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Padmini Manivannan thinks it’s important to discuss and debate things that make you feel uncomfortable. Especially if they make you uncomfortable.

While reading Michelle Obama's memoir, Padmini Manivannan thinks of her grandmother who sold her jewelry to put her kids through college.

Over the course of this month, I hit 25 and read a book and a half. I’m making my way through Becoming, a memoir by Michelle Obama. It was my birthday present and I couldn’t have hoped for a better gift. It is unlike any book I’ve read before. That’s not just because I tend to not read memoirs or biographies, but because the book sets this wonderful pace of her living her life and telling her story. It’s almost like listening to your grandma telling her life stories and sharing anecdotes while lovingly doling out advice without sounding too preachy.

Michelle Obama writes about the struggles of coming from an unfairly treated community, where opportunity was not equal. She talks about being a relentless box-checker, doing everything right to finally get to a stage where one can say “I made it”.  She walks us down her memories, baring her soul as if to say this is what I was given and this is what I was able to make of it. She is probably Hermione Granger but all grown up.

Michelle is a role model for so many including me. She stands for so many ideals that are good and right. There are things that she narrates which make you laugh and cry at different points, but I never imagined that this person who was born a generation ago could be so relatable. Throughout the first half of the book, she talks about family, about how it was a happy home and they had all the necessities but a lot of untold sacrifices went into it. Michelle’s parents gave their kids every opportunity that they themselves couldn’t avail. Their kids were their investment.

My grandmother was a wise and a very traditional woman. She had five kids to tend to, including my father. She knew the importance of education even though she only got to study to 6th grade. She sold her jewellery to put her kids through college. My father was able to get an education and a stable job and afford us the lifestyle that we lead. We had everything we needed and then some. But my family saved a lot of money to send me to this wonderful place. I was always told that first comes health and then education. In an ideal world, education is simply and strictly a pursuit to know more about the world, an opportunity to broaden the scope of your mind. But in developing countries like India, it is a way out of poverty and a chance to better your living conditions.

So here I am, knowing that I am the investment, pursuing my education to learn more and to live an easier life and also to give back to the people that imparted me this opportunity. 

Padmini Manivannan is a Master’s student studying Signals and Systems at TU Delft and hails from Chennai, India. She loves doodling in her free time.

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