From an introvert to an engineer to a Stand-up comedian in U.S.
I was born in India in MHOW (Military Headquarters of War) because my father was in the army. Due to that we traveled to several cities every few years. I was a very shy and introvert kid in my childhood. The kid who was good in studies, first bencher and would love cultural activities - the good child. But I had stage fright, especially going on to the stage and speaking a single line like "thought for the day".
Then being the studious kid, my teachers in 12th standard made me the Head girl (school captain) when I was forced to give an annual day speech. Little did I know that this could transform my life in several ways. Not only I practiced for hours and days, I could get out of my stage fears. This was just the beginning. I went to MITS for my engineering in Electronics & Communications and then to Mumbai to work at Accenture. The more I explored the world, the more I was ready to take risks & go forward. Without any doubt, I had the backing of my family and friends at every stage.
I decided to go to the U.S. for Masters without knowing much about the world on that end. I took a huge amount loan, left my stable job and decided to move to Los Angeles, without knowing much about the West. I went to University of Southern California, Los Angeles to pursue Masters of Science in Computer Science. But this engineer had a loan to pay in dollars. When you are in such a situation I believe there is no room for failure. You just gotta do it.
All these years I became better at communications until my job required me to talk in international meetings and conferences representing Los Angeles office. This was a game changer. I ended up becoming a radio jockey for a radio station called Mera Sangeet (Los Angeles station) which was in Hindi. This helped me learn how much I loved entertainment industry as much as I loved being an engineer. Then I started volunteering at Film festivals including Indian Film Festival Los Angeles (IFFLA) where I met ginormous amount of filmmakers, a lot of them had won Indian National Awards for their movies. This was my opportunity to learn more about film making and the process. I ended up making a film called "Shoot her" in the following years which got selected by several film festivals across U.S. This wasn't the end but just the beginning of my new journey.
I was surrounded by actors, directors, producers and comedians. Yes, Comedians! One day while browsing Groupon I thought to buy classes for stand-up comedy without giving much of a thought. I was pretty sure that I would end up wasting this Groupon, but why not take a chance, right? The day came when I got an email to show up at the class, starting next Sunday. Was this really happening? Who would get up so early on a Sunday? But I dragged. After 3 classes I was already tired and out of the game. I ain't doing this. I still decided to go to an open mic to try out the little script I wrote during my class. Guess what? Someone hearing my set at the open mic liked it! I got a text that the producer would like to book me. Are you serious? I replied "Yes, I'd love to do the show" while I was super nervous and shitting in my pants. The show day arrived. Am I speaking in front of 30 strange Americans with my Indian accented English and that too I need to make them laugh? You kidding me. But I did.
It gives such a kick even if one person laughs at your silly joke. I am not sure if they were laughing at my jokes or at me but it was working. ;) I continued my classes until I did the final showcase for the class. Was it over? No. Fortunately, I started getting booked by different producers around Los Angeles and my performance started to improve. Most of the time, I was the only Indian girl (sometimes the only girl) in the show. This was weird and good at the same time. But who cared as long as you performed well. Gradually I started performing across Southern California and now across the USA. Don't forget, I still had a day job of an engineer all throughout this journey. I did shows with several non-profit organizations like CRY.org, Vibha, etc. I have also opened shows for comedians like Zakir Khan, Varun Thakur and Abhishek Upmanyu. These shows gave me opportunities to perform in front of several hundreds of Indians in the U.S.
The girl who had stage fright could become a stand-up comedian was not in my wildest of dreams. Who knew this was even possible. So don't stop trying. Take risks. Explore. Because who knows what's hidden within you.
I haven't planned much about my future, but one thing is for sure, I will explore more, try new things and not let stereotypes define me. World is your oyster.
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