Why does she always say, “BE BRAVE”?
Many of you have been asking about where my commonly used phrase “BE BRAVE” originated from. Here are excerpts from a letter my Mom wrote to me when I asked her for an explanation on why I was named –
It was late in the evening on the 18th of December 1967 when the Government fell in Calcutta. By night, curfew was declared, the Army was called out and shoot-on-sight orders were announced. It was complete chaos with rioting and looting throughout the city. Ultimately the Communist led government fell and Martial law was declared. Your Father and I were in our bedroom, listening to the 9:00 pm news broadcast when you suddenly announced your arrival. A full ten weeks early!
Etched in my mind forever, is the look of sheer bewilderment and panic on your father’s face. He ran out into that fearful night to plead with any willing taxi driver brave enough to come out to take us to the closest Clinic. God bless that old taxi driver willing to risk his life for us. We made it to the nearest Clinic which had just opened in an old rundown building. Inside was one open dorm room and one very small operating room with absolutely no equipment, including no incubator and one very unqualified Doctor. This Doctor told your Dad you had less than a 5% chance of living and that your twin was lost. She also hinted that a young UK-educated Pediatrician might be available if we wanted to reach out to him. We did!
Around 12:30 you were brought to me in your little bassinet. I sat on my bed and just gazed at you for the next hour or more and wondered at your bravery. You were so tiny, all of 2 lbs. 9 ozs. skinny and tall (17 inches in fact), and yet you fought, breathe after breathe, to live. Where were you drawing that strength from? How long could you hold on? That was the longest night that I had ever been through.
Into this dark world of anxiety and fear, stepped in, our very own personal savior. Dr. Debu Chatterjee. A dapper little gentleman in a smart tie and a well cut, fitted three piece suit. Efficient and quick, he pulled up a chair, set his bag down, took off his jacket and immediately proceeded to examine you. He barely said two words to me but concentrated on you. He watched, waited and began pumping injection after injection at regular intervals. Examining you and treating you. Through the night he slowly shed his tie and waistcoat. And so it went for 5 full hours. He was willing you to pull through, as much as I was praying and you were struggling and fighting to live. Eventually at 7 am of the 19th, Dr. Chatterjee turned to me and said, “Don’t worry Mrs. Sarawgi, your baby will live.”
You fought and gained that victory for life. That battle was your own, and those of us who saw that struggle could not call it anything except extreme bravery. “Veer” in Hindi. So was it so difficult to choose your name? You were our Veera – our own Brave.
And you were our – “Shreshth” in Hindi it means the first. Not necessarily first born. But the forerunner, the first among equals. The first. Shreya for us.
And that is how you have your name – Veera Shreya. You have always lived up to your name by facing all odds head on and fearlessly.
We couldn’t have chosen better.
My Mom and Dad went through so much just to give me an opportunity to have a chance at this thing called life, but, they didn’t stop there. They went on to ingrain in me the ability to challenge myself every day. To believe I was capable of anything I wanted to achieve. It was their belief in me that allowed me to train as a chef in India, to come to the US alone and eventually get my Ph.D., to become chief academic officer of a major University and to be brave enough to start my own business with Joe. Now I am launching ChefVeera.com which not only is allowing me to return to my first love, food, but also gives me the venue to inspire people the way they, and so many other mentors in my life since, have inspired me. Thanks, Amma and Papa (Mom and Dad) I also couldn’t have chosen better.