Fighting for the Truth as an ‘ABPD’

As all of you know, I am an ‘ABPD’- American Born Proud Desi. I have been a part of various organizations all of which are non-profit and had my share of experiences with each…only to realize, in some cultural organizations, it is difficult for us ‘ABPD’ kids to really have a voice in matters regarding, well, us. This I believe is partially due to the generation gap…

Cultural organizations such as the one(s), I was a part of brings a sense of our traditional roots here in the melting pot of America. To see many of these organizations take initiative to kick-start and bring to life various philanthropic, humanitarian efforts brings a sense of community and hope to mankind. I am especially touched when I hear cultural organizations working to unite the young generation and the old, along with working together with other similar organizations for the betterment of a country. (In our case, Kerala, India.)

I would consider myself a survivor of many battles, and not the typical kind people would think of. Mental battles- battles which have been inflicted purposefully utilizing emotions and distasteful words as weapons. Battles without a true purpose, but to gain stature for a momentary lapse in time.

I had mentioned initially that this blog is to be a place for my rants and rambles, also a place for truth, and after a recent international convention, I felt it was time to fight back…

Before being a nomad traveler, I was settled (born and brought up), in Seattle, Washington, also to be known as the Evergreen State. The place itself is gorgeous with its four luscious seasons. It was a place of many firsts- from my first steps, to my first dance recital/arangetram, high school graduation, college graduation, etc. – it was home.

But soon, that home turned to be a place which I grew a distaste for…

Being a south Indian, that too, a Malayalee, I grew up to be a part of various organizations in Seattle that claimed to embrace and cultivate our community. There was one particular non-profit organization which my family and myself were quite immersed in. We held various board positions- and that too, for me being born and brought up here in America, to hold a board position, let alone interest for the cultural organization was something rare. We were devoted members for 16 years, and in those 16 years, there was never an event where my performance was not scheduled nor a year which we went without taking a membership. It was how I was able to grow a love for my Kerala roots and realize my passion for dance and the arts, they were my platform…for that, I am thankful towards them…

I grew into various positions such as the Students Wing Leader, 2-time Youth Representative, Committee Member, and penultimately Joint Secretary. I recall that year vividly. I was excited to hold that position and more than ready to help the association grow, especially when it came in terms with the youth activities, but some people sought to extinguish my fire of passion for this organization…

There were many tell-tale signs that several people did not like the fact that an ‘ABPD’ like myself was on the board, but I chose to ignore them, for the sake of the organization and its reputation… It so happened that the first event of the organization, was the day that I walked out on it- quite literally.

I was primarily in charge of the event that was being hosted by the organization that year and devoted those weeks leading up to the event to make sure everything would run smoothly, but it so happened that wasn’t the case. The scene which took place was public shaming, and that too from an individual whom I had once respected since childhood.

I was shut down completely, trampled upon, and various accusations have come following after this, such as me slapping them  and said foul words towards them.  (both which I never have done, and for people who actually know me, will back me up on). A ‘meeting’ was held to seek a ‘mutual understanding,’ but that never was the case- it was ‘too minute, and too trivial a matter,’ and I never was given the chance to speak on the events that happened that day on my behalf. Had anyone been in my stand; working tirelessly for a NON-PROFIT while going to college full time, managing a dance institution, work, etc. only to get everything shut down without so much as any sincerity towards you as well as your family member, in public, what would you have done…?

I write only to clear some portion of the rumors that have been spread about me, saying that I have an attitude problem is one thing, but to say other nonsensical, ridiculous points about me is another. At least if you try to spread a rumor about me, make it believable.

Now…this is only the first instance of many via this particular organization, but, I vow to clear up as many notions put against my name along with my family and friends. This isn’t merely a rant, but to take a stand for individuals like myself growing up within such spiteful organizations. Many of our community leaders have wondered why our generation isn’t getting into Malayalee/Cultural indigenous organizations (both local and national) …well, here’s your answer- cheap, dirty politics.

After I had walked out on that particular organization, I had attained the privileged title of Miss India Washington. I was the only Malayalee contestant to have competed and have won, which one would assume, (and was quite often asked), whether the state of Washington’s Malayalee organization commended the honor- and I had to awkwardly say no every time. I was appreciated in many other states, even my city in Kerala, India-Kottayam, but not the community in my state. It was disheartening, yes, but it only made me determined to make sure this never happens to another individual…

It was recently where I was encouraged by a strong, lively, empowered team to speak up on behalf of the Malayalee youth community on a national level. Hearing their vision, I was inspired, and motivated to bridge the gap between our ‘ABPD’ youth and our senior generation, so I, along with my friends took the risk of stepping into national level…

All was seemingly well, and from various voices we spoken to, we received a positive, hopeful response, yet-I once again witnessed backstabbing in it’s fullest form. Only this time, it happened to people I care about. To see their genuine hard-work, vision, come falling down was heartbreaking… All for what…a mere title?

Religion, partiality, unholy alliances, lobbying- this is not how a cultural non-profit should be run. In fact, lobbying in general is not even allowed. “No organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation . A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”  Simply trying to win against someone at any cost is a lost opportunity anyhow…

It is rather unfortunate to see communities, especially ones which have traditional roots tied to them come down to such low levels such as this… Rather than fight to bring talented individuals down, work with them and nurture them into something beneficial for the community… To be a victim to such behaviors, to see my closest friends succumb to such acts brings a sense of disparity, but I know, if confronted, if fought back in the right manner- not only will change happen, but a unity amongst community as well…  If you  want to be a genuine, honest intellectual, first learn to respect and embrace all sides as though it were your own. If you claim to uplift the youth and want to bring them into the community aspirations (especially cultural),  humanitarian/philanthropic efforts, start by incorporating them into the team as a respected individual.




Female Misrepresentation In The Media

We look left and right, and what do we see? We see ads, we hear ads, it has become part of our daily routine and second skin. Have we as people ever really analyzed what the media portrays in front of us?

If we look at what is show cased on television today, we see a handful of shows with a male protagonist, and a female love interest, but we also see a handful of shows with a strong female character. One show in particular, to which I could identify somewhat with was Quantico. It stars international, South Indian, Bollywood entertainer Priyanka Chopra, a lady to which I admire these days. What society has taught us that typically, this would be a bold step in for any ‘brown skinned girl’ or a girl of color- yet Chopra states, that she doesn’t feel this is anything out of the ordinary.  She states when asked the question whether she felt she crossed any boundaries,

     ” I don’t know if it’s the right thing to say or not, but I believe we’ve created borders with too many colors. I don’t like [when people say], It’s a great time for women of color.” No, I’m just a woman. Black, brown, white, yellow — why are we always talking about colors? I’m a girl. I believe in a global community…. And if I can quote Robin Thicke, I believe in blurred lines. Entertainment is entertainment, cast the right person for the job. Let’s get beyond looking at each other for where we come from.”

She creates a strong point for women who are considered the ‘minority’ in the media. We, as ladies really should not be considered anything less than what we are- which is a human the being.

Yet, the media doesn’t seem to bring this thought. Men are considered the ‘alpha’, the stronger, powerful, the people who have their s*** together, who have that trophy wife, and who is just the dominant of anything. Women, are to consider themselves weak, and unreliable, to always scrutinize themselves, and see themselves as imperfect, to continuously look for ways to make ourselves ‘better.’

The characteristics that define a man typically go as follows: logical, fearless/strong, tough, ambitious, brave, aggressive, rational, financial provider, etc. What is described to be a man is to basically, be the dominant of any situation. Cultures, especially our own tend to privilege one ‘type’- when it comes to the sexes, it will always be male. When it comes to how the media portrays masculinity, there is always a pattern, whether it be the Hero vs Villain, or US vs Them, which leads to the Good vs Evil narrative. This is a common theme in most media television, movies, ads, etc. and whether we realize it or not, this cultural context affects how we see men. It corresponds with politics, to our day to day lives, to how we are hired, to what we fantasy in our ideal partner.

We as audiences, I feel, unless really educated or keen in learning about how the media affects us, don’t really seem to bother with the effects of it. It is great entertainment and a time pass, as well as makes for great conversation. Going back to my reference to Quantico, there are male figures in the show- actually a variety of them. We are shown the typical ‘definition’ of a male-strong, bold, tough, with a little stubble, muscular/toned, then we are also shown the jock type, smooth with his words, easy going on the eyes, and also the nerdy/geeky, scrawny type- the one where the average girl wouldn’t really take to too much notice, of course, there is also the dominant ‘alpha male’ as one of the superiors. Yet, because this is to be a female oriented show, there is also a diverse group of females, one being Chopra, the not-so-typical heroine, with her ensemble cast beside her, with the superior/boss as a lady. The ladies of the show all show male characteristics, this could be because of the story line (being that they all are training to be FBI agents), yet even so- they are somewhat underrated.

Misogyny in the media is so, so very common. With several of the articles that I had done research on, all seem to critique the shows for poor performance and lack of a story. This makes me wonder had it been an American girl portraying the role of Chopra-would they be talking along such lines? What if it was a guy? A particular article with, title was ”C’mon Priyanka, You Can Do Better than Quantico.” What does this mean exactly? Why are people so harsh on girls, especially ones who break boundaries. Women, are underrepresented in the media, never really appreciated. We can always ‘do better’, ‘look better’, ‘improve.’ There were hardly any articles praising Chopra of her performance, or the fact that she is taking the next best step in her career.

Another lady writer, who is claimed to have broken barriers is Shonda Rhimes. She told in an interview on ABC when she was credited for breaking barriers with casting,

“Yeah. I mean, I feel like the television landscape should look like the world we see outside …,” she said. “The package that people come in is the package that they come in. What’s inside is what’s the most interesting thing.”

A simple statement, if only the world, and its views took it this way. In another article, it was actually titled, Shonda Rhimes Empowers Daughters To Have “Amazing Sex.” Seriously? I mean seriously, this was titled to get the audience’s attention, but really read into it- it has several meanings, one being that we are used for pleasure and sex. That is what is appealing about women. Even on Rhimes, hit show Scandal, it is really about that fantasy life- no matter how heroine oriented the film is. The president is a Caucasian, and his now leading lady and African American is by his side, romancing him even though she is to be portrayed as powerful. Each show seems to have sex as a way for women to attain power, and the fact of the matter is, that is what girls see and learn from- really, you don’t have to use your sexuality to be empowered in the world. Just be yourself and use your smarts.

The media is the message and the messenger, if we continue to give mixed messages on gender, the future generations to come will only pass by such things as nothing. Girls from a very young age get the idea the looks are what matter and their value depends on how they look, not how smart they are, how intellectual they may be and how instilling and motivating individuals they can aspire to become. What men see in the media is ad’s about power- they seem to have it all easy and laid out for them- that their life will be effortless- all they have to do is be a guy, while women have the constant need to better themselves. Society needs to be open to the concept that women are able beings. This idea that it may be too soon for change to happen couldn’t be more thrown out. Change needs to happen now, and change needs to start with the media.