5 Min ReadPeople 13 March 2020
When you grow up and live your life surrounded by remarkable women, you develop a special strength that can only come from being around these unique forces of nature
I would certainly not be where I am in my life without the various women who have shaped and molded me in so many different ways. They have influenced me consciously and subconsciously, intrinsically and cosmetically; they have shaped my inner-self and how I am viewed by the world.
Many of us are fortunate to have not just one, but several such women in our lives throughout the various milestones we experience, and I am blessed that I have had so many of them in my life.
There is a certain special type of strength that comes from being around women who are strong, yet gentle, and in many ways haughty but humble. I have learnt the art of being like water, to shape and adapt myself to meet life's many challenges only because of the feminine presence in my life. They always leave you with an impact one way or another.
While there have been countless women who have taught me things both big and small throughout my life, here are the five that I consider my strongest influences.
Paatti — My Grandmother
My clearest memory of my paternal grandmother, who I fondly called Paatti (Grandma), is that she was a constant ball of energy.
She raised nine birth children and adopted two more. And she even took in a maid or two who she raised as her own children. Including my grandfather, there were 13 people in the house at any given time. This obviously kept her on her toes at all times, and yet I never saw her frazzled. She was always warm, loving, and full of kindness to all that she met.
Paatti was a diminutive little woman but fiery when crossed. She managed to feed everyone and raise an incredible number of children on the single paycheck that my grandfather brought home. She was the true representation of the iron hand in a velvet glove and very clearly wielded the power in that household.
And she wasn't just the Queen of her household, she was also quite a well-respected personality within the community. People came to her with their troubles all the time. Whether it was a family dispute or problem in a marriage, they came to her for advice.
Paatti taught me the importance of making decisions, to never leave anything hanging in the air. To be definitive, to be clear and concise, and above all, to do it with a warm smile. Even today, in my mind's eye, I can see her with that enigmatic smile as she goes bustling about in the house.
Amma — My Mother
Amma is an incredible woman who taught me the true meaning of independence. In the 1960s, when women still largely played traditional roles and were homebound, especially in Malaysia where she grew up, she was already driving a car, working, and running the household all by herself since my father had to go abroad to study for an extended period of time.
As a working mother raising two kids by herself, she was always strong, independent, and resourceful. She gave me the confidence and ability to believe in myself regardless of whatever challenges I faced. She also taught me my culture, traditions, and to a great extent spirituality. She gave me an unshakeable belief in the Lord which sustained me through so many trials and travails. She remains the bedrock of my rational thought and behavior and is an intrinsic part of who I am today.
Mrs. Sena — My Teacher
Mrs. Padmavathy Senathirajah was my teacher in primary school and remained a teacher to me throughout my life — even today after she has passed on. She faced challenges undaunted, unbowed, and unabashed, and she took it all in her stride while juggling work and raising 3 young children on her own, at a very young age.
She taught me the meaning of resilience, and that responsibility comes with power and authority. I was a prefect and monitor in school, and she taught me how important it was to take my duties seriously.
She was a rigid counselor, teaching me to be so to others. I've never seen her without a smile and a kindly glint in her eye. She was full of compassion and her love sustains me till today.
Velma Jean — My Boss
Velma Jean Caulder was my first employer after I graduated college. She was a relentless boss, and a hard worker who taught me diligence and perseverance. She was a stickler for principles who did everything on time and in time. She taught me about the principles of planning, preparation, and projection. She taught me to research and analyze. Her greatest strength was that she did all of this in a cool, calm, and efficient manner. I learnt that from her and it has become a part of my personality today. Thank you, Velma Jean for that important lesson.
Umayal — My Wife, My Partner, My Soulmate
Umayal is a remarkable woman whose quiet strength has been unwavering over the years. She has been the balustrade I lean upon. She is my hook, my rope, and my ladder. She taught me not to give up on myself and my dreams. She put my dreams, passions, and vision ahead of her own. It took me years to be able to repay her in kind.
She put aside her passion for classical dance and put on hold her dreams of teaching dance while we focused on building our future together. It filled my heart with joy that I was able to sit in the audience years later and watch her perform on stage for a dream that she has always been so passionate about.
She is still, today, the one who prods and pulls and pushes me along to be the person that I need to be on a daily basis. She is my friend and guide, guardian, and sometimes somewhat like a Goddess!
From Paatti who taught me gentility, to Umayal, my life partner who taught me grace, to all the remarkable women who raised me and raised within me an innate strength to learn, to bend and bow, to learn to break and yet be unbroken; the strength of a woman is interwoven in me.
With you all in my life, every day is International Women's Day!
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Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
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Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
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Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.