Interview by Divya Krishnan
Name: Velamoor Krishnaswamy Anuradha (*South Indian spelling)
Age: 51 years old
City you were born in: Guntur, Andhra Pradesh
City you currently reside in: Acton, Massachusetts
// Tell me about your childhood.
I grew up in a small village called Tiruchanoor. We had a joint family –– my uncles and aunts and cousins all lived in one house. We were a very religious family. I had a very protected, secure childhood. I never felt lonely, and I was always surrounded by people. I did my schooling up to tenth grade in the village, and then after tenth grade I went to a small town nearby. I was always getting top grades in school.
// What was it like growing up as a woman in Tiruchanoor?
Yeah, very conservative. They thought I would just get a basic education, get married and raise children. But I was pretty ambitious, so I pushed and got my Master’s in Engineering.
// Can you think of a time you felt particularly aware of your gender and how it led you to be treated?
I never felt really aware in school because I was really smart. Nobody looked down on me... Yeah, they didn't pressure me from the beginning saying, “Oh, you have to study.” Originally when I did well, they said, “Oh, now we have to find a groom with a higher level of education.” My grandmother really pushed me; she wanted me to get an education. I was kind of the trendsetter for the whole family.
// What would you say you are most passionate about/are interested in/enjoy doing?
Cooking. Apart from my work, I like cooking traditional South Indian recipes like vathakuzhambu and kootu. Recently, I just started gardening. I like flowering plants, roses, hibiscus, and decorating my prayer room with flowers.
// Tell me about a time you empowered yourself.
I wanted to go to a really prestigious school to get a high paying job, so I got my Master’s. I never told anybody in my family. I just did the entrance exam. They were shocked and surprised when I got in.
// What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time when you were dealing with that struggle?
I wish my parents had set higher goals for me in my childhood. I could have done better. I wish I had known more, tried more, and had more guidance. I would tell myself, “Aim higher.” I was pretty smart. I could have done a lot more. Yeah, I didn’t reach as far as I should have.
// Do you have any advice for girls who are also trying to realize their power and empower themselves and how should they practice that in their daily life?
Yeah, don’t give in to the pressure that you have to be really pretty and attract boys. Set high goals for yourself. Work hard.
// Who taught you the importance of empowerment?
Well, I sort of...taught myself. I didn’t want to settle down as one of the ladies who just sort of...well, I looked around at all my aunties and my friends and I didn’t want to be like that.
// Why do you think empowerment is important to you as an individual?
You have to live with self esteem. If you don’t, you get pushed around.
// Why do you enjoy and appreciate being a womxn and experiencing “girlhood”?
We are more sensitive. We are more meticulous. You can be a mother –– create something nobody can.
// Is there anything you’d like us to know so we can share it with our Global Girlhood community?
We still have a long way to go to where girls could be, should be. Financial independence is very important. Every girl should strive to be financially independent. -GGH
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
This interview really struck me. I know that a lot of women around the world experience a pressure to be pretty and just get the most basic education, sometimes even none at all. However, it is always different to hear the personal stories they have to share. Velamoor is just one of many women around the world who experience this during their lives.
Velamoor and I have a lot of similarities. I too grew up, and maybe I am still growing up, with a very conservative family. I love them all so much and we all very close, but I believe they don’t push me hard enough in a sense. They never really aspire for me to go do big things, and they mostly push my younger brother to do it. They tell my brother to go to the best schools and get the highest education, but not met. I always have to be my own motivation. I have to be the one that tells me to do better to become better.
I am amazed by how much Velamoor has done to get where she is. She worked hard to strive better for herself and not let societal pressure dictate what she should become. One day, I wish to become like her. I want to be able to reach my goals and dreams. Women are truly amazing beings. We can do so much, we just have to work hard and dream big. Anything can happen if we put our minds to it.