A Barometer, A Parameter, and the Measure of Success

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It’s 1 a.m. Eastern Time, and I am a mess of tears. I am not crying because of some catastrophic alternation in my life, but because I didn’t plan an experiment right. And hence, I am running behind a week. That’s no bueno.

As a scientist, I can’t let minor issues get to me. And I try not to. But often what stays invisible is the mental strength of a scientist. A cis or trans male/female, or non-binary person, goes through a lot in zir lifetime. And add a pile of science to that, and you have the perfect recipe for a catastrophic meltdowns equivalent to volcanic eruptions. Now, let me pull back from my first-world problems to my very own third-world problem (I am fully aware that these terms are specific to Economics, but I am trying my best to be politically correct here!). By third-world I mean brown people problems. And by brown people I am not referring to people associated with my school, but to people identifying with my ethnicity. As a brown person, I take it as my birth right to be able to diss my own kind. 

So, if you are born in a brown family, you are expected to maintain a certain grade point average, poise, manner, and talent (among other things) and be perfect. In the brown universe, the only thing that matters after God (or a deity) is Sharma-ji (a.k.a. the neighbor/relative who has an opinion on anything and everything- no offense to any actual person with that name. I don’t even know a Sharma-ji irl!). You need to be the object of Sharama-ji’s envy, i.e. better than his own child, or you are a disappointment. And that is impossible to achieve on God’s green Earth! Anyways, I have tried my best to be that perfect child, who is better than Sharma-ji’s son, is the student who says “Teacher you forgot to collect the homework!” (or schedule an exam), is an engineer (huh! Take that Sharma-ji!), doesn’t smoke/drink/do drugs, or boys, for that matter (triple check for Muslim fam)!, and has a relatively fair skin (check point for ’em colorists!). And despite being that perfect individual, I have been recently struggling to fathom the definition of success in the brown universe. And it wasn’t until that my super-supportive-feminist-pro-women Papa brought it to my attention where I lacked in people’s eyes. I am a 25-year old super single girl. Super single is when you are single as a shingle (i.e. a coarse rounded detritus or alluvial material especially on the seashore that differs from ordinary gravel only in the larger size of the stones), with no public dating history. And at this point, my parents are being pressed by several well wishers (and I use the term loosely) about my marriage! Yep. No dating. No meeting a person. But getting married. Straight up. Arranged. To a complete stranger.

Apparently, my clock is ticking. And all my friends around me getting married isn’t helping the situation. After crying for a while, frustrated that my parents brought up this issue with me, I sat and thought. Why is it that the Sharma-jis of the brown universe make it their responsibility to press parents of young men and women? Why is it that all Sharma-jis measure the success of an individual with a different barometer than the rest of the world? Why is it that the parameters for success are different in the brown universe? Last year yesterday, I wrote a long dissing status on my Facebook about brown aunties, to which MEM commented that different people measure success differently. As I am evolving and adapting, I am accepting the fact that we all have a different barometer and parameters of happiness and success. I have friends who are married working women, and I have friends who are single working women. I have friends who are parents! And I have friends who are still kids (myself included). I guess I am trying to vocalize my opinion on the evolution and adaptability of the so-called Sharma-jis of our society. The youngins are always blamed for forgetting culture and religion. I am that outlier youngin who is struggling to hold on to culture and religion like a straw. And yet, I am inadequate. Even after checking nearly every single box, I am not enough. I need a man to prove to the world that I am happy and successful! 

Personally, I believe in individual rights. You do you boo! is what I tell everyone. You are allowed to be yourself. And you are allowed to carry your own barometer and set your own parameters for success. This can be being a single mother (of a human, or fur babies!), or being a happily married person who doesn’t want be a parent, or being a professional athlete, or an award winning scientist! We are ALL different. The same way all Sharma-jis are different – except their habit of getting involved in other people’s businesses. The argument that I am trying to make here is that we are in 2019, and believe me, time is running fast (it’s almost April!). It is high time that the brown universe and the Sharma-jis change. It is about time that we learn to accept that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that not all are meant to be engineers and doctors. It is about time that the brown universe finds that intersection in the Venn Diagram where you are no longer a disappointment to the family if you are not a doctor. It is about time that we stop using the same barometer for everyone. It is about time that we allow people to explore and find their own parameters to define success and happiness. The brown universe needs to know that happiness and success are an individual rights- just because I am smiling, doesn’t mean I am happy. What makes you happy may not make me happy. The brown universe needs to learn to adapt and evolve.

The brown universe needs to get rid of its Sharma-jis.

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“The Queen, The Head, The Juxtaposition”. Ramisa Fariha, Provincetown, October 2018.

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Bhalo-basha, Bhalobasha

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Bhalo-basha, Bhalobasha

In the last 5 years, I have moved across the globe, approximately 9000 miles away from home and lived in six different cities all over the US. I have seen my first snow, graduated college, suffered through a number of ‘random’ security checks at the airport, and have been asked where I was going to live in by several different immigration officers.

And while my heart only calls the tiny town of Narayanganj, Bangladesh home, I have only recently discovered the true meaning of home.
Home has its own distinct smell. Home is a sense of belonging. Home is my safety cocoon. Home is happiness.

Do you ever ‘search’ for home?
In a land that is not your own? A place where you are the ‘foreigner’?

Home isn’t a house.  Home isn’t where you live. Home isn’t what you wear. Home isn’t what you eat. Home isn’t what you smell. Home isn’t where you think you are from.

When I moved to Rhode Island for graduate school, it became my ‘home’.

My one-bedroom apartment at Rhode Island became my home because I finally realized what makes a house a home.

If I am lucky enough, I get to see my family once a year. I saw my family once in 2017 during my college graduation, and once again in 2018 when I moved to Brown. And during our time here, we made a short trip to the Narragansett beach. My Papa is well-traveled and doesn’t usually get wowed by things. My Ma-moni is a nonstop machine at work- even when there’s nothing to do, she will find something to do. Growing up, I have seen them hard at work, never to pause and enjoy something. They never seemed to take a break.

At Narragansett Beach, I saw Papa being wowed and happy. I saw Ma-moni share that joy with him. And I saw my elder brother jumping around like a toddler. I noticed my parents stare at the waves that crashed on the boulders. They finally paused to take a break.

As a spectator, I didn’t want to break the rhythm that they shared in silence as they appreciated the majestic ocean. I sure wondered what went through their minds, but I let them be. They probably recalled all the difficult times they had to overcome as a team. They were probably just living in the moment. They were probably counting the limited number of days we had left together as a family before they had to fly back home. Whatever it was that they were thinking, I couldn’t help but appreciate the moment I was getting to share with my family.

I always claim that my family is dysfunctional. The truth is, all families are dysfunctional. Parents exist to embarrass you, and siblings exist to fight with you. But at the end of the day, they are all you have and all you will ever have. I had only been in Rhode Island for 72-hours. But Rhode Island was home.

Home isn’t a house.  Home isn’t where you live. Home isn’t what you wear. Home isn’t what you eat. Home isn’t what you smell. Home isn’t where you think you are from.  

Home is where people you love is- Narayanganj, or Narragansett. Home is wherever you are with your family. Home is the best outfit your family can afford to get you. Home is anything your mom cooks with all her heart. Home is the smell of your dad’s perfume and your brother’s aftershave. Home isn’t your country.

Home is love.

Home is family.

Or in my mother-tongue, I’ll say, a ‘bhalo basha’ (good home) is ‘bhalobasha’ (love).

[This post was originally created and exhibited- with live performance- at the Global Gallery at Brown opening ceremony on February 6th, 2019; Theme: ‘There’s No Place Like Home’.] 

Furusato.

“Furusato”. Ramisa Fariha. Photographed: June 2018, Rhode Island.

To Whom It May Concern

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So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I’ve never really cared about this day. Really. According to my Papa, it’s a ‘bogus day’ because love should be celebrated everyday! Agreed. I have always laughed at this day. I don’t even remember what I did on Valentine’s Day last year. I was probably at work running experiments. And watching old WWE reruns of Batista. Not bad. This year, though, things are slightly different. I just read a piece I wrote about ‘love’ back in 2017 and laughed really hard. There seems to be an emerging phenomenon where people use sarcasm as a defense mechanism. You eventually learn to laugh at your own misery? Not that I am miserable in any way. It’s merely an observation.

If you are a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, and you relate to Sheldon Cooper as much as I do, you will probably understand one of my many issues: I have a compulsive need for closure (watch), and life does not always present us with situations where we can get the required closure. You can’t always plan everything. You can’t always choose what life has to offer.

“If you ask me, love is a chain reaction gone horribly wrong- worse than ozone depletion!”- Fari, July 22nd, 2017.

Above is a statement I wrote back in 2017. I was a young college graduate, and I was an expert at locking my emotions away at that point. Or so I thought. I was adamant that I had learned enough from life to NOT repeat the same mistakes. Or so I thought. I had certain emotions and feelings locked away far enough that I was almost immune to certain emotions, and projections of emotions. Or so I thought.

In my life so far, a number of amazing things have happened. The few that I can think of right now are: I have met some really awesome beings (yes, I am including cats here), who are in my life to stay; I became an engineer (sad reacts only, my fellow engineers), and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. Its’ true. Not once have I done anything special on Valentine’s Day. Mostly because up until last March, Batista didn’t know I existed. Anyways, of all the amazing people I’ve met in my lifetime, someone helped me clean up my life at a moment of desperate need (I had no clean underwear, and I looked like I ate a sock). That friend of mine found me in a state of strong denial, sitting there with my head on my hands, trying to mathematically analyze and rule out the possibilities of having feelings of ‘love’ for someone. I really thought math was the way to go! (Note to self: Just because mathematics can help design experiments, you can’t use it to solve emotional problems!) My friend explained to me how love is not rational. Love can’t be calculated. Love can’t be quantified. “You can’t do math and calculate if you want to fall in love with him or not! You already ARE in love with him!” And after that statement I pretty much gave up using my brain. According to my best friend Pokhi, I forgot that I have a functioning brain. And just today I saw the following quote in my old piece:

“But what is really my idea of love? It is the feeling you have when you become dysfunctional and can’t think rationally. It’s like a frenzy that makes you do things that you won’t otherwise be caught dead doing (But then again, I felt the same way when I dead lifted for the first time, so clearly I am no expert in this field)!”
– Fari, July 22nd, 2017.

And this statement has been proven nothing short of true. I am a passionate person. I do science with passion. I write with passion. I hate with passion. I love with passion. And one of the biggest shortcomings of being so passionate is that I tend to fall hard and fast, face first on the floor. And the moment I realize that it’s a computer command gone wrong, it’s far too late to press Alt+Ctrl+Del. This passion, mixed with the compulsive need for closure, often results in masochistic behaviors: tears, self-hatred, eating disorders, and many more. So as I spent solid 15 minutes today eating jilapi after dinner and singing sad songs out loud, I have decided to take control of something I thought I couldn’t control. Here goes nothing:

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear You,
Hope you are doing well. It’s been ages since we’ve heard each other’s voice, or seen each other. Or heard ‘of’ each other. I honestly wish and hope that all is well with you. I hope those graduate school applications went out on time, and that you’re ready to start your journey of world domination (a.k.a. graduate school) next fall. I hope that you are still continuing to make a difference in people’s lives, as you’re trying to structure your own life. I am doing well. I am at a place where I feel like I belong- both physically and emotionally, and that’s the best thing I could have asked for! Although, to be very honest with you, I have been slacking in some of my good habits and I can really use some encouragement. But don’t worry, I’ll get there soon (iA). I have had several drafts of this letter that I am writing today- incomplete, and all over the place. ‘Blackbird’ just ended, and ‘Lucky’ just started. And I am sitting here with the same grin I had on my face the first time I heard you sing ‘Lucky’. As I walked today, it felt like an extreme sport. I was trying hard not to fall, and I had no other way I could go. It reminded me of me. With you. In the past. I was trying not to fall, but I had no other way. And as I walked home today, I told myself that I had to let you go. I should have let you go much earlier. But to be very honest, it’s very difficult- there isn’t a single day when I don’t think of you. You know me! To quote you, I am a ‘hopeless romantic’ haha. I still think that holding hands under a starry sky is romantic. I still think that someday when I find ‘the right guy’, everyone around me will breakout in a synchronized dance. I still believe that someday I will be able to feel things again- things that you’ve made me feel.
I won’t dig too deep. Digging deep only means that I am scathing my injuries super hard. So before my injuries start to bleed, this is all I have to say today: thank you. The more days are passing, the more I am realizing that I’d never thanked you enough for everything. I’ve learned a lot from you. Thank you for all the lessons- about how that one fish can simultaneously change its gender to start reproducing, and about food, and about everything else. Thank you for spending hours listening to my first-world-non-existing-problems. Thank you for always helping me with Bosu balance. Thank you for reminding me to take my medicines. Thank you for listening to my crappy music. Thank you for sharing your music with me. Thank you for all the ‘not a date, but a date’ outings. Thank you for fasting with me, and being my second date of the day! Thank you for remembering to call me by my middle name whenever I’d attract unwanted trouble. Thank you for making me mad at you about unlocking the T-Rex first on Jurassic World. Thank you for taking me to watch Jurassic World. Thank you for all those times you’ve helped me stretch. Thank you for the million selfies on my phone. Thank you for taking all those great photos of me, where I look genuinely happy (probably because you had said, or done something, to make me smile and laugh). Thank you for the sushi, the steak, the salmon, the empanadas, the burgers, the fries, that cheesecake you won’t let me finish, the fried calamari, the pad thai, the crispy duck, and everything else we ate together. Thank you for eating my garbage food and calling them delicious (don’t lie!). Thank you for putting up with me every time I called you ‘loser’ in public. Mhmm…loser and goober both, I guess. Thank you for teaching me the banana-fanana-chunky-monkey song. Thank you for all those firsts. Thank you for all the laughs. Thank you for all the fun. Thank you for all the miscellaneous random shenanigans. Thank you for all the memories. Thank you for those few weeks of my Bollywood romance. Thank you for opening up my box of feelings that I had locked up for years. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for making me love you. And thank you for making me strong again.
Today, I am done running away from everything. Yes, I was foolish enough to fall for you. Hard. Face first. And so bad, that I couldn’t get back up. I am still not sturdy on my own two feet. But I am standing, and it’s a start. I’ve always told you that I don’t believe in regrets. I don’t regret anything. Never have. Never will. And it is very true that I have been nothing but 100% honest with my emotions and feelings. Maybe we both were (I can only speak for myself now). Maybe, if the circumstances were different, we’d have ended up with our Bollywood’s happily ever after. Maybe not. Nobody knows. Maybe it’s all just a dream I am trying to jolt out of. Maybe not. Maybe we were at the right place at the wrong time. Who knows! Maybe this was meant to be brief and abrupt. Maybe I am still reading too much into nonexistent gestures. Maybe I am still trying to process everything I’ve felt with you. Maybe I am afraid of letting go. Maybe the thought of starting something new and different scares me- the same way it scared me when we first met. But change is inevitable. I am sure today we are both two very different individuals from the time we’d first met. Maybe someday we will be friends again. Maybe not. But the bottomline is: I wish you nothing but a lifetime of happiness. I wish I could’ve said or done something more. I really do. But given how well I’ve rediscovered myself, I’d rather wish all these roses and cherries from afar. Trouble is my middle name, after all! So, this is me, sending my good wishes and love your way. I really hope that someday I’ll see you win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in the same stage where I’ll be receiving my Nobel Prize in Medicine or Chemistry.
But up until that day, keep working hard. Don’t give up easily. Keep writing. And playing music. And stay happy. And smile. A lot. You have a great smile. Okay?
Good luck, champ’s champ!
– Fari. 

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‘Photograph’

 

 

 

 

A New Year, but the Same Old Me.

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This post should have gone up on the 1st of January, 2019, but here I am- fashionably late as always. So every year I make a bunch of resolutions, and hardly ever succeed in keep up with them. Well, not true. I was pretty decent with my resolutions on 2017 (‘Be more active’: 100%) and 2018 (‘Get my shit together’: 85%). For 2019, my goal is to make health my number one priority, and do everything else if I am functioning and alive. Hopefully this will be a decent year too.

Anyways, I know for a fact that there is at least one person who reads my blog (and he, in fact, asked me to update my blog back in December), and therefore, here I am spreading my wisdom *this is where you laugh*.

2018 was an incredible year. Yes, I had downs, and things didn’t always go as planned- sometimes for good, and sometimes for bad- but overall, the ups of the year managed to outweigh the downs. I am the kind of person who learns more from the downs- and then immediately forgets them- than from the ups. But 2018 was weird. I have been clutching on to my ups with my life and I used them to push through everything that’s been wrong. I have learned that I am, indeed, the kind of person who can make things happen. It’s not like I was born with all the advantages in the world (my biggest advantage is my family, but that’s just about it), and neither am I an entitled privileged individual. However, I know for a fact that as long as a person has good intentions, and hard work, nothing is impossible. Yes, things may not happen within your estimated or expected timeline, but they happen. And if/when they don’t, my mom just tells me that there’s something even better out there. I know people who don’t believe in the existence of a superpower or deity, but I am, what my brother likes to call, a Hujur Scientist. He says so because I always give away all the credit for my hard work to God. Here’s the thing, when you go through shit-shows by yourself with no soul around you (not even a cockroach), you kind of learn to hold on to God like a security blanket. Anyways, but I now know that good things happen to good people. And that’s my first message to you all today: Be genuine and work hard with good intentions. 

However, one of the other things I have realized this past year is that success comes with a price. And not a cheap one either. I have recently learned of several incidences from my successful friends, and it only made me realize how lonely the top of the mountain is. Yes, we all try to climb up the mountain for the highest peak, and not everyone can succeed, but those who do, are often very lonely. And loneliness is, perhaps, one of the most expensive prices you can pay for your success. I am nowhere near successful, hence, I have 1600 friends on Facebook! But not all 1600 are my best friends. I have learned it the hard way this past year, that as long as you have one good friend, you will never be alone. I tend to outsource my drama and problem to friends based on their ability to handle a stressed out Fari. Not everyone can handle a stressed, depressed and down-the-dumps Fari. It takes balls to handle someone in such a low state. And so, here’s my shout out to all my ballsy friends and family! You guys are the real MVP. Remember: If you have one good friend, hold on to him/her. That’s your rock right there. 

One of my lowest moments of 2018 involved me curled up in a ball crying in emotional trauma. The other lowest point of 2018 involved me curled up in a ball in physical pain in the ER. Neither felt good. But they both taught me something- something Sony Bhaiya tells me all the time: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger (I should probably get this tattooed somewhere). And it is very true. I was probably worse off when I was going through the emotional trauma than the physical pain- I at least had some medicine to help cope up with the latter! But they’ve only taught me to get back up and learn to walk again. I learned to pick up my broken pieces, and I am still trying to put them back together. Closure isn’t easily obtained in many cases, and I do have an obsessive need for closure. Hence, not having any form of closure is difficult for me. My cycle starts with pain, to demonizing people, to demonizing myself, to feeling guilty and self-blaming, and eventually going numb to everything and using sarcasm as a defense mechanism for feelings. But I still refuse to regret anything in life. If you start regretting, you will never be able to learn something from an experience. And always remember to appreciate the people who’ve chosen to stay in your life despite all your flaws. It’s like living through a snow storm: first you get happy with the snow, but hate the wind (ergo, the storm) and the cold, and then you slip and fall on the ice that’s an aftermath; but you finally see a bright sunny day at the end of it all, that melts away the ice and makes life easier again. Mourning the loss of a loved one is never easy. But mourning is important. 

Anyways, my bottomline for you is that 2018 didn’t suck as much for me. I am curious to find out how your 2018 was. But I am hoping that 2019 will be a better year for us all. A new year, with new dreams, aspirations and never-ending drama of life. Because what is life without a little drama, eh? More later!

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“Freedom of Expression”. Ramisa Fariha. Photographed: Bangladesh 2019.

 

Another Year Older and Wiser

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Sometimes I will just sit and breathe.

Okay, so it’s officially past midnight, i.e. November 1st, and my birthday/Halloween is over.
I am officially another year older, and as some may claim wiser.
And I accept the claim for a change.

As I am sitting here looking back at my year, I can see nothing but positives. Alhamdulillah!
This is not to say that I didn’t falter. Between my last birthday and this, a lot of bad things have happened. But the good things have managed to outweigh all the negatives.

If I look back at some of the moments, I cringe- Did I really do ‘that’? Did I really say ‘that’?! OMG!
But not-sounding-serious, tripping and falling, and being extra hyper is what Fari is all about. And one thing I have realized between my last birthday and this is that, Fari shouldn’t change for anyone. Fari is loved for being her weird self. And some might be annoyed, or irritated, or even say Fari is ‘too happy’, are the ones who walk out of my life- and I am learning to be okay with it. So this is me- an ‘adult’- giving you my two cents on life: Learn to be yourself despite of how the world perceives you. Remember, you will be the bad guy in someone else’s story no matter what you do. What is important is that you can look at your own reflection in the mirror at the end of the day and go to bed light as a feather.

As hard as I try to be ‘perfect’ and pretend that I have my ‘shit together’, I don’t. Sometimes I’ll overcommit. Sometimes I’ll push things aside. Sometimes I will procrastinate my life away. Sometimes I will just sit and breathe.

Just how exactly am I supposed to go to classes, do all my homework, do my research, work, eat healthy, exercise, remember to take all my medicines, sleep and maintain a social life in 24-hours?! 

You can’t. If you can, you have my respect. As of 2018, I haven’t been able to do everything with a 100% efficiency. Of course there’s loss of energy and whatnot, but I haven’t been able to everything at an 80% efficiency either! I just try. I try really hard. Hence, I claim to be the jack of all trades and master of none. So I am not the best student in class, or the best scientist in the lab, or even the ‘best’ friend- but I try. I am an okay student, scientist and friend. And as of now, I am okay with being okay. 

Over the last year, I have actually accomplished a lot- I have changed 3 ‘homes’ and I am happy at my current home, I have met ‘the love of my life’ Dave Bautista, I have met my research hero Dr. Morgan, and I have been accepted as a graduate student at one of my dream schools. I have gone from being a lowly intern to being a loud proud graduate student researcher. I have gone from relying on people to being independent again. But I have also made some mistakes that I am not proud of. However, I look back at those as a learning experience. I have had people walk out of my life- sometimes temporarily and sometimes for good. I have had people who’ve talked me down, crushed my self confidence and made me question my existence. But I have also had people who’ve pulled me back up, inspired me to make a difference, and loved me for who I am. I may have lost a very good friend (or two), but I have also gained a couple of great friends. I may have fallen face down, but I have also learned to get back up with an even greater strength.

I guess I am just looping round-and-round to answer a question that I get asked a lot: “To what do you attribute your success to?” And the answer to that question is, “My ability to never give up.”
My life started out with not giving up when my mother had a difficult pregnancy. My life has been about beating odds and obstacles that were meant to hold me down for good. And I have learned to not give up from my family. As a family, we don’t give up on anyone or anything. No matter how difficult a situation might be, we know how to face them with a brave face.

If you are reading this and you think that the universe is conspiring against you: Don’t give up. Yes, I have meltdowns and I cry my heart out. I will scream and cry. I will yell. I will curse. I will binge watch bad TV and eats multiple bags of potato chips. I will write pages after pages in my journal about how the sky is falling (and believe me, I have been through some pretty miserable situations). But I don’t give up. If Plan A doesn’t work, I try Plan B through Z. I try ’til I succeed. I am the engineer daughter of a man who passed only three math exams in his lifetime. I am the person who was told that I couldn’t be an engineer. I am the person who was told that I can never look good. I am the person who was not supposed to make it alive in this world. And yet, here I am telling you that you can do this. If you could believe in Santa Claus, you can believe in yourself.

It is easier said than done. As a person, I try not to tell something that I haven’t been able to do. So when I say you can do this, you probably can. Just have faith in yourself. 

As I leave, I will leave you tonight with some words that I live by- Dream big, and chase that dream. Work hard and sky is the limit. Be a fighter, not a quitter.

You will be fine. 

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“Cheers”- Ramisa Fariha, Providence, RI 2018

Nanotale: Chasing the Dream (Part 3)

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So somehow, after missing a flight and visiting my favorite T-Rex fossil, I- Fiona Baxter- landed in one piece in Providence, RI.

Me, a once-upon-a-time-highly-driven-woman-of-color-in-STEM, who had a nine-to-five job at a leading pharmaceutical company, chose to be impulsive and booked a one-way ticket to Providence, RI. This was the first time in a long time that I acted upon my impulse. I thought my therapist Alexandro did a fantastic job at training me to NOT be so impulsive, since the last time I’d been this impulsive I ended up in Washington D.C. for a night, with absolutely no plan, and running into one of my exes at a restaurant. That was no bueno. But in my defense, I was only 21 years old and I was supposed to be stupid, and I was supposed to cry over some stupid guy. However, this time I was a 27 year-old, allegedly older and wiser ‘woman’, who decided to run away from her problems.

That morning I was sitting at my desk analyzing some data (Translation: crunching numbers to help a blood-sucking-corporation make 0.5% more profit), and it hit me: It was October! I am no pumpkin spice enthusiast but it’s my birthday on Halloween. I was going to be a 28 year-old in thirty days, and the greatest accomplishment in my life were two very expensive pieces of papers that hung on my office wall stating that I am an engineer. That’s it! 

I sat there with my head in my hands for ten minutes before calling my travel agent and booking a flight. I needed a break. I needed to reevaluate my life.

“I used to be this strong independent woman, you know? I wanted to change the world. I wanted to help people. I wanted to do great things. And look at me now! I’m in this identity crisis, not knowing who I am anymore! Have I lost my moxie? Did I miss my window?”
“Okay, listen to me: You haven’t lost your moxie or missed your window. You were, ARE, and will forever be a strong independent woman wanting to do incredible things. You never stopped until you got what you wanted. Maybe you’re just a little distracted right now, but that’s okay. I didn’t raise a sissy. Your mum and I have worked hard to make sure that you have a good head on your shoulders, lady. I believe in you,” said dad when I called him from NYC after missing my flight and running into my first ex at the museum. Somehow dad always had the right things to say. He knew I wasn’t running away. I had hit one of my many walls. I just needed to push myself to snap out of it and pursue my out-of-the-box dreams.

“Hey, did you make it safe?” William called to check on me.
“Yeah. I am actually at the airport right now. Waiting for my Uber. Going to check in at a hotel, and then decide what to do. I know Rhode Island isn’t your favorite place on Earth!”
“Hmm… Yeah, it isn’t. But you’re there right now. And I honestly like their beaches. How long are you planning on staying there?” he asked.
“Umm… I don’t know yet…” my voice faded off, as I answered skeptically.
William and I both hated uncertainty- that’s what we bonded over. And it was the first time in our two year-long relationship that he’d heard me be uncertain about something. He didn’t like the sound of it.
“You have 48-hours to decide. And then I am coming down!” he announced.

As I snatched up my large suitcase and stuffed it on to my Uber’s trunk, I scoffed at him, “Says the man who is 2882 nautical miles away from me right now. Sure!”

And I hung up on William. No kisses. No goodbyes.
“God, what’s wrong with me?!”

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“Water-Fire-Water”- Ramisa Fariha, Providence, RI, September 8, 2018.

The Art of ‘Falling in Love’ (or ‘Having a Broken Heart’, you pick!)

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So far 2018 has been my year- met ‘the love of my life’ Dave Bautista, got into my dream school, met my scientific research inspiration Dr. Morgan, got all set to take over the world and all that jazz. But then God decided that it’ll be interesting to throw in something else my way too. He thought, it’d be funny to send the perfect guy my way: one that gives you the ‘undivided attention’, makes you weak in the knees, encourages you to be a better version of yourself, gives the best hugs (erm, second best, the first belonging to Dave Bautista), takes care of you, is brutally honest with you (or at least claims to be), makes you laugh until you snort, laughs at your terrible TERRIBLE jokes, gives you your very own ultimate Bollywood moment by showing up at your doorstep in a leather jacket and a fancy car; and says Ami Tomake Bhalobashi (I love you in Bengali. So, not necessarily the “Bade bade desho mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain”, but he nailed the outfit and he used my mother-tongue!) after spending an entire night memorizing the sentence and nailing the pronunciation, sends you ‘good morning’ and ‘goodnight’ texts, eats your garbage food with a smile in his face, has an amazing drive and passion for his field of interest, allows you to eat cheesecake after an intense workout (and is brave enough to snatch away the cheesecake from you just as you’re fully indulged in it and says, That’s enough for now!), pats on your back as you sit there at the edge of the bed eating ‘Cool Whip’ with your fingers at 3 in the morning and says That’s my girl, takes your best candid (and choreographed) photographs, listens to the same music as you (that other people often frown upon), dances with you with no music playing, takes you out to watch dinosaur movie after a very classy brunch date, calls you a goober and loves you for who you are, and most importantly, becomes one of your best-est mates.

Everything is pretty perfect, except there is a tiny problem.

No, he isn’t non-existent. He exists.

The only tiny problem is that, he is not yours. Not only that he is not yours, he can never be yours.

Bummer, eh?

You’re probably wondering just what exactly is the unavoidable circumstance that is coming in the way of me and this most perfect guy in the history of the universe, that we can’t resolve. I will give you the same answer that I give everyone else, “It’s an over-complicated mess with no subtitles. There’s no solution.”

And that’s exactly what it is.

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of my over-complicated ‘love-life’. But I will talk about everything I have learned from it, instead.

Every time I fall in love, and then snap out of it (or at least try to), I call it a learning experience. And that has happened exactly two times in my lifetime. Given I am 24, I will say I have done a good job with my heart so far. 24, still alive, no signs of ischemia, and an okay-functioning body- I am good.

So, after my first heartbreak, I told myself that never again would I ever fall in love for as long as I am alive. Honestly! Think back to you first heartbreak. I know we all try NOT to revisit that feeling because it sucks. BIG TIME! You spend hours, days, weeks, months and years curled up in a ball crying, eating ice cream while binging on cheesy romantic movies, listening to some crappy romantic music and scrying (sing+cry), don’t eat enough or overeat your pain away, and of course become very aware of the constant burning crater in your heart. You want to erase your memories and feelings, and forget all about that certain person. Those feelings are all very real and very painful. And once we learn to live with those feelings and ‘get over’ that person, we tell ourselves that we are not making the same mistake ever again. We start guarding our fragile broken hearts with everything and build humongous walls around ourselves that can never be penetrated. EVER!

Or at least that’s what I did- I sat there, with my heart shattered into a million pieces and I safe guarded it with mammoth platinum walls, and I intended to keep it that way. And then it happened!

(I am simultaneously laughing and crying as I am writing this.)

There comes a moment in your life that makes you question everything- your very own brain, your heart, your ability to rationalize, your inability to rationalize, your basic fright-flight responses, and your existence. Or at least it made me question all those. “You’re an engineer! Your life depends on your ability to rationalize and quantify everything!” I told myself. And believe me, I tried!

And then a friend told me, “You can’t rationalize love and you certainly can’t quantify your feelings for someone.” And boy, truer words were never spoken! I saw myself, gravitating towards a certain person. I found myself, not using my brain. I heard myself, sounding like a teenager hopelessly in love. I felt myself, having butterflies in the stomach. It all happened too fast, too hard, too soon. But it happened.

After spending 4 years, 1 month and 11 days guarding my poor little heart, I allowed somebody else to have it. Someone actually managed to f**king break down that impenetrable mammoth platinum wall that I had built around myself. My never again turned into Shit! Not this again! pretty soon. Sooner than I was expecting it to happen.

You can’t control when you fall in love.

You really can’t control when and how you fall in love. Love is a complicated chemical reaction, that is probably exothermic, and can’t be controlled. It is often over-catalyzed and results in major heartbreaks if the reaction is not in equilibrium. Sometimes, in rare overcomplicated with no subtitles cases, the process of heartbreak gets delayed. However, it’s inevitable.

One of the many things I lack is the ability to be an artist. Whether it’s trying to paint, or sing, or gracefully falling on the floor, I can’t art. Nope. None. Nada. No can do. Hence, the art of falling in love, ergo having a broken heart, is not my expertise. I don’t do very well when I fall in love. I don’t do very well when I have a broken heart. And I most certainly don’t do very well I am trying to fall out of love. Hence, when this falling process started, and this certain individual starting holding me steady instead of gravity, I went through stages of denial, MAJOR denial, mortification, gratification and eventually, acceptance. I knew exactly what was going on and what was going to be the end result, and yet, I chose not to stop myself.

You can’t choose who you fall in love with.

And not all love stories have the same template. Not all love stories are conventional.

But all broken hearts hurt the same. The pain is of equal intensity, if not more. And the bodily responses are the same. You cry ugly tears until your tear glands dry out.

Just when you are 24, have achieved some of your major goals, and you feel like you know everything, life forces you to stand still at a point that makes you feel like a know-nothing. You stand there, empty, drained, and hurt, wondering how you didn’t see this coming. You never thought you’d allow yourself go back to square one, and yet, there you are, standing like a boss (erm, maybe not) at square one. Those who love and care about you, and saw this coming before you did, come at you with the usual, “Told you so!”, in response to which you want to yell, screech and then punch them in the faces, but instead you crawl up to them with your shattered self, hug them, and cry out loud. My 23-year-old self thought that the more I grow up, the lesser is my possibility of falling in love and hence, being hurt. And boy, do I wish my 23-year-old self was right! Instead, the reality is that, this brand new (allegedly) mature heart hurts a whole lot more than the younger heart. As an adult, you invest in a relationship more than your young love/relationship. As an adult, you also tend to hide yourself in a cocoon of valor and courage, and you don’t feel like sharing your pain to every goddamn person in the world (haha look who’s talking!). You tend to go out of your way to put on a brave face and pretend like nothing is wrong, and everything is just perfect- as perfect as your most perfect guy in the history of the universe. But at the end of the day, your ugly tears is still the same. You still binge watch cheesy romantic movies with a tub of ice cream. You still scry to some of your favorite songs. You still cry yourself to sleep. Except, this time they all happen behind the closed doors where no one is aware of the pain. You come to terms with yourself, where you strongly believe that strong women don’t cry over men they have no future with; strong women CAN’T cry over men who can never be theirs. You often find yourself in desperate search of brand new coping mechanisms because your most recent person pretty much normalized everything- now you can’t even go to the gym and workout like a monster to your favorite song because that was an everyday thing for you and your person. You find yourself more vulnerable, shattered, and broken than you’ve ever been before.

And while all those feelings are back, and that burning crater in your heart is mocking you right now, you learn to ugly cry to your reflection and tell yourself, “This too shall pass.”

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“Wait, what’s a ‘goober’?”

Falling Prey

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So I am not much of a poetry person. As a kid, I didn’t even understand the point of poems- why go out of your way to rhyme things?
As an adult, when I had to compose poems with iambic pentameter in college, I still didn’t get the point of poems.

But right now, at this very moment, when I am all sweaty from the workout and super hungry, poems are all I can think about. All of a sudden, poems make a lot of sense to me. So here goes nothing!

 

Falling Prey

We fall prey
To love, to people.
We fall prey
To promises, that are never kept.
We fall prey
To unavoidable circumstances.

We fall prey
To emotions, to a life moving in super fast motion.
We fall prey
To feelings we never wanted to feel.
We fall prey
To irrationality.

In a world that is all chaos, we look for peace
We try to find a little world of our own
When we fail to find one, we try to create one
That’s when we fall prey
To hope, to aspirations
To dreams that will never be fulfilled.

Look under the stones beyond the bones for the box that has no locks
Said Captain Kidd
Except I cannot see the stones or the bones
I know not where to find the box
That is has the key to my happiness
For I keep falling prey, to unhappiness.

We fall prey
To the predators and the prey
We fall prey
When we fail to define whether we are the cat or the canary
We fall prey
To love, to people and their agony.

 

Self reflection

“Existence- Photographed at State College, December 2016 by Ramisa Fariha (Self portrait series)

 

Fiction: The Non-Believer

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“Hey, your heartbeat just got faster…”
“You and my heartbeat. Who needs an Apple watch when they have you to keep track of the heart rate!” he grinned and hugged her tighter than ever before.
“Ouch!” she muffled; her face buried in his chest.
“Sorry, I wasn’t supposed to do that. Forgot!” He loosened his grip, her grasp still firm on his shoulders.
“Are you okay, babe?” he asked, bewildered, for she was quieter than her usual self.
“Mhm,” was all she could say. Athena knew what was going on. She knew exactly why she was having bouts of tears, and why she couldn’t fathom her own emotions. Athena knew there was nothing to be rational about in her current stage- she was eight-months pregnant with her rainbow baby. Overcoming the initial trauma was not easy for her- first she was told that she could never conceive, and when she did conceive, a miscarriage took her happiness away. Athena and William had to work hard to keep their marriage together. For the first three months of her loss, Athena spent her days locked up in her study crying, holding her stomach as if that would bring her child back. She couldn’t understand what was God punishing her for. She was a mess, who refused to eat or drink anything and she allowed depression take over her life. She didn’t realize she was making it easier for Will to love her less-and-less with every passing day. She was pushing him away from her. She really didn’t care about anyone or anything at that point.

Will didn’t know what to do with Athena at her most vulnerable state either. She was the strongest person he’d ever known, and for him to see her shattered into a million pieces was uncalled for; he just didn’t know how to put her back together. It was his loss too. But Will knew Athena cherished and loved that child more than anyone could ever love anything in this universe. Will never believed in God the way Athena did. It was easy for Will to blame God for the mess, and not ask Him for help.


“Why do you always look at me like a blind man’s looking at the sun for the first time?” Athena would giggle every time Will would look at her affectionately.
“You’re just so…perfect!” he would smize at her.
She would usually ignore or choose not to believe in Will’s words. Will almost never knew what he was talking about. Will was like a teenage boy smitten in love over Athena, even five years after their marriage.

It tore Will apart every time he’d return home to find Athena curled up on the floor of her study, crying and screeching. Will wanted his love back, he just didn’t know how. As difficult as it was to look at the Athena writhing in pain, Will couldn’t stop admiring her and looking at her like ‘a blind man looking at the sun for the first time’. And while Athena ignored everything around her, she was always aware of his gaze. She knew she had to pull herself together- for Will, for her marriage, for herself.

It shocked both Will and Athena when the doctor confirmed them about her second pregnancy. They couldn’t stop crying, hugging and kissing each other. Tears streamed down Athena’s pink cheeks and every drop of her tear pearls were kissed dry from her chin by Will as they stood at the doctor’s office. Since the day they’d found out, Will had only wished for one thing- for Athena’s God to not separate this baby from her.


“I promise I’ll be back by Wednesday night. I have to go to this stupid regional conference that they have, and trust me, I’d rather stay here with you. But I just have to do this,” Will said, as he implanted one last kiss on her forehead.
Athena fought back her tears. She told herself it was those terrible hormones that were messing up her brain and her ability to think rationally. All she knew at the moment was that she didn’t want to let Will go. Not then. Not ever. But she had to, reluctantly.

“It was tough but you’ve done it! Congratulations!” Dr. Thatcher smiled at Athena and patted her on her head. Dr. Thatcher knew everything Athena had been through, and a premature delivery was not easy for her case. She was really proud of Athena, and was very happy about the future she was going to have with this child. She deserved to be happy.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO ONE SURVIVED?” Athena screamed at her highest pitch on the phone. It was from Will’s work.

Everything around her started fading and she was engulfed by a dark cloud until she was unconscious. As the nurses rushed to her assistance, Athena’s new born girl laid somewhere in the nursery crying for some love, not knowing what fate had in store for her.

Once conscious, all that Athena could think of was Will’s last kiss and promise. He promised to return to her by Wednesday night. It was Wednesday night. She went on a premature labor, with a high possibility of losing her child. But God had other plans. He listened to the non-believer for a change- He didn’t separate the child from Athena again. He separated Will and Athena instead.

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“Which of His gifts will you deny?”- Photographed at State College, PA, 2016- Ramisa Fariha

 

 

Meeting the Dream Chaser

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If you know me, you probably know the following:
1. I am a dreamer.
2. I am hopelessly ‘in love‘ with David Michael Bautista Jr. a.k.a Dave Bautista a.k.a Batista.
3. I am 100% serious when I say I am passionate about helping women with infertility issues by creating an artificial ovary.

And somehow these are all connected.

Facebook memories can be useful sometimes. Just this past Saturday it showed a post from 5 years back that read: “You say I dream too big. I say you think too small.” And it is very true. I really do dream big.

6 foot 4 inches, 290-lb to be exact.

Words in this world can’t suffice to describe my elation as I am typing this, but I will still try. In order to understand my story, you have to use your imagination. Imagine being the native of a small town that is as big as the Penn State campus, where you have about 3 million people of different socio-economic backgrounds living together. Now imagine you are a young girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere. When I say you don’t ‘fit in’, I mean that you stand out like a lonely meerkat in a sea of lazy regular cats laying down.

Now that all my similes and metaphors (and cheap humor) are out of the way, I will try to explain my situation. I was a tomboy (with spiked boy-cut hair) in a then conservative society, who enjoyed watching WWE, playing soccer and cricket, and had more male friends than female friends. To make matters worse, I have always been on the heavier side, which made me subject to constant body-shaming (24 years and counting!). Growing up as Fari was challenging only because I was never accepted as myself by people other than my parents. Being Fari wasn’t easy and was, at times, frustrating. Whether it was my strong drive to stand up for women’s rights, my battle against local corruption as a lowly teenager, my inclination to resist social norms, or my very own multiple #MeToo situations breaking me at every step of the way, I couldn’t find a baseline to normalize myself to. Things can get difficult when you can’t express yourself to anyone for the fear of judgment or victim shaming. Teenager Fari was simultaneously strong and weak. And in a world where you don’t fit in, and nothing seems right, it’s crazy when you find something that grounds you…something that holds you steadier than gravity has ever held you.

If Batista were a thesis topic, I’d have become Dr. Fari at the mere age of 11!

It was during my summer vacation of 6th grade when I was recovering from a terrible typhoid (and malaria, and anaemia) that I stumbled across a beautiful photograph of a person I didn’t know, on my cousin’s phone. Let me get this out there- I was pissed at WWE after The Rock left and I hadn’t watched wrestling in a while at that point. Anyways, I saw this photograph of a beautiful man in a black suit and shades, and the next thing I know, my teenage hormone-crazed brain couldn’t stop thinking about him. And by that I mean that I was losing my mind thinking about this person, and I wanted nothing more than to get to know him. Unlike the kids today, my parents regulated my computer and internet access, not to mention we had crappy internet with 0.01 kbps speed via dial-up connection, and God forbid someone would call just as you’re about to connect – you’d spend 5 hours trying to reconnect. Hence, finding out about this man from the internet was the true test of my patience, since it took about 45 minutes to load wwe.com using that horrible internet connection. But I have always been a determined person, and whenever I set my heart to something, I very likely achieve it. I invested every waking second of my entire summer vacation and learned everything I possibly could about this man in black suit. This man was none other Mr. David Michael Bautista Jr. a.k.a Batista. If Batista were a thesis topic, I’d have become Dr. Fari at the mere age of 11!

It was the era of Ulead Photo Express 2.0 SE, and in a span of 15 days, I ended up with about 105 badly edited photos of me with Batista, because my 11-year-old brain was convinced that I was in love with this man, who at the time was married with two daughters, and his youngest daughter was my age!

Living in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, back then, meant we didn’t have the luxury to afford the official WWE Batista merchandize. However, my friends and family always went above and beyond to support my madness. My mom kept hunting everywhere, and would bring home all these ‘Made in China’ replica action figures with Batista’s name on them, that remotely looked like him! She once brought home a WWE monopoly, and she said of the 5 packs, she picked that particular pack because it had Batista on the cover! On my birthday, I received birthday presents with Batista’s printed photos for wrapping papers, and his framed photos on the inside for presents. So in a year’s time, my bedroom had turned into the ultimate Dave Batista shrine, and everyone knew that this Papa’s boy with a boy-cut hair was officially transitioning to womanhood, as a devoted Batista fan.

In a world where I had a hard time fitting in, Batista gave me my own world where I could be myself.

In case you still can’t fathom the height of my madness, let me tell you more. Our only access to watch wrestling matches was TenSports televising weeks old Monday night Raw and Friday night SmackDown on Mondays and Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m, respectively. And like a good girl, who knew Batista would be on SmackDown, I would come home from school every Tuesday, finish all my homework way ahead of time, and spend solid 30-minutes getting dolled up (to stay at home and watch television, mind you), before SmackDown would start. Sometimes my grandma and uncle (we all lived in the same multigenerational home) would tease me and say, “You do know how the television works, right? You CAN see him. He CAN’T see YOU!” But none of that mattered to me. For the ten to fifteen minutes that SmackDown would show Batista- either wrestling or addressing the crowd- I would forget everything else in the world. And God forbid there was load-shedding (the usual Bangladeshi power cuts), and I’d miss seeing him at a given Tuesday, the entire house would know Fari was sad and was crying and wouldn’t eat dinner. Later that year, when I aced my mid terms in school, my brother bought me an mp4 as a reward (that was the closest to an iPod we could afford at that time). Since then, I would spend my Tuesdays recording Batista’s entrance music and voice on my new mp4 and play them on endless loop, listening to them as I fell asleep every night.

In a world where I had a hard time fitting in, Batista gave me my own world where I could be myself. It really didn’t matter to me that Batista didn’t know who I was or even know I existed, but to me he was everything. He gave me the strength to imagine a world where being Fari was normal- where being a strong, smart and outspoken woman, and standing up for myself was acceptable; where I could be myself with a 6 foot 4 in., 290-lb man encouraging me to never back down every step of the way.

I was only allowed to use the computer and internet for “Batista purposes” and that opened a whole new world for me. I wrote an essay about him and won a contest in August 2007. I kept looking into his works, which led to me requesting my uncle in NYC to get me a copy of Batista Unleashed. That was the first time ever that I had asked him for anything, and once I got that book, I studied it- in and out, word by word. I dissected that book more than I have dissected Dr. Morgan’s paper on artificial ovary in the last four years!

“Stay in school. Learn as much as you possibly can.”

When you are 13 or 14, you usually don’t know what you want in life. I was no different. Up until Batista came into my life, I knew I wanted to do ‘something’ to help people, but I had no direction. Once I started ‘studying’ Batista, I learned about his second wife Angie and her battle with ovarian cancer. Since this fell under the scope of “Batista purposes only” use of the internet, I started studying about ovarian cancer, and I stumbled upon the emerging field of Biomedical Engineering. At the mere age of thirteen, I decided I wanted to become a biomedical engineer and create an artificial ovary. For a young girl trying to maneuver life with no sense of direction, somehow Batista had gift-wrapped and given me my life’s purpose. Getting diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) a few years later and combatting it everyday ever since, only strengthened my focus on helping women with infertility issues. I still remember reading the line in his book Batista Unleashed, “Stay in school. Learn as much as you possibly can.” There was a time when I was the only female student in my high school class, and I was asked to switch/quit school, but I stayed in school, and despite all the obstacles, graduated as the class valedictorian.

In one of his interviews Batista once said, “Work hard and sky is the limit,” and it became my living motto. I woke up every morning, committing to work hard. I saw another man besides Batista who embodied that rule- my Papa- and with two great men fueling and lifting my spirit everyday, I continued to dream. Papa has always been there in person- encouraging me to be myself, and Batista has always been there in spirit- making me smile and helping me get through days when I fell on my face and couldn’t get back up.

“Why Penn State?”
Besides all the amazing reasons to attend Penn State- one of the best schools in the world, I also decided to follow my dreams and pursue a career in Biomedical Engineering in Batista’s land. However, even as a freshman in college, I could only dream about meeting Batista in person. To be honest, I wanted to be worthy, and someone before I could meet him. I went on to become the first ever international student to receive the Freshman of the Year award (http://news.psu.edu/story/315839/2014/05/13/penn-state-behrends-outstanding-first-year-student-sky-limit) and while Penn State covered my story and mentioned how Batista had inspired my journey, I still didn’t think I’d ever meet Batista in my lifetime.

I wonder if he has some sort “Today Fari is Sad” radar…

College is never easy. College especially isn’t easy when you develop a learning disability following a concussion, and your cognitive skills get compromised. All that mixed with a lot of math-based engineering courses and additional research? You have a recipe for disaster! And this horrible recipe was in my plate as I started junior year in college. It was around the same time that Batista decided to start his acting career from scratch, and wasn’t backing down despite all the struggle. So while I was no longer seeing him wrestle everyday, I was getting fueled by his courage. Batista’s courage to move out of his comfort zone at the peak of his career fueled me to not give up despite the struggles I was facing. I remember one particular night when I was upset and couldn’t study for my ‘Electrical Circuits and Simulations’ exam – the next morning was Eid-al-Adha and I was homesick. And just as I was sitting with my piles of notes, teary-eyed, Batista ‘liked’ my comment on one of his Facebook posts, and I was euphoric beyond limit! I jumped around, called my mom, Papa (and almost everyone on planet Earth) to let them know how happy I was! And that was not the only time that he made my day. While I religiously tweet at him everyday, somehow Batista always responds/acknowledges my efforts on my WORST days! I wonder if he has some sort “Today Fari is Sad” radar…

And the stars aligned to make my dream come true on March 31st, 2018 in Washington DC- Batista’s hometown.

It was a January evening this year, and one of those ‘worst’ days. I was having a meltdown while listening to the E&C Podcast episode with Batista in it, that I fell in love with him all over again. Batista’s work ethic highly impressed me, and my post-concussion self could relate to him all too well, “I have a tunnel vision. I can only focus on one thing.” And as the podcast continued, I noted down something Batista said, that went on to become one of my favorite motivational quotes of all time- “I pick something I am bad at, and work on it until I am the best at it!” For a person who was sitting in a foreign land all by herself, not knowing where life was taking her in 90 days, and almost gave up on hopes, those words gave me a new jolt of life! I got a new boost to keep pushing hard, with new excitement. And it was at that spur of the moment that I decided I had to meet this man and thank him for everything he has done for me over the last 13 years!

And the stars aligned to make my dream come true on March 31st, 2018 in Washington DC- Batista’s hometown.

And I truly appreciate my friends preparing me for the worst.

Between January and March, I had a lot to accomplish. I was recovering from a spine misalignment, I was overworked, and I had lost my body fitness. I spent these three months training hard (S/O to my Personal Trainer Keith Ligon for helping me reach my goal) just so I could be Batista ready. I spent hours at the mall trying to find the ‘perfect dress’ for when I’d meet him. And God knows how much money I’ve spent on miscellaneous things, getting dolled up for Batista. And as the day approached, I had friends and family preparing me for the worst- “You will only have 20 seconds or so. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t ‘talk’ to him,” “Don’t hold your hopes up high. He probably meets a ‘biggest fan’ everywhere he goes,” “See if you can get a hug. Don’t be sad if you can’t though. He will have a tight schedule.”

And I truly appreciate my friends preparing me for the worst.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting anything too crazy out of this opportunity. One thing I’ve learned from loving Batista over the years is to love without expecting anything in return. I spent 13 years loving and idolizing a man who didn’t know I exist. I spent 13 years defending the honor and respect of a man who probably had no idea that a young Bangladeshi girl was raising her voice for him (yes haters, you know who you are!). I spent 13 years of my life following and living my life on the principles of a man who had no idea his words and actions influenced a small town girl to become a biomedical engineer. To me, this was an opportunity to see the man of my dreams in flesh and blood, so that I could tell my grandchildren about a man who played such a big role in making me who I am, and that I’d once met him and shook hands with him or something.

I was standing at a comic book convention wearing a dress and pantyhose!

Over the last 13 years, Dave Bautista has taught me to be a few things:
1. Being a dreamer, and dream chaser.
2. Being my true self, and always making my honest opinion heard (have you seen the man tweet?)
3. Being a lover- loving unconditionally, and with all my heart, without ever expecting anything in return.

So when the BIG day arrived, I stood in line at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 11 a.m. hoping to breathe the same air as ‘the love of my life’ without expecting anything from him.

And what I got in return was more than what I could ever imagine!

As I saw Batista walk in and take a seat, I forgot to breathe momentarily. And then remembered that I was missing out on the opportunity to breathe the same air as him, so I started hyperventilating. Trust me, I am an engineer. I have my diploma sitting next to me. I have a functioning brain. I just forgot that I had a brain at that moment. As I stood in line, I couldn’t shut up! I had to tell everyone how I was feeling, because I was having a hard time breathing, and keeping my calm. And I was standing at a comic book convention wearing a dress and pantyhose! Yes.

As my line moved forward, and I approached Batista, I could only admire the man he is- especially his smile. I remember watching him smile as a 12-year-old and losing my calm. As a 24-year-old, I was still having a hard time keeping my head straight. I felt adrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin, and every other freakin’ hormone rush and energize my body. I don’t think I’d ever felt what I felt standing in line at the moment.

“I am one step away from Dave. ONE STEP!”- I thought as my eyes were fixated on him, and my hands held the ‘Bluetista’ action figure that was a graduation present from Steve (Thank you so much Steve!). I honestly forgot that there was a world outside that didn’t circle around this beautiful man right before my eyes. And yet, I made sure I didn’t get my hopes up too high.

Love people without ever expecting anything in return.

I wish someone had recorded the entire moment because I still can’t believe I lived it.

As I approached Dave, I had my I-am-losing-my-sh*t-high-pitched-shrilly-voice going on and I managed to say, “Hi Dave…” (so original!)

Dave let out his beautiful smile (I am crying as I am typing this), and stood up. And he said, “Come on back, you!” And for a split second I forgot the English language. Everyone directed me behind the table where he was sitting, and I was breaking out in tears as I walked up to the man of my dreams. As I jumped into Dave’s open arms for a hug, while looking at him through the tears welling up in my eyes, I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. “I know you!” he said.

When you spend 13 years strongly believing that a person you love with all your heart doesn’t even know you exist, it can be overwhelming to hear those words. The interaction that followed after was me rambling on about chasing my dreams, and loving him and getting inspired. I can’t recall what I told him because I don’t think I actually phrased a proper sentence in English in front of him, except the first sentence, “I am from Bangladesh and I never thought this day would ever come!”

Earlier that week, I was telling my trainer Keith how much I’d love to kiss Dave, or have him kiss me, and he said I shouldn’t pursue that. I asked Dave if he’d give me a kiss, and he gladly implanted a kiss on my right cheek. He asked me questions about Penn State, my goals, my life, and my PCOS. As we stood there hugging (and I was still crying), someone was taking a picture of us, and Dave was telling everyone how I was the girl who spent all her money getting dolled up for him. I asked him whether I was dolled up enough, to which he replied, “You look beautiful!” Love people without ever expecting anything in return. I still didn’t believe that the man of my dreams– My Dream- had just hugged me, kissed me, and said I looked beautiful. He asked who was ‘Fari’ as he signed my action figure, to which I replied, “Fari is what my friends and family call me.” I wouldn’t want Dave to call me anything other than Fari– while he’d been Batista for everyone else, he’s been nothing but Dave to me since day 1. And that day, Fari finally met Dave in flesh and blood.

Love and respect are intangible. You can only feel them deep down inside.

Later that day when we went on to take my official photograph with him, I told him I call him “the love of my life”. And the way he hugged me during the photo shows how he reciprocated my love and affection for him. He may not ‘love‘ me the way I ‘love‘ him, but I know he has an affection and adoration towards me, that I could feel- with his touch, the way he smiled at me, and through his beautiful eyes when he looked at me. Love and respect are intangible. You can only feel them deep down inside. And that day, I felt a deep sense of adoration from Dave that no one can ever fathom.

I always kid and say that Batista is my future husband, or that I am the future Mrs. Batista. Up until that weekend, everyone took me lightly. These days I have started noticing people getting alarmed whenever I say it. But here’s the truth- nothing matters to me more than Dave’s happiness, and Dave’s happiness is his wife, Sarah. Dave is an incredible man with a heart of gold, who knows how to care, and show that he cares. He is a man who knows how to love and project that love. I am one of the millions of fans he has worldwide, but for him to give the love and respect he has given me, shows that he is a down-to-Earth man who is great. “All great men know how to love, baby, and he is a great man too!” said Papa, once he heard about my experience.

…that’s because my ‘dream’ was resonating the love and affection I’d given him for 13 years.

The next morning, April 1st, when I saw Dave again, we met and talked like old friends. I was still forgetting the fact that I have a brain (Dave asked me twice how I was doing, and I didn’t answer!), but we were able to carry out a conversation without me freaking out or crying. Walking up to Dave without telling him my name again, and him remembering that it’s ‘Fari‘ on his own meant a lot to me. He answered my questions, allowed me to hug Oliver, and we just talked. It felt too normal to be casually talking to the ‘dream’ I’d chased for 13 years. But maybe that’s because my ‘dream’ was resonating the love and affection I’d given him for 13 years.

At the end of the convention, I had the privilege to say ‘bye’ to him before he left (Thank you Jonathan!). We talked about how this might as well be the first and last time I’d be seeing him, and he seemed genuinely concerned. He told me not to give up, and keep trying, and he hoped that I’ll be able to work something out. It seemed like he wanted to see me again. I want to see him again too… and not just because he gives THE BEST HUGS IN THE UNIVERSE!

…chasing to make your BIGGEST dream come true is surreal.

Over the last 13 years, Dave Bautista has heavily influenced my life- from learning to use the internet (which was a luxury in Bangladesh back then) that I later used for school searches leading me to Penn State, to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, to leading me up to my career, to my choice of music, and to my outspoken personality. His honesty is contagious, and over the years I have realized that I am just like Dave- I speak my mind without worrying about how I am being perceived. While it works out great for him- he is a superstar- I still have a long way to go in terms of leaving my mark in this world with honesty. After the convention, Dave tweeted about me, and that tweet made me cry again. It was happy crying because once again, I was finally living my childhood dream.

Dreaming is one thing. Chasing the dream is another.

But chasing to make your BIGGEST dream come true is surreal.

One of my cousins left a comment on my photo with Dave on Facebook that made me wonder if that’s how the world, Dave inclusive, perceived me:

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I have received a lot of positive (and negative) feedback from people I know (and people I don’t know) after my meeting with Dave. I am thankful for the positive remarks, and I am thankful for the negative ones too. As a devoted fan, nothing filled me with joy more than hearing multiple people say, “Now I am a Batista fan, just because of how well he treated you! He really is a great guy!” And one of the more thought-provoking feedbacks I received was this question, “How can you ‘love’ a person you’ve only read about?” It made me stop for a second and think. And I have an answer: I think of love as an emotion without a definition. You ‘love’ someone or something despite his/her flaws. We love our country- as a Bangladeshi we refer to our motherland as ‘Mother’, and so I grew up with immense love for a ‘mother’ who is intangible. We love God- an entity we can’t visualize. We love our pets, without knowing how the pet really feels about us. I love Penn State- the place, the community, the people. Love can’t be defined by textbook definitions. What I feel for Dave Bautista can be better described as devotion, and utmost respect. I idolize this man, and I draw inspiration from him. Without ever being there for me as a physical entity, his mere existence has fueled me through the toughest times. And maybe that is how I’d define ‘love’- being the source of inspiration and encouragement for a girl, who is still working hard to find her place in this strange world.

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Love people with all your heart and never expect anything return, because when they return your love and affection, it touches your soul and leaves a mark like never before.