Feminism India

Nobody Owes You Anything

"Stand up for yourself, love yourself, respect yourself". Sounds great on paper and even better when someone says this to you, just like I had said, quite passionately, in Episode 1 - What Marriage Now?

Sept 2008: It's a Wednesday afternoon and as always, my brain was on auto-pilot.

Run out of school - drop school bag home - run to basketball training.

I was 15 years old and the only thing I loved the most apart from my Mum's chole bhature at that age, was basketball. I was playing for over six years by this point and while some girls were obsessed with having their first boyfriend, I was obsessed to get that spot in the National Junior Under 16 squad while simultaneously trying to get 100% on every Maths paper. I guess at that age my school grades were pivotal to what I would go on to do in the future with my studies which is why I had to be ultra focused on both my passion (basketball) and my prison sentence (school). Just kidding, school wasn't a prison sentence. Luckily for me, school was a smooth sail, at least most of the time.

Every morning at 6am, before I got ready for school, I was out jogging, getting in that extra bit of training to beat the other girls who were competing to be on the squad. My Mum used to, and still does wake up in the early hours of the day to pray and I'm sure during those days, she prayed I wouldn't go missing on my morning runs, or fall asleep on a bench.

When the day had finally arrived to pick the team for the National squad, I received the news that I didn't want to hear.

I wasn't chosen.

Do you want to know why?

I wasn't chosen because apparently I was too 'fat' (I blame my Mum's amazing cooking for that).

At the age of 15, I did not have the capacity to absorb this information and most importantly, deal with it. So what do most people do when we are overwhelmed and in a slight state of shock?

We cry.

And yes, I cried for days and my parents told me to leave the team and find another sport to play. And I did. Because every girl at the age of 15 wants Mummy and Daddy to save them from evil people and tell them that they haven't done anything wrong.

Sept 2016: Eight years on, I'm in my fifth year of medical studies and to make sure I don't pull my hair out or look like Anant Ambani pre weight loss, I like to stay active and play basketball a couple of times a week.

Remember, I'm living in Czech Republic, so my fluency isn't on fleek like Kejriwal's English, but I know enough to make friends and most importantly, play basketball every week. I play with a group of around 10 Czech people, both girls and boys and everyone has been extremely friendly and encouraging.

But as always, there is one person who has to ruin it all. One person who thinks that because he's a big guy, he can walk all over you.

Yes, he's taller than me. But that just really means he has extra flesh and longer bones - nothing else. He's not a superior being who can destroy me, right?

We mention Ankita's small body frame quite frequently on the podcast - for the record, I'm just about the average size, if not slightly shorter.

So you can imagine any man with an ego, any man who's taller than me, any man who cannot see another girl ahead of him in any way would use his height as a means of bullying me and bringing me down. Just because.

Last night I was playing basketball and as I went for a 'classic Meenal shot' (which is what I like to call my shots where I have no idea what I'm doing but I put on a face as if I have studied the art of shooting for years), he fouled me.

To put it in simple terms, he tried to snatch the ball of my hands and ended up slapping my forearm so hard, it turned red. Now, when a brown girl turns red, either she's been slapped viciously or she's had an allergic reaction - you're more likely to see Ankita cook a 3 course meal than see my skin turn red.

Within those few moments, I had a flashback from 2008 where I was upset about how I was treated, and I stayed quiet. I let her win eight years ago.

Thanks to medical school for making me mentally agile, and in the click of a moment, I decided to stop the game right at that point.

I asked him for an apology and he refused. It went something like this:

"Hey dude, that was a pretty brutal slap, I think you should apologise and be a gentleman about it."

Eyes roll faster than the Kingda Ka

"Come on, you've turned my arm completely red here"

"SORRY!" runs off to the bathroom

And within moments, his ego deflated from the size of a hot air balloon to the size of his penis.

We always feel too afraid to be honest and straight up with anybody who has hurt us. We are afraid of confrontation and we let our emotions overide our logic when somebody tries to put us down.

How many times have you regretted not standing up for yourself? Plenty, I'm sure.

How many times have you regretted speaking up? Not many, I'm sure.

If you let someone bully you, you let them live in your brain rent free. And as true Asians, you shouldn't be giving anything away for free!

I still think about the time eight years ago when my coach shot me down and all I did was cry. I achieved nothing, and she got on with her life.

Last night, I stood up for myself and as for the guy who fouled me, he might just be embarrassed about his behaviour and I'm the one getting on with my life.

If someone bullies you or tries to bring you down, yes, they are not doing the right thing. But with the same token, you are letting people bully you by staying quiet and acting like an open target.

Stand up for yourself.

Respect yourself.

Nobody else is responsible to do that for you. Nobody owes you anything.

A fifth-year medical student successfully placing my stethoscope the wrong way around every day. I'm a podcaster, sports enthusiast and I guess, a feminist.