[Images: AP, Getty, Reuters]
“On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls.
But will I celebrate the “mainstreaming” of a South Asian fashion item? Nope. Not when the mainstream doesn’t accept the people who created it”
“I’ve learned to redefine what constitutes an American tragedy. American tragedies occur where middle America frequents every day: airplanes, business offices, marathons. Where there persists a tangible fear that this could happen to any of us. And rightfully so. Deaths and mayhem anywhere are tragic. That should always be the case. The story here is where American tragedies don’t occur.
American tragedies don’t occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don’t occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a 10-year old’s birthday party in New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News. These are where the forgotten tragedies happen and the cities are left to persevere on their own.” — Dennis
At the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, more than 100 thousand refugees face dusty days and cold nights in an uncertain existence with no end in sight.
Look at the hands from the trains. If you are late for work in Bombay, and reach the station just as the train is leaving the platform, you can run up to packed compartments and you will find many hands stretching out to grab you on board, unfolding outward from the train like petals. As you run alongside, you will be picked up, and some tiny space will be made for for feet on the edge of an open doorway…But consider what has happened: Your fellow passengers, already packed together tighter than cattle are legally allowed to be, their shirts drenched with sweat in the badly ventilated compartment, having stood like this for hours, retain a sympathy for you, know that your boss might yell at you or cut your pay if you miss this train and will make space where none exists to take one more person with ten. And at that moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning or whether you live in Malabar Hill or Jogeshwari; whether you’re from Bombay or Mumbai or New York. All they know if that you’re trying to get to the city of gold, and that’s enough.
Come on board, they’ll say.
Rescuers in Bangladesh succeeded in freeing 31 people from the rubble of a factory building the day after it collapsed, killing at least 258, as Dhaka city officials reported that the structure had been built without proper permits on unstable land.
My heart is aching. Please keep them all in your prayers.
Not only did this factory have no legal building permits, but workers who raised concerns about building cracks were not taken seriously. According to other reports, the businesses in the factory supplied products to huge American brands, including Dress Barn and The Children’s Place. As of yesterday, Wal-Mart was still “investigating” whether or not it also received supplies from the factory.
Unlike many others, I wasn’t exposed to this organization because I was passionate about social justice, politics, or really anything special. The truth is, my first-year here, a friend told me about an organization that was looking for Small Group Facilitators. I didn’t know what social justice was - I didn’t even know what dialogue was. I saw the position and thought about how my resume would benefit from this bullet point:
- South Asian Awareness Network, Small Groups Facilitator 2011
“led small-group dialogue at annual South Asian social justice conference”
Perfect, I thought. This is just the kind of things med schools are looking for. That may or may not have been true, but I did get selected. Over the next couple of months, I interacted with other students, heard their stories, shared some of mine, and made connections. Connections I still hold to this day.
Then came the conference. The mere 8 hours of training did NOT prepare me for what I was about to experience. Over the 2-day conference, I experienced phenomenal speakers such as Sam Singh, who spoke of the importance of finding a passion and sticking with it. Though the speakers were fantastic, there was something else that struck me - the opportunity this conference gave students like myself. The opportunity to talk about social justice issues such as the gender inequalities in education in many South Asian countries. This wasn’t school. This was life. I listened to my peers tell their stories and share their experiences, finding similarities and differences despite seemingly identical or distinct identities. I was speechless.
Despite having attended a high school that prided itself on its academics and diversity, I had not once witnessed a conversation half as powerful as the ones I saw happening. It got me thinking about the things we forgo in life, simply because we are too focused on what we think matters more. I walked away from that conference, motivated to pursue dialogue and learn more about social justice. And I did.
We all have our own stories about finding that organization/class/friend(s) that really made us feel welcome here on campus. SAAN was mine. It may or may not be yours, but you will never know if you don’t come see for yourself. This conference doesn’t change who you are. It gives you a vision of who you want to be. What you decide to do with that vision is entirely in your hands.
But do yourself a favor. Give that person who looks back in 10 years the satisfaction of having checked out the largest student-run South Asian conference and having decided for yourself whether or not it had something to offer you.