For much of my life, my identity as a woman of color was rooted in embarrassment. I hid my weekend activities, which were always Carnatic music class, Bharatanatyam class, and Bala Vihar (study of Hindu scriptures). Instead, I would highlight that I had soccer practice and western piano class.

Though I tried to fit in — agreeing with my classmates: “ugh maybe I should pretend to be sick so I can skip a day of school,” I grew up with an intense value for my education because of how hard my grandmother and mother fought to get theirs in a place where it was not supposed to be a priority for them. Despite suffering through blindness, my grandmother has always been the primary caretaker for her family and observing her has shown me what it means to be a strong woman in the face of adversity: as a woman, a POC, and a sufferer of medical maladies. She has given me a strong foundation for what it means to be connected to my family and my intersectional identity  — to remain grateful and passionate about my exposure to the Indian classical arts as well as my access to education in this country where my parents and the generations before them made so many sacrifices.

Despite living what seemed to me like a Hannah Montana-style double life — one with my hair-straightening, soccer-playing, English-speaking self and the other with my curly, frizzy hair (that seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when it wasn’t being suffocated by heat), Carnatic music notebooks, dance saris, household full of Tamil and Telugu conversations, and a kitchen constantly filled with smells of masala, idlis, and sambar — I felt that I never had a story to tell. As I’ve begun to nourish and care for the curls on my head, I’ve learned to nourish my soul through self love and acceptance. As I remember the idli and sambar that once took over the school lunchroom with their smells and earned me dirty looks from classmates, I’ve learned to appreciate these embarrassments. They are the stories of my childhood that made me ever so human and unique. I cherish these character-building, tough-loving, frustrating moments that did not allow me to be anything other than myself—the moments that would laugh at me when I pretended to fit into a standard of popularity and beauty that I was inherently never destined to conform to. And my story is just that: a chronicle of inner self love detailed through my ever-changing external appearance.

Through MiC, I am endlessly excited to explore the connectivity of all our stories; some that make us undeniably human with a common thread shared amongst us all and others that are different textures of the same thread, frayed with experiences or colored rainbow with unique perspectives. I hope to contribute to an outlet of emotions, thoughts, trials, tribulations, enthusiasm, optimism and hope, and challenge my own worldview with the power of storytelling and reflection.

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