Dear Diary….

You are okay. You are overwhelmed, but you are okay.

Your monotonous routine was suddenly bombarded by other factors and that has been the biggest source of anxiety for you. You have been unable to wake up at the dusk of dawn like you usually do. Your ability to work for hours on end has significantly decreased. You’re reverting back to the mindset of thinking that you are “falling behind.” It’s all of this and more that is scaring the living daylights out of you. You are okay.

Let me be your guiding light 💡

Rigid routines are just as anxiety provoking as not having a routine at all. Striking that balance is essential. You don’t regret any of your decisions when you prioritized your health and happiness. And if you do, you shouldn’t. Health and happiness should be strived for. They should never be second priority. It’s uncomfortable for you because you’re not used to it. But here you are, letting yourself try new things and feeling new feelings in 2022. Though you are now silently cursing yourself out for allowing so much work to pile up, remind yourself that this – “this” meaning the present moment – is a tiny tiny tiny drop in the vast ocean that is your life. Everything is so temporary. You are okay.

Let me also remind you that there is no such thing as “falling behind.” There are no ‘start’ and ‘finish’ lines in life. It’s just a wiggly and curvy path that only comes to an end when our biological selves decide to shut down. Up until that point, your only job is to navigate through that path at your own time and pace – free of comparison and full of an extreme amount of self-compassion.

Rooting for you always.

Life Lesson From a Maid

Note: I wrote this years ago 😂 But I thought it was such a nice, little reflective piece when I found it again, so I wanted to share it with ya’ll. This post can also be found on https://happy2thrive.org/life-lesson-from-a-maid/


I stay with my mom’s older sister whenever I visit India. 

She lives in a two-story house with a continuous supply of clean water, air conditioning, and healthy food. 

Behind her house is a small, man-made neighborhood consisting of back-to-back huts all enclosed under one unsteady, tin roof. 

I would always see kids with no shoes on, sometimes wearing torn clothes, walk out of that neighborhood and run down the mainroad, seeming to ignore their safety and health. 

One day, my aunt came up to me and requested, “Come with me to see where Mary went.” 

Mary was my aunt’s maid. She cleaned the house, washed clothes, and rinsed dishes every day. Mary lived in the neighborhood behind my aunt’s house.

“She always tells me if she can’t come, but didn’t today. I just want to make sure everything is okay,” my aunt explained. 

I understood and accompanied her on her search. 

We walked to the back of her house and crossed the street. We stood at the entrance of the neighborhood and stared at the flimsy door that we had to push open to enter. 

My aunt used her sari to push it. We walked in and I was suddenly hit with the most repulsive smell. I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly caused it until I turned to my right and saw two buffaloes covered in mud, sitting in their own defecation. 

On one hand, I was disgusted by the smell; on the other, I was terrified of those unguarded buffaloes. 

My aunt noticed my newly formed fear and assured me, “Oh, don’t worry. That’s pretty normal around here. You’re safe.” 

She dragged me away from the buffaloes and kept walking me down the unkempt, dirt pathway. 

Both my aunt and I used the long end of her sari to cover our noses and mouths as we made our way through the neighborhood. 

People living there stared, with big, bold eyes, at the both of us, without even blinking until we were out of their vision.

“These people never see the higher-class walk into their neighborhood. That’s why they’re so appalled. Don’t mind them,” my aunt said bluntly.

As we continued walking in search of Mary’s home, I saw many moms bathing their children with filthy water in the open area of the neighborhood. I saw shirtless, old men using twig branches to brush their teeth. I saw kids eagerly shoving pieces of candy down their throats and throwing the wrappers onto the dirt floor.

After what seemed like a lifetime, we found Mary’s hut. My aunt tried knocking, but the door was flimsy enough to swing open with one touch. 

I saw Mary sitting against the cement wall, holding her 10-year-old boy’s head in her lap as she smoothed a damp cloth over his forehead. 

Her eyes bulged when she saw us standing at her “doorstep.”

She stammered, “Wh-what are you do-doing here Mad’am?” as she gently placed her son’s head on the dirt floor. 

Before allowing us to answer, Mary said, “Oh, my God. I never told you that I wouldn’t be coming to work today. Saleem had a high fever, and I had to stay back. I’ll come back tomorrow, Mad’am. Please don’t fire me, Mad’am. I really need the money. I’m so sorry, Mad’am.” 

I was shocked by how much Mary valued her simple cleaning job. It was then that I realized it is that money she earns for performing those tasks that she uses to provide for her three sons and herself. 

“Mary, you’re not losing your job. I just came to check on you,” my aunt explained. “Go take Saleem to the medicine shop around the block and get a prescription for his medicine. I’ll pay for it.”

“No, Mad’am. I can’t let you pay for his medicine. He’ll be fine without it. He’s just red and hot. He’s fine,” Mary replied stubbornly.

My aunt, being the fierce lady she is, replied, “Mary, he has a fever and it looks pretty bad. Take him to the shop or you really will lose your job.”

Mary didn’t reply, but I knew she was grateful. 

That day, I watched families beam with joy for the smallest things in life. I watched parents work to their limit to care for their families. I watched children treat education like it was a piece of valuable treasure as they hoped to one day bring their families out of poverty. 

As a future healthcare professional, this experience motivated me to be able to provide the same services and aid to those who cannot afford healthcare, along with my regular patients. More importantly, as an individual, this experience fuelled me to always push further every time I want to quit because I knew that Mary would never give up.

Rest Up!

Coffee Date #25 and I had some amazing Frutta Bowls today. I came back home from campus and felt the food coma kick in.

My original plan was to come home and bang out a shit ton of work so that I could get ahead of my classes that are beginning next week, and possibly even get in a good workout.

What actually ended up happening is my mom excitedly jumping up and down as soon as she saw me, me smothering my brother, and my cousin being her usual hilarious self.

Despite all the love and energy I was receiving from my family, I forced myself to go upstairs to start my classwork. I barely lasted 30 minutes before I realized that I couldn’t work anymore. Hoping that maybe having my endorphins pumped up would help me finish my work, I went to go put my workout clothes on. That’s when my brain decided to activate and tell me that my body was just not really feeling it today.

That ‘devilly’ side of everyone’s inner self began telling me that I already did not do enough work, so now if I skip a workout, I will be utterly useless, unproductive, and a disaster.

It took me around 10 minutes to come to peace with my decision: let go of work (you can do it tomorrow), listen to the combined connection of your mind and body (skip a workout), and go spend time with your favorite humans (especially because you haven’t seen them for a week).

I always read and look for a resource to bounce me out of my negative self-talk because, naturally, I seek for validation. I look to find other people who have a similar experience because it provides me with so much comfort knowing that I’m not alone.

Therefore, I found this article and it kinda helped me ‘snap out of it.’ Specifically, the part of the article that states that we need to “avoid feeling guilty about feeling guilty” and “focusing on what you love about your workout, rather than punishing yourself when you need to skip it.”

Overall, I’m just super proud that I was able to force myself out of this little rut because this is one of my 2022 goals: to not let toxic productivity or hustle culture rule my life.

‘Not All Men Are the Same’: The Telugu Song That Created Controversy Over Its Lyrics

A couple weeks ago, my family and I went to the theatre to watch a Telugu film, called Pushpa. Before the movie released, the song ‘Oo Antava Oo Antava’ (linked above) was released.

First off, Actress Samantha looks absolutely breathtaking in the song as she slays the moves and adds the right amount of attitude to keep up with the lyrics.

A week after we watched the movie, one of my aunts told me that there has been a lot of controversy over this one song from the film. Supposedly, men were offended by the lyrics and a Men’s Association even “filed a lawsuit against the makers of Pushpa and also filed a complaint against them for portraying men in a certain light.

Let’s Talk About the Lyrics

I’m going to breakdown some of the lyrics from this song on the left-hand side of a table, and I’ll breakdown another popular Telugu song (that wasn’t opposed against) on the right-hand side.

‘Oo Antava Oo Antava’ (received a ton of backlash from men for describing the ‘male gaze’)


Potti potti gowney vesthey Patti patti choostharu

When she wears short clothes, They’ll [men] drool all over them [women]

Mee kallallone anthaa undhi
Mee maga buddhe vankara buddhi

Your [men] eyes say it all. The male mentality is a twisted mentality

Thella thellagunte okadu
Thallaakindhulauthaadu
Nalla nallagunte okadu
Allarallari chesthaadu
Telupu nalupu kaadhu meeku
Rangutho pani yemundhi
Sandhu dorikindhante saalu
Mee maga buddhey vankara buddhi

When she’s fair-skinned, One man is mesmerized. When she’s dark-skinned, Another man goes crazy. It doesn’t matter if she’s fair or dark, They [men] just need a chance. The male mentality is a twisted mentality.

‘Ninne Ninne’ (received no backlash from men for sexualizing a woman)


Before breaking down some lyrics, let’s analyze the scene that comes before the song.

Notice at 1:26, when the girl asks “Do you love my heart or my body?” the guy immediately responds “the body because I don’t know your heart. You look gorgeous; a great smile, a fantastic skin tone. That’s all I need.

The girl tries to make him understand that our bodies should not define us and we are so much more than that. To that, the man vulgarly asks (at 2:26) “Will you have sex with me tonight?” to taunt the girl’s previous statement. He then breaks out into a song that essentially stalks the girl and sexualizes her body.


Devudichina andalu ayyo papam paruvalu
Cheyyamake matti paalu chuttukuntay papalu
Nuvvu leka ne lene ninnu vidichi polene
Neellu leni bavilona duki nenu chasthane
Inave nuv inave ose inave ehe inave..
Ninne ninne.. Ninne ninne… Ninne ninne… Ninne…

God has given you so much beauty, and yet you’re still a virgin. Don’t waste that beauty; you’ll become a sinner. I’m nothing without you; I can’t leave you. I’ll jump in a well without water, Listen to me, hey! Listen to me!

Note: There is a clear portrayal of sexism in both songs. In ‘Oo Antava Oo Antava,’ there’s a classic depiction of “men leering at a woman as she sways, slides and drapes herself over the hero, while a camera constantly cuts to bared bits of her body.” In ‘Ninne Ninne’ the man is aggressively yelling and, at one point even, pretends to hit the woman (4:00). Oh and let’s not forget him blackmailing the girl that he’ll essentially kill himself (i.e. “I’ll jump in a well without water”).

‘Oo Antava Oo Antava’ targets men for treating women the way they do; whereas, ‘Ninne Ninne’ is targeting women for not succumbing to the man stalking, verbally abusing, and sexualizing her. Despite this irony, the former song is the one that received so much backlash. Do we see how this is a clear problem?

Many men were supposedly offended that they were depicted as such people, leading to many to use the impeccable phrase “Not all men are like that.”

  • “So #NotAllMen doesn’t clarify anything. It doesn’t add to the discussion or develop it in any way. All it does is derail and dismiss the lived experiences of women and girls. And what the men who leap to remind us that ‘’not all men are like that’’, are actually saying is, ‘’I’m not like that.’’ Or to put it another way, they are letting women know that discussing misogyny makes them uncomfortable, and they’d like to be absolved of any blame before they will let women continue.
  • If you are a man and don’t recognise yourself in the behaviour described by women recently, then great. Our discussion of it shouldn’t offend you, or put you on edge. The men who are behaving like allies in this are the ones that are amplifying women’s voices, examining their own behaviour, and not drowning out our conversations in search of praise or validation.” – Medium

A woman is allowed to wear whatever she wants, dance in whatever way she wants, and look the way she wants.

Many aunties and grandmas I know have said “I don’t like how vulgar Samantha looks in that song” or “Why is she wearing that, exposing all of her body like that?”

It’s 2022 people; get over it!

If it’s okay for you to watch men, like Salman Khan, dance shirtless, then it is equally okay for a woman, like Samantha, to wear what she’s wearing and absolutely slay on screen!

It’s not okay, however, that men are seldom sexualized or taunted for wearing or looking the way they do, whereas women are constantly sexualized for doing the same exact freaking thing.

Conclusion

The point of this long-winded post was:

  1. The male ego got super butt hurt after ‘Oo Antava Oo Antava’ was released because it explicitly called men out on their behaviors.
  2. Create songs that don’t sexualize women. People fantasize and imbibe what they see on screen, especially in India, since the celebrity craze is extra hyped. Therefore, it’s crucial to send the correct messages through these films.
  3. Samantha is a freaking queen and should not be criticized for wearing what she wore and looking the way she did in the song.

25 Coffee Recap!

WE FINISHED 25 COFFEE DATES IN 2021!

In a world where technology is so prevalent and social connection is no longer of utmost priority, I’m amazed that I was able to connect with 25 people to talk about our lives. 2021 was one of the most enriching and soulful years I’ve had yet solely because of this project.

Here are some of my thoughts so far:

  1. I’m actively trying to incorporate some of the lessons I’ve learned from these dates into my own life. For example, coffee date #15 talked about the importance of saying no in college. Last semester, I used his wisdom to prevent myself from staying up incredibly late just to finish one homework assignment. There were many times where I put my overall well being before academics because our lives are so much more than the letter grades we receive.
  2. I’ve become more spontaneous. This is in part due to coffee date #25. Being more spontaneous also helped me take more risks. A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to become a licensed pilot. I even flew a plane for the first time ever and was absolutely in love!
  3. I learned that humans are truly three-dimensional beings. There are SO MANY authentic layers behind every single one of my coffee dates, and to think that I would not have figured that out if I hadn’t sat down with them for a date. 🙈

Some lingering questions/future directions:

  1. Do I stop at 50 or do I keep going?
  2. I need to do a better job at implementing some of the things that the coffee dates have told me.
  3. I should keep in touch (as much as possible) with these dates after we had our dates.
  4. Should I only do coffee dates with people I know?

Thank you for coming on this journey with me. We have one more year to go – 25 more dates to go – and I’m ecstatic to share everyone’s incredible personalities with you all! I may or may not have another project idea in mind after I complete my dates, soooo stay tuned for that 🥰

Dear Diary…

Yesterday I woke up at 6:30am to finish my winter course work. I wanted to get a head start on the day, so that I could start next week’s work too because I knew I’d be busy with extracurriculars in the days to come.

I finished the day’s work by 10:00am, worked out, ate lunch, and then dropped my brother off at his Robotics class. While waiting in Starbucks to pick him up, I opened my laptop again hoping to start next week’s work. Sadly, my professor had locked that work until the next week :/

I spent the next two hours racking my brain, trying to figure out what other work I had to finish before picking up my brother. I felt my anxiety skyrocket because I had planned to get ahead, “be productive,” and not “waste” the two hours I had.

I went home thinking that I’d work on other things because it’s not okay for me to not be working right? Bullshit. I realized it was moments like these that I wanted to fix in 2022. I wanted to learn how to allow myself to be free and learn to not let work and productivity overtake me.

It’s okay to relax. Breaks are not meant only for the times when we work our butts off. Breaks are also meant for the days we do absolutely nothing. Relaxing, breathing, and living in the moment can happen at any time, and we should make space in our lives to have those moments, guilt-free.

In the episode linked above, Glennon, Abby, and Amanda talk about how having an insanely rigid routine can oftentimes create more harm than good. “Self-love” does not mean we HAVE to always meditate every single day, do yoga every single day, or finish an X amount of work every single day. Sometimes the best thing we can do on our “self-love” journey is to give ourselves the freedom to listen to what we truly need on that given day.

Being “Man Enough”

It took me a couple years to dissect the phrase “be a man” because it was always subtly thrown around at my brother or to some other man in my life. Now that I have understood the true message behind this phrase, I realize that it is complete bullshit. Being and feeling “enough” should not be gendered. Everyone is entitled to having emotions AND displaying those emotions. A man should not be primed to believe that he does not have the right to show those emotions.

A big thing that I’ve tried to incorporate into my relationship with my younger brother (who is currently 13 years old!), along with the help of my amazing cousin, is demolishing the gender divide when it comes to being who we are as humans.

Arya, my brother, has big emotions. We’re similar in that way, however, I express my emotions slightly more than he does and that has to do with the way we were both raised. We were raised to suppress all emotions, except for happiness. Little did we know that we can not portray happiness without portraying all the other emotions. In the world that we’re living in, unlearning this phenomenon and learning how to feel everything is somewhat easier for women than it is for men. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that Arya was not going to enter adulthood feeling numb to all his emotions and succumbing to the ridiculous patriarchal rules attributed to “what it means to be a man.”

I felt like I had truly succeeded when one day I got a text from him saying that he just had a sob session after watching some Anime show. When I tell you I was jumping for joy, I was jumping for joy. This was a huge breakthrough because he had never expressed his feelings after watching something because again he was subtly trained to believe that “men don’t cry.” So for him to allow himself to unlearn and learn that it is completely valid, okay, and human for him to cry during an emotional time made me feel like I was on top of the freaking world.

Justin Baldoni’s podcast, The Man Enough Podcast, has been revolutionary for me and I’m in love with it. It’s making me cry, unlearn, relearn, and be compassionate. It’s making me feel and see things from a different light and I think we can also use this as we navigate through life and hopefully one day get rid of this gendered idea of our personalities.

Envision Your Purpose

Life got real tough as soon as in-person college began. It was a huge shock to my past regular and monotonous routine that I had created. I caught myself getting so tangled in the idea of the possibility of not getting into a good medical school because of the plethora of things that I kept telling myself that I lacked.

I then reminded myself of my purpose: to serve and heal as a surgeon.

I freaking love the Operating Room (OR). I fell in love with it since the first time I entered it when I shadowed a pediatric surgeon. It is breathtakingly beautiful how people from so many different fields work together in such an immaculate way as they open up a human body to restore. The human body was never meant to be opened up, fixed, and then closed up again! It’s jaw dropping.

I realize that me thinking solely about my med school trajectory is so superficial. I’ll burnout so much faster if I focus on that, when instead, I could focus on the purpose.

When I say “envision your purpose,” I mean envision. Truly just picture yourself doing what you’re so very passionate about.

I close my eyes. I see myself wearing dark blue scrubs and a hair net. I feel tiny goosebumps on my arms because I assume that the OR is always cold. I see my surgical team speaking to me as we have a patient laying on the operating table. I can feel my heart racing a tiny bit so as to signal to me that what I am doing is extraordinary. I feel the incisions I make and hear my mind telling me that this patient is going to be just fine.

Watching documentaries helps me envision to an even greater detail. Netflix’s A Surgeon’s Cut has further propelled me into the world of surgery. I watch that documentary every time I spiral and think about the superficial BS.

Here’s a little note I wrote for myself a couple days ago when I was flipping shit and thought I was “falling behind.” It now sits right on my desk, so that I can look at it almost every day. 🙂

The essence of this post is to remind myself and all of you that yes, it is good to take it one day at a time and live in the present moment. However, sometimes when we do that, we hang onto every little detail. This is why sometimes we just need to free ourselves and envision our greatest vision for ourselves. This will elevate us into a different mental dimension and will hopefully allow us to recenter.

“The Freshman 15”

The 4 years of undergraduate years are when us adolescents do the most growing – socially, academically, internally. Thus, many of us go through a phase of fat-phobia thanks to our societal norms. We’re so deadly afraid of gaining a few pounds that we start counting calories, starving ourselves, eat a bar of ice cream the whole day, workout way too much, and the most harmful – compare our beautiful bodies to other people’s and think that we are not enough.

I took the time I had at home during 2020 to try to heal my relationship with food and my body. I wouldn’t say I’m completely healed, but I do realize that the relationship is so much better than what it was a couple years ago. However, now that I’m in college, I keep getting triggered by the things that people around me continue to say or do. It feels like everyone I meet only cares about the amount of calories in a particular food or how they don’t eat Peanut Butter like I do because they’ll get fat if they do or how they’re going to workout extra tomorrow for all the “bad” stuff they ate today. Can we just get over it? Can we just realize that it does not freaking matter how fat or how skinny you are?

Of course the phase “The Freshman 15” does not help matters AT ALL. Who ever coined this phrase and embedded it into college students’ and their parents’ minds is ridiculous. It is inevitable to put on a few pounds in college. You don’t sleep as much. You can’t always have total control over the food you eat. You may consume alcohol on a weekly basis. It’s inevitable. What this phrase essentially implies is that students should aim to stay skinny in college – no matter what. #bullshit

College is so much freaking pressure y’all. And the way you look should NOT be adding onto that pressure because it doesn’t matter. Clearly, we all need to do some HARD work to heal our relationships with our bodies and foods.

Malls & their Fitting Rooms

Imagine finding a stunning dress at the mall. You’re excitedly putting on this new dress, zipping it up, fixing your hair, and then you look up at yourself in the dirty fitting room mirror. That’s when the eager smile on your face quickly droops into a frown as you notice that this dress was not made for you. You expected it to look one way, but it turned out to look completely different. 

For as long as I can remember, malls often triggered my negative self-body image. I’d sit in the fitting room to try on new clothes and would rip myself apart for looking the way I do. I’d think that it was my fault that the outfit would squeeze my body where it’s not supposed to squeeze and droop loosely where it’s not supposed to droop. 

However, it took me some time (and still does take me a minute) to realize that it is most definitely not my fault. Firstly, there is no way that anyone can look “good” in every single piece of clothing ever made. So, this is really step 1 –  realizing that not everything will look good on me. Step 2 is realizing that it’s actually the companies who make these outfits that are somewhat at fault because it is them who are still stuck in the past and continue to make clothes that try to mimic a woman’s “ideal body type.” The fashion industry has come a long way in trying to be more inclusive of different body types, but there are still major milestones to be met. 

I know it’s unfair to solely blame malls and the companies that make these clothes, but this is just my perspective on how malls make me feel. Instead of placing all of the blame on the clothes itself, some of my negative self-body image is also my fault. My negative self-body image comes from a place of insecurity. Thus, I want to develop a healthy relationship with my body so that I don’t concentrate on the parts of myself I don’t like. In fact, having a healthy relationship with one’s own body means that we are attuned and comfortable with the fact that our bodies are beautifully flawed. I am aware that this is so much more easily said than done. 

Bodies are extraordinary and it doesn’t matter what we look like. In order to feel more comfortable in a fitting room, I first need to be comfortable being who I am within my own skin.