Feminism, marriage

How I Got Engaged

I think a lot of people don’t believe I’m engaged because I don’t have a ring.  Which, let me tell you, has blown my mind.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE jewelry.  Especially the big, bling-y kind.  (Sumit, if you are reading this, you are always always always allowed to get me jewelry.  This is me being subtle about it.  In fact, in an attempt for me to be subtle about this, let me put a link to the current rings I’m obsessing over – see here for reference).

Anyway glad I got that out of the way.  Oh wait.  Another thing. I LOVE SURPRISES.  I mean, obviously the good kind.  Not the terrible kind.  Like oh yeah your car got stolen.  That’s a shitty surprise. Or oh the food you thought you had in the fridge which you were going to eat for lunch has fungus on it and it’s not even small enough to just cut off and eat the rest of it (don’t judge- you know you do that too).  All very shitty surprises.  Not a fan of those.  (Also, note to Sumit, if you are reading this, you are ALWAYS allowed to give me good surprises.  Like oh I wrote a song for you or oh we’re going on this amazing vacation or…you know.  Whatever.  I won’t limit your creativity here).

So now that I’ve established my love of good surprises and bling-y rings, I still don’t understand why a combination of both of those is necessary to get engaged.  Literally society doesn’t believe you’re engaged if you don’t have both of those things.  WHY IS THAT?!  If two people decide hey, lets spend the rest of our lives together, why isn’t that enough? Do you have to give a ring to your best friend to ensure you’re both going to be best friends forever? I mean yes, we did that as 90’s children, but beyond the 5th grade, are we still into that stuff?

If a woman is really impatient and is like god why aren’t we married yet what is WRONG WITH YOU and then she is in the US and her boyfriend is in India and then she just Whatsapps him and says hey I think we should get married, will you marry me, I think it’s a great idea, and he’s like…yeah.  That’s a good idea lets do it.  Why isn’t that enough? That may or may not have been how this engagement happened.  And then I asked if that means we’re engaged, and then he’s like…you really want this to be how we’re engaged and I said no, but secretly I”m like…who the F cares as long as we move this thing along?!  (Sumit, again, please see the above- if you REALLY want to actually propose to me PLEASE FEEL FREE ESPECIALLY IF IT INVOLVES BLING, but again, I’m KIND of over it so maybe you can just throw me a surprise birthday party or something.  I don’t know.) But anyway.

That’s kind of how it happened.  But it is important to note that I did meet his dad and he bought me these BEAUTIFUL earrings that are pretty much worth more than my net worth right now (which is not saying much since I currently have $30 in my bank account but still).  And he was super duper nice.  Except I couldn’t say much because I didn’t speak all that much Hindi, and he didn’t speak that much English, but still.  He was really awesome.

And our families are meeting at the end of December which is pretty cool.  To figure out how this wedding is going to happen.   Which will be REALLY interesting because….well….lets just say my part of India is very different from his part of India.  Which, to be fair, should make for really interesting content.

AND thus begins a new saga.

Feminism, happiness, Life, Uncategorized

I Never Saw My Life Past 28

Not like I thought I was going to die or anything- I just…had absolutely no clue how my life was going to turn out.  It was just a black hole after 28 (literally, age 28.  Not 26, not 31, 28).  So it shouldn’t be shocking that in my 28th year of life, there has been a lot of existential crisis-ing.


I think I’ve been making a lot of decisions with my gut over the last 4 years (pretty exclusively I may add) and the rest of me is trying to catch up.  Mostly my head. Because it is exploding with conundrums and paradigm shifting…let downs really.

The harsh reality is that if you don’t create a version of yourself in your head, your subconscious will do it for you. And that subconscious will fill this version of you (or what you’re supposed to be) with ideas and paradigms that it sees around.

Meaning: I set myself up to fail and be disappointed when my brain caught up with…the real me.  Because let me tell you, I pretty much do…NOTHING I’m “supposed” to be doing.  Said another way, I’m kind of exclusively… a-typical.  And my brain has been having a really hard time computing this.  It’s just been really angry and self hating actually, to be perfectly honest.  And it sucks.  This self hating thing I mean.

I’ve literally spent the last month or so catching up with what I thought I was supposed to be and who I really am.  And most of it has been shocking and surprising (to nobody but myself I may add).

I’ve had the privilege of being able to really do whatever it is that I’ve wanted to do with my life.  And be whoever it is I want to be.  It’s funny when you do that though.  Because it takes an adjustment period when you realize…you’ve stepped over to the other side.  There’s no turning back now.  You’ve made too many choices to be able to keep your feet in both worlds- the “normal” world, and the world that you’ve created over the last 4 years for yourself.

It’s a really really really strange thing when you realize that crossed the point of no return.  Mostly because I’m not used to commitment.  Ask anyone who knew me back in college or before.  I was all over the place.  And I preferred it that way.  But now, after I’ve had time to let it sink in, I’m actually…ok with it. I’m actually excited about it.  I get to hit the reset button in life again.  I’m recreating the mental version of myself given my new trajectory in life.  This time I’m going to be proactive about it- visualizing my 30’s.

“When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be”

– Lao Tsu

I’m officially on to my next new adventure, which is an internal one, and I think spread over the next decade.  Coming into my own with the words/phrases I (now) identify with: Woman, tech, startup, maverick, joy, partnership, mother, leader, design, compassion, growth, accountability, spirituality, fun, self love, style, discipline.

Wow that’s a lot. But it’s good.  It’ s going to be good.  I’ve decided it’s going to be good.

And I feel like that’s the first step anyway.

Deciding the way it’s going to be. Or at least the way you’re going to respond to it.



Feminism, happiness, Life

Is It Weird That I See Beauty In Every Woman?

Nobody believes me when I say, no really, you look good.  They think I’m just being nice.  But I don’t see the point of being mean.  Even to myself.  Especially to myself.  If I can’t tell you that you look good, does that mean I can’t tell myself that I look good? Because I usually do, most mornings.  I mean of course there’s those days that you just hate everything equally, yourself and your appearance included.  But those are usually not the norm, and I know I’m doing it and I usually just try to make some joke about it so I don’t take it, or myself too seriously at that point.  Usually in the form of a blog post.

Here’s the thing. If you keep talking about how much you hate things about yourself, then I’ll feel weird when I don’t participate in the conversation.   See, I made a pact with myself a long time ago- I decided I’m not going to hate on myself.  What’s the point? If I don’t like something, just change it.  And if it can’t be changed, just live with it.  It’s really not so bad. And hey, aren’t we told to appreciate what we’ve got? It’s a pretty good practice, turns out.

So really, you’d be doing me a HUGE favor if you stopped hating on yourself so I don’t have to seem like a dick when I don’t chime in and hate on myself.

If you need help, I can get you started on how you are probably really good looking.  That’s usually what I see when I look out into the world.  Lots of beautiful women who don’t see their own beauty.  And it makes me so very sad.



Dear Man Who Groped Me Last Night on 13th Main Road,

First of all, I must say, kudos- my ass isn’t even that big and you managed to find it, slow down enough on your motorcycle to grab it, and speed up fast enough for me not to see the last 4 digits of your plates so that we could track you down and make you watch weird 80’s videos on sexual harassment after which I would probably quiz you and then get the court to mandate that you pick up litter off the roads for the next 5 years.  That must have taken some practice.  Good job.

I’m just wondering though, do you grab asses because you don’t know what female ass feels like? I have a few suggestions.  First, if you have a sister, I would try grabbing her ass, see what happens.  If you don’t have a sister, maybe try your mom.  When she’s not looking, just go up and grab it. Give it a squeeze. If your mother has died, and you don’t have a sister, maybe try it on a female relative. And if the thought of grabbing your mother/sister/cousin’s ass is weird/they would think it is not cool, I’m wondering why you think I’d find it amusing.  I’m just putting that out there.  Genuinely curious.

But hey.  Maybe you’re grabbing asses because you think it’s a skill you can build.  Like in the Olympics.  They’ll add ass grabbing to it.  I mean who knows, you could be right. Except I feel like you’re going to have a lot of competition, especially with those guys from Delhi.  They can grab asses with their EYEBALLS, they’re that good.  So if you’re trying to grab asses because you’re on the hunt for an Olympic gold medal, I’d suggest another sport. Like…curling.  Or something.

Finally,  I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve had my ass felt up ever, so I’m new to this.  I must say, I’m trying to understand where you are coming from (either from a lack of understand of what female ass feels like, Olympic Gold aspirations) who knows.  But I’m just putting it out there that maybe there could be alternatives where I don’t think you’re a total dick, and you can stop being that weird guy on the motorcycle who grabs asses.  I feel like this skill has greater potential. Like…saving kittens  stuck in burning bushes or…whisking away confidential documents before the wrong people read them or….I don’t know. ANYTHING ELSE.

I’m just saying.


The Girl Who’s Ass You Just Grabbed Last Night

(I hope there was only one)

Feminism, happiness, Leadership, social entrepreneurship, Startups, Technology

Right Brain, Left Brain, Passion, Discipline, Women & Tech

I was talking with my roommate/co founder today, and I think I have come to the point where I finally realize (and more importantly embrace) just how left brained I am.  I guess I wanted to deny it for the longest time, but as I see more of the world, I am learning more and more how…logical and practical I really am.  I think it was really hard for me because I had a value judgement associated with right brained people and left brained people (again, going back to my problems with being judgmental).  But coming from a TamBram family, I didn’t want to admit that yes, I am a stereotypical left brained person.  It was such a let down.  I also associated being left brained with a predominantly male…role.  I associated right brain with feminine, and left brain with masculine.  Which is incredibly unfair, but I think that is how our society portrays it.  (Now am I passing blame off to this larger, more abstract entity that nobody can really pin down making it ridiculously easy to play victim and not assume responsibility here? Yeah pretty much).  But it’s true.

And what does it mean being a left brained woman?  I know we’re trying to pay lip service to women in tech, women in engineering, but really deep down, what are our own perceptions of it?  I guess I’m a flawed human being because no matter how much I try to convince myself of these facts, deep down, that’s my first reaction. I assume responsibility for that, but I realize it’s something that needs to change.  I think what I’m trying to say is that I really haven’t seen many famous women that I, as a left brained woman, relate to and really admire/respect.  I also think that being a woman of color makes a huge difference, which I never believed until I read Maya Angelou (and I was thinking holy crap I thought it was just me that felt this way!)  But that’s for a different post.  The point is, I guess I am coming to terms with the fact that yes, I am a really practical/logical person, and that is OK.  In fact, lets embrace it.

It was also hard because…running a company, especially in the social space, I haven’t seen many people like me in it. Most companies in this space thrive off of Martin Luther King like conviction and passion.  They are trying to inspire you to do something different. To start a movement.  And since I started NextDrop, I always felt insecure because…that’s not who I think I am.  Am I passionate? Sure.  But do I think I can pull off an I Have A Dream Speech?  Not really.  I tried once, and it just felt so wrong.  It wasn’t me. I wasn’t being authentic.  I’m reading this book called Quiet, and it’s really interesting.  It’s focusing not on the Martin Luther King’s of movements, but the Rosa Parks.  Now do I think I’m completely Rosa Parks? No, but I definitely relate to her contribution to that movement more than I think I can relate to anyone else.

But coming back to value, if I were to synthesize the strengths of right brained people and left brained people, I would say that left brained people have an easier time being disciplined.  Right brained people have an easier time tapping into passion.  To be good, you only need one or the other.  But to be great? To be great, you have to learn how to have both.  I think the road to greatness is first figuring out what comes naturally to you, and then actively working on how to build the other part.  I think the motivation and drive for greatness is there for everyone, it’s just a matter of how you go about achieving it.

At least, that’s the way I see it today.  Who knows what will happen tomorrow.

After all, tomorrow is another day

Feminism, Job, Startups, Technology

Why Didn’t I Start Facebook? Because I Could Care Less About Facebook (Women in Tech: Part I)

Women in Tech (or more precisely, the lack thereof) has always been an issue.  And most recently, with the Twitter IPO, it’s become a hot topic again.  I like it because it’s made me think about why this phenomenon exists.  There’s a lot of people who are weighing in on this topic- most of whom, ironically, are not really women in technology.

So being a woman who is running a technology startup, I started questioning why I was doing what I was doing.  I can’t speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself (so this is one datapoint) but the fact of the matter is that I could care less about most tech startups out there.  I’m making the newest chat tool that erases pictures within 5 seconds of opening it (except oh crap, we didn’t realize you can hack it and come up with an iPhone app that actually save all the sexts that you’ve sent- our bad).  I’m sorry, that just doesn’t make me want to jump for joy here.  If I’m spending most of the waking hours of my day working on something, I’d like it to have meaning.

So now, lets look at the non profit and social enterprise space. How many women are running organizations there?  I think you’d see quite a few.  And if you look at the most famous ones in the Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) space, guess what, they are run (or co-run/founded) by, yes, women.  Frontline SMS and Ushahidi great examples.

Which gets me to my  main point: maybe the real question is, why aren’t more tech startups from Silicon Valley doing cool things that solve actual problems?  (And no, I’m not the only one who thinks so).  Now don’t get me wrong, I have personally experienced times when I think wow, now I know why being a woman in tech is so hard- no wonder more women don’t do it.  And when I read things online, I think jesus, you actually thought it was ok to put this in print?  Max Levchin, for example, straight up says he thinks that early startups should strive for “non-diversity“-

“PayPal also had a hard time hiring women. An outsider might think that the PayPal guys bought into the stereotype that women don’t do CS. But that’s not true at all. The truth is that PayPal had trouble hiring women because PayPal was just a bunch of nerds! They never talked to women. So how were they supposed to interact with and hire them?”

So basically, his argument was that since they never learned to talk to women in college, lets use the same logic in the real world.  Lets never grow up because really, we don’t think this is going to be a big deal ever.  AWESOME. I mean, can you imagine if I said the same thing?  Well, I never learned to talk to boys in college so really I don’t think I should hire any men for my startup because I don’t think they will bring any value at all whatsoever.  (Wow, now that I mention it, I should try it sometime- maybe my next startup!)  Point is, it sounds utterly ridiculous, absurd and not to mention downright immature.  And I think we’ve talked a lot about the structural reasons why there aren’t more women in technology (i.e  the education system in general)- but it looks like some top universities are trying to rectify the problem- Carnegie Mellon is a prime example. (Kudos to them- I really hope more universities adopt this strategy. )

But I want to focus on those few women that say hey, I’m willing to deal with all of this crap and I’ve made it.  I’m here.  But really, here to do what? Am I going to deal with the constant struggle (because yes, it’s still awkward and painful for women in a male dominated world) in order to make an app that changes the face of mobile gaming for 7-15 year olds?  Is that REALLY what I am going to struggle for here?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, even in hindsight, if I went to Harvard and Marc Zuckerberg were to come to me and ask me to start Facebook (EVEN knowing what I do now), I would probably pass.  I’d STILL start NextDrop.  Because by God, this thing is going to make people’s lives significantly better than it was before.  If we live out our vision and fundamentally change the face of citizenship and democracy around the world like I think we are, I don’t know if I can say that Facebook will even come close to the positive impact we will create.

Maybe startups, and business in general, should think about how they can actually do good for the world.  Over the past 2 years, I’ve come to believe that the status quo is just plain unsustainable, and I think that the future of Silicon Valley, the tech industry, and business as we know it, is going to change.  And I think that future is going to have a lot more women in tech.

More on that in future posts.

Feminism, Startups

Lessons From A Female Entrepreneur: When In Doubt, Be Very Direct

There are certain special issues one encounters being a female startup leader, and it’s something I haven’t thought about in a long time.  But I had a lot of issues with it when I started out.  I remembered it recently as I was, again, speaking to a group of young women entrepreneurs, and the first thing they wanted to ask me was this:  Anu, did you have problems with men hitting on you during business meetings?

Absolutely.  And it really really got to me.

To those that don’t understand how it feels to be not only not taken seriously, but blatantly hit on in a business context, let me just say, it is one of the worst feelings as a business leader.  Because it is probably one of the first times you are wholly and completely being judged by not what you do, but who you seem to be.  And that makes you wonder: what am I doing to warrant this attention?  Because in your head, you think that there’s nothing wrong with the world, there MUST be something wrong with what you are doing, or how you are behaving.

So of course, you go about trying to fix it.  You start with the way you dress, because maybe the (already) conservative business attire is just…more distracting than you thought.  So you go out to the store and purchase the most unattractive/unappealing clothing possible.  However, no matter what clothes you wear, it still continues

Then, since you don’t want to be mean, you decide to just drop hints about a boyfriend/fiancee/significant other, hoping that the other party gets the hint.  But no matter how “in love” you are with said significant other, the unwanted attention still continues. You joke about it with your friends, hoping that it makes you feel better, but deep down, you know its really just not that funny.  Not only that, it gets worse.

And then, after some time, you begin to question your abilities to run a company.  Why do these people not take me seriously?  What am I doing wrong?  Maybe I’m not cut out to run a company after all.  Maybe everyone was right.

But then, the worst of it happens when you wonder, what if I just…give in?  What if I just go along with it?  What if I just stop fighting?  Because you know as a startup you don’t get much business, so can you really afford to let go of any?  That’s when you know you’ve hit rock bottom.

Luckily, before I started out, I already made some rules for myself, and I knew that there were certain things I just wouldn’t do, and even if it meant NextDrop would go under, I wasn’t willing to budge (because it wouldn’t be worth it at that point for me).  However, even knowing what I was ok with and wasn’t ok with, even then, it was absolutely terrifying.  My first encounter with this was my Indian banker, who refused to give me an Indian bank account for our company (while asking me out every other day).  I was financing operations on my own for months on end, because we couldn’t transfer money from the US to India.  I still get nightmares on payday sometimes, because I didn’t know how I was going to make payroll/pay all our bills.  I remember going to each of the people we owed money to every month, asking for an extension, promise I’m good for it can you please just let me pay this a little bit later?  And this banker was the one guy coming between me and bankrolling the business.

Finally, the last straw was when he called me at 11pm, and asked me out to dinner.  That’s when I just lost it, and decided to be incredibly direct.  I basically called him out on everything, and asked him if he called all of his clients to ask them out to dinner this late because I don’t know about India, but in the US, this is highly inappropriate and how dare you do this.  Then, I went to the bank the next day, and made sure to walk into his office, leave the door open (so everyone could hear), and just told him (well, told may be an understatement), in no uncertain terms, how incredibly inappropriate he was, how dare you do that to me, and that if he ever did anything even remotely construed as inappropriate again, I would raise so much hell that he would never be able to work anywhere in this city again.  Afterwards, one of the tellers came out to me, apologized for his manager’s behavior, said he did this to all the single women clients, thank god you said something to him (finally), and within a week, he got me my bank account.

Since that point, I have realized that I just need to be…direct.  Not rude, but if things are going off topic, bring it right back.  And if things are going in directions they shouldn’t be in, even after trying to bring the topic to business, just be a jerk about it.  Make them feel really really uncomfortable, because honestly, that’s how it feels to be you right now.  Turn the tables.  And if at the end of the day, you lose business, then you lose business.  You probably don’t want to be working with them anyway, because this is probably indicative of larger issues.

Today, I actually don’t face this problem a whole lot, thankfully.  I don’t really know why, but I think it’s just something I’ve learned to maneuver over the past two years.  Maybe one day I’ll figure out exactly what changed, but until that point, I can just say that I understand where you are coming from, young women entrepreneurs, and that it does get better.  Just don’t give in.