Uma Kelkar is an engineer who became a tech founder, works as an artist, and is and an author whose new book just was released. In this episode, she shares her experience coming to America with only $200–growing up being satisfied that she only had a staircase with a lamp dedicated for only herself–how these simple pleasures made her happy. Now she is a female in an industry that is dominated by males. We learn her story and mission, how she became enamored by tech, and of course, discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on how things have changed.
TAMAR: Everybody today is another lovely day in the middle of April, and we’re still amid the coronavirus craziness around the world. And yet the podcast is still going. Hopefully there are listeners I know that podcast numbers have gone down since the coronavirus pandemic but I’m still new. So I’ve never really gotten my critical mass either. But yet, I’m still trudging along. And today I have an awesome guest, Uma Kelkar, she is going to share her story. She is in a in an interesting spot right now in her home. So you could talk about that too. And because obviously, the circumstances have kind of created these ad hoc work arrangements. So thank you so much for joining, tell us where you are in the world and where you are in that part of the city, wherever you are in the world.
UMA KELKAR: Good morning, Tamar, and I am super excited. And more than excited. I’m honored to be here. I am talking from the other coast of USA. So I’m in San Jose, California. And I am honored because normal people are becoming heroes like you communicating with the world when the world is isolating and talking and searching for stories. And hopefully we touch more people through it.
TAMAR: Yeah, where are you physically telling me because I know, when we were sharing our screens before, or rather, we were sharing our cameras and we were looking face to face you were in an unlikely area. Talk about that.
UMA KELKAR: So I’m in a bit of a cluttered garage right now. But I’ve been super comfortable. Because there’s electricity, I’ve won consent, my kids are taking over the bedroom. Our master bedroom has a meeting schedule. So, whoever is meeting needs a clean wall, gets the bedroom. And then the other person goes to the garage.
TAMAR: Yeah, I guess the circumstances that I have been listening, I have to edit the podcasts. And when I edit the podcast, I listen in the background, and I hear my kids screaming. This is just the nature of our current circumstances. And I have to say that, while I will apologize for the sound because I’m the host, I will apologize for the sound of children in the background. I don’t really have apologies for children in general, I don’t think people need to give apologies. My friend Amber Nason is amazing. And she actually posted this on LinkedIn. She’s like, I completely understand if you have pets in the background, if you have kids in the background, we’re all working in a topsy turvy environment right now. And everything’s a little bit upside down. And that’s completely understandable. We’re in these unprecedented times. And we need to make do with what we can do and to keep to whatever we’re doing in our businesses. And yeah, we’re completely isolated. And a lot of people are pivoting and not a lot of people are working in the same way a lot of people are losing their jobs. So I think momentum is really, really important. So to that end, talk about who you are, where you’re coming from and how you have responded to these changes. I know that if we were doing this like six weeks ago, this conversation would be completely different. So try to speak to those two points.
UMA KELKAR: Yes, definitely. I do want to add on to what you said earlier. It is the time to be presented to the world as a whole human being, professional does not mean we don’t have normal lives. And if kids are part of normal lives, yeah, I don’t apologize. And it is time worldwide, male or female, they understand that real life intersects professional life. And therefore the no apologies needed as long as sincere efforts made to be professional. Beyond that circumstances rules. So I really appreciate that. Children screaming in the background is not going to be a female phenomenon.
TAMAR: I like that. Tell me a little bit about what you do, and what if you’ve had to make changes what you would have normally been doing if it was January 2020. And what you’re writing now that it’s April 2020.
UMA KELKAR: So I am a tech founder in the cross sectional space of education, art and engineering. And about now I would have been talking to some contractors to build my working prototype. I have a proto.io prototype, which is just bare bones and wireframe like prototype. And I have pivoted, not business wise, but I’ve pivoted in terms of priorities. So I am talking to potential customers right now. Since people are getting used to being on zoom, it is easier for me to interview my potential customers or my potential perfect customers around the world. And to their stories because the reason just like you’re interested in my story, I’m interested in other people’s stories because of the pain points. If you ask people specifically what their pain points are, not everybody’s able to verbalize it. But when you hear the story or routine, I can often catch on the adjectives and the words they use to figure out the pain point. So that’s what I’m doing right now. And not making a working prototype right away. Yeah, same time I was pushed into this, but I’m very happy. I also paint, Tamar. So I’m an engineer, I’m an electrical engineer. And we’ll come to that. And for the last three years, I have not taken vacation in the conventional sense, which means I have taken vacation only to travel around the world to teach painting.
TAMAR: So you’re working, but you’re not working.
UMA KELKAR: Exactly. And so now I am doing online, in person classes for people. On Monday nights and Thursday nights and Monday evenings, I started running a free course for digital art. And the reaction has been great. I have kept on moving the time for East Europe, sometimes for India, and Asia and Hong Kong and West Coast. And so many talented artists are so generous. And we are on week seven. We booked up until week seven and I have reached out to artists to come and teach online. And that’s been amazing. So that’s what I’m doing, in a way engaging. I’m not being inspired to paint, but this is my way to force myself to do it and to engage people and to do it with them or for them.
TAMAR: Wow. That’s really cool. Yeah. So I just want to kind of reiterate what you said. So you were building a product in the education tech space? Yes, that is separate from the teaching, but that the product itself is probably going to be delayed, because obviously we’re in uncertain times. And yet, because of your experience in art and teaching, I guess you would say that that’s your major pivot, you’ve pivoted kind of having these zoom classes, or maybe it’s not zoom, but you are doing zoom. And of course everybody is. Although this is Skype, I don’t know, maybe I should be doing these podcasts on zoom. Everybody’s there’s a lot of pushback, we’re not using Skype anymore. We have to think about that. Nonetheless, you’re doing a lot of these classes. That’s probably not something you would have been doing if this was the beginning of the year. Is that right?
UMA KELKAR: Oh, absolutely. Or I wouldn’t have been doing it next year or year after. I didn’t think I would do.
TAMAR: Yeah, I think there’s still this sense of desire for belonging and connection. And we need to do these things and feel like we’re not just sitting and languishing and building fat. Sitting on our butts and watching TV, I think it’s great that it has opportunities where there is that sense of connection that we are able to connect through a common interest of art, education, whatever it might be. So it’s amazing that you’ve been doing that, but I do see what you’re saying, I was planning on doing an April 20 launch of my products. And then March 3, my life was turned upside down. Am I going to be launching on April 20? Well, I’m doing a podcast that’s what I’ve been doing to stay true to the business right by my products. My main factory for I’ve been building for bottles has been converted into a mask making factory, when are they going to come back to normal? I don’t know. And the priority is saving lives. So I don’t know when I’m going to launch anymore. And I think we’re too uncertain or in too uncertain times to ascertain what our next steps are.
UMA KELKAR: Absolutely. And if I may, I don’t know the absolute answers, but I feel that sometimes we have cultural baggage. And the cultural baggage can become a cultural asset or a baggage, depending on how you leverage it. So I feel without being overburdened, I feel the responsibility to do more in these times. For example, I have a house, I have a roof over my head, my kids are healthy, I am healthy. I have technology and access to technology. And this is far more than other people have. So, it would be rude to complain.
TAMAR: Right. I love how you’re giving back in a way that you’re teaching a man to fish. I’ve been giving a man a fish actually. Literally, though, I don’t like to cook. There was an article in The New York Times yesterday, it was an interactive article about how costs have been going up and what costs have been going down and the cost of those ads has completely surged. But for me, I’m a workaholic. And I’m not somebody who spends time in the kitchen. And then I have children as well. So cooking for me is not my priority. So I actually and for my community, I’ve been partnering up with local food establishments. I run a WhatsApp group and when I have a new announcement, I say, hey, this establishment will be delivering on Wednesday, this establishment will be delivering on Thursday, this type of establishment will be delivering, like every single day, there’s something else. Sometimes it’s independent of me. And sometimes I’m collecting the money.
UMA KELKAR: Right.
TAMAR: So, it’s an interesting dynamic. And I will say I love it.
UMA KELKAR: You’re doing more, isn’t it? Because I read your article on Medium where it said that you were one of the few people who were not only affected, I mean, your community was affected early on, and then you personally were affected.
TAMAR: Right? And a lot of us were and it was funny that when I first started doing this, when I started getting symptoms, I was still doing this a lot. So one of the biggest symptoms is fatigue. And I will say that I was completely the opposite. So, I was the Energizer Bunny. I was not sleeping and I still not really sleeping. I think that it’s not necessarily because of the Energizer Bunny. It’s because of the anxiety of the uncertainty of our time. But yeah, fortunately, that was the one symptom I didn’t have, I had all the other symptoms; I just didn’t have him to the extreme set. Some people who are hospitalized have really high, I’d rather not languish although I am languishing and other ways that you don’t want to be for example, eating a lot of takeout, not healthy and I usually eat one meal a day and I’m not doing that anymore because it’s like wow, I just made this partnership with this establishment that I really want to have their food from so I’m going to eat it and I’m going to buy leftovers I can eat for the rest of the week. Right. And next thing I know I gained the COVID-19 and so you asked me before the podcast started about what convalescent? So I start at the beginning. Yesterday I went and I donated a plasma. When you’re recovered because we were an early community, we were actually isolated by a number of universities. Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Rockefeller University, Columbia University, and a number of other smaller establishments have pinpointed our community as one of the COVID hotspots because we were the first outbreak but we’re also the first recovered. So they came and they actually erected a little testing site by my synagogue where the outbreak began. And even though we’re not allowed to congregate, we’re allowed to go there for testing. It was a schedule of staggered appointments. Of course, you couldn’t just show up, so I made an appointment. And I tested. I was on abc7ny.com. You could Google my arm and you’ll find the video of them testing. He was actually really bad. They took a nasal swab but this guy was relentless. He was brutal. And he was relentless. And he went all the way up my both nostrils and it was the worst test. The first not so bad. And then they took some blood to see my antibody level. And so I ended up waiting for my results. And I thought it was positive because I hadn’t gotten a call. I thought I was positive because all of my friends who were negative got a call and I had it. And the next day I just called her and she said to me that I’m sorry, I had the wrong phone number for your negative two, do you want to schedule a test? And I said, do you want to schedule a donation? So I needed a negative test in order to be eligible for donation. But my understanding is the CDC is releasing, changing that policy so that a positive person can donate because there’s so many people dying in hospitals. So what it is, it’s convalescent plasma, at least for this particular donation. I didn’t actually read the material when it came to the actual testing because this stuff freaks me out and medical things are not my cup of tea. In fact, I get very faint when I start reading about like this, and when it’s not even minor, like when it’s very minor, rather. And so I didn’t read it, but I decided, I need to do this because this is more lifesaving than anything that I’ve ever done in my life. And I think it’s so important. So, all they did was they weighed me, and that’s how I know I gained my COVID-19 pounds. Then they hooked me up to a machine. And you see them taking out blood, but there’s something called like a rinse back. So I think they strip the plasma of the blood, and then they put the blood back in your system, you’re not losing your entire antibodies. You can do it again, your body can reproduce it, but I think they’re seven days. I think now they actually says in the blood bank, next time you could do it is May 11. At least I did it yesterday, which was the 13th. And I actually think that they’re minimizing, they’re actually lowering that window because of the urgency of needing the blood. But I thought that this was the best way to spend my time in a way that can truly change lives.
UMA KELKAR: Right. Well, thank you for that. Thank you for your work. And thank you for the courage to go out and do the right thing.
TAMAR: Yeah, it was hard. It’s hard. It’s scary. And it’s not a pleasant experience. I’m not sure what’s worse though, the processing of the patient, just the paperwork and the logistics when you get there, or the actual process of sitting there and doing it. It’s a little painful. It’s not so bad, but I think it was actually the bureaucracy of having to go through the entire thing and the logistics of it. And the disorganization. I don’t want to say that. But yes, I think that was worse.
UMA KELKAR: Wow. Okay. Okay.
UMA KELKAR: Well, that’s eye opening.
TAMAR: Yeah, yeah. So, tell me, I mean, I guess you came from, like electrical engineering, you’re a tech founder. Now. Were you always looking to be in engineering and in the tech space? Or has that been an evolution that was a little bit unanticipated on your end?
UMA KELKAR: It has been unanticipated; I was very sure growing up that I wanted to be an engineer. And I thought I would always be an engineer on the shop floor, or in a big manufacturing plant. But, I mean, this is a 15 year old 16 year old talking at that point. I knew I could paint tomorrow at that time, but I didn’t think I was not brought up that arts mattered much. At the same time, there was a practical angle to it that art would never pay the bills. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when you start believing in something without giving it a good shot, right. As I was always wanted to be an engineer, I wanted to do Biomedical Imaging. That’s what I came to Stanford to study. And I sat in on electronics class, and I fell in love and I did electronics. For 18 years, I designed chips. That’s what I do. I designed chips for very high speed communication systems. And I’ve been in other tech startups before so I’ve had that experience. But what’s coming back right now is this. Going through the tragic story quickly, but when I came to Stanford to do Biomedical Imaging while I was doing my electrical engineering, Biomedical Imaging would be the depth in electrical engineering during our major, and I was doing research assistantship, and was working on brain imaging and doing things to images of brain scans, of brains of children with autism, for example. And that was my exposure to brain imaging. But when I did high speed communication we were using the same basis, mathematical basis of removing noise from signals, for example, to clear communications. Can I explain what that communication means?
TAMAR: Yes, yes. Very pleased because yeah, you have to think about not everybody is techie in the audience here.
UMA KELKAR: So perfect. I love that. So, in a simple way I can work on electricity, and why do you need that? So think about these long telephone lines between you and I, between me and Tamar are going through over the land. But at some point, think about these cables going underwater in the deep sea. These are no longer electrical wires. But these are fiber optic wires. So you’re sending your signals, audio signals, you’re converting to electricity. And by electricity, everybody knows that computers work on ones and zeros. So far, so good.
UMA KELKAR: Okay. But the ones and zeros now need to be converted into light and no light. And then you pass that light, a string of light, no light, light, no light through a fiber optic cable and the other end, that light, no light has to be converted to one zero, electrically, and that one zero electrically then has to be converted into audio. And that’s how I and you are listening to each other. Right? Okay. So what’s the big deal? Well, ones and zeros are light or no light, as they go through a long length of wire or cables gets diffused, or they look garbled. It’s like speaking when we are close to each other. And when we move farther and farther away, depending on wind, and noise and other stuff, you can’t hear each other well, even when you’re physically standing next to each other. So think of all these other noises and disturbances as imperfections, imperfections to your audio sound or to your ones and zeros. So we have to clean it up. That’s what engineers do. So about 100,000 engineers, like me in the world connect 6 billion people. And that’s our job, doesn’t look very glorifying, but we convert light to electricity or electricity back to light. But when you’re clearing up or taking care of timing, and you’re taking care of noise, you’re doing it in one dimension one or zero. We think about it in art, if you have a photo. Remember the noisy photos, the noisy photos are what we call grainy photos or photos from the 80s and 70s. And the technology that enables us to clean it up is the same mathematics that you use for cleaning up brain images, or it’s the same mathematics that helps you clean up messages across satellites across TV across audio channels. And forcibly putting in noise back in is jamming jammers, is jamming images, is jamming German satellites. So the basis of mathematic stays the same whether you’re taking noise out or you’re inserting noise back in.
TAMAR: Got it.
UMA KELKAR: All good?
TAMAR: Yeah, a little bit, a little bit.
UMA KELKAR: So that’s what I’m doing that I’ve realized that there is such a huge potential for art to be quantified. Every time elegance and art has been tried. Every time we have tried to quantify or measure elegance, we have failed, or we thought we couldn’t do it. But think about it now. If what we call artificial intelligence is nothing but modeling all the noise. So we have this now huge database of images. And we can use artificial intelligence to clean up images or teach people how to paint better, or to photograph better, where the definition of better is defined by artificial intelligence, because it’s artificial intelligence. It depends on a model that you, we make. So, it’s an evolving definition of elegance that we can actually have.
TAMAR: Wow. So, I will tell you that most of that’s over my head, but I will say also, it’s almost like I have to say thank you for your service. Because like, what you’re doing is like, I mean, you’re making the world work. And you’re talking about how you’re thankful and fortunate that you have electricity in your garage, I don’t have electricity in my garage. I will go back to that part and say, what you’re doing is, I mean, things that we all take for granted and we will never understand the nuances. But behind it, at the same time, it’s like, I want to have that conversation where I’m like, oh, this is so cool. Like, I can’t, I don’t like I feel bad.
UMA KELKAR: But it’s fun, it is cool, right? Because all my friends or a lot of my friends, my colleagues are all chip designers, and we make high speed chips. And what’s the big deal?
TAMAR: Yeah, but it is, it is. The thing is just think about what you’ve been doing and how possible like, it’s funny, because we were talking about like, April to January, and how things weren’t really going to be this way in January. But think about how in your context, the stuff that you’re doing wasn’t possible to do. Like, that long ago. This is evolutionary.
UMA KELKAR: Yes, it is. Oh, you sent three questions.
TAMAR: Not finally three questions. But the premise of the podcast is people who have risen above the ashes who have taken a career trajectory, an unexpected career trajectory, you kind of touched upon, and also what they’re doing for self-care, which is both in the context of what they might be doing differently because of the timing of the podcast that we’re in the middle of an insane, an unprecedented pandemic, that has basically uprooted our lives in a way that we couldn’t have ever anticipated. And for me, I will say, I haven’t been as amazing in my self-care regimen, because half of it is going to the gym 545 days a week.
UMA KELKAR: Right.
TAMAR: So, what’s your story, do you have that rising above the ashes story?
UMA KELKAR: So, I’ll tell you my story. I don’t know if it’s rising among ashes, about ashes story. And the reason is this, the more you grow, and the more you learn somebody’s not always have to listen to somebody’s life work. And there are people who put in decades of work after decades of abuse. And I can’t beat that. No, I don’t have that kind of story. But I’ll tell you, there are some things that have been learnings and I’m 42. And I cannot just leverage but I can accept these episodes and pivot points and actually make them my strengths. I’ll tell you that I grew up in a 600 square feet house in which we were squatting, when I was growing up. That house had a metal grill for a door. So I never had a real door. And my study room was outside my house in the stairs to our third floor house. And in that moment, I was elated to have that space be mine to have a staircase because no other family had access to a staircase with a lamp dedicated for themselves and a table. Now when I look at it now, if I were to find a student doing that, and studying happily, I would tell them, I’m very proud of them. And I love that attitude. What I’m trying to say is when you’re in in the middle of adversity, you don’t really think you’re doing hard work. But the backdrop of adversity paints every new outcome positively. So this garage really doesn’t feel hard. So that was the thing that the backdrop helps, so and then I saw this was a one room house, and I lost my father when I was 16. And I lost a lot of my family to abusive relationships over the years. So it’s not really anxious. What I did learn was self-reliance. Growing up and not wasting time.
TAMAR: Its attitude.
UMA KELKAR: Its attitude. I came with $200 to the country.
TAMAR: Yeah. So you do have the rags to riches story and one of those things. Well, you’re in the process. And in the last podcast, I was saying to Theresa Kwon, she was my last podcast person I’m like, we’re all in the middle of our ashes right now unless you’re in an industry that is thriving in remote culture. Like Zoom also is having its own struggles because Google just banned it in the company, and I will say that one of my clients also has banned it. So, I’m in the conflicts where some people are like, I don’t know if this is good for anybody right now unless you are so ubiquitous, like maybe Facebook ads. And even Zoom to some degree. We’re able to communicate face like work. Unless you’ve a communications tool, hey, you’re really in a bad place.
UMA KELKAR: Right.
TAMAR: I mean, even like Priceline, even the cost of gas is down. So just to think about that environment, we are in our ashes. So I like to think that if we are suffering in whatever way, there is literally going to be an incredible pot of gold at the end of our rainbow.
UMA KELKAR: And I hope this is true. And I wish you that pot of gold, Tamar.
TAMAR: Yeah, me too.
UMA KELKAR: So, coming back to self-care, I think the other thing I wanted to add was the community. So, when you are in the tech industry, if I’ve been in fiber optics and high- speed communications and analog design, and so long, I have maybe seen one more other analog female engineer. So what that means is, sometimes I didn’t realize that, but I needed a community. I belonged to engineers, but I still wanted people like me.
UMA KELKAR: And art was that segue. And over the years, in 10 years, I had a pseudonym online and started building this community and becoming part of this community. And now there’s this. And this has nothing to do with founding, but it’s useful to understand the power of community. And now I’m part of this movement called Urban Sketches. These are sketchers who sketch anywhere in the world and show the world one sketch at a time. And it’s grown to more than 300 chapters around the world over the last 10 decades, over the last 10 years. And so, what have I learned by going and connecting with these people, and I’m now on the executive board that belonging is important, not just to me, but to everybody. So, any texts that can make people belong the more.
TAMAR: I will say, yeah, you probably have struggled a lot more being a female in a male dominated industry. I mean, I read about it. I majored in computer science, and I was thinking that I was going to work in that space. And then I shifted, I don’t know what caused me to shift. Maybe it was the education that I had because I wanted a major and I really wanted to learn how to code but I felt that the education that I had was more theoretical than how you do things. And yeah, maybe male minds processed that better. So I shifted away from that. And so did a lot of the women in the concentration as the years went on in college.
UMA KELKAR: And that’s evidenced by people like me, because I’m like, there were more and more women in my class, where are they now?
TAMAR: Right. That they probably don’t need their own pivots, we got to get them on the podcast.
UMA KELKAR: Right.
UMA KELKAR: I was going to talk about self-care. But go ahead.
TAMAR: I just wanted to say that having a sense of belonging must be a much bigger challenge for you. Because yeah, you’re almost alone in this. I’m an analog engineer, and this guy, and that’s why you said before that you’ve made this pivot into the beauty of art. I think that’s important. I think we need to find like-minded communities, and unfortunately, for some communities, they’re dominated by specific gender. And that makes it harder sometimes, that’s sort of lends itself to the necessity of having to branch out.
UMA KELKAR: Right, right.
TAMAR: Yeah. So, talk about your self-care. What do you usually do besides your urban sketching?
UMA KELKAR: So, Thursday nights are saved for paintings. And it’s like a religion in the house. So, at 7:30 everybody vacates the kitchen because the kitchen has to be pristine. So that’s my mental self-care. It’s yoga for my soul. And then we have been working out so yeah, I’ve been working out more religiously, actually. And having the kids at home is great because I can’t hide. I can’t tell them I worked out and didn’t work out. So I think children don’t listen to what you tell them. They do what you do, so I better do. And then we we’ve placed a yoga challenge between me and my husband. There is a particular complex pose. I mean, the pose is simple, but it needs a strong core to be able to do it. It’s called my Eros and or the peacock pose. And every day, we just strike once. And hopefully we get to do it by the end of this quarantine. And that’s what’s motivating to be able to do that.
TAMAR: I like it, I would never be able to do it. I can do downward dog and stuff like that.
UMA KELKAR: A friend of mine said, don’t you feel imprisoned? I said, Okay, let’s think about that. Yes, I feel in prison. So like prisoners who go to prison and come out ripped at the end of their terms. That’s exactly how we’re going to come up.
TAMAR: I love that. I love that. I want to do that. And I can, there’s never I can’t. But I will say that it’s a bigger struggle, because I have this sort of an internal conflict in my mind, I want to feed my community, and enjoy the food that I’m feeding my community with, I want to be in I want to be present. And like I always used to think to myself, if I were in prison, what would I be doing? I would be working out completely. But they don’t have these plentiful options. And the thing is, you probably have more stuff, you have probably have less than we do. Because I’m going out of my way to contact farms. People who like produce zebra forage have produced with different farms to make sure we have everything. And I don’t want my community going hungry. Last week, we did a big donation for the community and also the first responders. Wow, it’s amazing. But at the same time, what’s more important, making other people feel good, and then I’ll focus on myself later. And I think that’s where I’m going, which still is very rewarding of itself mentally. And I think maybe that’s what I need. I don’t know, I want it but at the same time, I feel I love that. Oh, God, I have to do that. I don’t know how I’m going to figure it out.
UMA KELKAR: But that’s the same dilemma that founders have. I mean, I’m really proud of you and how you’re thinking about the community and putting it ahead in terms of priorities. And as founders, don’t we have the same thing that make me happy? Or do I stay in a job and be financially available for my children and if I’m unhappy, I think we will cause more damage.
UMA KELKAR: After certain limits of care and security are built.
TAMAR: Right. It comes down to the common theme that we kind of talked about, it really comes down to attitude. I was very depressed two years ago, I had literally suffered one of the large, biggest losses in my life. I actually posted on my main Instagram account a little bit of a tribute to what happened and where I’ve come from since, but I had specifically said that I wasn’t able, that was my rise above the ashes story. I suffered an incredible loss and things were and thank God, I’m in a better place. But so two years ago, if I were in this pandemic, I don’t know what I’d be doing. But thankfully, I’m in this pandemic. Now, where my mind has been, it’s literally the happiest I’ve ever been. Finally, taking control of myself, and I am also trying to do what I can. So it’s taking responsibility for yourself and the people around you. And I think that a lot of people are struggling there are going to be, or we’re all suffering in some way. I’m not suffering, I’m just choosing to make the best of the situation right now.
UMA KELKAR: Right, right. Can I ask you what that loss was? And you can say, no.
TAMAR: Let me just read it out loud.
UMA KELKAR: Okay.
TAMAR: This is my first time ever sharing this, I did not feel comfortable. I’ve truncated it slightly. I’m going to have to shorten it a little bit for the purposes of Instagram. Okay, this is a very, very personal story. It’s a little bit of a raw story. And it’s brief for basic, but I will just provide this. So I just posted this on the seventh of April. So this was just about a week ago. Two years ago, today, I was coming home from Passover in Rochester with my best friend who I treated as a sister at a time of great emotional vulnerability. Two days later, I would be beaten and battered by the same person because my utility as a resource was drawing to an end and I was becoming more than gravity, the resulting pain of being treated with absolute disrespect when I did nothing but giving ultimate sacrifice, it was more painful than most things I’d encountered because the emotional investment was beyond normal, beyond most human comprehension, and it’s only imaginable when someone is in such a deteriorated and weakened mental state that this even seems plausible. To a normal person, it is not possible. One must be so far gone to allow this to happen to themselves. And unfortunately, I was unaware how bad I’d fallen, but this was the ultimate low, for me my rock bottom. And for those looking to school me on my perspective, emotional pain is different than other pain, it is all about attitude. When an attitude is already in such a negative headspace, you’re bound to fall into the depths of despair. Nothing has changed in a year since. And while I still feel pain and a longing on a daily basis, I’m stronger than better than ever, I’ve become exactly who I needed to be. I don’t regret the mistakes that put me in a trajectory of encountering the extreme agony I dealt with, during and after this experience. I needed to be a victim of trauma and abuse to rise above my ashes and become stronger. Nonetheless, I sometimes wish for things to go back to where they used to be, at least socially. And now more than ever, while we are socially isolated., imagine how someone who’s fully aware of your recent struggles refuses to make contacts. I suspect I can’t place blame. Either way, I’ve moved on. And while one day, I would like to see closure, I know how impossible that would be from the perspective of an abuser admitting they were wrong. And for that, it’s okay, I forgive you. I’m happy being me. I’ve never been happier. We are in uncertain times, and I’m feeling amazing. I can never have had this positive attitude while nursing a sick and mentally unstable individual because it becomes all too consuming and depressing. Thankfully, I’m far removed from that situation. It wasn’t a choice of my own, but it worked out better than I could have hoped. Thank you for letting me see the light. It is beautiful on the other side, even during a national pandemic.
UMA KELKAR: Absolutely.
UMA KELKAR: Hats off to your courage for your vulnerability and for feeling safe enough to share.
TAMAR: Yeah, it took a while. I feel it’s weird that I’m not an online introvert. When I’m around, like, It’s weird. I feel more willing to share things that are very intimate about myself in a written form, but when I’m face to face with somebody I can barely get in a few words, I’m very articulate. The pandemic has really opened the floodgates for my writing ability and my ability to be expressive. It took me two years to figure out how to write this. And it was like 1:30 in the morning. I’m like, I need to do this. And I just threw off. I opened Google Keep and I just started writing this
UMA KELKAR: Beautiful, beautiful. It’s your way of communicating. I totally get this. I’m an extrovert on Yeah, I hear you. And you are so better off out of a toxic relationship and abusive toxic relationship. And the world is better off because of that. We don’t know how but it is a butterfly effect.
UMA KELKAR: Yeah, yeah. Good for you.
TAMAR: Yeah, definitely.
UMA KELKAR: Yeah.
TAMAR: So, I guess I’ll just leave you with a final question. And I usually don’t give you those. It’s not your three lists of questions that you have because it’s one of those things where I’d love to hear the reaction after I ask it. So if you wanted to give an earlier version of yourself some advice, what would you tell her?
UMA KELKAR: I would tell her that I’m smart or she’s smart.
TAMAR: And she’s got this because you do. I think you have it. And you’re making it work. And don’t give up on yourself. I like that, simple. It’s brief, but it makes a lot of sense.
UMA KELMAR: Thank you.
TAMAR: Yeah. Awesome. Is there anything else that you think we should share with the audience?
UMA KELMAR: Oh, nothing with the audience but with you that this is great. You’re not only making lemonade out of lemons, but when people say women rising, what does it mean? You don’t really have to be a superhero. This is being hero.
TAMAR: You’re not looking and you’re not wallowing in your sadness. And I did that for a while. I think a lot of us do. And I think that the current climate lends itself to a lot of wallowing. But either you’re going to find yourself distracted by helping your community and teaching your classes, or you’re going to let it envelop you in a way that’s not healthy.
UMA KELKAR: Yeah, right.
TAMAR: And for me, personally, I think that the healthiest thing you can be doing is pushing to help other people.
UMA KELKAR: Right?
UMA KELKAR: Good luck with your startup. And yeah, I will stay connected.
TAMAR: Yeah. Thank you so much for joining and I’ll keep you posted on what’s coming.
UMA KELKAR: Wonderful. Good luck Tamar.
TAMAR: All right. Good luck.