Seema Kumar


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May Brings Rearing and Resurrection

Photo by Sergey Shmidt on UnsplashApril showers bring May flowers (and Mother’s Day), and this year the blooms are particularly welcome. For the first time in the past two years, the daffodils, lilacs, tulips, and wisteria bring new meaning and real hope that maybe — just maybe — we are at the tail end of…

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This April, Carpe Diem!

April. It’s a month of new beginnings, heralding the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere. Here in the United States, the days are getting longer and the weather warmer. And with that comes a feeling of being lighter. I wake up to the sound of birds chirping, and walk by crocuses peeking through the…

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huma abedin

Huma Abedin: The Phoenix Rises

Huma Abedin’s favorite color is green, which in Islam symbolizes nature and life. It is the color of paradise in the Quran. But the past decade has been far from paradise for Abedin. In fact, it has been pure hell, and Abedin says she had to reach deep within her faith and herself to emerge from the shadow of shame, proud and resilient. As one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides, Abedin was often in the public eye, always by Clinton’s side, present but silent, rarely the topic of the story. 

In her 26-year political career spanning the White House, the Senate, and the State Department, Abedin collected her share of scars in the roughest of towns: Washington D.C. But nothing prepare her for the heartbreak and ignominy caused by husband and former Congressman Anthony Wiener’s repeated sexting scandals, which she endured in full public view. That scar, she says, will take a long time to heal.

“He ripped by my heart out and stomped on it over and over again,” Abedin writes in her memoir, “Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds,” published in November 21 by Simon and Shuster. The scandal, along with the discovery of Clinton’s confidential emails on Weiner’s computer, disrupted the presidential candidate’s campaign. 

“I lived with shame for a long time… I could have been the first chief of staff of the first female president,” she writes in the book. “How am I going to survive this? Help me God.”

But survive she did. And, Huma, which means “lucky bird” or “phoenix” in Urdu, has emerged out of the shadows breaking her silence and rising, she says, to reclaim her own narrative. She says she is taking things one day at a time and drawing strength from her religion, her parents, her cultural roots and values, and, most of all, faith in herself. 

“Be true to yourself, let others say what they will. You are responsible in the first instance to yourself, to your principles and your values, and ultimately to your God, or higher power.”

Abedin says on tough days, she turns to advice from her dad, who died when she was 17

That has carried me through,” she says.

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BEYOND LIMITS : To Roar in Unison

March is an important month for all of us at SEEMA.

As a platform focused on enhancing the representation of South Asian women, SEEMA takes particular pride on celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. March also marks the launch of SEEMA, and this year the magazine celebrates its third anniversary.

Time flies but progress is gradual. Women of South Asian origin are making great strides in all walks of life, as our feature on 50 women making history on page 8 demonstrates. In myriad fields of arts, science, business, politics and philanthropy, South Asian women are making history with their contributions as they step into their fifth decade and beyond, debunking the myth that age is a barrier to your career.

We take heart in how far we have come in our chosen profession, and that’s laudable. But where is the sisterhood? As first-generation immigrant women we have succeeded, but how do we secure the future, and enhance representation for our community as a whole? How do we work together to create a unified vision for South Asian women and converge on collective action that we can take to open doors and mentor the next generation?

Over the past three years, we have interviewed and talked to more than a thousand women; in the past three months the likes of the iconic Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo; and in this issue the strong and resilient Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides.

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The Iconic Indra Nooyi

For Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, life has been one big balancing act. It has been a delicate dance between retaining her cultural identity as an immigrant, and assimilating into the mainstream business environment and earn the top position. Between keeping the intense pace required to climb the corporate ladder and finding quality time for home and family priorities. Between breaking ultimate glass ceilings to become a role model for working women in corporate America and fulfilling the duties expected of a traditional daughter, wife and mother in a South Indian household. It is not an easy balance but it can be done, and Nooyi’s life is a lesson on the tremendous “care infrastructure” it takes for a working woman to rise to the top in the corporate world without compromising identity and family. 

“I’m a family builder, not a family breaker,” says Nooyi. “I believe in family; it’s the core of all society. However, the only way for families to be economically secure is if both husband and wife have the power of the purse. Because families are fragile. Nobody knows when something can go wrong. You don’t want a situation where one person is left with all the family responsibilities and without any support.” 

The pandemic has brought the issue into sharp focus and given rise to the great resignation, as workers, particularly essential workers and frontline healthcare workers, have struggled to maintain the balance between lives and livelihoods. The lack of care infrastructure — high quality, accessible, and affordable child care; paid family and medical leave; and home- and community-based services to help families meet their caregiving needs — has led to a wave of resignations in the U.S. and around the world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021, with a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July.

Nooyi, who was tapped by the state of Connecticut to co-chair “Reopen Connecticut” during the pandemic, says it was an immersive eye opening experience. 

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Shree Saini

SEEMA Magazine November 2021 Is Now Live

Welcome to the November issue of SEEMA Magazine!

‘Tis the season to be thankful and grateful, as we embrace the changing colors of the leaves and the growing chill in the air. SEEMA Magazine is back this November to celebrate the time of Thanksgiving with stories that truly emphasize the joy of giving.