What 2016 Has Brought Me To Realize

 

  • Seattle, Washington was never home
  • My acting niche may have died
  • How being “alone” isn’t such a bad thing

 

The list goes on, and you may rightly assume that I will talk about the remainder of the list some other time, but for now – I will divulge you of the above three points.

Without a doubt, 2016 was a difficult year. It started out with me battling the freezing temperatures New York City had to offer with a wonderful photoshoot that I had with a favorite photographer of mine whose work you must check out (John Martin Productions). It was through this photoshoot that I discovered the city which I vowed never to return to when I was barely 11 years old, would be the city I feel most at home with.

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Washington state was a beautiful place to reside in, but it never felt like home. Though I do miss the evergreen-ness and the many undiscovered nature parks – it was the various experiences I had to forego that brought me to leave. I return to the place every now and then, but as a visitor and each time I come to “visit” the memories of why I left come to haunt me.

It was the place that brought me to being mentally depressed and the battle to get away from such hideous thoughts is no easy task. 2016 had made me challenge various mountains to get to the mindset which I am today and even so, it’s difficult. It’s like those potholes that are at times undiscoverable at night, and once driven upon; you’ve already sunk through and the battle becomes to get oneself out of the ditch.

As a first-generation born South Indian girl, a now, “ABPD” and advocate for change in our community – it starts with the self and as cliché that may be, to change a person’s mindset and what they may believe in  is not an overnight task. Whatever ideas you or I may have had about the fabric of the nation, whatever values that you might have held sacred and whatever lines you promised not to cross – 2016 challenged it all.

I may return to calling it a home someday, but for now; Seattle was never home.


And I’m sure as many of you realize – I have this passion for the arts. I am first and foremost a dancer and that is where my platform began. Though, my performances have dropped dramatically due to the “hustle of life” – I still dance at whichever open platform I am granted. This means from the space in my living room to empty studios and even my car. (Though I recommend either having your windows tinted or doing this at night).

It is through my talent of dancing that landed me the title of Miss India Washington and Miss India USA’s Miss Popular back in 2014. I was then able to dip my toes in the media industry and felt not just excitement but overwhelmed and still do.

I recall in the second grade where I was the lead in the Christmas play for school. I was appreciated for whatever skills I showcased as “Mrs.Claus” and since that moment, I had this desire to act.

I must firstly thank my Mazhavil FM & Annorunaal family for giving me the role of Sophie. It was my official taste of what “acting” means, and I became addicted. I wanted more…but having a taste at what the “mini silver screen” wasn’t just all that I gained. I gained true family and friends. They came in at a point in my life where I was at my lowest and managed to channel that energy into the arts. They are the people whom I can turn to for advice, care, laughter and memories…

These people know who they are, and note – a simple thank you isn’t enough for what you all have done for me, but those are the only two words I have. I am extremely grateful for all of you.

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Now, for the gritty truth. The pursuit of becoming an actor is no easy one. You should know someone to your foot in the door, or pay your way in. Talent hardly matters at this day and age. The pursuit of trying to be an actress in the Malayalam industry has drained me physically, emotionally, and financially…it’s a battle within itself, and to make it out, well, I guess you would be considered a survivor…if that.

By trying to pursue this industry (Malayalam Film Industry at least), I’ve dealt with people from various walks of life, too many walks of life. There are the few who are respectful and genuine but there are the plenty who have another intention especially when it comes to those aspiring female artists like myself.

One thing I need to clarify: Acting is not the same thing as being an Actor. “Acting” is the actual performance by an individual being on stage or screen. “Being an Actor” means not just performing, but marketing yourself to create acting opportunities. Of course, being an actor also includes acting, but honestly (and through my own experiences), if you plan on pursuing a career as an actor, the percentage of your time spent performing is relatively low.

My aspirations to act is a dream that is killed off every time I get close to perhaps making something of it. I am forever blessed to having taken part in the projects that I have done (Annorunaal, Luvvh, Reset The Day, various commercials & advertisements), and extremely grateful to my Mazhavil FM family for the constant support, but as this year comes to a close… and with much difficulty and sadness I have come to accept that perhaps this isn’t the field for me.

BUT, even by saying this – I still have a little glimmer of passionate hope that will reside in me until the dream is met, so that being said. I will continue to pursue acting as it comes to me. Whether I choose to tell the world about it is my business, so please kindly stop nagging me about when my next project it or why nothing is working out. I will disclose what happens in pursuit of the dream of acting to when the time is right. There is a time for everything after all and patience is a virtue.


And thus, we come to my final point – being alone. This is partially why I despise the holiday season as the feeling that myself as being isolated from the joy and holiday cheer that is being spread. Don’t get me wrong, this is a season that I cherish because it does bring people together, but I envy that I don’t get to be a part of the wondrous celebrations because I have no one to go to…

BUT, I was just reminded of the many people in this world who go through far worse circumstances than being “alone.” The holidays have become driven by commercialism and the lusting after material things. The original meanings are buried deep down below the pile of presents and show of the best tree, party, or décor.

It’s about togetherness and giving back, and that’s exactly what I did this year. I’ve done what I can to give back to charitable organizations for a cause in developing countries, donated clothes, books, and material things that would be much more beneficial to another than myself who may go purchase it whenever moment.

Being alone brought me to realize these things. Sure, I would love to spend it with friends and family who wish to make it as celebratory as possible, but it’s ok if I can’t – because I know there’s plenty more in life to celebrate about (like me being alone and independent, having a career, great friends), and plenty more that I am able to do.


2016 was a tumultuous year, but we all survived it. Spend the rest of what remains of this year to reflect upon yourself – then be as selfish as much to reflect upon the rest of the world and what you may possibly do for it. Let’s work to make 2017 a year to be great… better 🙂

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Featured Cover Photo Credit: Nikky Stephen

Photo Blog Credit: John Martin

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A Phenoix Put To Rest: Jayalalitha

I will say this – I may not be too familiar with the politics that goes on in India, but I am familiar with the names.

For years, the name Jayalalitha has been echoed throughout my household, and to hear her passing is indeed a great loss to not only India, but every person who has fought for independence, equality, and righteousness amongst all walks of life.

She was a person not to be trifled with. At 16, when she starred opposite M.G.R. in Ayirathil Oruvan, the entire cast and team would stand up as she walked in.  Yes, she was charming, a talented multifaceted actor trained in various dance forms, but the traits that were overlooked for a woman of her time – wittiness, her knowledge of books and the world, and her intelligence. The claimed affair she had with M.G.R. was not the only reason that drew her into politics – but the fact that she herself knew she had potential. When MGR died, she sat conspicuously at his head for an entire two days, relegating his wife Janaki to a sidelined spot. Janaki’s aids tried to push her away, in fact pinched her, stepped on her feet, but she refused to budge. When she got on to the carriage for the final procession, she was visibly pushed off it in front of all television cameras. This effrontery was what would help her survive all those years of politics that would follow. The entire party split into two after M.G.R’s death, but four years later united under HER leadership to form one formidable opposition.

Even through all this rejection, she rose only stronger than ever like a phoenix rising from the flames; a renewal of life, but to her, it mean the renewal of a nation.

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She is indeed my inspiration. Jayalalitha was a woman who defied all odds. She started a career as an actress, who by definition and pre-conceived conceptions, cannot be taken seriously. She was a light-skinned Brahmin woman trying to ascent to power in a party that thrived due to its Dravidian anti-class rhetoric.

To put into context: she was not only walking the path of thorns but she did it while in an oxygen-less chamber while her arms and legs were tied. But that’s not all; people knew her as the person who silenced opposition and creates sycophants who fall at her feet to worship for all she has done. People may see this as if she were trying to embody a holy-figure, but this was the only way she could command, consolidate and hold onto an elusive power. If she was any more cordial than this, she could have been a hostess.

n 1989, when she opposed Karunanidhi’s presentation of the budget, she was almost disrobed in the assembly. This was in addition to being the recipient of lewd comments and hair pulling. This is probably the highest documented insult that a woman has ever faced in a state Assembly. Yet she persisted. She came out of that incident more guarded than ever before. She wrapped herself in layers of clothing and stopped wearing any jewelry at all.She succeeded at ‘desexualizing’ herself and branded herself as ‘amma’ (mother), the only known way to gain respect in that highly testosterone filled environment. One thing to keep in mind that Jayalalitha embodied was the fact that a woman doesn’t have to be the house-wife, or the pretty little lady as arm candy to a man, they can be rulers and they will be. The iron lady was unmarried, and childless, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t compassionate. All of India and it’s people were her children hence why she was known as “Amma” to all.

And with four and a half years of her term left, I don’t believe there is a single leader that can fill her void. It will be several years, even decades, before another woman can even remotely achieve what she did in a state like Tamilnadu. In a few generations, all that will matter is that there is a woman’s statue as well, and that statue is not a mere woman who was venerated because she was a perfect wife, but of a woman who was a true and powerful leader of her own merit and her own making.