Excerpt from the article
Rudri Bhatt Patel - What a selfie taught me
[…] My 9-year-old daughter pauses in the middle of our walk together and asks for
my iPhone. Then she requests I take a selfie with her.
I start to dismiss her question and turn it into a teaching lesson, as I usually do,
encouraging her to pay attention to her surroundings while pointing the iPhone
towards the cerulean sky, blazing sunset or a pink
bougainvillea. But before I finish
my sentence, she places the phone in front of our faces and snaps the picture, her
full smile and my cautious half-grin spreading across the screen. […]
The selfie movement is controversial and I will admit: it makes me uncomfortable. […]
But a few months ago my Facebook feed broadcast Prime Minister of India Narendra
Modi’s appeal to parents to post selfies with their daughters to combat the inequality
between Indian girls and boys and to elevate the relevance of
women in a culture
which tends to discount the value of a female.
This call to action is an important one
for Indian women, daughters and mothers across the world who suffer a multitude of
Before Modi’s proclamation, I never contemplated the power of a random selfie in my
parenting and cultural experience. Afterwards, I reflected on a singular belief:
geography is destiny and it impacts my experiences as a daughter and as a mother.
My father, with $7 (Dh26) in his pocket, made the choice to migrate to the
States almost 50 years ago from a small village in India.
Two years later my mother
joined him. On a September morning in 1973, I was born in a hospital in Texas. My
birthplace automatically guaranteed opportunities I most likely wouldn’t have had if
I’d been born in a village in India.
As my parents tried to assimilate into the American culture, they emphasised the
importance of education and pursuit of confidence-building activities, imploring me to
interact with the world and engage with
people inside and outside of my culture.
I tried out for the tennis team, took piano lessons and hung out at the mall with my
friends — all very American experiences. As a Texas teen, I didn’t grasp my
immigrant parents’ shaky leap into the melting pot. As a teen and woman, my identity
as a girl never resonated as an obstacle.
After college, I attended law school; my parents never squashed my pursuit of a
career deemed as
something traditionally for males, or not appropriate for a woman
of Indian descent. The idea of limitations because of my sex and culture rarely
entered our discussions.
The same pulse will thrum in my daughter’s childhood and foray into adulthood. She
is born to second-generation Indian parents in the US whose upbringing is entirely
American. So it is unlikely she will feel the stigma young girls face in India.
When I re-evaluated my daughter’s need to take a selfie under this lens, my
of her act altered from thinking it was self-indulgent to realising it was empowering.
While Modi requested parents to take selfies with their children to make a political
statement, my daughter took the initiative to take a snapshot of both of us without
giving it any thought, because this is simply part of her cultural context. […]
As for the other girl with a different geography, her parents may not own a
smartphone or perhaps she stays
at home to take care of her younger siblings and
as a result isn’t allowed an education. Her upbringing is shaded by the need to care
for the communal, whereas my daughter’s experience is more about furthering her
So the next time my daughter asks me to be in the picture with her, I will participate
with a newfound enthusiasm. […]
Source: Patel, Rudri Bhatt. “What a selfie taught me”. The Washington Post. October 28, 2015. Accessed
September 19, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/10/28/what-a-selfie-taught-
 cerulean: turquoise, sky blue
 bougainvillea: tropical plant that usually has red or purple flowers
 Dh: short for: Dirham; currency in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
 to thrum: to sound with a monotonous hum
 to foray: here: to continue