Friday, July 10

Behind the Paagli Didi

For those who are new to the World That Is Amanda – the title of this blog may seem strange. So let me put fingers to keys and share with you the meaning behind paagli didi.

I wrote this last year when I worked in a shelter in Kolkata; a shelter for young women and girls who have been abused.  Working with two other students, we became close to these girls simply by spending time with them as they got ready in the morning.  Click here for one story.

Without language comprehension, I learned more about the horrific power these young women were subject to.  I saw my own strength, then the need that surrounded me, the need for that strength. It was here where I learned my role: paagli didi. In Bangla, it translates to ‘crazy older sister,’ and was the nickname given to me by the women I loved. Originally meant as a tease for myself and my friend Emily, I did not comprehend the gravity of this phrase’s precision. Its meaning has left such an indelible impression on me that these words, in Bengali, are tattooed on my wrist. It was here, at the feet of my Bengali sisters, that I discovered my role as paagli didi. With the concern and wisdom of an older sister, I needed to share my instinctive energy and compassion, and in turn, learn from others. Big sisters learn from their siblings as much as she teaches them.  It’s the perfect role for me: I am not a saint, nor am I selfish, I am a sister and we exchange love for growth.

holding hands with one of my crazy little sisters

In short, I have so much love that I want to encompass anyone who needs it.  I don’t think of myself as particularly talented, but I give a lot of hugs, I know how to start a thrilling dance party, and I speak with a lot of conviction.  It’s a slow process, but it is not just a career goal, but a lifestyle.

Click here for additional stories of my little sisters.

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