I come from a family that did not raise its daughters with any particular religious beliefs. However, my sister and I were taught to be kind and considerate of others. We learnt to be assertive as time progressed and to defend ourselves when the need arose. Honestly, I have not faced many childhood struggles. I come from an average middle-class background and have supportive parents.
I have had a very happy childhood when compared to my peers/friends. I indulged in art from a very young age and had a decent memory; that is enough to breeze through school exams. Adulthood though is a different story altogether.
Body Shaming Took A Toll On Mental Health
I have faced body shaming at home and in school. I have always been overweight and was painfully made aware of the fact by friends and family alike. It took a toll on my mental health to the point where I could not take pictures of myself or look at myself without feeling horrible. It took a lot to unlearn such toxicity. And I had to do this myself, and I did not have the awareness or the vocabulary to tell my parents what I was going through.
Now, because I have an open account on social media, I usually attract a slew of body shamers and trolls when I post about body positivity or when I call out harassers in my DMs. Initially, it was a very daunting task; I was scared and did not want to insult people. It gets easier with time; unfortunately, the insults are normalised, you learn to delete, block and move on. A lot of these comments become content for me. This is the one way I take back my agency.
The poem "Why I am not a painter" by Frank O'Hara is something I keep going back to for inspiration. I actively seek contemporary artists to draw inspiration from, as I think they have so much more to say than dead white male artists that the Artworld loves to admire. Some of the artists I follow and adore on Instagram are Rohan Chakravarty, Indu Lalitha Harikumar, Shehzil Malik, and the list goes on. The thing with art is that it allows you to explore horizons that you never thought existed.
Family: Constant Source Of Support
Above all, my sister, Samyuktha, has been a constant source of support and inspiration. I have watched her grow her baking business from scratch and perform brilliantly at every single thing she has chosen to pursue. It is her dogged determination and her unrelenting pursuit of perfection that keeps me going. If not for her, I would have been a very different person. It is so important to have one person in life that you know you can always turn to for inspiration, support of all kinds, and just someone to lean on!
Since I have always been an artist, I remember art was always my go-to escape since school times. As the times changed and technology became the be-all and end-all of this world, I have made a shift to digital art. I still do traditional art, but technology is a new field, and I love to explore. Digital art offers a lot of malleability of form. I can edit designs, can print them out on materials. Traditional art has many merits in its own right - it requires so much more patience and skill that you cannot erase mistakes. However, I think these are two completely different forms - it becomes too reductive to define them and differentiate-it is a disservice to both.
While growing in life and art, I realised that social media and digital space can offer the artist many ideas to ponder upon and literally just places one's art in front of a global audience. The consequences can be good and bad, both. I have gotten a lot of fantastic reviews for my art on social media. Instagram has been a powerful platform to connect with new clients and reach a better audience. My art has gotten published in national media outlets! I never thought this would happen, but it did, and I am grateful. I have had my fair share of bullies on social media, and eventually, I learnt how to deal with them. I have blocked and reported many of them as well. I am currently not in the mind space to take it any further than that. Sometimes, all you need to do is to preserve your sanity on the platform - someone calls you out, you decide to let the dogs bark and move on to better things.
Artist By Heart, Academician By Profession
I might be an artist at heart, but this is not my 'regular' job. I am an academician by profession. Art has been a side-hustle; I have recently branched out to social media management and creative direction. I don't know what weekends are, but that's how I like my schedule - packed to the rim! One thing that I have learnt in my teaching career is humility, and I am still a work in progress. I entered the field with a lot of misconceptions and a whole lot of romantic expectations about "changing the system", as most new teachers do. Four years down the line, I have come to realise; teaching is less about transferring information and more about encouraging knowledge and curiosity.
The best part of teaching is that you never know what to expect as you enter a classroom; it is a new adventure every day! Somedays, the challenge is to ensure your students don't drift off to sleep, and some other days, it is to put out fires between two warring groups ready to lunge at teacher others necks over a class debate: It's like an unlimited subscription to a beautiful amusement park!
One thing that life has taught me is to accept love and learn to say no. It has been a difficult journey toward self-acceptance, and I need to remind myself that I am worthy of love and deserve to be appreciated. Learning to say no, I think, is an essential skill that I need to possess as a woman and as a creator. Once you experience the high of saying "no" to toxicity, unreasonable clients, unrelenting relatives and trauma-inducing experiences, there is no going back!
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