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 for 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.

“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. 

Falling Off Track in College

Back home I was super disciplined and lowkey had my life figured out. My mornings were something that I took immense pleasure in because they were structured and gave me clarity. I enjoyed waking up to the loud chirping of the birds and the beam of sunlight on my forehead that escaped between the curtains. I adored the moments leading up to drinking my morning cup of coffee as I got ready to journal, meditate, and workout.

Now, as a full-time college student, my mornings have been anything but structured. I really did try to maintain them the first week of college: I woke up at 5:00am every day, got a meditation and a workout in, didn’t skip breakfast – I was doing great at being an adult. However, starting from the second week of college, I just completely lost my structured morning routines – no longer sleeping enough, working out, eating. This has to do with the fact that I am now staying up WAY later than I’m used to because college is not just about academics. It’s also about our social lives and unfortunately for me, social interactions tend to be a lot more fun only post 10:00pm 😉.

I now wake up feeling burnt tf out – not just because I sleep later, but because college is so much work ya’ll. We have to study hard, make our own food, be social creatures, attend club meetings, keep up with extracurriculars, talk to our families, take care of ourselves physically AND mentally. It’s exhausting.

I catch myself feeling so freaking guilty and anxious when I have to skip meditating or working out because time does not allow for it or because my body is just so tired. I started hating on myself for failing to take care of myself. Meditation and exercise were my sources of therapy every day. It was during these allotted periods of time that I could let go of the world and just tap into myself. Therefore, no longer having those moments to myself is anxiety-provoking.

To cope with these newfound emotions due to the sudden change of routine and lifestyle I had to constantly remind myself of the following:

  1. Not everything can be planned for. Life is unpredictable and I cannot control every single situation.
  2. Sleep is just as important as meditation/exercise, so it’s okay if I skip a day or two if that means I get some extra hours of sleep in.
  3. I do not work out to look a certain way. I work out because of the way it makes me feel – internally. Don’t get caught up in this superficial BS that most college students are hung up on.
  4. The days I stayed up late to go party or meet up with people are filled with good memories! So don’t feel guilty for wanting to make the most of college and create amazing memories.

For any of you folks who may also be feeling something similar, just know that we’ll get through it. We’ll reflect back on our undergrad years and think “Damn, we squeezed the living life out of every opportunity that came our way and we worked our butts off, and we also had an immense amount of fun while doing so.”

6 Months of Using the Five Minute Journal

I completed my first Five Minute Journal recently and I can’t help but feel a bit proud of myself. I’ve never been able to make a consistent habit of journaling up until this point.

The fact that the Five Minute Journal only takes five minutes or less to complete made it so much easier for me to incorporate into my morning/night routines. There were, of course, still days when I forgot to journal, but I still kept up with the practice for 6 months!

Here are 2 examples of my early entries that brought a smile to my face 🙂

As I reflected on my entries, I noticed some common themes.

  1. I’ve started to love my body a lot more. One of my biggest insecurities has always been my body, so reading the entries and seeing how my self-body image has been improving brought me so much joy.
  2. I am the happiest and least anxious when I am with family, friends, and nature. I never realized that this was such a big deal for me until I re-read the entries. I can now intentionally carve out time to be with my closest people and go out in nature as often as I can so that I can have some mental peace.
  3. My job makes me so anxious. I should write and state affirmations to myself to enable me to think past the negativity and focus on the things that I can control.

I think the important part about journalling, which I only recently understood, is that it doesn’t really help (at least for me) in the moment. Sometimes it may feel like a burden or a hassle to sit down and write. Journaling is so much more effective when we take that minute or two to go back and read our entries because we literally see our evolution on the pages. I saw how I changed my perception of my body, for example, as I kept reading through the entries. Journalling provides subtle, yet drastic effects and I think that’s why so many people are always stressing the importance of it.

Chewing Gum and Anxiety

I hear my heartbeat in my ears and feel as though I’m not getting enough air to breathe in and out. My chest tightens and my throat closes. Sweat develops in my armpits, forming embarrassing sweat stains on my tshirts. Repeating: You’re okay. Just breathe. does nothing to alleviate my symptoms. 

This is when I remember to open up my backpack and grab a piece of EXTRA peppermint gum. I start chewing, and almost immediately my chest and throat open up. I no longer feel like I’m fighting to simply breathe. My heart is still rapidly beating, but it’s no longer pulsing in my ears and preventing me from focusing on the task at hand. 

Chewing gum is my go-to method for ensuring my anxiety does not spiral out of control. When I began to notice how my habit of chewing gum and anxiety were linked together, I did some quick research and found that there’s actually science that backs up this idea:

  • “A study out of Swinburne University found that people who chew gum while multitasking under stress had lower cortisol levels, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and increased levels of alertness and performance. Another found that chewing gum can improve a negative mood, and increase levels of peace and calm.” – Inc.com
  • “The ancient Greeks and Mayans chewed on tree resin, while the first “chewing gum” was made in the 1800s from a type of rubber known as chicle (yup, the same stuff Chiclets were named after!). While today’s gum tastes a lot better, the ancient Greeks and Mayans may have been on to something— studies suggest the ancient chewers may have felt less stress than their non-gum-chewing counterparts” – Greatist

Keeping this evidence and my own personal experience in mind, it’s crucial to understand that gum does NOT cure anxiety – it only provides temporary relief. Additionally, just because this works for me and for some others, does NOT mean that it will have the same effects on you. 

Identifying a mechanism to help yourself bounce out of the anxious period – whether that be chewing gum, cold showers, running, etc. – can greatly improve your work ethic, mood, and enable you to attempt to remain in the present moment. 

Other mechanisms that help my anxiety (but are not as immediately accessible as chewing gum):

  • Walks in nature
  • Long showers
  • Driving with music or a podcast
  • Working out and sweating A LOT
  • Watching a movie with my family 
  • Writing/Blogging

Creative Living is Extraordinary

This was a refreshing and encouraging read. 

Quick Synopsis: Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the importance of creative living. The importance of chasing curiosity, not wallowing in failure, and recognizing that creative living is the only way to live. 

The most interesting part of this book was when Gilbert talked about her idea to write a book about the Amazon jungle. The idea just came to her and she was ecstatic and completely imbibed in the process of writing that book. However, unexpected events in her life came in the way and hindered the completion of that book. Years later, Gilbert meets one of her author friends, who shares a book idea that she got. The friend repeats the same plot and idea that Gilbert had had with her Amazon jungle story. HOW INSANE! 

We often think that ideas are our own. After reading this book, I realize that ideas do not belong to us – we do not create them. Ideas are alive entities and they find that one right person who will bring them to life. 

That’s exactly what happened with Gilbert. The idea of the Amazon jungle novel chose Gilbert initially, but when it realized that Gilbert would no longer be able to birth it to life, it chose a different human to do the job. What an incredible finding! 

I often get scared that someone will do something before me. I have ideas and projects in mind, so I worry that someone will beat me to it. I will proceed to internalize it if someone does beat me to it. 

Note to self after finishing this book: Someone has already done something that you wanted to do because there are only so many things to be done. But no one has done that something the way that you will or have done that something – and this, is the beauty of our human existence. 

It’s okay if the same idea that found us traveled away from us and found someone else to fulfill it. We need to realize that either we were not fully ready to do justice for that project or that we can still keep going with the idea and do it in our own way (that is, only if we are still extraordinarily passionate about it). 

All in all, this was an incredibly thought-provoking book that made me reframe the way I’ve thought about life. It’s also provided me with some answers on how to handle my envy of others. 

I would definitely recommend this for anyone who feels as though they are “stuck,” have no purpose, jealous, or just want to learn how to notice the signs that the Universe continues to bombard us with everyday.

Why the Physician Mental Health Questionnaire is Ineffective for Adolescents

Whether it be for a sick visit or an annual check-up, my doctor’s office always has me fill out a “Mental Health Questionnaire.” The questionnaire essentially consists of numerous statements with a scoring criteria. For example, one statement could be written as “feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge” and the right hand columns will have a 0 for “not at all,” 1 for “several days,” 2 for “more than half the days,” and 3 for “nearly every day.” As I circle a number for each statement, I arrive at the end where I am required to tally up the numbers and give myself a score. 

This questionnaire has been a recent requirement, which I appreciate as it shows that mental health is becoming more of a priority in medicine. However, there are a couple drawbacks to this that I feel defeats the whole purpose of having pediatric patients fill this out. 

For starters, minors are accompanied by their parents for these doctor visits. Therefore, parents are sitting next to them when children fill out these questionnaires. It can sometimes be uncomfortable and hard to honestly answer the questions because there’s a high probability that our parents are looking over our shoulders to see what we’re writing down. This automatically skews the answers and deems the questionnaire ineffective. 

The other major con of this questionnaire is that most doctors don’t even look at it or mention it during the visit. Out of all the years I’ve been required to fill this out, only one doctor took the time to send my mom out of the room and talk to me about my answers. The rest of the physicians didn’t even look at my responses.

What does this convey to pediatric patients? 

When the physicians didn’t even bother to take a few minutes to check in with how I was doing mentally, it conveyed to me that getting my ears, eyes, heart, and the rest of my body was more important to them than understanding the way I was feeling mentally. 

It also showed me that physicians may not be taught medicine from a holistic standpoint. Especially in the U.S, medicine is more about analyzing a patient’s somatic symptoms and arriving at a diagnosis for further treatment. Therefore, physicians are likely to overlook symptoms of depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorder, etc. because they are so focused on the issues of the physical body.  

The questionnaire was a great starting point to prioritize mental health in medicine. However, it is now time to step it up a notch. This could be done by requiring doctors to take time out of the visit to have conversations about mental health. This, not only will help children who recognize that they are mentally struggling, but will also raise awareness for the children who are not aware of mental health and mental illnesses.