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Identities, Stories, Conflicts, Dreams

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

As soon as we received the email from the Led By Foundation, describing the upcoming session on 9th August, all of the fellows had been excitedly looking forward to it. It was also the third and the last combined session before the graduation ceremony, where all the fellows of both sections would be together.

The email went like this- A hundred hats – Adfer speaks on “Identity” and the multiple identities we all wear. A thousand words – Ambarien speaks on how a picture is worth more than a thousand words and how storytelling builds up images, which are more powerful than the words that make them up. A million trolls – Arfa speaks on how to exhibit grace in the face of vitriol and toxicity in the workplace or public space. A Billion Stars – Huma speaks on passion and perseverance, shedding light on dealing with self-doubt and on harboring self-confidence

With such captivating topics and even more dynamic speakers, one couldn’t stop thinking how empowering it would be to hear them speak and to get the questions answered.

The session started with a pulse check, as is the norm. The fellows were supposed to nominate fellows from the other section to keep the chain moving. While everyone talked about how they spent their last week, college, work, and life; there was a bittersweet moment of realization that the fellowship is going to end soon. It was also interesting to note that three people had their birthdays that day, siblings of two of the fellows- Fatima Juned’s Brother and Ammara’s sister and one of the speakers, Arfa’s son. Despite the celebrations, the commitment that these people had towards the session was commendable. It was followed by a table topic discussion where the fellows of one section were paired up with the other sections’ and sent into breakout rooms for a few minutes. Section A fellows were assigned the topic- Dreams and Section B- Airports, and they had to speak about their topics with their paired fellow for a whole minute. It was similar to what we did at the end of the second combined session with Sabina Nawaz, where we discussed Beds and Shoes.

The speakers were welcomed by a muted applause of the fellows sitting in their homes, all over India, some even abroad, all connected together at that moment, clapping in unison, cheering the speakers.

Adfer Muzaffer, a Human Resources Professional who did her Master’s in Mind, Brain & Education from Harvard University, started her talk on how do we navigate through our multiple identities- the multi-dimensional overlapping categories constructed by the society that might often be conflicting. New experiences and the search for a better understanding of self reveals new identities which further complicate the already complex definition of ‘Identity’. Identity development is a journey in meaning-making, a process that starts with the identification of the different aspects of identity, the labels associated with them, and the stereotypes surrounding those labels. As one gradually understands one’s truth, they free themselves of the environmental and contextual influences and finally realize that their Identity is something that they define irrespective of what the socio-cultural norms dictate. It is their truth, and that is what they have to stay honest too.

Ambarien Alqadar talked about the power of storytelling and how they shape the narratives. She is a filmmaker, screenwriter, and professor who tells universal stories with a culturally specific lens that makes one question the gaps in representation. Indian Muslim Women face triple marginalization because of their Racial, Religious, and Gender Identities. Their silent stories of struggles get lost amidst the loud, sensational, and glamorous media world. In the end, she emphasized the following key points- know who you are, how do you want to carry yourself, and how do you want to project yourself. Don’t be a hypocrite, have self-respect but also have a thick skin.

Arfa Khanum Sherwani, an award-winning journalist, also joined us for 15 minutes, taking time out of her busy schedule for the fellows to teach us a lesson on handling toxicity with grace. According to her, there are three major intersecting domains- Family, Workspace, and Public Space. Being an Indian Muslim Woman, one has to prepare oneself to fight multiple battles parallelly in all three spaces. She also stressed that we need to try and occupy the public spaces as much as we can. “No matter how much someones tries to shame you, keep going. What you do today will be available to younger generations. Be the mentors you didn’t have.”

Huma Qureshi was kind enough to join the session in the middle of her work and shared her experiences on self-doubt & self-confidence. Just the way success is relative; failure is also relative. Being at the top, you are setting examples but you do not have standards to follow or yardsticks to measure yourself. We tend to compare our insides with other people’s outsides. While answering the question put up by one of the fellows, she said that, just because someone is not the center, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have value. She also emphasized the importance of being as authentic as possible. We may disagree with each other on a lot of things, but we need to be honest and express our thoughts in the most humane way possible.

After bidding goodbye to these amazing speakers by showering them with virtual love through paper hearts and a vote of thanks, the team and fellows moved on to the Pitches. This week, it was Ibtesam’s and Khushi’s turn to talk about something that they are passionate about. Ibtesam talked about Netflix and Big data which are two of her favorite things. It was interesting to learn about the business model of Netflix and how it is leveraging its user data to earn revenue. Khushi’s presentation titled ‘make it feel like home’ was about carving out your own space amidst toxicities. She discussed the need to build a community that aids the construction of safe spaces for isolated students. Both the pitches were appreciated by the LBF team and the fellows. Followed by some housekeeping tasks and discussions about the deliverables, the session finally ended, leaving everyone inspired to think about their own Identities, Stories, Conflicts, and Dreams.

Khansa Fahad is currently pursuing B.Tech in Electronics and Communications at Jamia Millia Islamia and a 2020 LedBy Her Fellow

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