The “Creative” Diaspora Problem of the Workplace

After immersing myself with the culture(s) of the entertainment industry, my eyes started to skim around and the realization I was the only person of an ethnic background. I began to wonder as to why this was- could it be the mere idea that this is an industry focused on entertainment, media, and the arts? I say this for those of the Asian descent, it is understood that our career paths would either be in the health or engineering/software industry.

Why is that there are certain cultures that are foreseen going into certain professions, and anyone who seems to go into any other field is considered an outlier? I guess the best way to describe this concept is to relate it to arranged marriages- at one point, any person who was of a different culture did not really have the chance to “love” or follow through with love, because their lives were predetermined. They would go through school, get an arranged marriage, and repeat the cycle to the next generation. Anyone who breaks this cycle would seem be creating a scandal and dishonoring their roots, but as time goes on; slowly, the new generation finds some of these old traditions taboo. They fight to break these traditions and eventually, their acts of “rebellion” get integrated into society.

Why can’t we be creative and make that a career? This is the other prevailing problem of society today, not only are there not enough of diverse people of color integrating with our job environment, but most of us are not encouraged to explore fields of interest that may excite us or make us happy.

Diversity may have a multitude of meanings in organizations, corporations, and communities with respect to different contexts. It’s been said that those of a different background have “significant influences” in the workplace, yet how many people of color are leading corporations or are holding high positions in America? Studies have “claimed” we make a difference but how? By making sure that we break our backs to keep the company afloat, only for them to take most, if not all the credit? This seems to paint an all too familiar picture…

Not only do we need make changes in terms of how we hire people, but we must also give all human beings an equal chance at roles of leadership. There may be some folks who are hesitant to seek such roles, probably due to the fact that they never were encouraged to do so and thus, they rather be “comfortable” than work creatively and in a field in which they excel. I speak on behalf of the South Asian Americans, and yes, it is known that we typically hold the highest levels of educations and we are considered “assets” in the workforce, but why can’t be break free of this stereotype and be seen not only as “assets” but “creative assets?” It may not necessarily mean we will make a ton of money, but at the least, there’s a chance at happiness and isn’t that what we look for at the end of the day, or is that concept completely lost?

The final thought here is deciding what kind of world you want your sons or daughters to grow up in. Will it be one where we are finally able to graciously accept people for who they are leading to a better way of doing business as well as establishing relationships along with unlocking new potentials? Or will it just be a world where we continue to accept the status quo presented before us? I feel I have an idea as to what needs to be done, it’s just a matter of spreading the word.

Advertisements

Being Considered a “Disappointment”

I’m sure by glancing at the title, several eyebrows have been risen and various preconceived judgments have been formed.

For several days, I have been nagged about why I chose the field I am presently in and why I didn’t go into the stereotypical medical or engineering background as most of my fellow brown skinned acquaintances might have. Off the record, when they are thinking I can’t hear what they’re saying; I once again overhear the forever haunting term “disappointment.”

I have been hearing this colloquy since elementary school, when I had declared then that I wanted to be a teacher; only to be shut down immediately of that dream with the reasoning that they don’t make enough money, so I was told to pursue medicine, and initially, I did,(Dropping it later on realizing I was miserable). Funny how money always plays a huge part of these conversations. I respect all my teachers and the profession as they are genuinely the ones working on a budget salary trying to create the future leaders of the world; but to these close-minded individuals whom declared that I am a disappointment, they are just the people to put a grade on me and pass me on to the next level.

When trying to reason with them about the why I chose my profession; all I see is a grim, weary look without the slightest line of understanding as to who I am and what I aspire to me. Several of my dreams, my aspirations have been put aside for their personal reasons, which hurts, but it’s how my life was/is.

I have been asked by several of those outside the “brown” world as what these individuals think of me pursing this or that, whether I will be whisked away, etc. I used to answer these questions with my utmost honest experiences; only to get a look of pity, confusion, and perhaps later on a loss of opportunity. So now, I lie. My answer of lies has become so believable for they are genuine dreams of mine as to how I wished I lived.

Unless you managed to somehow become invisible and live with me for a couple of days; one would imagine my life to be perfectly normal. Yet, like I mentioned, its not for I hear the word “disappointment” at least 3 days out of the 7 in a week. (Yes, I have tallied and averaged it out…)

I brought myself up from telling myself I am a failure because no matter how hard I try to get better for them, I just can’t. It was once a constant uphill battle to try and meet their expectations of myself and when they’ve realize I won’t- their resort is to “marry me off,” and lend the burden to someone else.

Before, hearing this would bring me down a dark spiral. I felt that I was a failure, and it was likely to be true, since I have disappointed with every little thing I do. No matter how I try to impress them in my various other stronger aspects and passions- it will never be enough. They believe it to be a mistake, a mess up like the stain of black upon a clean slate of white.

But it’s because of their disappointment and disapproval in what I do, that has encouraged me to fight the uphill battle not towards them, but on a different path. A path to self-redemption. There are others who encompass with me with love and care, encouragement and support and that has overpowered the darkness of what was disappointment to now unlocking my full potential. I see that their disappointment is their ignorance. Their moral code of refusing to change and adapt to the world and those in it will not last or break me. Now I realize, they are the disappointment.

I/we were brought up to be isolated from the world around us, told that we know nothing because we have yet to live through it- but how can that be if discovery of self is not an option.

Instead, I now see with new set of eyes beautiful, smart people trying to make the world a better place and I could not feel more energized to be part of it. If they are not afraid to challenge me- my generation now, then I won’t be to challenge theirs.

Onam: The Forgotten Meaning Behind This Beautiful Mythology

As the groovy South Indian artist Rinosh George lyrically puts it:
“I’m from the southern part of India, and yes I’m a Malayalee. Kerala is the state where I’m chillin’ with Mahabali…”

Being the proud Malayalee I am, there is one particular festival which myself and my fellow Keralite’s look forward to in the year and that is Onam.

For my non-Malayalee readers: Onam is known to be the biggest festival celebrated in Kerala, India. It marks the commemoration of the grand home-coming and selflessness of the mythical King Mahabali/Maveli, (get the Mahabali reference now?).

To understand why we celebrate our King Mahabali- well, it’s based off a mythical story that God’s Own Country, Kerala, was at one time ruled by an Asura (mythological lord with immense power), known as Mahabali. He was greatly respected and known to be judicious and extremely generous. There was no discrimination on the basis of caste or class then, the rich and the poor were equally treated. There was no corruption or crime. Under the reign of Maveli, everyone was happy.

Of course, as all stories go, there must be some dysfunction of some sort as things can never be too perfect. Several Gods were becoming concerned of the growing popularity and fame that Mahabali had earned through his generosity and charitable acts. Feeling threatened of their own supremacy, the Mother of God’s Aditi, sent Lord Vishnu disguised as a poor Brahmin named Vamana to test the King by asking for a piece of land.

The King being benevolent, said to the disguised Vishnu that he could have as much land as he wanted, but being that this was a test- the disguised Vishnu requested that he just wanted as much land as could that could be covered by his three steps.king-mahabali2

Just as he agreed to grant the land, Vamana/Vishnu began to expand to the size of cosmic proportions. With his first step, he was said to have covered the whole of the earth and with the other, he covered the skies, but he did not have a place to place his third step and asked the King where is the land to place it.

Mahabali then understood that if he were to take another step, it would destroy the rest of the earth and him being selfless, he folded his hands and bowed before Vamana/Vishnu and asked him to place his last step on his very own head so he could keep to his promise along with save his people. The Brahmin stepped on the Kings head which pushed him down to the nether world. By then, the Brahmin appeared as his true self before the King explaining himself and the test he put the King through (which he passed)- and granted a boon to him.

The King being attached to his Kingdom and people requested that he be allowed to visit Kerala once a year- and thus, Onam is celebrated. It is the festival that is celebrated to pay tribute to the sacrifice and selflessness of the King Mahabali.


Since I was a child, Onam was always something special to me as it was a time of gathering and my true link to Kerala in regards to festival holidays. I remind you, growing up in America, many years ago- to find a Malayalee family was quite rare, (now of course it’s the opposite, but more on that in a later post). Back then, I looked forward to the Onam event which is always put up on such a grand scale. Me being a dancer, I would be preparing my performance(s) for weeks, then to run around the ‘Onam Venue’ restlessly, hardly even touching my onam sadhya (which was served on a paper plate), as I had to get ready for my performance in the chaotic mess of the greenroom that was set-up. That was my Onam.

That is what Onam was/is here in America- and unlike the typical 10 days, it lasts a month and a half or so as every Malayalee association has to celebrate it on whatever weekend they managed to book a venue at. I didn’t truly celebrate Onam until 2014, when I was actually in Kerala, India.

That was when I experienced the full 10 days of various festivities, the many sadhyas, and the feeling of ‘home’ with my family and neighborfriends. I think on one of the days, I actually had two full Onasaadhyas, and if you hadn’t had a proper sadhya on the banana leaf, you’re seriously missing out. onam-sadya-traditional-food-picture

Dismally, today, I find much of the past Kerala missing, thanks to the rapid urbanization that’s taking place. The lush green paddy fields are quickly disappearing as there are a lack of laborers as the youth are unwilling to take up farming. The backwoods is quickly being depleted to make room for hotels, lodges, and homestays.

Coming back to present day Onam; when we celebrate Mahabali’s visit, I wonder what his impression of his once prosperous and happy state would be. Are the sacrifices he made worthwhile? What about fellowship and happiness? He wanted people to be selfless not selfish, but with how our society is run today, is that even possible? The story behind the festival Onam, the messages it left us- are we as Malayalees today following through to it? Recall the happiness and joy of Mahabali and his people when he ruled his country, his selflessness in allowing Vishnu/Vamana to put his third step atop him knowing that he no longer will walk amongst his people. Do any of us recall any of this as being an integral part of Onam?

The once prestigious, mythological festival of Kerala, has now become extremely commercialized with the various shop advertisements and sales. It feels as though we all have grown to have the mindset of the supreme Gods-power, money, and a hunger to for status.

Recall that Onam was meant to be a festival of gathering, togetherness, and harvest-which has seemed to have gotten lost amidst the competition of who will have the better saree, the better sadhya, the best pookalam, the gossip, etc. The once mythological festival that was to symbolize sacrifice, selflessness, dignity, peace, and harmony, has turned into a place of corrupt, cheap politics and discriminatory people and places. The legend says that Kerala was to be a place of fellowship. It literally was to be as the saying, “love thy neighbor as you would love thyself,” but I believe its more of the later that we are seeing…

But even amongst our modern day urbanization and frenzy of the today world, Onam is still a festival that is relatively observed where ever there are Malayalees in this world. Pushing aside the commercialization of the festival; they somehow managed to create a feeling of nostalgia of what Onam originally was, and I guess with that mindset-it sort of gives a balance to our lives away from our Kerala home.

If we want our beloved Onam to continue to be known for it’s true meaning, then let us all remember not to discriminate and treat all those around us with respect and care.  Retell the story of Mahabali to the little ones and let the message of sacrifice, selflessness, dignity, peace, and harmony resonate with them to live and pass onto the next generation. Celebrate Onam with it’s true undisputed meaning rather than create a new one.

 

**Disclaimer: Being that I was raised a Christian Malayalee, the stories of Hindu mythology may slightly be distorted as it is done through my own research, classes, and word of mouth, so please kindly forgive/correct me if anything seems out of line.**

The Mass Awakening of the World…9/11

Something about that particular day was off, yet at the same time, so normal.

I’m sure everything about that day would have been routine- waking up, going to school, waiting for school to end, coming back from school, doing homework, playing with the neighbors, etc.

But it wasn’t.

I recall the teachers that day being protective towards students like myself during our second recess, and it wasn’t until towards the end of the school day; an hour or so after calamity, that an announcement on the intercom was made -a tragic event had occurred that would forever change the world.

September 11th, 2001- a day never to be forgotten as it sparked a mass awakening across the world.

Now being as young as I was, I only knew that the twin towers (the World Trade Center), in the glorious city of New York was attacked by two major U.S. air carriers as they were hijacked by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. I was completely innocent to the attack, but to a good portion of the world- those with brown skin or affiliated with those of brown skin weren’t.

At the time, I may not have realized it, but every and any move we took was being watched. For children, we were sheltered and over-protected if we looked innocent enough, but for most of my peers of darker brown descent, that wasn’t enough. People closest to me lived in fear for the world started to look at us with third eye- blame, anger, confusion, questions- anything to really vent out their frustrations towards what had happened.

For the longest time, I lived in a bubble when it came to the outside world. I lived in a neighborhood primarily populated of the Caucasian descent and since the attack of 9/11- well, lets just say that I never really saw any of my neighborhood friends again…

I never took to notice these little things until now, 15 years after the event. Being an adult, the events still prolong in our day to day life- especially with the heist of the recent presidential election.  During my college days, applying to jobs was oftentimes difficult. Those of lighter descent would be given first preference over me- even if I matched all the qualifications of the job. Still to this day, it unfortunately still applies, but that is why our voice needs to be heard. Rather than suppress who we are, embrace ourselves and our brown skin or whatever skin color you identify with. Being the ‘ABPD’ that I am- I will not stand for such an intolerance in our communities.


I know I probably sounded rather harsh but this is the past and present reality of what was 9/11. We must also remember that it was a day where we all saw bravery at its highest level. It’s the one day where people all across the world care more for the devastating losses of their country than the politics. It’s a day of unity, strength, sacrifice, and vigilance. The brave men and women of NYFD, NYPD, and others sacrifices their lives in order to save those still inside the burning, collapsing building. The United States pushed through the hard times and persevered- and I hope it will continue to do so.

img_2040

 

(The image above was back to when I visited the One World Trade Center late last year. This structure would be main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center. The eerie calmness of this place is chilling to the bone, but a cleanse to the soul as it shall always be a constant reminder of what was…)

(Feature Image Courtesy: modernreject)