a coffee update

It’s 2023 and I am 38 coffees in, with 3 more already lined up bringing me to 41 within the first quarter of the year.

2 whole years later, we’re finally getting closer to the magic number: 50. Thus, I wanted to do some reflecting.

I started Fifty Coffees, inspired by Lindsay Ratowsky’s blog, to push myself out of my comfort zone and start meeting/re-connecting with people in my life. It was a project that I began for myself. However, this project has now evolved into something that is much bigger than me. I now see Fifty Coffees as a medium for allowing me to share people’s stories with all of you.

I realized that somewhere along the line the project’s purpose changed from me trying to figure out my life to me trying to help others understand that every person has a story and every person deserves for their stories, lessons, and experiences to be heard.

This project has also given me the chance to build more intimate connections right off the bat. Spending an hour of intentional time debriefing each other on life and being utterly comfortable with vulnerability immediately peels away the superficial layer that most relationships start with.

Finally, I found that going on these coffee dates, talking to these precious souls, and then writing about them is actually one of the few things in life that brings me consistent amounts of joy. It’s a little self-care project!

12 more coffees to go!

temples & periods & feminism

Someone I recently met in India asked me ‘Do you believe in religion?’

When I replied with a “No, not really…..”

He proceeded to expand on my answer and said something along the lines of how religion, for the most part, was and is used as a tool to control the people of a particular belief. This conversation, along with numerous others I have had recently during classes and online, propelled me to think more deeply about the ways in which religion has played a role in my life; I wanted to reflect on how much of it I’ve subconsciously consumed and followed, despite my own feminist and individualistic values.

During this period of reflection, I found that the ‘period & temple’ rule is something that I’ve just abided by without ever questioning it or taking a minute to understand the purpose behind even having such a rule exist.

To start, here’s an excerpt from Saloni Saraf’s blog post titled ‘Mandir Misogny‘:

“We teach our daughters to be proud of their bodies, we challenge inequality, and we stigmatise discrimination. Yet we ignore what can only be described as misogynistic beliefs that stem deep into our tradition, and train our women to believe that menstruation is impure, and unclean. Don’t enter the temple as it will not be right. Don’t touch the kitchen utensils as you will stain. Growing up surrounded by a traditional Hindu family, whilst immersed in a liberal, feminist society can confuse anyone who’s genuinely interested in following a religion that runs through her family.”

As some of you read through this post, you may attempt to refute and claim that ‘there’s a science behind why women on their periods are not allowed to enter the temple.’ I preface this post with this statement because I was once forwarded an article by a man who said “see….there’s actual evidence as to why women on their periods shouldn’t enter temples. It’s unsafe for them due to the electromagnetic energy present inside temples.” I laugh thinking about that incident now, but am also irked by the fact that I didn’t do anything about it in that moment because I didn’t even know what was right & what was wrong and what was okay to believe & what wasn’t okay to believe at that time.

Here we are now as I’ve finally decided to do a tad bit more research into all things periods, religion, and feminism as it relates to Hinduism and the Indian culture, specifically.

what is the ‘period & temple’ rule?

Essentially, this unwritten rule states that if you’re a menstruating woman, you are not allowed to enter a temple.

Why? Well, supposedly undergoing a very normal biological process is viewed as ‘dirty’ and ‘impure.’

What is puzzling to me is how Indian culture and religion has selectively chosen when to celebrate periods versus when to shun them.

Many girls I know, including myself, have had a half-saree (i.e. ‘langa voni’) ceremony. The ultimate point of this ceremony is to highlight the girl’s ‘coming of age’ or, to put it bluntly, her period. My ceremony, in particular, was filled with lots of bling-bling jewelry, mouth-watering food, ear-pounding dances, plethora of flashing cameras, and lots and lots of love in the room. I sat in a fancy throne-like chair as all my relatives came to me one-by-one and blessed me. Blessed me for………………………………….getting my period? It’s literally a public declaration of ‘I got my period. Let’s party it up.’

In the olden days, the ceremony signified that a girl has now upgraded to the status of a woman and is finally ready to be married off. In the modern times, I see it as a way for people to, aside from showing off their daughters and wealth, protect some parts of their culture and give families a reason to bring loved ones together in an intimate way. The latter half of the purpose of this ceremony makes sense to me, but the rest of it does not.

If our culture promotes the sumptuous celebration of periods so publicly, why do we suddenly decide to hush them when it comes to temples?

a ‘scientific’ answer.

Referenced Article: Unearthing menstrual wisdom: Why we don’t go to the temple, and other practices

Sinu Joseph writes that the scientific explanation behind periods and temples is found in Ayurveda. Ayurveda is based on three of life’s guiding forces known as the doshas: (a) vata (air), (b) pitta (water), (c) kapha (fire).

Ayurvedic beliefs claim that menstruation helps women remove excess doshas on a monthly basis – essentially a monthly detox. They believe that the vata dosha is at work during these monthly processes and helps menstruation follow a downward flow or passage out of the body. Therefore, anything that disrupts this downward flow of energy during this time of the month should be avoided. Guess what supposedly interferes with this downward flow? The pujas, offerings, chants, and overall vibes of temples.

There was also a section in the article where Joseph conversed with a Guruji from Andhra Pradesh. This Guruji stated:

“What is pure, we don’t touch. And what we don’t touch, we call it a taboo. She (a menstruating woman) was so pure, that she was worshipped as a Goddess. The reason for not having a woman go into a temple is precisely this. She is a living Goddess at that time. The energy of the God or Goddess which is there in the murti will move over to her, and that murti becomes lifeless, while this (the menstruating woman) is life. So that’s why they were prevented from entering the temple. So it is exactly the opposite of what we think”.

This flips the narrative from ‘periods are dirty and impure’ to ‘periods make a menstruating person divine and Goddess-like.’ ……still confused and skeptical.

Here’s what I have to say to all of that ^

Firstly, both of the reasonings mentioned (i.e. interrupting the downward flow and becoming a ‘living Goddess’) do not belittle or demean women for their bodily functions. When we look at how these reasons have evolved over time, we see that it has turned into another way to separate and shame women. Modern society has somehow turned something that was more of a choice and respectful into a rule for menstruating people.

Secondly, I think it’s important to choose what you want to believe because I don’t see any rock-hard, scientifically-backed evidence behind those two reasons. From what I’ve gathered, Ayurveda is pseudoscience and a lot of what the Guruji spoke about is rooted in spirituality and energy that (as of right now) does not have much scientific backing either.

Thirdly, so how do those reasons pertain to the folks who menstruate who are not women?

After all that, my brain can’t help but to ask so who developed these theories? was it other women/menstruating people or was it men who have never experienced menstruation? If it’s the latter, then I think we should continue to furrow our brows, scratch our heads, and look more closely into the loopholes that are presented as ‘science.’

not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate are women

When thinking about menstruation, we’ve been conditioned to only think of women. However, we’re leaving out so many others who also menstruate. Allow me to create space to bring to the limelight some people, who don’t necessarily identify as women, who also menstruate (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • men
  • transgender people
  • non-binary people
  • gender-nonconforming people

define feminism. [no, we don’t hate men]

feminism (noun): advocating for equality for all genders and sexualities across all races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, sociocultural backgrounds, etc.

Too often feminism is attributed to a movement that is targeting men and thus, people believe that all feminists hate men. This is false.

Feminism at its core is about reclaiming voices and demanding equality for all. This may make some men squirm and feel uncomfortable because suddenly, they don’t have all the power in their possession, making them rather naively think that feminists hate men. We don’t hate men; in fact, I love men!

Also, any human being can be a feminist. Feminism is not for women. It’s for all of us, so all of us can be feminists.

the broader question: is feminism still needed today?

A few days ago, my mom and I got into an argument about body image. I was arguing (potentially even yelling, oops) that women are conditioned to identify their entire beings and worth based on their physical appearance due to the patriarchal nature of our society. My mother reddened with anger and scolded “why are you always saying women and men? not everything is about that.”

I scoffed. That’s the thing, though. If we look at everything occurring in our lives, including our own beliefs, a lot of things are based on that gender divide. I mean look at my own internal dissonance over not entering a temple when I’m on my period vs knowing that this is yet another way to control and ‘other’ women from everyone else. My mother does not understand the many ways in which sexism and misogyny can manifest.

Like my mother, many men and women have told me that in today’s world females are receiving better treatment and are being treated as an equal to a man. I disagree. I believe that there are definitely more conversations occurring in the more privileged spaces surrounding gender discrimination. However, not all of these conversations are being used as a basis for action and not all of these conversations are reaching the most vulnerable and underprivileged sectors of the world, which I believe are the key areas that we should focus on when cultivating such discussions.

Yes: we may have made large strides from the 20th to 21st century, but we are still continuing to live in a male-dominant society.

No: it is not wrong, tiring, or cumbersome to continue to speak up about such injustices.

India Showed Me How Toxic American Independence Is

As an Indian American, I used to once love the American lifestyle that vehemently promotes independence, hard work, and an equal starting ground for all: all elements of the so-called American Dream. As I got older and became more aware of the world around me, I realized that the U.S. is not as amazing as I’ve been conditioned to believe. Just like any other country, the U.S. also has its own flaws – flaws that have been constantly nagging at me since I’ve returned from my month long trip to India recently.

I have grown to love the sense of community and belonging in India. Unlike the U.S., India imbibes more of a collectivist culture. Majority of an Indian’s priority revolves around their families. For example, in the U.S., we’re taught and made to believe that we need to leave our home and be independent by the time we’re 17. In India, on other hand, it’s common to live with your family for the majority, if not all, of your life. Thus, interdependence rather than independence is emphasized in India.

As a result of this interdependent lifestyle, India creates a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart every time because it feels like the entire nation is kinda rooting for me. It’s no longer the idea of ‘you’re on your own and only your hard work can get you to the top of the tier.’ It’s more-so an idea of ‘we are all here to support you.” Note: I recognize that this may be the experience of someone who is extremely privileged in India; the same experience may not be true for others.

An excerpt from “What Italy Taught Me About America’s Toxic Independence Culture” perfectly encapsulates my thoughts:

“The first time I stayed with my boyfriend’s Italian family, I discovered privacy isn’t an Italian priority. His mother snatched our dirty clothes from our bedroom to wash, iron, and fold the first night. The following day, I found my underwear arranged neatly in squares waiting on the bed.

I swear I appreciated it, but I didn’t expect it. I quickly learned the words “mine” and “yours” don’t exist in an Italian family. Everything is “ours.”

As another example, my boyfriend’s extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends — are also given unlimited access to his time and services. My boyfriend’s cousin needs him to drive 4 hours to pick him up — done! His aunt has a friend who wants him to book her train tickets — No problem!

In an Italian family, boundaries don’t exist, even when it comes to finances. I can’t imagine my boyfriend declaring to a family member or close friend, “you’re asking too much.” or, “I’m sorry, I’m not available.”

At the risk of sounding evil, I have to admit my boyfriend’s can-do attitude initially infuriated me. I grew up in a family that didn’t ask for special favors since, in America, to be a “real adult,” you must take care of yourself alone.”

During my prior visits to India, I hated this idea of having someone do everything for me. Need my clothes washed – give it to the maid. Finished eating and want to wash the dishes – don’t, the maid got it covered. Need to go to the store to pick something up – don’t worry, the driver will go scoop it for you. Need to get a wax, but are too lazy to leave your house – all good, the salon employee will come straight to your home. I’m so used to washing & folding my own clothes, washing my own dishes, cleaning my own house, driving my own car, and literally sometimes even waxing my own legs; so experiencing all of these ‘luxuries’ or amenities was initially frustrating and uncomfortable. It made me feel like I wasn’t in control because America taught me that I must be in control of my own life and I must do everything on my own in order to succeed.

Now that I’m back in the U.S. after a month of immersing myself in the Indian way of life, I feel a disconnect. In fact, I feel a sense of deep loneliness that I believe stems from America’s promotion of toxic independence. I realized that this isn’t just me.

Even before the pandemic, more than 3 in 5 Americans have reported feeling lonely and the percentages have only increased since the pandemic. The remedy or cure that is often offered for such feelings is meditation, exercise, reducing social media usage, get out in nature, etc.

Why is no one understanding that maybe the real cure is to shift from independence to interdependence? Maybe we won’t feel so lonely and disconnected if, as a culture, we promote the idea that living with your parents for the rest of your life is okay; not being financially independent from the age of 16 is okay; taking a break from your job and not always running around to ‘work hard’ is okay. We do not have to do it all on our own.

India taught me that living in harmony with others and using the help & love from others is where the true beauty to life exists.

“If you’re successful in achieving independence, you may fulfill the American ideal. Regrettably, in the process, you’ll extinguish the beauty of life: to live in communion and collaboration with others. Moving to Italy taught me that navigating the world on your own isn’t an accomplishment. It’s a tragedy.” – Isabella Martin

Phir Milenge // See You Soon

This post was originally published on https://eshainbalashram.blogspot.com/.

I truly cannot believe that I’m back in my Jersey home and have completed my 15 days at Bal Ashram. I remember when I sat in the car for 2 hours, driving from the Jaipur airport to Bal Ashram, I was riddled with anxiety. Will the kids like me? How will the kids be? Will they be angry or will they ignore me? What is my purpose? Who am I and why am I even worthy of visiting the Ashram? Will the staff and faculty feel awkward about my arrival? So many questions and thoughts that were instantly hushed by the warm welcome of the staff, faculty, and most importantly, the children. 

I went to bed that first day realizing that this had been a dream of mine since my childhood days. I’ve always wanted to help children in any way I can and protect them as well as I can. It took me more than a decade to live out my dream and now I am filled with so many different emotions as I reflect on my time at the Ashram.

I want to take note of some things/moments I will forever hold in my heart:

  • Sunrises & Sunsets. I now have a weird obsession with the sun. Almost every day at the Ashram I had the incredible ability to witness both the sunrise and the sunset. Breathtaking. I hope I can continue to witness the sun’s glory here at home because it has been such a huge constant at Bal Ashram that I’ve grown to cherish.
  • The ‘Esha Didi’s. I will most definitely miss hearing all of the ‘Esha Didi’s. I’ll miss the suffocatingly pure and soul-filling effects of the children huddling around me and yelling my name in my face to get my attention. 
  • Chai & Biscuits. Masala chai is a fan favorite at Bal Ashram. They drink it every morning and around 4:00pm every day. I’ve grown to LOVE the taste of chai in combination with the Ashram’s Tiger Biscuits. The process of dipping the biscuit in the chai and then letting it melt in your mouth followed by a sip of the warm chai has been something I’ve grown to love. It’s also one of the most amazing ways to socialize at Bal Ashram. The staff and faculty sit on the stairs or inside the dining hall and take a few minutes to mingle with each other before they have to get back to their duties of teaching and supervision. 
  • Nature and music heal. Bal Ashram is located at a very scenic area, surrounded by mountains, occupied by plants and trees, and covered in a sand floor. All your senses are activated from the time you wake up: the chilling breeze coming down from the mountains, the clear view of the sunrises and sunsets, the feel of the cool tiles against your barefoot in the halls, the smell of the flowers growing on the trees. Bal Ashram has deepened my already existing love for nature. Music also plays a large role in the therapeutic atmosphere of Bal Ashram. Their daily prayers, slogans, chants, and meditations are so spiritually activating.
  • Never be afraid to party! These boys know how to party it up. They dance with so much passion and ‘kushi’ that you can’t help but groove with them. They taught me the dance to one of their Rajasthani songs and they even had a choreographed dance for ‘Jai Ho.’ IT WAS AMAZING! I taught them how to shake their hips (i.e. ‘thumka’) and give each other the hip hits because obviously that’s the classic Bollywood move everyone must know 🙂 
  • The Squiggle Technique. What a godly technique that left me in awe. This technique truly shows how much of our outer selves we hide/mask to fit our societal roles. It brings out our true inner feelings and subconscious thoughts that we often may try to suppress. 
  • Ladoos. While I was teaching a class on emotions one day, one of the boys started laughing hysterically. When I asked him what he was laughing at, he pointed at my cheeks and said ‘ladoo.’ I couldn’t help but crack a smile as I realized that he was referring to my chubby little cheeks that make an appearance every time I laugh wholeheartedly. I have now grown to love my cheeks thanks to that boy 🙂
  • Education is not a privilege – it’s a right. As of right now, education is a privilege for many of us when it really should be a right for ALL of us. One of the boys came up to me one day and said ‘You’re rich people and we’re poor people.’ I tried to explain to him that that is not true and money and living in the U.S. does not mean you’re better or ‘richer’ than anyone else in the world. However, he defined ‘richness’ as ‘being able to do and study whatever you want’ and that rocked me to my core. It’s true – I have the privilege to decide what education I want to receive and what future profession I want to enter. The boy told me that he doesn’t have that same option because he needs to study something specific that will make sure he gets a good job and enough money to then help his family come out of poverty. What an enormous burden to bear at such a young age. Going to school for me felt and looked so very different from what it looks and feels like for all of these children. 
  • Feminism in rural parts of the world. I already wrote about this previously, but I wanted to bring it up again to talk more about the gender divide. Opposite the Bal Ashram is a place called the Ballika Ashram, where teen girls come to learn sewing and beautician-related courses in an effort to get a job and become financially independent. During one of the celebrations, the Ballika Ashram girls came to the Bal Ashram to partake in the dances. I noticed that the boys and the girls would take turns dancing – they would never mix. The DJ would play some high-beat songs for the boys to dance to for 10 minutes and then he would switch to some low-beat and more elegant songs for the girls to dance to. When the girls arrived on the dance floor, the boys would move away and watch the girls, and vice versa. When I asked one of the boys why everyone isn’t dancing together (like I did with all of the boys and male staff/faculty the night before), the boy very confidently said “because when all boys and girls dance together, the boys dance with so much power that they might hit the girls and hurt them by accident.” I couldn’t help but to laugh at the internalized cultural sexism that still exists to this day. 
  • The 3 Musketeers. These three boys – V, L, and K – played a pretty large role at my time at the Ashram. They were older boys, around the age of 16-18, who are best friends with each other. I’ve heard and have been told directly by them that they don’t really interact with any of the staff, faculty, or even volunteers who visit the Ashram. However, they somehow felt comfortable enough with me and became a constant during my time there. These 3 best friends even collectively drew me a painting and gave me a tie-dye bracelet that says “Friend Forever” that I plan on wearing until it breaks open. I think the reason why I became so emotionally attached to these boys was because they made me feel like me being myself was enough. They gave me the space to open up and be completely myself and they accepted that part of me with so much love. 
  • The U.S. is seen as this almighty country. I agree that there are countries, like the U.S., with more resources and privileges compared to other countries. However, that does not make the people of that country better than anyone else. A lot of the boys have this internalized idea that Americans or even foreigners are superior to Indians. I don’t blame them because this has a lot to do with the centuries of the British oppression of India that may cause many to still believe that ‘white people’ or those who live in lands largely occupied by ‘white people’ are superior to others. 
  • The food! The cook, Ganesh Ji, is so insanely talented. Literally every single meal was stupendous, amazing, and incredibly filling. His paneer and puri combination was out of this freaking world!
  • The ‘Namaste Didi’s. The norm at the Ashram is to greet everyone, including the boys, with ‘Namaste’s instead of ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Hello.’ I will truly miss those early morning ‘Namaste Didi’s, where the boys would fold their hands around their chai cups and greet me with such kind smiles and eyes as they would walk me to their daily morning meet-up spots. 

The boys taught me a lot about life – too many to count, but I’ll attempt to list the main lessons. 

  • Love & presence is enough. Throughout my time at Bal Ashram, I was continuously riddled with self-doubt and guilt. Well-accomplished and distinguished leaders & talents from across the world visit Bal Ashram and then here I am, a super normal 20-year-old college gal who came from the U.S. I didn’t even have a degree to back me up! Who was I and why was I here? I wanted to just help in any way I can and I found that the ‘help’ that the boys wanted was a sense of belonging and love, so I tried my absolute best to give each and every one of them just that. I let myself open up and created a space where the boys saw me as an equal. During all their meditations and meetings, I would sit beside them instead of on a chair alongside the teachers. During their play time, I would play with them. During their movie times, I would sit for the entirety of the 2 hours and watch the whole film with them (and allowed for some to even use me as a human pillow). I gave them the space to feel comfortable enough to open up about their worries whenever they wanted to. Thus, I later realized that they didn’t need to know (or even cared about) whether or not I had a degree or if I conquered the world in some way or the other. They just wanted a companion and someone who could help them see themselves for who they are and remind them that they are all extremely talented & worthy boys. 
  • Trauma looks different for everyone. I knew that this was a fact, but I got to actually see it at the Ashram. One boy imagines a lot of things from his past due to his traumatic background. Another kid refuses to feel anger or recall his past, suppressing all of his feelings and festering up anger. Another kid feels so extremely lonely and has told me that he feels like his younger siblings have forgotten about him because he hasn’t seen them in years. Trauma is not comparable. Everyone’s trauma is trauma and thus, therapy & the healing process must also be tailored according to the needs of each individual child.  
  • What home is for some is an unknown place for others. Many of the boys remember where their homes are, but do not recall their homes being a safe space. Others reminisce about their past moments with their siblings and parents and feel lost as to why they ended up at the Ashram. Some are excited to be heading back to their homes and seeing their families after months. Home: it’s more-so a feeling than it is a place. 
  • Keep your inner child alive. Always. The children of Bal Ashram taught me to keep my inner child alive at all costs. I haven’t been that carefree & happy in so long! Keeping my inner child alive helped me become more spontaneous, ‘forgive & forget’ more easily, and made me enjoy life and its little offerings with much more ease.  

Coming back to my house in Jersey now feels a bit disorienting. I miss the ambience of the Ashram and the love from the boys. I know for a fact that I will see them again in the near future, so this isn’t a goodbye, just a ta-ta for now. Phir milenge boys 🥺

dear diary, currently: feeling small and inadequate.

I am currently living at the Bal Ashram in Jaipur, Rajasthan. I am a 100 Million U.S. Campaign intern and the foundation that that campaign is a part of runs this Ashram, which is a long-term rehabilitation center for boys rescued from child labor & trafficking. I’ve been living here for a week, teaching children about emotional well-being and doing one-on-one sessions with other boys who have learning disabilities. I only have one more week to go 😦

I realized that I’ve become rather possessive of these boys. I just want to squeeze all of them into my pocket and take them away with me. At the same time, I feel like I haven’t been doing enough for them. I don’t know any of the legal matters or policies regarding child labor. I am not a licensed therapist. I am also not a certified teacher. I don’t know who I am and what I can offer these children other than just my presence. And I don’t know if my presence is enough.

I want to be able to fix their lives and take them back to a stable household. I want to be able to fight for their rights in court. I want to help them psychologically. I feel like I am running out of time, but I know that’s false. However, it’s hard to continuously fight against your own thoughts.

One of the volunteers I met here, Julia (aka my next coffee date), told me that when working with children like these, we just have to keep reminding ourselves that we are enough, we are doing enough, and our work does have meaning.

I want to take it easy in 2023 and not put a timeline on my passions; I want to let my passions guide me, instead of the societal construct of a certain timeline. I don’t want to compare my passions and work with other people who may have similar interests. Everyone works at their own pace and in their own way. I want 2023 to be the year where I pursue my passions and relentlessly stand up for myself and the causes that I support.

Welcome 2023.

‘b****’: let’s unpack it.

Those of you who have been here a while know that I am a podcast fanatic. I have recently been hooked to Meghan Markle’s Archetypes, which dissects and explores the tropes and labels that have been or are still used to hold women back.

In her recent episode, Meghan sat down with Andy Cohen, Executive Producer of the Real Housewives franchise. Andy mentioned in the episode that one woman in the Real Housewives franchise wanted to use the b-word in her tagline. The word was not approved, however, Andy mentioned that the woman did make her case for why she does not feel offended by the use of that word. On the other hand, Meghan analyzed the b-word and how it was used to belittle women in the past during one of her previous episodes. She was shocked to hear that people from the current generation don’t mind the b-word because it’s used so often. Some also claimed that the b-word is easier to bear compared to all the other words/labels being thrown around today.

I was first introduced to the b-word in elementary school. In fact, I was considered to be one of the “late users” of the word. I didn’t begin using it until around eighth grade because at that point I had heard all of my fellow classmates use it so regularly, so obviously my 14-year-old self adapted to her social environment.

Here’s a confession: Today, I tend to use this word more often and with many of my friends. The b-word is a common vocabulary term that we use to sometimes greet each other, express anger, describe something, etc. However, I don’t think many of us realize that there is such a deep-rooted sexist history to the word. Thus, hearing Meghan Markle describe the b-word as a demeaning label for women was a shock to me, prompting me to research all about it.

what does it mean.

A “bitch” supposedly means a female dog. I’m not sure if this was common knowledge or not, but I simply had no idea or I was just oblivious to the fact that there is an actual definition of this word in the dictionary.

a quick history lesson.

The use of the b-word originates back to the 1400s (Hodgson, 2008). Apparently, calling a woman a b**** was used to accuse her of “being worse than a prostitute because at least a prostitute stood to gain financially from the broad distribution of her sexual favors” (Hodgson, 2008). Let’s pause really quick. Coffee date #5 is a strong advocate for substituting the word ‘prostitute’ with ‘sex workers’ or ‘sex professionals’ because it accepts/validates their labor. Therefore, it is crucial to note that the b-word is seen as something worse than, yet another, sexist, belittling label.

There’s also a link to the b-word and the Greek Gods. Supposedly, the Greek goddess Artemis-Diana, who was the goddess of the hunt, was often depicted as being in the presence of dogs. To spread Christianity and suppress the idea of a female being idolized, Christian Europe used the phrase ‘son of a bitch’ to criticize those who believed in Artemis-Diana (Kleinman et al., 2009). Therefore, this showed that the term ‘bitch’ was used to eradicate images of powerful and capable women by “equating them with sexually depraved beasts” (Kleinman et al., 2009).

why it is used.

Kleinman et al. states that “feminists analyzed that preference [the need to use ‘bitch’ over any male-associated terms, such as ‘jerk’ or ‘dickhead’] as internalized oppression, whereby members of an oppressed group learn to enjoy using the dominant group’s term for them” (2009). *jaw dropped. eyes bulged. gasped for a hot second.*

how it is used.

As mentioned previously, my friends and I tend to use this word nonchalantly. Some of us even use it to describe objects or events. For instance, let’s say we take an incredibly hard exam. Many might say that that “exam was a real bitch.” Others who still struggled through the exam, but felt that they did well might say “I bent that test over and made it my bitch” (these example quotes were taken from the Kleinman et al. paper).

In the former example, the b-word is being associated with “difficult” – yet another label often used to belittle women. In the latter example, the b-word is being associated with something that can be controlled, dominated, or conquered (Kleinman et al., 2009). And for how long have women been controlled and dominated in our largely patriarchal world?

Therefore, the paper noted that using the b-word over any other terms associated with men or masculinity (for example, people rarely say ‘that exam was a real jerk‘) to describe objects is further indicates just how abusive the b-word is towards women and how its use is fueling sexism.

The b-word is also often used in the political space, especially during heated debates and in media articles. During the 2008 primaries in the United States, Sarah Palin was supposedly “viewed as emasculating John McCain, who was then labeled a “bitch” in a comedic YouTube clip titled, “Is McCain Palin’s Bitch?”” (LisaNova, 2008). The fact the b-word was being used to describe a man, a white man nonetheless, immediately displays that its purpose was to ’emasculate’ him. It was also intended to insult the man for allowing himself to be dominated by a woman *insert dramatic eye roll* (Kleinman et al., 2009).

the conclusion.

Honestly, Kleinman et al.’s paper Reclaiming Critical Analysis: The Social Harms of “Bitch” has been incredibly insightful and eye-opening (2009). It shed light on exactly why the b-word is so offensive and why Meghan Markle was so confused as to why this term is such a normal part of millennial vocabulary.

Words hold so much power. They can be healing, grounding, and therapeutic. Yet they can also be sexist, demeaning, and continue to fuel all the labels and stereotypes attributed to different genders, races, classes, and people in general. Thus, we must choose our words carefully and accept it when we are oblivious to terms that are harmful and degrading. From acceptance, we must move towards change and that change can stem from something as simple as conscientiously removing such terms from our vocabulary.

Here are some other related articles and resources I found for any of you interested folks:

  1. Use of the word “bitch” surged after women’s suffrage (Zhou, 2020)
  2. What’s so bad about being called a ‘bitch’? (Taylor-Coleman, 2016)
  3. The Harmless-Sounding Phrase That Is Terrible for All Women (Rinaldi, 2017)

podiatry. what is it?

a quick end of shift selfie with Dr. Heidi Godoy!

I was first introduced to the field of podiatry through Dr. Heidi Godoy’s presentation to our AMSA club a couple weeks ago. One of the things she said that stood out to me was: “a lot of people do not understand the importance of our feet – they help us walk and move.” Thus, I emailed Dr. Godoy and asked if I could spend a day shadowing her in her office, to which she immediately agreed! Fun fact: Dr. Godoy is a TCNJ alum!

Dr. Heidi Godoy, DPM, practices at the Alps Family Foot & Ankle, which is a family (and women) run practice composed of Dr. Heidi Godoy and Dr. Johanna Godoy (and previously their mother, Dr Irma Godoy) – girl bosses!

When I first entered the office, Dr. Godoy handed me a white coat (rather casually) and I remember hesitating to take it from her for a quick second because that’s the coat that so many pre-meds hope to wear one day. To be able to wear a white coat, enter a patient’s room, and just be on the other side of medicine was such an insanely wholesome feeling.

Dr. Godoy is simply amazing! Her energy is just so positive and inspiring. Our conversations were fun, educational, and easy. She taught me to not put so much pressure on myself. Everything will work out. Relax.

She also truly is such a boss. Along with handling the clinical side of medicine, she also (rather effortlessly) handled the administrative duties. She was answering patient phone calls, retrieving materials from the storage unit, scribing her charts, responding to emails, and so much more. What a queen.

This shadowing experience taught me more than I thought it would, hence why I wanted to wrap it all up into one blog post so I have a place to refer to this experience.

There are a diverse group of patients that come to a podiatrist. In the 5 hours that I spent at the office, I saw Dr. Godoy interact with patients with all sorts of different conditions that affect the entire lower legs. I’ll recall some patient interactions below and reflect briefly on what their complaint, diagnosis, and treatment plan was (note: the patients are named with letters of the alphabet to abide by HIPAA rules).

  • Patient “A”

Our first patient was an elderly person, who presented with Athlete’s foot and some left foot toenail discoloration. This patient came in with the intention of just getting their toenails trimmed. However, once Dr. Godoy saw the patient’s feet, she recognized that Patient “A” had Athlete’s foot. Luckily, Athlete’s Foot is not a serious condition and is very much treatable. The patient was instructed to apply an anti-fungal cream and ensure that they were wearing shoes that weren’t so tight-fitting.

Afterwards, Dr. Godoy explained to me that some of the older patients come in to get their toenails cut because they are physically unable to do so themselves. This also enables the doctors to examine their feet to ensure that there isn’t any sort of infection or problem with the feet. Watching Dr. Godoy interact with people like Patient “A” was very humbling because it showed me that medicine is not always about the ‘life-changing, cancer-curing’ treatments. Medicine is also about making the ‘everyday’ things more accessible to every single person.

  • Patient “B”

Patient “B” was another adorable older person, who appeared to have mildly painful pressure calluses at the bottom of her foot. It was during this patient interaction that Dr. Godoy taught me about the two pulses that are present in the lower legs. One is called the dorsalis pedis (DP) pulse, which is palpable at the top (or dorsum) aspect of the foot. The posterior tibial pulse is palpable at the intersection between the ankles and heels. Dr. Godoy explained that the latter type of pulse diminishes over time with age due to a lower amount of blood reaching that area (Patient “B” had strong DP pulses, so there appeared to be no concern).

  • Patient “C”

This patient was the first pediatric patient I saw at the office (Dr. Heidi Godoy is also specialized in pediatric podiatry)! Patient “C” came in as a ‘post-op’ and received an XR at the office. This was cool to watch because as a scribe, I only go into patient rooms with the physicians during the initial consultation. I don’t get to see the patients follow through on the orders placed by the physicians. Therefore, being able to see this patient receive an X-Ray was intriguing as I was able to piece together everything from my scribe job. It was also interesting to see the patient get scanned in the office and have the results pop up immediately on the screen. Dr. Godoy pointed out that the area that looks mildly indented is where the patient sustained a trauma injury and fractured that area.

I also learned that toenail fungus is a rather common result of trauma. This patient suffered from a foot injury and as a result came to the office with an obvious fungal infection around the area of trauma.

  • Patient “D”

Patient “D” presented with a fungal toenail infection – their entire big toe was discolored. The patient explained that they get a pedicure regularly and has never seen something like this before. Dr. Godoy explained that nail salons are the main places where people can acquire such fungal infections (wild!).

Nail salons do not sterilize their materials enough (they usually just drop them in some alcohol). Since fungus loves to travel in areas that are moist, dark, and metal, nail salons provide the perfect environment for fungus to grow. Thus, when one gets a gel manicure, the fungus loves to thrive in the darkness under the gel on our toes. *irky*

The cool part about this patient interaction was that I watched Dr. Godoy literally cut off the entire fungal toenail! Not gonna lie, that was a bit difficult to watch because nails, in general, just freak me out. However, the process of actually removing an entire toenail to treat this condition was awesome!

Dr. Godoy then proceeded to explain to the patient that there are usually two forms of treatment for fungal infections: (1) an oral pill or (2) a topical ointment. The patient ended up choosing the topical ointment. Dr. Godoy further explained the process of applying that ointment: it must be applied from the nail bed and cover the entire nail in order to ensure that any residual fungus is being killed.

  • Patient “E”

Patient “E” also presented with a toenail infection. The difference between “E”‘s fungal infection versus “D”‘s was that Patient “E”‘s toenail was not discolored – the nail was just growing thicker. I had no idea that thicker growing toenails could also be a sign of a fungal infection!

Dr. Godoy explained that the treatment for this infection would involve softening the nail first to allow for the antifungal ointment to be able to reach the fungal infection.

Before prescribing the ointment, Dr. Godoy checked the patient’s insurance company. Based on the insurance company, Dr. Godoy offered the patient a different antifungal ointment, which has essentially the same effects as the usually prescribed one. The only reason why Formula 7 (i.e. the antifungal offered to those who do not have insurance that covers Jublia) was the better option for this patient was because it is a lot less cheaper. This showed me that it is crucial that doctors are not single-minded. If multiple patients present with the same symptoms, treatments must be tailored to not only their own somatic needs, but also financial needs.

  • Patient “F”

Patient “F” presented with an ingrown toenail. Dr. Godoy had to perform a partial nail avulsion to treat this patient’s ingrown toenail. She needed to anesthetize the area, for which she mixed a short-acting anesthetic (i.e. lidocaine) and a long-acting anesthetic in the injection. She then proceeded to use a cold spray before injecting the patient’s toe with the anesthetics. Cold sprays are used before the injection to “provide transient anesthesia via evaporation-induced skin cooling, which reduces pain. Results from studies of earlier vapocoolant sprays indicated that they reduced pain due to vaccine injection in children and adults.” Dr. Godoy then injected the patient with the anesthetics. She took a sterilized metal tool and was able to maneuver inside the toe and very elegantly scooped the entire ingrown toenail out. EPIC!

  • Patient “G”

Patient “G,” who has a history of uncontrolled diabetes, presented with a ‘pins and needles’ feeling in their foot. This patient was the perfect example of someone who had fallen through the cracks of the American medical system. They explained how after selling their business, they could no longer afford insurance. Thus, for almost a decade, their health practically deteriorated due to their unfortunate financial constraint.

Upon Dr. Godoy’s examination, it was seen that the patient’s condition is more so a neurological problem than a podiatry related condition. Along with diabetes, the patient explained to Dr. Godoy that they also have history of chronic back pain. Dr. Godoy replied that back pain can also be related to foot pain.

This patient interaction taught me two main things:

(1) Everything in the body is connected to everything in the body. Pain in one area can result in pain in the other area.

(2) Health is often put on the backburner for those who cannot afford to consult a doctor until their conditions become unbearable. How can this situation be better handled so that people are not afraid to go to a doctor during the early stages of their pain/conditions?

  • Patient “H”

Patient “H” presented with heel pain. With a quick examination, Dr. Godoy was able to diagnose the patient with plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis “occurs when the plantar fascia, a strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot, becomes irritated and inflamed.” A common sign of this condition (along with heel pain) is having a tight calf.

There were 2 parts to the treatment plan:

  1. Dr. Godoy administered an injection consisting of a corticosteroid (e.g. an anti-inflammatory), short-acting anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine), and a long-acting anesthetic.
  2. The patient was then provided a “Night” splint to help stretch out the calf and release the pressure placed on the heel.


I am ecstatic that I was able to connect with Dr. Godoy and learn some details about podiatry. More than the actual diagnosis and medical part of the learning process, this experience taught me that I have to be open-minded when entering the field of medicine. It sounds so trivial, but I don’t think this is emphasized enough for pre-med students. A lot of us who want to enter the medical field already have this pre-set idea of what medicine ‘looks’ like. However, we do not realize that medicine is so much greater than what we know – it encompasses fields and people from all sorts of different backgrounds.

Note to self: Be open to learning and exploring. Thankful I got to do just that with Dr. Godoy 🙂

texts that make me 🥺.

I freaking love that I was born in the 21st century and have access to technology. Specifically, I love that I have access to my cell phone. I do so much on my phone – from taking pictures, setting up calendar notifications, replying to emails, scrolling through Instagram, posting my BeReals, etc.

Most of the time I’m beating myself up over the fact that I spend so much freaking time on my phone (during one college seminar, I was told that research says that we should only be spending 30 minutes a day on our phones. please 😭 I could never). However, those once-in-a-blue-moon days I have someone, who I haven’t spoken to in ages, text me and say “hey! how are you? i was thinking we can grab some brunch or coffee one day when you’re free?” I become ecstatic.

Envision an extremely cheesy and smiley teddy bear running around in circles. That’s me when I receive those kinda texts. It’s the fact that someone thought of me and they wanted to take their precious time out of their day to share that time with me that gets me so senti and amped up.

This is exactly why I am so obsessed with my fifty coffees because it’s usually one of those people that reaches out months later. This shows me that spending that intentional time with people makes them feel seen and valued, so they will always (or oftentimes) try to make space for that intentional time again and again.

This is your sign to text that person you’ve been meaning to text, but life kept getting in the way, that you wanna hang with them and grab a cup of coffee (or a beverage/meal of your choice). Go. Do it. Send me (on IG: @_esha.kode_) a picture of that text (if you feel like it) because I would love to see these authentic & raw connections that we’re building with each other!

that person.

Last week, I had an epiphany.

I was always one of those people who said “I don’t need to see people all the time. I don’t like people. I like picking up from where we left off.”

I realized that every time I said that I was bullshitting myself and the people I was saying that to.

After Shivdaballer entered my life, a lot changed. I had never felt such an incredible connection with anyone else up until that point.

Shivdaballer is in the 7-year medical program, meaning she graduated after 2 years of undergrad (unfortunately for me). Since we ended high school and began college during the pandemic, I only met her when we were allowed back on campus – our sophomore year. This meant that I literally only had one year to cultivate a relationship with her, get unbelievably close, and then bid her goodbye.

Here I am now, my junior year of college – no longer conquering the campus with Shivdaballer. Meeting and connecting with someone on such a deep level and then suddenly realizing that that person will always stay in your life, but will not be with you for the next two years of your undergrad life hits hard. It cuts deeper when I see other people deepening their relationships because I find myself getting jealous that they get to have that extra time. My cousin put it this way, “You’re grieving the time you couldn’t have. It is normal to feel that way.”

There’s a reason why it took me much longer to get readjusted to the college life after Shivdaballer left compared to when I lost touch with many of my high school friends as I transitioned into college. Shivdaballer taught me a lot – a lot about life, a lot about myself.

The biggest thing she taught me, though, is to just not take myself so seriously. I used to always get hung up over the littlest things in life. Oftentimes, I’d be afraid of how I’ll be perceived; sometimes I’d freak out over academics. Shivdaballer showed me that really none of that matters. It’s important to work our butts off to get to where we want, but she made me realize that I can have everything and anything I want without ruining myself. She also taught me to embrace every inch of who I am. There were so many times when we’d walk out of our apartment wearing the most shittiest clothes and strut through campus without a care in the world because she showed me that people don’t care, and those who do, don’t matter.

There’s a long list of lessons and realizations that I can continue to write about, but my point in writing this post is to remind myself (and everyone else reading) that many people will come and go. However, there will be some who will come, stay, and be the main people at your Wedding Party. Shivdaballer is one of those who will always stay in my life and will be the wacko taking shot after shot with me at my wedding. It’s comforting to know that we can meet people at any time, especially during the most unexpected times, and they will just uproot our lives for the better.

Love you Shivdaballer ❤

when you feel like the world is ending…

inspired by Lana Blakely’s video.

writing this post to remind myself of all the things that keep me sane – it’s a never-ending list and something that I can always refer to on the days I feel gloomy 🙂

when you feel like the world is ending, think of these:

the soggy, muddy grass against your feet after the sprinklers have just turned off.

the smell of your morning cup of coffee as the warmth of it spreads across your face.

the sinking feeling of your heart when you’re at the top of the swing on the playground.

the way your brother smothers you with his entire body when you just want to lay down and Netflix.

the way your cousin sits and listens to every one of your words when you need someone the most.

the view of the sky connecting with the height of the trees during your long car rides.

the smell of your brother’s fart in the car prompting you to roll all the windows down and let the smell of nature fill the air.

the way you wake up to the annoying, yet soothing chirps of the birds.

the sound of shawn mendes or b praak making you want to release all that you have bottled up for weeks.

the feeling of the spring wind against your skin causing your little hairs to shoot up.

the redness and pulsing of your heart after a challenging and invigorating workout.

the tears and wholeheartedness you feel after watching dear zindagi for the millionth time.

the random hugs, slaps, and spicy fries sponsored by shivdaballer.

the kind souls you’ve met because of the fifty coffees.

the bubble tea in princeton.

the love the family in houston showered you with.

the dream of saving so many lives once you become a surgeon.

the sound of glennon doyle in your ear telling you to just sit still and find your ‘knowing.’

the fierce eyes of a lion on top of a mountain.

the smelly armpits of your brother and ravali that suffocate you during a movie night in the basement.

the idea that life is very vast, but you live day by day.

the average life span is around 80 years and you’re only 20. only 20.

the fact that you have a blog and you pour your heart out in these posts and coffee dates.

the taste of nani’s warm rasam rice mixed with spicy chicken curry.

the understanding that you are enough and everything happens for a good reason.