Episode 27: Cultural Whiplash with Urvashi Banerjea
Episode 27: Cultural Whiplash with Urvashi Banerjea
Alyssa sits down with her decade-long friend and social impact enthusiast, Urvashi Banerjea, to discuss her recent publication in Thought Catalog. Urvashi shares her personal experience with “cultural whiplash” and how it shaped her into the woman she is today.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:00:23] Welcome everybody to the Light After Trauma podcast. I am your host, Alyssa Scolari. And clearly I have a very exciting guest on today because we are freaking out about the fact that today. It’s January 27. This is the 27th episode and 27 is our very special guest’s favorite number of all time, like that is her shit.
27. Her birthday is on the 27th of September. Yeah. Right.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:01:23] Yes. Yep.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:01:24] Okay. So without further ado, I am going to introduce, this is one of my best friends. I am so happy that you decided to come on the podcast with me because she loves me.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:01:38] I do.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:01:40] Urvashi Banerjea. So this is how I have always known her. Uh, we met in 2010, our first day of class in college, right.
Our first day ever.
In Italian class.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:01:53] Our first day of school,
Alyssa Scolari: [00:01:54] Shout out to Simona because you are part of the reason why we are Urvashi and I are such a dream team and Urvashi, she recently got married. So I ,just when I went to announcer had a small panic attack because she’s, I think becoming she’s now a married woman and Urvashi has always been just this independent, single ain’t need no man type of person.
She is married to somebody who is like the absolute perfect, perfect fit for her. And I adore him. So, Urvashi is a social impact, enthusiastic. Uh, she is a freelance writer. So this is not what she does for her full-time job. This is more of like a wait, I would call it a side hustle, but I almost feel like it’s become your full-time like volunteer job.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:02:54] Yeah, I would say that I jokingly call it as my adult extracurricular. It’s just something that I love to do on the side, in addition to my full-time job. And I’m hoping that one day freelance writing could be a bigger part of it, but for right now it’s more about just writing things that I’m passionate about that speak to me in my life experiences, but I just love doing it on the side.
Yeah. So I think you could call it a side hustle, I guess.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:03:22] Yeah. It’s one that you are extremely good at. And I think I’ve always been passionate about. So can you just touch a little bit on what it is that you do for your full-time job? Because I know it’s, it’s different than this passion of yours.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:03:41] Yes. Yes. Sure. So my full-time jobs as Alyssa knows, has always been nothing to do with my personal passions. And I think it’s okay to have professional and personal passions. So right now I am a product manager of a B2B, so business to business e-commerce platform. And we are working on building digital technologies and creating digital expansion and other countries around the world and bringing our applications to their country.
So I’m on the front end piece of that. So I’m a product manager within this application and I’ve been working there for about a year now.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:04:21] It’s just like one of the many things that I love about, you know, it’s just that you’re so dynamic and you have the best of both worlds where I have often found that like, people like me, right? Like I’m very left, right, brained? I think I’m very right brained because I’m very like emotions and, you know, like I’m very like emotionally driven and very like social justice and therapy and feelings.
But the left part of my brain is like, has cobwebs in it. So I find that
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:05:01] I wouldn’t say that’s true. I think you are very analytical and methodical in areas that you want to be. It’s a good balance of both.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:05:10] True. I would say, okay. It’s a little dramatic to say I have cobwebs there. Uh, but I think that I’m definitely more like right-brained than I am left-brained whereas like, you know, like David is more left-brained.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:05:28] Left brains, I would say. So it’s hard to keep it straight.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:05:32] I know I can’t keep up. I can’t remember which one is which, but you just have like the, what I would call the perfect balance of like both brains working together. And I love it.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:05:44] I think that’s my Libra energy for Libras out there. Balance is key for me to maintain all harmony in my life. And that’s another good example of, I think finding the right balance between the two, otherwise, you know, everything is off equilibrium. So shout out to Libras.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:06:01] Yeah. Shout out to the Libras out there because you all have your shit together. And the rest of us don’t, I mean, we kind of do,
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:06:12] Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:06:13] Well, you know, I wanted to bring you on the show today for so many reasons, because basically what this episode is going to be for the listeners out there is it’s really interesting.
Another conversation that Urvashi and I would typically have on like the phone, because this is the stuff that we’ve been talking about since the day that I met her, of course the topics have changed and developed, but she has always been a huge, huge worker for just social justice. And I mean, I couldn’t put it better.
The words that you use, social impact enthusiast, and recently Urvashi has been getting a lot of attention for her writing because she is an incredible writer and she does a lot of writing about. Social justice and social impact. And she was recently featured on it was Thought Catalog. Right?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:07:06] Yeah,
Alyssa Scolari: [00:07:06] So do you want to talk a little bit about, because you originally, like you are a regular writer for medium.com, right?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:07:15] Yes, I have my own writer page and profile on the website and I contribute to a few different internal publications within medium. So I like to publish at least once or twice a week. But this was the first time being featured on Thought Catalog. That was definitely an exciting first for me.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:07:31] I’m so happy for you because your writing is so good. So how did that process happen? Like how does one get featured on Thought Catalog?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:07:41] So you submit basically a piece of work that you are either proud of, or that you’re excited about to share with the world. And there’s a group of editors that review the piece and basically see if it’s right for the platform I’ve published a few times. I submitted a few times before, but haven’t been published to Thought Catalog.
So they have a portal where you just submit a link to your work. And if they like it, they publish it. So I was really excited that they chose this one because I think it’s the universality of it is something that surprised me, even though it’s about a immigrants cultural experience, I think. Being on Thought Catalogs has such a mainstream audience.
This is not a niche South Asian publication. So that made me happier that I grew up reading Thought Catalog. It’s something that has poetry. It has more hard hitting pieces. It’s just a great variety of everything. So I was happy that my piece fit in there.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:08:37] Yeah. And your pieces, the writing is amazing and it and truly, I have to say, you know, brought me to tears and was very kind of, I think very sobering about the different types of trauma. And I know we were talking a little bit about this last night when we were prepping for the podcast, but I think when a lot of people think of trauma, they just go right to you, know, sexual abuse or domestic violence or physical abuse, or maybe being in a car accident or like 9/11, things like that. But there is this different type of trauma that you are actively bringing light to and doing. So with this article, which is called and for the listeners out there, I am going to link it in the show notes and post it on the Facebook page.
But it’s called, This is What Growing Up with Cultural Whiplash Taught Me. So this concept, cultural whiplash. Can you talk a little bit about it? Did you come up with that on your own?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:09:44] I did. I came up with that term.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:09:46] not even a little bit surprised.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:09:49] But I’m sure there are other writers out there who have used it in their work. I don’t want to say I coined it, but I think I came up with it because in this particular situation, it felt like it really matched the way I was feeling. And just as a funny, personal aside, I’ve been going to the chiropractor because my neck is a little bit misaligned and I was thinking like, my neck hurts, you know?
And it’s like, how can I apply this? I’m always trying to look for a deeper meaning in things. So how can I apply this to my other experiences? And that’s when whiplash came to me, it’s like this constant shift is Alyssa and I are on video for the listeners who can’t see this video, but I am moving my neck back and forth because it’s just, just orienting to constantly looking one place and then swerving to another.
And just having that be your perpetual state of being. So with last year, it seemed like a really fitting term.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:10:39] LOok at the irony that like your neck hurts, like look at what your body’s trying to tell you.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:10:46] I didn’t even put that together. That is so true. Maybe it is a manifestation of that
Alyssa Scolari: [00:10:52] Absolutely. I mean, I’m such a big believer in the mind body connection. So like that’s where you’re holding it. That’s where you’re holding the pressure of, you know, well, what we’re about to talk about. So do you want to go through and say a little bit about what this article, what this article is, what it means to you?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:11:14] Yeah, absolutely. So I wrote this article a few weeks ago and my writing process is pretty standard across all the things that I write. It takes about a day or two. And I have maybe two rounds of editing before I publish it to my own medium page. This article was different. It took two continuous weeks of writes and rewrites, and it was a very heavy article with a lot of complex issues. And I wanted to do justice to all of those issues. So this article, for those of you who haven’t read it is about an immigrant experience, but it’s more from the mindset of transformation. So internal transformation of how I view my own cultural fluidity, as well as from the outside, looking in of how has the perception of Indians in society, particularly American society. How has that changed and not just Indians, but also just immigrants and the concept of diversity and what a transformation has gone through in the last 15 to 20 years in terms of how it’s perceived from mainstream society. So I started off this article more about my own. Experience as a young girl immigrating to the us from India. I was born in India and I moved to the U S when I was five. So my, most of my upbringing, I would say in the US I, of course I have memories of being a young child in India and have that as my foundation as a basis. But I would say all of my valuable years were here.
So, there was a particular incident that triggered this deep reflection in the article. It was a racist incident from a peer in third grade. And I think that stuck with me today. So I think about that and I think about what has it taught me and it’s brought to light, but the most impactful part of growing up in America was actually not that racist incident. It was actually how easy it was for me to stifle parts of my Indian identity in order to fit in and just be very fluid across different situations. So the article really just goes into that growth for me, that realization and, sort of tie into the societal parallel of black lives matter how we are so aware now of our privilege and what that means for people of color, but non-black people of color. So I’m talking your Brown communities, Indian, Pakastani, Muslim whatever you are, wherever you are. I think the movement and the pandemic have really brought to light so many different things about how you view your own culture and how you’re impacted by how other people view your own culture.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:14:01] That to me sounds a lot like what you have been talking about so much lately, which is this concept of generational trauma.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:14:11] Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think intergenerational trauma, it’s not a term that I use specifically in the article, but it was definitely implied within the writing because I talked about how do I reconcile living in a household with values and beliefs that are so completely different than what I see in the outside world.
And those values and beliefs were cemented by intergenerational trauma. And I think I loved your introduction where trauma in Indian culture is absolutely looked at as a non issue. It is something that you almost, as if it’s a taboo, like I would say it’s like the equivalent of like, Oh, the “T” word, no, that doesn’t exist here.
It’s very much puts it aside. Not acknowledged. For having all of the different aspects that it can have. I think, like you said, trauma, isn’t defined to one specific group of issues. It could be so many different things. And I credit a lot of just social media now and just the power of social media for that awareness to be raised in the Indian community, that trauma can exist in so many different ways.
And it’s not a bad thing. It’s just something to address.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:15:26] Right. It’s just something to acknowledge. And I think it’s extremely hard to acknowledge because of stigma, because of, you know, talking about trauma, intergenerational trauma is almost forcing people to have to redefine or redo the way that they operate in their culture. It’s forcing people to make cultural shifts so that it’s no longer traumatic.
And I’m not saying, you know, disidentifying or rejecting that culture. I don’t think just disidentifying is a word. I think I just made that up. Oh,
but it’s a.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:16:05] yourself from a culture,
Alyssa Scolari: [00:16:07] Yes. And that’s not at all. That’s not at all what I’m saying. It’s just that it might, it would force generations to have to make some cultural shifts so that there is less trauma that is endured as a result.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:16:25] For sure. But I think even identifying what is that trauma is the first step,
Alyssa Scolari: [00:16:29] Ah,yes.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:16:29] There’s so many different things that can contribute to it. I think it’s connection and just the community of growing up in a predominantly Indian community, if you are born and raised in India, or if you live in different parts of America that are predominantly Indian.
I mean, here in New Jersey, we have so many ethnic enclaves like that. And if you grow up in that area, versus a predominantly white town. Your experience will be completely different, but not to say that one is less traumatic than the other, but it’s also a question of defining, like what, what are the things that we’re even looking out for?
And I think trauma just really cements itself and communication and having a feeling of, you know, understanding kind of like your place in the household. If that makes sense. There’s just so many different things that it could be. That for people that are not as familiar with what counts as trauma, I think having that discussion to educate yourself is the first step,
Alyssa Scolari: [00:17:25] Yeah, I think in some of these cultures and we’ve had some conversations like this, where boundaries, aren’t just not a thing right. It’s not acceptable. So, you know, as a trauma therapist, it’s extremely difficult for me to teach. Or so tell somebody, well, you need to set boundaries with your family when they come, you know, let’s say they’ve immigrated from India and they’re like, boundaries, like good luck with that.
And you tell my mom, right? Like you tell my mom, that I can’t do X, Y, and Z like good luck because it’s just, it’s not a thing. And it’s more like, I almost want to say, and I don’t want to speak for you, but it’s like, you have less of a voice when you’re younger.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:18:16] Yes, absolutely. And that is so apparent in growing up now that I am married, I have these conversations with my husband and he grew up in a very different family unit than I did where he was active voice at the table. And there are pros and cons against that. I mean, I’m very much an advocate for let your child children have a childhood.
I think including them in adult decisions from such a young age is something that could be a little difficult, but it has to be done well, of course. And in his case it was, he is an only child and he grew up with a family unit mentality. But for me, I think it was that I was shielded from a lot of adult decisions from a young age, so that when I did become an adult, there was a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of just because I had a very traditional kind of family structure, where the parents make the decisions and the children are shielded from it a bit. So it’s just even within our own family experiences and we’re from the exact same place in India, same culture and everything. So it’s interesting how it felt it could differ so much across our experiences.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:19:23] Yeah, I think that that’s so important to point out that, right. Your husband is also there from India as well. And how different the atmosphere and the expectations are in the way you grew up versus the way he grew up. How do you feel? Because going back to the article and this idea of cultural whiplash, in what ways did you feel specifically like you are in this concept of whiplash, where you were being thrown between identities?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:20:01] So I would say that really started as a young adult, maybe about the end of middle school all the way through college. It was a lot of different things. So, for example, one of the main things is in my article, I talk about group think versus individuation. And the big thing in Indian culture is like, we were talking about lack of boundaries, community you in olden days.
And even now, I mean, you raise a child together as a community, and that’s something that is ingrained in the culture where you will sacrifice your self care versus self-sacrifice so it’s likeself-sacrifice vs. self care is a really big perspective as well. And I think growing up, I would hear a lot about, you know, you have to take care of your family. You have to have this idea there really, or this concept ingrained in you really strong, like family unit and grow up making sure that you are taking care of your family and have a lot of things in mind for like your career, but also at the end of the day, it’s like family. And so for me, that was really interesting because then I would also, you know, go out with my friends and we would always talk about having our own careers and maybe never getting married and never having kids.
And so it was just like, even in the way that I saw my life play out, it was very different. Depending on where I was, if I was home or if I was outside of the home, it was just really strange. And I didn’t even reconcile how strange that was until later. And then when I was an adult, like young adult, not like past college and everything as a young professional, I would say, and those concepts came more into play because they were now fully under my control.
Like I was making my own money and I was living alone. I think that’s when it became more of a jarring type of existence because I didn’t quite know what I wanted and I didn’t have a household telling me one thing and then, you know, a peer group telling me another, it was kind of that now I’m free to make my own decisions.
And it’s like, what do I want now? I just didn’t know. Cause I was just completely torn between two different mindsets.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:22:15] And all these years later do you know now?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:22:19] I do. I think that’s the happy ending of the article is kind of that I hope in the future that we allow kids who are immigrants or kids of immigrants to create a hybrid mental framework where they are hearing both sides, but they’re able to just make their own decisions. And I absolutely was able to make my own decision, but I think getting there and constructing that hybrid framework took a lot of conscious effort on my part because I think there’s a difference of riding through life with this voice in your head and subconscious way of thought. And I think that is what you hear in the household becomes your little voice in your head and realizing that and dismantling that took a lot more of an effort than I thought it would. But I think if you teach kids from a young age that, you know what we’re saying here, versus what you hear outside might be different, but it’s up to you to pick and choose which elements of both philosophies that you agree with and go from there.
But I had to kind of construct that much later after, but it was a reactive measure to feeling very unsettled in my personal life. And I hope for kids in the future, it’ll be proactive. It’ll be like, what future do I want to construct?
Alyssa Scolari: [00:23:37] Yes, because you didn’t really know what was happening back then. Right? The whole point of the article is you sharing that, like this was reactive as a result of like, kind of somewhat of an identity crisis that you had found yourself in. And then I think, I don’t know. Would you agree that this article may not have come out if it hadn’t been for COVID?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:24:05] I one hundred percent agree. I think COVID was definitely the catalyst to even understanding what is going on deeper, because for the first time I didn’t have anywhere to go. I didn’t have anything keeping me busy. I mean, minus work, but you’re kind of stuck at home all day, especially in the beginning months.
And that was really hard to reconcile. The cracks in the foundation really started to come through at that point, when you were kind of back against the corner and you didn’t have anything else that was comfortable or you could see comfort, and it was just a whole new terrain.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:24:40] Yeah. And just from knowing you for the last 10 and a half years, almost 11 years. You have always been somebody who has been now that I look back on it through the lens of this article, somebody who has been teetering back and forth going through this, you know, whiplash, so to speak of like, well, now I’m doing the quote unquote, american things and now I’m, now I’m going to do, you know, part of my cultural Indian and take care of my family back in India. And now I’m doing this and now I’m doing that. And it was, I mean, you’re right. I don’t know if you’ve ever had time to slow down or if you would have slowed down, if it hadn’t been for COVID to be able to really unpack all of this.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:25:37] I think so. I think that’s when it really became apparent. It’s like, who, who am I and what do I want from this lifetime? And what do I want from myself? And I wouldn’t trade my Indian heritage or identity for anything. I think it’s, I’m so proud to be Indian, but I think there’s a lot of things in the Indian culture that I may not necessarily agree with.
And I think a lot of that feeling of guilt is like, but I am Indian. I’m just living in America. So I am American, but at the core I’m Indian. So which ideology should I base my life decisions on? Kind of, because I think if you looked at it in the Indian mindset versus American mindset, it would look very different, even everything in terms of like career and what you prioritize and just the way you think about certain things.
And so it was harder for me. Harder and easier. So it’s always a double-edged sword because it was harder for me internally to go through all of these things. But if you were to look at me from the outside, it was no big deal. I was just another, you know, girl going through life learning things as everyone does.
And I think a big piece of that is the way that I look, I don’t necessarily look traditionally Indian. It’s hard to describe, but I get all the time that I am Hispanic, that I look Mexican or that I look Puerto Rican. I get that people speak to me in Spanish, on the street. And so I think a big piece of that was a contributing factor to feeling like I could be a cultural chameleon, which is another term that I use in the article is this feeling of like being able to fit in everywhere. And that’s a social skill. I think as much as it is something that’s like a physical trait. I think if you look a certain way, you’re probably inadvertently typecast and the type of person you all, everybody has stereotypes about people that they see. And I think because I didn’t look traditionally Indian, that also was a contributing factor to being able to feel like I could seamlessly just navigate between being American and being Indian. I was literally at an Indian religious function and somebody asked me, so like, what are you doing here?
That’s awesome. That you’re part of this taking part in the culture. I was like, I’m literally I’m Indian. And when I go to India, they try to charge me the tourist fee because they think that I’m from America. Yeah. True story. So I don’t, I don’t know if that…it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s just something that I think is interesting, but I also feel like. I mean, this is a whole different article. I mean, a whole different article, a whole different podcast. But one of the things that prompted me to write this article was just seeing this new wave of Indian reality shows and how it’s the complete opposite in India, where, and this is my limited experience. I just want to put that disclaimer out there. I’m definitely not the authority on this, but I just see that in certain societal ranks of India, if you are wealthier and you live in urban areas, you try to play up a certain type of whiteness. Like you try to amplify that you are emulating the Kardashians, for example, whereas in America, as I write my article now that you know with black lives matter, and there’s a whole resurgence of a appreciation of diversity. I feel like people who have diverse backgrounds here are playing it up all the more now that you know, I’m, I have a background I’m from somewhere I’m diverse and I value it.
And that’s a huge part of me. But with this new wave of Indian reality shows on Netflix, it’s like, what is this society? What is this culture? And it could not be more of a contrast. And I think that’s also something that made me then look at myself. I can’t say my part of the problem because that’s up to personal opinion.
Is this even a problem? But for me, am I part of that kind of just straddling those two lines.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:29:42] THat makes me so sad. I don’t know, just the whole concept. And this is what I think many white people don’t quite understand. That’s something I will never be able to understand. But when I hear you talk about it, I think it makes me so sad because that’s exhausting.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:30:04] It is a little exhausting, just going, especially the part about going back to India and not feeling like I fit in. It’s not that I don’t belong. I think those are two different things. I mean, I feel like I do belong. I have a strong ties to my cultural identity and all of my family there minus my immediate family who’s here, but I just it’s a constant awareness that I, some people think I’m, I am not from here.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:30:34] Yes. And this idea of, and you…do you speak to this in the article, right? Being taking on your American identity yet, sometimes taking on your Indian identity at other times, it’s like having to. It’s like constantly being in theater where you’re like, all right, whipping this mask off, putting this mask on, like that is tiring and traumatic, especially as a kid.
And I want to just go back to…because you had mentioned this a little while ago, that you really didn’t start to acknowledge any of this stuff until you were in, like, I think you said middle school, high school.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:31:19] Yeah, pretty much high school.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:31:21] But in your, the like overtly racist, absolutely. Just dispicable. It’s absolutely dispicable. I can’t even, you know, I don’t even want it on my screen. I like pulled it up. I pulled it up on my screen and then I’m like, that makes me sick. Yep. I can’t even look at it. But for those of you who do want to know.
Obviously I will, again, link this article so that you can read it. This is a really important read, no matter where you are from, this is an extremely, extremely crucial topic. So that happened when you were in, was it third?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:32:03] Third grade actually. Yes,
Alyssa Scolari: [00:32:05] So, let me ask you this. Was there some part of you that even as young as that, you had to have some awareness that like, Oh, maybe I don’t want to identify as Indian.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:32:21] Oh, for sure. Yeah. I think that had so much of a domino effect in ways that I look back now and it’s so interesting how I then manifested that insecurity into so many decisions that kids that age don’t even think about. So for example, we would go to India in the summers because my sister and I had off because we were children in the summer.
And so we would go to India would come back with all this. You know, just beautiful things like purses and clothes and just shirts and whatever it is. And I would make a concious decision everyday, like, Oh, I can’t wear this to school. No way I can’t carry this ethnic looking purse to school. And so then instead I would just, I don’t know, carry something else because I didn’t want it to be evident that I was Indian.
And I think any kid, whatever you’re background is like, you just want to fit in, you know, you don’t have any. Most kids probably don’t have self-confidence at that point to say like, Hey, I’m proud of this. I’m going to rock this and maybe kids these days do, but I definitely did it back then. And so just make these decisions to not wear sweaters my mom knit me or like bring Indian food to school for lunch. And it’s just, I have guilt about that a hundred percent now. And if I were to have children in the future, of course, I would try to say it doesn’t matter be you, but at that point, I think that particular event was very triggering to just want to hide certain things that I just didn’t feel like putting out there.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:33:53] I mean the shame. And you say it, you say like the inexplicable humiliation. Which is right. That’s exactly what it is. The shame that, brings on that basically, that person told you when you were just trying to enjoy your day as a little girl, that you had somebody come up to you and tell you about who you are at your core is essentially disgusting to her.
And the shame and the lack of understanding and just the guilt that you then have to go through throughout the years of like, I do identify as being a part of this Indian culture and my parents, you know, your mom makes this awesome jewelry, which I still rock to this day.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:34:44] laughs
Alyssa Scolari: [00:34:45] So you’ve got the shame of what people are saying at school.
Then you’ve got the guilt factor because it’s like, you know, my parents were trying to get me to look a certain way. I can’t do this. I can’t bring this to school. I can’t wear this because I will be made fun of, or I will be, I won’t even say making fun of, because I will be targeted.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:35:08] Right. And even if it’s not overt targeting, it’s still just knowing that my peers will know it’s even like the idea of them having the knowledge that I have a different background was something that was scary
Alyssa Scolari: [00:35:21] BEcause it makes you a target because you learned at a very early age that it is actually unsafe to be who you are.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:35:30] Yeah. That’s really heavy. Yeah. Yeah. I mean unsafe. I didn’t feel physical threats, but yeah. Unsafe in terms of just mental wellbeing.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:35:39] Exactly. Yeah. And I should clarify emotionally and psychologically unsafe.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:35:44] With that feeling of guilt. It was amplified by the fact that my parents were such great parents and raising me to have a level of self-confidence and not care about these things. And I think to a degree in third grade, I knew that, but it was not enough to change a behavior. If that makes sense. It was definitely something I had ingrained in me as a core value at a young age, but it wasn’t, you know, it’s hard for any eight year old to be like, I have enough self confidence to still do this.
It was something that, that’s what played into the guilt. When I got home with the idea of cultural whiplash, it was that I couldn’t really show or express that I wanted to hide my identity because then I felt guilty because my parents did such a great job of raising me to not pay any attenion to believe or play into that idea of shame.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:36:37] Yeah, your parents are fantastic human beings. Both of them, your sister is fantastic. Like, well, she probably made it all the more difficult for you because they were so good. So that’s so hard. It’s so hard. And I, applaud you for doing the work to be able to get to this point that you could put this into writing because there are so many people and even just folks that I see in my practice that struggle with this concept, that can’t put words to it. And you have been able to unpack this. Look back on it and write it down and now come on here and speak about it, which is a whole new level of unpacking. Right? It’s one thing to write it down, but then when you call on a podcast and you talk about it, it’s like
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:37:36] Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:37:36] it’s different.
It’s a whole different level of unpacking.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:37:40] Yeah, much harder to put into words, something that you just feel. And it’s harder to not put into words writing. I think writing comes naturally to me, but I think just speaking it into existence is there’s so many different variables that go into well, you know, and even with you Alyssa, I think that with everything you’ve been through.
You’ve heard me say multiple times, let’s not talk about my problems because my problems are nothing compared to what other people go through. And I think it’s always that trauma comparison game that you talk about in the beginning is to acknowledge that this trauma is different from other traumas.
And it doesn’t mean that necessarily, you know, not worthy of talking about, it’s just something that it’s hard for me to speak about because I always have that little voice inside my head, but other people have it so much worse, you know? And so it’s something I want to be very mindful of, but I am very aware now that there’s like pain and trauma can come in all different shapes and sizes, which is what you’ve taught me.
So I’m so happy to be able to talk about this.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:38:46] I know I’m so happy to have like I’m so, ah, it makes me so happy to have you on here talking about this, because if this was two or three years ago, I don’t know that we would be having this conversation because I think that you were just, weren’t really aware of this idea of cultural whiplash, but on some level, I do believe this about you, that I have to believe that there is a part of you that has had a deeper understanding of trauma on the subconscious level, because if you didn’t and you know, to the listeners out there, like what you don’t know about Aruba is that, and my relationship with her is that, you know, When I first met Urvashi, everything was great. And our, our, our friendship has always been great.
You know, it’s, it’s always been one of the relationships that I value the most in my life. But when I was in college was when I went through some serious trauma. I ended up meeting a guy who turned out to be extremely abusive. Abusive in the worst way. Why don’t you say.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:40:03] way psychologically abusive. It just that’s the
Alyssa Scolari: [00:40:06] Psychologically abusive, physically abusive. I mean, you know, at one point I had my keys taken from me, my cell phone charger. I wasn’t allowed to drive anywhere. He would actually drive me to campus. Urvashi was one of the few people that I was able to have contact with because he kind of deemed her as being safe and she really saw me through all of that, where it was easier to walk away, which is good. Many of my friends in college did, she didn’t and trust me, it was not because I was her only friend because Urvashi is the kind of person who had throughout her whole life. I mean, this, you know, being a social impact, enthusiast is not something that she just started doing a year ago, this has been her whole life. This is part of who she is. So when I tell you she was involved in literally every club, every event, like she was there, she had and continues to have a million friends and it has affected the lives of so many people with what she does. And there have been whole semesters where we have been on different continents in different States throughout college.
And we were able to maintain our friendships. So Urvashi didn’t just stick by my side, throughout my relationship with this monster, I can call him a monster.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:41:43] That gives monsters a bad name to even put him in the category of
Alyssa Scolari: [00:41:48] I know he’s not even worthy of that, but Urvashi, you know, she didn’t just see me through this because she really didn’t have any other options. Like she chose to help me save my own life. And there is a part of me that will always not a part of me. I wholeheartedly believe that part of the reason why I am still here today is because of because Urvashi would meet me where she would pick me up from work.
If I was having a bad day. Do you remember when you picked me up from work?
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:42:27] Oh, I remember. Yep.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:42:29] She would pick me up from work. She would, I remember one time in particular where we were just like sitting on a bench outside of college and I was crying hysterically and she very well could have been like, what the fuck I was like, get it together.
Like, you look like a lunatic, but she. She just sat with me. And like, those are the moments that essentially saved my life because when everybody else left, because they couldn’t understand why I was in such a bad relationship, she stayed. So I have to believe that there’s always been some part of you that has had a deeper understanding of trauma.
And shame and the difficulty in speaking up and being who you are because you, when nobody understood why I couldn’t leave him, you while you may not have understood it, you accepted it. And you waited with me until I was ready to leave. And. I don’t know, that’s very healing and I think very much speaks to just going back to what you experienced as a little girl, which is that like, you know, well, you know what it’s like to be rejected and you didn’t reject me.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:43:47] No. I mean, this is the greatest compliment that you could give me is to say that, you know, I’m one of the reaons that you’re here. I think nothing makes me happier because I see you, I see your full potential and you’re changing the world as we literally speak. And so I am so happy. I was able to be there for you, but I think a degree of it just comes with an understanding of empathy. And I think empathy is such an underrated quality these days. And I think, I feel like I’ve always had a really high degree of empathy. I’m not sure where exactly that comes from, but being able to just not understand your situation fully, but to understand you and who you are as a person. And.
For me, it’s like I saw through all of the horrible things that were happening into your core. And I knew at your core, that’s not who you were. That’s not what you stood for. And to be able to help you in any way, just fight through that was just so amazing looking back now almost 10 years later, which is crazy and to the person that you’ve become.
And I am so grateful that our friendship has persisted. But one thing I think, as we were speaking did come to me, is that I feel like a lot of my life has been chasing what is the most authentic version of myself and who is that. And what does that person look like, and for you, I think I may not have had on a conscious level, an understanding of trauma, but I had an understanding of looking at people and seeing their authentic selves.
And I didn’t see yours. And because it was taken away from you because you were dealing with so much trauma and pain, and I think that’s something that I will maybe has something to do with understanding that it’s just that I wanted to help people live their most, their best and truest life. And I always ask people as a, my version of an icebreaker is not like, what is your favorite ice cream flavor?
It’s literally, when is the last time you felt the most authentically yourself? Like, I just love those kinds of questions and the word authentic and living that authentic life is something that I strive towards. And in that journey, that’s when I realized I was having a cultural whiplash because I wasn’t living my authentic self.
I felt like stripping away all of my possessions and like starting over, I had these like crazy radical thoughts. But I realized that the core, it’s not the things that I want to get rid of. It was like society’s perceptions. And like all of these things that I’ve been telling myself, I wanted to get rid of that to then find who I was at the core.
So I don’t know if it’s a deeper understanding of trauma, but I think it’s completely linked with like, who are you at your most authentic self without the world bullshit, basically. And that’s what I saw in you. And it’s, I continue to see in you. And I’m so glad that that, you know, but with something that really helped you.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:46:49] think you’re exactly right. I think that that’s a much more accurate way of putting it because you really always did try to help me bring out my authentic self. You had me like going to parties and you were inviting me to stuff. And then you introduced me to like your friends from your hometown, who like to this day.
absolutely, I adore your friends.
So, yeah, you did. I mean, you helped me stay as true to myself as I possibly could during what were some of the darkest times of my life. Um, And nowhere we are recording episode 27 on the 27th.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:47:29] Full circle.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:47:29] I know full circle. I love it. And I cannot thank you enough for coming on the show.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:47:35] Thank you so much for having me.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:47:39] I know it’s hard to be vulnerable about this stuff, but you did great as always.
Urvashi Banerjea: [00:47:44] Thank you. It was an honor to be here. I am so proud of you and the impact that you’re making on this world. Every single episode that you produce is just so enlightening and in a way that is relatable. I think this podcast transcends like degrees and education about the trauma field. And speaks to people on their most human level.
And that’s something that very few podcasts do. So I am honored to be here.
Alyssa Scolari: [00:48:10] Thank you. We’re working on redefining trauma redefining and making it a lot less scary.