Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Today's episode of the Finding Fertile Ground Podcast: Stories of Grit, Resilience, and Connection features Dr. Daivati Bharadvaj, who overcame bullying in her teen years to reclaim her power and her Indian heritage. Listen to my interview with Daivati here.
Daivati’s parents arrived in the United States with $24 and four-year-old Daivati. She missed her family in India but has fond memories of her childhood, helping her dad in the garden and her mom in the kitchen.
Even though her parents both were professionals and highly educated, they had to start at the bottom when they moved to the United States. Her dad was a mechanical engineer, but he had to start as a draftsman...and her mom had a master’s in economics but had to work at McDonald’s in spite of being a vegetarian.
When she was a teenager, Daivati’s family moved to the Jersey Shore, in a much less diverse community. At the tender age of 13, Daivati experienced bullying, name calling, and a racist attack by a gang of boys. It made her question her value and beauty, and it also made her feel embarrassed of her family, brown skin, and Indian heritage.
Somehow Daivati found the grit and strength to sign up for her school talent show and perform an Indian dance before the whole school. She reclaimed her Indian identity and became proud of her heritage.
She recalls, “This is for me, and this is for my people, and for my culture...I danced for both countries that I had so much love for.”
Daivati explains, “To belong in this country, you have to create your own sense of belonging and prove your right to be here...so I was saying, ‘Here I am, get used to it.’”
In high school she fell in love with jazz, and Daivati says John Coltrane saved her life. She threw herself into music and dance, and she declared to the band director that he must teach her how to play the sax!
Daivati became a naturopathic physician, and she shares her thoughts on COVID-19 and the way it’s affecting the world and her own patients. She met her husband online, and now they are expecting their first child in August.
I asked her what it was like to be pregnant during COVID-19, and she said it can be a little bit lonely. She can’t get together with friends for belly rubs, for example. But at the same time she is thrilled to be pregnant after being told it would probably not happen. She wants to sing out from the top of a mountain in her own “Sound of Music” moment!
She’s deeply inspired by her parents, who taught her and her brother to spend time with people who can teach them something and show them how to be better human beings. Daivati says her parents are “so full of love and joy and a deep sense of connection with others,” and they make other people feel like they are part of the family.
She admires her parents for “the courage it took to come here because they thought it would be a better life for themselves and their kids...nothing they experienced has ever made them bitter or resentful or dark. They kept that shine...that’s the spark that inspires me every day.”
I got the honor of meeting Daivati’s parents last fall, and I agree with her sentiments. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Daivati better during this interview, and I’m excited to welcome her little one.
You can reach Daivati through her website, Alive and Well Healing Arts, or on LinkedIn or Facebook. Listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast channel or online here, or read the transcript below.
On the next episode I interview Rabbi Debra Kolodny, a veteran of social justice movements and a bisexual rights activist who brings a spiritual perspective to their work. They currently serve as the spiritual leader of Portland’s UnShul and executive director of Portland United Against Hate. They have been out on the streets many nights recently. They also launched the Portland Spirit Led Justice Alliance to support, expand, and amplify the contribution of spiritual leaders and communities in justice campaigns.
Marie: Welcome to the Finding Fertile Ground Podcast where I discover stories of grit, resilience and connection. I'm your host, Marie G-G. And this podcast is brought to you by Fertile Ground Communications. We help organizations and people discover what makes them special and help them share that with the world. Look us up on fertilegroundcommunications.com. My guest today is Daivati Bharadvaj. I met Daivati online in the Nasty Women Get Sh&t Done Facebook group and we finally got to meet in person last fall at Voices from the Margins, the event I coordinated at which Olive Bukuru Kabura spoke...she was the very first guest on my podcast a few weeks ago. Daivati is an Indian immigrant who experienced a traumatic incident at age 13. But she rose above that to reclaim her Indian heritage. Now she's a naturopath in Portland and is expecting her first child during COVID-19. Good morning, Daivati. How are you doing?
Daivati: I'm doing pretty well. Yeah. ready to start the week ahead, I guess.
Marie: Yeah. So tell me about how COVID-19 has affected you and your life.
Daivati: It's been a pretty eventful time. For me being a healthcare provider and a primary care physician working in private practice, it was a big hit at first, a broad pivot from being able to go to the clinic every day and see patients in person to switching to telemedicine and not really knowing how to do that and I'm horrible at IT. So for me, it was a lot of, you know, technical glitches and I got to the point of wanting to throw my computer out the window one day and but you know, we stuck it out and it was it was okay.
But it was a lot for my patients to take on too. And I think the uncertainty of this virus and this pandemic, the lack of knowledge around it, we're still learning so much every day, right. And we're still relearning or changing what we learned. So I think that in general, what I see in my practice is it's brought out a lot of fear and anxiety and to a large degree depression in a lot of my patients and so just sort of not just pivoting in terms of the telemedicine, but also pivoting in terms of how to provide care from a distance and how to be a lot of the spiritual, emotional, and mental support that people need. All the while, you know, processing all the information and digesting all the science every day and keeping up with the articles and information and research. I don't know that I've given myself enough time to process all of it, to be honest, taking it you know, one day one week at a time.
Marie: Are you still doing telemedicine mostly?
Daivait: I'm doing a hybrid of both. We we've been reopening gently at the clinic the past few weeks, and so we've kind of redesigned new protocols, switched a whole lot of things. In terms of our office space in furniture and disinfecting procedures and things like that, so I'm seeing both. I still go in most days of the week and I see some people in person and then the rest through telemedicine as much as possible. We're still offering telemedicine just for everyone's safety. If they don't need to come in, we can still do a virtual consult. Yeah, so I but I have to say I feel very fortunate because even though I feel the heartbreak around the world and the suffering all around us, I myself haven't personally been excessively affected by this pandemic. To the extent that I'm fortunate, you know, my husband and I are healthy, our families are healthy, we have a roof over our heads, we're safe, we can eat good quality foods and take care of ourselves and go for walks and things like this. And I know a lot of people can't so you know, I feel it definitely has brought out the injustice and unfairness of things in the world. Because those who have continue to have and those who do not have suffer the most. And that seems to be historically true. Every time something happened, and we're seeing it again now. And for me, the level of injustice and how this whole pandemic has played out is just crushing to my soul. It just highlights all the inequities that were already present and bring some more to the surface. And it makes me seriously think about how do we change that.
And to that extent, I've joined a few organizations that are working to talk about those kinds of questions and challenges. I don't know that we have any simple answers, but it's going to require huge structural shifts in terms of culturally how we think about each other. And then a lot of the social determinants of health and how do we bring access to not just medical care, but quality food and clean water and clean air and reliable housing, and all these other things to the people who are most vulnerable right now?
And then there's climate change in the way that climate change is affecting the most vulnerable in our world. It's overwhelming. Yeah.
Marie: Do you think that you're approaching COVID-19 differently than a traditional doctor or like as a naturopath? Do you have different perspectives on it at all?
Daivati: Oh, you know, I'm not sure how allopathic medical doctors are approaching it, I would say as the naturopathic physician, the main differences are we're looking at it from a more holistic perspective in terms of treating each person individually as a unique human being that they are and really digging deeper to the root causes, issues and their health issues. We probably take a more broader perspective in terms of understanding their environment and their community, you know, their life at home and what things are accessible to them and what's not.
And I think this idea that there's no real separation between mental emotional and physical health, right, it's all part of one big sphere of how we look at each human being. So, in that sense, I think naturopathy has a more wholesome feel to it, which is what drew me to it in the first place. And, and also, I mean, a lot of my approach with my patients, especially around pandemics and COVID-19, right now has been to strengthen immunity and optimize their health so that...we can't know who's going to be infected or who's going to acquire the disease and who's going to fall sick and how they'll overcome it or not. But what we do know is that there are certain things like good nutrition and hygiene and support for immunity that helps people either prevent, you know, getting the disease or if they do get hit, hopefully they won't get hit as hard and they'll be able to recover more quickly.
Marie: Let's look back to your childhood. Tell our listeners about where you grew up and what your childhood was like and more about your back your back story.
Daivati: My childhood was pretty eventful. Well, so I was born in India, in the state of Gujarat. And I have very few memories at that early age. But I do remember funny things like my great grandmother used to sing these traditional old, old Indian folk songs all in Gujrati. And she was like an encyclopedia of knowledge of culture and songs and music, and she never wrote anything down. It was all passed by through oral tradition. So she would just sing song after song after song and my very first word that I learned wasn't mom or dad or anything like that. It was biju, which means another one, another one.
Marie: Wonderful story. I love that.
Daivati: So she would sing a song and I would pretend to fall asleep and then the minute the song would be over, I'd pop open my eyes wide open and say, will you sing me another one? Another one.
Marie: Is that your first memory?
Daivati: That's one of my first memories. She had so much patience...she would just sing and sing and sing...and sadly, no one really recorded her songs. So we've tried to go back and find them and you can't really find them on the internet or anything like this. So I'm not sure where those songs will be at this point, but that was one of my earliest memories.
Yeah, I remember my aunts and uncles and cousins and I remember funny things like, you know, drinking warm cardamom milk from actual buffalos. And it was just delicious. Just strange things. Like, I remember there was a park that my cousins used to play in like a little playground, and we would have races and running against each other and stuff as toddlers.
But, you know, the big part about my childhood was that when I was four years old, my family immigrated to the United States, and we lived in New Jersey, and we lived in a pretty diverse small city. And that was actually a very exciting time for me; I made a lot of friends and different cultures. I learned to say, you know, poopy words in different languages. And you know, I mean, I grew up with all the stuff like Solid Gold on TV and I would dance along with that. And I would sing, you know, Michael Jackson and Madonna songs. I was truly an American in a lot of ways at such a young age, even as an immigrant, and even for someone learning English for the first time, which was really hard, especially at four years old. So that was kind of an earlier start to my childhood.
And then what happened next, well, we moved again to the Jersey Shore, and I was 13 years old. And that was kind of a darker side to my childhood. We moved to a town that was all white, and we were the only sort of non-white family at least that I knew of. Anyway, that was the first time in my life I ever realized that I was somebody who is different and didn't belong. And I saw myself as this brown person, this alien. So there was a lot of bullying.
There was a lot of mockery and hatred and I think a lot of that stems from ignorance and ignorance leads to fear. And then when you're fearful of something or someone you don't like them, and you want them to be gone so I definitely got that message loud and clear by a lot of different small and big ways. I guess the biggest things that stand out in my memory are you know, being bullied by other girls in school in the gym locker room, being given a razor to shave my legs, and just being thought of as being this disgusting person because I wasn't light or blonde or you know, pretty and that really shaped me at age 13.
When you know you're at a stage in life, that you're just starting to understand what it's like to be a woman that transition from being a girl to a young woman and not knowing what's going on with your body and then to feel that you're just ugly. That was really hard. It was a small thing, but it landed in my heart in a big way. And the other thing that stands out to me is I was assaulted one day walking home from school by a group of boys who groped my body and said some really horrible things and I just remember freezing in that moment, unable to breathe or fight back and not knowing what was going to come next. And again feeling like not only did I not belong, but I was inferior and I was weak. And somehow I deserved that or somehow I guess I yeah, I don't know how to finish that sentence. It was it was extremely scary but also it was like I had not an out of body experience. I was lifted away maybe as a form of self-protection and just waited it out and then eventually all that ended and that changed something internally for me in the sense that it broke my innocence a little bit and I no longer saw America as the you know, multicultural melting pot of love and acceptance, you know, cultural celebration, it was more like if you're not white, you don't get to be here and you don't get to live and you don't get to thrive. It was really heartbreaking for me to realize that and and it also taught me shame for the first time in my life. And I became ashamed of my own culture and my background, my people, including my own family. I didn't want to be seen with them. I didn't even want to be seen myself.
And I had learned around that time that there was a terrorist group, not too far from us, but far enough away that we were safe from it, I guess. But it was a group of white terrorists who had attacked Indian people. And they were called the Dot Busters, because they would attack people wearing bindis on their foreheads. They would beat them into a coma and sometimes to death. And there were I think, 58 cases in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. And almost none of the attackers were charged. There was no accountability. There was no punishment and it as it turned out, because, you know, even though people went to the police, they tried to report these hate crimes but were never taken seriously. They were never really believed and nothing was ever done. So a group of them got together on their own and fought back. And I remember that so clearly at the time, because when I was, you know, 13-14, I remember thinking, you know what, no one's going to believe me either. And I don't want to make anyone else worry or fight my own battles.
I knew the teachers at school weren't on my side, there were no other students in school on my side, there was no one I could go to. So if I wanted to survive, I had to fight back, just like these other people did. And I didn't know at first how that would be. And I hadn't really even thought about it. I just knew that survival mode kicked in for me, and then one day, so you know, at the time, or for a few years by that point, I'd been learning classical Indian dance, and it was really fun. I loved it. It was very challenging, but it was also really expressive. And so you know, one day there was a talent show announced at my school and I signed up to participate and do Indian dance and I have no idea what was in my brain that day. I don't know if it was bravery or what.
It was like, yes. It was like you're fighting back. Yeah, right. Like the people fighting the dot busters.
Marie: Wow. That's amazing.
Daivati: It was sort of like my moment to say, No, this is who I am. And I'm not down anymore. So yeah, it probably was my fight back. And you know, I performed on the stage, I got dressed up in a sari, you know, tied up my hair and had jewelry on and I put on my bindi, right in the middle of my forehead, and I got on stage and I was so nervous and the whole dance was a blur. I don't know what I did. I don't remember if I danced or what? I just danced and I could feel once I started moving, and the music was on and lights are on. I just felt like this is for me, and this is for my people. And this is for my culture. And I actually I started to feel proud again. About being Indian, but also about being American because this is part of what America is about, at least for me, it was. And I danced for both countries that I had some love for. And when it was over, I was still so nervous. I just ran off the stage. And then the one of the directors came after me and said, you’ve got to get back on that stage. You have a standing ovation.
I couldn't believe it. And I was too timid to get back on that stage. But that whole experience changed something in me and it changed something in almost everybody else around me and I realized that anyone who wants to belong in this country, you have to create your own sense of belonging. You have to prove your right to be here and I guess for a 13 year old or 14 year old that I was at the time that was my way of doing it. That was my way of announcing my birth into here I am. Get used to it.
Marie: The boys that attacked you. Did they go to your school? Did you have to see them?
Daivati: Yeah, I don't know if they were in the audience, I just would try to keep some distance. I never, I never directly challenged them or confronted them about it. I never reported anything. I just kind of found my way to protect myself and hold my head up high and do what I needed to do.
Marie: You had some sort of inner strength that was keeping you going, obviously,
Daivati: Yes. And I have to credit my family for that because the love that I had from them and have for them, that's what gave me that strength. I felt so deeply cared for and embraced and cherished by my whole family that I knew deep down inside. I knew even if I never told them or even if they wouldn't be able to do anything about it. They were still there for me. I knew that without a doubt. That's what built that inner confidence, I think and that sense of courage to even put my name down on the list of performers.
Marie: Did you have siblings?
Daivati: Yes, I have a younger brother and I don't actually know what his experience was like. But I think, because he started much younger in that school district, I think there were probably a couple other students of color in his cohort, so I'm not sure. I mean, he seemed to have an easier time with things. He had a group of friends and he was thriving in school.
Marie: And so what about in high school? What was that like?
Daivati: Oh, high school was a little better. And I think by that point, I had, you know, I had made some friends and I had decided I had fallen in love with jazz and oh, yes, that was my thing. And it was really weird because everybody else was listening to the pop, you know, 80s and 90s stuff and I wasn't really into it that much anymore. I was more into stuff that was maybe a generation or two ago. I remember back then, you know, you would go to the music store in the mall and buy audio cassettes. I went to the store one day and I was in the, you know, Gershwin aisle. And, there was this lovely older couple, you know, a senior couple, and the man just looked at me, he said, Aren't you in the wrong generation?
Marie: Oh my gosh, who are your favorite jazz musicians?
Daivati: Oh, I love John Coltrane, John Coltrane in a way saved my life. Because the time that all of this was going on, it wasn’t just dance, but it was also music that I threw myself into. And I listened to a variety of different things. But there was just something about the way he played saxophone, that the emotion and the intensity and this sort of bittersweetness about it, like he was, I don't know, crying out for something in his music. And I felt that same level of expression and myself that I couldn't articulate, but it was this wailing. At the same time, this rebirth and his music that I could feel, and I could never articulate any of this at that age. But I just knew that that was the stuff that resonated with me.
So I wanted to be like John Coltrane and I decided that I wanted to learn to play saxophone. So I went to the band director one day and I said, I want you to teach me how to play saxophone. And he said, okay. And he said, well, you know, there's a store that you can buy us instruments from. But if you want to get one I will teach you and I think he was maybe blowing me off or maybe not sure that I was serious enough because, you know, here's a slight punky little 14 year old, you know, just marching up to this guy. He doesn't know anything about me and I was just demanding lessons. So my dad took me to the store and we bought a saxophone, and I went back the next week and went right back to him and said, Okay, I have a saxophone Teach me and he kind of looked shocked and puzzled and he smiled. He said, okay, a deal’s a deal. So I would get private lessons. And by the end of the year, when I went into high school, I was actually good enough to play with the high school band. So I did marching band and I was one of those band geeks, which was awesome. And I played in the jazz band, which I absolutely loved. And I think through music and art and dance is where I started to make my friends. I was on some of these fun geeky things like the science quiz bowls
Marie: Oh, really? They didn't we didn't have it was my high school. I’ll bet that was fun.
Daivati: That was fun. We would go, you know, once every few weeks, we'd go into some competition with other schools. And so I basically was one of those nerdy kids who found my tribe.
Marie: And how did you decide to become a naturopath?
Daivati: So when I went to college, I was originally thinking, you know, I signed up to study biology and nutrition. And I originally wanted to go into research. I had worked in a research lab. I wanted to be one of those people who understood biochemistry and find cures for diseases and things like this. And as I continued on that path, I realized that I love the science of it, but I love the humanities part too, sort of the social understanding of you know, why is there famine? Or why is there inequity and access to clean food or clean water or health care distribution around the world. And that aspect of social science was really thrilling for me. And I realized that after a few years of working in a lab that I just couldn't do that anymore. I wanted to be around people. And I remember also thinking at the time that there were a lot of things that were wrong with the way that medicine is practiced in this country. So I mentioned this to a friend one day and she had a mutual friend who had just gotten accepted into naturopathic medical school here in Portland. So I spoke with her about it and she said, “Well, have you heard about naturopathic medicine and I hadn't and she gave me a brochure to the college here. And I took it home, read it cover to cover and I just knew in that moment that that's what I was meant to do.
Marie: On the other side of the country.
Daivati: Yep. Yeah. So I I flew out to Portland to be interviewed. Which is where I went to upstate New York, which is where I went to college, flew out to Portland to do an interview. Loved the school. I loved Portland; it was one of those sunny February weekends and I went to the gorge and it was it was a little bit deceiving because I didn't know about the rain part.
You know, flowers blooming and it was Valentine's weekend, everybody seemed really happy. It was like a little utopia. So that's when my decision was made. So I ended up in in naturopathic medicine.
Marie: Yeah. And how did you meet your husband?
Daivati: We met a very old-fashioned traditional way, which is called online. We met on a matrimonial website for Indian people, which is actually global. And I had originally joined and then took my profile off after a couple months; it was just a little too scary for me. But then I you know, I decided to try it again. So it was sort of at the end of my subscription, and he contacted me one day out of the blue and now mind you, he was living in Toronto at the time. And so when he contacted me, I thought, well, why is this guy, you know, messaging me all the way from Toronto, but we started talking and we really hit it off. And then we started talking every day. And as they say, you know, love kind of falls out of the sky and lands in your lap. And that's totally how it was for us. And we had a lot of details to figure out like, who was moving where to make this happen? There was a lot of flying back and forth and a lot of time spent on the phone and, and getting to know each other over time, but it kind of all came together in the end and he was able to move here.
Marie: So you had a long distance relationship for a while.
Daivati: Yeah, yeah.
Marie: So a matrimonial website--is that like online dating but with the intent to find a life partner?
Marie: Oh, interesting. So you're not going to find as many creeps around?
Daivati: No, they’re there too. The website is called Shaadi.com, but a lot of my friends would call it Shady.com. There was one fellow who contacted me and he found me on the internet somehow and he would stalk me at work. So yeah, that's why I took my profile down. When I rejoined I had a different name and made it so that would be really hard for someone to find my true identity.
Marie: And how long have you been married now?
Daivati: Since November of 2016.
Marie: And you're expecting your first child?
Daivati: That's right.
Marie: And when is the baby due?
Daivati: Baby is due August 30. So we're on the last few weeks now
Marie: And how what does it feel like to be pregnant during COVID? What is that experience like?
Daivati: You know, Marie, I have to say it's a mixed bag of emotions, you know, because we found out I think sometime in December, and then you know, when we got close around the end of our first trimester when we could share the great news with everyone, and it was a very exciting time. And that's right about when COVID hit here in the US and people kind of panicked and there were all these government mandates, and stay at home measures suddenly became the big news.
I go through a lot of mixed emotions every day. I feel a deep sense of personal joy for this dream coming true. Something I've always wanted in my life and being a bit older, was told it probably wouldn't happen for me. So the fact that it's happened is really a miracle. It makes me want to cry. I feel so blessed and so lucky. And at the same time, you know, there's a part of me that wants to run up to the top of the mountain and sing out loud. Kind of have my Sound of Music moment.
But I also feel a little bit of guilt or a little bit of, you know, how can I be so happy when everybody else is suffering? You know, and it's just a time of a lot of confusion and uncertainty. I mean, all of the clinic and hospital protocols change week by week. We just never know what to expect. I know people who've delivered recently who had to wear masks the whole time and weren't allowed to have any visitors so they were alone. Sometimes I feel a little sad that I can't just get together with my friends and enjoy belly rubs.
Yeah, it is lonely a little bit. And sometimes, I also wonder, I think with all of not just a pandemic, but with all of the intense movement right now about towards racial justice that I'm very much a part of, but I have to do it a little more carefully. You know, I can't just join every march and block the bridges for Portland the way I would like to in the way I normally would, but I have been able to join some of the Black Lives Matter movement and march with some physical distancing and wearing masks on and being part of youth led demonstrations, which is really exciting, and I've had to shift my activism more toward things like calling City Council about police accountability or writing letters or making phone calls and things like that, which is just as important.
Marie: I think it's very important. Definitely. So let's talk a little bit about growing up as a child of immigrants here. I mean, you're technically immigrant yourself too. But also your parents have this rich history. Your parents are incredible. I love them. I feel so glad I got to meet them.
Daivati: Yeah, that's right. Yes. We went to a couple different events that week. Yes. I'm really thrilled that they were here at that time, because there were a lot of interesting things happening and they got to meet some of my friends who they I talked about that they hadn't gotten to meet in person before.
Marie: Yeah, so what was it like growing up in your family? Did your parents both speak English when they got here?
Daivati: Yes, you know, they're both college-educated in India and English is the medium for a lot of the colleges there. So they actually grew up speaking I think three or four different languages. My dad is a chemical engineer and my mom has a master's in economics actually. When they when they came here as immigrants, and again, this is me telling the story from the perspective of a four year old. But what I remember is that it was very hard for them to, you know, they both left careers and solid education in India and had to sort of start all over again. So my dad who was working his way up the ladder in India started back up as a draftsman. And back at the time they they didn't have AutoCAD and computers and things so that everything was on these giant drafting tables.
Marie: Yeah, I remember that because I worked at an engineering firm...nice, big drafting tables.
Daivati: So I still remember all that when I'd go visit him at the office. But he started off as a draftsman. He barely even got hired. It was another immigrant who happened to be from Greece, who hired him because he saw his talent and he knew he was going to do the work.
Marie: What made them come to the US the first place?
Daivati: I have no idea.
Marie: Really interesting. You’ll have to ask them that.
Daivati: I think at the time, you know, America was this land of golden opportunities, right. So everybody had this dream to come here and make this great life for themselves. And we had some family here already. So I think that made it easier to come here and feel like there were some people around that we knew, but it was still hard. They were only allowed to bring I think at the time it was $8 per person. So when they came here, they had a couple suitcases and me and $24.
Marie: That's amazing. Oh my gosh, that's amazing what strength and courage they had.
Daivati: I do remember this. My mom who is very well educated, very smart person came with a master's in economics and she had taken a little break from working in order to raise me. At the time, when she moved to the United States, she couldn't find work at first. So she worked at McDonald's and my mom was a vegetarian. And she had to endure the smell of meat. She was doing what she could do to make things happen for the family. She had also encountered her own share of racism. I don't know much about it, because I don't think my parents spoke much of it to me at the time, but I do know there was an incident where she was serving a customer and the customer couldn't understand her accent and they got mad and they threw their food right in her face. And she had a face full of burger--a woman who's a vegetarian.
Marie: Oh my gosh.
Daivati: And my dad is not one to complain. He is a very strong person. So I do know he faced a lot at work too. But I don't think he ever really shared much with any of us. I think he kind of rolled his shoulders back and put his head up high and kept going.
Marie: Was your mother able to find work in economics later on?
Daivati: Oh, yeah, she was able to find some other work and then she actually became a business owner and she owned a health food store for many years.
Marie: Oh, wow. And that then you became a naturopath?
Daivati: Yes. Well, I should say part of the backstory on that is when I was growing up, you know, my mom is a really good cook and my dad loves to garden so he would grow all these great vegetables and a lot of them were Indian vegetables that we couldn't find anywhere else. And then my mom would cook it all and we would eat it and I would help them with both the gardening and the cooking and eating. And you know if my brother and I were sick, we didn't get Tylenol and we didn't go to the doctor for shots. We weren't given some kind of nasty stinky herb that was rubbed in ghee and smeared all over our bellies and wow, the smell of it was awful. And we were so disgusted. We were determined to get better. And I think that's a big part of what led me to follow suit and really have an appreciation for those traditional routes of medicine.
Marie: Do you ever do that to your patients—combine ghee with herbs and rub it on their belly?
Daivati: I don’t although sometimes it's tempting
Marie: Do you go back to India very often? What does that feel like?
Daivati: It's like a second home. Well, actually, it's my first home. I love it. You know, I think having a lot of family there is an important piece of it because I missed them and there are usually many years in between visits. To go back means you have to take at least two three weeks off to really find any quality time there. And there's so many relatives and cousins and everybody else to visit and they're scattered all over. So it takes almost the entire time just journeying around to go to everyone's home but I love it. It's very welcoming and everyone has such a warm spirit. And I feel like that's where I truly belong when I go back in a way that I don't quite feel here. Even today.
Marie: I think that's the biggest dilemma for people who are immigrants. It's hard to feel completely at home either place, right? Yeah. Do you think you'd ever want to go back and live in India for a while?
Daivati: I don't know if it would be realistic for me anymore. I feel like I've established my life here. And I've grown up here. So I'm just as Americanized as I am Indian. Some ways I think I would love to, I would love to go back more frequently. And definitely with our kiddo, I definitely want to make sure we keep our roots and visit back as much as we can. My husband’s family is all there. So you know, at some point when things are safe enough to travel and the kid is old enough, I'm really looking forward to introducing the kid to all of our immediate relatives there.
Marie: So what's one of your what's one of your superpowers?
Daivati: I would say my superpower is my persistence. It's my deep sense of faith and hope and optimism that allows me to thrive in any situation. I think it helps me to face fears and overcome challenges I still have. I still get scared. I still feel nervous. I still worry all those things. They're just part of being human. But I keep going. I don't let that stop me. And if anything, I almost think that those fear-based emotions push me to thrive even more.
Marie: Do you feel like there was a big sea change in the way that people view immigrants after the 2016 election? Or are people talking about it more? What are your thoughts about that?
Daivati: I think a lot of things have become more polarized since the 2016 election. I don't remember feeling a little nervous like I do now, when I go someplace in Portland by myself, especially if I'm dressed up wearing a sari or wearing a bindi. I never used to feel concerned about it. But in the last few years, I do. I just am more aware of my surroundings, and I'm paying attention. You know, after the stabbings that happened on the MAX train a few years ago, I signed up for self-defense classes, and I feel like that's something that I never had thought about doing before. So there is more active violence and more overt racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. On the flip side, it also feels like there's more people in support of immigrants and coming to our defense or protection. I've never seen so much. You know, I attended a few rallies in front of the ICE building. And I've been volunteering with a couple of groups to support people when they're going through their master hearings. And you know, when they are in the process of possible deportation, to kind of show up in solidarity for them. I've also done some volunteering in signing up newly minted citizens to register to vote.
Marie: Oh, wonderful.
Daivati: So I do feel like there's more activity like that popping up. And that gives me a lot of hope and faith in humanity. And hopefully there are more of more of us out there than there are the haters, you know?
Marie: Absolutely. So the subtitle of my podcast is grit, resilience, and connection and thinking about becoming a new mom, how will you teach your child to cultivate those values of grit, resilience, and connection, which you embody yourself. How do you teach your child how to be that kind of person?
Daivati: I ask myself that question. Okay. I don't know yet. I just imagine that both my husband and I, who's also an Indian, will show our child by role modeling. I think the child will see it in us in our behaviors and our attitudes and our words and our just way of being, I hope, if nothing more that we show the child what it means to be a kind of embracing human being. I think if we can show how to love others, even those who hate us, how to have compassion, and how to make some kind of connection, that is what fights against the ignorance. I don't know that that's something anyone can teach someone verbally. I wonder if it's something that they just see in action, again, and again and again. And that just becomes part of their spirit and part of their DNA.
Marie: Right. And we were both lucky to be raised by parents who demonstrated that as well. Yes, yes, yes. I feel lucky that way to that I was raised to not doubt myself and I was raised to, you know, believe that I could do whatever I set out to do.
So think about if there's a story of grit, resilience, and connection that has been an inspiration to you in your life, either a real person or a particular book you like what has inspired you in those values?
Daivati: Honestly, I would have to say my parents, that's probably the closest example I can think of. My parents are people who are just so full of love and joy and a deep sense of connection with others, so much kindness. They'll be the first ones to welcome people into our home and feed them and give them tea and talk with them and make them feel like they're part of the family. And they have done this regardless of anything that they faced, whether it was hatred or ignorance or racism or discrimination. They remain positive and uplifting and inspiring, not just to myself, but to a lot of people around them. And that spirit that they have of adventure and trying something new and risking it all. The courage that it took for them to come here and create this life because they thought it would be a better life for themselves and for their kids.
And the fact that none of what they experienced ever made them bitter or resentful, or dark, they kept that shine and that light within them. That's the spark that continues to inspire me every day to be who I am, and to do what I do, and not give up. So my parents always used to teach that we should always hang out with people who can teach us something. We should be with people who will show us how to be better human beings, and to not let somebody else's lack or ignorance or whatever it is, whatever it is that's holding them back, not to not to become like that. Yeah, I don't have a better word for it. Sorry. But that's about as good as I can explain really.
Marie: Interesting. And did they teach you by their role model, or did they actually say that to you?
Daivati: I think it was mostly the role modeling
Marie: Wow, yeah, interesting. Well, they both strike me as being really outgoing as well. Yeah. They embody connection, just with their personalities. They're so warm and engaging. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. It was wonderful to get to know you better, and I am so excited about your future offspring.