Tag Archives: career

From the Darkness of Desi Culture, Women Find the Light

Desi Talk – A column that works on embracing our brown background and unique identity using Coach Yashu’s helpful tips. Find her talking to IC Editor, Srishti Prabha on Instagram LIVE Tuesdays at 6pm PDT/ 9pm EDT!

Being a Desi woman can be hard…

I often hear of the specific struggles my Desi clients face in their communities. 

My mentor used to say, “things in the dark always come to light”, and my hope is, through this article, that women will feel empowered enough to break down generational curses of antiquated traditions that are not working for them in this day and age.

One of the most brutal and painful, yet extremely common issues I have confronted is one of Eurocentric beauty standards in the Desi community. Being a woman who has been forced into this conversation at home for her entire life, I’m just eager to dive into this one!

From complaints of being too fat, too dark in complexion,  too short, having small boobs, and even having short hair – I have heard it all. 

Who said beauty was limited to these features? More importantly, who has control of said inherited genetic traits?

The worst part is society, family, even friends, at times.

I remember my relatives would set me up for arranged marriages with men larger than me, mainly so that I would not be rejected.

I once had a family bargain for me. They said, “Since your daughter is not good-looking, make sure she has a doctorate so we can show her off that way.” 

I have heard Desi women being told: just look nice until you get married, and then it doesn’t matter how you look. There are matchmakers that say things like “She is dark. I have the perfect dark-colored boy for her.”

All these dialogues need to stop. We need to change the narrative about beauty in our South Asian households and encourage our communities to embrace all bodies and all forms of beauty. It was this that pushed me to address stereotypes and motivated me to become one of the first few Indian American Plussize Models in the world.

Marriage Talk

This topic can be toxic, especially when it comes from other women.

I have heard many families refer to the marriage of their daughter as an escape. “We have raised you all this time, once we hand you over to a man, then we can finally rest.”

Starting from the age of being “legal”, a typical desi woman enters the age of marriage talk. Growing up, my eldest female cousin did not really know how to cook and clean. My relatives used to say, “If we don’t send you to your in-laws’ house without proper training you, they won’t blame you. They will blame us for sending an inadequate woman to that household.”

It used to blow my mind. In what way was she inadequate?

She is educated. She is beautiful. She is so sweet and caring. Yet, she is inadequate.

And now, with women being so educated, independent, and self-sufficient, marriage has become a competitive sport! Parents are trying to get their daughters liked by “qualified” men.

I would often hear: “We are the girl’s side, we have to go along with their demands” or “You are the girl, just adjust.” Women don’t get to choose, they are the ones being chosen.

Oh, you thought dowry was an old practice? Well, you’re wrong.

Prospective in-laws and parents parade their gold and silver jewelry and discuss how big the dessert table was in their respective daughters’ weddings.

Once you’re married, the nature of the pressure changes to childbirth and motherhood. Many South Asian women are forced into having children, one after the other, because that is what their husbands and in-laws want. 

Career Choices – For Women

In one narrative, it all boils down to how your work affects your husband and your child-rearing capabilities.

In another narrative, Desi women are discouraged by their husbands or families from accepting promotions and higher positions to avoid ego clashes with their counterparts.

I worked with a Desi woman studying to be a surgeon. All throughout her medical school and residency, her family members would question her parents, “Why are you allowing her to do surgery? That is very difficult. Tell her to do something more women-friendly” or “How will she manage a family if she picks such a difficult career path? She has to take care of her husband and children and also patients?”

How is a woman’s personal choice for a career dependent on her future husband and unborn children?

This places the burden of children and running a household on the woman.  

“What does women’s empowerment mean to you?”

This was a question I was asked and it is one that I ask others.

Empowerment is a two-way support network. Women supporting those around them while receiving genuine support from the others in their life. By educating yourself on the painful narratives of Desi women, see how you can empower HER by having the right conversations.

For the Desi women out there, do not be afraid to speak your mind.

For the Desi men out there, support the women in your life by listening to their needs.

For the Desi parents out there, give your daughter the respect and independence she deserves. Let her make choices for herself.

By bringing touchy subjects to light and having healthy communication in your households, we can ensure the proper treatment of desi women.


Yashu Rao is the first South Indian-American plus-size model and doubles as a Confidence Coach. She is the Founder of #HappyYashu, a Confidence and Lifestyle Coaching Service specializing in desi family structures. She’s here breaking down stereotypes and beauty standards as well as inspiring and empowering people to lead a life with self-love, confidence, and genuine happiness. Find her on Instagram giving tips and modeling.

Does the Great Indian Kitchen Lead to the Great Indian Marriage?

While I ran about in the sprawling open courtyard of my mother’s house in a somewhat sleepy little village in rural North Bengal, I remember my granny sitting on a low stool cooking in the dimly-lit kitchen. It was already dusk and a few hours later, a tasty dinner was served. My parents had gone down to spend a few days during the Durga Puja holidays. 

After my mother’s family moved to Kolkata, I often used to visit my maternal uncle’s place. Here, the kitchen was big and bright, but granny still continued to cook. Her specialty was a chicken dish which no one ever in my family has been able to replicate. Maybe it was the spices she used or her loving and caring hands that were behind the deliciousness. 

Granny is now no more. She passed away a few years ago, but I still remember her chicken curry. Today, after watching The Great Indian Kitchen, a Malayalam movie earning rave reviews from critics, I realize how I never knew my real granny: what was she like, her likes, dislikes, desires, and aspirations. Maybe none of these things ever mattered to anyone in the family.

And this is what makes the ‘great Indian marriage’ such a fearsome thing to enter into, especially in an arranged marriage set up, where women are mostly expected to cook and clean and act submissive. Exceptions are always there. In my family, I have seen my father making tea, cooking rice, and even doing household work. An aunt of mine who lives in Delhi was horrified when she learned that I had praised her husband’s culinary skills in front of my other relatives. It was a most shameful thing for her and she reproached me for making the hush, hush fact “public”. 

I can understand her consternation, the great dilemma she felt because women are expected to cook for their families. Little do they realize that in doing so, they become fettered and chained forever. 

A scene from the Great Indian Kitchen.

I am no great cook, but I can make basic meals for myself and during the lockdown prepared a few dishes, among them egg biryani twice. My friend Neeraj, who is a great cook himself, keeps on sending me recipes and colorful snaps from his kitchen from time to time. He once taught me to cook the perfect rice over the phone. 

Cooking is art no doubt, but as the movie shows it can become a tedious routine. The movie’s female protagonist, Nimisha Sajayan who plays the docile wife and later leaves her husband to follow her dreams, is expected to cook rice on the firewood, besides making a variety of tasty dishes and serving food to the men. In almost all the scenes featuring her, she is shown cutting, chopping, and dicing vegetables, besides making hurried meals, attending to the faulty kitchen sink in need of urgent repair, cleaning up the kitchen, dusting, and washing her hands frequently.

I entered into a brief marriage only to regret it to this day. My in-laws expected me to shift to a small town where they lived, take up a part-time job or better still become a housewife and cook for the family whereas I wanted to pursue my dreams. So, I packed my bags and came to Delhi when I was offered a transfer. 

Cooking is not an issue. I prepare food for myself every day and quite enjoy doing it. But slaving away in the kitchen is quite another matter. In the movie, the men are shown relaxing, doing yoga, and reading newspapers whereas the women are portrayed tirelessly working in the kitchen. The most evocative scene in the film is the one where the women eat food at the table made dirty by the men with spilled over and chewed food. When the wife confronts her husband about it later at a restaurant over his bad table manners at home, he gets angry.

For most women, cooking and doing housework is a routine and they are not supposed to complain. It is for us to decide whether to follow our dreams or please the men. If you want the first, just let it go like I did eight years ago, or else give up on your desires and aspirations. 

My next-door neighbor back in Kolkata could not fry papad properly and they always used to get burnt. She was always the subject of criticism in the neighborhood, but nobody praised her ever for being an excellent teacher, her love for Bengali literature, and intelligent conversations. 

Women in our kitchens have become such a regular fixture that we never pause and question their narrowed existence. All my childhood memories are centered around the great Indian kitchen: my granny on her low stool, my father’s mother stirring the milk tea, my aunt chopping vegetables, my mother making sweet delicacies in winter, the neighborhood aunty (she was called Ronny’s mom after her son’s name as if her identity never mattered) making parathas so that we children could enjoy it on Sundays.

Welcome to the great Indian kitchen. If you don’t like it, you are free to leave like Nimisha’s character or me. After so many years, a remark by my erstwhile husband came back to me. He had remarked once, “You never served me tea (in Bengali of course).” But you see I was born to rule and not to serve. I served him coffee, of course, but he conveniently forgot all about it. But what I remember is that he never made either tea or coffee for me and that’s what made all the difference.


Deepanwita Gita Niyogi is a Delhi-based freelance journalist.

Las Positas College: Learn A New Skill Or Career Today!

Apply today for Fall Classes at Las Positas College!  Looking to train up for a new job or a different job? Displaced from work and want to learn a new trade? Las Positas College offers a wide variety of online programs for in-demand careers. Las Positas College is here for you. It’s no wonder that 4 out of 5 students would encourage others to attend Las Positas College. Visit LasPositasCollege.edu and Apply Today!

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Heart To Heart with Sunil Gavaskar

USA Tour 2019 hosted by H2H Foundation On Saturday, September 07, 2019 from 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. At the India Community Center, 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035 

India remains the world capital for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), with 300,000 children born each year. Without medical/surgical care, 100s of thousands of CHD children die before their 1st birthday, contributing to over 10% of the Infant Mortality Rate, many more die in infancy or in the preschool ages! Only a small fraction of children with CHD can afford the cardiac surgery, which can cost over $100,000 in the United States. 

Heart to Heart (H2H) Foundation is a non profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children born with CHD, by providing FREE pediatric cardiac surgeries in collaboration with the group of Sanjeevani Hospitals in India. Since February 2014, these hospitals have also been providing free-of-cost primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare exclusively to children with CHD. There are no billing department or payment counter located in these hospitals. Currently operating in Naya Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Palwal (Haryana), and Kharghar (Navi Mumbai), H2H is committed to break the vicious “health-poverty cycle” for the rural poor in India and in many other countries. 

Highly competent, comprehensive, compassionate care is given to all patients completely free, while their families receive free housing and free food. Frugal innovations in CHD care have reduced the average cost of an open-heart surgery to only $1,200 per patient, which would otherwise be $75,000 to $125,000 in the United States and $5,000 to $9,000 in India. More details on H2H can be found at https//www.h2h.foundation. 

Sunil Gavaskar, former Indian Legendary cricketer, inspirational speaker, philanthropist and the chairman of H2H foundation is touring all across the USA to raise awareness and funds to support the cause. A recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards for his contribution to Indian cricket, Mr. Gavaskar has personally sponsored 34 surgeries to match his 34 test centuries. 

A Meet & Greet Luncheon event with Sunil Gavaskar is being hosted by H2H Foundation on the 7th of September, 2019, at India Community Center, 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035. Come, engage in a freewheeling conversation with the cricket legend where he will share interesting anecdotes and inspiring experiences. Interact with Sunil Gavaskar and tap into his wealth of wisdom on leadership, career, and life and take away insights on how to learn, lead, and live. You also get to take away cricket bats and other memorabilia signed by Gavaskar as souvenirs of a memorable event. 

For Event details and tickets, visit https://www.h2h.foundation/H2H-with-Gavaskar Tickets can be purchased at Sulekha.com: $30 (limited seats), $50, $100 

Lunch is served at 12:30 p.m. (included with the admission for all) 

For sponsorship & partnership, please call 408-601-0237 or email: info.usa@h2h.foundation 

To learn more about CHD, please contact: Dr. K. J. S. (“Sunny”) Anand, MBBS, D.Phil, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine. Email: anandsunny108@gmail.com

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So Many Choices at Chabot College

Recently coming off of its largest graduating class in history, Chabot College is ready to help incoming students this fall find successful and meaningful careers. 

“In May, Chabot saw its largest graduating class in the college’s 58 year history,” said Dr. Susan Sperling, President. “Over 1,300 students completed associate degrees, plus over 500 certificates awarded. Once a student enrolls, it’s our job to help them reach their education goals. For some, it’s enhancing their current career choice with additional training; others are choosing to re-enter the workforce, change careers or take classes for personal enrichment. A large number of our student body are students who have just graduated high school and are taking the first, and in some cases final, step in fulfilling their dreams.” 

Part of assisting students in their pursuit of education is offering financial assistance to students who qualify. All students, regardless of immigration status, can take advantage of financial aid programs available at Chabot. DREAMers are encouraged to fill out the Dream Application, while non-DREAMers should take advantage of applying for funding through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine which programs are available to them. Programs include everything from the California College Promise Grant fee waiver to scholarships, federal work-study and other federally funded grants to help students pay their way through school. 

Securing funding will allow students to complete one of the dozens of programs or certificates available at Chabot. Students have so many programs to choose from, including Chabot’s newest nationally accredited programs include Early Childhood Development Associate in Arts Degree and Chabot’s Music Department recently became the first California community college to receive accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Music. Whether seeking a transfer degree in Business Administration, an Associate of Arts in Dental Hygiene, an Associate of Science in Interior Design, a certificate of achievement in Digital Photography or a certificate of proficiency in Inspection and Pipe Welding, Chabot has the classes students need and programs students want. 

Visit www.chabotcollege.edu to see what’s in store for you at Chabot. Fall classes begin August 19. 

About Chabot College Chabot College in Hayward is a comprehensive community college in the heart of a thriving, diverse community where students of all ages and backgrounds can get a high quality education at an affordable price. The college awards associate degrees and certificates, and specializes in university transfer, workforce training, and lifelong learning opportunities. http://www.chabotcollege.edu/

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