Akhila is one of the first bloggers I followed closely, when I started blogging. I was fascinated by the way she wrote about issues in International Development, Social Change and life as a college student transitioning in the "real world".
We're meeting up this coming week and I'm as nervous as if it were a blind date. What should I wear? What will we talk about? What if we don't find anything to talk about? What if? What if? Enough of my rambling. Here is Akhila in her own words.
1. What made you decide to start blogging?
I’ve been on the Internet from a very young age. Being an only child with working parents, I was alone at home starting in middle school. I started dabbling with web design at that age, and also fell in love with writing – especially poetry, fiction, and journaling. Blogging proved to be the perfect combination of both writing and webdesign, and allowed me to harness my creativity starting at a young age. I began blogging early on under platforms like Geocities, Livejournal and Xanga (remember those days?!).
I decided to foray into more “professional” writing during my junior year in college, when I began studying abroad at the London School of Economics. Then, I started a personal blog to document my travels throughout England and Europe. I had an amazing time and enjoyed writing about my travels, but also started wanting to branch out and write about things I was learning related to politics and social change. Around that time, I also stumbled upon Penelope Trunk’s blog, and was intrigued by her talk about personal branding for young 20-somethings. After delving a bit further into writing more opinionated blog posts, I decided I loved it and took the leap into purchasing my own domain name so I could write about serious issues that I cared about. Now, years later, I look back and realize that the “personal branding” fad has its own downsides. But I am glad I took the leap to start this blog!
2. Where did the name of your blog come from?
The name of my blog, “Justice for All” just comes from my passion for social justice and human rights issues. However, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t completely like the name as it sounds a bit cliche. But I think it does very much encapsulate the message I am trying to impart through my blog.
3. What do you write about?
I write about human rights, women’s rights, social justice, international issues, non-profits, and generally the fight against injustice, inequality, and poverty in this world. I try to write about issues that are sometimes not highlighted in traditional media, and I focus on what I’m most passionate about - especially feminism, women’s issues, and access to justice/legal services. A lot of what I write comes from the perspective of political science and law, since that is my educational background and my future graduate school interest. I also occasionally talk about things like social media, work and career goals, passion, love, travel, and other aspects of my life.
Basically, I want young people like myself to think about, debate, and become passionate about social justice issues. I wanted to create a space where I can voice my opinions and where others can join in on the discussion as well.
4. Tell us a little bit about your cultural background
I was born in India and came to the U.S. at age 6. It was definitely not easy to fit in as a new immigrant at first, especially as a young child with a strange accent and a different style of dressing. But I quickly adapted to my new home and made friends, while still retaining much of my cultural background. Even after I came to the U.S., I continued to learn classical carnatic singing, which has helped me stay connected to my background. I consider myself Indian-American, and I’m greatly influenced by both my roots in India and my experiences in the U.S. I still hold dear all the memories I have of India - spending time with relatives, learning from my grandparents, practicing carnatic music, going to temples in the neighborhood, absorbing the country’s incredible history and culture, enjoying spicy food and fresh mangoes, and watching kids play cricket in the streets. India to me means family -- there is nothing that is more treasured and valued.
5. How do your experiences and your cultural background impact the way you view the world?
Regular trips back to India throughout my life have certainly shaped my worldview and made me more passionate about working on social justice issues. Inequality is clear when you walk Hyderabad’s streets. Every encounter in India, from the homeless men or disabled beggars to the children of servants who are cleaning homes instead of going to school shaped my views. I also was challenged a lot when thinking about feminism in India -- while my family is full of well educated, strong, confident working women, it does seem whenever I go back that I see so many ways in which women still remain second-class citizens. Women are encouraged to follow their husbands after marriage, take care of the home, and have children rather than focus on career growth. Women’s rights issues are also correlated with economic class: sometimes, the poorest women have the least voice and are frequently subject to domestic abuse. There is a silence about issues like domestic abuse in the community as well, as no one wants to speak about it. Divorced women have a certain stigma against them, as well, so families sadly force women to stay in abusive/harmful marriages despite abuse to avoid social shame and stigma. My experiences motivate me to return there and work in the development, women’s rights and human rights field someday -- hopefully, soon.
6. In your opinion, what does it mean to be a girl/woman today?
Being a woman for me means having to grapple with multiple pressures -- the pressures to achieve academically and have a successful career while also balancing trying to have children and a family. The pressures on modern women particularly in the U.S. are different from ever before. Although we have won some battles in the feminist movement, we have lost others. While women today have won the battle of professional opportunity, we have also gained an additional pressure from society -- to be successful and academically accomplished. At the same time, the pressures of being a good wife and caring mother have not diminished. So now, women have expanded and unlimited professional opportunities -- coupled with the pressure to care for a family. So women have double the pressure on them from society.
Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled that I have the opportunities to pursue my passion and education, and to work to achieve my dreams in life. A century ago, I may not have had these opportunities as an American woman. At the same time, I think we have not won the feminist battle. Our goal should be to work towards ending these patriarchal assumptions that are ever more dangerous -- that women now can be, and should be, doing everything. We should not have such unrealistic burdens on our shoulders. We need to work towards a more equitable world, where we truly have the choice to make decisions for our own happiness. We need a world where we can choose to pursue only career success, or only a stable family life, for example, without suffering condemnation. And this is a world where men also equally contribute in the family, and where both partners have the choice to pursue the lifestyle they feel fits them best.
For me, the struggle is balancing all these pressures. I too want to be successful, have an international career contributing to social change, be a leader and an academic, be a writer, and also have a family and a loving, fulfilling home. As a woman, I feel this is a constant challenge, but one I am excited to tackle.
7. Finally, If someone asked you to recommend some music, what would you say? What are 2 songs you just can’t help replaying these days?
The Lazy Song - Bruno Mars
Take A Minute - K’naan
Love it! Thank you, Akhila for letting us know a little bit of the person "behind the words".
All pictures courtesy of Justice of All