One Life…Thousand Dreams… A Million Possibilities…. Breathing the air of Sir Issac Newton, Darwin, John Milton, Stephen Hawkings …having a rendezvous with history as I walk down the aisles of inventions…. breakthroughs and discoveries… of the very phenomenon called ‘The University of Cambridge’…!
Life unfurling back …… to the day when I was this happy and excited little girl with dreamy, sparkling eyes …who wanted to fly high and far ….
I had the movie of beautiful people in my head.., while flattered and shattered by their words, confused at times and alone…. trying to break the grip of her own beliefs…… The innocence I carried those days was tainted with a thousand illusions.…… little did I know then that the world, like in ‘The Alchemist’ would conspire among its different elements to help me live one of my biggest dreams………
With all my humility and happiness, I should say that this journey was a very eventful one ..woven with many stories of struggle, success, sadness and smiles …. I embarked on this thrilling ride by breaking through the conservative design of life the society had scripted for me to fit in … because I was a girl, that too an Indian girl hailing from a ‘middle class malayali family’ they said…You can’t do these things they said, you should know your limitations they scoffed at me… … I should let this become a forgotten dream… But why should I?- I asked myself and questioned the stereotyped life I was supposed to live.. When I decided not to pursue my research from SRM from where I passed out with flying colors for my Masters in Power Electronics and when I left IIT-Delhi with nothing but the belief that I deserve better , when I decided not to limit my life to the confines of NIT- C as an academic ; eyebrows were raised .I was laughed at and ridiculed and became a laughing stock of all those around me inspite of the fact that I had very good academic credentials … But that hard work, perseverance and passion was not enough for a woman in engineering to continue her quest for knowledge they said . Its fate and not in your destiny to change the fact that a girl should better stick to norms of society and uphold traditional values they said….…
The great Indian president, scientist and teacher,Dr. kalam inspired kids to fly high igniting their dreams. But I learnt that the wings of girls were supposed to be kept wrapped up or they were cut off before they could even try to learn to fly … I always adored Dr.Kalpana Chawla-What a wonderful woman and source of inspiration! She was the first Indian woman to make it to space …. I did not want to unravel the mysteries of space…, my dreams were smaller, so if she could live such an astronomical dream, I could very well live mine, I encouraged myself.I wanted to do research in electrical engineering… wanted to be a scientist ..an independent woman who wanted to explore this beautiful world ….! It was nothing but a simple dream … But little did I know then, that it was a ‘prohibited area- danger zone and I had a tough terrain to conquer ahead…..!!!!’
Canadian PM Justin says its 2015 when he gave 50% seats to women in his cabinet. But things are so different and difficult on the ground for women especially those who hail from STEM( science, technology, engineering and mathematics) backgrounds to make their way up the ladder…. The journey is even more difficult if you are from a developing/underdeveloped country or from conservative backgrounds. Even in 2016, its unbelievably sad that the voices of women in STEM go unheard and stereotypes still remain deep rooted in our society.
As my thoughts take shape and as my story unfolds, …. I’m weaving a chain between my life and the faces I came across…… some becoming dear, some very dear and some endearest…. helping me live up to the person I wanted to be ! Each image, each face ….each smile…. carried its own lesson……In the playground of my life….., they were friends, philosophers and guides; the fondness ,warmth, care and an eternal love that would survive any disappointment, that allowed to break my solitude…. …. and then, if lucky, getting transformed into something better and deeper …… else, they are like the ephemeral joys of life fading with time or a tragic nightmare haunting us to the grave………In this dramatic way …Im taking possession of my life’s journey, making it their own. A sort of magical insight into one’s own life… a fascinating process of self-discovery… when words fail… heart speaks for itself helping me uncover my deep love for life … my gratitude to all the wonderful people that I walked along with…. Right from my best teacher- Mr. Anil Mohan, now the Principal of KV, who is always thrilled at my success more than I’m, his claps at my victory will reverberate thorough out my life… From my school teacher- Mr. Raveendran to my Master’s tutors Mr. Sridhar Ramasamy, Prof.Dash, Prof.C.Vaithi to Nizar Sir, Shaija Madam ,Jay Uncle, Dominic Uncle, Geetha aunty ,Unni Uncle, Jija Aunty, Babu Uncle, Ashi Chechi and Mullapally Ramachandran Uncle who have all been very kind enough to me at different phases of my life… I’m thankful to all these wonderful people who stood by me as a strong pillar of support and motivation…..As I pen down these words in my pepperpot at Churchill College , I’m reminded of all the beautiful people in my life- Raheela, Christina, Nalini, Tanuja, Paulo, Stefano, Shraddha, Ashki, Kristian, Alina, Adrien, Karen, Ge Yin, Kentaro, Sithara, Arun, Shijil, Ankush, Gayathri, Deepthi, Sarvani, Sachee, Sumod,Ashi, Riju, Barrie, Ari, Vincent,Diana,Hansini,Gillan, Danilo and Tom who adds meaningful colors to my life …… ‘light from these many smiles’ ….. flashing brilliantly as if in a vivid dream…….Coming to my research, I’m now working under the supervision of Prof. Florin Udrea who is the Electronics, Power and Energy Conversion group head, and collaborating with Dr. Thomas Logan . I’m researching on exploring an efficient way of converting ‘electric power’ through -Gallium Nitride (2014 Nobel Prize!) devices which are poised to jumpstart the next generation of smaller, faster, denser and efficient power converters. I’m excited about my work as it has the potential to influence the world -our way of life, as electric power is ubiquitous. And through this I’m telling the world that ‘electric power knows no gender.. science knows no gender’! Being the first chairperson of EPSRC UK power electronics forum was one of the best experiences ever-special thank you to the ‘Awesome Prof.Barrie Mecrow’.
Apart from work, Cambridge has also provided a great platform to do things that I love doing. I’m currently tutoring engineering undergraduates at my wonderful College-Churchill; serving as the IEEE Cambridge secretary, Cambridge Women in Engineering executive, Beyond Profit conference director and Consulting head for Care to teach initiative which is an online platform to teach Syrian refugee kids founded by my dearest Sara Kashaf. Being part of the dream initiative ‘Favalley.org’ (which is a self-learning gaming platform for slum/favela kids) along with the best and brightest people I have met here and with whom I share lot of laughter and fun – Paulo, Stefano and Shraddha, has been one of the best things that happened to me here at Cambridge. I realise I have come a long way … from a little girl who had sleepless nights because she liked to dream with eyes wide open, to someone who is now, working hard to live her dreams and aspirations about making a positive contribution to this world through education- Cambridge has been in many ways an incredible experience!
Starting off from being a school academic merit holder to being nominated for Forbes young achievers, life has been very kind to me in many ways …I have a beautiful family and amazing friends- Sara, Christi, Parvez, and Gopi who are always there to hold my hands. Sara, my partner in crime, my dearest sister, who is always around to share my success and my tears… The very lovely Christi, Parvez and Gopi who has a solution for everything, is so loving, caring, supportive and helpful. Raheela, Tanuja, Ashki, Nalini, Alina, Kent and Yin with whom I share a beautiful bond and have the most interesting conservations about life., work, love and everything below the sun.I owe a lot to my extended family and feels blessed to have them around. I owe it to my mother, father and myever supportive, caring and loving brother Chikku (Arjun Hari), for all the smiles… happiness and laughter we have shared together all these years……..and for living this dream along with me. It has been very tough for my mother and father to be parents to a girl who wants to fly high … fly far …. and fly around in a world that wants her to be caged……I owe it to my mom who had the courage to stand up for me even though she never really stood up for herself. I’m very proud of both of you and I hope you are as well as I’m who I’m because of you both! And to the young kids out there, I want to say -being a woman engineer and researcher is exciting, cool and rewarding and if I can do it, you can do it too !! Let your destiny be your decision!