What defines you? What are you like?
I am a very passionate person and an idealist (possibly bordering obsessiveness on the later). The people and things I care about – I do so deeply. I take my responsibilities towards them very seriously, and strive very hard to do better and more with every passing day, week, and year. I am also someone who has had a lot of inner demons to battle (next section will make it clear) and am very committed and considerate therefore in assisting others in overcoming the same. I always have, and will continue to speak openly on mental health and women’s issues and my experiences with the same as I want to champion stigma blasting on these issues.
I have grown a lot in the recent years (mostly post motherhood), and find myself comprehending like I could never before with each passing year. But I feel like I am at last in a place in my life where I can contribute towards not only my responsibilities, but also my passions (not so much for financial or life situation related reasons, as for having made peace with who I am and always will be). I truly believe human existence is meant to be for greater good – so even if I have done/achieved a lot in my day job and daily life, each day I feel vacant and lacking if I haven’t done something (no matter how small) for the same. This is what keeps be both satisfied and unsatisfied at all times.
Lastly, I am very unconventional – I do not believe in most definitions and rules of love, life and society, and my moral compass is solely my heart – which I trust to be pure in intention and therefore incapable of intentional malice.
Tell us something about your childhood and growing up years, college days.
My childhood was quite turbulent. I grew up amidst a very chaotic, occasionally violent, and disturbed domestic environment, and had exposure to serious psychological disorders from quit and early age. I spent most of my childhood days away from my parents in care of my maternal grandparents and uncles’ r who lived as a big joint family – which brought additional challenges. But we were quite affluent, so growing up we never had to face monetary hardships. In my childhood years I experienced both love and hate in their full complicated, chaotic, tempestuous glory. A tremendous share of the love and kindness I experienced came from people who were not related to me by blood and I am thankful for that, as that taught me for life the futility of defined relationships and to love without rules. As I moved into high school and then college I realized I had inherited several of the disorders I had grown up around and since then have spent years seeking counselling to help myself and to learn techniques in helping others.
Any special achievements? Any memorable moments or incidents that you can think of?
Academic and extracurricular achievements always made me happy when I was young – as those were the times I remember being sincerely cherished, but things that I can claim made me really happy for myself didn’t happen until my early college years. Sometimes though, I dream about the happy days of festivals in the large house I grew up in with large number of cousins and extended cousins and I can almost remember the flutter such days would cause in my heart. So those days – all of them throughout my growing up years – can definitely be called ‘special’ ones.
Any painful incidents/experiences which made you stronger as a person?
As anyone reading this can probably guess by now – I did have a lot of them and owe everything I am today to what they taught me. But what affected me most was loss of three people very close to me – my messiahs in my chaotic childhood. One of them, although alive, remains in a paraplegic state till date after an attempt on his own life. This taught me how important it is to view mental disorders as ‘disorders’ – and not as things that can be controlled by will power. It taught me to listen and endure when needed. It also taught me to seek help, and to never be embarrassed about doing so. I can talk as freely about visiting my counsellor as I can about visiting my ob-gyn. And I do so with resolve. The price of silence is too high and long lasting.
Tell us a little about how Thoughts and Rights was conceived.
If by conceived I refer to the website getting set up – that part was for quite mundane reasons. I had been procrastinating for a long time on launching my own organization (HerRights) but the time was never right. Through my grad school years I continued volunteering for ASHA and AID (and am very proud of my achievements they made possible) as I wanted to contribute immediately rather than wait till I have means to create. Additionally, I believed that launching something of my own needs to have and additional purpose than just the need to contribute and assist in the causes I care for as I truly believe there are excellent organizations already which can benefit from my hours and assistance, can achieve more than I can starting something from scratch and offers the fastest and most efficient way to contribute in most cases. In other others – I wanted to understand the voids and opportunities in the areas I want to contribute to that would justify starting an organization of my own. For that it is very important in my opinion to first learn through active volunteering or involvement in the system.
Anyways, wrapping up the above digression, my procrastinations were forced into action by two parallel events – my heightened realization of the slow progress in women’s reform and their vulnerability to severely violent crimes as I became the mother to a daughter (2012-2013) and the launch of my writing career (early 2014). The later required I have a website – and through creation of thoughtsandrights I just tried to merge all my purposes into a single platform.
What do you aim to achieve through it.
My aim with the mother site of thoughtsandrights is to bring likeminded individuals into a common platform to foster collaboration and discussion on causes we mutually care about. For that, I try to feature individuals who align with the wholesome goal of the site in the people and stories page, share my posts from Huff Post (which are mostly social issues) and vice versa, and link to other organizations and affiliations. Goal of HerRights (part of thoughts and rights) is threefold:
- provide helpline access to resources and organizations in every city to victims (violence, rape, acid attacks),
- identify projects, efforts and individuals in each region/city and mobilize corporate funding to their cause, and
- facilitate and rally for policy level changes.
Tell us about the challenges you face at your work now.
My day job is a technical one. I work as an engineer for a major fortune 500 company and have been in both individual contributor and managerial roles in the same. Challenges faced however, are not completely different from the ones experienced in the ‘other half of my life’. Perceptions, bias and role casting, and challenging stakeholders who could benefit from opening up their minds are the major impediments and women have a steeper slope to climb in both areas.
What do your next five years look like?
I hope to launch my first single author contribution (A manuscript titled ‘Under The Seventh Tree’ which is currently with my New York agent) and continue to write for Huffington Post. The later has been an incredible platform for bringing attention to causes I care about and spreading the word. I also hope to publish more on Indian platforms like Readomania. But most importantly, I hope to have formally launched herrights and have our selected pilot projects completed. 2014 has been amazing in terms of bring people into my life and fostering connections which can facilitate my non engineering career goals – over the next five years I see myself walking and further and further down a productive path with the likeminded individuals I have been so fortunate to cross paths with.
Any message you would like to share for the readers of our blogazine?
My parents drilled into me growing up that being self-sufficient and having a purpose in life is vital. I want to reiterate the same message for your readers. I feel that Indians, both abroad and back home who are fortunate to have secured a stable life for themselves, have a higher responsibility of contributing to back to the society. How each individual chooses to do so is personal, but choosing to do so is imperative. As MLK famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
If you want to know more about Tanushree or ThoughtsandRights click on the links given:
Please Note: This interview has been conducted online.
Interview Co-Ordinated for IWI: Rhiti Bose