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My Move to Mumbai: Frequently Asked Questions

Hello, dear readers!

By now, you've probably heard the news: in Ratna's-gap-year fashion, I've taken a leap and moved to Mumbai for a one-year consultancy with Aangan Trust, a nonprofit that works to make sure that even the most vulnerable child has the right to a childhood free from trafficking, child marriage, child labor, and abuse.

Transitions are tough, and it turns out that this one is no different, even though it's one that I've chosen for myself and been very excited about for a while. It's one thing to pack up your bags from New York and move to a new place in Mumbai; it's quite another to adjust to the daily reminders of the little things you don't yet understand about where you live, and the small ways in which you don't fit in.

Part of what has made the transition tricky is a stream of (well-intentioned) questions that sometimes make me feel like I have to justify why I made the choice to be here. These can be hard for me because someti…
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Kenny John

Transferring from the 7 to the 6 under Grand Central I was transported to a different time. I heard his smoky strains as I passed him and smiled without seeing his face. My personal rule is that if someone can make me instinctively, unthinkingly smile with their music then I only owe them the change I have saved from the last time I was stingy. In one motion I walked past and instantly turned right around to add a tip to his hat and before he could say it I said, “thank you.” Thank you for slowing time down in this terminal, for transforming what it feels like to be alive in this station right now. The air felt full of mist and more serious somehow under the influence of his song.

I climbed the stairs and it wasn’t enough. I felt like a woman with dark hair and a red dress in a jazz club and maybe I was all of those things, except the dress was a salwar kameez and I was on my way back from an Eid celebration. I stood at the top and wished I had a partner with me because I would have …

5 Things I Learned in My First Year of Work

On the one-year anniversary of my first day at Living Cities, I'm sharing the five most powerful things I've learned at my workplace this year:
1. The mark of a great leader is to amplify the leader in everyone. 
I have been surrounded by leaders from the moment I joined Living Cities who have pushed me to believe in the inherent value in what I bring to the table, and to couple my curiosity with a self-assured faith in my ability to offer unique insights to our work. From Ty scolding me for sitting mute on a conference call and not introducing myself as an intern (“people need to meet all of the wonderful people we have working at Living Cities!”) to JaNay challenging me to speak out in TII meetings (“don’t think of yourself as young, because you don’t show up as young or inexperienced in a room”) to Jeff empowering me as a young staff member (“don’t ask me if you can go to the event — tell me you are going to the event!”) to Brittany reminding me again and again that there is…

My Interview With Four Brilliant Feminist Leaders

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the Othering & Belonging conference hosted by the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley, and I can say without exaggeration that its content was some of the best content I have ever consumed in any form. The conference was on the obstacle of "othering," the process through which we are conditioned in society to discriminate based on any kind of difference -- and how to strive toward "belonging," or inclusion, across all sorts of fields -- from philanthropy to public health.

I think I never knew what it meant to be in a "safe space" until I experienced what it felt like to be present here. To know that everyone in the room (about 2,000 people) were all striving, aching for utmost acceptance and uplifting of ALL persons regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, etc. was freeing in a way I cannot articulate. I wore things I wouldn't wear elsewhere, I said things I wouldn't say…

My Other Writing Life

Dear Readers,

The year (!) that has passed since graduation has been for me very much a time for self-care -- a time to spend time with self, listen to self, live with self, and reflect and decompress after a stimulating and challenging college career.

As many of you know, one of my responsibilities at Living Cities is to write about what we are learning in our work with cities, and about ourselves as an organization. In this vein, I have written a few pieces for work recently that I would like to share with all of you.

The first is called Radical Self-Care: Four Lessons from Our Meeting with City Leaders in Albuquerque and it describes a wonderful trip that my team took to New Mexico with the seven cities that my project works with most closely. In between group discussion, we re-connected with our work on social change through art and culture.

The next four pieces describe lessons that I learned through searching for a job in the social sector last spring, that I think can be valua…

Grandparents

You can hear it when you call them The slight tone of surprise and expected expectation They birthed those who birthed you
...
The best part, by far, of my trip to India these past two weeks was how much quality time I got to spend with my grandparents (or "the grandies" as I quite enjoy calling them). I've realized I have this subconscious fear that as I get older, I'm going to become too something -- too modern, too "American," too progressive, too aloof -- to be able to relate to my grandparents anymore. This trip was such beautiful proof that absolutely the opposite is true. Graduating college and living in the working world (albeit for very short a time) has filled me with nothing but admiration and respect for the inspiring careers and lives of strength and courage these incredible humans are living.
Let's start with my Nanaji. He won't approve, but the word that constantly comes to my mind for him and his career is "badass." (Since I kno…