CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!
Will you join us in celebrating Riddhi with a special gift today?
We come into this world as lifelong learners. The behavior we mimic early on in our development is indicative of the fact that we learn more from who people inherently are, rather than the teachings they espouse. Riddhi Mukhopadhyay grew up in Calcutta and Texas, a child brimming with self-confidence. Her assurance helped shield her from the gaze of differentiation during a time of universal awkwardness and never-ending darkness (a.k.a. middle school). Her gift of tenacity courtesy of the habitual surveilling of beloved matriarchs close by.
Her grandmother grew up during Partition in India. She wanted to become a physician, but wasn’t allowed to pursue her education the way she always wanted to. Eventually she got her master’s degree and became a teacher. Riddhi’s mother was a physician in Texas, but couldn’t practice for a prolonged period of time because of her immigration status. Completing her medical education and managing a career while raising three children was nothing short of herculean. Resilience is a well-known attribute in Riddhi’s household.
"I was never told that because I’m a girl I should be quiet, polite and not ask questions," she said. "There was no distinction between what was appropriate for a girl and what was appropriate for a boy. It also helped that I was the oldest in my family. I could ask the questions I wanted to and do what I wanted to and it was okay."
Shortly thereafter she joked that she has a great disdain for fancy children with preposterous sushi-eating habits that border on idolatry, unless they are Japanese or East Asian. A niche displeasure that we all can surely support.
Given Riddhi’s penchant for sleep or pulling off hilarious pranks, you might think she is connected to Legal Voice by way of a lawful slumber party. Sadly, that is not the case. It has been a circuitous journey that involves our now-defunct legal hotline, working for our friends at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and mission-aligned cases at the YWCA’s Sexual Violence Legal Services. Fortunately for us, that journey led her to the Legal Voice board, of which she is currently a member.
"How do we recapture the stories that are lost?"
Stirred by the writings of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and others, Riddhi thinks western feminism could benefit from an intersectionality that is rarely discussed: intersectionality with eastern feminism. A more intergenerational approach with a meaningful focus on hidden spaces and less known narratives might go a long way in unstifling the subaltern. How do we recapture the stories that are lost? There is no reason why Pauli Murray isn’t as well-known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Claudette Colvin was the vanguard that found herself in the shadows of Rosa Parks.
"Can those who have been disenfranchised and left as voiceless truly be heard? Even if we say we’re in a post-colonial or post-racial era, can we truly capture the stories of those who have been traditionally left out of the conversation and honor them?"
And how do we honor them? By not being afraid to ask questions. By having confidence in where we stand and what we believe despite working within a system that can be patriarchal, racist and oppressive. We will push ourselves forward and make sure we bring others along in the process, while making sure we listen to their voices. During our interview, Riddhi remarked that she didn’t need to give advice to younger women because they’ve been doing a lot more than many of us have been doing.
Maybe the advice is not needed when they’ve been observing who you are, Riddhi.
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This piece was based on an interview with Riddhi Mukhopadhyay and written by Phil Bouie. MORE STORIES
COME MEET RIDDHI!
We're thrilled to feature Riddhi Mukhopadhyay as our guest speaker at this year's Cocktails for a Cause—join us!