The first time I saw Janaki Nagraj’s profile photo on Facebook, I saw a woman with gentle, doe- eyes. A beautiful shy smile, eyes looking at a vision of her own and a countenance that bespoke a calm, restful disposition. Chiding myself for my fanciful assumptions, I decided to wait for a bit before I drew any conclusions.
Now, almost one and a half years later, I can testify to the validity of my first impressions. I was absolutely right. Yet, my assessment was incomplete. I had reckoned without a fun- loving woman who loved to dig out- and share- the funniest jokes to be found anywhere on the net. I had reckoned without her spiritedness that moves you quietly, but with perceptible force nevertheless.
I am aware of her assertion that she is capable of flying into a towering temper. Just between you and me though, I doubt it. The woman is so tender and soothing, she can’t ever get angry. Not ANGRY angry, if you know what I mean. Not ANGRY as I can get angry… the kind that makes strong men and women climb the nearest tall tree and pull it up after them– to paraphrase good ‘ol P G Wodehouse. Angry, nah! Not possible! But one indulges the kid, you know. So one says, “Yeah, you really have an awful temper Janaki!” Then one smiles.
The dreamy mellowness of her comes through in her writing. As you will read in this beautiful post she has written for me, her writing is a very private and defining part of her that she shares with the world. In it is contained all her love for life, her values and passion, her vulnerabilities and hopes. You can get yourself acquainted with her on Memoirs of a Homemaker.
Thank you for the honor of lending your mellifluous voice to my blog today Janaki. I am absolutely delighted to introduce you to everyone here.
I chanced upon this video on my Facebook page.
It is (supposedly) about the ugliest woman in the world.
It was a defining moment for me. Here, Lizzie Velasquez, the supposedly ugly woman, whose suffering we cannot even imagine, asks everyone a question. How do you define yourself? Bam! That hit me smack on my face. It kind of set me thinking…what defines me? I had not thought about it until then. Believe me, I am yet to come up with a satisfactory answer.
I remember what my blogger friend Tikulli has written in her blog post On Being A Mother And A Woman, In That Order…
Once a female child is born, she immediately sides into the role assigned to her by the society – of a daughter, sister, wife, mother so on and so forth. The first robe of role-playing that the baby girl is wrapped in grows with her infant body, taking her through the long tedious journey into womanhood. Somewhere she shrinks into nothingness and all one can see is the role she is playing at a particular stage in her life.
I couldn’t have summed it up any better. Are we independent of these roles? Our lives are so infused and meshed into these roles that we feel selfish and even guilty to separate ourselves from any of them. That’s why we all crave for some ‘me’ time…a place where we want to meet ourselves. Is that the reason Kitty groups thrive? A sisterhood of like-minded people where we can cast off the robe of role-playing and be ourselves?
I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.
~ Henry Rollins
Before I took up to blogging, I was unhappy and confused. Unhappy because I had not been able to identify my passion and channelize it and so was somewhat frustrated. Once I began blogging, I have not looked back. To a certain extent blogging/writing defines me. In fact I have evolved as a person since then. I was confident first, I feel empowered now. Not that I write revolutionizing articles… but what whatever I write is a piece of me… it defines me in a way. It is my thoughts, my feelings and emotions that I have laid bare on this blogosphere. This has given me an identity. This is something which I can say is entirely mine… the words I have strung together. But again, am I my writing or is it just one more facet of me?
Last month I had the opportunity to attend a Poetry Recitation event. One of the girls, Harshika Gupta has written a wonderful poem called Perception. In this poem she writes about how people perceive her and how she tries to be as ‘herself” when she is with her lover/partner, which is not easy. Here is an excerpt from the poem.
Every person knows me differently.
Some say my life is similar to theirs
Some say they count me in their prayers.
Some shower me with attention, some idolize
Some feign incomprehension, some criticize.
Some think I’m a Punjabi, hence very strong
Some know that the stereotype is so very wrong.
It is not easy to be with you – I have to be myself.
All that practice of having to live up to expectations,
Being nice with the nice ones; smart with the sly ones
Pretense comes easier to me than just letting myself be.
When you walk towards me, it is the reason I can’t breathe.
Because standing across you, I am nobody else, but me.
With your unflinching gaze – there is nothing you don’t see.
Pretending is easy. We have been taught to pretend and behave. We are on our guard most of the time and the mask clicks into its place automatically. What are we without these masks? Our masks comes undone when we face trials, they come undone when we face our fears exposing our most vulnerable side. Everyone is everything… some have an overdose of sweetness and some, meanness. Some people hide themselves while some reveal in the wide world. All of us have some quirks, which may irk others. And some may be a fine balance of all.
It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career. (And also life…I would like to add here.)
It is how we hold our head when faced with adversity that defines us; it is our principles, values and sum total of our struggles. It is the path we chose and how well we walked through it…it is our integrity, it is our strength and it is our identity.
Life experience is what defines our character, even if it means getting your heart broken or being lied to. You know, you need the downs to appreciate the ups. Going on the adventure or taking that risk is important.
After all this introspection, you may ask – How do you define yourself? I can somewhat conclude I am a sum total of my values and principles I learnt from and emulated seeing my parents and also the dreams I have turned into achievements.
So, how do you define yourself?
Wow Dagny, am speechless! Let me just soak in the words you have used to introduce me…you are benevolent my dear. I am honored to share this awesome space. Thanks and love.
Janaki, I haven’t said half of what I wanted to. I’ll keep it for the next guest post that you do for me. 😀
Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Wonderful article Janaki. It does define you, and that I know you personally and have met you quite a few times, I feel now a bit more connected to you. You have shared here a piece but it does cover a lot. As for how do I define you..well…dya want em write a post about it? 🙂
I would love to hear your thoughts about me Kajal. It is so nice to connect outside of this virtual world. I love that you have kept your inner child alive yet at the same time your maturity comes across in your posts 🙂
How sweet of you to have said that, Janaki. Love ya!
Doe eyed Janaki on dazzling Dagny’s blog. What can be better than that!
Agree with you Janaki, writing has been empowering for me too. It helps me channelize my angst, my restlessness. More so, because when it comes to spoken words, I m tongue tied. Glad I met you and Dagny via blogging.
Thank you so much Alka…one more person whose writing I am awed about.
Ah Janaki! Not only have you delved into the topic of how we define ourselves but you have also laid bare the reason behind blogging for so many of us. Just like you, my blogs are a part of me that I have daringly put out for the entire world to see. It does not define me but it is a part of my identity, something that many have come to know and relate me by. What defines me? Let me attempt. I am in independent, intelligent woman who is a stickler for values and morals, self-righteous to an extent, fun too and very critical and honest. I love being a lover, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, professional, blogger,,, Each one defines me because each is a reflection of the person I am. Thank you for this introspective post. Great to have you here on Dagny’s blog! And, I must tell you this. I have seen you transform into a self-assured, content woman through blogging. You have found the medium that gives you the ‘I’ that you yearned to bring to the fore. Wish you more laurels in pursuing your passion. Lovely to know you as a kind, wonderful, fun person.
Wow! Love you Rachna…:)
Fantastic Janu!Thank you Dagny for presenting this wonderful page from Janaki’s journal which by the way is a beautiful ,bottomless urn…churning out pages after pages effortlessly.:-)
Thanks S…it is because of friends like you who give constant encouragement that I am here today. 🙂
Very true, we are what we choose to become, the sum total of our values and principles. But along with that we are also the consequences of our choices, as seen by others. I do not know if our definition of ourselves can stand independent of how others perceive us. A lot of thoughts brought up by this great post. And the wonderful world being created through collaborations like these is part of what defines us. Thanks for this lovely reminder.
True Shubho…It took me a while to put my thoughts and yet I feel I haven’t done complete justice. Thank you so much.
Loved Janaki’s intro, Dagny !! Those eyes of hers in her profile…yes, there’s something that draws a person to her.
And WOW !! Janaki, that was one post of very valuable introspection ! We need to do such stuff time to time. And I can totally agree with you in the fact how blogging has changed me for the better and has helped me to understand my worth of words, spoken and written. This journey has been enlightening.
How do I define myself ? I think I should do a post now 🙂
And I would love to read your post. I have forgotten how I used to spend my time before blogging…what the hell was I doing? And, blogging has shrunk the world so much and I feel more connected to my virtual friends. Thanks dear.
Most powerful ideas, truths and pearls of wisdom are simple and yet so hard to assimilate, until they resonate within the soul. This is one of those posts, bookmarking it
Coming from you, totally floored Ritu. Thanks.
Fabulous post Janaki…we often perhaps shy away from this exercise… It is easy to get complacent in the many roles that a woman essays…it is imp for her to know who she is. Writing and Dancing are two areas which have let me explore my being…which helpe define me and have brought out a new me!
Aditi…I too have found that I can dance too and I did so in front of a small audience from my housing society. I used to have a huge stage fear but now, I have overcome so many of my inhibitions. It is through blogging that I started to ‘value’ myself. Thanks.
I am soaking in the beauty of this writeup. The spirit of sisterhood, the essence and the journey of every woman’s life. What a marvelous post. Each time I talk to you or read your words they make me come to terms with myself, to look at things in a new perspective and to find a direction. Love.
Tikulli…love you dear. Thank you so much…for everything.
A very tough question…answered with your trademark calm words and simplicity. Enjoyed this post so much Janaki!
Thank you so much Sumana.
So beautiful and inspiring! Couldn’t imagine a more befitting write-up that matched the thought in my poem ^_^
You’re beautiful, Janaki!
My dear, you are beautiful too. What an amazing poem you have written! Thanks Harshika.
Beautiful words for Janaki and even though I have not met her or you Dagny…have got good vibes from you both!
The defining yourself was an enlightening read and thank you for sharing it with us…cheers!
When I was in my post graduation, a friend (read classmate) three a suggestion – “make your own identity”. I have been searching for it since then. Being a daughter, being a wife, being a mom.. On the way left behind myself. I hope your thoughtfully penned post helps me know myself better.
This one leaves the reader in a self introspection mode. Lovely janaki. Thanks Dagny.
This thought is really a ‘tip of the iceberg’ thing. It has more depth and needs a lot of introspection. Thank you so much Arpita.
Absolutely beautiful post, Janaki! (Dagny, you’re 100% right about Janu).
How do you define yourself – is a question we all ought to print in big bold letters and contemplate at regular intervals. Sometimes our mood and current situation defines how we feel, and so, naturally the answer is ever changing. At some point, thanks to experience and some wisdom, we do arrive at an answer we’re proud of. When we’re ready to give ourselves some self-love, hold our chin up and say, “I am…..” and smile!
Lovely read. 🙂
Yes, we do and that is a huge ‘eureka’ moment for all of us. Thanks Vidya.
So well written Janaki! You put words to what many of us find tough to express… we are a sum total of the values and principles inculcated into us, these have led to the behaviour we imbibe and the choices we make… really well written.
Thank you so much Seeta, believe me I found it very difficult to put across my thoughts too. I am so glad that we could all connect to this one simple thought.
I define myself by my choices. And I choose to be YOUR friend. Speaks volumes, eh? What a wonderful post, Janaki. I can’t add any more to this than what has already been said. But yes, to you, I can. You are more than words can capture on a sheet of paper. You are the wind beneath many wings, and they know it. You are the calm with the storm, you are the sunshine with the warmth. And I think I can go on and on and on……………..The thing is when I define you, I also define what you mean to me. In one word………..PRECIOUS.
You are going places and you are inspiring me to, too. Keep on walking……………your kingdom awaits. Mwah!
Awww….you lift me up…morally. I really am inspired by the blogeshwaris and some bonds are beyond the boundaries of definitions. Love you.
Very well analyzed article. And something that haunts everyone at a deep level. Some identities are so strong that they became stronger than the real person. Good to see Janaki here – somehow not been visiting her blog much – due to my challenges in comprehending poetry.
Being yourself is a life long journey – it is especially tough to avoid glamorous identities given to you by your educational background or profession and the associated stereotypes and be yourself.
Thank you TF…am evolving slowing and it is a combined motivation of reading all the awesome bloggers.
Look at the way you seek your self. Look at those quotes. You sit in your cosy corner, your thinking cap on, and then you open your arms to words of wisdom you picked from around you. You assimilate with a welcoming mind. You are ready to be guided. Look how you remember and quote what struck you as beautiful. It is this openness to another’s thoughts which makes you evolve and grow, even as you find your self in your own thoughts, and writing.
Our definitions of our selves cannot be without an ‘other’ we stand next to – “Everyone is everything… some have an overdose of sweetness and some, meanness.” – and picking and rejecting and drawing our own learning curve. We define ourselves by feeling one with the other, apart from finding that which is unique to us. A golden mean between the two, and we know who we are/want to be.
That’s how I see you doing it here. That’s how I do it too. 🙂
Am cleanly bowled by what you have said. I agree with you when you say “our definitions of ourselves cannot be without others”…the ‘others’ have the power to make us or break us. The blogging world and all the bloggers whom I have interacted with have made me…your encouragement and feedback is what motivates me to improve myself, along with what you all write Thanks a ton.
This is one of those posts that lingers on even after you’ve finished reading it. I loved the poignant but calm tones of Janaki’s thoughts.
If you ask me what defines me – I’ll insist it can’t be just one thing. Despite the many roles I play, as a Mom,wife, daughter and friend my core remains the same.
I’m prone to falling and failing but I don’t feel ashamed of my mistakes.
Lovely write-up Janaki and Dagny you weave magic with words!
We should never let our failures to pull us down…of course they affect us. Acceptance and addressing the failures will help us to overcome them and stay afloat. Thanks Purba.
You are right in saying that kitty groups flourish as a sense of sisterhood prevails , sharing and at times caring and bonding germinates to a full bodied tree. The quotes and the lovely poem are the hallmark of this post and of course your hard-hitting thoughts.
Like a fingerprint impression is unique , each one in their own tries to create their own identity and carve a little world.
Well said Kalpana…thank you.
This is such an amazing write… The power and thoughfullness of these words strike the right cord. It makes me think about my perception of other people, of What I think about myself and my life… Coz playing all those roles,
Somewhere down the line I never thought who I really am… Now. It’s never same.
Rajlakshmi, I felt the same too when I first heard the question. I could not come up with who I am! Even then I was thinking in terms of a mother, a wife and a daughter…realizing that I was nowhere. Now, go find yourself 🙂 Thank you.
This is a post to savour, Janaki! Sum of values, different things to different people, constantly changing and imbibing with life’s learning curve, sometimes even unknown to our own selves, that is the part where I often struggle with – trying to know myself.
True ChattyWren…and when we try to get to know ourselves, we may actually be surprised. Thank you.
It is such a beautiful post that I read it twice to savour it. Janaki, whatever Dagny has said about you is spot on. I have had the pleasure of meeting you and I cherish the card you gave me for my Birthday, along with the lovely top. Loved reading your post, we all are connected through our writing. My fb cover page defines me 🙂
I agree with the FB cover…having seen and your wonderful family, I can say I know you too. Thank you so much.
Such a thoughtful post, Janaki, and you made me think a lot now! I must confess that I share some of the views that Dagny spoke of when I first saw your profile pic. But, I also knew that people underestimate people who looks quiet and calm! 🙂 We all know your fun-loving side…who else can pull out the funniest memes and posters on Facebook?!
As for me, I decided only in my 30s that I was tired of being ‘nice’ all the time and that I really didn’t care what other people thought of me if I stopped acting! Life is so much better now!! 😉
Great Roshni…we are evolving and redefining ourselves to the changing situations and needs. It is intelligence. Some people are inherently nice but that also that not mean that they will take shit all the time. The moment when they step out of that…is what defines their strength.
Thank you so much.
This makes me think-what and who am i?Your post is deep and stimulating–glad i came here Janaki.You shall see me oftener–thank you Dagny!