My name is Radhika Kalani and I am 20 years old. I was born in Jaipur, India and I currently reside in Queens, New York. Being born into and growing up in a desi family and community, there’s a very common mindset that divides males and females. A chronic sequence of guidelines are set for each gender, which affects them from a young age. They become such a norm that anything that differs from it is a taboo.
Born a boy seems to be a blessing in an Indian family; you are treated with love and it’s a joyous and celebratory occurrence. When a baby girl is born, however, there’s a very tense atmosphere among families; some will react similarly to when a boy is born, and others will regard her simply as a burden. And this? This is where society begins to hurl their rules to mold each gender into what they want. Men take the route to be the breadwinners, as is in many cultures, and the women are shown the workings of taking care of all else. Generations of families have advanced and modernized their thinking to that of the century we live in, yet there are numerous out there that still succumb to the old society’s views.
A graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, earning good grades wasn’t what was difficult for me. It challenged me, though, and that is what prepared me academically for my future. Much like other teenagers in the same boat, what didn’t come easy was accepting myself. Insecurities can kill a lot of hopeful dreams as a child and it can honestly trumanize your self worth. Loving myself was one of the hardest battles I have faced. So what brought about the change in me? I was not much for adventure nor was I comfortable with forming tight-knit relationships, but that changed after a fallout with a close friend in my senior year of high school. I couldn’t have a small circle of friends, only for someone who I trust to break everything, leaving memories and distress in their wake.
After a heartbreak, I learned how to love myself and most importantly, I valued my self worth. These instances taught me that I can’t hide in my shell forever; I couldn’t continue to lose those that I put time and effort into, only to have no one in the end. The understanding and overcoming of my insecurity also put me in an entirely different mindset. It broke me out of the norm that surrounded me as I grew up. I can be an individual and an equal in the world; I didn’t have to hide myself behind anyone or await anyone’s directions. I was no longer a follower but rather a leader of my own journey. Now here I am pursuing my dreams and most importantly, making my parents extremely proud. Like most Indian families who helm their sons as their greatest achievements, my parents have treated my sister and I no less than that. They continuously bless and shower us with love and respect. Knowing that I have their support every step of the way in my journey, I feel as if the sky's the limit, and beyond. Because I’ve experienced it first hand and grown up in a household that constantly preached and lived it, life truly is all about treating others with the same level of respect and love. It enabled me to take steps to break the brown society’s norm of, “if you’re a girl, you stay a girl.”
I can guarantee that there are women out there who have and can do a far better job than their male counterparts. A male-dominated field should not intimidate any woman from accomplishing her goals and dreams. Don’t let anyone underestimate or make you feel worthless, and if they do, take advantage of it, so it’s never repeated. Know that there are people out there who can be your pillars of support; allow them into your shell and make sure that trust is a two way street.
Every single day stereotypes are broken. Women, especially, are slowly yet surely mustering up the confidence to take what they have rightfully earned and deserve. Gender should not be an obstacle for something as small as an attempt. Take that step, you never know what may come out of it. Stereotypes, discrimination, and prejudice are the holy trinity of negative thoughts of a world; break it, destroy it, reform it, and rewrite it. It’s the making of a new history and let everybody know there’s no backing down.
My name is Radhika Kalani and this is my Project Why.