Ashwathi Pillai is one of Safecity’s Campus Ambassadors, an amazing writer full of initiative.
I’ve always been sort of an ambitious child, roaming around with a scarf full of dreams and aspirations (in tandem or otherwise). They may or may not have been pragmatic dreams, but they were dreams nonetheless. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say something along the lines of doing something better for the society and trying to carve my own niche. I was very passionate about topics such as gender equality, animal advocacy and LGBT+ rights. But I wasn’t very vocal back then. I guess maybe because I was (and am) a shy kid with anxiety issues and would always prefer drowning my head into a book rather than speaking in front of a group of people. I’m aware that’s kind of counter-intuitive, but I would find solace within myself and books (and cats!) and I chose to stay silent.
Fast forward to September 2014, and 16 year old me watching Emma Watson’s speech at the UN. It’s good to mention the fact that I absolutely love Harry Potter and the character Hermione, and I was ecstatic and inspired to see my childhood hero speaking at the UN about something that actually holds a lot of substance in the current scenario, about gender equality. A quote that stood out for me the most in her brilliant speech was: “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men and women to do nothing (Edmond Burke)”. I ended up thinking about the quote all night before going to bed and realised that I wasn’t doing anything substantial or even remotely beneficial to further the progress of such campaigns. I then decided to start writing online. I always wrote, but just in my diary – as writing was a very private affair for me. I then joined this wonderful writing website called Wattpad that helped writers get an audience for their writing. I wrote short stories and poetry about topics pertaining to everything but the kitchen sink: mental health, body positivity, LGBT+ positive narratives (and main characters), lead female archetypes, gender inclusion, etc. I somehow amassed over 1.5 lakh reads on a story about an FTM trans character, which then later got translated into German, Spanish and Italian by the Wattpad community to reach a broader audience. Even though it’s not my proudest piece of work – I’m glad that so many people were happy about a trans character being the protagonist. I then went on to start my own online magazine by the name of ‘Future Words of Yesterday’, which I know is a very pretentious name for a magazine, but I’m all about the pretentiousness! The magazine is a youth centric one that covers global issues such as body positivity, gender equality, mental health, slut shaming, animal advocacy, LGBT+ rights, global news, writing tips and much more. In addition to that, FWOY offers free classes to our readers in languages such as Hindi, Tagalog, German and Mandarin Chinese. Apart from my magazine, I also work for Clue, an application that uses science and data to provide actionable personal insights into female health. My job is to speak out about menstrual health and empower women to be in charge of their well-being, while pushing research forward.
A few years back, if you told me that I’d be doing all these things, I’d probably laugh and brush it off as being absurd and impossible. I was so self-conscious and awkward about myself – I could never imagine doing anything even remotely “empowering”. The fact that I’m doing business studies now and taking up so many projects at the same time is something that I never thought I’d do. To all the introverts and people like me who struggle with anxiety on a day-to-day basis: I know life can seem unfair at times, especially if you have something to say. But the good news is: there are other avenues for bringing in change! You don’t have to necessarily go to parties and start lobbying if you care about something. You can blog about it! It’s relatively so much easier to grab people’s attention these days, thanks to social media. And honestly, if I (someone who still struggles with anxiety and over-analyses even a simple conversation) could do stuff like this, I’m sure anyone can 🙂