and failure. Across all domains. They have forever now been challenging societal stereotypes about succeeding in a task or failing to succeed in a task. History is the witness to who were observing, listening or cheering.
 
Watching beautiful stories, countless of them from the sidelines, sometimes being a minute part of these efforts, it is a job satisfaction that can never be described in words.
 
My last physical therapy case as a physiotherapist was a young stroke victim (38 years old) with right side hemiplegia. He was originally from Rayalaseema. He was also undergoing other treatments during the same time. I particularly state this here because I want many of my non-rehabilitation profession friends and family to know a fact.
Recovering from an illness, rehabilitation after accidents, re-training to handle a sudden disability: all these processes are complex and need so much help. It is never just one service provider.
One of the very common things you will see happen in countries like India is, rehabilitation services that families strive to provide for their loved ones often times include a spiritual component. And he was a believer in the help his parents were bringing to him from a spiritual perspective. And I think that is why working with him has left an indelible impression of my mind. How he was motivated to heal and was willing to stay involved. Often times it is so much dependent on the individual.
 
In about 10 days I think:
  • He progressed from not being able to hold the pen to being able to hold the pen.
  • From not remembering me to remembering every morning that I was his PT and that my name started with either P or B (even though he couldn’t yet write them down).
  • From needing full support to take a few independent steps to being able to stand up from a chair independently.
  • From tearing up every time I helped him hold a spoon to laughing out loud every time he dropped it down and I had to collect the glass beads back.
For someone like me who was trying very hard to heal from a terrible time in that college, working with him was the best thing to have happened to me then. I will never say he inspired me. I hate to apply that term to his situation or any other rehabilitation scenarios. His effort and the pain he battled everyday to make it through each session, they are indescribable. Nothing is inspiring when you see a person struggling every breath to take a step or to lift a small wooden block. For people who are really involved in their work as rehabilitation specialists, those are what I call the gut punch moments. The real moments when you are constantly reminded to not do a lousy job (because you had an annoying drive to work and for reasons like that) because someone’s ability to eat independently or self-care without dependence in future is solely relying on the chance that your care and training will be helpful to them.
 
Today I went through one of those evenings where you sit in open cold and you cry your heart out! You cry because that is the best thing you can do for yourself and that is only thing in your control. 15 minutes into the crying, face in my hands, palms wet with tears, I see his face when we last time said bye byes. I remember so well. He held my hands in both his hands and kept patting them while talking. He said to me, “You don’t know how much these few days will always mean for me in my life. You have the ability to be patient with people like me. You should continue to do the good work that you have learnt after all these years in college. Your problems will vanish someday. So choosing to leave the profession because of what people did to you because of politics is a wrong decision. And anytime you want to give up, remember my face and tell yourself that he will not appreciate it”
 
Why I wrote this today:
Social media was thrust upon our lives with no advance notice. It has now become a big part of our lives. For someone like me, I very carefully choose what I post on my social media (primarily because I don’t want to pain people with the challenges I have to face like everyone else). There have been several days like this in my #GradLife so far. When I have felt completely alone as the only Indian women ever to be here doing what I have done so far. So don’t ever assume that what I am trying to learn here has been easy so far. It is not as rosy as it looks on the social media. In extreme situations when possibilities for success look bleak, I remember his therapy days and ask myself.
Is it harder than the therapy days he persisted through for progress?
The obvious answer I hear my mind give me is NO.
 
The amount of kicking and screaming I have done to life every time I faced a challenge will blow everyone’s minds. Over the years the way I have been defining success and failure in my life have changed. The seeds for those thoughts though, were sowed during those therapy days when I worked with that young man from Rayalaseema.
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