Tag Archives: Transformation

Women at sunset

Step Into the New…You

Renewal: You and The World Around You

As I tuned into this topic, I became aware of the internal environment that is created because of the people in our lives and how we perceive ourselves in relation to them. Often keeping others comfortable becomes our comfort zone. Stepping out of it rocks the boat. As we step into this New Year, I invite you to step into the New You.

It is too long that you stayed in a shell to keep others comfortable.

There are some around you who have always loved you, with whom you are amazing and it is easy. You feel safe being yourself.

Then why walk on eggshells with everyone else? Why numb the goodness and brightness in you? 

Nobody realizes that you are simply trying to fit in. You value them too much, even more than yourself.  You are getting comfortable with that. In your mind, you are being nice to them. And yet often feel miserable. They are also getting used to that. Stop…just stop!

Look at those who really ‘see’ you. You seem to do everything right by them. Break the shell and crack it open. Do what it takes! It’s worth it!

They will find others who feed their comfort. Yes, give them a shock.

They will have to step up to understand you and cheer you in your growth. They will have to know your pain.

You in your truthfulness will mourn your perceived loss of some of them because you truly cared about them. That’s why you kept them comfortable while you suffered.

Yes, I know you also wronged some people. Those too will reach out to you or you to them, in your growth. Just know that you are not accountable to all of them this very minute, so don’t judge yourself too hard.

Go ahead take that step, a small change, break open, fly. The ones ready for growth will grow with you. Some will fall away, as you both cannot see eye to eye now.

Forgive yourself, forgive them, love yourself, love them, allow yourself to Be, allow them to Be. Trust me, it’s worth it. When you feel stuck and choose to wiggle out, it hurts, it’s worth it.

The ones who care for you and the ones you care for will have to accept you as you are today. Let them know you are one of them but be stronger on your own path.

Pragalbha Doshi lives with her husband and 2 teenage boys in San Jose, CA. As a yoga teacher, she facilitates therapy & change for people who struggle with chronic symptoms of stress, physical & emotional, and who want a productive & fulfilling life. 

The contents of this article first appeared on my personal blog Infinite Living on Jan 5, 2017. Find more inspiration in poetry and prose at the link.

A Poet Born Through Healing

Poetry as Sanctuary – A column where we explore poetry as a means of expression for voices of the South Asian Diaspora.

Poetry was never something I imagined to become this significant to me, it was not even a sliver of a dream of an unimagined future.

I spent the first 3 decades of my life trying to fit into the mold of a perfect, normal life. I moved to the US from India at a young age, always striving to keep a smile, raise 2 sons, and remain optimistic. Something still felt missing. I was drawn to the teachings of yoga & philosophy. That seemed to satisfy my need for continual answers to the meaning of life.

All of that came crashing down when I got afflicted with a brutal skin disease that attacked me in every single way – physical, familial, emotional – I was isolated from society for the next few years. Modern medicine did not have any remedy for me, so I chose holistic methodologies from ancient times to find my way back to life. My new normalcy turned out to be as brilliant, as painful it was to go through dismantling my existing reality.

With very few humans around to know and really understand the drastic choices I made about my healing, I was unaware there would be a subsequent spiritual awakening. The world did not make sense to me anymore. There was this ocean revealed within and I needed to learn to swim.

It took a while to befriend poetry as a gift. It brought alive my relationship with the Universe. I remember the exact moment and setting when the first surge of inspiration began and I started rhyming in my mind. I had to drop everything and type. It was a very strange yet powerful feeling. Even stranger was to look at my writing and think it was poetry. 

I thought each one that came was the last. I couldn’t own it or name the place it came from. I started sharing them on my blog and Facebook. I had people message me that these poems were helping them get through the day, giving them hope, peace, courage, guidance. As I stepped into the fourth decade of my life, poetry had become a living, breathing part of me.

People asked me how did you start writing. My reply to them came through this following poem:

Just how did the writer in me get born?

When drippings from a touched soul find their way in writing
A poet is born
When the beauty is undying and the joy so fulfilling
A poem is born
When feelings are heart wrenching and clarity is killing
A poem is born
When a surge comes as discomfort and words pour out
A writer is born
When the harmony felt is such that there is no choice but rhyme
A poem is born
When made-up words bring meaning and no-rhyme verse feels musical
A poetry is born
When living alive to feelings, words come to life
A writer is born
When clarity becomes more intense than the pain that afforded it
A writer is born
When no human around can suffice to contain the expression
A poetry is born
When a release is looking to flow out at an unearthly hour
A writer is born
When words choose the person as if a channel
A writer is born
When none can be planned to rhyme or reason
A poet is born
When human spirit gets broken to million-times-ten pieces, yet finds beauty
A poet is born
When Life decides to peel back layers of truth down to the core
A writer is born
When each level of façade is stripped down to bare soul
A writer is born
When all the suffering was a gift, lived through or let through
A writer is born
When there is no knowing if there is more from where it came from
A writer is reborn
When it comes from a place that is hard to own
A writer is born
When the essence of being is wrung out in best expression
A poetry is born
When it feels like a soft glove over the brutal thing
A poetry is born
When the loneliness in truthfulness is more than can enjoy yet
A writer is born
When inspirations come out of nowhere as if universal cues
A poet is born

So if you can just rest
In the drippings of the writer’s soul
Momentarily let go of the sufferings you insist on
A poet would feel content for being born.

– Pragalbha Doshi

After 4 years of this amazing adventure, I had felt a lot of grief when I thought poetry was leaving me. I did write some more after that, and the flow trickled to a stop. It was time for me to visit life in a different way. I trusted Poetry to know that – in time, it will come back to me.

My poetry found a voice and new life within a year when, at the beginning of the pandemic, I joined a local group called Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley. Poetry is that gift and sanctuary that leaves out all supposed normalcy and brings us closer to who we truly are. 

Pragalbha Doshi lives with her husband and 2 teenage boys in San Jose, CA. As a yoga teacher, she facilitates therapy & change for people who struggle with chronic symptoms of stress, physical & emotional, and who want a productive & fulfilling life www.yogasaar.com

The Forgotten Tale of Shikhandi

The Forgotten Tale of Shikhandi

The stories that inhabit the Vedas and epics are “whispers of God” says Devdutt Pattanaik as he opens his book Jaya, a retelling of the Mahabharata. It’s true. These books present a startlingly clear vision of the now from the ancient then. The authors of the stories had a seeing eye that modern scientists would give their eye-teeth for. Pardon the mixed metaphors.

Take the notion of Shikhandi. It is both an idea and a character and has so many reflections in this prism we call the “modern family.” The robustness of Shikhandi as a character is astounding and awe inspiring. As each layer is peeled and his/her place in India’s mythological history is uncovered, Shikhandi’s ambiguities of nature and form become moral, ethical and philosophical data points that have withstood generation upon generation of interpretations.

Last July, I interviewed a young man whom I chanced to see in a production called, “The Box.” He was introduced to the audience as J. Jha from India who was seeking asylum in the United States. Binary gender pronouns came up in our conversation and this remarkably talented individual rejected the “he,” “she” format that is the traditional gender distinguisher. Jha preferred “they,” and “theirs,” so I will respect their wish in this article.

Shikhandi is both an idea and a character. Shikhandi’s ambiguities of nature and form become moral, ethical and philosophical data points that have withstood generation upon generation of interpretations.

In their interview, which I wrote for the San Francisco Examiner, Jha told me about being confined by the limitations of heterosexual identity and cisgender norms. Growing up in India, Jha said that they had no homosexual or transgender role model. Jha did not have a single openly gay person among their family or friends that they could relate to. Early on, Jha understood clearly, through reactive and reinforced behavior, that transgender people were personae non gratae. It is only upon leaving India and coming to America that they experienced personal liberation with the freedom to express in gender non-conforming ways.

But how have we come to this place of intolerance where we have blatantly ignored or forgotten the lessons from India’s own wise men?

Shashi Tharoor’s latest book, An Era of Darkness, discusses this very idea. He begins his argument with Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which allows a punishable verdict on “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”  Tharoor claims that this order of nature was established by the British. “The irony is that in India there has always been a place for people of different gender identities and sexual orientations. Indian history and mythology reveal no example of prejudice against sexual difference.” Tharoor goes on to remind us of the gender-morphing Shikhandi.

There are many versions of the Shikhandi story, but in every version, there occurs a sexual transformation to the female form, crossing male-female boundaries. It is remarkable that a country that gave us the Shikhandi prototype persecutes avatars of this remarkable character.

Here in America, with the high school bathroom issue, gender became hotly debated across the country. At the time, I heard people remark dismissively, “isn’t there anything better to do than focus on high-school bathrooms? When people don’t have jobs, why should we worry about gender-neutral bathrooms?” It’s true, it’s an outsize idea, and one we are unable to adjust to because of in-bred conventional normalcy. So, we find ways to minimize its significance.

Even when we do try to relate, we fall short. Take the Louis Vuitton advertisement where Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son, is shown wearing women’s clothes. It was explained as an ad for women’s clothes featuring a man. Young Smith looked comfortable in the clothes he modeled. He wore it with style and attitude. Yet, it seemed as though he wore women’s clothes because he needed more choices. As Lauren Duca remarked in Teen Vogue, the ad, while looking at the world unconventionally, still “confronted the binary, while participating in it.”

Judith Butler, gender theorist and author of Gender Trouble, argues that gender is not a noun. “Gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject,” she says, and clarifies by saying that gender is “a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame.” So, according to Butler, a person assumes the feminine identity by doing feminine things. As a young child, wearing dresses, growing long hair and playing with dolls reinforces the stereotypes needed for inhabiting a particular gender.

Interestingly enough, one of my daughters, from the time she was five till when she turned fourteen, wore her hair short, dressed in shorts and t-shirts, and played Pokemon and Donkey Kong with the boys in her class. Today she is a beautiful young woman, remarkably sure of her femininity. I was cautioned about her gender-bending tendencies by several well-meaning friends when she was growing up. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now. Her femininity was hers to discover. Just like Jha’s. [Though it might be worthwhile to admit here that tomboys are more accepted than boys who emulate girls.]

Modern Shikhandi characters abound in the world. They teach us a valuable lesson about how to navigate edge cases in our society without distorting character or creating noise. To pursue this engineering analogy, if we are able to gracefully and seamlessly transact our boundary conditions, we will have ourselves a robust operating strategy for life.

Jaya Padmanabhan was the editor of India Currents from 2012-16. She is the author of the collection of short stories, Transactions of Belonging.