I first came to Hyderabad back in 1996 as a 7th grader. I relocated from Vikarabad, a small town where everyone knew everyone else and it hardly took a day to explore the beautiful town on foot. My life was cozy: going to school, playing with friends, sharing stories during power outages and star gazing at nights. In contrast, Hyderabad was a whole new world to me. Earlier it was just a place where my grandmother and other cousins lived and we paid visits to them during summer vacations. When we decided to move to Hyderabad for good, I was surprised, excited and scared too. I had never thought of any other place as home. I was scared and thought that all the people in Hyderabad must certainly be richer and smarter. Hyderabad was a big city, it was impossible to walk to your school like before. I had to take a bus. The roads were so wide and everything was overwhelming. I felt as if it were some sort of dream or something. I saw people hanging from the bus and wondered why couldn’t they just wait for another one. I saw how everyone was rushing and it was exciting to be part of it. The big buildings, houses with elevators (if you ever read barrister Paarvateesam you will understand what I felt!), big shops and those big cars in the showrooms. It was a feeling that can’t be expressed. I was loving every moment of it, but the most important thing I remember is in the way my teacher introduced me to my classmates at school. This was the first time she came across me and what she said then always continued to be with me: “Beware girls, Aparna is going to give you all a tough competition”. I was surprised to hear that. I don’t remember anyone saying anything like that about me before. I always used to make sure that I was just good enough so I wouldn’t get any scoldings from my dad. My sisters were always toppers and they used to bring home lots of medals and awards every year. I used to make sure I won at least one. I never went overboard with excelling at anything because I used to think – you just need to be a little bit faster than the one ahead of you and then you are good. I remember once I forgot that I stood 3rd in class and I would’t get any prize that year and I wanted to make sure I get one. I then saw a kho-kho match underway. I never heard of that game but decided to ask if I could be part of it. Fortunately, they were short of one person to commence with the game. I just asked what are the rules of the game were. One of the girls stared at me as to why she was letting me join the game but was nice enough to brief me about the rules. Guess what?! Yes, we won! I had one prize to take home. Coming back , the way my teacher put it that day about me, made me beam with pride. In my little brain, I thought I should prove her right. I cannot let down the person who trusted me so much. That was the first time I started working hard – just for my teacher. I became the topper in the very next exam and from then on there was no looking back: I was the school topper, best student of the year and later on gold medalist in Civil Engineering.
That one sentence made a big difference in my life. It made me who I am. It made me realize what my potential was and what I could achieve. It made me strong. It made me powerful.
Several years later I ask myself how do I feel today? I can factually say that my confidence isn’t where it should be. I feel powerless. I feel I failed me, not because of what I am but what I could have been. I wasted a whole lot of life chewing on if(s) and but(s). I let many situations cloud my decisions. I was so busy being there for others that I forgot to stand up for myself and chase my dream – I let things go their way instead. A few days ago while I was conversing with an ex-colleague of mine, he just said “You are an inspiration, as always. With your caliber I am sure you will rock the market!” This again, coming from someone who hardly knew me and with whom I haven’t spoken in years.
That took me back to that very same day how my teacher introduced me to the class. It helped me realize that there is a lot I need to do achieve and a lot more to accomplish. There are just a few bumps on the road and hell a lot of unknowns but it is still the same me, who got lost in the woods for a while.
There is nothing impossible and nothing insurmountable. It is just the same world with the different lens. Sometimes it might look like there is no way out or you feel like nothing is going to work but you know what, you have “YOU”. It’s just that the targets got bigger and the stakes got higher. You just need to know that you have it in you and you always deserve better.
You are the one who will make the difference. You don’t need someone to vouch for you . You need you to trust that you can do it. Don’t let go of yourself as “Your dreams can be achieved only by you!”.