My Dearest Keci Mama

I have many cousins and relatives, but my Mom’s brother, Keci mama, always remains in my heart.

Recently, he passed away.

I keep my memories alive by remembering the good times I had with Keci mama whenever visiting India. We would always stay in his bungalow in Chennai. It was in a gated community, a big house with marble floors. Before it was time for me to go to bed, he would put lawn chairs out in the small front yard. We would sit there, talking about life in India and America, while gazing at the stars. I remember that moment fondly.

Another time, Keci mama took me out shopping. I wanted a tricycle–and he bought it right away. He took the tricycle inside his bungalow and let me ride around the living room. Everyone was surprised, since he never let anyone do that before.

Keci mama was inspired by what I accomplished for the hearing loss community, and platform I created–which now stands at 21,000 members worldwide. I was so glad to share my journey with him. After all, he’s the one who truly discovered my hearing loss at the age of two. 

When my parents realized I wasn’t talking clearly, they became concerned. Others reassured them that some boys develop speech a little later than usual, and so they shouldn’t worry too much. Fortunately, a breakthrough came when I visited India with my family a year later. Keci mama took me to an excellent ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist and had him test me. That is when they diagnosed my hearing loss. They recommended I should see an audiologist in the US. Right away, I was fitted with hearing aids.

My very last trip to India with my entire family was the last time I saw Keci mama in Chennai. I felt like an outsider. Keci mama’s grandkids gave all their attention to my nephew and niece since they’re in a younger age group. I just didn’t fit in.

But Keci mama made me feel important while staying at his house. He arranged for me to catch a movie with his grandkids, my nephew, and niece when they were planning on going. Since they were staying at another house, Keci mama made sure I didn’t miss the movie with them and took me in the car to meet them at the theater. He put in a lot of effort to make sure I didn’t miss out. That itself I will always remember, as it meant a lot to me. Someone cared about me more than I can ever describe.

Even though I didn’t get to see Keci mama a lot while growing up in America, all the little things he did really impacted my life. It would be very difficult making another trip to India and not seeing him there.

He always had a special place in my heart. I am blessed that I shared parts of my life with him when I could. That’s why I wrote this post: to share a tribute to Keci mama.

Nothing Personal is Personal

It was just another normal day at work on Friday, July 28. I was feeling positive while taking on a graphic design request assigned to me. I always showed the willingness to contribute in other areas with my broad experience and creative talent whenever I could. At noon, my manager sent me a chat message asking if I would be around at 1 p.m.  He didn’t give an explanation, so out of curiosity I checked out his calendar—there was a meeting titled “Employee Action” at that time. I wondered what that meant as I walked over to my manager and asked if everything was okay. He briefly mentioned there was nothing to worry about, so that was a relief. I was thinking maybe it was a promotion or something good, since I had always been a hard worker. But instead, the unexpected happened like an asteroid falling on me out of nowhere. I was called in to see the HR manager whom I never met before. The HR manager told me I was being terminated. I wasn’t given any good reason for this.  I asked, “Am I being fired?” The only answer I received was, “No, nothing personal.” I was told this was a marketing department decision and that my skills weren’t needed anymore. Well, that was a vague response. Everything was personal to me in this case and I did not see it coming at all.  The digital team was expanding and more of my expertise was beneficial in the days to come as mentioned. I’ve always gotten positive feedback and recognition on my work. Nobody was being laid off in the marketing department and I kept asking the reason “why”? The HR manager and my manager were only interested to take away my ID badge and bring any personal belongings I had. I could not even return back to my desk. My manager walked me out of the building and treated me like a complete stranger. I have never been treated so badly by any company I worked with over the years. I felt deeply insulted and, even more, cheated like everything was an act. Just like that, one sunny afternoon, I lost my job that I worked so hard to get 17 months ago. Later, I learned I was possibly wrongfully terminated because they had hired another person to take over my role a week later. I had a taste of how Corporate America and management operate, particularly in big companies. It can happen to anyone and the world isn’t always a friendly place. It’s filled with politics. Unfortunately, it happened to me.

Even though this experience has really emotionally impacted me during the past couple of months, I have been trying to stay positive. Yes, thinking about beginning the job search process again is difficult. Yes, I have had dreams while sleeping of going back to work and being treated like an outsider by co-workers as I dealt all of my life growing up because of my hearing loss. But I’m also reminded of why I started all of this in the first place. This experience is why I continue to expand my hearing loss website, write a novel reaching out to the world, and share my personal experience in every part of my life. I will continue to advocate for others who are treated unfairly and isolated in the outside world. Someday I will reach the stars and all my dreams will come true, no matter what roadblocks I encounter. Sharing my stories, frustrations, and achievements is the best cure to move forward. That’s what I have been doing all along here in my blog.

Thank you all for reading and your support. New beginnings and good things are to come.