Stories are Meant to be Shared


Hello! Hello! I have been missing, and that’s because April and May turned out to b
e real busy. They were full of happenings, events and collaborations. And so I had an enriching time meeting people, being inspired and then gushing about it all on social media. Amidst all these ‘gushing about’, I was faced with a dilemma: to share or not to share. But before I go to to that juncture of my narrative, let me step back and talk about the events that led me to it.

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It all began with a diplomatic event that I co-organised for my clients. And in the process, I had the privilege of meeting many strong, powerful and superbly talented women. These were diplomats, heads of organisations, Doctors, artists and professionals, who were not just talented, and confident, but were also women who believed in the power of their stories. Whenever people with passion and purpose articulate, there’s always much to learn from each view-point. I was not just inspired, but also heartened to see how stories had the capacity to reach out to people who would have never assumed what you have gone through and wouldn’t know otherwise, what your ideas are. These stories may have originated from a personal space perhaps, however, as soon as they were shared, they became a place of resource, a place to test ideas, to validate experiences and to learn. Learn, I surely did.

And on a morning, overcast with clouds, the guests arrived at the embassy, and  we celebrated 50 years of bilateral ties between Indonesia and Singapore. Along with that, we celebrated the inspiration behind Ibu Kartini of Indonesia. It reiterated the fact, that years after we are gone, our stories, our ideas and thoughts will be passed down. My sincere thanks to Indoconnect & the Indonesian Embassy for trusting me with such a beautiful and meaningful occasion.

For the second event, I had the opportunity to share my own story. This time, I was asked to share my ‘Empathy Journey’ as a mentor to teens-at-risk. This is a topic close to my heart. Nevertheless, it’s only when I began gathering my thoughts before the event, that I realised that even my own story needs introspection. I realised that empathy is not a tap to be switched on when I am mentoring or when I am volunteering, it’s a way of life  that should be a part of everything I do. I shared my epiphany, my leanings from the many inspiring people that I have met, and my learning from the many failures and successes that I have seen.

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Ted Ed @ NYGH 2017

As I shared my story, I felt grateful to have been given this opportunity to address a crowd of young impressionable students. I hoped that I left some bits of my stories behind in that glittering hall, stories that could be used as a resource, as a validation and, as a positive learning.

Eventually, I was asked: should stories be shared? I thought back to the many who would say no. And then I thought of the few powerful and inspirational ones who would say, yes. I paused and took a stand: Positive stories and positive emotions are meant to be shared. The more they are shared, the more they reach people and touch them, engulfing them in a mist of positivity. They validate a positive intention and allow a feeling of wellbeing. Asian culture frowns upon boasting. However, I have seen the stories inspire many towards positive thoughts and positive actions. Ok, so what about negative stories? That would be an interesting debate, and we shall keep it for another day. But I can safely say that some people have a knack of turning even the negative stories to a positive one. One such young lady is Aija Mayrock. The spunky author, performer and activist turned her bullying experiences towards a positive road to success. I greatly enjoyed interacting with her. Look out for her interview in my next post.

For now, keep sharing!

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Being a women means looking out for one another


350507-women-in-protestWe have just stepped out of a Women’s Day celebration and are already waiting for the next one. Just in case, you were sequestered enough from the scene, a Women’s Day is that one designated day in March, set aside by the UN to recognise women’s achievements and contributions. It’s the day the media showcases inspiring stories of  women and it’s the day social activists pledge their support to women related causes. It’s also the day when the average man on the street applauds one half of the population simply, for being a woman. Faced with a day of such multitude, we  women, do feel obliged to concur politely. After all, there’s this vague responsibility to confine to the group that we have been placed under. Women.

Historically, the first recorded Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909 in the United States and the date was not 8th of March, it was 28th of February. Women’s Day took the international status only after the Copenhagen initiative in 1911. Interestingly, the date was still not 8th of March. The date, 8th March gained importance only in 1975. The day was marked to promote the participation of women as equal partners with men in order to achieve sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. Soon after, violence against women became the prime concern and for the fourth time since 1999, the UN theme for Women’s day has shown concern for violence against women. The theme for 2013 reiterated it. “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

So, now that we women have been grouped as one, one wonders how similar are our circumstances and how similar are our stories. What is the similarity between say, Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States and the teenager in Ghana (name withheld) who is staying with a police woman because she has been abused by a stranger and thrown out of the house by her own mother? For that matter, what is the common link between Zhang Yin, one of the richest woman in China and Rajani, the Sri Lankan mom who is locked up in an Australian prison because she is deemed a security threat? Did you say nothing? Look closer.

On the surface, there may be no resemblances, no common thread that is running through their stories; no common denominator perhaps, but beneath the surface, there are undercurrents that do resemble each other. It matters not, whether their origin is the same, what matters is that they all aspire similar destination. All women, irrespective of their situation, their standing or their education have that same desire to retain their identity, celebrate their differences and have a say in their own destiny. Some of them even want to rule the world sans the male contribution, but we shall not go there now.

Do we need a Women’s Day?

American businesswoman and philanthropist, Melinda Gates thinks so. “To me, moving from ‘celebration’ to action is why Women’s Day is so important,” she says.
Actor-producer Lakshmi Manchu says, “I don’t find any need for Women’s Day because if we are trying to prove that we are different from men on this day, I find it weird. What is the need to prove that we are different from men? What is the need to declare that we are different species?”

There are many others who share the sentiment. Some argue that women have come a long way, are cared for, are holding important posts and are well-educated, hence the need for a special day should be reduced, but then privileged women are not a norm. They remain a minority and remain unable to represent a big chunk of those who lament about the hardships they face, the abuse that they have seen and the bias that exists against them.

Being a woman..

That one question garnered a range of answers.

When correspondent Rohini Parwar asked a woman on ‘India unheard’ about the best part of being a woman, the answer was without hesitation. “There’s nothing good or happy about being a woman.” Many other women across the globe agreed.

On the other hand,  Angela De Souza writes in her book, Being A Woman,  “The heart of a woman screams for romance and beauty, to be free to love extravagantly and to live intentionally.”

Answering a question on the subject, Miss Universe (1994), Sushmita Sen had famously quoted, “Just being a woman issushmita-sushmita-sen-24847350-400-388-1 God’s gift. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring, and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.” Even this answer had resonated with many women across the urban world.

Curious to know what people around me think, I posed this question to a few self- made women I know. An excerpt:

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Nomita Dhar, Editor -in-chief of Sun Media says,

“Being a woman is being powerful. Our capacity and capability is beyond a man’s imagination, especially because we have the power to bring children in to this world and nurture them. Women have many avtaars and each avtaar has its own strength.”

 

 

309284_4017747434567_510303574_nBhavani Prakash, Founder of Eco Walk The Talk says,

(Being a woman is) “a special honour conferred by the universe, to be a fountain of love, hope and compassion for her family and all of humanity. It undoubtedly comes with so much more responsibility, but the art and science of being a woman of substance, is do everything with self-effacing joy and a spirit of unconditional love.”

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Founder of Social Change in Action, Madhu Verma says,
“The most beautiful experience is being pregnant and men will never experience that, even if they have a sex change!! NOT YET. Seriously nurturing a life within you is the most amazing experience as a woman.”
Madam R, an uneducated yet self-sufficient entrepreneur says,
“Being a woman was tough earlier, but has since become easier, for at least some women. Finally, it depends on how privileged a family you are born in to.”
What does it all mean?

One thing is sure, whether we are on the privileged side of womanhood or have faced the brunt of all things unfair, we  are somehow in it together. In some way or the other; whether we want it or not, women will have to stand up for one another. Our successes will only be validated when the struggle of the women, across the whole world will reduce and then, only then, women, on the whole will thrive, will rise and will flourish. We women have to be the ones pulling ourselves up and helping each other along the way. Whether in rural India or in corporate corridors of America, the women all over have to move as one.

Exactly how do we do that?

American actress, Mae West once said that the best way to learn to be a lady is to see how other ladies do it. Great advice! We will do just that.

Update

If you have missed my March Update, here it is again…

Organisation with a heart (March feature)- HEAL, Ahmedabad

Reading list- Invisible cities by Italo Calvino & The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Movies- The Great Oscar line up

On the discussion table- Hegemony

Concern- Spike in the numbers of runaway kids.

Till next time. Stay inspired!