Since 2011, Raaga Models & Talent Agency based in Toronto have been organizing the prestigious pageant of Miss (&Mrs.) South Asia Canada! The goal of the event is to help build self esteem and confidence among young women of the South Asian community, nurturing competitive but friendly peer learning opportunities, teaching good sportsmanship, public speaking skills, poise and elegance. Most importantly, they are to encourage participation and involvement in the community and taking part in fund raising events, donations and volunteering.
In December of 2019, a young woman named Sunita Pun stunned everyone on stage with her mature and well thought out answers and won the title of Miss South Asia Canada! Before the final title, Sunita also bagged the titles of Miss Bollywood Diva and Miss Congeniality.
“I first participated in a pageant in 2015 for a charity to help victims of an earthquake in Nepal. It was then that I realized how a pageant can be an opportunity for me to come out of my comfort zone and explore my inner potential. I participated in Miss South Asia Canada 2018 and I made it to the top five and also won two subtitles. Not winning the crown was unsettling but a learning curve for me. So I came back in 2019 and competed in Miss South Asia Canada 2019 to prove it to myself that hard work pays off and that we can do amazing things when we don’t give up,” said Sunita in an exclusive interview with Millennial Things Blog.
Since missing the title in 2018, Sunita knew that she had to believe that she really deserved the title from her heart and so she practiced positive self-talk, self-acceptance, and self-love, including Meditation and yoga.
Q. Can you tell us about the different rounds in the pageant and what skills they tested?
“The first round was a traditional round which was my favourite, because I got to see all the beautiful and colourful outfits representing South Asia. The second round was called the saree round and I was a bit nervous about standing on stage for so long in a neat but delicately wrapped outfit. We said our introductory speeches, and after delivering mine, I became more confident about my presence on stage. “
“I eventually made it to the semi-finals where we picked a question and answered it. The question was a bit tricky but I told myself that I will have to remain calm and answer the best I can.”
“The last round was the final question answer round. This is the most important one and I was always nervous thinking about this round prior to the completion, but during the competition I was the most calm and confident in this round. I told myself that I would give my best and that it was my time to shine.”
Q. What is the one moment of the competition that you are the most proud of?
“The answer I gave was something I truly believed in my heart so instead of being nervous I had fun answering my question. I got so emerged in the moment that I did not care about the result at that time. I knew I got to say what I believed in and I felt truly satisfied from within.”
Q. Can you tell us how you felt right before the final results were announced!
I was a bit nervous in the beginning of the show thinking about things that could go wrong. I reminded myself of how gracefully I handled failures in the past and how much I have learnt because of it. I reminded myself that I have worked hard and I am ready for this. As the rounds went on I started feeling more excited and hopeful that I will win. After I won, I felt accomplished and very grateful.
What was your take away from this competition and the title you receive? Do you plan to continue to partake in such competitions in the future?
“My take away from this competition is that hard work pays off. There is nothing you cannot achieve if you put your mind to it and try relentlessly until you achieve it. I do not have plan to take part in another pageant in the future, but you know life always surprises us.”
Sunita holds a bachelor’s degree in public health and I works in community mental health. “I want to continue working in mental health. Mental health is challenging at the same time very rewarding because it gives me opportunity to make someone’s life better at the same time expand my own knowledge. In my community, I often participate in local charity events where I showcase my dance skills and I would like to continue doing so. I am passionate about public speaking and in the future I hope to become a motivational speaker and advocate for mental health issues in the community.”
Q. As a millennial, how do you think this competition helped to inspire you or encourage certain values in you?
“When I lost my previous pageant, I thought about reasons why I lost it. Insecurity crept in and I started thinking that maybe I lost because I am not beautiful enough or not smart enough. But deep in my heart I knew I had to stay true to my values. I came back to compete to prove to myself that hard work, integrity, and self-acceptance is what makes someone a pageant winner. Winning the title has made me believe in myself more than ever and I am ready to take on new challenges.”
Q. What is your message to other South Asian women out there?
My message to other young south Asian women out there is that our self-worth is not dependent on what anyone says or thinks of us. Our self-worth is made of our resilience, compassion, and all the challenges we overcome. Chase after your dreams and have a courage to live a life true to yourself.
As you grow up, the question of, “What do you want to be when you grow up” turns into “What are you going to do for the rest of your life.” If you’ve always known what you wanted to do, then great, if you didn’t then that’s okay, too. I didn’t think about becoming a lawyer until almost the end of my undergraduate studies. If you ever thought about or are thinking about pursuing a legal career, then I have a few tips to you.
1. Volunteer or get work experience as soon as you can
One of the things I am most grateful for is having gotten to work one summer as an intern and assistant at a small law office before finishing my bachelor’s degree and deciding to study law. You should try to get a feel of what it is like to be in a legal work environment before committing to a legal career path. There are some who have watched television, maybe dreamed of becoming a paralegal or lawyer, and then realized that the job and the environment isn’t what they thought it would be like. I wasn’t someone who initially thought I would become a lawyer when I was younger. I was someone who was still figuring it out. It was during my undergraduate studies of psychology, when I thought about the connection to law and had the opportunity to work with a lawyer, when I decided to go to law school. This work experience is especially important if you are thinking about going to law school or becoming a lawyer, and are concerned about your financial situation, as not only is tuition of law school expensive but there are many other fees in addition that you will have to pay for (more on this below), and so you should know what you will be working towards after your degree beforehand.
2. Have a financial plan or significant savings. Do not carry debt going into law school if possible
The legal profession is an expensive career path, and do not assume that you are going to be able to make up for it all right away once you become a licensed legal professional. Yes, law school is expensive, but so are licensing fees. What’s that? Yes, there are more fees after you graduate. Whether you are becoming a lawyer or a paralegal in Ontario, after you graduate and want to become a lawyer or paralegal, you will have to pay for fees upfront to join the legal professional body, licensing exam fees and more. Law school doesn’t really give you that much time off to have a job, and the expenses you will be paying for will be a lot more than how much you can earn part-time at any minimum wage position. Unfortunately, for us millennials, you probably know that there is already a shortage for university graduates obtaining meaningful career positions after they graduate that pay well, and the legal field is no different. To become a lawyer, after you have your law degree, each province has their own licensing process, you will have to apply to the law society of the province you want. In Ontario, you will have to pay for another application fee to get put into the licensing process, then you will be required to write two bar exams, and complete an experiential training component, either “articling” which is a supervised internship for 10 months or the Law Practice Program. You may have heard some positive stories of students who were well paid working at a large law firm after graduating, but that’s not always the case, and many smaller firms often can’t pay you a significant amount. In fact, you will be lucky to work for the minimum wage at some smaller firms. The Ontario bar exams with the required materials will cost you over $2000, and for your experiential training component, you will have to pay over $3000 (I don’t remember the exact numbers). That’s right, you must PAY to have your work or internship recognized. If you fail a bar exam, you will have to pay to do it again. These exams are also 7 and a half hours each filled with a lot of material, and many people must take some time off work to study. After this, you will have to pay for the bar ceremony, possibly buy/rent barrister robes, and then when you do get licensed, guess what… MORE FEES! Within the first few weeks after getting called to the Bar, congratulations, you will be handed an invoice from the law society asking you to pay for the remainder of the year as a licensed professional, even if you aren’t working. If you are not practising law, you can apply to change your status with the law society to pay less fees, but you are still required to pay something more than a few hundred dollars just to maintain your license, otherwise your license may be administratively suspended for not paying. If you are practising, you will have to pay much more, and in addition, it is mandatory for licensees to have practising insurance coverage. In Ontario, we use LawPro Insurance. A new call has a 50% discount, but surprisingly that’s still over $300/month currently for a new lawyer in their first year. Thus why, I would suggest you plan out a financial plan or figure out how you will survive financially for several years (not a few, not for just when you’re in law school, but after too), and you do not want to be in debt before starting this career path.
3. Maintain and build your support system
If you have great friends, and people you have met through work experience before law school, you will want to maintain their friendships to help get you through any mental struggles you may face throughout your career journey. In law school, don’t be afraid to make friends, not everyone will be amazing, some become too competitive, and you may want to stay away from those, but if you find some great friends in your class or in another class above or below you, then you will have an advantage over those who are just competitive and want to do everything alone. It’s great if you can find people who can share with you notes or would be willing to build notes together with you or provide other tips. The people I attempted to befriend in the beginning did not become my friends I later had. Friends I later had in law school, were people that I eventually became close with and still stay in touch with. When I first started at law school, I lived in a studio apartment, and this girl who lived two doors down from me who was a semester senior to me ended up becoming one of my best law school pals, and that was not something I expected. Although we were in different semesters, we attempted to compete in various legal competitions such as moots, client interview competitions, and negotiations. I later took a few courses with her as I took a few courses out of order, and she later introduced me to my roommate I moved in with 2 semesters later. I was able to form a study group sometimes then. I also got to know someone else who was senior to me, who I would regularly meet in the library who taught me Microsoft Word tricks for formatting my exam notes that I will forever be thankful for.
4. Don’t try to be a “Shark” or super competitive going into law school or college
There is this falsehood with a lot of new law school students who believe that they need to be as competitive as possible, and perhaps even sabotage other students or should not help anyone else. I don’t really blame anyone for having this initial view as many do and it can somewhat feel encouraged by schools that curve class grades. However, in the real practising world, legal professionals often need to work with each other, and rely on asking each other for help, guidance and advice to do better, and so you should start building your relationships early on. You never know when you may need someone. Try to help others when you can.
5. If you’re thinking about going to law school abroad, do your research and plan.
I went to Bond University in Australia, but before applying, I attended an information event for their law programs in Toronto, and some of their webinars where I could ask them questions. You should find out whether the school you are thinking about is planning any information sessions nearby or if there are any international university fairs. At international university fairs, you can get some information, and find out about various law school programs but you should then do further research into any schools you are then seriously considering, and then see if they will host a specific information session for the law program.
There are often also consultant agencies that will help you with informing you of information sessions and sending your applications. I signed up with KOM Consultants, which is based in Hamilton and asked them about universities they communicate with. Another popular agency for helping students interested in studying in Australia is OzTREKK. Both agencies can provide you with an abundance of information if you are interested in studying abroad. You should research into whether the University is recognized by the National Committee of Accreditation (NCA) (the Canadian association that assesses legal education and professional experience outside of Canada) or whether they have had students come back to Canada and what their experiences have been like in the past.
After you have completed your legal education abroad, if you plan to come back to Canada to practice, you will have to be assessed by the NCA. This process can take a lengthy period, so you should also be prepared for an additional time period spent completing the NCA process. The NCA requires a final transcript from your school to be sent directly to them. Towards the end of your studies, you should enquire into any forms you may have to fill to have your transcript sent. You will have to apply to have your education assessed by the NCA, which you can do so on their website: https://nca.legal/process/application/ . Once your transcript has been sent to the NCA and they have assessed your application, then they will tell you if they require you to write any additional exams, or to take any courses at a Canadian law school. When I applied, I think they had up to 12 weeks to assess, and you can’t start signing up to any of the NCA exams until they have properly sent you back your assessment. Once you have completed the NCA requirements, they will send you a notice and ask which law society (province or territory) you are planning to join. They will then send your Certificate of Qualification to that law society and send one copy to you. After this, then you will have to apply to the law society you intend to join, e.g. the Law Society of Ontario, and you will start the process with them and pay for all the fees noted above in my second tip. Oh, also you should be prepared to have to pay for NCA fees as well if you plan on going abroad and coming back to Canada.
If you are interested in staying abroad and practicing in another country, then you should ask about possible VISA options for staying after your studies that other graduates have applied for at your information sessions or to your consultant agency (E.g. KOM consultants or OzTREKK).
Bonus Tip 6: Connect with fellow students and graduates
Lastly, if you plan on embarking on a legal career or know someone who is, you should join the social media community or follow and subscribe to Ginny Law Blogs at www.ginnylawblogs.com, a resource for new lawyers and those seeking a legal career.
I hope you enjoyed this article if you’re a millennial who is thinking about going to law school or are seeking a legal career.
About the Author: Virginia Ng aka “Ginny” is a new millennial lawyer, blogger and creator of Ginny Law Blogs, a blog that not only explores various interesting legal topics but is also a blog that discusses the journey of navigating the legal professional world as a young female lawyer, giving insight, motivation and tips to other upcoming or aspiring legal professionals.
Nasif Imtiaz is a 26-year old photographer from the small city of Narayanganj in Bangladesh. The young boy who passionately and obsessively took interesting photos using his low resolution phone camera, managed to teach himself the basics of photography off of free youtube videos. True passion and the hunger to learn something requires neither professional training nor a structured career path, and Nasif is an example of exactly that. From amateur photography to a rising freelance photo documentarian locally and internationally, Nasif is always seeking stories he can share through his work.
Nasif believes that far more important than high quality cameras and lenses is the concept and story behind each photograph. That is why he spends significant parts of time seeking out interesting, rare, moving and awe-inspiring stories which he can capture. In the photo above, Nasif was able to capture a “groupfie” which is a millennial term of group photographs taken in the selfie style. What is unique about the photo is that the photo is being taken by an instructor at an Islamic school, smiling with his pupils. In his own words, Nasif says this is the one project that makes him the happiest when he thinks about it. The image is remarkably powerful because of how Islamic schools (also known as Madrassas) and Muslims in general have been targets of Islamophobia and alienated in mainstream media on the global platform. The “us versus them” mentality has been steadily growing, often making people forget that we are not so different just because of the differences in faith or faith-based school systems. It also shows the uniting impact of technology and modern technological trends which surpass intangible barriers of community, faith, geography, and so on.
When asked which photo makes Nasif feel most sorrow in hindsigh, she says”It would be when I took a picture of an old mother crying at the scene of death of her daughter, who had just passed away in a fire at Chowkbazar area of Old Dhaka”. It is sometimes said that photographs and art are meant to incite emotions in people, and this image definitely does that. Anyone looking at the photo would have a stabbing pain in their heart and share in mourning with the mother who lost her child.
Nasif’s photodocumtaries have a unique way to capture joy, sorrow, love, and laughter in places where we least expect them. Below is an image of a blind couple, both of whom have visual deficits, smiling on their wedding day. This image, captioned “Blind Love” shows the innocence of a newly married couple and their expression of pure joy and genuine affection. The attire and background of the image show a humble background but the emotions of the moment transcend material needs. Another interesting aspect of this image is how it makes us question physical attractiveness and beauty. Love can clearly exist without the visual image of a lover. How beautifully they must picture one another in their minds!
Not only do Nasif’s images help us fight internal prejudices about religion, gender, and class, but his work also works to humanize those who we are quick to label and forget. In 2019, we continue to live through multiple refugee crises in different parts of the world. Nasif decided to interact with Rohingya refugees who are a tribal citizens of Myanmar, currently struggling to find a new home in and build a new life in Bangladesh.
This young girl named “Asma” who was photographed at the Cox’s Bazar Refugee Camp in Bangladesh has the most expression eyes. Her remarkable eyes speak volumes about how lost and uncertain her life has become.
In this image we see a little boy in Munshiganj town of Bangldesh, coming up to the surface of water for a breath of fresh air. You can almost feel and experience that relief and gust of air as his head rises above the water surface, surrounded by floating water vegetation. It is so refreshing and familiar a feeling for anyone who has been underwater swimming before, yet to strikingly different than the tile-and-cement pools most people are used to swimming in. We can be millions of miles apart and still share some very common experiences and joys of life.
Mothers across the globe will recognize that expression of sheer annoyance on their child’s faces when forced to take a bath and wash their faces. Halfway across the world this Bengali woman is doing the same to her son by the village lake. Nasif’s work truly brings out the common experiences of human experiences and relationships and reminds us that we all way more similar than we are different.
As someone who works both a full-time corporate job and has several entrepreneurial businesses, my days are rather busy. My day starts early and ends late but not too late. I totally believe in self-care and make it a weekly habit. Check out what a normal day for me may look like.
My day starts at 5 am most days unless I’m scheduled to be at work for 5:30 am; then my day starts at 4 am. I start every single day with prayer and devotion. It’s imperative that I do that in order to maintain balance and fuel my faith to get through the day. Whether working for my company or myself, things will come up to distract and disrupt my day so I must be armored up. I normally spend 30 mins to an hour in devotion depending on what time I have to report to work.
Creative Explosion Time
After devotion, I begin on tasks that I can complete in the time I have allotted for that morning. I try to never leave anything undone unless I absolutely have to. I like to complete everything while ideas are flowing and fresh so I don’t forgot anything or lose that spark. Most times it’s answering emails, writing a blog post or pitching brands for influencer deals. Once I complete everything then I make a list for things to complete in the evening.
Getting Ready for Work
Then I get ready for work. That takes me about 30-45 mins. I try to keep my hair in an easy to maintain style so it doesn’t take too much time. I prepare my clothes the night before so I’m not looking for anything to wear in the morning.
Caffeine & A Productive Workday
My commute to work is about 20 mins with no traffic. I normally stop for Starbucks on the way to work; my guilty pleasure. I’m a manager for a grocery retail chain. My days consist of 10 hours or more of work. I try my best to stick to 10 hours because I work on my business after work. Most days I’m off by 5 pm then I have my commute home. The commute home is a lot longer due to the horrible Houston traffic. I’m home most days by 6-6:30 pm.
Family Meals & Refueling
I take 30 mins to settle in, talk with my kids and grab either dinner or a snack before diving into work. I work my business from 7-9 pm. I have a list from the morning that I created to work from. Mid-way through this work session I will stop for dinner if I didn’t eat before starting.
Back to Business
This work session is mainly composed of writing blog posts, scheduling my social media for the next day or two. I may take this time to listen to a podcast or to view a webinar or training of some sort.
Bedtime is no later than 10 pm every night. I must adhere to this so that I’m rested enough to get up early and start my routine all over again. My ultimate goal is to be a full time entrepreneur again. I love working my business and blogging.
LaKisha Mosley is the blogger in chief at lakishamosley.com, a lifestyle and business blog. She’s also the event producer at The LM Experience, an event management boutique in Houston, TX. You can connect with her on all social media platforms as @lakishammosley
As a single working mother living in one of the busiest cities ever, Nazida Syeda has to manage her time extremely well. Motherhood is already an amazing and overwhelming experience, especially when Moms are on their own, juggling work, home, and a social life on top of it. Add to that some ambition and the will to engage in the community, and you are looking at an 80-hour week equivalent to multiple jobs. So, how do you achieve balance and harmony so you can be a proud mommy in good mental and physical health and excel at life? Find out from a woman who has mastered the art of time management in all these roles!
1. Stick to a routine
As a mom and a professional, I have to manage my time in the most productive way I can. The most important thing to make everything work is time management. I wake up early in the morning usually at 7.30 am, take a quick shower, and then I wake up my daughter to get her ready for school. Following that, I get lunch packed and ready for the both of us that (usually prepared the night before). I drop her off to her school and I head out to work myself. After school, she is dropped off to her father’s home where she spends time with her grandmother until I am done work. We both come home in the evening, talk about the day, spend some quality time together and eat dinner while chatting. Once she is asleep, I catch up on chores, social media, and my nighttime routine. I also try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Having such a simple schedule but religiously following it on every weekday allows me to stay on top of my to-do list, both at home, work, and with my daughter. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get enough sleep and to wake up early to keep making the wheels of your life turn as efficiently as it needs to be!
2.Stay Focused at Work & Fun
I keep the weekends free for my daughter and my friends. Since my family lives in Seattle, WA I don’t get to see them often. Living in New York as a single mother is pretty tough, but I am lucky to have a very strong supportive family, work environment, and friends who are always here to encourage me to do good and make boss moves! I believe if you have a non-toxic surrounding meaning friends/family that is the only time one can succeed in life. I am grateful that I have all of that now. By using my weekends to socialize, participate in hobbies, social and community commitments and personal projects, I am able to dedicate my weekdays to work and chores. This also refreshes me so I am able to stay focused at work when I am at work and to shut it all off once I exit the doors of my office. At the same time, my weekends allow me to other things for personal growth such as signing up for an interesting course which I will enjoy or which might help further my career.
3. Reject Negativity
The most important thing with divorced/separated mothers is the negativity. It begins with negative comments and suggestions from friends and family, and before you know it, you yourself are emanating a negative attitude as well. My most important tip is to stay away from negativity! For instance, don’t fight with the baby’s father if he wants to take out his kids; look it at this another way. By letting him take out your child, your can get some well deserved alone time alone. God knows I need plenty of “me” time! At the same time, if your daughter is with your an extra day or weekend, take it as a blessing and use that opportunity to spend quality time with her too. With all that is going on in my life, I need to prioritize and for me the most important thing is my daughter followed by self care.
4. Allocate time for Self Care & Alone time!
With juggling everything all at once, it is important that we give enough time to heal our mind and body. For that, I do a lot of meditation and praying. It helps me because I feel like I can tell all my problems to someone without being judged and ask HIM (the Lord) to solve all my problems. When I do that, I am left with nothing but peace. I also go to the gym 3 times a week after work and that keeps me physically fit and energized. I also love indulging in online shopping and get some retail therapy in there! It is the easiest way I can skim through everything swiftly and it saves me a ton of time. When the items get delivered to my doorstep, I feel like I am opening a new gift everyday! That feeling makes me really happy. These are some of the things I do to keep my mental and physical health in good shape so I can do be motivated and energized for the next day!
5. Have a goal & work towards it
My goal in life is to becoming an entrepreneur & a multimillionaire and I am currently adjusting my life to achieve that goal. I know the road will be long and full of bumps and hiccups so I am playing it slow, steady and smart. I also believe that it is important to keep my on-going personal projects to myself, because I do not want people’s negativity or pessimistic comments to effect my decisions. Therefore I do whatever I plan on and follow it through very quietly and smartly. By Allah’s blessings, I can say I am the happier now than I have ever been.
6. Love Wholeheartedly
In all these little things I do to stay happy and healthy, the final and most important one is to love wholeheartedly. I love my daughter, my family, my close network of friends and people in my community and that helps me remember how intangible the most valuable things in life really are. I know each of you millennial mommies out there must have your own ways of going about doing things. It doesn’t need to be meditation or prayer or anything specific that I do, but I do hope you are all taking time out of your busy days for some self-care because without caring for ourselves we cannot care for the ones we love.
You can stay in touch with Nazia and her positive lifestyle on facebook!
When I was 18 years old and entering university, I could never have imagined that ten years later I would be where I am today. Like my favourite characters in books and on television, I thought I would go through all the ups and downs of life by my early 20s, land my dream job by my late 20s, find true love by 28 and get married by 30. Probably have one or two kids by the time I’m 33. Now I laugh when I try to plan the next 2 years of my life because its unpredictability has finally set in. This brings me to the adventurous, tumultuous and widely enlightening journey that I made while seeking out my dream career.
It might sound like a bit of a brown immigrant cliche, but I was born to two physician parents in Bangladesh and was expected to also become a doctor as part of the family legacy. After I finally finished high school, I couldn’t make it through the brutal competition into the few publicly funded medical schools in my country, and I could not afford any of the private ones. As a result, I settled for the next best thing – a career in medical science research. All those cool shows like CSI seemed to have an amazing forensic team who did biochemical tests to prove or disprove crimes! That was definitely what I wanted to do later in life. Understand that not becoming a physician was already a big blow to my reputation (according to my family) and the only way to salvage the family name was by promising to work on a career in academia where I would get a Bachelor’s, followed by a Master’s and a phD degree. Eventually I would become a professor teaching at a university while holding the title of a scientist at a research institute.
I was mentally ready to accept that career path. I received an offer of admission into a top architecture program at BRAC University in Bangladesh after a few different tests and interviews. I also received an offer from North South University’s Biotechnology program. I picked the latter and eventually graduated Magna Cum Laude from that program.
However, during those four-plus years of attending university, my interests had begun to shift. I had realized during my undergraduate research project in the laboratory that I didn’t enjoy being in a secluded lab environment performing cool experiments as much as I liked being outside in the world, interacting with people and helping solve worldly problems hands-on. Things in my personal life had also changed a lot by then; my mother had passed away and it was time for me to move to Canada as an immigrant and go live with my father. This is when I was asked by my family to decide on what I wanted to study for my graduate degree.
Internally I knew that I wanted to do hands-on clinical work. I had checked out programs in nursing, EMT and paramedicine because working in trauma gave me an adrenaline rush like nothing else. However, the only way my family would have ever accepted me re-entering clinical work would be as a physician – not as anything else.
By my final year of undergrad, I already knew deep in my heart that I didn’t enjoy being in a laboratory. As cool as it was to design experiments and analyze the data to draw meaningful conclusions, the actual act of being inside a large, cold room, (often by myself) was just not a pleasant experience for me. So I began to do some digging to figure out what programs and professions are available in Canada that I could really fall in love with and actually enjoy doing. Medicine was definitely of interest, but going to school to re-do pre-requisites in Canada (because my ‘local’ credits were not acceptable to them) and then applying for a program where only a few percentage of applicants get in – was a bit nerve wracking. I also was interested to be less of a diagnostician and more of a hands-on caregiver. So, I considered paramedicine, nursing, EMT, dentistry, and pharmacy. After an extensive amount of reading online, watching youtube videos and speaking to actual people who were working in these fields, I felt that nursing would be the way to go.
The way I saw it was that there was nothing I could not do as an RN (registered nurse). I could choose to stay a nurse and work in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and doctor’s offices. I could choose to specialize in anesthesia, geratric care or pick another specialty. I could even become an independent NP (Nurse Practitioner) and diagnose patients in the community, much like a family doctor. I could combine by undergraduate research experience and my nursing degree to help conduct clinical trials. I could become a teacher and build a career in academia if I wanted to later. I could one day wake up and decide to join some international organization and volunteer my time as a nurse in warzones or places with famines and epidemics.
The one big problem was that I needed a full 4-year undergrad to become an RN. No one in my family or even my close circle on friends was on-board with this idea of me going back for yet another 4-year bachelor’s degree.
Meanwhile, my family’s insistence had driven me to apply to graduate school programs and my offer letters began to come in. My nursing acceptance came first and I was absolutely thrilled. Within a few short days, my acceptance to two different Master’s programs came in as well. With these offers, there was a guaranteed tuition scholarship for the two years of my Master’s program as well as the guaranteed research stipend (which is like a salary).
This made things very difficult for me. My family disapproved of nursing very openly. Not only because I hadn’t received scholarships for it, but also because it was a profession that was looked down upon (and unfairly so) in South Asia. The perception that nurses don’t get to make any medical decisions and they are only there to follow instructions of physicians blindly led to this poor attitude towards them. Everyone there assumed nurses were meant to bath patients, draw blood and clean their wounds. That perception is such an incredible disservice to what nurses do, especially in North American where they have amazing training, skills, opportunities and significant roles to play in patient care and survival.
This is the moment that I (kind of) regret a little in my life. I gave in to the greed of leading a comfortable life devoid of student loans and part-time jobs. I also gave in to what my grandmother, aunts and my father were rooting for. That’s what led me to continue my career in medical science research.
I want to say that I ‘wasted’ the following two years of my life doing a Master’s of Microbiology & Immunology under the Faculty of Medicine at OttawaU. However, that would not be fair to all the experiences and achievements I had during that time. I won awards and competitive scholarships. I attended conferences and got flown halfway across the country on fully funded trips, was put up in fancy hotels and gave talks in front of esteemed healthcare and research professionals. I also got a publication in a journal as the first author of the paper.
In the end of all that, I went right back to where I had started. Three scholarships, a few prizes and recognition, and one research publication later… I still remained unhappy and anxious being stuck in a Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory. I entered a dark period of my life when I began to realize how I would let people push me next into a phD. And just as I had thought, my supervisor eventually made me an offer I could not refuse, and I accepted a position in his lab to do my phD in Immunology as well.
I spend 30 incredibly suffocating days following that decision. After that, I had had enough. I went back to my supervisor and to his surprise I said I didn’t want to do my phD. He was disappointed beyond belief and so were the rest of my family members and loved ones. Even my closest friends were questioning my decision and my sanity. But I knew what I did was right for me.
I had never been so sure of something in my life. I knew this is what I wanted to do and I knew I would do it no matter what. I watched silently as my ‘world’ crumbled around me. I finished my degree, I graduated later than my peers, I had no job offers because the only thing I was trained for throughout my life was research. It became nearly impossible for me to get a job in fields other than research, as my skills were simply too specialized for that industry. My Scholarship money and my research stipend both ended and I was broke and unemployed. Even in that moment when my father kept asking me what I hell I was doing with my life…I turned to him and said with full confidence, that I was going to become a nurse.
Every now and then we come across stories of inspirational women who dare to be different and leave their mark in the way they do things. Such is the story of Nibedita Saha-Chakravorty, a Bangladeshi-Canadian woman living in Toronto, Canada. Nibedita and her husband absolutely love travelling and they make it a point to travel at least a few times a year.
During a trip to Banff, Alberta Nibedita first came up with the idea of wearing a saree (a traditional ethnic Bengali clothing for women) and photograph herself against the gorgeous snowy mountains in Banff. In extreme freezing temperatures, she managed to get photographed against this striking landscape and look incredibly glamorous doing it. A saree is a typically light garment meant to be worn in the tropics and over the centuries it has become the symbol for Bengali women everywhere. Since that day almost 5 years ago, Nibedita took it up as a personal adventure to take photographs of herself against the various terrains and landscapes as she travels the world.
“Growing up I always thought I was weird because my ideas were always a bit different from my peers”, said Nibedita. “Assimilation in Canadian society was always encouraged in my family, especially as my parents desperately wanted us to fit in. In my adult life, I realized that my thoughts and desires weren’t necessarily weird but rather they were just different“, she continued. “One of those different ideas I had was to try and take this beautiful symbol of my culture, the saree, to the next level.”
“I’m always thinking about what has not been done before. In general , South Asian countries are hot so probably there aren’t pictures of women wearing them in the snow, I thought. Next I realized that many of our friends and family living in Canada hate snow. I get it..life is difficult”, she said. Nibedita explained how we should sympathize with those who are still struggling to get around in the snow. For so many women who first move to Canada, adjusting to the weather, the culture, the change in clothing…is all part of a very big life change and it can be challenging. They have to give up a big piece of their cultural identities or preference of wearing a saree on a regular basis and only wear it to parties. “Wearing sarees in the snow is quite impractical but I thought it would be fun to take a picture of me wearing a saree in the snow to make the ladies in my community giggle. That idea started my crazy journey.”
Although the initial thought behind it was a humorous one, she soon also realized how powerful and empowering it could be do to this. “In the Bengali community, many women are afraid to dream or vocally say what they want because traditionally women have been groomed to be care takers and support systems”. Nibedita explained how Bengali women are often expected to make bold sacrifices and their own wishes and dreams are often sidelined in the process. However, she wants to show the world that while being her most bengali self, wearing a saree, she can climb a mountain and walk in sand all the same. She wants to do it literally and metaphorically to help break barriers for Bengali women, so we can be comfortable in our own skin and ethnic garments and still be proud and confident enough to take on the world.
She wants to tell everyone that if something is a part of our cultural identity, we do not need to tuck it away. It is something that adds strength to our lives and lived experiences and should be celebrated.
Most Challenging Saree-Photo Venture:
“I think the hardest for me was Dubai. The desert seemed limitless to me, and I was but a grain of sand in the vast desert sea. The dunes were hot and I kept sinking wherever I stood. The wind was so exceptionally strong, I felt if I let go of my saree, it will disappear. I felt fear and excitement. Something was all around me and it was trying to take me with it.
Most Fun Saree-Photo Venture:
My most fun experience was during my graduation. I was the only person who wore a saree at my graduation from the University of Toronto that year. I loved explaining the idea to everyone who asked about it and I loved showing up on campus in a saree as compared to other days where my hair would be in a bun and I’d be in sweatpants lugging around chemistry and physics books.
Traveled So Far:
Bangladesh: Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong India: Kolkata, Sikkim, Orissa, Darjeeling, Kashmir Greece, Dubai, Nepal, Paris, London UK, Belize City US: Florida, Utah, Las Vegas, California, West Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Canada: Alberta, Ontaro
Travel Bucket List for the Future:
Australia (Great Barrier Reef), Egypt, Amazon Basin, Rain Forest
Travels in the near future: I would love to travel within Canada (somewhere in the Maritimes and Vancouver).