An op-ed by Anya Thakur in response to The Stanford Daily’s The Importance of Identity When Entering A New Chapter.
“From my parents speaking to me in an amalgamation of Hindi and English at home that’s always been pellucid to me and coming to realize its distinctiveness, I’ve found my voice as a first generation Indian-American. And as I aspire to help every potential leader find their voice as a UN Women advocate and the first Indian teen to launch a UN Women campaign, I’ve learnt the vitality of speaking out and vitality of girls’ education in creating opportunities.
To be leaders, developing a global perspective is crucial as I wrote to The Stanford Daily.”
x Anya Thakur
As an Indian-American, I found my identity nestled between the tremendous white monuments of the Taj Mahal, domes and pillars soaring into the sky, and the White House, home to America’s leaders — both immense wells of national pride and continuous inspiration. Both were far away and seemingly disparate, but equally part of me.
I’ve learnt this coalescence of cultures is not something to reconcile, but to accept and celebrate. From my parents speaking to me in an amalgamation of Hindi and English at home that’s always been pellucid to me and coming to realize its distinctiveness now to writing poetry of peacocks beside eagles, I’ve found my voice as a first generation Indian-American and the daughter of hard-working immigrants.
And as I aspire to help every potential leader find their voice as a UN Women advocate and the first Indian teen to launch a UN Women campaign, I’ve partnered with MetoWe to launch ShePower, a global organization to empower and uplift women and girls wordwide and in underserved areas such as rural India. I’ve learnt the vitality of speaking out and the impact education can have in the lives of girls in helping to alleviate poverty, build sustainability and create opportunities.
Tilly Griffith’s poignant and honest take on her experience in the next chapter of her life when entering Stanford University and beginning a new chapter, with physical disability and holding on to her culture as an international student reminds me of the importance of staying true to my identity. The abstraction of east and west, saffron and sugar, and eagle and peacock raging for dominance inside one girl belies the coexistence and liberality that I’ve experienced.
And as Griffith’s academic journey led her to question and find herself, I thought of the transformative effects of higher education. It’s natural to feel displaced or nervously anticipate what is to come. But many in underserved areas of the world, people have to fight for their right to education. For women and girls, it can be what empowers them turn away from the precipice of social ignominy, child marriage and break the cycle of poverty and create an indelible impact.
My grandma, who smells like the almond oils from her braids and sweet incense that seeps through her shawls and into her milky skin, speckled with sunspots and light discoloration, has surmounted immense challenges and this resilience will always be a part of her. Her diaspora will be recounted for generations — “just” a girl leeing Pakistan in a bullet-dented bus full of bodies and her heart thrumming against its cage during the Partition. And now she has flour packed beneath her fingernails and twines sunset-red rhaki threads around her wrist, resting figure bracketed by coconut and mango trees.
And a global perspective allows us to realize and appreciate what we have accomplished and work to uplift and create opportunities for others. As a UN Women advocate and the first Indian teen to launch a UN Women campaign, I am honored to help build a better and brighter future for millions of women and girls hungry for education and opportunity.
I hope this brightness is something we see reflected in our own futures and that we never doubt we are enough, even when entering the upper echelons of education. We have been given so many opportunities and made many more for ourselves and our identities will never be confined to a campus — this is a place for our sense of self to grow, evolve and to be challenged. Moments of doubt, fading to ephemeral in retrospect, cannot overshadow our identities.
Our identities are constantly evolved and transformed, shaped like thousands of infinitesimal sediments carried by the stream to new horizons as we enter new environments. As we preserve them and forge new ones, we cannot fail to develop a global perspective.