Journeys with Janet!

What are we but our stories? Stories of courage, of love, of success, of happiness, of good and evil. The world is built on them and everyone loves a good one! Stories open our minds to vivid imaginations, help us put ideas out in the world, make us feel varied emotions, tug at our heart strings and give us hope! Whether you are reading a book, watching a movie or listening to a storyteller, it’s not always about a happy ending but about the story itself. I remember staying up nights reading books and struggling to keep my eyes open through movies. I learnt and practiced spells from Harry potter, made my own adventures with Nancy Drew and had sleepless, frightful nights after a horror movie.

As I grew up the stories continued, even more so reading bed-time stories for my niece. They varied from fairy tales to adventures, to stories about naughty kids and brave people. Till one day she asked me “Massi (Hindi word meaning aunt) tell me life stories”. After which she and I set out on a quest, we’d go to all the people we loved and ask them to tell us stories. Stories of their friends, of times of sadness, of fun, of travels. And during that time, I learnt so much more about my parents as well, who suddenly became real people, who had naughty childhoods, crushes, failed chemistry experiments and made hard life choices. I know that these stories, impacted my life in ways I probably didn’t expect.

Today that my mom is not here with me anymore, I’m glad I have her stories as memories and with time I’ve learnt to tell mine as well. One of my stories is about the flat foot I was born with. Also my legs had a slight difference in length which caused a bit of limp when I walked. Growing up, kids would stare at me, which would make me very conscious. To make it worse, I had surgery and now I had a big scar and had to wear special shoes (from my ankle to knees) to school, which made me stand out like a sore thumb. The only thing I wished for, was to be normal, to be able to play regular sports and not get stared at, but also not attract sympathy. I struggled with low self-confidence.

This continued to inherently affect me through my grown-up days, till one day I walked into a yoga studio in Boston. As I was taking off my shoes, the instructor noticed my scar and came up to me and said, “that’s such a cool scar, what’s the story?” I was taken aback and sort of gave her a medical run down on what it was about. She then went on to show me her scars and tell me her stories. She probably doesn’t know this, but she changed my life. First, that’s when my romance with yoga started. And secondly, suddenly I didn’t feel the need to hide my scars anymore. I started to wear dresses/shorts and sandals so people could see my scars. Whenever I caught someone staring me because of my limp or scar, I would smile at them and ask them if they wanted to know the story or if they had scars of their own. Yoga philosophies talk about self-love and bravery, which I learnt and now live by.

Since then, I’ve told many stories and hopefully touched lives, through them. In the recent climate in India, with debates around nepotism and other political causes, stories have been boycotted, important stories too. We all have our beliefs and ideologies which I believe we can continue to support without discarding these stories. The journey of an acid attack survivor, who brought changes to Indian judiciary, after years of struggle. Or the journey of the first woman air-force officer in India. Whatever our agendas might be, we must find ways to support these stories. I know these movies made me cry but also encouraged me, by the resilience of these incredible woman, portrayed through these movies.

So, I encourage you all to listen to stories. Encourage your children, with them. Make them the he/shero of their story. Let them find beauty and courage in scars and flaws, we could all use some kindness in the world! When you are ready, tell your own stories and show off your scars, they speak volumes about a life well lived. And no one else sees the world as you do, so you never know whose life you’ll touch.

By now, you have probably gathered my love for life stories. So, with this blog post, I’d also like to introduce to you all – “Journeys with Janet”. I envision this as a living library of people’s journeys. Of regular flawed people like you and me. Of professional and personal journeys. Of journeys of courage and hope. Of dreams fulfilled and setbacks learnt from. I believe no journey is unimportant, I believe we were all put in this world for a reason. If you haven’t found yours yet, I hope these journeys might enable your own or if you are well on your way, I would love to hear your story and share it, so we all can Grow, Shine & Thrive together!