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Not only has Roshni D'Souza helped me to grow as a writer, but under her guidance, I grew as a person too. I learnt to speak up and share what I thought.
The year was 2019. I had a three-year-old daughter who was my world. Literally! My days began with her waking up, and ended with her going to bed, screaming and crying, protesting at the top of her voice. My whole schedule was tied to her. It was as if she had taken over every facet of my life.
The only escape from the drudgery was through books and Facebook. Books provided me with a few moments of respite and transported me to a different place far away from my present. The same could be achieved by a few moments of scrolling through my FB feed every day. It would feel like the well-deserved break I needed. Of course, it was only for a few moments and I hardly would connect with anyone as I had no time. Of course, as anyone knows, scrolling without a purpose on Facebook is a recipe for nothing but depression.
Just when I was on the verge of signing off from FB for good, one day I came across a book group.
This was a totally new thing for me. This reading habit of mine has been treated as nothing but an aberration by my family and friends. I have been the butt of jokes for a long time for daring to be a bibliophile. So there was no one in my growing years to share my love of books with or the joy the written word gave me. Any book lover would tell you that there is no greater joy than being able to share your thoughts and discuss your takeaways from a book with a fellow booklover. But my world had been bereft of an understanding group for as long as I could recall.
My joy knew no bounds when I found out that there are actually people who formed groups to talk about books and recommend their favourite reads to each other. I quickly went through a few such groups but settled on one for the vibe and the general feeling of fun, and friendly banter.
It was led by Roshni D’Souza as a moderator who was not only an excellent reader, but the woman who made the group what it was with her intelligence, humour, and warmth. She welcomed me into the fold with her characteristic charm. I had been an SM recluse till then, but encouraged by the inclusive nature of the group, in no time I became someone who loved talking there. Not only did I love being a part of this tribe, I also volunteered to help when Roshni sent out feelers for a feature she had in mind.
Roshni set up a new reading group Readers Forever! early in January 2020. It was my good fortune to be a part of the group and be one of those tasked with bringing out one of its regular features. However, when Roshni assigned the job to me, she didn’t know that I was a complete novice when it came to social media and needed help for even simple things like posting a gif.
My responsibility was to post an article every fortnight, setting out the theme for the group. The members could post their write-ups, poems, and tales on the theme. It was a huge responsibility for someone who wasn’t even comfortable commenting on the posts of strangers. I simply did not think I had the capability to continue what Roshni herself had been doing. But to her credit, she not only helped me and guided me, but she also inculcated in me the confidence to believe in my own words.
It was she who told me that my writing has potential after she went through my bumbling efforts at writing small stories in the Readers Forever group. The few stories of mine that have been published owe their existence to her encouragement primarily. She was always there to look over my stories and give me her honest feedback along with suggestions for improvement. Her impeccable grammar and understanding of what impact a story should have, have helped me immensely to polish my work over the years.
Even today, she is there to fine-tune my monthly article for Readers Forever. Not only this, she is there for each one of us who needs her for the hundreds of things that are involved in running a group.
Not only has Roshni helped me to grow as a writer, but under her guidance, I grew as a person too. I am someone who likes to be quiet, not speaking up unless I am sure my words have some value to add. Mostly I keep my opinions to myself. She encouraged me to voice my thoughts when we discussed the group’s workings as admins and moderators. It was she who taught me that sometimes an opposing view is good and might be just what is needed to balance a discussion. So even if my views differ, I need to set them out for others to see a different perspective too. This might lead to a more inclusive decision and fairer outcomes.
Her hands are full looking after her family, home, Readers Forever group, and her reading (she is a dedicated ARC reader), but still she never backs away from reading books and giving her honest feedback to the authors who ask her for it. I have long admired her honesty, her discipline, and her dedication and try to emulate her like some smitten fangirl. But it is the sense of humour she brings to her responses that showed me that however tough life can be, we can always bring a smile to someone’s face. If only we choose to do so. Like she keeps doing. Like I try to do, following in her footsteps.
If anyone asks her she would be surprised that I even consider her a mentor. But isn’t it what mentors do? Lead by example and inspire others to follow!
Editor’s Note: For IWD 2023, we’re publishing #MentoringStories in both fiction and non-fiction, for the IWD2023 theme #EmbraceEquity. This non-fiction piece is one of the winners. See all mentoring stories here.
Image source: shutterstock
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There are many mountains I need to climb just to be, just to live my life, just to have my say... because they are mountains you've built to oppress women.
Trigger Warning: This deals with various kinds of violence against women including rape, and may be triggering for survivors.
I haven’t climbed a literal mountain yet
Was busy with the metaphorical ones – born a woman
Fighting for the air that should have come free
And I am one of the privileged ones, I realize that
Yet, if I get passionate, just like you do
I will pay for it – with burden, shame, – and possibly a life to carry
So, my mountains are the laws you overturn
My mountains are the empty shelves where there should have been pills
When people picked my dadi to place her on the floor, the sheet on why she lay tore. The caretaker came to me and said, ‘Just because you touched her, one of the men carrying her lost his balance.’
The death of my grandmother shattered me. We shared a special bond – she made me feel like I was the best in the world, perfect in every respect.
Apart from losing a person who I loved, her death was also a rude awakening for me about the discrimination women face when it comes to performing the last rites of their loved ones.
On January 23 this year, I lost my 95 year old grandmother (dadi) Nirmala Devi to cardiac arrest. She was that one person who unabashedly praised me. The evening before her death she praised the tea I had made and said that I make better tea than my brother (my brother and I are always competing about who makes the best chai).
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