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VOF - WEEK SIX

It took me more than a week to get over the shock of not having made it to the chosen 20 list of columnists on Pulsewire. I am a very very bad loser and have been one since I was a little girl. This is not because I have any kind of superiority complex about being the best, but because I work very very hard to compete with myself every day, every minute and every second of my creative life.

I have been writing for nearly 50 years now, writing seriously that is, and my parents, sister, brother and husband have egged me on to keep writing. So, after having worked so hard, won a a few top awards for writing in my country, after having authored 16 published books singly, with three mses under contract for future publication, my name not appearing in the final list was very very distressing, disturbing and depressing.

Then, while I carried on with the ordinary business of writiing for my bread, and sometimes, butter, I surfed through the writings of some of the chosen 20 and found myself wanting. Maybe I had not blogged enough? Maybe, I had not formed a group? Perhaps, I needed to network which I hardly did except responding to the feedback to my weekly inputs? Or, could be that I was over-confident and was not aware of it? Perhaps it was a combination of all these and more.

Never mind. Having lost the race however, it might not be possible for me to keep inputing the way I was inputting all the time. But I will occasionally come in and talk to you all, share my thoughts and feelings from time to time and most importantly, seek to understand all of you through the power of your brilliant minds and pens as you keep clicking the mouse and bang the keys and keep weaving webs of fact, reality, document real life stories of women across the world, to widen the horizons of my knowledge and to keep myself rooted to the earth I stand on.

Comments

Maria de Chirikof's picture

Hugs

I do hope you stay around and contribute and share with us still. I can imagine the pain of having not been selected but do hope it eases and you find your way back here more often! Jackie created a group called VOF fans for everyone who went on the journey together to keep in touch and support each other and just have fun together, it is here:

http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire/groups/9709

I hope to see you there when you can!

Maria

Dearest Shoma,

I've been thinking about you since I read your post, wondering how best to respond. Your post touched me.

Your assignments were incredible! You are a talented and wise woman with much to teach our community. I do not know if you have seen the conversation between Sanjukta and Jensine about you, so I thought I would share part of it because Jensine says it best:

"I can understand your upset, as it was an incredibly difficult process to review so many impressive and visionary voices - and how we wished we could bring on twice as many correspondents as we had slots! Shoma is absolutely impressive and we celebrate her pioneering and tireless dedication for women. There was not one thing "bad" about her application whatsoever, we loved it, as we did countless others that we were unable to select.

However, being an established journalist was not one of our deciding criteria. Nor was professionality of writing, as we announced.

We took all the factors of the application into account and it was a combination of all, including: the unique quality of each woman’s voice, her intimate relationship with the communities that she is a voice for, and her potential for her messages to create change on the world stage. Women from particularly unheard and under-represented regions and communities were absolutely emphasized, but it was not a 100% deciding factor. We did also consider if a woman was unlikely to have access to previous media training and the benefit that our program could offer her that she might not otherwise have access to. We have always felt passionately that we wanted this program to provide opportunity to as many women as possible who may not have access to other channels to get her voice out to the world."

Voices of Our Future is just one channel for using your Voice with World Pulse. PulseWire was created for you! We hope you continue to come and speak out...teach us what you've learned in the over 50 years of writing... be a mentor and a friend to all the new writers who are eager to connect with you... whatever you do, don't leave us, Shoma!

Thank you for sharing how the final selection made you feel. I want you to know you've been heard and a huge virtual hug has been sent your way.

Love,
Jennifer

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Dear Jennifer,

I actually understood during my period of 'grieving' over my non-selection that the columnists had to be women who had little or no access to other channels of writing, to women from little represented countries, cultures and ethnic minorities, women with problems and issues not known to the rest of the world and all that.

Taking all yours and the other selectors' comments about my inputs, I must also go ahead and say that I began my career professionally quite late in the day, when I was past 30 because before that, all my writing was amateur meaning, unpaid for. I was a teacher for many years of my life and wrote whenever I could between teaching, preparing, correcting, doing my duties as housewife, mother, etc so when I really established myself, most of the fellowships, scholarships etc for writing, jouranlism, creative writing and the lot were beyond my reach because in my country, there is a rigid age bar and one cannot even apply after one is 40 or 45. Thus, though I continued to strive to better myself and was even confident of fulfilling the requirements of every fellowship that I could have applied for that fell within my subject/s simply by reason of age! This applies to men too and there is no gender bias at least in this area.

The fellowships that were away from the country did not have an age-bar but they all needed a minimum qualification of Ph.D. which again, came to me only now. I registered in 2005 and finished my work in 2006 but the University dragged its feet, lost many documents and finally awarded me the title in April 2009 officially!

So, I am trying and sending in one application almost every other day so that I can win a fellowship that will bring enough money and challenge for me to be able to get back to Pulsewire as often as I can. Please pray for me so that I win at least one challenging fellowship that will restore my confidence in myself. At this stage, losing should not have mattered to me because I am now competing with myself in every way. I am even trying to lose weight and though I do not gym anymore, I do keep a strict eye on what I eat, when and how much.

Can this piece be shared with the rest of the members of Pulsewire? If it can, I would love everyone to read it because it is actually for everyone but specially for you. I would like to know who Sanjukta is because I have a close friend of that name.

ShomaChatterjee

Tina's picture

Experience and Leadership

Dear Shoma,
I have been a fascinated visitor to your journals and I am sure I will continue to gain from your experience, your leadership and your unique perspectives on the world. I am sorry you did not go through. Do not lose confidence in yourself though. You are an amazing writer with much to offer, I may be young (sort of) and potentially idealistically naive, but I strongly believe your age is your strength not your barrier to success! You just might need to go a different route.
Someone once told me that many people strive for something they thought they wanted, hit a wall then give up. The more walls we break through or go around to get where we want to be the more we know and understand just how important that goal is to us. Writing has obviously been a great passion for you, as has some form of recognition for your hard work and dedication, so let me bow down at first to that. It has been truly inspirational to me and I'm sure to many others.
I am pleased that you are continuing to inspire us all to continue our dreams in the Fans group though.
Please keep writing and visiting us often.
Many blessings
Tina

Dear Tina,

I am so happy that such a young person as you found interest in my journal articles which are reproductions of what appeared in some of the Indian newspapers in the past.

I know my age is a strength in a manner of speaking but in my country, so far as competitive fellowships and scholarships go, it is a handicap because the age of retirement at jobs is 60 and most of us are very active till 70.If we slow down and feel old it is because we are made to feel old and useless with this forced retirement. Besides, one stops earning and benefits for retired people do not exist on an ad hoc basis unless they have been government servants. Financially therefore, just the ordinary business of living is an uphill climb when your legs are getting weaker by the day to climb mountains. It is okay for people like myself who are workaholics and dreamers and obsessed with their work. But what of the rest of the senior population that is growing in numbers everyday?

The family unit used to be a strong source of support because grown-up children were supposed to look after their old parents. But with the change in our ideologies that support the materialistic rather than the emotional, family ties are getting weaker and children no more think it is their duty to look after their parents with financial backing even if they are staying far away in a different country. Children who do look after their old parents or live with them are complimented as 'wonderful children' though they are doing what they are expected to do because that is how they are brought up.

Globalisation and economic liberalisation have brought in the shopping malls and the liberal system of bank loans so young people are tempted to live beyond their means. When they find it difficult to make both ends meet even for themselves for their lavish lifestyles, how can they help their parents, tell me? The craze of plastic money called credit cards is another villain that is a temptation for the young to buy, buy and keep buying. They are always dreaming of buying a bigger car, a bigger house in a better location, going on a holiday that is more luxurious than the one they went to last year. If they excel in academics and do well in their careers, it is to realise their materialistic dreams and not to achieve excellence in their respective fields.

Then there are people like myself who will never accept any help in kind or money from their children. I looked after my mother for the last 18 years of her life and she passed away in my residence. This was possible because my husband was very supportive though he did not really like the idea of having to put up with a difficult mother-in-law. It was also possible because though she did not have much money of her own, she was not completely destitute and could support herself for medical care and her personal luxuries such as buying books. I liked the way she felt it was her right to live with me and get support from me because my younger sister and brother simply did not care.

But I do not accept even gifts from my daughter. I have too much self-respect since I began earning many years ago. I do not tell her that though because it would hurt her. So, I skirt this problem by writing out a cheque under some excuse, say, when they are going on holiday as her 'personal expense' so that pays for the gifts she has given me over the year. She is a working woman herself she insists. But she gives us without her husband's knowledge so I can understand that she does this becuase he might not like the idea of gift-giving to one's parents as he is an orphan and does not understand the value of having parents. He was brought up by a very good step-mother but he does not consider her contribution to his life any more and has turned his back to her for good now that he is earning well and doing well in life. I am not being moralistic at all. Each person has his or her own reason for behaving the way he or she is doing unless one is committing a crime like theft or murder or gang-war. Who am I to sit on judgement on others when there are so many imperfections in me even now?

So, I love to keep working but there are hundreds of senior citizens who would love to put their feet up and watch TV or do some gardening or read books but cannot because they must work to live. There was a television commercial about senior cititzens some years ago. It said, "they are not afraid of death. It is living that scares them."

ShomaChatterjee

Tina's picture

Dear Shoma

This is a very important topic that you bring up here and I am not sure I could do justice to your conversation in a comment, but I shall try. I agree that many people in my generation and younger (I am 36, mother to two boys and sometimes feeling it!) tend to careers for material gain rather than the pursuit of excellence. We were brought up to expect the world, that we could have it all and then some. Unfortunately more and more of us, especially women, are finding the pressures to be excellent at everything not just taxing on our own self esteem, health and general sense of well being but also on our family systems. It is becoming harder for us to be satisfied with what we have. We are the restless generation, jumping from job to job, door to door and sometimes from one relationship to another. Always it seems we should strive for more and that whatever we already have is not enough.
I have navigated these waters by choosing to put my greatest passions before anything else:my children, my family, a healthy planet, a desire to serve my global community for the betterment of all human society and my new found passion and quest for excellence in writing. That's more than enough for me.

The recent fight for Women's rights and the pursuit for equality has also created a new phenomenon: Independence. Today we as women, in whichever generation we find ourselves in, feel the need to be financially, emotionally and even to some extent physically separated from our families and traditional support networks in order to prove a sense of self sufficiency, capability and strength to ourselves. This has created a massive shift in a relatively short space of time in history. Women, in many parts of the world, are no longer expected to take care of their families; and the "elders in the village" are no longer expected to be taken care of, or to work, to teach, to share their knowledge of love and life with the rest of us until the day they die. But it doesn't have to be this way.

The world is changing and has been changing very rapidly. All of us, it seems, are adjusting and rediscovering new roles and identities for ourselves.

I wish to send you a great deal of love, if I may be so bold to do so. I hope one day there will be an opportunity to meet with you in person, to share our thoughts over a spiced cup of tea.
With the greatest respect,
Tina

Shoma Chatterjee's picture

Response to Tina

Dear Tina,

I am amazed by the depth of your perceptions at your young age. It is good that you responded and even agreed to some of my comments because it helps me to look at the world through the eyes of a woman a generation younger than me. But then, change is the only thing that remains constant as we already know too well. We must accept change with the boldness it calls for and there is no use crying over "the days that were" always feeling that the past was better than the present and that the future is frightening. If the young do not think like we do, who are we to complain, tell me? Yes, they are obsessed with the material goodness in life and there is nothing wrong in it if you do not place it in perspective. But when you place it against the emotions you l lose on your way to attain a house, a car, an air-conditioner, a washing machine, that leads finally to lose some humane and humane values that are universal and are not barred by time, place, language, age, race or sex.

Love, honesty, commitment, integrity, industry are universal values. A thief will always be a marginalised man no matter what justification he has to offer for his negative way of life. A murder will remain a murder and corruption is always a stigma that should be removed from society. Similarly, poverty in any country is a state-centric criime. It is the deliberate and conscious failure of the governmental machinery to solve the problem of mass poverty such as in my country. Independence from British Rule has worsened the situation. Does this mean that we perhaps did not need Independence? Of course we did but we threw it away because our government has gone back to financial and moral reliance on Uncle Sam, the most unreliable country for dependiing on.

I am a very secular person but my husband is not. He hates the very term ' Muslim' so how do I resolve this difference in ideology? I simply avoid discussing anything communal with him. In the long run, there is a communication gap between us so far as discussion on certain subjects go. But we must learn to live with it without giving up our personal convictions. It is a simulated peace I agree, but it IS peace and again, we must accept it the way it is.

It has been a wonderful experience sharing ideas with a young lady who is two years younger than me daughter but when we interact, the years between simply disappear into thin air. Do they not?

Please keep in touch.

ShomaChatterjee

JaniceW's picture

sanjukta.choudhury

Shoma, I encourage you to connect with member Sanjukta who spoke out so passionately for you when she heard you had not made the final selection. Many of us have shared in your wisdom and gained insight from your perspective on empowering women in India and around the world. And therefore, I hope that we will not lose your voice but that you will feel more motivated to speak out for those who are silent or unheard.

"It was quite shocking for me to feel the absence of Shoma Chatterjee (India) from both the lists. As far as I know she is a great votary of women inclusive development and one of the first journalists in our country to espouse the gender mainstreaming policies tirelessly. Her stories are the mirror of her conviction........, her alternative thinking.Her VOF assignments also reflect her tireless effort in bringing some hidden treasures beneath the surface."

http://www.worldpulse.com/node/10025

Dear Sanjukta,

Had I a choice to question my omission from the two lists, which I do not have and will not questoin even in my wildest dreams, I would have raised just one. Why, if the mentors and evaluators did not wish to pick professional journalists who are already writing as a vocation, did they allow them to participate in the contest in the first place?

Not that I am regreting my experience of having networked with so many very wise and wonderful women across the globe. Not that I am trivilaising the decision or the shortlisting or the evaluation. Not that I am trying to look down upon the bright young ladies who have made it to the shortlist which they well deserve. But I only feel that had I been previously warned, I might have still entered without the hope of being shortlisted. It would not have made me feel, at least for a few days, that what I have been doing all these years really does not add up to much, according to my mentors and evaluators. That I have not achieved anything after having foght for the cause of women through the power of my pen for 30 years. It made me feel very very small. But me being me, irrepressible and indefatigable as a close friend qualifies me, I rose from the ashes and was ready to face my computer screen again as I found my hands banging away on the keys, not with a vengeance, no. But with a lot of love. When God closes a door, he also opens a window. I lost the columnist shortlist, but look at the wonderful feeback I have been getting.

So I am taking this opportunity to thank my mentors and evaluators for having cut me out of the shortlist because it got me lots and lots of wonderful friends who like my work.

ShomaChatterjee

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