Setting Wildfires, Chasing Dreams

“You can’t do it”

“You’re poor and you can’t afford it”

“You’re never going to get far chasing your dream”

“You have no right to feel that way”

“…but…you’re a woman.”

These are all things I’ve heard in my life time. The real Truth? These are things that I still continue to hear. The things that echo deep inside fuelling my light. And these are the very things I don’t let get to me but rather use as a light to pave my path. That battle ring, underdog mentality. Us vs. Them. Growing up, I didn’t come from a privileged background nor do I live in a perfect society or come from a culture which has made it any easier on me. But those are the very things that motivate me in Life. Those are the very reasons that have given me a glimpse of success. Success. How does one exactly define success? In my eyes, success is all about perspective and subjectivity. What is success to me may not be success to you. So what is success to me? Success to me is challenging that very system. Success is proving those people who told me and continue to tell me that I can’t chase my dreams. Those people who fail to see my vision. That vision that has no end nor limit. Success is living my life, my way.

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Coming from a background where I couldn’t afford to do all the things I wanted to, I realized the value of money. I couldn’t afford to pay for state of the art sports training nor was I able to have the shoes I most wanted when I stood next to my opponent for a race. To me all that meant nothing eventually. I still remember my first race glancing down at my opponents fancy nike shoes and wishing I had them. I still remember beating that very opponent and how proud I felt when I crossed that finish line in first place in my ratty old Walmart sneakers. That feeling of accomplishment. That was success to me, a state of mind. More than training with the fanciest club, or rocking the best shoes, I came to realize there was something way more important. More important than money, I realized the value of time. The time I would spend chasing my vision. The time I would spend towards perfecting skills that truly ignited a passion in me that would set wildfires. That uncontrollable, wild fire in me.

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Unleashing that potential.

If I’ve learned anything throughout my life time, it’s to never stop chasing that vision. No one has a right to deny your dreams. No one has a right to tell you how to feel. No one has the right to tell you who you are or who you were destined to be in life. That is all you. You are complete, you are more than enough, you are you. And life? Well life’s about discovering who you are. Life’s about sharing that passion and talent with others. So live it to your fullest and never stop believing in yourself.

The fact that you don’t come from a privileged background should never stop you from chasing that vision. I learned that a long time ago. Money isn’t the mean to all ends. It may not seem that way in a system that is built to devalue man’s self worth to an income. Frankly, money isn’t something you can take with you to your grave. To me, life is about passion. To me, life is about discovering and finding yourself. And frankly, everyone is in a different chapter in their own story. A story of self discovery. A story of suspense and mystery. A story that may seem to be written by fate, but in reality, authored by you.

Sincerely,

Skyhigh,

a girl sprinting after her dreams,

setting wildfires wherever she goes…

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Dancing to a Different Beat

1. Dancing to a Different Beat

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“Bharatanatyam”:

Indian classical dance that originated in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu

        At the age of 9, there I was on stage for my first solo bharatanatyam dance performance. Being an introvert, talk about throwing a kid right into the fire. I had gone through a couple weeks of practice to perfect this routine and present it to a congregation of mainly elderly folks at a singing group. As I set foot on the stage for the first time alone, it was a feeling I still don’t forget till this day.

I felt like a white dove captive in a cage dying to escape, but I was locked in. Locked in from the inside out. Sweaty, panting frantically I just wanted it to be over with. On a stage with chandeliers hanging off my ears, slapped on with white powder I felt like a ghost. That’s right, contour kits didn’t exist back in the day, it was that old school powder because to be ‘dark-skinned’ was culturally frowned upon. So those long days spent running around playing man hunt in the sun with the boys was hidden behind a ghostly white mask which in no time would melt off. I felt soulless. As the loud music pulsed through the speakers, my feet started to move, slowly but surely; in such a robotic fashion that even if I wanted to stop myself from moving I couldn’t because I had run through this routine so much it was almost impossible to forget. I might have hated dancing in a costume that may have not brought out my inner beauty, but when it came to rhythm, music and sound, well that was another story. I was in another world, another time, another stage vibing to the beat of a different dance.

I. Rhythm… that feeling I got when running through the playground for early 7am cross-country practice.

II. Beat… that feeling I connected with as my heart pulsed as I sprinted past another runner in front of me. Those feelings I truly connected with. As the music played louder and I entered the more fast paced beats in my routine my feet pounded the ground louder and louder. The sound of someone breathing heavily behind me trying to overtake me on the hill. That’s when I started to find the drive to accelerate up, as I sprinted for the top.

In that moment, I slowly forgot about the audiences scrutinizing eyes, I forgot about the idea of being hidden behind layers of make up, I forgot about my anxiety and slowly I lost myself to the beat (“thaalam”). Before I knew it, the performance was over as I rushed off stage excited to change out of my costume. I don’t even get this excited to change out of my costume on Halloween, but this was one costume that I definitely wanted to escape. As thunderous claps filled the auditorium, I ran.

I ran in the total opposite direction.

I sprinted into an identity and place where I truly felt I fit in, right back at the racing lanes at my elementary school where I felt like I accomplished something and succeeded at life. A place I was truly myself.

That’s where passion was born.

That’s where the white dove was set free.

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2. Dual Identities

Growing up, you could say I was a weird kid. I liked collecting bugs…okay, that’s the weirdest it gets, I promise. Now the normal part, I loved playing sports and challenging myself. A race at recess for your rice krispy bar? Hell yah, I’m down. I might just sucker you into putting in your lunch money as well because you were that guy who thought ‘ain’t no girl going to whoop my ass today in front of my boys.’ But guess what? I did. Baggy clothes? Yes please. I went to a uniform school throughout my entire lifetime but I made sure I ordered my clothes a little baggy because the last thing you would find me in were tight fitting clothes or heels or reapplying make up after a sweaty gym class. Oh and pink? Gross. I was a huge tomboy growing up, I’ll admit it. But here’s where that story takes a huge turn: dance, figure skating & vocal classes. Wait what? Yes folks, I lived two lives, or a secret identity as I call it.

Growing up, as any Tamil parent would do, my parents threw me into a bunch of classes because they wanted to pass down the cultural torch and be connected to my roots. Truth? I was not a happy kid when I first enrolled into an identity which I wanted no part of. I was a tomboy. No one could know I did such ‘girly’ things. I was in grade 3 and I had a reputation to protect. If anyone caught me being a twirl girl, or dressed up in make up and jewelry not to mention busting out those vocals …. I mean the nightmares I had. So here you are thinking poor Abi, there she is forced into these classes she wants no part in; all that time and money wasted. The actual truth? I valued it because these classes I was thrown into formed a part of my identity and make me the person I am today. A creative who chases her passion.

Ever since I was in grade 3 and started to realize I was really making a killing at recess racing people, depriving them of snacks and pokemon cards… ever since I realized I loved the adrenaline rush sport gave me…ever since I realized I wanted to be the fastest kid in school, my passion for sprinting and challenging life grew. That’s when I found life in existence. So how did I find a sense of life through an activity I felt disconnected to you may ask. How did I find life through the art of hiding in this dual identity?

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Well, the question you should be asking is

How dance gave me the drive to pursue sprinting… in the complete opposite direction, which in the end was not as opposite as I made it out to be.

How dance strengthened me to become the athlete I am today.

How dance was a creative outlet for me to channel that surge of energy.

How dance helped me vibe with the rhythm of life and beat I chased in my true passion,

Sprinting.

23 & Taking Flight

 

23.

The end of a new beginning. The Jordan Year, yet you don’t see yourself taking flight. You spent countless hours in a day trying to figure out and question who you are and what your purpose is in Life. Why am I even here? You’re re-reading those “Its okay to be where you are at now at 23” blogs and you’re just not satisfied. I mean sure Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and went on to win two Olympic gold medals, six NBA championships and 5 MVP trophies amounting to a career that was legendary… but even then you question when will your time come? You close your eyes imagining yourself mid flight as the crowd goes wild as you feel the electrifying feeling of success at the tip of your fingers just as you are about to fly *BOOM. You’re startled by the loud winds stirring outside as your 5’4 self is awoken back to reality. As you glance outside your window fogged by all these questions you see fall’s spectacle at play. Falling. Lost in Time. How can something so colorful and vibrant fall so fast?

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You graduated. You’ve passed that finish line, now what next? What happens after the race? When will the next race of life happen? As you’re panting frantically trying to Sherlock Homes your way through this mystery of life, you realize you are back at first base. You’re waiting for that big hit, that next home run that’s going to send you propelling back into the game. That high of success. But when? How? So many questions, not many answers and you feel like you’re losing time. Well guess what? That next big run you’re waiting on now, you’re actually mid stride in this never ending race we call life, but you feel like you’re stuck in a moment, on replay. Basically, you feel trapped in a Boomerang video and Life just won’t let you move forward. You feel frozen in time.

 

Frankly, this is a feeling I could relate to following the highs of life and then comes the “what’s next?” With the future introducing the bigger, the better and the improved, we’re constantly forced to move forward through time. Being stagnant is a sign of failure, being “not busy” forces you to question what are you doing with your time? We are constantly comparing ourselves to the old us, the current us, people around us, the new us…eventually to a point we become so critical of our performance and ourselves. But how far is too critical?

*Breathe*

Status: New graduate, feeling unemployed and still searching.

Sound familiar?

Sound like you’re the only one not seeing the light at the end of that tunnel?

Well guess what, you’re not.

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That sea of darkness makes you feel lonely and without light, but it’s in times of darkness we have to really close our eyes and channel the light within us. Faith. Belief. Confidence. Hope. Passion. Everyday I use that light to grow and continue chasing my dreams. What is growth? Whether that’s diving into some new research articles, jotting down new ideas or channeling my passion and creative energy through running. Eventually, that light turned into an idea. An idea that I took flight with. An idea so Skyhigh it sent me jump starting out of those blocks.

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In that very moment as I looked outside my window, I saw life in falling. I saw hope in rising up as the strong gusty winds sent the once fallen vibrant red, oranges and yellows swirling into the air. She was dancing. She was wild. She was free and she was not alone. That’s when she took flight, once again.

– Skyhigh

Final Exit Exams Vs. Experiential Based Learning

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The power of an argument lies in its potential to spark debate, critical thinking and reasoning in addition to forming new solutions and ideas. With that being said, today I came across an article on The Star i which proposed the idea of giving exit exams to university students which would test their basic skills in numeracy, literacy and problem solving as a result in the lack of their  “essential skills” — communicating, problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork. My immediate question was how will handing out a final exit exam better prepare a student to better meet these “employability criteria”? Taking a placement course this term in my final semester of my undergrad at McMaster in addition to a 4 year Strength and Conditioning internship that I have been involved in, this automatically sparked ideas that if a mandatory final exit exam could be made mandatory, why not employing mandatory co-op placements (a form of experiential based learning). As a result, a string of problems do come with such a proposal (e.g., financial costs, placement opportunities, etc.), so if this peaks further interest, keep reading below. I thank a friend (anonymous) for initiating such debate which has provoked much thought and truth is I learn the most through arguments, there is always something to learn at the end of the day. My advice? Argue, discuss, bounce ideas off each other and engage in the process of learning. It’s all about perspective and it’s the key to being a life long learner in a forever evolving world. It’s safe to say that at the end of this argument, I walk away from this debate not only with new ideas to work around problems but it has also opened my eyes to the realities of an “unequal system” that we are apart of. For the past few years of my undergrad, I have referred to university as a form of institutional confinement, a place where we are trained to think a certain way, which takes the creativity out of a well rounded thinker. To fast forward this argument, I end with the idea that: “We are so driven by the idea in society that we have to fit a mould or a certain skill set to be employable, thats what years of institutional confinement does to you. Perhaps its an entrepreneurial internship this person needs to realize how to make these skills come to life. At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism and thats frankly what I see it as in a world of “unequal opportunity”. Thats the power of an argument to spark an idea. Do not fit the mould of society, but mould society to fit your scheme, your greater picture, and ultimately your vision.

– Skyhigh

Article of Interest: 

http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/02/22/young-grads-need-to-brush-up-on-3-rs-employers-say.html

My Thoughts:

“Or here’s a better idea, instead of giving exit exams, how about institutions make co-op placements mandatory? I can’t think of a better way to apply traditional classroom skills to the real world. It would definitely be a step in the right direction.” ‪#‎ExperientialLearning

Anonymous:

“The entrance/exit exam idea isn’t a great solution but so is making coops mandatory. No way businesses and institutions want some dipshit 20 year old working a placement for them because its mandatory; that and not every academic discipline has clear out and out places in the ‘real world’ or workforce to send students. Where do you send a classics major for a coop for example? And are there enough spots at similar/the same institution for all the classics majors at UofT for example? Further, the article states that exit exams would be testing basic skills in numeracy, problem solving and literacy. Hardly skills that students could cheat their way around, though I’m still opposed to the idea.”

 

Me:

“I only said it was a better idea not the best and a step in the right direction (over an exit exam), making it mandatory was just said to be a comparison obviously at the end of the day, the people who want the most out of their education experience will be seeking these opportunities. As for finding placements, a classic major could possibly find someone to shadow or perhaps see a teaching opportunity for example, there are always opportunities its a matter of finding them in regards to your goals. I mean at the end of the day, you are eventually going to have to apply the knowledge you learned throughout your education in some way aren’t you? This is why some institutions are only suggestive when it comes to co-op placements or outside opportunities whereas other universities (e.g., Waterloo which does an amazing job: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/resources/integrative-learning/experiential-learning) place more of an effort and focus towards experiential based learning. At the end of the day, you cannot force someone to learn or make something mandatory to get the most out of the experience, but if there was a way to make students realize how valuable experiential based learning is and the application of this knowledge which frankly there isn’t an emphasis on.”

 

Anonymous:

“Yes I understand that but I’m trying to point out that equality of opportunity wouldn’t exist in such a system. If we proceed forward with your example of a classics student shadowing somebody or looking for a teaching position, how many placements would be available for such a position? You would have hundreds of classic students fighting for limited places, whereas in something like engineering coop opportunity is much more plentiful by nature of the field itself. You’d be putting students in particular fields at an innate disadvantage. I’m all for experiential learning but when the opportunity isn’t there, is taking a lesser position that doesn’t at all align with your career goals really a valuable experience? You’d be doing it just because it’s mandatory. And I don’t think you’re considering the other side of this enough, not every institution is going to want to pay students; the influx of students would be way too high and wouldn’t be realistically affordable. Back on that classics student example, can the workplace afford to be paying students? Would we be taking jobs away from graduates and more qualified individuals to give a try-hard student some degree of potentially irrelevant experience? There are many considerations that need to be made and practically every student would love to have some sort of experiential based learning, I can’t see a single individual who is passionate about what they study turn such an opportunity down but the fact of the matter is that affording students such opportunities isn’t that easy, though I do think that our institutions should be doing more along those lines.”

 

Me:

“At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism over pessimism. Think about all the other things that are made mandatory to fulfill an undergrad per say (we pay how much to take mandatory elective courses, etc.) why can’t the school budget part of the amount we spend towards extra courses to fulfill a placement, volunteer experience, shadowing experience, co-op placement in partnership with real world businesses, institutions or even perhaps mock real-life world situations (instead of exams) in that under grad degree. It’s not impossible, its a matter of time, thought, how money is budgeted and effort. Again, at the end of the day I do see university as a business, and it definitely will cost them more to send their students outside, and at the end of the day they will be losing “business” they could be putting back in their institution.”

“As for the arguments enough spots for a placement, think about it, once you finish your undergrad are you not going to be saying there is not enough spots for a position in your field? Or is it a matter of what have you been doing throughout your undergrad to best put you in a position to be employable. It isn’t a matter of spots in this world, its a matter of the effort you put in, the opportunities you seek and lastly, the steps you take to gain the real world experience.”

 

Anonymous:

“I agree that university’s should budget more for experiential learning, i’m right there with you on that but I think the latter part of your statement there a gross over simplification. There are definitely more ‘spots’ and workplace positions available in particular fields. You can put in all the effort in the world but if there is no position available in your field, with your skillset, you won’t be getting that job you dreamed of when you started your undergrad degree in whatever it may be.”

 

Me:

“The equality of opportunity does not really exist practically in any system when you think about it at the end of the day. In that sense I will agree that yes some fields will have more opportunities available to them much more readily than others. I feel like there may be ways to work around that for example this idea of mock-institutions or just ways in which the university can teach these fields for example on how to apply this knowledge, I mean why do we learn if you can’t apply? I mean it would be a win-win for the university itself wouldn’t it? They wouldn’t have to send out students but rather create more opportunities within the institution itself for example, you are an english undergrad and want to be a writer for a newspaper, why not open up placements or shadowing experiences that provide educational credit for a semester per say to those who want to do that. Real world application of knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean co-op placements where you go to a business company and there are certainly different avenues in which you can seek them whether it be through a volunteer experience, shadowing someone, exchange trip (for those who have money). As for your statement: “You can put in all the effort in the world but if there is no position available in your field, with your skillset, you won’t be getting that job you dreamed of when you started your undergrad degree in whatever it may be” thats exactly why we need more experiential based opportunities to see how what you learn can be applied. And experiential based learning helps hone this creativity in my opinion. You can’t find a job with a skill set to meet your needs? Become your own boss, create your own company or opportunity to show the world you can put your skills to use. We are so driven by the idea in society that we have to fit a mould or a certain skill set to be employable, thats what years of institutional confinement does to you. Perhaps its an entrepreneurial internship this person needs to realize how to make these skills come to life. At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism and thats frankly what I see it as in a world of “unequal opportunity”.

Sincerely,

The Wise & Rebellious Owl

 

Not Just A Workhorse

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Truth is, I’m a work horse, or a race horse to be precise, but one that has been chasing her dreams. Just like a horse has a stable that it goes back to everyday after training, I see the routine of life as a university student as the stable of institutional confinement. I wake up go to class, work, train, eat, sleep and the cycle continues. The end goal? A piece of paper worth years of invested time, refining short term memory, procrastination and how to stay awake on tea (coffee just makes me crash) with no hours of sleep. Sounds like a dreadful process right? As true as some of these nightmares are to the average university student, it’s not always as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

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How did I get the most out of my experience?

Well, over the past couple of years during my years of “institutional confinement”, if there’s a valuable trait I can take away from my experience, it’s that everything I’ve always wanted was always one step out of my comfort zone. Whether it was from the first day of walking into the very intimidating weight room and running away scared and then coming back with a new found confidence and attitude towards strength training and tackling pbs week after week to chasing opportunities and pbs on the track and in life. From not having picked up a single weight in my lifetime growing up, coming into varsity athletics was a very intimidating process. Moreover, coming into a weight room and being tested on my max squat, having never squatted in my life sent me running in the opposite direction. Truth is, I didn’t come back to that weight room in a while after that experience, not one weight session attended while I was on that rugby team in my first year. However, with the change of environments and a new atmosphere having joined the track team and with a strong passion for sprinting, I started to pursue strength training slowly but surely. If there was one thing I loved about sprinting, it was pushing past my limits and surely I was able to apply that philosophy in the weight room. I was no longer that scared girl who was afraid being in an enclosed box we call the High Performance Area, but it became my home. I never missed a session and I was eager to crush my pbs and venture into the world of strength and conditioning.

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So what did I do?

Well, I applied for an internship with Mac Strength and Conditioning. I was a very enthusiastic learner and I wanted answers to my questions as well as to help others adjust to this new lifestyle as a ‘workhorse’ in the weight room. I wanted to help people become comfortable by ironically getting out of their comfort zone as I once did. As I sat in front of the intimidating panel of judges besides the pool of candidates who were eagerly as competitive for the same position I was applying for and me with no previous work or interview experience, I asked myself how on earth did I get here. The answer? I took a leap of faith towards my passion, a leap right out of my comfort zone and that’s exactly how I ended up there. Well, to sum up the interview, it went great, I got the position and I’ve been with the Mac strength and conditioning program for the past 4 years and I learned quite a lot. Things that you could not simply just learn through textbooks or lectures until you applied them, that’s what you call experiential learning. Truth, or somewhere along the lines of DJ Khaled’s words you would’ve heard something like, “they don’t want you to learn but we gon’ learn homie” and “they don’t want you to go looking for these opportunities, but we gon’ seek them”. Truth is, a co-op placement, internship or opportunity to shadow someone is an experience that is not mandatory in some educational institutions and from my internship experience I believe they should be. What use is learning about concepts that you can’t apply in the real world? But, if you really want it, you will seek these opportunities. Looking back on these four years, I can thank my shy and introverted self on taking the leap of faith and believing in myself to chase my dreams. Looking back and reflecting, it was each progressive step that I took out of my comfort zone that added up to where I am and where I am headed now.

I was no longer just a workhorse or just a racehorse trying to run the fastest time, lift the most weight or get the best marks in class. I was a workhorse with passion and direction. That eat, study, train, work, sleep routine transformed into something that did not seem like a conformed process as I looked for opportunity through new experiences. I asked questions, I observed, I thought and I applied. Everyday I engaged in the process and learned something new whether it be through reading articles, watching documentaries and asking questions. Slowly, my passion grew for the field of strength & conditioning and coaching as I started to engage in the process of becoming a lifelong learner. I was no longer simply a race horse who was confined to her stable, but I became a wild stallion as I ventured through the fields and off the track. I formed a new found sense of purpose: Personal and professional growth in pursuit of my passion and desire to learn.

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Four years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about leaving my comfort zone and chasing new experiences. At the end of the day, we cannot become what we want to be by what we are. My advice? Take a small step away from your comfort zone everyday because all those steps will eventually add up into something great in the end!

– Sincerely,

A Wild Stallion

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NIRBHAYA: FEARLESS

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On the night of December 16 2012, Jyothi – a young, vibrant and intelligent 23-year old medical student’s life came crashing as she was brutally gang raped inside a bus in the capital of Delhi. After watching the Life of Pi with a male friend, searching for a way home late night, both were lured by the rapists on a bus on the road to hell. After being severely tortured for 30 minutes on a moving bus, being raped and beaten up by six men, thrown out of the bus and narrowly escaping death from being driven over by the bus, she was tossed on a public road. 30 long minutes. She battled for her life for two long weeks, until her light was finally taken away December 29, 2012.

This horrific incident caused international outrage and broke the long hidden secrets and silence near and far. The women in a community and rape capital that had been silenced for ages finally gained the strength to speak up.

News articles described the gruesome details as:

“the woman was not only raped and beaten, but was also “violated with a metal rod.”

“It appears to be that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines… That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines,” said a doctor at Safdarjung Hospital

The doctor went on to praise the young woman and her fighting spirit.

“She is a brave girl,” he said. “Withstanding…everything.”

 The woman’s brother told the newspaper his sister had written the words “Mother, I want to live” on a piece of paper.

 See article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/20/delhi-bus-gang-rape-victim-intestines-shocking-details_n_2340721.html

A headline story and tragedy that brought an entire nation to its feet. A woman who was not seen as a victim, but a fighter. She became known as India’s Daughter – Nirbhaya, otherwise translated from Hindi to meaning Fearless.

This past weekend, thanks to a couple friends I was blessed with the opportunity to see the play Nirbhaya on the very last day that it would be performed in Toronto at the Harbour Front Theatre. Nirbaya is a play that was written and directed by the internationally acclaimed Yaël Farber which documented this 2012 Delhi rape case along with the stories of five other South Asian women who had experienced some form of sexual abuse and rape throughout their lives. Let me tell you that I absolutely had no idea what I was in for when I sat down for this play nor was I prepared for what I witnessed. You could say I might have been blinded by the incidents that go on within my own community before seeing this play but, leaving that theatre my eyes were open to the brutal realities that lay behind the screens.

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As the lights went out and the small intimate auditorium I was seated in turned pitch black, a hauntingly white image of a female floated across the stage singing in the most beautiful voice leaving me with goosebumps as her high pitch and ghostly appearance sent chills throughout my body. I felt like I was seated in a horror film and anything would pop out and you wouldn’t know from what direction. And trust me, there was no way out because once you left that theatre there was no way back in, so from the upper first row seat of the balcony auditorium I clenched my fists and stay put awaiting what was to come next. What came next was definitely a surprise. I saw 6 members of the audience, five female, one male raising their arms to the sky as if it were a recreation of the symbolic hand jesture from the Black Power movement and slowly make their way to the stage. They all seemed possessed, but walked with a sense of confidence and determination. I kid you not, I started looking to see if the person next to me was suddenly going to get up and do the zombie walk to the stage, but that didn’t happen.

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If I could describe every detail of this play, every single action had significance and its something I really look for in theatre. But, this was more than just theatre and art, it was real life. The way in which this play branched off the 2012 Delhi rape case and transitioned into each of the female stories really astonished me as it seemed like a light was being passed on from one women to the next. Moreover the power of art and theatre really left me speachless, yet surprisingly it was not until the third story that I came to a stark realization. A woman approached the stage with what looked like acid burns on her face. As she started to tell her story, even she couldn’t bear the pain in the harsh realities, which to me felt so real. In that very moment, I turned over to friend and whispered tell me this is not real as tears rolled down my face. She responded, “It is”. That’s when I first realized that all these stories were real life experiences of the ‘survivors’, themselves. I was horrified.

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Sneha Jawale’s story was a first hand account of abuse by her husband’s family for dowry, in addition to rape and brutal abuse by her husband to the point she finally had kerosene poured on her by her husband and his brother in an attempt to murder her in front of her own son. In her last dying moments her husband pours water and spreads rumours to the neighbors that his wife tried to kill herself. After fighting a month in the hospital and returning home, her husband beat her until all the surgeries performed on her came out, as she had no other choice than to flee with one of her children. Imagine having to make the decision between choosing between your son or daughter. In the end, she chose the girl because she saw herself in that female child. The whole story brought the entire auditorium to tears, including myself who supposedly never cries, the amount of emotion and hearing the victim herself describe the torturous events and weeping herself left everyone heart broken.

“We are not just watching, we are bearing witness” – The Guardian

       Five different personal first-hand accounts accounting for five different cases of rape, abuse and violence which really knocked the day lights out of you, leaving you in that “shit this is real” moment, I’ve been living under a rock. That feeling that makes me question what happened to humanity. That feeling that makes me realize how blessed I am to be living in such a multicultural and diverse country like Canada. I cannot imagine the amount of women like these five strong females who have a voice to share but have been silenced in the name of tradition, culture and shame. I cannot imagine how each of these females and many more have bared the pain and how they had the courage to fight against a system of abuse and oppression. A system and culture that devalued a female and dehumanized her.

But after having seen this play, I witnessed a light of hope.

In moments of despair I was proud to stand in solidarity with these women. I was proud. I was proud to see the diversity in that auditorium of culture. A strong representation of Canada’s multicultural community and support. I was proud to see that this message was being delivered to a sea of cultures who might not know the realities faced by the other. I was proud to see members of my own community display and project their voices, which have been hidden and silenced for so long. Looking through the play brochure and reading about the accomplishments and social justice efforts and community involvement of each of these five women made me extremely proud. These women were not only mothers, sisters, and only actors but also survivors and social justice advocates. They were not victims, but fighters. They were prominent Voices. At the end of the day, I was a proud South Asian woman. But moreover, I was a proud human.

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Moving on from this play, it really made me realize how much passion I have for social justice issues growing up. It made me realize how much taking those 95 minutes out of my day to educate myself on things that happen in my own community’s background and share this story with friends, family and you plays a role in keeping the flame of humanity alive. Sometimes we ignore news headlines if they aren’t applicable to us, and truth is, sometimes social media outlets can be deceiving. But what I experienced in that play was real. What I saw in that play were current social issues that still haunts not only my community but also other communities alike. So the question becomes what can we do hereon? Are you really going to be able to stop all the rape cases that occur all over the world? No, but you can definitely do something. That day Jyothi was raped and tossed out onto Delhi streets like a pile of trash, was a day that human life was degraded. The police officers wouldn’t touch her because of her blood, the same human blood that flowed in theirs yet which they refused to acknowledge. Her cries along with the many women’s cries of a nation were ignored. Obviously we weren’t present that day, December 16, 2012 to rewrite and change the past, to ultimately undo a great error. But, we can look to creating a brighter future where women, life and freedom are valued.

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Ask yourself what you can do. Me? I see my role in not being a bystander. As a member of the audience having witnessed and heard from these brave women, I stand in solidarity with them and their Voice. The power of the voice is a movement that is so destructible it will flow like small rivers that channel it’s way to the larger sea. The power of your voice is so strong that once all these rivers converge through the spreading of one story to the next, a current so powerful will channel a tsunami. Unity in collective thought, propelling action. Now you are a tsunami, that’s a force to be reckoned with. So be that tsunami, get angry, be aggressive, channel your voice and speak out. As members of society, as humans we all have a part to play. How will you stop violence against women?

http://nirbhayatheplay.com/

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Love Yourz

Earplugs in, music bumping…

“..and life can’t be no fairytale, no once upon a time…”

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That electric pulse tunneling through my veins. It’s just me, myself and I. Focus. That moment that I hit my wall on that high intensity speed interval that got me breathless as my mind and body are playing tug-of-war. That mind over matter factor. The very moment I tighten my laces on my spikes as I prepare myself for battle. Love in war. Every time I hear the word “quit” it sends an adrenaline rush through my veins making me want to prove everyone wrong, including myself. Every time I challenge myself, I learn to love myself a little more. My dreams, my goals, and most importantly my Vision. Creating opportunities. Motivating myself and others around me to excel higher.

“What’s money without happiness?”

And at the end of the day, I ask myself why? Why do I sprint? Why do I push my body and test its limits? Why do I wake up every morning with the soreness from yesterday yet choose to continue today? Stop. Ask yourself why not? Why not do the things you love that bring you genuine happiness? Why not push your body to its limits and break barriers. Because I can and I will. Personal growth.

What really distinguishes one person from another at the end of the day is their Focus. Focus distinguishes the great from the weak. Your concentration is impeccable, and no matter what obstacles you face, you don’t quit but you learn to overcome them. You don’t have to move an entire mountain in one day, but it’s about how you approach life’s challenges when they are hurled at you: one step at a time. Patience and dedication. When people ask you why are you still running or why haven’t I seen you run your race yet, you step back and smile because you know what they don’t know because they are in a completely different lane. You smile because they will never understand what running is to you from your soles. And in all this, you learn to trust and appreciate the process. In the process, you learn a bit more about you everyday. You learn to understand how your mind and body works. You learn what motivates and drives you. Your purpose? To find that light, to find your high. Find that thing that if you were to have it taken away from you, it would drive you insane and you would only go searching for it. And where do you find this light? There’s only one place to search and that’s from within. It’s in you.

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You learn to really focus your attention on how you carry yourself and what kind of energy you surround yourself in. You learn to remove the negatives in your life and surround yourself with positivity. Sure, you’re going to have the negatives in your life that tell you no, but do these same people provide you with constructive criticism to lift you higher. Throughout your day you learn to concentrate your efforts and hone in your attention to what you read, watch and the conversations you indulge in. Whether it’s a motivational video to ball highlights, that energy I get from seeing other humans test and surpass their limits gets me amped and motivated to really strive for my best everyday. You are a positive light and you only shine brighter with the people that fuel your flame. Do the people you surround yourself with only want to party, eat out, drink and waste time or are the people you surround yourself with the go-getters, those who put their time to use and also have a bigger vision and one that includes helping you grow. Re-evaluate and differentiate between positive and negative energy. Learn to eliminate the negatives and illuminate the positive. Because when you hear a thousand voices around you, you’ll only look to that lone voice, your voice that tells you “Yes I Can”. That’s confidence.

“There’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours”

At the end of the day, it’s you vs. yourself. There is no body else in that lane obstructing your path to success but you and your thoughts. It’s a kind of opponent that you can’t see but can feel. That feeling you get in a 4X100m relay race when you hear someone panting down your neck as they start to pick up their pace and you can hear the sound of their steps approaching faster and faster. What do you do? Are you going to stand there or push harder and take flight? Who is that person gaining ground on you? That’s you. That’s your fears, your doubts and your insecurities lined up side by side in this race we call life. You feel like the whole world is against you, but guess what? It’s only a battle against me, myself and I. You are invincible. Drown out the uncertainty with the sound of your own heart beat.

“Heart beatin’ fast, let you know that he alive”

Fuel that flame inside you with passion. Carry that momentum forward and soar high with that passion and never forget that battle you’re fighting inside you everyday.

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“I’m tired of living with demons, cause they always inviting more”

Make a vision board. Think of the 24 hours you have in a day. What are you going to do with that time? What are you going to do with the next 48 hours, the day after that, the week after that, the month after and soon we have a year. But to be great, we have to start thinking in the hours, minutes and seconds we have. Think about the here and now. What are you going to do today that is going to propel you one step closer to your vision? Is that all you got? Look deeper, search harder, and drive faster. Let that fire ignite inside you. That’s love. So, love yourz,

Rise and shine.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCAvzIFY-s

“There’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success”