Anger and Hope

I went to bed last night with the worst headache of my life, probably because my two-day-old fever was finally coming down and my sinuses were completely blocked. I took some medication and went to bed in the hopes that I'd feel a lot better this morning. And I did. I did feel better except, that nagging headache was still around. The good news was that unlike yesterday morning, I could get out of bed and stand up straight. I could actually bear to stand with my shoulder pressed against my kitchen wall as I boiled some water for my morning dose of Lemsip.

I made myself some breakfast, had my daily medicines and a little something for my headache. I went about the whole thing mechanically without much fuss or complaint. I was sick and what had to be done, had to be done. But this wasn't how I approached sickness a while ago, be it my own or that of loved ones. I never had the patience for it and was often quick to settle down into a lump on the floor to exclaim, "Why me? Why now?"

I believe that the past year has somehow managed to suck all that drama and self-pity out of me to some extent because this past year, I have spoken to people who either couldn't afford to be dramatic or chose not to be. There I was, little privileged me, surrounded by people who would baby me through life, make a big deal out of my tiny little boo-boo's, and make things happen for me because I said so. And when something didn't go according to plan, I could always settle into that lump on the floor.

But aren't we all ever so glad for all those people who chose to not be like me, to not settle into little lumps on the floor and feel sorry for themselves, even when faced with worse adversities than I could ever imagine?

Last week, I spoke to thirty-year-old Kirthi Jayakumar and approached her with questions pertaining to her many profiles as a women's rights activist, a social entrepreneur, a peace activist, an artist, lawyer, writer, and CEO among other things. But I left that conversation asking myself, "How much can a person endure?"

Kirthi answered our questions about the work she does with the kind of humility that only comes with true, meaningful achievements. She even went on to say that she mostly "winged it", that she wasn't as busy as most people thought her to be, that she had enough free time to run her non-profit, write her books, draw her portraits and extensively talk about her theories because most of the time, she just winged it.

But it's when, just minutes into our conversation, she openly addressed the sexual violence she faced from the age of five, the bullying she faced in high-school because of how she'd withdrawn into herself as a result of the sexual violence, and the caste-based physical abuse she faced at the hands of her fellow classmates in law-school, that I finally began to grasp the reality of the situation. I began to understand what she meant when she said that she mostly winged it. I began to understand that this sweet, kind, and soft-spoken human being was angry. And it was this anger that she used to create all the beautiful things that she's released into this world. It was this anger that she used to touch the lives of scores of people and to genuinely help multitudes of people across genders, verticals, cultures, and even countries.

Kirthi's approach then started to look really simple to me. As she mentions in her Ted Talk, she was "one woman with one laptop and one big audacious dream". At the time, she was referring to her dream to end bullying but I believe that overall, Kirthi is just one woman with one laptop and one big audacious dream to make this world a better place.

On the one hand, we see people with hopes to help others but lacking in the drive needed to achieve their goals and on the other, we see people who are angry yet too cynical to believe that there's much hope for this world. But I believe that it's people like Kirthi who have the right mixture of anger and hope who actually bring about tangible change.

When she sees a problem, she spends some time thinking of ways to mitigate it, and then she just goes out there and does what needs to be done. She sees a child being bullied at school, and she curates a curriculum to foster anti-bullying dialogue among school-kids. She sees that her friend was suffering silently in an abusive marriage, and she codes an app to help similar victims across 195 countries. She sees that she has some free time during lunch, and decides to teach English to underprivileged communities online. She's simply a doer, a go-getter, a powerhouse of positivity despite all the negative experiences she's had in life.

I can't begin to tell you how important it is for all of us to listen to her speak. We delve into all the work she's been doing voluntarily ever since she passed out of law school and left her corporate job after just one month, supporting herself on her career as a freelance writer, and supporting her non-profit through the sheer goodwill of people like her across the globe.