Tag Archives: #empowered

A Purple Lotus Blooms From the Darkness

Empowered” is a gutsy and gritty adjective that some women have the luxury of being heralded with. But do all these women set out to be “empowered” or do circumstances simply tread them along a trailblazing path, which perhaps was the only path available to them, towards something as basic as self-preservation? 

Author Veena Rao, in her debut novel Purple Lotus, unravels the journey of one such woman, who embarks on a seemingly normal journey but is forced to summon her inner strength as she plunges into valleys of anguish, to eventually elevate herself to summits of triumph. 

Purple Lotus unfolds the life and times of protagonist Tara, much like the title flower that rises from the mud, blooms out of the darkness, and radiates into the world, in a soothing tone of absolute resolve to remain unaffected by the sludge that surrounds her.

The choice of the title plays quite a pronounced role throughout the narrative, both literally and symbolically. Tara, the lotus (literal translation), finds herself in muddy waters right from the get-go, when her beloved doll, Pinky, goes missing during the family’s move to Mangalore. Even as she bears the brunt of missing her friends and her priced doll, she watches in helplessness as her parents move to Dubai in pursuit of a bright future for the family, leaving behind Tara with her aging grandparents and a schizophrenic uncle in Mangalore, while taking her baby brother with them. 

Amidst desolation, Tara ironically finds solace from her uncle in his moments of clarity when his mind is not bogged down by the disease. Tara even finds love in its warmest of forms in Cyrus Saldanha, only to be forced to let go when her parents return to Mangalore.

Rao submerges Tara in more of life’s slush in the form of Sanjay. The seed of abandonment seeped into Tara’s being at a tender age reaps its bounty as she is bound in a loveless and abusive marriage with Sanjay, a groom her parents picked for her, mostly because she was getting beyond the “marriageable” age and he was willing to marry without any bridal dowry (gifts). Her trials continue to mount as Sanjay’s indifference gradually turns into violence and Tara is forced to accept the kindness of American strangers to fight Sanjay, only to be pressured by her patriarchal family to make peace with her circumstances. 

Tara begins to bloom, when, in a moment of truth, she discovers the prominence of her own esteem and worth, turning towards the light, setting herself free from conforms of her community as she reconnects and eventually marries her childhood love, Cyrus.

The journalist in Rao shines through in the last chapter as she wraps up the novel with a fitting “article” by Tara that confronts a victim-shaming society. “Not all monsters are egregious. Some stay hidden in plain sight,” writes Rao’s Tara, pointing to not just to the perpetrators of crime against women, but also a spiteful society in general and a venomous close circle of the victim, in particular, that crushes the victim’s spirits, driving them into a deeper abyss of despair. 

Purple Lotus, an emblem of peace of tranquility, maintains a calm undertone throughout, staying faithful to its symbolic title. The wave of calm is evident in many instances, such as the incident where Tara forgives a friend who intentionally hurt her in childhood, when the friend admits it was her fault, despite the immense pain it had caused her at the time. Rao’s strength in writing is her ability to maintain the mellow milieu even as she powerfully propagates empowerment, confronts social stigmas, and deals with deeply disturbing feelings of dejection, rejection, and desertion with grace and poignance. Rao scores extra brownie points for the character development of Tara and her ensuing transformation. Never rushed or overtly dramatic, the growth is refreshingly organic and effortlessly relatable.

I particularly enjoyed the bonding between women, who, despite their own shortcomings, offer courage, companionship, and care to each other, forging sisterhood far beyond blood and borders.

The streets of Mangalore and Atlanta come alive, as does the food of the regions served up by its inhabitants, sometimes hearty like the abundant love and support she relishes, and sometimes spicy, like their harsh attitude she endures, all of which become companions of Tara’s tumultuous journey. 

This charmingly simplistic chronicle explores the many dimensions of the human mind and mindset of society, and the consequences of each, which may turn out to be tragic or triumphant.

“I take heart in the knowledge that the monsters around me do not sully me, because the names they have for me are not the names I have for myself,” Tara writes about herself.

In the age of social media, where kids are bullied, and adults are shamed by nameless cowards who hide behind their firewalls, and sometimes openly, just because they feel entitled to do so, could use the same realization to emerge victorious amidst the very soiled “victimization of victims”, as Rao puts it, and bloom into a glorious, serene lotus, a rare purple lotus even. 


Jyothsna Hegde is a City News Editor at NRI Pulse newspaper and an independent software consultant. She holds a master’s degree in Computer Science and has served as faculty at Towson State University. It gives her immense pleasure to share triumphs and tribulations of the indomitable human spirit through her writing. 

Fierce Helpers

Fierce Helpers, started by two Bay Area teens, is a Cupertino-based organization aiming to help vulnerable populations get through the COVID-19 pandemic.  A key struggle, for those susceptible to the virus, was obtaining groceries and supplies. People who are at-risk, the elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, are especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and thus, risk their lives whenever they enter public spaces. In places like grocery stores, it is difficult to maintain social distancing due to the confined space. 

Ramana Kolady dropping off groceries for an elder.

Alex and Ramana started the organization to help alleviate the stress placed on those in at-risk groups by offering free and safe delivery of groceries and supplies. Ramana had prior experience working with seniors through his nonprofit organization, Students and Seniors United, and understood many of the seniors’ concerns. After observing threats to high-risk groups, Alex and Ramana could not simply sit back and watch.

The delivery of groceries drastically cuts down on the risk of exposure to the virus; instead of being exposed to potentially hundreds of people, the customer is only exposed to one person – the deliverer. Furthermore, the deliverer is checked to be in the low-risk bracket of contracting COVID19 and deliverer takes precautionary measures when shopping and delivering supplies.

Alex and Ramana have both observed the issues people in high-risk groups may face and wish to help keep the community close together by making everyone feel safe and secure during this unprecedented time.

Volunteers are in the low-risk category which includes those who are young, without respiratory conditions. Many of the current volunteers are college or high school students who are looking to fill up their free time by helping their community.

Do you know anyone who would like to help out or anyone in need of some help? Volunteers can easily register at Fierce Helpers and begin helping their community immediately. Requesting a delivery is just as easy; all you have to do is visit the website and fill out a simple form. Customer orders are usually fulfilled within 3 days.

Ramana Kolady is currently a Junior at Cupertino High School and is the founder of Students and Seniors United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the elderly and learning more from them, through research and community service. Ramana aspires to become a geriatric physician in the future and is extremely interested in the geriatrics field.

Alexander Wang is currently a Junior at Cupertino High School and started Fierce Helpers to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic after he noticed the struggle that those in at-risk groups faced when trying to carry out everyday tasks. 

This piece was edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.